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SIMON, who also received from our Lord the appellation of Peter, is invariably the first named on all the four lists of the apostles, and was, on several accounts, the chief of their company. He was one of the first who was called to be a disciple; though not the very first, for Andrew his brother appears to have been called before him, or at least at the same time with him. He was distinguished above the rest by the solemn predictions and trusts of his Master, by his uncommon zeal, and by his strong natural talents. He is altogether not only a conspicuous disciple, i but a remarkable man. The sacred historians give us more copious accounts of him than of the other apostles, and a distinct conception of his character may be gained from what they relate.
He was, as is stated two or three times in the Gospels, the son of John or Jona, who was probably, like his children, a fisherman. The family had lived in the town of Bethsaida, on the north
western side of the lake of Genesareth, otherwise called the sea of Tiberias, or the sea of Galilee, * where Peter was born; but they afterwards seem to have removed to the neighbouring city of Capernaum, and then consisted, as far as we can ascertain, of Simon himself, his brother, and his father, his wife, and her mother. When Galilee was the scene of our Saviour's ministry, Capernaum was the place of his most constant abode; and it is probable that his resort to it was determined in some measure by its being the residence of Peter, in whose house he is thought to have lodged.
As we learn from the evangelist John, Simon was acquainted with Jesus, and had heard him attentively, before he became one of the selected disciples. His brother Andrew was already one of the disciples of John the Baptist, and was standing with a fellow disciple in company with their master, at a time when Jesus was passing by. Looking upon him as he walked, John, by whom he had recently been baptized, exclaimed, “ Behold the Lamb of God!" Upon this, the two followed him, and, on the invitation of Jesus, went with him to his dwelling-place, and abode with him that day. Convinced of the justice of his claims, Andrew sought for his brother Simon, and saying to him, “We have found the Messias, or Christ,” he brought him to Jesus. And when Jesus beheld them, he said, “ Thou art Simon, the son of Jona; thou shalt be called Cephas," which is by interpretation into the Greek, Petra, and into English, a Rock. By this manner of receiving Simon, Jesus manifested that he was acquainted with him, and had formed an estimate of his character ; that he had marked him as one who was fitted by his energy and activity to establish his religion on durable foundations; that even now he intended him for a great work. The brothers may at this early period be considered as disciples or pupils of Jesus, though not yet chosen, according to the language of St. Mark, to " be with him always;" for they still continued fishermen. It is pleasant to know that the two who were first called to be disciples, were united together by the tie of natural brotherhood; that the one brother led the other to the Saviour ; that they pursued their simple occupation to gether; and that together they were called from that simple occupation to become fishers of men.
* This lake took its name of Galilee from the province in which it was situated, and of Genesareth and Tiberias, from towns on its coasts. It was more anciently called the Sea of Chinnereth. Numb. xxxiv. 11. Josh. xiii. 27.
That event took place a short time after, in the following manner. As Jesus stood by the lake, surrounded by a crowd who were pressing upon him to hear the word of God, he saw Simon and Andrew, in the practice of their usual occupation, and washing their nets on the shore. He entered their vessel, and prayed them to thrust out a little from the land, that he might the more conveniently teach the people. Then, having finished his discourse, he bade them launch out into the deep, and let down their net for a draught of fishes. It is now that we begin to perceive the ardent, affectionate, and confiding character of Peter. Though he and his companions had been toiling through the night without the least success, yet he at once consented to make another effort, in obedience to the wishes of Jesus. “ Nevertheless, at thy word,” he says, “ I will let down the net.” This was no sooner done, than such a multitude of fishes were enclosed, that the net began to break, and they were obliged to call their partners, who were in another ship, to assist them, and both ships were so filled with what they drew in as to be near sinking. On beholding this, Simon Peter, ever a man of impulses, “ fell down at Jesus' knees, saying, Depart from me, for I am a sinful man,
O Lord.” In a transport of fearful humility he beseeches Jesus to leave him, and not to stay with one so unworthy of his holy and wonderful presence. But Jesus, instead of leaving him, now gives him the call to his apostleship, saying to him, “ Fear not; from henceforth thou shalt catch men;" or as the other evangelists write, applying the words to both the brethren, “ I will make you fishers of men.” Readily accepting the invitation to become the constant companions of the Messiah, and perhaps secretly expecting worldly advantage from their connexion with so great a personage, they straightway left all, their property, their home, and their former friends, and followed him.
Peter's character now rapidly unfolds itself; a character of strong and contrasted features; bold, honest, and vehement, and yet wavering and inconstant; now forward and daring before all his companions, and now more timid than any of them. Wherever we meet with him, it is the same Simon that we see; distinguished alike for high and generous virtues, and for faults inconsistent with those virtues, and altogether unworthy of them. Strength and weakness, courage and irresolution, impetuosity and indecision, are mixed up in his temperament in a striking and yet per