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reviled not again; though he suffered he threatened not, but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously."'*
The evangelist now resumes the story of St. Peter, who, while these things were transacting in the council-room, sate without in the palace; and a damsel came unto him saying, “ Thou also wast with Jesus of Galilee. But he denied before them all, saying, I know not what thou sayest. And when he was come out into the porch, another maid saw him, and said unto them that were there, This fellow also was with Jesus of Nazareth. And again he denied with an oath, I do not know the man. And after a while came unto him they that stood by, and said to Peter, Surely thou also art one of them, for thy speech betrayeth thee. Then began he to curse and to swear, saying, I know not the man. And immediately the cock crew. And Peter remembered the words of Jesus, which said unto him, Before the cock crow thou shalt deny me thrice. And he went out and wept bitterly.”
This most interesting story is related by all the evangelists, with a few immaterial variations in each; but the substance is the same in all. There is however one circumstance added by St. Luke, so exquisitely beautiful and touching, that it well deserves to be noticed here. He tells us that after Peter had denied Jesus thrice, "immediately, while he yet spake, the cock crew; and the Lord turned and looked upon Peter.”+ What effect that look must have had on the heart and on the countenance of Peter, every one may, perhaps, in some degree conceive; but it is utterly impossible for any words to describe, or, I believe, even for the pencil of a Guido to express.I The sacred historian therefore most judiciously makes no attempt to work upon our passions or our feelings by any display of eloquence on the occasion. He simply relates the fact, without any embellishment or amplification ; and only adds, “and Peter remembered the words of the Lord, how he had said unto him, before the cock crow thou shalt deny me thrice; and he went out and wept bitterly.”
The reflections that croud upon the mind from this most affecting incident of Peter's denial of his master, are many and important; but I can only touch, and that slightly, on a few.
The first is, that this event in the history of St. Peter is a clear and a striking accomplishment of our Saviour's predic
* 1 Pet. ii. 23.
+ Ch. xxii. 61. In fact, I cannot learn that any great master has ever yet selected this incident as the subject of a picture.
tion, that before the cock crew he should deny him thrice. And it is very remarkable that there are in this same chapter no less than four other prophecies of our Lord, which were all punctually fulfilled, some of them like this, within a few hours after they were delivered.
The next observation resulting from the fall of Peter is the melancholy proof it affords us of the infirmity of human nature, the weakness of our best resolutions, when left to ourselves, and the extreme danger of confiding too much in our own strength.
That St. Peter was most warmly attached to Jesus, that his intentions were upright, and his professions at the moment sincere, there can be no doubt. But his temper was too hot, and his confidence in himself too great. When our Lord told him, and all the other apostles, that they would desert him that night, Peter was the first to say to him “ though all men should be offended because of thee, yet will I never be offended.” and when Jesus again assured him, that before the cock crew he should deny him thrice, Peter insisted with still greater vehemence on his unshaken fidelity, and declared, “ that though he should die with him, he should never deny him." Yet deny him he did, with execrations and oaths; and left a memorable lesson even to the best of men, not to entertain tou high an opinion of their own constancy and firmness in the hour of temptation. “Let him that thinketh he standeth, take heed
“ lest he fall.”
And hence in the last place we see the wisdom and the necessity of looking beyond ourselves, of looking up to heaven for support and assistance in the discharge of our duty. If, when Peter was first forwarned by our Lord of his approaching denial of him, instead of repeating his professions of inviolable fidelity to him, he had with all humility confessed his weakness, and implored his divine Master to strengthen and fortify him for the trial that awaited him, the event would probably have been very different. And it is surprising that he had not learned this lesson from his former experience. For when, confiding as he did now in his own courage, he entreated Jesus to let him walk to him upon the sea, and was pero mitted to do so; no sooner did he find the wind boisterous than he was afraid, and beginning to sink, he cried out, “ Lord,
And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand and caught him. This was a plain intimation to him, (as I remarked in a former Lecture) that it was not his own arm that could help him, but that Almighty hand, and that outstretched arm, which then preserved him ; and to which, when
in danger, we must all have recourse to preserve us from sinking. “ Trust then in the Lord,” (as the wise king advises,) “ with all thine heart, and lean not to thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths."*
* Prov. iii. 5.
