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Mark viii. 28.
Matt. xvi. 14.
but some say, Elias ;
And Simon Peter answered and said, 'Thou Matt. xvi. 16. art the Christ, the Son of the living God 18.
r John vi. 69.
18 ON THE CONFESSION OF ST. PETER.
Our Lord had now, by his miracles, teaching, and conduct, so-impressed on the minds of his Apostles the certainty that he was the Messiah, whom they had expected, that St. Peter makes the fullest confession of his faith, in the most energetic language. Our Lord immediately addresses him in that remarkable language, which has been said, by the Church of Rome, to be the immoveable foundation of her undoubted supremacy and her exclusive privileges, as the depositary of truth, and of her consequent infallibility, as the director and instructor of the world. The question therefore is, whether the confession made by St. Peter was the rock on which the Church of Christ was to be founded, or whether the Apostle himself was that rock. The most eminent of the ancient Fathers have espoused the former opinion. Chrysostom (a) interprets the passage τη πέτρα-τουτέστι τη πίστει της ομολογίας, upon the rock, that is, upon the faith of his profession.
The most probable meaning of the passage appears to be that which shall comprise both of the controverted senses. St. Peter was always the most zealous of the Apostles, and to him was reserved the honour of first preaching the Gospel to the Gentiles. The probable reason why our Lord addressed himself particularly to Peter was, that he happened to be the first who had acknowledged Him as the Christ the Son of the living God. St. Peter generally proved himself the chief speaker, and he continued to do so after our Lord's ascension, without, however, assuming the least degree of authority over the rest of the apostles. The occasion of our Lord's addressing Peter was the confession the Apostle had just made; and He may be considered as speaking prophetically, when he said, pointing to or resting his hand upon the Apostle, thou art Peter, and on thee, as the first preacher to the Gentiles, and on this confession, which thou shalt preach to them, I will establish my Church.-Beza, Lightfoot, Bishop Burgess, in his treatise inserted in a collection of tracts lately published, and many others, among whom may be reckoned some of the Popes themselves, have espoused this conclusion. Bishop Marsh,' however, in his work on the Comparison between the Churches of England and Rome ; Grotius, Michaelis, Whitby, with Pere Simon, and the Romanists in general, have adopted the latter opinion.
Among other of the Protestant writers who have strenuously advocated the opinion that Christ and not St. Peter was the founder of the Christian Church, we meet with the venerable name of the late Granville Sharp. The assumption of supremacy over all the Churches of Christ by the Church of Rome, filled him
(a) Vide Elsley in loc. who quotes Chrys, in Matt. xvi. 18. and Tom. 5, or 163.
Matt. xvi. 17.
And Jesus answered, and said unto him, Blessed Cæsarea
Philippi. art thou, Simon Bar-jona : for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my
Father which is in heaven.
with astonishment. He was induced, in consequence, to pay particular attention to the passage upon which this arrogant claim was supported, and the result of his examination is here annexed. The Greek word tempos, he observes, does not mean a rock, though it has indeed a relative meaning to the word metpa, a rock; for it signifies only a little piece of rock, or a stone, that has been dug out of a rock; whereby the dignity of the real foundation intended by our Lord, which he expressed by the prophetical figure of Petra (a rock,) must necessarily be understood to bear a proportionable superiority of dignity and importance above the other preceding word petros; as petra, a real rock, is comparatively superior to a mere stone, or particle from the rock; because a rock is the regular figurative expression in Holy Scripture for a Divine Protector; vyko man', Jehovah (is my rock,) 2 Sam. xxii. 2. and Psa. xviii. 2. Again, 179 obx, my God (is) my rock, (2 Sam. xxii. 2. and Psa. xviii. 2.) and again, nyban 77 737 abx and who (is) a rock, except our God? 2 Sam. xxii. 32.
That our Lord really referred to this declaration of Peter, relating to his own divine dignity, as being the true rock, on which he would build his Church, is established beyond contradiction by our Lord himself, in the clear distinction which he maintained between the stone (Tetpos, petros,) and the rock (Terpa, petra,) by the accurate grammatical terms in which both these words are expressly recorded. For whatsoever may have been the language in which they were really spoken, perhaps in Chaldee or Syriac, yet in this point the Greek record is our only authoritative instructor. The first word, Tetpos, being a masculine noun, signifies merely a stone ; and the second word, Terpa, though it is a feminine noun, cannot signify any thing of less magnitude and importance than a rock, or strong inountain of defence.
