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to become the constant companions of the Messiah, and perhaps secretly expecting worldly advantage from their connection 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 ir. resolution, impetuosity and indecision, are mixed up in his temperament in a striking and yet perfectly natural combination ; and at the bottom of the whole there is a purity of feeling, and an integrity of purpose, which endear him to his Master, and fit him at last for his important destination and office.
One of the occasions which may be noticed as developing these characteristics is that of his attempt to walk on the sea to meet Jesus. We are informed that after the miracle of the loaves and fishes, which took place on one side of the lake, Jesus commanded his disciples to pass over to the
other in a vessel, while he remained to send the multitude away. A storm overtook the ship when she was in the midst of the sea, and, while she was tossing on the waves, Jesus came to them in the fourth watch of the night, or towards morning, walking on the sea, as on dry land. At this extraordinary sight the disciples were troubled, saying, “ It is a spirit”; and to such a height was their terror excited, that they cried out for fear. But Jesus immediately spoke to them, and bade them not to be afraid, for it was himself. No sooner does Peter hear his voice, than he not only dismisses his fear, but gives loose to his enthusiasm, and unwilling to wait till his Master reaches the vessel, and perhaps, too, tempted a little to display his faith, and do some great thing, he exclaims, before the others have recovered the use of their speech, “Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water.” And Jesus, knowing him perfectly, and willing at once to gratify, to test, and to instruct him, said, " Come.” Peter descends from the ship, and walks towards his Master. But the storm was stronger than his trust; and when he felt himself out, so strangely and awfully, amidst the dashing foam and the boisterous wind, he was afraid, and he forgot his confidence; and his faith, which hitherto had borne him up, grew faint and unable to hold him, and, beginning to sink, he cried again, and with
the voice of despair, to Jesus, “ Lord, save me!” “ And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt ?" That was all the Saviour said ; that mild rebuke, so unlike the denunciations which his professed followers in other ages have launched at what they have been pleased to call, but could not with certainty know to be, deficiencies of faith ; that mild rebuke from him who did know all things was the only punishment for the failing faith of the disciple, — " Wherefore didst thou doubt ?” Wherefore, after seeing what thou hast seen, and hearing what thou hast heard, couldst thou doubt? And he raised the self-convicted man, and brought him into the ship, and “the wind ceased."
Notwithstanding Simon's occasional misgivings and temporary weaknesses, his fidelity was in the main firm and certain, because it was founded on the real goodness and tenderness of his nature. There was a time, when, as related in the sixth chapter of the Gospel of John, many of the followers of Jesus “ went back, and walked no more with him,” because he spoke to them obscurely and figuratively of his office and kingdom, and because, from what they did understand, they began to suspect that there was something much more spiritual and much less lucrative and splendid in his proposed dominion than suited with their earthly conceptions. They went back, therefore, and walked no more with him. Then said Jesus unto the twelve, his chosen twelve, “ Will ye also go away ? ” To whose heart, of those twelve hearts, does the affecting appeal first find its way? Who answers it first? The same man who but just now was afraid of the wind. “ Then Simon Peter answered him, 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.” Generous, full-hearted, though too inconstant disciple ! Though others desert that good and gentle Master, thou wilt not leave him. In this time of trial thy heart has kept thee right. Thou art like some tall and comely tree, whose pliant trunk is swayed hither and thither by the passing storm, but whose tenacious root spreads wide abroad, and pierces deep beneath, and still reclaims the waving plant, and binds it firmly to the soil it loves.
At yet another time also, Peter made the same open and bold confession. It was when Jesus, having asked his disciples whom men said that he was, and having received their answer, put the question to them, saying, “ But whom say ye that I am ?" Again it is the ardent Simon who advances before the rest, and answers unhesitatingly,
“ Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.” This renewed proof of his attachment and faith draws forth the marked approbation of his Master, who answered him and said, “ Blessed art thou, Simon, son of Jona; for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father who is in heaven. The Spirit of God, himself, hath enlightened thee. And I say also unto thee, that thou art Peter. I have already called thee a rock, and upon this rock will I build my church, and the gates of the place of death shall not pre. vail against it. Upon thy exertions shall the foundations of my church be laid, and laid so strongly that they shall never be overturned nor destroyed. And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven."
That by these words of Jesus a certain degree of apostolic pre-eminence was conferred on Peter, I think is too plain to be disputed; though some over-zealous Protestants have denied the fact. But why they should wish to deny it, I cannot see ; for I cannot see how the primacy which his Lord chose to confer on him should disturb them; nor can I see, on the other hand, how that primacy, being fully admitted, can be an argument for the papal supremacy. If Peter was thought