IN our consideration of the claim of papal “infallibility” last week, we found that Christ and not Peter is the rock upon which the Church is built. But let us have the word of the Lord by Peter himself on this point. Thus it is written by the hand of Peter: “As new-born babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby: if so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious: to whom coming as unto a living stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God and precious, ye also as lively stones are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ. Wherefore it is also contained in the Scripture, Behold I lay in Sion a chief corner stone, elect, precious: and he that believeth on him shall not be confounded. Unto you, therefore, that believe, he is precious; but unto them which be disobedient, the stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made the head of the corner.” 1 Peter 2:2-7. That the “stone” here referred to is none other than Jesus Christ himself, and not Peter in any sense, is clear from the words spoken by Peter in another place, thus, speaking of “Jesus Christ of Nazareth,” whom the Jews had crucified, he says. “This is the stone which was set at nought of you builders, which is become the head of the corner.” Acts 4:10, 11.
In the first of these passages from the words of Peter, he says that this “is contained in the scripture,” and then quotes a portion of this “scripture.” Let us turn to that scripture to which Peter here refers, and which he says means “Jesus Christ of Nazareth,” and see what it does say in full. Here is it: “Therefore thus saith the Lord God, Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation, a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation; he that believeth shall not make haste.” Isaiah 28:16. Peter himself says that this stone which is laid “for a foundation” is “Jesus Christ of Nazareth,” and that “this stone”—this “Jesus Christ of Nazareth”—“is the head.” And Peter says that it is to this “living stone” that men must come in order to be of the building of Christ—in order to be of this “spiritual house,” which is the Church of the living God.
Now, to every one who cares for the truth only, the testimony of Peter himself is better than the testimony of the Catholic Church about Peter. And to every such one the inspired testimony of Peter himself as to who is the foundation and head of the Church, is far better than is the uninspired and self-interested testimony of the Catholic Church and her popes about Peter. The inspired testimony of Peter himself is that “Jesus Christ of Nazareth” is “the stone,” the “living stone,” which is the “sure foundation” and “the head” of the building of God, this “spiritual house,” which is the Church of Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God. This is also the inspired testimony of the apostle Paul. In other words, this is the testimony of Jesus Christ himself, that he and he alone is the foundation and head of the apostles and prophets and of the whole Church of Christ, and that “other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.
And this word demonstrates that the claim of the papacy that Peter is the foundation and head of the Church of Christ is as false, fleeting, baseless, and intangible, as is “the stuff that dreams are made of.” It therefore and of necessity follows that the “infallibility of the pope,” as derived from “the divine assistance promised to him in blessed Peter,” is also as false, fleeting, baseless, and intangible, as is “the stuff that dreams are made of.” Thus, again, we are brought to the fact  that “the infallibility of the pope” springs altogether from the law that, out of nothing something comes!
There is another statement in the foregoing quotation from Cardinal Gibbons that is worth noticing in this connection. It is that in which he makes Jesus say to Peter, “Thou, O Peter, shalt be the foundation of this church. It shall never fall, because thou shalt never be shaken.” In noticing the words of Christ to Peter that he had prayed for him, that when he should be sifted as wheat, his faith fail not, the cardinal further says: “Therefore the faith of Peter will always be firm” (page 152); that, consequently, the faith of Peter’s “successors” would always be firm, and therefore these “successors” would always be infallible in the faith.
This argument, like all their other ones in favor of the infallibility of the pope, is utterly groundless, from the divinely recorded fact that Peter was shaken and that his faith did fail more than once. For it was after these words were spoken by the Lord that Peter denied him three times and declared that he did not know him. It will not do to say that this was not a point “regarding faith or morals,” and that therefore infallibility was not involved. It was entirely a question of faith and morals.
It was a question of faith, for the knowing of the Lord Jesus is nothing else than a matter of faith; and to deny him is nothing else than to deny the faith by which alone he is known.
It was a question of morals, too, because to make his denial as emphatic as possible, Peter then and there “began to curse and to swear, saying, I know not this man of whom ye speak.” Mark 14:71. And it is certain that to curse and to swear involves a question of morals.
Therefore it is certain, by the divine record, that Peter did fail and did decide wrongly on a question of faith and morals. And this divinely recorded fact annihilates the claim of the infallibility of the pope, as derived in succession from Peter, “when he speaks ex cathedra, that is, ‘from the chair’ of St. Peter,” or from anywhere else, “regarding a question of faith or morals,” or anything else.
