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confession they are valueless ; for the confession
must be elastic enough for the common mind,
and comprehensive enough for the learned. To
expect a child or ignorant person to fathom the
depths of such phrases as "very God of very
God," " begotten not made," is absurd. On the
other hand, if the object is to indicate the trend
of Christian thought, and to tell the world what
theories are held by theologians, then the
Nicene Creed must be accorded a high rank
among human compositions. It presents our
Lord first in His Divine nature, and then in His
earthly ministry.



230 Christ and the Creeds.

The symbol of Chalcedon was adopted at
Constantinople a.d. 451. It carries the ten-
dency to speculate still farther, and attempts to
explain the mysteries of the Incarnation and
the Trinity. This Creed declares that Jesus
Christ was an actual and abiding union of G-od
and man in one personal life ; it distinguishes
between nature and person, and says that the
Logos assumed not a human person, but human
nature which is common to all, and hence He
redeemed not a particular man, but all men as
partakers of the same nature. The two natures
constitute but one personal life, and yet remain
distinct. The suffering on the cross was of the
human nature. The whole work of Christ is to
be attributed to His person, and not to the one
or the other nature exclusively. Again, we
say, if a creed should contain such truths, and
such only, as are essential to spiritual life and
co-operation in Christian work, the symbol of
Chalcedon, like that of Mcsea, is absurd, for
not one in ten thousand can follow the distinc-
tion between nature and person, or understand
how two natures can cohere in one person, and
the person be in the nature, and yet not a part
of it. On the other hand, if the symbol is to
be understood as an attempt to explain and
harmonise certain facts, then the more it is
studied the more satisfactory it will be found.

Making now a long leap, we come to the
Westminster Confession, which represents the



Christ and the Creeds. 231

culmination of the creed-making tendency.
The parts which refer to the person of our Lord
are essentially Nicene. They may be con-
densed as follows : The Son, the second Person
of the Trinity, is very and eternal God, of one
substance, and equal with the Father; of one
substance with Mary; in Him are two whole
and perfectly distinct natures, yet one person —
very God, very man, one Christ the only
Mediator.

The Thirty-nine Articles of the Anglican
Church are, in their treatment of the person of
our Lord, essentially like those already con-
sidered. The article on " The Creeds "
explicitly says that " the Nicene Creed ought to
be thoroughly received and believed."

Congregationalists in the United States have
three doctrinal statements of historical interest
which in a loose sense may be said to be repre-
sentative : the Burial Hill, the Oberlin, and the
National Council Confessions. In them is seen
the rebound from the tendency to burden con-
fessions with speculation. The Burial Hill
Confession says : " We confess our faith in God,
in Jesus Christ, the Incarnate Word, who is
exalted to be our Eedeemer and King." Con-
cerning His work it says : " We . . . acknow-
ledge that it is only through the work accom-
plished by the life and expiatory death of Christ
that believers in Him are justified before God,
and receive remission of sins."



232 Cheist and the Creeds.

The Oberlin Declaration is non-committal,
and jet seems to put its approval on the general
body of doctrine usually called evangelical.

The National Council Creed is confessedly
non-confessional. Concerning the person of
Christ it says: "We believe in Jesus Christ,
His only Son, our Lord, who is of one substance
with the Father; by whom all things were
made," who is to be worshipped with the Father
and Holy Spirit. The love of Grod finds its
highest expression in the redemptive work of
the Son. Then follow ideas which are clearly
Nicene in their origin, and which in turn are
succeeded by the statement that our Lord con-
tinues His work of salvation now that He has
passed from the earth; that His object in
coming was to establish a kingdom of righteous-
ness and peace.

