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gracious Shepherd was about to lay down his life for the sheep; and he knew, that, according to the predictions of divine truth, it would be a time of sore trial to his disciples. The sheep should be scattered, when their Shepherd was smitten. tender regard to the welfare of Peter, particularly, beams in the warning which he gave him of his fall; and toward all the disciples, in the discourses and prayers with which he occupied the eventful season. Peter reflected on this sweet intercourse -these endearing expressions of Christ's love.
He thought, too, of his own rash promises-" Lord, although all shall be offended, yet will not I." "Lord, I am ready to go with thee, both into prison and to death." not deny thee."
Though I should die with thee, yet will I
He thought likewise on his conduct. How he began to fail through want of watchfulness, and neglect of prayer, when, in company with James and John, he beheld his Master, in agony of soul in the garden. How, after experiencing such love from his Master and promising such love on his own part, he, in the hour of Christ's agony, could even fall asleep, and incur the severe rebuke, "Couldst thou not watch one hour!" How, through neglect of watchfulness and prayer, he had so far yielded to temptation as, at the approach of danger, to think of his own strength, rather than divine, and to rely on the sword, rather than the arm of God:-and how, when Christ had refused to employ power to rescue himself, he wholly gave up the cause, as lost; and with the cause, his regard to the person of Jesus; and, at the inquiry of a servant-maid, denied having been his disciple; and, on the repetition of the question, grew wrathful and profane, before multitudes, and within the hearing of Christ. By reflection, Peter looked up from these depths of degradation, to the high summit, he so recently occupied, of communion with Jesus, and wept. Which leads us to observe,
2. The next step in his recovery, was penitence.
Willingness to reflect on our past lives is not itself reformation; though it is a necessary step in the work. Reflection in itself is merely a specu lative act; an exercise of the head, which may be united either with proper or improper feelings of heart. By itself, therefore, it does not determine whether the accompanying exercises of the heart be sinful or holy. To be effectual in reclaiming from sin, it must be accompanied with suitable emotions of heart. Such emotions were excited by the reflections of Peter. While he thought on his crime, his heart burst within him with bitter sorrow. Reflecting Peter was penitent. In the language of the sacred historian," he went out and wept bitterly." Grief seeks to be alone and to vent its feelings in secret. The emotions, which swelled the heart of reflecting Peter, broke it; and he "went out" of the palace-he retired from the multitude who were persecuting his Master, and in whose iniquity he could no longer participate-freely to pour out
his griefs before the eye that seeth in secret. Far different were his emo tions from those which were harassing, at nearly the same time, the breast of reflecting Judas. That man felt the agony of guilt: Peter, the sorrow of love.
His penitence was his recovery. True penitential sorrow exhibits a heart touched with love to Christ. Such grief flows from evangelical motives; and a temper swayed by these motives, is a temper of fidelity to Christ. So soon as they touch the heart of a rebel, Christ has gained a new subject to his kingdom: so soon as they melt the heart of a backslider, Christ has restored a wanderer to his fold. Peter denying Christ, had left his first love. Peter weeping bitterly, was repenting, and doing his first works. His evangelical sorrow was a clear expression that he detested his crime and the piercing eye of Christ, which accurately surveys the emotions of all hearts, saw in it the evidence of returning loyalty.
II. Our next inquiry respected the Effects of his recovery on his subsequent life.
be seen in his increased fidelity to the cause of Christ. Fidelity is always the result of genuine penitence. The mind which has been so far influenced by evangelical motives as to be sincerely grieved for sin, is prepared to be influenced by them to a course of holy obedience.
The grief of Peter was proved to be the sorrow of love, from the fact that it led to the labours of love. The result of his being left under the power of Satan, was, that he was "sifted as wheat." Let any person, after reading the account of Peter in the Evangelists, trace his subsequent biography in the Acts of the Apostles, and read his two Epistles, examining the traits of character visible in them, and he will be constrained to acknowledge, that Peter profited by his fall. He will perceive visible traces of surprising growth in grace. Though other means undoubtedly contributed to his subsequent attainments in Christian holiness, yet it is rational to suppose, that he often reflected on this sad denial of his Lord with deep and salutary regret. Increasing light would but render the awful crime more affecting; and Peter must often have looked back upon it with holy sorrow and increasing gratitude to the God of restoring grace. Recovered Peter was signalized by Christian zeal, compassion, and humility.
1. He was zealous for the glory of Christ. Peter was naturally ardent. His strong feelings, not sufficiently tempered with faith, had often hurried him into transgression. They impelled him to great lengths in his denial. Grace, however, does not exterminate the natural passions; but gives them a useful direction. He was still zealous: but his zeal was tempered by a stronger reliance on assisting grace; bent more singly on the service of Christ; founded on a juster appreciation of his
,excellence; and distinguished by greater personal sacrifices in promoting his honour.
The first we see of Peter, after he left the palace weeping, is on the morning of Christ's resurrection. He is in company with the beloved disciple, and running, with eager interest, to the tomb of his Master: a proof that his affection for Christ and his followers, was not extinguished. Next, we see him, with a few disciples, on the sea of Tiberias ; and at the sight of his Lord on the shore, with characteristic impetuosity, casting himself into the sea, the more speedily to reach him. During the interview which succeeds, he is melted to grief, by the trial which Christ made of his sincerity, in repeatedly questioning his love :-"Lord," he feelingly replies, "thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee."
