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as well as ourselves, are recovered, from whatever ftate, and by whatever means, they may be called. Though they were once of a different religion, or rather of no religion at all, we should exult in their salvation, like the Angels in heaven. If the Lord God has sealed them for his own by the Holy Ghost, who are we, that we should refuse them “the right hand of fellowship?”
The free communication of St. Peter with the Gentiles, as here related, gave offence to some of his Jewish brethren at Jerusalem * But, upon his returning to that place, and explicitly declaring the matter, their vehement prejudices were in a great meafure removed, and they adored the grace of God, which was imparted to the uncircumcised. Too frequently, alas! good men, through hafte or bigotry, take um. brage at the conduct of others, whom they would cease to censure, if they properly understood their situation, and the grounds on which they act.
After some time, a violent perfecution arose A.D.
against the Church. Herod Agrippa, that proud
and cruel tyrant, having put James to death, cast Peter into prison, and commanded him to be kept under strong guard, till he should be brought forth to public execution, for the entertainment of the people t. The Apostle, however, had numerous friends, who made continual intercession for him, not at the court of Herod, but before the throne of God: and their
prayers procured his deliverance.
Vain were all the precautions and means used for his confinement: the king's intention was frustrated, the expectation of the profane multitude disappointed. The very night preceding the day appointed for Peter's suffering, while he slept with composure, not dreading the event, an Angel appeared to rescue him. Instantly hiş chains fell off, the iron gates gave way, and, under the con
duct of his heavenly guide, he went out through the midst of sentinels without interruption.
Just at that time many pious persons were actually engaged in offering up their supplications for the Apoftle, when they were assured by his arrival amongst them, that they had obtained acceptance. After indulging bis grateful and devout fenfations with his friends and brethren, praising God for this extraordinary dispensation, he retired, probably for his owns fafety. His disappointed enemies were enraged at his escape, and the guards, who had been set over him, put to death in his stead. " Great and marvellous are thy works, Lord God Almighty; just and true are thy ways, thou King of saints! Who shall not fear thee, O Lord, and glorify thy name *?" He is “ wonderful in counsel, and excellent in working, who “ pleadeth the cause of his people t." He may fuffer them to be oppressed through tyrants, yet in many remarkable cases he has displayed his regard for them, and proved, that their Redeemer is strongf." The instance before us stands as a convincing token of his gracious attention to prayer. The importunate eries of the poor perfecuted saints, opened the prison doors, and delivered an Apoftle. O let us be en. couraged, in every distress, to make known our re. quests unto God, with greater frequency and fervour, and we shall surely prevail !
St. Peter is again introduced to our notice in
the grand council of the Church at Jerusalem 52.
When the question was there agitatedwhether an obedience to the Mosaic law should be urged upon the believing Gentiles, he rose up and declared, how God had commiffioned him to preach the Gospel to the uncircumcised, given them the Holy Spirit, and purified their hearts by faith g. He argued, therefore, that, being received to the divine favour without
> Rev. XV, 3, 4.
Jer. 1. 346
+ Ifa..xxviii. 29. li. 22. -
ceremonia; ceremonial observances, they should be left to their full liberty; and he maintained the important doctrine, that none can be saved any otherwise than through the grace of the Lord Jesus Chrift.
Yet, on one occasion afterwards, he acted inconfiftently with his profeffed principles. At Antioch he lived on terms of Christian fellowship with the converted Gentiles, but at length withdrew from their society, through the fear of displeasing certain Jewish zealots, who came to the place*. This wavering conduct produced bad effects. Many, through the in, Auence of his example, betrayed the same timidity; and, while he endeavoured to conciliate one side, he grieved and staggered another. St. Paul, therefore, very Tharply reproved him, representing, that from his behaviour it might seem, as if he did not consider the believing Gentiles in a state of acceptance, or had renounced the fundamental doctrine of justification by faith alone.
What shall we say to this instance of unsteadiness? We presume not to défend it; “ because he was to be blamed.” It does not appear, that he offered any excuse for himself, and we should hope, that he frankly confessed and immediately repented of his fault. The most eminent Apostles are not proposed as perfect patterns. They all discovered failings, and were liable to be again and again overcome by temptations, even
Let us beware for ourselves. Are there not those among us, who are guilty of mean compliances, and who, not merely in one instance, but habitually, counteract the dictates of conscience, through fear of temporal inconveniences? Do we not too much consult the world, how far they will allow us to associate with serious Chriftians? Let us abhor diffimulation, and act an open and upright part. Whatever we may suffer, let us determine to“ walk
as we are.
# Gal. ii. 11, &C.
according to the truth of the Gospel,” and not hesitate to fhew our cordial attachment to the people of God.
Peter betrayed a wrong spirit, and Paul was his reprover: this very circumstance is a confirmation of the doctrine, which they preached, If there had been any collusion, any cheat practised upon mankind, it would certainly have been discovered, when the two great champions differed. Yet even then they perfectly agreed in matters of opinion, and afterwards continued to maintain the fame principles, and promote the same work, as “ labourers together with God.”
The life of St. Peter was protracted to a considera able length, and spent in active exertions for the hoa nour of his Master. It should seem, that his wife accompanied him in his travels, and that they both fubfifted upon the bounty of others. Some precious
* remains of his writing are transmitted to us, and by these he yet speaketh, and will speak to the end of time. Histvo Epistles were addressed to the dispersed Christians, for the purpose of comforting them in their troubles, confirming them in the faith, warning them against seducers, enlivening their hopes, and regulating their conduct. Let us study these inspired exhortations with serious attention, till they have produced their full influence upon our hearts. Surely we cannot refuse to listen to so venerable an elder," who had been “ a witness of the sufferings of Chrift," and expected to be a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed to Both these Epiftles were composed in his old age; and in the second of them, especially, his language is that of one, who considered his dissolution as at hand, and who was taking leave of the world. Here, then, he has delivered his most solemn thoughts, in the near view of eternity. And did he waver in his mind? Did he
Cor, ix. 5. ti Pet. V. I.
renounce his principles ? No: far otherwise. He desired most earnestly, that his instructions might be always remembered after his decease*: and, having described, with an astonishing grandeur and majesty, the destruction of the earth, and the appearance of Christ as the universal Judge, he added, “ What manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy converfation and godlinefs, looking for and hafting unto the coming of the day of God + !"
ť A.D. At length he finished his course in an bonourabout able manner : he died a martyr, it is thought
67. when he was about seventy-five years old) and fealed with his blood the truth, which he had preached. His Lord had foretold, that be should be taken off by a violent death, even that of crucifixion I; and this came to pass under the tyranny of Nero. It is believed, that botb he and St. Paul suffered at Rome about the fame time; and that St. Peter was crucified with his head downwards, at his own desire, as if he thought himself unworthy to resemble his Mafter. Be that as it may, he now appears in glory, where,
, amongst all “the noble army of martyrs g," he will admire and praise his God and Saviour, and reign with him for ever and ever.
Many Prophets, Apostles, and ministers, have lost their lives in vindication of the Gospel; but, while we lament the removal of such able advocates, we rejoice that God will plead his own cause, and make the word of his grace to prosper from age to age. We would enquire of every reader, Is not that system of faith, for which St. Peter died, worthy your attention? Or, " how shall you escapes if you neglect so great salvation ?” Desire, then, to know and feel the excellency of those principles, for the defence of which fo much has been done and suffered : according to the exhortation of this inspired writer, "give diligence to make your calling and election sure." * 2 Pet. i. 15. t iii. 11, 12. John xxi. 18, 19. $ Te Deum. 1 2 Pet. i. 10.