The Church Catechism Explained
by Arthur W. Robinson
Cambridge at the University Press, 1927 (from 1895)
[Spelling and punctuation selectively modernized. Bible citations changed to
all Arabic numerals. Footnotes moved for web convenience.]
This work has been undertaken at the request of the Syndics of the Cambridge University Press, with a view to those who are being prepared for the Local Examinations and to Candidates for Confirmation in schools and elsewhere. It is hoped also that many others, and among them possibly some whose school days are now far behind them, may be glad to be helped to retrace and relearn the old lessons presented with such boldness of grasp and simplicity of outline in the little manual which has stood the long test of time and use, and is increasingly valued as one of the most precious possessions of English Christianity.
This book will, it is believed, be found to be true to its title. The attempt throughout has been not so much to prove or enforce, as to explain the Catechism. The short Introduction deals with the history, title, and structure of the document, Its main sections are considered separately in the several Parts. In each case the method has been to set forth as clearly as possible the underlying principles of the teaching before passing on to such further elucidation of details as seemed necessary for an accurate knowledge of the subject. It is not unlikely that some might find it best to read consecutively the chapters which contain the larger treatment before spending time upon the explanations of particular words and phrases.
The deficiencies and inaccuracies of these pages would be many more than they are had it not been for suggestions and information supplied by previous workers in the same field. References to names will be found wherever it has seemed natural and useful to give them: here it must be enough to mention generally those of Nicholson, Blunt, Norris, Maclear, Daniel and Allen.
For valuable help the author is indebted to many friends to whom he has turned for general counsel or particular assistance during the progress of his work. To the Bishop of Wakefield and Dr A. J. Mason, as also to his brother Prof. J. Armitage Robinson, his most sincere thanks are very specially due.
It only remains that he should say that he will esteem it a great kindness if any of his readers will be at the pains to point out to him any ways by which this book may be brought into more thorough accord with the devout spirit and sober judgment of the English Church, or by which it may be rendered more practically serviceable to those who are to use it.
Allhallows Parking, E.C., Nov. 1, 1893.
P.S. In sending out a new edition it is pleasant to be able to say that this little book has made for itself a great many friends and has been cordially approved by not a few of those who can speak with most authority amongst us. Some alterations and some additions have been made in view of a considerable number of suggestions which have been sent to the author, but these are not such as to affect the general substance or character of the work. The punctuation of the text of the Catechism has now been brought into agreement with that which will in future be adopted for the Prayer-books which are issued by the Cambridge Press.
June 17, 1895
“The Church Catechism, to which all Divinity may easily be reduced.” George Herbert.
Introduction – (1) History. Religious awakening of the 16th century. Books of Instruction. First appearance of the Catechism. Nowell’s Catechisms. Hampton Court Conference. Savoy Conference. (2) Title. Points to be noted in it. (3) Structure. Division into five Parts.
Part I – The General Teaching.
Chapter I. Why the Catechism begins as it does. The principle involved. Need of simplicity in teaching a child: and of proceeding from the known to the unknown. The appeal of privilege to responsibility. This order maintained throughout.
Chapter II. The great Christian Obligations. The order in which they stand. The prerequisite of Faith. The call to decision.
Chapter III. Particular Explanations. The Christian Name. “N. or M.” “Godfathers and Godmothers.” “made.” “member of Christ.” “child of God.” “inheritor.” “kingdom of heaven” “promise and vow.” “renounce.” “devil.” “world.” “flesh.” “believe.” “articles.” “will and commandments.” “walk.” “state of salvation.” “grace.” “continue.”
Part II – The Creed.
Chapter I. It does matter what a man believes. The Apostles’ Creed. The summary of its contents. It does not answer speculative questions as to the origin and nature of evil; but tells of a purpose implied in Creation, confirmed by the fact of Redemption and the presence of the Holy Ghost.
Chapter II. “The elect people of God.” The Circles in the Creed. The difficulty of seeming favouritism: specially felt today. The explanation. Election not rejection. What we may not say; and what we do not know. Our hope and our duty.
Chapter III. Particular Explanations. “Catechist.” “rehearse.” “Creed.” “believe in God.” “The Father.” “Almighty.” “Maker of heaven and earth.” “Jesus.” “Christ.” “only.” “Lord.” “conceived.” “born.” “suffered.” “under Pontius Pilate.” “crucified.” “dead.” “buried.” “hell.” “rose.” “ascended.” “quick.” “Ghost.” “Church.” “catholic.” “holy.” “communion.” “saints.” “forgiveness.” “resurrection.” “body.” The resurrection body. “life everlasting.” “Amen.”
Part III – The Commandments.
Chapter I. Proportion to be kept in teaching Faith and Practice. Our sense of the importance of Duty. Why the old Law is the lesson proposed. The two parts of Duty. Religion and Philanthropy. The Decalogue to be studied in the light of its significance for those to whom it was originally addressed. The underlying principles of its structure.
Chapter II. Particular Explanations. The translation adopted. The meaning for us of the First Commandment. The Second not directed against Art as such. Reference to the divinities of Egypt. “under he earth.” “a jealous God.” “unto thousands.” Temptation to abandon the effort of spiritual religion. Original reference of the Third Commandment. “the Name of the Lord.” Helps to reverence. The purpose of the Fourth Commandment. Acceptance of its principle by the Christian. Sunday not the Sabbath. The way in which it should be kept. Gains of its observance. “all the days of thy life.”
Part IV – The Lord’s Prayer
Chapter I. The need of Prayer. The principle of Prayer viewed in the light of human analogy and Divine revelation. Prayer a work: and an art. We must learn to pray. The lesson of Prayer.
Chapter II. “The Lord’s Prayer”: familiar, simple; yet not necessarily understood. Not enough to know the meaning of its words and clauses. What is the principle of its construction? Our Lord’s method of teaching. The illustration employed. The elementary obligations of the Home. The prayer in its shorter form the expression of these. Prayer difficult because it is hard to be simple.
Chapter III. Particular Explanations. “Our.” “Father.” “in heaven.” The hallowing of God’s Name: why to be desired before anything else. The service of our wills. The Father’s kingdom. “in earth as it is in heaven.” We ask not for luxuries but necessaries. Meaning of the word “daily.” The right to ask for forgiveness. The condition upon which it is granted. “trespasses.” “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” The translation, “from the evil one.” “everlasting death.” Omission of Doxology.
Part V – The Sacraments
Chapter I. The concluding portion of the Catechism added at the request of the Puritans. Place of Sacraments in religion. The three chief characteristics of the teaching given: Simplicity, Certainty, Gravity.
Chapter II. Particular Explanations. “Sacrament.” “generally necessary.” “grace given unto us.” “ordained by Christ Himself.” “parts in a Sacrament.” “Baptism.” The mode of administration. “in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.” “a new birth unto righteousness.” “Children of wrath.” “children of grace.” “repentance.” The requirement of Sponsors. Infant Baptism.
Chapter III. Particular Explanations continued. Names of “The Lord’s Supper.” “remembrance.” “the Sacrifice of the death of Christ.” “the benefits which we receive thereby.” “commanded to be received.” No theory offered as to how “the Body and Blood of Christ” are present in the Sacrament. “taken and received.” “by the faithful.” The desirability of frequent Communion. The need and nature of the preparation to be made. “in charity with all men.”
A. On the meaning of the word Catechism.
B. On the history of the Creed.
C. On the “Duty towards thy Neighbour.”
D. On the Rubrics of the Catechism.
E. Additions and alterations proposed in 1689.
F. Suggested addition of the Scottish Episcopal Church.
G. Supplement proposed in 1887.
Index of words explained (omitted for web)
A Catechism, that is to say, An Instruction to be Learned of Every Person
Before He be Brought to be Confirmed by the Bishop.
1. The History of the Catechism.
We shall find ourselves frequently referring to the circumstances under which the Catechism was written, when we are endeavouring to determine the sense which is to be attached to its words and expressions. It may be useful therefore to gather together at the outset such facts of the history as it will be most necessary to keep in mind.
English books of simple teaching in regard to the elementary duties of faith and practice had existed from early times, but for our present purpose we need not go back any father than the sixteenth century. The great intellectual and religious awakening of that period directed attention to the serious need that there was among the people at large of instruction in the first principles of the Christian religion. To meet this need two books were put forth by authority in the reign of Henry VIII. They were entitled “The Institution of a Christian Man,” commonly called “The Bishops’ Book” (1537); and “The Necessary Doctrine and Erudition for any Christian Man,” known as “The King’s Book” (1543). These contained expositions of the Creed, the seven Sacraments, the Ten commandments, and the Lord’s Prayer. That such attempts were not considered to have been entirely satisfactory appears from the fact that they were quickly superseded. In one respect they obviously failed: they were not specially fitted, indeed it is plain from their titles that they were not really intended, for the use of children. It was a truer sense of the conditions of the case, and of the way in which they should be dealt with, which produced the “Catechism” which appeared in the First Prayer-book of Edward VI. (1549) This was included in the Service for Confirmation, the title of which, as it then stood, was Confirmation, wherein is contained a Catechism for children. Except for some minor changes subsequently made in it, this Catechism was identical with that which we now have, as far as to the end of the paraphrase of the Lord’s Prayer.
In 1553 there was published in Latin and English a Catechism, said to have been drawn up by Ponet, Bishop of Winchester, which was intended for the use of schoolmasters. It does not seem to have met with any considerable acceptance, and attempts to improve upon it were made in 1562 by Nowell, the Dean of St. Paul’s. These are chiefly interesting because it is probable that from them much of the concluding portion of our own Catechism was derived. This concluding portion was added at the Hampton Court conference in 1604. The Puritans at that time complained that the Catechism in the Prayer-book was to short, while Nowell’s, they said, was too long. Ultimately they agreed to be satisfied if “something” were “added to the former for the doctrine of the Sacrament.” King James consented, and instructed Overall, the Prolocutor of the Convocation and Dean of St Paul’s, to make such an addition “in the fewest and plainest affirmative terms that may be.” [Cardwell, Conferences, ch. iv. p. 187.] Some verbal alterations were introduced at the Savoy Conference (1661); and it was then that the Catechism was transferred from the Confirmation Office to its present place. Since that time it has remained unaltered in the English Church. [For an account of proposals to alter or add to the Catechism, made in 1689 and 1887, see Additional Notes E, F and G.]
2. The Title of the Catechism.
The present Title is substantially the same as that which was prefixed to the Catechism in the Prayer-book of 1549; where, as we have said, the Catechism formed part of the Confirmation Office. It only differs from the original Title by the substitution (in 1661) of every person for every child, and by the Bishop for of the Bishop.
The following points should be noted in the Title:
(1) The word Catechism is explained to mean Instruction: for its derivation, see Chapter III.
(2) The stress laid upon the need of instruction preparatory to Confirmation. By this it is implied that those who are to be confirmed shall have “come to years of discretion”: see the Title and the Preface of the Confirmation Office. Previously the practice of administering Confirmation to infants had been common.
(3) While in the Catechism itself nothing is said about Confirmation, the Title makes it clear that it is with a view to Confirmation that the teaching is to be given. It is evidently taken for granted that “the Order of Confirmation,” with which in our Prayer-book the Catechism has always been closely connected, will be found to be the best explanation of what is to be obtained by means of that holy ordinance.
(4) The use of the expression to be confirmed indicates that the end to be kept in view in coming to Confirmation is not that the candidates may themselves “confirm” the vows which were made for them at their Baptism, though this they are required to do; but rather that they may receive the assurance of the Divine favour towards them, and be strengthened with the Holy Ghost: (see the words of the Confirmation Office). They are to be brought, not to confirm but, to be confirmed.
(5) The insertion of the words by the Bishop. Standing as they do at the outset, they furnish a sufficient answer to any inference which might be drawn from the fact that there is no insistence in the Catechism upon the maintenance of the primitive order of the Ministry of the Church.
3. The Structure of the Catechism.
A glance at the Catechism shows us that its subject matter is intentionally arranged in well marked sections. The first four questions and answers evidently constitute the first of these: and a most important section it is. In it, as we shall see, we have presented to us in outline a sketch of the entire cycle of the teaching contained in the Catechism. All that follows serves but to treat more fully the thoughts which have been thus generally expressed.
When e.g. it is desired to make clear what has been said as to the duty of believing the articles of the Christian faith, the further explanation is given in the Creed.
Similarly, what is meant by the obligation to keep God’s commandments is shown by the statement of what they are, and what it is that we chiefly learn from them.
So again, the allusion to the need of praying in the answer to the fourth question is the natural preparation for the further teaching as to the Lord’s Prayer; just as the reference to grace is afterwards to be followed by the careful instruction upon the means of grace.
We might almost regard the first division as the Text and look upon the four remaining divisions as consisting of Notes and an Appendix.
The five “Parts” of this book will accordingly deal with these five sections of the Catechism under the following heads:
i. The General Teaching
ii. The Creed.
iii. The Commandments.
iv. The Lord’s Prayer.
v. The Sacraments.
The corresponding portions of the Catechism will be printed at the commencement of the several Parts.
Part I – The General Teaching
Question. What is your Name?
Answer. N. or M.
Question. Who gave you this Name?
Answer. My Godfathers and Godmothers in my Baptism; wherein I was made a member of Christ, the child of God, and an inheritor of the kingdom of heaven.
Question. What did your Godfathers and Godmothers then for you?
Answer. They did promise and vow three things in my name. First, that I should renounce the devil and all his works, the pomps and vanity of this wicked world, and all the sinful lusts of the flesh. Secondly, that I should believe all the articles of the Christian faith. And thirdly, that I should keep God’s holy will and commandments, and walk in the same all the days of my life.
Question. Dost thou not think that thou art bound to believe, and to do, as they have promised for thee?
Answer. Yes verily: and by God’s help so I will. And I heartily thank our heavenly Father, that he hath called me to this state of salvation through Jesus Christ our Saviour. And I pray unto God to give me his grace that I may continue in the same unto my life’s end.
1. Why does the Church Catechism begin as it does? Other Catechisms do not begin so. Some of them begin very differently. To take but one example, the Catechism in use among the Presbyterians in Scotland begins with the following Question and Answer:
“What is the chief end of man?”
“Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy Him for ever.”
These are noble words, and set side by side with them it might appear – to some it has appeared – that our way of beginning is humble enough. “What is your Name? ... Who gave you this Name?”
Now it might perhaps be fair to ask anyone who made such a criticism to turn to the end of our little manual and notice the conclusion to which it ultimately brings us. Our Catechism ends by bidding us to “be in charity with all men.” If this be so, we might say, if we are to be led at last to so high a level as that – and we can scarcely think of a higher – what does it matter though the first round of the ladder which is to conduct us thither be ever so humble and low?
But indeed it is not necessary to go even so far for an answer. We need not shift the ground. We may confidently take up the challenge just where it is thrown down. We can show without any difficulty that we have good cause to be satisfied, to be most grateful, that our Catechism begins as it does.
The matter is really one of principle, as a little consideration will prove. If we reflect, we shall see that there are two quite distinct ways of approaching the whole subject of practical religion. We may begin by thinking either of (1) What we are to do for God: or of (2) What God has done for us.
The first way is the way which to most of us at first sight appears to be the obvious and natural one. A man says, “I want to be religious. What must I do? What is it that God requires of me? Let me know, and I will try to do it.” That seems to be a very simple and common-sense way of dealing with the matter. And yet if the Bible be true, and if the experience of all the saints is to be relied upon, it is in reality a false and a difficult way; a way which quickly leads to dark views of God and hard thoughts of duty, which is very far from being a way of life and freedom: a way indeed from which a man is likely to turn ere long in disgust or despair.
We have to learn, and the sooner we are taught it the better and happier for us, that the opposite is the right and good way, the way which is not of works but of grace and faith.
It is only as we begin with the realization of what God has done for us, of all that we owe to His mercy and His love, that our hearts warm with gratitude and our duty is transformed into a willing devotion. It is when thus set at liberty that we are ready to walk, even to run, in the way of God’s commandments.
If these things are so, we may see why it is that we have no reason to be dissatisfied with the opening of our Catechism; why it is that we need not be in the least degree envious of the splendid words which stand at the commencement of that other to which we have referred.
It is the glory of the English Catechism that it begins by telling the child what has been done for him, before it says one word about the duties which he on his part is bound to fulfill. We could not wish it otherwise, and indeed it may well strike us as a strange thing that those who drew up the Westminster Catechism in 1648, a hundred years after the publication of our own, and who no doubt believed that they were putting forth a form of teaching which would be more Evangelical and further removed from the perils of legalism than that which they set aside, should yet have begun with words which, magnificent as they are, do in reality but tell men what they are expected to do for God and what they may hope to get by doing it.
2. Still it may be asked, “But why does the Church Catechism begin as it does? Might not this great principle have been more generally and more unmistakeably expressed?” Again the answer is not so far to seek. The Catechism is intended, in the first instance at all events, for the use of children. Now even grown-up men and women do not always find it easy to grasp and retain a hold upon general principles: for children it is essential that the truths taught should be expressed in a manner as far removed from the abstract as possible.
Again, in teaching a child it is a recognized rule that it is best to proceed from that which is well known to that which is less likely to be familiar. Now what can a child be supposed to know better than his name? It is true that sometimes a “nickname” is allowed to take the place of the Christian name – an exchange to be regretted on many grounds – but the Church is justified in assuming that the child knows nothing so well as the name which was given to him at his Baptism. This then is taken as the starting point; and an excellent beginning it makes.
Suppose that any of us were to be entrusted with the education of a young child of noble birth and high station, and that we desired, as we should desire, to fill his mind with lofty resolves and generous aspirations, how should we set about the task? Should we not feel that we could attain our end in no way more effectually than by telling him of his position, of all that he owed to the past and of the prospects which might reasonably be supposed to lie before him in the future? And what would be the simplest and shortest way of making all this real to him and fixing it in his mind? Could we do better than say, “What is your name? How did you get it? Of what does it remind you? Will you not try to be worthy of it?”
And is it not the same instinct of the true teacher which leads the Church to begin her teaching for children in just the same way? How better than by means of the name which they bear can she bring home to their minds the position which is theirs – their high connection as members of Christ, their splendid dignity as children of God, their glorious destiny as inheritors of the kingdom of Heaven? How better help them to realize these privileges, out of which, as they are soon to learn, such vast responsibilities grow?
3. We say then that the Catechism begins as it does in order that it may assert a great principle, and in order that it may assert it in the form in which it is most likely to be intelligible and least likely to be forgotten.
That it may not be supposed that we are laying too much stress upon the intention of the Catechism to assert this principle, it will be worth while to observe how frequently and with what evident care the order of which we have been speaking is maintained and emphasized throughout the course of the work.
We shall have occasion to notice it again and again as we proceed. Thus we shall find that it is not until after we have been bidden to “believe all the articles of the Christian faith,” that we are told to “keep God’s holy will and commandments.” We are “bound to believe and do.” The Creed is given to us before the Commandments, and is expressly explained as teaching what God has done for us. The Commandments when they come are introduced by a Preface which reminds those to whom they are addressed that it is as a redeemed people that they are called upon to obey them.
All throughout, the order is the same – Faith before Practice, Grace before Duty, Privilege before Responsibility. Until we understand that this is so, we shall have yet to learn one of the chief lessons of the Catechism.
1. There are four things, it has been truly remarked, which a man can say, by the saying of which he is distinguished from the creatures beneath him. They are these: I am, I ought, I can, I will.
It is in proportion as these great words have for him a full high meaning that he rises in the scale of his manhood. The true Christian is the man who has been taught to say with all earnestness and sincerity, “I am that which I have been made as a member of Christ’s Church; I ought to lead a life which will be worthy of so exalted a calling; by God’s help I can, and by God’s help I will.”
And these are just the lessons which, one after another, the Catechism would have us to learn.
It begins, as we have seen, by telling us what we are in virtue of our Christian privileges. But it will not stay there. Indeed its very object in speaking of privilege is to prepare the way for the thought of the responsibilities which must necessarily follow. And most thorough and careful is the teaching as to these.
It will perhaps be useful that we should try to form a general idea of what is contained in the rest of this first section of the Catechism before attempting to dwell more particularly upon the precise meaning of any of its parts.
What then is it, let us ask, that as Christians we ought to do? If we look at the answer which tells us the nature of the obligation that rests upon us, we shall see that it is threefold. To state it quite broadly, we acknowledge that we are bound (1) to give up all that is wrong, (2) to believe all that is true, (3) to do all that is right.
Since, however, it is the aim of the Catechism to reduce general propositions to particular terms, each of these requirements is carefully defined.
(1) The Evil to be renounced is analyzed into its separate elements: (a) “the devil,” the source of temptation external to us and our surroundings; (b) “the world,” the source of temptation arising from our fellow creatures; and (c) “the flesh,” the source of temptation within ourselves.
(2) The Truth to be believed is that which is to be found expressed in “the articles of the Christian Faith,” and these are to be accepted in their entirety.
(3) The Right to be practiced is that which may be learnt from what is to be known of “God’s holy will and commandments,” which must be constantly remembered and obeyed.
2. We need not at present dwell upon these obligations further than to notice the order in which they stand. This should be most seriously studied.
