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did not even notice the poor empty trifler at, are some detained "in life after their connexall: he said unto them, “ Strive to enter in ions have fallen off; after disease and inat the strait gate: for many, I say unto you, firmity have rendered them unfit for active shall seek to enter in, and shall not be able." employment: and they seem to themselves When he had told Peter his duty and destiny, as incumbrances, instead of helps. But there Peter saw John approaching; and asked, are some reasons for their detention, con“ Lord, and what shall this man do?” But nected with the glory of God, and their own our Saviour said, “ What if I will that he welfare; though, as to the knowledge of tarry till I come, what is that to thee? Fol- them, we must walk by faith and not by low thou me.” So here, he shows his judg- sight. ment of the inquiry by eluding it. But though. Secondly. Peter was to follow him to the he does not gratify him, he instructs him. cross. He was to suffer for him, and like “ Jesus answered him, Whither I go, thou him he was to die the same kind of deathcanst not follow me now; but thou shalt fol. “When thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch low me afterwards.” In two senses, Peter forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, was to follow him, in due time to the throne, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not. and to the cross : but at present he could fol. This spake he, signifying by what death he low him as to neither.
should glorify God." But he could not folFirst. Peter was to follow him to glory. low him now, because he had not sufficient It was what our Lord prayed for, and what faith and resolution to suffer. The Saviour, he promised. « Father, I will that they therefore, forbears to call him to a task for whom thou hast given me be with me where which he was inadequate. This is very inI am, that they may behold my glory. Where structive. It shows us that our Lord's dealI am, there shall also my servant be.” This ings with his people are founded not only in is true of all Christians. They are to be for kindness, but in wisdom and prudence. He ever with the Lord. He is gone to prepare a adapts the burden to the shoulder, or' tits the place for them. He is their forerunner; their shoulder to the burden; he strooths the road, trustee; and has taken possession of heaven or prepares the foot-so is the promise; “Thy in their name. Already he has drawn their shoes shall be iron and brass; and as thy day, hearts after him; and he will by-and-by draw so shall thy strength be.” Some of you can their persons. But for every thing there is look back and remember how you dreaded a season. He could not follow him now- such and such trials. You thought, that if because, though our Saviour's hour was they should befall you then, you must sink come, Peter's was not; though the Master under them and so you would. But he had finished the work given him to do, the gradually prepared you for them; and when servant had scarcely begun his--and “ we they actually came, your mind was in a difare all immortal till our work is done.”. Ene- ferent state-you had other views and feelmies cannot hasten, nor friends retard, our ings-your faith was more strong, and your departure, before the time appointed of our hope more lively. Gideon, while threshing heavenly Father. Christians are sometimes in the barn, had not, and did not want, the impatient, and long to be gone; but this is degree of prowess which was necessary when wrong. The best frame we can be in,” he took the sword, and placed himself at the says Henry, “ is to be ready to go, and wil- head of the army; but when, in obedience to ling to stay:" if God has any thing for us to the Divine will, he entered the field, the do, or to suffer, for his sake. We have three Spirit of the Lord came upon him. It does good men in the Scripture who wished for not become you to cast down your souls by death: but they knew not what they said ; imagining future difficulties, and comparing and are all blamed for it. The eagerness is them with your present strength. You should not only wrong, but useless. What would not say, “ O, if I was called to prison, or a it avail the husbandman to fret and rave ? fiery stake, how could I endure !" See that Would this bring harvest the sooner? There you are the Lord's servant: endeavour to must be months of winter, and weeks of cold; hold yourself at his disposal; attend willingly and nights of frost, and days of rain and sun to the duty of the day; and leave the morshine. He cannot reap in May, or June: the row with him. Cast thy burden upon the order of nature forbids it. There is also an Lord, and he shall sustain thee; he will never order in grace. Why cannot you follow him suffer the righteous to be moved. Sufficient now? Perhaps you have an aged mother to for the day is the evil thereof-and what is support. Perhaps you have an infant charge better, sufficient for it too will be the grace. to rear. Perhaps you are destined to give This was our Saviour's meaning; and Peter birth to an institution of charity. Perhaps understood by his following him—his followyou are to exemplify religion in your temper ing him to suffer. He, therefore, said unto and practice. Perhaps to recommend the him, “Lord, why cannot I follow thee now ?! Gospel by your sufferings.-We must run, I do not want courage or zeal: Lord, I will before we can conquer. We must fight, be- lay down my life for thy sake'-and what can fore we can triumph. What a length of time I do more ?"
