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Thine humiliation would not disdain comfort from meaner hands. How free was it for thy Father to convey seasonable consolations to thine humbled soul by whatsoever means! Behold, though thy cup shall not pass, yet it shall be sweetened. What if thou see not for the time, thy Father's face? Yet thou shalt feel his hand. What could that_spirit have done without the God of spirits ? O Father of mercies, thou mayest bring thine into agònies, but thou wilt never leave them there. “In the midst of the sorrows of my heart, thy comforts shall refresh my soul.” Whatsoever be the means of my supportation, I know and adore the Author.
PETER AND MALCHUS, OR CHRIST APPREHENDED. WHEREFORE, O Saviour, didst thou take those three choice disciples with thee from their fellows, but that thou expectedst some comfort from their presence ? A seasonable word may sometimes fall from the meanest attendant; and the very society of those we trust carries in it some kind of contentment. Alas! what broken reeds are men ! while thou art sweating in thine agony they are snorting securely. Admonitions, threats, entreaties, cannot keep their eyes open. Thou tellest them of danger, they will needs dream of ease; and though twice roused, as if they had purposed this neglect, they carelessly sleep out thy sorrow and their own peril. What help hast thou of such followers? In the mount of thy transfiguration they slept, and besides fell on their faces, when they should behold thy glory, and were not themselves for fear. In the garden of thine agony, they fell upon the ground for drowsiness, when they should compassionate thy sorrow, and lost themselves in a stupid sleepiness. Doubtless, even this disregard made thy prayers so much more fervent. The less comfort we find on earth, the more we seek above. Neither soughtest thou more than thou foundest: lo, thou wert heard in that which thou fearedst. An angel supplies men: that spirit was vigilant, while thy disciples were heavy; the exchange was happy.
No sooner is this good angel vanished, than that domestic devil appears : Judas comes up, and shows himself in the head of those miscreant troops. He, whose too much honour it had been to be a follower of so blessed a master, affects now to be the leader of this wicked rabble. The sheep's fleece is now cast off ; the wolf appears in his own likeness. He, that would be false to his master, would be true to his chapmen: even evil spirits keep touch with themselves. The bold traitor dare yet still mix hypocrisy with villany; his very salutations and kisses murder. O Saviour, this is no news to thee. All those, who under a show of godliness practise impiety, do still betray thee thus. Thou, who hadst said, “ One of you is a devil,” didst not now say, “ Avoid Satan;" but, “Friend, wherefore art thou come?" As yet, Judas, it was not too late ; had there been any the least spark of grace yet remaining in that perfidious bosom, this word had fetched thee upon thy knees._All this sunshine cannot thaw an obdurate heart. The sign is given, Jesus is taken. Wretched traitor! why wouldst thou for this purpose be thus attended ? and ye foolish priests and elders ! why sent you such a band, and so armed for this apprehension? One messenger had been enough for a voluntary prisoner. Had my Saviour been unwilling to be taken, all your forces, with all the legions of hell to help them, had been too little ; since he was willing to be attached, two were too many. When he did but say,
“I am he," that easy breath alone routed all your troops, and cast them to the earth, whom it might as easily have cast down into hell. What if he had said, I will not be taken ? where had ye been? or
what could your swords and staves have done against Omnipotence?
Those disciples, that failed of their vigilance, failed not of their courage: they had heard their Master speak of providing swords, and now they thought it was time to use them! “Shall we smite?” They were willing to fight for him, with whom they were not careful to watch: but, of all other, Peter was most forward ; instead of opening his lips, he unsheathes his sword ; and, instead of “Shall I ?" smites. He had noted Malchus, a busy servant of the high priest, too ready to second Judas, and to lay his rude hands on the Lord of life; against this man his heart rises, and his hand is lift up. That ear, which had too officiously listened to the unjust and cruel charge of his wicked master, is now severed from that worse head which it had mis-served.
