Mark 14:68
But he denied it. "I do not know or even understand what you are talking about," he said. Then he went out to the gateway, and the rooster crowed.
Sermons
Peter's FallR. Green Mark 14:27-31, 66-72
The Denial by PeterJ.J. Given Mark 14:53-72
Peter Denying ChristA.F. Muir Mark 14:54, 66-72
Extremes Meet in CharacterE. Johnson Mark 14:66-72
Danger of One False StepS. Baring Gould, M. A.Mark 14:68-72
Difficult to Quit Bad CompanyDr. Thomas Taylor.Mark 14:68-72
Discrepancies in the Narratives of the Evangelists May be HarmonizedH. M. Luckock, D. D.Mark 14:68-72
Fall and RestorationDr. Thomas Taylor.Mark 14:68-72
Godly Company the BestDr. Thomas Taylor.Mark 14:68-72
How We are to Show Love to a FriendDr. Thomas Taylor.Mark 14:68-72
It is Hard to Confess Christ in DangerDr. Thomas Taylor.Mark 14:68-72
Lying a Slough of DespondFrancis Jacox.Mark 14:68-72
Peter Denies His LordC. S. Robinson, D. D.Mark 14:68-72
Peter's DegenerationDr. Thomas Taylor.Mark 14:68-72
Peter's DenialT. J. Holmes.Mark 14:68-72
Peter's Denial of JesusCharles Stanford, D. D.Mark 14:68-72
Peter's Second Denial of ChristDr. Thomas Taylor.Mark 14:68-72
Reasons for Avoiding Evil CompanyDr. Thomas Taylor.Mark 14:68-72
St. Peter's FallW. Denton, M. A.Mark 14:68-72
The Corrupting Influence of Bad CompanyDr. Thomas Taylor.Mark 14:68-72
The DenierJ. J. Davies.Mark 14:68-72
The Fall of PeterR. Glover.Mark 14:68-72
The Foulness of Peter's SinDr. Thomas Taylor.Mark 14:68-72
The Heinousness of Peter's Third DenialDr. Thomas Taylor.Mark 14:68-72
The Porch of SinDr. Thomas Taylor.Mark 14:68-72
To Avoid Sin, Avoid OccasionsDr. Thomas Taylor.Mark 14:68-72
To Avoid Sin, Keep Close to God's WordDr. Thomas Taylor.Mark 14:68-72
Why Christians are Allowed to FallGeorge Petter.Mark 14:68-72
Why God Did not Prevent Peter's FallDr. Thomas Taylor.Mark 14:68-72

I. SELF-CONFIDENCE AND WEAKNESS. What is a man without self-reliance? Yet it seems to fail, and offers no security in temptation. In a true self-reliance is contained dependence and trust. Confidence in our thought is right, if we recognize that our true views are revealed to us; that it is not we who think, but God who thinks in us. Separated from our root in God, whether in thought or will, we become mere individuals. Once isolate the picture of yourself and your powers and activities from the Divine whole to which it belongs, and it will soon be found that you are in a false position.

II. IMPETUOSITY AND DELIBERATION. We admire the generous eagerness of Peter, but it topples over into precipitous haste. And the hasty falsehood is followed by the deliberate persistence in it. Brazening it out one moment, the next he breaks into a flood of remorseful tears. "Who can understand his errors?" Easy to criticize Peter, not easy to act better. Let us humbly own that he represents us all, in greater or less degree. Our life oscillates between extremes. God can make profitable to us the experience of our sins and errors. The chemistry of his love can bring our tragic scenes to a happy ending. - J.







But he denied.
1. He denies flatly and peremptorily.

2. He gives a double denial; implying more resolution. And both his denials are distinct and manifest lies.

3. He denies Christ before a multitude.(1) Bad enough to have denied Christ before one witness. How much worse before so many?(2) He who denies Christ before any man, shall be denied by Him before the Father. What a great sin to deny Him before all men!(3) In so great a company were a number of wicked men, and now Peter exposes the name of Christ to all their scorn and opprobrium. He animates and hardens them, and takes part with them in the rejection of Christ.(4) There were also some weak ones and well-wishes to Christ. Peter's action weakens and scandalizes these, and perhaps prevents some of them coming forward in defence of the Lord.

(Dr. Thomas Taylor.)

1. Because of Satan's malice. He will do all in his power to keep men from confessing Christ openly, and to make them deny Him.

