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ful imperfection. The glory of His mercy is heightened, not lowered, by its being offered on that condition only, which He knows to be most necessary for our everlasting good. And as for those who take advantage of the gracious allowances of the Gospel to continue in any way wilfully imperfect, they do so after full warning, and at their own peril. Fearful indeed will their case be, but they will not have to say that they were hardly dealt with, since no words can be plainer than those, in which the first messenger of the Gospel followed up his declaration of life to the believer; " He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life, and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him.”
Whatever you do, be not, I beseech you, led away by the vain notion, that you at least are not unbelievers; and therefore these last words do not concern you. You are required to believe the Son of God; that is, you are required, first, to attend to His words; secondly, to receive them as real truth; thirdly, to declare this belief by your words and actions. Now, how many, young and old, are thoughtless, and never seriously attend to the words of our Saviour! Of course, they cannot be said to believe Him. How many listen and mark the words as something very wise and good, but do not receive them as spoken to themselves! These too are unbelievers, for they will not take the message as they know in their hearts our Saviour meant it. Lastly, how many hear, and think a little; but when it comes to doing, their behaviour speaks for them, and shows too plainly that they too believe not the Son.
With so many chances of failure before our eyes—failure in our one great concern, the salvation of our souls and bodies for ever; --what manner of persons ought we to be in all humble mistrust of ourselves, and earnest prayer for that Grace, by which alone we may hope gradually to grow more faithful in an unbelieving world. A Grace which no hypocrite may depend on, but which was never yet denied to any who sought for it sincerely in the Name of Jesus CHRIST.
ST. PETER'S FALL.
St. Matt. xxvi. 75.
“ He went out, and wept bitterly.”
As we draw nearer the end of Lent, the Cross of our LORD JESUS CHRIST comes as it were more and more clearly into our view ; by virtue of which Cross alone, the truest repentance can ever be accepted in the sight of the Most Holy God: but there are gathered around that blessed Cross, certain patterns or examples of repentance, true and false ; and by diligently studying these we may, through God's blessing, come to know more and more of the true nature and meaning of that repentance, which we ourselves must be for ever practising, lest we forfeit and make void for ourselves the saving virtue of His Blood, in itself sufficient for the Redemption of the whole world.
The most remarkable of these examples of true repentance is undoubtedly that of St. Peter; and there are reasons, if I mistake not, why at this particular time it is especially worthy of attention on the part of Christian men. The Evil Spirit is continually trying to persuade men, that entire repentance, even in those who have sinned grievously after Baptism, is an easy thing, may be set about when we will, and repeated as often as we please, even after any number of grievous relapses. Thus he encourages men, first to put off their repentance altogether, and then to be satisfied with a very weak and feeble repentance.
Against this, the deadliest perhaps of his snares, St. Peter's
example of all others ought to warn all Christian people. We will first consider the circumstances of his fall at large, and then see how the history applies to the case of those who sin wilfully after Baptism, and to the abatement of the false hopes, which they commonly ground on a poor and easy repentance of man's teaching, instead of humbly submitting themselves to the repentance revealed from God in Holy Scripture.
First, then, as to the history of St. Peter's sad fall. The ground and occasion of it unquestionably was, his indulging too much the sanguine, confident temper, which seems to have been part of the natural character of his mind. He was, to use a familiar expression, from the beginning, rather “young of his inclined to be carried away by the feeling of the moment, and to reject, with a kind of disdain, any notion that he might hereafter feel and think of things, very differently from what he did just then.
Thus, after that our LORD had fed five thousand with five loaves and two fishes, and had spoken to His disciples of Himself, as the true bread from Heaven, in such a way that some of them were offended and walked no more after Him, and He said to the Twelve, “ Will
?" it was St. Peter out of all their number, who spoke out most immediately, and made that good confession, “ LORD, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life; and we believe and are sure that Thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God.” And the very night before, when Jesus came to His Disciples walking on the it Peter alone, out of their whole assembly, who was most eager to come to our LORD. · LORD, if it be Thou, bid me come to THEE on the water." No doubt, he thought himself, at the moment, quite safe; he had no idea that his faith would fail ; but presently, “seeing the wind boisterous, he was afraid, and beginning to sink cried, saying, LORD, save me !” It should seem that He who so graciously, and so immediately, answered that prayer, putting forth His hand and holding him up, with the mild reproof, “O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt ?”—HE, on purpose, allowed the whole of what then happened to take place, in order to show St. Peter to himself, to warn him in good time of his own weakness.
