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distinguished by the ardour of his affection for Jesus, which was ready to overflow upon all occasions. He was faithful, bold, and vigorous in the work assigned him, ever watching the motions, and springing forward, before all the reft, to execute the will of his Lord. O that both ministers and private Christians pofseffed a larger measure of his diligence and zeal ! Alas! we lose many opportunities of usefulness, through the coldness of our hearts in fpiritual things, and dishonour our principles by the defect of our services.
We now advance to a part of the facred narration, which may justly excite much fear and distress. A mournful spectacle is exhibited in the fall of this eminent Apoftle. We presume not to allege any excuses for his conduct, which was finful in the extreme, and marked by peculiar aggravations. May we be properly affected by the view, and learn to distrust ourselves! How preposterous it is, for creatures fo depraved and helpless to be lifted up with vain confidence! Who shall be able to stand, if God withdraw his support?
When our Lord celebrated his last passover, he instructed his disciples, in the most gracious manner, by the significant action of washing their feet*. St. Peter, furprised at his condescenfion, objected to his performing this menial office. He said, and, it Thould seem, with real humility, “ Thou shalt never wash my feet.” But Jelus taught him, that he stood in need of a spiritual purgation, to which he thould be willing to submit. Immediately the Apostle acquiefced, when aflured that he could have no part in the Saviour, une less washed by him. Let us learn to cry out for ourselves, under a sense of our defilement, “Lord, cleanse my polluted soul, and in every respect make me holy and acceptable to thyself!” Or, in Peter's words,
“ Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head."
Peter requested his Lord to explain the hints which he had given about his departure, and was then informed, that he himself must follow him, not indeed at that time, but after fome years service in the Church *. He confidered the reply as containing an intimation of unwillingness in him to fuffer witn Jesus; and, feeling his heart warm with love, he boasted that he could instantly and cheerfully meet de.th in his Master's defence. The declarati in accorded with his real sentiments, but savoured too much of firesumption, and proved that he was not properly fenfible of his own weakness and danger. To check this vain boasting, and put him upon watchfulness and prayer, Jesus represented, in a noit affecting manner, that Satan his subtle adversary was about to assault both him and his companions with peculiar vehemence : it was fuggested, that he in particular, after suffering a severe lots in the conflict, would be preserved from a total defeat, and recovered for the confirmation of his brethren, in conf. quence of the Saviour's interçeílion for him to
Such an information, and from such a perfon, we should suppose, was enough to itrike a damp upon the Apostle's fpirit. But he was yet two confident of his own strength to listen to the warning, and therefore he repeated the declaration, that neither bonds nor death should separate hinn from his Lord. Jesus then added a more express and tremendous admonition, solemnly affirming, that before the morning watch, in the course of that very night, Peter would thrice disavow all acquaintance with him. And did not this caution produce the proper effect ? No: he went out with his Maiter to Gethsemane, but not with sufficient humility, vigilance, or prayer. Upon the road, he
John xiii. 33-38.
+ Luke xxii. 31–34.
was again reminded of his approaching fall; and, still thinking himself incapable of such baseness and treachery, he again inaintained with renewed asseverations, and in the most peremptory manner, that he would itand by his Lord in all extremities, and that, however the rest might desert birn, he would rather die in his defence * This was honeft language; but it clearly betrayed a haughty spirit,” which a goeth before a fall +." It always bodes ill, when men fufpect others rather than themselves, and boast of their firmness, instead of calling upon God for strength and protection. O how needful is that petition, « Hold thou me up, and I shall be safe !
When they came to the garden of Gethsemane, St. Peter, with the two other favoured disciples James and John, was admitted to behold the Saviour in his deepest distress g.' There he received a folemn charge to watch with his Lord, and pray against temptation. But, even on that occafion, he discovered a very sinful remissness. He neglected the directions given him, and, instead of being employed in holy exercises, fell asleep. His companions did the faine; but a sharp reproof was addressed to him in particular, as he had been more confident than the others, “ Simon, sleepest Thou? couldīt not thou watch one hour?'s The injunction was renewed; yet again and again he funk into the same excessive stupor. A poor preparation for a season of severe trial !
