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such a creaking, that it waked Giant Despair, who hastily rising to pursue his prisoners, felt his limbs to fail, for his fits took him again, so that he could by no means go after them. Then they went on, and came to the KING'S HIGHWAY, and so were safe, because they were out of his (the Giant's) jurisdiction.”
The Pope and all usurping Priests, are that Giant Despair ; the castle in which they lock men up, is the darkness of ignorance, shutting out the light of truth, darkening it by tradition and Church power : the key to unlock the cell door, and the outer gate, is the PROMISE OF SALVATION BY JESUS CHRIST ALONE.
This is the true use of Peter's key :-to employ the “exceeding great and precious promises” mentioned in his Epistle, (2 Pet. i. 4.) as the means of our deliverance from the condemned cell. This will deliver us from the Pope, from Satan, and from our own sinfulness : for “God having raised
his Son Jesus, sent him to bless you, by turning away every one of you from his iniquities.-(Acts iii. 26.)
This is one great part of the binding and loosing, binding us to Christ, and loosing us from all besides.
The commission of the Saviour to his Apostles was to publish the gospel, which they were to receive from him; and whatever they thus announced; what they laid down as the law, Christ would enforce : what they gave as a promise, he would fulfil: it is all ratified in heaven. And as the angel struck off Peter's chains, so the gospel was to loose men from Satan's thraldom ; not that they should go down the crooked paths of monkish morality, and read new tables of sins; but walk erect along the street which is called straight, after Jesus Christ our great emancipator.
What therefore they did when they bound and loosed,—was to declare the law :-to Loose the bonds of a Jewish ritual and priestly servitude, and BIND the sweet yoke of Christ on our shoulders.
If men were in carelessness and sin, they were to bind this law upon them—“but now God commandeth all men everywhere to repent:" if men were pricked to the heart, and desirous of salvation, they were loosed
this principle which is ratified in heaven—“ believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved.”
If men continued impenitent, then this law is binding," he that believeth not shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him.”
And thus whose soever sins the Apostles by this gospel law have remitted; those are remitted in heaven; whose soever sins by those laws are retained, are retained in heaven. So that we have not to go to priests, to none of whom Christ has given power to absolve from sins; but to the Apostles, whose writings are the gospel; and the laws of which are ratified by Christ,-bound in heaven.
No minister in the world, and no Church in the world, has power to forgive sins; the form of absolution, is a blasphemous forgery: a minister is no more than another man; Christ gives him no power, no authority at all: no Church has any power in these matters; all that any one can do is to tell men what Christ has said by his Holy Apostles and Prophets.
The Apostles never forgave any sins; nor was it intended they should do so: they only told men how Christ had undertaken to save us from wrath,—by repentance towards God and faith in himself: they never
received a private confession from any one, and never say anything about such a procedure !
The whole purpose of our Lord's assurance to the Apostles, was to make the gospel valid to us; and TO MAKE US QUITE INDEPENDENT OF PRIESTS. He
says, whose soever sins ye (my Apostles) remit, they are remitted : whatsoever duties ye lay down, they are my law; and therefore whosoever takes your word, is safe, whatsoever any pretending priests say to the contrary
I commission you, not them, to declare my law: and you can have no successors, for I HAVE NO LAW TO SUCCEED THIS: the gospel is ever the same : it rests on the Apostles and Prophets, not on priests.
Would you know then, -whose sins are remitted?' Look into the promises of the gospel, given by Apostles, and ratified by the Saviour. Would you know whose sins are retained ? Examinine their declarations,—the law they have made binding on the world; the only law by which we shall be tried before the judgment seat of Christ.
This is the meaning of being “bound in heaven;" the sentence of the A postles in the New Testament, about each one of us, will stand good and be carried out at the last great day.
Here is your true “table of sins,” and of mercies : all else is false : here is your true ground of absolution, all else is a delusion.
If you have believed in Christ, then the Apostle's law has remitted your sins; for “ye are saved from wrath through him.”
“ There is henceforth now no condemnation, to them that are in Christ Jesus;" this key unlocks the door of the spiritual inquisition, and makes us free in Christ's name. And that is above every name; it is above the Pope's name; who is not Christ's vicar, but an impostor.
Christ has no Vicar ; no one can take his place; CHRIST IS OUR VICAR; he takes our place: he does our work for us; and can do his onn work.