II. “Jesus answered him," with a coun- “I am He!" He was now to be disowned tenance and voice more expressive of pity and forsaken; but he proves that he was able than severity—“Wilt thou lay down thy to read the heart, and to foresee certainly and life for my sake? Ah, Peter, this is sooner minutely what would happen, contrary to said than done. Life is not so easily parted every degree of probability. For what apwith. You trembled upon the water, and be-pearance was there that Peter would deny ginning to sink, you cried out, • Lord, save, I him-deny him just three times—and three perish.'—Be not so confident now—Verily, times that very night-and that very night verily, I say unto you, the cock shall not before the cock crew—and with the most crow, till thou hast denied me thrice.'” Let profane language? Of all the apostles, he us remark the sin; and derive some reflections seemed the most determined—the least likely from the melancholy statement.
to yield to fear-and had at this very time First. The crime was heinous. To deny engaged to die with him, rather than disown his Master was unfaithfulness : to deny his him-when, lo! at the very moment of giving Friend was perfidy: to deny his Benefactor this assurance of his attachment and fideliwas ingratitude: to deny his Redeemer was ty, Jesus declares, that in two or three hours, impiety. It was, for the time, to break off he would falsify every thing he had said and all connexion with him ; it was saying, I thought! This was a proof that he “needed neither wish to serve him, nor to be saved by not that any should testify of man, for be him. I know him not, nor wish to know him knew what was in man.' “Away with him-Crucify him."
This foreknowledge, however, does not This, too, was the conduct of one who had justify or extenuate Peter's sin. Peter was been called from a low condition in life to the perfectly free and voluntary in what he did. high honour of apostleship of one who had Foreknowledge supposes, not renders things seen his miracles-of one who was with him certain: it does not compel men to sin: their in the Transfiguration, and in Jairus's cham-sins are committed not because they are foreber, when he raised the dead-of one who known, or foretold; but they are foreknown had confessed him, and said, “ To whom shall and foretold because they will be committed. we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life: Secondly. What reason have we to exand we believe and are sure that thou art claim, with David, “Lord, what is man." Christ the Son of the living God." Three Survey him under the greatest advantages aggravations are here mentioned. First, he and obligations. Look-not at heathens, but was warned and admonished-he could not at Jews-a people distinguished and indulged plead ignorance. Secondly, the sin was im- above all the families of the earth. Lookmediately committed. Things soon wear off not at Jews, but at Christians, with all the from the mind; but here was no time for for- privileges of the Jews increased and perfectgetfulness—the voice of the Saviour had ed. Look-not at those who are only Chrishardly left his ear-his own resolution had tians in name, and live under the dispenascarcely dropped from his lips-he had said, tions of the Gospel; but at those who are “ I will never be offended," and was offended partakers of the grace of God in truth." that very night : “ The cock shall not crow, Look at these —not only as chargeable with till thou hast denied me thrice"-—which is infirmities; with drowsiness of attention, or the last aggravation-here is repetition. A wandering thoughts in divine things; but man may be surprised and overtaken in a overcome with temptation, and betrayed into fault; but the moment after, reflection may the grossest guilt--and no longer wonder return; and he may wonder, and shudder, that a man after God's own heart should pray, and fiee. But Peter, after his first offence, “Keep back thy servant also from presumpfeels nothing-he renews it again and even tuous sins: let them not have dominion over again-yea, and cach time he waxes worse me.” No longer wonder that our Saviour and worse, till a lie ends in an oath-and an should say, even to his disciples, " Take heed oath in a cursing !
to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be From this affecting statement let us, Se-overcharged with surfeiting and drunkenness, condly, derive some profitable remarks. and cares of this life, and so that day come
And, first : behold the foreknowledge of upon you unawares." There is nothing too our Saviour. Whoever attentively reads the vile for us to fall into, if we are left of Him four Gospels must perceive that there was al- who alone can keep us from falling. ways soinething to relieve his humiliation, Thirdly. We see how little we are acand to convince us that his abasement was quainted with ourselves. When Peter said, not original, and constrained; but assumed "I will lay down my life for thy sake," he and voluntary: that “he made himself of no spoke according to his feelings. But sincerity reputation; and for our sakes became poor." is not constancy. There is a goodness, comThe soldiers in the garden apprehended him, pared to the morning cloud and early dew, and led him away; but not till they went that soon passeth away. Peter did not conbackward and fell to the ground, in conse- sider the difference between an impulse and quence of his presenting himself, and saying, I a principle; between an hour of ease and a
moment of trial. We are now in health; but
" Beware of Peter's word.
