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that our SAVIOUR may be nearer to us than we imagine, and preparing comfort for us when we think our. selves forgotten by him. He asked them if they had any meat, to encourage them to make their wants known to him; and prepared refreshment for them, to shew his compassion: thus instructing his followers to seek out modest want, and relieve it to the utmost of their ability.
Skilled as the Apostles were in fishing, they doubtless cast the net in the most likely place to catch fish. By directing them to remove it to a particular spot, our LORD shewed, that not even the inhabitants of the water were hidden from his sight; and that he was raised in power as the LORD; and also, that he has a regard to the temporal wants of his people; and that divine Providence extends to the minutest circumstances. By the success of the Apostles' obedience we are taught, that we may expect a blessing, if we make the word of our SAVIOUR the rule of our actions.
OUR LORD'S DISCOURSE WITH PETER.
So when they had dined, JESUS saith to Simon Peter, Simon son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, LORD; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs.
He saith unto him again the second time, Simon son of Jonas, lovest thou me? He saith unto him, Yea, LORD; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my sheep.
He saith unto him the third time, Simon son of Jónas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved, because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, LORD, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. JESUS saith unto him, Feed my sheep,
Verily, verily, I say unto thee, When thou wast young, thou girdest thyself, and walkest whither thou wouldest: but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not.
This spake he, signifying by what death he should glorify God. And when he had spoken this, he saith, unto him, Follow me.
Then Peter turning about, seeth the disciple whom JESUS loved, following; (which also leaned on his breast at supper, and said LORD, which is he that betrayeth thee?)
Peter seeing him, saith to JESUS, LORD, and what shall this man do?
JESUS saith unto him, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? Follow thou me.
Then went this saying abroad among the brethren, that that disciple should not die: yet JESUS said not unto him, He shall not die: but, if I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee?
This is the disciple which testifieth of these things, and wrote these things: and we know that his testimony is true.
ANNOTATIONS AND REFLECTIONS.
When the Apostles had made a plentiful meal on the provisions with which our LORD had so seasonably sup-¡ plied them, he addressed himself to Simon Peter; and: alluding
alluding to his former professions of love and fidelity, demanded whether he would now maintain, that he loved him more than the rest of his disciples. Peter's answer shews, that he was humbled and improved by his fall. He appealed to his LORD's knowledge of his heart, that he felt the most fervent affection for him; but made no vehement professions of it, nor presumed to say, that he loved him better than the rest of his bre thren. JESUS, knowing that Peter wished to give a sensible proof of his affection, intimated that the most acceptable manner of testifying his regard, would be to discharge with fidelity his apostolic office, and pay attention to the weakest members of his church; not only instructing the illiterate part of the community, but extending his care even to children.
To impress with the greater force, upon the mind of Peter, the duties belonging to him as a minister of the Gospel, our LORD repeated his question and injunction, requiring him to be careful of the whole flock (as he kindly denominated his disciples), and to suffer none to be ignorant of divine truths, whom he had power or opportunities to instruct.
That it might never be forgotten by him or any one present, our LORD a third time repeated his question, Peter, lovest thou me? Peter, reflecting with regret that he had ever given cause to his beloved Master to doubt his attachment, was greatly grieved, and earnestly pro. fessed his profoundest regard; appealing once more to our LORD's knowledge of the human heart for the proof of his professions, which enabled him to distinguish between frailty and treachery. To prove that he did so, our LORD confirmed him in his apostolic office, by a repetition of his command to FEED HIS SHEEP. He then assured Peter, that he should be strengthened to perform his duty and prove his love, not only by labours
but sufferings, and die a martyr in his cause, Our LORD therefore exhorted Peter to recollect the example he had set him, and endeavour to imitate it both in his life and death. This Peter was now ready to do, and prepared to attend his LORD, resolving never to forsake him or his cause. Turning about he observed, that John was also determined to follow his LORD at all events; he was therefore curious to know, whether this beloved disciple would likewise die a martyr: but as this was no immediate concern of Peter's, our LORD did not think fit to gratify his curiosity, but made him an ambiguous answer; which gave rise to a conjecture, that John would never die. But this was built upon a mistake.
In our LORD's behaviour to Peter, we have a representation of the kindness of God to penitent sinners, and an example to behave with meekness towards those who have formerly injured us and repented of it. From his injunction to Peter to feed his lambs, we may infer, that whoever undertakes the instruction of the young and ignorant in the truths of Christianity, performs acceptable service to our blessed REDEEMER. From his question to Peter, Lovest thou me? we may understand that the love of CHRIST is necessary to enable ministers of the Gospel to go through the duties of their office. It is observable that our LORD did not at this time invest Peter with any authority over the rest of the Apostles, but merely restored him to his apostolic office, which he had forfeited by denying his Master, yet the Papists from this instance, draw an argument for the Pope's supremacy derived from Peter.
By our LORD's prophecy that Peter should suffer crucifixion, he at once proved his own knowledge of future events, and Peter's affection for him. The zealous disciple, so far from forsaking his Master, resolved
now to adhere to him with inviolable fidelity, let the hazard be ever so great, and obeyed with alacrity our LORD's invitation to follow him. John certainly understood, that CHRIST'S call to Peter, "Follow me," extended to all his Apostles, therefore, without waiting for a particular command, he silently prepared to go wherever his beloved LORD should think proper to send him. Peter's curiosity shews the nature of the human mind, which, instead of keeping fixed on important subjects, is apt to wander to useless questions.
Our LORD's answer teaches us not to concern our. selves with other people's affairs, any farther than our own happiness, or the good of society or individuals requires. Our business is to follow our SAVIOUR, to walk in the way that he walked, and to imitate, to the best of our ability, his blessed example.
Many errors have arisen to the Church, from mistaking the words of CHRIST and his Apostles; we should therefore be very desirous to understand the true meaning of them. The best rule for this purpose is to take them literally where we can; and where they are evidently figurative or ambiguous, to endeavour to discover their import, by comparing them with plainer texts of scripture. Some passages, indeed, of the prophetic kind, are unavoidably involved in obscurity, and will remain so, till the events they relate to elucidate them; and others have a reference to things long since past, of a local nature, which we cannot comprehend for want of knowing the circumstances to which they referred. Let us not then neglect our duty, to attempt the investigation of what is absolutely impenetrable, but apply to ourselves our SAVIOUR's answer to Peter, What is that to thee? follow thou me.
This account of what passed at the sea of Tiberias, is