Thus the teaching of some of the oecumenical
creeds concerning Christ has been sketched,
and also that of some of the confessions which
represent the Free Churches. In studying
these documents it must be remembered that
speculation concerning the eternal mysteries is
inevitable and desirable. Speculation is the
pioneer of progress. There has been no more
of it in theology than in other sciences. More-
over, the universe is a unit, so that theories in
one sphere of thought influence thinking in all
spheres. The creeds named represent not only
the thought of the Church, but equally the



Christ axd the Creeds. 233

thinking of the times in which they were com-
posed. The doctrine of Evolution, with its
transformations, is a recent product ; there is
no more of it in ancient geology than in ancient
theology. If many of the creeds are outgrown
it is because there has been progress in every-
thing else as well as in theology. They are no
farther behind the nineteenth century than the
geology and biology of a century ago. The
sciences go hand in hand ; advance in one makes
possible advance in all. Only when statements
of doctrine are used as barriers to prevent
children of the light from entering into their
heritage do we rise in indignation and ask,
What men wrote those creeds? Why should
they be considered infallible ? With something
of impatience we turn to our Bible, and ask
what confessions it contains ; and there find
that each individual made his own confession ;
that no one was exactly like another ; and that
each was suffused with the personality of the
confessor. Every individual who knows Christ
as His Saviour has a unique experience ; and
unique experience requires original expression.
Nathanael said : " Rabbi, thou art the Son of
God; Thou art. the King of Israel." Simon
Peter said : " Thou art the Christ, the Son of
the Living God." Thomas answered: "My
Lord and my God ! " The Eunuch said : " I
believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God."
And the baptismal formula is : " Into the name



234 Christ and the Creeds.

of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy
Ghost." No two are alike. The Divine life in
nature has an infinitely diversified expression ;
so has the Divine life in humanity.

Having shown what the place of Christ in the
creeds is, we now observe that creeds are
mechanisms built around the growing and
expanding Christ-life. Those who make them
may have somewhat of that life, and may have
but little. Those who have the most of it are
least likely to waste time in attempting its
definition and limitation. God in the soul is a
universe, and they gaze into its measureless
spaces with the same awe as into the depths of
the starry heavens. Those who have been
conscious of the Divine presence have striven to
be plastic in the unseen hands rather than to
explore horizons which have opened before their
vision like a northern midnight thick with stars.
Life is always a wonder. It eludes definition
and analysis, and grows according to its own
laws. While scholars were beating out the
articles of the Confession of Chalcedon, all
through the world, in serene unconsciousness,
humble spirits were following Jesus in the reali-
sation of fatherhood and brotherhood. While
the reformed divines by every device known to
logic were packing words with sovereignty,
reprobation, and expiation, millions who never
heard of a logical process were yielding to the
mastery of Jesus, and learning at first hand that



Christ and the Creeds. 235

He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. The
stars move in their courses whether the
astronomy is Ptolemaic or Copernican ; heather
and furz embroider Scotch hills in blessed
oblivion of all that has been written about the
Origin of Species ; and men are born, live, work,
think, write, perform heroic acts, make litera-
tures, and die, without the slightest acquaint-
ance with the theories which distinguish one
school of medicine from another. Life can
never be expressed in terms of mechanism.
There is something in the heavens which eludes
logic. Poetry and music can come nearer than
mathematics to describing a tree with its
unseen chemistries, its silent but ever active
forces, as it rises from a tiny seed, meets the
sunlight, and measures strength with storms.
Creeds have been inevitable because Christianity
rests upon facts and truths which are known to
be such as the result of intellectual processes.
Those who most decry reason trust to its con-
clusions. Revelations are always made through
our mental faculties. The Almighty chooses to
stand before the judgment-seat of man. Creeds
bear witness to the greatness of man; they
show that whatever carpers say, he dares to go
everywhere with the torch of his own thought.
Instead of showing intellectual bondage they
bear witness that in all ages Christians have
thought for themselves, whether they were
willing that others should do so or not. As



236 Christ and the Creeds.

generation after generation has put its idea of
God, Christ, and the spiritual universe, into
written form it has simply registered the results
of its investigations. But coincident with this
process, unseen as the spirit in man, or the
breath of the south wind in the springtime,
something has transpired which, in a very little
while, has emptied those fine phrases of their
meaning, and brought in other, and usually
more satisfying, ideas which require new
expression. Physical life never rests. Slowly
but unceasingly it thrills and throbs in gardens
and orchards, in meadows and forests, in
summer and winter, in day and night ; and the
Divine life which was in Christ never rests, but
is ever busy winning its way into individual
hearts, transforming institutions, revolutionising
states, gradually bringing in the new day of
love. New life is the superlative fact in the
movement in humanity which began with Jesus
Christ. Old institutions have fallen; ancient
theories of ethics have dropped out of sight;
hoary superstitions have disappeared, at the
very time that speculations concerning Christ
were most confused with] Christ Himself. As
some lofty spirit hears smaller souls trying to
account for his greatness, and smiles as he rises
to grander tasks, so, undisturbed by puny specu-
lations, the living Christ moves along His shin-
ing pathway, continuing revelations, working
miracles, and by never-ceasing sacrifice releasing



