The Church and the Kingdom
A New Testament Study
By Jesse B. Thomas, D. D., LL.D
I.THE IMPERIAL THEORY
The only church consistently claiming to be visibly one and universal in character is the Papal. For a trustworthy conception of its theory of the constitution and characteristics of the Church, let us turn to the language of its documentary standards, supplemented by the utterances of its accredited theologians.
I. Official Standards. - The formal decrees of the Council of Trent give no explicit definition of the Church. But in 1565 there was issued by its authority a "Profession of the Tridentine Faith," containing the following clause from Bulls of Pius IV.:
"X. I acknowledge the Holy Catholic Apostolic Roman Church for the mother and mistress of all churches; and I promise and swear true obedience to the Bishop of Rome, successor to St. Peter, Prince of the Apostles, and Vicar of Jesus Christ" (Schaff,
"Creeds of Christendom," II., 209; McElhinney, "Doct of Church," 186).
In the "Catechism of the Council," put forth in 1566, is a fuller statement, as follows: "The Church, according to St. Augustine's definition, is the body of the faithful dispersed throughout the world. . . . The wicked are contained in the Church as the chaff is mingled with grain on the threshing-floor, or as dead members sometimes remain attached to a living body. . . . Only three classes of persons are excluded from her pale: first, infidels; next, heretics and schismatics; and, lastly, the excommunicated. Infidels, because they never belonged to and never knew the Church, nor were ever made partakers of the sacraments in the communion of a Christian people (this includes pagans, Mohammedans and Jews). Heretics and schismatics, because they have severed themselves from the Church. They are still, however, subject to the power of the Church, seeing that they may be cited before her tribunal, punished and condemned by anathema. Finally, excommunicated persons also, because excluded by her sentence from the Church, belong not to her communion until they repent. As to the rest, although shameful
and wicked persons, there is no doubt that they still continue in the Church; and of this the faithful are frequently to be informed, in order that they may have the assurance that even were the lives of her ministers debased by crime, they are still included in her pale, and forfeit, on that account, none of their prerogatives.
"The first distinctive character of the true Church is unity. . . . This Church has also one Ruler and Governor, the invisible Christ, whom the eternal Father hath made head over all the Church, which is his body; but the visible is he who, the legitimate successor of Peter, the prince of the apostles, occupies the See of Rome. . . . As a visible Church requires a visible head, our Saviour appointed Peter head and pastor of all the faithful, when, in the most ample terms, He committed to his care the feeding of his sheep, so as that He willed his successor to have the very same power of ruling and governing the whole Church. . . .
"As to the second distinctive mark of the Church - holiness. . . . The Church, although containing many sinners, is called holy . . . the faithful, though offending in many things, are called holy because they
have been made the people of God, or have consecrated themselves to Christ by faith and baptism. . . . Yet, further, the Church alone has the legitimate worship of sacrifice, and the salutary use of the sacraments, by which, as by the efficacious instruments of divine grace, God effects true holiness: so that whosoever are really holy can not be outside this Church. . . .
"The third distinctive mark of the Church is that she is called Catholic - that is, universal - as embracing, in the bosom of her love, all mankind; . . . and as comprehending all the faithful who have existed from Adam up to the present day, or who shall exist to the end of time. . . . "We may also know the true Church from her origin, which she derives, under the revelation of grace, from the apostles; for her doctrines are neither novel nor of recent origin, but delivered of old by the apostles, and diffused throughout the world. . . . Wherefore, that all might know the true Catholic Church, the Fathers, guided by the Spirit of God, added in the creed the word 'apostolic.' . . . Being thus divinely guided, this one Church can not err in delivering the discipline of faith and morals; but all other societies, calling
themselves churches, guided as they are by the spirit of the devil, are necessarily sunk in the most pernicious errors both of doctrine and morals" (McElhinney. ut sup., 186-190).
II. Interpretation and Defense of the Theory by Romanist Writers. - It will be observed that the essential feature of the above definitions is affirmance of the reality of an external and visible organism, in which apostolic leadership and authority have been continued representatively in Peter's official successors, and into which men must be incorporated by external acts alone. Thus Bellarmine says: "We do not think there is any internal virtue required, but only profession of faith and participation of the sacraments, which is recognized by sense. For the Church is an assembly of men, as visible and palpable as the company of the Roman people, or the Kingdom of France, or the Republic of Venice" (cited in Hodge, "Church Polity," 19).
