Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

zone.

the support of the cause of Christ-what is the worth of my prayers and my admonitions? You, my friends, have acted a consistent part. You have looked around you, and discovered what the cause of truth demands; and, I trust, are determined not to withhold for its accomplishment. You are come, this morning, not only to join with us in the worship of God—not only to hear his praises sung, but to give an additional proof of your affection and love. I know it is proverbial to say, such and such things are as cold as charity. And is charity a cold thing ? No; but I know what is. Avarice is a cold thing. It is always winter there; it is always in the frigid

But charity is a heavenly fire ; it is always summer there. We end as we begun, by dedicating this house to God, the Father Almighty, the only living and true God. We dedicate it to his undivided unity, to his supreme and unrivalled majesty. We dedicate it to his paternal love, to his free grace, to his supreme worship. We dedicate it to his Son Jesus Christ, the only Mediator between God and men; to the memory of his love, to the celebration of his moral perfections, to the preaching of that gospel which he sealed with his blood, and confirmed by the resurrection from the dead. We dedicate it to the Holy Spirit, the regenerating and sanctifying power of God; to those heavenly influences which bring back the rebellious sons of men to the smiles of their heavenly Father; to those celestial visitations which communicate peace, joy, and strength to the devout soul. We dedicate it to the sacred cause of Christian liberty, to the rights of individual judgment. We dedicate it to social worship, to religious intercourse, to the communion of saints. We dedicate it to Christian morals, to social order, to diffusive benevolence, to universal good wil). We dedicate it to those solemn warnings, to those affectionate entreaties, to those persuasive arguments, by which a perishing sinner may be arrested and brought back to God. We dedicate it to the precious promises of the gospel, which pour consolation into the devout heart, and lighten the burden of human wo. We dedicate it to the hope of a blessed immortality, in that brighter world of glory, where reigns one eternal day of rest, and peace, and joy.

and joy. Finally, we dedicate it to the great work of preparing the soul for that state of blessedness, and for nearer approaches to God, its Maker. Here, in this house, may heart meet heart. Here may man meet God. Here may devout gratitude, may fervent prayers, may songs of praise, as fragrant incense, ascend to heaven. Here may the blessings of God descend upon his people, and the dews of heaven water generations to come. May parents bequeath to their children, down to the latest posterity, this sacred spot, this holy temple, where they have met the smiles of their heavenly Father, and received pledges of his everlasting love.

39

DISCOURSE XXI.

The Fall and Recovery of Peter.

“ And the Lord turned and looked upon Peter; and Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how he said unto him, “Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice.' Avd Peter went out and wept bitterly.”—Luke xxii., 61-6%

There is scarcely an incident recorded in the gospel history, more remarkable, more affecting, or more instructive, than the fall and recovery of Peter. It is remarkable, that one of his character and standing, should fall at all into known sin, but especially, into a sin of such a black and aggravated character. Peter had been a disciple and an apostle of Jesus Chirst during the whole of his public ministry, and had been an eye witness of the most of his distinguished and shining miracles. He attended him in his secret retirements, as well as in his public exhibitions; he was present at his transfiguration upon the mount, when his face shone like the sun in his meridian glory, and his raiment became whiter than any fuller on earth could whiten it. He, himself, had been the subject of the miraculous power of Christ, in being rescued from the devouring jaws of death, when sinking in the midst of the angry waves—yet he declared, and reiterated the declaration, and final. ly confirmed it with an oath, that he knew not the man.

We can but pause and mourn over the weakness, the fickleness, and the frailty of human nature. Peter had been honored by his Lord and Master in receiving from him the appellation of Petros, which, in Greek, signifies a stone ; a title, pointing out his firmness and stability ; but, alas ! how weak, how irresolute, and how easily overcome; and such are the best of men when left to themselves, and exposed to the assaults of the great adversary. We should take the example of Peter as a warning, and, remembering our weakness, ever live a watchful and prayerful life, lest we fall into the condemnation of the devil. In the discussion of the subject be. fore us, we propose to speak of the occasion of his fall, the aggravation of his sin, and his restoration to the divine favor.

