From The Works of the Rt. Rev. Charles C. Grafton (Volume 1),
edited by B. Talbot Rogers, New York: Longmans, Green, 1914
Christian and Catholic
S. PETER'S PRE-EMINENCE
THERE comes a time to most Catholics when in some form the claims of Rome are presented to them. They can be presented most attractively and they appeal to many sides of our religious nature. The Roman church is a sister one to the Anglican and to the churches of the East, and shares in the glories of a common Catholicity. It would be churlish and disingenuous not to admit that she has special glories of her own.
We willingly acknowledge the advantage of her discipline, the self-sacrificing lives of many of her priests, the inspiring beauty of her worship, the devotion and philanthropy of her religious orders. We must accord to her high praise for her preservation of the Holy Eucharist as the supreme act of worship. No less will we thank God for the lives of her saints and the spiritual treasury of her ascetic theology.
To aid any in solving the problem Rome presents, let us first state the claim made by her to a supreme headship and universal jurisdiction, and then examine fairly the proofs urged in their behalf.
The Church, it is asserted by accredited Roman theologians, has two separate elements: the primacy and priesthood. These are embodied in the pontificate and the episcopate. Christ did not institute the visible Church as a constitutional government, but as a monarchy. In a monarchy one person and one alone is in possession of supreme power. As universal ruler, the pope has power to make universal law to bind the whole Church. It is not in the power of all the bishops in one body to make a universal law. To the pontiff the election of bishops belongs by divine right. It is inherent in the divinely established primacy. He alone has authority to institute new dioceses. And when he speaks ex cathedra he is infallible, and his judgments are irreformable. We have condensed the above from an authorized Roman work on the papacy.
Color is given to the Roman claim by the marked prominence assigned to S. Peter in the Gospels. It would be contrary to Catholic thought if we saw nothing of spiritual significance in this fact. But facts, according to the modern scientific method of inquiry, are not to be considered apart, but in regard to their growth, evolution, and co-ordinate relations. In this way we must examine the pre-eminence of S. Peter, and compare it with the distinctions given other Apostles. In the Gospels we recognize the transparent eminence of S. Peter, S. James, and S. John. In the Acts and Epistles, the two most distinguished are S. Peter and S. Paul. In the Revelation we have S. John.
The first point to be noticed in our examination is that these three have all special names or titles of honor given them. This distinction does not pertain, as is often overlooked, to S. Peter alone. All three have their special designations of office and honor. S. John has for his title that of "Son of Thunder." His evangel is full of the light and life that came down from heaven. He is the doctor of the incarnation, of the Word made flesh. He is pre-eminent in his intimacy with our Lord, and is called "the beloved disciple." Saul's name is changed to Paul. The change is significant of his conversion and office. The latter is denoted by a change from a Hebrew to a Roman name, marking out his mission as the great Apostle to the Gentiles. Our Lord gives to Simon an added name, the name of Cephas, "which is by interpretation a stone." It was given to declare both the needed transformation of his nature by union with Christ, the Living Rock, and also his becoming the first Apostolic foundation stone of the Christian Church. To him also Christ gives the keys of the new kingdom.
What are the ideas we naturally associate with these names and titles? To Saul a changed name is given declarative of his conversion and mission to the Gentile world. S. John's name is not changed, but a title is given him: "Son of Thunder." It lifts our minds heavenward. We think of the majestic roll of heaven's artillery, of the awe-compelling voice from above, of the forked lightning's vivid flash. We see how fitting this is to the great Apostle and evangelist of the incarnation. He it is who proclaims as no other the awe-thrilling utterance of the Word made flesh; who preserves the great sacramental discourses; of the bread that came from heaven, of the birth from above, and the wind blowing where it listeth; who is the medium of communication between our Lord in glory and His Church, and who proclaims that final coming which shall be as lightning shining from the East to the West.
To Simon an added name was given. If S. John was, as S. Augustine thought, a type of the new dispensation and S. Peter of the old, we see how appropriate it was that to John, the loved disciple, a title was given signifying that dispensation which was inaugurated by the heavenly message to the Blessed Virgin, and welcomed from off heaven's rood screen by the angelic choir. Equally, how fitting it was that Simon should have the name rock or stone added to his former one, signifying thereby how the new temple of which he was to be a part was to be builded on the old foundation.