2. The strength of our natural corruption makes it difficult to resist Satan's attacks.

3. Weakness of faith and graces.

(1)Think it not an easy thing to confess Christ in trial, nor a thing to be performed by our own power; but pray for the "Spirit of strength."

(2)Pray for wisdom when and how to confess.

(3)Pray for faith.

(Dr. Thomas Taylor.)

Many step out of the midst of sin but hang about the porch. They would not be outrageous sinners, but retain a snatch or taste; not open adulterers, but adulterous eyes, thoughts, and speeches; not noted drunkards, but company keepers and bibbers; not blasphemous swearers by wounds and bloods, but by faith, troth, God, etc. All this is to remain in the porch of sin.

(Dr. Thomas Taylor.)

In that Peter sticks in the porch, and comes back among those whom he had forsaken, learn how difficult it is for a man who has been long used to bad company and courses, to be brought to leave it altogether. He will either look back, or else tarry in the porch. Sin and sinners are like bird lime. The more Peter strives to get out, the more he finds himself limed and entangled.

(Dr. Thomas Taylor.)

1. He would give us and the whole Church an example of infirmity and weakness, by the fall of such a man.

2. The strongest must learn fear and watchfulness, and while they stand take heed lest they fall, lest the enemy suddenly overcome them as he did Peter.

3. To crush men's presumption, and teach them to attribute more to the word of Christ than their own strength. Had Peter done this, he had not so shamefully fallen.

4. To take away all excuse for men in after ages setting up Peter as an idol.

(Dr. Thomas Taylor.)

He that would avoid sin must carefully avoid occasions, which are the stronger because of our own natural inclination to evil. He that would not be burnt must not touch fire, or go upon the coals. Beware of evil company. Consider thine own weakness, and the power of evil to seduce.

(Dr. Thomas Taylor.)

He that would avoid occasion of sin, must hold him. self to God's commandment, and within the limits of his own calling. If Peter had done this, he had not fallen so foully. Christ having expressed His will and pleasure, he should not have so much as deliberated upon it, much less resolved against it. But he forgets the word and commandment of Christ, and so falls into sin.

(Dr. Thomas Taylor.)

Here is a notable rule to be observed in friendships. Examine the love thou showest to thy friend, by the love of God.

1. Take heed thy love be subordinate to the love of God; so that, if thou canst not please both, thou please not thy friend at the cost of God's displeasure (Matthew 10:37). Peter should first have loved Christ as his Lord, and then as his friend. Had he so done, he would have kept His word.

2. Love the Word better than thy friend. Peter should have stuck to Christ's road, instead of His person.

3. See thy love to thy friend be not preposterous, that thy affection destroy him not. The subtlety of Satan creeps into our friendships and fellowships, so that by our improvidence, instead of helping, we hurt them more than their enemies could do. We must pray for wisdom and judgment, that neither willingly nor unawares we either council or lead them into any sin, or uphold any sin in them, or hinder in them any good.

(Dr. Thomas Taylor.)

See how soon even God's children are corrupted with wicked company. Even Peter, a great and forward disciple of Christ, full of zeal and courage, who will pray, profess, and immediately before draw the sword in Christ's quarrel, now can deny Him among persecutors. Great is the force of wicked company to pervert even a godly mind.

1. There is a proneness in godly men to be withdrawn by evil company. As the body is infected by pestilential air, so the mind by the contagion of bad company.

2. There is a bewitching force in evil company to draw even a good mind beyond his own purpose and resolution.

(Dr. Thomas Taylor.)

1. There cannot be true fellowship with God and His enemies too.

2. Every man's company tells what he is. Ravens flock together by companies; and so do doves. h good man will not willingly stand in the way of sinners.

3. The practice of wicked men should make good men shun their company; for wherein are their sports and delights, but in things which displease God and grieve His Spirit, and the spirits of all who love God and His glory? What can a good man see in such company, but must either infect him, or at least offend him in almost everything?

(Dr. Thomas Taylor.)

It seems very sweet to sit warm among wicked men, to eat and drink and be jovial with them; but there is a bitter sauce for such meats. On the contrary, in company of godly men thou art under the shadow of God's mercy for their sakes. God loves His children and their friends. For Lot's sake His family was saved.

(Dr. Thomas Taylor.)

A great study in human nature is here presented.

I. THE ORIGIN OF PETER'S FALL. Do not overlook —

1. The quarrel in Peter's heart with Christ's methods. Christ's plan was to conquer by suffering; Peter's to conquer by resisting. This inward divergence produced the outward separation. Beware of quarrelling with God's dealings, or methods, or demands; the most common of all sources of backsliding.

