« AnteriorContinuar »
tian courage, arising from a sure trust in God, and submission to his will, can alone enable us to act with zeal and firmness under all trials and afflictions. Human courage requires the incitements of glory and success : St. Peter's example shows us that the courage of a Christian is very different from that of a natural man; and that we can only hope to overcome trials and temptations through the assistance of God's Holy Spirit. Secondly: St. Peter's example shows us that we are not to expect this assistance against temptations which are of our own seeking : God has commanded us to avoid temptations, and we cannot hope for his assistance when we are acting in disobedience to his commands. When God warns us to flee from temptations, it shows that we are not able to encounter them ; and it is clearly intimated that he will assist us by his grace, not to meet, but to avoid them. A notion that we are above all temptations, and may safely venture among them, is a proof of spiritual pride and presumption : this confidence, if it arise from ourselves, is vain, and if from dependence on God's grace, is unwarranted by Scripture, and contradictory to St. Paul, who admonishes us to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God that worketh in us both to will and to do: and if that, which is our strength, is likewise an admonition to be cautious and wary, whence can presumption grow? for if the sense of Christ's assistance must teach us to be humble and watchful, what else can encourage presumption and confidence ? Let no man therefore think that he is beyond the power of sin, but let us watch and pray that we enter not into temptation, and implore the Almighty, should he bring our virtue to the trial, that he would with the temptation also make a way for us to escape. Thirdly: St. Peter's example shows the great advantage of habitual holiness : those whose minds are not hardened by sin are easily led to repentance. St. Peter's repentance was as remarkable as his fall : the eye of his Lord, though full of compassion, was a sufficient rebuke, and struck
him with undissembled sorrow. St. Peter's case is that of every good man under the same unhappy circumstances. The hardened sinner despises the calls of conscience; but where there is a sense of virtue and religion, they are easily admitted. The rulers of the Jews, though witnesses of all the wonders attending Christ's death and resurrection, did not repent : one compassionate look recovered St. Peter ; but the Jews were not convinced though one rose from the dead. Every man may sin, but those only will repent who seriously endeavor after righteousness: the wicked, as they advance in guilt, gradually subdue conscience, till repentance becomes impossible. Fourthly: the sins of the best men are expiated with the greatest sense of sorrow: those who have been long strangers to religion, easily argue themselves into unconcern for their past iniquities; but we cannot think of ourselves and of God as we ought, without feeling the deepest sorrow for our offences. When men are truly concerned, they naturally vent their grief, without considering what profit their sorrow will yield them, like St. Peter in the text. Some have learned to make a trade of repentance, and equally to balance sin and sorrow. But this is not taught us in the gospel, where we learn only how much it is our interest and duty to obey God, and how base and miserable we are when we offend. When we are truly affected with a sense of our sins, we have the best indication that the spirit of religion is still alive within us, and that we are not given up to a reprobate obdurate heart. Lastly: an observation of more general concern naturally offers itself on a view of this case. The gospel was the work of God; and though we were to receive it by the hands of men, our faith was not to be founded in their strength, but in the wisdom and power of God. The disciples, on whom the weight of it was to rest, were distinguished only by their simplicity and honesty. Our Lord elected them, knowing that the weaker the instruments were, evidently the hand of God would appear in the mighty works
SUMMARY OF DISCOURSE XXX.
performed by them. Of all the disciples St. Peter was the most distinguished for spirit and resolution ; and we have seen how little able he was of himself to encounter the difficulties that attended the first preaching of the gospel : yet this same man soon after boldly declares before his judges, that Jesus whom they had slain was exalted to the right hand of God. This mighty difference can be ascribed only to that great Spirit before whose coming the disciples were commanded not to enter on their office. If the gospel had been an imposture ; if St. Peter had not seen Christ come from the grave, and had not received the power of the Spirit, what would have induced him thus to expose himself ? This plainly shows that the hand of God was with him, and is evidence that our faith is the work of God, and not of man. Thus St. Peter's case, considered as one of instruction to ourselves, affords us much encouragement in our spiritual warfare; and in a more general view, as affecting his character as an Apostle of Christ, yields us great confidence in our faith ; since through the weakness of the man we evidently discern the power of God, which wrought effectually with him; so that, knowing in whom we have trusted, we need not be ashamed.
LUKE, CHAP. XXII.-VERSES 61, 62.
And the Lord turned, and looked on Peter. And Peter remem
bered the word of the Lord, how he had said unto him, Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice. And Peter went out, and wept bitterly.
The fall of St. Peter would be a very inelancholy instance of human infirmity, did it not likewise set before us a signal example of the divine mercy, and of the power of grace triumphing over the weakness of nature. St. Peter seems to have had the greatest share of natural courage and resolution of any of the disciples, and the fullest persuasion of faith. He it was who made the first confession, and said, “Thou art Christ the Son of the living God ;' by which he obtained the promise of his Lord, I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven.' He it was, who, when his Master's life was assaulted, drew the sword in his defence and smote off the servant's ear; and had left still greater marks of his courage and zeal, had not his Master rebuked his fire, bidding him put up the sword into its place again. When our Lord foretold the flight of his disciples, and that all should be offended because of him, the rest by silence confessed their fear and their shame; Peter only stood forth, and with a courage seeming to be superior to all trials, professed, “Though all men shall be offended because of thee, yet will I never be offended.' His Lord again declared unto him, · Verily I say unto thee, that- this night, before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice :' but Peter, whose heart was conscious of no fear, answers boldly, “Though I should die with thee, yet will I not deny thee.'
As the time of our Lord's sufferings drew near, he retired to
prayer, and made choice of Peter and others to join with him. But here, oppressed with sleep, they forgot themselves and their Master : but soon they were awakened with the noise of those who came to apprehend them, and with the sight of swords and staves. Peter stood to his defence; and had it been a cause proper for the decision of the sword, he had at least died with glory; but he mistook the weapons of his warfare, and knew better how to venture his life in the field, than to resign it at the call of conscience : an evident sign that natural courage is not the true source of confidence in spiritual trials, in which they only can conquer, whose strength is not of man, but of God. No sooner were the hopes of defence taken away, and the succors which natural courage affordeth rendered useless, but Peter's resolution began to fail : he could not indeed totally forget his love to his Master, and therefore he followed him to his trial; but he followed him, as the text expresses it, • afar off,' and mingled himself in the crowd of servants who attended the chief-priests and elders, hoping by that artifice to pass unsuspected of any acquaintance or familiarity with the person accused. But whether his fear discovered him, which even by the concern it showeth to lie concealed often betrayeth itself, or however else it happened, he was challenged by a damsel, who told him, · Thou also wast with Jesus of Galilee :' Peter denies it, and being again suspected, affirms with an oath, I know not the man.' A third time he is questioned, and then, to show his innocence by his resentment of their suspicions," he began to curse and to swear, saying, I know not the man.' And now it was that the cock crew, and the Lord turned and looked on Peter;' with a look, however, full of tenderness and compassion, that struck Peter to the heart, and brought to his mind his presumption and his baseness : under this confusion he retires from the presence of his Master and from the
of the world; and when he thought of himself and of his Lord, ‘he wept bitterly.'
Happy tears! and blessed were the fruits that followed them! Not long after this the scene changes again : St. Peter stands in the place of his Master, before the tribunal of the high-priest, summoned to appear for his doctrine at the peril of his life: and now he who denied Christ when he was ques