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without delay, he withdrew from that wicked company, which had occasioned his unhappy fall. If the wicked will not leave us, when we say with David,
Depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity,' (Psalm vi. 8.) we must leave them, and without any procrastination, avoid and fly from the occasions of sinning. It behoves every one, therefore, to ask his own heart, Whether he is entangled in such acquaintance, from whom, he is abundantly convinced, he is so far from reaping any manner of benefit, that they are an extreme detriment to his peace of mind ? and whether, notwithstanding such a conviction, he has the courage manfully to declare for his Lord and Saviour, and extricate, himself out of this snare of Satan? Alas! it is notorious, that this is one of the most common obstacles to the conversation of a sinner. The conversation of such persons stifles all the successive workings of grace in a well inclined mind, and makes it averse to serious thoughts. Let no one excuse himself, and say, I cannot quit such company, though
I I sincerely design it; for he may be assured, that as God opened a way to Peter to escape, as soon as he was really inclined to withdraw himself from the contagion; so will he shew the like kindness to him, and assist his endeavours with his all-sufficient grace.
2. As Peter was received into favour and obtained pardon and forgiveness, no sinner ought to despair of mercy. A Christian, who has the strongest faith and resolution, may be alarmed at Peter's fall : but Peter's repentance may inspire the most wretched sinner with comfortable hopes of acceptance with God. That merciful hand, which was held out to this sinking Apostle ; stopped him short amidst the most terrible imprecations; and snatched him from perdition; can also lay hold of thee, O desponding sinner, and draw thee out of the mire of sin, that thou sink not. Peter's repentance should therefore be an efficacious balsom of life and comfort to every wounded conscience, every troubled and dejected mind, which
begins to have a sense of the greatness of its sins, and sees into what an abyss of misery it has plunged itself. The Lion of the tribe of Judah, who rescued this wandering sheep from the jaws of the infernal lion, that seeketh whom he may devour, can, and will, deliver every soul that earnestly implores his aid; for it redounds to the glory of his grace to wrest from Satan's hold a great sinner, who seems lost beyond all hope ; to change his obdurate heart; and to display the wonders of mercy and redeeming love, in rescuing his soul from destruction. This instance of Peter's reception into favour may afford the greater comfort and joy to all wounded and terrified minds, if they reflect that our blessed Saviour, when he conversed with Peter after his resurreciion, never upbraided him with his heinous fall. He no sooner had bewailed his baseness and recovered from his fall, but his merciful Saviour permitted the whole transaction to be buried in oblivion, and received him again into favour. Thus, O repenting sinner, shalt thou also partake of his free mercy, if thou wilt only suffer his grace to descend into thy heart. Thy former profligate life, and heinous transgressions shall be eternally forgotten; they shall not be objected against thee at the tribunal of God; they shall be cast into the depth of the sea, so that they shall never rise up in judgment against thee. For this end has thy compassionate Mediator caused Peter's repentance to be recorded in the history of his sufferings, that thou mightest thence know the salutary fruits and effects of his passion, and avail thyself of them to thy comfort and salvation. Arise immediately from thy fall; thy Saviour is willing and ready to help thee.
Confer not long with flesh and blood; but hasten to deliver thy soul. Fly from wicked company ; avoid every occasion of sinning; obstruct not the influence of divine grace, which will produce in thee shame and contrition, repentance and godly sorrow, and will soften thy stoney heart, and make it a fountain of sa
lutary tears. Go out and weep bitterly, that thou hast denied the Lord that bought thee: Hope in his grace, though thou hast deserved only his wrath and the displeasure of God; and then be assured that in this hope thou shalt not be disappointed.
