Copyright
Richard Lowndes.

Our vows : a work to be read in preparation for baptism, confirmation and the Eucharist online

. (page 4 of 8)
Online LibraryRichard LowndesOur vows : a work to be read in preparation for baptism, confirmation and the Eucharist → online text (page 4 of 8)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


the Son, but the Father,'" — when our Lord uses these
words. He speaks not then with reference to His
Godhead, but only with reference to His manhood.
He speaks not of Himself then as being God, but only
as being man. And so it is said in the Athanasian
Creed, that "Christ is equal to the Father as touching
His Godhead, and inferior to the Father as touching
His manhood."

The Godhead of the Holy Ghost we prove from
Acts V. 3, 4 ; Ps. Ixviii. 18 ; Eph. iv. 30 ; Matt. xii. 31,
32; 2 Cor. iii. 17; 1 Cor. ii. 10-13.

These three great Persons, then, the Father, and the
Son, and the Holy Ghost, are each God and Lord ;
yet they are not three Gods, but one God ; not three
Lords, but one Lord ; as it is declared, " The Lord our
God is one Lord.'"

» John xiv, 28. 2 Mark xiii. 32. ' lb. xii. 29.
5*



54 OUR vows.

Of these three great Persons we believe, 1. Of the
Father, that He is the Maker and Creator of all things
in heaven and earth ; of all things visible, things
which we see around us in the world and in the heav-
ens above ; and also of things invisible, such as the
unseen spirits, those good and evil angels, some of
whom are God's ministers, watching over the^n who
shall be heirs of salvation,' guardian angels of Christ's
little ones, always beholding the face of the Father
which is in heaven f others, fallen rebellious spirits,
going to and fro in the earth,^ whose miserable work it
is to tempt and deceive the children of men during
this present life, and at the last to be their accusers be-
fore the judgment-seat of God. Of God the Father
we also believe, as regards the redemption of man-
kind, that lie so truly and really loved the world,^ that
He gave His only-begotten Son to be the propitiation
for our sins.^ On account of His great love wherewith
He loved our ruined race, and for our redemption, the
Father could endure to behold the sufferings of His
only Son ; He could put Him to grief. He could see
of the travail of His soul," He could hear His voice in
the hour of death crying in a mysterious agony, " My
God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?" This
could God the Father suffer for man's salvation, and
in this was manifested His surpassing love towards
us.'

2. Of the Son we believe that He, being in the form
of God, being God blessed forever, did yet humble
Himself to be born of the Virgin Mary,^ and to be

1 Heb, i. 14. 2 Matt xviil. 10. s job i. 7.

*Johniii. 16. ^ ijyim jy. 10. o isa. liii. in, 11.

MJobniv. 9. « Luke i. 31-:35.



THE BAPTISMAL VOW .* FAITH. 55

made in the likeness of men ; and that as a man He
led a life of poverty and humiliation," being " despised
and rejected of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted
with grief ;"^ and did at last bear our sins, and the pun-
ishment due to those sins, which was death ; giving up
His life upon the cross, dying in our stead, that He
might redeem us from death ; enduring the unspeak-
able shame and agony of the cross, that we might re-
ceive the glories of God's kingdom and be exalted to
everlasting life. We believe, too, that after His death
upon the cross, while His sacred body was resting in
the grave. His soul (for Christ was a " perfect man, of
a reasonable soul and human flesh subsisting") depart-
ed unto Paradise,^ and was there until the third day ;
upon which day** Christ rose again from the dead ; and
after having shown Himself alive, being seen of the
disciples forty days, and speaking of the things per-
taining to the kingdom of God,^ did ascend triumph-
antly into heaven, and sat down at the right hand of
God the Father, to be there our Mediator and Inter-
cessor,® until that day when He shall once more come
in power and great glory, and all the holy angels with
Him, to judge both the quick and the dead, and to
render to every man according to his works.^ This
we believe of God the Son.

3. Of God the Holy Ghost we believe, that He is
the Lord and Giver of life ; that he is God, coequal
and coeternal with God the Father and God the Son ;
that through Him, and through His divine working,

1 Matt. viii. 20; Luke viii. 3; Matt. xvii. 27; Luke vii, 44.

2 Isa. liii. 3. 3 Luke xxiii. 43. « 1 Cor. xv. 4.
5 Acts i. 3, 9. 6 Eom. viii. 34 ; 1 Pet. iii. 22 ; Heb. i. 3.
'' 2 Tim. iv. 1 ; Acts x. 42 ; Matt. xxv. 31, xvi. 27.



