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ground. Peter was indeed called first, and Paul last; but it is altogether consistent with many other parts of the divine economy, that the last should be first, and that the elder should serve the younger. The call of Peter was like that of the other apostles; but Paul was the subject of prophecy, he was converted by a vision, and was chosen in connexion with a miracle. His labours, his giits, his sufferings, his share in the Scriptures of the New Testament, of which his writings form a larger portion than half the other authors put together, -his comprehensive, deep, and wonderful knowledge of divine truth-his being raised up into heaven, where he heard things not lawful for man to utter-take the whole of this together, brethren, and surely it cannot be disputed, that the weight of Scriptural evidence is greatly in his favour.
I shall add but two observations more to this protracted examination of the Word of God, upon the point before us. The one is, that St. Paul himself allows no supremacy to Peter. For this is his language in his epistle to the Galatians :“ James and Cephas and John, who seemed to be pillars, gave to me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship, that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcision.” Now here, brethren, we have Peter or Cephas named along with James and John, but not named first, nor with any kind of distinction. St. Paul merely says of the whole three, that they seemed to be pillars; and then expressly asserts, that he and Barnabas were to go to the Gentiles, and Peter to the circumcision. Where is Peter's supremacy, his government over the whole Church, his prerogative of authority as the vicegerent of Christ? Only imagine the Pope of Rome to be placed in this unceremonious style between two other bishops, and the contrast presented by his assumption of dignity on the one hand, and the unpretending equality of the apostle whose successor he calls himself on the other, will be manifest and plain.
The last point which I design to notice, is the clear proof afforded by the Acts of the Apostles, that St. Paul was expressly designed, in the order of Providence, to establish the Church at Rome; whereas St. Peter's being there would seem to have been merely incidental. So that, on a survey of the whole Scriptural evidence, we may surely conclude, that the doctrine of St. Peter's supremacy, together with the founding upon it the dominion of the Pope, and the making this dominion an article of faith necessary to every man's salvation, presents a combination of mistaken argument and melancholy intolerance, of which the history of the Christian Church affords no parallel, and which it is impossible to reflect upon without the strongest emotions of astonishment and sorrow.
You have probably anticipated the avowal, however, that the kind of evidence on which the advocates of Roman supremacy most confidently rely, is not derived from the Scriptures, but from the fathers. And to this branch of testimony, brethren, I am ready to appeal, and trust we shall be able to dispose of it satisfactorily, in our next lecture. We shall close the present by a brief recurrence to Dr. Wiseman's own argument on another point of his case, in order to show the manifest inconsistency of his premises with his conclusion.
Contending for the superiority of the Christian over the Jewish dispensation, in which we distinctly concur, and designing to derive from this an argument for the Church's infallibility, which we as distinctly deny, he observes, (p. 19) “the prophets in the first place, were the types of Jesus Christ, and we see Jesus Christ himself come and take their place, assuming here their ministry, promising to remain with his new kingdom, teaching therein always to the consummation of the world."
You perceive, brethren, that our learned advocate here asserts the abiding presence of Christ with the Church. In this we agree; but I ask for what purpose, then, serves the doctrine
of the pope's vicegerency? A vicegerent amongst earthly governments is one who holds the place and discharges the functions of an absent monarch. But Christ, our King, is not absent. His own gracious promise was given, to be with his apostles and their successors ALWAYS. Wherever two or three are gathered together in his name, he is pledged to be in the midst of them. To use the expressive figure of the book of Revelation, “He walketh among the seven golden candlesticks,” He unites with the assemblies of his people in his sanctuaries; yea, He enters into the secret chamber of their inmost thoughts, He searcheth the hearts and trieth the reins of the children of men. And does He stand in need of a vicegerent? And shall a poor, infirm mortal, talk of being the vicar of the divine, the omnipresent, the omnipotent Son of God? Alas! which of the acts of Christ can this imaginary vicar perform? Can the pope of Rome say to each sorrowing heart throughout the world, “ Thy sins be forgiven thee?” Can he watch over us in the hour of temptation? Can he hear and answer our prayers! Can he strengthen and protect our weakness? Can he mark our secret guilt in the book of his remembrance? Can he favour and bless our humble resolutions of repentance and amendment? O how strange, how strange; to admit that Christ is present, and yet to treat him as if he were absent, and needed a vicegerent! How strange, to acknowledge Christ as God, and yet suppose that a frail man can be his substitute ! How strange, to adore Christ as the glorious King of heaven, and yet imagine that the blessed privilege of admission to his presence, is only to be granted through one weak mortal hand
Let us then, beloved brethren, rest satisfied and thankful in the enjoyment of that Scriptural religion, which beholds the Redeemer with the eye of faith, and receives his promises in their own beautiful simplicity, and seeks his blessing, not in the communion of a supposed earthly vicegerent, but in the living
presence of his Spirit in our souls. Our blessed Lord has built his Church upon himself, the Rock of ages. He has given unto us the ministry of reconciliation. Let all our hearts unite in the confession of the apostle, which acknowledged him to be the Christ, the anointed Saviour, the co-equal Son of the eternal Father; and then shall we be accounted the true citizens of the heavenly Jerusalem,—the eternal city, against which the gates of hell cannot prevail, whose maker and builder is God over all, blessed forever!
Mat. xvi. 15, 19.—Jesus saith to them, But whom do you say that
I am ? Simon Peter answering said, Thou art Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus answering, said to him: Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona; because flesh and blood hath not revealed it to thee, but my Father who is in heaven. And I say unto thee that 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 to thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatsoever thou shalt bind upon earth, it shall be bound also in heaven; and whatsoever thou shalt loose upon earth, it shall be loosed also in heaven.
The text which I have just repeated, my brethren, was the theme of our last lecture, in which we commenced the examination of the cardinal principle of the Roman Catholic faith, the supremacy of the pope, or bishop of Rome, as the source of unity, the fountain of authority, the ruler and pastor of the whole Church throughout the world, holding the dominion of Christ's vicegerent upon earth, to whom obedience and submission are due by every soul, under the penalty of damnation. You recollect that these prerogatives, with many others necessarily implied in them, were attributed to the papacy in substance by Dr. Wiseman, the late and popular advocate of the Roman claims. But that you may the better understand the meaning of the doctrine, I shall here add the still more positive language of the Canon Law, established many centuries ago by the authority of the popes, and designed to furnish the entire legislative system of the Church of Rome, in distinct terms, for general observation.