2. Peter's pride helped his fall.

II. THE PROCESS OF PETER'S FALL.

1. Following Christ "afar off" (Luke 22:54) — half-heartedly, not close, not to testify to the Sanhedrin for Him, but simply to see the end (Matthew 26:58). Close to Christ in the path of duty you are kept warm; sluggish and distant, the heart chills and grows feeble.

2. He entered into temptation.

3. A subtle snare is laid for him. If the three challenges had taken place in a reversed order, probably Peter would not have fallen by them. Had the men come first, his manhood might have risen to meet the challenge. But a housemaid does not put him on his mettle. Thrown off his guard, he tells his first lie, and it has afterwards to be backed up by more falsehoods and deadlier denials, putting a gulf between himself and Christ which, but for Christ's grace, would have been eternal.

III. THE COMMONNESS OF SIMILAR TRANSGRESSION. Not a question of who is guilty, but who is guiltless of this fault. All hiding of the face from Christ, all secrecy of fear, which leads people to assume we have nothing to do with Christ, all leaving Him unowned and undefended, is a sin identical in nature with Peter's. Each should ask, "Lord, is it I?"

(R. Glover.)

Let us take warning from this —

1. Not to rely on our own strength for steadfastness in the moment of trial, but to trust only in Divine grace.

2. Not to suppose our own power of resistance to temptation is greater than that of others. Rather, when we see another sin, let us in him see our own selves, and pray God for him as we would for ourselves. When we see another steadfast in the faith, let us pray that he may preserve that gift which he has unto the end.

3. To heed every warning that is mercifully given us. When the cock crew for the first time, it seems wonderful that St. Peter was not reminded of Christ's prediction, nor restrained from subsequent denials. But sin deafens the heart to every voice, and blinds the eye to all signs.

(W. Denton, M. A.)

There are MSS., you know, called palimpsest, i.e., written upon twice. The original inscription upon them, which was fair, and full of Divine wisdom, has been defaced, and in its place may now be seen letters and words and sentences in contrast to what was described before. So with the characters of men — even good men. Over their better nature you may see scratched in ugly scrawls very obvious imperfections and frailties. But, thank God, often do we witness, after the process of defacement, a process of restoration. Divine grace, through discipline of various descriptions, rubs out the evil and brings back the good, and causes the soul at last to reveal again most distinctly what had only been dimmed and not destroyed; even as there has been discovered a method by which such ancient writings can be made to exhibit once more what seemed — but only seemed — forever spoiled.

(Dr. Thomas Taylor.)

We see in Peter's fall the danger of a first false step. As he entered the house he denied his discipleship to the portress; he did wrong that good might come. He loved his Master; he sought to be with or near Him; he desired to see the end. What was the harm of merely a white lie to gain this great advantage? But the white lie led to black denial, and to a false oath. When he had assured Jesus that, though all might deny Him, yet would not he, Peter had supposed the case of his being brought up for trial before the Sanhedrin. And it is possible that he would have stood firm under such a trial, but this temptation came on him from an unexpected quarter, and when he was unprepared to meet it; that is why he fell. He would have confessed his discipleship before the High Priest, but he denied it to the young woman who kept the gate. From this we learn that we must be always prepared to meet temptation, and that the most treacherous and dangerous of temptations come upon us suddenly, without giving us time to prepare, and in a way unexpected. Peter's heart was sound from first to last; he never wavered in his love. His spirit was willing, but the flesh was very weak. This makes the difference between venial and wilful sin. Wilful sin is committed by deliberate consent of the will to what is evil. The fall of Peter was not wilful. Venial sin is the fault of infirmity, the fall through weakness against the propose of the heart. Such was the fall of Peter. We see in his repentance the harmfulness of venial sin. We are apt to make light of sin if it be not wilful. This sin of Peter's was not wilful, yet his heart was broken and contrite for it.

(S. Baring Gould, M. A.)

