The Prayer Book Explained
by Percival Jackson
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67. * * * And on the day which is called Sunday, there is an assembly in the same place of all who live in cities, or in country districts; and the records of the Apostles, or the writings of the Prophets, are read as long as we have time. Then the Reader concludes: and the President verbally instructs, and exhorts us, to the imitation of these excellent things: then, we all together rise and offer up our prayers; and, as I said before, when we have concluded our prayer, bread is brought, and wine, and water; and the President, in like manner, offers up prayers, and thanksgivings, with all his strength; and the people give their assent by saying Amen: and there is a distribution, and a partaking by every one, of the eucharistic elements (ton eucharistethenton); and to those who are not present, they are sent by the hands of the deacons * * *.

Library of the Fathers. S. Justin's Works.

[Antoninus Pius, to whom Justin addressed his two Defences, was Emperor of Rome from 138 to 161. The first of the two is that from which the above quotation is taken: its date has been placed as early as A.D. 139, and as late as A.D. 150. Justin's Martyrdom has been dated A.D. 166. His description of Services refers therefore to the 50 years which followed the death of S. John the Apostle.]

[1] Cambridge Companion.

[2] Speaker's Commentary on Isaiah, Appendix A.

[3] etropophorese and etrophophorese. These two rare Greek words differ from one another by a single letter which is p in one and ph in the other. The former has the best MS. authority: the latter ('bore as a nurse') is probably right. But, in either case, S. Paul must have had the Deut. passage in his thoughts.

[4] See Reland's Hebrew Antiquities.

[5] See Appendix B, p. 58.

[6] Thus S. Chrysostom regards Genesis as belonging to Lent, and preached a homily to explain why the Acts are read in public between Easter and Whitsunday. He also advises that the Saturday and Sunday Lessons should be privately read during the previous week.

[7] Thus a few MSS. read "The end is enough" in S. Mark xiv. 41; "the end" having been placed in a Book of Lessons, after the word "(It) is enough," because the Lesson ended there. See Prebendary Scrivener's Art. in Dict. of Christian Antiq. s.v. Lectionary.

[8] See Appendix C.

[9] S. Ambrose quoted by Hook, Ch. Dict. s.v. Hymn.




III. Hymns in the Daily Services.

We are about to explain how Hymns are attached to Lessons for purposes of worship. It will be well therefore to consider what a Hymn is, and how we arrived at the present arrangement. We will defer to the chapter on Anthems the consideration of those Hymns that may be described as Prayers set to music. Many Psalms may be described in this way, and in the Commination the 51st Psalm is used as a Prayer (see the Rubric there). But if our intention be Praise, most of those Prayer-psalms lend themselves to Praise, and are so used in this Service before the Lessons, as we have just seen. In like manner metrical Hymns are to be found in our Hymn-books which are in their plain sense prayers rather than praises.

In the Day Hour Services we find metrical Hymns—at Lauds, Vespers and Compline after the Bible "Chapter," and, at the other Services, before the Psalms. They were in Latin, and some of them have been translated and are known to us in our Hymn-books.


Of the Office Hymns well known in modern Hymn-books, Now that the daylight fills the sky is a good example.

We have, moreover, in the Prayer Book itself, two translations of the Hymn Veni, Creator Spiritus formerly sung at Lauds throughout Whitsun week.

The longer form of it, more a paraphrase than a translation, appeared in the Ordination Services in 1550; the shorter translation, which is so well known, in a Book of Devotions made by John Cosin in 1627, where are found also translations of other Day Hour Hymns, the book being designed from the Breviary.

When in 1661 Cosin had become Bishop of Durham and was taking a leading part in the last revision of the Prayer-Book, his translation of Veni, Creator Spiritus was placed before the older paraphrase in the Ordination Services.

It is interesting to compare the Day Hour Hymns with the translations which are to be found in Hymn-books.

In Hymns Ancient and Modern, the following examples are found:—1, 9, 10, 11, 14, 15, 38, 45, 47, 55, 75, 85, 87, 88, 90, 95, 96, 97, 125, 128, 144, 152, 153, 156, 157, 158, 430, 483, 509, 622. The renderings are not equally close; but they give a good idea of the place in worship which they occupied in the Day Hours. They will be found to dwell on the thoughts of praise to God called forth (a) by the sunshine and the beauties of nature, (b) by the work of the Holy Spirit. When the Hymn followed the Capitulum, a Canticle came next. The Capitulum, or Little Chapter, was one or two verses from the Bible specially {62} chosen for the day; and the Hymn was directly connected in subject with it.

Thus, at Lauds on Whitsunday, the Capitulum was, When the Day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place (Acts ii. 1), and the Hymn which followed immediately was Come, Holy Ghost (H. A. and M. 157); and Benedictus, which came next, had an Antiphon, Receive ye the Holy Ghost, &c. (S. John xx. 22, 23).

These beautiful combinations show us that the Canticle after a Lesson is designed to respond to the message of the Lesson, and to make with it an act of Praise. We must dismiss from our minds all idea that our Services were put together in a zigzag fashion, introducing something different as soon as any Psalm or Lesson has been said. The Service-makers valued variety of expression and method within reasonable limits; but the Service itself proceeds from point to point in a regulated progress. When the metrical Hymns were struck out, the Canticles and the Lessons were left united together.

The Canticles.

The word Canticle means "little song" or "little chant," just as versicle means "little verse," and particle "little part."

It has long been used to signify the Hymns from the Old and New Testaments which were introduced into the Christian Services.

It will be seen that these Bible hymns are affixed {63} to the Lessons. They are commonly known by the words with which they begin in Latin: thus

Te Deum laudamus=Thee God we praise.

Benedicite, omnia Opera—Bless ye, O all Works.


Jubilate=O be joyful.

Magnificat (mea anima)=(My soul) doth magnify.

Cantate Domino=O sing unto the Lord.

Nunc dimittis=Now thou lettest depart.

Deus misereatur=God be merciful.

The 1st and 2nd chapters of S. Luke supply three of these; viz. Magnificat, Benedictus, and Nunc dimittis. The Psalms supply three, viz. Jubilate (100th), Cantate Domino (98th), and Deus misereatur (67th).

Benedicite, omnia, Opera is part of the Hymn given in the Apocrypha as sung by Shadrach (Ananias), Meshach (Misael), and Abed-nego (Azarias), when they walked in the burning fiery furnace.

Te Deum laudamus is a very ancient Latin Hymn which may have been already very old when it became associated with the name of S. Ambrose, Bishop of Milan (375-397). We show its Bible origins in Chapter VIII.

The Canticles have been sung in the Services for many centuries.

Benedictus and Benedicite are found in the Holy Communion Service—supposed to date about 600—of the Gallican Church; in the Day Hours Benedictus was sung at Lauds; Magnificat at Vespers; Nunc dimittis at Compline; Te Deum at Mattin-Lauds; Benedicite and Jubilate at Lauds on Sundays.


The rearrangement of the Day Hours in 1549 gave an opportunity to associate the Canticles more closely with the Lessons.

We show in another chapter the connection which exists between the Lessons of the Old and New Testaments, and the alternative Canticles provided for each, both at Morning and Evening Prayer.

Meanwhile it will be well to learn the following table.


Character of the Lesson Mattins Evensong

O. T. Creation and Providence Benedicite Cantate*

Need of Redemption Te Deum Magnificat laudamus

N. T. The Coming of Christ Benedictus Nunc dimittis

The Spread of the Gospel Jubilate* Deus misereatur*

* Added in 1552.

* * * * * * * *


[Transcriber's note: In the original book, each of the following 13 items was printed on a single line. In this e-book, they have been split at a logical point, usually a colon (:).]

1. TE Deum[1] laudamus, TE Dominum confitemur: TE Aeternum Patrem[1] omnis terra veneratur.

2. TIBI omnes angeli, TIBI caeli et universae potestates: TIBI Cherubim et Seraphim[2] incessabili voce proclamant.


4. TE gloriosus Apostolorum chorus, TE Prophetarum laudabilis numerus: TE Martyrum candidatus laudat exercitus.

5. TE per orbem terrarum sancta confitetur ecclesia: Patrem immensae majestatis. Venerandum tuum verum et unicum Filium. Sanctum quoque Paracletum Spiritum.

6. TU Rex gloriae, Christe: TU Patris sempiternus es Filius.

7. TU ad liberandum suscepturus hominem non horruisti Virginis uterum: TU devicto mortis aculeo aperuisti credentibus regna caelorum.

8. TU ad dexteram Dei sede(n)s in gloria Patris: Judex crederis esse venturus.

9. TE ergo quaesumus famulis tuis subveni quos pretioso sanguine redemisti: Aeterna fac cum sanctis tuis in gloria munerari.

10. Salvum fac populum tuum Domine et benedic haereditati tuae[3]: et rege eos et extolle illos usque in aeternum[3].


12. Dignare Domine die isto sine peccato nos custodire: miserere nostri Domine, miserere nostri[5].

13. Fiat misericordia tua Domine super nos quemadmodum speravimus in TE[6]: in TE Domine speravi, non confundar in aeternum[7].

[1] Isaiah ix. 6. [2] Isaiah vi. 3, cf. Rev. iv. 8. [3] Psalm xxviii. 9. [4] Psalm cxlv. 2. [5] Psalm cxxiii. 3. [6] Psalm xxxiii. 22. [7] Psalm xxxi. 1 and lxxi. 1.

