« PrécédentContinuer »
What is meant by materializing spiritual truth may find illustration from the way in which the Church of Rome has dealt with the Lord's words to Peter :- 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.” They have seized on this passage to establish and confirm the dogma that the Lord conferred extraordinary powers upon the apostle personally, and that the Pope, who claims to be Peter's successor, can, through the priesthood of this church, open and shut heaven to whomsoever he pleases. A heresy more gross-more at war with man's spiritual interests—it is scarcely possible to conceive. It makes the Word of none effect; nay, it drags it into the service of the most crushing despotism the world ever saw.
The Divine Word, the medium, when properly interpreted, of true religious liberty, becomes, when thus perverted and materialized, an instrument of religious bondage and oppression. A power is claimed and sought to be exercised by a man, which belongs to the Lord alone. When perverse human judgment thus usurps the place of Divine Wisdom, and the corrupt will of man claims to exercise the prerogatives of Divine Love, behold the results !
The Reformation was a protest against this usurpation of the Divine prerogatives. Its leaders could see that no mortal-no, not even an angel-can admit any one into heaven or exclude any one from it, and that since He who can do so must possess infinite wisdom and power, the delegation of such to any created being, especially to a sinful, fallible man, is utterly impossible.
There are some who, denying the claims of the Romish hierarchy, yet failing to recognise a spiritual sense within the letter, come to the conclusion that the Lord's declaration to Peter cannot be satisfaotorily. explained; that it is one of those mysterious statements which must remain without exposition until higher light dawns upon the human mind. Protestant commentators yield so far as to say that church censures and excommunications, which seek their authority from the Lord's words to Peter, are to be considered declaratory and not absolutethat they cannot fix or alter a man's state and character. This is yielding much; perhaps more than the Lord's words, literally understood, legitimately sanction. Others, again, think that such power was actually conferred on the apostle Peter, and on the other apostles also; but that it terminated with their lives. There are many objections to such a view, the greatest of which is, that the apostles never claimed nor exercised this power. They evidently did not understand the Lord's words as having reference to them personally. Nor could they claim such a power
as this, for they frequently manifested fallibility of judgment; we find Paul, for example, charging Peter with double dealing in his temporising conduct in yielding to the prejudices of the Judaising proselytes.
Others contend that the true interpretation of these words overlooks persons entirely, and that the binding and loosing power belongs to the principles taught by Peter and the other apostles. This is true, though it is not the exact and the whole truth. When we know that the power of binding and loosing is inherent in the Truth itself which Peter represented, we possess a light which enables us to see through all the intricacies of this seemingly mysterious passage, and to understand it to our edification and comfort.
The apostles were all representative men. They severally represented the different principles which constitute the church, and which form the kingdom of God in the human mind. The apostles were twelve in number, a circumstance which was not accidental, or without a meaning; for this number, like the twelve stones in Aaron's breast-plate, and the twelve sons of Jacob, contains a deeply significant truth. We cannot here notice the particular representative character of each of the twelve apostles. We have at present to do with the symbolical character of Peter; but to see this more clearly we may consider him in connection with James and John. These three are frequently mentioned together. They were selected as witnesses of our Lord's more important miracles. They see Him raise the dead; they behold His glory on the mount, and witness His agony in the garden. John is the beloved disciple; he is nearest in position to the Lord; leans on His breast at supper, and is called “ the disciple whom Jesus loved." His writings are fragrant with love; he inculcates obedience as the best evidence of the presence of God's love in the heart. John, then, very properly represents the good of love, which is holy obedience. James, in his writings, insists on the importance of showing our faith in God by our charity to man. James is then the type of charity. As James represented charity, and John the good of charity or obedience, so Peter, as we shall presently show, represented faith.
There are three principles which may be said to constitute the sum of religion—faith, charity, and obedience; and these were represented by Peter, James, and John. These three apostles represented, therefore, in a comprehensive sense, all that is signified by the twelve ; just as on the two commandments of love to God and love to man hang all the law and the prophets. However numerous the graces and virtues of religion, they all have relation to, and are comprehended in, Love, Faith, and Obedience. The number three is significative of fulness, entirety, perfection; of the infinite perfection of the Godhead by the Divine
Trinity of Love, Wisdom, and Operation; of the finite perfection of humanity by the finite trinity of charity, faith, and works. In this circumstance was grounded the Lord's selection of the three apostles we have mentioned, to be the spectators of certain miracles, including His transfiguration on the mount.
It was not, therefore, to the personality of Peter, but to the principle of Faith which Peter represented, that the Lord gave, and to which He still gives, the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and as spiritual faith is from the Lord, and not from man, therefore it is the Lord Himself who, through faith in Him, binds and looses on earth and in heaven.
That Peter represents faith is abundantly evident from his character, history, and writings. He is bold, energetic, and even rash. He is the first and chief speaker on all occasions. He is the first to acknowledge, and, when left alone, he is also, alas! the first to deny, his Divine Master.
For faith, when accompanied by love and obedience, is steadfast and powerful; when alone, it is wavering and impotent. It sinks under the billows of temptation, like Peter when he attempted to walk upon the sea: or it quails in the presence of its feeblest spiritual accusers, as Peter did before the questioning of the maid in the hall of the high priest. Verily faith is dead when it is alone-when not grounded in love and accompanied by obedience. Nevertheless, faith performs & most important part in the work of man's salvation. Eternal life is not possible without it. For what is Faith? Faith is the internal acknowledgment of truth, especially of that great truth which Peter confessed when he said—“Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.” This Truth is eminently the Rock on which the Lord builds His church. All other truths bear testimony to this truth, because, coming from Him who is the Truth itself, they bear witness to Him as such. The Divine Truths of the Word are, therefore, the materials of a true and living faith, to which are given the keys of the kingdom of heaven.
