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PETER.

84
of one another; and a contention arises

thers which shall be the first. They are inflamed by the prospect of the wealth and honours which he, whom they acknowledge as their master, is, as they conceive, shortly to distribute among them, and the desire of these worldly advantages then, as always, awakens feelings of animosity and ill-will. With these earthborn passions, however, the countenance of their Leader betrays no sympathy. A sublime purpose a singular and mysterious destiny has thrown over his whole appearance an expression of unearthly greatness. There, in that face, in wonderful harmony, the melancholy cast by the shadows of Suffering and Death is blended with a peace kindled by light from an invisible source. In the midst of the strife of his followers, which evidently pains him deeply, for it seems to show that all he had yet said and done, and it was not a little, had been of no avail. -he quietly rises from the table, lays aside his principal garments, takes a towel, pours water into a basin, and then

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took place, from what is related. The words and actions of Jesus were almost always suggested by some passing incident. And I cannot but suppose that the striking lesson, which he gave his disciples when he washed their feet, was prompted by some evidence, afforded at the moment by their conduct, of their need of it. The nature of the contention, which I suppose arose among them, also appears to be indicated by the very form of instruction which their master adopted—the performance of a menial service for them. In taking their places at the table, a dispute probably arose, and jealous looks were exchanged. And to show them how entirely out of place such feelings were, he performed for them the lowest office at a social entertainment. This view of the case seems to reveal the propriety and significance of the symbolical act, by which Jesus sought to convey a moral impression.

PETER.

85 kneels and begins to wash the feet of one of the company. Immediately the harsh sounds of discord are hushed. Silence reigns through the apartment. Every angry passion dies away--every angry glance is lost in the looks of questioning and amazement which the disciples exchange with one another. He goes from one to the other, washing their feet; and they, struck dumb with the awe which he habitually inspired, offer no resistance, until he comes to one who, unable to repress his feelings, shrinks back, exclaiming, “ Lord! dost thou wash my feet?” The Master replies, “What I am doing thou dost not understand now, but thou shalt know shortly.” “ Thou shalt never wash my feet,” rejoins his follower. “If I wash thee not,” says Jesus, “thou hast no part with me.” “ Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head !" cries the disciple, accompanying the words, no doubt, with a movement full of expression.

The character of Jesus is not now our topic. Still I cannot avoid making a brief allusion to the agreement of this passage with all that we elsewhere learn of him. How perfectly in character the method by which he sought to teach his friends to defer to one another! Since all that he had already said and done had failed to inspire them with a generous spirit, it would seem as if he adopted this method as a last resort, intending, we might almost think, to shock them by the attitude he assumed, the office he discharged, resolved to make an impression upon their minds never to be effaced. And then, too, how wisely and characteristically did he manage his resisting follower, melting him down with the words “ If I

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wash thee not,” i. e., if I do not cleanse thee, “thou hast no part with me." Thus he avoided an explanation of what he was about, until he had gone round and performed the same menial service for all, and so rendered the impression as strong as possible. “If,” the disciple exclaims, in effect, “if thou put it on that ground—if my place in thine heart be in question, then wash me all over."

Who now requires to be informed that it was Peter with whom this short conversation took place ? His speech bewrayeth him. As in the hall of the High Priest's house his accent proved him to be a Galilean, so all that he says and does ws him to be Peter, and no other. We discover here the same individual who, a little while after, when Jesus told his disciples they could not follow him then, (through the rugged and bloody path by which he was to be perfected,) protested, “Lord! why cannot I follow thee now? I will lay down my life for thy sake,” and yet, shortly after, upon a change of circumstances, denied all knowledge of Jesus. This is he—the very man-we know him at once-who can help recognising him? that, upon another occasion, after Jesus had commended him for the explicit avowal of his faith, exclaiming, “ Blessed art thou, Simon son of Jonas," and pronouncing him the rock upon which he would build his religion, was so emboldened by the praise, that when his master immediately afterwards was telling his disciples how he was about to suffer and die, had the forwardness to contradict and rebuke Jesus, saying, “Be it far from thee, Lord, this shall not be done unto thee,” and so incurred a reproof as severe

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as the previous commendation was warm. This is the same individual who, yet at another time, when he saw his master coming on the water toward him and his fellow-disciples, who were in a vessel on the Lake of Galilee, cried out, “Bid me now come unto thee on the water," and when, at the bidding of Jesus, he had left the ship, and the waves were rolling about him, was so overpowered with terror, that he exclaimed, “Lord ! save me, or I perish !" In all these instances we see the same moral individual

-the same self-confidence—the same sudden fluctuations of feeling. It is not putting the case too strongly to say, that if the name of Peter were strieken out in all these passages, and, instead, we were merely told that one of the disciples said or did so and so, that one disciple would stand forth to our minds in bold and unmarred individuality. We could not mistake him. No one could suppose that the writer or writers of the New Testament had any intention—any thought of communicating to us an idea of Peter. And yet such an idea is received far more vividly, than it could have been from the most minute and laboured description. No one has ever read the New Testament with any degree of attention without gathering from it an impression of Peter, distinct and peculiar. And yet, let it not be forgotten, no care is taken by the historians to produce this impression. It is the direct but undesigned result of a simple record of a few simple facts. This is that divine harmony of nature, that truthful consistency, which infinitely outweighs, in my esteem, all the discrepancies of words and dates, and which the most transcendent genius may imitate, but never equal.

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The impression derived from the Gospels, of the moral character of the Roman Procurator, Pontius Pilate, is wonderfully vivid and consistent; especially when we consider how brief is his appearance in the Divine Drama. He had degenerated greatly from the old Roman nobleness. Want of moral strength was his chief trait. This defect continually produces results as disastrous as those that flow from a determined malignity of purpose. Men of good feelings, but destitute of the guidance of a good principle, bring calamities upon themselves and others, as heavy as if they were actuated by the basest motives, and had deliberately said unto evil, “Be thou our good !" Of the truth of this remark, Pilate affords an ever memorable instance. That such was his character is most evident from the Christian records. Almost every word attributed to him is in keeping with it. He appears to have been persuaded of the innocence of Jesus, but he had not courage to resist the mob headed by the priests. And the miserable expedients to which he had recourse to throw off his inevitable responsibility, all betray the same imbecility. He first tried to get rid of the case altogether--to make the Jews settle it themselves. Failing in this, he caught at the mention of Galilee, and as soon as he was told that Jesus was a Galilean, he sent him to Herod, who was then at Jerusalem, and within whose jurisdiction Galilee was. But Herod returned the prisoner upon his hands. As the next resort he attempted to persuade the populace to bestow their mercy upon Jesus, rather than Barabbas. aware that it was customary among the Romans to scourge those condemned to be crucified, just before

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