Imágenes de páginas

as the object of their intense hatred and bitter persecution. All the shafts of malevolence and calumny were directed against him, and intimations reached him that he would soon be called to account for his conduct in tho seat of the "Beast" itself, the city of seven hills. Fearless and faithful, he still prosecuted his noble career, and heeded not the fury of his adversaries, so long as he could preach "the words of life," and announce the true doctrines of the kingdom of heaven. But this liberty was soon denied. He was forbidden to preach, or to testify in any way the words whereby his fellow-creatures might be saved. Without being heard, or any opportunity being given for defence, he was excommunicated at Borne, and the thunders of the Papal prerogative were hurled about his ears. Agreeably to ecclesiastical order, he sent his proctors to answer for him; but they were committed to prison, and so remained for a year and a half. He reasoned, expostulated, entreated, but all in vain. His adversaries are bent on his destruction. He is hurried, like his Divine Lord, from one scene of harassment and persecution to another; till at length a general council is convened, and he is summoned to answer for his doings and his doctrines there.

It was the celebrated General Council of Constance, assembled by command of the Emperor and the Pope, in the year 1415. The alleged object of it was, according to the historians of the day, to settle the disputes between the rival pontiffs, and determine who should be the infallible successor of St. Peter, for three of them were at that time contending, to the scandal of all Christendom, for that imaginary honour, and hurling mortal defiance at each other for the usurpation of the Papal throne. As in some other quarrels of a similar kind, though of somewhat less importance, the three lost it, and the Council and the Emperor, more powerful, if not more wise, appointed

another in their stead. To this august and imposing assembly, savouring however much more of the grandeur of this world than of tho spiritual glory of the Church of Christ, the evangelical preacher was summoned, and, as he understood and expected, with a view to give an account of his statements, and defend them before it. For this he duly prepared, and having obtained the noedful " safo conduct" from the Emperor, prooeeded on his way to that once beautiful city in which the Council was to be held. No sooner had he arrived there, however, than ho was cast into prison. Contrary to all law and authority, to all righteousness ar.'l truth, the emissaries of tho Pope had conspired against him, and, to secure their victim, immured him within the walls of the city jail. He expostulated, ho reasoned, he pleaded; and some powerful friends that were with him in the oity expostulated and pleaded too, but all in vain. Borne was never yet known to relax its grasp when once the witness for truth was within its power: and after innumerable vexations and delays, this holy and excellent man was condemned to die the death, and sufler in tho fire. He received his sentence without dismay, conscious truth and the presence of his God and Saviour sustaining him in prospect of the awful scene. "I expected," he said, " to give an account of myself before the Council, but this I am denied; however,I am willing to lay down my life, rather than betray the truth." He was called so to do. The sentence was passed. On the 6th of July, 1415, he was conducted to the stake. "Full of faith and the love of God," says the historian, "he sustained this punishment with admirable constancy." Not a murmur escaped his lips; not an accent of malice or uncharitableno8s towards his murderers fell from his tongue. He knew that they as well as himself must shortly pass to a higher tribunal, a tribunal at which there is no respect of persons,

and from which thore is no appeal. With a hope full of immortality, he committed his spirit to Him that gave it, and his body was consigned to the flames.

So lived, and so died, the first of modern martyrs—the leader of the "noble army" in latter times. "He was," says D'Aubigne, "if we may be allowed the expression, the John Baptist of the lleformation. The flames of his pile kindled a fire in the church that cast a brilliant light into the surrounding darkness, and whose glimmerings were not to be so readily extinguished"