We have already seen how at the very outset of the Catechism that which is to be believed is taught before anything is said of that which is to be done: and now we find the same principle asserted again. A full, complete Belief is evidently regarded as a necessary preliminary to a true and perfect Obedience.
A very little experience of life however is enough to convince us that for many people anything like a full and complete belief is exceedingly difficult to attain. When we ask ourselves why this is so, we are naturally inclined to suppose that the difficulty must be of an intellectual kind. Those who feel it are as a rule ready to persuade themselves that it is such. It is quite possible that it is. Without doubt there are intellectual difficulties which meet us all, and some of us more than others, in the search after truth. Many of them may be removed by a patient teacher who knows how to put things clearly and reasonably. Indeed it often happens that a very little explanation will work wonders in this way. But while this is true, it is also certain that there are cases in which no amount of merely intellectual help will avail.
Faith is more than an act of the mind. It is the energy of the entire nature, the movement of the whole being towards God and that which is Godlike. It includes, for its completeness, thought, imagination, affection, conscience, and will. Hence it follows that there are moral conditions of faith as well as intellectual: and these have much more to do with the growth of belief than we often suppose.
S. John the Baptist, when men demanded of him what they were to do, had one simple direction for them all. He did not tell them in the first instance to have faith, though he “came that all men through him might believe.” He told them to put away whatever they knew to be evil in their ways: whether it were the loveless accumulation of possessions for vain show or selfish enjoyment, or the extortionate greed that grasps at all it can get, or the spirit of violence and falsehood and discontent – their various forms of the temptations of the world, the flesh, and the devil (S. Luke 3:10–14).
The renunciation of known evil is the prerequisite of faith and the true preparation for religion.
An old man, who had been brought to repentance and faith after many years of sin and ignorance, put the matter very simply when he said, “We must give up all we know to be wrong, and then a new sort of life seems to come into us.”
And indeed all who strive to make progress in holy living will find out more and more, at all stages of their course, how much real and deep philosophy is comprised in these simple sentences: “First, that I should renounce; Secondly, that I should believe; Thirdly, that I should keep God’s commandments.”
The order cannot be changed. “With the heart man believeth unto righteousness.” (Rom. 10:10.) Conduct depends upon Creed; and Creed, in the long run, must depend upon Character.
3. The obligations of a Christian having been stated, the fourth Question definitely calls upon the child to say whether or not he holds himself to be bound to fulfill them. The Answer is remarkable for many reasons. It combines a cheerful promptness with a firm determination and an unaffected humility. The idea of hesitation is not admitted for an instant: the matter is not regarded as one about which any doubt can be possible. The dominant note is that of gratitude to Him from Whom and through Whom such high hopes have come.
At the same time there is diffidence and distrust of self, an entire absence of all boastful security. The young heart is kept lowly in the midst of all this glorious vocation, and the voice of high-spirited resolve is subdued into a prayer in which the possibility of failure is made a reason for a fresh acknowledgment of dependence upon the sustaining grace of God.
We shall go far indeed before we find anywhere words which more truly breathe the spirit and more admirably express the secret of genuine religion.
What is your Name?
From what follows it is evident that the reference is to the Christian name. The surname (French sur, Latin super, above) is the name received over and above the more strictly personal name.
N. or M.
That is, “Name of Names”; the N. standing for Nomen, and the M. in all probability for NN. the abbreviation for Nomine.
The Latin Prayer-book* of 1560 has “N. vel N.”
*Of this (Queen Elizabeth’s) Latin Prayer-book, only two copies, containing the Occasional Offices and among them the Catechism, are known to exist. One is in the Library of S. John’s College, Cambridge; the other in the British Museum. A reprint will be found in Liturgical Services (Parker Society).
In the Marriage Service the substitution of M. for N. in the clause “I M. take the N.” was simply a printer’s mistake: as originally written the words were “I N. take the N.”
Who gave you this Name? – In the Baptismal Office the words “Name this Child” are not addressed to the parents but to the sponsors.
My Godfathers and Godmothers – Those who undertook the responsibility of bringing us to the New Birth. Their old English name was Gossip, i.e. God-sib, related in God.
The custom of sponsors is a very ancient one. It has been traced back in the Christian Church to the middle of the 2nd century, and was very possibly borrowed from the Jewish use of requiring the presence of three persons at the baptism of a proselyte, whether adult or infant, as security that the newly admitted should not be unworthy of the honour conferred upon him. [See Lightfoot, Hor. Heb. in Matt. 3:6.]
According to the Rubric at the commencement of the Office for Public Baptism of Infants, there shall be for every male child to be baptized two Godfathers and one Godmother; and for every female, one Godfather and two Godmothers. The 29th Canon of 1603 provides that sponsors should be communicants. It also forbids parents to act. This prohibition was removed by Convocation of Canterbury in 1865; but the alteration, although made under Royal license, never received the sanction of the Crown.
in my Baptism; – “Baptism”: from Gk βαπτίζειν, to dip, or wash: see further under “The Sacraments”.
wherein I was made – These words clearly imply that before baptism the child was not entitled to the privileges about to be described.
a member of Christ, – “Member”: from Lat. membrum, “a limb.” “A member of Christ” is a part of the body of which Christ is the Head. The exact expression occurs in 1 Cor. 6:15. The passage 1 Cor. 12:12–27, in which S. Paul works out the metaphor, should be carefully studied.
the child of God, – As being united to Christ the Son of God. “Ye are all the children of God, by faith, in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ” (Gal. 3:26–27). All men as such are God’s children: see (of the Jews) Ps. 82:6, Mal. 2:10; and (more widely) Is. 63:16, S. Luke 3:38. In Baptism, however, we receive a new and higher sonship, as in indicated by the use of the word “adoption” which is employed to describe it: see Gal. 4:3–5 “We were children* ... God sent forth his Son ... that we might receive the adoption of sons”; and Eph. 1:5 (R.V.) “Having foreordained us unto adoption as sons.”
*Here the word used suggests an inferior sonship of less privilege.
Cf. also “receive him for thine own Child by adoption” (Baptismal Office); and, “being regenerate, and made thy children by adoption and grace” (Christmas Collect).
“Adoption” implies the admission to new rights to which by nature we could have no claim.
and an inheritor of the kingdom of heaven. – In 1661 it was proposed by some to substitute “heir” for “inheritor” in this place, but the Bishops refused to make the alteration, saying, “we conceive this expression as safe as that which they desire and more fully expressing the efficacy of the sacrament”. [Cardwell, Conferences, ch. vii. p. 357.]
As members of the Church we are already “partakers of the inheritance of the saints” (Col. 1:12; cf. Acts 26:18), sharing its experiences as well as its hopes. See also Rom 8:17 and Gal 3:27, 29, where the word rendered “heirs” might with equal correctness have been translated “inheritors”.
“The kingdom of heaven.” The phrase as used in the Gospels denotes human life according to the Divine intention. This was revealed by Christ, and is being realized by His Spirit in the Christian Society – a Society full of imperfection at present, yet a Society heavenly in its source, its aims, and its principles.
The meaning and purpose of these Christian privileges will be more plainly seen when we come to speak of the explanation of the Creed, Part II, Chapter II.
What did your Godfathers and Godmothers then for you? – “Then”, i.e. at your Baptism. “For you,” i.e. not “for your benefit,” but “on your behalf” “in your stead,” as is made plain by what follows.
They did promise and vow three things in my name. – If the meanings of the words are to be distinguished, “promise” will refer to the engagement with the Church, “vow” to the undertaking made before God.
It is on account of the promises which they make that Godparents are called “sponsors” (from Lat. spondere, to give a pledge, to promise).
It has sometimes been felt to be a difficulty that others should have entered into an engagement on our behalf, binding us before it was possible that our consent could be obtained, to discharge certain obligations. There would no doubt be ground of complaint had these obligations been of an arbitrary and unreasonable character, or had they even been of a kind which might have been considered to be optional. As a fact however, they impose no other responsibilities than those which must of necessity rest upon all who would live true human lives. They are “such vows, as is a shame a man should not be bound by.” [Tennyson, Gareth and Lynette.] We can but be thankful to any who in any way help us to recognize and fulfill them. [See further under “The Sacraments”.]
When it was objected in 1661 that great numbers of persons had in the years immediately preceding been baptized without having Godfathers and Godmothers, and that such could not therefore use the words of the Catechism, the Bishops replied that these “must answer according to truth,” but that there was “no reason to alter the rule of the Catechism for some men’s irregularities. [Cardwell, Conferences, ch. vii. p. 357.]
First, that I should renounce – “Renounce” (Lat. renuntiare), refuse allegiance to. The word is well explained in the Baptismal Office, “Dost thou ... renounce ... so that thou wilt not follow nor be led by ...?”
The expression originally employed both in that place and here in the Catechism was “forsake.” It was altered in 1661. We cannot, strictly speaking leave the world, nor give up the flesh: we can and we must refuse to let either be our master.
the devil – The existence of a personal spirit of evil is plainly asserted in the Bible, and has ever been acknowledged by those who have had most experience of the spiritual life, “I dare not deny that it is an evil will that tempts me; else I should begin to think evil is in God’s creation, and is not the revolt from God, resistance to Him.” [F. D. Maurice, Life, vol. ii. p. 21.]
and all his works, – While all sins are in a sense works of the devil, there are some sins which we recognize as specially diabolical. Such are pride (1 Tim 3:6), lying (S. John 8:44, Acts 5:3), malice (1 S. John 3:10), and murder (S. John 8:44).
the pomps and vanity of this wicked world, – “Pomp,” from Gk. πομπή, literally a procession: hence display, mere show.
“Vanity,” (from Lat. vanus “empty”), emptiness, unreality. Note, it is not “vanities.” In the Catechism of 1549 the third answer was thus expressed: – “that I should forsake the devil and all his works and pomps, the vanities of the wicked world” &c. This was changed to its present form in 1661.
The “world” is used in Scripture to mean (1) the visible order of nature; (2) the entire race of men; or, as in this place in the Catechism, (3) human society in so far as it is not subject to the will of God.
and all the sinful lusts of the flesh. – The Anglo-Saxon “lusts” meant simply “pleasures”. In later use the word came to mean also “desires”.
“The flesh,” as the word is here employed, is that part of our nature which we possess in common with the animals. The desires of the flesh are not necessarily “sinful” in themselves; they become so whenever they are indulged against the dictates of the higher reason.
It is to be observed that there is no detailed exposition given subsequently in the Catechism of this first obligation, as there is of the second and third. It may well be that it was considered that more than a general knowledge of the fact and nature of evil was undesirable in the case of the younger members of the Church. [Bp. Barry, Teacher’s Prayer-Book, p. 156.]
Secondly, that I should believe – Our word “believe” is the modern form of the Anglo-Saxon gelýfan, “to esteem dear.” It may well remind us that there can be no true faith which does not come from the heart as well as from the head.
all the articles of the Christian faith. – Notice the word “all”. We are not at liberty to pick and choose what we will accept and what not. It is our duty to strive after a complete belief.
“Articles,” (Lat. articulus, “a small joint”), i.e. divisions, clauses. The term implies that the Faith is a whole of which each part is vitally connected with every other.
What these “articles are is to be shown later on in the Creed.
“Christian”: for the first use of the term, see Acts 11:26.
And thirdly, that I should keep God’s holy will and commandments, and walk in the same all the days of my life. – By “God’s will” we may understand that general expression of His mind and purpose which is to be gathered e.g. from providence, conscience, science, and history: by His “commandments,” the more precise intimations which are to be met with in Holy Scripture.
“Keep,” i.e. inwardly observe, remember, give heed to.
“Walk in the same,” i.e. openly follow their direction, not being ashamed to let it be seen.
Dost thou not think that thou art bound to believe, and to do, as they have promised for thee? – “As they have,” i.e. according as, not inasmuch as, they have.
Yes verily: and by God’s help so I will. – “Verily,” (Lat. verus, “true”), i.e. truly, indeed.
And I heartily thank our heavenly Father, – a modern philanthropist had as his motto, “think and thank.” It is interesting to see how the two words are connected here: “Dost thou not think ... yes ... and I heartily thank.” A little more thought might add surprisingly to the thankfulness of our lives.
Observe that we say “our” and not “my” in this place, as if to remind ourselves that these blessings are shared by us with others.
that he hath called me to this state of salvation, – “Called”: for the meaning and purpose of the Christians’ “calling,” see later, The Creed, Chapter II.
“Salvation,” (from Lat. salvatio, a “saving”), as the word is used in Scripture, may refer to (1) a past deliverance, (2) a present process, or (3) a future consummation. A “state of salvation” is a condition in which those who occupy it are “being saved” (cf. Acts 2:47, R.V.). Its opposite would be a state of destruction, i.e. the condition of those that “are perishing” (cf. 1 Cor. 1:18, R.V. where the contrast is drawn between the two states).
through Jesus Christ our Saviour. – These words should probably be connected with “called”: this is the construction adopted in the Latin Prayer-book of 1560.
“Jesus Christ”: for the exact meaning of these titles of our Lord see in The Creed, Chapter III.
And I pray unto God to give me his grace, – “Grace”, (from Lat. gratia), means in the first place “favour”: then, inasmuch as the Divine favour is ever an active force at work on our behalf, it comes to signify “help.”
that I may continue in the same unto my life’s end. – How possible it is to forfeit spiritual privileges may be gathered from such passages as the following:
“The children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness” (S. Matt. 8:12).
“Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away” (S. John 15:2, cf. v. 6).
See also 1 Cor 9:27; 2 Cor. 6:1; Heb. 10:39.
Part II – The Creed
Catechist. Rehearse the Articles of thy Belief.
Answer. I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth:
And in Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord, Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, Born of the Virgin Mary, Suffered under Pontius Pilate, Was crucified, dead, and buried: He descended into hell; The third day he rose again from the dead; He ascended into heaven, and sitteth at the right hand of God the Father Almighty; From thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Ghost; the holy Catholick Church; the Communion of Saints; the Forgiveness of sins; The Resurrection of the body, And the life everlasting. Amen.
Question. What dost thou chiefly learn in these Articles of thy Belief?
Answer. First, I learn to believe in God the Father, who hath made me, and all the world.
Secondly, in God the Son, who hath redeemed me, and all mankind.
Thirdly, in God the Holy Ghost, who sanctifieth me, and all the elect people of God.
1. The Catechism, true in this as in so many other respects to the best methods of teaching, first presents to the mind a general view of the great lesson which it proposes to impart, and then proceeds to explain in detail those portions of it which seem to require more particular treatment. First among these is the all-important subject of Belief.
Occasionally we hear it said that “it does not much matter what a man believes,” and sometimes we may have been puzzled to know how much truth there is in such a statement. There is really none at all: it is entirely superficial and false. Great teachers do not speak so. For instance Thomas Carlyle, whom no one would suspect of an undue consideration for the interests of dogmatic theology, affirms that “when belief waxes uncertain, practice becomes unsound.”
So again Emerson, to take another example, in his graphic way says even more forcibly, “A man’s action is but the picture-book of his creed.
It does matter what a man believes, for “all experience goes to show that conduct in the long run corresponds with belief. [Bp. Westcott, Gospel of Life, p. 48.]
It does not perhaps so very much matter what a man says he believes, and no doubt that is what is often meant by the remark of which we have been speaking: but that a man really believes – about God, about his fellows, about the world, and the future – this does affect his practice, does determine the whole complexion and character of his life.
It ought not therefore to surprise us that the Bible, from cover to cover, proclaims the doctrine that faith is the root of righteousness; that capacity for belief is the truest test and surest measure of the worth and power of a life. In the New Testament the words “faith” or “believe” occur on an average twice in every chapter, once in every 14 verses.
The Catechism therefore can appeal to the authority of Scripture and experience to justify it in insisting again and again that a right and full belief is essential to all who would lead a good and useful Christian life.
2. But clearly it is not enough to say that it is a duty to believe, and a duty to “believe all the articles of the Christian faith.” We need to know what these are: and this it is which is now to be explained to us.
For a statement of the subject matter of our faith we are referred to a venerable form of words which is at the least 1500 years old. In this we have the outlines in which primitive Christianity traced for itself what it conceived to be the teaching of Christ and His Apostles. So fully satisfied is our own Church that these do contain that which is most essential to know, that when, in her Office for the Visitation of the Sick, she is standing by the bedside of the dying and would help her ripest member to be sure that he does “believe as a Christian man should,” she bids her minister examine him in no other words than those of the simple Creed of his Baptism. The more we strive to understand it, the less shall we marvel that this is so.
3. Following the order which we have hitherto adopted we shall, in this and the next chapter, endeavour to make clear the main principles of the teaching of the Creed. This, were we left to do it entirely for ourselves, might indeed prove to be no easy task. Happily we are not without most valuable assistance. Our little lesson-book the Catechism, short as it is, does what bigger books often sadly fail to do; it tells us the things we most need to know. In this case, the question is anticipated: “What dost thou chiefly learn in these Articles of thy Belief?” The answer is a model of perspicuity and completeness. Let us take it point by point.
4. “First, I learn to believe in God the Father, who hath made me, and all the world.” This is the fundamental faith upon which all that follows is to be based. How large and sustaining it is! All that we see is the work of a Good Being. He has made it. A maker implies a design. He must then have a purpose for His Creation: and it must be good and perfect even as He is.
That is a beautiful belief. We do not find it hard to receive it, indeed for most of us life would not be tolerable without it.
And yet, as we soon discover, if we are to hold so much we must of necessity hold much more. We look out upon the world, and we quickly detect in it the presence of very much that is far from being good. We see terrible evidence of the existence and power of evil in the confusion and misery which meet us whichever way we turn: and we are driven to ask, what does it all mean? how came all this into a world which the good God has made?
If we expect the Creed to answer speculative questions as to the origin and nature of evil, we shall be disappointed. The Bible does not answer them. In all probability we possess no sufficient faculties to comprehend the answer were it to be given to us.* As a matter of fact, what we are told is something which it much more concerns us to know. We are assured that, whencesoever and howsoever evil came, it is an intruder in God’s world; it is no essential part of its nature or ours: God is at war with it; at infinite cost He has interposed to deliver us from it.
*One of our clearest thinkers has even ventured to say that “sin cannot be explained, for it is irrational – the one irrational, lawless, meaningless thing in the whole universe.” (A. Moore, Oxford House Papers, vol. II., p. 181.)
5. All this is shortly expressed in this next sentence: –
“Secondly, in God the Son, who hath redeemed me, and all mankind.”
All the mystery of Christ’s redemption we may never be able to fathom, but the great facts of it are to be grasped by the simplest. A stronger than the evil has appeared on our behalf. In the awful conflict of the Cross the victim proved the victor. Out of suffering has come forth the power of new life. In spite of any appearance to the contrary “the earth is the Lord’s”, and the visible triumph of good is only a matter of time. In the world’s great struggle Christ will win. The purposes of Creation will not fail.
Even this is not all that we may know: and indeed a very little reflection is enough to convince us that our faith must needs be somewhat more definite still, if we are really to make the best use of our lives and to do our utmost to cooperate intelligently with the Divine intention.
The great act of Christ’s Redemption took place a long time ago. What has been happening since? What is happening now in consequence of it? By what means, and in what way is the task of renovation to be effected? These are questions which we can scarcely help asking; and it is good to know that we are not left without the answer to them. That answer is contained in the last of the three sentences with give us the summary of the contents of the Creed.
6. “Thirdly, in God the Holy Ghost, who sanctifieth me, and all the elect people of God.”
The immediate result of the Redemption was the mission of the Holy Ghost. As the Son was sent into the world to accomplish the will of the Father; so to the Holy Ghost has been committed the task of carrying out to its completeness the work of the Son. He is the great agent in the deliverance from the power of evil. He is now in the world, influencing, renewing, saving men. In His presence and its effects we have the perpetual seal and pledge to assure us that the promise of Creation and Redemption will most certainly be fulfilled.
So far then there can be no doubt as to the meaning of our Creed. It is the declaration of the mind, and will, and working of God. It is the clue to the meaning of the world. It is a magnificent message of Hope.
The more we are determined to battle with evil in ourselves and in others, the more we devote ourselves to further the interests of righteousness, the more we shall realize the worth and the glory of it.
1. We have said nothing as yet of the remarkable phrase with which the last sentence of the summary of the Creed concludes. We certainly may not pass it by. What is meant by the expression “the elect people of God”? Are we to understand from it that the Holy Ghost is influencing a certain number of persons in a special way, and that these consequently are admitted to the enjoyment of privileges and advantages which others do not share? If this be so, does it not look as if such a mode of procedure were inconsistent with what the Creed has appeared to declare of a wide purpose of general good? Such questions are certain to arise if we think at all seriously about the matter.
In attempting to give an answer to them we must say in the first place that without doubt the word “elect” does imply the choice of some out of all. Election is selection. There can be no question as to that; and it is plain that the Catechism, so far from shrinking from this fact, does its utmost to impress it upon us. If we read the three sentences of its summary of the Creed together, we shall see that they appear to be intended to suggest the thought of three gradually lessening Circles.
“First, I learn to believe in God the Father, who hath made me, and all the world.” That is the Circle of Creation, wide enough to embrace the whole round world and all that therein is.
