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ter; with deliberation and a fixed design: Whereas it was through mere indiscretion and inadvertency, that l'eter fell into the danger and the occasion of sinning, of which Satan industriously took advantage, so as to induce him from the fear of death to deny his Master.
But who will say, that there could be remaining in Peter's heart, a secret faith in Christ, since he went so far as to deny him. St. Paul closely connects the confession of the mouth with the faith of the heart, in these words: With the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.' (Rom. x. 9, 10.) How then can a true faith in Christ be consistent with a denial of him ? Does not such an assertion separate those things which God hath joined together? Therefore Peter's faith was absolutely extinguished by this tempest; but by the gracious look of Jesus Christ it was re-kindled, and ever after blazed in a constant and
This grace Christ had previously obtained for Peter at the divine tribunal, and at the same time, had assured him of it: Behold, said our blessed Lord, Satan hath desired to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, (Luke xxii. 31, 32.) and by that means forever to deprive you of faith and salvation. But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not, nor be irrecoverably stiffled forever. "And when thou art converted,' and by true repentance art again received into that state of grace from which thou art fallen, strengthen thy brethren.'
Hence we may learn the following truths.
1. It is a particular favour of God, when he calls a second and third time to a soul, which has once heard his awakening voice. Peter instead of attending to the crowing of the cock, which should have brought him to reflection, let it pass unheeded like a common sound ; yet the indulgent Providence of God permits him to be admonished, and summoned to repentance, by the same alarming incident. Othe
wretched folly of those, who abuse this goodness of God, and make light of the first invitations and admonitions of his compassionate love, calling them to repentance! This fatal neglect usually proceeds from a notion, that their present circumstances will not allow of entering on the arduous work of repentance; that these awakenings and friendly motions will be followed by others; that God will bear with them sometime longer; and as they are not without a purpose of being converted, they fatter themselves that he will always keep open for them an access to the Throne of Grace. Alas! how imprudently do such people act! for in such a case the heart not on. ly becomes more and more hardened and enured to şin, but God, when his first inviting and gracious call is slighted, generally accompanies his subsequent calls with sensible chastisement; which might have been avoided by an early compliance with his first invitation. Let every one, therefore, commune with his own heart, and reflect on the frequent summons to repentance with which God has favoured him in the course of his life ; and how, on several occasions, and by frequent intervals, they have been moved, and as it were, touched to the quick. If all these inti- . mations be neglected, the heart is in the utmost danger of being finally hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.
3. Our indulgent and merciful Saviour turns towards a sinner, even before the sinner turns to him. Before Peter looked on Christ with eyes overflowing with tears, Christ looked on Peter with eyes full of pity and compassion, and turned to him his benign countenance, while he turned his back on his slighted Lord. Thus it daily happens. Grace prevents the wretched sinner ; and, by a penetrating, affectionate glance, touches his depraved heart, and offers him an assisting hand, while he is still lying in the mire of sin. Therefore, let none plead, that it is out of his power to convert himself: for to make the first
advances is not required of him, but only that he will not reject preventing grace, when it kindly looks on him in his misery; and if he only allows it admission into his heart, it their begins, carries on, and completes the work of conversion. O that men, amidst the croud of earthly and idle thoughts, would better attend to the gracious voice of God, daily calling them to repentance, by his spirit, word, and ministry.
4. The eyes and ears are the two chief inlets through
which life and death make their way into the soul, Through these, death entered into the soul of our first progenitors, and from them hath been continued on all their descendants. They looked on the forbidden tree, and listened to the delusive remonstrances of the tempter. For want of carefully securing these avenues, the fort, which is otherwise impregnable, is entered and taken. St. Peter's fall was likewise owing to a fatal curiosity of indulging these senses. He was for seeing what would be the event; and on hearing himself successively and publicly charged, by several persons, of being a disciple of Jesus of Nazareth, his soul was seized with that dread of death, which extinguished his faith. But through the same inlets, by which spiritual death had made its way into his mind, the divine life again also insinuates itself. His ears are pierced with the crowing of the cock, awakening him to repentance ; and his eyes meet the gracious glance from Jesus Christ, by which the extinguished flame of his faith is re-kindled.