Not satisfied with thus wreaking their vengeance on this devoted and honoured servant of God, who was tho harbinger of mercy and of " the dayspring from on high " to the Continent of Europe, this infatuated Council proceeded to lay the ase, as they thought, to the root of the tree, and to seal up, if possible, the very fountain from which such heretical sentiments as those which Huss had advanced were derived. Accordingly they sought to darken our " Morning Star," and for ever extinguish his beams. Supposing, and that justly too, that Wyckliffe had been the teacher both of Huss and Jerome (whose name soon occurs on the Martyrs' roll), they pronounced him infamous, though now in the tomb, declared his writings to be abominable, and ordered his books to be destroyed, and his very bones to be exhumed and burnt, to indicate what his own fate would have been, had he still survived in the land of the living. This was nearly forty years after the Reformer of Lutterworth had slept in his grave. Of course, the stern mandate was obeyed. England, at that time, dared not to resist the Papal sway, and perhaps its own votaries were too much gratified to carry into execution the fatal behest. On the appointed day the mortal remains that had not yet seen corruption were dug from their peaceful slumbers,

and the fire kindled to receive them. Thus the same general Council of the so called infallible church distinguished itself in the annals of earth and of hell by dooming Huss and Jerome, two of the noblest servants of God that Europe ever saw, and Wycklifle's books and bones, to the flames.

But " the wrath of man shall praise Him, and the remainder of that wrath will he restrain." It is impossible not to perceive and to acknowledge the baud of God, the overruling providence of the Most Higb, in all the circumstances connected with the martyrdom of Huss, and its consequences to the church and to the world. His very conversion, at that time,from the errors of Popery into the "marvellous light" of the truth of the gospel, was significant of a Divine interposition; and the means which led to it were equally expressive of the wisdom and guidance of Him who worketh all in all. The grace that fitted him, as an instrument, to bear the contumelies and reproaches of Rome, and sustained him under tbem so long, was not less conspicuous; and the heroism and fortitude with which he endured the final scene, manifested the presence of Him who, out of weakness, makes his servants strong, and enables them to put to flight the armies of tho aliens. "I am far," said he, in the prospect of his fate, "from the strength and zeal of the Apostle Peter: Jesus Christ hath not given me his talents; but this I say—placing all mj confidence on Jesus Christ—I am determined, when I hear my sentence, to continue stedfast in the trutb, even to the death." And he did. That Saviour forsook him not. "Now," said the bishops, as they stood around him at the stake, "we commit thy soul to the devil." "But I," said the venerable sufferer, "commit my spirit into thy hands, O Lord Jesus Christ, for thou hast redeemed it." Jerome was there. The spirit and sufferings of Huss bat confirmed him in the truths he had dis

eovered and begun to proclaim. They were now fastened in his soul, "as a nail in a sure place, by the Master of assemblies," and with zeal, intrepidity, and success, almost equal to thRt of his predecessor, he opened them far and wide, till he also was called to seal his testimony with his blood. But, " why do tbe nations rage, the people imagine a rain thing, and the kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel against the Lord," and against his servants ?" He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision." The rage of Rome is vain. It can do "nothing against the truth;" and all its direst tragedies and darkest events shall bo "for it," and ultimately subserve its interests. There is a hand they cannot see, and a supreme Governor whose purposes they cannot control. Time is

rolling on, and those purposes shall be fulfilled. The present century (1483) gave birth to Luther. And without knowing that such an one was to come after him, the honoured martyr of Bohemia said to a faithful friend within his prison-walls, "I am no dreamor, but I maintain this for certain, that the image of Christ will never be effaced. They have wished to destroy it; but it shall be painted afresh in all hearts, by much better preachers than myself. The nation that loves Christ will rejoico at this. And I, awaking from the dead, and rising, so to speak, from my grave, shall leap with great joy."

"Now to the God of victory

Immortal thanks be paid,
Who makes us conquerors while we die,
Through Christ our living Head."

M. C.


His successors are only equal to the successors of Paul or of any other apostle; but are they his successors at all? Your catechisms, indeed, assort it thus: "Why do you call the Church Roman? Because the visible head of the Church is Bishop of Rome, and because St. Peter and his successors fixed their see at Eomc.—Who is the visiblo head of the Church? The Pope, who is Christ's Vicar on earth and supreme visible head of the Church.—To whom does the Pope succeed as visible head of tho Church? To St. Peter, who was the chief of the apostles, Christ's Vicar on Earth, and first Popo and Bishop of Rome." (Doyle's Catechism.) In opposition to this statement, I shall 6how you how improbablo it is that Peter ever was a bishop of the Church of Rome.

