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of power, means sitting at the right hand of God, to whom the Jews sometimes gave the appellation of power; and coming in the clouds of heaven, was with the Jews a characteristic mark of the Messiah. And the whole passage relates not to the final judgment, but to the coming of Christ to execute vengeance on the Jews in the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans. “ Then the high priest rent his clothes (a mark of extreme horror and indignation) saying, he hath spoken blasphemy, by declaring himself the Christ the Son of God, and assuming all the marks of divine power. What further need have we of witnesses ? Behold, now ye have heard his blasphemy. What think ye? They answered and said, he is guilty of death;" guilty of a crime that deserves death. “ Then did they spit in his face, and buffeted him ; and others smote him with the palms of their hands, 'saying, Prophesy unto us; who is he that smote thee?"
Such were the indignities offered to the Lord of all, by his own infatuated creatures ; .and although he could with one word have ( laid them prostrate at his feet, yet he bore all these insults without a single murmur or com
plaint, and never once spake unadvisedly with his lips. “Though he was reviled, he reviled not again ; though he suffered, he threatened not, but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously*.”
The evangelist now resumes the history of St. Peter, who, while these things were transacting in the council-room, sate without in the palace; and a damsel came unto him, saying, “ Thou also wast with Jesus of Galilee. But he denied before them all, saying, I know not what thou sayest. And when he was come out into the porch, another maid saw him, and said unto them that were there, This fellow also was with Jesus of Nazareth. And again he denied with an oath, I do not know the man. And after awhile came unto him they that stood by, and said to Peter, Surely thou also , one of them, for thy speech betrayeth , Then began he to curse and to swear. I know not the man. And immer", cock crew. And Peter remembers in of Jesus, which said unto him, Jefore the cock crow thou shalt deny me thrice. And he went out, and wept bitterly."
* i Prat. ii. 23. .
This most interesting story is related by all the evangelists, with a few immaterial variations in each; but the substance is the same in all. There is, however, one circumstance added by St. Luke, so exquisitely beautiful and touching, that it well deserves to be noticed here. He tells us, that after Peter had denied Jesus thrice, “ immediately, while he yet spake, the cock crew; and the Lord turned and looked upon Peter*.” What effect that look must have liad on the heart and on the countenance of Peter, every one may, perhaps, in some degree conceive; but it is utterly impossible for any words to describe, or, I believe, even for the pencil of a Guido to expresst. The sacred historian therefore most judiciously makes no attempt to work upon our passions or our feelings by any display of eloquence on the occasion. He simply relates the fact, without any embellishment or amplification; and only adds, “and Peter remembered the words of the Lord, how he had said unto him, before the cock crow, thou shalt
* Ch. xxii. 61.
In fact, I cannot learn that any great master has ever yet selected this incident as the subject of a picture.
deny me thrice; and he went out and wept bitterly.”
The reflections that croud upon the mind from this most affecting incident of Peter's denial of his Master, are many and important; but I can only touch, and that lightly, on a few.
The first is, that this event in the history of St. Peter is a clear and striking accomplishment of our Saviour's prediction, that before the cock crew he should deny him thrice. And it is very remarkable, that there are in this same chapter no less than four other prophecies of our Lord, which were all punctually fulfilled, some of them like this, within a few hours after they were delivered. . .
The next observation resulting from the fall of Peter is the melancholy proof it affords us of the infirmity of human nature, the weakness of our best resolutions, when left to ourselves, and the extreme danger of confiding too much in our own strength.
That St. Peter was most warmly attached to Jesus, that his intentions were upright, and his professions at the moment sincere, there can be no doubt. But his temper was too hot, and his confidence in himself too great.
When our Lord told him, and all the other apostles, that they would desert him that night; Peter was the first to say to him, “ though all men should be offended because of thee, yet will I never be offended.” And when Jesus again assured him, that before the cock crew he should deny him thrice, Peter insisted with still greater vehemence on his unshaken fidelity, and declared, “ that though he should die with him, he should never deny him.” Yet deny him he did, with execrations and oaths ; and left a memorable lesson, even to the best of men, not to entertain too high an opinion of their own constancy and firmness in the hour of temptation.“ Let him that thinketh he standeth, take heed lest he fall.”
And hence in the last place we see the wisdom and the necessity of looking beyond ourselves, of looking up to heaven for support and assistance in the discharge of our duty. If, when Peter was first forewarned by our Lord of his approaching denial of him, instead of repeating his professions of inviolable fidelityto him, he had with all humility confessed his weakness, and implored his divine Master to strengthen and fortify him for the trial that