Have the Apostles any successors?
To speak properly, they had none to succeed them in the degree and dignity of apostleship; and therefore when James was beheaded, none was chosen into his place. Otherwise all pastors and ministers of the gospel, who are lawfully called to the dispensation of the Word, sacraments, and keys, are the true and undoubted successors of the Apostles and have the same commission in the ministration of the Gospel which they had, though not in the same degree or dignity,
What is the property of the head?
To be highest; and therefore there can be but one, even Christ,
What is the office of the head?
To convey the powers of it into all the members. For as the natural members take spirit and sense from the head, so the church hath her spiritual life and feeling of Christ, who is only able to quicken and give life. Whom by this title of the head of the Church Paul lifts up above all angels, archangels, principalities and powers. And therefore if the pope were the successor of Peter and Paul, yet should he not be therefore the head of the church, which agrees to no simple creature in heaven or under heaven.
But may not the pope be a ministerial head?
It would make the Church a monster, if it should have more heads at once then one: or to be at any time without a needful head; as it must needs be in the death of the pope. Besides that, when Christ is always effectually present in his Church by his spirit, what needs he to have a vicar or deputy?
What then shall we say to the words of Christ, &8220;You are Peter and upon this rock will I build my Church&8221;? whereby is inferred that Peter was ruler of the apostles, and consequently of the world and therefore the popes, as Peter’s successors, should be rulers over all.
The rock whereupon Christ will build his church is not Peter but the effectual and confessing faith of Peter as appears by the divers words the evangelist uses from that whereby Peter is called. And if it be understood of Peter, yet it must be esteemed that, to avoid confusion, Peter gave answer in the name of all, upon whom in respect of their ministry, the church is as well builded as upon Peter.
How may it be showed that Peter answered for all?
Because all were asked, otherwise our Savior Christ received no answer. Which, to think, is a charge of disobedience upon the other apostles, upon our Savior Christ, of negligence. Who, seeking by this question to strengthen all the Apostles in the faith towards himself, should have given them no strength. Neither by experience of the work of God within themselves nor by the glorious promises which he annexed to this confession, unless he had in Peter’s answer received the answer of others. Secondly, when it appears other where, by Peter’s own confession, that the rest knew that Christ was the son of the living God, as well as he himself, what should hinder them not to make confession of it as well as did Peter?
If Peter were chief of all, doth it follow that the Pope of Rome should be so?
No verily: for howsoever they say Peter was Bishop of Rome, yet indeed that cannot be proved by Scripture. Rather the contrary, for if Peter had been at Rome when Paul was there, amongst many others he would not have forgotten to make mention of him, upon divers occasions he had thereof. Especially he would not have wrapped him in the common charge, that all had forsaken him. Also his proper charge being amongst the Jews, who were never frequent, or many in Rome: and after the few that were there, banished from thence, what likelihood is there that Peter would most reside there where he had least to do? And if he had been there, yet would he not be Bishop there; the Bishopric being a degree of ministry far under the apostleship whereunto he was called.
But grant he were Bishop of Rome; does it follow thereof that the Bishop of Rome must be his successor?
No: for first it should have been but a personal right. And secondly, if it belonged to his successors, Jerusalem and Antioch, where he sat before he is supposed to sit at Rome, might challenge it as well as they of Rome. Neither can his death, which they suppose to have been at Rome, give that privilege to him above them, more then the death of Christ privileged Jerusalem, which by the just judgment of God for the same cause was made an heap of stones. And thirdly, if it did belong to his successors at Rome; yet it belongs to his successors in doctrine, and not in place only. Consider more, that if the Church were builded upon Peter, it was in respect of the doctrine he taught.
Thomas Cartwright, A Treatise Of Christian Religion (1611), 196–99. [spelling and punctuation revised]
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