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Verse 17

Matthew 16:17. Jesus answered, Blessed [or happy, as μακαριος signifies] art thou, Simon Bar-jona, (or the son of Jonas,) namely, in being brought thus firmly to believe and confess this most important truth, on believing and confessing which the present and everlasting salvation of mankind depends. For flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee “Thou hast not learned it by human report, or the unassisted sagacity of thy own mind; but my Father in heaven has discovered it to thee, and wrought in thy soul this cordial assent, in the midst of those various prejudices against it which present circumstances might suggest.” Our Lord proceeds, and promises, (alluding to his surname of Peter, from πετρα , a rock,) that he should have a principal concern in establishing Christ’s kingdom. Thou art Peter As if he had said, “Thou art, as thy name signifies, a substantial rock; and as thou hast shown it in this good confession, I assure thee that upon this rock I will build my church. Faith in me as the Son of God shall be its great support, and I will use thee as a glorious instrument in raising it: yea, so immoveable and firm shall its foundation be, and so secure the superstructure, that though earth and hell unite their assaults against it, and death in its most dreadful forms be armed for its destruction; the gates of hell, or the unseen world, shall not finally prevail against it to its ruin: but one generation of Christians shall arise after another, even to the very end of time, to maintain this truth, and to venture their lives and their souls upon it, till at length the whole body of them be redeemed from the power of the grave.” See Doddridge, who further observes, “This is one of those scriptures, the sense of which might be most certainly fixed by the particular tone of voice and gesture with which it was spoken. If our Lord altered his accent, and laid his hand on his breast, it would show that he spoke, not of the person, but of the confession of Peter, (as most Protestant divines have understood it,) and meant to point out himself as the great foundation.” Compare 1 Corinthians 3:10-11. In confirmation of this sense, it may be observed, that when our Lord says, Upon this rock, he does not make use of the word πετρος , as if he referred to Peter himself, but πετρα , which is an appellative noun, and immediately refers to Peter’s confession. “But if, when our Lord uttered these words, he turned to the other apostles, and pointed to Peter, that would show he meant to intimate the honour he would do him, in making him an eminent support to his church. This is the sense which Grotius, Le Clerc, Dr. Whitby, and L’Enfant defend. But to be a foundation in this sense, was not Peter’s honour alone; his brethren shared with him in it, (see Ephesians 2:20; Revelation 21:14,) as they did also in the power of binding and loosing, Matthew 18:18; John 20:23. On the whole, how weak the arguments are which the Papists draw from hence, to support the supremacy of Peter in their wild sense of it, is sufficiently shown by Bishop Burnet On the Articles, p. 196; Dr. Barrow On the Creed, sermon twenty- eight; Dr. Patrick in his sermon on this text, and many more not necessary to be named. There seems a reference in this expression to the common custom of building citadels upon a rock.” The gates of hell As gates and walls were the strength of cities, and as courts of judicature were held in their gates, this phrase properly signifies the power and policy of Satan and his instruments: shall not prevail against it Not against the church universal, so as to destroy it. And they never did, for there hath been a small remnant in all ages. And they never will, for faithful is he who hath made this promise, and he will certainly fulfil it.

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