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LE. URE IV.
TUE CATHONIC RULE OF FAITH PROVED.
MATTHEW xvii, 1.
And after six days, Jesus taketh unto him Peter, and James, and John his brother, and bringeth them up into a high mountain apart, and he was transfigured before them.” The incident of our Saviour's life, which is recorded in this day's Gospel, must be a subject of consolation to every Christian. To see our blessed Lord,—whose instructions were indeed listened to with avidity by crowds, and whose miracles filled the world with wonder and curiosity, but, yet, whose doctrines were so little followed, and whose cause was espoused by so few,-retired, on this occasion, though but for a moment, into the happy society of those who really loved and honoured him,-to see him receive the willing homage of his chosen ones on earth, and of the spirits of the just made perfect in heaven,—to see him moreover, obtain that glory from the Father which his sublime dignity deserved, is assuredly some consolation to our feelings, and some compensation for that bitter sympathy, which we must feel towards him through his neglected career.
But, yet, my brethren, there is a circumstance, of much greater importance than such feelings, connected with this cheering and consolatory narrative. For, you will observe, on the one hand, who are chosen to be the witnesses of this glorious scene. They are the most favoured of his apostles, the representatives in a manner, and deputies of those who had to preach his doctrines with most especial authority, and give to their commission the strongest sanctions of its truth: James, who was destined to be the first of the twelve, to seal his doce
trine with his blood; John, who was intended to prolong the age of the apostles almost beyond its natural duration, by his protracted life, and thus, as it were to dovetail their authority and evidence into the teaching of those that succeeded them; and, above all, Peter, who was expressly appointed, after his fall and conversion, to confirm his brethren, to open the gates of salvation to Jews and Gentiles, and be the solid foundation of the entire Church.
We may therefore easily imagine, with what awful strength and power the testimony must have been presented to their minds, which was given on this solemn occasion; and we find that by the apostles themselves, it was considered as giving the most formal sanction to the teaching of their divine Master. For St Peter expressly says, “ We have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known to you the power and presence of our Lord Jesus Christ, but having been made eye-witnesses of his majesty. For he received from God the Father honour and glory, this voice coming down to him from the excellent glory: “This is my beloved Son in whom I have pleased myself, hear ye him. And this voice we heard brought from heaven, when we were with him in the holy mount."*
It is to the testimonies, then, given at this time, that St Peter appeals, as some of the strong ground-work on which he builds his authority to preach. And what were the testimonies here given? They were manifestly of a two-fold character. For, in the first place, there appeared, beside our Saviour, Moses and Elias, the two most eminent and divinely gifted men of the olden time,-bearing homage and giving testimony unto Him, resigning all the privileges and pledges of the law into His hands, who was come to perfect and complete it. For, my brethren, not merely by the words of the law are we taught; but we all understand, that, whatever happened unto the Fathers was done to them in figure; so that not in their writings only, but in their persons and actions, we
* 2 Peter, i. 16, 19.
may find a certain allusion and prophetic reference to that which later was fulfilled. But besides theirs, was another and incomparably mightier testimony here given unto Christ, that of the eternal Father, commanding the apostles to lend implicitcredence to whatever they should hear from His mouth. “ This is my beloved Son in whom I have well pleased myself, hear ye him." Judge, therefore, how solemnly the authority of our divine Saviour must have been impressed on the minds of these apostles; and when afterwards, they heard Him transfer to them that authority which here He received—when afterwards they heard Him
the Father had sent Him so did He also send them,"—that “all who heard them heard also Him—that whosoever despised them despised not only Him, but Him also who sent Him;" consider what a strong warrant and security this must have been to them; how, recurring to the strong assurances given in His favour on Mount Thabor, they must have felt themselves invested with mighty power, when they went forth to teach;
with the same authority, precisely, as they had heard given on this occasion to His words.
Now, it is to these two classes of testimonies in favour of this authority to teach, not only as granted to the apostles, but as. perpetuated in the Church, that I wish to call your attention this evening. First, we will consider the testimony of Moses and Elias, or of the old law, in its constitution and prophecies, to the form, character, and qualities of the Church of God:and, Secondly, we will hear the voice of God in the express words and injunctions of our blessed Saviour, seeing what they would lead us to conceive regarding the rule and principle of faith, which I endeavoured to explain to you at our last meeting, namely, the guidance of his church as the infallible depo« sitary of His truth.
The plan which I have followed in these discourses, that is, the simple inductive form of argument which I have preferred, as leaving less ground for cavil, renders it necessary that one discourse should be closely linked with the foregoing, so as to'
have an unbroken idea of the entire argument, to see the influence which the antecedents have upon what follows, and also the strong confirmation which they in their turn receive from that which succeeds them. It is, therefore, perhaps, at the risk of being tedious, that I take the liberty of detaining you a few moments, while I recapitulate one or two points, on which I dwelt at full length in my last discourse. Two things I particularly beg to be remembered; in the first place, the explanation which I gave regarding the foundation of Church authority. You may remember that I did not enter on any arguments, but contented myself with laying before you the whole Catholic system-showing the connexion of one part with another; and I endeavoured to account to you every step in the process for reasoning, which might be necessary to arrive at its full demonstration. I observed, therefore, that in the Church of Christ was a body of rulers and teachers, selected in the first instance, by our blessed Saviour Himself, from among the most fervent of His followers, to whom He confided certain doctrines, and laws, coupled with sure pledges, that those who succeeded them should be the depositaries, and inheritors of whatsoever He had conferred on them; and, consequently, of the promises expressly given, that He would himself teach through that body in the Church, and be himself the director of all its counsels, until the end of time.* Hence, the Catholic believes, that, the Church of Christ consists of the body of the faithful united with its pastors, among whom Christ resides, and through whom He teaches; so, that, it is impossible for the Church to fall into error. And as we admit, at the same time, that no new revelation of doctrines can be made, so do we believe, that the power of the Church consists in nothing more, than defining that which was believed from all times, and in all her dominion. Such is the authority of the Church according to Catholic principles.
The second point to which I beg to recall your attention, although it was only incidentally mentioned, is an important link of connexion, with what I am going to explain this
* Leut. iii. p. 63.