In the preceding chapter we saw that the chief priests and elders had, in their summary way, without the shadow of justice, without
any consistent evidence, decided the fate of Jesus, and pronounced him guilty of death. Their next care was how to get this sentence confirmed and carried into execution ; for under the Roman government they had not at this time the power of the sword, the power of life and death ; they could not execute a criminal, though they might try and condemn him, without a warrant from the Roman governor ; they determined therefore to carry him before Pilate, the Roman procurator of Judea at that time. But then, to ensure success in that quarter, it was necessary to give their accusations against Jesus such a colour and shape, as should prevail upon
him to death. For this purpose they found it expedient to change their ground, for they had condemned him for blasphemy; but this they knew would have little weight with a pagan governor, who, like Gallio, would
care for none of those things” which related solely to religion. They therefore resolved to bring him before Pilate as a state prisoner, and to charge him with treasonable and seditious practices; with setting himself up as a king in opposition to Cæsar, and persuading the people not to pay tribute to that prince. Accordingly we are told in the beginning of this chapter, that " when morning was come, all the chief priests and elders of the people took counsel against Jesus to put him to death ;” that is, to obtain permission to put him to death ; “and when they had bound him they led him away, and delivered him to Pontius Pilate the governor."
The evangelist, having brought the history of this diabolical transaction thus far, makes a short digression, to inform us the fate of that wretched traitor Judas, who had by his perfidy brought his Master into this situation.
" Then Judas, which had betrayed him, when he saw that he was condemned, repented himself
, and brought again the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, saying, I
have sinned in that I have betrayed the innocent blood. And they said, What is that to us? See thou to that. And he cast down the pieces of silver in the temple, and went and hanged himself.” From the expression made use of in the third verse,
66 when Judas saw that Jesus was condemned, he repented himself," some commentators have thought that he did not imagine or expect that Jesus would be condemned to death ; but supposed either that he would convey himself away from his persecutors, or that he would prove his innocence to the satisfaction of his judges ; or that at the most some slight punishment would be inflicted upon him. One would not wish to load even the worst of men with more guilt than really belongs to them ; but, from considering the character of Judas, and comparing together all the circumstances of the case, it appears to me more probable that the acquittal or condemnation of Jesus never entered into his contemplation. All he thought of was gain. He had kept the common purse, and had robbed it ; and his only object was, how to obtain a sum of money, which he determined to have at all events, and left consequences to take care of themselves. But when he saw that his divine Master, whom he knew to be perfectly innocent, was actually condemned to death, his conscience then flew in his face ; his guilt rose up before him in all its horrors. The innocence, the virtues, the gentleness, the kindness of his Lord, with a thousand other circumstances, rushed at once upon his mind, and painted to him the enormity of his crime in such dreadful colours, that he could no longer bear the agonizing tortures that racked his soul, but went immediately and destroyed himself.
The answer of the chief priests to Judas, when he brought back to them the thirty pieces of silver, and declared that he had betrayed the innocent blood, was a perfectly natural one for men of their character, “ What is that to us? See thou to that." Men who had any feeling, any sentiments of common humanity, or even of common justice, when so convincing a proof of the accused person's innocence had been given them, would naturally have relented, would have put an immediate stop to the proceedings, and released the prisoner. But this was very far from entering into their plan. With the guilt or innocence of Jesus they did not concern themselves. This was not their affair. All they wanted was the destruction of a man whom they hated and feared, and whose life and doctrine were a standing reproach to them. This was their object : and as to the mercy or the justice of the case, on this