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law, to Paul, and four other brethren, for the purpose of avoiding scandal." By“ the keys of the kingdom of heaven,” is intended simply the power of first opening the doors of the new religion, through which, as the kingdom of grace here, believers were to pass to the kingdom of glory hereafter; and accordingly we find Peter, on the day of Pentecost, as regarded the Jews, and afterwards at the house of Cornelius, as respected the Gentiles, thus engaged ; being on these occasions honoured as the first person, who instrumentally opened both to Jews and Gentiles, the doors of the kingdom of heaven.
Let us, however, pass from these subjects of Biblical criticism, to one of those affecting incidents, with which the life of Peter is replete, and which is well calculated to minister delight and encouragement to all who hear it.
Our Lord had, as we find recorded in the
5 Acts xxi. 24.
6th chap. of St. John, throughout a long and impressive discourse, been delivering some of the deepest, and to unenlightened minds, most staggering doctrines of his gospel. He had, for the first time, taught his hearers that vital truth of the new revelation, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you; and in reply to the suppressed murmurs, and discontent of his auditory, instead of qualifying his statements to meet their carnal apprehensions, he added the still more distasteful doctrine,
• No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him."'7
These are the humbling truths which have in all ages roused the indignation, and awakened the animosity of the natural heart; truths for which even the divine eloquence of our Lord himself, and the affectionate tenderness with which he promulgated them, could ob6 John vi. 53.
7 John vi. 44.
tain no favourable reception ; for we are immediately informed, "From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him.”8
If our Lord, when he took upon him our nature, did not disdain to partake with us of its sympathies, and its infirmities, this must have been to his feeling heart one of the most trying events of his ministry. To the common observer, indeed, “ the crown of thorns ” might seem to wound more deeply, the Roman spear to do its work more terribly, but those who know the value of immortal souls, will readily acknowledge that the spear and the thorns could give no pang equally acute, with that inflicted by the sight of one backsliding disciple !
Truly distressing is it to the minister of peace,
to drive even the most indifferent, and the most hardened from the blessed sounds of that salvation, which it is his duty, and his delight to
8 John vi. 66.
offer with equal freeness unto all : how much more painful is it, then, my brethren, when those who have for a time listened with pleasure, and received the word with joy, and heard it gladly, “go back and walk no more with him!” Yet even when this occurs, with such an example before his eyes, the minister of Christ will not complain—" The disciple is not above his master, nor the servant above his Lord. It is enough for the disciple to be as his master, and the servant as his Lord."9_ If it be our painful lot, to behold those among you, who we hoped might have been
, " our joy and crown of rejoicing, in the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ at his coming,” turning aside in disgust at the plainness, or in contempt at the humbling nature of those truths, which we feel it our bounden duty to impart, we will not qualify, or compromise the terms of our message; we will not alter
9 Matt. x. 24.
11 Thess. ii. 19.
one iota of the declarations of God, to disarm your enmity, or to conciliate your good will; neither will we condemn or reproach you for these things : we will rather 66
pray the Lord of the harvest, that he may send forth other labourers into his harvest,”? who may gather in the full sheaves where we have only gleaned the scattered ears; who
may be abundantly fruitful, where we have been barren; who may, without suppressing the truths of Scripture, be enabled to present them more unexceptionably, and to enforce them more successfully. We will rest contentedly upon the promises of our God, and believe with the prophet of old, “I have laboured in vain, I have spent my strength for nought and in vain; yet surely my judgment is with the Lord, and my work with my God."3 “Though Israel be not gathered,” the Lord shall be glorified. 2 Luke x. 2.
3 Isaiah xlix. 4.