Page images
PDF
EPUB

receive, in exact proportion, “ according to their works.' There shall every vile apostate, as well as treacherous Judas, be distinguished by peculiar marks of indignation : for no guilt can be so heinous as their's.

Do not these confiderations alarm our fears? Then let us watch and pray: and especial y let us be care of those snares, by which others have failen. Let us be serious and upright, renouncing every carnal motive in our transactions with God. "A doubleminded man is unstable in all his ways*.” But, taking hold of the Covenant in Jesus Christ, and aiming at the divine glory with singleness of eye, we shall persevere in righteousness, and be kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation t. Amen.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[merged small][ocr errors]

SAINT PETER.

CH A P. v.

SECT. I.

[ocr errors]

Peter, a fisherman, brought to Jesus by his brother An

drew-took a miraculous draught of fishes appointed an Apostle--walked on the sea - confessed Chrift--one of his most favoured and zealous attendants-warned at the last supper-stept in Gethseinane-defended his Masterforsook and denied him-repented-had an

interview with Jesus after the resurrection. A GREAT

GREAT variety of natural dispositions appears even among thole, who possess the grace of God. Each man's peculiar temper gives a cast to his religious conduct, and, while it distingui:hes him from others, exposes him to peculiar snares and temptations. Those of lively affections are apt to be unguarded and precipitate, and frequently offend through indiscreet and unfeasonable exertions of zeal. But the calm and sedate, however they may deliberate and judge wisely, often want the fervour, courage, and activity, which are necessary for difficult undertakings and extenfive usefulness.

The history, now proposed to our consideration, will evince the propriety of these remarks. Of all the persons, who accompanied our Lord, none appears more conspicuous than Saint Peter. He has been styled the prince of the Apostles, and not improperly, for he generally stood forth as their leader in every transaction. The excellence of his character, to which Jesus himself gave the strongest attestations, demands our esteem. We muft admire his warın

L2

attachment

attachment to his Master, his fidelity, fortitude, and vigour. Yet we allow that he had failings, and on one melancholy occasion was betrayed into very difhonourable conduct. He was naturally fanguine, bold, and confident; and, through the influence of this his prevailing temper, he sometimes appeared forward, rash, and presumptuous. We do not attempt to justify or palliate the faults of pious persons; but we ought not to be vehement in our censures. Let not the careless and the indolent, who loudly condemn the imprudence of some lively Christians, flatter themselves that their caution and inactivity are more pleafing to God, than the honest warmth of those, who, like Peter, may occasionally over-act their part. The latter may be often wrong, but the former, being deftitute of love and zeal, are never right. It is incumbent upon us to regard the Saviour, not with indif. ference, but with a fervency of affection, and on every suitable opportunity to exert all our abilities for promoting his glory.

Peter was an inhabitant of Bethfaida in Galilee, where, though Jesus preached often and performed many miracles, the Gospel was generally rejected. Here he carried on the mean and laborious occupation of a fisherman, for which the place was conveniently situated. His low rank and education, perhaps, rendered him insignificant, if not contemptible, in the eyes of the world, but he obtained favour with God, and an honourable diftinction in the Church. The Lord seeth not as man seeth : He often passes by the great, the noble, and the learned, and, to accomplish his purposes, selects such instruments, as are thought weak and unfit for the work. He chooses an Apostle for the publication of his rich mercy, not from the courtiers of the Roman Emperor, or the philosophers of Athens, but from the poor fishermen of Bethsaida. By such a dispensation He exhibits both his power and his grace, and proves,

" that no Aesh should glory in his presence."

Peter

Peter was the brother of Andrew, and probably, like him, had been a disciple of John the Baptist, before his acquaintance with Jesus *. Andrew no sooner obtained the knowledge of the Saviour, than he conducted Peter to him. How many have reason to thank God for their pious friends, whose conversation, instructions, and exhortations have brought them into the way of peace and righteousness ! Let us look with compaflion on the souls of our associates and relatives, recommend the Gospel of Christ to their acceptance, and labour affiduously for their spiritual welfare. Jesus received the new convert with kindness, and shewed by his address that he was not ignorant of him though a stranger. He also intimated a design of taking him into his service, by giving him a new name, expreffive of peculiar firmness and steadfastness. He said, « Thou art Simon,” (such being his former appellation) “ the fon of Jona: thou shalt be called Ciphas, which is by nterpretation, a stone," or rather, “ a rock,” for this is the proper signification of Peter.

It is probable, that St. Peter continued with our Lord for some time, and then, returning for a season to his old employment, dwelt at Capernaum. There we find that Jesus went into his house, and miraculously healed his wife's mother of a fever t. There, also, Jesus met with him following hi occupation, entered into his fhip, and directed him to cast his net into the sea I. He had laboured all the night without success; but now, at one draught, he took an immense quantity of fishes. This was evidently designed as an omen for good, and an encouragement to venture upon his Master's service with the greater confidence. The fact so plainly ascertained the dignity of the Saviour, that Peter was overwhelmed with reverential awe, knowing himself unworthy to stand before this holy and exalted Personage ; and therefore,

• John i. 40-42. Luke iv. 31, 38, 39. v. I-II.
L 3

with * Matt. X. 2.

with deepest abasement, he cried out, “ Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” If we have forned proper conceptions of the divine purity, we Thall noć vyonder at the fear and confusion here expreffed. The most excellent men have, in like man

, rer, confesied themsels es unfit to appear in the prefence of God, and, when favoured with his nearelt approaches and clearest revelations, declared the ftrongest abhorrence of themselves.

But Jesus immediately replied with words of comfort to his trembling servant, and reininded him, that he mult prepare for nobler employment, and from that time be occupied with remarkable success in catching men. The call went to his heart with irresistible energy: he did not then want any further inducement to become a flated follower of bis Lord. Every worldly consideration gave way to higher motives: “ he forfcok all," his fishes, nets, vefsels, friends, and relations, that he might devote himself to the work of the ministry.

Soon afterwards he was appointed to the Apoftolic office, and sent out, with eleven others, to preach the Gospel, and confirm its doctrines by miraculous operations * Whenever the twelve are enumerated

. in the New Testament, Peter's name stands in the front. He was among the first, who were taken into Christ's service, and always diitinguished himself by his zeal and activity. But, though we allow a peculiar excellency in his character, we cannot favour the conclusion, that he poffefsed authority over the rest. There is no appearance in the sacred history of any such supremacy or infallibility, as the Church of Rome ascribes to him. No superiority of this kind was ever granted by the Saviour, demanded by Peter, or acknowledged by his brethrent. The arrogant

13. &c.

Luke vi. 13.

* Matt. xxiii. 8-12. Acts xv. 2 Cor. xii. II. Gal. ii. II.

« PreviousContinue »