Page:Tracts for the Times Vol 2.djvu/25

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TRACTS FOR THE TIMES.

(chap. xvi. 18.) "Upon this rock will I build my Church." It is argued by the Churchman, that the obvious sense of the word Ἐκκλησία (Assembly), as it would strike an unprejudiced reader, is that of a visible body; and that this sense is confirmed by the use of the term in chap. xviii. 17. Again, we are referred to the remarkable passage, (chap. xxiv. 45–51.) "Who then is that faithful and wise servant, whom his Lord shall make ruler over his household, to give them their portion of meat in due season. Blessed is that servant whom his Lord, when He cometh, shall find so doing," &c. It is asked, whether we do not find traces here of a line of ministry to continue in Christ's "Church" and "household" until His coming again. And we are bidden to compare with this passage that final promise of our Lord to his Apostles, with which the Gospel concludes, (chap. xxviii. 20.) "Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world," as confirming the proof of an uninterrupted succession of the Apostolical ministry. From these passages, then, put together, we seem to derive some idea of the Church as a Visible Spiritual Society, formed by Christ himself; a household over which He has appointed his servants to be stewards and rulers to the end. But then this view is drawn from what might seem a few insulated passages, occurring in a Gospel which we have been accustomed to look to for what we think more practical truths. And how do they affect us? We do not like to have our minds called off to such external relations. The interpretation offered us of these passages, seems, indeed, correct, and the argument grounded on them legitimate: but after all they are but a few scattered passages, referring to points which we consider of inferior importance, and not entitled to have so much stress laid upon them, or to be made foundations of a system.

But now, discarding prejudice and theory, let us calmly and teachably take up the Gospel of St. Matthew, in the hope, by diligently comparing of spiritual things with spiritual, to obtain an insight into its true meaning. Let us take the passage first referred to. The promise is made to St. Peter: it may be well, therefore to look through the Gospel, and collect the scattered notices of this Apostle. We shall thus ascertain whether the promise would seem to have been made to St. Peter individually,