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day, before that thou shalt thrice deny that thou knowest Me." This was the second warning. You observe, Peter answers here with something more of confidence than before: not abashed by His Master's declaring a second time, that a very severe temptation was on the eve of happening to him, foreseeing the severity of which He had anxiously prayed for him. The Apostle trusted presumptuously to his warm feeling of deep affection for His MASTER, more than to His solemn Word. Yet the warning is in more earnest and stronger terms. Jesus does not here say as before, merely “Thou shalt deny Me thrice,” but, “thrice deny that thou knowest Me." Then once more, later in the night, after coming forth from the supper-room, as they were on the way towards the garden where He endured the agony, and where He was betrayed, then, (we read in St. Matthew,) saith Jesus unto them, “All ye shall be offended because of Me this night; for it is written, I will smite the Shepherd, and the sheep of the flock shall be scattered abroad. And Peter answered and said unto Him, Though all shall be offended because of Thee, yet will I never be offended :" and upon Jesus again repeating, with earnestness, “Verily I say unto thee, That this night, before the cock crow, thou shalt deny Me thrice; Peter said unto Him, Though I should die with Thes, yet will I not deny Ther.” Thus was he most solemnly and distinctly cautioned a third time. Yet, strange to say, it would seem, upon each warning, that he spake the more vehemently. For this last time he seems to stake the issue of his trial, whatever it were to be, apart from the rest, as if he counted his own firmness more to be depended on. Though all shall be offended because of Thee, yet will I never. Whatever the rest may do, however they may be shaken and give way, yet I will be firm.
It is an evil sign, when we are forward to speak for ourselves in our own favour beyond and with preference before others, and are confident in our own strength or virtue by comparison with theirs. But this sort of confidence, which we blame in the Apostle and call presumptuous, is very common. It is betokened in ways of speech which may be often heard ; neither would the speakers at all allow that there was any thing of presumption in them. As when you shall hear a person say, upon being told of some grievous or unexpected sin into which another has fallen, as if it concerned him, therefore, to take care; “I should never think of such a thing.” “I have no fear about myself for any thing in that way.” “I may have my faults, but I am not the least afraid of ever behaving so, whatever other people may do.” Is there not some resemblance between such sayings, and “though all men, yet will not I ?”
But to return to the Apostle. The MASTER's care for him ceased not here. Other gentle and merciful hints and admonitions were given, both before the hour of trial, to strengthen, and after his fall, to recover and comfort him. Such are those few touching words on returning to the three in the garden, and finding them asleep, addressed specially to St. Peter, as if he specially needed to attend to them. “Simon, sleepest thou? Couldest not thou watch one hour?” And then to all alike, “Watch ye and pray, lest ye enter into temptation. The spirit truly is willing, but the flesh is weak.” And again, when Peter drew his sword and smote one of them who came out against Jesus, the command, “Put up thy sword;” and the further words, “Thinkest thou, that I cannot now pray to my Father, and He shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels,” might have reminded him, that His MASTER needed no defence of man, but yielded HIMSELF of his own free choice. And had St. Peter maintained throughout his trial a right faith in what he had himself confessed, “Thou art the CHRIST, the Son of the Living God?,” he would not have given way under it. And at length, when Peter had completed the denials, even beginning to curse and to swear, saying, “I know not the man;" then the LORD turned and looked upon His fallen Apostle.
And it has been well noticed how each time Peter affirmed the false word with greater positiveness and vehemency. First of all, “I know not what thou sayest;" then denying with an oath ; then beginning to curse and to swear that “he knew not the man.” For persevering in a sin leads to increase of crime. Occasions of guilt are multiplied the longer we continue in it. The false word must be repeated, and then strengthened by fresh falsehood: and what was told at first to but one, must be stood to before many. We know not how deep we shall sink, or what deeper mischief than the first we may bring on our souls, when once we plant our feet in the mire of sin, and hasten not to draw them back with acknowledgment of our fault, and to wash off the stain with tears of penitence.
i Matt. xvi. 16.
