SIX VOLUMES IN ONE
BY THE DISTINGUISHED EXPONENTS OF CATHOLICISM
REV. HENRY DODRIDGE, D. D.
REV. HENRY EDWARD MANNING, D. D.
REV. F. LEWIS, of Granada
REV. STEPHEN KEENAN
REV. BERNARD VAUGHAN, S. J.
REV. THOMAS N. BURKE, O. P.
|Icon depicting the Emperor Constantine, accompanied by the bishops of the First Council of Nicaea (325), holding the Niceno–Constantinopolitan Creed of 381.|
THE CREED DEFINED. Part 1.
Q. What is the Creed?
A. It is a short collection of articles, and the sum of what Christians ought to believe.
Q. By whom were they drawn up, and to what purpose?
A. By the twelve Apostles, to the end they might be more easily retained by the faithful, and to distinguish them from all societies of unbelievers.
Q. Do they contain the whole, of what a Christian ought to believe?
A. No, only the general heads, yet so, that all other particular articles are deducible from them ; especially if we believe the ninth article, viz.: The holy Catholic Church.
Q. How many are these heads, and in what order are they disposed ?
A. They are twelve, distributed with respect to the three Persons of the blessed Trinity. The first part has a relation to God the Father, and the creation ; the second to God the Son, and man's redemption; the third to God the Holy Ghost, and man's sanctification, and glorification.
Q. Which is the first article? A. I believe in God the Father Almighty, creator of heaven and earth. Q. What is God?
A. I conceive him, as a Being eternal, self-existent, independent, from whom all other things are derived, and upon whom all and every thing entirely depends.
Q. What inducement have you to think there is such a Being?
A. Faith, reason, conscience, the testimony of my senses, and the general concurrence of all mankind oblige me to be of that persuasion.
Q. In what manner does Faith convince you of God's existence?
A. Because he has revealed his existence, and confirmed the truth of the revelation, by undeniable proofs, and motives of credibility; fully declared in the Old and New Testament.
Q. How can your reason prove the existence of God, who appears, by your description, to be an incomprehensible Being, above the reach of man's reason ?
A. My reason tells me, that he is, but not what he is; my reason informs me of some of His perfections: others I learn by Faith; but as to a comprehensive knowledge of that great Being, he would not be God, could we comprehend the whole that belongs to him.
Q. Let me hear your proofs from reason of God's existence?
A. In the first place, it is demonstrable from the effects. I see a multitude of things in this visible world, which, not being capable of producing themselves, recourse must be had to some self-existent, and original cause, which gave them being; for without such a necessary and self-existent Being, all things would remain in the state of indifferency, and nothing could receive a being. Again, I have within me a silent monitor, which is that fear I am seized with, as often as I commit a wicked action, which can proceed from nothing else, but an apprehension of being called to an account, and punished by some power I ought to have obeyed.
Q. What do your senses declare in proof of a Deity?
A. Those surprising great bodies, the earth, the sea, and air; with the sun, moon, and stars, as they could not be produced by any mortal hand, make me conclude, they are the effect of some great and omnipotent power; to which, if we add the beautiful variety of trees, fruits, herbs, and flowers, which cover the earth, the rich mines which are lodged within its bowels, the several species of beasts, and insects, which range and creep upon it, with the various kinds of fish, which swim in the waters ; and birds that fly in the air, they all inform me of some wise and omnipotent power, which gave them being, which I am still further convinced of, when I consider the admirable structure of their bodies, the regularity of their motions, their specific propagation, their wise economy, and how dextrously they labor, to obtain their respective ends.
Q. Do all mankind join in a belief of this supreme Being?
A. No nation was ever so ignorant or barbarous, as not to acknowledge some sort of Deity, though they were involved in many errors, as to the qualities belonging to him.
Q. You seem, then, not to allow there were ever any atheists. What do you say to the objections which those sort of people are said to make, against your proofs of a Deity ? Why might not the visible world be produced by chance? We may conceive things producing one another, by an infinite succession of causes and effects, without arriving at a necessary and self-existent Being. Is not this as conceivable, as a self-existent and eternal Being? Again, atheists will tell you, that there is no real distinction between good and evil, but what is learned from education, especially by human policy and priestcraft.
