Exposition
The term symbol or creed (symbolum) signifies in general a sign or mark by which one person or thing is distinguished from another, as a military symbol is a sign which distinguishes allies from enemies. The German has it: ein gelbjeicfyen, ober Sofung. Or, it (symbola) signifies a collation or bringing together, as to a feast jufammcn fcfytegen. In the sense of the church, it signifies a brief and summary form of Christian faith, which distinguishes the church and her members from all the various sects. There are those who suppose that this summary of our Christian faith, as just recited, is called a symbol, or creed, because it was collated or formed by the Apostles, each one furnishing a certain portion of it. This, however, cannot be proven. It is more probable that it was so called because these articles constitute a certain form or rule with which the faith of all orthodox Christians should agree and conform. It is called apostolic) because it contains the substance of the doctrine of the Apostles, which the catechumens were required to believe and profess ; or because the Apostles delivered this sum of Christian doctrine to their disciples, and the church afterwards received it from them. It is called Catholic, because it is the one faith of all Christians.

We must here inquire, Why were other creeds, as the Nicene, the Athanasian, the Ephesian, and Chalcedonian, formed and received in the church after the Apostles creed ? To this we would reply, that these are not properly other creeds differing in substance from the Apostles creed, are merely a repetition and clearer enunciation of its meaning, in which some words are added, by way of explanation, on account of heretics, who took advantage of its brevity, and corrupted it. There is, therefore, no change as it respects the matter or substance of the Apostles creed in those of a later date, but merely a difference in the form in which the doctrines are expressed.

There are other weighty reasons which may have led and compelled the Bishops and teachers of the ancient church to form and construct these brief formulas of confession, especially when churches were multiplying, and heresies were springing up in different places. Among these reasons we may mention the following: 1. That all the young, as well as those of riper years, might be able to remember the chief points of Christian doctrine, as thus briefly summed up and expressed. 2. That all might constantly have before their eyes the confession and comfort of their faith knowing what the doctrine was on account of which they were called to suffer persecution. It was in this way that (rod formerly had the substance of the law and promises expressed and comprehended in a brief form, so that all might have a certain rule of life and ground of comfort continually in view. 3. That the faithful might have a certain badge or mark by which they might then and in all future ages be distinguished from unbelievers and heretics, who cunningly corrupt the writings of the Prophets and Apostles. This was also a reason on account of which those confessions were called creeds or symbols. 4. That there might be extant some perpetual rule, short, simple, and easily understood by all, according to which every doctrine and interpretation of Scripture might be tried, that they might be embraced and believed when agreeing therewith, and rejected when differing from it.

But although other confessions were formed, the Apostles creed greatly surpasses all others in importance and authority, and that for the following reasons : 1. Because almost the whole of it is expressed in the very language of the Scriptures. 2. Because it is of the greatest antiquity, and was first delivered to the church by apostolic men, either by the Apostles themselves, or by their disciples and hearers, and has been regularly transmitted down to the present time. 3. Because it is the basis and type of all the other creeds Avhich have been formed by the consent of the whole church, and approved of by general synods, for the purpose of preventing and refuting the perversions and corruptions of heretics, by explaining more fully the meaning of the Apostles creed. The truth of the other creeds, however, does not consist in the authority or in the decrees of men, or of councils, but in their perpetual agreement with the holy Scriptures, and with the teachings of the whole church from the time of the Apostles, retaining and holding fast to the doctrine which they delivered, and at the same time giving testimony to posterity that they have received this doctrine from the Apostles and those that heard them; which agreement is obvious to all those who will but give the subject a careful consideration. The power to give new laws concerning the worship of God, or to give new articles of faith binding the conscience, belongs to no assembly of men or of angels, but to God alone. We are not to believe God on account of the testimony of the church, but the church upon the testimony of God. These things, in reference to the causes and authority of creeds, are taken from Admonit. Neustad. de Concordia Bergensi, written by Ursinus, in the year of our Lord 1581, where theological students may obtain a knowledge of things concerning the truth and authority of ecclesiastical writers, learnedly discussed, from page 117 to 142. A short table is here subjoined.