“Secondly, in God the Son, who hath redeemed me, and all mankind.” That is the Circle of Redemption, not so large as the first but yet large enough to include all the men, women, and children who ever have lived, or ever shall live: the whole race, the entire kind of man.
“Thirdly, in God the Holy Ghost, who sanctifieth me, and all the elect people of God.” That is the innermost circle of all, the Circle of Election; a much smaller one, containing only a portion of mankind, gathered out from the rest to be members of the Society of which the Creed itself speaks as “the Church”.
There can be no doubt as to the meaning of the teaching. It could not be more plainly expressed.
2. Having said this, we must further admit that what is thus taught does appear to involve us in very considerable difficulty. It does appear to be at variance with what we have seen of the earlier teachings of the Creed; and it does certainly conflict with some of the strongest tendencies of thought and feeling which are at work amongst us at the present time. If there is any one thing which we are disposed to distrust and dislike more than another, it is whatever looks like Favouritism: the setting up of arbitrary barriers between class and class, between man and man; privilege and monopoly in every shape and form. The determination to get rid of everything of the sort is perhaps the strongest force in politics today, and the same temper is observable in our theology. Never were people less inclined than we are for narrow limitations and dogmatic distinctions. How seriously the difficulty has been felt in some quarters may be gathered from the significant fact that the word “elect” has been entirely expunged from the revised American Prayer-book. [i.e. 1892 ed.]
3. What then are we to say who retain it? Is there any explanation that can be offered which might make the difficulty less, or even remove it altogether? Happily there is, and it is a very simple one. The whole of the difficulty, as it is ordinarily felt, will be found to be based upon the notion that the chosen Society is the end, the goal of the purposes of God. For such a supposition there is no warrant at all.
We need have no misgivings as to the meaning of the Divine choice. With God, Election is not rejection. He chooses some, not because He has no regard for those who remain, but in order that by means of the few He may most surely and most rapidly accomplish His wider designs for the good of the many.
That this is so we shall see if we think of the calling and training of “the elect people of God” of the Old Testament times. A little race, occupying a territory not much bigger than two of our English counties, was selected and separated from the rest of mankind to receive privileges and blessings peculiar to itself. And why? The reason was made clear to Abraham at the very beginning; “In thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed” (Gen. 22:18). It was accordingly the cherished hope of the Jewish prophets that a day would come when Israel should be consecrated centre of a worldwide influence.
Our Lord made it equally clear what was the motive in the choice of those who were called to the yet greater opportunities of the Christian dispensation, when He said to His disciples, “I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit” (S. John 15:16); and when He likened the action of the new kingdom to that of the “leaven which a woman took, and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened” (S. Matt. 13:33).
Passages to the same effect might be adduced from S. Paul’s great argument on this subject in the Epistle to the Romans (cf. 11:26, 32, 36; 12:1, 2); or from the account by the same Apostle of the purpose of the calling of the Church in his Epistle to the Ephesians (cf. 1:10; 3:8–11).
Or we may, if we will, go on to those final pages of the book of the Revelation in which are opened to us the furthest glimpses we have into that which is yet to be. There, in the perfected Christian society, is to be seen at last all of which the Jewish prophets had dreamed; the glorified city, filled with the light and life of God set as a centre from which flow forth the influences which win and save. “The nations shall walk amidst the light thereof”; “and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations” (Rev. 21:24 R.V,; 22:2).
4. Let us then be quite sure that we understand the intention of the calling of the Church. Its privileges are not given merely for the sake of those who receive them. The Church is a beginning and not the end. The work of the Holy Ghost, in the present time, is to gather out from all people an “elect” body consisting of representative elements drawn from the whole of humanity, who are to be “a kind of first-fruits,” a pledge, a promise of the yet greater things to come. Those who are called to a place within the innermost circle of Christian privilege are called to work with God for the accomplishment of His purpose for the world. It is for this that we are made members of Christ, children of God, and inheritors of the kingdom of heaven. If we desire to consecrate our lives to the truest service of man, we shall attain our end most directly by endeavouring to the utmost of our powers to be true members of the Church, doing all that we may, by prayer, and effort, and sacrifice, for its peace and its perfecting.
5. But here a caution must be added. While we may rightly desire definiteness, we must be on our guard against a too great zeal for completeness in our presentation of this doctrine of which we have been speaking. It is possible to go wrong in two directions if we are not careful. Thus, for example, there are those who, feeling very strongly that it is the Divine intention to make the Church the channel of spiritual blessing, are tempted to deny that graces, above all Christian graces, are ever given to any outside the number of the baptized. We have no warrant for saying this. Under the Jewish Dispensation there were exceptions to the rule; and there may be, indeed we cannot doubt that there are, such under the Christian. Now, as then, such may serve to stir up the chosen people to a sense of what will be required from those within the circle of privilege and opportunity, when so much has been attained by those without it. Now too, as then, they may serve as the intimations of the larger harvest that is to be. We need have no wish to deny their existence. The good Lord, if He will, make them ten thousand time so many as they be! All we may say is that, so far as we have knowledge of His ways either in Nature or Grace, we are taught more and more to recognize that God is a God of method and order. He may not of necessity be bound by His own methods, but we certainly are bound to obey them when we know what they are. If Christ did not scruple to say “Salvation is from the Jews,” we need not fear to maintain that the purposes of God today are being accomplished by means of the Christian Church.
Again, there are those who in their longing for logical completeness are easily carried too far in another direction. So confident are they in the assurance that the purpose of God is wide and that it must prevail, that they too hastily conclude that this must mean that all evil will at last be abolished and all men will be eventually saved. Now if we examine the Scriptures, we shall see that they contain statements some of which seem indeed to say quite plainly that this will be the case, while there are others which appear quite as deliberately to say “no”: and we shall find no attempt to effect a reconciliation between them. We must be content to leave the matter thus. Just as we cannot say how evil originated, so we are left without the knowledge which would enable us to say how it will end. It may well be that here again we do not yet possess the faculties which make such knowledge possible. We must be content to wait for the solution of the mystery.
In the meantime what we do know is amply sufficient to fill us with hope and to guide us to our duty. There is no contradiction between the different portions of our Creed. The purpose of Creation and Redemption and Election is all one. The fulfillment of that purpose will, we may be certain, far exceed anything that our too narrow and selfish hearts can easily conceive. It is the glory of our lives that we may contribute anything to the furtherance of it. It should be our one fear lest, through forgetfulness or unfaithfulness, we should be found to be unworthy of our position and our task.
CATECHIST. Rehearse the Articles of thy Belief.
“Catechist”, an instructor; from κατηχίζειν, a lengthened form of κατηχειν, lit. “to make a sound to,” and so “too give oral teaching to”. [See Additional Note A.] The word is used in this place, and once again later, where the address to the child is not thrown into the form of a question.
“Rehearse,” i.e. go over the same ground, repeat; from the old French rehercer, “to harrow over again”.
“Articles”; for the meaning of the word see above in General Teaching, Chapter III.
“Belief,” i.e. Creed, the latter being a corruption of Credo, the opening word in the Latin.
I believe in God – Attention has often been directed to the force of the preposition. To “believe in” a person is to place complete confidence in him. So in the Latin the first words of the Creed are not Credo Deum, I believe that God exists; nor Credo Deo, I believe that what God says is true; but Credo in Deum, I put my whole trust in God, in His purpose and in His power.
There is evidence to show that in some very early forms the Creed began with the words “I believe in one God.” It has been thought that possibly the use of the word “one” may have been discontinued because it was found that some were inclined to interpret it in a sense contrary to the true doctrine of the personality and Deity of Christ. In the Creed of Nicea such an interpretation was rendered impossible by the clauses which were deliberately added to define the full import of this part of the faith of the Church.
the Father – “God is the Father of all things, especially of all men and angels ... and, in a more peculiar manner, the Father of all those whom He regenerateth by His Spirit, whom He adopteth in His Son ... but beyond and far above all this ... the Father, in a more eminent and transcendent manner, of one singular and proper Son, His own, His beloved, His only-begotten Son.” – Bp Pearson.
Almighty – The remarkable word παντοκράτωρ, which is rendered by the Latin omnipotens in the Creed, was used in the Septuagint version of the O. T. as the equivalent of the title “The Lord of Hosts”. It might be translated “All-Sovereign” or “Master of all”. “The word represents God as ruling all things for the fulfillment of His will.” [Bp. Westcott, Historic Faith, p. 219.]
Maker of heaven and earth: – This clause is not found in any form of the Apostles’ Creed before the 7th century. [See Additional Note B.] The words were borrowed from the Eastern Creeds in which they had been inserted at an early date to combat the notion that matter is either eternal or essentially evil. As they stand they are full of promise for the future of the world.
And in Jesus Christ – As we believe in God the Father, so we commit ourselves with full devotion to Jesus Christ, according to His teaching, “Ye believe in God, believe also in Me” (S. John 14:1). We trust in Him as the perfect expression of the mind and will of God.
“Jesus”; the name announced by the angel before His birth. The Greek Ίησους was the equivalent of the Hebrew Joshua, which signified “Jehovah [is] salvation”.
“Christ”; the title of His divinely appointed office. The Greek Χριστός, like the Hebrew Messiah, meant “Anointed”. The word carries our thoughts back to the long Jewish preparation during which the hope of His coming was growing in the hearts of men. In Israel those were anointed who were to be Prophets, or Priests, or Kings. Sometimes two of these offices met in a single person. Jesus is ο Χριστός – “The Anointed” – because in Him all of them are united. He not only, as Prophet, brings to us the revelation of the divine will; but, through His Priestly sacrifice for our sakes, He is to fulfill that will in the establishment of the divine Kingdom.
his only Son – To think rightly of our Saviour Christ we must realize that, independently of His appearance in time or of any office which He holds for men, He is in His own Nature related, as none other can be, to the Father.
“Only.” This word stands for the Lat. unicus. The use of unicus (from which we derive our English “unique”), as distinguished from solus, was intended to imply that Christ is the Son of God in a sense peculiar to Himself, and not that the title of Son was to be given to Him alone. He is the Son in His own right. Christians are made sons by adoption, in virtue of their union with Him. In the Greek forms the expression employed is μονογενής, i.e. “only begotten”. Of this a reminiscence is retained in the Creed as given in our Baptismal Office, where the clause is rendered “His only begotten Son.”
our Lord, – When we say this, we acknowledge Christ to be our Master, the One who has a claim to the complete surrender of our souls.
More than this, we confess that He of Whom it is said is “very God”.
The Greek word for Lord, Κύριος, is used in the Sept. version of the O. T. and in the N. T., as the equivalent of the name Jehovah. Here in the Creed it stands as the highest title of honour which can be given to Christ. Compare S. Paul’s words in Phil. 2:9–11, “God ... hath given him the name which is above every name: that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow ... and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.”
The clauses which follow contain “the whole sum of the redemption of man”. [Nowell’s Catechism, ed. Parker Society, p. 142.]
Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, Born of the Virgin Mary, – The language of this article of the Creed was specially designed to exclude the idea that Joseph, the husband of the Virgin Mother, was the father of our Lord.
At the same time it is made clear that His coming in the flesh was by way of a real human birth. The Holy Ghost, Who is the author of the new birth of Christians, is declared to have been the agent in the act whereby the Divine and the human were united in the Incarnation of Christ.
Suffered – i.e. suffered execution.
It was the fancy of the old heathen thinkers that the gods could achieve their purposes without effort or cost. The reality proved to be far otherwise,
“It is by no breath,
Turn of eye, wave of hand, that salvation joins issue with death!
He who did most shall bear most; the strongest shall stand the most weak.”
The word “redemption” points to the same truth. “Redeem’, from Lat. redimere, “to buy back”, means to deliver at great cost.
under Pontius Pilate, – “Under”, i.e. under the government of, in the days of. A chronological note to emphasize the reality of the fact as an event in history.
Compare the statement of Tacitus (Ann. xv. 44), “Auctor nominis ejus Christus, Tiberio imperitante, per procuratorem Pontium Pilatum supplicio adfectus erat.”
Was crucified, – The manner of His “suffering” receives a separate mention. The Cross is the characteristic feature of the Christian Religion. That which to the old world was the lowest depth of infamy, permissible only in the case of slaves, has been raised to be the emblem of a more than earthly glory, and a more than mortal strength.
dead, – It was necessary that His sacrifice of Himself should be carried to the utmost point, “that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death” (Heb. 2:14).
and buried: – It seemed as if the evil had triumphed over the good, as if love had been vanquished by hatred, and life by death: but indeed it was not so. Even during the interval before the resurrection He was not inactive. Though “put to death in the flesh” He was “quickened in the spirit,” and so we go on to say
He descended into hell; – That is, to the common abode of departed spirits. See S. Luke 23:43, Acts 2:31, Eph. 4:9, 1 Pet. 3:19.
“Into hell” Lat. ad inferna, “to the lower regions,” or ad inferos, “to the dwellers in the lower regions”.
“Hell,” from the Anglo-Saxon helan “to hide”, like the Hebrew Sheol (Gk. Hades), means the hidden or unseen place, the invisible underworld. It does not mean “the place of torment,” the ordinary word for which in the N. T. is not “Hades” but “Gehenna”. We learn from the statement of S. Peter that the object of the descent into Hades was the proclamation of Redemption to those who had passed from the earth (1 Pet 3:19; 4:6).
The clause “He descended into hell,” is first found in a Creed of the 4th century, [See Additional Note B.] and does not appear to have been generally adopted until the 7th; although the doctrine had always been taught in the Church.
The third day he rose again from the dead; – Thereby making an evident declaration of His Divine Nature, and giving an indubitable pledge and assurance of the accomplishment of our redemption: cf. Rom. 1:4; 1 Cor. 15:14, 20.
He ascended into heaven, And sitteth at the right hand of God the Father Almighty; – Such expressions imply a completed work on earth, and a patient waiting for its final result at the centre of all worship and power. Thither our hearts may turn with gratitude and hope. “We see not yet all things put under him: but we see Jesus ... crowned with glory and honour” (Heb. 2:8, 9).
From thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead. – “Quick”, (Anglo-Saxon cwic), i.e. living. For the use of the word, cf. the A.V. of Numb. 16:30; Ps. 55:15, 124:3; 2 Tim. 4:1.
The sovereignty of Christ will yet be openly established. All that opposes itself to God will be cast down. False standards of worth will be overthrown. The evil and the good, now so inextricably mingled, will be revealed at last in their true character. It is a day to be looked for with joy and yet with trembling: and not least by those who are called to the opportunities of which the Creed goes on to speak (cf. S. Luke 12:48; 1 Pet. 4:17).
I believe in the Holy Ghost; – “As the Son did not reveal Himself fully until He became man in the act of His Incarnation, so the Spirit does not fully manifest Himself until He comes not only as a temporary visitor, but as taking up a permanent abode, and forming an abiding union with mankind, until He becomes the Spirit working in Christ’s kingdom.” [Martensen, Dogmatics, Eng. Trans., p. 332.]
“Ghost”, from the Anglo-Saxon gást, spirit. So later in the Catechism we have “ghostly (i.e. spiritual) enemy.”
The clauses which follow indicate the sphere, and describe the effects of the presence and operation of the Holy Spirit. It will be observed that in the Summary the verb “sanctifieth” is in the present tense.
The holy Catholic Church; – “Church” is derived from the late Greek κυριακόν, which meant “The Lord’s House” (from neuter of adj. κυριακός, “belonging to the Lord”). The word translated “Church” in the N.T. is εκκλησία (from εκ, “out”, and καλειν, “to call”), “an assembly of persons called out for some purpose.”
“Catholic.” This epithet was not added to this Creed until the 5th century. The word is derived from καθολικός, “universal”, and denotes the worldwide extension of the Church. It was also understood by the early Christian writers to refer to the fullness of its teaching as contrasted with that of individual men or sectarian societies. “The Church”, says S. Cyril of Jerusalem, “is called Catholic because it exists over all the world from one end of the earth to the other; and because it teaches universally, and with no omissions, the entire body of doctrines which men ought to know.” (Catech. xviii. 23.)
The Church is not only the representative of the entire humanity: it is also the exponent of the mind of the Spirit of Truth.
“Holy,” as (1) set apart for God’s service, (2) united to Christ, (3) the dwelling place of the Holy Ghost. Our Lord said to His disciples, “Ye are clean, but not all” (S. John 13:10); even so the Church is “holy”, though some of its members be unworthy.
The Communion of Saints; – These words are not to be found in any Creed before the 5th century [See Additional Note B.], and did not probably come into general use until some time later. They are “the peculiar glory of the Western Creed”. [Bp. Westcott, Historic Faith, p. 200.] They were intended to deepen our sense of the mysterious interdependence of those who belong to the membership of the Church; and to widen our conception of that membership by reminding us that the departed also retain their place and influence in it. No separation, whether of time or of distance, can exclude from the great common life of hope and sympathy and service, which is ours in the Body of Christ.
The word “Communion” (Lat. communio, from communis “common”) is best understood as representing the Greek κοινωνία, “fellowship”.
“Saints,” from Lat. sanctus, “holy”. “Saints is a word of that large extent that it takes in them that are glorified in Heaven, and those who are in some degree sanctified on earth.” [Bp. Nicholson, Exposition of the Catechism, p. 61.]
The chief blessings which come to us as partakers of the results of the Redemption, by the Holy Ghost, are enumerated in the remaining clauses. They may be regarded as corresponding to the great facts of the Death, Resurrection, and Glorification of Christ.
The Forgiveness of sins; – Before we can think with any hope of what we may become in the future, we need the assurance that we have been set free from the condemning power of the past. Accordingly in all ages and all religions men have expressed, by their acts and their language, the deep longings of their hearts for such deliverance, and have clung to the belief that in some way or other their prayer might be granted. The Christian religion has brought the complete provision for this need. While “endless retribution is the plain teaching of that invariable sequence which we call natural law, effectual forgiveness is the revelation of the Gospel.” [Bp. Westcott, Social Aspects of Christianity, p. 12.]
The assurance of this “effectual forgiveness”, which includes the release from the burden of the past and the promise of a new life-power for the time to come, is given to those who have been admitted into the membership of Christ: see Eph. 1:7; Acts 2:38, 22:16; and cf. the clause in the Nicene Creed, “one Baptism for the remission of sins.” It is renewed on condition of true repentance and faith in the Church’s Absolution: see S. John 20:22, 23.
The Resurrection of the body, – “Resurrection,” from Lat. re- “again”, and surgere “to rise”.
The deliverance and renewal are to extend to the whole nature: see Rom 8:11. The noblest of the ancient philosophers disdained the body, regarding it as a fatal encumbrance to the soul; at best a prison house from which they could only hope to be released. The religion of the Incarnation treats it with reverence and promises its transfiguration, as an integral part of the complete humanity.
It should be noted that in the Greek and Latin Creeds the expression used for “body” is invariably that which more exactly answers to our word “flesh” (σαρκός, carnis). Accordingly in our Offices for Baptism and for the visitation of the Sick the clause is translated “The Resurrection of the flesh.” The rendering “body” dates from 1543 when it appeared in “The Necessary Doctrine and Erudition for any Christian Man.”
We are not to imagine that the resurrection body will consist of the same material particles as are here committed to the ground. “Thou sowest not that body that shall be”(1 Cor. 15:37). Even in this life our bodies are continually changing. It is enough to know that the body of the future will be each man’s “own”, and that it will be in its nature perfectly adapted to the uses of the glorified spirit: (see 1 Cor. 15:38, 44).
And the life everlasting. – While these words, as used in the Creed, undoubtedly refer to the future state of glory into which sanctified human nature is hereafter to be admitted – compare the clause in the Nicene Creed, “The life of the world to come”, and the rendering in the Baptismal Office, “everlasting life and death”, – they are not to be restricted in their meaning as if this were their only sense. Life, in the full Christian understanding of it, is more than continuance of existence; and it was evidently our Lord’s intention to enlarge and exalt men’s conceptions of “eternal life” when He made it to consist in the increasing knowledge of God (S. John 17:3). The word αιώνιος, which we rightly translate “everlasting” or “eternal”, though primarily connected with the idea of duration, has gathered to itself a fuller and deeper significance by its association with the thought of the life of God, and a world the conditions of which are such as to be above and beyond the notion of time.
This “eternal life” for the Christian is already begun (see S. John 3:36), although for its full realization and fruition he waits as the crowning blessing which he is to receive through the Redemption.
Amen. – A Hebrew word meaning “verily”, from the Heb. adj. amen, “firm”, “true”, which is itself derived from the verb aman, “to be firm”, “to be fixed”.
It may be taken to be an indication of assent to that which has gone before (e.g. when it is used after the sentences in the Communion Service): or it may be regarded as the expression of an earnest desire that what has been said may indeed be completely accomplished; see the explanation at the end of the paraphrase of the Lord’s Prayer. In one early English version of the Creed, the “Amen” is rendered “So be it”; in another we have “So mote it be. Amen.” [Heurtley, Harm. Symb., pp. 98, 99.]
Part III – The Commandments
Question. You said that your Godfathers and Godmothers did promise for you that you should keep God’s Commandments. Tell me how many there be?
