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SERMON V.

Peter's denial of his Master, prac

tically improved.

Matth. xxvi. 74. Tben began be to curse and to swear, saying,

I know not the man, and immediately the cock crew.

T

HESE words relate an event in its

kind one of the most remarkable

we meet with in scripture ; an eminent christian, nay, an apostle of Christ, suddenly caught in a very heinous defection from his duty, even the denial of his Lord with cursing. From whence, if we consider it seriously with all its circumstances, many useful instructions to us will arise, which shall be the principal subject of this discourse. But, in order to proceed the more distinctly, it will be neceffary, first, to state the fact, The Apostle Peter, whose character by the accounts which the gospel history gives of

him,

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Serm.him, appears distinguished among

the difV. ciples by a warm and forward zeal in his

religious profession, tho' not always duely
balanc'd with knowledge and deliberation;
he was the first on many occasions, to ex-
press his affectionate respect to his master,
and readiness to undertake any

service which
should be enjoined him; he had the ho-
nour to make that excellent confession con-
cerning our Saviour, recorded Matt. xvi. 16,
Whereupon he was declared to be the rock,
upon which the christian church is built ;
not exclusively, however, of the other A-
postles, for the church is built upon the foun,
dation of the apostles and prophets; that is,
their doctrine : And to him were committed
the keys of the kingdom of heaven : Not
peculiarly neither, but he was the first,
which is the full meaning of that promise,
that opened the kingdom of God, or preach'd
christianity to the Gentiles; but see how
little reason there is to glory in any

external priviledges, and what fatal reverses in their spiritual state and affairs men are liable to, who possess the most eminent of them ! Peter, soon after being thus honoured by his master, as we read in the same 16th of Matt. expressed himself so ignorantly, and

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inconsiderately, upon the design of our Sa-SERM. viour's coming, and the nature of his king- V. dom, as to dissuade him from undergoing the sufferings his father had appointed for him ; thereby meriting to himself this severe rebuke, get thee behind me, satan, thou art an offence to me : for thou savoureft not the things that be of God, but those that be of men. This eminent Apostle, I say, was warn'd by his lord, not only in common with the other disciples, but himself personally, of the extraordinary trial he was to meet with on the occasion of his master's entering into that most difmal scene which concluded in his death. A trial so severe, that it produced the unhappy effect of our Saviour's disciples forsaking him in his greatest extremity; which was a grievous circumstance in his sufferings; foreseen indeed by himself, and foretold long before by one of the ancient prophets, for thus is expounded Matt, xxvi. 31. the prediction of Zech, xiji. 7. fmite the shepherd and the sheep Shall be scattered. But, as Peter was more earnest in his

profess'd resolution of adherence to his master in all events, ver. 33. of this chapter, tho" all men should be offended because of theç, yet will I never be offended'; and ver. 35, tho' I

should

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SERM. should die with thee, yet will I not deny thee. IV. So he had a special warning of his danger,

nay, he was expressly told of the great particular transgression he would fall into, with all the the most material circumstances of it. Ver. 34. Verily I say unto thee, that this night before the cock crow, (i.e. in that watch of the night, which was commonly call'd by the Jews the cock crowing ; from midnight to three in the morning, or before the finishing it, that is before three) thou shalt deny me thrice. And accordingly he was by providence permitted, to be in this signal instance à memorable and instructive example of human weakness. We must at the same time observe, that with Christ's forefight of his frail servant's defection, there was mix'd a gracious care for his recovery, which was even intimated to him; for to the fame event refer these words of our Lord, Luke xxii. 31, 32. Simon, Simon, satan bath fought to have you, that he may fift you as wheat; but I have pray'd for thee, that thy faith fail not, (that thou may'st not alto. gether apostatize from my religion, but obtain mercy to repent, and return to thy duty :) and when thou art converted,

strengthen

strengthen thy brethren. We need only add, Serm.
in stating the fact, that Peter's denial of his V.
master was attended with high aggravations,
not only by the premonitions given him, and
his own contrary purpose declared with
great vehemence, which have been already
taken notice of ; but by its being often re-
peated, three times, in a very short space.
The occasion does not seem to have been fo
shocking, but that the spirit of a man might
have sustain'd it, if he had not been thrown
into a pannic, for scarcely could one in a calm
state of mind believe, that the accufátion of
being Christ's disciple, if it had been prov'd
and even confess’d in judgment, could have
expos'd him to death ; which yet he had
undertaken 'to endure, rather than deny his
Lord : and, finally, the temptation, still the
farther it proceeded, grew the harder for
him ; and his sin increas'd from a flight de-
nial at the first, to a passionate abjuration of
his Master ; for he denied with cursing and
fwearing

From the fact thus stated, as it plainly
appears in, there arise very important in-
structions to us, which we may profitably
consider, concerning the fallibility and weak-
ness of human nature ; concerning the dan-

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