« PreviousContinue »
But let us reason a little closer. Would
to apply to it a parallel instance? The Gospel was first preached to the Irish by St Patrick, and to the Anglo-Saxons by St Augustine; would you dare to say that Patrick or Augustine were the foundation of those two Churches, or the rock whereon they were built? When Jesus Christ is said to be the foundation upon which alone any one can build, * would you
allow the Arian to maintain, that from this text nothing more could be concluded, than that Christianity sprung from him, and not that he is “the finisher, as well as the author of our faith,”+ that he is the object as well as the institutor of our belief? are said to be “ built upon the foundation of the Apostles,” would
them no other distinction than that of having first preached the faith, and that it is not meant that their authority gives evidence of Christianity, or of its truth? And yet these would have a right to argue thus, if, from Peter's being called the rock whereon the Church is founded, no other consequence could be drawn, than that he was the person who had to commence its formation.
Secondly, our Saviour does not merely say, that Peter is the rock whereon the Church is to be founded, but moreover, that, in consequence of this foundation, this Church is to be impregnable and immoveable. “Upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." I say, that this sentence evidently implies that the Church is to be imperishable, in consequence of this foundation upon Peter; because the connexion between the two ideas, of a firm foundation, and a durable building, is so close and natural, that the usages of language oblige us to consider them as brought together only in consequence of that connexion. To prove this by a familiar instance: when our Saviour says, that the foolish man “ built his house upon sand, and the floods came, and the wind blew and beat upon that house, * 1 Cor. ii. 11.
+ Ephes. ii. 20. I 2
and it fell,"* we instantly conclude, though it be not expressly said, that the easy fall of that house is meant to be attributed to the instability of its foundation. In like manner, we should have attributed the firmness of that of the wise builder to the circumstance mentioned, that it was founded upon a rock, even though our Saviour had not himself expressly given the same reason.f In our instance, therefore, as the Church of God is said to be founded upon Peter as on a rock, and, at the same time, is declared to be proof against the powers of destruction, so we may conclude, that this security from ruin is the natural consequence of its being so founded. Peter, then, is not merely the commencer of the Church, but its real support, and this, as we have already seen, requires power and authority.
The second prerogative of Peter, the commission of holding the keys, and of binding and loosing, no less implies jurisdiction and power.
This has also been explained in the same manner, as though it only implied that Peter should open the gates of the Church to Jews and Gentiles. But can any one bring himself to believe in so cold, and, I might almost say, so paltry a signification as this? Where, on any occasion, among profane or sacred writers, was the image used in such a sense? The delivery of keys has always been a symbol of the entrusting with supreme authority to command. It is so used in Scripture. God“ will·lay upon the shoulder" of the Messiah, “the key of the house of David: and he shall open, and no man shall shut; and shall shut, and no man shall open:"1-that is, God will give him supreme command in the house of David. In like manner, he is said to have received “ the keys of death and of hell,”to signify his supreme dominion over both.
Among oriental nations, this connexion of real power with these its emblems, is very strongly marked. We are told by the most accurate of Eastern annalists, how the keys of the * Mat. vii. 27.
+ V. 25. | Is. xxii. 22. Apoc. iii. 7. Comp. Job, xii. 14, and Is. ix. 6, “ tho governinent is upon his shoulder.”
$ Apoc. i. 18.
temple of Mecca were in the hands of a certain tribe, and with it the command in that place; and so necessarily were the two conjoined, that when the material keys were extorted by fraud from their possessor, he irrevocably lost his dominion over the sanctuary. And, on another occasion, he shows that the possession of the emblem really conferred the power which it represented.* Among European nations, the same analogy exists, though perhaps not so strongly. For, when the keys of a town are said to have been entrusted to any one by his sovereign, who ever thought of thereby understanding, that power was given to him to unlock its gates, or shut them, to strangers and new-comers? And when the keys of a fort are said to have been delivered to a conqueror, who does not understand that possession of the strong place, and dominion over it, are no less transferred? And is not the same feeling implied by the practice, which now has become a mere ceremony, in this city, of its gate being closed, when the monarch visits it, and the keys being presented to him by its chief magistrate; thereby implying that the supreme authority prevails over that which was merely delegated? When, therefore, Peter receives the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven, or of the Church, we can only consider him as invested with its supreme command.
The same must be said of the power to bind and to loose.