Question. Which be they?
Answer. The same which God spake in the twentieth chapter of Exodus, saying, I am the Lord thy God, who brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.
I. Thou shalt have none other gods but me.
II. Thou shalt not make to thyself any graven image, nor the likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or in the earth beneath, or in the water under the earth. Thou shalt not bow down to them, nor worship them. For I the Lord thy God am a jealous god, and visit the sins of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me, and shew mercy unto thousands in them that love me and keep my commandments.
III. Thou shalt not take the Name of the Lord thy God in vain: for the Lord will not hold him guiltless, that taketh his Name in vain.
IV. Remember that thou keep holy the Sabbath day. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all that thou hast to do; but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God. In it thou shalt do no manner of work, thou, and thy son, and thy daughter, thy man-servant, and thy maid-servant, thy cattle, and the stranger that is within thy gates. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the seventh day, and hallowed it.
V. Honour thy father and thy mother; that thy days may be long in the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.
VI. Thou shalt do no murder.
VII. Thou shalt not commit adultery.
VIII. Thou shalt not steal.
IX. Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour.
X. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife, nor his servant, nor his maid, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor anything that is his.
Question. What dost thou chiefly learn by these Commandments?
Answer. I learn two things: my duty towards God, and my duty towards my Neighbour.
Question. What is thy duty towards God?
Answer. My duty towards God is to believe in him, to fear him, and to love him, with all my heart, with all my mind, with all my soul, and with all my strength; to worship him, to give him thanks, to put my whole trust in him, to call upon him, to honour his holy Name and his Word, and to serve him truly all the days of my life.
Question. What is thy duty towards thy Neighbour?
Answer. My duty towards my Neighbour is to love him as myself, and to do to all men as I would they should do unto me: To love, honour, and succour my father and mother: To honour and obey the King, and all that are put in authority under him: To submit myself to all my governors, teachers, spiritual pastors and masters: To order myself lowly and reverently to all my betters: To hurt nobody by word nor deed: To be true and just in all my dealing; To bear no malice nor hatred in my heart: To keep my hands from picking and stealing, and my tongue from evil-speaking, lying, and slandering: To keep my body in temperance, soberness, and chastity: Not to covet nor desire other men’s goods; but to learn and labour truly to get mine own living, and to do my duty in that state of life, unto which it shall please God to call me.
1. The Church’s Gospel is unmistakably clear. It rests its appeal not on feelings but on facts. “You are God’s child: believe it and live as such. You are God’s child, your very name tells you of your place in His family: you have been admitted into the innermost circle of privilege, you may rise to a noble destiny and do a work for which all will bless you. Believe it; or you will have no heart, no power, to act. Act; or our position will avail you nothing.” “Believe and Do”: such is the comprehensive statement of the great elementary counsels or the religious life: and the completeness of religious teaching is to be measured by the extent to which the balance is maintained between them. How exactly the proportion is preserved in the Catechism will appear in an interesting way if we observe the frequency with which the words “grace” and “duty” occur. Each is to be found exactly seven times.
“Duty” is a word which is specially dear to the ears and hearts of Englishmen. Foreigners have often been struck by its recurrence in dispatches from the leaders of our armies, and in the debates of our Parliament; and have noted the fact as characteristic of our nation. That it is so is beyond doubt largely due to the influence that three centuries of Catechism teaching have exerted upon us.
We can need no argument to persuade us that we ought to do our utmost to preserve this teaching in its full force; and in order to do so it is essential that we should use our best endeavour to enter into its meaning and spirit.
2. What then, let us now ask, is it that is due from us who desire to continue members of Christ, children of God and inheritors of the kingdom of heaven?
It is possible that to some the answer given to this question may come with something of surprise. Might it not have been expected that the rule and pattern for Christians would have been found in the life and example of our Lord? Is not His the one perfect type of human life lived in accordance with the will of God?
Undoubtedly it is: and to present it as such must ever be the full and final answer. And yet it is not difficult to see that it might not be wisest to give the full and final answer to begin with. We do not begin to teach our children to draw by setting them at once to copy form the “model” or “the life”. There are simple rules and elementary exercises which have to be mastered first. Even so, as we know, the world in its religious infancy needed a long preparatory discipline before Christ came. And when at last He came, He made it quite clear that it was not His intention to set aside but rather to enforce and extend the earlier lessons. To a young man who asked Him for the counsels of a life such as God would approve He simply said, “Keep the commandments.” The old rules of right doing, carved large and firm on the red granite of Sinai, do not pass away: and the Church is but true to the example of her Master when in her first lesson book she points her beginners back to these as to the primer of Duty.
3. We have had occasion already to remark upon the purpose which is served by the Preface which stands at the commencement of the commandments. We have seen how by it the heart is prepared for the willing reception of that which follows. [See above, Part I, General Teaching, Chapter III, end.] Let us now notice further how valuable a clue the Preface also gives us to the right understanding of the thoughts which are about to be unfolded to us. Starting from the idea of a redeemed and liberated people, we can have no doubt as to the order in which the obligations entailed upon them by their position must stand. Plainly the first of all would be that of fidelity to Him from whom such benefits had come to them. In other words, we find ourselves led naturally and necessarily to the truth that Duty towards God must take precedence over any other aspect or form of Duty.
That is in itself a very great lesson, and one of which we may need to be reminded more than we suppose. The word “Duty” is so often on our lips, and has so real a place of honour in our hearts, that we may not be very ready to admit that we have still a good deal to learn before we fully understand its meaning: and yet if we carefully note the use which is commonly made of the word, we may discover some cause for thinking that this may be the case. How often we hear of a man’s duty to those around him, to his country, to his home, to society, and even of his duty to himself; and how comparatively seldom do we hear much said of his duty towards God! And yet let us be sure of it that if the highest part of duty be unfulfilled no other part can be adequately discharged. Philanthropy, if it is to be real and lasting, must be based upon Religion. “When a man,” it has been beautifully said, “lives with God, his voice shall be as sweet as the murmur of the brook and the rustle of the corn.” [Emerson.] When we fail in courage, in modesty, in patience, in sympathy, in consideration for others, it is because we have first failed in devotion to Him who has the first claim upon our service and our souls. Harmony comes into the life that is attuned to the thought and will of God.
4. The Preface may be of use to us in yet another way. It may help to carry our minds back to the time and the circumstances in which the Commandments were given to the Israelite people. It is well that we should be reminded that we can enter into the force of the old words best as we seek to understand what the meaning was which they were intended to convey to those to whom they were originally addressed. It will be worth while then, before considering them in detail, or making any attempt to set forth their particular application to ourselves, to try to state shortly what would appear to have been their primary import.
5. The Commandments of the First Table of the Old Law, in accordance with the principle of which we have spoken, are plainly intended to guard men against the peril of falling into Godlessness: and we may see that they do this by pointing out the various forms in which the temptation would be likely to present itself.
I. God may be lost out of life, the true idea of Him may disappear, if He is regarded as but one among many. The tendency to do this has been the danger which has ever beset a race in its infancy. Men have looked out upon the world and have recognized everywhere powers at work which they have imagined to represent the action of many beings, good, and evil. These they have accordingly set themselves to reverence or propitiate. Imagination has darkened the heaven with gods and demigods, and the thought of a Supreme Being has faded altogether away. It is this Polytheism which was forbidden when it was said, “Thou shalt have none other gods but Me.”
II. Again, God might be lost in the attempt to make the thought of Him take shape in a concrete form. Idolatry, the worship of an idol or symbol of the Divine, has ever been the next great snare. Beginning, as it often has begun, with what seemed the innocent wish to render the unseen and spiritual more real, it has invariably ended by limiting and degrading the conception of the invisible God. Hence the command so solemnly given not to make and worship a graven image.
III. But if a false reverence may lead to the abandonment of a true knowledge of God, the same result will as certainly follow from the various kinds of irreverence. By careless or profane use of holy words, by the failure to recognize any element of sacredness in life; by the spirit, in a word, of an irreligious Secularism, the soul may be vulgarized and so rendered incapable of any sense of the Divine.
IV. Or yet once more – and this is the peril which comes especially with an advancing civilization and the growth of material prosperity – God may be lost by being crowded out of the life by the incessant pressure of the business of the world. Against this danger from Mammonism men were to be on the watch. It was only to be met by the determined resolve to make due and systematic provision for the worship of God and the needs of the spiritual nature.
Such then were these first great guiding rules, and it was only as men were prepared to give heed to them that they could expect to be kept in the true faith and fear of the One, High, Holy Lord.
6. After the Duty to God Who had called them to the position which they occupied, the Israelites were taught to think of the Duty which arose out of the fact that they had been bound to others as fellow-members of a Nation and a Church. It is to the lifelong task of disciplining self for the fulfillment of such obligations that the Second Table is directed.
V. Clearly such work cannot be taken in hand too soon. It should begin in the Home, in the life of the family. There it is that the first lessons of dutiful self-subordination are to be learnt in the respect and obedience which are to be rendered to parents. Nothing that can be added subsequently can compensate for the lack of these: and indeed it cannot be too strongly asserted that it is the possession of these qualities that alone can ensure the permanent wellbeing of a people.
VI and VII. As the training of the life should commence at its very beginning, so also it is made plain that its evil propensities are to be watched and mastered in that department of the nature in which they are wont first to make their appearance. Children, and nations in the stage of childhood, are passionate. Intellect and judgment are not sufficiently developed to exercise the needed control, and external authority must come in to supply the deficiency.
So then it is bodily Passions which are first to be subdued, if the fearful results are to be avoided to which if unchecked they must inevitably lead.
VIII and IX. When the way has been thus prepared, it will be possible to carry the work of education on to a further stage. The boy, the people, must be helped to be high-souled: must be schooled into principles of Honest and Truth. Apart from these the life cannot fail to become unworthy and injurious. We feel that the teaching is indispensable which says, “Thou shalt not steal.” “Thou shalt not bear false witness”
X. It is more than possible that none of us would have thought of adding the concluding commandment, and yet a very little reflection will convince us that the old code would have lacked much of its completeness without it. For there is still a fault which if left to grow unheeded will fatally mar what might otherwise have been a noble and valuable life. The danger arises from yielding to the evil spirit of Discontent. And how real the temptation often is! The continued course of right-doing has not seemed to succeed: others have prospered, and that perhaps by crooked ways; and how difficult it is then to be satisfied and not to murmur against the ordering of Providence. To do right and accept the result cheerfully, content with such outward prosperity as God may judge best for us; not to envy the success of another, but rather to rejoice in his good – it is a hard lesson, and it may well be the last that is learned.
7. Even so rapid a glance as that we have taken may serve to show that this old statement of Duty is in its range “exceeding broad,” and in its aim and its spirit no less high and deep. The requirements which it contains demand nothing short of a life unto God and a death unto self. Even after studying the great Example, we do well often to go back to the old and familiar lesson; and perhaps we shall find that nothing will humble us so much as to see how very far we, with all our knowledge and advantages, are still from having attained to the practice of the rule which was given to those who lived in the earliest stages of the religious teaching of the race.
The ripest saint today may bow his head as he repeats the prayer, “Lord, have mercy upon us, and incline our hearts to keep this law.”
The Translation of the Commandments given in the Catechism, and in the Office for Holy Communion, is not that of any of the English Bibles; though, as will be seen, the variations from our present versions are not of any great importance. It appears to have been based upon the rendering contained in “The King’s Book”. [See Introduction.] In this, as in the Catechism as it originally stood in 1549, the Commandments appeared in a much shortened form. That of the Catechism was as follows:
I. Thou Shalt have none other gods but me.
II. Thou shalt not make to thyself any graven image, nor the likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or in the earth beneath, nor in the water under the earth: thou shalt not bow down to them, nor worship them.
III. Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.
IV. Remember that thou keep holy the Sabbath-day.
V. Honour thy father and thy mother.
VI–IX. as now.
In X the words “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house” were omitted by a curious oversight.
The Commandments were printed as we have them now, and the Preface was added in 1552.
There is some reason for supposing that the explanations of the “Duty towards God” and “towards thy Neighbour” were written by Goodrich, Bishop of Ely. They are engraved on two stone tablets below an oriel window in the long gallery which he added to the palace at Ely; and, as he was one of the committee of Convocation by whom the first Prayer-book was prepared, it seems to be quite likely that they came from his pen.
We shall now proceed to consider in detail the Commandments of the First Table, together with the authorized summary of them, placing the corresponding portions of each side by side.
Thou shalt have none other gods but me.
My duty towards God is to believe in him, to fear him, and to love him, with all my heart, with all my mind, with all my soul, and with all my strength;
but me. – In the A.V. and R.V. “before me”: R.V. marg. “beside me”.
While we may not be in any such danger of breaking this First Commandment as the Israelites were; yet we must remember that we too are making rivals to God when we allow ourselves to attach so great an importance to “secondary causes” as we are often inclined to do: or when we are content to ascribe results to Nature or Chance.
The Paraphrase teaches us that we can only be secured from misplaced confidence, as we render a complete devotion of all our powers to the One Being Who is the supreme object of faith, and fear, and love. The language of the Paraphrase is based upon Deut. 6:5 as quoted by our Lord in S. Mark 12:30.
Thou shalt not make to thyself any graven image, or the likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or in the earth beneath, or in the water under the earth. Thou shalt not bow down to them, nor worship them. For I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, and visit the sins of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me, and shew mercy unto thousands in them that love me and keep my commandments.
to worship him, to give him thanks, to put my whole trust in him, to call upon him,
graven image, – In the original a single word denoting carved word or stone.
the likeness of any thing – Lit. “any form” (so R.V.). This would include a painted representation.
The prohibition was not directed against Art as such, for skill in this department is ascribed to the teaching of the Divine Spirit (Ex. 31:3), and there were forms of the Cherubim over the Mercy-seat in the Tabernacle; but against any attempt to present to the senses, for the purposes of worship, that which was to be regarded as the likeness of a god, whether a false or the true.
In heaven above, or in the earth beneath, or in the water under the earth. – These words must have recalled to those who first heard them the objects of religious adoration with which their stay in Egypt had made them familiar: the Sun-god, the black calf of Heliopolis, the bull Apis, and the Nile with its crocodile and sacred fish.
“under the earth”: inasmuch as the water of the river or sea is lower than the bank or shore.
worship: – “serve”. A.V. and R.V.
a jealous God, – i.e. a God unable to endure the thought of a divided affection in those who have been called to be His people. There is “a godly jealousy” (cf. 2 Cor. 11:2) which yearns to see men consecrated to the highest service of which they are capable.
and visit the sins: – “visiting the iniquity.” A.V. and R.V.
“visit,” i.e. “cause the consequences to fall.” For the use of this word cf. Ex. 32:34; Jer. 5:9.
unto the third and fourth: – “upon the third and upon the fourth.” R.V.
unto thousands – R.V. marg. “A thousand generations”: cf. Deut. 7:9: “The faithful God, which keepeth covenant and mercy with them that love him and keep his commandments to a thousand generations.”
As the effect of wrongdoing is to be felt by those who come after; so, by the same law of influence, will the effect of right action extend more widely to posterity. The good is to live longer, and to “abound” much more than the evil.
in them – i.e. in the case of them. The A.V. and R.V. have “of them.”
love me and keep my commandments. – For the use made of these words by our Lord, cf. S. John 14:15: “If ye love me ye will keep my commandments.”
In the case of this Commandment, as of the preceding, the danger contemplated is not likely to present itself to us in any of its older and grosser forms; yet here again, for this very reason, we may need to be the more on our guard against it.
The strain involved in the effort to raise our souls to communion with the invisible and spiritual is often felt by us to be most exhausting, and the temptation to seek relief from it in a devotion which demands only the exercise of more ordinary faculties is a temptation which comes to us all. Such relief may be purchased at a terrible cost. Faculties unused tend to become incapable of use; and a religion of the senses soon ceases to be religion at all. “God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth” (S. John 4:24).
When we permit things, however innocent or venerable, to hinder our souls in their aspirations heavenward: when we are satisfied to rest in limited and sense-bound notions of the nature of God; when we find ourselves turning from Him to seek the aid or sympathy of any of His creatures in earth or in heaven – at all such times we shall need the warning which these old words contain.
We can only escape from the peril of a habit of constantly raising our thoughts to God, by recognizing Him as the source of all our good in the past, and by an ever active reliance upon Him in the present and for the future. This, we may take it, is what is intended when we are taught “to worship him, to give him thanks, to put our whole trust in him, to call upon him.” Observe the four times repeated insistence upon the word “Him”.
Thou shalt not take the Name of the Lord thy God in vain: for the Lord will not hold him guiltless, that taketh his Name in vain.
to honour his holy Name and his Word,
Thou shalt not take the Name of the Lord thy God in vain: – Lit. “thou shalt not take up,” i.e. into thy lips, “the Name of the Lord thy God for vanity,” i.e. for a light or unworthy purpose: see R.V. marg. Originally the reference seems to have been to the profanity of calling upon God to witness what was known to be untrue: cf. Lev. 19:12, “Ye shall not swear by my name falsely, so that thou profane the name of thy God.” But there can be no doubt that the words were rightly understood to forbid all careless and irreverent thinking and speaking about holy things.
By the “Name” of God is meant in Scripture all that has been revealed as to His Person and Character (cf. S. John 17:6): hence in the paraphrase the Commandment is taken to include a due regard for the “Word” in which that revelation has been most fully given to us.
will not hold him guiltless, – Whatever those about him may choose to imagine, or however long his punishment may seem to be delayed. It is an emphatic way of affirming that his sin shall be most certainly and severely judged. As the honour and glory of God is the great end for which men were created, so the contempt and dishonour of God is that which most plainly marks the failure of a life, and merits the gravest sentence of Divine disapprobation; cf. Dan 5:23; Rom 1:21, 3:23.
Our age is not distinguished for reverence. We have the greater need therefore to be mindful of our duty in this respect. We must be on our guard, for example, against the miserable temptation to jest with sacred words, no less than against the more obvious evil of profane swearing. We shall find that outward acts of respect, such as uncovering on entering a church, kneeling in prayer, bowing at the Name of our Lord, are not without their value in helping us to form the inward habits of reverence.
Remember that thou keep holy the Sabbath day. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all that thou hast to do; but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God. In it thou shalt do no manner of work, thou, and thy son, and thy daughter, thy man-servant, and thy maid-servant, thy cattle, and the stranger that is within thy gates. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the seventh day, and hallowed it.
and to serve him truly all the days of my life.
Remember that thou keep holy the Sabbath day: – “Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.” A.V. and R.V.
“Remember.” It has been argued that the use of this word implies that the institution of the Sabbath was older than the giving of the Jewish Law. The same conclusion may perhaps be better drawn from the arrangements for gathering the manna, in Ex. 16:23. The weekly division of time seems to have been known to the Patriarchs, as it certainly was to the ancient Babylonians and Egyptians.
“holy”, i.e. set apart for the purposes of religion.
“Sabbath,” a Hebrew word meaning “rest”.
all that thou hast to do; – Lit. “all thy work”; so A.V. and R.V.
the Sabbath of: – a “Sabbath unto.” R.V.
thou shalt do no manner of work, – Lit. “thou shalt not do any work”; so A.V. and R.V.
the stranger – Lit. “thy stranger” (so A.V. and R.V.), i.e. thy Gentile servant.
For in six days – In Deut. 5 the observance of the Sabbath is enjoined as a memorial of the deliverance from Egypt. Possibly no reason was alleged in the Commandment as originally delivered.
blessed – That it might be a means of good to those who observed it.
the seventh day: “the sabbath day.” A.V. and R.V.
hallowed – That none might presume to divert it from its sacred use. “Hallow,” from the A.S. hálgian, “to make holy”.
The purpose of the Fourth Commandment was, as we have seen, to enforce the duty of making deliberate provision that the claim of God upon life should be recognized, and that the opportunity for the development of the higher faculties of man’s being should be secured. This was to be done by setting apart one day out of the seven to be kept free from ordinary business. Such an arrangement of time derives a special sanction from the fact that it is declared to correspond to a law of the working of God Himself.
For the Jew the day which was thus to be held sacred was that upon which he commemorated the Creation of the world, and the deliverance from bondage which marked the beginning of the life of Israel as a Nation. The observance of the day in later Judaism became encumbered with burdensome requirements to such an extent that its beneficent intentions were well-nigh frustrated. Against these excessive and unauthorized demands our Lord was compelled to make continual protests: see e.g. S. Mark 2:27, 3:4; S Luke 14:5; S. John 9:16.
The early Christians, while recognizing the principle of separating one day in the week as pre-eminently the day for worship, felt themselves to be at liberty to select that day upon which they celebrated the triumph of Redemption (as seen in the Resurrection), and the coming of the Spirit on the birthday of the Christian Church.
For a considerable period the old Sabbath continued to be observed by the Jewish members of the new society, in addition to the day which was gradually to take its place. It was not until Christianity had become in the 4th century the religion of the State, that it was possible to obtain a general recognition of Sunday as the day on which all classes of the population should be set free from the pressure of their ordinary occupations to keep and enjoy the Christian holiday.