.His zeal for the honour of Christ was apparent, afterwards, in the openness with which he espoused the doctrines and precepts of the gospel. He who trembles to own Christ before a servant at the palace, a few days after boldly defends his cause before assembled thousands. On the day of Pentecost; at the temple after healing the cripple; and before the council of the high priest and elders, who had charged him not to teach in the name of Jesus; he successively testifies to the exalted character of Christ, and to their awful guilt in denying and murdering the Lord of life and glory. The council "marvel at his boldness and take knowledge of him that he has been with Jesus." When beaten by them, he goes forth rejoicing that he is "counted worthy to suffer shame" for Christ. In his zeal, he spares no sin aimed against the honour of his Master. He treats with peculiar indignation the sin by which he fell. To the Jews he says, in language which fell with double force from his lips, "Ye denied him in the presence of Pilate." “Ye denied the HOLY ONE, and desired a murderer to be granted unto you, and killed the Prince of Life." In his Epistle, also, he speaks of "false teachers, bringing in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them." The most unequivocal expression of ardent attachment to his Lord, however, is found in the fact, that he spent his whole life in zealously propagating the faith, the " precious faith" of Christ.
2. Recovered Peter was also compassionate toward his fellow men. Nothing like sanctified suffering softens the heart to compassionate the miseries of fellow creatures. Through sufferings, Christ himself, our great High Priest, was rendered " merciful," "faithful in things pertaining to God." Our sufferings, dispose us to compassionate those especially who experience similar suffering. The troubles of Peter were spiritual; and they rendered him compassionate in regard to the spiritual wants of his brethren. The evening on which Christ foretold him of his fall and
recovery, he subjoined, "But when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren."
The fresh unction he received from the Holy Spirit, when he was brought to reflection and penitence, abode with him; and impelled him to labour with faithful tenderness through life, to convert his erring kindred, the Hebrews, and to advance in piety his humble brethren in Christ.
Though he showed deep indignation at the sin of the Jews in rejecting Christ, he nevertheless displayed a tender concern for their salvation, and was eager to spread before them the messages of pardon and eternal life. The multitudes whom he had deeply pierced by his severe reproof, on the day of Pentecost, he immediately directed to the forgiving Saviour. After reproving the multitudes who witnessed the miracle performed on the lame man at the beautiful gate of the temple, for their iniquity in rejecting Christ, he added, with compassionate regard for their souls; "Brethren, I wot that through ignorance ye did it, as did also your rulers. Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the "times of refreshing come from the presence of the Lord."
How tender he was toward the spiritual interests of his brethren in Christ, his Epistles show. He would save them from the sin and an
guish of falling as he had done. "Brethren," says he, "give all diligence to make your calling and election sure; for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall." "Beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own steadfastness." He exhorts them to practise that sober vigilance, through want of which he fell. "Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary, the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: whom resist, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world. Be ye sober, and watch unto prayer. Knowing full well the trials which beset the Christian life, he directs the brethren to " pass the time of their sojourning here in fear ;" and points them, both for the motive and the power, to that precious Christ, "who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree." He administers consolation to them while "in heaviness through manifold temptations;" and prays, that “the God of all grace, who had called them unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after they had suffered awhile, would make them perfect" in his heavenly kingdom.
In labours and prayers, bespeaking such compassion for souls, Peter spent his life; providing also, that his instructions should be "had in remembrance after his decease;" showing love to a reclaiming and forgiving Christ, by "feeding his sheep."
3. Recovered Peter was humble.
Sin and consequent penitence, bring the sinner to take his proper
place the footstool; there to acknowledge his unworthiness and dependBefore the mercy-seat, the penitent, looking back on his past life, perceives that he has sinned; and he feels, therefore, indelibly fixed on himself the stigma of unworthiness. He sees that he has sinned; and finding therefore no security in himself, that he may not sin again, feels in the fact the proof of his weakness. Nothing like a spirit wounded with sore backsliding, will teach the sinner humility. He is then forced to look on himself, as a compound of guilt and weakness; and learns humbly to apply to the blood of Christ for pardon, and to the Spirit of Christ for strength.
To this humble frame, Peter was brought by his fall and recovery. While reflecting on his crime, he perceived that all the past love of Jesus, all his own solemn asseverations and determined resolutions, had not saved him from falling, under the power of temptation, into gross wickedness. Now he saw his heart; how vile for the past; how little to be trusted in future; how much requiring him to look continually above for strength to resist temptation. Thus was he practically taught the importance of the exhortation, which he subsequently delivered to his Christian brethren; "Be clothed with humility; for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble."
Many events in his life testify to his humility. Though, after his fall, still intrusted by Christ with the high office of feeding, as an apostle, his sheep, he thought himself worthy of nothing but the labour, the reproach, and the shame; the glory he gave to his Master. When the multitude were looking with reverence to him and John for performing a miracle at the temple, he openly disclaimed the power or the holiness to do it, and referred them, for its origin, to his forgiving Saviour, the exalted Jesus. When he retired from the council most unjustly beaten for serving Christ, humility taught him to rejoice, that he was "counted worthy to suffer" for the Lord he had denied. He employed the remnant of his life in the self-denying duties of the ministry; a living example of the instructions which he gave; experiencing, through humility, the preciousness of that Saviour, who was disallowed by the pride of so many of his fellow-men; "in holy conversation, looking for the coming of the day of God;" and "diligent to be then found in peace, without spot, and blameless." As further illustration of his humility, we add, that the full and most aggravated account of his fall, in the gospel of Mark, (which, it is universally agreed, was published under his inspection,) and probably the knowledge of the transaction which the other evangelists had, (as none of them were present to witness it,) he furnished himself; willing thus to be humbled for his guilt before the world. And afterwards, with a spirit truly magnanimous as well as humble, we hear him commending a younger brother, as "beloved," though he knew he had differed from him, and, in one of his Epistles, had recorded