It is well known that there are varieties of detail in the four records of St. Peter's three-fold denial. The discrepancies have been spoken of as irreconcilable, and attempts to shake the credibility and trustworthiness of Holy Scripture have been based upon this supposition. Careful examination will show that "the incidents given by the different Evangelists are completely in harmony with the belief that there were three denials, i.e., three acts of denial, of which the several writers have taken such features as seemed to be most significant for their purpose." The multiplicity of charges may well be illustrated out of our own experience. We have witnessed, no doubt, a scene in which a crowd of people in a state of excitement are setting upon an individual whom they believe to have done something of which they disapprove. No sooner has one begun to accuse him of it than another comes up and adds to the charge, another insists upon it with gestures of violence, another can prove it if they will only let him speak, and then perhaps several cry out at once. The bewildered man tries to exculpate himself from the Babel of charges. He says anything and everything in the excitement of the moment, and at last, when matters become desperate, loses all control over his words. This is almost exactly what happened in the last "act of denial" in the courtyard of the High Priest's palace. St. Peter was driven to bay by a multitude of excited assailants, and perhaps hardly knowing, certainly not realizing, what he said, he appealed to heaven, and called down Divine vengeance upon his head if his denial were untrue.

(H. M. Luckock, D. D.)

I. The circumstances under which this great guilty act was performed ARE EXCEEDINGLY DRAMATIC. The story shifts its phases like pictures in a play.

1. The scene is laid in the quadrangle of the High Priest's house in Jerusalem, whither the miscellaneous mob of people had hurried Jesus after His apprehension in the garden of Gethsemane. It will be necessary for those who desire to understand this narrative to form for themselves a conception of Peter's precise whereabouts during such a grand crisis of his history. Eastern dwellings of the better sort appear to have been built around a four-sided court — an interior space like a private yard enclosed — frequently paved with flat flagging stone, and open to the sky overhead. Into this area a passage from the street led by an arched opening through one side of the house. Heavy folding doors guarded the entrance, leaving a smaller wicket gate near by for the convenience of visitors who came familiarly or one at a time. Usually this was kept by a porter. Such, in all likelihood, was the general fashion of Caiaphas' palace. Simon Peter was inside of the wicket standing there in the courtyard.

2. The company into the midst of which before this John, the beloved disciple, had found his way, and which he does not appear to have unused even to notice as he hurried through, was made up of servants and soldiers. Belated and bewildered by their unwonted excitements on the night of our Saviour's trial, they had kindled a "fire of coals" out in the area. The hour of this arraignment was unusual, the air was chilly, and the confusion was full of discomfort. The entire group appears irritable and maliciously disposed. The girls are coarse, the military men boisterous and brutal, the Levites insolently triumphant, as they see their victim now in what they deem the right hands, and the waiters abusive and impudent. Everything shows picturesquely there among the flitting dresses and uniforms. The flame makes all the quadrangle dance with uncouth shadows, and the faces of the men and maidens are ruddy under the red glow of the coals. Ill-tempered and testy with the raw air of the midnight, they jostle each other and join roughly in gibes about the discomfiture and capture of this Nazarene prophet at last.

3. Enter Simon Peter now, the chief actor in this awful tragedy of the denial. Into the midst of the throng comes a burly figure, a quick-stepping individual, evidently trying to do that peculiar thing which almost everybody, one time or another in his life, has tried to do, and nobody at any time has ever succeeded in accomplishing, namely, to look unconscious and unconcerned when absorbently anxious, and to seem unnoticed and unembarrassed when he knows the rest are all staring at him. That newcomer is our well-known friend Simon, the son of Jonas; and he is now endeavouring to act at perfect ease, although he is certain that he is and ought to be an object of suspicion from the beginning. "He sat with the servants (Mark 14:54), and warmed himself at the fire." Picture him now, away from all his friends, among the sullen enemies of his Lord. There is some evidence that this disciple imagined he might pass himself off for one of the crowd who went out to apprehend Jesus, if only he mingled unabashed with the chilly company around the coals. So he pressed nearer, and this was exactly what hastened his exposure.

4. Now commences the dialogue of the drama. A girl kept the outer door; this reminds us of the office of the damsel named Rhoda (Acts 12:13), whom we meet in another part of Peter's history farther on.

II. We must arrest our study of the melancholy story here, for it is high time that we should seek for THE PRACTICAL LESSONS TAUGHT IN THIS TRANSGRESSION OF PETER.

1. We see, for one thing, how commonplace is even the most notable of human sins. This denial of his Lord will always be quoted as the characteristic wickedness of Simon Peter. It stands out in history as one of the vast crimes of the world and the race. To deny Christ is so simple a thing that we can fall into it, and hardly know it at the time. This sin is not singular nor unusual. Christ's cause is on trial now as really as was Christ Himself in the High Priest's palace. We stand in jeopardy every hour. Satan's ingenious policy is to come suddenly upon us with the surprise of a question with ridicule in it. So small a matter as emitting family prayer because a stranger is in our dwelling, as putting on a ribald air when one twits us with being serious, may have in it all the meaning and the meanness of Peter's sin. "Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall."

