33 Matthew XVI


Edward Madeley



From the Intellectual Repository, for Jan. 1818.

The Lord said to Peter, after he had confessed that He was” the Christ, the Son of the living God,” “Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona ; for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. And I say also 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 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 dhall be loosed in heaven.” (Matt. xvi. 18, 19.)

The true doctrine of this passage is of immense importance, since it determines the validity or the futility of the claims assumed by the Roman Catholic Church to supremacy and infallibility, as being founded upon the rock against which the gates of hell shall never prevail ; and also as possessing the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and consequently the power of opening and shutting heaven, or of exercising dominion over the invisible world. It must be admitted by all that the proper understanding of the Word is of the greatest importance, since the Word is divine truth which cannot enter into the mind as a living principle but in proportion as it is understood ; no more than light can enter into the eye except the eye be opened to receive it. Hence the Lord” opened the understandings of his versions and falsifications of the Pharisees and the Sadducees arose from their not” knowing (or understanding} the Scriptures and the power of God. ” (Matt. xxii. 29.) The divine truth understood and applied to the life is the” power of God.” Now, from a false interpretation of the passage in question, a direfully false principle has arisen, which has perverted and destroyed nearly every vestige of Christianity among those where this principle operates.

All these things were said of Peter on account of the confession he made that Jesus was” the Christ, the Son of the living God;” upon, which the Lord pronounced him blessed, with the surname Bar-jona, or” son of a dove,” in order to teach us that the primary, fundamental, and blessed principle of the church, is the acknowledgment of Jesus Christ as” the Son of the living God” This confession and this faith is indeed the rock and foundation of the church, and the source of all blessing to man. For Jesus Christ, as the” Son of the living God,” is not a mere man, however highly gifted with wisdom, benevolence, and power ; nor is He the supposed second person in the Trinity, but God Himself” manifest in the flesh,” or, as the prophet says, ” THE MIGHTY GOD, THE EVERLASTING FATHER, THE PRINCE OF PEACE.” This confession, therefore, of Peter, involves the great fundamental doctrine upon which the church must be built; for it acknowledges the Lord in his “glorious Body,” or in his Divine Humanity, as the embodiment of all” the fulness of the Godhead.” This acknowledgment and faith, as the rock upon which the church is built, is thus denoted by Peter, when pronounced “blessed,” and called” Simon Bar-jona,” or son of a dove ; because Simon, as signifying, in Syriac, hearing and obedience, denotes faith in the heart or will, and not merely in the intellect ; and faith, as a living principle in the heart and life, is the source from the Lord of all blessing and happiness to man and to the church. Jona, or the dove, is an emblem of that harmlessness, innocence, gentleness, meekness, purity and love which constitute the life of a genuine faith, or of that faith which, as the apostle says, ” worketh by love.” Thus the Christian Church is built upon this faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, as” its Author and Finisher,” as the solo Object to Whom it should be directed, and from Whom it must derive all its saving efficacy and blessedness. Against the church founded upon this rock of a genuine faith, verily, ” the gates of hell shall never prevail!” A rock, when mentioned in Scripture, is an emblem of the Lord as to Divine Truth. Hence the Lord is called a “Rock ” (Psalm xviii. 2, 31) the”Hock of Salvation” (Deut. xxxii. 15) and the apostle says, ” they drank of that spiritual Hock which followed them, and that Rock was Christ.” (1 Cor. x. 4.)

The Rock, therefore, upon which the church is founded, is the divine truth coining from Him who is the Truth itself (John xiv. 6) ; and the man who hears the Lord s sayings and doeth them, builds his house upon a Rock. (Matt. vii. 24.) Because” to hear the Lord s sayings and do them,” is to acknowledge Him as the great Object of faith and love, as the Author and Finisher of our faith, and to live according to his divine precepts. Hence the man s house, or the church in him, is built upon a Rock ; and” however the rains may descend and the floods come, and the winds blow and beat against that house,” it will not fall ; thus” the gates of hell shall not prevail against it,” because it is founded upon a rock. ” The keys of the kingdom of heaven” are given to this faith.