Nor confidently say, we know not how it would be with us if we
I never will deny thee, Lord;" were removed to a climate much warmer, or
But-Grant I never may.' colder, than our own: and we know less of
“ Man's wisdom is to seek ourselves morally than physically. There
His strength in God alone;
And ev'n an angel would be weak are excellences which we may presume upon
Who trusted in his own. our possessing, only because we have never been called to display them. There are pro
“Retreat beneath his wings,
And in his grace confide; vocations with which we have never been
This more exalts the King of kings tried, the effect of which would render us a
Than all your works beside. wonder to ourselves. Events increase our
" In Jesus is our store: self-acquaintance, by showing us what there
Grace issues from his throne;
Whoever says, 'I want no more, is in the heart: as the waves cast up mire
Confesses he has none." and dirt in the pool that was clear, because calm, before. Hazael's case is a strong one; but it will apply, in various degrees, to our
DISCOURSE XCI. selves. He was shocked at the prophet's representation of himself when he should become a king—and exclaimed, “ Is thy servant
THE THORN IN THE FLESH. a dog, that he should do this thing ?" And yet, as an old writer says, the dog did it. God And lest I should be exalted above measure only knows how much of our innocency has through the abundance of the revelations, been owing to principle, or the absence of there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, temptation; or what we should have been in the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I conditions the reverse of those which have should be exalted above measure. For this sheltered our weakness.
thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it But, Fourthly. Here is the grand lesson might depart from me. And he said unto me, you and I have to learn—That the most con
My grace is sufficient for thee.—2 Cor. xii. fident are the most exposed; and the most
7-9. humble the most safe. “When I am weak,
WHERE the subject is himself, it is a delithen am I strong." Why? Because the deep cate and a difficult thing for a man to speak consciousness of my weakness will induce
properly. And, whether it be from constitume to shun scenes of temptation; keep me tional reserve, or a fear of hypocrisy, or a from aspiring after high and responsible sta- sense of unworthiness and imperfections, it is tions; and to pray, without ceasing, “Hold
certain, that those who feel most, and do most, thou me up, and I shall be safe.”
in religion, generally talk the least about it. No: we do not wonder at this strange and It is the shallow stream that cannot flow; it sad revolution in Peter. He is proud and is the empty vessel that cannot be touched self-sufficient. He places himself above his without telling it. brethren, and considers himself as much less Yet a reference to a person's own history likely to fall than they~" Though all should and experience is sometimes not only allow. be offended because of thee, yet will I never able, but commendable and useful; and a man be offended.” He talks away about sacrificing of talent and real godliness, and whose chahis life-without one word like this: “By thy | racter is placed above suspicion, is often pegrace helping me: for without thee I can do
culiarly interesting and edifying when he nothing." A Pharisee could hardly have held
speaks of things concerning himself. Such more vainglorious language.— Is it any mar- a man was Paul; and the narrative he here vel, then, that he should be permitted to learn, gives us bas relieved the minds, and called by bitter experience, that he was nothing, forth the gratitude of millions. It contains, and could do nothing, without that Holy Spirit I. His DANGER. II. His PRESERVATION. whose influences he had forgotten to acknow- III. His PRAYER. IV. His SUCCESS. ledge? « Pride goes before destruction, and a I. His DANGER. “Lest I should be exalthaughty spirit before a fall.” I never saw a pro- ed above measure by the abundance of the fessor of religion full of confidence in himself, revelations." By the abundance of the and speaking censoriously of others, but who revelations," he refers to some extraordinary fell into some gross crime, or into some great discoveries with which God had favoured calamity. “Be not highminded, but fear. him; and particularly a trance, recorded in Blessed is the man that feareth always." Let the preceding verses: “It is not expedient us sing the words of our incomparable Cowper: for me doubtless to glory. I will come to “ To keep the lamp alive,
visions and revelations of the Lord. I knew With oil we fill the bowl; Tis water makes the willow thrive,
a man in Christ above fourteen years ago, And grace that feeds the soul.
(whether in the body, I cannot tell ; or 1 The Lord's unsparing hand
whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God Supplies the living stream;
knoweth ;) such an one caught up to the third It is not at our own command, But still derived from Him.
