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portion of the sacred volume ; for as the apostles, in their official capacity, wrote and acted for the instruction of the Church under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, it follows that their official teachings are to be regarded as having equal authority with the Holy Scriptures. If, then, the title of this creed be authentic, the creed is one of the most sacred and interesting documents which have come down to our times. Every sentence is endorsed with inspired authority, and commands our unqualified assent. In this case, our first duty is to ascertain its teachings, and our second duty is, without the least reservation, to embrace all its doctrine. Such are the claims assumed by the title prefixed to this creed, and in this character it is doubtless regarded by myriads both in Papal and Protestant Churches.
But if this title be false, what then? If it be an historical fact that this creed never was framed by the apostles, but compiled at different periods since apostolic times, and by different men, who had no claim to inspiration, what then shall we say? If this be the case, its title is a deceptive mis. nomer. It is a grave offence against truth and religion, and approaches the sin of adding to the word of God, so solemnly denounced in that admonitory clause which concludes the canon of holy writ. (Rev. xxii. 18.)
What, then, is the fact ? Everyone conversant with Church history knows that this formula, as it now stands, had no existence in apostolic times, but is the production of different ages. Most of its doctrines are undoubtedly divine ; and some of its phraseology bears a high antiquity, bordering even upon apostolic times ; but there is no evidence that any creed, consisting of an exact and uniform set of phrases, was in use in apostolic days; and there is abundant evidence that a considerable part of this formula is the offspring of later ages. We have before us the creeds of Ignatius, Irenæus, Tertullian, Origen, Cyprian and Gregory Neocæsarea, * which are the only ones extant of those which were known within the first three centuries of the Christian era; and yet they are all different from one another, and are all different from the one which was afterwards compiled and called the Apostles' Creed; for, indeed, this creed, as a distinct formula, had no existence during that period. Some of its doctrines were expressed in those creeds already named, yet with diversified phraseology. The evidence is decisive that the apostles never wrote the creed, and the title it bears is spurious.
2. Whilst the title of the creed is false, and the formula itself of mere human authority, that clause which speaks of Christ's descent into hell is one of the latest additions which were made to this confession of faith. There were, indeed, two clauses which had no place in any of the confessions of faith existing up to the fourth century; those clauses were the communion of saints, and the descent into hell. When we enter the fourth century of the Christian era we find many confessions of faith, but in not one of them is any mention made of the descent of Christ into hell, until we come towards the middle or close of that century. Thus, in that important document the “Nicene Creed" (A.D. 325), adopted by the English Established Church, and used in her liturgy, there is no allusion to Christ's descent into hell. True, there is this clause in the Athanasian Creed, but this was written afterwards. Bishop Pearson, as much distinguished by candour as by varied and extensive erudition, bas thoroughly investigated the an. tiquity and authority of the Apostles' Creed ; and as the result of his elaborate researches, he not only admits that the clause relating to Christ's descent into hell has no place in the creeds we have already named, but further states “it is not contained in those creeds which were made by the councils of
Ephesus or Chalcedon ; not in those confessions made at Sardica, Antioch, Seleucia, Sirmium, &c. It is not mentioned in several confessions of faith delivered by particular persons : not in that of Eusebius Cæsariensis, presented to the Council of Nice!* not in that of Marcellus, bishop of Ancyra, delivered to Pope Julius ;t not in that of Arius and Euozius, presented to Constantine; not in that of Acacius, bishop of Cæsarea, delivered in to the synod of Seleucia ; not in that of Eustathius, Theophilus and Silvanus, sent to Liberius. There is no mention of it in the creeds of St. Basil, Gelasius, Damasus, Macarius. It is not in the creeds expounded by St. Cyril, by St. Augustin, by Maximus Taurinensis ; nor in that so often interpreted by Petrus Chrysologus ; nor in that of the Church of Antioch, $ delivered by Cassianus ; neither is it to be seen in the manuscript creeds set forth by the learned Archbishop of Armagb. Indeed, it is affirmed by Ruffinus, that in his time it was neither in the Roman nor the Oriental creeds. It is certain, therefore (nor can we disprove it by any acknowledged evidence of antiquity), that the article of the descent into bell was not in the Roman or any of the Oriental creeds.” He further observes, “ The first place we find it used in was in the Church of Aquileia ; and the time we are sure it was used in the creed of that Church was less than four hundred years after Christ.”[ Such is the candid acknowledgment of the learned prelate, and his concession is the more valuable as it is that of a divine whose Church has adopted the creed in her liturgy, and whose writings have so copiously expounded and illustrated that document.
So much, then, for the authority of the creed itself, and for the period when the clause respecting Christ's descent into hell made its first appear. ance. It is clearly proved that the title of the creed is spurious, that the creed itself is of mere human origin, and that the article respecting the descent into hell was not found in any confession of faith until late in the fourth century. The attempt, therefore, to put forth this clause to the world as of inspired authority is a dishonour to the Christian Church and the cause of truth, and has been an occasion of many grievous errors.