Christ axd the Creeds. 237

the groaning creation. Creeds have been made
as unlike Him as the Doge's dungeons are unlike
the sky above Venice. Those creeds have been
uplifted in the place of Him ; and at the same
time men have been won to the life of love. Even
when He has been represented as cruel and
heartless men have had revelations in secret
which have filled their dull hearts with hope,
their barren lives with service, and lifted their
thoughts to take in heights beyond the stars.
In other words, the life has been more than the
mechanism. Creeds are essential to our fallible
thinking; but Christ has never yet been
imprisoned in a creed.

The New Testament always presents the Christ
in terms of life, and His teachings thrill with
life ; He was incarnate ; He came into a living
man. The Life was the light of men. He
taught by words ; inspired by influence ; moved
on society by what He was. His greatest utter-
ance concerning Himself was, " I came that they
may have life, and may have it abundantly." He
said, "I am the way, and the truth, and the
life." He represented the process by which
others were to become like Him as a birth from
above. He left no rules, wrote no book, made
no laws, framed no government ; said that what
He came to achieve would be like a mustard
seed. His lessons were taught in terms of life.
God is the " Father ; " prayer is the intercourse of
spirits ; " Pentecost "was a new and unexpected



238 Christ and the Creeds.

manifestation of spiritual energy. The music of
His teaching never touched a higher note than
when He said : " Because I live, ye shall live
also." The state from which He came to save
men was death ; that to which He saves them is
life.

While the intellect will always attempt to
harmonise and adjust facts and truths, there will
always be facts and truths which will defy
adjustment and harmony. An eagle and a lily
can never be adjusted; a meadow lark and a
hippopotamus can never be harmonised ; all that
can be said is that both live — their harmony is
in unseen spheres. When Gobelin tapestries
are woven only the reverse side is visible, but
out of sight is a perfect plan, and each thread has
its own place in what some day will be a thing of
beauty. So in higher realms facts and truths
which to us seem antagonistic slowly but surely
are made to take their places in the world's great
harmony. Scripture teaches that in Christ all
things inhere, and from Him the Kingdom of
God is being gradually evolved. Creeds have
never told much of what Christ has been to the
world ; they have been filled with speculations
about Him rather than with Him. He is life
manifesting itself in righteousness. What He
is requires for its expression not logic, but holy
character. Men have tried to tell how the
Infinite subsists ; how the Unfathomable works,
what will be in the eternities, while He has



Christ and the Creeds. 239

been saving individual sinners, creating finer
conditions in society, introducing new ethical
standards, bringing in hope, and putting in the
place of cruel hate and sordid greed the love of
God and man. The essential things of Christ
have never been written in doctrinal formulae.
The Apostle said, " He that loveth not his
brother whom he hath seen cannot love God
whom he hath not seen." The world waits for
a creed in which one article shall be, " I believe
in the brotherhood of man." In that is more
of Christ than in a thousand pages about the
eternal generation. The true Christian lives not
to be ministered imto, but to minister. In what
oecumenical symbol is that written ? When will
this declaration be placed above speculations
about Trinity, plan of salvation, and the mys-
teries of the future, " We believe in the golden
rule ; that all men should love one another as
Christ loved those for whom He died; that 'he
prayeth best who loveth best all things both great
and small' ?"