2. Again: we see the immeasurable peril of just one act of wrongdoing. Indeed, one act never seems to remain alone. This first denial led to two more of the same sort; then to lying, then to profanity. It is as supreme a folly to talk of a little sin as it would be to talk of a small decalogue that forbids it, or a diminutive God that hates it, or a shallow hell that will punish it. Sin is registered according to heavenly measurements of holiness and majesty.

3. We see, likewise, a ready explanation of the mysterious falls into sin sometimes noticed in the lives of really good men. No one doubts that Simon Peter was a regenerate Christian man: how happens it that he crashes down into wickedness so suddenly? The answer to this question must be found in the disclosures of this disciple's previous history. He had for a long time been preparing for this disaster. One of the brightest of our modern writers has given us a simile somewhat like this. If a careless reader lets fall a drop of ink in among the leaves of a book he is just closing, it will strike through the paper both ways. When he opens the volume again, he can begin with the earliest faint appearance of the stain, and measure by its increase his progress towards the great black point of defacement. Open it now anywhere, and he will detect some traces of the coming spot. He can turn back to it; he can turn forward from it. So of this great base act of the Apostle Peter, which we call emphatically the denial. It is a stain in the middle of his life. Most of us have a profound admiration and a tender love for this old Bethsaida fisherman, even if we do deny he was ever set up for the first pope. But hitherto, as we have been studying his biography, we might often have seemed to see the denial coming. Along the way hints of it appear. One who reads the Gospels for the first time would be likely to remark, "Here is a man who will be in awful shame and trouble some day, for he thinks he stands safely; he is going to fall." This might be true of most self-confident Christians who lapse into sin; the wickedness has been growing upon them longer than they thought. "Men fall," so once said Guizot, "on the side towards which they lean."

(C. S. Robinson, D. D.)

We speak of a sudden death; when the doctor had long been warning the man who has just died that he might die at any moment. We speak of a sudden bankruptcy; which, however, the commercial prophets had long secretly foretold. We speak of the sudden fall of a tree in a tempest; when, under a fair bark and a leafy shade, it had long been only a thing of powder. We speak of the sudden fall of a soul; when in that soul the causation of that fall had long been working out of sight.

I. THINK OF THIS DEED IN CONNECTION WITH A CERTAIN WEAKNESS IN WHICH IT BEGAN. That sin began, not in a sin, but in a weakness. The strength of a rope is to be measured, not according to what it is in its strongest, but in its weakest point. The strength of a ship is to be estimated, not according to her strongest, but her weakest part; let but the strain come on that, let that be broken, no matter how strong in any other part she may be, the mighty ship, being conquered there, will go down. So it is with the strength of a soul. Peter had many strong points, but one weak one; and that one, undetected by himself, was at the beginning of this disaster. It was the weakness of excessive constitutional impulsiveness. Impulse is beautiful and good; but impulse is only like steam in the works of a factory, or wind in the sails of a yacht. Impulse is a good servant of the soul, but a bad master. Impulse may act with as much emotional force in a wrong direction as in a right. Even when its direction is right, if left to itself, it is not safe. But for this weakness, a soul might often be saved just in time from the special kind of danger to which other weaknesses specially lead. There is a man who feels it a pain to contradict, and a pleasure to acquiesce; and when in the company of errorists, this weakness is his danger. There is a man whose weakness is an agonizing consciousness of ridicule. There is a man, a favourite with us all, whose simplicity we love, at whose heroics we smile, but whose weakness is that he is apt to think too highly of himself. Did any man with all these foibles but take the steadfast poise of principles, did he but take time, he might be saved from the action of them all.

II. THINK OF THIS ACT OF PETER IN CONNECTION WITH HIS ENTRANCE INTO THE TEMPTATION TO COMMIT SUCH AN ACT. "Enter not into temptation," said the Master; and within a few minutes from the time of that order the servant entered into it. He loved Christ far too deeply to deny Him; be had never denied Him yet, and was not likely to do so now. Ah! he had never yet been tried. You, perhaps, are a man of splendid morality, but you hardly know how much your integrity depends upon circumstances; you have never yet had it tried. There may be no accident before a train starts from the station; but let there be an undetected flaw only in one axle, and, when the locomotive is spinning along the line at the rate of forty miles an hour, there may be a great crash of property and life. Peter thought himself an iron man; but there was a flaw in his iron, though he knew it not until he had entered into a trial for which he was not fitted; then the iron broke!

