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the world are in ne graces of
modified by his
through the different periods of his life. Permit us, first, to remark, however, that every man's virtues or vices are peculiarly his own : that is, they cannot be transferred to the mind of any other man, though equally virtuous or vicious on the whole, without assuming a different colour, or else producing some manifest incongruity of character. The graces of the best christian in the world are, in some degree, modified by his peculiar temperament: they are not precisely the same thing in him, which they are in another christian of the same school. It is not to be hoped, perhaps it is not to be desired, that we should here lose all our characteristic passions, in the ani. formity of christian perfection. The christian always meliorates the man; but never yet has the man been completely lost in the christian. The only character, in which every thing constitutionally seems to have been lost in a kind of perfection never to be surpassed, is that of Jesus Christ; and this is one of the many proofs of its superhuman greatness. .
But the native ardour of Peter's temper is perpetually breaking out, both before and after the death of his master. That sudden confidence, which is al. ways attendant on such minds, is curiously, exhibited in Peter's desiring our Lord, if it were indeed he, to bid him come to him on the water. Jesus says, come; and Peter sets out to walk upon the waves, in all the ardour of faith ; but he has proceeded but a few steps, ere his heart fails him. The billows are boisterous, and he sinks, crying out, Lord, save, or I perish. Is it fanciful to imagine, that we discern, in this partial failure of the apostle, the hints and rudiments of that lamentable weakness, which afterwards allowed him to deny his master ?
The impetuosity of Peter's temper, united with the strong affection, which he bore to Jesus, sometimes mounted into intemperate courage, and sometimes melted into the other extreme of tenderness and humility. When Jesus had requested him and two other of his disciples to watch with him, during that night of agony, when he was apart, praying, that the cup of death might pass from him, Peter, like a man of more ardour than perseverance, was overcome with sleep. He is soon awakened by the noise of the multitude, that approached, with their swords and staves, to arrest his master. Immediately, he puts his hand upon his sword, and asks his master, if he shall strike. But, with characteristic impatience, he cannot wait for the answer, but instantly draws, and cuts off the ear of one of the high priest's servants. Jesus cries out: hold! so far as this! *_touches the ear, and heals the wound.---Two exquisite traits of character, both in Jesus and his impetuous disciple. These are the little circumstances, which give a story the stamp of truth.
Let us mention some other instances, equally beyond the reach of the fabricator of a narrative.
Jesus, after his resurrection, appears on the shore of the lake, where some of his disciples were out in a boat employed in fishing, but without success. They espy some one on the shore, who orders them to throw on the right side, and they shall find. Immediately the net is filled, almost to breaking. They conclude that it was Jesus; and, instantly Peter throws himself into the sea to swim to his beloved master, while the rest of the disciples wait, till the boat reaches the shore.
Again, in that affecting interview, when Jesus washed his disciples' feet, when he comes to Peter, he cries out, Lord, thou shalt never wash my feet. Jesus answers him, If I wash thee not, thou hast no part in me. Melted to tenderness by this reply, he flies to the other extreme of humility, and says, Lord, not my feet only, but my hands and my head! A man
They esp on the rhais filled, an l.instar belove
* See Wakefield's note on this passage.
of such passions, in a moment of affectionate enthusiasm, might rush into death to save a friend, while, in the next moment, his fears might overpower and petrify him.
Once more, there is mentioned a trifling circumstance in a visit to the sepulchre, which, though entirely incidental, may, perhaps, be thought happily to illustrate this apostle's affectionate character. On the morning of the resurrection, he arrives with John at the sepulchre, and finds it open. John stoops down, and, looking in only, concludes, that Jesus is not there. But Peter, not satisfied with this, goes in, and searches the sepulchre. After that, John also enters, and they ascertain, that the sepulchre is undoubtedly empty. Now this trait, like the others, is incidental, but they are all worthy of being observed. It is the privilege of simplicity and truth alone, to leave these touches of nature, which are not without difficulty to be attained, and which, in the present case, are utterly inconsistent with imposture.
