« EdellinenJatka »
was at once the labour and the pleasure of his life. When at home, he slept little, he rose early, and after spending the mornings in his study, and his closet, he appeared to be almost always in the pulpit, among the families of his charge comforting and encouraging them with his pious advice, and instructing their children in the principles of the gospel; or in the midst of his school assisting his teachers, and superintending the progress of his pupils; or animating and directing his theological students. Often he embraced all these duties in the same day; yet with such perfect order and despatch, that they never seemed to interfere with one another. When apparently exhausted, the evening devotions of the family exhilarated and refreshed him again. Devotion, and the service of his Redeemer, appeared to be to him, if I may use the expression, the elixir of life. When he was weak, it evidently repaired his strength; when he was exhausted, it restored his spirits. The character of his devotion was, at once, fervent and rational, humble and serene; it mingled the deepest sense of human imperfection with the confidence of faith; the humblest penitence, with the cheerfulness of hope. Never, during the period of a long ministry, was he withheld by sickness from entering the pulpit on the sabbath, except once. And then, although confined to his chamber by a fever, having assembled the principal members of his church, and being placed in an easy chair, he spoke to them with his usual energy on the comforts, the duties, and the joys of religion.
He was certainly among the most able theologians, the most profound casuists, and the most convincing and successful preachers of his age. He died as he lived, beloved and revered by all who had the happiness intimately to know him; and his memory will long be precious in the western churches.
THE LIFE OF SIMON PETER, THE APOSTLE.
[Continued from vol. I. page 563.] We now enter on the last sad night of our Redeemer's sufferings. Even then, the contest for greatness appears to have been revived among the apostles. In vain had a child been held up as a pattern to them. They required that the same instruction should he placed in a new light, and enforced with peculiar energy in the person of the Son of God. Jésus girded himself with a towel, and began to wash the feet of his astonished disciples, not excepting those of the traitor who sold him. Simon Peter could neither suppress nor
conceal his emotions at the sight. But when our Lord came to perform upon him this humiliating oflice, he exclaimed, Lord, dost thou wash my feet? Language could express no more; and the man who shares St. Peter's feelings is ready to conclude, that humanity could say no less. But the passions, though designed as a source of enjoyment, and to give energy to action, are not the safest guides of life. In the present instance, they prevented St. Peter from attending to the dictates of good sense and piety, and hurried him into the use of expressions disrespectful to his Master. Even after Christ had mildly reproved his self-will, Peter persisted in his refusal, Thou shalt never wash my feet. Our Saviour, without showing any warmth at Peter's ill-timed perverseness, calmly addressed to him an argument as tender as it was forcible, Unless I wash thee, thou hast no part in me. To this Simon replied, in the same spirit of ardent but misguided affection, Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head. Jesus saith, He that is washed by me, needest not save 10 wash his feet; but is clean every whit. May every Christian, but chiefly the ministers of the sanctuary, meditate on this instructive incident: and may all who admire the humility of Jesus, in thus washing the feet of his disciples with water, recollect that they themselves must perish, unless he wash them from their sins in his precious blood!
No sooner were the apostles seated, than a general alarm was excited by the declaration of our Lord, that one of them should betray him. Each anxiously inquired, Lord, is it I? and St. Peter, too confident of his own integrity, and impatient to ascertain the traitor, made a sign to the beloved disciple to put a question, which was answered by Jesus in such a manner, as gave the rest of the apostles no immediate information on the subject. On the retreat of Judas, however, our Lord, freed from the presence of his faithless servant, began to glorify God, and to speak of his approaching sufferings. Having told them, Whither I go, ye cannot come; the zealous Peter asked, Lord, whither goest thou? Jesus answered Whither I go, thou canst not follow me now; but thou shalt follow me afterwards. Not satisfied with this gracious and honourable assurance, the presumptuous apostle replied Lord, why cannot I follow thee now? I will lay down my life for thee. To this confident profession, our Lord opposed his own infallible knowledge, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, the cock shall not crow, till thou hast denied me chrice. That Jesus should suppose him capable of so base an action could not fail to distress St. Peter, but he remained unconvinced of his weakness, and obstinately confiding in his own strength of mind, gave the lie to the wisdom and reracity of his Master.
After concluding an address and prayer, admirably calculated to comfort and support his disciples, our Lord retired with them to the Mount of Olives, and there testified, All ye shall be offended because of me this night; for it is written, I will smite the shepherd and the sheep shall be scattered. Then, turning to Peter, as to the one most exposed to danger, he said, Simon, Simon, behold Satan has desired to have thee, that he may sift thee as wheat. But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not; and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren. With his usual self-confidence, Peter answered, Lord, I am ready to go with thee, both into prison, and to death. Alihough all my brethren shall be offended, yet will not I. To this Jesus replied, I tell thee, Peter, a rock as I have called thee, the cock shall not crow this day, before thou shalt thrice deny that ihou knowest me. But Peter spake more vehemently, If I should die with thee, yet will I not deny thee in any wise. The other disciples also, misled perhaps by his example, and conceiving it a point of honour, not to yield to Peter in their expressions of attachment, made similar protestations.
