A Declaration of the Glorious Mystery of the Person of Christ

Chapter I

Peter's Confession; Matt.16:16--Conceits of the Papists thereon--The Substance and Excellency of that Confession

Our blessed Saviour, inquiring of his disciples their apprehensions
concerning his person, and their faith in him, Simon Peter--as he was
usually the forwardest on all such occasions, through his peculiar
endowments of faith and zeal--returns an answer in the name of them
all, Matt.16:16: "And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the
Christ, the Son of the living God."

Baronius, and sundry others of the Roman Church, do all affirm that
the Lord Christ did herein prescribe the form of a general council.
"For here," say they, "the principal article of our Christian faith
was declared and determined by Peter, whereunto all the rest of the
apostles, as in duty they were obliged, did give their consent and
suffrage." This was done, as they suppose, that a rule and law might
be given unto future ages, how to enact and determine articles of
faith. For it is to be done by the successors of Peter presiding in
councils, as it was now done by Peter in this assembly of Christ and
his apostles.

But they seem to forget that Christ himself was now present, and
therefore could have no vicar, seeing he presided in his own person.
All the claim they lay unto the necessity of such a visible head of
the church on the earth, as may determine articles of faith, is from
the absence of Christ since his ascension into heaven. But that he
should also have a substitute whilst he was present, is somewhat
uncouth; and whilst they live, they shall never make the pope
president where Christ is present. The truth is, he does not propose
unto his disciples the framing of an article of truth, but inquires
after their own faith, which they expressed in this confession. Such
things as these will prejudice, carnal interest, and the prepossession
of the minds of men with corrupt imaginations, cause them to adventure
on, to the scandal, yea, ruin of religion!

This short but illustrious confession of Peter, compriseth eminently
the whole truth concerning the person and office of Christ:--of his
person, in that although he was the Son of man, (under which
appellation he made his inquiry, "Whom do men say that I, the Son of
man, am?") yet was he not only so, but the eternal Son of the living
God:--of his office, that he was the Christ, he whom God had anointed
to be the Saviour of the church, in the discharge of his kingly,
priestly, and prophetical power. Instances of the like brief
confessions we have elsewhere in the Scripture. Rom.10:9: "If thou
shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in
thine heart that God has raised him from the dead, thou shalt be
saved" 1 John 4:2,3: "Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ
is come in the flesh is of God: and every spirit that confesseth not
that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God." And it is
manifest, that all divine truths have such a concatenation among
themselves, and do all of them so centre in the person of Christ--as
vested with his offices towards the church--that they are all
virtually comprised in this confession, and they will be so as counted
by all who destroy them not by contrary errors and imaginations
inconsistent with them, though it be the duty of all men to obtain the
express knowledge of them in particular, according unto the meana
thereof which they do enjoy. The danger of men's souls lieth not in a
disability to attain a comprehension of longer or more subtile
confessions of faith, but in embracing things contrary unto, or
inconsistent with, this foundation thereof. Whatever it be whereby men
cease to hold the Head, how small soever it seem, that alone is
pernicious: Col.2:18,19.

This confession, therefore, as containing the sum and substance of
that faith which they were called to give testimony unto, and
concerning which their trial was approaching--is approved by our
Saviour. And not only so, but eminent privileges are granted unto him
that made it, and in him unto the whole church, that should live in
the same faith and confession: (verses 17,18:) "And Jesus answered and
said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona: for flesh and blood
has 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."

Two things does our Saviour consider in the answer returned unto his
inquiry. 1. The faith of Peter in this confession--the faith of him
that made it; 2. The nature and truth of the confession: both which
are required in all the disciples of Christ." For with the heart man
believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made
unto salvation:" Rom.10:10.

1. The first thing which he speaks unto is the faith of Peter, who
made this confession. Without this no outward confession is of any use
or advantage. For even the devils knew him to be the Holy One of God;
(Luke 4:34;) yet would he not permit them to speak it: Mark 1:34. That
which gives glory unto God in any confession, and which gives us an
interest in the truth confessed, is the believing of the heart, which
is unto righteousness. With respect hereunto the Lord Christ speaks:
(verse 17:) "And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou,
Simon Bar-jona: for flesh and blood has not revealed it unto thee, but
my Father which is in heaven."

He commends and sets forth the faith of Peter--(1.) From its effect;
(2.) From its cause. Its effect was, that it made him blessed in whom
it was. For it is not only a blessed thing to believe and know Jesus
Christ, as it is called life eternal; (John 17:3;) but it is that
which gives an immediate interest in the blessed state of adoption,
justification, and acceptance with God: John 1:12. (2.) The immediate
cause of this faith is divine revelation. It is not the effect or
product of our own abilities, the best of which are but flesh and
blood. That faith which renders them blessed in whom it is, is wrought
in them by the power of God revealing Christ unto their souls. Those
who have more abilities of their own unto this end than Peter had, we
are not concerned in.