For us Sunday has taken the place of the Jewish Sabbath Its observance rests upon the still abiding necessity for providing at regular intervals the opportunities of worship, and thought, and refreshment. It should be no day of gloom, nor should it be spent in idleness. It is certainly very ill-employed when it is devoted to pleasure for pleasure’s sake. We can scarcely hope to enter into the true spirit of the festival ourselves unless we do what we can to render it welcome and useful to others.
Let us be sure that we shall be in every sense the gainers by a whole-hearted acceptance of this part of our duty.
“We are not poorer but richer because we have, through many ages, rested from our labour one day in seven. That day is not lost. While industry is suspended, while the plough lies in the furrow, while the exchange is silent, while no smoke ascends from the factory, a process is going on quite as important to the wealth of nations as any process which is performed on more busy days. Man, the machine of machineries, the machine compared with which all the contrivances of the Watts and Arkwrights are worthless, is repairing and winding up, so that he returns to his labours on the Monday with clearer intellect, with livelier spirits, with renewed corporal vigour. Never will I believe that what makes a population stronger, and healthier, and wiser, and better, can ultimately make it poorer.” – Lord Macaulay [Speech on the Factory Acts, Life and Letters, vol. II. chap x. p. 175.]
Two views have been held as to the arrangement of the Commandments upon the “Two Tables of stone.” (Ex. 31:18.)
(1) That Five Commandments were written upon each Table: so that the Second Table began with the words, “Thou shalt do no murder.” This is the view which was supported by the Jewish writers Josephus and Philo, and also by Irenaeus, Origen, and Jerome. It is now maintained in the Eastern Church.
(2) That the Second Table began with the words, “Honour thy father &c.” This is the view which was advocated by Augustine and has been adopted by the Western Church.* This method of division keeps distinct the duties owed to God and to man, and certainly appears to agree best with that which is implied by the words of our Lord: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” (S. Matt. 22:37–39).
*S. Augustine held that Commandments I and II should be counted as one; and made up the full number by dividing X into two. This mode of reckoning is followed by the Roman Church: and is supported by the arrangement of the verses in many MSS. of the Hebrew Text.
We proceed then to consider the Commandment which, according to our arrangement stands at the beginning of the Second Table.
Honour thy father and thy mother; that thy days may be long in the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.
My duty towards my Neighbour is to love him as myself, and to do to all men as I would they should do unto me: To love, honour, and succor my father and mother: To honour and obey the King, and all that are put in authority under him: To submit myself to all my governors, teachers, spiritual pastors and masters: To order myself lowly and reverently to all my betters:
The elevation of the conception of the life of the Family was one of the most steadily pursued aims of the Jewish dispensation. Upon the purity and order of the home the wellbeing, and indeed the continuance, of a people depends. The home is the true school of preparation for the larger and more complex life of Society. As a matter of fact, the constitution of the social fabric as we know it is but a development from the more elementary order of the family. In patriarchal times the head of the house claimed the undivided allegiance of all his dependents. He united in himself the offices of king, and priest, and teacher. When by degrees the household became enlarged into the tribe and nation, the powers which once belonged to one were distributed among many: and similarly the duty which was at first owed to the one ruler and head became widened into the duty which the various members of the community were bound to render to all those upon whom the separate functions had devolved.
The history of this development repeats itself to some extent in the case of every individual. For each of us at the outset of our lives, all earthly authority is represented by the authority of the parent: and it is by a dutiful subjection to this that we are best prepared for our afterlife as patriots and citizens.
We may see then that the extended application of the simple command, which is given in the Church’s explanation, is not arbitrary or unnatural. It follows properly as the true interpretation of the intention of the original precept.
It is interesting to see in the mention of the “mother” a recognition of the true position and influence of woman. In this, as in so many other things, the Jewish legislation rose above the level of contemporary custom and prepared the way for the completer teaching of Christianity.
The great importance of this part of our duty is made evident by the special reward which is attached to its observance. It is conspicuous as “the first commandment with promise” (Eph. 6:2).
In the Paraphrase the following expressions should be noted:
Neighbour – Originally “one who dwells near”; from A. S. neáh, “nigh” and gebúr, “dweller”. “Our neighbour is every one with whom we have at any time any concern, or on whose welfare our actions can have any influence.” [Archbp. Secker, On the Catechism, Lect. xxii.]
to love him as myself, and to do to all men as I would they should do unto me: – This is Christ’s golden rule: see S. Matt. 7:12. The words, as they stand here, seem intended to be taken as a comprehensive statement of that which should be the spirit and aim of our conduct towards others.
succour – i.e. assist, relieve: Lat. succurrere, “to run to the aid of.” As parents are bound to provide for the needs of their children, so it becomes the duty of the children in their turn to render such assistance to their parents as they may at any time be able to give. For our Lord’s condemnation of those who sought to evade this obligation, see S. Matt. 15:5, 6.
To honour and obey the King, and all that are put in authority under him: – It is plainly the intention of the Catechism that children should be taught quite early to feel a pride in their country and its institutions, and to render loyal obedience to its laws and to those who are called to administer them. The love of country is to follow upon the love of home. For the Scriptural statement of this part of our duty, cf. Rom. 13:1–7; Tit. 3:1; 1 Pet. 2:13, 14.
governors, – i.e. guardians; e.g. persons appointed to take charge of orphans, trustees. The word may include any to whom oversight is committed: cf. “under tutors and governors” (Gal. 4:2).
spiritual pastors – i.e. the clergy. Lat. pastor, “a shepherd.”
masters: – i.e. employers: not teachers, who have been already referred to.
To order myself – i.e. to behave myself.
lowly – i.e. as regards the opinion which we are to hold of ourselves.
reverently – i.e. as regards the view which we are to take of others.
betters: – i.e. superiors in position. We may note, however, that the word is a witness to the fact that in a right condition of society the standard of rank is one and the same with the measure of worth.
Thou shalt do no murder.
To hurt nobody by word or deed: ... To bear no malice nor hatred in my heart:
Thou shalt do no murder. – In the A.V. this Commandment is translated “Thou shalt not kill.” The R.V. agrees with the rendering in the Catechism.
It was not the taking of life that was forbidden – that in certain cases was enjoined by the Mosaic Law – but the taking of life in passion, without authority, and without cause. Our Lord made it plain that those who would fulfill the command must avoid all unrighteous anger. (S. Mat. 5:21, 22.) Accordingly in the Paraphrase the words are taken to forbid all that is contrary to the Christian temper in speech, and act, and feeling.
malice – From Lat. militia, “badness”; ill-will that wishes harm.
hatred – Intense dislike that can with difficulty endure the existence of its object. “Hates any man the thing he would not kill?” [Merchant of Venice, Act iv. sc. 1.]
We notice that the latter part of the Paraphrase does not always follow strictly the order of the Commandments. For the purposes of arrangement in parallel columns therefore it is necessary slightly to alter the sequence of some of its clauses. [For a great lawyer’s opinion on this Paraphrase, see Additional Note C.]
Thou shalt not commit adultery.
To keep my body in temperance, soberness, and chastity.
As the Sixth Commandment aimed at restraining one sort of evil passion, so this is directed against another. The body is the seat of appetites and desires which, if unchecked, soon become powerful, and may completely overmaster the higher parts of the nature, to the destruction of the true self and the most serious injury of society. We are bound therefore to “keep under the body and bring it into subjection.”
The sin actually forbidden in so many words by this Commandment is the sin of unfaithfulness to the marriage bond: but the intention of the command as interpreted by Christ (S. Matt. 5:27, 28) reaches further and deeper. We do not enter into its spirit until we feel that every sort of impurity and immodesty is prohibited by it.
temperance – From Lat. temperantia, “self-restraint”. This word, like that which follows it, is not to be narrowed down to any one application. It may refer, e.g., to food, drink, sleep, or pleasure.
soberness, – From Lat. sobrius; the acquired habit which comes of continued self-control.
chastity: – From Lat. castus, “pure”; the positive quality which shrinks with abhorrence from foulness of any kind.
The order in which these three words occur may usefully remind us that we have no right to look for deliverance from sensual impurity unless we are resolutely striving to cultivate habits of constant restraint and general moderation.
Thou shalt not steal.
To be true and just in all my dealing: ... To keep my hands from picking and stealing,
The subjugation of the passions having been insisted upon, the next thing to be done is to inculcate true and manly principles of Uprightness and Honour.
Happily it has been given to us as a people to feel most strongly the worth of these. They are taught with no little success in our public schools, and have been the strength of our commerce and our administration all the world over. It does not follow, however, that we have not still much to learn before these lessons are fully set forth in our practice. In particular we must be willing to recognize more than we do that the law of Honesty is to be carried into all transactions of life and business; that it cannot be set aside by conventional standards of morality in any trade or profession, and that it must be applied to small and seemingly inconsiderable matters as much as to those which may appear to be of great importance. These, as will be seen, are the points upon which emphasis is laid in the Paraphrase.
true – i.e. avoiding all cheating and trickery.
just – i.e. giving and taking what is fairly due.
in all my dealing: – e.g. in buying and selling; paying wages, taxes, bills: discharging a contract, working for payment.
picking – i.e. pilfering or petty stealing
It should be observed that all attempting to gain by another’s loss, and without rendering an equivalent in work done, as for example in Gambling, must be looked upon as a breach of the Eighth Commandment.
Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour.
and my tongue from evil-speaking, lying, and slandering:
Honesty in act will not avail much, nor indeed will it continue long, without Truthfulness in speech. We owe it to Society as well as to the Individual to be true: cf. Eph. 4:25.
The particular case of false witness given on oath against another in a court of justice was selected, no doubt, as presenting a starting instance in which the abhorrent character and far-reaching effect of a lie might be clearly seen.
evil-speaking, – a general term including that which, as being false, is bad in itself (lying), and that which is not only bad in itself but also designedly injurious to others slandering).
When we are tempted – as men have often been – to say what is untrue in order, as we think, to gain some useful end, we shall do well to bear in mind the Apostle’s condemnation of those who say, “Let us do evil, that good may come” (Rom. 3:8). No true cause can really be served by falsehood.
Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife, or his servant, nor his maid, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is his.
Not to covet nor desire other men’s goods; but to learn and labour truly to get mine own living, and to do my duty in that state of life, unto which it shall please God to call me.
The exact form in which this Commandment is cast carries our thoughts back to the times and circumstances of an Oriental and pastoral people*: the principle enforced and illustrated is for all times and all conditions. Expressed positively, that which is commanded is the duty of Contentedness – the being satisfied, so far as worldly success and enjoyment are concerned, with the results which come in the appointed path of duty.
*We have an interesting indication of the early date of the Decalogue in the fact that it was given at a time when the ox and the ass, and not silver and gold, were the recognized forms of wealth.
covet – Through O. F. coueiter, from Lat. cupere, “to long for”.
thy neighbour’s house, ... thy neighbour’s wife, – In Deut. 5 the order is reversed.
his servant, nor his maid, – In A.V. and R.V., “his manservant nor his maid-servant.”
any thing that is his. – In A.V. and R.V., “any thing that is thy neighbour’s.” The emphasis is of course to be placed on the words “any thing.”
covet nor desire – i.e. nor even desire: “covet” being the stronger word of the two.
“desire”: through O. F. desirer from :at. desiderare, “to wish for,” “feel the want of.”
learn – Patient diligence during what often seems the long and tedious process of education – e.g. at school, or college – is a very real and sometimes a very difficult part of the duty here enjoined upon us all.
The following points should be specially noted in the carefully worded explanation:
1. It is not meant that a child is of necessity to remain in the social position into which he was born. The words of the Catechism are constantly is misquoted as if they were “unto which it hath pleased,” instead of “unto which it shall please God to call me.” For anything that he knows to the contrary, the child may yet be called to fill a very different position in the life from that in which he began.
2. It is by no means intended to discourage effort after self-improvement, or the desire to acquire a competency: indeed, on the contrary, a regular occupation is regarded as indispensable to a right fulfillment of the spirit of the command.
3. What is forbidden is that eager restless longing, or empty idle wishing, for a change of circumstance, which quickly breeds ill-will towards others and wastes time and strength in useless dreams and selfish repinings. It is this temper which is fatal to any right discharge of present duty.
Part IV – The Lord’s Prayer
Catechist. My good child, know this, that thou are not able to do these things of thyself, nor to walk in the commandments of God, and to serve him, without his special grace; which thou must learn at all times to call for by diligent prayer. Let me hear therefore if thou canst say the Lord’s Prayer.
Answer. Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy Name, Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, in earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; And forgive us our trespasses, As we forgive them that trespass against us: and lead us not into temptation, But deliver us from evil. Amen.
Question. What desirest thou of God in this Prayer?
Answer. I desire my Lord God our heavenly Father, who is the giver of all goodness, to send his grace unto me, and to all people, that we may worship him, serve him, and obey him, as we ought to do. And I pray unto God, that he will send us all things that be needful both for our souls and bodies; and that he will be merciful unto us, and forgive us our sins; and that it will please him to save and defend us in all dangers ghostly and bodily; and that he will keep us from all sin and wickedness, and from our ghostly enemy, and from everlasting death. And this I trust he will do of his mercy and goodness, through our Lord Jesus Christ. And therefore I say, Amen, So be it.
1. Early in the Catechism we were taught to connect obedience to the law of Duty with the need for Prayer. “I will ... and I pray unto God ... that I may.”
What we have learnt since of all that such obedience involves can but have the effect of making us feel more than ever that without the Divine assistance the task set before us must be an impossible one. We give our inmost assent to the words, “thou art not able to do these things of thyself, nor to walk in the commandments of God, and to serve him, without his special grace”; and we are prepared to be told that we must “at all times call for” this grace “by diligent prayer”.
Familiar however as this latter part of the statement is, it may yet be useful that we should spend a little time upon the consideration of it. It is of very great importance that we should have an intelligent understanding of the place which Prayer is intended to occupy in our lives.
How are we to be certain that we ought to pray? that it is not presumptuous or useless to do so? There have been some who have not scrupled to affirm that it is both. “God is so great and wise and good” they have said, “that to ask Him for what we think we need would be an act of something worse than distrust on our part.”
It must be allowed that there is a good deal in such a view which at first sight appears to be reasonable enough. It is quite conceivable that a father among us might use to his children language like this; he might say to them, “I am watching your interests with unceasing care, I observe all that happens to you, and know what you require much better than you can yourselves. You must trust me to make all necessary provision for you, and you need not ask me for anything.” Without doubt the Heavenly Father might have spoken thus to us His earthly children: and possibly, if we had been left to reason the matter out for ourselves, we should have arrived at the conclusion that this was the way in which on the whole He would be most likely to act.
At the same time it is quite easy to see that there are arguments which tend very strongly towards a different conclusion. While it is possible to imagine that an earthly parent might deal with his children in the manner which we have described, there can be few among us who do not feel that it would be much more natural and more really father-like for him to speak words like these: “My children, I love you; and you may be certain that I have your wellbeing at heart. I know, of course, much better than you do what will promote it: still, I should wish you to feel quite free to come to me at all times. I desire to be much more to you than a ruler and provider. Let me have your confidence; tell me all that is in your mind: make known to me your wants and your wishes, and then I will do what is best for you. I would rather you should ask, and it will be my delight to give in response to your desire.”
Who will deny that such a conception of our Heavenly Father would be, for most of us, a far more attractive and more wonderful one? “A God so nigh in all that we call upon him for,” would be a God towards whom we could be drawn in reverence, and trust, and love.
2. But happily we are not left to our own reasonings and instincts for the decision in a matter so intimately connected with every part of our lives. There is a voice which speaks to us with an authority which is final when we are seeking to know the mind and will of God: and the teaching of Christ is on no subject clearer than on this subject of Prayer. His own practice, as well as the words which He spoke, leave us in no doubt as to His meaning.
Take, for example, those great sayings of His in the “Sermon on the Mount”. How directly they bear upon these questions of which we have been thinking, and how decisive they are in regard to them. In the sixth chapter of S. Matthew we read the well-known words in which He told of the Father in heaven Who cares for all; and birds and flowers and grass, and “much more” for His children of the human family. It is in reference to their wants that He says, “Your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.”
Since then God knows all their need, what are men to do? are they to wait in silence? would it be wrong and presumptuous on their part to ask? How clear is the reply! The words which convey it follow almost immediately, and they are plain beyond the possibility of mistake. “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: for every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.” “If ye being evil know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?”
For further illustrations of the teaching of both the Old and the New Testament on this subject, the following passage may be especially noted: 1 Kings 18:1, 42; Ps. 2:8; Ezek. 36:36, 37; S. John 16:23, 24; S. James 4:2. In the last of these the case is stated with the utmost simplicity: “Ye have not, because ye ask not.”
3. Let us then have no misgiving as to the great principle of Prayer. If we want, we must ask. Prayer is the appointed means by which God wills that His good gifts should come. When He would give most, He most stirs the souls of men to pray.
It is a law of the world in which we live that nothing is to be expected without effort. It ought not therefore to surprise us to find that the same law holds good in regard to the gifts of the higher sphere. We must call for them “by diligent prayer”. Prayer is work; and prayer is not by any means easy work. “Of all mental exercises,” said one who was a master of the faculty of abstract thought, “earnest prayer is the most severe.” [Coleridge.]
For real and continued prayer every power of the higher nature is called into action – thought, affection, imagination, conscience, will – and all must be concentrated and directed to a common end. We ought not to be disappointed if we sometimes find it very difficult to pray.
4. And now perhaps we see more plainly than before the truth of that other part of the address to the child about the need of prayer. It is clear, as we are told, that we “must learn” to pray. Prayer is more than a work, it is an art: and the prayers of some are worth much more than the prayers of others. S. James, in that passage to which reference has been already made, after speaking of those who failed to obtain blessings which might have been theirs because they did not ask for them, goes on to tell of another class who failed for a different reason. “Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss (κακως).” They prayed, but they prayed badly.
Where then shall we turn for teaching which will tell us the way to pray properly? To such an enquiry there can be but one reply. We remember who they were who asked the question long ago, “Lord, teach us to pray” [S. Luke 11:1.]: and we know well the answer they received. The words which contained it were perhaps even to those disciples already familiar words. [See S. Matt. 6:9–13.] If our Lord were with us now in the flesh, and we could ask from Him a lesson in prayer, we may surely believe that He would give us no other pattern and form than that which we have had from the beginning.
Again then, the Church is true to His example and the expression of His mind when, seeking to direct aright the thoughts of her children, she says to each, “Let me hear if thou canst say the Lord’s Prayer.” It is this model of all true prayer which we are now to consider and try to understand, in order that our use of it may be made more real and more availing.
1. There can be scarcely any words more familiar to us than those of the Lord’s Prayer. We have heard them so long and so often; and may not unnaturally suppose that we must know them well. And they are such simple words. The Lord’s Prayer, it has been stated, is the one Christian formulary which is capable of translation into all the languages. In the simplest of our Creeds there are phrases for which it would obviously not be easy to find equivalents in some of the dialects with which we have been brought into contact, be we can readily believe that no people has yet been discovered whose stock of words is so meager as not to be able to express the thought of the Great Father, and His will; the need of daily food, of forgiveness of sins, and of deliverance from the bad spirit.
Familiar and simple, however, as the words are, it will not do to assume too easily that those who find them so must therefore of necessity have attained to a really intelligent and satisfactory understanding of the Prayer.
Simple words often contain far more than may at first sight appear: and then further we must remember that more may be necessary for understanding of a whole than even the understanding of its separate parts.
Certainly in order properly to appreciate the whole we must possess some insight into the method of its construction, the law of its growth, the governing principle, the vital secret of its organic unity. Indeed so long as we have no clear conception of this, we can have very little assurance that we have any true clue to the interpretation of the particular sentences themselves.
2. Possibly it has before now occurred to most of us to ask ourselves in the case of some one or other of the clauses of the Lord’s Prayer, Why do these words occupy this particular place and no other? why, for example, does the request for “daily bread” stand where it does? does it not seem to break the natural sequence of the thought? would it not have been more easy to pass directly from the mention of the will of God to the acknowledgment of the transgressions against it of which we have been guilty?
And so we find ourselves again and again driven to ask, why is the arrangement such as it is? what is the plan, the pattern, according to which the form has been built up?
It would be well worth while to search for the answer to these questions even were the task of finding it one which involved the expenditure of much more time and labour than it will be necessary to give to it.
3. When we are attempting to enter into the inner meaning of any portion of Christ’s teaching, it is important that we should remember what the method was which He commonly employed. Almost invariably it was His habit to set before the minds of His hearers a picture which should serve as an illustration of the spiritual truth which it was His intention to convey. He used to say, “That which I desire to explain to you is like this thing or that.” His illustrations were drawn from every quarter: every department of life was laid under contribution; the man scattering seed in the field, the flowers, the birds, the clouds, the shepherd tending his sheep, the merchant, the servant-maid, the gust of wind along the narrow street, the nets on the shore, the children at their games. To Him earth was
“but the shadow of Heaven, and things therein
“Each to other like, more than on Earth is thought.”
Paradise Lost, Bk v. 575 f.
But of all illustrations, one was the favourite. To it He loved to point when He would have men know most clearly and fully “what God and man is.” He knew that “there is no place like Home” to tell of Heaven.
