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grounded the execution of it upon too much confidence in himself,-doubted not but his will was in his power, whether God's grace assisted him or not:-Surely thinking, that what he had courage to resolve so honestly, he had likewise ability to perform.-This was his mistake ;— and, though it was a very great one,—yet it was in some degree akin to a vritue, as it sprung merely from a consciousness of his integrity and truth, and too adventurous a conclusion of what they would enable him to perform, on the sharpest encounters, for his Master's sake: -So that his failing in this point, was but a consequence of this hasty and ill-considered resolve ;-and his Lord, to rebuke and punish him for it, did no other than leave him to his own strength to perform it ;-which, in effect, was almost the same as leaving him to the necessity of not performing it at all.—The great apostle had not considered, that he who precautioned him was the searcher of hearts,-and needed not that any should testify of man, for he knew what was in man-He did not remember, that his Lord had said before,- -Without me ye can do nothing; that the exertions of all our faculties, were under the power of his will:-He had forgot the knowledge of this needful truth, on this one unhappy juncture,-where he had so great a temptation to the contrary, though he was full of the persuasion in every other transaction of his life, but most visibly here in the text,-where he breaks forth in the warm language of a heart still overflowing with remembrance of this very mistake he had once committed ;-Ye men of Israel, why marvel ye at this, as though, by our own power or holiness, we had wrought this? The GoD of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob, the God of our fathers, through faith in his name, hath made this man whole, whom ye seek and know..
This is the best answer I am able to make to this objection against the uniformity of the apostle's character which I have given;-upon which let it be added,-that, was no such apology capable of being made in its behalf,-that the truth and regularity of a character, is not, in justice, to be looked upon as broken, from any one single act or omission which may seem a contradiction to it:-The best of men appear sometimes to be strange compounds of contradictory qualities: And, were the accidental oversights and folly of the wisest man,-the failings and imperfections of a religious man,-the hasty acts and passionate words of a meek man;—were they to rise up in judgment against them, and an ill-natured judge be suffered to mark in this manner what has been done amiss,-what character so unexceptionable as to be able to stand before him So that, with the candid allowances which the infirmities of a man may claim, when he falls through surprize, more than a premeditation,-one may venture, upon the whole, to sum up l'eter's character in a few words,-He was a man sensible in his nature, of quick passions, tempered with the greatest humility and most unaffected poverty of spirit that ever met in such a character.So that, in the only criminal instance of his life which I have spoken to, you are at a loss which to admire most;-the tenderness and sensibility of his soul, it being wrought upon to repentance by a look from JESUS ;- -or the uncommon humility of it, which he testified thereupon, in the bitterness of his sorrow for what he had done.-He was once presumptuous in trusting to his own strength His general and true character was that of the most engaging meekness,-distrustful of himself and his abilities to the last degree.—
He denied his master;-but, in all instances of his life but that, was a man of the greatest truth C c
and sincerity;-to which part of his character our Saviour has given an undeniable testimony, in conferring on him the symbolical name of Cephas, a rock, a name the most expressive of constancy and firmness.
He was a man of great love to his Master,and of no less zeal to his religion; of which, from among many, I shall take one instance out of St. John, with which I shall conclude this account : -Where, upon the desertion of several other disciples, our Saviour puts the question to the twelve,Will ye also go away?-Then, says the text, Peter answered and said,-Lord! whither shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life, and we believe, and know, that thou art Christ the Son of God.Now, if we look into the gospel, we find what our Saviour pronounced on this very confession.
Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona, for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee,but my Father which is in heaven.-That our Saviour had the words of eternal life,-Peter was able to deduce from principles of natural reason; because reason was able to judge, from the internal marks of his doctrine, that it was worthy God, and accommodated properly to advance human nature and human happiness.-But for all this,―reason could not infallibly determine that the messenger of this doctrine was the Messias, the eternal Son of the living GoD:-To know this, required an illumination;-and this illumination, I say, seems to have been vouchsafed at that instant as a reward,- as would have been sufficient evidence by itself of the disposition of his heart.
I have now finished this short essay upon the character of St. Peter, not with a loud panegyric upon the power of his keys, or a ranting encomium upon some monastic qualifications, with which a popish pulpit would ring upon such an
occasion, without doing much honor to the saint, or good to the audience,-but have drawn it with truth and sobriety, representing it as it was, as consisting of virtues the most worthy of imitation,—and grounded, not upon apocryphal accounts and legendary inventions, the wardrobe from whence popery dresses out her saints on these days,--but upon matters of fact in the sacred scriptures, in which all Christians agree.—And since I have mentioned papery, I cannot better conclude, than by observing, how ill the spirit and character of that church resembles that particular part of St. Peter's, which has been made the subject of this discourse :-Would one think that a church, which thrusts itself under this apostle's patronage, and claims her power under him, would presume to exceed the degrees of it which he acknowledged to possess himself? -But how ill are your expectations answered, when, instead of the humble declaration in the text,-Ye men of Israel, marvel not at us, as if our own power and holiness had wrought this ;you hear a language and behavior from the Romish court, as opposite to it as insolent words and actions can frame.
So that, instead of, Ye men of Israel, marvel not at us,-ye men of Israel, do marvel at us,hold us in admiration :-Approach our sacred pontiff,-(who is not only holy-but holiness itself;)-approach his person with reverence, and deem it the greatest honor and happiness of your lives, to fall down before his chair, and be admitted to kiss his feet.
Think not, as if it were not our own holiness which merits all the homage you can pay us. -It is our own holiness, the superabundance of it, of which, having more than we know what to do with ourselves,- -from works of supererogation, we have transferred the surplus
in ecclesiastic warehouses, and, in pure zeal for the good of your souls, have established public banks of merit, ready to be drawn upon at all times.
Think not, ye men of Israel, or say within yourselves, that we are unprofitable servants,—we have no good works to spare, or that, if we had
-we cannot make this use of them ;-that we have no power to circulaté our indulgencies,—and huckster them out, as we do, through all the parts of Christendom.-Know ye, by these presents, that it is our own power which does this;-the plenitude of our apostolic power operating with our own holiness, that enables us to bind and loose as seems meet to us on earth;-to save your souls, or deliver them up to Satan, and, as they please or displease, to indulge whole kingdoms at once, or excommunicate them all;~ binding kings in chains, and your nobles in links of iron.
That we may never again feel the effects of such language and principles,-may GoD of his mercy grant us. Amen.