III. THINK OF PETER'S DENIAL OF CHRIST IN CONNECTION WITH THE ACCOUNT OF ITS THREE OCCASIONS. God pity that youth who has just uttered his first lie! If eventually saved from the evil it has already set working, God alone can save him. No liar can alter the law of the lie, and that law is, that the first lie has a generative power, that one lie compels another, that one lie requires another to back it, that one lie spreads and ramifies into endless evolutions.

IV. THINK OF PETER'S DENIAL IN CONNECTION WITH THE TREATMENT THAT CHRIST WAS RECEIVING AT THE TIME. A seer tells us that he once saw heaven, and had a glimpse of the treatment Jesus receives there. This is his report: "I saw also the Lord, sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and His train filled the temple." Now turn to this place on earth, and see how the Holy One is treated there. Do you not now see how the pictured memory of this episode came into the phrase of John the Divine, "the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ"?

V. THINK OF PETER'S DENIAL OF CHRIST IN CONNECTION WITH CHRIST'S ACT OF RESTORING LOVE. Simultaneously, the startled man turned to look at his Master, and his Master turned to look at him. We are awed before the calm sovereignty of that look, no less than by its loving kindness. "He spoke with His eye," says Erasmus. We may not imagine what the look was like, but we know what effect it had upon the disciple. The outgoing power of the Lord that went with it struck his heart, as once the prophet's rod struck the rock, and made the waters flew. It touched, and set flowing, frozen memories. With only self to lean upon, lower and lower would have been the inevitable fall; but just in time the Lord lifted him by a look! Some structures can only be saved by being ruined. They have in them such slack work and such bad materials, that it is of no use to patch them, or to shore them up; the only thing to be done is to pull them down altogether and build them again. Some lives can only be saved by a desperate operation. Some souls can be saved only through being for an instant hung, as by a hair, over the pit of the lost. A certain man was seen for many years rich, prosperous, influential in the State; that very. man was afterwards seen, down on his hands and knees, in the livery of degradation, scrubbing the floor of a convict prison. In his days of worldly honour he had made profession of the Christian faith, and not without sincerity; but egotism was suffered to master him. He fell. In the shock of that fall, in the recoil that comes of despair, he was "saved as by fire."

(Charles Stanford, D. D.)

I. PETER NEVER MEANT TO DENY HIS LORD. He believed now, as clearly as he did that day at Caesarea Philippi, "Thou art the Christ," etc. He was honest in saying, "Though I should die with Thee, yet will I not deny Thee." He proved that soon after by drawing his sword in defence of Christ. Any believer may have a like assurance. There is the peril. If there should come to a Sabbath congregation a voice from heaven, declaring that someone there would one day turn out a thief, how impossible it would seem! Every one would think there must be a mistake; the message has come to the wrong church, or, at least, it does not mean me. Of course not. Satan says to us all, "Think of your faith, your virtue, your blood, your position." And when he has beguiled us into such self-complacency, he begins his manoeuvres, not asking us at first to do anything dishonest, but commencing on the borderline between his kingdom and the Lord's, knowing if we yield to him in things that are doubtful, we will soon yield to him in things that are sure. A leading member of a city church, caught in a shameful crime, wrote his friends: "I am astonished at the blindness and wickedness of my course."

II. PETER WENT VOLUNTARILY INTO THE WAY OF TEMPTATION. Peter thought very likely that he was safe in such company, because nobody would know him. A Christian had better not stay at the fire with the ungodly. Satan did not come to him as a "roaring lion," but in a mere whisper. Who could draw a sword at a young girl? If he had contemplated her question, he might have had ready an answer that would have been truthful without giving offence. Often the science of truth-telling is to look out for emergencies; to have ready an answer that shall be polite and true. But that is essentially the science of all virtue. It is the trials which take us by surprise that measure our strength; it is at these crises that destiny is made. And such unlooked-for assaults are sure to come to a Christian who goes voluntarily into the way of temptation. One who does not watch has no right to pray. A man, exhorted to abandon a habit of drinking that was fast dragging him to ruin, replied: "I magnify more than you do the grace of God. Without drinking anyone could save himself. I believe in grace that can save a man when he does drink." He held that delusion till he died a sot. That is a Divine law with reference to all sin. If you throw yourself from the top of the temple, God has power to keep your bones from breaking; but you had better not do so, for it is written: "Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God." The precept, "Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall," means, if you are walking in slippery places, watch every little danger, every least step. One may slip as badly on a foot of ice as on an acre. Peter would not have fallen if he had remembered Christ's caution spoken to him: "Watch and pray that ye enter not into temptation."