I. We are, in the first place, to notice the occasion of his fall. The fall of St. Peter was occasioned by a concurrence of circumstances all combining to depress his spirits, and to fill him with fear and ter

The first thing which operated to produce his fall, was his self-confidence, arising from too high a sense of his firmness and stability. The source of this mistake was the vehemence of his own natural temper.

Persons of warm and ardent temperament are subject to higher elevations and lower depressions, than those who are more cold and phlegmatic. We are in danger from those very elements of mind, which lay the foundation of all true great

ror.

[ocr errors][merged small]

ness, as a ship from her sails. A ship could do nothing without sails, but when all her canvass is spread, how liable to be capsized if the wind strikes her in an opposite direction? So men of glow. ing imaginations, and of warm and ardent temperament, are very liable to yield to the influence of sudden and powerful impressions, although they may,'at times, lead them astray into the paths of sin and folly. In consequence of the noble confession which Peter made, when he declared that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the living God, our Lord had treated him with great condescension, had conferred upon him a title, and had promised to give to him the keys of the kingdom. Hence arose Peter's high thoughts of himself, and the confidence he expressed, when he declared, Though all men should be offended because of thee, yet will I not be offended.

Another reason that induced the fall of St. Peter, was his worldly views and expectations, and his aversion to the cross of Christ. These he exhibited when our Lord began plainly to predict his sufferings. From that time forth, begun Jesus to show unto his disciples, how that he must go into Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders, and chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day. Then Peter took him and began to rebuke him, saying, Be it far from thee, Lord: this shall not be unto thee. This aversion to the cross of Christ, which Peter exhibited on this occasion, originated in that strong and ardent attachment, 'which he possessed in common with mankind, to the riches, honors, and pleasures of this world. These passions and desires, predominate in the breast of man till they are subdued by divine grace. Peter had still the feelings and desires of a man, and even of an ambitious man. Believing, as he did, at this time, that the kingdom of Christ was temporal, he flattered himself that he should be elevated to the post of one of the principal officers of state ; he could not, therefore, endure the thoughts of poverty, of shame, and of disgrace.

Another reason that operated to produce his fall, was his unbelief. The high conceptions which Peter had of himself, and the erroneous views which he entertained of the kingdom of Christ, were naturally productive of unbelief. Hence, when Jesus warned him of his weakness and danger, and foretold the assault which would be made upon him by Satan, and of his being overcome and falling, he was not credited. Then saith Jesus unto them, All of you 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. But after I am risen again, I will go before you into Galilee.

Peter answered and said unto him, Though all men shall be offended because of thee, yet will I not be offended. Jesus said unto him, Verily, I say unto thee, This night, before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice. Peter said unto him, Though I should die with thee, yet will I not deny thee. How little did Peter know of himself? Little did he expect, that, with the change of circum

[ocr errors]

stances, such a revolution was about to take place in his mind! Thus, when Elisha foretold to Hazael, the cruelties which he would afterwards perpetrate towards the children of Israel, thinking it then impossible that he ever would be guilty of them, be said, Is thy servant a dog, that he should do this great thing. And Elisha answered, The Lord hath showed me, that thou shalt be king over Syria. This answer explained the mystery. Few men can tell how they would act, placed under totally different circumstances. If we were all made kings and queens, or suddenly plunged into the most trying circumstances, who can tell but what our conduct would be quite as inconsistent as either Peter's or Hazael's ? Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.

