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  • THE WESLEYAN METHODIST MAGAZINE,
    CREED OF THE ABYSSINIANS


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    PART 14

    From The September, 1826 Issue of The Wesleyan Methodist Magazine

    CREED OF THE ABYSSINIANS

    To the Editor of the Wesleyan-Methodist Magazine

    The following pieces I translated many years ago, and intended them for another work, which has been long abandoned, and most probably will never be resumed. They are very curious, and I have endeavored to make them as plain as possible by the appended notes. I send them to you, as a proof of that friendship in which I ever remain, your affectionate Brother,

    Adam Clarke.

    The Confession of Faith of Claudius, [1] King of Ethiopia, which he sent in 1550 to John the Second, King of Portugal, when he requested succors against the Adelans. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, one God! This is my faith, and the faith of my fathers, the Israelitish kings, [2] the faith of my flock which is in the folds of my kingdom.

    We believe in one God, and in his only Son Jesus Christ, who is his Word, and his Power, and his Council, and his Wisdom; who was with him before the world was created.

    In the last days he came to us, but not so as to depart from the throne of his Divinity, and he was made man by the Holy Spirit, of the Holy Virgin Mary, and was baptized in Jordan in his thirtieth year. He was made a perfect man, and was hung on the wood of the cross, in the days of Pontius Pilate; he suffered, died, and was buried, and rose the third day; and on the fortieth day afterward, he ascended with glory into the heavens, and he sat down at the right hand of his Father; and again he shall come with glory to judge the living and the dead, and there shall be no end of his kingdom.

    And we believe in the Holy Spirit, the life-giving Lord, who proceeded from the Father; and we believe in one baptism for the remission of sins, and we hope for the resurrection of the dead to the life to come in eternity. Amen.

    We walk also in the plain, true, and royal way; and decline not either to the right hand or to the left from the doctrine of our fathers, the twelve apostles, and of Paul the fountain of wisdom, and of the seventy-two disciples, and of the three hundred and eighteen [3] orthodox divines who were convened at Nice, and of the one hundred and fifty convened at Constantinople, and the two hundred at Ephesus. Thus I, Claudius, king of Ethiopia, proclaim and teach; and the name [4] of my kingdom is Atznafsaged, the son of Wanag-saged, [5] the son of Naod.

    As to what appertains to the celebration of the ancient Sabbath, truly [6] we do not celebrate it as do the Jews who crucified Christ, saying, "His blood be upon us and upon our children;" because the Jews neither draw water, nor kindle a fire, nor boil a mess of victuals, nor bake bread, nor visit from house to house. But we celebrate so as to bring gifts to the table; and we make a supper on it, as our fathers the apostles commanded us in their doctrine. We do not celebrate it as we do the Sabbath of the chief of holy days, which is that new day of which David says "This is the day which the Lord hath made; let us exult and be joyful in it." Because on it our Lord Jesus rose from the dead; and on it the Holy Spirit descended on the apostles in the Oratory

    [7] of Zion; and on it our Lord was incarnated in the womb of the holy, perpetual Virgin Mary; and on it, shall he come again to reward the righteous and punish the wicked. As to what relates to the rite of circumcision, we do not circumcise as the Jews; because we know the words of the doctrine of Paul, the fountain of wisdom, who says, "To be circumcised does not profit, and to be uncircumcised does not help; but rather a new creation;" which is faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. And again, to the Corinthians he says, "He who assumes circumcision let him not receive uncircumcision." All the books of Paul's doctrine are with us, and teach us concerning circumcision and uncircumcision. But circumcision is with us according to provincial custom as the scaring of the face in Ethiopia and Nubia, and as the boring of the ear among the Indians. But that which we do is not done as an observation of the Mosaic laws, but only on account of human custom.

    As to what relates to the eating of swine's [8] flesh, we do not prohibit it on account of keeping the Mosaic law, as the Jews do: for we do not abominate him who eats it, nor do we judge him unclean; neither do we compel him to eat, who chooseth not to eat of it: as our father Paul wrote to the Romans, saying, "Let not him who eateth condemn him who eateth not; for the Lord receiveth all. The kingdom of God consisteth not in meat and drink; to the clean every thing is clean; but it is evil to the man who eateth with offence."

