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the taunting words of those who would remember him as belonging to the suspected band, “ he began to curse and to swear.”
What man who reads this history can deny the likeness to himself ? We can imagine that Peter's whole mind' was in confusion. He had been eager to fight for his Lord, but had been commanded by Him to put up his sword. He had believed with the other Apostles that Jesus was able to command fire from heaven; yet he saw Him led away a prisoner. Though for a moment he had fled, his love for his Lord was too true to suffer him to remain away from Him; yet shame and fear filled his mind. He would go into the palace of the high priest, since John could gain him admittance; but he would remain quiet. None should know him for a disciple. He would not run the risk of every eye being turned in scorn upon him, and of being dragged forward himself in a cause for which it seemed there was nothing to be done : but when men and maids joined together to insist upon exposing him, his anger and alarm shewed themselves, and as is always the case in irreligious men, be not only denied the truth, but "he began to curse and to swear.” How was this? Was not Peter a true disciple? Yes, but there were depths of sin in his heart that he knew not of. His own natural courage had deceived him; he little guessed that in the cause of Christ, he would be weak as a frightened child, unless Cbrist himself supported him. One look from his Lord revealed Peter to himself. He saw at once his rash cowardice, “and when he thought thereon, he wept.” Jesus, in His own deep suffering remembered him ; He had turned and looked upon him, at the moment the cock crew; that was the sign between them, and at once it brought back to Peter's mind all the words of love, all the solemn warnings He had spoken that night before they parted, when for the last time they were assembled all together. “And he went out and wept bitterly.”
These were precious tears. Their influence is felt even now.
They encourage each repentant backslider to cast his care upon Him, who in his own extremity cared for Peter, and cares for all.
From the whole story there is much to be learned. It does not appear that the other disciple, whom we believe to have been St. John, tried to conceal himself, or that he was brought to trouble by being seen in the palace of the High Priest. “He went in with Jesus ;” and as he was personally known to the High Priest he must have been also known to be a disciple of Jesus, for He always appeared publicly with the twelve; and it is certain that when a man appears in his true character, he is much more safe from misinterpretation and from temptation than if he tries to conceal his principles. No follower of Christ should mix with the enemies of Christ except when in the plain path of duty, and then his best defence will be that he is known to be a follower of the Lord. Shame and fear will then find no place within his bosom. He will look to Him for strength, and he will receive it. In every place, it is not only right but it is safest to acknowledge our reverence for Christ. The space clears wonderfully round us when we show a determined spirit; and this is especially true in religion. Deep down in every man's heart there is an answering voice that declares the truth, and he who has the manly courage to speak it out, will find the difficulties he feared give way before him.* If God is on side, who can be against us?
* The truth of this is seen in all places, and in all circumstances, -among children and among grown men. I remember a little boy, whose mother having been shocked to find his mind, his habits, and feelings had been changed for the worse by the first year at school, succeeded in convincing him that he ought to make a struggle against the carelessness that was growing upon him ; and persuaded him to resolve upon reading every night, at least a part of a chapter in the Bible before he knelt at his prayers. He was a manly little fellow, and had established a character in the school, (which was only for young boys,) for courage and resolution, even among those a good deal older than himself. The first night after his return, to the surprise of those who slept in the same room with him, he sat down upon his bed with his book. 'What are you doing there?' was immediately asked. “Reading a few verses of the Bible. I
Prayer. O God my Saviour, let the knowledge that I am thine give me courage wherever I go. Let the sense of thy presence be my safe-guard. If duty calls me among those who hate and ridicule thy cause, give me courage to confess myself thy disciple; and if shame or fear should tempt me to deny thee, Oh turn on me thy look of love, that my
be melted into instant repentance. I am thine, Lord, 0 hold me fast, lest Satan should ensnare me. Let men, women, and things combine to teach me the great and true lesson that the disciple of Christ is worthless in any character but his own.