Note. Some readers will at first sight be afraid of the Latin form of the Te Deum. It is however so important to the clear understanding of this beautiful Hymn that we hope they will piece together the English words and their Latin equivalents.

The task will not be really difficult, for most of the words are almost English already.

It will not surprise them to find that Tu is Thou, and Te Thee, that Tibi is To Thee, and Dominum Lord, and so on. We think that most of the words will be understood by any one who is familiar with the English.

Aculeo, in line 7, means sting, and crederis esse venturus means Thou-art-believed to-be about-to-come.

To face p. 65]

* * * * * * * *




IV. Te Deum laudamus.

This ancient Latin Hymn of the Incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ has in many Service-books been attributed to S. Ambrose and S. Augustine. One of the stories is that they sang it in alternate verses when the latter was baptized by the former, A.D. 386. We shall presently show that it is composed on a very elaborate plan, and is very far from being an extempore Hymn. Its earlier verses are founded on expressions in Isaiah (vi. 3, ix. 6).

Its concluding part has not always been in the form which has become familiar to us: in its present shape it may be regarded as the survival of the best of the different forms. The verses of this part as they now stand are obviously taken chiefly from the Psalms (xxviii. 9, cxlv. 2, cxxiii. 3, xxxvi. 22, xxxi. 1 or lxxi. 1).

The following lines of an early morning hymn, found in the Alexandrine MS. of the Bible, are very similar to the verses which we have numbered 11 and 12:

"Day by day will I bless Thee and praise Thy name for ever, and for ever and ever. Vouchsafe, O Lord, to keep us this day without sin."

{66} There is a sentence in S. Cyprian also (De Mortalitate, p. 166, ed. Fell) quoted in the notes in illustration of line 4, which must have been borrowed from the Te Deum, or lent to it.

It is not easy to determine whether an elaborate composition of this description, designed evidently for worship, is more likely to lend or to borrow any particular phrase. The Psalm verses, and verses &c. from Isaiah, are evidently borrowed by the Hymn. Perhaps this suggests that the composer was likely to have borrowed, rather than lent, the other passages. On the other hand, a Hymn founded on Scripture, carefully composed, and well known in worship, is precisely the source most likely to be quoted in other Hymns and in books.

We said that Te Deum is a Hymn of the Incarnation, and that it is an elaborate composition.

It is necessary to examine these points at some length. And first we must get rid of the modern way of printing it out in 29 verses. Many of them are half-verses quoted from the Psalms and Isaiah: and when we have begun to restore these with their colons, we find that the other verses answer to the same treatment. In short, most of the verses should be read two together with a colon to separate them for singing purposes. Having thus restored the Hymn to its original lines, we find that it consists of 13 verses in 3 Stanzas, the first and third having five lines each, and the middle Stanza having three lines. The three lines of the Middle Stanza correspond to the three divisions of our Saviour's Existence—(1) before He was made Man—(2) when He {67} lived on Earth—(3) after His Ascension (see the Latin Form). The Saviour's Existence, from the Eternal Beginning on to the Eternal Future, is the central thought of the Hymn. The dual form of each line in this Middle Stanza proves it to be a separate Stanza. The Incarnation is its theme—The Incarnation and its Antecedents and Consequences.

Tu Rex . . . . . . . . . . Tu Filius . . . . . . Tu non horruisti . . . . . Tu aperuisti . . . . Tu in gloria . . . . . . . Judex venturus . . .

The prominent place, in each line, of the pronoun Tu—Thou—is here to be noticed. It is characteristic of this middle Stanza that each of the three phases of the Saviour's existence is expressed by two thoughts which are included in one line. The pronoun Tu introduces each of the thoughts in each line, except the last of the three. The completeness of the summary of the Lord's Existence is a strong argument for treating these three lines as a Stanza: and the use of the pronoun Tu confirms the argument.

For turning to the First Stanza, we find each line has three thoughts. The prominent word in the first line is TE—Thee—and occurs three times. Similarly in the second line TIBI—to Thee: and in the fourth line TE. The last line of this Stanza varies, it is true, as the last line of the middle Stanza does, but retaining a triple thought, viz. the Holy Trinity. The third line has the Ter-Sanctus.

Thus the 1st Stanza, by its form, is separated from the 2nd Stanza, and the 2nd from the 3rd in like manner.

For, in the Third Stanza although TE is still {68} prominent as the first word, it is very sparingly introduced afterwards—once in the 11th line, and twice in the 13th. Here again we notice a variation with the object of marking the Stanza's last line, for in the last line TE occurs twice. The word Domine supplants Te in the 10th and 12th lines, and appears with Te twice in the 13th line.

The elaborate arrangement of the Hymn has been exhibited so as to eliminate the notion of an extempore composition. Its method however is worthy of some further consideration.

It will be evident that it proceeds on the idea of a centre thought in each Stanza, with thoughts balanced on each side. Thus in the 1st Stanza the centre thought (line 3 Latin Version) is the praise of Heaven and Earth (Isaiah vi. 3), addressed to Christ (see S. John xii. 41) by the Seraphim. The Choirs of Heaven are mentioned in the 2nd line, and those of earth in the 4th. The 5th line recurs to some of the thoughts of the 1st and the 3rd lines. Thus the 1st and 5th, the 2nd and 4th lines are balanced about the Song of Praise which forms the middle line.

So again, in the and Stanza, the centre thought is our Lord's Earthly Life with His Eternal Pre-existence on one side and His Eternal Glory now and hereafter on the other.

And further, the centre thought of the 3rd Stanza is the Praise expressed in the 11th line, Day by day we magnify Thee, and we worship Thy name ever world without end. This line corresponds to the 3rd line, the Ter-Sanctus, which is the centre of the 1st Stanza. The first and third Stanzas are hereby made {69} to balance one another around the middle Stanza, both in the number of their lines and the plan of their arrangement.

Noting now that the plan and method of the Hymn are governed by the centre line and the centre thought in all the respects to which we have referred, we cannot fail to notice afresh that the Redeemer's Earthly Life is the centre thought of the whole Hymn—the centre line of the centre Stanza around which everything is grouped.

The division of the Hymn into Stanzas is, we suppose, conclusively proved. We may further infer that the Te and Tibi of Stanza i. are addressed to the same Person as the Tu of Stanza ii. and the Te of Stanza iii. i.e. to Christ. Stanzas ii. and iii. are evidently so addressed, and Stanza i. could not, we think, have made the pronouns so prominent without having the same reference.

It may however be objected that lines 1, 3, and 5 cannot be addressed to Christ. A little consideration will show that they can.

(a) Te Deum laudamus may be translated we praise thee O God. But the more obvious translation is we praise Thee as God, especially as it comes with we acknowledge Thee to be the Lord. The two Latin phrases are exactly parallel, so that if it is to be We praise Thee, O God, it should also be we acknowledge Thee O Lord.

Now the acknowledgement of the Godhead and Lordship of Christ was very likely to be stated in an early Hymn, far more than the acknowledgement that God is God. The Titles—God, Lord, Father {70} everlasting—which are here acknowledged, appear to be suggested by Isaiah ix. 6. For there the Lord of Hosts which is wonderful in counsel (Isaiah xxviii. 29) is expressed as Wonderful, Counsellor, and is followed by The Mighty God, The Everlasting Father. It is a passage acknowledged to refer to Christ, who is therefore recognised as Lord of Hosts (being wonderful in Counsel), Mighty God, Everlasting Father.

(b) Line 3. S. John (xii. 39-41), referring to our Saviour's rejection, quotes Isaiah vi. and adds These things said Isaiah when he saw His glory, and spake of Him. This reference to Isaiah's vision, when he saw the Lord sitting upon a throne and heard the Seraphim sing the Ter-Sanctus, will be a sufficient justification of the use of line 3 in an address to Christ.

(c) Line 5. As to the inclusion of the three Persons of the blessed Trinity in a doxology at the close of this Stanza, it is quite usual in Christian Hymns of all ages to guard the thought of the equality of the Persons of the Godhead by means of a doxology. As an instance we may quote Conditor alme siderum (Hymns A. and M. 45).

The position of the doxology in this Canticle should be noticed. We know of no other instance of its being placed at the close of the first, or anywhere but at the close of the last, Stanza. The reason for this variation seems to be that the last Stanza here has to some extent the nature of a prayer.

The following Greek hymn, attributed to St Basil, was printed by Archdeacon France in Preces Veterum {71} cum Hymnis Coaevis as of the 2nd, or at latest the 3rd, century:

phos ilaron agias doxes athanatou patros ouraniou agiou makaros iesou Christe elthontes epi tou eliou dusin idontes phos esperinon umnoumen patera kai uion kai agion pneuma theou axios ei en kairois umneiothai phonais osiais uie theou zoen o didous dio o kosmos se doxazei AMHN.

Keble's well-known translation (Hail, Gladdening Light) is to be found in Hymns Ancient and Modern, No. 18, as well as in Lyra Apostolica. The transition in the address from Christ to the Holy Trinity, and back again, presented no difficulty: rather it is a very suitable recognition of the Divine nature of Jesus.

Te Deum is evidently a Latin composition, and the exact meaning of its words and phrases must be sought in the Latin form of it.