2. He speaks unto the confession itself, acquainting his disciples
with the nature and use of it, which, from the beginning, he
principally designed: (verse 18:) "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."

From the speaking of these words unto Peter, there is a controversy
raised in the world, whether the Lord Christ himself, or the pope of
Rome, be the rock whereon the church is built. And unto that state are
things come in religion, among them that are called Christians, that
the greatest number are for the pope and against Christ in this
matter. And they have good reason for their choice. For if Christ be
the rock whereon the church is built, whereas he is a living stone,
those that are laid and built on him must be lively stones also, as
this apostle assures us, 1 Epist. 2:4,5; they must be like unto Christ
himself, partaking of his nature, quickened by his Spirit, so, as it
were, to be bone of his bones, and flesh of his flesh: Eph.5:30. Nor
can any be built on him but by a living faith, effectual in universal
obedience. These things the generality of men like not at all; and,
therefore, the fabric of the living temple on this foundation is
usually but small, seldom conspicuous or outwardly glorious. But if
the pope be this rock, all the Papists in the world, or all that have
a mind so to be--be they ever so wicked and ungodly--may be built upon
him, and be made partakers of all that deliverance from the powers of
hell which that rock can afford them. And all this may be obtained at
a very easy rate; for the acknowledgment of the pope's sovereign
authority in the church is all that is required thereunto. How they
bring in the claim of their pope by Peter, his being at Rome, being
bishop of Rome, dying at Rome, fixing his chair at Rome, devoting and
transmitting all his right, title, power, and authority, every thingbut his faith, holiness, and labour in the ministry, unto the pope, I
shall not here inquire; I have done it elsewhere. Here is fixed the
root of the tree, which is grown great, like that in Nebuchadnezzar's
dream, until it is become a receptacle for the beasts of the field and
fowls of the air--sensual men and unclean spirits I shall, therefore,
briefly lay an axe unto the root of it, by evidencing that it is not
the person of Peter who confessed Christ, but the person of Christ
whom Peter confessed, that is the rock on which the church is built.

1. The variation of the expressions proves undeniably that our
Saviour intended we should not understand the person of Peter to be
the rock. He takes occasion from his name to declare what he designed,
but no more: "And I say also unto thee, Thou art Peter." He had given
him this name before, at his first calling; (John 1:42;) now he gives
the reason of his so doing; viz, because of the illustrious confession
that he should make of the rock of the church; as the name of God
under the Old Testament was called on persons, and things, and places,
because of some especial relation unto him. Wherefore, the expression
is varied on purpose to declare, that whatever be the signification of
the name Peter, yet the person so called was not the rock intended.
The words are, "Su ei Petros, kai epi tautei tei petrai". Had he
intended the person of Peter, he would have expressed it plainly, "Su
ei petros, kai epi soi, k.t.l."--"Thou art a rock, and on thee will I
build." At least the gender had not been altered, but he would have
said, "Epi toutooi tooi petrooi", which would have given some color to
this imagination. The exception which they lay hereunto, from the use
of Cephas in the Syriac, which was the name of Peter, and signified a
rock or a stone, lies not only against the authentic authority of the
Greek original, but of their own translation of it, which reads the
words, "To es Petrus, et super hanc petram".

2. If the church was built on the person of Peter, then when he died
the church must utterly fail. For no building can possibly abide when
its foundation is removed and taken away. Wherefore they tell us they
do not intend by the person of Peter, that singular and individual
person alone to be this rock; but that he and his successors the
bishops of Rome are so. But this story of his successors at Rome is a
shameful fable. If the pope of Rome be a true believer, he succeeds,
in common with all other believers, unto the privileges which belong
unto this confession; if he be not, he has neither lot nor portion in
this matter. But the pretence is utterly vain on another account also.
The apostle, showing the insufficiency of the Aaronical priesthood--
wherein there was a succession of God's own appointment--affirms, that
it could not bring the church unto a perfect state, because the high
priests died one after another, and so were many: Heb.7:8,23,24. And
thereon he shows that the church cannot be consummated or perfected,
unless it rest wholly in and on him who lives forever, and was made a
priest "after the power of an endless life." And if the Holy Ghost
judged the state of the Jewish Church to be weak and imperfect--
because it rested on high priests that died one after another,
although their succession was expressly ordained of God himself--shall
we suppose that the Lord Christ, who came to consummate the church,
and to bring it unto the most perfect estate whereof in this world it
is capable, should build it on a succession of dying men, concerning
which succession there is not the least intimation that it is
appointed of God? And as unto the matter of fact, we know both what
interruptions it has received, and what monsters it has produced--both
sufficiently manifesting that it is not of God.