There will be a Church of the future. That
Church will have a creed, definite and strong,
for while men live they must think, and while
they think they will have creeds. But
gradually enigmatic utterances concerning
fathomless mysteries will be replaced by some
such words as these : " We believe that the
pure in heart shall see God ; that ' whosoever
loveth is born of God and knoweth God ' ; that



240 Christ and the Creeds.

Jesus Christ reveals in humanity all we need to
know of Qod and the possibilities of man ; that
He saves from sin all who follow Him; that
love of the brethren is the test of discipleship.
We believe in the constant guidance of the
Holy Spirit ; that all things are in G-od's hands,
and never can escape from Him ; we believe in
the brotherhood of man; the communion of
saints ; that e whatsoever a man soweth that
shall he also reap ' ; and in the life everlast-
ing." * Along some such lines the creed of the
future will be written. It will reach directly
for the real things, and will come fresh and
throbbing from experience of the salvation that
is in Christ. The Divine life in humanity can
neither be expressed nor imprisoned in any
form of words, and His work, like the elemental
forces, goes on untouched and undisturbed by
human speculation.

The progress of Christianity, or the growth of
Christ into the life of the world, cannot be
learned from doctrinal confessions. They seem
to have moved in a circle. At first they were
simple and heartfelt expressions of personal
trust in the Master, and the utterance of faith
in Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Later, there
grew around these central truths a body of doc-
trine. The simplicity of the Apostles' Creed

* This passage was written two years before Ian Mac-
laren'a so-called " Life Creed" was published, and is not,
therefore, to be regarded as an adaptation of that.



Christ and the Creeds. 241



gave place to the slight complexity of the
Mcene, and that to the greater complexity of
the Creed of Chalcedon, and so on, until the
childlike confessions of the earlier times entirely
disappeared from the Church. The tendency
toward elaboration and complexity culminated
in the Westminster Assembly. Since then
there has been a reverse movement toward
simplicity, toward acceptance of the Apostles'
Creed as sufficient for confessional purposes.
Take two illustrations : the earliest great creed
and the latest. Compare the Apostles' Creed
with that of the National Congregational
Council. Does the comparison give any clear
idea of the growth of Christianity ? Is not
this the conclusion — After two thousand years
of strife the Church is slowly getting back to
its starting-point ? How many think the
Council's Creed preferable to the Apostles'?
Does the Council's Creed have anything more
satisfying concerning the Divine existence than
" I believe in God, the Father Almighty " ?
Does it shed one ray of light more on the person
of our Lord ? There is the music of anthems
and the swell of great organs in the following
from the oldest of creeds: "I believe in the
Holy Ghost; the holy Catholic Church; the
communion of saints ; the forgiveness of sins ;
the resurrection of the body ; and the life ever-
lasting." The creeds of the world tell nothing
of the growth of Christ as a vital power in

16



242 Christ and the Creeds.

human thought and character. They have the
same relation to Him as churches, cathedrals,
and liturgies. Cathedrals show that men in
different times have had varying ideas of what
buildings best honoured their Master; and
liturgies show how people have chosen to
express their worship. But liturgies and
architecture cannot tell how that Man of Galilee
has become the Master-thought of all our
thinking and the Master-light of all our seeing.
The growth of the Christ-life in the world must
be sought among the people, where He still
goes about doing good, binding up broken
hearts, opening blind eyes, casting out devils,,
and preaching a new day to the poor. Would
you try to account for the genius of the author
of Lear and Hamlet by the clothes which he
once wore 9 The creeds of the ages are the
coats and cloaks which men have hung on the
living Christ, not a few of which in our time
have become moth-eaten and musty. They are
no more like Him than a libretto is like an
oratorio, or an astronomic chart like the heavens
full of splendid stars.

But now interrogate society, institutions, and
the life of man. Leave the fact that Christ has
been preached in all ages and lands ; forget for
the time temples and cathedrals, solemn music,
vested choirs, priests, and preachers. Simply
consider human life as it may be studied in its
customs and institutions, and answer, Do they



Christ and the Creeds.



