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before he had experienced his own frailty, but which we, who have a complete history of his life, may very clearly discern. I ground the happiness of St. Peter, and the idea, I form of his faith, on the very nature of his fall. Not that we ought to consider sin as an advantage, nor that we adopt the maxim of those, who put sin among the all things which work together for good to them that love God, Rom. viii. 28. Ah! if sin be an advantage, may I be forever deprived of such an advantage ! May a constant peace between my Creator and me for ever place me in a happy incapacity of knowing the pleasure of reconciliation with him! It is true, however, that we may judge by the nature of the falls of good men of the sincerity of their faith, and that the very obstacles, which the remainder of cor ruption in them opposeth to their happiness, are, properly understood, proofs of the unchangeableness of their felicity.
St. Peter fell into great sin, after he had made the noble confession in the text. St. Peter committed one of those atrocious crimes, which terrify the conscience, trouble the joy of salvation, and which, sometimes, confound the elect with the reprobate. Of the same Jesus, to whoin St. Peter said in the text, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God, and elsewhere, We believe and are sure, that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God; of the same Jesus he afterwards said, I know not the man, John vi. 69. and Matt. xxvi. 72. You know not the man! And who, then, did you say, had the words of eternal life? You know not the man! And whom have you followed, and whom did you declare to be the Son of the living God ? Notwithstanding this flagrant crime; notwithstanding this denial, the scandal of all ages, and an eternal monument of human weakness; in
spite of this crime, the salvation of St. Peter was sure ; St. Peter was the object of the promise, Simon, Simon, behold Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sist you as wheat ; but I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not, Luke xxii. S1, 32 And Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona, was not only true, but infallible. The very nature of his fall proves it. Certain struggles, which precede the commission of sin; a certain infelicity, that is felt during the commission of it ; above all, certain horrors which follow, an inward voice that cries, Miserable wretch! what hast thou done? A certain hell, if I may venture so to express myself, a certain hell, the flames of which divine love alone can kindle; characterize the falls, of which I speak.
This article is for you, poor sinners! who are so hard to be persuaded of the mercy of God towards you ; who imagine, the Deity sits on a tribunal of vengeance, surrounded with thunder and lightning, ready to strike your guilty-heads. Such a faith as St. Peter's never fails. When, by examining your own hearts and the histories of your own lives, you discover the characters, which we have described, you may assure yourselves, that all the powers of hell united against your salvation can never prevent it. Cursed be the man, who abuseth this doctrine ! Cursed be the man, who poisoneth this part of christian divinity! Cursed be the man, who reasoneth in this execrable manner! St. Peter committed an atrocious crime, in an unguarded moment, when reason, troubled by a revolution of the senses, had lost the powers of reflection : I therefore risque nothing by committing sin coolly and deliberately. St. Peter disguised his christianity for a moment, when the danger of losing his life made him lose sight of the reasons, that induce people to confess their christianity; then I may disguise mine for
thirty or forty years together, and teach my family to act the same hypocritical part; then I may live thirty or forty years without a church, without sacraments, without public worship ; when I have an opportunity, I may loudly exclaim, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God; and when that confession would injure my interest, or hazard my fortune, or my life, I hold myself always in readiness to cry as loudly, I know not the man. abjure that religion, which Jesus Christ preached, which my fathers sealed with their blood, and for which a cloud of witnesses, Heb. xii. 1. my contemporaries, and my brethren, went, some into banishment, others into dungeons, some to the gallies, and others to the stake. Cursed be the man, who reasoneth in this execrable manner. Ah ! how shall I bless, whom God hath not blessed.
I repeat it again, such a faith as St. Peter's never fails, and the very nature of the falls of such a believer proves the sincerity, and the excellence of his faith. We would not wish to have him banished entirely from his soul that fear, which the scriptures praise, and to which they attribute grand effects. A christian, an established christian I mean, ought to live in perpetual vigilance, he ought always to have these passages in his mind, Be not high-minded, but fear. Hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown. When the righteous turneth away from his righteousness, shall he live ? All his righteousness, that he hath done, shall not be mentioned, in his sin he shall die, Rom. xii. 20. Rev. iü. 11. and Ezek. xviii. 24. From these scriptures, such a christian, as I have described, will not infer consequences against the certainty of his salvation : but consequences directly contrary; and there is a degree of perfection, which enables a christian soldier, even in spite of some mo
mentary repulses in wars to sing this triumphant song, Who shall separate me from the love of Christ? In all things, I am more than conqueror, through him that loved me! Thanks be unto God, who always causeth me to triumph in Christ ! Rom. vii. 35, 37. and 2 Cor. ii. 14.
O! how amiable, my brethren, is christianity ! How proportional to the wants of men ! O! how delightful to recollect its comfortable doctrines, in those sad moments, in which sin appears, after we have fallen into it, in all its blackness and horror! How delightful to recollect its comfortable doctrines in those distressing periods, in which a guilty conscience driveth us to the verge of hell, holdeth us on the brink of the precipice, and obligeth us to hear those terrifying exclamations, which arise from the bottom of the abyss; The fearful, the unbelieving, the abominable, whoremongers, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake, which burneth with fire and brimstone ! Rev. xxi. 8. How happy then to be able to say, I have sinned indeed! I have repeatedly committed the crimes, which plunge men into the lake that burneth with fire and brimstone! I have repeatedly been fearful, and unclean! perhaps I may be so again! Perhaps I may forget all the resolutions I have made to devote myself for ever to God! Perhaps I may violate my solemn oaths to my sovereign Lord! Perhaps I may again deny my Redeemer ! Perhaps, should I be again tried with the sight of scaffolds and stakes, I might again say, I know not the man! But yet, I know I love him! Nothing, I am sure, will ever be able to eradicate my love to him! I know, if I love him, it is because he first loved me, 1 John iv. 19. and I know, that he, having loved his own, who are in the world, loved them unto the end, John xiii. 1.
God! What would become of us without a religion, that preached such comfortable truths to us! Let us devote ourselves for ever to this religion, my brethren. The more it strengthens us against the horrors, which sin inspires, the more let us endeavor to surmount them by resisting sin. May you be adorned with these holy dispositions, my brethren! May you be admitted to the eternal pleasures, which they procure, and may each of
you be able to apply to himself the declaration of Jesus Christ to St. Peter, Blessed art thou Simon Barjona ; for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father, who is in heaven. God grant you these blessings! To him be honor and glory for ever. Amen.