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TOWARDS THE DISCIPLE THAT DENIED HIM.
smote him. It pains us to refer to these details,—to think of Jesus of Nazareth, that generous and exalted being, subjected to this brutal treatment. While these things were going on, Peter, who had had the courage to follow his master to the High Priest's house, was accosted by some one, who said, “ Thou also wast with Jesus of Galilee.” Peter probably had supposed that his master might not receive any injury. Unprepared for what was now taking place, and alarmed at the violence which was used towards Jesus, his courage suddenly dies away, and in his terror he is driven to declare to the woman who had expressed her suspicions of him, that he knew not what she meant. Finding himself suspected, he endeavours, as we may surmise from Matthew's narrative, to leave the place.* This movement awakened suspicion anew. Again it was said, “Thou also wast with Jesus of Nazareth.” Still more terrified by the repetition of the accusation, he declared with the solemnity of an oath “ I know not the man.” Finding that in attempting to leave the hall he had exposed himself to suspicion, he seems to have returned and stood or sate by the fire which had just been kindled. But he could not escape observation. Some of them that stood by turned to him, and said, “ Surely thou art also of them, for thy speech betrayeth thee.” It is probable that, in his agitation, the wretched disciple said much more than is recorded, and by the peculiarity of his dialect showed himself to be a Galilean. 66 Then he
* See Matth. xxvi. 71. According to this account, the second time Peter was charged with being a follower of Jesus occurred when he was gone out into the porch.
began to curse and to swear, saying, I know not the man. The language of the original implies that his curses were pronounced, not upon his accusers, but upon himself, as if he had said “May I perish if I know anything about this man. God is my witness, I am not this man's friend. I know him not.'
While Peter was uttering these asseverations, his master was suffering the greatest indignities. The cruel hands of boisterous men were raining blows upon him, accompanied by every species of insult. In the midst of this violence, his ear caught the sound of a familiar voice, pouring forth oaths and curses. It was Peter, the affectionate, forward, boastful Peter, who, in this violent manner, and in the pre sence of that brutal company, was denying all knowledge of Jesus. Judging from his recent professions, we should expect that, at the first blush of insult offered to his master, he would have sprung forward, and defended him at the hazard of his life. But this he did not do. He swore solemnly, and repeatedly, that he knew not Jesus, and was no friend of his. Had not his generous master known him better than he knew himself, this cowardly and faithless conduct of a friend must have been a severer blow to him than any inflicted by his unfeeling tormentors.
. But he was prepared for it. He knew the weakness of Peter. He uttered no exclamations of surprise, no reproach at his faithlessness. This was a time to try the character of Jesus. Had he been any other than the perfectly magnanimous being that he was, he would naturally have contradicted the shameless falsehoods of Peter. He would have sought to avert
JESUS AND PETER.
241 the blows of the cruel men around him, by pointing out to them another, and a worthy object of their mockery. But so far was he above everything of this kind, so far above all selfishness and anger, that he merely turned and looked at Peter. through which beamed the most generous spirit that ever dwelt in a human bosom, were turned full in all their awful clearness and serenity upon the apostate disciple, and they dissolved his heart in the tears of an agonizing repentance. No word was spoken, for Jesus thought not to implicate others in his sufferings, no, not even one who at that moment seemed so richly to deserve to suffer. Who can be insensible to the magnanimity here exhibited! To adopt the eloquent remark of a most eloquent writer, -“ When Peter had denied him thrice, the Lord turned, and looked upon Peter, and Peter went out and wept bitterly. If that look taught Peter to repent, it may teach us to believe: the fraud and the folly, which we witness, have no such singleness of heart, and such plain majesty of action. Whenever we behold such signs as these, we hail them as the marks which God has put upon truth and good faith; premeditated sophistry may destroy the first burst of nature, but in reading the history of Christ's death, the fresh and sudden feelings of the heart all acquit him, all praise him, all believe in him ;—we all feel as Pontius Pilate his judge felt, who, when he had looked at him, and heard him speak, broke from the judgment seat, and bathed his trembling hands in the water, saying, “I call you all to witness, I am guiltless of the blood of this innocent man.
* See Sydney Smith's Sermons, vol. i. p. 178. Sermon “On Good Friday.”
What a strong and cheering light does the character of Jesus, as revealed in his treatment of Peter, cast upon the character of God! It may not be denied that the Deity is frequently represented as a stern and repulsive being. But would we know how God regards the sinful, we must turn to Jesus Christ. He declares himself one with the Father. Would we learn what the Supreme Spirit is, we must study the spirit of Christ ; for they are one. They who believe that this Oneness is literal and personal must feel the whole force of this argument. For the Supreme is unchangeable. And if Christ was full of consideration, then surely this must be the character of God, and we may well believe that every allowance is made for us, by him who knows our frame, and remembers we are dust. If any conduct justifies indignation, it is such conduct as Peter's. But how did Jesus treat the faithless apostle? He only turned and looked upon him! looked upon him no doubt with undiminished affection, and with a countenance beaming with pity. Here then, in the hall of the High Priest's palace, and amidst that dark and brutal throng, streams forth a sublime revelation of the unutterable mercy of God, who “ hath shone into our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God IN THE FACE OF JESUS CHRIST." In that look which was turned upon Peter, there is a beam that, issuing from the Spirit of all light and love, illuminates the upturned features of penitence, and directs her to God as to one, of whose mercy a father's affection, and a mother's fondness, are but dim and imperfect types !
THE PRISONER AND THE JUDGE.
The conduct of Jesus, when he stood before the Roman Governor, is marked by the same elevation, which we have observed in so many instances. He betrayed not the slightest symptom of fear, or of any emotion inconsistent with his usual dignity of mind and manner. He calmly declared that his kingdom was not of an outward, political character; if it had been, he would have had adherents to fight for him. But as he had used no violence, it was evident enough he had not sought worldly power. “Art thou a king, then ?" asked Pilate. “Yes," is the reply, “I am a king. For this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, to bear witness to the truth ; and every true man is my subject.” Such was his sublime definition of his regal character. After Pilate had put him to the torture of the scourge, with the probable hope, as I have already intimated, that this might satisfy the Jews, it became evident to Jesus that Pilate was too weak to save him, and of course that words were of no avail. And when Pilate began again to question him, repeating the same inquiries, he made no answer. The governor then menaced him with his power. How justly does Jesus appear to have estimated the character of Pilate! He neither weakly defers to the imbecile magistrate, nor does he utter one upbraiding word, but simply observes that Pilate had no power of his own; that he was but an instrument, and that the principal guilt of the transaction rested with others. The injustice with which he was treated disturbed not, for a moment, the clearness and calmness of his mind. It neither intimidated, nor exasperated him.