56 OUR vows.

our souls receive all spiritual life, and grace, and
strength. That as it is His first work in our baptism'
to graft us into Christ, in Whom is life,' so also is it
His divine work continually to preserve that holy union
between Christ and us, to foster, strengthen, and de-
velope in us that spiritual life which we have received
from Christ our Head. As Christ declares Himself to
be the Vine,^ we being the branches, so is the Holy
Spirit that life-giving sap which flows through all the
sacred tree, and gives to every branch its vigor,
strength, and fruitfulness. The Holy Ghost sanctifies
Christ's members day by day. He sanctifieth all the
people of God,

In the English Catechism, the expression is, "all the
elect people of God ;" and the phrase gives us an op-
portunity to observe that the word "elect" may bear
two meanings. It may refer, in its widest application,
to all those persons who in their baptism ore elected
to be members of Christ and children of God ; in
which case, when we say that the Holy Ghost sancti-
fieth, or makes holy, all the elect people of God, we
do not mean to assert that all baptized persons, are in-
deed sanctified more and more throughout their lives
by the Holy Ghost, but only that those among the bap-
tized wlio are lioly are made so by no power or natural
strength of their own, but only by the divine influence
of the Holy Ghost, who " worketh in them both to
will and to do of His good pleasure,"*

Secondly, the word " elect" may refei», in a more
confined sense, to the elect of the elect ; to those few
(out of the vast number who were once elected in

» 1 Cor. xii. 13, 9 John i. 4,

3 John XV. 1. •• Phil. ii. 13.



THE BAPTISMAL VOW : FAITH. 57

their baptism to Gospel privileges) who have made
their " calling and election sure ;" to the " few chosen"
ones out of the "many called.'" And of these it is
declared, that thej, yielding themselves to the influ-
ences of the Holy Spirit, and not having received the
grace of God in vain, are daily sanctified more and
more ; they are " strengthened with might in the inner
man,'" they grow in grace, they become " holy in all
manner of conversation,"^ and at last are made meet to
be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light."*

The word "elect" will naturally lead us to that
doctrine of " election" which is so great a difliculty to
some persons' minds.

The simplest, and at the same time a perfectly
scriptural way of explaining the doctrine of election,
is this : We may believe that the election spoken of in
Holy Scripture is an election ?i(?^ to final salvation^hnt
to what is called in the Catechism " a state of salva-
tion," — a state wherein we are made partakers of the
benefits of Christ's precious sacrifice, and wherein we
may attain, if we will attain, unto eternal life. It is
an election to a participation in the privileges and
blessings of the Gospel dispensation, which may lead
to our final salvation, or not, according to the use we
make of these inestimable benefits. This is not diffi-
cult to understand. We can see in the world around
us that some persons are elected unto Christianity ;
they are born of Christian parents, and of necessity,
and without any choice on their own parts, they be-
come Christians and sharers in the Gospel covenant ;
others are born of heathen parents, and by a like ne-

1 Matt. xxii. 14. 2 Eph. iii. 16.

3 1 Pet. i. 15. 4 Col. i. 12.



58 OUR vows.

cessitj (as far as we can see), are not elected to, but
are shut out from, Christian privileges. But this
electioh does not absolutely and positively decide^ how-
ever much it may influence^ their future state in eter-
nity ; because, as on the one hand, many persons born
to be Christians will certainly not inherit the king-
dom of heaven ; so, on the other hand, we may chari-
tably hope (and there is nothing in Scripture to forbid
the hope) that some persons, born into the darkness of
heathenism, will yet be saved hereafter, by being
made partakers of the benefits of Christ's death in
some manner and by some means not as yet revealed
to us. This perhaps is the best way of explaining the
doctrine of election.

But as some persons are not contented with this,
and as some will press the matter further, and imagine
that an election unto final salvation is spoken of in
Holy Scripture, and since from this opinion they often
draw the most dangerous conclusions, it may be well
to show further that the doctrine of an election to final
salvation is not inconsistent with the free oflers of sal-
vation to all men held out in so many passages of Holy
Scripture, and does not necessarily lead to the extreme
views which some persons erroneously draw from it.
The subject is a difficult one, but a little attention may
make it sufficiently intelligible.