I love and honour thy zeal, O blessed disciple : thou couldst not brook wrong done to thy divine Master. Had thy life been dearer to thee than his safety, thou hadst not drawn thy sword upon a whole troop. It was in earnest that thou saidst, “Though all men, yet not I;" and, “Though I should die with thee, yet I will not deny thee.” Lo, thou art ready to die upon him that should touch that sacred person ;
what would thy life now have been in comparison of renouncing him ? since thou wert so fervent, why didst thou not rather fall upon that treachor that betrayed him, than that sergeant that arrested him? surely the sin was so much greater, as the plot of mischief is more than the execution; as a domestic is nearer than a stranger, as the treason of a friend is worse than the forced enmity of a hireling. Was it that the guilty wretch, upon the fact done, subduced himself, and shrouded his false head under the wings of darkness? was it that thou couldst not so suddenly apprehend the odious depth of that villany, and instantly hate him that had been thy old companion ? was it that thy amazedness as yet conceived
not the purposed issue of this seizure, and astonishedly waited for the success! was it that though Judas was more faulty, yet Malchus was more imperiously cruel ? howsoever, thy courage was awaked with thyself, and thy heart was no less sincere than thine hand was rash. “Put up again thy sword into his place ; for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword.” Good intentions are no warrant for our actions. O Saviour, thou canst at once accept of our meanings, and censure our deeds. Could there be an affection more worth encouragement than the love to such a Master ? Could there be a more just cause wherein to draw his sword, than in thy quarrel ? yet this love, this quarrel, cannot shield Peter from thy check: thy meek tongue smites him gently, who had furiously smote thine enemy;“put up thy sword.”
It was Peter's sword ; but to put up, not to use: there is a sword which Peter may use; but it is of another metal. Our weapons are, as our warfare, spiritual: if he smite not with this, he incurs no less blame than for smiting with the other; as for this material sword, what should he do with it, that is not allowed to strike? when the Prince of peace bade his followers sell their coat and buy a sword, he meant to insinuate the need of these arms, not their improvement, and to teach them the danger of the time, not the manner of the repulse of danger. When they therefore said, “Behold, here are two swords;" he answered, "It is enough.' He said not, Go buy more; more had not been enough, if a bodily defence had been intended ; David's tower had been too strait to yield sufficient furniture of this kind; when it comes to use, Peter's one sword is too much ; “Put up thy sword.” Indeed there is a temporal sword; and that sword must be drawn, else wherefore is it? but drawn by him that bears it ; and he bears it, that is ordained to be an avenger, to “execute wrath upon him that doth evil ; for he bears not the sword in vain.” If another man draw it, it cuts his fingers, and draws so much blood of him that unwarrantably wields it, as that “he who takes the sword shall perish with the sword.” Can I choose but wonder, how Peter could thus strike unwounded ? how he, whose first blow made the fray, could escape hewing in pieces from that band of ruffians ? this could not have been, if thy power, O Saviour, had not restrained their rage; if thy seasonable and sharp reproof had not prevented their revenge.
Now, for aught I see, Peter smarts no less than Malchus : neither is Peter's ear less smitten by the mild tongue of his Master, than Malchus's ear by the hand of Peter. Weak disciple! thou hast zeal,“ but not according to knowledge;" there is not more danger in this act of thine, than inconsideration and ignorance. “The cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it ?" Thou drawest thy sword to rescue me from suffering. Alas! if I suffer not, what would become of thee? what would become of mankind ? where were that eternal and just decree of my Father, wherein I am a “Lamb slain from the beginning of the world ?" Dost thou go about to hinder thine own and the whole world's redemption ? Did I not once before call thee Satan, for suggesting to me this immunity from my passion ? and dost thou now think to favour me with a real opposition to this great and necessary work? Canst thou be so weak as to imagine that this suffering of mine is not free and voluntary? Canst thou be so injurious to me as to think I yield, because I want aid to resist ? Have I not given to thee and to the world many undeniable proofs of my omnipotence! Didst thou not see how easy it had been for me to have blown away these poor forces of my adversaries? Dost thou not know, that, if I would require it, all the glorious troops of the angels of heaven (any one whereof is more than worlds of men) would presently show themselves ready to attend and rescue me ? Might this have stood with the justice of my decree, with the glory of