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derers of their leader ? I have a right to ask the skeptic, whence this sudden transformation ? Jesus, you say, is dead; his body moulders in the dust; his resurrection is a mere fable. Will you say, that they, who followed a master principally for the rewards, they expected, when he was alive, were thus completely and suddenly changed in their views, their hopes, their intrepidity, their whole character, when they knew, that he was dead, and was still lying lifeless in the grave ? Froin a dead man what had they to expect ? From his murderers what could they anticipate, but a fate similar to their master? I have a right to call upon the skeptic for a solution of this difficulty. I have a right to demand of him, to inform me, why the religion of Jesus was not utterly extinct, when he was dead upon the cross, and his disciples had fled in consternation, I have a right to be informed-If Jesus did not rise, and the story of the apostles is a fable—whence is it, that a religion, which contains these facts, has existed through eighteen centuries, humble in its origin, persecuted in its progress, and gaining strength by opposition? How was it, that twelve cowardly and feeble men established a religion in the centre of Jerusalem, the founder of which had but just expired in the shame of an accursed crucifixion ?
You may say, if you please, that it was enthusiasm and fanaticism in the apostles, so that they really imagined, that they saw and conversed with Jesus after his death ; and were not guilty of falsehood, but were only insane, when they maintained the fact of the resurrection. But what enthusiam is this, which could bring together twelve men, who had fled in consternation, and induce them to agree in a consistent and intelligible story? If they were enthusiasts, whence the change of their ideas respecting the nature of our Saviour's character; whence this new
direction of their views ? If they were enthusiasts merely, it is to be supposed, they would be enthusiasts according to their old notions, and that a little of that suffering and persecution, to which they were soon exposed, would cure them of their madness. But the most pusillanimous of men are converted into the most bold and intrepid ; the most ambitious and worldly, into the most spiritual, disinterested and faithful. They maintain, through the greatest sufferings-sufferings, such as they once could not think of with patience-a faith, which has stood to the present hour, and will stand, I trust, till the heavens be no more.
This change, then, in the character of Peter and the disciples, let the infidel account for, if he can, without admitting that fact, which is the basis of our religion. If the fall of Peter lends any confirmation to the truly miraculous nature and propagation of our religion, he did not fall in vain.
We have learned something, then, from Peter's history, in aid of our faith. It also affords instructions of a practical nature. It gives us all a lesson of resolution and vigilance, lest we, too, fall from our steadfastness. Let no christian say, that he can never be precisely in Peter's situation, and, therefore, that he can never deny a master, who is no longer present with his followers. We deny him, christians, when we suppress our secret convictions of the truth of his gospel, and would make the world believe, that we know not the man. We deny him, when we attempt to shake off the restraints of his laws, or bend them to a more convenient standard ; or when we take pains to hide the few peculiarities, which our christian education, or profession of the gospel yet oblige us to retain. We deny him, when, like Peter, we mingle with the vicious and the base, endure the jests of the scorner, and the licentiousness of the man of pleasure, and, lest we should be sus
pected of rigour, or of superstition, choose not to be distinguished from the promiscuous multitude of worldly men, who know not their God and their Redeemer. No, it is not impossible to deny our master, nor is it easy to be always true to his cause.
It seems, indeed, to be no difficult task, to be a christian, when the religion is creditable, when respect attends upon its institutions, and men throng to the temples, and the profession of christianity leads to public honours. But, my hearers, to say nothing of the struggles, which every disciple of Jesus has to maintain with the corruptions of his own heart, a man must not expect to be a christian, even in the best of times, without suffering some reproach from being true to his christian principles. The standard of the world is low and variable; but the everlasting laws of christian purity, piety and benev. olence are not affected by any changes of manners, or fluctuations of opinion. The gospel stands, in the midst of the tide of fashions and fancies, the measure of all opinions, but regulated by none. He, who would be faithful to this religion, cannot pass through the world, without being tempted by the example of others, tried by many severe duties, reproached by some, whom he wishes to love, and neglected by others, whom a little sacrifice of his principles might retain in his favour. Let him, then, be vigilant and resolute.
Again, the fall of Peter teaches a lesson of humility. If there are any presumptuous and enthusiastic christians among us, they may learn from this history, that they are not the most secure. Excessive confidence in religion is hardly to be distinguished from arrogance. It is never the means, and seldom the consequence of a religious life. Let us not trust, then, too much, to any temporary excitements in religion; and much less think ourselves secure, be cause we have made a competent profession of our
faith. Let us remember, too, that no man is allowed to make wanton trial of his faith and virtue. A man may be justly left to be overcome by a trial, which he has presumptuously sought, when he might have triumphed over a temptation, and stood a test, which was presented to him in the ordinary course of Providence. The spirit of the christian life is, indeed, a spirit of power and fortitude; but it is always joined with humility, distrust of one's self, bumble estimation of our own powers, and deep sensibility to the infirmity of human virtue. The daily prayer of the christian is : Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Let him, who thinketh, he standeth, take heed, lest he fall. • Again, we learn from the history of Peter, that, though a good man may fall, he is yet distinguished by tenderness of conscience, and deep and severe contrition. Peter went out, and wept bitterly, and returned to his master. The habitual offender may regret his sins, because he retains a lurking fear of their consequences. But the good man suffers, because he feels the shame and ingratitude of his of fences. He feels a stain, as he would a wound, though the world may not have discerned the blemish; he hopes for pardon, but does not cease to mourn.
To conclude, do not flatter yourselves, because Peter fell, and instantly recovered, that he, who is every day sinking, and falling from his fidelity, is to be as easily recovered. Contrition may purge away the occasional lapses of a man, who lives the life of a disciple; but it is difficult to conceive, how the effects of a depraved life, the example of which has been extending and operating in every direction, are to be expiated or removed by a dying hour of fear and sorrow, however deep, however painful. Watch, therefore, and pray, that ye fall not into temptation.
EPH. VI. 4.
FATHERS, PROVOKE NOT YOUR CHILDREN TO WRATH; BUT BRING THEM UP IN THE
. NURTURE AND ADMONITION OF THE LORD.
The subject, upon which I am about to address you, my friends, needs no laboured introduction. I see before me the fathers and mothers of families, who must, ere long, resign the world to another gen(eration; a generation, which will remember them with fruitless reproaches, or everlasting gratitude.
There are among us thousands of young creatures, whom our schools and colleges and families are pouring into the world ; and I ask, with anxiety, who is responsible to the God of nature, and to the world, for these daily and hourly accessions to the numbers of society ? Life, surely, is not all, that you are to give them; support, protection, accomplishments and estates are not all, that you owe to these creatures of your affection. For the time is coming, when all these exteriour appendages to life will be heard of no more; the grave will receive your children, as it has their fathers; the accomplishments, with which you decorate them, will have fallen off, and withered in death; even the strong constitution of their