Some various readings and translations may be worthy of notice.

1. Te Deum, 'Thee as God.'

Aeternum Patrem is substituted for the Vulgate reading, Patrem futuri saeculi.

The English Bible accepts it as the best rendering of the Hebrew in Isaiah ix. 6, but R.V. gives Father {72} of Eternity in the margin. The thought of Christ as Father to us is to be found in Isaiah viii. 18, quoted in Heb. ii. 13, where the writer is showing the complete human nature of Christ.

4. Prophetarum laudabilis numerus. Cyprian (De Mortalitate) has the words "There the glorious company of the apostles, there the fellowship (numerus) of exulting prophets, there the innumerable crowd of martyrs." It will perhaps be questionable whether laudabilis should not be taken as equivalent to exulting—full of praise (to God) rather than worthy of being praised.

Candidatus is 'white-robed'; 'noble' would be candidus.

Venerandum, trans. 'honorable,' is to be understood as 'deserving to be reverenced.'

5. Immensae. Here translated infinite, in the Creed of S. Athanasius incomprehensible. Literally unmeasured.

7. Ad liberandum, 'to set (him) free.'

Suscepturus hominem, 'when about to take man,' i.e. human nature.

8. Sedens, 'sitting,' is the reading in two MSS., and would agree with the absence of the second Tu in this line. Sedes means 'Thou sittest.'

Crederis esse venturus, 'art believed to be about to come.'

9. Numerari or munerari. In the Old English character it is sometimes difficult to distinguish where the seven strokes of the letters mun are to be divided into letters. A MS. at Exeter looks more like m u n, which is the reading of the two Irish MSS. referred to {73} above, and the reading of my own black letter Breviary (1524).

Heb. xi. 6 has the thought that God rewards a man who loves Him. Cf. also Jer. xxxi. 16, 'thy work shall be rewarded'[1].

The word numerari means 'to be counted, enrolled in a numerus or fellowship.' Cf. Prophetarum numerus, above.

12. Die isto, translated this day. It may be thought that the reference is to 'that day' as in 2 Tim. i. 12, 18, iv. 8, viz. the Judgment Day. Several of these lines would favour that reference.

13. "Lighten" is used in the Prayer Book in two senses, both derived from Anglo-Saxon words,—to illuminate, as in the 3rd Evening Collect, Lighten our darkness, and in the Ordination Hymn, Lighten with celestial fire:—but here, to "alight" or come down, cf. Deut. xix. 5; Gen. xxiv. 64 and xxviii. 11; 2 Kings v. 21 and x. 15, &c.

Non confundar in aeternum. This might more obviously be translated, "I shall not be confounded for ever." It is not inconsistent with the prayerful tone of this Stanza, that most of its lines express more hope than fear. That the closing words should be at once humble and confident would suit well with the character of this Hymn of praise.

On the other hand the words themselves are borrowed from two Psalms (xxxi. 1 and lxxi. 1), where they must be rendered as a prayer. It is therefore {74} preferable to take them here in the same sense. Latin scholars know that the use of non with the imperative occurs elsewhere, being apparently regarded as though compounded with it.

Note on the Doxology in Te Deum.

Te Deum is the only one of the Psalms and Canticles which is not provided with Gloria Patri at the end of it.

The obvious reason for this exception is that it is the only one which contains a Gloria Patri in the middle of it.

We have already said that an ascription of Praise to the Holy Trinity is in this case more appropriate at the end of the first Stanza than at the end of the third, because the third Stanza has a prayerful character introduced into its words of praise.

The steps by which the doxology grew in Te Deum may be conjectured. The sentence which was required in the fifth line to complete the ascription of Praise to Christ would be an acknowledgement of His Sonship. For such an acknowledgement has not yet occurred. Using the words of the Hymn, we should expect

Te per orbem terrarum sancta confitetur ecclesia Patris venerandum verum unigenitum Filium.

Here the Father and the Son are mentioned. The addition of the words

Sanctum quoque paracletum spiritum,

and of epithets to express the majesty of the Father {75} would complete the sentence and express the equality of the Persons.

Te per orbem sancta confitetur ecclesia Patris immensae majestatis Venerandum verum unigenitum filium, Sanctum quoque paracletum spiritum.

But the two genitives, Patris, majestatis, suggest the accusative Patrem; and already the addition of Spiritum has suggested the inclusion, under Te, of the Three Persons.

[1] The word 'reward' is frequently to be found in the English Bible where the Vulgate has reddo.




V. The Canticles continued.

The position which the Te Deum occupies in the morning is that of Respond of the whole people to the message of the Old Testament. We have found that the Te Deum is a Hymn of the Incarnation; hence it is especially appropriate as a Respond to those Old Testament Lessons which contain, or imply, the promise of the Saviour's Birth and Work on Earth. Gen. iii., Isaiah viii., Malachi iii. may be taken as examples: but there are very many which relate the doings of men in such a way as to leave the hearers waiting and wishing for the adoption which comes to us through Christ.

Some of them set forth the facts which show our miserable state without Christ. Others contain predictions of the life which He came on Earth to lead. Thus the Christian worshipper seeing the Christ wanted, promised, foretold, or the world waiting, groaning in pain, suffering, responds to such Lessons with this Hymn of the Incarnation.


In the evening the place is occupied by another Hymn of the Incarnation—Magnificat (doth magnify)—the Song of the Blessed Virgin when the Birth of the Saviour was assuredly promised to her.

The Blessed Mother's words of greeting to the promise and assurance are very sacred, and may be regarded as the most suitable possible for any human being very near the Lord. The words of Isaiah, Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given will often come to the worshipper's mind, when he uses her words to express his praise after the 1st Lesson.

Sometimes however the connection of the Old Testament Lesson with the Incarnation may with advantage be omitted in favour of another line of thought and praise.

Lessons which declare the great acts of Creation, Providence, and Government by God sometimes contain but remote reference to the Redeeming work of Christ: and for such Lessons another Canticle is provided, viz. Benedicte omnia Opera (Bless ye all works) for the morning, and Cantate Domino (O sing unto the Lord) for the evening.


Jesus is known to us as the Son of Man: hence His people can use the words of the Blessed Virgin. When she looked forward to His coming, she used words which we can say after reading the Old Testament promises of a Saviour who should come into the world.


1. God my Saviour. This is the meaning of the name Jesus. The names Jesus and John were given designedly: naturally, therefore, they supply leading thoughts to the two Hymns which are especially associated with our Lord's Birth, and the birth of His forerunner (cf. Benedictus throughout, but especially vv. 4, 5, 6).

5. The name, John, suggests God's mercy.

7. The name, Mary, may have prompted the word exalted.

9. In this verse we can trace Zacharias=God hath remembered; John=God's mercy; and Elizabeth=God's oath.

The Song of Hannah in 1 Sam. ii. exhibits many points of similarity and contrast, when compared with this Hymn.


The Canticle Benedicite omnia Opera is so called from Latin words meaning Bless ye, all Works.

Our Services were translated from the Latin Services used in our Church for centuries before 1549: for Latin was the common language of civilised Europe.

Benedicite shares with other Canticles and with many parts of the Services the custom of being known by its first words in the Latin books.

We said that Te Deum laudamus not only had its name from the Latin Service Books, but is of Latin origin whether composed by Hilary of Arles, Hilary of Poictiers, or Ambrose and Augustine. But Benedicite, {79} though it has now a Latin name, is of Greek origin. It is a translation of part of the Greek additions to the Book of Daniel. In Daniel iii. the 23rd verse records how the Three Children of Israel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah (i. 6), having come to great office in Babylon (ii. 49), and refused to fall down and worship the golden image of Nebuchadnezzar (iii. 18), were cast into the midst of the burning fiery furnace. The 24th verse proceeds thus:

"Then Nebuchadnezzar the king was astonished and rose up in haste," and told his counsellors that he saw four men walking in the fire without hurt.

At this point, between verses 23 and 24, there is a sort of pause in the action. It might be filled up by a mark indicating that some short time elapses. The Greek Version inserts 68 verses: consisting of a prayer of Azariah (Abed-nego), a few verses of narrative, and 40 verses of praise including the 32 verses which have been sung in the Church Services of many countries and many centuries.

The Hymn calls upon all God's creatures to worship Him—collectively in the first verse, afterwards in groups.

First group. Heavenly powers.

Second group. Earthly powers.

Third group. Earth and its component parts.

Fourth group. Men.

Notice first the leading verse of each group: 2. Angels—9. Winds (spiritus)—18. Earth—26. Children of men. The classification in the groups is evidently influenced by the 1st chapter of Genesis. In v. 4 the Waters above the firmament (Gen. i. 7) are {80} divided from the Wells, Seas, Floods of vv. 21, 22. The former appear here as Heavenly Powers, the latter as creatures of God in the Earth.

The Showers and Dew of v. 8 are regarded as coming from Heaven. They appear therefore in group 1, but in its last verse, so that the transition is easy to the earthly powers amongst which they might have been placed.

The second group includes the forces of Nature which more distinctly surround us on earth. There is some uncertainty in the various versions of this section. The Prayer Book, following, as usual, the Great Bible of 1539, has Dews and Frosts in v. 10, meaning probably Dews and Hoar Frosts. The Bible (A.V.) has Hoar Frosts coupled with Snows. It has Fire and Heat and also, in some Versions, Cold and Heat, but omits Winter and Summer. Sometimes there is contrast in the couples and sometimes the forces coupled together are of the same sort.