St. Peter, in his first Epistle,' addresses the persons
to whom he writes as " elect according to the fore-
hioidedgc of God the Father ;" and this is the light in
which we should regard any election to final salvation,
as being simply a 2)cirt and a necessary consequence of
the great mystery of God^s forehiowledge. It is cer-

1 1 Pet. i. 2.



THE BAPTISMAL VOW : FAITH. 59

tain, as St. Paul declares in the most unmistakable
language/ that it is the will and desire of God that
" all men should be saved, and come to the knowledge
of the truth ; but God, "Who seeth all things that were,
and are, and are to come — in whose sight " a thousand
years are as one day'"^ — God, according to and by His
foreknowledge, seeth that some men will receive and
proJSt by His mercy, and that many will resist and dis-
appoint His divine wish ; that some, therefore, will in
the end be saved, but that many, despite his gracious
designs towards them, will after all turn away from
the knowledge of the truth, and at the last be ruined.
Foreseeing this, God speaks of that which He knows
will be as if it already were. He, Who (as St. Paul
says) "calleth those things which "be not as though
they were,'" speaks of future events — of facts which
future time shall develope, as though they were al-
ready existing and were some present part of His
providential dealings with mankind. God in his in-
finite knowledge viewing all things, whether past, or
present, or to come, from the same point of time,
anticipates that election which must take place at the
day of judgment, and speaks of it in His divine fore-
Tcnowledge as if it were already determined. The final
election is not really so made beforehand ; it hath not
at present any real substantial existence ; as yet it ex-
ists only in God's foreknowledge of what will be
hereafter. But since it does exist, so to say, in that
foreknowledge of the Almighty — since God foresees
and foreknows it, He can speak of it beforehand as if
it were already made and were in actual existence.
And in this only sense is it right to speak of any

1 1 Tim. ii 4. 22 Pet. iii. 8. s Rom. iv. 17.



60 OUR vows.

election to final salvation or final ruin. Such an elec-
tion is simply a part and a necessary consequence of
GoiVs divine foreknowledge. Taken in this sense, it
will harmonize easily with the merciful promises and
invitations held out by God to all men, and will not
give rise to those dangerous arguments and conclu-
sions which men have too often drawn from this doc-
trine.

The contemplation of the great and mysterious truth
of God's foreknowledge is not likely to lead us into
any erroneous views ; for this reason : that while we
confess the fact of God's foreknowledge, while we are
sure of its truth, yet at the same time we are equally
sure, on the other hand, that tins divine foreknowledge
has no direct or practical effect upon ourselves. We
may believe that God foreknows what will happen;
yet we believe quite as firmly — there is something
within us, some inward conviction which positively
assures us, that we are at the same time free to act as
we please. No one really doubts this. Take a case
in point. God foreknew who at this time would listen
to the voice of conscience and perform their duty in
coming forward to present themselves for Confirma-
tion. God also knows who will give earnest diligence
now to their preparation for Confirmation, and so un-
dertake this solemn duty in a fitting frame of mind ;
He knows, too, who will be careless and ungodly, and
so lose the blessing which is offered. And yet no one
doubts that all had the power of choosing, and were
free to choose, what they would do; no one doubts
that all may either be idle and indifferent about this
matter, or sincere and earnest ; no one believes that
lecause God forehiew what they were about to do,



THE BAPTISMAL VOW : FAITH. 61

therefore they wQve forced to act either in one way or
another ; every one feels, and is most certainly con-
vinced, that he was and is free to do as his own heart
inclines him.

We may say the same thing about election. God
knows who will be saved, and who will be lost ; and
yet we may be quite sure that God's foreknowledge
does not in any way influence our election, which will
be decided by nothing else than the strictest laws of
justice, truth, holiness, and mercy. However difficult,
therefore, however absolutely impossible even, it may
be to our reason to reconcile the two facts, that God
certainly foreknows what will happen, and that yet
men are free to act as they will ; still, despite the dif-
ficulty, we can believe and be positively certain of the
truth of both statements. And so whatever may bo
said and allowed about God's foreknowledge, we feel
that it is a difficulty which in no way affects us prac-
tically. It is a mystery, the explanation of which we
can patiently await in another world.

And now to return to the subject of the Holy Trin-
ity. We believe also of the Holy Ghost, that it has
been through His divine inspiration and under His di-
recting influence that the Holy Scriptures have been
written.^

And here let some few words be said about the in-
spiration of Holy Scripture.