Again, Moehler explains that "the ultimate reason of the visibility of the Church is to be found in the incarnation of the Divine Word. . . . The Deity having manifested its action in Christ according to an
ordinary human fashion, the form in which his work was to be continued, was thereby traced out. The preaching of his doctrine needed now a visible medium, and must be entrusted to visible envoys, teaching and instructing after the wonted method. . . . Thus, the visible Church, from the point of view here taken, is the Son of God himself among men in a human form, perpetually renovated and eternally young - the permanent incarnation of the same, as, in Holy Writ, even the faithful are called the 'body of Christ'" (Symbolism, N. Y., 1844, 332, 333).
Cardinal Newman, in his "Sermons on Subjects of the Day" (Sermons XIV., XV., XVI.), appeals to the prophecies of the Old Testament in support of the theory that the New Testament Church must needs be such a visible imperial power. For the promise in Isaiah (37:31) that a "remnant" of Judah should survive and prosper, taken in connection with frequent other prophetic allusions to the preservation of such a "remnant," clearly foreshadows a future organism in continuance of the Jewish - a new form of an old and imperishable thing. As confirming this "principle of continuity," he
turns to the apostolic rebuke of the Colossians for returning to the "rudiments of the world" in worship (Colossians 2:20-22). This return he interprets as not a revival of Jewish rites, but a substitution of heathen customs for the divinely ordained ritual given the Jews. The new Israel, he insists, should have continued priesthood, sacrifice, incense, and the like, after the only divinely given pattern. For proof that the new Israel was meant to be a "visible imperial power," like the old of which it is a modified prolongation, and not merely a "conformity to creed or philosophy," he turns to various Old Testament passages. He claims that the prediction in Isaiah 2:2, for instance, that "the mountain of the Lord's house" shall be "exalted above the hills," and become a source of attraction and authority to all people, implies a supreme earthly sovereignty. "An invisible kingdom on the earth" he declares to be inconceivable. Christ is now, indeed, an invisible ruler, but his earthly rule must be made visible. This rule was promised his apostles: "Ye shall sit upon twelve thrones" (Matthew 19:28). And Peter was made their head as chief repository of authority (Matthew 16:18). The parable of the mustard seed
in Matthew, it is urged, refers unmistakably to the same thing as the growing "tree" in Daniel 4:10-12, in which the "birds of the air" took refuge. Parallel with this is also the "cedar" in Ezekiel 17:22-24, in the "shade of whose branches" "birds of every wing shall dwell." In both these figures an over-shadowing kingdom is indicated. This is still more explicitly predicted in the prophetic figures of Daniel 2:31-45. For if the earlier kingdoms referred to be actual - viz., Rome and Persia - consistency requires that the final conquering kingdom be also earthly. But this kingdom is clearly the Church (cf. Apoc. 19, 11:14, 15).
III. Summary of Papal Theory.
1. It holds that the "Holy Catholic Church" is a visible, world-embracing organism - identical with the "kingdom of heaven" foretold by the prophets and announced by our Lord as "at hand" (cf. Newman sup".).
2. That Peter was by Christ himself made sole head of that kingdom; and invested, as his substitute, with all his own attributes and powers. Peter thus became a prolonged incarnation of the Divine. To doubt his official word or resist his authority
is therefore to doubt and resist God.
3. That the sovereign pontiff, as the successor of Peter, inherits all the powers and prerogatives of Peter himself; becoming thus the sole medium through whom the wisdom, power and grace of God can directly reach men.
4. That there is no forgiveness of sin, and no salvation, outside the Church; and that, within the Church, absolution of sin and bestowal of grace are obtainable only at the hands of priests, lawfully ordained by bishops empowered thereto by the supreme head of the Church.
As illustrating these conceptions, note the following Papal utterances; viz.:
Innocent III., at his inauguration in 1198, announced himself as "the vicegerent of Christ; the successor of Peter . . . less than God, more than man . . . who judges all, is judged by none."
Boniface VIII., at his coronation in 1294, declared himself "Father of princes and kings, ruler of the world, vicar on earth of Jesus Christ our Saviour."
The same pope, in the famous bull "Unam Sanctam," claims that as "the spiritual power is above the temporal," "whoever
resists the highest power ordained of God resists God himself."
