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to my God and Saviour. Among the transports excited by objects so elating, if any wish yet remain, it is to see you speedily associated with me, in the same society, and participating the same felicity May eaven hear my prayer! To God be honour and glory for ever. Amen.
St. Peter's Denial of his Master.
Matt. xxvi. 69, &c. LUKE xxii. 61, &c.
Now Peter sat without in the palace ; and a damsel
came unto him, saying, Thou also wast with Jesus of Galilee. But he denied before them all, saying, I know not what thou sayest. And when he was gone out into the porch, another maid saw him, and said unto them that were there, This fellow was also with Jesus of Nazareth. And again he denied with an oath, I do not know the man. And after a while came unto him them that stood by, and said to Peter, Surely, thou also art one of them, for thy speech betrayeth thee. Then began he to curse and to swear, saying, I know not the man. And immediately while he yet spake, the cock cren. And the Lord turned, and looked upon Peter ; and Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how he had suid unto him, Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice. And Peter went out, and wept bitterly.
IT is laudable, my brethren, to form the noble design of not being moved by the presence of danger, and to cherish dignity of sentiment and thought.
This virtue distinguishes the heroes of our age, and it equally distinguishes the heroes of religion and piety. They defy the whole universe to shake their faith ; amid the greatest dangers, they adopt this language of triumph: Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or the sword? Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors, through him that hath loved us, Rom. vii. 34-36.
But how laudable soever this disposition may be, it ought to be restricted; it degenerates into presumption, when carried to extremes. Many, not knowing how to proportion their strength to their courage, have fallen in the day of trial, and realized the wary maxim, They that love the danger, shall perish by the danger. This is exemplified in the person of St. Peter. His heart, glowing with attachment to his Master, every thing was promised from his zeal. Seeing Jesus on the waters, he solicited permission to walk 'like the Saviour ; but feeling his feet sink beneath the surface of the unstable waters, he distrusted either the power or the fidelity of his Master ; and unless supported by his compassionate arms, he had made shipwreck, to express myself with St. Paul, both of his faith and his life together. Seeing Jesus led away to the high-priest's house, he followed without hesitation, and resolved to follow even to the cross. Here, likewise, on seeing the angry Jews, the armed soldiers, and a thousand terrific appearances of death, he saved bis life by a base denial; and, unless his forfeited faith had been restored by a look from his Lord, the bonds of union had been totally dissolved.
In the examination of this history, we shall see first, the cowardice of an apostle, who yielded, for the moment, to the force of temptation. We shall see, secondly, Jesus Christ vanquishing the enemy of our salvation, and depriving him of his prey, by a single glance of bis eyes. We shall see, lastly, a penitent recovering from his fall: and replying, by his tears, to the expressive looks of Jesus Christ :-three inexhaustible sources of reflection.
We shall consider, first, the fall of St. Peter; and it will appear deplorable, if we pay attention to the object which excited his fear, and to the circumstances with which it was connected.
The object which excited his fear, was martyrdom. Let us not magnify moral ideas. The fear of martyrdom is inseparable from human weakness. The most desperate diseases afford some fluctuating hopes of recovery, which diminish the fears of death. It is an awful thing for a man to see the period of his death precisely fixed, and within the distance of a day, an hour, a moment. And if it is awful to approach a death, obvious (so to speak) to our view, how much more awful, when that death is surrounded with tortures, with racks, with pincers, with caldrons of boiling oil, and all those instruments invented by superstitious zeal and ingenious malice. II, however, there were occasion to deplore the weakness of man, it is on account of the fears excited by the idea of martyrdom. Follow us then while we illustrate this assertion.
That men must die is one of the most certain and evident propositions ever advanced. Neither vice nor virtue, neither religion nor infidelity, nor any consideration, can dispense with this common lot of man. Were a system introduced of living for ever on the earth, we should undoubtedly become our own enemies, by immolating the hope of future felicity, for a life of such inquietude as that we should enjoy on the earth. And if there had been such a Jise, perhaps we should have been base enough to give it the preference of religious hope. If it had failed in securing the approbation of the mind, it would, at least, have interested the concupiscence of the heart. But, whatever is our opinion, die we must: this is an indisputable fact, and no one dares to controvert it.
Prudence, unable to avert the execution of the sentence, should be employod in disarining its terrors: destitute of all hope of escaping death, we ought to employ all our prudence in the choice of that kind of death, which is most supportable. And what is there in the severest sufferings of inartyrs, which is not preferable to the death we expect from nature? If I consider death as an abdication of all I enjoy, and as an impenetrable veil, which coneveals the objects of sense, I see nothing in the death of the martyr, that is not common to every other kind of death. To die on a bed, to die on a scaffold, is equally to leave the world; and the sole difference is, that the martyr finding nothing but troubles, gibbets, and crosses, in this lise, detaches him