Man must first acquire truth from the Word, before he can be receptive of faith from the Lord. He must first know the truth before he can believe or do the truth. When, in addition to knowing the truth, he believes and obeys the truth from love, then does faith become a powerfully operative principle in him indeed.
When Peter represents faith alone, he is simply called Peter, as where the Lord calls him Satan; but in connection with his confession of Jesus as the Christ, he is called Simon Peter, as he is sometimes called Simon bar-Jona. Jona literally means a dove, so that Simon bar-Jona is, spiritually, Faith as the offspring of spiritual affection. For the same reason the Lord, on one occasion, said three times to this apostle-"Simon son of Jonas, lovest thou me?" Peter at this time represented the faith which springs from love; therefore, in keeping with its character, he replied“Lord, Thou knowest all things, Thou knowest that I love Thee.” This is the language of spiritual faith, which is true and living faith. Such only as possess it can feed the Lord's lambs and sheep; for innocence and goodness are nourished by the truths of faith ; while faith alone is impotent, faith grounded in love is armed with power from Omnipotence itself. Hence the Lord, when He said to Peter—“Upon this rock will I build my church," added, "and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”
Peter before this had acknowledged the Lord's proper divinity, which acknowledgment was a revelation from heaven, and derived from Divine love, and not the deduction of human reason, The acknowledgment of the Lord in His Divine Humanity, is the foundation of all that is true in doctrine and good in practice; it is the Rock on which the church is built; the band into which are delivered the keys of the kingdom of heaven. A Key is the symbol of power, for when one is presented with the keys of a house or a city, it is an acknowledgment that he is thereby placed in supreme command. The keys of the kingdom" are given to spiritual faith, for such a faith is the power by which heaven is opened in and to the human soul. To those in this state is given, as is said in
“the key of David,” that is, the key of the Lord, whom David typified, -in other words, the power of truth from God, for “the Gospel is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth.” To all who acknowledge from the heart that the Lord Jesus Christ is their God, Redeemer, and Saviour, heaven is opened.
Having been led thus far along the path of inquiry under the guiding light of correspondence, we are now prepared to enter on an examination of the remaining portion of the promise, hitherto deemed so dark and doubtful. Laying aside the idea of persons, except so far as they represent principles, and keeping in view the power of faith from love, the meaning of the binding and loosing will become clear and satisfactory. Faith, when it works by love, accomplishes a great work, and whatsoever it binds and looses on earth, is bound and loosed in heaven. But what and where are the earth and heaven, in which this binding and loosing takes place ? In thinking of earth and heaven, we must lift our minds above the ideas of time and space. There is a heaven and there is an earth in every one's own mind. The Lord said to those around him—“The kingdom of God is within you." There is a region of the mind which is receptive of heavenly truth, and where the Lord's voice is heard—instructing, correcting, reproving. Even the impenitent are sometimes conscious of inward suggestions to live religiously, which
Rev. iii. 7,
are strangely at variance with the general tenour of their thoughts and life. It is a voice from heaven. It is the muttering thunders of Divine Truth, rolling along the spiritual heavens of the soul, accompanied by the sharp lightning of the Eternal Spirit; checking the self-hood in its headlong, sinful career. The Apostle Paul, in the 7th chapter of the Romans, describes the conflicting action of the dual mind, in those who have entered on the regenerate life, which he calls “the spirit warring against the flesh, and the flesh against the spirit;" the two being contrary one to the other. These two regions of the mind—the higher and the lower—are, in the Word, compared to heaven and earth. Thus, when the regenerating man prays—“Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven," he prays that divine order may be established, not only in the outer world, but in the outer mind, -that the earthly within us may be brought under the dominion of the heavenly—that the empire of the divine good, set up in the inner man, may descend and be established in the outer man. Every part of the Word relates to personal regeneration; that under consideration cannot be an exception. The two ruling principles of the natural mind are, the love of self and the love of the world. These stand opposed to the heavenly principles which ought to rule in and over every one, namely, the love of the Lord and the love of the neighbour. These are, in fact, the principles of heaven, everything in heaven being constituted of them.
Now, it must be obvious that, unless a man subdue the motions of his fleshly mind, the things of heaven, which he perceives and feels in his spiritual mind, cannot come down and rule in his external mind. Only in proportion, therefore, as a man resists evil and does good in his external man, does the Lord's kingdom come to him, and the Lord's will come to be spiritually done on earth as it is done in heaven. The things of heaven are loosed, and descend to earth. The natural becomes filled with the spiritual. The affections and life are in harmony with the laws of truth. The war of flesh and spirit ceases, for the flesh has submitted to the spirit. The internal and external unite,—they become
Heaven descends to earth, and God's tabernacle is with map. But this conjunction of the natural with the spiritual is not effected without effort and soul struggles. The law of Christian life may long be perceived by the understanding before it becomes an actuality of life and experience. Truth is easily perceived ;-it requires an effort to live it. A man cannot love the neighbour until he has ceased to love the world supremely; he cannot love the Lord until he has ceased set his affections exclusively on himself. He must fight against his selfish and worldly loves, and in proportion as he resists and overcomes them, good affections opposite thereto come down from the Lord out of heaven, and