In group 3, Earth is called up first as including the rest, which progress from that which does not move to that which does, ranging through the inanimate moving things, such as budding things and water, and the animate creation, such as move in the sea, the air and, whether wild or tame, upon the earth.

Group 4 begins, like group 3, with an inclusive term "Children of Men": and proceeds through Israel, as God's People, and Israel's Priests, as God's special choice, to those who really serve God whether in this life or after it; concluding with the specially present service of the holy and humble, and, in particular, Ananias, Azarias, and Misael.


All these Creatures of God's hand, whether animate or inanimate, or the Forces which are behind both, are challenged to praise their Maker. They are called up in twos and threes, a great army, representing all the visible and invisible hosts of Heaven and Earth.

In connection with this Hymn we should read Gen. i., Psalm civ., and Psalm cxlviii.

Cantate Domino.

Passing now to the corresponding Canticle at Evensong, we find Cantate Domino, the 98th Psalm, which, though much briefer, and nearly free from elaborate detail, makes the same acknowledgement of the Almighty Maker, and calls upon His creatures to praise Him in their various orders in very similar fashion. Here however the climax is reversed. Beginning with human beings and God's mercy to them, and notably to Israel, we pass on to the sea, the world, the floods, the hills and all the inhabitants, returning at the end to the people and God's justice and judgment.

In both these Canticles, the thought is present that those, who do what God designs that they should do, are thereby praising Him. Hills, and valleys, and seas, are thought of as if they were human beings: they rejoice, and sing, and clap their hands, when ungrudgingly and with all the beauty and generosity of their best nature they carry out the Will of God. When man does the like, of his own will and in his {82} own place, he also sings, and makes great the praise of God.

v. 2. With his own right hand, and with his holy arm. Several passages in Isaiah (li. 9, lii. 10, lix. 16, lxiii. 5) use this figure to represent God's invincible might.

Other phrases of Isaiah (lii. 7-10) are to be traced in this Psalm. The Lord the King, "Thy God reigneth": declared his salvation, "publisheth salvation": all the ends of the world have seen the salvation of our God, "all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God." O sing unto the Lord . . . let the hills be joyful, "Break forth into joy, sing together, ye waste places."


We have seen that the Gospel is frequently hidden[1] in the Old Testament Lessons. The unfolding of this hidden thought comes by natural sequence in the Second Lessons. They are chosen from the Gospels, which tell the History of our Lord's Earthly Life, or from the other parts of the New Testament, which carry on the History from His Ascension. The Acts of the Apostles is the second volume of the Gospel History, and the Epistles form a book of correspondence commenting on the first, or illustrating the second, volume. Lessons from the Gospels are records of the Gospel Spring-time, Lessons from the {83} Epistles and the Acts are records of the Summer; the Revelation of S. John carries us on to the Autumn, or Harvest time. To adopt a different metaphor, one kind of Second Lessons are chapters from the Wars of our Leader, another kind are chapters from the Wars of His lieutenants. There is in the one kind the Gospel thought, pure and simple; in the other kind there is the Missionary thought.

Since the Lessons have place in the Services as parts of an Act of Praise, we must always consider each Lesson in combination with its attendant Canticle. We saw that the First Lesson, when combined with the Respond of the Congregation in Te Deum, is an Act of Praise to God, for His Promise of Salvation by His Son. In like manner the Second Lesson, when combined with its Responding Canticle, may be an Act of Praise to God, for the Coming of the Saviour, or for the Spread of the Gospel. We must therefore now discuss the connection between the Second Lessons and their attendant Canticles.

Benedictus and Nunc dimittis praise God for the Coming of His Son—Jubilate Deo and Deus misereatur praise Him for the Spread of the Gospel.


Benedictus is the Hymn of Zacharias upon the first beginning of the actual Coming of Messiah. "The horn of salvation was virtually raised up when the Incarnation became an accomplished fact" (Godet). The birth of S. John the Baptist was foretold to his father Zacharias, and the name by which he was to be {84} called. Zacharias showed his faith in the Angel's message by giving him this name—John—which means God's mercy. Benedictus is a Hymn upon that name. There is a Psalm, well-known, we are to suppose, to Zacharias, upon the same theme. It is number cvi. in our Bible. From it a very large proportion of the leading words of this Hymn are taken. Blessed be the Lord God of Israel (v. 48), visited (v. 4), redeemed (v. 10), salvation (v. 4), spake (v. 2), since the world began (v. 48), from our enemies—from the hands of all that hate us (vv. 10, 41), mercy (vv. 1, 7), remember, remember the covenant (vv. 4, 7, 45), being delivered (v. 43), righteousness (v. 3), all the days of our life (=at all times, v. 3). Some of these come twice in the Hymn, or in the Psalm, and leave comparatively few leading words unaccounted for.

There are, however, two verses in the Hymn which require further notice. The word anatole is translated dayspring in the last couplet, because it is treated here as giving light to those who sit in darkness. But in Zech. iii. and vi. it is used of Joshua the son of Zerubbabel and translated Branch. The thought of Joshua the High Priest as prefiguring Jesus our High Priest suggested the idea of the Branch, but its other meaning suggested the star of the East ushering in the day.

Distinguish between the Zacharias who speaks and the Zechariah of the Old Testament, the prophet whose words he uses. Note that Joshua and Jesus are the same word, and that the prophet's words about Joshua are used by John's father about Jesus. {85} Also there are references to Psalm cxxxii., where vv. 1 and 11 mention God's remembrance and God's oath, and v. 17 has the horn of David and I will make to flourish, using a word akin to the word for dayspring (exanatelo, anatole).

v. 2. A mighty salvation. In S. Luke (A.V.) horn of salvation: see Psalm xviii. 2. The horn is used as the symbol of strength.

v. 6. The oath is in Gen. xxii. 16, 17, 18, By myself have I sworn—that in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven—and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed. It is explained (Gal. iii. 16) that Abraham's seed is Christ: in Him all nations are blessed. And if ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise (Gal. iii. 29). Thus the oath to multiply Abraham's seed is fulfilled in the increase of the Christian Family.

v. 9. Thou, child,=John the Baptist.

The Highest=God Almighty.

v. 10. St John Baptist was to give people knowledge of Jesus—the Saviour.

v. 11. The Dayspring is Jesus. The word for dayspring in Greek means "springing up," and is translated Branch in Zech. iii. 8 and vi. 12, and Jer. xxiii. 5.

v. 12. Read Isaiah ix. 2 (to give light, &c.) and Isaiah xlix. 9-11 (to guide, &c.). Also 2 Pet. i. 19 and Rev. xxi. 23 and xxii. 16.

It will be noticed that although the occasion was the Birth of John, yet his father's Hymn is directed to the Coming of Jesus. Jesus is the Dayspring or {86} Branch—John is to be the herald of the Saviour. Not till the 9th verse does the father address his infant son: his mind is turning upon the greater Birth which was to come six months later.

In verses 5, 6 and 7 there is a complex reference to the birth of Christ's forerunner. By a play on the names Zacharias, Elizabeth and John he sings that God's remembrance was wedded to God's oath, and thence was born God's mercy: for as we said above the 'text' of the Hymn is John—God's mercy.

This Hymn may be called a Hymn of the Advent; whatever is read in the Gospels as the Second Lesson will be sure to excite, in those who listen, Praise to God for the Advent of His Son.

Nunc Dimittis.

The Evening Service is supplied with a different Hymn of the Advent for its Second Lesson—that of the aged Simeon, when, having waited through his long life for it, he was blessed at last with the sight of the Infant Jesus. Holding Him in his arms when He was brought to the Temple, he used these words of praise. God was letting him depart in peace: notice the words Thou lettest: it is not the imperative, praying for release; but the indicative, praising God for His mercy. The other chief thoughts of this short Hymn are that Jesus is God's Salvation—before the face of all people—a Light to Gentiles—and the glory of Israel. Comparing these with the Hymn of Zacharias, we shall be struck with the correspondence of two very different compositions.


Lighten: not as in Te Deum 'to come upon,' but as in 3rd Collect at Evening Service, 'to give light.'

Gentiles—Israel: making up together the whole human race.

Jubilate Deo.

It is scarcely necessary at this time to show that the 100th Psalm is suitable as a Canticle after a Missionary Lesson; for it seems to be assumed that the Old Hundredth, in its metrical form, is an integral and necessary part of a Missionary meeting. "In its breadth and simplicity it is fit for all occasions of access of the redeemed to God, and naturally it has become (both in its original form and its metrical rendering) the regular hymn of unmixed thanksgiving in the Church of Christ. It is in vv. 1, 2 an invitation to joy, because we know that we are God's people[2]."

This Psalm was formerly used at Lauds on Sundays.

1. We claim the whole earth for God,

2. Because He is God, because He made us, and because He protects us.

4. The wide extent of His mercy is made the ground of praise and thanksgiving at this place in the Service, because the spread of the Gospel has been called to mind by the Second Lesson.


Deus Misereatur.