Jesus then retired into the garden of Gethsemane, and leaving the other disciples, took with him only Peter, James, and John, to to be the witnesses of his passion. And having directed them to watch while he prayed, he went to a little distance and poured out the sorrows of his overburdened spirit to God. But when he returned to his disciples, he found them asleep, notwithstanding the warmth of their professions. To St. Peter he addressed a mild reproof, and then admonishing them to watch and pray, lest they should fall into temptation, though at that moment the sins and sorrows of the world pressed on his soul, and his person was bathed in a bloody sweat, he added, with more than human candour, the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak. A second and a third time he prayed; a second and a third time they slept. How striking is the contrast between a deceitful confidence in ourselves, and a lively faith in God! The one negligently slumbers like Peter, the other watches and prays like Christ.
The Captain of our salvation, being now armed at all points, rouses his slumbering followers, and summons them to attend him to the field. He advances as a sheep goeth to the slaughter; meekly receives the kiss of his betrayer; and delivers himself up to the officers, a willing victim. But here our rash apostle interposed to prevent the sacrifice; and in order to make good his protestations, attacked the officers with a sword. At his Master's command, however, he sheathed the sword, and perceiving that Jesus declined the services of an arm of flesh, his courage failed, him, and he fled. Simon Peter was willing to die as a man in de. fence of his Master; but to die as an apostle, in the exercise of heavenly fortitude, meekness and charity, by his Saviour's side, was a degree of heroism for which he was not prepared.
After Christ was led away, St. Peter seems to have, in some measure, recalled his courage; and, impelled by love and shame, as well, perhaps, as stimulated, by the example of St. John, he followed his Master to the palace of the high priest, and there waited the event. The indignities offered to his Lord, probably depressed rather then raised his courage; for being challenged unexpectedly as a follower of the Galilean, his trembling lips denied the charge, I know not what thou sayest. Having once quitted the path of truth and duty, every moment would diminish his faith and increase his fears; accordingly, on a second accusation, he answered, I know not the man; and on the third, he confirmed his denial by oaths and curses. Immediately the cock crew, and the Lord turned and looked upon Peter, and Peter remembered the word of the Lord, and went out, and wept bitterly.
From the ignominious fall of this affectionate and intrepid apostle, we are taught, that the strongest resolutions, if they arise from a confidence in our own natural powers, are totally inadequate to the life and warfare of faith; and that men of the most unquestionable piety, ought to think soberly of the grace given them, and be on their guard against that false zeal, which precipitates them on services, for which their faith and their knowledge are altogether inadequate. Self-confident zeal is always dangerous, and frequently destructive. In Saul, it was a fire which consumed the church; in Peter, a flame which had nearly destroyed himself. Both were thrown to the ground, and humbled in the dust, before they were made vessels meet for their Master's service.
Now was the mighty fallen and this pillar of the faith become a weak and bruised reed. The least severe treatment might have plunged him into desperation, and made him the companion of the wretched Iscariot. But far was it from the merciful Saviour of sinners, to correct the weakness of Peter with the same rod, which was employed to punish the deliberate wickedness of a Judas. The state of the apostle's mind, from the time of his denying Christ till he was again assured of pardon and favour, may be more easily imagined then described. Guilt, shame, sorrow, fear, and hope, would alternately prevail in his bosom; but godly sorrow, supported by some indistinct expectation of his Lord's resurrection, and a long tried knowledge of his goodness, preserve ed him from despair. His brethren, who had all shared in the
guilt of abandoning their Master, would now share his sorrow, and endeavour by sympathy to diminish their pressure.
The third great day at length arrived, and while the disciples still indulged their grief, the women, who had gone to the sepulchre, not in the hope of seeing their Saviour alive, but in order to embalm his dead body, returned breathless and amazed, declaring that the stone was removed from the sepulchre, and that they had seen a vision of angels, who charged them to acquaint the apostles, and especially Peter, that Jesus was risen, and gone before them into Galilee. But the words of the women seemed to them as idle tales, and they believed them not. Nevertheless, Peter and John ran eagerly to the sepulchre, entered it, and saw the grave clothes of Jesus lying there. While St. Peter remained in a state of dubious wonder, St. John believed, and confesses ingenuously, As yet, they knew not the scripture, that he must rise from the dead.
Mary, who had returned to the sepulchre, and remained there weeping, under the idea that the body of her Lord was stolen, was the first for whose comfort Jesus manifested himself after his resurrection. She immediately returned to announce to the disciples the joyful news; but still they believed not. Our Saviour's next visit was to wipe away the tears of Simon, and though we have no account of this interview, yet so satisfactory was St. Peter's testimony, that the apostles believed it, and when the two disciples, who had seen Jesus at Emmaus, came in the evening to report his resurrection, their information was anticipated, and they were told, The Lord is risen indeed, and hath appeared unto Simon!
St. Peter was probably present, at most of the remarkable manifestations of Jesus after his resurrection, but we have no records of any in which he was particularly interested, but one which happened on the sea of Tiberias. The sons of Zebidee, Thomas, Nathaniel, and two others, had accompanied St. Peter a fishing; but during the night they took nothing. In the morning, Jesus, standing on the shore, bade them cast their net on the right side of the ship, and they should find. And when they had done so, they were not able to draw it, for the multitude of fishes. No sooner had the beloved disciple, struck with the miracle, said, It is the Lord, than St. Peter threw himself into the sea, and swam ashore. When the net was drawn, Jesus sat down with his disciples to dine; and after dinner, fixing his eyes on Peter, he said, Simon son of Jonah, lovest ihou me more than these thy fellow disciples? He saith, Yea, Lord, thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus said, Feed my lambs. Then he saith unto him again, Lovest thou me ? He saith, Yca, thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith, Feed my