3. There is but one rock, but one foundation. There is no mention in
the Scripture of two rocks of the church. In what others invent to
this purpose we are not concerned. And the rock and the foundation are
the same; for the rock is that whereon the church is built, that is
the foundation. But that the Lord Christ is this single rock and
foundation of the church, we shall prove immediately. Wherefore,
neither Peter himself, nor his pretended successors, can be this rock.
As for any other rock, it belongs not unto our religion; they that
have framed it may use it as they please. For they that make such
things are like unto the things they make; so is every one that
trusteth in them: Ps.115:8. "But their rock is not as our rock,
themselves being judges;" unless they will absolutely equal the pope
unto Jesus Christ.

4. Immediately after this declaration of our Saviour's purpose to
build his church on the rock, he reveals unto his disciples the way
and manner how he would lay its foundation, viz., in his death and
sufferings: verse 21. And thereon this supposed rock, being a little
left unto his own stability, showed himself to be but a "reed shaken
with the wind." For he is so far from putting himself under the weight
of the building, that he attempts an obstruction of its foundation. He
began to rebuke Christ himself for mentioning his sufferings, wherein
alone the foundation of the Gospel Church was to be laid; (verse 22;)
and hereon he received the severest rebuke that ever the Lord Jesus
gave unto any of his disciples: verse 23. And so it is known that
afterward--through surprisal and temptation--he did what lay in him to
recall that confession which here he made, and whereon the church was
to be built. For, that no flesh might glory in itself, he that was
singular in this confession of Christ, was so also in the denial of
him. And if he in his own person manifested how unmeet he was to be
the foundation of the church, they must be strangely infatuated who
can suppose his pretended successors so to be. But some men will
rather have the church to be utterly without any foundation, than that
it should not be the pope.

The vanity of this pretence being removed, the substance of the great
mystery contained in the attestation given by our Saviour unto the
confession of Peter, and the promise whereunto annexed, may be
comprised in the ensuing assertions:--

1. The person of Christ, the Son of the living God, as vested with
his offices, whereunto he was called and anointed, is the foundation
of the church, the rock whereon it is built.

2. The power and policy of hell will be always engaged in opposition
unto the relation of the church unto this foundation, or the building
of it on this rock.

3. The church that is built on this rock shall never be disjoined
from it, or prevailed against by the opposition of the gates of hell.

The two former of these I shall speak briefly unto, my principal
design being the demonstration of a truth that ariseth from the
consideration of them all.

The foundation of the church is twofold: (1.) Real; (2.) Doctrinal.
And in both ways, Christ alone is the foundation. The real foundation
of the church he is, by virtue of the mystical union of it unto him,
with all the benefits whereof, from thence and thereby, it is made
partaker. For thence alone has it spiritual life, grace, mercy,
perfection, and glory: Eph.4:15,16; Col.2:19. And he is the doctrinal
foundation of it, in that the faith or doctrine concerning him and his
offices is that divine truth which in a peculiar manner animates and
constitutes the church of the New Testament: Eph.2:19-22. Without the
faith and confession hereof, no one person belongs unto that church. I
know not what is now believed, but I judge it will not yet be denied,
that the external formal cause of the Church of the New Testament, is
the confession of the faith concerning the person, offices, and grace
of Christ, with what is of us required thereon. In what sense we
assert these things will be afterwards fully cleared.

That the Lord Christ is thus the foundation of the church, is
testified unto, Isa.28:16: "Thus saith the Lord God, Behold, I lay in
Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious cornerstone,
a sure foundation: he that believeth shall not make hasten. It is
among the bold inroads that in this late age have been made on the
vitals of religion, that some, in compliance with the Jews, have
attempted the application of this promise unto Hezekiah. The violence
they have offered herein to the mind of the Holy Ghost, might be
evidenced from every word of the context. But the interpretation and
application of the last words of this promise by the apostles, leaves
no pretence unto this insinuation. "He that believes on him shall not
be ashamed" or "confounded," Rom.9:33; 10:11; 1 Pet.2:6; that is, he
shall be eternally saved--which it is the highest blasphemy to apply
unto any other but Jesus Christ alone. He, therefore, is alone that
foundation which God has laid in and of the church. See Ps.118:22;
Matt.21:42; Mark.12:10; Luke 20:17; Acts 4:11; 1 Pet.2:4; Eph.2:20-22;
Zech.3:9. But this fundamental truth--of Christ being the only
foundation of the church--is so expressly determined by the apostle
Paul, as not to need any farther confirmation, 1 Cor.3:11: "For other
foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ."

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