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in the hands of a rude and inconsiderate band of men: and- therefore should have exerted their power to release him, or at least have been the companions of his sufferings, and endeavoured, by every kind, endearing action, to have lessened his grief. But alas 1 instead of assisting or comforting their great Master, they forsook him and fled.
The soldiers, after binding Jesus, led him away, and ^delivered him to the chief priests and elders, who carried him from one tribunal to another, first to Annas, and then to Caiphas, where the Jewish Sanhedrim were assembled, in order to try and condemn him.
In the mean time, Peter who had followed the other disciples in their flight, recovered his spirits, and, being encouraged by his companion St. John, returned to seek his Master. Seeing him leading to the highpriest's hall, he followed at a distance, to know the event: but on his coming to the door was refused admittance, till one of the disciples, who was acquainted there, came out, and prevailed upon the servant, who kept the door, to let him in. Peter, being admitted, repaired to the fire burning in the middle of the hall, round which the officers and servants were standing; where, being observed by the maid servant, who let him in, she charged him with being one of Christ's disciples: but Peter publicly denied the charge, declaring, that he did not know him, and presently withdrew into the porch, where, being secluded from the people, the reflection of his mind awakened his conscience into a quick sense of his duty, and the promise he had a few hours before made to his Master. But alas! human nature, when left to itself, is remarkably frail and inconstant. This Peter sufficiently experienced; for while he continued in the forch, another maid met him, and charged im with being one of the followers of Jesus of Nazareth, which Peter firmly denied,
and the better to gain belief, ratified it with an oath.
About an hour after this, the servant of the high priest, he whose ear Peter had cut off, charged him with being a disciple of Christ, and that he himself had seen him in the garden with him: adding, that his very speech sufficiently proved that he was a Galilean. Peter, however, still denied the fact; and, to his sin, ratified it not only by an oath, but a solemn curse and execration, that he was not the person, and that he knew not the man. But no sooner had he uttered this denial, (which was the third time) than the cock crew; at which his Master turned about, and earnestly looked upon him in a manner that pierced him to the heart, and brought to his remembrance what his Saviour had more than once foretold, namely, that he would basely and shamefully deny him. Peter was now no longer able to contain his sorrow } he flew from the palace of the high-priest, and wept bitterly, passionately bewailing his folly, and the aggravations of his sin.
The fall of St. Peter should convince us of the miserable frailty, even of the best of men, and effectually subdue those vain confidences which are apt to rise in our hearts, from our own supposed strength and virtue. For, as this great disciple fell in so scandalous a manner, who shall hereafter dare to depend upon the highest degree of knowledge, when one so wise, so perfectly satisfied of the truth of the christian doctrine, was, after the fullest convictions of his own conscience, so weak and frail, as to deny and adjure his Lord who instructed and bought him, even at the price of his own blood? Who shall presume upon his best resolutions, when he who declared so firm a purpose of adhering to Jesus, did within a few hours, peremptorily and solemnly disown that very person, for whose sake he was lately ready and disposed to lay down his life.
We ought therefore, on all occasions, to pray for and rely on the Divine assistance, which alone can enable us to stand in a day of trial. There is, indeed, no reason to doubt that St. Peter at that time spoke the very sense of his soul; that he had an honest and sincere heart, was steadfastly determined, and as he thought, able to perform, what with so much piety and affection, he intended and professed. But his misfortune was, that he did not consider the infirmities of human nature, promising, in the warmth of his zeal, more than he was able to perform. He relied on his own integrity, thinking good resolutions a suffi-. cient defence against the most violent temptations. But when the assault was made, and danger, with her terrifying aspect, appeared, the event sufficiently proved, that how willing so ever the spirit might be, yet the flesh was exceeding frail and weak.
We have in St. P&ter an example for our instruction. The opinion of his own strength proved his ruin. So dangerous and fatal is it to lean on our own understandings; to be wise, good, and safe, in our own conceit; when all our sufficiency, all our safety is of God*
We should also, from this example, remember the wisdom and goodness of the Almighty, in causing the faults and infirmities of his saints to be recorded in the holy scriptures, and the use we ought to make of their failings and temptations. Their eminent perseverance in the cause of Christ, and their as eminent repentance, where they did amiss, are written as a seasonable warning, and exhibit an instance of humiliation to all future ages; by letting us see, that the most perfect are but men, subject to blemishes and' imperfections: and that the highest and purest state is no security from danger. This should make us very tender how we judge and despise our brethren, whose faults, however severely we may censure them, might probably have been our own, had we been in their circumstances;
for "let him that thinketh he starideth, take heed lest he fall.'' We should not then promise ourselves such safety and freedom from temptations, in any circumstances of life, as to think we are incapable of committing the blackest crimes, should the Almighty withdraw his grace, and leave us to ourselves.