A. I cannot be persuaded there was ever any such person as a real atheist; who denied a supreme Being, interiorly, to whom he owed obedience. I own, some have attempted to bring arguments for that purpose, but it was rather to show their pretended wit, or from the corruption of their morals, which prompted them to wish there was no God to punish them for their sins; which the royal prophet alludes to when he says, the fool said in his heart there is no God. Ps. xiii. i.
Q. What answer do you make to the objections of those pretended atheists?
A. To say that the world was produced by chance, is a manifest contradiction to the common reason of all mankind. What happens by chance, has nothing of regularity, either as to time, place, or disposition of parts : whereas the world is a regular subordination of causes and effects. Can chance produce a book by shuffling together the letters of the alphabet ? When we behold a watch, a house, or ship, we conclude they were the effects of some intelligent and skillful operator, who joined their parts together; and by consequence, the parts of this visible world are so artfully united, that they are a convincing proof of some wise and powerful operator, who brought them under that regularity. As to what is alleged, concerning things making one another, that can have no reference to several parts of the universe, viz.: The earth, sea, sun, moon, stars, and many other bodies, which receive not a being by generation, but are single, and incapable of multiplication. As for other creatures, viz.: The fruits of the earth, birds, beasts, fishes, and the rest, which seem to produce one another, they cannot be conceived to act as principal, but only as instrumental causes ; because, as some are void of sense, and others of reason, they cannot be conceived as principal authors of those artificial parts, and wonderful properties, which are produced; but, on the contrary, they manifestly point out, a wise and all-powerful author, who acts as principal. The like inconvenience and contradiction appears, in an infinite succession of causes and effects, without arriving at some necessary and self-existent being; for no effect we know of, is producible originally, without a wise and omnipotent power: and though we cannot have a comprehensive idea, that there is such a power as to all its perfections, yet without having recourse to that necessary being, we cannot account for the existence of the world, and the parts which compose it. Whereas an infinite succession is not only inconceivable in itself, but leaves us in the dark, how the parts of the universe were capable of being produced with so great beauty and variety.
Q. What is God's will, how are we to conceive it, and in what manner is it fulfilled ?
A. God has only one will, though according to our way of conceiving it, we distinguish several kinds; for example, first, we conceive that nothing happens contrary to his absolute will: now, his will is made known to us by certain outward tokens, viz.: By precepts, prohibition, permission, advice, etc. Hence, a good life consists in obeying the will of God; his absolute will is always fulfilled, but his conditional will is not, as in the reprobate whom he permits to follow their own free will; though he has a real will that they should be saved; as a merchant when he casts his goods overboard, has a will to save them, but permits the mariners to destroy them.
Q. What is love and hatred, and how is God capable of such affections?
A. Love is a desire of good, either in itself or to ourselves or others. There are several kinds: a love of complacency, that is, when we love a thing for itself; a love of concupiscence, when we desire it for our own sakes;
a love of benevolence, when we desire it for the sake of others; a love of beneficence, when we actually confer the good we desire; a love of friendship, is a reciprocal love of benevolence. God's love for man, is of complacency, benevolence, beneficence, and, in the just, of friendship. Hatred is an aversion to evil, either grounded in the thing or personal; one is called abomination, which God has against sin; the other of enmity, which God is incapable of because he cannot wish evil to man.
Q. What is providence, and after what manner does God govern the world ?
A. It is a direction of all things to their proper end, by suitable means: all things I say, both great and small, natural and supernatural; so that he concurs immediately both to necessary agents and free agents. Hence, predestination and reprobation belong to God's providence.
Q. What is predestination, and in what manner are we to speak of it ?
A. Predestination is an eternal purpose of saving some persons: reprobation is an eternal purpose of permitting some persons to be damned: they both are inclusive of merits and demerits; yet, with this difference, a foresight of sin, or the ill use of grace, is the motive of reprobation ; but whether persons are predestinated upon a foresight of merit, or good use of grace, is not determined by the church; 'tis more conformable to the Scriptures to say, predestination is gratuitous; and as predestination includes the preparation of means, especially the first grace, it is a point of faith that is gratuitous.