If this fact and the logic of it would be dodged by the plea that this all occurred before the day of Pentecost, and therefore before Peter was endowed with the Holy Ghost; this plea will fail also because of the divinely recorded fact that after Pentecost Peter failed again, and this, too, upon the very pivotal point of the faith. Here is the word of the Lord as to that:—
But when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed. For before that certain came from James, he did eat with the Gentiles: but when they were come, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing them which were of the circumcision. And the other Jews dissembled likewise with him; insomuch that Barnabas also was carried away with their dissimulation. But when I saw that they walked not uprightly according to the truth of the gospel, I said unto Peter before them all, If thou, being a Jew, livest after the manner of Gentiles, and not as do the Jews, why compellest thou the Gentiles to live as do the Jews? We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles, knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law, for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified. Galatians 2:11-16.
Here is the divine record that Peter “was to be blamed” in this matter, and this “because he walked not uprightly according to the truth of the gospel.” And the particular point of the truth of the gospel that was involved in this transaction of Peter’s, was the all-important question of how are men to be justified? Is it by faith? or is it by works? Is it by the faith of Christ? or is it by works of the law? Is it by faith without works—a faith which works? or is it by “faith and works,” with all the trust in the works? Is it by Christ alone? or is it by Christ and something else? This was the question that was involved in the course of Peter there. It was nothing less than the supreme question of faith and morals. And on this supreme question of faith and morals Peter there decided wrongly. He decided this great question not according to the truth of the gospel. This is the truth by the word of God, and it therefore annihilates all the claim of the infallibility of the pope as derived from “blessed Peter” when he speaks “from the chair of St. Peter” or from anywhere else, “regarding a question of faith or morals” or anything else.
Cardinal Gibbons seems to see the danger to “the infallibility of the pope” from this fact, and he therefore says of it that—
St. Paul criticised his [Peter’s] conduct on a point not affecting doctrine, but discipline.—Id., p. 128.
But this will never do, even for him; because this question that was then up between Paul and those Jews who professed the faith, and who constantly followed up Paul and opposed the gospel, and by whom Peter, and even Barnabas, was carried away from the truth of the gospel—that question we say that was then up between Paul and those Jews was the very question that was up between the Reformers and the papacy in the Reformation. And the Council of Trent, which was called especially to consider the questions raised by the Reformation, treated this question altogether as a question of doctrine, and not of discipline at all. So, for the cardinal to say that Paul criticised Peter’s conduct “on a point not affecting doctrine,” while it was the very point that the Council of Trent treated as altogether affecting doctrine—this will not do even for him: this fact destroys his argument and annihilates even this plea by which he would save “infallibility” to Peter and to the pope “in blessed Peter.”
So, then, the conclusion of the whole matter is simply this: As the claim of “the infallibility of the pope” is solely that it is “promised to him in blessed Peter,” it follows plainly enough that if it was not in Peter, then eve, according to their own dogma, the pope does not have it, and no bishop of Rome ever did have it. And by the divine record it is certain that Peter at least twice decided wrongly “regarding faith and morals.”
Therefore by the divine record it is made perfectly certain that the infallibility of the pope or of any other man or set of men, derived from “the divine assistance promised to him in blessed Peter,” or in anybody else, when he speaks “ex cathedra,” or any other way, on a question “regarding faith or morals,” or anything else, is utterly without any shadow of foundation in any right conception imaginable.
Every argument adduced in its favor is sheer fallacy; and analysis of every claim upon which it is based only develops the finale that, out of nothing something comes. Yet, as the thought that out of nothing something comes, involves either creation or absurdity, and as this claim of infallibility is seriously asserted by and in behalf of the papacy, this is but the development of the assertion of creative power as the prerogative of the papacy. It is the usurpation by the papacy, of the essential prerogative of the Creator. It was therefore perfectly fitting to the subject and to the occasion, that, when the decree of the infallibility of the pope was passed in the Vatican Council, Pius IX. should pervert to this blasphemous service the dying words of our Creator and Redeemer, and rapturously exclaim, “It is finished.”
But as any claim on the part of a man in any place, of the prerogative of creation, is but absurdity and nothingness; so this claim of the papacy, which, by every analysis, develops only the finale that out of nothing something comes, is only supreme absurdity and absolute nothingness. It is the most unconscionable piece of imposture that was ever proposed to be imposed upon mankind. It is the greatest humbug in the most gigantic system of humbuggery that ever there was in the world. It is the culmination of the blasphemous claim of this “the mystery of iniquity,” beyond which it is impossible even for it go to.