III. PETER REPENTED. There is no other way back to Christ for one who has fallen.

IV. PETER FOUND MERCY.

(T. J. Holmes.)

Let us endeavour to understand this melancholy event, Peter's denial of his Lord. In order to this, let us advert to the circumstances which attended it, and the causes which led to it; and then consider seriously the improvement which we should make of it.

I. THE CIRCUMSTANCES under which an offence is committed often greatly affect its character; they sometimes even change its complexion altogether. The first circumstance of aggravation is found in the repeated warnings which he received. Forewarned is forearmed; when, therefore, Peter had been warned by our Lord of his danger, we might have expected on his part the utmost vigilance and prayerfulness. The second circumstance of aggravation is found in the solemn protestations and vows which he made. After each warning he solemnly avowed his willingness to go with his Lord to prison and to death. Humility, self-abasement, prayers, tears, had been far more suitable in his case than those solemn protestations. And ever does it become us to say, "Hold Thou me up, and I shall be safe." The third circumstance of aggravation is found in the recentcy of the warnings and vows to which we have adverted. If the warnings had been given, and the vows made, some years before, they might have been forgotten; but they were all given and made the same night in which the offence was committed. A very few hours only could have elapsed between the last warning especially, and the first denial. A fourth circumstance of aggravation is found in the repetition of the offence. It was not once that he denied his Lord, but a second, and again a third time. And this leads to another circumstance of aggravation, that is to say, the profaneness and the perjury with which his denial was attended. We have just seen that the second time he did not simply deny his Lord, but he did it with an oath. He appealed to high heaven as his witness and his judge — when he swore falsely. The last circumstance of aggravation which we shall notice is, that all this was done in the very presence of the Redeemer. It was not done in a corner: it was not a secret offence, which might forever remain unknown; but it was done publicly, before many witnesses. John was there. It was in the presence of this faithful friend that Peter denied his Lord — with oaths and curses. Above all, Jesus was there.

II. Such are the circumstances of aggravation which marked the offence of Peter; we shall now advert with great brevity to the CAUSES of this strange conduct. How can we account for it?

1. One cause is found in the known character of Peter. He was a man of ardour, impetuosity, zeal; but, like many others of a similar temperament, he was destitute of moral courage. There is no necessary connection between physical and moral courage, some of the finest specimens of the former having proved themselves utterly destitute of the latter. How many there are who suffer from the same moral infirmity! Let our young friends especially guard against it, and labour to correct it. In order to this I would earnestly recommend two things.(1) An intimate acquaintance with some of the noble characters presented to us in history, as well as with some of the writings of choice spirits which have the most direct tendency to strengthen the mind. Let them steep their minds in the noble sentiments which are there so appropriately expressed.(2) An habitual realization of the Divine presence. Let them feel that God's eye is ever upon them; and let it be their study to approve themselves to Him.

2. We have another cause in the state of mind which he had recently indulged. I refer particularly to his overweening confidence and pride. The solemn warnings of his Lord ought to have humbled him; but his confidence was in himself, not in his God. "God will humble the proud, but will give grace to the lowly."

3. A third cause is found in the danger, real or imaginary, in which he was placed. It would not appear that there was any danger involved in the fact of his discipleship. John was a disciple; known as such to the High Priest, and yet he was in the palace, and appears to have apprehended no danger. But Peter had been active, in one sense mischievously active, in the garden. He had cut off the ear of the servant of the High Priest, and this might be construed into a crime; an attempt to rescue or prevent the capture of a criminal. Hence Peter's fears; his wish to be unknown; his denial. How closely rashness and cowardice are allied!