A tremendous conflict ensued. Jesus was appre.. hended by a band of armed men ; and on that event, it should feem, St. Peter maintained an unfhaken constancy and courage lI. Remembering his vow, he drew his sword for the protection of his Master, and wounded a servant, who was, probably, one of the most forward among the impious crew. Thus, as he had
* Matt. xxvi. 31-35.
+ Prov. xvi. 18. I Psal. cxix. 117. Matt. xxvi. 36-46. Mar. xiv. 32-42. Luke xxii. 40–46. (Matt. xxvi. 47-54. John xviii. 1--11. นี้
determined, he hazarded his life rather than he would forsake Christ: and, considering this forcible refiftance, it is surprising that both he and his companions were not instantly cut to pieces. He lhe wed his zeal, but shewed at the same time a very blamable rathness and impetuofity. Jesus, therefore, reproved him, and reminded him, that, if any defence had been necessary, he could have procured thousands of Angels for that purpose. Christians, whose natural disposition is fanguine, are in great danger of adopting violent ineasures, even for the truth's iake. But the cause of God is not pronoted by such means. “ The weapons of our warfare are no: carnal *."
Peter beneld his Master taken, bound, and led away as a prisoner ; and, perceiving him quietly submit to inis treatment, he, toge her with the other disciples, forlook him and fled t. Hs boaited cousage failed; and, probably, he began to tremble for his own fafety. This was a fad change indeed. Yet he seemed to be soon recovered: recovered, alas! to fall the more fcandalously. Not long after, he followed Jesus, but it was “afar off,” evidently under an impreffi n of fear. He wilhed to be upon the watch, that he might observe how the whole transaction terminated. He obtained admillion into the place cf trial, and, to avoid fufpicion, mingled with the crowd. He sat down among the idle and profane servants: ah! what poor society was this for an Apostle of Chrift! There the temptation commenced; yet it was such, as appeared in itself triling: at leait, he had withstood many, which we
2 Cor. x. 40 + Matt. xxvi. 56, 58, 69--75. Mar. xiv.66---72. Luke xxii. 54-62. John xviii. 15-27. St. Peter's fall is related by all the Evangelists; and none have described it in a more heinous light than St. Mark: and if, as is generally supprfed, that Gospel was reviewed by Peter. himself, and written even under his direction, this circumstance may be considered as an evidence of his integrity and sincere contrition.
might have thought greater. But Satan was then per nitted to have a strong ascendancy over his mind, and to render him, contrary to his natural temper, a moft abject coward.
A certain female attendant in the high priest's palace charged him with being a disciple of Jesus, He was instantly confounded, and expressly declared that he did not lo much as know him Perhaps fhocked at his own words, he went out, and heard the cock crow. Did not that found bring to his recollection the caution, which he had received ? Pofa fibly, this might be the case ; yet immediately after that warning, being interrogated by different persons, he fell again, and in the
confirma ing his former denial of his Master with stronger afleverations, and even with an oath. An hour afterwards, the accufation was renewed by fresh witnesses; and the third time this eminent, distinguished, and zealous Apostle disavowed all connection and acquaintance with Jesus. This he did in language, which might be calculated to clear him from the imputation, but which we should have supposed could never come out of such a mouth :
“ he began to curse and to swear.”
We stand amazed, while we view the atrocious fin, with all its aggravations. If we have been preserved from so shameful a declenfion, () what thanks and praises are due to Him, who hath kept our souls.! But this history will teach us not to presume on our imagined steadfastnefs. We are still liable to be tempted and overcome. Nay, there is no wickedness. so heinous, which we might not be induced to perpetrate. Our danger is the greater, as we are constantly watched by a subtle and malicious adversary, who “ desires to have us, that he may fift us as wheat." O let us be the more vigilant, and prepared to resist his attacks! - There were some preceding steps, which led to Peter's calamitous miscarriage. He depended upon his own strength, neglect