First, let us examine the evidence afforded by tho New Testament. 1. As Paul was appointed by our Lord his apostle to tho Gentiles, so Peter was

especially called to labour among tho Jews. (Oal. ii. 7—0.) So that, if Peter had settled at Rome, he would have deserted tho mission which was especially assigned to him. 2. As late as A.d. 08, when Paul wrote his letter to the Church of Rome, Peter was not its bishop; for in that letter ho makes no mention of Peter, while ho sends numerous salutations to other members of the church. 3. W7hen Paul was carried as a prisoner to Rome, lie preached the gospel freely within his own house for two years. (Acts xxviii. 30, 31.) Is it likely, that during that period Peter would leave his important duties in tho East to assume tho superintendence of a church which already enjoyed tho ministry of Paul? 4. During his imprisonment at Rome, A.d. CI, 02, Paul wrote four letters; three to tbo churches at Ephesus, Philippi, and Colossc, and ono to Philemon. In these letters individual Christians are mentioned, but there is no mention of Peter. In three of them, Timothy is associated with Paul in tho introduction, but there is perfect silence respecting Peter. Peter, therefore, was not then at Borne. 5. During that time, also, Paul wrote a letter to the Hebrew Christians, among whom Peter had long laboured, and to whom ho was specially dear. The Christians of Borne knew that ho was writing; for he says, at the end of his letter, " They of Italy salute you." (Heb. xiii. 24.) In this letter there is no message from Poter, and no mention of him,—a circumstance which could not hare taken place if Peter had then been at Bome. 0. About A.d. 65, or 66, Paul was again imprisoned at Bome, and then wrote his second letter to Timothy, in which we find theso words : "Do thy diligence to come shortly to me .... only Luke is with me. At my first ansiver no man stood with me, but all forsook me... . Eubulus greeteth thee, and Pudens, and Linus, and Claudia, and all tlie brethren." (2 Tim. iv. 9, 11,16,21.) If all men forsook him when he was first called to defend the gospel before Nero, certainly Poter was not then at Bome. If Luke alone was with him, Peter was not there. Hence, A.d. 65 or 66, Peter was not bishop of the Church of Bome. 7. A.d. 65 or 60, Peter wrote two letters to the Christians of Asia Minor, Paul being taken from them, to encourage and support them in their trials. In these letters there is no mention of the Church of Bome, nor of any brethren there, nor any message from Paul, who was then a prisoner there; whence it is plain that Peter was not then at Bome, nor bishop of that church. 8. In the first letter we road, " She in Babylon elected together with you salutcth you" (1 Pet. v. 13); whence it is apparent that he was then at Babylon. Erasmus, Wetstein, Bengel, Steiger, Barnes, and others, all expound this of Babylon, in Assyria, in the neighbourhood of which many Jews wore living, to whom Peter, as the apostle to the Jews, had naturally di-1

rected his attention. In the year, therefore, 65 or 66, Peter was still acting as an apostle to the Jews, and was not Bishop of Bome. 9. A.d. 67, if the tradition is correct, he was martyred j and in his second letter, he declares, prophetically, that his death was near, in these words: " Shortly I mutt put off this my tabernacle, even as our Lord Jesus Christ hath showed me." (2 Pet. i. 14.) Would an old man just ready to depart, placed in tho midst of churches which loved and honoured him, to whom his counsels were necessary, and to whom he was specially sent by his Master, cross continents and oceans to assume tho superintendence of a foreign church, with which he had no acquaintance, and where another apostle was labouring? It is impossible. And between A.d. 65 and A.d. 6T, when he was martyred, Peter certainly did not become bishop of the Church of Rome.

Since the circumstantial evidence of the New Testament so strongly contradicts the idea that Peter was ever bishop of the Church of Bome, wo are entitled to ask the most explicit and contemporaneous historical tostimony in its favour before we believe it. Do the times which immediately follow the apostolic era furnish this testimony?

