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fected external pomp, he might have acomplished, by engrossing, as he could have done by a word, all the riches of the world, and, by the splendor of his court, and dignity of his person, had been greater than Solomon in all his glory, and have attracted the applause and admiration of the world? This, every disciple knew was in his power. So that the meanness of his birth, the toils and poverty of his life, the low offices in which he was engaged by preaching the gospel to the poor, the numberless dangers and inconveniences attending the execution, were all voluntary. This humble choice, both of friends and family, out of the meanest of the people amongst whom he appeared rather as a servant than a master, coming not (as he often told them) to be ministered unto, but to minister, and, as the prophet had foretold in that mournful description of him, having no form nor comeliness, nor any beauty that we should desire him.
How could a disciple, you will say, reflect with out benefit on this amiable character, with all the other tender pathetic proofs of humility, which his memory would suggest had happened of a piece with it, in the course of his Master's life; but particularly at the conclusion and great catastrophe of it, at his crucifixion; the impressions of which could never be forgotten?When a life full of so many engaging instances of humility, was crowned with the most endearing one of humbling himself to the death of the cross,the death of a slave and a malefactor,-suffering himself to be led like a lamb to the slaughter,— dragged to Calvary without opposition or complaint, and, as a sheep before his shearer is dumb, opening not his mouth.
O blessed JESUS! well might a disciple of thine learn of thee to be meek and lowly of heart, as
thou exhortedst them all, for thou wast meek and lowly Well might they profit, when such a lesson was seconded by such an example !-It is not to be doubted what force this must have had on the actions of those who were attendants and constant followers of our SAVIOUR on earth ;-saw the meekness of his temper in the occurrences of his life, and the amazing proof of it at his death, who, though he was able to call down legions of angels to his rescue, or by a single act of omnipotence to have destroyed his enemies; yet suppressed his almighty power, neither resented, or revenged the indignity done him, but patiently suffered himself to be numbered with the transgressors.
It could not well be otherwise, but that every eye-witness of this must have been wrought upon, in some degree, as the apostle, to let the same mind be in him which also was in Christ Jesus. Nor will it be disputed how much of the honor of St. Peter's behavior, in the present transaction, might be owing to the impressions he received, on that memorable occasion of his Lord's death, sinking still deeper, from the affecting remembrance of the many instances his master had given of this engaging virtue in the course of his life.
St. Peter certainly was of a warm and sensible nature, as we may collect from the sacred writings, a temper fittest to receive all the advantages which such impressions could give; and therefore, as it is a day and place sacred to this great apostle, it may not be unacceptable, if I engage the remainder of your time, in a short essay upon his character, principally as it relates to this particular disposition of heart, which is the subject of the discourse.
This great apostle was a man of distinction amongst the disciples, and was one of such virtues and qualifications, as seemed to have recom
mended him more than the advantage of his years or knowledge.
On his first admission to our SAVIOUR's acquaintance, he gave a most evident testimony that he was a man of real and tender goodness, when, being awakened by the miraculous draught of the fishes, as we read in the fifth of St. Luke, and knowing the author must necessarily be from God, he fell down instantly at his feet,-broke out into this humble and pious reflection,-Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord! The censure, you will say, expresses him a sinful man; but so to censure himself, with such unaffected modesty, implies, more effectually than any thing else could, that he was not, in the common sense of the word, a sinful, but a good man, who, like the publican in the temple, was no less justified, for a self-accusation extorted merely from the humility of a devout heart, jealous of its own imperfections. And though the words, depart from me, carry in them the face of fear, yet he who heard them, and knew the heart of the speaker, found they carried in them a greater measure of desire. For Peter was not willing to be dis charged from his new guest, but, fearing his unfitness to accompany him, longed to be made more worthy of his conversation. A meek and modest distrust of himself, seemed to have had no small share at that time, in his natural temper and complexion; and though it would be greatly improved, and, no doubt, much better principled, by the advantages on which I enlarged above, in his commerce and observation with his Lord and Master, yet it appears to have been an early and distinguishing part of his character. An instance of this, though little in itself, and omitted by the other evangelists, is preserved by St. John, in his account of our Saviour's girding himself with a napkin, and washing the disciples feet; to which
office, not one of them is represented as making any opposition: But when he came to Simon Peter, the evangelist tells,-Peter said to him, Dost Thou wash my feet? Jesus said unto him, What I do, thou knowest not now, but shalt know hereafter. Peter said to him, Thou shalt never wash my feet.-Humility for a moment triumphed over his submission, and he expostulates with him upon it, with all the earnest and tender opposition which was natural to a humble heart, confounded with shame, that his Lord and Master should insist to do so mean and painful an act of servitude to him.
I would sooner form a judgment of a man's temper, from his behavior on such like occurrences of life as these, than from the more weighed and important actions, where a man is more upon his guard,➡has more preparation to disguise the true disposition of his heart, and more temptation, when disguised to impose it on others.
This management was no part of Peter's character, who, with all the real and unaffected humility which he showed, was possessed of such a quick sensibility and promptness of nature, which utterly unfitted him for art and premeditation; though this particular cast of temper had its dis advantages, at the same time, as it led him to an unreserved discovery of the opinions and prejudices of his heart, which he was wont to declare, and sometimes in so open and ungarded a manner, as exposed him to the sharpness of a rebuke where he could least bear it.
I take notice of this, because it will help us in some measure to reconcile a seeming contradiction in his character, which will naturally occur here, from considering that great and capital failing of his life, when, by a presumptuous declaration of his own fortitude, he fell into the disgrace
of denying his Lord; in both of which, he acted so opposite to the character here given, that you will ask, How could so humble a man as you describe, ever have been guilty of so self-sufficient and unguarded a vaunt, as that, though he should die with his Master, yet would he not deny him? -Or whence,- -that so sincere and honest a man was not better able to perform it!
The case was this
Our Lord, before he was betrayed, had taken occasion to admonish his disciples of the peril of lapsing;-telling them, 31st verse,. -All ye shall be offended because of me this night.To which Peter answering, with a zeal mixed with too much confidence,-That though all shall be offended, yet will I never be offended : -To check this trust in himself,-our Saviour replies, that he in particular should deny him thrice. But Peter, looking upon this monition no farther than as it implied a reproach to his faith, and his love, and his courage ;-stung to the heart to have them called in question by his Lord, he hastily summons them all up to form his final resolution,-Though I should die with thee, yet will I not deny thee.-The resolve was noble and dutiful to the last degree,— and, I make no doubt, as honest a one-that is, both as just in the matter, and as sincere in the intention, as ever was made by any of mankind; -his character not suffering us to imagine he made it in a braving dissimulation: for he proved himself sufficiently in earnest by his subsequent behavior in the garden, when he drew his sword against a whole band of men, and thereby made it appear, that he had less concern for his own life than he had for his Master's safety. How then came his resolution to miscarry? The reason seems purely this :-) -Peter