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bearing upon doctrine ; while the cycle of the Schoolmen might almost rank as a third period, only that its tendency was to the analysis rather than to the synthesis of theological truths, to exposition at large rather than to expression in brief; and that it produced no Creed. Its type is the Summa Theologica of S. Thomas Aquinas, which must be placed in a different category from the symbolic. The case of the Athanasian Creed again is a distinct one ; yet it seems not unlikely that it may after all be traced back to the verge of the Athanasian age. But, speaking generally, we may say that the mass of the symbolical documents extant must be referred to one or other of the periods we have named; and it is to be noted that attempts made by individuals, however influential, at other periods, to add to the Confessions, have invariably proved abortive. Who, for instance, beyond the circle of students, has ever heard of that well-intentioned document, the Henoticon, issued by the Emperor Zeno? And how entirely wanting in effect were “The Three Chapters,' though pressed upon the Church by so powerful a monarch as Justinian! It seems to follow that the Church really obeys a law of organic growth in these matters, which as it refuses to be hurried in the stages of its progress, so it cannot be greatly retarded.
For we may with great propriety regard the earlier age of symbol-making as having been long prepared for by the growth and conflict of ideas, and as having been brought on at length by the sense of an immediate need in the Church, which surely brought about its own satisfaction. The Church of Christ, in the order of Providence, was sent forth into the world with the minimum of actually formulised doctrine. The Apostolic tradition was mainly an historical one. It was a record of facts. These were interpreted in a particular manner; and so interpreted that more was implied in them than was recognised at first. The simple profession, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God,' ascribed to the Ethiopian Eunuch, is a type of what Christianity was at this earliest epoch. The Church was satisfied for the moment with the great fact of the appearance of the Saviour—God and Manand while assimilating it, necded little more: as a man, whom a beautiful garden delights, omits for the moment to explore the estate beyond it. Unquestionably, for catechetical and missionary purposes, some brief formula of doctrine would be required and supplied. We may, perhaps, find traces of one such form (as was pointed out by the late Dr. Neale) in i Cor. xv. 3–7, or in S. Paul's reference in another place to his wellknown “form of sound words’ (2 Tim. i. 13, 14), or in S. Peter's speeches 1 (which have every mark of being moulded on the same original) in Acts iii. 13-18 and v. 38–43. These, . it will be seen, are one and all simply historical, or at most with deductions of the simplest and most obvious kind ; the doctrinal element was to be the task of a later age.
Even of Apostolic Christianity itself the New Testament exhibits a Petrine and a Pauline type; and, before blending, they met, as we know, in sharp and decided conflict. Questions were raised, and left without permanent decision ; and the ferment caused by such controversies had no sooner subsided than the still immature Church was brought face to face, as with new and greater difficulties of practice, so also with newer and vaster problems of thought. In the isapostolic age Gnosticism appeared, flourished, divided, and divided again : each and all of its varieties the deadly foe of Catholic theology, which in some countries, Arabia and parts of Syria, it succeeded at length in well-nigh supplanting. When we speak of Gnosticism indeed, we use a generic term. It was not one heresy, but a hundred. But one service it rendered most unwillingly to the Catholic theology. It followed out a inultitude of possible lines of thought—we might say all possible lines; and thus, by proving their real nature and ultimate tendency, warned Catholics off them. The heresiarchs simplified the issues of thought, and thus contributed to the growth of Catholic theology. After Gnosticism, and doubtless provoked by it, rose in the second century Montanism; and this, though incidentally heretical, was mainly an emotional and sentimental movement. It stimulated and forced, on the issues of theology, but itself contributed little or nothing to them, on one side or on the other. Finally, to pass over a multitude of partial or sectional forms of thought, the Arian heresy it was that finally precipitated the definitive struggle which issued, after two centuries had been occupied with the work, in the scientific and complete statement of the Christian faith in the formula of Nicæa, as finally supplemented and completed at the following Synods. A Creed was no new thing. There had been Creeds always. Baptismal or individual formulas there had existed in various types of wording and in great numbers. Dr. Schaff (vol. ii. pp. 11-40) enumerates nineteen of these ; and further search would no doubt bring to light others. Indeed, the Roman and Aquileian forms, and the Italica vetus, are here set down in a subsequent
1 Dr. Schaff (ii. 7) has overlooked these altogether.
had Birth sine Resurrcopular att
section, as having special points of resemblance to the Apostles' Creed.
Many of these Creeds are singularly interesting. As a rule, they are strictly historical, and expressed (though often with considerable adaptation) in the phrases of Scripture; from which we infer that, as yet, the outward facts of the order of Grace sufficed for the intellectual and spiritual needs of the great majority of Christians. But in the Confessions of Faith drawn up by the thinkers and theologians of these early ages, there are observable distinct endeavours after a deeper comprehension and more accurate and definite expression of the articles of the Faith. This is specially observable in the Confessions of Irenæus, Origen, and S. Cyril. Take, e.g., one of the Creeds found in the writings of the former (Contra Hæres. lib. i. cap. 1o, par. I).
