Page images
PDF
EPUB

Peter, so that on this depended the fulfilment of the promise, that the gates of hell should not prevail against it, we should expect to find the doctrine often repeated, placed in the clearest and the strongest light, and especially set forth by Peter himself and the other apostles.

Instead of which, the text which is mainly relied upon is a single text, occurring only in St. Matthew's Gospel, and not adverted to by Mark, Luke or John; nor is there any reference to the doctrine in all the acts of the apostles, nor any in the fourteen epistles of St. Paul, the general epistle of St. James, the two epistles of St. Peter himself, the epistle of St. Jude, the three epistles of St. John, and the Apocalypse or book of the Revelations. I do not say that the text is the less true, because it occurs but once. God forbid! But I do say, that whereas the article is maintained to be a cardinal part of the faith, and one which must have been brought into constant practical operation if the Roman view of it be true, it is unaccountable that we should never see it stated but once, and that, as I trust I have shown, in a manner which admits of a very different explication.

Manifest it is, that if the Saviour designed St. Peter to have been the prince, ruler and governor of the other apostles and of the whole Church, St. Peter himself must have known the fact, and felt it to be his solemn duty to make it known to others. How is it, then, that in St. Mark's Gospel-the Gospel which is universally acknowledged to contain the preaching of St. Peter-there is not one word about the matter? Again, we have two epistles of St. Peter's own writing, in which ingenuity itself cannot find one word that can be twisted into the shape of superior authority. The first begins thus: "Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to the strangers dispersed throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia." The second commences in a similar style: "Simon Peter, a servant and an apostle of Jesus Christ, to them who have

obtained equal faith with us," addressed, doubtless, to the same persons as the former one, because, in the 3d chapter of it he saith, "Behold, this is the second epistle I write to you, my dearly beloved." In contrast with this, we have a Catholic or general epistle from the pen of the apostle Jude, and another from the apostle James. Why, if Peter supposed himself the ruler of the whole Church, did not he leave behind him at least some Catholic or general epistles? St. John, the other son of thunder, addresses Christians by the name, sometimes, of Little children, sometimes, Infants, sometimes, Fathers; but his favourite title is Little children. Whereas St. Peter only uses one appellation, and that is, Brethren. St. Paul speaks strongly of discipline, of the delivering of men unto

tan that they may learn not to blaspheme, and of his apostolic rod; but there is not a word of all this in the two epistles of him, who is imagined to be the prince, the ruler, the very VICEGERENT OF CHRIST. How could this be so, if St. Peter were what the Church of Rome supposes?

But this is far from being the whole of the Scriptural evidence against this claim. For we read, in the Gospels, of many occasions, on which the apostles disputed who should be the greatest; from which it is manifest, that this very question of supremacy was frequently discussed amongst them, and in every instance our blessed Lord discouraged it, and inculcated an humble equality. Thus, (Matt. xx. 25) when the mother of James and John desired a superior place for her children, and the other apostles were moved with indignation, we read, that "Jesus called them to him and said; you know that the princes of the Gentiles lord it over them; and they that are the greater exercise power upon them. It shall not be so among you; but whosoever will be the greater among you, let him be your minister; and he who would be the first among you, shall be your servant.”

Again, (Matt. xxiii. 8) warning his apostles against the love

of superior station, he saith: "Be ye not called Rabbi: for one is your Master, and all ye are brethren."

Again, (Luke ix. 46) we read, that "there entered a thought into them, which of them should be the greater. But Jesus, seeing the thoughts of their heart, took a child and set him by him; and said to them: Whosoever shall receive this child in my name, receiveth me; and whosoever shall receive me, receiveth him that sent me. For he that is the least among you all, he is the greatest."

Again, (Luke xxi. 24) "There was a strife amongst them, which of them should seem to be the greater. And he said to them: the kings of the Gentiles lord it over them, and they that have power over them are called benefactors. But you not so: but he who is the greatest among you, let him be as the least, and he that is the leader as he that serveth. For which is greater, he that sitteth at table or he that serveth? Is not he that sitteth at table? But I am in the midst of you as he that serveth; and you are they who have continued with me in my temptations; and I appoint unto you, as my Father hath appointed to me, a kingdom. That you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and may sit upon thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel."

