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who are represented as having at several times accused Peter. Now, it is highly probable that though the apostle made but three distinct de nials, he was yet accused by many, who in a tumultuous manner may have raised their voices against him, and thus rendered it doubtful who was the prominent assailant among a number of clamorous witnesses. In short, the accounts of the evangelists are evidently but sketches of a scene in which many things occurred which are not related by either, and some things, which are recorded by one, though omitted by another. The main facts, however, agree in all; and this being the case, the variations accord so well with the character of the scene described, and the agitation which all parties must have been in, that they only add truth to truth.
Only imagine the scene! Jesus, standing bound, as if he had been a criminal, surrounded by soldiers and exulting enemies, and questioned like an apprehended culprit by the high priest, but dignified, collected, and prepared for the worst; while just below is his chief disciple, in the midst of a servile crowd, agonized with terror, and endeavouring with all his native vehemence, and with a native accent too, which of itself contradicts him, to clear himself before his con
temptible accusers from the imputation of having any thing to do with one whom he had been following daily and hourly for months, and whom, but a few moments ago, he had promised to follow to prison and to death! But the measure of his degradation is not yet full; for again, the third time, is the charge repeated; “Surely, thou also art one of them, for thy speech betrayeth thee.” And then, as others are apt to do, who become more boisterous the more they are in the wrong and the nearer they are to detection, and who call the God of truth to witness their transgressions of truth, the unhappy man “ began to curse and to swear, saying, I know not the man. And immediately the cock crew." How dark is the account now of disgrace and crime against the fallen disciple! Ingratitude, cowardice, falsehood, profanity! It was the lowest fall; and, happily, it was the last. “ The Lord turned, and looked upon Peter.” What a volume of pathos and eloquence is contained in those few simple words! His Lord looked upon him, “and with that gracious and chiding look called him back to himself and him.” He remembered all; remembered his Master's love, remembered his Master's warning, remembered his own duty. Conviction falls upon him, repentance overwhelms him, and he went out and wept bitterly.
“ What language in that look! Swifter than thought
The apostle's eye it caught,
And sank into his very soul!
Away he stole,
Bitterly he wept!” From this time till after the crucifixion of Jesus, we hear no more of Peter.
He probably passed this distressing interval in remorse and tears; and there is no doubt that his repentance was entire and sincere, and that his character was much improved and purified by the late fiery trial through which it had been led; for we find that Jesus, on the morning of his resurrection, after he had shown himself to Mary Magdalene, appeared also to Peter, according to an especial message which he had sent to him by an angel, in testimony of his continued confidence in him. *
* The message was delivered by the angel to the Marys, who reported it to Peter. The angel, or young man clothed in white, says to the women, “ Tell his disciples, and Peter, that he goeth before you into Galilee ; there shall ye see him, as he said unto you." ; What a touching pledge of forgiveness and reconciliation ! The moral to be derived from the history of Peter's fall, is thus well and concisely brought home to us in the following verse by Cowper.
Beware of Peter's word,
Nor confidently say
But, “Grant I never may!”
That Peter had returned to his allegiance, is manifest from the fact that he was the first of the male disciples who descended into the tomb wherein the Saviour had been laid.
Some days afterwards, as several of the disciples were fishing together in a vessel, on the sea of Tiberias, Jesus appeared to them on the shore. On this occasion we may again observe a symptom of Peter's characteristic ardor. No sooner had he understood from John that it was the Lord who stood on the shore, and had been speaking with them, than he girt his fisher's coat about him, cast himself into the sea, and in this manner gained the land, while the rest came after him in the vessel. When they had all dined on the fish which had been taken, Jesus required of Peter that thrice repeated assurance of his love, in which a fanciful interpreter would discover a direct allusion to the late thrice repeated denial. On receiving each assurance, his Lord gives him an especial charge to feed his sheep. He then signified to him, though darkly, by what death he should glorify God; but refused to gratify his curiosity respecting the fate of his fellow disciple, John.
In the Gospels, we have no further information respecting this apostle. On turning to the book
of Acts, however, he is immediately presented to us in his former rank and station, as chief of the apostles, speaking in their name, and presiding at their meetings. It is he who proposes that the vacated place of Judas Iscariot should be supplied by lot.
When some of those who were present at the effusion of the Holy Spirit, and the gift of tongues, mocked at the disciples, and said that they were full of new wine, it was Peter who in a most spirited manner refuted the slander, and spoke so powerfully of his Master's claims, that on the same day there were added to the number of Christian believers, about three thousand souls. It was Peter who healed the lame man at the Beautiful Gate of the temple; who addressed the people on that occasion; who, when arraigned before the chief priests, declared so boldly to them that salvation was alone by Jesus Christ; and who, when he and his companion John were commanded not to speak at all nor teach in that name, returned, jointly with the beloved disciple, that heroic answer, “Whether it be right in the sight of God, to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye.” It was Peter who exposed the deception of Ananias and his wife Sapphira, and at whose feet they both fell down dead. And it was Peter, who, by his