Ps. lxvii., styled by Dr Kay The Spiritual Harvest-Home Song of Israel, is to be applied by us to the Harvesting of Missionaries, when set before our minds in the Second Lesson. It especially refers to the gathering-in of the Gentiles ('all nations'), and extends the threefold blessing of Num. vi. 24-26 to them; see vv. 1, 6, 7. Cf. the description which is placed at the head of this Psalm in the Bible, A prayer for the enlargement of God's kingdom—to the joy of the people—and the increase of God's blessings.

In the Sarum Use it was a special Sunday Psalm at Lauds (see p. 44); together with Psalm 63, it followed Jubilate Deo and preceded Benedicite.

[1] Novum Testamentum in Vetere latet, Vetus Testamentum in Novo patet.

[2] Bishop Barry.




VI. The Creeds.

The discussions which arose upon the Revelation of Himself, which God gave in His Son Jesus Christ, were carried on between people who lived far apart round the waters of the Mediterranean Sea.

The Nature of Almighty God could not possibly be easily understood by man. We might as well expect a horse to understand the nature of man. When a man tries to make a horse understand kindness, he is often disappointed with the lower nature which seems unable to appreciate it: but he perseveres, and expects some response to his efforts.

In like manner we may believe that God expects us to respond when He reveals something of His own Nature to us.

Assuming that He is perfectly Wise, we must own that what He tells us about Himself it is good for us to believe, and to try to understand. The Revelation is itself a claim upon our Worship. We start with a grain of Faith: that is, we believe that there is a Revelation—an unveiling of the mystery of God's Being.


It was necessary that argument should just fail to prove this; because it is God's Will that men should be equal before Him: the man who can argue very cleverly was not designed to have an advantage over the stupid or ignorant man in their dealings with God. The meaning of our Lord's words, The poor have the Gospel preached to them, is not to be confined to poverty in money and clothes: the man who is poor in opportunities, learning, intellect, can believe if he makes the needful effort: the intellectual man who is poor in humility has also to make an effort, and to endeavour to believe. They and all others are made equal when God makes His Claim upon them. Moreover, the difficulties of Faith are in proportion to the Aids to Faith. There is no compulsion of Reason, any more than there is compulsion of Authority, or of Imprisonment. We are all free; we all have difficulties; and we all have the call of God to Believe in Him.

Reason is one of God's best gifts. Reason shows nothing contrary to Faith, when the balance comes to be struck. The Intellectual argument is with us all, and is slightly in favour of Belief. But Faith is the atmosphere in which we must move, if we are to see the Invisible God.

Revelation, then, appeals to Faith, and is not opposed to Reason. The Summary of Revelation which is found in the Christian Creeds is compiled from the Bible. Reason is incapable of assuring us that God has a Son, and equally incapable of assuring us that He has not a Son. The Revelation assures us that He has a Son: and Reason cannot, in the {91} nature of things, contradict that assurance. Reasoning can tell us, and does tell us, that the Epistles (say) of St Paul to the Galatians, Romans, and Corinthians were written, as they claim, by St Paul; that the Gospels and other New Testament books are compositions of the first century; that Christianity was accepted as true by multitudes of the people of that century, and so on. But the acceptance of the Faith was then, and still is, left to your choice—a choice whether you will listen to God's Call to be His faithful son, or reject it.

The Apostles' Creed.

The Apostles' Creed is a summary of those things which the Bible tells us of God's Being. There can be no higher act of the soul of man than to dwell Upon the Being and Attributes of God. It is a great step upwards, to purify one's life from evil. But plainly it is a further and higher step, to purify the soul: for the man who refuses to do evil is not so far on as the man who refuses to feel and think evil. It is however possible for him to reject evil only because it is bad for himself. A life of selfishness may be wonderfully free from the doing of evil. The Revelation in Jesus Christ is the Revelation of God as the highest Aim, and of the Unselfish Life as the path to God.

A summary of what God has told us of His Being is most perfect for use in Worship, when it is most free from discussion. A courtier is most courtly when he is freest from doubts and suspicions of his king. {92} The presence of discussion in a creed implies that there has been a doubt.

The Apostles' Creed has no discussion in its clauses, and has been called "The loving outburst of a loyal heart." (Harvey Goodwin.) It is therefore the Creed of Worship and Praise.

The Nicene Creed is the Creed of Self-Examination. Discussion is implied in some of its clauses.

The Athanasian Creed is a Guide to Thought concerning the nature of God. It appeared on the scene at the close of many controversies—when the Church had debated the various explanations of Revelation which had been proposed, and was prepared to declare what God's children may reverently say and think of their Father in Heaven. [See Chapter on the Athanasian Creed.]

"I will worship toward thy holy temple and praise thy Name because of thy lovingkindness and truth: for thou hast magnified thy Name and thy Word above all things" (Ps. cxxxviii. 2). When used in Church Services a Creed must always be regarded mainly as an Act of Praise to God.

The most evident characteristic of a Creed is that it says what we know of God by His Revelation of Himself in the Bible.

Now, that which speaks of God must of necessity be a declaration of His Worthiness—an Act of Worship.

We have already defined Praise as that kind of Worship wherein we think of God, and not of ourselves.

Forasmuch as a Creed contains, chiefly or entirely, {93} the proclamation of God's Nature and Being, it is the form in Worship which is most entirely Praise.

The Apostles' Creed is so placed in the Morning and Evening Prayer as to be the highest of several kinds of Praise.

The Psalms have a considerable mixture of thoughts of man, and of human dependence on God.

The Old Testament Lesson, with its Respond, draws from Man's History the joyful thoughts of God's mercy.

The New Testament Lesson, with its Respond, carries our Praise a degree nearer to Perfect Peace and Joy in the Goodness of God through Christ.

The Apostles' Creed entirely omits the human element that we may rejoice in God's Existence.

Other uses of Creeds. Creeds have been used for various purposes, which may be classed as follows:

(a) Symbolum, or Examination. (b) Self-Examination. (c) Guide to Thought and Basis of Argument. (d) Praise or Worship.

(a) In order to understand the word Symbolum, from which a Creed is often called a Symbol, we must go back to the days when, for persecution's sake, and lest they should unnecessarily cause their own deaths, Christians met in secret, and required pass-words that they might know one another.

To be admitted freely to the Christian assemblies a man had to know the Creed as his pass-word (symbolum); which at Milan, and in other Churches, was taught to the Catechumens, some three weeks before Easter, and not written down. They recited it a {94} week later, and then were taught the Lord's Prayer, in the time of S. Augustine. On Easter Eve they recited it again, and were baptized. This use of the Creed survives in the Baptism Services.

(b) Whereas we believe most firmly those things which we most frequently remember, it is needful that we remember frequently the Articles of the Creed. Hence Self-Examination requires not only the consideration of our Conduct, but also the examination of our Faith. In the Visitation of the Sick, and in Holy Communion, the Creeds are used for Self-Examination.

(c) Since other thoughts are built up on those which we have about God, it is usual amongst Christians to use the Articles of the Creed as a Guide to what they are to think about themselves, and about the World, and about the Evil and Good which are in the World. Their arguments with one another rest upon the Creeds which are acknowledged amongst them.

(d) But apart from all inferences and arguments, the facts about God's Existence call forth from the heart of man joyful praise and adoring worship.

The name by which God is declared to His People in Exodus is I AM. The thoughts by which we too come nearest to Him are thoughts which declare what HE IS. Thus the Apostles' Creed in Morning and Evening Prayer is a Hymn of Praise.

History of the Apostles' Creed.

The similarity of the Apostles' Creed and the Nicene Creed, as they stand in the Prayer Book, {95} suggests the reflection that disputes about the Human and Divine Natures of Jesus caused the enlargement of those parts which refer to Him: and that similar enlargements were caused by disputes about the Holy Spirit, and even about the Father. We cannot certainly say that the Apostles' Creed as it now stands is older than the Nicene Creed. But we know that Eusebius brought to the Nicene Council (A.D. 325) a form simpler than the Nicene Creed; and that briefer forms were used in the second century by Tertullian (A.D. 200) and Irenaeus (A.D. 170).

Having already considered the various uses of a Creed, we are prepared to acknowledge that something of the sort was a necessity from the beginning. Justin Martyr's writings, about the middle of the 2nd century, record the arguments about the Existence of God, and of Jesus Christ, which had influenced him and others for many years, inducing them to live and die for the Faith. (See Just. M. Apol. and Dial. Trypho, passim.)

The death of S. John the Apostle must have occurred during Justin's lifetime. We are led therefore to examine the Bible for traces of a Creed. The following are some of the passages which supply an answer to our examination.

Eph. iv. 1-6:

One Body—One SPIRIT—one Hope of our calling.

One Faith—One LORD—one Baptism.

One God and FATHER of all,—above all, through all, in all.

Col. i. 4-22 is an exposition of Faith in God through Christ, with a reference to the Holy Spirit: {96} but especially concerning the Being of Christ, who is declared to be

v. 15. The Son fully and perfectly.

v. 16. By whom all things were made.

v. 17. Before all things.

v. 18. Begotten before all worlds.

v. 19. In whom by the will of the Father all the fulness dwelleth.

v. 20-22. Who died for our Redemption and Reconciliation.

1 Cor. xv. 3-8. References by a preacher to what he has taught to any whole congregation must, almost of necessity, be references to what he was in the habit of teaching. The articles mentioned here are part of S. Paul's Creed, viz. the articles which he is about to use as the basis of an argument about Resurrection.

