Page images

"The Pope," saith this Canon law, "by the Lord's appointment, is the successor of the blessed apostle Peter, and holds the place of the Redeemer himself upon the earth."

"The Roman Church, by the appointment of our Lord, is the mother and mistress of all the faithful."

"The Roman Pontiff bears the authority, not of a mere man, but of the true God upon the earth."

"The Pope holds the place of God in the earth, so that he can confer ecclesiastical benefices without diminution."

"Christ, the King of kings and Lord of lords, gave to the Roman Pontiff, in the person of Peter, the plenitude of power." "Wherever there is any question concerning the privileges of the apostolic chair, they are not to be judged by others. The Pope alone knows how to determine doubts concerning the privileges of the chief apostolic seat."

"It was becoming, since the chief Pontiff represents the person of Christ, that as during Christ's earthly ministry the apostles stood round him, so the assembly of the cardinals. representing the apostolic college, should stand before the Pope: but the rest of the bishops, scattered abroad every where, represent the apostles sent forth to preach the gospel."*

These extracts from the Canon law of the Church of Rome, brethren, will explain more clearly the doctrines of Dr. Wiseman; for although there is no real difference between them, yet his phraseology is not so well adapted to convey distinct ideas of papal supremacy to those who have not had some previous familiarity with the subject.

Now the first evidence relied on to prove his doctrine, as you may remember, was that of Scripture, chiefly consisting of the language of the text. And I showed, as I trust sufficiently, that the Roman exposition of the passage was not consistent with the nature of the metaphor, nor with the other

* Church of Rome, 19, &c.

[ocr errors]

evidence of the divine record: that Peter was indeed a foundation-stone in the spiritual edifice of the Church, but that Christ was the Rock on which the whole Church could alone be founded: that the privileges promised to Peter were afterwards promised to the other apostles, although not actually conferred upon any of them until the resurrection of Christ: that the personal ministry of our Lord, and also of his apostles up to this period, was confined to the Jews, and that it was necessary to offer up the great sacrifice of atonement for the whole world, before the Gospel could consistently be extended to the Gentiles: that the commission actually conferred by the Redeemer just before his ascension into heaven, was the only fulfilment of the promise which he had made before to Peter, and to the other apostles: that this commission was not given in one form to Peter and in another form to the rest, but was a joint authority, given alike to all without the slightest distinction; and that the subsequent history of the acts of the apostles, and the epistles as well of Peter as of Paul, clearly show, that they did not accord to him, nor did he claim, the smallest superiority over them. And having thus gone carefully and largely into the Scriptural evidence, we deferred until the present occasion the examination of the fathers, in which we shall find a strong corroboration of the views which have been set before you.

Let us then, brethren, proceed to the hearing of these primitive witnesses and interpreters of Scripture, and thus obtain the opinion of those to whom the Church of Rome so confidently appeals. Before commencing our examination, however, it may be as well to mention a few matters, necessary to be borne in mind, in order that we may properly appreciate the nature and importance of this kind of testimony. In the first place, then, let it be observed, that the earliest or oldest writers are always the best witnesses of facts belonging to the apostolic age, because they lived nearest to the times when the facts occurred, while those who come after them cannot have

an equal opportunity to test the truth or falsehood of their allegations. And as, amongst the writers called the fathers, we have the names of eminent men who lived in different centuries, we must carefully distinguish between their evidence on this very ground; always remembering that the earliest witnesses must be the most trustworthy, not because of their greater integrity, but because the apostolic doctrine must needs have been best known to those who lived nearest to the apostolic day.

Let me next call to your recollection the statement of Dr. Wiseman, that, in order to establish the doctrine of Roman supremacy, they are bound to show, first, that Peter was made the ruler over the other apostles and the whole Church; next, that he established himself as the bishop of Rome; and lastly, that he left his prerogatives to his successors, who, by virtue of his rights, are to be acknowledged as the vicegerents of Christ himself throughout the world.

