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A Practical Commentary On Holy Scripture by Frederick Justus Knecht D.D.

WITH marvellous rapidity did the Church of Jesus Christ grow from a small grain of mustard-seed to a great and mighty tree overshadowing all nations. Nor was her development in any way checked by the death of the apostles. For they had left successors of their office and work, the bishops of the various churches. These continued with unwearying zeal the work which the holy apostles had commenced. And as the faithful were obedient to their bishops, so the bishops were obedient to the successor of St. Peter, that is the Pope, who is the chief pastor of the Church. In this manner there was a bond of union and unity between the faithful and their priests, between the priests and their bishops, and between all the bishops and the Pope. And it has been the work of Popes and bishops in all ages to spread the Gospel, sending forth missionaries all over the world, “to enlighten them that sit in darkness, and in the shadow of death”. Such a messenger of the Gospel was St. Augustine for England, St. Boniface for Germany &c. &c. And to this day the Holy See is sending forth missionaries into every known country, to India, China, Africa &c.

Thus was established the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, which, built by Christ upon the rock of Peter, and guided by the Holy Ghost, has now existed for nineteen centuries, and will exist to the end of time, in spite of all that the powers of hell can do against it. Happy are they who belong to that Church, who believe as she believes, and who observe her commandments.

Yea, happy are they who belong to the Church and are her living members. Jesus Christ, the King of kings, will own them as His brethren. They shall dwell with Him and His Saints in a new heaven and a new earth, and shall eat of the Tree of Life in the Paradise of heaven.

The wonderful preservation and growth of the Church prove 1. that Jesus Christ is God, and 2. that the Church is a divine institution.

1. Our Lord Jesus Christ Himself foretold that the powers of hell should not prevail against the Church, and that she would grow and spread like a tree springing from a small grain of mustard-seed (see chapter XVIII). This prophecy has been in a perpetual state of fulfilment for nineteen hundred years; therefore He who uttered it must be Omniscient, i. e. God.

2. During the first three centuries the Church was persecuted in the most cruel way, and yet, far from being destroyed, she throve and grew. Even in the centuries which followed, down to the present day, she has been continually opposed, oppressed, and persecuted. She would have infallibly succumbed to the combined forces of heresy and the civil power, if Almighty God had not protected and sustained her. That after nineteen centuries she still exists is a great miracle, and a tangible proof that she is the work, not of man, but of God.

The Papacy. Peter is dead, but his chief pastorship continues. Peter having died bishop of Rome, his present successor in the See of Rome is the chief bishop, the supreme pastor of the Church. As such he is called the Pope, or Father of Christendom.

The Bishops. The other apostles likewise died, but their pastoral office did not cease, having been continued to this day in an unbroken chain of bishops.

The Priests. The bishops are aided and supported by the priests in the exercise of their pastoral office.

The Church is One. One in doctrine, one in worship, one in discipline, and one in government. The unity of government which includes the power of infallible teaching secures her unity of doctrine, worship and discipline. Therefore the Supremacy of the Pope is the one efficacious and necessary means of unity.

The Church is Holy, for she was founded by the Most Holy Son of God, and makes holy all those who live in accordance with her sublime teaching.

The Church is Catholic. Catholic as to time; for she has existed at all times since the days of our Lord. Catholic as to place; for she exists in every part of the world as a matter of fact and as a matter of right. Catholic as to character; for she is not national, but international and supernational. Her charter is: “Go and teach all nations, baptizing them in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost”.

The Church is Apostolic. Our Lord Jesus Christ founded the Church, and His apostles disseminated her doctrines; and it is on the doctrine and tradition of the apostles that the Church of God rests; the Pope and bishops, the pastors of the Church, being the lawful successors of the apostles. Even as the Israel of the Old Testament sprang from the twelve Patriarchs, the sons of Jacob, so does the Israel of the New Testament spring, in a spiritual manner, from the twelve apostles of Jesus Christ.

In the Church alone there is salvation, for she alone was founded by Jesus Christ and is protected and sustained by Him for the purpose of saving the souls of men. She was instituted by God for the salvation of mankind, and all those will be saved who live in accordance with her doctrines and precepts.

Confession of faith. Those members of the Church will be saved who steadfastly confess their faith by word and deed. We confess our holy faith by deed if we live up to its teaching. If we do this, then we are living members of the Church, and so far those words of our Lord apply to us: “Every one that shall confess Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven” (Mat. 10:32).

The transformation of the world. In the Apocalypse (21:1) St. John says: “I saw a new heaven and a new earth. For the first heaven and the first earth was gone.” And St. Peter writes in his second Epistle (3:10): “The day of the Lord (that is, the day of Judgment) shall come as a thief (suddenly), in which the heavens (the firmament of stars) shall pass away with great violence, and the elements (the matter of which the world is made) shall be melted with heat, and the earth and the works which are in it shall be burned up”, and (in verse 13): “We look for a new heaven and a new earth according to His promises in which justice dwelleth.” Nature, upon which the curse of God has fallen on account of man’s sin, longs for redemption (“The expectation of the creature waiteth for the revelation of the sons of God”; Rom. 8:19), and it also will have its share in the Redemption of Jesus Christ, “for the fashion (the present form) of this world passeth away” (1 Cor. 7:31), and nature will be, not destroyed, but transformed and glorified. The earth on which once the Son of God dwelt visibly, and on which He now dwells invisibly in the Blessed Sacrament, will be transformed into an everlasting Paradise. It has been for a long time the abode of sin, misery and death, a vale of tears; but after the Last Judgment it will become the abode of immortality, joy and rapture. So all-embracing is the work of Redemption that it will obliterate all the consequences of sin, will entirely remove the curse which rests upon nature, and will impart to all creation a higher and eternal life!

APPLICATION. We have now arrived at the conclusion of the Bible History, and how beautiful and magnificent this conclusion is! You have been taken back to the beginning of Sacred History, and reminded how in the beginning God created heaven and earth, and made for man an earthly Paradise. This Paradise was lost to man by his sin, and from henceforth the earth was stained with sin and every kind of abomination. Some day, however, all that has been marred by sin will be restored by the Divine Redeemer; the whole of creation will be transformed and renewed, and the earth converted into a Paradise. God grant that, some day, you too may be glorified and received into the heavenly Paradise!

In order to attain to this, your last end, you must hold fast to the Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church. This last Chapter of the Bible History which we have just read places before you the wonderful constitution, preservation and development of the Church, and reminds you that the Church is God’s work, instituted by Him for the salvation of souls. She was foreshadowed, and the way was prepared for her, in the Old Testament; and when the fulness of time came she was founded by Jesus Christ as a means of salvation for the whole world. She is the Bride of Jesus Christ, won by Him through His Most Precious Blood. Our Lord delivered to her His doctrine and the treasury of the graces of Redemption, and only through her can you partake of the fruits of Redemption, and be pardoned and saved. Thank God, therefore, that you are members of His saving Church. Honour, reverence and love her, obey her precepts, and diligently receive those means of grace which were committed to her; and then you will be saved!

Let us, as we finally close this Bible History, fervently renew our baptismal vows.








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