The Civilta Cattolica, official organ of the Papacy, in 1871 defined the functions of the pope as follows: He is "the chief justice of the civil law. In him the two powers, the spiritual and temporal, meet together as in their head; for he is the vicar of Christ, who is not only eternal priest, but also 'King of kings and Lord of lords' " (Dollinger, "Dec'ns .and Letters," etc.).
IV. Logical Sequences of Theory.
1. As to the individual.
(1) Salvation is obtainable, not through faith in Jesus Christ, nor through regeneration by the Holy Spirit, but through the external rite of baptism lawfully administered. (See Bellarmine, sup. p. 20.)
(2) Forgiveness of sins can come only through priestly intervention. "Absolution is that act of the priest whereby in the sacrament of penance he frees men from sin . . . (requiring) on the part of the minister previous valid reception of the order of priesthood, and jurisdiction granted by competent authority over the person receiving the sacrament" (Cath. Encyclopedia, 1907, s. v. "Absolution").
(3) Through the power of "the keys," jurisdiction over purgatory is also in the hands of the Church, and "plenary indulgence for the living and the dead" may be granted by the Pppe, releasing men from the penalty of sins not yet committed, or from the pains of purgatory.
(4) "Saving faith" is reliance upon the authority of the Pope as the only infallible interpreter of Scripture, and guide in all questions of belief and conduct. The claim of the right of private interpretation of Scripture, and "liberty of conscience" in obedience thereto, was denounced by Pius IX. (citing Gregory XVI., 1832) as "insanity."
2. As to the nation.
(1) No civil government is lawful if heretical; that is, if not instituted or sanctioned by Papal authority.
Leo XIII., in Encyc., January, 1890, says: "In very truth Jesus Christ gave to his apostles unrestrained authority in regard to things sacred, together with the most genuine and true power of making laws, as also with the twofold right of judging and of punishing which flow from that power: 'All power is given to me in heaven and in
earth,' etc. . . . There is a certain orderly connection of church and state which may be compared to the union of soul and body.'"
(2) A government failing to extirpate heresy may be dissolved by Papal decree. The Lateran Council of 1215 ordained that if "heresy be allowed by the king to grow in his dominions, . . . the Pope may declare the vassals of that ruler absolved from his fealty and invite Catholics to occupy the country" (Addis and Emmett's Dictionary, s. v. "Deposing Power").
This doctrine is still avowed. "The very fact that European governments have ceased to be Christian makes it impossible for the Papacy, of which Christ and his gospel are the life, to live at peace with them. . . . The Pope must oppose, must be out of sympathy with the civil power when he sees it establishing schools without religion, encouraging the erection of heretical temples, vexing and banishing religious orders, and throwing obstacles in the way of those who wish to embrace the religious life" (Addis and Emmett, Dictionary, s. v. "States of the Church").
(3) The Pope may lawfully require the suppression of heresy by force. The argument
of dissenters in England against the interference of the Anglican Church with freedom of worship fails as against the Roman Catholic Church, "for if the magistrate allow himself to be guided by the Church and the Pope, he rests on the basis of infallible truth, and his action in applying the forces of the establishment to the support of religion can not, in that case, be either mistaken or mischievous" (Addis and Emmett, Dictionary, s. v. "Establishment of Church").
The "Roman Catholic Dictionary," from which the above citations are made, was published in 1885 under the imprimatur of the highest Papal authority in England.
In further confirmation of the inferential conclusions above set forth may be added the following familiar utterances of one of the most revered of the popes, his dicta being since reinforced by Papal approval.
From the syllabus of Pius IX., put forth in 1864, and subsequently, "by the Decree of Infallibility, confirmed as truths eternal and equal in authority with the Decalogue":
"The State has not the right to leave every man free to profess and embrace whatever religion he shall deem true.
"It has not the right to the entire direction of public schools."
In the same syllabus, conversely, the rights and powers of the Church are thus put forth:
"She has the right to require the State not to leave every man free to profess his own religion.
"She has the right to deprive the civil authority of the entire government of the public schools.
"She has the right of perpetuating the union of Church and State.
"She has the right to require that the Catholic religion shall be the only religion of the State, to the exclusion of all others.
"She has the right to prevent the State from granting the public exercise of their own worship to persons immigrating into it.
"She has the power of requiring the State not to permit free expression of opinion."
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