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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, preserva ed him from despair. His brethren, who had all shared in the VOL. II.
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 ah, 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, yea, thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith, l'eed my
sheep. A third time he saith, Lovest thou me? Now Peter was grieved when the question was pressed a third time, and he said, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith again, Feed my sheep. Thus kindly did the good Physician probe the wounds of his apostle, with a view to prevent his relapse into self-confidence, to reinstate him in the good opinion of the church, and to comfirm him in his apostleship. Finally, to render the stability of this great man incontestable, and that all might know he was now a tried and approved stone, Jesus predicted the death whereby he was to glorify God, and concluded with the exhortation, Follow me.
The sorrows of the church were now converted into joy; and the resurrection of Christ being established by infallible proof, his apostles were animated with the hope of seeing the throne of David re-established. Therefore, on the very morning of his ascension, they asked him, Lord, wilt thou, at this time, restore the kingdom to Israel? To which he replied, that it was not for them to know the times and the seasons, which the Father had put in his own power; but that when the Holy Ghost should fall upon them, they should receive power and bear witness of him to the ends of the earth. Then ascending to heaven in the presence of five hundred witnesses, he cast a further light on the true nature of his kingdom, and for ever convinced them, that it was not of the world. While wrapt in astonishment they gazed on their ascending Lord, two angels checked their admiration at an event for which they ought to have been prepared; and declared, that Jesus should hereafter come, in the same manner in which they bad seen him ascend. Happily freed from those stubborn prejudices which had hitherto obscured their views, they returned to Jerusalem with sentiments far easier to conceive than to express. There, daily expecting the promise of the Father, they spent the peaceful interval which preceded the day of Pentecost, in the exercises of brotherly love, godly exhortation, and fervent prayer,
[To be continued.]
RELIGIOUS AND MORAL DISCUSSIONS.
ON THE EXCELLENCE OF THE CLERICAL OFFICE.
The office of a Christian Minister is unquestionably the most exalted situation to which the mind of man can aspire. If it be regarded in its absolute and intrinsical character, it will appear to possess every thing which can invest the person who fills it with solemnity and importance. The man who obeys the call of providence in entering upon such a condition, receives a dispensation to which the truest dignity is attached. He is made, in a peculiar sense, the servant of God; and, embarked in a cause which involves the glory of his grace, he becomes an organ through which the will of the Almighty is communicated to the moral and intelligent part of his creation. He has indeed no original matters of revelation to impart, no new and hitherto undiscovered truths to divulge; but he has to deliver a recorded message, to enforce a prescribed law, and to exhibit, declare, and expound, the written and published statutes of the Most High. In acting according to his instructions, he is empowered to take the highest ground, and to magnify his office by delivering his commission in the name of the Lord. The mild and beneficent spirit of the gospel throws an amiable grace round this pre-eminence, and commends him to the world under the dignified yet acceptable character of the ininister of reconciliation and the messenger of peace. The infirmities of nature, in which he must ever participate with those whom he instructs, constitute no objection to the reasoning employed. The panegyric which has been drawn belongs to the condition and not to the man. Should the party who engages in it be found unequal to its duties, or faithless to its interests, neither his incompetency nor his treachery will prove, that what has been advanced is not strictly true. He may disgrace himself, and excite prejudice against the trust he has abused, in weak minds or depraved hearts; but the wise and good will know how to separate the individual from the minister, and to distinguish between the vicious hireling and the pastor after God's own heart.
The clerical office is furtherennobled by being rendered at once distinct and indelible. There is something which expresses the reputed importance of this station, in that regulation by which the individual who enters upon it becomes, as it were, separated from the mass of his secular brethren. Conscious, as it should seem, of that sanctity which belongs to “ a steward of the mysteries of God,” he devotes himself to the various and interesting duties of his profession. His situation is of such a nature as to indicate the peculiar veneration with which his office is regarded, and the line of separation which is drawn between him and others. Men of loose principles and dissolute lives immediately see the impropriety of any approach in a person of the sacred order, to a character like their own. Indeed the indignation expressed against secular employments, worldly ambition, or fashionable amusements, in this description of men, is so much homage paid to the office they sustain; and the ministers of religion may consider themselves as not a little flattered by that distinction, which renders actions immoral in them that would be regarded as innocent in the rest of mankind.
To these considerations must be added, the consequences which depend upon the exercise of the clerical profession. As an instrument, under providence, of removing blindness from the understanding and hardness from the heart, and thereby making way for that grace which brings salvation, this office is entitled to peculiar respect. Its preponderance, in such a view, over other conditions of honour and usefulness must be estimated by the relative value of things seen and things unseen, of things temporal and things eternal. Patriotism has many claims to our homage, but piety more; and the man who has saved a falling state appears considerable, only till he is placed beside him who has saved a perishing soul. That immortal substance for which Christ died, and for which every faithful pastor labours, has a value which no human calculation can reach; and he who sustains its awful functions acquires, in that capacity, a degree of importance proportioned to those mighty issues which depend upon his ministration.
It should not at the same time be forgotten, that so far as the temporal interests of mankind can be meliorated, the clerical office seeks that melioration. Peace, sobriety and decorum, social union and civil subordination; in a word, private integrity and public virtue are among the duties to which the disciple of Christ must attend in his way to eternal life. The preacher therefore finds it no inconsiderable part of his official employment, to strengthen the bonds of political and moral obligation; and thus the office which he bears is ennobled by beautifying the face of society upon earth, while it is forming a community for the kingdom of heaven.
The candidate for a profession thus dignified by intrinsical excellence, public distinction, and moral importance, should deeply revolve the nature of that office to which he 'aspires. He should contemplate the christian priesthood in all the variety of its relations and requirements. He should consider its connexion respectively with God and man, and the honour which it derives from