There is a force in simple Christian truth. Shame be to those who hide it. Ob pardon me, my God, for all my past weakness. I do mean to do it every night,' was the answer. There was a silence for a moment, then, “I'll do it too,' said one; 'So will I,' said another; 'We used always to do it at home.' And instead of the battle I expected,' he afterwards told his mother, 'we, all of us who were in that room, did it every night.' Now this ought to have been a lesson for life to all those boys : when they passed into the greater trials of a public school, they should have remembered it, and fearlessly acted in every circumstance as they felt to be right; but it is sad to see how boys, as they grow older, grow more and more sensitive to false shame; they learn to fear ridicule, that worse species of bullying, just in proportion as they cease to fear anything else. Nothing but a deep and real eeling of religion will conquer this. I knew a young naval officer who, though he had passed as Mate, was not yet a Lieutenant, and therefore not yet entitled to a cabin of his
He used to establish himself for a short time every day with his Bible and other books, in the cabin common to all the Midshipmen and Officers below the rank of a Lieutenant. At first there was an attempt to laugh him down, but he quietly ended it by his good-humoured determination. He used to say to his opponents—'You all profess to believe the Bible to be true as well as I; well, if you believe it and won't attend to it, all I can say is, it is no use calling me a fool, for the folly can't be on my side. If it is really the word of God, it is but common sense to read it, and it is madness to make a mock of it.'
There was a plain dealing in this that found its way, and his ship-mates soon ceased to disturb him. More than this, in every ship in which this young man has served, he has found some who feared God though they had no other fear, and loved Him because He first loved them; and as he has risen in the service, the cheerful manliness of his Christian principle has proved a blessing to many.
repent me and weep bitterly; pardon me, Lord, for Christ's sake, Amen.
St. John's is the only one of the gospels which tells us that Jesus was first taken to the palace of Annas. It seems to have been his care to bring forward many things that had been passed over by the others. At the same time, he is silent on some things of which they make particular mention; such facts as had by the time he wrote, become well established and known to all, it was needless for him to dwell upon ; while many false doctrines having sprung up, it was of God's mercy that the Holy Spirit particularly impressed upon his mind the sacred discourses of our Lord, which were the best contradiction to them. We find them at length in his gospel, also the raising of Lazarus from the dead,* the name of Malchus the servant who was wounded by Peter, and a few other particulars which give a greater interest to the gospel of St. John.
* The probable cause why the three other evangelists make no mention of the raising of Lazarus from the dead gives a fearful reality to the circumstances of the times when they wrote. It was so soon after the death of their Lord, that not only were His enemies alive, but their watchful hatred of His disciples kept them in continual danger of their lives. To point out Lazarus to the veneration of the people, would be certain to bring down destruction upon him. While Jesus yet lived, the chief priests had “consulted together how they might put Lazarus also to death, because by reason of him many of the Jews went away and believed on Jesus."
It is said that Malchus became a Christian. If this is so, it is evident that there were strong reasons for not turning the attention of the chief priests upon him : we may therefore understand why, during his life, his name was concealed in the account of Peter's wounding him in the garden. It gives a solemn interest to the gospel of St. John to remember that he did not write till all the actors in the fearful scenes of our Lord's sufferings and death had passed to their great account; till the day of vengeance had been fulfilled upon Jerusalem, and of all the enemies and of all the disciples of Christ, none were left; he alone remained to tell the tale.
Thus he only relates the scenes in the palace of Annas, which no doubt he himself witnessed, as he entered it with Jesus. He writes, after having told how Jesus was first led away bound to Annas, that,
Verse 19. "The high priest (which title it is probable he gave to Annas, from his having held that office,) then asked Jesus of his disciples, and of his doctrine."
These questions are very different from the pretended legal examination that followed, and were probably only asked to fill up the time till the council assembled ; Jesus replied to them, as to questions he was not obliged to answer.
Verse 20, 21. “Jesus answered him, I spake openly to the world; I ever taught in the synagogue, and in the temple, whither the Jews always resort : and in secret have I said nothing. Why askest thou me ? ask them which heard me, what I have said unto them : behold, they know what I said."
Nothing could be more reasonable and dignified than this reply. By the Jewish law no man was allowed to criminate himself; by the evidence of witnesses only, could any charge be brought home to him, and if it was for the doctrines He taught that the Lord Jesus was about to be tried, let the hundreds and thousands who had heard him from day to day, bear witness to what He had taught. Nevertheless His reply raised the anger of the High Priest's followers
Verses 22, 23. “And when he had thus spoken one of the officers which stood by struck Jesus with the palm of his hand, saying, Answerest thou the high priest so? Jesus answered him, If I have spoken evil, bear witness of the evil : but if well, why smitest thou me ?”