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effectually than any thing else could, -that he was not, in the common sense of the word, a sinful,-but a good man; who, like the publican in the temple was no less justified for a self-accusation, extorted merely from the humility of a devout heart, jealous of its own imperfections. And though the words, depart from me, carry in them the face of fear, yet he who heard them, and knew the heart of the speakers found they carried in them a greater measure of desire. For Peter was not willing to be discharged from his new guest ; but fearing his unfitness to accompany him, longed to be made more worthy of his conversation. A meek and modest distrust of himself seemed to have had no small share, at that time in his natural temper and complexion ; and though it would be greatly improved, and no doubt much better principled by the advantages on which I enlarged above, in his commerce and observation with his Lord and Master', yet it appears to have been an early and distinguishing part of his character.–And instance of this, though little in itself, and omitted by the other evangelists, is preserved by St. John, in his account of our Saviour's girding himself with a napkin, and washing the disciples feet ; to which office not one of them is represented as making any opposition. But when he came to Simon Peter, the Evangelist tells-Peter said to him, Dost THOU wash my feet? Jesus said unto him, What I do thou knowest not now, but shalt know hereafter.-Peter said unto him, Thou shalt never wash my feet. Humility for a moment triumphed over his submission ; and he expostulates with him upon it, with all the earnest and tender opposition which was natural to a humble heart, confounded with shame, that his Lord and Master should insist to do so mean and painful an act of servitude to hiin.
I would sooner form a judgment of a man's tem. per,
from his behaviour on such little occurrences of life as these, than from the more weighed and important actions, where a man is more upon his guard ;-has more preparation to disguise the true disposition of his heart, and more temptation when disguised, to impose it on others.
This management was no part of Peter's character ; who, with all the real and unaffected humility which he shewed, was possessed of such a quick sensibility and promptness of nature, which utterly unfitted him for art and premeditation ; though this particular cast of temper had its disadvantages, at the same time, as it led him to an unreserved discovery of the opinions and prejudices of his heart, which he was wont to declare, and sometimes in so open and unguarded a manner, as exposed him to the sharpness of a rebuke where he could least bear it.
I take notice of this, because it will help us in some measure to reconcile a seeming contradiction in his character, which will naturally occur here, from considering that great and capital failing of his life, when, by a presumptuous declaration of his own fortitude, he fell into the disgrace of denying his Lord ; in both of which he acted so opposite to the character here given, that you will ask,-how could so humble a man as you describe, ever have been guilty of so self-sufficient and unguarded a vaunt, as that, though he should die with his Master,--yet would he not deny him ?-Or whence that so sin
cere and honcst a man was not better able to pepe form it?
The case was this:
Our Lord, before he was betrayed, had taken occasion to admonish his disciples of the peril of laps. ing ; telling them (31st verse) “ All ye shall be of., “ fended because of me this night." To which Pe. ter answering, with a zeal mixed with too much confidence that though all should be offended, yet will I never be offended. To check this trust in himself, our Saviour replies, that he in particular should deny him thrice. But Peter looking upon this monition no farther than as it applied a reproach to his faith, his love, and his courage ; stung to the heart to have them called in question by his Lord, he hastily summons them all up to form his final resolution : Though I should die with thee, yet will I not deny thee. The resolve was noble and dutiful to the last degree, and I make no doubt as honest a one ; that is, both as just in the matter, and as sincere in the intention, as ever was made by any of mankind ;--his character not suffering us to imagine he made it in a' braying dissimulation :no; for he proved himself sufficiently in earnest by his subsequent behaviour in the garden, when he drew his sword against a whole band of men, and thereby made it appear, that he had less concern for his own life than he had for his Master's safety. How then came his resolution to miscarry ? The reason seems purely this :-Peler grounded the execution
upon too much confidence in himself; doubled not but his will was in his power, whether God's grace assisted him or not; surely thinking, that what he had courage to resolve so tionestly, he had
likewise ability to perform. This was his mistake; and though it was a very great one, yet it was in some degree a-kin to a virtue, as it sprung merely from a consciousness of his integrity and truth, and too adventurous a conclusion of what they would enable him to perform, on the sharpest encounters for his Master's sake: so that his failing in this point, was but a consequence of this hasty and ill-considered resolve ; and his Lord, to rebuke and punish him for it, did no other than leave him to his own strength to perform it; which, in effect, was almost the same as leaving him to the necessity of not performing it *at all. The great apostle had not considered, that he who precautioned him was the searcher of Hearts, and needed not that any should testify of man, for he knew what was in man; he did not remember that his Lord had said before, “ Without me ye can “ do nothing ;"—that the exertions of all our faculties were under the power of his will :-he had for. got the knowledge of this needful truth, on this one unhappy juncture, where he had so great a temptation to the contrary, though he was full of the persuasion in every other transaction of his life, but most visibly here in the text ; where he breaks forth in the warm language of a heart still overflowing with remembrance of this very mistake he had once committed,“ Ye men of Israel, why marvel ye at " this ? as though by our own power and holiness e we had wrought this ? -the God of Abraham, of “ Isaac, and of Jacob, the God of our fathers, through “ faith in his name, hath made this man whole, « whom ye see and know.”'
This is the best answer I am able to make to this objection against the uniformity of the apostle's
character which I have given :-upon which let it be added,—that was no such apology capable of being made in its behalf, that the truth and regularity of a character is not, in justice, to be looked upon as broken, from any one single act or omission which may seem a contradiction to it;the best of men appear sometimes to be strange compounds of contradictory qualities; and, were the accidental oversights and folly of the wisest man, the failings and imperfections of a religious man, the hasty acts and passionate words of a meek mang-were: they to rise up in judgment against them,--and an ill-natured judge be suffered to mark in this manner what has been done amissy-what character so unexceptionable as to be able to stand before him ?so that, with the candid allowances which the infirm.. ities of a man may claim when he falls through surprise more than a premeditation, one may venture upon the whole to sum up Peter's character in a few words :-he was a man sensible in his nature-of quick passions, tempered with the greatest humility, and most unaffected poverty of spirit that ever met in Ich a character. So that in the only criminal. instance of his life, which I have spoken to, you are at a loss which to admire most;the tenderness and sensibility of his soul, in being wrought upon to repentance by a look from Jesus ;-or the uncogimon humility of it, which he testified thereupon, in the bitterness of his sorrow for what he had done. He was once presumptuous in trusting to his own strength; his general and true character was that of the most engaging meekness, distrustful of him self and his abilities to the last degree.