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apostle could not bear the thought of such indignity and such suffering, awaiting the Master whom he loved, and his impetuous temper could not brook in silence to hear of it, although foretold by that Master himself, and declared that “ thus it must be.”
Upon no other occasion did our Lord so deeply resent, or so severely reprove, the transgression of an apostle. “He turned, and said unto Peter, Get thee behind me, Satan ; thou art an offence unto me :
for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men.
Perhaps the first feeling excited in our minds, by this reproof, is rather a feeling of dissatisfaction. We are almost tempted to complain, that the punishment was disproportioned to the offence.
Our hearts plead for Peter, and we cannot bear to see him in disgrace. But, my brethren, the only method in which fairly to estimate the criminality of the advice, is to follow it out into action,
and then to mark its tremendous consequences. Our Lord checked midway in
. his career of suffering ; that was the advantage proposed. Man's redemption unpurchased, would have been the inevitable result; the everlasting doors, unopened; and the great enemy of souls, who had overcome the first Adam, triumphing, for ever triumphing, over the broken promises, and the unsuccessful mission of the second. These were the results for which Peter, however unwittingly, was pleading. Can we be surprised, therefore, that at such a moment our Lord should recognize in the advice of his disciple, only the evil suggestions of Satan himself ?
My brethren, there is a word of counsel, a word of warning, which by God's grace may be profitable to us all. What was the origin of Peter's error? It was not merely the abundance of his love for his Divine Master; this will never lead us into sin, never be imputed to us as
our guilt; never, therefore, could have drawn forth so deeply cutting a reproof. Be assured that there was more than met the ear of man in Peter's counsel; there was a root of bitterness, unseen by human eye, but clearly discerned and obviously laid open by our Lord when he said, “Thou savourest the things that be of men.” That was the head and front of his offending. The fear of men, the love of men, the good opinion of men, worldliness in its most destructive form, had struck its fibres into Peter's heart : and had they not been thus at once eradicated by the great Husbandman, they would soon have taken root downwards, and borne fruit upwards, a prolific and a deadly harvest.
Peter had dreamed so long of a temporal kingdom, of earthly grandeur and promotion, that the painful sounds of suffering and death grated harshly upon his ears ; and while urging his Master to escape them, it is too probable that
some little hope was lingering in his bosom, that what was evaded by the master, would not be required of the disciple ; that if these sufferings, and degradations, were put away from Christ, they would not be prepared for Peter. Our Lord, therefore, has left this pointed reproof of one of the dearest of his followers, for ever upon record, that no future believer may indulge a hope that he shall be held guiltless where Peter was rebuked ; that if, from worldly considerations, you be led to compromise the honour of God, to prefer in your own case, or to recommend in the case of others, the soft and easy path of safety in preference to the sterner and more rugged walk of duty, whatever be the alleged or the real motive, which dictates such a choice, you are from that moment “an offence," an adversary to him whom you profess to follow.
How important a consideration to every one among us! Where is the
believer, whom Satan does not, at some period of the spiritual course, ply with temptations similar to this ? To the more advanced Christian, it may not, perhaps, be a frequent method of successful assault; but to the younger of my hearers, I would particularly apply the case in question. Is there no friend without, no faithless counsellor within, who, when he beholds you really determined by God's grace, to do, or to suffer, all that the revealed word of God demands, is apt to whisper in your ear, « This be far from thee,” this cannot be required of thee? clearly distinguish, from the light of the divine word, that the religion which
you profess has ever been, and is intended ever to be, a self-denying religion ; when you see around you practices and habits which you are convinced are utterly inconsistent with the principles of the Gospel of Christ; and when you endeavour, by God's grace, to separate
Or when you