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The circumstances under which this command was vouchsafed, are related in the fifth chapter of St. Luke's Gospel, where we read that our Lord having, upon the lake of Gennesaret, taught the people out of Simon Peter's ship, desired him to launch out into the deep, and to let down his nets for a draught. No sooner had this injunction been complied with, than so vast a multitude of fishes were taken, that “the nets brake and the. vessels themselves began to sink.” Then it was that Peter, enlightened by the Holy Spirit of God, began really to discover the divine nature, and to be convinced of the supernatural power of Him, whom he had already acknowledged as the Messiah of God; and the immediate consequence was that recorded in the text,
- he fell down at Jesus' knees, saying, Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord !”
Behold, the remarkable effect of a single unclouded view of the incarnate
Deity! An overwhelming sense of the greatness of the Saviour, and of the nothingness, and less than nothingness, of his sinful creatures. How uniformly has this been the result, in all ages, of a clear and visible manifestation to fallen man, of the second person of the everblessed Trinity. Thus, in the case of the holy and devoted Job, after he had beheld that glorious vision of the eternal God, which he describes, we see him humbled in the dust, we hear him saying, in the voice of the deepest penitence and self-abhorrence, “I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear, but now mine eye seeth thee, WHEREFORE I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.”? Thus was it also with Isaiah, when he beheld the Lord sitting upon his throne, and surrounded by the glorious seraphim : “ Then said I, Woe is me, for I am undone, because I am a man of unclean lips, for mine eyes
2 Job xlii. 5, 6.
have seen the King, the Lord of hosts, Thus is it, even at the present moment, with ourselves ; never are the power and the perfections of the Saviour truly brought home to the heart, without being accompanied by a self-accusing, self-condemning knowledge of our own souls. The first language of the convicted sinner is, “ Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord !” Not that he really desires the departure of his Saviour, but that he is so overwhelmed with a sense of the power and the purity of Christ, and with the guilt and weakness of himself, that he cannot but acknowledge that he is “not worthy that the Saviour should come under his roof,” or take up his promised abode within his bosom. We say
that this is still the invariable effect, of a real manifestation of the Saviour to the hearts of his fallen creatures. It is true, you may have
3 Isaiah vi. 5.
heard, read, and spoken of Christ from your very infancy, and no such effect have been produced ; but this will not disprove our assertion, because may
have heard, and read, and spoken of Him, and, alas ! know him not. But the moment you do know him, the moment he fulfils to you his gracious promise of manifesting 4 himself to his people as he does not to the world the moment you are enabled by the divine Spirit really to see “ the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ, you will find that the declaration of Peter, is the only appropriate language of your heart, “I am a sinful man, 0 Lord !!
Is not this, my Christian brethren, the first feeling of the convicted conscience ? are not these the first utterings of the awakened heart? We do not hesitate to say, that the divine Spirit never, in any single instance,
4 See John xiv. 21, 22. 5 2 Cor. iv. 6.
really reveals a saving knowledge of Christ, without at the same time thus convincing of sin. The depth of this feeling, the intensity of its anguish, the length of its duration, will vary in almost every different instance, for it is a fatal, though common mistake, to imagine that upon this point the experience of one believer, forms a model or a measure for another. In some, the soul is permitted to be long bowed down by a sense of sin; and days of sorrow and nights of watchfulness are wearily endured before peace is applied, and the Comforter fulfils his blessed office: in others, the conviction is so closely followed by the reception of the Saviour's promises, or rather, so identified with it, that there is nothing known of the deeper pangs and acuter agonies of a guilty conscience ; but, be assured of this, that in all, yes, in every imaginable case—in the case of the most moral, the most virtuous, the