3. Not only is the creed a human compilation, and the clause respecting Christ's descent into hell one of the latest innovations, but the meaning of that clause has ever been uncertain and diversified. Popery claims it as a proof of purgatory : but as a mere human production it can be a proof of nothing except the opinion held by its authors, and what this opinion was it is now difficult to determine. The clause can be no proof that the apostles held the doctrine of purgatory; for they were not the authors of the clause. Nor can this clause be a proof that the Papal doctrine of purgatory was held at all during the first three centuries; for the clause was not inserted in the creed until towards the close of the fourth century. If we even admit that the clause does refer to purgatory, the fact that the clause formed no part of any creed whatever until the close of the fourth century is presumptive evidence, at least, that the doctrine was not held till then; and if not held till then, it is necessarily an innovation, a human invention, a corruption of Christianity, and not an element of the gospel of Christ and his apostles.
But we are not prepared to admit that the clause was originally intended to express the doctrine of purgatory. Facts, we think, prove the contrary. We have already stated that this remarkable clause was first introduced into the Aquileian Creed ; but what purpose did it serve there ! Two facts argue that it was intended to express, not the doctrine of purgatory, but the mere fact that Christ's body was laid in the grave, and that he entered into the state of the dead. First, in the Aquileian Creed, there were not
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Learn, iberetne, 13she first sete do te these ads into the CTG 28 to Treat ide bral or a Setc. the descent of his buriy ido tie arte. Ara 22. Cobort.Te of his vier is that the waris Tessed aibe entretinerirempress either yrzar. O beba tbe sei o ar rerinc in the spiritual world. The woris mere. H- drsenjetk to fie cer parti* screeably with what the apostle s373, in Ephesians it. 9. - He descended first into the lower parts of the earth + ibat is, he rus laad in the grave, from which he arose by the power of his Godhead.
That orber meanians were after aris attached to these words in the creed me a imit, ao1 that many razze notions were held by the ancients we also admit; bat tbose notions were mere husn opinions, which of course, have po au bonty, and which, froen their extreme vagueness and diversity, can have beat little weight rith us. Some thought that Christ desced in into the beli oi tbe damned, and that be delivered many of them fron their torments; some believed that he went there and delivered all the damned from their misers, and took them to heaven; and others, regarding hell as meaning the common receptacle for human souls, maintained that all the righteous who had died before Christ were in an inferior place and state of happiness, and that he went to these after his death and raised them to a superior world of glory, to reign with him at the right hand of God. These and other conflicting views, the dietates of fancy or speculation, were entertained and advocated. But it was long after the period when the article of the descent into hell first made its appearance in the creed, that the doctrine of purgatory was established in the Church. Certain vague and heathenish notions on this subject were gradually introduced, and about the close of the sixth century Pope Gregory gare the doctrine his countenance and support, when it rapidly gained adherents, and, after a time, found a general reception in the Latin Church; especially as various fictitious miracles, risions and revelations had been resorted to in order to secure its belief. In this way the doetrine gradually crept into the Church, and at last became confirmed by the Council of Florence in the year 1439.
We have thus met Dr. Milner's theory by historie facts, and those facts prove that the doctrine of purgatory derives no support from the confession of faith called the Apostles' Creed, and indeed, if that creed did sanction the doctrine of purgatory, its sanction could neither prove the doctrine to be true nor invest it with any authority; for the historic facts adduced prove that the creed was never made by the apostles, and that the clause in question respecting Christ's descent into hell was not inserted in the creed until near the close of the fourth century. So far, then, as the testimony of the creed goes, it is against the doctrine of purgatory, and proves it to be an innovation upon the faith once delivered to the saints.
It now devolves upon us to examine the passage in Psalm xvi. 10, upon which, it is alleged, the clause in the creed is founded: “ For thou wilt not
leave my soul in hell ; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption." Here we come to the standard of truth. The writings of uninspired men, whether ancient or modern, are open to debate and ques. tion ; but the word of God is decisive. All its teachings we are bound to receive with confidence and gratitude.
That this passage refers to Christ, and has received its accomplishment in him, is attested by inspired authority. Peter, quoting the text, expressly applies it to our Lord : * For David speaketh concerning him, I foresaw the Lord always before my face, for he is on my right hand, that I should not be moved. Therefore did my heart rejoice, and my tongue was glad ; moreover also my flesh shall rest in hope. Because thou wilt not leave my soul in hell, neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption." (Acts ii. 25–27.)
But while the direct application of this prophecy to Christ leaves no question as to the Divine Person intended, a great variety of sentiment has obtained as to the precise meaning of the words “ Thou wilt not leave my soul in hell." Some of these views may be stated.
The first is that maintained by Papists, who adduce this passage in support of purgatory. But how this text can be a proof of purgatory we are at a loss to conceive.