Once more: St. Peter's unwatchfulness was another great occasion of his falling. This unbelief led to unwatchfulness. He slept naturally, and much more spiritually, at the time when great temptation was at hand; and Satan, as a punishment of his self-confidence and unwatchfulness, had obtained permission to sift him as wheat. While men slept, the enemy sowed tares. If an army in camp, neglecting, under a sense of false security, to set proper watches and guards, should be attacked in the midst of the slumbers of the night, it would become an easy prey; so it is with the Christian: if he be overcome by an assault of the enemy, it is when he imagines himself safe, and ceases to preserve his watch. Hence, said Christ, What I say unto you, I say unto all, watch. Had Peter regarded this injunction, he might have resisted the attack of the enemy, and overcome all the wiles of the Devil. But, alas! Peter was unwatchful, and he fell.

Again, another occasion of the fall of St. Peter, was his neglect of prayer. Perceiving no immediate danger, and feeling confident in his own resources, he did not guard against the subtlety and power of his grand adversary. As he sought no assistance from God, he received none. He trusted to his own resources, and these in the hour of trial were found insufficient. When the trial came, he found himself like Samson, shorn of his locks, and as weak as another man. And thus it will be with all who neglect prayer. It is by prayer, and not by native strength, that any prevail against the grand adversary of their souls. By prayer, our bow shall abide in strength, and the armies of our hands shall be made strong by the mighty God of Jacob. Yes,

“Satan trembles when he sees
The weakest saint upon his knees."

For it is by the gracious exercise of prayer, that God communicates living energy to the soul. Hence, Jesus directs us to watch and pray, that we enter not into temptation ; and gives all such the assurance that his grace shall be sufficient for them.

Finally, his impatience und rash zeal was another cause of his

fall. When awakened to a sense of his danger, and alarmed by the sudden and unexpected coming of the band to apprehend Christ, he gave way to a spirit of impatience and rash zeal, by drawing his sword to defend his Master; but upon being reproved by Christ, and convinced of his error, be passed over to distrust, dejection, and cowardice. Aware that his hasty and inconsiderate conduct had exposed him to the laws of his country, he instantly forsook his Master and fled ; even the very Master with whom he had expressed his resolution to go to prison and death ; and he did this through a dread of reproach and suffering. After having overcome the sudden perturbation of mind with which he fled away, he returned and followed Christ afar off ; which was a striking emblem of the state of his mind.

By this cowardly conduct he exposed himself still more to temptation by thoughtlessly venturing upon forbidden ground. Led by curiosity to know what would become of his Master, he went in among the wicked servants of the High Priest; and this at a time when he had, in a great measure, lost his religion, and was weak and he'pless like another man. Under these circumstances he was but illy prepared to resist temptation. The evil hour came; and while under the influence of the fear of man that bringeth a snare, he was overcome by the seductions of the enemy, and cast a stain ipon his character, which the strength of years and the lapse of time can never efface. And such are the fatal steps by which most Christians, who turn back to the beggarly elements of the world, fall. We should all do well to take the example of Peter, as a lively caution against treading on forbidden ground. We had better face the frowns of an angry world, and endure the weight of its displeasure, than to be drawn into sin by its seductions, and wrong our own souls.

II. Having noticed the steps by which Peter fell, and the means which led to that sad catastrophe, we shall now proceed, in the second place, to consider the aggravation of his sin. The crime of which Peter was guilty, was the denial of his Lord and Master. By comparing what the Evangelists have said on this subject, it appears that Peter, at first, hesitatingly denied Christ. It is possible he did not mean to tell a direct falsehood, but merely evade the truth by equivocation. According to St. Mark, whose gospel, it is generally supposed, Peter himself revised, his words, at first, were, I know not, neither understand I, what thou sayest ; which is the same in sense in St. Matthew. But this was, in substance, denying him, and so it was understood by the persons who were present. Hence, St. Matthew says, He denied him before them all. After a short time he grew more bold and confident, telling a plain and direct falsehood, and confirming it with an oath, as St. Matthew informs us, declaring, I do not know the man. that such language should ever have fallen from the lips of this apostle! What, Peter! dost thou not know the man? did he not

How amazing

« AnteriorContinuar »