With respect to the first. The word Tetpos, petros, in its highest figurative sense of a stone, when applied to Peter, can represent only one true believer, or faithful member of Christ's Church, that is, one out of the great multitude of true believers in Christ, who, as figurative stones, form altogether the glorious spiritual building of Christ's Church, and not the foundation on which that Church is built ; because that figurative character cannot, consistently with truth, be applied to any other person than to God, or to Christ alone. And though even Christ himself is sometimes, in Holy Scripture, called a stone, (λιθος, but not πετρος,) yet whenever this figurative expression is applied to him, it is always with such a clear distinction of superiority over all other figurative stones, as will not admit the least idea of any vicarial stone to be substituted in his place; as, for instance, he is called, “ the head stone of the corner,” (Psa. cxviii. 22.)—" in Zion a precious corner stone,” (Isa. xxviii. 16.) by whom alone the other living stones of the spiritual house are rendered “ acceptable to God;" as St. Peter himself (previous to his citation of that text of Isaiah) has 'clearly declared, in his address to the Churches dispersed throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, wherein he manifestly explains that very text of Isaiah, as follows:—“Ye also,” says the Apostle, “as living stones, are built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sa
also unto thee, That thou art Pe- Matt. vi. 18. and
upon this rock I will build my Church ; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
crifices acceptable to God, by (or through) Jesus Christ.” (1 Pet. ii. 5.) Thus plainly acknowledging the true foundation, on which the other living stones of the primitive Catholic Church were built, in order to render them “ acceptable to God," as a “holy priesthood."
From this whole argument of St. Peter, it is manifest that there cannot be any other true head of the Church than Christ himself; so that the pretence for setting up a vicarial head on earth, is not only contrary to St. Peter's instruction to the eastern Churches, long after Christ's ascent into heaven; but also (with respect to the inexpediency and impropriety of acknowledging such a vicar on earth as the Roman pretender,) is equally contrary to our Lord's own instruction to his disciples (and, of course, also contrary to the faith of the true primitive Catholic Church throughout the whole world,) when he promised them that, “Where two or three are gathered together in my name, (said our Lord Jesus, the true rock of the Church,) there am I in the midst of them," Matt. xviii. 20.
So that the appointment of any vicar on earth, to represent that rock, or eternal head of the Church, whose continual presence, even with the smallest congregations on earth, is so expressly promised, would be not only superfluous and vain, but must also be deemed a most ungrateful affront to the benevolent Promiser of his continual presence ; such as must have been suggested by our spiritual enemies, to promote an apostacy from the only sure foundation, on which the faith, hope, and confidence of the true Catholic Church could be built and supported.
A due consideration also of the second noun, Terpa, a rock, will demonstrate that the supreme title of the rock, which, in other texts of Holy Scripture, is applied to Jehovah, or God, alone, most certainly was not intended by our Lord to be understood as applicable to his disciple Peter; but only to that true testimony which St. Peter had just before declared, concerning the divine dignity of the Messiah-" Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
I have already remarked, that terpa, a rock, is a feminine noun ; and a clear distinction is maintained between Tetpos, the masculine noun in this text, and the said feminine noun terpa, the rock, by the grammatical terms in which the latter, in its relatives and articles, is expressed, which are all regularly feminine throughout the whole sentence, and thereby they demonstrate that our Lord did not intend that the new appellation, or nominal distinction, which he had just before given to Simon, (viz. Tetpos, the masculine noun, in the beginning of the sentence) should be construed as the character of which he spoke in the next part of the sentence ; for, if he had really intended that construction, the same masculine noun, Tetpos, must necessarily have been repeated in the next part of the sentence with a masculine pronoun, viz. ETL TOUTY TO TETPY, instead of Enı tavTY TY Tetpa, the present text; wherein, on the contrary, not only the gender is changed from the masculine to the feminine, but also the figurative character itself, which is as much superior in dignity to the apostle Simon, and also to his new appellative Terpos, as a rock is superior to a mere stone. For the word netpos cannot signify any thing more than a stone ; so that the Popish application to Peter (or pretpos) as the foundation of Christ's Matt. xvi. 19. * And I will give unto thee the keys of the Cæsarca
kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt Philippi. bind on earth shall be bound in heaven : and
t John xx. 23.
· Church, is not only inconsistent with the real meaning of the appellative, which Christ at that very time conferred upon him, and with the necessary grammatical construction of it, but also with the figurative importance of the other word, Terpa, the rock ; eri tavTY TY TEPÇ, "upon this rock,” he declared the foundation of the Church, a title of dignity, which, as I have already shewn by several texts of Scripture, is applicable only to God or to Christ.
And observe farther, that the application of this supreme title (the rock) to Peter, is inconsistent, above all, with the plain reference to the preceding context, made by our Lord in the beginning of this very verse" And I also say unto thee,” which manifestly points out, both by the copulativ " and," and the connective adverb “ also," the inseparable connexion of this verse with the previous declaration of Peter, concerning our Lord's divine dignity in the preceding sentence, “ Thou art the Christ the Son of the living God;" and thereby demonstrates that our Lord's immediate reply, (" And I also say unto thee," &c. did necessarily include this declaration of Peter, as being the principal object of the sentence—the true foundation or rock, on which alone the Catholic Church can be properly built, because our faith in Christ (that he is truly “the Son of the living God,") is unqnestionably the only security, or rock, of our salvation.
