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heal thy wife's mother of a fever! did he not afford thee a miraculous draught of fishes, when thou hadst toiled all night without effect, and which made thee fall down, saying, Depart from me, for Tama sinful man, O Lord? didst thou not go to him walking upon the water, who stretched out his hand and supported thee when sinking in the midst of the angry waves ? didst thou not behold his transfiguration upon the mount? didst thou not confess him to be the Son of God? did he not surname thee Peter, and declare that he would give unto thee the keys of the kingdom? Ah! Peter, how art thou fallen! What a falsehood thou hast uttered! There is scarcely a Jew in the whole nation but what knew Jesus, he having become so noted throughout the country for his doctrine and miracles. Yet his own disciple, who had been with him for three years, affirms with an oath, he did not know the man. He repeated his falsehood after the space of an hour or more, after having had time for reflection. Of a truth, said another servant, this fellow was also with him, for he is a Galilean. And Peter denied again, saying, I know not the man of whom you speak. To gain the greater credit to what he had said, and to show that he was not the disciple of Christ, He cursed and suore. He first denied his Lord and Master; he then denied him with an oath; and he afterwards denied bim with horrible imprecations. And all this he did, after he had received the most solemn and repeated wanings from him whom he knew to be the Son of God, who was acquainted with all these things.
The conduct of Peter is rendered the more criminal when we consider the smallness of the temptation with which he was beset. He was questioned as to his knowledge of Christ, not by a mighty monarch, a king, a prince, or a magistrate; but by an equal, an inferior, a servant, a girl! Is this Peter, the zealous, the courage. ous Peter, the rock, as the name imports? How little does his conduct answer to the name he bears! He appears more like a feather, blown away by the slightest puff—a pillar in the temple of God, blown down by the breath of a damsel! Alas, what is man, lett to himself in the hands of the tempter, if he be permitted to sift him as wheat !
He denied his Master within his very hearing, and, as it seems, in his presence ; a Master of whose wisdom, power, and justice, as well as mercy and love, he had the fullest evidence : and even after he had just received the sacrament at his hands. One would have supposed that the personal presence of Christ would have imposed upon him a restraint, sufficient, at least, to have prevented these solemn and repeated denials with oaths and imprecations. But, alas! when man throws off restraint, and gives himself up to the dictates of unbridled passions, there is scarcely a bond to check, or a limit to restrain ; but he ranges through the extensive regions of fraud, of falsehood, and of forgery, till he is arrested in his wild career by some mysterious arm of providence. He becomes like
a beast before you, so stupid and insensible is he. This appears to have been the case with Peter, when, in the presence of his Master, he denied him.
But the conduct of Peter will appear still more aggravated, if we consider the time when he was guilty of such nefarious conduct. It was at the period when he was betrayed into the hands of his enemies, and when he was about to give his life a sacrifice for the sin of the world. It was when Jesus was giving the tenderest mark of his love to Peter, Peter discovered the blackest ingratitude. While Jesus yielded himself up to the bloody death of the cross for Peter, Peter refused to confess him. Such was the nature and turpitude of the offence committed by one of the apostles of the Lamb.
III. But we hasten to consider, in the third place, his restoration to the divine favor. As the fall of Peter was sudden, so was also his recovery. As his sin was not premeditated, but was the effect of a sudden and unexpected temptation, under circumstances peculiarly appalling to his mind, so he soon felt the power and force of conviction, and was as suddenly restored to the divine favor. The means of his restoration were as inconsiderable as the temptation by which he fell. They were two: The first was the crowing of the cock. This having been foretold, brought to Peter's remembrance the admonitions and warnings of Jesus, and gave him a fresh and striking instance of his wisdom, veracity, and power. Thus, at the very moment Jesus foretold his fall, he prepared the means of his recovery. But the look of Jesus was employed as the principal means of his restoration. The Lord turned and looked on Peter.
This was a look of complaint. It is the man of sorrows complaining of a new burden, while he is ready to sink under what he already bears. How eloquent was that eye when it was turned upon Peter, and spoke the language of the Saviour's heart? Is it not enough, Peter, that I am falsely accused, and cruelly dragged before this mock tribunal, where I shall be unjustly condemned, and shortly called to endure the painful and ignominious death of the cross? O, Peter, will you pierce my heart with a fresh dagger ? will you add new gall to the cup that I am now drinking? will you give a sharper point to those arrows that are piercing my soul ? O, Peter, have you no heart to sympathize with me in my sufferings, no tears to shed on this scene of wo, that will fill heaven and earth with mourning ?
This was a look of reproof and resentment. The Saviour felt indignant at the base and treacherous conduct of Peter. He had given Peter suitable cautions and proper warnings, to which he paid no special regard, but was continually boasting of his firmness, and of the strength of his attachment to his Master. How did the eye of Jesus, when he looked upon him, flash with reproof? What do you think now, Peter ?-where is all your boasted confidence and
courage? What, are you the man who declared he would sooner die, than forsake me? A look from Christ, which carries in it so just a reprimand, must be supposed to enter deeply into Peter's heart, who still respected his Master, though, through fear, he had acted so base and treacherous a part. This look of Jesus must have cut him to the very soul.
This was a look of tender compassion—a look of love, that carried in it tender mercy, and the pity of a friend. When Jesus cast his eye upon Peter, it glowed with the tenderest emotions of loveit was full of endearing attachment. 0, Peter, unhappy creature, where are you now-how could you be so confident—I well knew your weakness-you knew not yourself
. But is this your kindness to your friend? have I deserved this at your hand? When Julius Cæsar was murdered in the senate-house, his friend Brutus gare him one stab among the rest, which entered deeper into the dying emperor's heart, than any he had received before, and made him cry out, What, my dear Brutus among my murderers! Something so touching we may suppose to have been in that gracious look of Jesus, when he fixed his eyes on Peter. What, Peter among my persecutors-could I expect this from you? I could bear it better from any other. And believe it, your treachery, profaneness, and apostacy, have more deeply affected me, than all the insults and indignities that I have met with.