Acts xix. 2, 3. The ignorance about the Holy Spirit displayed by the 12 men at Ephesus revealed to S. Paul that they had not been baptized as Christians; for (S. Matth. xxviii. 19) that would have involved Teaching about the Holy Trinity.

Acts viii. 37. This verse, though not now believed to be part of the original text, was so believed by Irenaeus (A.D. 170).

It therefore shows us that a confession of faith at Baptism was (1) expected in Irenaeus' time, (2) expected by someone much earlier, who being accustomed to it, wrote it in the margin, or between the lines of a copy of the Acts.

2 Tim. i. 13, 14. The form of sound words was a good deposit which Timothy was to hold fast.


There are other passages which contain references to the Holy Trinity: suggesting that the earliest Christians, when thinking of the Godhead, were prone to include the Three Persons, as we by reason of our Creeds are also disposed to do. Thus our investigation leads us to suppose that a Creed was early used as a Basis of Teaching, and as a Password at Baptism: that it soon settled down into a form very like the Apostles' Creed: that in A.D. 325 the controversy about our Lord's Divine Nature led to the expansion of those Articles which referred to Him.

To these we may add that in 381 the Council of Chalcedon expanded the Article I believe in the Holy Ghost, or formally adopted an expansion which had become usual: and so gave to the Nicene Creed the form which it now has.

It is difficult to say exactly where the Apostles' Creed is most likely to have come as a link in the historic chain.

A comparison may be usefully made between:


I believe in God the Father I believe in one God Almighty, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth: Who made heaven and earth: And in Jesus Christ his only And in one Jesus Christ the Son our Lord, Son of God, Who was conceived by the Who was made flesh. Holy Ghost, Born of the Virgin Mary, Suffered under Pontius Pilate, And (I believe) in His Suffering,


Was crucified, dead, and buried: He descended into hell;

The Third day he rose again And in His Rising from the from the dead; dead,

He ascended into heaven, and And in His Ascension in the flesh, Sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty; From thence he shall come to And in His Coming from judge the quick and the heaven that he may execute dead. just judgment on all.

I believe in the Holy Ghost; And in the Holy Ghost. The Holy Catholic Church; The Communion of Saints; The Forgiveness of Sins;

The Resurrection of the Body, And that Christ shall come from heaven to raise up all flesh . . . and to adjudge the impious and unjust . . . to Eternal fire and to give to the just and holy immortality And the life everlasting. and eternal life.

The Articles of the Creed rest upon the proper understanding of what God has revealed to us of Himself. The Bible is the record of His Revelation. The references in Chapter xi. are amongst the vast number of such passages which might be adduced.

The days mentioned in the rubric as days on which the Confession of our Christian Faith, commonly {99} called The Creed of Saint Athanasius, is to be sung or said at Morning Prayer, instead of the Apostles' Creed, are 13. Four of these days are in the Easter and Ascension groups of days; when the doctrine of our Lord's Divine and Human Natures is most taught. The other nine days are chosen so as to fall, one in each of the nine months, between June and February. So the Praise Service ends, with the Highest Thoughts of God and His Being.

The Lord be with you.

Answer. And with thy spirit.] This may be taken as the mutual salutation of Minister and People at the close of the Praise Service. It is therefore to be said before they kneel. In the Confirmation Service, the Laying-on of Hands is concluded with the same words. Compare the close of our Lord's words to the Apostles, S. Matth. xxviii. 20: S. John xiv. 27: and the close of S. Paul's Epistles without exception; also, close of the Epistle to the Hebrews, 1 Peter, 3 John, and Rev. In the Old English Services (Sarum Use), it closed the Preces. In 1549 it was entirely omitted there, but replaced as it now stands, when, in 1552, the Creed was taken out of the Prayers, and placed immediately after the Canticles.

Let us pray.] This is the signal for kneeling, and commencing the prayers.




It may be said with truth that the Bible is a book which reads History, and the perplexities of Man, in the light of one great postulate, viz. that there is a God. The natural sequences, which are now partially explained by scientific discoveries, are in the Bible attributed to God's guidance: and of course there is no contradiction between the two. Science explains something of the ways of God's working: from it we learn something of His principles, and also of His methods: when we are surest of scientific laws, we are then confronted with the assumption that there is, or that there is not, a God. The Bible is the Book of Faith—Faith that there is a God. But, since it interprets History, it plainly recognises History, as one of God's Lesson Books. Also, since it appeals to Reason, and is consistent with Reason, it recognises Reason, as another of the Lesson Books. In the present chapter we indicate some of the Lessons to be learnt in these three Books of God.

Much has been written, especially in recent times, showing the marvellous working of what we call, at one time, the Laws of Nature, and at another time, Laws of God. There is infinite interest, to a thoughtful {101} mind, in the reading of Bell On the Hand, Argyll's Reign of Law, Maury's Physical Geography of the Sea, even when further discovery has improved upon their explanations. It must always be remembered that God has given us Reason and Knowledge, as well as Faith. Reason leads us to the threshold of Heaven, and Faith admits us to the Presence. History assures us that Jesus Christ lived in Judaea, founded Christianity as a Kingdom not of this world, and transformed the Kingdoms of this world: Faith admits us to Personal Communion with Him through the Holy Spirit.

I. (a) What Reason has to say about God.

The Athanasian Creed distinguishes between the teaching of the Catholick Religion and the teaching of the Christian Verity. A moment's thought shows that many who do not hold the Christian Verity, i.e. the Truth as revealed in Christ, do nevertheless hold the Truth as to the Unity of God. For amongst those who believe in The One God are Jews, Turks and many Hereticks, besides those Agnostics whose hesitation, about accepting the Revelation in Christ, is united to a readiness to believe in God. The Belief in One God therefore is more Universal than the Belief in the Holy Trinity. The word Catholick is used within the Church of those who hold the doctrine of the Church. But it may be also used in a more general sense of those who hold the supreme Truth of Godhead.

In order to illustrate the evidence which has been used concerning this prime article of the Christian Faith, we might refer to many interesting books. The {102} following argument is attributed to Socrates by Xenophon (Mem. 1. iv.).

"We admire great poets—great dramatists—great sculptors and painters: which is more worthy of admiration—he who makes images without mind and motion, or he who makes things which live and move and act?

"The latter, if he makes them of purpose. Then purpose is shown by the obvious usefulness of things: men from the beginning have had the benefit of senses suited to their environment—eyes to see what is visible, ears to hear what is audible. Smells are of use because we have noses; things that we eat are sweet or bitter or agreeable in the mouth, because we have palates. Then again the eye is a delicate organ, but is fitted with an eyelid to keep guard over it, eye-lashes to strain off small particles, eyebrows to carry the sweat away from it. Further, the ear receives sounds but is never overfull of them: front teeth are adapted to cutting, back teeth to grinding: the mouth is near the eyes and nose, which watch over what goes in: these and other arrangements indicate a Maker, who adapts the organs to their uses, and has a wise and loving design. Parents love their children naturally, and naturally people want to live, and dislike death. Hence the Maker shows that He has a design, and that His design is that His Creatures shall live.

"Moreover, we have a certain amount of matter, a certain amount of moisture, while there is a vast amount of those things elsewhere: similarly we have a certain amount of intelligence. Why then should we suppose that intelligence is the only thing which {103} is an exception—the only thing of which we have the whole? why suppose that all these adaptations have been made, so wonderfully, without a controlling mind?

"You say you would believe it if you could see the controlling Creator? But you believe in the existence of your own mind without seeing it: on that principle, you ought to say that all you do yourself is done by chance.

"The next question is whether God is too great to require our service? The answer is that God has shown a special kindness to men, as compared with other animals. Their upright walk, their possession of hands, their articulate voices, their superior minds, their powers of self-protection—and the adaptation of these powers and qualities to one another, constituting an altogether higher existence—all these show a special kindness in a wise Creator who has all the qualities and powers in a far higher degree. By serving one another we learn to know our friends; by asking advice we find who are wise: so if we make trial of God, we shall find that He is All-seeing, All-present, and Watchful over all." This argument does not enter upon the question whether there is one God or more; but it deals with the previous question of Godhead; and with all that is implied in 'Maker of Heaven and Earth'.

It must also be observed that (assuming the notion of many Gods to be excluded, and that our Belief is to be either in One God, or in no God), the argument of Socrates has gone far towards the Bible conception of God's Being. Cf. Article 1.


(b) What the Bible Revelation says about God.

Reasoning of the kind which Socrates used comes near to proof. But it can never actually prove the existence of God. The mind of man is so constituted that it dislikes the notion of Laws without a Lawgiver. Evolution is a law which is found to hold in many cases, and is often assumed, with much probability, to hold in other cases. And it is a Law which exhibits the most beautiful adjustments in its working. We naturally are impelled to ask further back for the maker of this Law. The Revelation which is written in the Bible, and which has been held true from distant ages by good men, is a Revelation which appeals to a higher quality in man than even his intellect. It appeals to his faith. The Bible evidence of God's existence is consistent with reason, and grounded on faith.

We should be able to find many texts which state God's existence, His Unity, His Omnipotence, His Omniscience. We prefer however to refer the student to whole Books and long passages: such, for instance, as the training of Israel to worship God—the awe and reverence which appear in all the language about God—the consistent Holiness of His character as presented in all the Books. From the first words of the Bible, In the beginning God created, to its last chapter (Rev. xxi. 5), Behold I make all things new, it is a Revelation of the Creator.