THE PRAYER. O BLESSED Jesus, faithful and adorable Saviour ! we praise thee for the glorious example of thy mercy, which thou hast shewn to thy fallen disciple Peter, for the comfort and support of all repenting sinners in all succeeding generations to the end of the world. Praised be thy name, who, in the midst of thy ignominy and ill-treatment when the sentence of death was passed on thee, didst not forget thine unhappy fallen disciple, and, by a look expressive of thy pastoral care and tenderness, didst recall this strayed sheep from his devious wanderings. We believe, O blessed Jesus, that in thy exalted state of glorification, thou still retainest the same affectionate love and compassion towards the meanest and most dejected sinner, as in the days of thy humiliation and sufferings. Be pleased to irradiate our hearts with this thy loving kindness; and let this example make such a deep impression on our minds, as may inspire us with hope in thy mercy, and preserve us from sinking into despair. Look upon us with an eye of pity and compassion, when we are unhappily fallen; and visit us with thy grace, that we may return into the way
of salvation. Amen.
THE BEHAVIOUR OF THE LORD JESUS DURING
THE UNJUST PROCEEDINGS OF THE
CIL OF JEWS.
him to death; but found none. Yea, though many bare false witness against him, their testimony agreed not together. At the last came two false witnesses, and bare false testimony against him, saying, We heard him say,
I am able to (I will] destroy this temple of God that is made with hands, and within three days I will build another made without hands. But neither so did their witness agree together. Then the High Priest arose and stood in the midst, and asked Jesus, saying, Answerest thou nothing? What is it that these witness against thee? But Jesus held his
peace and answered nothing.' (Matt. xxvi. 59– 63. Mark xiv. 55–61.)
These words exhibit to us the behaviour of the Lord Jesus during the unjust proceedings of the Sanhedrim. In which we shall
First, Consider the iniquitous proceeding of that assembly:
Secondly, Christ's behaviour on that occasion.
I. Previous to the former, let us consider the persons who concurred in the guilt of those unjust proceedings; and these were the chief Priests, the Elders, and the whole Council. The members of the Sanhedrim or great council, who were very numerous, and constituted both the ecclesiastical and civil polity of the Jews, were now assembled in the High Priest's palace to assist at Jesus's trial, and to pronounce sentence of death on him.
It may be thought somewhat strange, that the whole council should meet at so late and unseasonable a time of the night in the palace of the High Priest, and that they did not appoint a select committee for conducting their designs. But this was, in the first place, to make the people believe, that the passing sentence on Jesus of Nazareth was an affair of the highest necessity and importance, which required the presence of the whole council, and that the members of it, foregoing their natural rest, should, in a very extraordinary manner, and contrary to the established cus
tom, sit in the night, because the affair would not admit of any delay. Another motive probably was, that Pilate, the Roman governor, might conceive a higher idea of the importance of the trial ; and the more readily be induced to order the execution of a sentence, which had been unanimously passed on Jesus by such an august assembly, and at such an extraordinary hour. Such are the pretences with which the prince of this world, to this very day, imposes on the unthinking multitude. When he has by his evil suggestions
deluded and misled councils, convocations, synods, &c. to condemn real goodness; to pronounce truth to be error, and true piety a new sect and dangerous heresy, he can be at no loss to bring superficial minds over to his party. They think that councils have proved at large such and such doctrines and positions by their solemn decrees; and that persons of such great learning and knowledge would not give a sanction to such things, without going on certain grounds. Ought not more credit to be given to a whole assembly, whose members are not only judges of the affair, but have also maturely weighed all the arguments pro and con, than to a few individuals, who judge partially of things? These are the inferences of the undiscerning multitude, when Satan strikes a blow at the kingdom of Christ. But the ever-glorious son of God suffered himself to be sentenced to death by this august and venerable assembly, that he might expose and baffle these machinations of the spirit of darkness, which he carries on by means of the outward pomp, authority, and dignity of men. For who will now be dazzled by power, titles, and high station, so as to acquiesce in the decrees of men, when the most innocent person that ever appeared in the world has been condemned to die as a blasphemer, by the unanimous voice of a very respectable and learned assembly of lay men and ecclesiastics. Such were the persons who incurred the guilt of this iniquitous sentence.