Now the testimony of the fathers after the 4th century may be cited on both sides of the argument, which very diversity proves that the doctrine itself was not established even at that period. But we shall prove to you, that however the later fathers may be found to vary from each other, the earlier fathers do all, for the first four hundred years of the Christian era, testify distinctly against the present doctrine of the Church of Rome, and the greater part interpret the proof-texts on which the doctrine of the papacy relies, not according to the Roman explanation of them, but according to our own.

Having premised these general observations, I proceed to the proof adduced from certain chosen witnesses of our author, and will commence with those passages on which he professes to place his chief dependence.

He begins by quoting Irenæus, the bishop of Lyons, who lived in the next generation after the apostle John, to prove the episcopate of St. Peter and the superior spiritual headship of

the Church of Rome; although, in truth, the evidence proves neither the one nor the other. It is as follows: "As it would be tedious," saith Irenæus, "to enumerate the whole list of successors, I shall confine myself to that of Rome, the greatest, and most ancient, and most illustrious Church, founded by the glorious apostles Peter and Paul, receiving from them her doctrine, which was announced to all men, and which through the succession of her bishops, is come down to us. To this Church, on account of its stronger principality, every other Church must resort, that is, the faithful round about from every quarter. They, therefore, having founded and instructed this Church, committed the episcopal administration thereof to Linus, to him succeeded Anacletus, then in the third place Clement, to Clement succeeded Evaristus, to him Alexander, and then Sixtus, who was followed by Telesphorus, Hyginus, Pius, and Anicetus. But Soter having succeeded Anicetus, Eleutherius, the twelfth from the apostles, now governs the Church." (p. 232.)

This passage is one of the most valuable remnants of antiquity, greatly relied upon by the Church of Rome, and triumphantly repeated by all her writers: and yet, when carefully and accurately examined, I have no hesitation in saying that it is utterly hostile to their claims. Let me ask your attention, brethren, to a brief analysis of the case, as presented by this, their own chosen witness.

First then, the Church of Rome asserts, that St. Peter was bishop of Rome for twenty-five years, and left his prerogative to his successor. But Irenæus says that this Church was founded by St. Peter and St. Paul, and that they committed the episcopal government of it to Linus. Now observe, here, that Irenæus not only says nothing of Peter's being the first bishop himself, but states what is totally inconsistent with such a supposition. For the Church of Rome allows that there cannot be two bishops at once in the same city or in the same

diocese; and therefore, since Irenæus expressly declares that both Peter and Paul founded the Church of Rome, and committed the episcopal charge of it to Linus, thereby uniting the two apostles in the whole work, it results manifestly, either that they both acted as the bishops of Rome; which, by their own rule, is impossible; or that they acted in the matter, not as bishops, but as apostles, which is indeed the truth. But if this be the truth of Irenæus' testimony, it establishes our position, that neither Peter nor Paul was the first bishop of Rome, but Linus; and this fact alone is fatal to the claims of papal supremacy, since it places its whole argument upon the assumption that St. Peter was the first bishop of Rome, and that the popes are his successors.

In the next place, the greatness of the Church of Rome is here spoken of by Irenæus in strong terms; and he tells us that the whole Church, that is, the faithful from every quarter, must resort to that Church, on account of its stronger principality. Now our ingenious advocate for papal supremacy would have us suppose, that the principality here mentioned is the pre-eminence which Rome enjoyed by reason of her having been the see or bishoprick of Peter, who was the prince of the apostles. But our witness, Irenæus, says no such thing. The word principality is not, as we all know, a term which properly belongs to the authority of Churches, or the government of bishops. A bishop is an overseer, not a prince, in the true meaning of his office. And the circle of his jurisdiction is a diocese, not a principality. Therefore we perceive that the stronger principality which, according to Irenæus, gave preeminence to the Church of Rome in the second century, was a superiority derived from the prince, and not from the bishop. Rome was then the political mistress of the world, because it was the seat of the imperial government. In it was the royal palace of the Cesars, and the capitol from which the decrees of the senate went forth throughout the globe. Within its

« PreviousContinue »