I heaven. And I knew such a man, (whether in
the body or out of the body, I cannot tell: God before them, he exclaimed, “ Master, it is knoweth ;) how that he was caught up into good for us to be here; let us make three paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which tabernacles, one for thee, one for Moses, and it is not lawful for a man to utter.” On the na-one for Elias.”—He wished to abide there: ture and circumstances of this transaction I but, says the Holy Ghost, he knew pot am not called to enlarge. I shall only remark what he said." For, admitting his wish had what is necessary to our immediate purpose. been indulged, what would have become of It is the modesty and diffidence of the Apos- his wife and family? Peter, in his trans tle, who had concealed this privilege for more port, had forgotten these. But these may be than fourteen years. How unlike him are forgotten too soon—these must not be forgotthose who sound a trumpet before them, to ten at all. As the Saviour does not pray that awaken attention to all their religious move- his followers, before the appointed bour, ments! who are forward to publish to the should be taken out of the world by death, world accounts of their conversion and de- so neither does he improperly draw them out liverances, depressions, and raptures-Not of it by religion. It is their allotted resthat it is improper to take notice of any of dence for a season; and many relative and God's dealings with us: “Whoso is wise, civil claims demand a subordinate share of and will observe these things, even they shall their attention. He could so indulge his peo understand the lovingkindness of the Lord.” ple, that their manifestations and joys would But while we remark these things for our unhinge them from earth, take all interest own profit we need not plague the public, or out of their present connexions, and render suppose that every body must feel interested them listless to all the duties of their stations in our concerns. Had many been indulged and callings. But he is a God of judgment; like Paul, they would not have contained and fits us for the way, as well as the end. themselves for a single day, but have an 1 Thirdly. He was in danger of rising too nounced in every company, and probably in high in his own estimation, as a favourite d print, that they had been in the third heaven, Heaven. Christians, while here, are sanetified and heard unspeakable words! But, it is but in part. They are not like the Holy One likely, Paul would never have divulged this of God, or whom it is said, “The prince of distinction unless he had been compelled by this world came, and found nothing in him." his enemies, in vindication of his office; and He met with nothing inflammable in him, when he does mention it he frankly acknow- and therefore he could kindle none of his ledges that it nearly proved too much for him unhallowed fires; there were no evil appe- I was in danger, says he, of being “exalt- tites and passions, for temptation to operate ed above measure."
upon. But it is otherwise with us. Owing That is, First. He was in danger of be- to the sin that dwelleth in us, we are in daning raised too high for the usefulness as a ger from every thing around us; and thereminister. A minister is to have compassion fore must walk circumspectly, and watch and on the ignorant; to comfort the feeblemind- pray lest we enter into temptation. There ed; to sympathize with the afflicted; and are dangers in our dress; and dangers in our to speak a word in season to him that is table; and dangers in our friends; and dan. weary-He is to enter into all the circum-gers in our children. Things innocent in stances, and melt into all the feelings of his themselves may become injurious; things people. Now there are things which, instead even good in themselves may become evil of preparing him for this accommodation, Knowledge may puff up: our enlargements may disqualify him. He may be raised above in duty, and even our attainments in religion, it. That which promises the preacher use may-through our remaining corruption fulness, by adapting him to the state of his gender, or at least feed, self-sufficiency and hearers, is not something peculiar to himself, highmindedness. but that which he experiences in common Do you wonder at your danger? See with them. Paul was growing too wise; he Paul himself in hazard, from the influence was in danger, so to speak, of shooting over of vanity and pride. Even he was beginning the people's heads. He had to do with poor to rise and swell, from the distinguishing mortals upon earth-What was the language honours that had been shown him. Why of paradise to them; It could only make this is a very astonishing privilege-Who them stare, or exclaim, “How fine, how was ever caught up into heaven, wbile on wonderful a preacher! Why, no one can earth? This is really placing me above the understand him!” But when he spake to prophets; yea, above Moses himself. He them of thorns, and afflictions, and prayer, spake with God, it is said, face to face; but and sustaining grace, he was on their level; he was never admitted into the third heaven. and they could apprehend and feel him. The glorious prerogative belongs to me only.”