    And Matthew the Evangelist says, "Nothing can defile the man but that which proceedeth out of his mouth. Whatsoever entereth into the belly and is retained in it, (for a time,) is at length cast out into the abscess, and is poured forth, and renders all meat clean." While he spake these words he pulled down the whole structure of the error of the Jews, who were taught out of the book of the Mosaic law.

    But my religion, and the religion of the learned Presbyters who teach by my command in the circuit of my kingdom, is such, that we recede not from the way of the Gospel, nor from the doctrine of our father Paul, either to the right hand or, to the left.

    And in the book Tarich it is written and extant, that Constantine the King commanded in the days of his kingdom, that all the baptized Jews should eat swine's flesh, [9] on the day of the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. But as it seems good to any person, he may abstain from eating the flesh of animals. There are some who delight in the flesh of fish; there are others who love to eat the flesh of fowls; and there are some who abstain from the flesh of sheep: let every one follow his own mind, and (act) as it seems good unto him.

    But concerning eating the flesh of terrestrial animals, there is neither law nor rule given in the New Testament: for "To the clean all things are clean;" and Paul says, "He who believeth, may eat of all things."

    Now this is what I wished to write, that thou mightest know the truth of my religion.

    Written in the 1555th year from the nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ, the 23rd dat of June, in the kingdom of Damot. [10]

    That Constantine was capable of such acts as these, there is little room to doubt; for he not only confirmed the ancient modes of punishment in the empire, but instituted new ones, as is evident enough from his Constitutions. See Sozomen's Eccles. Hist. Lib. i cap. 8.

    This seems to have been the origin of intolerance in the Christian church, since which time it has slain its thousands and tens of thousands.

    We need not now wonder that whole provinces turned Christian in a day under such imperial influence! For who that regarded his life would not be of the Emperor's religion? But for the honor of Christianity we must allow that Jesus Christ and his Gospel had no hand in this infamous business. A Bishop who pretended to believe there is a God, and professed the faith of the benevolent Gospel of Jesus Christ, availed himself of his secular influence to remove the enemies of the cross, and make proselytes to godliness, not by reason and revelation, but by the imperial thunder.

    Thanks be to God, we have now a better chance both for our lives and for our souls! But to keep Constantine in countenance, permit me to subjoin a translation of the Targum ascribed to Jonathan ben Uzziel, (collated with the Jerusalem Targum,) on Genesis iv. 7, 8.

    "If thou performest good works in this world, shall not thy sin be forgiven thee in the world to come? But if thou dost not amend thy works in this world, thy sin shall be reserved against thee to the day of the great judgment: and it shall lie at the door of thy heart. Nevertheless I have delivered the power of evil desire into thy hands; rule thou over it, either to the commission of sin, or to the work of righteousness.

    "And Cain said to Hebel, his brother, 'Let us go out into the field.' And it came to pass that, when they were both in the field, Cain answered and said to Hebel his brother, 'I thought that the world had been created in mercy; but it is not governed according to the fruit of good works. There is no judgment, there is no judge, there is no future state; good rewards shall not be given to the righteous, nor shall punishment be executed on the wicked. The world was not created in mercy, nor by mercy is it governed, for now there is respect of persons in judgment. Why was thy sacrifice received with complacency, and mine not received with complacency?'

    "And Hebel answered, and said to Cain, 'The world was created in mercy, and it is governed according to the fruit of good works: there is a Judge, a future world, and a coming judgment, when good rewards shall be given to the righteous, and the impious be punished; and there is no respect of persons in judgment; but because my works were better and more precious than thine, my oblation was received with complacency, and thine rejected.' And because of these things, they contended on the face of the field, and Cain rose up against his brother Hebel, and struck a stone into his forehead, and killed him."

    It is worthy of remark, that the first murder which was committed in the world, was considered by the Targumist as the consequence of a religious dispute.

    Adam Clarke

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