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2 PETER i. 13, 14.
Yea, I think it meet, as long as I am in this tabernacle,
to stir you up by putting you in remembrance; knowing that shortly I must put off this my tabernacle, even as our Lord Jesus Christ hath showed me.
It is a maxim of worldly prudence, that you may know a man by his companions : and to a certain extent the maxim is true, though the occurrences of human life may sometimes throw an individual temporarily into the society of persons whose principles and conduct he does not precisely adopt. With fewer exceptions, perhaps, may it be laid down as a rule, that you may know what the past life of a man has been by witnessing his conduct nearly at the close of it-on the approach of death. My text presents you with one of the first of Christ's disciples and adherents in that situation. He is shortly to put off his earthly tabernacle ; and what is his conduct under such an impression ? That he should relax in his endeavours to propagate and confirm the Gospel of truth, that he should plead the privileges of old age, of exhausted nature, and a constitution impaired by fatigue and persecutions ? No: but that he should only the more sedulously employ the residue of his life and strength in the work whereunto he had been called, that he should leave nothing undone. How few are the objects of worldly desire that will thus continue to stimulate to action to the remotest verge of life, to that point at which we take leave of the world and all its pleasures, and all its possessions, for ever and for ever!
My last discourse presented you with St. Paul arrived at a similar crisis, and exhibiting a similar conduct, so that the motive was not solitary, but probably operated upon all the Apostles. Chosen from different occupations of life, though chiefly the humblest, with no posterity to toil for, that we know
of, that might be even the heirs of their fame, (for they strove not for earthly possessions,) separated from each other by boundless tracts of sea and land, and with no such means of correspondence as the present state of society supplies; they still continue to promote a common cause to their latest breath with a zeal and energy which the most active minds have rarely displayed for terrestrial objects in the zenith of their vigour. The text upon which I discoursed to you respecting St. Paul was chosen from the last of his works, his second Epistle to Timothy. It is unnecessary
It is unnecessary to say that the same remark applies to the present text, that it is chosen from the last of the very brief writings of St. Peter : but with respect to this latter Apostle there is a much greater void than in the case of St. Paul, which can only be supplied on the principle which I have just laid down, that we may well judge what the tenor of a man's life has been by its conclusion. Fiction is usually most busy where there is the scantiest supply of authentic documents.
It appears that our Saviour no sooner took upon him his public ministry, after his rejection of the seductions of worldly power, mysteriously presented to him by the great tempter“, and after John the Baptist had been cast into prison, than he called to himself certain disciples as the companions of his future life and the witnesses of his actions; who, either moved by a divine but secret impulse, or overpowered by the sight of some miracle, obeyed the call, and implicitly followed the Saviour of mankind as their leader. Of these St. Peter was the first: the various incidents of his call, and that of his brother Andrew, may be collected from the four Evangelists", each of whom supplies some circumstance peculiar to himself. From this time St. Peter is so constantly with our Saviour, that their lives may be said to have been passed together; and the Gospels written for the
purpose of commemorating the history of one comprise also of necessity that of the other. It appears to have been to St. Peter that the
a St. Matt. iv. 17. St. Mark i. 14.
b St. Matt. iv. 17. St. Mark i. 14. St. Luke v. 4_11. St. John i. 40_-42.
first revelation was made of the divine character of his Master, and the object of his appearance on earth : “He saith unto them, “ But whom say ye that I am ? And Simon
Peter answered and said: Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus answered and said unto him : Blessed
art thou, Simon Bar-jona; for flesh and “ blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but
my Father which is in heaven. And I say “ also unto thee, that thou art Peter,” (that is, a rock,)“ and upon this rock I will build
my Church; and the gates of hell shall not “ prevail against it °." I shall merely here state the proposition, that the Church which our Saviour, being at Cæsarea Philippi in Palestine,
that he will found upon St. Peter as upon a rock, and against which the gates of hell shall not prevail, cannot, as asserted by some, be believed to mean exclusively a Church which was afterwards planted on the western side of Italy, which, rising from an obscure origin to immense temporal greatness by human means, has been guilty of the
C St. Matt xvi. 15—19.