We are to believe of Holy Scripture that it is di-
vinely and miraculously inspired. How the sacred
writers were inspired it is not necessary for us to in-
quire, and it would be unwise to attempt to give any
explanation of that which God has not been pleased to

1 2 Pet i. 21 ; 2 Tim. iii. 16 ; John xiv. 26, xvi. 13.

6



62 OUR vows.

reveal. IIoio far the Scriptures are inspired, in
what degree, to what extent, is a more important ques-
tion. On this point we are to remember, that the
Holy Scriptures were not written entirely from the
dictation of God, and by men acting simply as the
mouthpiece of the Almighty, as did Moses when it
was said unto him, " Write thou these words ; for after
the tenor of these words I have made a covenant with
thee and with Israel."^ The Scriptures were written
by men compassed to some degree with human in-
jBrmities, and expressing themselves very often in their
own imperfect language. The sacred writers were
" moved" by the Divine influence, but they were not
so overruled on all occasions by the Holy Spirit as that
the style of writing and habit of thought natural and
peculiar to them was interfered with or destroyed.
The peculiarities of each writer were preserved ; and
thus we may recognize and allow in the sacred writ-
ings the existence of two elements: 1. The Divine
inspiration ; 2. The human mind and style of expres-
sion. We cannot draw any line, and say in all cases.
Here the Divine influence is apparent, and there the
imperfect expressions of man are recognizable. We
can only affirm generally, 1. That in every case the
sacred writers, while using such words and expressions
as were natural to them, were preserved from all errors
in things divine ; 2. That they were directed to tlie
statement of all necessary truth ; 3. That in many
cases, perhaps, and whenever the use of particular
words and expressions might be of importance, they
wore miraculously directed to the use of such particu-
lar words.

1 Exod. xxxiv. 27.



THE BAPTISMAL VOW : FAITH. 63

It must be quite clear that the importance of the
exact words and expressions used must be of yery
different value in different passages of Scripture. For
instance, when recording some historical event, it
would not, perhaps, be important whether the facts
were expressed in one set of words or in another ; the
only important thing would be, that the record of the
events should be correct. Here, then, we may believe
that the writer should be left to the selection of his
own words, and that the Divine influence would be
only exercised in a general way to direct him into all
truth. But where some vital doctrine was to be taught,
— where something was to be stated which is necessary
for man's salvation to be believed, there we may very
well suppose that not only a general, but a particular
inspiration did enlighten the writer's mind, and that
he was guided to the use of those exact and particular
words which were needful.

Thus should we believe of Holy Scriptm-e ; and let
us not be turned from this belief by any skeptical ar-
guments which we may hear around us.

Let some few warnings, moreover, be added on this
subject.

We hear very much said in these days about the
discoveries of science contradicting the statements of
Holy Scripture. Bear in mind, then, first, that the
object and intention of Holy Scripture is to teach us
of heavenly, spiritual things, and not of earthly things.
It need not, therefore, really be any matter of wonder
to us, if in some things relating purely and entirely to
this world we find the sacred writers expressing them-
selves according to the commonly received opinions of
their own age, rather than in accordance with the



64 OUK vows.

more enlarged information of later times. Even if it
be a fact that the statements of inspired writers are in
some particulars at variance with the scientific dis-
coveries of later days, this need neither surprise us
nor cause us any uneasiness, because Scripture icas not
written to teach us of earthly^ 'but of heavenly things ;
and therefore it might very well accord with the wis-
dom of God to permit men to write with an ordinary
intelligence about things earthly, while they wrote
with an extraordinary and miraculous inspiration
about things heavenly.

But observe, secondly, that it is by no means cer-
tain (very far from it indeed !) nor is it to be allowed,
that Holy Scripture and the sound discoveries of
science do contradict each other in the slightest degree.
It may possibly be the case that the interpretation
w^hich persons have been accustomed to put upon
Scripture, may be at variance with the recent dis-
coveries of scientific men. But that is a very dif-
ferent thing from science contradicting Scripture itself.
Our interpretation of Scripture may be w^rong; we
may be mistaken as to the time meaning of many pas-
sages in Holy Scripture, and the discoveries of science
may lead us to a closer examination and to a correc-
tion of these erroneous views. Mistaken opinions as
to the meaning of Scripture have undoubtedly been
held in former ages. The same thing may be proved
against us in these days. Thus much may be readily
enough conceded. But it is one thing to admit that
science may contradict our commonly received inter-
pretation of Scripture, and another, and a very dif-
ferent thing, to allow that the discoveries of scientific
men do contradict the Word of God itself



THE BAPTISMAL VOW : FAITH. 65

This last has not as yet been proved, and probably
never will be.