It was a look of reconciliation. Not a look of wrath and indig . nation, but an overture of peace and pardon, conveyed by the eye to the heart. Ah, Peter, I will not disown you, though you have denied me—though you have forsaken me, I will not cast you off. How I do pity you, behold these eyes ; do you not see something of pity and tenderness in them? Believe me, Peter, you have not lost all your interest and all your love in me. I have prayed for you, and the blood I am about to shed shall wash away your guilt. No wonder that Peter could not withstand such a look. No wonder that he was compelled to retire, and seek seclusion to vent the anguish of his soul.
It was a look of exhortation. By the expression of the eye, Jesus reminded him of what had passed between them. You now remember my words, let them sink deep into your heart. Go think on what I have said, and on what you have done. Repent, and weep, and mourn—remember the look which I now give, and remember it is a mercy that I ever looked upon you again. You have denied me; if you now love me, let your repentance be as remarkable as your fall.
Our blessed Lord, situated as he was, did not have an opportunity of a personal interview with Peter; had he have had an opportunity of conversing with him, we may reasonably suppose he would have addressed him in the manner we have been describing. But all this he might convey with one steady cast of the eye; and doubtless he did, when he gave Peter that piercing and converting
look. There is something in a fixed, commanding look of the eye, that is inexpressibly more eloquent than all the arts of speech. There is no such thing as resisting the silent language of the eye, when dictated by the emotions of the heart. And such was this look of the Saviour, that pierced through Peter's heart, and forced all his sorrows through his eyes. He went out, and wept bitterly. He left the place where he had sinned, and forsook the company which had been the occasion of his transgression. He sought retirement, that he might the more freely pour out the bitter anguish of his soul in a copious effusion of tears.
1. We learn from this subject, that no dependence can be placed on mere natural strength, or on great attainments, to enable us to resist temptation, and to persevere in true religion, without the assistance of the grace of God. The names of nearly all the saints, whose histories have been recorded in the Bible, have been stained with crime. Noah drank too much wine, and became intoxicated. Abraham was guilty, in several instances, of prevarication. Moses gave way to the impetuosity of his spirit, and dashed in pieces the tables of stone, inscribed by the finger of God. David was guilty of seduction and murder. Solomon gave way to the foolishness of his heart in old age, and Peter denied his Lord and Master. These were all men of great piety, and eminent attainments; but under peculiar circumstances, they were overcome by the power of temptation. And who can say, that I could stand, were my faith and virtue put to as serious a test as theirs ? were I assailed by as strong and powerful temptations as they? Let him that thinketh he standeth, take heed lest he fall. We should do well, my brethren, to remember our weakness, and never trust in our own strength, or lean upon our own understanding; but let us trust in the Lord, for they that trust in the Lord shall be as Mount Zion, that cannot be removed.
2. When men fall into actual sin, however great may have been their attainments, or however eminent they have been in holiness, they generally proceed from bad to worse. Every step makes way for another, involving us in more aggravated guilt. This was the case with Peter. At first, he, perhaps, only intended to conceal the truth; but we shortly find him absolutely denying all knowledge of Christ, and then confirming that denial with oaths and horrible imprecations. This was also the case with David, in the matter of Uriah.
At first, he only committed adultery; he then went on, that he might conceal his guilt and shame, to the commission of murder. We should, therefore, avoid the least appearance of evil, and learn to distrust ourselves. We should resist temptation in its first stages, and never permit wicked thoughts to lodge in our minds. In most instances, before men commit outbreaking sins, they render their minds familiar with vice by contemplation, and thus they are gradually prepared for the perpetration of sin before the act is committed. A pure and sincere heart, whose
thoughts and feelings are all holy, will reply, when attacked by the most violent temptations, in the language of an eminent patriarch: How can I commit this great wickedness, and sin against God? Let us, then, keep our consciences and our hearts pure and undefiled
. Let us look continually to God for persevering grace, for he heareth the needy when they cry, and has styled himself the keeper of Israel. Such persons have the assurance of finding strength equal to their day.
3. If any have fallen, they are instructed, by the restoration of Peter to the divine favor, not to despair of mercy, provided, like him, they remember the words of Jesus, are pierced with deep remorse for their sins, and experience that godly sorrow which vorketh reformation not to be repented of. Doubtless there are many here, on this occasion, who have denied their Saviour since he redeemed their souls, in works, if they have not in oaths and imprecations. Othat Jesus would look such into repentance, as he did Peter, and that they might feel all those lively emotions of sorrow, that swelled the heart and filled the eyes of this penitent apostle! Could many of us see our true condition, we should doubtless behold ourselves as much alienated from Christ as was Peter, when he denied him. And may our hearts become as penitent as his was, and we shall be as soon restored to the divine favor. Indeed, God says to us, return unto me, thou backsliding daughter; and promises to heal our backslidings, and to love us freely.
Joy in Heaven over a Repenting Sinner.
“I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance."-Luke xv., 7.
The instructions of our Saviour were delivered in the most plain and familiar manner; and the imagery employed to illustrate them was chiefly drawn from the various sources of common and domestic life. Jesus came not to the rich; he could not be affected by circumstances of temporal rank and wealth. He looked upon man as he exists, abstracted from these considerations; and, there fore, directed his teaching to the great mass of mankind, the common people. They were the chief objects of his ministry; and, accordingly, his discourses were popular. The context presents us with the familiar figure of a shepherd, who had lost one of his flock: who, after a toilsome search, recovered the wanderer; and who calls his friends together to rejoice with him, that he had found that