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base and how miserable we are, when we offend. What is beyond this is the work of nature, which will ever start and grow afflicted at the sight of misery, and knows how to lament its own afflictions without a guide. When therefore we find ourselves truly affected with the sense of our fins, and in earneft lament our disobedience and ingratitude to God, we have the best indication that we can have, that the spirit of religion is still alive within us, and that we are not given up to a reprobate obdurate heart.
Lastly, There is one observation of a more gene, ral concern, that naturally offers itself upon the view of this case. The instruction of this example .to private Christians is very great; but yet there seems to me to be something more intended in the transmitting this history to all ages in the sacred writings.
The Gospel was the work of God; and though we were to receive it by the hands of men, yet was our faith to be founded not in the strength or policy of man, but in the power and wisdom of God: for this reason God chose the weak things of the world to confound the strong. The disciples, upon whom the weight of the Gospel was to rest, and upon whose management the success seemed to depend, were men of no distinguished characters; their fimplicity and honesty were their best commendation : these our Lord elected, well knowing, the weaker the instruments were, the more evidently the hand of God would appear in the mighty things performed by them. Among these St. Peter plainly had the greatest spirit and the strongest resolution; his readiness and vivacity distinguished him in every step; he was the mouth of the Apostles, and always ready to undertake and execute the commands of his Lord. If there was any of the number that could be thought capable of entering into and managing so great a design as the propagating a new religion in the world, it was St. Peter : he therefore is called to the trial. And how able he was of him-' self to encounter the difficulties that were to attend. the Gospel in every step, you have already seen. Had the Gospel been left to have been conducted by him merely, it is probable that the fame of it would not have reached our times. And yet this . same man, not many weeks after, appears before the tribunal of the magistrates, preaches to his judges, and testifies that of a truth Jesus was the Chrift, and that whom they few, and hanged on a tree, God had raised from the dead, and exalted him to the right hand of his glory. Whence this mighty difference? or to what can it be ascribed, but to that great Spirit, for whose coming their Lord com, manded them to wait in Jerusalem, and not to enter upon their office till they should receive power from on high? If the Gospel was an imposture, and if Christ died to rise no more, what gave this fresh courage to St. Peter? Had he more confidence in a dead man, than in his Mafter whilst on earth? If he had not seen Christ come from the
grave, nor received the power of the Spirit, what could move him to expose himself for the sake of Christ, for whose fake whilft on earth, and whilst the hopes of his being the Son of God were strong, he dared not to expose himself?
This plainly shews that the hand of God was with him, and is an evidence to us that our faith is the work of God, and not of man.
And thus, whether we consider St. Peter's case as an instruction to ourselves, it affords us many useful lessons and many encouragements to direct and support us in our spiritual warfare ; or whether we consider it in a more general view, and as affecting his character as he was a minister of the Gospel, and an apostle of Christ Jesus, it yields us a great assurance and confidence in our faith, whilft through the weakness of the man we evidently difcern the power of God, which wrought effectually with him; so that, knowing in whom we have trusted, we need not be ashamed.
MATTHEW xiv. 1, 2.
At that time Herod the tetrarch heard of the fame of Jesus ;
and said unto his servants, This is John the Baptist : he is risen from the dead ; and therefore mighty works do shew forth themselves in him.
WHETHER this thought was first started by Herod himself, or no, is not very certain : the accounts given of it by St. Matthew and St. Mark make it probable, that Herod was the first who supposed Jesus to be that John Baptist risen from the dead, whom he had cruelly and wantonly put to death in prison. St. Luke's account makes the case rather to be, that the several reports and opinions of others concerning Jesus, either that he was Elias, or one of the old Prophets, or John the Baptist from the dead, were brought to Herod, and that he was in great perplexity and concern about them. But be this as it will, whether he imposed on himself, or was imposed on by others by this vain and improbable story, yet evident it is, how far his imagination was poffeffed, and his reason weighed down by guilty fear; and how easily he believed whatever seemed to threaten that punishment, which his conscience told him was his due. How came it to pass, that, whilst others were blessing themselves with the hopes of having a great prophet among them, Herod alone was perplexed and dismayed ? or, when there were such various accounts of this person, some saying that he was Elias, others that he was one of the old prophets, and others that he was John the Baptist, how came Herod to take up with the most improbable account of all, and for which there was not the least foundation The Jews had from ancient prophecies, however miftaken, an expectation that Elias should come, or some of the old prophets; and those who were of that opinion were in the common error, which was countenanced by tradition, and the prevailing interpretation of the prophecies. To their expectation the character and person of our blessed Saviour did very well answer : he was a preacher of righteousness, and mighty in signs and wonders : such was Elias, such were the old prophets : they had read of them, what they now law performed by Jefus ; and, their persuasion being allowed them, that Elias; or one of the old prophets should come, the words and works of Jesus tended extremely to confirm them in the opinion that he was the person whom they expected. But with respect to John the Baptift the case is quite otherwise ; there was no ground to build this imagination on; there was neither tradition nor prophecy to support it: John indeed was a just man, and a preacher of righteousness, and had been barbaroully murdered ; and so had many before him, who never returned again from their graves; and what better reason was there to expect