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sacred principles, are there no instances of a melancholy falling off? The instance of St Peter, before us, too plainly evinces the contrary; yet, as I have already remarked, my brethren, although this Apostle was ardently religious, he did not possess at this period the Humility of a religious mind. He had strong impressions of the worth and Divine excellence of his Master, perhaps in a greater degree than any other of the Apostles. It was he, you know, who made the beautiful declaration-" Lord, to whom shall we go ? Thou hast the words of eternal life. And we believe, and are sure, that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God.”-No one, then, could have a profounder sense of the perfections of his Lord ; but alas ! he had at this time no deep sense of his own imperfection and weakness--a sense which, wherever it exists in a character, goes far to secure it from the risk of any very considerable misconduct. It produces that caution and diligence, which, in the language of this very Apostle-lead us to “ add to our faith virtue, and to virtue knowledge, and to knowledge temperance, and to temperance patience, and to patience godliness, and to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness charity :-Wherefore, brethren, (he adds) give diligence to make your calling and election sure ; for if ye do these things ye shall never fall !"
I have thus endeavoured to point out the defects which led to the fall of St Peter, and which are the leading circumstances in every considerable failure of human virtue ;-and I have, at the same time, suggested those means by which, with Divine aid, our conduct may be rendered more secure. The Season in which we now meet renders these observations more pe. culiarly applicable. It is a time for Meditation and Repentance--a time to call to mind our several offences against God and man, and to make such firm resolutions as may enable us to advance again into the world with less hazard of future failure. Yet, instructed from this instance of St Peter, never let us proceed in vain security. Let it rather be our aim cautiously to provide against the temptations which are ever before us ; to make the laws of duty our constant study, and greatest practical concern ; and, in the humility of our souls, to have recourse to the protecting shield of Faith, that we may have power “ to withstand on the evil day, and having done all to stand.”
The young, especially, are called to bear these truths in mind. In their age the principles of duty are yet but imperfectly formed in their hearts—and they are, at the same time, naturally presumptuous respecting the stability of their conduct. Many of them, I doubt not, are now forming serious determinations to advance in all virtue and holiness, which they are desirous to have impressed upon their souls in the approaching solemnity of Confirmation, and afterwards at the Altar of their Saviour.
These resolutions are wise, my young friends, and it is certainly in your power to adhere to them; yet this cannot be done, if you
should afterwards carelessly wander within the precincts of every seduction if you take no pains to improve your perceptions of duty, and to strengthen your resolutions—if you trust alone to your own strength, and continue not to im-, plore the guardian protection of Heaven !
“Whatsoever things, then, are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good
report ; if there be any virtue, if there be any praise, think on these things.”
“ In every thing, by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds, through Christ Jesus.”
ON THE REPENTANCE OF PETER. *
LUKE, xxii. 61, 62.
And the Lord turned and looked upon Peter,
and Peter remembered the words of the Lord, how he had said unto him, Before the cock crow thou shalt deny me thrice. And Peter went out and wept bitterly.
In a former discourse, I called your attention to those defects in his character, which naturally led to the disgraceful fall of St Peter. I suggested, that, at this period of his history, he was more guided by strong impulses
* Preached during Lent.