Observe, again, that these scientific discoveries are
to be received with very considerable jealousy and
caution ; and are not by any means to be admitted
hastily as being perfectly correct. Men may be very
clever and learned, but after all, may they not in some
instances prove themselves to be only blind leaders
of the blind ? "With most subjects they are very im-
perfectly acquainted, their so-called facts are often
little else than mere guesses at the truth, and it is
positively certain that there are many laws and prin-
ciples of nature about which men are as yet absolutely
in the dark. And these great principles, when re-
vealed by God to men's minds, and when perfectly
understood, may so alter the whole aspect of affairs,
that possibly a hundred years hence these points,
which are now so stoutly insisted on and declared to
be facts, may be proved to be nothing else than human
errors.

Or, again, we hear of contradictions in Holy Scrip-
ture itself; men complain that the statements of one
passage in the Bible are at variance with the state-
ments of another. On this head it might very fairly
be answered, that the instances brought forward of
such contradictions are in reality so trifling and so un-
important as to prove little else than that the Scriptures
are what they profess to be — viz., the testimonies to the
truth of many independent witnesses ; and thus these
very contradictions would tend rather to strengthen
than to weaken the authority of the Bible. But in
fact, many of these pretended contradictions have been
satisfactorily reconciled, and these objections snfficient-
6*



66 OUR vows.

ly answered time after time, and doubtless a fuller
knowledge on some points, and a more certain infor-
mation about the subjects treated of, would enable us
to set at rest forever the very last existing difficulty.

Let it be remembered, too, that though ice do not
happen to be able ourselves to explain some difficulty
or to answer some objection, that is no reason why
persons better informed may not be able to do so.
Our not being able to explain some difficult point does
not prove that no explanation is to be found, or that
none can be given. The opponents of Holy Scripture^
are not always candid enough to admit that the diffi-
culties which they are presenting to us have been met
and reasonably explained over and over again. They
will constantly advance the same arguments as if they
were perfectly unanswerable, and urge the same diffi-
culties as if they were allowed to be inexplicable; and
thus tliey Avill too often perplex and disturb the minds
of the unstable and ill-informed.

We do not now hear for the first time an outcry
against the inspiration of the Scriptures ; the same has
been raised again and yet again in years gone by, and
still the Scriptures have survived these fierce attacks,
they still hold their place in the hearts and minds of
holy men, and are still regarded as being the sacred
depositories of all truth ; yea^ the very Word of God
Himself

As such let us ever faithfully regard them.

And while we are diligent in the study of our Bible,
while we read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest these
Holy Scriptures, let us pray that we may ever be able
to delight ourselves in God's "testimonies," and to
declare with our whole heart, " How sweet are Thy



THE BAPTISMAL VOW : FAITH. 6t

words unto mj taste : yea, sweeter than honej unto
mj mouth."^

Next, we express our belief in tlie " Holy Catholic
Church," in that Church which is holy because Christ
its Head is holy, because the Spirit which sanctifies it
is holy, because holiness is the profession of all its
members. This holy Church is catholic, or universal.
The Jewish Church was confined to one peculiar peo-
ple; the Christian Chm-ch is to be spread abroad
throughout the whole world. '^ This holy Church is
one. As there is but one Head, which is Christ ; so
is there but one Body, which is the Church. But as
there are many members in one body (the whole to-
gether forming one body), or many branches in one
tree (the whole together forming one tree), so are
there, in some sense, many Churches, many bodies of
Christians, each of which may be called a Church (as
St. Paul says, "The Churches of Christ salute you'"),
different branches of the one true Church of Christ.
Upon these various branches, however, is urged the
necessity of "holding the faith in unity of spirit, and
in the bond of peace."* And so our Lord's solemn
prayer for His Church is, " That they all may be
one."^

It may be asked, By what marks are we to know a
true branch of Christ's Church ? By these. A true
Church will be "continuing steadfastly (as did the
early Christians^) in the Apostles' doctrine and fellow-


1 2 4 6 7 8

Online LibraryRichard LowndesOur vows : a work to be read in preparation for baptism, confirmation and the Eucharist → online text (page 4 of 8)