We need not hesitate to say that the thought of Home underlies this prayer of His; that this was the image before His mind as He spoke of it. The opening words themselves declare as much. “Our Father” – it is the voice of the children heard in the home; and the more we consider it, the more we shall be convinced that their cry is nothing more nor less than the utterance of the thoughts and feelings which arise naturally out of the life of the Home.
4. Think for a few moments, what that life is in its most essential features. “Life,” it has been truly said, “is the fulfilling of relationship.” Home life therefore is the fulfilling of home relationships. Now clearly the great primary relationships of the home to which we are introduced at the outset, are those which exist between the Parent and the Child.
To put the matter very shortly and simply, we may say that if these relationships are to be fulfilled there are,
A. Certain things which the Parent has a right to expect from the Child: and,
B. Certain things which the Child has a right to expect from the Parent.
What these are it will not be difficult to say.
(1) The first of these is Reverence. “Honour thy father and thy mother,” is the primary precept of the Second Table. “We had fathers of our flesh,” says an Apostolic writer, “and we gave them reverence: (Heb. 12:9). There can be no true home life without reverence. Parents are bound to see that they get it, and we may be sure that something is seriously wrong, in them as well as in their children, when they fail to secure it.
(2) But clearly the respect shown must not be confined to words; it must be proved by deeds of obedience. “Children, obey your parents” (Eph. 6:1). He, the perfect child, we are told, “went down with them, and came to Nazareth, and was subject unto them” (S. Luke 2:51). To Reverence then must be joined Submission on the children’s part.
B. And what are the things which a Child may in his turn expect to receive from his Parent? We shall find that they are three in number.
(1) To begin with, he may look for Support. This is a first duty of a parent. “If any provide not for his own ... he is worse tan an infidel” – yes, we might add, than a brute. Even the dumb creatures around us recognize this claim of their offspring upon them. Children have a right to claim the supply of their ordinary needs.
(2) The Prodigal knew that in his father’s house there was “bread enough and to spare”; but the thought of home would not have been to him what it was if it had not included something more than this. About the true home there is ever an atmosphere of kindness. The child feels that he may count upon finding there a tenderness, a consideration, an indulgence, a readiness to condone his failings, such as he would not venture to expect elsewhere. Perhaps the best word which we can use to express all this is the world Forbearance.
(3) And there is one thing more. The children run to the home and to the parent for Protection. When once they cross the threshold they feel that they are safe. If they are out with their father, they have no fear that he will take them into harm.
There are then these five things: two – Reverence, and Submission – that the Parent has a right to obtain from the Children; and three – Support, Forbearance, and Protection – that the Children on their side have a right to ask from the Parent. We can count them on the fingers one hand: and we cannot add to them.
5. And now let us return to the study of the Prayer itself. The words of it are preserved to us in the Gospels in two different forms, and may well have been uttered upon different occasions. If we take the version of S. Luke (11:2–4, R.V.), we shall see that in his account the prayer is given in the considerably shortened from, some of its clauses being entirely omitted. The reason for the omissions seems to be that in each instance the general intention of the omitted clause has been already expressed in that which immediately preceded it.
It would look as if the Prayer had been thus reduced to its smallest dimensions for the very purpose of calling attention to its essential structure. As abridged it stands as follows:
Hallowed be thy Name:
Thy kingdom come.
Give us day by day our daily bread:
And forgive us our sins; for we ourselves also
forgive every one that is indebted to us:
And bring us not into temptation.”
Here we see that the seven clauses of S. Matthew’s version have been reduced to five, by the omission of the sentences Thy will be done,” and “Deliver us from evil,” which may be regarded as covered by the words “Thy kingdom come,” and “Bring us not into temptation.” When we examine these five clauses which remain, we at once perceive that they correspond exactly with the constituent parts into which we have analyzed the life of the Home.
To state the result in other words, we are taught by our Lord that, when we would approach the Divine Being in prayer, we are to draw near with just such affections and expectations as those with which children would regard a father whom they loved and trusted here on earth. As in their case, so in ours, the first feelings should be those of Reverence – there can be no true religion where this is lacking – and of earnest desire that with humble Submission we may be enabled to do the will of our Father in Heaven. Having thus rendered our service to Him, we are encouraged to expect that He will not fail to fulfill to us a Father’s part: we are to pray that He will send us the Support without which our life itself would cease – it is clear then why this petition is inserted here – and then, not with hearts of cravens but with the sure confidence of His children, we are to ask Him to extend towards us His Fatherly Forbearance for all that has been faulty in the past, and to grant us such help and Protection as may save us from the evil in the time to come.
6. We may assert then without hesitation that it is the idea of the House which governs the Prayer. We rightly name it the “Pater Noster”. It is “Our Father” write large. How completely this is so we should perceive were we to substitute any other title for that of “Father” at its commencement; as for example, “Almighty,” or “Creator,” or “All-wise”. The Prayer could not be developed from these. Some of its clauses might grow out of one or another of them, but all certainly could not be deduced from any. On the other hand, if in addressing God we can but say that one word “Father,” really meaning what we say, the rest of the Prayer will follow without difficulty and as a mater of course.
“After this manner” therefore we are to pray. This is the true pattern of prayer. When our thoughts of God are highest and simplest, and when our hearts are free to express themselves most truly and naturally, we discover that, whatever the exact words may be which we use, we are praying that which is in substance the reality “the Lord’s Prayer”.
While then it is true that prayer is a high and difficult art, and while there will always be full scope for the exercise of our very best thought in the amplification and application of these words of our Master, we must never forget that prayer, and therefore this perfect Prayer, is “the simplest form of speech that infant lips can try.”
Perhaps one chief reason why prayer for most of us is so hard is this, that we find it so hard to be simple. The more we can become as little children, the better we shall be able to use the Children’s Prayer.
The rendering of the Lord’s Prayer given in the Prayer-book does not exactly follow any of the Bible versions.. It is almost identical with that of “The King’s Book” (1543). [See Introduction.]
Our Father which art in heaven,
I desire my Lord God our heavenly Father, who is the giver of all goodness, to send his grace unto me, and to all people,
By these opening words of the Prayer we are bidden to draw very near to God, while yet we are reminded that He with Whom we may claim so intimate a relation is “the high and lofty One that inhabiteth Eternity.” Though a Father, He is the Father in Heaven. We need not fear to see in the name “Father” all, and indeed far more than all, that has ever endeared that name to those to whom it has been granted to know the sympathy and care of a true parent on earth; at the very time that we bend in lowliness before the majesty of which we can form but inadequate conceptions from the things which He has made. It is thus that we are prepared for the petitions which follow.
We must not omit to notice the use of the words “our” and “us” throughout the Prayer. The Fatherhood of God can only be a reality to us, as we are led by it to recognize the Brotherhood of man. That the “our” is not to be restricted in its application is shown by the Paraphrase “unto me, and to all people.”
Hallowed be thy Name, | that we may worship him,
The Name of God is that by which we think of Him, or speak of Him to others: the expression of His Nature; His character. We ourselves use the word as equivalent to character, or reputation, when we talk of “making a name”, and of “giving a person a good” or “and evil name”.
We hallow God’s Name when we raise it above all that would dishonour and degrade it, when we give to it the supreme place in our thoughts and affections. That He Himself would enable us and all men ever to do this is the first desire of a true prayer. Even for the sake of our own welfare, we rightly set it before any request for what might otherwise be unimagined to the more pressing needs of our lives. Little as we sometime realize it, all that makes the continuance of life a boon to be wished for: all deliverance from the darkest superstitions, all advance in the knowledge of every kind of truth; all progress in healthful civilization, all pure and gentle thoughts, all good and noble hopes, depend ultimately upon the extent to which our spirits are influenced by right and worthy conceptions of the character of God. [See F. D. Maurice, Lord’s Prayer, Serm. ii.]
We pray, according to the Paraphrase, that we may worship. Worship is not the same thing as prayer. Prayer may indeed form part of worship, but worship is itself an act of wider import. When occupied in the highest acts of worship, the soul asks nothing for itself, but is engaged, with all its powers in the contemplation and acknowledgment of that which is felt to be supremely great and good. Worship is the homage of the creature paid to the Creator.
Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, in earth as it is in heaven.
serve him, and obey him, as we ought to do.
To the homage of heart and intellect we are to add the service of our wills. When once we realize what God is, and how “good and perfect and acceptable” God’s will is, we must before all things else desire that it should be wholly and uninterruptedly fulfilled. We shall long that our wills may be brought into harmony with it. Even when we may not fully understand the way or the end of its working, we shall pray, “not my will, but Thine be done.”
Thy kingdom come, – There was a saying in the Jewish schools according to which “that prayer, wherein there is not mention of the kingdom of God, is not a prayer.” [Lightfoot, Hor. Heb. in Matt. 6:10.]
For the thought of the “Father’s kingdom” see S. Matt 13:43, 26:29; 1 Cor. 15:24.
Observe that we are taught to pray, not for our removal to some happier distant sphere, but for the triumph of goodness and order here in what is at present the scene of so much confusion and sin. When we pray this prayer, we are praying for the perfecting of the Church of Christ, which is the chosen instrument for the accomplishment of the Divine purpose for man: for the success of all Christian Missions at home and abroad; and for all true social progress as well as for the entire consecration of individual lives.
Thy will be done, – For the use of this clause by our Lord in the garden of Gethsemane, see S. Matt. 26:42.
in earth as it is in heaven. – Lit. “as in heaven, so on earth.” (so S. Matt 6:10, R.V.). It is incorrect therefore to punctuate “Thy will be done in earth, As it is in heaven.” Indeed the whole of the words “in earth as it is in heaven” should in all probability be connected with each of the preceding petitions; so that our prayer would be that God’s Name may be hallowed, that his kingdom may come, and that His will may be done, here on earth as in each case we believe it to be in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread;
And I pray unto God, that he will send us all things that be needful both for our souls and bodies;
Now we pass to the mention of those needs to which we are so often tempted to give the foremost place in our thoughts and desires. Let us observe the modesty of the request when it does occur. We ask, not for the luxuries, but for the necessaries of life. As the Paraphrase happily expresses it, we pray for “all things that be needful both for our souls and bodies.”
Again we must notice the “us” and the “our”. When we come in their proper order to consider our own interests, we are not permitted to think of separating them from those of others. It is one purpose of prayer to draw us nearer to one another, as we all draw near to God.
Give us – We do not contradict this prayer by doing our utmost to provide for the necessities of ourselves and those dependent upon us, for God most frequently answers it by giving us the strength and skill and energy to do this; but we do contradict it the moment we consent to employ any ways or means upon which we know that we have no right to expect His blessing.
this day – (S. Matt.): “day by day” (St. Luke).
daily – The Greek word (επιούσιος), thus simply rendered in English, is a very remarkable one. It is not to be met with in any previous Biblical or Classical literature. It appears to be an adjective derived from η επιουσα, “the coming day”: so that the literal translation would be “our bread of the coming day”.
If, as seems to be almost certain, the Lord’s Prayer was originally spoken in Aramaic, it is probable that some simpler expression stood where we now find this difficult Greek word. [Those who wish for further information on this point should refer to Bp. Lightfoot, On a Fresh Revision of the New Testament, pp. 195–234; and The Lord’s Prayer in the Early Church, by F. H. Chase (Cambridge “Texts and Studies”), pp. 42–53.]
Our rendering “daily” is that which has prevailed from the beginning in the Western Church: and no other would more adequately express the meaning of the petition. [See Bp. Lightfoot, On a Fresh Revision, p. 234.]
And forgive us our trespasses, As we forgive them that trespass against us;
and that he will be merciful unto us, and forgive us our sins;
It cannot be thought that the need which here finds expression is any less constant than that of the preceding petition. We know that many times a day we fail in our duty to Him who is to us such a giver of good: and we are sure that these our shortcomings are more evident and more numerous in His eyes than they can be in ours. Yet, were we not specially encouraged to do it, we might hesitate to cast ourselves continually upon the Divine forbearance. We may be sure that the permission to do so is itself the assurance that we are wholly wrong when we harbour doubt or misgiving about the matter. If we earnestly desire it, forgiveness will be freely granted to us; and the gladness and strength of it will flow into our souls. There is only one thing that can prevent it; and so important is this that the mention of it could not be omitted even when the Prayer was given in its shortened form. [See previous chapter.] In order that forgiveness may enter into and abide in our hearts, the spirit of forgiveness must be there. “If ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” (S. Matt. 6:15; cf. also 18:35, and S. Mark 11:25.) We cannot remain in a right relation to God so long as we are willfully maintaining a wrong attitude towards our fellow men.
forgive us our trespasses, – “our debts” (S. Matt.), “our sins” (S. Luke).
The word which was probably employed in the Aramaic original is one which may be rendered either “debts” or “sins”. [See Chase, The Lord’s Prayer, p. 55.] The former rendering more exactly represents its primary sense, but the latter gives more clearly what is undoubtedly its meaning in the Prayer.
“Trespasses”: from old French trespasser, “to overpass”. (Lat. trans, “beyond”, and passus, “ a step”.) This translation, which is not that of our present Bibles, was brought into popular use by Tyndale’s Version (1526).
As we forgive: – “as we have forgiven” (S. Matt. R.V.): “for we ourselves also forgive” (S. Luke, R.V.)
Them that trespass against us: – “our debtors” (S. Matt.): “every one that is indebted to us” (S. Luke).
And lead us not into temptation, But deliver us from evil. Amen.
and that it will please him to save and defend us in all dangers ghostly and bodily; and that he will keep us from all sin and wickedness, and from our ghostly enemy, and from everlasting death. And this I trust he will do of his mercy and goodness, through our Lord Jesus Christ. And therefore I say, Amen, So be it.
Just in proportion as we are sincere in our desire to be relieved from the burden of past sins, shall we shrink from the thought of falling under their power in the time to come. We shall feel the need of a prayer for deliverance from such a peril, and shall be grateful that words, even stronger than any which we could have dared to frame, have been provided for us.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. – These clauses should be considered as forming together a single petition. Much of the difficulty which has seemed to be presented by the first has arisen from the failure to remember this. We pray that God would “lead us not (“bring us not” S. Matt. and S. Luke, R.V.) into temptation,” not because we think that temptation in itself is sin. Temptation, when we do not ourselves invite it, may be and frequently is a means of the greatest spiritual advance (cf. S. James 1:2, 3, 12). Nevertheless, being what we are, we have good reason for fearing an ordeal which must be full of pain and danger; and cannot but feel that it is a true instinct which prompts the cry to be withheld from it. In one instance, as we remember, to be kept “from the hour or trial” is promised as a special mercy: see Rev. 3:10, R.V.
At the same time we know that we dare not dictate the means and method of our discipline. With regard to the end and issue of it we may ask with certainty, but not with regard to the way. Therefore it is that we are taught to add the words which follow: “but,” i.e. whether our desire may be granted exactly as we could wish it or not, “deliver us from evil” – this, in the last resort, is the sum of our prayer. As the Westminster Shorter Catechism expresses it, “We pray that God would either keep us from being tempted to sin, or support and deliver us when we are tempted.”
The best commentary upon the meaning of the words is to be found in those which were uttered by our Lord in the terrible hour of His agony: “O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass away from me: nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt” (S. Matt. 26:39).
If He, the sinless, shrank from the encounter with evil which lay before Him, and prayed to be saved from it; we, the sinful, may be thankful to be allowed to do so too. On the other hand, if He qualified His prayer in submission to the will of His Father, we too are to be satisfied if only that will in our case may be accomplished, as we are certain it may be, by the final victory of good.
temptation, – From Lat. temptare, “to try the strength of,” “to test”. “Temptation” is trial, putting to the proof, for the purpose of revealing or strengthening character. For the use of the word with this meaning cf. Gen 22:1, S. James 1:2, 3, 12. “Temptation” is also used to denote seduction, deliberate enticement to sin. In this sense, God tempteth no man; see S. James 1:13 and 1 Thess. 3:5.
from evil. – “From the evil one” (R.V.). So far as the Greek words themselves are concerned, it is equally possible to translate by the masculine or by the neuter. N.T. usage however (cf. especially S. Matt. 13:19; S. John 17:15; 1 S. John 5:18; Eph. 6:16), and the nearly unanimous testimony of the early Ecclesiastical writers, may be urged in favour of the rendering adopted by the Revisers. [See Bp Lightfoot’s letters in the Guardian, Sept. 1881; and Chase, The Lord’s Prayer, pp. 103–146.]
We may observe that both interpretations are included by the words of the Paraphrase, “from all sin and wickedness, and from our ghostly enemy.”
ghostly – From the A.S. gástlic, “spiritual”.
everlasting death. – This phrase, not itself found in Scripture is evidently formed to be the counterpart and exact opposite of the Scriptural expression “everlasting life”. For the meaning of this latter, see above The Creed, Chapter III. Compare also the words in the burial Office, “the bitter pains of eternal death”.
through our Lord Jesus Christ. – The Paraphrase takes it for granted that this condition, with which we ordinarily conclude our prayers, is implied in that which was given to be the model for them: and indeed, if ever there were words which could be offered in Christ’s Name, they certainly are those which He Himself gave.
Amen. – Not found in the correct text of S. Matt. or St. Luke. For the derivation of the word see above, The Creed, Chapter III end.
There can be little doubt that the Doxology, which stands in the A.V. of S. Matthew, formed no part of the original text of that Gospel. It is but one of several which in early days were added to the Prayer when used in the public worship of the Church. It was never inserted in the Latin Service-books, and was not introduced into our Prayer-book until 1661.
Part V – The Sacraments
Question. How many Sacraments hath Christ ordained in his Church?
Answer. Two only, as generally necessary to salvation; that is to say, Baptism, and the Supper of the Lord.
Question. What meanest thou by this word Sacrament?
Answer. I mean an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace given unto us, ordained by Christ himself, as a means whereby we receive the same, and a pledge to assure us thereof.
Question. How many parts are there in a Sacrament?
Answer. Two: the outward visible sign, and the inward spiritual grace.
Question. What is the outward visible sign or form in Baptism?
Answer. Water: wherein the person is baptized, In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.
Question. What is the inward and spiritual grace?
Answer. A death unto sin, and a new birth unto righteousness: for being by nature born in sin, and the children of wrath, we are hereby made the children of grace.
Question. What is required of persons to be baptized?
Answer. Repentance, whereby they forsake sin: and faith, whereby they stedfastly believe the promises of God, made to them in that Sacrament.
Question. Why then are infants baptized, when by reason of their tender age they cannot perform them?
Answer. Because they promise them both by their sureties: which promise, when they come to age, themselves are bound to perform.
Question. Why was the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper ordained?
Answer. For the continual remembrance of the sacrifice of the death of Christ, and of the benefits which we receive thereby.
Question. What is the outward part or sign of the Lord’s Supper?
Answer. Bread and Wine, which the Lord hath commanded to be received.
Question. What is the inward part or thing signified?
Answer. The body and Blood of Christ, which are verily and indeed taken and received by the faithful in the Lord’s Supper.
Question. What are the benefits whereof we are partakers thereby?
Answer. The strengthening and refreshing of our souls by the Body and Blood of Christ, as our bodies are by the Bread and Wine.
Question. What is required of them who come to the Lord’s Supper?
Answer. To examine themselves, whether they repent them truly of their former sins, stedfastly purposing to lead a new life; have a lively faith in God’s mercy through Christ, with a thankful remembrance of his death; and be in charity with all men.
1. In following the course of the teaching of the Catechism we have seen how at the outset its main outlines were presented in a few carefully worded sentences (Part I.); and how, when this had been done, the principal points were singled out, one after another, for more particular treatment.
In this way we have been taught what exactly that is which we are to Believe (Part II.), what we are to Do (Part III.), and in what way we may hope to gain the power to do it (Part IV).
Here possibly we might have expected the First lesson-book to end: and here, as a matter of fact, it did end when it was originally written, and for more than fifty years afterwards.
It was not until the Prayer-book was undergoing one of its later revisions that the further addition was made which we have now to consider. The Puritans had objected that the Catechism was too short, and it was agreed that something should be “added for the doctrine of the Sacrament”. This, according to the instructions given, was to be done “in the fewest and plainest affirmative terms that may be.” [See Introduction.]
2. We have good reason to be grateful both to those who desired and to those who gave this further teaching. Our manual would have been far less complete without it than it is. The doctrine of the Sacraments is an integral part of the teaching of Christianity. If the Church be a visible body, as it is constantly declared to be in the N.T., then it is clear that there must be an outward act of admission to its membership; and it is difficult to see how it would be possible to dispense with some recognized rite which should serve as a bond to unite and distinguish those who were prepared to be true to their position, and to Him who had called them into it. We should have had to set about to invent such for ourselves, if they had not been provided for us.
Then again, experience has plainly shown that any religion which is to answer to the needs of our manifold nature must recognize the fact that this nature includes the body, as well as the mind and the spirit. A teaching, or a system, which ignores any one of these elements will certainly fail to satisfy the requirements of humanity as we know it. Without the Sacraments, religion quickly resolves itself into philosophy or mysticism. As might have been expected, the religion of the Incarnation provides for the whole man.
