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It only remains for us to ask
4. Can the words of our Saviour be fairly explained concerning himself as the foundation rock? We think they may. The gospel narrative records that Jesus had just asked his disciples, “ Whom do men say that I, the Son of man, am ?” Having received various replies to this, he put a further question, “But whom say YE that I am ?” and Simon's ready answer was, “ Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus declared that such knowledge of his Divine nature could have been acquired only by teaching from above; and proceeded to show that it was this Divine nature which qualified him to be a foundation whereon the church could rest secure amidst the frequent and varied attacks of her spiritual adversaries. You remember how customary it was for our Lord to draw his similitudes from surrounding objects. The city on the hill side, the lilies. adorning the field, the branches springing luxuriantly from the living vine, the barley loaves on which the multitude had fed, the drawing of water at the Feast of Tabernacles, furnished seasonable and appropriate imagery to illustrate his dis
courses. Often it was by some such outward association that he sought to fix important lessons in the minds of his disciples. Thus it was that he taught the lesson of condescending charity, by washing the apostles' feet; thus it was that he inculcated the duty of humility, by calling to him a little child, and setting him in the midst. And may it not have been thus also in the instance before us ? “ Thou art Peter,” (a rock,) “and upon this rock I will build my church.” Is it not as though the Saviour had said, “ Thou art called Peter, and thou knowest the significance of that name ; by this, then, thou mayest remember that upon a better rock, namely, upon myself, the Christ, I will build my church ; and—as thou hast thyself acknowledged that I am the Son of the living God—it is clear enough that against a church so founded the gates of hell shall not prevail."*
* It may be well just to point out that there is a striking consistency in the Scripture use of this emblem. It has been ascertained that in the Old Testament, wherever the term “rock” is used figuratively to represent a person (which is forty times), it invariably denotes God. In the New Testament it is so used twice only-here, and in i Cor. x. 4; so that were we to regard this passage as
But we must not forget that our Saviour followed up this declaration concerning himself by an address to Peter; “ And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” We will not just now notice the final clauses of this verse ; for the same words are addressed in Matt. xviii. 18, to the whole company of the apostles. As they therefore cannot refer to Peter exclusively, our present subject does not demand their explanation. To Peter, however, and to Peter alone, were given “the keys of the kingdom of heaven.” So far we agree with the Romanists. But we cannot assent, when they go on to teach us that, in these words, power was given him to open the gates of heaven to the faithful, or to
referring to Peter, it would form a solitary exception. Moreover in Isa. xliv. 8, the term is used as in itsel. expressive of Deity; for the exact translation would be, “ Is there a God beside me? Yea, there is no rock.” It is evident then that the disciples would naturally attach to this symbol an idea of Divinity. Hence its use by our Lord is most appropriate immediately after an acknowledge ment of his Divine nature.
close them against heretics. This view arises from the supposition, that the phrase “ kingdom of heaven" must mean the kingdom of glory above ; whereas it far more commonly denotes the kingdom of grace which Jesus was come to establish on earth. The keys of the invisible world belong to Christ, and he still claims it as his right to open and close its portals as he pleases: “I am alive for evermore; and have the keys of hell and of death,” Rev. i. 18; iii. 7. He it is who receives his people to himself without human intervention ; “I will come again, and receive you unto inyself,” John xiv. 3; 1 Thess. iv. 17. But the entrance into the gospel kingdom had not yet been set fully open ; and to Peter was intrusted the honour of opening it-a commission which he zealously fulfilled. As he had been the first to confess the Saviour's Divinity, so he was the first to proclaim that Saviour's finished work to the Jews, and the first also to convey those good tidings to the Gentiles, Acts ii. and x. To him it was granted to unfold the door of gospel privilege ; and the keys have never since been needed ; for that door no human power has been able
to close. It stands wide open now; and you are invited to enter in and partake freely of the provisions of God's mercy.
Let your heart then speak; will you belong to a church that is based merely on a frail and erring mortal ? or to one that rests on Jesus wholly, on Jesus only, on Jesus securely? Will you seek your admission to heaven at the hand of Peter, or of Peter's Lord ? Surely you will say, “ It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in man.”
II. AS TO ITS RULE, IT IS AN UNSCRIPTURAL
The church of Rome maintains that the Bible is above the comprehension of the poor and unlearned, so that if it were widely circulated among all classes, many would misunderstand its meaning and misapply its truths. Hence they WITHHOLD the reading of it from all but their bishops and priests, and such (few) persons as the bishops or priests think may safely be intrusted with it. They try to prove that they are right in this, by referring to two passages in Peter's second Epistle.