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MATTHEW 16:18,19.

Alexandria, VA., July 10,1872.

DEAR BROTHER BEEBE: - A dear brother in Kansas requests my views through the SIGNS on Matt. 16:18,19, especially in reference to the building of the church “upon this rock,” and “the keys of the kingdom of heaven” being given unto Peter. I have but little time to write, and I can express my views in preaching, or in conversation, much better then in writing; or at least it seems so to me.

The clergy of the Romish Church make all their devotees believe that Peter is the rock upon which the church is built. I expect it is the truth respecting the Romish Church, or any other church of a similar character, for a man like Peter, or any other man, is worthy of about as much confidence as the drifting sand for the foundation of a building. All false religious interests, no matter what name they assume, are like Peter’s denial of his Lord and Master; they give way like the sand before a violent storm and surging waves. The sand of self-righteousness, human policy, the traditions of the fathers, so called, in voluminous books, or human merit, money and means, are the foundations upon which millions depend for salvation.

The name of Peter is rock, or stone, in its spiritual signification, and has reference, not to him as a man, for Jesus says to him, “Thou art Peter,” but to the signification or meaning of his name, as rock or stone. Elijah was a man of like passions with us, but the meaning of his name is, “God the Lord, or the strong Lord.” The secret of the whole mystery of salvation is in the Lord Jesus Christ, and rock or stone presents the foundation on which the church is built; not on Peter, fallible Peter, but on something solid and firm, being none other than the Lord Jesus Christ, the living stone. Says Peter, “To whom coming, as unto a living stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God and precious.” Addressing the strangers scattered throughout Asiatic provinces, he further says, “Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.” I Pet. 2:4,5. Paul says, “Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners {which was their former condition,} but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God, and are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; in whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto a holy temple in the Lord; in whom ye also are builded together for a habitation of God through the Spirit.” Eph. 2:19-22.

It was by revelation only that Peter could see the application of his own name to Christ, and he could rest upon it for salvation. The church of God, not edifices constructed by men and called churches, nor congregations made up of graceless men and women, called churches, but genuine experimental believers, who follow Christ in his doctrine, laws and ordinances, and rest for salvation on the ROCK, and have no confidence in the flesh, nor any worldly institutions, or superstition.

Keys, in our subject, signifies government, power. In the visible organization of the gospel church, the apostles were endued with power from on high. Peter was personally addressed, as he was a particular speaker in the conversation with the Lord Jesus, and spoke not only for himself, but for all the disciples, not meaning Peter more than the rest of them. “But whom say ye that I am?” Peter readily replied, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Then follows the blessing upon him: “Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona, for flesh and blood hath not revealed this unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.” They all, excepting Judas Iscariot, knew him to be the Son of God, by revelation. And in this way all the saints know him to be the Son of God, the Son of the Highest, the only living and true God. Though the expression, “the keys of the kingdom of heaven,” was personally addressed to Peter, he had no authority or power in his official capacity as an apostle than the other apostles, for they all had authority to bind, or loose, &c. Matt. 18:18, John 20:23, Acts 15:28, I Cor. 5:4,5. That authority and power still remains with them, {a faithful copy we have in the New Testament} and is subject to no change until our exalted Redeemer delivers up the kingdom to God, even the Father. The succession of apostles, reverends, doctors of divinity, and such like, have no existence, only on the principle of being manufactured by worldly churches, colleges, and religious institutions of men. They all perish with the using, and will die out in time. The everlasting gospel is still proclaimed in our country, under the protection of the slender thread of human laws, and God’s people still serve him. The abominations of the many anti-christs {religious adversaries of Christ} are rampant in our day, but God has made his truth open and free to combat them. The Romish Church claim to be the pure catholic church of apostolic descent, like the New School Baptists claim to be the true Baptists of ancient days. Yet in neither of them are to be found the glorious doctrine of God our Savior. “They are of the world, therefore speak they of the world, and the world heareth them.” I John 4:5. The church of God at the present day “is left as a cottage in a vineyard, as a lodge in a garden of cucumbers, as a besieged city.” She dwells alone, unknown by the world. The poor of the flock is a remnant according to the election of grace. “Except the Lord of Hosts had left unto us a very small remnant, we should have been as Sodom, and we should have been like unto Gomorrah.” Isa. 1:8,9.

While the government of the church and kingdom of God is altogether upon the shoulder {Isa. 9:6} of our precious Redeemer, and the apostles being endued with the power which he has given them, the validity of their acts in everything appertaining to the government of the church, both in binding and loosing, can never be seriously questioned, nor successfully controverted. There can be no addition thereto, nor taking therefrom. Any attempt to add thereto, or take therefrom, is anti-christian, and will receive merited punishment. Only as the church of God conforms in the spirit and letter to the testimony of the holy scriptures, the word of heavenly inspiration, can she have the approval of the Holy One. If any of the subjects of grace serve mammon, or covet the “accursed thing,” as in the case of Achan, {Josh., chap. 7} condign punishment will follow. When the church becomes involved in such transgression, she suffers as Joshua and all Israel suffered in the case of Achan. Strict and faithful church discipline is the only safe and proper way to restore peace, harmony and prosperity to the church. This is fully illustrated, when Joshua and all Israel, in obedience to the command of the Lord, put away the “accursed thing” from Israel, and peace and prosperity was restored to them again.

In conclusion, I will say to my brother in Kansas, that although you are deprived of gospel privileges in your present location, it is better to live alone in the wilderness, and be fed from heaven, to read your Bible and the SIGNS OF THE TIMES, and to have a good conscience before God, than to affiliate with the workers of iniquity, and to join affinity with the worshipers of modern Baal. We merit nothing from God by our obedience, neither is God benefited by anything we can do, for our goodness does not extend to God, even if we possessed any goodness. But when we are cold, we are benefited by the heat of the fire, or the warming rays of the sun. So in our obedience we enjoy the comforting assurance of our acceptance with God, and the gracious smiles of our heavenly Father.

Yours kindly and affectionately,
Joseph L. Purington.