As a matter of practical experience too, it is not difficult to understand that for most of us the comfort of knowing that we may look for the answer to our prayers for God’s grace at definite times and in definite ways is very great indeed. “A gift to be had anywhere would by most of us be found nowhere.” [Mason, Faith of the Gospel, p. 279.] The longer we live, the more thankful we are for the appointed “means of grace”.
3. Before entering upon the consideration of details, let us try to indicate what appear to be the chief characteristics of this section of the Catechism teaching. We may notice especially three:
(1) In the first place observe its Simplicity. There was great need to be simple in dealing with the subject of the Sacraments. Very much of the language which had been employed had been exceedingly confused and confusing. By earlier writers the term had been applied indiscriminately to any sacred mystery or ceremony: and even when later on the word had been restricted to a certain number of religious ordinances, there still remained very considerable uncertainty as to its precise signification.
In the Catechism the name of Sacrament is confined to those holy rites of which it can be said that they were undoubtedly instituted by Christ Himself: and that there may be no sort of mistake as to the nature of the two Sacraments, of which this can be affirmed, an exact definition is given according to which it is essential to the idea of a Sacrament that it should always consist of two parts, the one outward and visible, the other inward and spiritual.
Even further to remove all possibility of ambiguity, it is made clear by a series of questions and answers, what in the case of each of the Sacraments constitutes its outward and what its inward part.
“What is the outward visible sign or form in Baptism?”
“What is the inward and spiritual grace?”
“What is the outward part or sign of the Lord’s Supper?”
“What is the inward part, or thing signified?”
Instruction could not be more plainly, more simply given.
(2) The next thing that would be likely to strike us, were we reading the teaching for the first time, would be its Certainty.
How sure it is! there is no uncertain sound, no sort of “perhaps” about it. The Sacraments are necessary for all. They really give what they promise and are what they signify. Jewish types might suggest, Christian Sacraments convey. They are “a means whereby we receive.”
In Baptism there is “a new birth”. “We are made the children of grace.”
“The Body and Blood of Christ are verily and indeed taken and received by the faithful” in the Lord’s Supper.
No theory is offered as to the way in which this comes to pass. The English Church is content to state the facts. For these we have the authority of our Lord in the Gospels.
There would have been few disputes about the Sacraments had men always been willing to rest satisfied with agreement as to the fact of that which we receive by them, without requiring the acceptance of explanations as to the manner in which the benefits are conveyed. Theories may be interesting and even useful: one thing, in which such matters, they cannot be – they cannot be certain.
(3) Then, once more, let us not fail to perceive another great note of the teaching – its Gravity.
There is a holy caution about it which is most noticeable. Sacraments are solemn things: they are not to be lightly administered or received. Baptism is not to be given carelessly and indiscriminately. Adults must be taught to prepare themselves for it; and even in the case of Infants fitting provision must be made that they also may realize, when they are able to do so, what serious responsibilities belong to all upon whom the gifts of grace have been bestowed. The Church will take securities that this end shall be attained so far as human precaution and diligence can secure it.
So again in regard to the Sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ, very serious preparation is to be required on the part of those who would be partakers of it. There must be most careful examination, examination which will not have done its work until there be a real repentance for past sins, a true turning with humble trust to God, and a sincere determination to live the Christian life.
4. These then are the characteristics, the marks of our Church’s teaching in regard to the Sacraments. It is simple, so that none can fail to understand its meaning; it is certain, confining itself to that of which the truth may be established on the best authority; and it is grave, as knowing well that these are no common things of which it tells, but deep mysteries the very thought of which should move our souls to reverence and holy fear.
Teaching of which so much can be said is teaching which has a very strong claim upon our respect and our confidence. The more close examination of it to which we are now to proceed will, we may reasonably hope, do not a little to deepen this our first impression.
How many Sacraments hath Christ ordained in his Church?
The Latin word Sacramentum meant
(1) The oath of allegiance taken by a soldier to his commander. This was the meaning most commonly attached to the word in Classical usage.
(2) A sacred thing, a mystery: equivalent to the Greek μυστήριον.
The meaning of pledge or oath was not infrequently given to the word when used in an Ecclesiastical sense: and it is easy to see how suitably it might be applied either to Holy Baptism, as the act of enrolment under Christ’s banner; or to the Holy Communion, as the open avowal of determination to continue in the membership of the Church. The generally accepted meaning however was the second of those mentioned above. It is in this sense that the word is used in the Catechism.
We may observe that the question asked is not “How many Sacraments are there?”, but “How many Sacraments hath Christ ordained in his Church?” The way is thus prepared for the limitation of the use of the word Sacrament.
Of such Sacraments there are
Two only, as generally necessary to salvation; that is to say, Baptism, and the Supper of the Lord.
Here another qualifying clause is introduced. There may have been other observances ordained by Christ, but not as being “necessary to salvation”: or, if necessary in particular cases, yet not “generally necessary”.
“Generally necessary”: i.e. universally necessary, necessary for all alike: obligatory in a way in which, for example, Holy Orders or Matrimony could not be said to be.
“Generally”: from Lat. generalis, “belonging to a genus or class”. “There are probably no instances to be found of any writer in the sixteenth or seventeenth centuries who used the word “generally” otherwise than with the meaning “universally”. [Blunt, Annotated Book of Common Prayer, ii. 249.] For this sense of the word in the Authorized Version of the Bible, cf. 2 Sam. 17:11; Jer. 48:38.
The necessity of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper for all who desire the wellbeing of their souls is to be gathered from Christ’s words,
“Verily, verily I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God” (S. John 3:5).
“Go ye, and teach all nations, baptizing them” (S. Matt. 28:19).
“Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of Man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you” (S. John 6:53).
“Take, eat; ... Drink ye all of it” (S. Matt. 26:26, 27).
What meanest thou by this word Sacrament?
I mean an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace given unto us, (which sign was) ordained by Christ himself, as a means whereby we receive the same (grace), and a pledge to assure us thereof.
“Sign”: i.e. symbol, token; that which points to something else.
“Grace given unto us”:
Some question has arisen to the connection of these words owing to the fact that, in the MS. “Book Annexed: to the Act of Uniformity of 1662, a comma is inserted after “grace”. It is allowed however that no certain conclusion can be drawn from the punctuation of that date, and the early translations of the Catechism support the view which is here expressed. [See Dr. Bright’s letters in the Guardian, July–Sept, 1891.] It is the “grace” which is “given”, and the “sign” which is “ordained”.
“Ordained by Christ himself”: that is in His own Person, and not through His Apostles or their successors. cf. “ordained of Christ our Lord in the Gospel,” Art. XXV.
“A means”: i.e. a medium, channel, instrument.
“A pledge”: i.e. a security; that by which we may be helped to realize the certainty of the gift.
“To assure us thereof”: i.e. to make us feel sure that the “grace” is really ours.
The next question and answer single out the points that are to be further illustrated and explained.
How man parts are there in a Sacrament?
Two: the outward visible sign, and the inward spiritual grace.
It is not without purpose that attention is again directed to this part of the previous definition. To forget or deny that there are always these two parts, distinct in themselves and existing together, is to obscure or even “overthrow” the nature of a Sacrament: see Art. XXVIII.
What is the outward visible sign or form in Baptism?
“Form”: i.e. ceremony, including both the action and the words. That the words, as well as the water, are to be regarded as “essential to this Sacrament” is seen by the questions which are asked when a child is “received” who has been privately baptized: “With what matter was this child baptized?” and “With what words was this child baptized?”
Water: wherein the person is baptized, In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.
The term “person” is employed as equally applicable to an adult and to an infant.
Originally this answer stood thus, “Water; wherein the person baptized is dipped, or sprinkled with it, In the Name, &c.” This was altered to its present form in 1661, partly no doubt because it was considered unnecessary to describe particularly the act of Baptism, and partly because “pouring” and not “sprinkling is the alternative practice of the English Church. See the rubrics in the Baptismal Offices.
In the earliest days Baptism was commonly administered by immersion. Hence S. Paul’s reference to the ceremony as a figure indicative of burial and rising again (Rom. 6:3, 4; Col. 2:12). It seems probable however that, even in Apostolic times a less difficult method of administration was occasionally adopted, e.g. when the gaoler and his family were “baptized straightway” (Acts 16:33), and when the three thousand were baptized, at the close of S. Peter’s Sermon on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:41). As the Church spread into colder climates the practice of “affusion” (i.e. pouring) became general.*
*It is interesting to compare the following passage from a writing of the early part of the second century: “Baptize In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost in living (i.e. running) water. But if thou hast not living water, then baptize in other water; and if thou are not able in cold, then in warm. But if thou hast neither, then pour water on the head thrice In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost.” – Teaching of the Apostles, § 7.
“In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost”: as commanded by our Lord; see S. Matt. 28:19.
“In the Name of.” The expression is a Hebrew one (b’shem, “in the name”): it means either (1) “by commission, command, and authority of” [Bp Nicholson, Exposition of the Catechism, p. 159.] or (2) as the words are now more commonly understood, “so as to bring into union with and place under the protection of.” The Greek (εις το όνομα) is translated in the R.V. by “into the name”.
If the words are to be taken in this sense, we may compare for the general meaning Num. 6:27, “They shall put my name upon the children of Israel; and I will bless them”, and also the language employed in Acts 15:17, and S. James 2:7.
The new relationship established cannot be better described than in the words which tell of the threefold privilege of the baptized at the beginning of the Catechism.
The doctrine of the Trinity is not philosophically developed in the N. T., but it is involved in the very substance of its teaching. Certainly no other view of the doctrine of the Being of God can satisfy the requirements of such words as those of the formula of Baptism. They imply plainly, (1) a Distinction of Persons; the Father is not the Son, and neither of Them is the Holy Ghost: (2) and Equality of Persons; for it is inconceivable that our Lord could have introduced the mention of Himself in such a connection had He claimed to be no more than a great human teacher: and (3) the Unity of Persons; for it is not “the Names” but “the Name”. It is difficult to think that any words could express more simply and decisively that which the Church has taught as the doctrine of the Trinity.
What is the inward and spiritual grace?
A death unto sin, and a new birth unto righteousness: for being by nature born in sin, and the children of wrath, we are hereby made the children of grace.
Two states or conditions are indicated in this answer; one, that in which we are by reason of our connection with a sinful race, exposed as such to the displeasure of a holy God: the other, that in which we are when restored in Christ to our true relationship with the Father, and in which we may receive continually the grace which will enable us to live as His children should.
Baptism is the passage from the first state to the second, and is therefore rightly described as “a death unto sin, and a new birth unto righteousness.”
For the use of this language in reference to Baptism, compare S. John 3:3, 6; Rom. 6:3–8.
“Born in sin”: i.e. in a state of sin, and with an inherited tendency to sin.
“Children of wrath”: i.e. such as in themselves could only merit the Divine displeasure. The expression is used by S. Paul in Eph. 2:3.
“Hereby”: i.e. by the grace bestowed in Baptism.
“Children of grace”: i.e. those to whom the Divine favour and blessing has been freely granted.
What is required of persons to be baptized?
Repentance, whereby they forsake sin: and faith, whereby they stedfastly believe in the promises of God, made to them in that Sacrament.
Those who would thus pass from the death of sin into the life of righteousness must of necessity hate and renounce the ways of evil, and turn with trust to Him Who will not fail to meet and bless them in the appointed means of grace.
“Repentance”: The word so rendered in the N. T. is μετάνοια, which literally means change of mind. He who repents changes his mind in regard to sin; comes to a truer sense of its real character. With change of mind there is change of feeling and intention. The words of the answer also make it clear that where there is a true repentance, its effects will be seen in change of conduct.
“The promises”: viz. “that he will grant them remission of their sins, and bestow upon them the Holy Ghost; that he will give them the blessing of eternal life, and make them partakers of his everlasting kingdom” (Exhortation in Office for Baptism of Adults).
Why then are infants baptized, when by reason of their tender age they cannot perform them?
“Them”: i.e. repentance and faith. The reply meets the charge of seeming inconsistency which might be made after what has been stated as to the necessary requirements for Baptism.
Because they promise them both (i.e. both repentance and faith) by their sureties: which promise, when they come to age, themselves are bound to perform.
Originally the words stood; “Yes; they do perform them by their sureties, who promise and vow them both in their names: which when they come,” &c. This was altered in 1661 at the special desire of the Puritans.
“Sureties”: The words “sure” and “secure” are really the same, both being derived from the Lat. securus. “Sureties” accordingly is equivalent to “securities”.
For the custom of requiring Godparents, see above, General Teaching, Chapter III. That these are not to be regarded as essential to the validity of the Sacrament is evident from the fact that they are not required when children are privately baptized: but even in such cases, where the children live and are openly “received” by the Church, it is provided that there shall be sponsors with the usual responsibilities.
The general grounds upon which the Baptism of Infants has, from the earliest times, been maintained in the Church are not referred to in this reply. Some of the more important of them are set forth in the course of the Baptismal Offices.
Thus we find great emphasis laid upon: (1) The universal necessity of the New Birth as taught by our Lord. (2) The command of Christ that the children should be “brought unto him,” and His evident desire to “declare his good will toward them”. (3) His teaching that “of such is the kingdom of God”.
To these reasons are generally added such as the following:
(4) The Apostolic practice of baptizing households (cf. Acts 16:14, 33; 1 Cor. 1:16); and of regarding children as members of the Church (cf. Eph. 6:1; Col. 3:20; 1 Cor. 7:14).
(5) The certainty that, had the terms of admission to the Christian Church been less wide than those of the Jewish, the strongest feeling of opposition must have been aroused in certain quarters. There is no indication at all of any such controversy in the early history of the Church.
(6) The testimony of primitive writers; e.g. Justin Martyr (c. 140) speaks of those “who as children were made disciples to Christ” (Apol. i. 15). Irenaeus, in the latter half of the 2nd century, says that Christ “came to save all by Himself; all, that is, who by Him are born again unto God, infants, and little ones, and boys, and youths, and elders” (Adv. Haer. lib. II. c. 39). Origen, towards the middle of the 3rd century, asserts that “the Church received it as a tradition from the Apostles to give Baptism even to the little ones” (Comm. in Ep. ad Rom. lib. V. 9).
The second of the two Sacraments ordained by Christ has been known in the Church by many names. Of these the most noteworthy are the following: –
(1) The Breaking of Bread (Acts 2:42).
(2) The Lord’s Supper (1 Cor. 11:20).
(3) The Eucharist, i.e. Thanksgiving (Teaching of the Apostles, § 9 [Early in 2nd cent.]; Ignatius ad Smyrn. § 6 [Early in 2nd cent.]; cf. 1 Cor. 14:16).
(4) The Sacrifice (Teaching of the Apostles, § 14 [Early in 2nd cent.]: Justin Martyr, [2nd cent.], Cyprian [3rd cent.], Chrysostom [4th cent.]).
(5) The Communion (Chrysostom [4th cent.]; cf. 1 Cor. 10:16).
(6) The Gathering-together – Synaxis – (Chrysostom [4th cent.]).
(7) The Mass; so called from Lat. missa, meaning “dismissal”, a word used when a service was over and permission was granted to the congregation to leave. The Roman Communion Office ends with the clause Ite missa est. The word occurs as the name for this Sacrament in Ambrose [4th cent.] and Augustine [5th cent.]. It was retained in the first English Prayer-book, were the title of the Communion Office was “The Supper of the Lord and the Holy Communion, common called the Mass.” This was changed to its present form in 1552.
The designation “Lord’s Supper” at once directs our thoughts to the original institution of the ordinance by Christ Himself, under the circumstances described in the Gospels.* It also brings strongly into prominence the duty of partaking of the sacred elements, which common practice of the medieval Church had tended to put not the background. It was no doubt very largely for these reasons that this title was adopted in the Catechism.
*S. Chrysostom, commenting upon 1 Cor. 11:20, says that S. Paul, by using the words “Lord’s Supper”, takes his hearers back to that “evening in which the Lord delivered the awful mysteries.”
“The Lord’s Supper,” as the expression itself suggests, took place on the first occasion in the evening. For some time the Eucharist seems to have been celebrated in connection with a meal taken by the faithful in common, in resemblance of the Last Supper: but evidently quite early in the history of the Church – “about the close of the first century” [See Report of Committee of Upper House of Convocation of Canterbury: May 1893.] – the Celebration was transferred to the morning; and, “except on certain special occasions,* communicating in the evening ceased throughout the Church. The change was made probably in order to secure a safer as well as a more reverent celebration.” [See Report of Committee of Upper House of Convocation of Canterbury: May 1893.]
*When it was desired not to break a fast by partaking of the elements: see F. W. Puller, Concerning the Fast before Communion, pp. 12, 17.
Why was the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper ordained?
For the continual remembrance of the sacrifice of the death of Christ, and of the benefits which we receive thereby.
Our Lord’s words were “Do this in remembrance of me,” lit. “for my remembrance” (εις την εμην ανάμνησιν). That the “remembrance” was to be of His death was shown by the allusion to the Blood of the Covenant which is shed”: see also 1 Cor. 11:26, “As often as ye eat this bread and drink this cup ye do shew the Lord’s death.”
The purpose of the “Remembrance” may be said to be threefold: –
(1) To present before God the one sacrifice once offered as the one and only ground upon which we rest our hopes of salvation.
The word ανάμνησις, in two of the places in which it was used in the Sept. version of the O. T., referred to a remembrance made before God: see Lev. 24:7, where the frankincense upon the “Shewbread” is spoken of as “a memorial, even an offering ... unto the Lord”: and Num. 10:10, where the sounding of the trumpets is said to be “a memorial before your God”*: cf. also Heb. 10:3.
*The word occurs three times elsewhere in the Septuagint: in the titles of Pss. 38 (37) and 70 (69) and in Wisd. 16:6.
It is interesting also to compare the O. T. phrase “the Lord’s remembrancers” (Is. 62:6; R.V., and A.V. marg.).
In our Office of Holy Communion the acts and words of the “perpetual memory” enjoined by Christ form part of a prayer addressed to God.
(2) To keep before the minds of those who make it the great fact of the death of Christ, and all that results from it.
(3) To testify before all to the reality of the Redemption. As the Passover was the continual witness to the deliverance of Israel from Egypt, so the celebration of the Eucharist is the continual witness to the fact of the redemption of mankind.
“The sacrifice of the death of Christ”: In Scripture the death of Christ is constantly declared to be the propitiatory sacrifice for the sins of the world. See e.g. Is. 53:10, “Thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin.” S. John 1:29, “The Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world.” Heb. 9:26, “To put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.” 1 S. John 2:2, “He is the propitiation for our sins.”
“How, and in what particular way [His sacrifice] had this efficacy, there are not wanting persons who have endeavoured to explain; but I do not find that the Scripture has explained it.” – Bp. Butler. [Analogy, Part ii, ch. v.]
It is enough that we are sure that the love and wisdom of God has found the way whereby, at a cost which we can never reckon, the guilt and misery of sin can be forgiven and removed. All best things in this world are gained by sacrifice, and therefore it ought not to surprise us to be told that the greatest of blessings come to us through the Supreme Sacrifice.
“The benefits which we receive thereby”: Cf. the words in the Exhortation in the Communion Office: “the innumerable benefits which by his precious blood-shedding he hath obtained to us”: and, later in the Office, “remission of our sins, and all other benefits of his passion”. Among these “other benefits of his passion” we should include the revelation by the Cross of the knowledge of God, the opening of a way of access and consecration to God, the gift of the Holy Ghost, the power to live a new life, the means of Grace, and the hope of Glory.
The benefits which are specially given to those who are partakers of this Sacrament are described in the answer to a later question.
What is the outward part or sign of the Lord’s Supper?
Bread and Wine, which the Lord hath commanded to be received.
The Sacrament was to be not only (1) a Commemoration, but also (2) A Communion.
We observe in this answer the stress laid upon the duty of reception, and that of the elements in both kinds.
For the account of the original institution see S. Matt. 26; S. Mark 14; S. Luke 22; and 1 Cor. 11.
What is the inward part, or thing signified?
The Body and Blood of Christ, which are verily and indeed taken and received by the faithful in the Lord’s Supper.
The answer is of course based upon the words of our Lord in the Gospels, “This is my body,” “This is my blood”; cf. also the words of S. Paul (1 Cor. 10:16), “The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion (i.e. common participation) of the blood of Christ? the bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?”
The spirit of the teaching of the English Church in regard to the presence of our Lord in this Sacrament is well expressed in the following sentences of Hooker:
“Shall I wish that men would more give themselves to meditate with silence upon what we have by the sacrament, and less to dispute of the manner how?”
“Let it be sufficient for me presenting myself at the Lord’s table to know what there I receive from Him, without searching or inquiring of the manner how Christ performeth His promise.” [Eccl. Pol. V. lxvii. 3, 12.]
“Verily and indeed”: i.e. truly and actually; not in a merely metaphorical sense, nor only in a figure.
“Taken and received.” The use of the word “taken” emphasizes the thought that what is “received” has its existence apart from the recipient.
“By the faithful”: i.e. by those who receive with faith.
That this is the meaning of these words will be seen from the following quotations:
“The benefit is great if with a true penitent heart and lively faith we receive that holy Sacrament; for then we spiritually eat the flesh of Christ, and drink his blood.” (Exhortation in Communion Office.)
