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It is most important in the discussion of this subject not to mix up the pretensions of Peter with those of his pretended successors. With respect to the latter, scripture and the evidence of antiquity are equally hostile to their claims ; whereas for the primacy of Peter there is some colour, although no real foundation, in the Scriptures, and much to be gathered in favour of it from the writings of the fathers. It is always the endeavour of Romanists to represent the prerogatives of Peter and those of the popes as precisely similar, in the same way that they pretend to consider the church of Christ and the church of Rome as one; the Protestant advocate will therefore carefully separate the apostle, from the anti-apostolic bishops of Rome It will be expedient to examine in the first place, Peter's pretensions to a supremacy over the universal church. In one passage of Scripture Peter is undoubtedly called first. (Matt. c. x. V. 2.) “ The first, Simon, who is called Peter.” But this is not conclusive as to a primacy of rank and power. An apostle might be first in many ways, either as having been the first to believe in Christ, the first to acknowledge his divinity, the first as a disciple, the first as an apostle, all of which are only a primacy in order of time, or he might be first in honour and power. Now Peter was not the first to believe or to confess the divinity of Christ, for we find (John c. i. v. 40.) that Andrew believed before Peter and was first a disciple, and that he brought Peter to Jesus; and the first confession of Christ's divinity that we read of is by Nathanael (John c. 1. v. 49). We are prepared to show by and bye that Peter had no primacy of honour or power, but it is equally certain on the other hand that he was first nominated to be an apostle. (Matt. c. iv. v. 18.) When Christ elected his apostles, Peter was named before Andrew, and then James and John. Now this is precisely the order which is followed by the same apostle and evangelist (c. X. v. 2.) a clear evidence that when he wrote the first Peter," he only intended that Peter was first nominated to be an apostle, that he was first in order of time. Romanists are not wont to lay much stress upon this text; their strongest proof is supposed to be Matt. c. xvi. v. 18. “ Thou art Peter,” &c. Now the first question that we have to determine is, whether Peter answered for himself only, or as the spokesman of the twelve. We have every reason to think that he only expressed to Christ the common creed. For not only had Nathanael, as we have already seen, at a much earlier period made the same confession, but we find the same thing recorded of the apostles themselves. (Matt. c. xiv. v. 33.) When Christ came to them in the boat they adored him saying, “Indeed, thou art the Son of God.” Hence as the revelation of Christ's divinity had been made to them in common with Peter, and as Peter therefore only acted the part of spokesman, it is in the highest degree probable that the promise made to Peter was applicable to the rest. What was the nature of this promise? Romanists inform us that the words imply that Peter, was to be the foundation of the church of Christ. We contend on
the other hand that the “rock meant Christ, and that the feminine noun Petra, was not undesignedly made use of by the Holy Ghost : and in the Douay Bible it is admitted that the Gospel of Matthew was written in Greek as well as in Syriac in the days of the apos
But the most that a Romanist can contend for is that Peter was in a secondary sense the foundation of the Christian church. That Christ was the chief foundation is admitted even by the Douay commentators; and who dare deny this truth, seeing that is so plainly set forth in holy writ? (Jeremiah c. xxviii. v. 16.) A prediction expressly applied by Peter himself to Christ. (Acts c. iv. v. 11. and i Peter c. ii. v. 6.) Whilst it is declared by Paul (1 Cor. c. ii. v. 11.) “ Other foundation no man can lay, but that which is laid, which is Christ Jesus.” The question therefore which we have to decide is, whether Peter or all the twelve were the foundations of the Christian church in a secondary sense? The church of Rome maintains the former, the Reformed churches hold the latter, opinion. Let an infallible teacher, then, decide the question. We find it thus written (Ephes. c. ii. v. 20), “ Built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner-stone." And again (Rev. c. xxi. v. 14), “ And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and in them the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.” But even if Peter had been in a secondary sense the sole foundation of the church of Christ, what would this have availed the church of Rome? In this case no church could have been a Christian church that was not founded on Peter, and all other churches must have derived equal pretensions therefrom with the church of Rome. The church of Jerusalem must have been founded upon Peter before Christianity was known at Rome, and Peter was at Antioch also before he went to Rome. And it will not avail the church of Rome to say that Peter died at Rome and that they possess his body. Even the fathers of the council of Trent have declared that the Nicene creed, in other words, that faith is the sole foundation of the church of Christ. But even if we admit all that the most zealous Romanist can demand, viz. that Peter was the sole foundation of the church, what will this avail the pope as far as his supremacy is in question? Who ever heard of a succession of foundations?' And even if it could be shown that the pope is the foundation, it will by no means follow that because he is the foundation, he is the head also.