III. Let us now see what INSTRUCTION we may derive from this mournful spectacle. We regard it as an affecting illustration of the frailty of our nature; as a melancholy proof of what man can do under the influence of temptation, considered simply as a morally imperfect being. It thus presents one phasis at least of human character in an instructive light. Let us illustrate this. We may divide the human family into three classes. First, there are, in the worst sense of the term, wicked beings — beings whose moral nature is entirely perverted, whose good is evil; malevolent beings who can do evil for evil's sake, and have real delight in mischief. There are others who have by no means attained to this completeness in evil, who are, nevertheless, the slaves of some one dominant passion. And from his affecting ease we see what evil a man may commit, how low he may sink in moral degradation from mere frailty, from inherent defectiveness of character, when sore pressed by a temptation adapted to his weakness. It may be proper to remark here, that one act, whether good or bad, does not constitute a character. We should guard against the severity, the injustice of representing men as guilty of hypocrisy, of insincerity, because they have once, or even twice, under the influence of temptation, acted in opposition to their professions. The fall of Peter is further instructive to us, as it affords a striking illustration of man's ignorance of himself. How little man knows — can know of what is in him! The fall of Peter calls upon us to review our past history, and to look carefully into our own hearts. We may learn from the case of Peter the nature of true repentance. "Peter went out and wept bitterly." If we compare the case of Peter with that of Judas, we shall learn the nature of true repentance, we shall perceive the characteristic difference between that which is true and that which is false, that which is saving and that which is destructive. Wherein does the difference consist?

1. Judas saw clearly the enormity of his conduct, but it was only in and through its consequences; he had no perception of the evil of his conduct in itself.

2. The second point of difference between the repentance of Judas and of Peter is in the subject.

(J. J. Davies.)

He who once cracks his conscience will not much strain at it the second time.

1. Sin is very bold when once it is bid welcome. If it once enter, it knows the way again, and once admitted will plead, not possession, but prescription. An army is easier kept out than beaten out.

2. The sinner is less able to resist the second time than he was the first. Grace is weakened and decayed by yielding to the first temptation, and the strength of God, which only makes the way of grace easy, is plucked away by grieving His Holy Spirit.

3. The way of sin once set open, is as the gates of a city thrown open for an enemy, by which Satan bringing in his forces, strongly plants them, and quickly so fortifies them, that it will require great strength to remove them.

4. Every sin admitted, not only weakens, but corrupts the faculties of the soul by which it is upheld. It darkens the understanding, corrupts the will, disturbs the affections, and raises a cloud of passions to dazzle reason.

(Dr. Thomas Taylor.)

A dicer, they say, will grow to be a beggar in a night; and in a night Peter will grow from a dissembler to be a swearer and forswearer.

(Dr. Thomas Taylor.)

Why (it may be asked) does the Lord leave His saints and children to themselves, by withdrawing His grace from them, and so suffer them to fall into sin?

1. To correct their carelessness and carnal security.

2. To stir them up to more watchfulness over themselves for time to come, when they know their own weakness.

3. To pull down their pride, and humble them more thoroughly before God (2 Corinthians 12:7).

4. To drive out of them all confidence in themselves, and presumption of their own strength.

5. To make them more compassionate toward others (Luke 22:32).

6. That by this means He may make them examples, and grounds of comfort to other poor sinners.

(George Petter.)

Peter was now in great danger. He hears of the garden, and is likely to be revenged for his tumult, his quarrel, and wronging Malchus. He is pressed by evident signs that he was with Christ, and now if he bestir him not, he shall not avoid present danger; or if he do, he shall be branded for a common liar and perjured person forever; and therefore out of great fear he more stoutly denies his Master than before, and because neither his simple denial will serve him as in the first instance, nor his binding it with oaths and swearing as in the second, as if he had not done enough, he curses and imprecates himself, wishing not only mischief to himself, but calling on God, a just Judge, to avenge that falsehood, and inflict the deserved punishment if he knew Him of Whom they spake. Oh, fearful sin!

1. To deny his Lord and dear Master.

2. After so many warnings on Christ's part.

3. After so many confessions and professions of his own.

4. After so often, three several times, so much time of deliberation coming between. One might seem infirmity, but thrice argues resolution.

5. With lying and perjury.

6. With cursing and imprecation. Thus Peter is among the forwardest of those who make falsehood their refuge, and who trust in lies.

(Dr. Thomas Taylor.)

Benvenuto Cellini records in his autobiography the bitter experiences he endured in being tempted to lie to the Duke, his patron, lest he should forfeit the favours of the Duchess — he, who "was always a lover of truth and an enemy to falsehood, being then under a necessity of telling lies." "As I had begun to tell lies, I plunged deeper and deeper into the mire," till a very slough of despond it became to him.

(Francis Jacox.)

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