Purgatory is said to be a middle state, where the souls of men who have departed this life in venial sin make satisfaction by suffering certain pains, and in time become purified and fitted for translation to heaven. But this passage speaks of hell. There is nothing said either about a middle state or a middle place. Purgatory is not so much as named, nor is there anything implied which answers to that place. There is nothing said about venial sins or mortal sins, nothing about human souls being purified or making satisfaction by penal suffering. However often we read the passage, and however closely we investigate its meaning, we can find nothing which answers to purgatory, or a middle state of penal satisfaction. Besides, the Romanists do not pretend that purgatory is for Christ, but for mankind; yet here the only being spoken of is Christ. It will not be contended that his soul needed purgation ; nor is there any reason assigned in the text, nor can any reason be deduced from it, why Christ should go to any middle state or place called purgatory. It is most unfortunate for the Papistical doctrine, that its advocates should seek to prove it from a text which says nothing about it.
It is admitted as a general rule in biblical criticism, that the meaning of a passage is not to be summarily decided by a detached sentence, but is to be gathered from the context, which unfolds the scope and design of the writer. If, then, the doctrine of purgatory be intended, we shall undoubt. edly find some intimation of it in the context. We therefore most readily challenge a reference to the context. Let the whole psalm be read, and to afford the Papist every advantage he may desire, let it be read in the Douay version, published with the imprimatur of twelve Romanist bishops and one archbishop. We have examined over and over the entire psalm, but there is not a word about purgatory. In the text we find the word hell, and an important prediction of Christ's resurrection, and in the verse following we read of heaven ; but, from the beginning of the psalm to the end, not a syllable respecting the distinction between venial sins and mortal sins, nor about souls being purified by penal suffering, nor a middle state or place of existence. And we can only say, that he who is capable of finding the smallest allusion to such a doctrine in this psalm, must be endowed with the extraordinary faculty of seeing that which is invisible, and of finding that which has no existence.
There is yet another method of ascertaining the meaning of the sacred writings-namely, that of observing the sense in which a passage is quoted, and the use to which it is applied, by another inspired author. In this way many obscure texts of the Old Testament are elucidated and explained. Now
the passage before us is quoted and applied by Peter and by Paul, and the use they make of it will guide us in its interpretation. If the passage speak of purgatory at all, we shall surely find it here; for it is quoted by the apostles for the express purpose of showing its literal fulfilment in the porson of Christ. Let us, then, carefully attend to the apostles' words; and, to obviate the charge of unfairness or partiality, we shall quote from the Roman Catholic version. Peter, addressing the Jews, says, “ Ye meu, brethren, let me freely speak to you of the Patriarch David; that he diedl and was buried, and his sepulchre is with us to this present day. Whereas therefore he was a prophet, and knew that God had sworn to him with an oath, that of the fruit of his loins one should sit upon his throne; foreseeing this, he spoke of the resurrection of Christ. For neither was he left in hell, neither did his flesh see corruption. This Jesus hath God raised up again, whereof we are all witnesses." (Acts ii. 29–32.) By the Apostle Paul also the passage is quoted in part, and applied in the following address to the Jews: “ And we declare unto you that the promise which was made to our fathers, this same God hath fulfilled to our children, raising up Jesus, as in the second Psalm also it is written : Thou art my son, this day have I begotten thee. And to show that he raised him up from the dead, not to return now any more to corruption, he said thus: I will give you the holy things of David faithful. And therefore in another place also he saith: Thou shalt not suffer thy Holy One to see corruption. For David, when he had served in his generation according to the will of God, slept; and was laid unto his fathers and saw corruption. But he whom God hath raised up from the dead saw no corruption." (Acts xiii. 32–37.) *
Here, then, we have two apostles quoting the passage, expatiating upon it, and showing its application and fulllment. Therefore, if the words of the Psalmist had any reference to purgatory, these are the places where we should find it. But here again we search in vain for the doctrine. Not one word by either Peter or Paul about a middle state, or purgatorial fires, or venial sins, or souls visited by Christ in limbo, or rescued from suffering by his descent. On all subjects connected with a state or place corresponding to purgatory there is a perfect silence. The only application the apostles make of the passage in question is to prove that it referred not to David, but to the resurrection of Christ, and was fulfilled by that glorious event. From the evidence before us, then, it is conclusive that neither the text itself, nor the parallel passages in which the text is quoted, expounded, and applied, contain any reference to purgatory. Wbatever may be the meaning of the passage, it affords no support to the Papal doctrine of a middle state of purgation.
Before we present our own explanation of the peculiar phraseology employed by the Psalmist, it may be proper to notice the several interpretations which have been given by others.
1. Some have imagined that the prophecy means that Christ should go literally into hell, and there suffer for a time the pains of the damned, in order to complete his atonement for sin. As the curse of sin extends to the future world, exposing the soul to the wrath of God in hell, the advocates of this opinion suppose that in order to our Lord's being a perfect substitute, a vicarious victim for sinners, it was necessary that he should place himself in the sinner's state in hell, and suffer for him there as well as upon earth. This view was held by Calvin and others.
To this erroneous opinion we reply: The worth and satisfaction of Christ's atonement is not to be estimated merely by the degree of his sufferings, or their duration, but as combined with the dignity and glory of his person; and he being infinitely glorious, the merit of his atoning work on earth is infinite, and there was no need for his sufferings in the future world. Besides, the notion is unscriptural. There is no part of the sacred volume which represents
* Rhemish version, Dublin, 1837, published by authority.