These three prominent Apostles, it is further to be noticed, succeed one another, and pass before our vision across the field of history in a most suggestive order. S. Peter first engages our attention. He is pre-eminent in the preparatory stage when our Lord was engaged in laying the foundations of His kingdom. But this pre-eminence does not continue. The most superficial reader of the New Testament can but notice the marked distinction between the position given S. Peter in the first part of the Acts from that he subsequently occupied. When our Lord was laying foundations, as recorded in the Gospels, then Peter, who was the special type of that old order, is pre-eminent among the other Apostles. When this work is done a change takes place. S. Peter is no longer recorded as first, but the names in the Apostolic roll-call are reversed, and it is "James, Peter, and John." Then, as the figure of Peter fades away, our spiritual gaze is concentrated on S. Paul. He then becomes the central figure, the great world-wide missionary, the specially consecrated Apostle, by command of the Holy Ghost. When S. Peter and S. Paul and all the other Apostles have passed from earth, then S. John becomes the most prominent, and his prominence is most significant and unique. We behold him, the only surviving Apostle, certainly with no earthly superior, ruling at Ephesus over the Church; establishing the Episcopal order throughout Asia; completing the New Testament by writing the Fourth Gospel, his general Epistles and his Book of Revelation. S. Peter's work was finished and so was S. Paul's. Christ after the ascension instructs His Church through neither of these two, but through S. John.
As we thus contrast the prominence of these Apostles we see that that of S. Peter was connected with the foundation-laying period of the Church, S. Paul to that of its extension to the Gentiles, S. John to that of the completion of the Gospel revelation and its settled organization. They pass from earth and no one succeeds them in their respective offices, for with their passing their personal offices have ceased.
We have as yet only contrasted them in a general way. Let us now analyze the life of S. Paul and see what things are said of him? Are they of like significance to those recorded of S. Peter? If so, and if they do not imply that Paul was consequently the source of all jurisdiction and centre of unity, then those of like character concerning Peter do not imply what Rome now claims, namely, superiority of office over the other Apostles.
The calling of the two Apostles was different. Peter, a type of the old dispensation, was brought by his converted younger brother Andrew to Christ. To Saul our Lord miraculously appeared and commissioned him. He was to go to the Gentiles "unto whom I now send thee. And not to the Gentiles only, for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles and the children of Israel." Peter opens the kingdom to Jew and Gentile. Paul is to extend it "among all nations" Paul's calling, mission, consecration, were entirely independent of S. Peter, and his jurisdiction was regulated by the Apostles.
Take another point. Consider the establishment of the Christian ministry. How much had S. Peter to do with it, and how much S. Paul? This will surely give us a critical test as to their respective pre-eminence in the Christian Church. Much is made by Romans of S. Peter's publication of the vacancy in the twelve foundations and the necessity of filling Judas's place. But he does not fill the vacancy by his own appointment as he would have done, were he, as the pope claims to be, the vicar of Christ. The duty he performed belonged to him as holding the leadership among the Twelve. It was for him to point out the vacancy, and this is all he is said to have done. He did not even direct how the vacancy was to be filled. It was done by the action of the whole assembled Church.
When we come to the establishment and ordination of the Christian ministry it is significant that S. Peter has nothing specially to do with it. How conclusively this tells against the Roman theory is shown by their unwarranted assertions. In a Roman life of S. Peter which was put forth with the imprimatur of several cardinals, it is stated "that sometime after this (Pentecost) S. Peter consecrated S. James Bishop of Jerusalem!" The Abbé Fouard in his book on S. Peter says "that the hierarchy was founded, deacons ordained, the priesthood established, in fine, the Church has detached herself from the synagogue, and thus the ground plan of the work appears finished before ever Paul begins his labors! Indeed, far from being an organizer, Saul of Tarsus is at this date a simple layman!"