For keys denote the power of opening and shutting ; thus the Lord ” has the keys of hell and of death ;” because” He alone openeth and no man shutteth, and shutteth and no man openeth.” (Rev. iii. 7.) Here it is divinely and expressly declared, that the Lord alone hath the keys, or the power to open and to shut, and that no man hath that power. How false and profane, therefore, it is to suppose that any man, or any multitude of men, whether they call themselves a church, a council or a synod, can open and shut heaven or hell, or that they can have any power over the invisible world. This power, therefore, belongs exclusively to the Lord Jesus Christ ; nor can it, because it is infinite, be possibly transferred or given to any man. But the faith described above, inasmuch as it is from the Lord, and is, properly regarded, the Lord himself in his disciples and in his Church, therefore the keys are said to be given to Peter in order to teach us that the Lord, through a genuine faith founded upon Him self as the Rock, can close the gates of hell and open the portals of heaven to his Church ; and that whatsoever that faith” shall bind upon earth, shall be bound in heaven, and whatsoever it shall loose upon earth, shall be loosed in heaven.” Thus the keys or this power were not given to Peter as a man, but to the living faith which Peter then represented. For Peter wras evidently a type, sometimes of a living faith, and sometimes of a faith perverted and destroyed, as in this very chapter (verses 22, 23), where he opposes the Lord on account of what He said respecting his temptations and sufferings, when the Lord calls him Satan, saying : ” Get thee behind me, Satan, thou art an offence unto me ; for thou savorest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men.”

Now every one can see that Peter as” Simon Bar-jona” and Peter as” Satan” and an” offence ” to the Lord, are two very different characters, although comprised in the same man. Those, therefore, who take Peter as the founder of their church, and as having transferred the keys to his supposed successors, must beware lest by so doing they appear as “Satan” and as an “offence” in the Lord’s sight, because ” they savor (or seek after) not the things which be of God, but those which be of men.” Peter, also, when he thrice denied the Lord, was evidently a type of the faith of the church utterly falsified, perverted and destroyed ; of that faith, and of that church connected therewith, which claims universal power over the minds and bodies of men, and over the invisible world ; which withholds the Word of God from the people ; which divides the bread from the wine in the sacrament of the Holy Supper ; which forbids marriage to the priesthood, although the apostle declares, ” that a bishop) should he tJie husband of one wife” (1 Tim. iii. 2, 12; Titus i. 6), and that “to forbid to marry is a doctrine of devils” (1 Tim. iii. 1-3); and which opens the door to innumerable other abominations, the offspring of the teaching and doctrines of a perverse, falsified, anti-Christian faith, a faith which thrice or utterly denies the Lord, and which entirely perverts and destroys every vestige of genuine Christianity.

The Lord says of those whose province and duty it was in the Jewish Church to teach the people, and likewise of those who occupy the same province in the Christian Church” Woe unto you lawyers! for ye have taken away the key of knowledge ; ye entered not in yourselves, and them that were entering in, ye hindered.” (Luke xi 52.) The key of knowledge is evidently the power of unlocking or of interpreting the Scriptures, that we may come to a knowledge of the truth. This key of knowledge is therefore the genuine doctrine by which the truths of the Word are interpreted and explained. Now, if this key had been applied to the interpretation of the passage quoted at the beginning of this article, no such state of things us the history of the church records, could have been witnessed. It would have been seen that every man becomes a member of the church in proportion as a living faith through hearing the Lord’s words and doing them, is planted in his mind ; upon which faith, as upon a rock, the church ij built ; and when this is the case with the members of the church in the aggregate, the Lord s kingdom is established.

The necessity of a key to the proper interpretation of Scripture is abundantly obvious. This necessity has been at all times seen and felt ; and in the early period of the Christian church they endeavored to apply a key to the interpretation of this as well as of other passages of the Word. But the true key is the doctrine of correspondence between things spiritual and natural, between the spirit and the letter. This key plainly teaches us what is meant by Peter, by Simon Bar-jona, by the rock, by the building of the church upon the rock, and by the gates of hell, etc. There is probably no passage in which the declaration of the apostle, ” that the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life,” has been more fully verified than in this. For a merely literal interpretation has killed or destroyed nearly every principle of an enlightened and living faith in the Lord. But to show that, as stated, in the earlier ages the most intelligent fathers interpreted the passage as denoting the church built upon an enlightened and living faith in the Lord, we will adduce what Chrysostom says in his 14th Homily on the passage, viz : ” On the rock, that is, on the faith which he confessed.” Again, in his 163d Homily, he says “The Lord does not say that he founds his Church upon Peter, for it is not founded upon any man, but upon the faith.” And Augustin, in Tract X. on the first Epistle of John, says, ” What is meant when the Lord says, Upon this rock I will build my Church ? He means, upon this faith, upon that which Peter declared when he said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Thus the primitive writers plainly show to us, that they understood the passage as relating to the church founded upon the roclk of a living faith in the Lord Himself. MINUS.