The Pope pretends to be Vicar of Christ, Vicar of Paul, and Vicar of Peter : none of them need any such officious help: Paul and Peter finished their work; and it remains as our certain and infallible guide : Christ is now himself in this world; and therefore can need no Vicar, who can only be an usurper. His law is laid down by his authorized Apostles :—the goodness and severity of God; remitting and retaining sins; remitting the sins of those who believe, retaining the sins of those who are disobedient. And what they have declared Christ will ratify in heaven, and carry out at the judgment day. What sentence then have the Apostles recorded respecting us? If we are now in bondage ; they have given us the key that we may escape; and flee for refuge to the Saviour.
III. There may still be in the minds of some, a difficulty in understanding why the keys were given to Peter by name, so prominently, instead of to any of the other Apostles. And therefore (though this difficulty has no tendency to give force to the claims of the Pope—who is not Peter) we may attempt in conclusion to clear up this question.
1. These words“I give unto thee the keys”- -were addressed to Peter, first because he was generally foremost,--the spokesman for the
company; he spoke for the rest, and therefore received an answer for the rest. “Whom say ye that I am,” this was our Lord's question to ALL the disciples; Peter answered for them; and therefore received the keys for them,—that is, a promise that they should know all about Christ, the subject to which they had not yet found the key or explanation. The whole paragraph (Matt. xvi. 1320) is upon the important question, -"what think ye of the Christ ?” And to the disciples it was given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God; who the Saviour was, and what constitution he would establish ; but this knowledge, was at first only imperfectly given even to the disciples : who were not during the Saviour's life to use the keys, in preaching the gospel. Hence, though he promised them the keys, and partly fulfilled the promise by acknowledging Peter's confession, he concludes this paragraph, by charging “his disciples that they should tell no man that he was Jesus the Christ.”
This therefore was what the keys referred to ;-letting the disciples (and afterwards the world through them into the secret about the Redeemer's person and office. And because (though all were asked the question) Peter being forward answered for them, the promise was made to him, but for the rest.
I have now acknowledged partly, what I am, and you shall yet have
I the keys,—to know fully : but at present, do not tell the people what little you have learned, for the time is not yet fully come.
These circumstances therefore properly estimated shew both why the keys were given to Peter, and what they refer to ;—the nature and office of Christ, or his kingship.
The forwardness of Peter, is manifest in many instances ;-when our Lord washed his disciples feet, the rest submitted in silence; but Peter exclaimed—“ dost thou wash my feet ?” The answer to this question was personal in its form, but universal in its principle; “unless I wash thee thou hast no part with me.”—(John xiii. 148.)
Is it then supposed from this saying to Peter, that only he was washed; that only he has a part wịth the Redeemer? No! All will acknowledge that here an answer addressed to Peter, is to every person. And therefore no monopoly can be founded on any such form of speech. The keys are given now to all men,-since the Apostles though commanded to be silent on the nature or work of Christ, while he lived, were after his death commanded to preach the gospel for every creature. In other words to publish the keys. And now it is given to all men, to know the mysteries of the kingdom ;-if they are desirous of knowing them. It is a universal privilege : and the labour of the Apostle to the Gentiles, was to make all men know the mystery—the divine purpose
of salvation by Jesus Christ.
The only reason why the knowledge of this mystery was first promised to Peter, (under the name of the keys to intimate the unlocking of what had been hidden in the mind of God for ages,”)—the reason for this seeming preference was—because Peter with his usual eagerness spoke first, and so was answered for the rest, in whose name he had spoken. Whom
say YE (disciples) that I am ? Peter answered and said, (we say*) thou art the Christ the Son of the living God.”
* This insertion we say,” is required to make Peter's answer consistent with the question, and with the silence of the others who tacitly allowed his answer.
The same eagerness of Peter, which made him answer for the rest in this instance, is exhibited in the fact that while John was fearful, Peter entered into the Sepulchre; the disciples forsook Christ and fled; Peter followed into the palace of the high priest: he was eager, generous, and rash; he drew his sword, and cut off an ear of the high priest's servant. Everything recorded of him, is consistent with this tendency. The others heard in sorrowful silence our Lord's declaration that he must be crucified; Peter said, “that be far from thee Lord,” and so he received that rebuke which belongs to his pretended successors; who have his faults without his excellencies, whose ambition is cool and calculating, not a noble impulse; and who have not like Peter repented of their apostacy.