Far different, however, is the record in the Word of God. When the first order of the Christian ministry begins to be formed, S. Peter, save as being included in the Twelve, is not even mentioned. It is the Twelve who bid the multitude look out and select the seven candidates, whom they set before the Apostles and on whom the Apostles lay their hands. S. Peter is never said by himself to have ordered the ordination or ordained any one, either to the diaconate or priesthood or episcopate. But we do read that S. Paul ordained "elders in every city," and of his gathering by laying on of hands Timothy and Titus into the higher order of the episcopate. Moreover, in regard to holy orders, it is not S. Peter but S. Paul who formulates the canon for the Church's guidance regarding the admission of persons, their qualifications, and their subsequent discipline. The fact that S. Peter had of record nothing to do with the ordaining of the Christian ministry is another proof that his pre-eminence has relation to the foundation-laying period of the Church, and not to its subsequent developed state.
Let us now consider the discipline of the Church. Which of the two, S. Peter or S. Paul, has the preeminence? Does the record show that S. Peter was in this the superior of S. Paul?
There are two cases of discipline determined by S. Peter; one in Samaria on the Gentile Simon Magus, and one in Solomon's porch, the remaining part of the old temple, upon the Jews Ananias and Sapphira. To S. Peter had been given the keys of the new kingdom to open and shut, to bind or loose, and we find him exercising this power both on Jew and Gentile. We find in like manner S. Paul smiting the false prophet Bar-Jesus, a Jew, and later pronouncing judgment on the guilty Gentile Corinthian. But note the difference in the sentence. S. Paul exercises the more ghostly discipline of the Church. He casts the guilty Corinthian out of the Church of God, and delivers him over to Satan, and subsequently inflicts the same penalty of excommunication on Hymenseus and Alexander. S. Peter never excommunicated any one. S. Paul did. This is a far greater exercise of sovereignty than that of Peter's infliction of a death penalty. The latter any earthly monarch might inflict, only the representative of the awful majesty of God could inflict the former.
In the general discipline of the Church we see that it was S. Paul who gave the canons for the admission of persons to holy orders, condemned the Corinthian Church for sacrilegious administration of the Holy Eucharist, gave the general rules concerning the conduct of divine service; and the ancient liturgies, it has been observed, follow the order he records. While both he and S. Peter alike exhort the clergy and laity, S. Paul decides the great problems relating to the Church's discipline and conduct, the marriage relation, the duties of master and slaves, the use of the gifts of tongues in church, the eating of things offered to idols. Upon him comes, he exclaims, "the care of all the churches." If this had been said of Peter how would not that text have been reiteratedly pressed by Romans to prove his supremacy. How blind, it would have been said, are those Easterns and Anglicans who do not see it.
We cannot close the point of church discipline without mentioning that in the administration of his office, Paul "withstood Peter to the face, because he was to be blamed." Not because they differed on some subordinate matter of policy, as Romans are wont to say, but because, as it is written, Peter "walked not uprightly according to the truth of the gospel." It was a severe arraignment. S. Paul evidently did not regard S. Peter as an infallible guide either in faith or in morals. How destructive this incident is felt to be even by Romans themselves to their theory is seen by the efforts made by them to avoid its force. In the Roman book we have before referred to, page I, it is said: "That the Cephas who was reproached by S. Paul for the inconsistency of his conduct with respect to the Mosaic rites was not S. Peter, is the opinion of the best writers!" Roman cardinals and archbishops and bishops gave their imprimatur to this work.
Another way of contrasting these two Apostles is to examine their visions. Each was wonderfully favored by God. But their visions differ in number, subjects, and purpose. When S. Peter was at Joppa1 he fell into a trance and saw heaven open and a great sheet let down wherein were all manner of four-footed beasts, etc., and there came a voice to him: "Rise, Peter, kill and eat." By this vision he was prepared to go to the Gentile Cornelius and receive him into the Church. At Pentecost he had gathered the Jews, and now he was to bring in the Gentiles. This was his special work as foundation layer and opener of the kingdom. On the other hand, there are six visions vouchsafed to S. Paul. In four our Lord Himself appears to him. Saul was informed in a vision that Ananias would come and cure his blindness. At Troas a vision appeared to Paul in the night, and there stood a man of Macedonia who said, "Come over and help us." At some place not given, our Lord revealed to Paul the institution of the Holy Communion, His one great act of worship, and that it was a "shewing forth of His death till He come." At Jerusalem, in the temple, in a trance, the Lord said unto him: "Make haste, depart, for I will send thee far hence unto the Gentiles." At Corinth the Lord spake unto Paul in the night by a vision: "Be not afraid; but speak, and hold not thy peace, for I am with thee, and no man shall set on thee to hurt thee." Again we read, at night the Lord stood by him and said: "Be of good cheer, Paul: for as thou hast testified of me in Jerusalem, so must thou bear witness at Rome." No command, it may be noticed, is ever given to Peter to bear witness at Rome. But why not, if our being in the true Church depends on it? At sea S. Paul writes: "There stood by me this night the angel of the Lord whose I am and whom I serve, saying, Fear not, Paul, and lo, God hath given thee all them that sail with thee!" What if these words had been said of S. Peter! Would they not have been placed in the forefront of every Roman argument? Would they not have found place around S. Peter's dome? But it is not said of those who are in Peter's boat, but in Paul's. "The Lord hath given thee all them that sail with thee." Contrast thus the visions. They show Paul to be the special leader in extending the new dispensation, as Peter was the foundation layer and door opener of it. In confirmation of this pre-eminence in the way of visions, it is never said of S. Peter as it was of S. Paul, he was "caught up into the third heaven."
