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other than God, who is orer all, blessed for evermore. Is not he God who has the keys of the grave, who holds the sceptre of universal nature, who has the infernal spirits in a chain, and receives the homage of all created beings ? This is a true saying, worthy of all acceptation; and proved beyond all contradiction, that the same Jesus, who came into the world to save sinners, is both Lord and Christ. It is impossible for words to express a more consoling doctrine, and equally impossible for any fact, to receive a more clear, satisfactory, and indispu. table confirmation.
ST. PETER AND THE KEYS.
Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my
church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth, shall be bound in heaven, and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth, shall be loosed in heaven. Matt. xvi. 18, 19.
PROPER names, in the Hebrew language, were titles rather than names, ---Words expressive of some peculiar quality, in the persons, to whom they were first given : this was more particularly the case, when a person's name was changed. The new name was always significant: and for the most part, when conferred by divine authority, predictive of some peculiarity in the character, the life, the achievements, or the destiny of the person, on whom it was imposed. Thus when God renewed his covenant with Abram, and engaged to multiply him exceedingly,
the name of this patriarch was changed to Abraham, which name in the Hebrew language signifies; the father of a great multitude : and for a like reason, when one of the apostles, known before by the name of Simon, had made a memorable confession of his masters being the Christ, the Son of the living God, that is, the Redeemer, the Prince of Israel, the Messiah foretold, our blessed Lord, to give weight and emphasis to this confession, bestows a new name upon him. For he answered and said unto him, “ Blessed art thou Simon Bar Jona, for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven,” that is, this faith which thou hast now confessed, is not human, contrived by the invention of man, or founded upon his testiomony ; but upon those divine councils and principles, which I was sent from heaven, to reveal to the world, and the mighty and solemn attestations, which God has given to the truth, both of my person and my doctrine ; therefore to express my approbation of thy conduct, for thus publickly and heartily avowing a sentiment, which is the fundamental article of my religion; and at the same time, to signify
to thee, the honour with which I mean to reward thee for it, I further say unto thee, thou art Peter, a name signifying a rock, and suitable to that name, shall be thy work and office, for upon thy preaching and confession, as upon a rock, will I build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.*
* This exposition was embraced by ancient Popes,— “ In vera fide persistite, et vitam vestram in Petra ecclesiæ ædificate, hoc est, in confessione B. Petri, apostolorum principis soliditate.” Greg. M. Ep. iii. 33. “Continue in the true faith, and establish your life upon the rock of the church, that is, on the confession of blessed Peter, in solidity, the prince of the apostles.
The expression of the gates of hell, describes the invisible mansion of departed souls, in allusion to the sepulchres of the Jews, and other eastern nations, under the image of a place secured by barricaded gates, through which there is no escape, to those who have once been compelled to enter. In this sense, our Saviour promises a final triumph over the grave. Firmly as the gates of hades may be barred, they shall have no power to confine departed saints, when the last trumpet shall sound, and the voice of the archangel shall thunder through the deep.
In its militant state, the promise of perpetual sta. bility, belongs to the true church, to the last moment of the world's existence, and the time will never be, when a true church of God shall not be, somewhere, subsisting upon earth, but it affords no security to any particular church, if her faith or her works shall not be found perfect before God. Of this, history furnishes but too . It is not necessary, in combating novel applications, and overthrowing unfounded claims, to do violence to marks of favor and distinction, which however they might extend, as indeed they did, in the main particulars, to others, yet were first discovered, and first pledged to St. Peter. The common sentiments of mankind, on the ground of ordinary reason and propriety, allow the celebrity which is due to those, who stand foremost, though but in point of time and order among men. The first man, the first born in the families of men, the first foot that enters on a new found region-the first born from the dead, (the exclusive privilege of our blessed abundant proof in the example of churches, once illustrious, planted by the apostles, watered by the blood of the first saints and martyrs, which are now no more. Where are the seven churches of Asia ? where are those boasted seals of St. Paul's apostleship, the churches of Corinth and Philippi ? where are the churches of Jerusalem and Alexandria ? Whatever may be raised by man upon any other foundation than this Rock of St. Peter's confession, God manifest in the flesh to destroy the works of the devil, however it may assume the name of a church, is no part of Christ's building, and has no title to his divine protection. The work of the builders, with their foundations of sand, and superstruc. tures of hay and stubble, shall perish, and it will be as by fire, if they themselves are saved.