When all were amazed at the transfiguration, Peter must speak, though he did not know what he said : when it was declared that all would deny their Lord, Peter must declare, though all forsake thee, yet will not I; he would die with Christ rather than deny him. Thus did Peter become distinguished to his shame and sorrow.
2. And this leads to the second reason why Peter was so marked by our Lord, in the promise of the keys;-namely, because the Saviour foresaw that Peter would deny him; and therefore he in mercy caused Peter to be recognized, even though for a time an apostate. “When thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren." Hence the message sent by the angel from the tomb—"go your way, tell his disciples And Peter that he goeth before you into Galilee.”—(Mark xvi. 7.) What is the meaning of this, “his disciples and Peter," as if Peter were not one of them? Without strong assurances to the contrary, he could hardly consider himself now a disciple : yet how lovingly and earnestly he had visited the Sepulchre, not willing to give up the Saviour whom in an evil hour he had denied !
The other Apostles might reasonably have rejected Peter, (as many at first feared to recognize Paul!) but here was an assurance, prepared beforehand—“I am to preach as well as you, he gave me the keys.”
And this use of the keys by Peter is an emphatic lesson, shewing how WIDE is the door of salvation ; admitting even Peter who had denied his Lord, and therefore a proof that men may return to Christ, and be accepted, even after they have turned away from him. It was in this manner, by examples or instances, that our Lord taught us the extent of his saving power,
that in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace,” by the agents he employed, and the characters he redeemed.
Accordingly the Saviour MADE THE MOST OF THE LEAST; exalted those whom we should be less likely to expect; as publicans and sinners ; the thief on the cross ; Saul the persecutor; Peter the apostate. The Apostle John, who appears before us as a constant, and loving disciple, received none of these public marks of favour and prominence, as to his position in the new kingdom : but private marks of regard, and (except at the crucifixion) generally given privately.
But Peter is especially marked" to shew the forbearance and mercy of the Saviour :-“tell his disciples and Peter”-yes, that Peter who denied me, for I let him fall to check his boldness, and now lift him up again to shew how far my mercy can reach.
If we had not been favoured with the teaching of this example, one class of men would be left to despair: namely those who have denied Christ;
and this is a very large class. For who has not on some occasions, held his allegiance to the Saviour in abeyance ? Have we not all denied him, some occasion or other: have not all Christians cherished too much, an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from their Saviour and ruler ? Have not many virtually abandoned him? Where then is the hope for such ? We know that sinners may be saved, persecutors and malefactors can enter the door of mercy; but in Peter we find that even apostates also, those who in any way have denied Christ, will not be rejected when they sue for mercy. Several passages of Scripture seemed to tell against this :-"if we deny him, he also will deny us;"– (2 Tim. ii. 12.) “Whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny, before my Father who is in heaven.”—(Matt. x. 33.) Well Peter denied him, and we may also have done so in many ways; are we therefore lost-without hope of salvation? No! for Peter denied him, and was received back; to preach repentance towards God and faith in Jesus Christ. This was the true key, opening a wide door; and explaining the declaration of Christ, so as not to exclude for ever those who once deny him, but only those who keep on denying him. And therefore, he who can save to the uttermost,
,” will not reject any who do not deny him to the last ;-any who ever return to him.
The same merciful instance, explains another fearful saying," for if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins ; but a certain fearful looking for of judgment.”—(Heb. x. 26, 27.) Who would not be condemned by the strictness of these words ? But the sinning wilfully, like the denial of Christ, means a continuance in such a course ; cherishing no desire to return to his favour; then there is no more sacrifice, NO OTHER SAVIOUR remaining : but if we return to him, we find that his sacrifice does remain, and will be sufficient for all who like Peter repent and return. So full of deep instruction is this word of life ; such are the reasons for giving Peter a prominence, that like Paul and others, he should be a specimen of mercy :not to awaken arrogance in sinful men, to Lord it over the Church and the whole world; but to give consolati to the vilest sinners; AND ENCOURAGE EVEN THE DENIERS OF CHRIST, TO BECOME SUCCESSORS OF PETER, BY RETURNING TO CHRIST.