Take another department. Consider their miracles. These also are not without their import. Through each of these great servants the Lord shows forth His power. He works through them. They stretch forth "thine hand to heal." We find S. Peter healing Eneas, sick of the palsy at Lydda, and saying, "Jesus Christ maketh thee whole." He also raises Dorcas, saying, "Tabitha, arise." At the temple gate Peter took the impotent man "by the right hand and lifted him up." We read4 that they " brought forth the sick into the streets that at least the shadow of Peter passing by might overshadow some of them," "and they were healed every one." We read in like manner of S. Paul that at Lystra he healed the impotent man, saying, "Stand upright on thy feet; and he leaped and walked." At Troas, at the Eucharist he recalls life to Eutychus, "who was taken up dead." At Thyatira he cast out a devil from the possessed damsel, saying, "I command thee in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her." "God," we also read, "wrought special miracles by the hands of Paul: so that from his body were brought unto the sick handkerchiefs or aprons, and the diseases departed from them." But, and here we shall find the most significant contrasts, consider their marvellous deliverances. S. Paul's are most notable and symbolical of the Christian dispensation. He shakes off the viper from his hand without harm, when the bystanders expect to see him fall down dead. At Lystra he is stoned, and they, supposing him to be dead, carried his body out of the city, when, as a type of the risen Christ, "he rose up and came into the city." Nothing so wonderful is recorded of S. Peter.
In addition, there is Paul's deliverance from prison and death, and this should be most carefully examined in contrast with that of Peter. All the Apostles were once delivered from prison, and the angel of the Lord by night opened the prison doors and brought them forth. But the two Apostles are especially delivered, and these deliverances are full of suggestive contrasts. S. Peter's is a type of the deliverance of the Jewish Church; S. Paul's, of the inherent, indestructible life of the Christian. To Peter, as to the Jewish Church, comes an angel with his heavenly message. A light shines in the prison. But the angel has to smite Peter, sunk in lethargy like Judaism, to rouse him. He must arise and clothe and gird himself, as Israel had to do by penitence, and follow his heaven-sent guide. And then, when past the iron gate of the law, he must find his way to the house, symbolical of the Christian Church, where prayer has been made for him.
Paul and Silas are likewise carefully secured and are placed in the inner prison, their feet being made fast in the stocks. At midnight they pray and sing praises to God. Suddenly there was a great earthquake, "and all the doors were opened and every one's bands were loosed." No angel comes with a message from heaven, for they are possessed of the new revelation. Peter, like the Jewish Church, sleeps, and can only be roused by the sharp discipline of the angel's blow. He owes his release to the prayers of the Church without. But Paul and Silas, typical of the Christian state, are awake and are praising God. Even as Christ rose by His own inherent life-power, they owe their deliverance to no external aid. It is their own prayers and praises that bring on the miraculous earthquake. Only from the hands of the aroused Peter do the chains fall off; but in the other case the gracious power of the Gospel is seen, for "all the doors were opened and every one's bands were loosed." In Peter's case we have the sad ending of the judicial killing of the innocent keepers. They may be a type of the unconverted Jew or Gentile who perish. Paul's safety ends in no such tragedy, but with the deliverance of his keeper both from temporal and spiritual death. We are assured of the keeper's newly found faith, his marvellous conversion and his baptism. This great deliverance, moreover, ends with Christian feasting and rejoicing, and Paul's triumph over the magistrates themselves. It sets forth the triumph of the Christian Church.