5. Our merciful High Priest helps the weakness of our memory, and, in a proper season, puts us in mind of his words. The expressive look from our blessed Lord refreshed and enlightened Peter's memory ; so that he thought of his Saviour's words, and called to mind the warning which Christ had given him. Thus the word of God, like seed buried in the earth, often lies buried in the memory for a time, without producing any salutary effect; but af
terwards becomes the cause of repentance and conversion, when our blessed Saviour, by his spirit, again puts the sinner in mind of it.
II. * The signs and fruits of Peter's repentance, are likewise mentioned in the text cited above. What passed inwardly in his heart, the Evangelists have left to our own reflection ; but they have specified the external signs, which evidenced the truth of Peter's repentance. With regard to these signs, the three following particulars occur in the Gospel.
1. Peter quitted the High Priest's palace, and with it the tempter's snare, and the occasion of his fall. He could not think of continuing a moment lon
in the place, where he had so basely denied his Lord and Saviour. Perceiving that the blessed Jesus, whom he had so grievously injured was still his friend, the sight of his Master's enemies grew insupportable to him. He therefore hastened away, and broke from them abruptly; and as soon as he was irradiated by the light of our Saviour's countenance, would have no farther fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, which were going forward in this congregation of the wicked. As he was now resolved to get away from this prison of Satan, in which he had voluntarily suffered himself to be shut
God was pleased to open a way for him to escape; so that he went away without any hindrance or molestation. Here he stood in need of the safe conduct, which Christ had procured for his disciples before he was seized, by saying unto his enemies, 'If therefore ye seek me, let these go their way.'
2. He covered his face ; for that is the proper sense of the Greek word here used by St. Mark : he cast, or drew one of the ends of his upper garment over his head, with which he covered his face; as was usual with mourners, or persons under affliction, that they might not see, or be seen by others. (2 Sam. xv. 80. xix. 4. Jer. xiv. 3, 4.) By thus covering his face, he shewed both his grief and shame for
what was past; but this shame was not sufficient. For as he had openly denied Christ, he should have publicly recanted his denial; and as he had not been ashamed of sinning, he ought not to have been ashamed of acknowledging his sin, and of making some amends for his fault. But now, he was excused from this. He had no occasion at present to go with Christ to prison and to death, but only to repent in secret, and wait for the divine assistance. But afterwards, when he came to be annointed with the Holy Ghost, he made ample compensation for his timidity and weakness. As he had. now thrice denied his Master in Caiaphas's house, where the whole Sanhedrim was assembled ; so he afterwards three several times professed Christ with great boldness and courage, even in the presence of the same council. (Acts iv. 9, 12, 19, 20. v. 29—92.) He then not only intrepidly appeared with open face; but also exposed his naked back, and with joy received the stripes, which were inflicted on him by order of the Sanhe drim for his resolute confession of Jesus Christ. (Acts v. 40, 41.)
3. He gave a free vent to his tears : “He went out and wept bitterly:' The anguish of his heart was too violent to be any longer suppressed ; but it burst forth like a torrent, and vented itself in tears. These tears proceeded both from sorrow and a tender love for his Lord and Master, whom he had so basely denied; so that from this rock, Peter, the water of repentance gushed; which was not struck with Moses's rod, but by a powerful and affectionate look of the Lord Jesus. The sincerity of Peter's repentance afterwards shewed itself by the abundant fruits, which it produced : For he never after relapsed into the like fault; but boldly, and even to death, professed the faith of Jesus Christ. Hence we may observe,
1. That the first sign of a real conversion is the forsaking all wicked company. Thus Peter shewed the sincerity of his repentance ; for, instantly, and