And Christ was also the rock, even of the primitive Church of Israel ; for St. Paul testifies, that "they (i. e. the hosts of Israel) did all drink of that spiritual drink, for they drank of that spiritual rock that followed them, and that rock was Christ," 1 Cor. x. 4. And the apostle, in a preceding chapter (1 Cor. iii.
“ other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ."
It would exceed all due limits to attempt to discuss at full length the controversies which have divided Christians, when the peculiar passages of Scripture upon which each controversy principally depends, passes under consideration. The observations of Granville Sharp, which I have now extracted, appear to be deserving of attention. The various points which separate the Catholic and Protestant Church, will soon perhaps compel the more serious attention of the Protestant world, by the general revival and increase of Popery, and the re-action in its favour in a neighbouring country. And it may be considered the bounden duty of every theological student to make himself acquainted with the controversy existing between the Churches of England and Rome (b).
The political discussions respecting the extent of the privileges which the state may conveniently assign to the members of the Church of Rome, have of late years so entirely absorbed public attention, that they have almost superseded the religious argument, which is by far the most important part of the controversy ; inasmuch as mistaken religious principle is the root of that system of action, which originally excited the vigilance of the legislature, and still requires a watchful superintendence.
(6) See on this subject the tracts of the Bishop of St. David's—the tracts against Popery. The ninth volume of Bishop Hall's Works. Bishop Bull's reply to the Bishop of Meaux, Barrow's Pope's Supremacy, and many others.
whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be Matt. xvi. 19. loosed in heaven 19.
19 ON THE MEANING OF MATTHEW XVI. 19. Lightfoot has given us abundant proofs of the manner in which this expression was understood among the Jews, and the manner in which it consequently ought to be understood among Christians. The phrase qonaba 71085, “to bind and to loose,” in the common language of the Jews, signified to prohibit, and to permit, or to teach what is prohibited or permitted, what is lawful or unlawful. Lightfoot then produces many instances, and goes on to observe : by this sense of the phrase the intention of Christ is easily ascertained, namely, he first confers on the apostles the ministerial power to teach what is to be done, and the contrary; he confers this power on them as ministers, and on all their successors, to the end of the world. Their power was more extensive than that of others, because they received authority to prohibit or to allow those things that were ordained in the law of Moses (a).
In his Hebrew and Talmudical Exercitations on St. Matthew (6), Lightfoot produces many more instances where the words “ to loose and to bind" are applied in this sense ; and he shews that these words were first used in doctrine and in judgments, concerning things allowed or not allowed in the law. Secondly, that to bind, is the same with to forbid, or to declare forbidden. To think that Christ, (he continues) when he used the common phrase, was not understood by his hearers, in the common and vulgar sense, shall I call it a matter of laughter, or of madness?
To this, therefore, do these words amount : when the time was come wherein the Mosaic law, as to some part of it, was to be continued and to last for ever, he granted Peter here, and to the rest of the apostles, (chap. xviii. 18.) a power to abolish or confirm what they thought good; being taught this, and led by the Holy Spirit, as if he should say, whatsoever ye shall bind in the law of Moses that is forbid, it shall be forbidden, the divine authority confirming it; and whatsoever ye shall loose, that is, permit, or shall teach that it is permitted and lawful, shall be lawful and permitted. Hence they bound, that is, forbad, circumcision to the believers ; eating of things offered to idols, of things strangled, and of blood for a time, to the Gentiles; and that which they bound on earth was confirmed in heaven. They loosed, that is, allowed purification to Paul, and to four other brethren, for the shunning of scandal, (Acts xxi. 24.): and, in a word, by these words of Christ it was committed to them; the Holy Spirit directing, that they should make decrees concerning religion, as to the use and rejection of Mosaic rites and judgments, and that either for a time, or for ever.
Let the words be applied, by way of paraphrase, to the matter that was transacted at present with Peter. “I am about to build a Gentile Church,” saith Christ, “and to thee, O Peter, do I give the keys of the kingdom of heaven, that thou mayest first open the door of faith to them: but if thou askest by what rule that Church is to be governed when the Mosaic rule may seem so improper for it, thou shalt be so guided by the Holy Spirit, that whatsoever of the law of Moses thou shalt forbid them, shall be forbidden ; whatsoever thou grantest them,
(a) Lightfoot's Harmony of the N. T. Works, folio, vol. i. p. 238. ii. p. 205.