Let us, 1st, consider the evidence adduced that Peter visited Bome and taught there. No author, either in the first century or in the first half of the second, has mentioned it. For abovo eighty years all the churches of Asia and Europe were silent on this point. No one seems to have known anything about it The first two authors who have broken this long silence are DionysiuB and Irenaaus. Dionysius, Bishop of Corinth in the second half of the second century, and therefore from eighty to one hundred years after tho supposed events, wrote as follows to the Bomans :—" You have wisely united the Bomans and tho Corinthians as plants planted in the field of the church

by the hands of Peter and of Paul. Both together they sowed the doctrine of the goepel in our city of Corinth. Both passed together into Italy, and then confirmed the same doctrine by their death." (Euseb. ii. 25. Neander, "Histoire de l'Etablissement de l'Eglise," Toi. i. p. 28.) Irensns, who was made Bishop of Lyons, A.m. ITU, and who was martyred A.d. 202, wrote towards the close of the second century, and therefore above one hundred years after the death of Peter, "Peter and Paul preached at Rome, and founded the churoh there." (M'Corry: "Was St. Peter ever at Rome?" p. 8.) Two considerations show that these statements are of little value. 1. Neither of these authors was in circumstances to verify these facts; they do not cite any authorities, nor give any reasons for their belief: but from eighty to one hnndred years after the events offer an uusustaiued opinion. 2. Their statements are manifestly erroneous. Paul and Peter certainly did not plant together the churoh of Corinth. (Acts iviii. 1—11: 1 Cor. iii. 5—10; iv. 16.) Paul and Peter certainly did not go together to Rome. (Acts xxvii., xxviii.) And we have seen proof from the New Testament that these two apostles did not preach together at Rome. Dionysius, therefore, is wholly in error, lrcnsens is not more exact: for Peter and Paul certainly did not found the Church of Rome. Peter, as we have seen, was especially the apostle of the Jews, labouring in the East; and Paul, who wrote his Epistle to the Church of Rome before he had ever visited them, declares that even then "their faith was spoken of throughout the whole world." (Rom. i. 7—15.) Since, therefore, parts of these statements of Dionysius and Irenseus are manifestly erroneous, we cannot have much confidence in the rest.

Some years later, Tertullian, who was made presbyter of the church of Carthage, A.d. 192, and who wrote about

the beginning of the third century, says of the Church of Rome, " That happy church, into which the apostles poured their whole doctrine with their blood; where Peter was crucified." (M'Corry, p. 9.) Origen, too, who was born A.d. 185, and died A.d. 274, adds, "Peter came to Rome, and was nailed to a cross with his head downwards." (M'Corry, ib.) Unsupported by any early testimony, or any argument, tbeso statements, made above one hundred and thirty years after the supposed events, are of still less value than those of Dionysius and Irenaeus. About the same time further evidence was offered. Zephyrinus was Bishop of Rome from A.d. 201 to A.d. 218. During his episcopate, and, therefore, between A.d. 201 and A.d. 218, Caius wrote thus: "I can show the trophies of the apostles. If you wish to see them, go to the Vatican or the Ostian way. There yon will see the monuments of those who have founded this church." And Eusebius, a century later, adds, " The monuments of Peter and Paul are still seen in the cemeteries of Rome." (Euseb. ii. 25.) From the nature of the caso these monuments could not be raised in honour of the apostles at the time of their martyrdom, because the persecuting emperors would havo destroyed both them and their builders. Before their erection, therefore, a considerable interval must have occurred, during which the Church of Rome was acquiring power. These monuments were probably not erected till towards the close of the second century, for no author of the second century mentions them: and a century after the death of the apostle Peter, a monument may have been raised in the capital in his honour, even if he had never been there. The progress of superstition rendered this the more likely. "In this age," says Waddington, of a later period, "arose the stupid veneration for bones and relics. It was inculcated and believed that prayer was never so surely

« AnteriorContinuar »