Consider, again, the preaching of the Apostles. We should not have thought it needful to contrast the preaching and witness-bearing of the Apostles, but the fact of "Peter's standing up with the Eleven," and "in their midst," has been cited in proof of his prominence. The question is, what does that prominence signify? We have claimed for him a special place of distinction and honor in the Apostolic college. He is first of the Twelve. He has the keys. He opens the kingdom by his sermons at Pentecost to the Jews, and at Caesarea to the Gentiles. He explains his reception of Cornelius to the Apostles. These are his principal sermons. At the council it is unwarrantable to say "that he presides." It is only fair to say that of the Apostles he speaks first and gives his opinion. The same view is maintained by Barnabas and Paul. Then James gives his own judgment. Peter is not the central figure, as Romans claim, and no more prominent than the others. Neither would we assert, as some have, that S. James, as the presiding prelate, decided the case. What settles the matter against Peter's pre-eminence is that the decree runs not in the name of Peter, but in that of "the Apostles and elders and brethren."
In connection with this it is not necessary to recount S. Paul's many sermons, his defence of the faith before kings, or his writing more than half the New Testament. His place as the great Apostolic teacher is unique. In contrast with Peter, no words of authority like Paul's are to be found in S. Peter's epistles. "Lo," says S. Paul, "I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God." "If an angel from heaven or any man preach any other gospel unto you than that we have preached unto you, let him be accursed." "Be ye followers of me, as dear children." " If our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost." What words also of cheer he utters (the very words of Christ): "There shall not a hair fall from the head of any one of you."
As in their mutual relationship there is seen to be no superiority of authority of one over the other, so in relation to the Apostolic college both are alike subordinate to it. While, as Trent says, "the hierarchy consists of the three sacred orders," the officers of the Christian Church, as given in Corinthians and Ephesians, are not, first Peter, but "first Apostles." S. Peter only claims to be "an Apostle," one like, not one over the others. His glorious foundation-laying office over, his name no longer stands first in the list, which now reads "James and Cephas and John." He does not exercise any jurisdictional authority over the other Apostles, but is sent by them into Samaria. He does not assume for himself jurisdiction, but, as to Paul the care of the Gentiles is assigned, so to Peter is committed by the Apostles that of the circumcision. The three keys Peter holds in his hands, says a Roman writer, shows "that authority in heaven, in hell, and on earth is granted to him." This is the assigned meaning to the pope's triple tiara. Anything, we submit, more unlike the scriptural position given Peter, it is difficult to imagine.
Nor is the manner in which these Apostles pass from the scriptural record without its significance. The last recorded appearance of S. Peter in Acts is at the Council. He has laid the foundation and opened the kingdom to Jew and Gentile, and now his work of leadership is done. It was not an office he could transmit to a successor. No one could ever take his place. Like a foundation, he becomes in Holy Scripture hidden and out of sight. But all along there is noticeable a growing prominence of S. Paul, and a resemblance, as a typical representative, to Christ. Like Him, he suffered in the wilderness. Like Christ, he was in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness. Like Him, he is accused of speaking against the law of the Jews, the temple, and Caesar. Like Him, the Jews conspire to kill him. As Pilate declared of Christ, "I have found no cause of death in Him," so Festus said of Paul. Like Him, he was stoned. Like Him, smitten when answering the High Priest. Like Him, he was scourged. Like Him, he was deserted and forsaken. He could say, " I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus." Like Christ, he is in the storm. In spite of shipwreck, all who sail with him are saved. The enduring nature of the Gospel is seen in the last picture of him securely dwelling in Rome in his own house, "Preaching the kingdom of God and teaching those things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ." The Word of God was rightly interpreted by S. Ambrose when he said, "Nec Paulus inferior Petro."
May God open the eyes at least of all Anglicans to a right understanding of His Word, and deliver them from any delusion about Peter's pre-eminence as significant of any office which made him the superior of the other Apostles, and which was to be transmitted to a successor.