The promise of the keys, therefore, alone favours the primacy of the Roman bishops. Now if we have succeeded in showing that the confession of Christ's divinity was common, and that Peter was only the spokesman of the twelve apostles, and that the promise moreover made to him, that he should in a secondary sense be the foundation of the church, extended to all the apostles, a very strong presumption will hence arise, that the promise of the keys also was communicated to Peter's co-apostles. The keys were the ensigns of authority, and the nature of that authority is explained by the words which follow. The church of Rome and the reformed churches are at issue on the interpretation of this text. The former confines the promise to Peter, the latter extend it to the other apostles. Let us
again abide by the decision of an infallible expositor. (Matt. c. xviii. v. 18.) The very same authority is given to them all.* This must be deemed conclusive by every unprejudiced inquirer into the true meaning of the passage.
The Romanist, however, affirms, that if this promise did not confer some peculiar primacy ou Peter, words have lost their meaning. If this be so, the apostles, who not only heard the words, but witnessed the Saviour's manner of speaking, and who were consequently much better qualified to comprehend bis meaning than we are, must have thus understood him. But what is the fact? We find (Mark c. is. v. 33.) that after this confession of Peter, the apostles disputed by the way, which should be the greatest. This, to say the least of it, was the time for our blessed Saviour to have rectified their misapprehension. But on the contrary, we are informed that he de. clared, that “ If any man desire to be first, he shall be last of all, and the minister of all.” Does this import with the notion that he had previously conferred upon Peter, in language so intelligible that no unprejudiced man could mistake its true meaning, the supremacy over the universal church? A second time (Mark c. X. v. 37.) the spirit of ambition displayed itself in the apostles ; and (v. 49) it met with a similar rebuke. Nay so far were the apostles from assigning a Roman Catholic sense to the text in Matt. c. xvi. that they again disputed which should be the greatest just before the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. (Luke c. xxii. v. 24.) It is evident therefore that they never gathered from the words which are to be found in Matt. c. xvi. that Peter was to have the supremacy of honour and authority in the church.
The other passage which the church of Rome advances to support the claims of her bishop is extracted from John c, xxi. v. 15, where Peter is twice enjoined by Jesus to feed his lambs and once to feed his sheep. Now for argument's sake, let us expound these words after the Romish fashion, let us admit that the lambs mean the laity, that the sheep signify the clergy,and that the words“ Feed my sheep,” mean, “ Feed my sheep of the universal church.” Can any argument be derived from this admission in favour of Peter's supremacy? We contend that there cannot; and for this reason, that an equally large commission was conferred by Christ upon all the apostles, so that this threefold injunction evidently referred to the threefold denial of Peter. And it would have been strange indeed had Peter been grieved, when he was invested with so great an authority. We find (Matt. c. xxviii. v. 19,) that the apostles were generally commissioned to teach all nations. And if these words do not imply an universal commission, what words can do so?
Let us next consult the acts of the apostles to see whether there is recorded any act of supremacy on the part of Peter. We look
# As this passage is rendered in the Douay version, “ Whatsoever you," instead of whatsoever ye,' shall bind upon earth,” it is as well to be prepared with the passage from the Vulgate, where it is in the second person plural ; Quæcumque alligaveritis super terram,” &c.—(Biblia Sacra Vulgatæ editionis, Sixti. V. Pont. Mar. jussu recognita et Clementis. VIII. auctoritate edita.-Coloniæ Agrippinæ, 1638.)
for it in vain. When the time arrived for the filling up of the vacant apostleship, Peter indeed opened the matter, but the decision was on the part of all (Acts c. i. v. 23), and the election was by lot. When deacons were to be appointed, the decision again was common (Acts c. vi: v. 2), and the election was made by the saints. Upon the propriety of preaching to the gentiles, they who were of the circumcisiou contended with Peter (Acts c. xi. v. 2), and it was not until he had related to them how he had been favoured with a vision from God, that they acquiesced in the propriety of his conduct. At the council of Jerusalem, Peter, Paul, and Barnabas, were heard on the question of circumcising the gentile converts (Acts c. xv. v. 7). But the only language which savours of authority proceeded from the mouth of James, “ for which cause I judge.” The decision was made by the apostles, ancients, and the whole church (v. 22), and the letter that was written did not commence with the words,“ I, Peter, father of fathers, vicar of Jesus Christ, &c. &c., but was penned in the name of all the apostles (v. 23). Peter never assumed in his epistles any of the titles which have been usurped by the Bishop of Rome. Christ, his Lord, is set forth by him as the prince of pastors, and the shepherd and bishop of souls, and Peter modestly describes himself as being only an elder or ancient of the church (1 Pet. c. v. v. 1). Paul does not hesitate to say of himself, that he was not a whit behind the chiefest of the apostles. And he has not only recorded, but moreover justified, bis open opposition to Peter (Gal. c. ii. v. 11), a fact which is utterly irreconcilable with Peter's primacy.
