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If the evidence which we have for the truth of Christianity be sufficient to justify us in embracing it, let us not be prevented from doing so, because we may fancy to ourselves that it might have been attended with something more striking and decisive.
2. Let us carefully guard against all corruptions of religion. They are a leaven that have spread themselves until they have leavened the whole mass.
The admission of one error prepares the way for the admission of a second, and a third, in endless succession. To allow the claims of human authority in matters of religion, in one instance, will lead to the assertion of the same claims in many more, until it has left to itself no limits. This we might have been able to infer from the nature of the human mind, which argues from analogy, and applies the principles upon which it has reasoned in one case, to another; so that what has misled men on one occasion will likewise be employed to mislead them again. We know also that this apprehension of the tendency of error is just, from two striking examples; the church of the Jews in our Saviour's time, and the church of Rome among Christians. Who could have imagined that such a system of absurdity and folly could have arisen from the admission of one error! Who could have supposed that paying divine honours to any one besides the Supreme Being could have led to the worship of angels; to the worship of the Virgin Mary; to the worship of saints in general; and at length, to the worship of a piece of bread! Let us, therefore, carefully guard against the leaven of corruption; it is no matter whence it comes; it is always attended with danger.
Matthew xvi. 13.-.-20.
13. When Jesus came into the coasts, “ into the parts,” of Cæsarea Philippi, he asked his diciples, saying, Whom do men say that I, the son of man, am? i. e. I, who appear in mean and humble circumstances, like the most ordinary person.
This Cæsarea was a town about thirty miles to the north of the sea of Galilee. It had the name of Philippi, to distinguish it from another town of the name of Cæsarea, which lay upon the sea-coast, and is often mentioned in the acts of the apostles. 14. And they said, Some say
that thou art John the Baptist; some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets.
It was the opinion of the Pharisees, whose sentiments prevailed most among the common people, that the souls of good men passed into other bodies, and in this manner appeared again in the world: it was hence that the notion was derived that Jesus Christ might be Jolin the Baptist, Jeremiah, or some one of the old prophets: with respect to Elijah, as he was taken up into heaven, they imagined that he would descend thence, and appear again in person; an error into which they were led from a mistaken interpretation of a passage in the prophet Malachi; where God says, “I will send you
the prophet Elijah, before the great and terrible day of the Lord;" which they took literally. Why they supposed Christ to be Jeremiah in particular, does not appear: perhaps it was for no other reason than that this
prophet was held in the highest estimation among them. It appears that those who entertained these opinions concerning Christ could have heard nothing respecting his birth, and that the fame of his miracles must have reached them very lately: for it was not long since John was beheaded.
15. He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am ?
From this question it appears that Christ had never told his own disciples that he was the Messiah; but must have left them, as well as other persons, to collect it from his miracles, and other evidence.
16. And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art Christ, rather; "the Christ," the Son of the living God.
Christ is a Greek word, which signifies anointed; the same as Messiah does in Hebrew. It has its origin in this circumstance, that prophets, priests and kings, among the Jews, and all those who were appointed to any public office by God, were anointed with oil, and initiated into their office by the solemn performance of this rite: but Jesus is called the anointed in the
propliecies of the Old Testament, by way of distinction and eminence, because he was to be superior to all kings and prophets that went before him. Thus David calls him in the second Psalm, v. 2. “ The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and against his anointed;" or, as you have it in Acts iv. 26. “ against his Christ.” but the most remarkable prophecy is that of Daniel, who mentions the time at which this anointed messenger was to appear; Dan. ix. 25. “Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and build Jerusalem, unto Messiah the prince, shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks.”
This great prince and eminent prophet, foretold in the Scriptures of the Old Testament, and expected by the Jews, Peter now, in the name of the other apostles, acknowledges Jesus to be: he calls him likewise the Son of the living God. The Divine Peing is called the. living God in the Scriptures of the Old Testament, to distinguish him from the Gods of the Gentiles, which did not really live, but were the fictions of men's imaginations. Christ is called the Son of God, on account of the very extraordinary power with which he was endowed, or, as it is expressed in the language of Scripture, anointed, and the important commission delivered to him. These were distinguished marks of the divine favour: such proofs of affection parents do not usually bestow upon every person, indifferently, but only upon a child whom they love. In this character of a favourite son of the common Father of all mankind docs Jesus appear.
17. And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed, “happy,” art thou, Simon Bar-Jona, son of Jonah or John, to distinguish him from other Simons: for fesh and blood, “ man,” hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.
That by flesh and blood, when opposed to God, we are to understand men, is evident from what Paul says, Gal. i. 16. that after having received a revelation from God, he conferred not with flesh and blood; that is, not with any mail
Christ here describes men by the appellation of flesh and blood, to intimate that they were weak and imperfect teachers upon this subject, and not acquainted with the truth. Peter had obtained his knowledge from a better source, even from God. When God is here said to have revealed to Peter that Jesus was the Christ, we are not to understand it of an immediate and extraordinary revelation, made to him: for that would have been unnecessary: but of his having been taught it by God, in the school of his prophet Jesus Christ. That he became the disciple of Jesus, and was possessed of an unprejudiced mind to discern the truth, was the gift of God, and to be attributed to him. This paragraph may be thus paraphrased, acquiring this conviction that I am the Messiah, thou hast followed a better principle than that by which the Jews in general are influenced, and for which thou art indebted to God, who is the author of every thing that is good in us.”
18. And I
And I say also unto thee, in return for this open confession, that thou art Peter; truly named Peter.
The proper name of Peter was Simon; but when he was first brought to Jesus, he, who from the countenance of the man perceived his disposition, and his readiness for executing great designs, gave him the name of Cephas; in the Syriac language signifying a stone, which in the Greek is Peter. Peter, therefore, having now given such an excellent specimen of his own proficiency, Jesus praises him: I do not, says he, repent that I
gave thee the name of Peter: for I see that thou art worthy of that name, and that thou wilt be the great support of my religion in the world. .
And, rather, “for," upon this rock, or, “ stone,” I will build my church. .
When Christ spoke these last words, it is probable that he pointed to Peter with his finger, or by a nod: for that would correspond with his design, which was to assign the reason of giving this name to Peter. We have examples in Scripture of a like change of name. Thus it is said of Abram," thy name shall be Abraham, because I have made thee the father of many nations;” and of Jacob, “thy name shall be Israel: for as a prince hast thou power with God and men, and hast prevailed.” So of Peter Christ says, “ Thou art so called, because thou shalt be like a rock." The meaning of this figurative language is this: I will make thee the first resolute professor of my religion, by whose services my church shall be established. Christ here refers to the time when Peter was the first to announce to the Jews, immediately after the resurrection of Jesus, and in a short time afterwards to the Gentiles, in the case of Cornelius, the important truth which he had now professed, that Jesus was the Christ.
The resurrection of Jesus, which establishes his claim to a divine mission, was believed by the Jews and Gentiles on the joint testimony of the apostles, but more