F.D. Maurice “Note on the Athanasian Creed”

“I dare not ask myself who has committed the fearful sin, of ‘confounding the Persons and dividing the Substance,’ which it denounces. It may not be the man who has used the most confused and heretical forms of expression; it may not be the man who has even seemed to the Church to be most self-willed and refractory; it may be the man who is resting most contentedly in his orthodoxy; it may be myself. Nay, have I not a witness within, that every wrong act which I have done, or wrong thought which I have cherished, so far as it has diminished my sense of the distinction between truth and falsehood, right and wrong, has been of the nature of that sin which I describe by the words ‘Confounding the Persons,’ and has brought me into the danger of committing it; that every self-willed, unkind, schismatical act or thought has been of the nature of that sin which I describe by the words ‘Dividing the Substance,’ and has tended to bring me into it? For this creed takes me into another region altogether from that of words and names and forms of the intellect, though it makes use of those words and names and forms, for the sake of correcting the abuses which they have produced, and as signs which may show me my way to deeper truths and principles. It is my own fault if I stay in the outer region, and do not let the Church guide me into its inner circle; it is my own fault if I do not warn others, and warn myself, of the connexion between eternal truths and principles, and that ‘doing good’ or ‘doing evil’ to which, as the creed declares in its last articles , eternal life or punishment are appended. […]

I could not give up this creed without saying, that the meaning and principle of it belonged less to this time than to former times. Whereas, I believe, that they belong more to our time than to any time. For this, it seems to me, is the question which is in debate now. Are we to behold the unity which has its deepest and most real ground in that name of God which this creed speaks of, informing all society and all nature; or are we to see everything broken, divided, unharmonised; a dark form of self-love, embodied in some visible tyranny, above us, and a gulf of utter nothingness beneath us?”

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