From “Christ’s Church Established Upon a Rock” (ca. 1708)
But blessed be God, we have Christ’s own word for it, that “the gates of hell shall never prevail” against his Church; and therefore, we need not fear but he will take care of it. He may suffer it to be under fiery trials for some time, the better to purify and cleanse it. He may suffer some corrupt members to be cut off, that the whole may not be infected with them. He may suffer heresies and schisms to be in it, that ” they who are approved of may be made manifest,” as his apostle tells us (1 Cor. 1:19). He may suffer “false Christs” and “false prophets” to arise in it, and to “show great signs and wonders; “insomuch that “if it were possible, they should deceive the very elect,” as he himself has foretold. But after all, he cannot suffer it to be totally destroyed; for he has said he will not, and we may well take his word, who cannot lie, for it; especially having had above sixteen hundred years’ experience of it already. In all which time the gates of hell have been plotting and conspiring against the Church, and have used all the ways and methods that wit or malice could suggest, to compass the destruction of it; and yet they have not done it, but still the Church subsists and flourishes as much as ever.
And it is well for us and all mankind it doth so; for if Christ’s Church should be once destroyed, all hopes of salvation by him would perish together with it; and then the devil would have his ends. For, from that time forward, mankind would be in the same condition with him; inevitably lost forever. For all the means of grace would be taken away, and by consequence, of salvation too. The light of the Gospel would be extinguished, and the whole earth overspread with darkness and ignorance, the oracles of heaven would expire, and those of hell be revived again; the motives of God’s Holy Spirit would cease, and all mankind would be hurried about with the impetuous suggestions and temptations of wicked and impure spirits. In short, Christ’s kingdom would be thrown down, and the devil’s set up in its place; so that all the world would be brought into an entire subjection to him, and be “carried captive by him at his will, into that everlasting fire which is prepared for him and for his angels” (2 Tim. 2:26; Matt. 25:41).
But what do I mean, to suppose that which cannot be, and therefore ought not to be supposed? No, “Heaven and earth shall pass away,” but Christ’s “Word shall never pass away” (Luke 21:33). He has said that the gates of hell shall never prevail against his Church; and therefore, it is impossible they ever should. And the reason is, because that he, “like the wise man,” that he himself speaks of, “hath built it upon a rock” and therefore although “the rain descends, and the floods come, and the winds blow, and beat upon it, it cannot fall, for it is founded upon a rock” (Matt. 7:24) even upon himself, the “Rock of ages,” in the first place; and then upon “the foundation of his apostles and prophets,” he himself” likewise being “the chief cornerstone.” (Eph. 2:20). So that the devil may as well undertake to destroy Christ’s real body in heaven, as his mystical upon earth; for so long as he continues there, be sure his Church shall continue here, and never cease to be, till time itself shall do so; and then also it shall not be destroyed by hell, but translated into heaven, there to triumph for evermore; that all the world may know how true our Lord is, and how faithfully he has performed what he here spoke to St. Peter, saying, “Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”
William Beveridge (1637-1708) was an English theologian who served several London parishes before becoming Bishop of St. Asaphs in 1704. He was called “the great reviver and restorer of primitive piety” for his efforts in reviving patristic teaching and robust liturgical piety. Several volumes of his sermons were published after his death.