*“ Abu'l Feda. Specimen histor. Arab.” Oxon. 1806. The narrative alluded to occurs p. 474 of the text, and 553 of the version. We are there told, that the care of the temple of Mecca was with the tribe of the Khozaites, till its representative, Abu-Gashan, in a state of intoxication, sold its keys to Kosay, in the presence of witnesses. Whereupon Kosay sent his son with them in triumph to Mecca, and restored them to the citizens. Abu-Gashan, on recovering his senses, repenteil, “ when repentance was useless, and gave rise to the proverb, a more unfortunate loss than Abu-Gashan's.' Pp. 482, 561, we have another illustration of the same idea. “ • The superintendence of the tempie, and its keys, were with the children of Ismael, without doubt, till this authority came into the hands of Nabeth. After him it fell into the possession of the Jorhamites, as is proved by a verse in a poem by Amer, son of Hareth, a Jorhamite.
“ We possessed the rule of the holy house after Nabeth.” Thus, the two ideas of simply possessing the keys of a temple, and ruling over it, are manifestly identified.
Whether we understand by it, authority to decree and prohibit, or to punish and forgive, the only two interpretations which have any plausibility, or whether, with greater probability, we unite the two, it equally implies a prerogative of jurisdiction.
Finally, the unrestricted commission to feed the entire flock of Christ, implies a primacy and jurisdiction over the whole. For the commission to feed is a commission to govern and direct. In the oldest classics, such as Homer, whose imagery approaches the nearest to that of Scripture, kings and chieftains are distinguished by the title of “ shepherds of the people.” In the Old Testament the same idea perpetually occurs, especially when speaking of David, and contrasting his early occupation of watching his father's flocks, with his subsequent appointment to rule over God's people.* It is a favourite image with the prophets, to describe the rule of the Messiah, and of God, over his chosen inheritance, after it should be restored to favour.f And our Blessed Redeemer himself adopts it, when speaking of the connexion between him and his disciples,-his sheep that hear his voice and follow him. In the writings of the Apostles, we find, at every step, the same idea. St Peter calls Christ “the Prince of Shepherds," and tells the clergy to feed the flock which is among them;|| and St Paul warns the bishops whom he had assembled at Ephesus, that they had been put over their flocks by the Holy Ghost, to "rule the Church of God.”T
But, in fact, my brethren, to sum up the arguments drawn from these various commissions, if in them St Peter did not receive jurisdiction and authority, neither did the Apostles any where receive them. Take all the appointments ever given to them, and
you will not discover any more decisive in favour of their authority, than their being called the foundations of the Church,—their being invested with the power of binding and loosing, with a certainty of ratification in Heaven,
2 Kings (Sam.) v. 2 ; Ps. lxxvii. 71, 72; Ezech. xxxii, 1-10; Jer, ii. 15, xxiii. 1, 2, 4; Nah. iii. 18, &c.
# Is. xl. 11; Mich. vii. 14; Ezech. xxxii. 10-23, &c.
1 Acts xx. 28.
and their being constituted rulers and pastors of Christ's lock.
St Peter, then, my brethren, first in the vicinity of CæsareaPhilippi, and afterwards at the sea of Galilee, was solemnly invested with an authority and jurisdiction, distinctly conferred on him alone, as a reward for professions of belief and of love, which proceeded from him individually, and prefaced by a change of names, and a personal address, which showed them to be exclusively bestowed upon him. He was, therefore, invested with an authority of a distinct and superior order to that of his fellow- Apostles, which extended to the whole Church, by the commission to feed all the flock; which excluded the idea of co-ordinate authority, as the rock on which all are to be secured in unity; which supposed supreme command by the holding of the keys. And all this is more than sufficient to establish his supremacy
There are but two means of escaping from this conclusion. The one denies the fact whereon our proofs are founded, and it is a weak objection; the second only denies the conclusions, and will require more attention.
In the first of these I allude to the attempt made many years ago, and lately renewed, to prove that the rock upon which Christ promises that he will build the Church, was not Peter, but Himself. It is supposed, that having addressed this disciple in the first part of his sentence, and said to him, “thou art Peter,” that is a rock, our Saviour suddenly changed the subject of the discourse, and pointing to himself said, “ And upon this rock, I will build my Chuch.” This interpretation you will perceive, my brethren, can boast more of its ingenuity than of its plausibility; it seems rather calculated to betray the shifts to which our opponents feel themselves obliged to resort, in order to elude our arguments, than to make any
effectual resistance to their force. If the conjunctive particle, and the demonstrative pronoun this, be not sufficient to connect two parts of the same sentence, it is no longer in the power of grammatical forms to do so. If we may depart from the obvious significa