any more distinctly than doctrinal con-
fessions concerning what Christ is and has
done? Wherever He has been preached, at
once and of necessity the life of love has begun.
Its growth has been slow, for its environment
has been unfavourable. In your Gibbon and
Mommsen read of the world at the time of the
Advent. What crimes were enacted in the
name of justice and law ! What wretches
polluted the splendour of the Csesarean throne !
A philosophy of despair had taken the place of
religion. Augustus, having failed to revive the
old State religion, had resorted to magicians
and soothsayers from Egypt and the East ; little
children were put on the street to die by those
who claimed respectability. On one island in
the Tiber the aged were left, like worn-out
horses. Imagine a world without hospitals,
asylums, children's homes, fresh-air funds f
Think of tens of thousands gathering to see
men kill one another, as we assemble for base-
ball and football ! Remember that that was in
the heart of the most splendid, and in many
ways the best, nation which the world had ever
known ; that it was not exceptional, but that
what the capital was the provinces were.
Remember that slavery existed in well-nigh
every land ; that woman was degraded ; that
fathers had the power of life and death over
their children ; that divorce was almost as
common as marriage ; that in the most splendid



244 Christ and the Creeds.



cities sensuality was exalted to worship. In
that dark and awful degradation were many
bright spots. Man is not and never has been
wholly bad. Serene and beautiful spirits have
never been entirely unknown. Marcus Aurelius
sat upon the same throne as Nero and
Caligula ; Cornelia walked the streets of
the same city as Agrippina ; and yet cruelty
held the sceptre, love had little honour, and
humanity did not seem to be moving toward
better things. That young Nazarene lived and
died. The words which He spoke were treasured
and repeated, and the subtile something which
we call life, for it had the power of reproducing
itself, began to germinate and extend. Where-
ever tha/t life went society was changed.
Gladiatorial exhibitions were given up in
response to an appeal in the name of Christ ;
asylums were built because He took little
children in His arms ; the poor, often not
wisely, were cared for because they were of the
humanity into which He had come ; hospitals
were built because it was His mission to heal
diseases, and almost always in connection with
churches. The dialogues of Plato stimulate
speculation ; the influence of Jesus bears fruit
in holy character. Other masters have had a
few disciples, but where the message of Jesus
has gone the church, the school, the hospital,
the asylum, those great sources of moral
regeneration, are found side by side. They



Christ and the Creeds. 245

belong together, and are the efflorescence of a
common life. He taught the brotherhood of
man. To teach it and to realise it are different
things, but brotherhood grows from Him as a
tree from a seed, and the very rabble that is
ready to sack the churches will cheer His name
to the echo. No real democracy was ever
known before Jesus washed His disciples'
feet, and taught the world that he who
would be chiefest should be servant of all.
Laws were made for kings — now they are
made for men. Little children are embraced
in the protection of the State ; woman is the
equal of man ; competition is giving place to
co-operation ; duelling is almost a disgrace,
except in France and Germany, and there it is a
farce ; slavery is nearly gone, for to buy and sell
a man is to make merchandise of a son of God ;
and while the armaments of the world are
greater than ever, no nation dares take the
responsibility of precipitating conflict. Won-
derful as these changes are they are but symp-
tomatic of others more striking. Churches,
charities, schools, are as nothing when balanced
against hope, joy, love, and the consciousness of
a meaning and a chance in life. Figures cannot
express the emotions in a human breast when
the doors of a prison-house open beneath
splendid skies. Mathematics fail when the gate
of death swings into life. The saddest fact of
the old time was its hopelessness. Cruelty in



246 Christ and the Creeds.

conduct is the expression of despair in philo-
sophy. Show men that they are in an infinite
dungeon whose only escape is death, and the
wail of the Buddhist will everywhere be heard :
"And life is woe." Epictetus and Aurelius
wrote sublime sentiments; they faced the
solemn mysteries with heroic spirits ; but they
had no power to bind up broken hearts; and
while their teachings might nerve a few to
endurance, they inspired no enthusiasm, and
opened no newer and larger horizons. Need
the other side of this picture be sketched ? Can
the living Christ be found in society and
history? Is He not saving men to-day?
Who is that preacher thrilling thousands with
his message ? One who aforetime was a
drunkard in the ditch. Who is that missionary
leading in the transf omiation of a State ? One
who was once a waif taken from an almshouse.
Who is that woman, who, laying aside fine
clothing and jewels, chooses to go in rags and


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