You see, then, my hearers, the character of Peter. Our Saviour, who had been with him more, perhaps, than with any of his disciples, as he appears to have resided at his house in Capernaum, knew his disposition, and often attempted to discipline and improve it. He even goes so far, as to forewarn him, that, with all his fervour of affection, he would one day deny his Lord. Peter declares, with indignant confidence, Though I should die with thee, yet will I not deny thee. Ah, Simon! though you are ready to fight for your master, you cannot yet suffer for him! You have followed him, hitherto, not only because you love him, but in the expectation, that he will discover his Messiahship. You are hoping, that he will soon declare himself, and lead you to victory in his cause, and to honour and eminence in his kingdom. You are not prepared to see him die upon a cross. Your faith will falter in that day of disappointment. Your impetuosity alone will not ensure your fideli. ty. It is one thing, to have the boldness of enthusi. asm, and another, to have the firmness and endurance, which are necessary in the apostle of a suffering master.
We must attend now to that unfortunate event in Peter's history, which, if it were not so instructive, might be forgotten. But, while it has blemished, it has contributed to immortalize the fame of this apostle.
Jesus, contrary to the expectation of his disciples, even to the last, is arrested and hurried way to trial. He is now entirely in the power of his enemies. His supernatural faculties appear to have deserted him; and the God, in whom he had trusted, comes not to his rescue. At this crisis, his hitherto faithful disci. ples, alarmed, disappointed, and confounded, forsake him, and flee. Peter, however, yields to his affection, and follows his master, at a distance, to the palace of the high priest. Eager to see what would be the end, and, no doubt, secretly hoping, that our Saviour would yet deliver himself, he mixes with the crowd of servants 'and soldiers at the bottom of the hall, where he might observe all that passed, and remain unnoticed in the multitude and tumult. But either his speech or his perturbation soon betrays him, One of the high priest's maids unfortunately passes him, and says, This man was with Jesus of Nazareth. He replies, I was not. Again, another challenges him. He denies it again. Then a relation of him, whose ear he had cut off, looking at him, says, Did I not see thee in the garden with him? And now, with all that passion, which we have seen to belong to him, and with that distracting terrour, which attends upon great and sudden danger, and upon falsehood in a man unaccustomed to deceive, he begins to curse and to swear, saying, I know not the man.
Ah! faithless, fallen Peter! Is this, then, the man, who was just now drawing his sword, and ready to fight for his master? Is this the man, who lately de. clared before all the disciples, Though I should die with thee, yet will I not deny thee ? Is this the man, on whom Jesus was to build his church, so stable, so immoveable, that the gates of hell should not prevail against it? Is this the man, who was to hold. the keys of the kingdom of heaven ? Precipitated, in a moment, from all his dignity, real as well as imaginary, the great apostle is the sport of a maid ! The magnanimous, enthusiastic, fearless, and, let us add, honest disciple is become the prey of his own guilty conscience; and shrinks into the covert of his own shame. I know not the man! Though' you know not your master, poor, fallen Peter ! he is not forgetful of his disciple and friend. The Lord turned and looked upon Peter! One would think, that such a look, in such a moment, would have overwhelmed him with confusion, and chilled the blood around his heart; that he must have sunk to the earth, in hope that it might open, and swallow him up, and his unsupportable shame.- He cannot, indeed, endure it. He rushes out of the hall, and weeps, says the evangelist,—and weeps bitterly.
In the circumstances of this affecting event, we diseern all the peculiarities of Peter's character. It was the same man--who cannot see it? that first confessed and that first denied his master, the same man, that so loved and so abjured him. When the other disciples fled, his affection overcame his fears, and he ventured to follow to the high priest's palace. The others had not the courage to rush into the same extremity of danger, and were not, therefore, exposed to a similar. temptation. No! they were not forward enough, they were not ardent enough-if the solecism may be pardoned, they were not bold enough to fall,.