“The LORD turned and looked upon Peter.” At the upper part of the large hall, into which the officers had brought Him for examination before the elders, was Jesus, buffeted and cruelly ill-treated by the soldiers, spit upon, mocked, and distracted with questions in jest or earnest, and pulled and thrust by those who stood round about Him; but He was not unmindful of His Apostle. No torment to HIMSELF could make Him forget the needs of others. He heard and marked the denials; and then, at the moment when the cock crew, “He turned and looked upon Peter.” Who can attempt to describe all that was conveyed in that look ? what thoughts it called up in the Apostle's mind ? what deep and overwhelming sorrow and penitence of soul, as the look fell upon him, and the token sounded in his ears? Blessed Apostle, whose ear and heart were open to reproof; who, though fallen, yet loved; who, before he stuck fast in the mire and the deeps swallowed him up, lifted up his eyes to Him whence cometh our only help in the evil day of trial! Most merciful and loving MASTER, Who didst not turn Thy face away; Who, though causing grief, yet didst it in compassion ; Who didst waken up and recover Thy Apostle by the inward meaning of Thy gracious look ; and beforehand didst appoint a further token, by which the memory of his sin should ever be kept wholesomely in remembrance! For it is said, that thenceforth the Apostle never heard the crowing of the cock, without calling to mind the word of the LORD, and lamenting over his own sin. And as he wept bitterly at the outside of the palace, tormented, we may well believe, with desperate thoughts of sorrow, (as was the unhappy Judas,) and with other evil suggestions from him who had been sifting him, and thus far with too sad success: what comfort to him to recall the MASTER's words, “I have prayed for thee that thy faith fail not;" to know that the Lord had prayed and surely would yet pray for him; and further, that there was still good hope for him for recovery. For was it not added ? “And when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.” HE that had foretold the fall, thus implied also the rising again, and most graciously further marked
out a path for his services for the good of others, and a blessing and acceptance going along with them.
How many matters may we find to think on here!-on the one hand, respecting our own dangers; on the other, respecting God's merciful ways for the recovery of those who fall! How dangerous a thing is presumption and confidence in our own firmness—the being satisfied with ourselves, and fearing no ill from the hour of temptation! What a warning is here set forth for better sort of persons, who have zeal and good feelings, but not yet sufficient firmness of principle! Wonderful was the Apostle's change of mind in so few hours ; but not less wonderful the inconsistency and feebleness of purpose of men, if we could compare “the resolutions they will make when alone with God at their prayers, and their conduct a few hours afterwards?,” when they come forth among those who are setting Christ at nought. Not less wonderful the positiveness with which a person will vehemently disclaim the thought of a great sin, as if in no danger, and take offence at wholesome caution, and within a few hours, upon surprise, consent unto it.
And do not forget to mark how, as God gives us warnings to keep us against temptation, by the inward voice of conscience, by outward declaration of His word, by good books, or good discourses, or wholesome counsel of friends, so when, through over confidence or other fault, we have fallen into sin, there are outward tokens of His appointment to recall us—some cock crowing, some sound or sight, some turning and looking upon us. In the stillness of the night upon our beds, in our sudden waking thoughts, in the darkness as we walk along the way, in the house of God, or in the haunts of the profane, when evil has possession of our hearts, or when words of sin have but just passed our lips, there is a consciousness which will rise up sometimes, that the eye of God is upon us. And so it is : in mercy and love, though in sorrow. Let us not, by our indifference, cause that gracious look to be turned away.
Blessed are they who give heed to it—who regard whatever it is that raises this sudden recollection that God is near, as if our God and Saviour had therein looked upon them. For surely
? On the Passion, p. 112.
He does look down upon us, though He reveal Himself not to us by visible sign. His eye is turned upon us brighter than the light of the sun, following us in the movements of our hearts, as it did Saul on his journey to Damascus”. And if we look up in faith, we shall feel that He is beholding us; that, in these sudden flashes that come across us, He does turn a look upon us as truly as He turned His gracious eye upon His erring Apostle. We shall be able to trace His handwriting upon the tables of our hearts, though we see not the hand that writeth. Blessed are they who thus mark their Saviour's glance, and remember themselves, though the first thought brings shame, and sorrow, and bitter repentance. Let it be so. Peter's tears were bitter, but they fell as a refreshing shower upon a parched land. Peter's tears were bitter, and often renewed, but they wrought "repentance to salvation not to be repented of 4.” They first flowed in bitterness, but afterwards in softened thankfulness. Neither did his Lord long leave him without special token of his accepted penitence. When He quitted the tomb, He left a message by the angel who was seen by the women, in token of His Apostle being restored to His confidence. “Go your way, tell His disciples and Peter.” And HE HIMSELF appeared unto Peter before He showed HIMSELF to the assembled Apostles, certifying him thereby of his full forgiveness”.
And observe, too, how our Blessed LORD has made one of His warnings to St. Peter in such terms, that the comfort should pass over unto us as well as to the Apostle. “When thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.” Here was comfort for him in thinking of these words : first, as implying that he would be restored ; secondly, in that his Master gave him a special work, even as arising out of his very fall. For what greater comfort to å zealous believing heart, than to see how God may turn the evil it has done to the good of others? And is there not comfort in these words, which passes on to us? “Conversion is not a thing accomplished once for all. St. Peter, long after his name had been written in heaven, and Christ had pronounced him blessed, and the Father had revealed CHRist unto him, and our LORD had washed his feet, and he had partaken of His Body
3 Acts xxvi. 13.
42 Cor. vii. 10.
5 Mark xvi. 7; 1 Cor. xv. 5.