The following may be remembered:

Deut. iv. (35) 39 Know therefore this day, and consider it in thy heart, that the LORD he is God in {105} heaven above, and upon the earth beneath: there is none else. 1 Kings viii. (Solomon's Prayer). Isaiah xl. 12-31, xlv. Job xxxviii-xli.

The argument of Socrates pointed to a Creator who loves men. The Bible declares God to be a Loving Father. Deut. xxxii. 6. Is not he thy father that bought thee? Deut. i. 31. The LORD thy God bare thee, as a man doth bear his son, in all the way that ye went. Acts xvii. 22-31. S. Paul at Athens. vv. 24-28. The God that made the world . . . made of one every nation . . . that they should seek God . . .: for in him we live, and move, and have our being; . . . as certain even of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring.

Further He is revealed as the Father of Jesus. S. John xx. 17. I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God. S. John xiv. 12, 13 . . . I go unto the Father. And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. S. Matth. xi. 27. All things have been delivered unto me of my Father, and no man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him.

The Love of the Father towards men is shown by His tenderness towards them. Rom. viii. 39, (nothing) shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. v. 8, God commendeth his own love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Psalm ciii. describes this tenderness, showing (v. 6) that God's judgments against oppression are a kindness to the weak. So in {106} many other places. Note also that vice and crime are an injury to the wicked, and a burden to others. Hence God's hatred of sin is a sign of His Love.

Thus the first paragraph of this Creed is an Act of Worship, from children towards their Father, as well as from the creatures of God's hand towards their God.

II. (a) What the outside world said of Christ.

The foundation of Christianity was not laid with outward marks, but in the hearts of those who, by one, and by two, united themselves together to serve the Lord Christ. As He had said, The Kingdom of God came not with observation. Not with notice from the rulers and the mighty of this world, but in the quietness of homes, and the darkness of prisons, the Church became so wide as to take a foremost place, without much record in the chronicles of kingdoms. We must therefore look to Christian books for the history of early Christianity. At the close of the first century after the Saviour's Birth there were living three great writers who were united in close friendship, viz. the younger Pliny, and the historians Tacitus and Suetonius. Suetonius wrote lives of the first twelve Caesars, and, in his history of Nero (A.D. 54-68), mentions the punishment of Christians, "a set of men of a new and mischievous superstition." Tacitus, describing the same reign[1], and the burning of Rome (A.D. 64), {107} shows that Nero tried to throw the blame from himself, by accusing and punishing the Christians. He adds a few words about them. "The founder of that name was Christ, who was put to death, in the reign of Tiberius, under Pontius Pilate: which temporarily crushed the pernicious superstition, but it broke out again, not only in Judaea, where the evil originated, but in Rome also." Tacitus has the idea that Christians were guilty of many crimes: but their tortures and Nero's cruelty caused them to be pitied. Pliny, on the other hand, made careful enquiries; and gives a very different account of their personal character[2].

Thus we see that almost silently—'without observation'—the Christian Life grew into its great place in outside history.

(b) What the Bible says of Jesus.

S. Matth. i. 21. Thou shalt call his name Jesus. xvi. 16 Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. S. John i. 14 the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth, 1 Cor. xvi. 23 our Lord Jesus Christ. S. Matth. i. 18 his mother Mary was found with child of the Holy Ghost. S. Luke i. 35 that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God. S. Matth. xxvi. 39 O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me. S. Mark xv. 15 Pilate, willing to content the people, released Barabbas unto them, and delivered Jesus, when he had scourged him, to be crucified. 25 and they crucified him. 37 And Jesus cried with a loud voice, and gave up {108} the ghost. 44 And Pilate marvelled if he were already dead. 45 And when he knew it of the centurion, he gave the body to Joseph. 46 And he . . . took him down . . . and laid him in a sepulchre which was hewn out of a rock, and rolled a stone unto the door of the sepulchre. xvi. 1-6 And when the sabbath was past . . . very early in the morning the first day of the week, they came unto the sepulchre at the rising of sun . . . the stone was rolled away . . . entering into the sepulchre, they saw a young man sitting on the right side . . . And he saith unto them . . . Ye seek Jesus of Nazareth, which was crucified: he is risen; he is not here. S. John xx. 20 he shewed unto them his hands and his side. Then were the disciples glad, when they saw the Lord. Acts i. 10, 11 And while they looked stedfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel; which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven. 1 Pet. iii. 22 (Jesus Christ) is gone into heaven, and is on the right hand of God; angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto him. S. Mark viii. 38 when the Son of Man cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels, S. Matth. xxv. 32 before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another. Rom. ii. 16 God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ. Acts x. 42 it is he which was ordained of God to be the judge of quick and dead. Rom. xiv. 10 we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.


Note i. Quick=living. Cf. S. John vi. 63, it is the spirit that quickeneth, A.-S. cwic.

Jesus=God the Saviour; or God is my Saviour: the same word as Joshua. S. Matth. i. 21.

Christ=Anointed. Ps. ii. 2; cf. Acts iv. 26.

Note ii. Death is the separation of soul and body: the body returns to earth as it was (Eccl. xii. 7), and the spirit, or soul, returns to God who gave it. Resurrection is when the soul and body are reunited. While we are alive there is a continual change of particles which form the body; yet it is the same body. Similarly after death the particles decay, but the body of the Resurrection will be in that sense the same body (1 Cor. xv. 38). When we say that Christ was buried, we mean that His Body was buried, and in this Creed we add that He descended into hell: and we mean that His Soul went to the place of departed spirits, which are waiting for the Judgment. The word, Hell, has no meaning here of punishment. In Anglo-Saxon, helan=to cover, and hell=a covered place. In some parts of England we still hele (=cover) over roots to keep off the frost. Thus hell is used to translate Gehenna in S. Matt. v. 22, and also Hades in Acts ii. 27, 31, which last is the meaning here. This Creed should be compared in parallel lines with the Nicene Creed, in order to see what phrases are here which are omitted there. We shall notice the following: conceived, born, dead. He descended into hell, from the dead. It is clear that the Nicene Creed was framed to express more clearly the Godhead of Jesus, which had been denied {110} by Arius. The Apostles' Creed, on the other hand, expresses more clearly the true human nature of our Lord: His Birth and Death are more definitely stated—either because His Resurrection from the dead had been doubted, or because the verity of His human nature was not well understood. The words, He descended into hell, complete the statement that he died as truly and completely as other men die.

The passage, 1 Peter iii. 19, 20 has often been quoted as indicating that, in His death, He had a work to do amongst those who had died before He came on earth—viz. to carry to the blessed dead the glad tidings of His Conquest of Sin, whereby they, as well as others after them, are saved.

Note iii. Among early heretics were some who thought that Jesus, being truly God, could not have died except by a substitute—that he seemed to die. They were thence called Docetae (from dokein to appear). In like manner, many people have since attributed His Perfect Holiness to His Godhead only, and not to His human victory over real temptations. This Creed sets forth the Bible doctrine of His Manhood more particularly. But it also declares His Godhead—partly because the words, I believe in God, belong to all three paragraphs of it; and partly by the words, his only Son. See S. John i. 1-4, 14, 18; 1 S. John i. 3; S. Matth. xvi. 16. The Nicene Creed was prepared at a time when His Perfect Manhood was universally believed, but some thought that He was not God. It is therefore much fuller in the statement of His Godhead.


III. What the Bible says of the Holy Ghost.

The third paragraph of this Creed is a summary of the teaching of the Bible concerning Him whom we often call the third Person of the Godhead—whom Jesus described as the Comforter (S. John xiv.-xvi.). He there promised to His disciples the presence with them of One, who should be closer to them than He had Himself been, xvi. 7: xiv. 16, 17: who should unite them more closely to Himself, xiv. 18, 23: who should teach them, and help them to remember His words, xiv. 26: who should testify of Him, xv. 26: and guide them into all truth, xvi. 13: when they should be accused and persecuted, the Holy Ghost would guide their speech, S. Matth. x. 19, 20: S. Mark xiii. 11: S. Luke xii. 11, 12: xxi. 14, 15.

Consistently with these promises we find all good impulses, thoughts, and actions, in man, ascribed to the Holy Ghost—Comfort, Acts ix. 31: Joy, Rom. xiv. 17: Baptism, S. Matth. iii. 11: 1 Cor. xii. 13: Fellowship, Phil. ii. 1: Power, Acts i. 8: Sanctification, Rom. xv. 16: Teaching, 1 Cor. ii. 13: xii. 3: Resolution, S. Luke iv. 1: Acts xv. 28: Vocation, xiii. 2, 4: xx. 28: He is ranked with the Father and the Son, S. Matth. xxviii. 19: Eph. iv. 4-6: 2 Cor. xiii. 14.

His Presence is imparted through the Laying on of Hands, Acts viii. 15, 17: xix. 6: ix. 17: and before it, x. 44, in the exceptional case of Cornelius. Thus, individually we are temples of the Holy Ghost, 1 Cor. vi. 19.