Secondly. He was in danger of being No creature, perhaps, discovered in him such elevated too high for his present condition as a tendency towards self-exaltation; and Paul a Christian. When Peter saw Moses and himself was probably unconscious of his danElias in glory, and our Saviour transfigured Iger. But it was his mercy that he had one
to watch over him who discerned his expo-s able to discover any duty that I have knowsure in time; and employed means,
| ingly neglected; any sin that I have indulged II. For HIS PRESERVATION, which we pro- in the practice of; any idol that I have ceed to consider. “There was given to me al adored." But God saw the future in the prethorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to sent: and the effect in the cause. No: you buffet me, lest I should be exalted above had not adored such a creature-but he saw measure." This thorn has exceedingly per- that your admiration would soon have become plexed expositors; and they knew not, after idolatry, and that you were ready to kneel. all their conjectures, what to do with it. It No: you were not vain and worldly—but he would be a waste of your time, to attempt to saw a train of prosperous circumstances had determine what is among the secrets of the commenced, which would flatter you into selfAlmighty; and which, if discovered, would importance, and make you forget that this is be of no importance. We even admire the not your rest. wisdom that has left it in uncertainty. If He therefore determined to prevent the you knew what it exclusively was, those of evil; and it is commonly said, Prevention is you who are in affliction, but not afflicted in better than cure; and it is truly said, and the same thing, would be ready to say, “Ah! never so truly—as with regard to sin. Let Paul never knew my heart's bitterness-He us take, for instance, Joseph and David, with never had my thorn!" But now, none of you respect to adultery. Joseph was preserved, can say this; for you are ignorant of what it and David was restored. But observe the was. Let then a Baxter, who for thirty years difference. The one was useful, as an exendured the stone, imagine that it was his ample, to excite and encourage; the other torment; let a Watts, moving in weakness, hardened and justified the ungodly, turned and in fear, and in much trembling, conclude religion into a jeer, and “caused the enemies that it was a nervous malady; let a third of the Lord to blaspheme." The one retaininfer, that it was a slanderer; a fourth, a try- ed his peace of mind; the other was torn with ing companion; and so of the rest. If such anguish, and his sin was ever before him. a supposition tends to soothe the mind under The one was crowned with glory and honour, irritation, and leads the sufferer to believe the other, in his reputation, suffered a dreadthat it is sent to “ keep man from his pur- ful eclipse. A blot and a dishonour did he pose, and to hide pride from man;" the suppo- get, and his reproach shall not be wiped away. sition can never be improper. Thus the Take Hezekiah and Paul, with regard to Scripture teaches us, by what it conceals, as pride. Hezekiah was lifted up; and when well as by what it discovers; and our igno he humbled himself he was forgiven : -but rance, as well as our knowledge, is rendered this did not repair the many sad effects of his useful.
ambition for “wrath came upon him and All we learn is, That this thorn in the flesh upon all Judah.” But Paul was taken earwas some sharp and piercing affliction; in lier; the God of his mercy prevented himwhich the enemy of souls had a peculiar in- or who can imagine what consequences fluence: for it was “the messenger of Satan might have resulted from sin in such a chato buffet him.” And to buffet him was all racter, both with regard to himself, the church, his aim. But his intention was overruled ; and the world! and the curse turned into a blessing. Thus Ah! said David, when he had been hinthe leech adheres to the flesh, and fills him- dered from effecting a purpose of revenge ; self with blood, and looks no further: but the “ Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, which hand of the Faculty guides it to the place of sent thee this day to meet me: and blessed contact, and the relief of the patient is the be thy advice, and blessed be thou, which hast consequence. Thus we have seen men in a kept me this day from coming to shed blood, boat, looking one way, and rowing another. and from avenging myself with mine own Thus all creatures are in the Lord's hand, hand.” Who is not under obligation to praise and under his control: he gave Joseph favour God for the same preventing goodness! One in the sight of the jailer; brought Elijah ought to say, “ Blessed be God for that event, food by ravens; and sent Paul safety by Sa which took me out of a situation in which i tan himself!
now see I should have been corrupted and But you will observe, that Paul does not destroyed." Another ought to say, “Blessed my, « There was given me a thorn in the be God, for that breach of friendship; it saved flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, me from a pleasing, but irreligious combecause I was exalted above measure,” but panion, who would have undermined my “ lest I should be." I wish you to remark principles.” Another ought to say, “ Blessed this, in order to see, that affliction is design- be God for such a brotherly reproof: it seems ed to prevent, as well as to recover. This is severe, and many a tear it cost me; but it a case of great importance in the experience checked me on the very brink of ruin.” Anof Christians. You say, perhaps, “ After the other ought to say, “ Blessed be God, I should most faithful examination of myself, I am not have made flesh my arm, and gold my hope ;