“Such as be void of a lively faith ... in no wise are partakers of Christ.” (Art. xxix.)
It is not the reality of the Sacrament that is dependent upon faith, but the ability to partake of it.
What are the benefits whereof we are partakers thereby?
The strengthening and refreshing of our souls by the Body and Blood of Christ, as our bodies are (strengthened) by the Bread and (refreshed by the) Wine.
The parallel which is here drawn between the needs of the soul and the body may serve to point to the desirability of frequent Communion. In the time of the early Church is was the custom that Christians should communicate, if not daily, yet at the least on Sundays and Holy Days.
What is required of them who come to the Lord’s Supper?
To examine themselves, whether they repent them truly of their former sins, stedfastly purposing to lead a new life; have a lively faith in God’s mercy through Christ, with a thankful remembrance of his death; and be in charity with all men.
The Catechism will not suffer us to forget that serious preparation should be made by those who would approach these holy mysteries.
S. Paul, after speaking of the possibility and danger of receiving “unworthily” – i.e. irreverently, as if that which is taken were some common thing – goes on to say, “Let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread and drink of that cup.” (1 Cor. 11:28.)
Our answer in the Catechism describes more particularly the nature of the Examination which is to be made. As in the case of the other Sacrament, so for this, there must be Repentance and Faith. The old sins are to be passed in review, and deliberately renounced for the future. Trust in the Divine goodness should be quickened by a grateful recollection of its manifestation in the great act of our Redemption.
Then further, in the case of Holy Communion, it is necessary that there should be a sincere readiness to obey the law of Love. It is only as all hindrances to true sympathy and union with others are removed that we can expect to realize the blessing of fellowship with God.
With this answer may be compared the following passage from the Exhortation in the Office for Holy Communion: “Judge therefore yourselves, brethren, that ye be not judged of the Lord; repent you truly for your sins past; have a lively and stedfast faith in Christ our Saviour; amend your lives, and be in perfect charity with all men; so shall ye be meet partakers of those holy Mysteries.”
We should notice that these requirements for Holy Communion are in reality no other than those of the three great Christian vows – to renounce, believe, and obey – of which we were taught in the beginning of the Catechism. Progress in holiness consists not in learning things that are new, but in a more full understanding and more faithful fulfillment of the earliest lessons.
“Repent”: see above, The Sacraments, Chapter II.
“Lively”: i.e. living and active.
“Charity”: from Lat. caritas, should be understood in its widest sense, and not limited in meaning to the giving of material assistance to such as need it. It is used in the A.V. (e.g. 1 Cor. 13.) to translate αγάπη, which was, as is well known, a practically new word employed to express the new affection kindled in Christian hearts in response to the appeal of the Divine love.
“All through the controversies of the last forty years – the earlier Baptismal controversy, the later Eucharistic controversy – I have found myself recurring to these wonderfully concise and perspicuous statements of the Catechism with ever-increasing gratitude; so reasonable, so Scriptural, so Catholic that they seem to fulfill all S. Augustine’s sound doctrine when he says, ‘No sober man will hold an opinion against reason, no Christian man against Scripture, no lover of peace against the Church’.” Archdeacon Norris, Speech at Church Congress, 1888.
Note A. On the Meaning of the Word “Catechism”
Our words Catechism and Catechist are derived from the Gk κατηχίζειν, a lengthened form of κατηχειν.
It is probable that κατηχειν originally meant “to make a sound to, or over” a thing, so as to fill it with resonance; e.g. a bell or a tube which vibrates sympathetically in response to a musical note.
The history of the word, in its educational use, seems to be this. At first it was probably employed of a teacher who pronounced a sentence to his pupils, making them repeat it after him, possibly in a sort of chanting or monotone as in a modern infant school.
Then naturally it came to be applied to the giving of elementary teaching generally; and at a later stage to all kinds of instruction, even when there had ceased to be any thought of its elementary character, much less of the original method of imparting it. This later stage had evidently been reached before the time of the N. T. writers: see e.g. S. Luke 1:4; Rom. 2:18; 1 Cor. 14:19.
While therefore the idea of the elementariness of the teaching might and did frequently assert itself, it was by no means always felt to be present.
Strictly speaking then we should not be justified in giving to the word any signification less general than that of the Title in the Prayer-book – A Catechism, that is to say, an Instruction. At the same time we may be allowed to feel that the term was very happily chosen to describe the particular kind and form of instruction with which to our minds it is now so familiarly associated.
Note B: On the History of the Creed.
The original source of Creeds is unquestionably to be found in the words of the of the Baptismal formula derived by Christ to His Apostles (S. Matt. 28:19). These words necessarily influenced the mode in which those who sought for admission into the Church were taught to confess their faith. Indications which seem to point to the existence of regular forms of confession are to be met with in the N. T., e.g. in 1 Cor. 8:6 and 1 Tim. 3:16. Partly from a settled habit of relying upon memory where instruction was concerned, and partly from a fear lest the most sacred truths might be profaned by unworthy handling, the rule of faith was not at first committed to writing; nor was it generally made known to any outside the Christian Society, except to such as were already far advanced in their preparation for Baptism.
This however did not prevent the citation of individual clauses and frequent allusions on the part of the early Christian writers. Such traces appear in the Apologies of the Athenian philosopher Aristides, and of Justin Martyr (who wrote at Rome), before 150 A.D.; and still more unmistakably in the works of Irenaeus, a native of Asia Minor who settled in the south of Gaul, and Tertullian of Carthage, c. 170–200.
The Creed of which we thus catch sight in the 2nd century was plainly identical in all essential features with our “Apostles’ Creed”. It is not however until 341 that we meet with anything like an exact statement of it. In that year Marcellus, a Bishop of Ancyra in Galatia who had been banished from his diocese, presented to Julius, the Bishop of Rome the following as a confession of his belief. [This Creed was written in Greek: for the original see Lumby, History of the Creeds, p. 119.]
“I believe in God Almighty:
“And in Christ Jesus his only-begotten Son, our Lord, Who was born of the Holy Ghost and the Virgin Mary, Was crucified under Pontius Pilate, and was buried; And the third day he rose again from the dead; He ascended into heaven, And sitteth at the right hand of the Father; From thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead;
“And in the Holy Ghost; the holy Church; The Forgiveness of sins; The Resurrection of the flesh; The Life everlasting.”
From the fact that Marcellus was received into communion by Julius we might be justified in concluding that his Creed was in accordance with that of the Roman Church. That such was actually the case we know on the evidence of Rufinus (390 A.D.), a presbyter of Aquileia in North Italy, who wrote a “Commentary on the Apostles’ Creed.” In this, though he naturally takes as his text the form adopted in his own Church, he is nevertheless most careful to call attention to the very few points in which it differed from that in use at Rome.
The Roman Creed, as given by Rufinus, differed from the Creed which we have quoted by its insertion of “the Father” in the first article, and its omission of “The Life Everlasting” at the end. In the Creed of Aquileia, together with these and some other differences, there was to be found also the clause “He descended into hell,” which we meet with here for the first time.
The other date of importance in the history is 460, when we have two sermons on the Creed by Faustus, the Bishop of Riez in Provence. [These Sermons were for some time erroneously attributed to an Eusebius of Gaul who lived a century later.] The Creed of Faustus, as we can see from his commentaries upon it, contained nearly all the words and phrases which are to be found in our present form. It contained, that is to say, the expressions conceived, dead, Almighty (in the clause “And sitteth at the right hand of God the Father Almighty”), Catholic, and The Communion of Saints. It did not contain the words He descended into hell, of which we have noted the occurrence at an earlier date in the Creed of Aquileia; nor does it seem to have contained the words Maker of heaven and earth and suffered. The latter clause is first found in the creed as given in a sermon by Augustine (A.D. 400) [See Lumby, History of the Creeds, p. 152.]: the former, though introduced at an early date into Eastern Creeds, does not appear in any Western form until it is found in a Sacramentary of the seventh century. [Ibid. p. 170.]
Speaking generally then, it would seem that it was the Gallican form which was eventually accepted in Rome and in all the Churches of the West: but that the main body of the Creed – the whole of it in fact with the exception of the words which are printed above in italics, and which add no new article to its teaching – had long before this been widely acknowledged, and may well have come down from the times – if not, as the old tradition resolutely maintained, from the very lips – or the Apostles themselves.
For a careful consideration of the language of the Creed in the light of its history the student may be referred to Dr. Swete’s work, The Apostles’ Creed: its relation to primitive Christianity (Camb. Univ. Press, 1894).
Note C. On the “Duty Towards Thy Neighbour.”
The following remarkable passage occurs towards the conclusion of the late Sir James Fitzjames Stephen’s History of the Criminal Law of England (1883).
“The criminal law may be described with truth as an expansion of the second table of the Ten Commandments. The statement in the Catechism of the positive duties of man to man corresponds step by step with the prohibitions of a Criminal Code. Those who honour and obey the King will not commit high treason or other political offences. Those who honour and obey in their due order and degree those who are put in authority under the King will not attempt to pervert the course of justice, nor will they disobey lawful commands, or violate the provisions of acts of parliament, or be guilty of corrupt practices with regard to public officers or in the discharge of powers confided to them by law.
“Those who hurt nobody by word will not commit libel or threaten injury to person, property, or reputation, nor will they lie in courts of justice or elsewhere, but will keep their tongues from evil-speaking, lying and slandering. Those who hurt nobody by deed will not commit murder or administer poison, wound, or assault others, or burn their houses, or maliciously injure their property.
“Those who keep their hands from picking and stealing will commit neither thefts, nor fraudulent breaches of trust, nor forgery, or will they pass bad money. Those who keep their bodies in temperance, soberness, and chastity, will not only not commit rape and other offences even more abominable, but will avoid the causes which lead to the commission of nearly all crimes.
“Those who learn and labour truly to get their own living will not be disorderly persons, cheats, imposters, rogues, or vagabonds, and will at all events have taken a long step towards doing their duty in the state of life to which it has pleased God to call them.” (Vol. III, pp. 366–7.)
Note D. On the Rubrics of the Catechism
1. ¶ The Curate of every Parish shall diligently upon Sundays and Holy-days, after the second Lesson at Evening Prayer, openly in the Church instruct and examine so many Children of his Parish sent unto him, as he shall think convenient, in some part of this Catechism.
In the rubric of 1549, placed at the end of the Confirmation Service, it had been required that the Catechising should be held “once in six weeks at the least” and “half an hour before Evensong”. In 1552 the word “diligently” was substituted for the first of these directions, the second remaining as before. The rubric assumed its present form and position in 1661.
It should be remembered that the word Curate is here used in its proper sense for the Priest who has the cure of souls in the parish (cf. “Bishops and Curates” in the “Prayer for the Clergy and People”; and the French Curé): and also that until comparatively recently Evening Prayer was said in the Afternoon.
2. ¶ And all Fathers, Mothers, Masters, and Dames, shall cause their Children, Servants, and Prentices, (which have not learned their Catechism), to come to the Church at the time appointed, and obediently to hear and be ordered by the Curate, until such time as they have learned all that is here appointed for them to learn.
In 1549 the words in the parenthesis were which are not yet confirmed. The alteration to the present form was made in 1552.
The Dames were the School-mistresses of the days before our modern systems of education came into force. Apprentices, bound to a master to work for him and in return to learn their trade, formed a much larger class in the community in past times than they do at present. Times have changed, but no alteration of social conditions can make it less the duty of those who are responsible for the wellbeing of children to do their utmost to secure for them a careful training in religious knowledge.
3. ¶ So soon as Children are come to a competent age, and can say, in their mother tongue, the Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, and the Ten Commandments; and also can answer to the other questions of this short Catechism; they shall be brought to the Bishop; and every one shall have a Godfather, or a Godmother, as a witness of their Confirmation.
In 1549 after the words questions of this short Catechism, the rubric continued as the Bishop (or such as he shall appoint) shall by his discretion appose the in. The present form was adopted in 1661, when the Catechism was removed from the Confirmation Service. It was then also that the words, at the beginning of the rubric, are come to a competent age and were inserted for the first time.
It is not definitely stated that the Godfather or Godmother, required as a witness of Confirmation, must of necessity be one of those who acted as sponsors at the child’s Baptism: though obviously such an arrangement would be the most suitable and natural where it was possible.
It is the duty of Godparents “to take care that the children be brought to the Bishop to be confirmed”: see the charge at the end of the Baptismal Office.
4. ¶ And whensoever the Bishop shall give knowledge for Children to be brought unto him for their Confirmation, the Curate of every Parish shall either bring or send in writing, with his hand subscribed thereunto, the names of all such persons within his Parish, as he shall think fit to be presented to the Bishop to be confirmed. And, if the bishop approve of them, he shall confirm them in manner following.
Before 1661 this rubric had children instead of persons: and which can say the articles of their faith, the Lord’s prayer, and the ten commandments: and also how many of them can answer to the other questions contained in this Catechism instead of as he shall think fit ... confirmed. The last clause is a modification of the rubric which then stood at the end of the Catechism: And the Bishop shall confirm them on this wise. The change to the present wording gave to the Parish Priest a larger discretion as to the selection of those who were to be presented for Confirmation, while it still left the Bishop to use his judgment in regard to the acceptance or rejection of the candidates brought to him.
Note E. Additions and Alterations Proposed in 1689.
At the commencement of the reign of William III, a Commission was issued to ten Bishops and twenty other divines, empowering them to “prepare such alterations of the Liturgy” and “to consider such other matters as might most conduce to the good order, the edification, and unity of the Church of England, and to the reconciling as much as possible of all differences”; by which was meant “differences” between Churchmen and the Dissenters. The Commissioners met in Oct. 1689, and after considering the objections which had at various times been made by opponents of the Prayer-book, they prepared an elaborate series of suggested alterations. Many of their proposals however were of such a revolutionary character that it soon became apparent that they would never be accepted by Convocation: and as a matter of fact they were never so much as presented for discussion.
The following are the suggestions which were made in regard to the Catechism: –
After the present summary of the Creed was to be added,
“Q. What do you learn further in this Creed?
A. I learn that Christ hath had, still hath, and ever will have, a Church somewhere on earth.
Q. What are you there taught concerning this Church?
A. I am taught that it is catholic, and universal, as it receives into it all nations upon the profession of the Christian faith in baptism.
Q. What privileges belong to Christians by their being received into this Catholic Church?
A. First, the communion of saints, or fellowship of all true Christians in faith, hope, and charity. Secondly, the forgiveness of sins obtained by the sacrifice of Christ’s death, and given to us, upon faith in Him, and repentance from dead works. Thirdly, the rising again of our bodies at the last day to a state of glory. Fourthly, everlasting life with our Saviour in the kingdom of heaven.”
The paraphrase of the commandments was to be broken up into ten parts answering separately the question as to what we learn by each commandment: that on the fourth being: –
“Q. What learn you by the fourth Commandment?
A. To serve Him truly all the days of my life, especially on the Lord’s days.”
The explanation of the Lord’s Prayer was to be similarly divided: and in the latter part upon the Sacraments many verbal alterations were to be made with a view, as it was thought, to greater plainness. [Cf. Procter, History of the Book of Common Prayer, pp. 144–159.]
Note F. Suggested Addition of the Scottish Episcopal Church
The following “Suggested Addition to the Church Catechism” was drawn up by the late Bishop Charles Wordsworth, and was issued in 1878 as “Recommended by the Episcopal Synod of the Scottish Church.”
“Q. By whom are the Holy Sacraments administered?
A. They are administered by Clergy, duly ordained and licensed for that purpose.
Q. How many Orders of Clergy have there been in the Church from the Apostles’ time?
A. There have been in the Church from the Apostles’ time Three Orders of Clergy, viz., Bishops, Priests, and Deacons. [See Preface to Ordination Service in Book of Common Prayer.]
Q. What are the chief duties of a Deacon?
A. To administer Baptism in the absence of the Priest, to assist the Priest in Divine Service, and to preach, if licensed thereto by the Bishop.
Q. What are the proper duties of a Priest?
A. A Priest has authority to bless God’s people in His name, to pronounce His pardon to the penitent, to consecrate the Holy Communion, and to perform all other Offices assigned to him in the Book of Common Prayer.
Q. What are the duties proper to a Bishop?
A. A Bishop has authority to rule and administer discipline, according to the Canons, in that portion of the Church over which he is set, to ordain Clergy,* to consecrate Churches and other places for sacred purposes, and to administer Confirmation.
*Viz.– Deacons, by himself alone; Priests, with the assistance of any Priests who may be present; and Bishops, with the cooperation of other Bishops, commonly not less than two.
Q. In what does Confirmation consist?
A. Confirmation consists in the Solemn Benediction and laying on of hands by the Bishop upon the heads of those whom he confirms, accompanied with his prayers, and the prayers of the congregation on their behalf.
Q. To whom is Confirmation to be administered?
A. To all those who, having come to years of discretion, are prepared and desirous to take upon themselves the promises made for them in their Baptism, and to ratify and confirm the same openly before the Church.
Q. What does the New Testament teach in regard to the obligation and benefits of Confirmation?
A. The New Testament teaches that Confirmation is an Apostolic Ordinance* (Acts 8:14–17; Heb. 6:1–2) designed to convey an increased measure of the gifts of the Holy Spirit to those who receive it worthily.
*Compare Canon lx. of the Church of England.
Q. What rule has the Church laid down with reference to admission to Holy Communion?
A. The Church orders that none shall be admitted to the Holy Communion until he has been confirmed, or be ready and desirous to be confirmed.” [See Rubric at the end of the Confirmation Office.]
Note G. Supplement Proposed in 1887.
In 1886 on the motion of Canon Gregory (now Dean of s. Paul’s) a Committee of the Lower House of the Convocation of Canterbury was “appointed to prepare a few Questions and Answers on the Church, which may be used as supplementary to the Catechism; the Answers to be taken, as far as practicable, from the Articles and Prayer-book.” The committee presented their report on May 11th, 1887. After prolonged discussion the document was eventually passed in the following form: –
“Questions and Answers on the Church adopted by the Lower House in Sessions of May 12 and July 5, 6, 7, 1887, and sent up for the consideration of the Upper House.
Q. What meanest thou by the Church?
A. I mean the body of which Jesus Christ is the Head, and of which I was made a member in my baptism.
Q. How is the Church described in the Creeds?
A. It is described as One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic.
Q. What meanest thou by each of these words?
A. I mean that the Church is One, as being One Body under one Head; Holy, because the Holy Spirit dwells within it, and sanctifies its members; Catholic, because it is for all nations and all times; and Apostolic, because it continues steadfastly in the Apostles’ doctrine and fellowship.
Q. We learn from Holy Scripture that in the Church the evil are mingled with the good. Will it always be so?
A. No; when our Lord comes again, He will cast the evil out of His kingdom; will make His faithful servants perfect both in body and soul; and will present His whole Church to Himself without spot, and blameless.
Q. What is the office and work of the Church on earth?
A. The office and work of the Church on earth is to maintain and teach everywhere the true faith of Christ, and to be His instrument for conveying grace to men by the power of the Holy Ghost.
Q. How did our Lord provide for the government and continuance of the Church?
A. He gave authority to His Apostles to rule the Church; to minister His Word and Sacraments; and to ordain faithful men for the continuance of this ministry until His coming again.
Q. What orders of ministers have there been in the Church from the Apostles’ time?
A. Bishops, priests, and deacons.
Q. What is the office of a Bishop?
A. The office of a Bishop is to be chief pastor and ruler of the Church; to confer Holy Orders; to administer Confirmation; and to take the chief part in the ministry of the Word and Sacraments.
Q. What is the office of a priest?
A. The office of a priest is to preach the Word of God; to baptize; to celebrate the Holy Communion; to pronounce absolution and blessing in God’s name; and to feed the flock committed by the Bishop to his charge.
Q. What is the office of a deacon?
A. The office of a deacon is to assist the priest in Divine service, and specially at the Holy Communion; to baptize infants in the absence of the priest; to catechize; to preach, if authorized by the Bishop; and to search for the sick and poor.
Q. What is required of members of the Church?
A. To endeavour, by God’s help, to fulfill their baptismal vows; to make full use of the means of grace; to remain steadfast in the communion of the Church; and to forward the work of the Church at home and abroad.
Q. Why is it our duty to belong to the Church of England?
A. Because the Church of England has inherited and retains the doctrine and ministry of the one Catholic and Apostolic Church, and is that part of the Church which has been settled from early times in our country.”
This proposed supplement was laid before the Upper House on April 27th, 1888. The Bishops however, “while acknowledging the pains which the Lower House had bestowed on ‘the Questions and Answers concerning the Church,’” declined to consider them on the ground that “formularies professing to set forth the doctrine of the Church ... ought, if legitimate, to proceed from the Upper, and not from the Lower House.”
While there are those who regret the failure to obtain authoritative sanction for the addition to the Catechism of some such further statement of teaching as that contained in this suggested supplement; there are others, and they probably include by far the greater number of English Church-people, who are satisfied that the Catechism, when its full meaning is grasped, is as explicit in its presentation of the doctrine of the Christian Church as it is necessary or desirable that a manual of elementary instruction should be.
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