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On Articles of Religion, And Their Interpretation.

On Articles of Religion, And Their Interpretation.

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Published by GLENN DALE PEASE
REV. JAMES SHERGOLD BOONE, M.A.,


ROMANS VI. 17.

BiU God be thanked, that ye were the servants of Wn, btU
ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine
which was delivered you.
REV. JAMES SHERGOLD BOONE, M.A.,


ROMANS VI. 17.

BiU God be thanked, that ye were the servants of Wn, btU
ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine
which was delivered you.

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Published by: GLENN DALE PEASE on Oct 08, 2013
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O ARTICLES OF RELIGIO, AD THEIR ITERPRETATIO.REV. JAMES SHERGOLD BOOE, M.A.,ROMAS VI. 17.BiU God be thanked, that ye were the servants of Wn, btUye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrinewhich was delivered you.THE Apostle here expresses his fenrent gratitude^that the Boman disciples, who had once beensteeped in the errors and profligacies of heathenism,had shewn themselves, since their conversion, faithful tothe religion of Christ, both in its spirit and in its letter.* They had obeyed from the heart that /arm of doctrinewhich was delivered them ;' or, according to the transla-tion in the margin, * whereto they were themselvesdelivered,' that is, consigned by their profession of theGospel, and solemnly dedicated at their baptism. Al-most all commentators agree in thinking that, by theexpression, ' form of doctrine,' is here meant some sum-mary, or digest, of the main tenets of Christianity ; — ^inthe same way as where St Paul, in a former chapter of this Epistle, speaks of ' the form of knowledge and of the truth in the law;' or where, in writing to theHebrews, he adverts to ' the principles of the doctrineof Christ ;' or where he encourages Timothy, as ' nour-ished up in the words of faith and of good doctrine.XIX.] O ARTICLES OF RELIGIO, &C. 335^hereunto he had attained:' or exhorts him to 'holdfast the j^orm of sound words, and keep that good thingwhich was committed unto him/ This good thing, inshort, for thus the apostle terms it, this precious depositof faith, — ^this form of doctrine, appears to have been
 
some creed, or brief confession, embodying the mostnecessary and cardinal articles of Christian belief: andthey, to whose care and keeping such a compendium of Divine truth is entrusted, are uniformly praised forreverencing it, cleaving to it, and holding it inviolate.Proceeding upon the ground of these scriptural andapostolical statements, I would take occasion to con*sider, generally, the nature and use of Creeds, Articles,or other Formularies of doctrine; incidentally touching,for there is no time to enlarge, upon their true purportand intention, the conditions which they must observe,the principles on which they should be constructed, andthe spirit in which they should be interpreted andobeyed. In venturing to treat this important subject,I would cautiously abstain from mixing it up with anyexisting disputes, whether as to matters of theology, oras to tribunals of a4judication ; but I would trust thata dispassionate and candid discussion of the questionitself may be serviceable on many accounts at the pre--sent juncture ; while it may be best conducted withoutdirect or inunediate reference to any of those particularcontroversies, by which the religious mind of Englandcan be now excited or inflamedCreeds and Articles have a two-fold purpose. Theyserve both as exponents of faith, and as terms of com«munion. The Bible itself, though it fulfils still higherand holier ends, i— the entire Bible, from its very strue*ture, from the number of its writers, from the variety;336 O ARTICLES OF RELIGIO, [SERlif .of its contents, from the length of years over which thedifferent portions of its composition ore spread ; fromits rejection of technical or rigidly scientific method ;and from the diverse interpretations which have beenput upon many of its statements, — could not be, and
 
was not designed to be, such a manual, or directory, of belief, as the circumstances and exigencies of mankindhave in all ages required. It was requisite that recourseshould be had to subsidiary helps. The Bible must bealways the great rule of faith ; but from these self-evi«dent facts, that its documents were not framed in regu-lar order by one person at one time, or distributed intoheads, or set forth in any systematic form, it could notbe the only guide, or introduction to faith. Every asser-tion in Creeds and Articles must be capable of proof orcorroboration from the Bible ; but our possession of theBible, precious and invaluable to us, as it is, does notsupersede the necessity of Creeds and Articles. Therehas always been needed some epitome or index ; somebrief methodical synopsis of the chief and fundamentaltruths of our religion ; some systematic collection of itsmain dogmatic principles, as distinguished from its his-torical, its poetical, its devotional and hortatory instruc-tions ; such as might be grasped and comprehended inone view ; such as might be conmiitted to memory ;such as might be handed down, in express terms, fromgeneration to generation. And here, events may bethe guides of opinion. Experience teaches what wemight be led by reason to expect. We know, in pointof fact, that, from the earliest days of Christianity, atleast from the date of the Apostles' Creed, such sum-*maries have been compiled. In the first instance, theywere probably constructed and put forth, with a moreespecial intention, as expressions of a CathoUc ortho-XIX.] AD THEIB ITERPRETATIO. 337doxy; or, as preservatives against the dangerous andbaneful errors, which had already begun to insinuatethemselves among the professors of the Gospel, suchas the Onosticy or the Cerinthian, heresy. But in pro-cess of time, as the various sections of the ChristianChurch were more completely organized into distinct

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