And as their failings admonish, so they should also comfort us, by demonstrating that God does not suddenly cast off his servants, when they have heinously offended him: that we ought not to despair, though our transgressions are great and many; for if we will return, with true contrition of soul, we shall be kindly received, and freely pardoned. Those who fall with him should earnestly pray for that repentance which he had, a repentance, like which, all christians ought earnestly to desire and seek, after.
An Account of what befcl this Apostle, jrom the Resurrettion of his blessed Master, to his Ascension into Heaven.
IT is certain, from various circumstances, that Peter, after the crucifixion of his Lord and Master, stayed at Jerusalem, or at least in the neighbourhood, for when Mary Magdalene returned from the sepulchre, to inform the disciples that the stone was rolled away from the door, and the body not to be found, Peter and John set out immediately towards the garden. John, who was the younger, arrived at the sepulchre first, looked into it, but did not enter, either out of fear or reverence to our Saviour< Peter came soon after, and resolutely went into the sepu'chre, where he found the linen clothes lying together in one plaee, and the napkin that was about his- head wrapped together in another, a sufficient indication that the body was not stolen. away ; for had that been the case, so much care and order would not have been observed in disposing of the linen clothes.
But Peter did not wait long in suspence, with regard to his great Lord and Master, for the same day Jesus appeared to him; and as he was the first of the disciples who had made a signal confession of the divinity of the Messiah's mission, so it was reasonable he should first see him, after his resurrection, and at the same time to convince him, that the crime he had been guilty of, in denying him, was pardoned, and that he was come, like the good Samaritan, to pour oil into the wounded conscience.
Soon after the apostles prepared to obey the command of their great Master, of retiring into Galilee; and we find that Peter, Nathaniel, the two sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples, returned to their old trade of fishing in the lake.
One morning early, as they were labouring at their employment, having spent the whole night to no purpose, they saw on the shore a grave person, who called to them, and asked them if they had any meat? To which they answered, no. Cast then, replied he, the net on the right side of the ship, and ye shall find. They followed his directions, and caught a prodigious number of large fish. Astonished at such remarkable success, the disciples looked one upon another for some time, till St. John told Peter, that the person on the shore was, doubtless, their great Lord and Master, whom the winds, the sea, and inhabitants of the watery region, were ready to obey.
Peter no sooner heard the beloved disciple declare his opinion concerning the stranger, than his zeal took fire, and, notwithstanding the coldness of the season, girt on his fisher's coat, threw himself into the sea, and swam to shore: his impatience to be with his dear Lord and Master, not suffering him to stay the few minutes necessary to bring the ship to land.
As soon as the disciples eame on shore, they found a fire kindled, and fish laid upon it, either immediately created by the power of their divine Master, or which came ashore of its own accord, and offered itself to his hand. But, notwithstanding there were fish already on the fire, he ordered them to bring those they had now caught, and dress, them for their repast, he himself eating with them; both to give them an instance of mutual love and friendship, and also to assure them of the truth of his human nature, since he was risen from the dead.
When the"repast was ended, our blessed Saviour addressed himself particularly to Peter, urging him to the utmost diligence in the care of souls; and because he knew that nothing but a sincere lore to himself eould support him under the trouble and dangers of so laborious and difficult an employment, he inquired of him, whether he loved him more than the rest of the apostles; mildly reproving him for his overconfident resolution. Peter, whom fatal experience had taught humility, modestly answered, that none knew so well as himself the integrity of his affections. Thou k no west the hearts of all men, nothing is hid from thee, and therefore thou knowest that I love thee. The question was three several times repeated by our blessed Saviour, and as oftentimes answered by the apostle ; it being but just, that he who by a threefold denial had given so much reason to question his affection, should now, by a three-fold confession, give more than common assurance of his sincere love to his Master; and to each of these confessions our great Redeemer added this signal trial of his affection, Feed my sheep. Instruct and teach them with the utmost care, and the utmost tenderness.
The blessed Jesus having thus engaged Peter to a chearful compliance with the dangers that might attend the discharge of his office, particularly intimated to him the. fate that would attend him; telling him,