Now all these instances of the apostles' solicitude upon the point of supremacy, are quoted from the Roman Catholic version, called the Doway Bible, and they are all related as having occurred after the promise of the keys, with the assurance that the Church should be built upon the rock, which every Roman theologian supposes to signify the grant of this supremacy to Peter. So that neither Peter nor his brethren could possibly have understood our Saviour's words according to the doctrine of the Church of Rome, for if they had, they surely would not afterwards have disputed which of them should be the greatest. That point, at least, they must have looked upon as settled in Peter's favour, and have treated

him with deference accordingly. Neither does it seem to me that the various reproofs of our Lord are consistent with the Roman interpretation; for on that ground, would he not have rebuked their want of acquiescence in his declared will, and have reminded them that he had constituted Peter their governor and chief already?

Passing on from the Gospels to the Acts of the Apostles, Peter appears prominently on several important occasions, as a speaker, a preacher, and a worker of miracles; but in no instance does he assert or exercise any superior power or dominion. So far from it, that on some of these, he looks like one more ruled than ruling. Thus, when the conversion of the Samaritans, through the ministry of Philip, was made known to the apostles who were in Jerusalem, (Acts viii. 14) "they sent to them Peter and John." Here is an inversion of authority. Instead of Peter sending the other apostles, they send him. Again, (Acts xi. 2) when Peter returned from the conversion and baptism of Cornelius, and was "come up to Jerusalem, they who were of the circumcision disputed against him :" and Peter explains the whole matter, concluding by saying, "Who was I, that I could oppose God?" Neither he nor his accusers on this occasion, seem to have had any notion of his superior dignity, as the prince of the apostles and vicegerent of Christ.

Again, (Acts xv.) we read, that the apostles and elders came together to consider the question, whether the Gentile converts should be bound by the ceremonial law. And this is what the Roman Catholic doctors call the first Apostolic Council. But it certainly does not appear that Peter summoned this Council, nor that he presided over it, nor that he opened the proceedings, nor that he framed its definitive decree, nor that he performed any act of distinct approbation; nearly all of which would have belonged to his office, according to the Roman theory. "The apostles and elders came to

L

gether," saith the Scripture. "When there was much disputing, Peter rose up," and delivered his opinion. After he had concluded, Barnabas and Paul related "what great signs and wonders God had wrought among the Gentiles by them." “And after they had held their peace, James answered, saying; men, brethren, hear me. Simon hath told in what manner God first visited the Gentiles, to take out of them a people to his name. And to this agree the words of the prophets." "Wherefore I JUDGE," continues the apostle James, "that they who from among the Gentiles are converted to God, are not to be disquieted." "Then it pleased the apostles and ancients, with the whole Church, to choose men of their own company, and to send them to Antioch, with Paul and Barnabas, Judas who was surnamed Barsabas, and Silas, chief men among the brethren, writing by their hand: The apostles and ancients, brethren, to the brethren of the Gentiles, greeting," &c. Now throughout this whole important transaction, it is impossible to reconcile the facts with the Roman doctrine. For had St. Peter been then acknowledged as the ruler and chief, the vicegerent of Christ, to whose care the whole Church, apostles and all, had been committed, his single judgment would have been sufficient without any council; or at least, when the council assembled, he would have presided instead of James, and in the final decree, his name would have been specially set forth as the authoritative ruler of the whole

....

matter.

But the evidence of Scripture does not rest here. We find the whole of the remaining portion of the book of the Acts, which is much the greater part, devoted chiefly to the labours of St. Paul, and Peter is hardly named again. Nor, if we take the sacred record in its own integrity, does there seem any room to doubt, that if the supremacy of one apostle over the others had been a part of the divine system, the claim of St. Paul to that supremacy would stand on by far the stronger

« PreviousContinue »