But further, the Holy Ghost unites us in one Body—the Church, Eph. iv. 2-4: wherein the work of each is allotted by Him who in 1 Cor. xii. 28 is called God, and in vv. 4-11 is called the Spirit, and in v. 3, the Holy Ghost. By virtue of this, the Church is Holy, 1 Cor. iii. 16, 17, even though individual members are unworthy. And this Church was to be One for all the world, Acts i. 8, S. Matth. xxviii. 19, 20: 1 Cor. i. 2: Eph. i. 22, 23: iii. 9, 10: S. John xvii. 20, 21. Thus it is the Holy Catholick Church. Catholick=Universal, for-the-whole. Also the Holy Catholick Church is the Society of Saints, the Communion or Fellowship of Saints. S. Paul writing to the Corinthians (1 Cor. i. 2) addresses them as the Church, called to be Saints, and (after referring to the distribution of various duties amongst the members by the Holy Spirit) he says (xii. 25-27) that there should be no schism in the body, but all the members should care for one another, suffer with one another, and rejoice with one another: indeed his argument is that the Church is a body, and that this sharing of joy and sorrow is an existing fact. So in 2 Cor. i. his whole argument turns upon this thought of a society, wherein the comfort of one is the comforting of the rest, and the prayers of the rest a help to the one, the gift bestowed upon one, a cause of the others' thankfulness; and all stablished together by God. In Heb. xii. 22 mount Zion is taken as the symbol of Christ's Church; and the readers are addressed as members thereof, together with the spirits of just men made perfect, who are enrolled in heaven as the general assembly and church of the firstborn. Thus the {113} Church, or Society of Saints includes the imperfect, and those who are made perfect; those who are alive there, and those who are alive here. The condition of membership is briefly described in Acts ii. 38, 42 Repentant, Baptized, having the Gift of the Holy Ghost, Apostolic Doctrine and Fellowship, Communicant, Stedfast in Prayers.

Since then, Repentance and Baptism, Acts ii. 38: iii. 19 "for the Remission of sins," "that our sins may be blotted out," are thus associated with the gift of the Holy Ghost—see also S. John xx. 22, 23—this second great privilege of Christians is stated in the Creed; we believe in the Forgiveness of Sins. It is preached unto us through Christ, Acts xiii. 38: it is granted to us for His Name's sake, 1 S. John ii. 12: the Son of Man hath power on earth to forgive sins, S. Mark ii. 10: it is especially associated with the Presence of Christ in the assembly of the Church, S. Matth. xviii. 17-20: 1 Cor. v. 4: S. John xx. 22, 23. The union of the Faithful with Him in whom they have Faith brings, through Jesus, Rom. iii. 25, remission of their sins, through the forbearance of God.

The third great privilege, which comes to members of Christ through the Holy Ghost, is the Resurrection of the Body, a most prominent doctrine of the Gospel: as in the case of other articles of the Creeds, so here, we only give representative verses. Acts xvii. 18 S. Paul is stated to have been misunderstood, because he preached at Athens Jesus and the Resurrection, and in vv. 31, 32 it is shown that he preached the Resurrection of men to be judged. So those who {114} knew Jesus best (S. John xi. 1-3) believed, as of course, in the Resurrection of all men vv. 23, 24: in S. John v. 25-29 the Lord states the doctrine: 1 Cor. xv. shows how S. Paul taught it, and, vv. 37, 38, declares that the body of the Resurrection will be a nobler and higher body, as the plant is nobler and higher than the seed—see Phil. iii. 21: 1 Cor. xv. 43, 48, 49. Further, it is likened to the gift of Life in Baptism, Rom. vi. 3-5, which is the work of the Holy Spirit, 1 Cor. xii. 13: hence it is expressly stated to be His work, Rom. viii. 10, 11. The fourth great privilege is Life everlasting. S. John i. 12 to those who received Jesus, He gave power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His Name: S. John xvii. 2, 3 and this is life eternal: S. John v. 24 which begins here on earth: but, S. Mark x. 30, is, in a higher sense, the promise of the world to come, where, Rev. xxi. 4, 1 Cor. xv. 26, 54, there shall be no more death.

In connection with this Creed we should read the Nicene Creed, the first Four Commandments, Articles I. to V., XI. and XV., Gloria in excelsis in the Communion Service, and the Proper Prefaces in the Holy Communion for Christmas, Easter, Ascensiontide and Whitsuntide. Also, note that Gloria Patri, and The grace of our Lord, are founded upon the Faith which is expressed in the Creed: and that the Collects not unfrequently have endings similarly founded.

[1] Annals xv. 44.

[2] See Appendix D.




A learned Professor once attacked the use of Creeds in Worship with the bitter words, that "they combine the maximum of offence with the minimum of worship." This utterance might be discussed by comparing the use of a Creed in the worship of God, with the statement of the merits and action of a great man.

I have often heard people praise the Professor whose words we have just quoted. Suppose that a number of people were assembled together, and one in the name of the rest were to speak to the Professor of his great talents, his immense usefulness, his upright life, his loveable character, his services to education, we should not be offended, even if we were not fully aware of all that he had done for humanity. We should not say that there was any minimum of praise, nor any maximum of offence. It would not be an act chargeable with these faults, unless we did it in the midst of those who disputed his eminence.


The House of God is a place where we ought to assume that the revelation of God is the foundation of worship. Hence a Creed which recites the substance of that revelation should fairly be assumed to express the convictions of all present.

The two Creeds, known to us as The Apostles' Creed and The Nicene Creed, are evidently free from the charge of offence or lack of worship. They take so little account of matters of opinion,—they deal so entirely with the facts of Revelation, that it is hard to conceive any other kind of words so free from the kind of charge which the Professor brought against Creeds in Worship.

But it will be necessary to examine more at length the position of the Creed which is called Athanasian, and to enquire what defence may fairly be made, if it is the form against which the Professor really brought this charge. For it must be acknowledged that many thoughtful men do stumble at this Creed. To them it is an offence, because it is often assumed that it is the expression of opinion about those who do not accept the doctrines which it contains.

1. Now in reciting the Athanasian Creed, a congregation is not attempting to deliver its opinion: we are reciting the assertions which are implied in the Bible, concerning the Being of God, and the Incarnation of Jesus Christ.

Let us emphasize this point. The Athanasian Creed has a different form from the Apostles' and Nicene Creeds. You could not fairly describe it as "a loving outburst of a loyal heart," as Bp Harvey Goodwin described the Apostles' Creed. Gloria {117} Patri is indeed added at the close, thereby marking it as a Psalm or Hymn in its use in Church[1].

We think that in its form, fairly considered, it is the reflective utterance of a Christian, who is meditating on the Being and Personal Nature of the Godhead. As I read or say it, I am, as it were, balancing the statements which limit my conception of the truth. On this side I may go so far, and no further; on that side I am limited to that expression. Between these two—including these truths—the fact of Godhead is to be considered, and my worship is to be directed. Hence we can see that, like the other Creeds, it deals with the revealed facts of God's existence.

2. Notice that in the Creed it is the existence of GOD which is defined. Faith does, in other forms, enter upon a consideration of doctrines which introduce Man to our view.

Predestination and Election, Justification by Faith alone, Sanctification, Assurance and Perseverance, Original Sin, Sacramental Grace, Sin after Baptism,

{118} and other facts and truths, on which Revelation has thrown the only true light, are dealt with, for instance, in the Articles and Homilies. And the Bible is the Court of Appeal in all such perplexities. But it is no disparagement to the importance of those truths, if we acknowledge that they do not appear in our Creeds.

The Creeds are the respectful reply of the Christian to God's disclosure of Himself to His children. One (the Apostles' Creed) is the reply of the Christian as such. Another (the Nicene) is the reply of the Christian after careful self-examination. And this Third is the reply of the Christian Student, as he meditates upon the furthest extent of our knowledge of God.

3. But it will be said, "The Nicene Creed partly, and the Athanasian Creed altogether, are not, in their origin, utterances of peaceful meditation, but, rather, of polemical controversy. Heated contentions and bitter strife are called to our minds by their terms, and not the atmosphere of the heaven of heavens."

It may help us to a right use of the Creeds in worship, if we think of these controversies as the meditations of a very large family. When a deliberation can be held in a room, we can quietly put forward a suggestion, quietly find out what fault there is in it, and as quietly substitute a better statement than the first, guarded from the error into which we were likely to fall. But when the family which deliberates is distributed around such a space as the Mediterranean Sea, the voices are apt to become loud and harsh: instead of tentative suggestions, diffidently put forward, we are likely to hear dogmatic assertions, made with {119} all the energy of the human lungs. The voices which arose from the members of that Parliament of the Faith present a greater variety of languages than the tongues at Pentecost. In the Church's Meditation on the Being of God, and on the Person of Jesus, we hear the Spaniard, the Gaul, the Welshman, Italian, Greek, Syrian, Armenian, Alexandrian; there are voices from Arles, and from Carthage, as well as from Samosata on the Euphrates, and Jerusalem on its holy hill, and Caesarea on the sea-shore. We have to regard the Mediterranean Sea as the Council Table, with chairs at the back for such as could not find places on its shores. Three continents faced one another at an oval table, 13,000 miles in circumference. Even in thoughtful meditation, a voice must be raised to be heard in such a conference. This will to some extent explain how it happened that men, whom we account orthodox, are occasionally found uttering what we will call suggestions, unorthodox in character.

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