A little after, He spoke to him yet more sharply, when St.
Peter, in his earnest affection to our LORD, had refused to believe that He could possibly be given up to His enemies, and have to undergo shame, pain, and death; “Be it far from THEE, LORD, this shall not be unto Thee.” The way in which our LORD replied to this is very emphatical. " When He had turned and looked on His Disciples,” doubtless with that earnest look, with which He was used to regard them, when He wished most to fix their attention ; “He saith unto Peter, Get thee behind ME, Satan ; thou art an offence unto Me; for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of man.” As if He had said, “ You little think that in thus shrinking from the thought of My Cross, you are in fact taking the devil's part, and, as far as it goes, doing his work. Your thoughts are yet all earthly, not at all heavenly; you are expecting to behold your Master high in the pomp and power of this world, and therefore you will not endure the doctrine of His sufferings; all this proves you yet in a very imperfect mind."
It is remarkable that this reproof came presently after a very glorious confession of St. Peter's, when our LORD having asked, first, what other people thought of Him, the Son of Man, and then what His Apostles thought, received from St. Peter, more eager as usual than the rest, the famous acknowledgment, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Whereupon our LORD had not only pronounced a blessing on him, " Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona, for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven;" but He also added that great and special reward, that on him, as on one of the chief stones, the foundation of the Church should be laid ; that Church which shall never pass away :
“ Thou art Peter, and upon this rock will I build My Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” I say, it is very remarkable, that immediately after this encouraging praise, and favouring prophecy, of our LORD, St. Peter spoke in such a way of the Cross, on receiving a hint of it, as to bring on himself the severe rebuke, “Get thee behind me, Satan.” He was, possibly, too much elated by the express declaration of our Lord's distinguishing favour, and refused to submit himself meekly to the teaching of that precious Death, which was to be Life to him and to all men.
For indeed JESUS Christ treated him, then and always, as one of His most highly favoured; admitting him with James and John to the secret, as well of His miracles as of His sufferings. And accordingly in the Gospel of St. John we find St. Peter mentioned in the following way ; “Simon Peter, and the other Disciple whom Jesus loved ;” signifying that besides St. John himself, St. Peter was of all the Apostles an object of most especial tender regard from our Saviour. It should seem, then, as if finding himself so favoured, even the great Apostle could not sufficiently keep his own sanguine temper in order. He was like almost all who are highly favoured either by Gou or man, tempted to too much confidence in himself.
But of this God's merciful Providence effectually cured him, by permitting him to fall into this great sin, of denying his Master, after so many warnings. For in order to make the fall more inexcusable, our Saviour had told him over and over again,—that is to say, He had told him three times on the night before He was crucified,—that before cock-crowing, before three o'clock the next morning, he should deny Him,-St. Peter should disown and renounce our LORD as his Master,-three several times.
Our SAVIOUR first assured St. Peter of this when He had been washing His Disciples' feet, and urged on them His farewell commandment of love towards one another. St. Peter in his affectionate way, not enduring to hear our Lord talk of farewell, said he would not be separated from Him; he would follow Him now; he was ready to lay down his life for Christ's sake.
“ JESUS answered him, Wilt thou lay down thy life for My sake ? Verily, verily I say unto thee, The cock shall not crow till thou hast denied ME thrice.” This was before the Paschal Supper, just after our Lord had washed His Disciples' feet.
Again whilst they were at supper, He having just promised to the faithful among His Apostles, as a reward for their continuing with Him in his temptations, that they and their successors the Bishops, should have the chief government of His Church, the highest places in His kingdom, eating and drinking at His Table, and sitting on thrones to judge His people—our Lord I say having just promised this, His divine soul was affected, as it seems, with the thought of the extreme danger those favoured ones were just about to fall into, when they should be tempted to