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might have performed the miracle' we have this day heard recorded; yet, as a matter of fact, it was St. Peter who did perform it. We have lists given us of the Apostles in St. Matthew, St. Mark, St. Luke, and in the Acts. In all four St. Peter is named first : and in St. Matthew it is expressly said, “The names of the twelve Apostles are these; the first, Simon who is called Peter.” He is not only first named, but he is called the first. Indeed, wherever he is mentioned with others of the Apostles, his name is put first in order, except in one place, where Bethsaida is called “the city of Andrew and Peter”;: Andrew perhaps being the eldest of the two brothers, and so here for once taking precedence; or perhaps being the first called of the two.
Again, though the Church is built upon all “the Apostles and Prophets,"4 yet to St. Peter was it first said, “Upon this rock I will build My Church.” So, too, though to all the other Apostles it was afterwards said, “Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained”:yet to St. Peter had this authority first been committed, and as it would appear, singly.
In short, the Scripture bears ample testimony to the greatness of this great disciple.
His character, too, is very strongly marked in the Gospel page. Everywhere St. Peter is the first to speak, the first to act, as well as the first in order. Does his Master ask His Apostle whom they take Him to be? Peter is first ready to vouch that He is the Christ, the Son of the Living God. Does our
Acts iii. 1-8. - St. Matt. x. 2. St. Matt. iii. 16. 3 St. John i. 44.
St. Matt. xvi. 18, 19.
St. Luke vi. 14. Acts i. 13.
Eph. ii. 20.
Lord again, deserted by many of His disciples, turn to the twelve and ask if they will leave Him? St. Peter is first with the faithful answer, “LORD, to Whom shall we go, Thou hast the words of eternal life?” Is Jesus seen walking on the waters ? St. Peter's is the courageous faith, which would fain walk on the same waves to go to his Lord. When He is in danger, though a whole band of armed men are with His enemies, St. Peter's arm is raised at once to smite with the sword in His defence. Is word brought, that the Body of Jesus has been taken away from the sepulchre ? St. Peter and St. John are prompt to go forth to the sepulchre, and St. Peter is the first to enter in, and see the linen-clothes lie, and the napkin “wrapped together in a place by itself.” It would be too long to go through all the instances which Scripture supplies. They are well summed up in that testimony borne by our Saviour in the text, “The spirit indeed is willing.” There is no character in the Bible, in which a ready and devoted spirit bent on the service of God, at all risks, is so fully developed.
And yet this bold, affectionate, and loyal follower of Christ did, as you will remember, not on one occasion only, but on several, draw down upon himself a severity of rebuke, no where bestowed upon any other of the disciples. Get thee behind ME, Satan,” was the strong language of the meek and lowly Son of God to this favoured follower, when, seduced by ambitious and worldly notions of the MESSIAH, he ventured to rebuke his Master, Who had predicted His own Sufferings and Death. But especially do we find it more than once apparent, that “though the spirit was willing, the flesh was weak.” Full of faith, full of courage, one moment ;-a short while after, this strength, this
faith is all oozed out and gone, and we see the frailty of our mortal nature too plainly displayed. Thus, on the occasion mentioned before, he, with a noble faith, comes down out of the ship and walks upon the water to come to Jesus. But when he sees the wind boisterous, he is afraid—he begins to sink—cries for help and is addressed, “O thou of little faith.” Again, he is first of all, and more vehement than all, in affirming his readiness to go with his Master to prison and to death; and that, though he should die with Him, he would not deny Him in any wise. Yet, as if he had been shorn like Samson, and all his strength gone from him, the very same night he thrice, and at length, in the extremity of his fear, with oaths and curses, denies that he has any knowledge of Him. Again, he it is, who, by the direction of the Holy Spirit, casting away the prejudices of the Jew, enters, “doubting nothing,” into a Gentile house, and teaches that “God is no respecter of persons. Yet, at another time, he
separates himself, fearing them who were of the circumcision,” dissembles himself, and makes others dissemble with him, till he is openly rebuked by his fellow Apostle St. Paul, as "being to be blamed.” Thus this blessed Saint, “endued,” as the Collect says, "with many excellent gifts,” affords us in some respects as notable a warning, as he does, in others, a notable example.
Men, even at the best, are too apt to be confident in their own strength, the integrity of their purpose, the steadfastness of their resolutions. Not that we are therefore not to resolve; not that we are to shrink from duties to which we are really called, in distrust of our ability to discharge them. The readiness, the
| Acts xi. 12, &c., and x. 34. 3 Galatians ü. 11-14.
willingness, the zeal of St. Peter, were no doubt leading features and a great charm in his character, and often received at our Saviour's mouth high and warm commendation. “Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona. But then let us put resolutions at what they are worth. In themselves they are as nothing. They are, at best, but the beginning of the race set before us. Even of unregenerate man, St. Paul says, “To will is present with me: but,” he adds,“ how to perform that which is good I find not.' The young especially need to have this difference between resolving and doing set before them. Conscious of being in earnest now, and their hearts as yet single and pure, they are ready to answer to any voice of warning, “Is thy servant a dog that he should do this thing?”? No, we answer, but ye are men,—that is, weak, blind, and sinful beings, who can only be saved from their own weakness, and blindness, and sinfulness, by feeling how great that weakness is.
Besides, we are too apt to forget the great strength and cunning of the enemies we have to contend with; “principalities," " powers," "spiritual wickedness in high places.” St. Peter, therefore, remembering doubtless his own fall, warned those to whom he wrote, that " their adversary, the devil, as a roaring lion, walked about seeking whom he might devour.” The comparison sufficiently denotes his power, his malice, his watchfulness against us. At the very moment when St. Peter seemed strongest in confident attachment to his Lord, Satan was desiring to have him that he might sift him as wheat. At one time, perhaps, the danger comes upon us in the shape of a sudden temptation. The enemy finds us with our armour hung up, we were not 1 Romans vii. 18.
* 2 Kings viii. 13. 31 St. Peter v. 8.
St. Luke xxii. 31.
expecting the battle so soon; we are all at once called upon to act, when we had hoped to have time and thought allowed us : and that resolution, which, with time and preparation had been steady enough, is overborne, when thus taken unawares. At another time, perhaps, the adversary steals gently and gradually upon
We yield, perhaps, in lesser things, and as deeming them of little importance, and so are brought gradually to the verge of great sins. Thus the young are often led on by little and little, till they forget the guide of their youth.
If, then, we would any of us preserve our innocence in the midst of a corrupt and sinful world, set with baits on every side for all ages and tempers, to beguile us to our ruin,-it can only be by mistrusting ourselves, by looking to God alone for aid, and by endeavouring, on our own parts, to maintain a constant soberness and watchfulness. Even the greatest honesty of purpose, if we rely upon it, may fail us in the hour of temptation ; nay, may serve, as in Peter's case, to lead us into the very scene of danger, and then abandon us in a moment, when we are there. It has been well remarked, that if we look to some of the most eminent saints of Scripture, we shall find them to have erred in those very points of duty, in which they were generally most perfect.' “Faithful Abraham, through want of Faith, denied his wife. Moses, the meekest of men, was excluded from the Land of Promise for a passionate word. The wisdom of Solomon was seduced to bow down to idols. Barnabas, again, the Son of Consolation, had a sharp contention with St. Paul. If, then, men who knew themselves, better doubtless than we know ourselves, had so much of hidden infirmity about them,
Vewman's Sermons, Vol. i. Sermon iv.