Hence the language of Scripture is decidedly hostile even to the supremacy of Peter.
With respect to the Fathers, in their interpretation of the passage Thou art Peter,they present us with a very happy confusion. Augustine also declares, that when Christ said to Peter, Feed my sheep, he said it through him to all his apostles. Bound, therefore, as the Romish clergy and laity are, to interpret Scripture only according to the unanimous agreement of the fathers, they have no right to give any interpretation at all to either Matt. xvi. or John xxi. With respect however, to the primacy of Peter, the fathers, whether owing to interpolation or not we cannot say, are tolerably unanimous upon this head. But they do not agree in ascribing to Peter such a primacy as is assigned to him by the church of Rome. Eusebius says that Peter was first for virtue or courage. Theodoret calls him the legs of the church; Gregory the Great says that he was the first member, and that all were members under one head; and Cyprian says that he was first for the sake of unity ; but that all the apostles were equal in power. And whereas Chrysostom and others speak in high-flown language of Peter's prerogatives; what can be stronger than Chrysostom's eulogy of Paul, or Gregory Nazianzen's eulogy of Athanasius!
Hence, if there be no foundation whatever in holy writ for Peter's supremacy, there is scarcely a more satisfactory groundwork for it in the writings of the primitive bishops.
Let us, however, to indulge the Romanist, concede for argument's
sake, that Peter was the divinely-appointed head of the universal church. This admission will avail him nothing unless he can establish two points--Ist. That the prerogatives of Peter were to be continued by succession. 2ndly. That that succession was vested in the bishoprick of Rome. The office of Moses as a legislator was not continued by succession. To Jeremiah it was said—“I have set thee this day over the nations and over kingdoms,” &c. (c. i. v. 10). This power did not pass to succeeding priests or prophets. The gift of miracles and prophecy, which was undoubtedly possessed by Peter, is not claimed by the popes. Where do we find in the word of God any mention made of a succession in the primacy of the church? Peter first established the church of Jerusalem, he resided at Antioch, and Mark, his disciple, preached at Alexandria. The bishops of these churches have apparently equal claims to the succession with the bishop of Rome. The Romish advocate pretends that Peter, after dwelling seven years at Antioch, resided for the space of 25 years at Rome; and this tradition seems to be borrowed from Jerome. But it is utterly inconsistent with the language of inspiration. Paul, in his Epistle to the Romans, whilst he makes mention of many saints, says not a word of Peter. In bis Epistle to the Colossians, written, as the Douay annotators admit, from Rome, he says of Aristarchus, Mark, and Jesus that is called Justus, who are of the circumcision, “ These only are my helpers in the kingdom of God, who have been a comfort to me, language utterly inconsistent with the fact that Peter was then at Rome. From the Epistle to the Galatians, we learn that after the expiration of between 17 and 18 years Paul met Peter at Antioch ; if then 25 years be added to this, Paul and Peter's crucifixion must have taken place in the time of Vespasian, who killed no Christians, and not in the time of Nero, as is affirmed by the church of Rome, and as is related in the Breviary. To the tradition of Jerome, therefore, which is repugnant to holy writ, we may safely oppose the tradition of Lactantius, which agrees with it, and from this we learn that towards the close of his ministry Peter came to Rome, confirmed the brethren with some miracles, and after a short period suffered martyrdom with Paul. The line of argument therefore by which the papal supremacy must be deduced from this, is as follows :
-Peter was the head of the church; Peter, a short time before bis death, preached at Rome; the emperor Nero crucified him, therefore, Peter's supremacy was to go by succession, and therefore, that succession was vested in the bishops of Rome. A more complete non sequitur can hardly be imagined! With regard to the scriptural title of the bishop of Rome to the supremacy over the church of Christ, it is a nonentity. Paul expressly forewarns the church of Rome, that if she departs from the goodness of God, she shall be cut off, and if the body be cut off, what becomes of the head? Peter, if we are to believe many of the fathers, as well as Cardinal Bellarmine and Dr. Delahogue, dates his letter from Rome as Babylon. Johu, in the Apocalypse, distinctly describes Rome as