Here we find a marked inartificiality of structure; the articles are scattered, those predicated of each Person of the Holy Trinity intermixed with others. A theological nomenclature had yet to be formed. Thus we have the miraculous Conception and Birth simply as και την εκ Παρθένου γέννησιν ; the Passion, Tò má os; the Resurrection from the Dead, Tv šyepo LV ŠK VEkpôv, i.e. the rousing: a popular and, so to speak, undefined notion, of quite a different order from the accurate and theological term åváoTaois. The first time that this latter term is found is apparently in the Creed which Eusebius of Cæsarea laid before the Council of Nicæa. It occurs virtually (åvao távta) in the Nicene formula ; and after that date it is usually employed. The Ascension, again, is tnv švo apkov (sic) eis toùs oúpavoùs åványou toû nyatinuévov Xp. 'In., and so on. It is discursive, and some articles are expanded almost into homilies. This, however, is more apparent as the century proceeds, and with the Creed of Lucian of Antioch (A.D. 300) we are already in the thick of speculation, and each article becomes a theological treatise, expressed more or less in technical language, and with accurate and well-understood senses applied to all the terms.
The Creed which is found in the Apostolical Constitutions may be given here as a type of Creeds of this age :
πιστεύω και βαπτίζομαι εις ένα αγέννητον μόνον αληθινόν θεών TAVTO-kpáropa,
τον πατέρα του Χριστού,
1 Dr. Salmon's article on this subject, which has appeared since these pages were written, may be profitably consulted (Contemporary Review for August, 1878).
κτίστης και δημιουργών των απάντων,
δι' ου τα πάντα εγένετο τα εν ουρανούς και επί γής, ορατά τε και αόρατα
τον επ' εσχάτων ημερών κατελθόντα εξ ουρανών,
και πολιτευσάμενον οσίως κατά τους νόμους του θεού και Πατρός αυτού,
και σταυρωθέντα επί Ποντίου Πιλάτου,
και μετα τους απόστολους δε πάσι τοίς πιστεύουσιν εν τη αγία καθολική εκκλησία
είς σαρκός άνάστασιν,
The era of the Councils began at Nicæa, and each of the Ecumenical Councils put forth its own Creed : not necessarily, nor usually, an original one ; on the contrary, the formula adopted at Nicæa became for later Synods morally obligatory, though they might make additions to it, and usually did so.
Their work was, as we have already noticed, to translate the well-known truths of the Faith into the language of scientific theology. Truths were by degrees felt to be insufficiently and insecurely held, because they had not been defined. A new Christian consciousness had grown up far more delicate and cultured, and therefore far more exacting; and this demanded to be satisfied.
The old reverent, child-like faith, more or less fragmentary as it was, was no longer sufficient for the learned scholars, the keen thinkers, the earnest disputants who stood around the altars and filled the monasteries of that stirring and splendid fourth century. The Christian religion, still new, as the age of beliefs is counted, had now to undergo a new trial. It had already come forth the victor from repeated persecutions. It had gathered the poor into its fold from end to end of the Roman Empire. It had won a standing-ground for itself, and vindicated abundantly its right to exist. Persecution gave place first to connivance, then to open toleration, and, finally, to adoption of it by the Empire as the State religion. And then its dogmas came, as they had never come before, under the curious eye of the philosopher. Hitherto it had not been worth his while to undertake a careful and leisurely examination of the doctrines of the Church. Now and then a NeoPlatonist like Porphyry had arisen, or like the Epicurean Celsus, the antagonist of Origen, who had chosen to give a half-scornful attention to the new phenomenon of Christianity. But, as a rule, the learned class had not thought it worth while to do this ; and Christianity was long reckoned what the Roman historian Tacitus called it, a dire superstition, fit only for common people or slaves. But when the popular belief became an inmate of the Imperial palace and made its way to the occupant of the throne itself, it became a phenomenon requiring more serious and respectful study. This, accordingly, many a keen thinker proceeded to give to its as yet undefined doctrines ; and it is obvious to a very superficial scrutiny that not a few of the disputants, e.g. in the Arian controversy, were simply conforming philosophers, wielding their familiar dialectical weapons upon a novel subject-matter. All this told upon the character of the argument. It did not, of course, affect the result. The truth confessed at Nicæa had been the tradition of the whole Church from the beginning. But it had never been confessed before in those precise words. A scientific spirit had prescribed the forms of the argument and defined the terms to be employed. The keenest appreciation of grammatical niceties, and what they might be made to stand for, intensified the struggle between the partisans of ομοούσιος and ομοιούσιος. In fact, the questions of the new, i.e. the Christian, theology were not less philosophical than religious; and we need the less wonder that there were philosophers who were Christians, and Christians who were philosophers; or that in later times the sphere of theology became so extended as to cover all subjects of discussion ; that theological premisses were made to serve as the foundation-stone of scientific arguments, and a supposed