The Athenian Creed

What is the Athenian Creed? Perhaps it is one of the post-Refomration creeds newly republished thanks to Dennison’s or Van Dixhoorn’s work? Or perhaps it is merely an example of Old Side Presbyterianism skewering unbelief and modernism within the Church? If you’re leaning toward the latter, you’d be spot on.

Recently, over at WHI, Mike Horton highlighted the satire that John Witherspoon used to skewer the modernists and Moderates in the Kirk of Scotland. His Ecclesiastical Characteristics, divided into certain “Maxims,” were a hot iron toward his liberal contemporaries.

One such Maxim was his “creed,” a lampooning article of what he considered to be the reigning ideology of the day.

The Athenian Creed

I believe in the beauty and comely proportions of Dame Nature, and in almighty Fate, her only parent and guardian; for it hath been most graciously obliged (blessed be its name) to make us all very good.

I believe that the universe is a huge machine, wound up from everlasting by necessity, and consisting of an infinite number of links and chains, each in a progressive motion towards the zenith of perfection, and meridian of glory; that I myself am a little glorious piece of clock-work, a wheel within a wheel, or rather a pendulum in this grand machine, swinging hither and thither by the different impulses of fate and destiny; that my soul (if I have any) is an imperceptible bundle of exceeding minute corpuscles, much smaller than the finest Holland sand; and that certain persons, in a very eminent station, are nothing else but a huge collection of necessary agents who can do nothing at all.

I believe that there is no ill in the universe, nor any such thing as virtue absolutely considered; that those things vulgarly called sins are only errors in the judgment, and foils to set off the beauty of Nature, or patches to adorn her face; that the whole race of intelligent beings, even the devils themselves (if there are any) shall finally be happy; so that Judas Iscariot is by this time a glorified saint, and it is good for him that he hath been born.

In sum, I believe in the divinity of L. S—- the saintship of Marcus Antoninus, the perspicuity and sublimity of A___e, and the perpetual duration of Mr H____n’s works, notwithstanding their present tendency to oblivion. Amen.

I’m sure the “creed” would come off even more barbed if I knew the identities and backgrounds of the individuals listed at the end (notwithstanding their present tendency to oblivion!). Witherspoon’s efforts should serve as a wakeup call to our own day as well.

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