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The grace of God has a real influence upon the whole man. It enlightens the understanding, directs the will, purifies the affection, regulates the passions, and corrects the different excesses to which different persons are by constitution or habit inclined. Yet it seldom wholly changes the complexion or temper of the animal frame. It does not impart any new natural powers, though it teaches the use and improvement of those we have received. It will dispose us to seek instruction, make us open to conviction, and willing to part with our prejudices, so far and so soon as we discover them, but it will not totally and instantaneously remove them. Hence there are a great variety of characters in the Christian life; and the several graces of the Spirit, as zeal, love, meekness, faith, appear with peculiar advantage in different subjects; yet so, that every commendable property is subject to its particular inconvenience. Perfection cannot be found in fallen man. The best are sometimes blameable, and the wisest often mistaken. Warm and active tempers, though influenced, in the main, by the noble ambition of pleasing God in all things, are apt to overshoot themselves, and to discover a resentment and keenness of spirit which cannot be wholly justified. Others of a more fixed and sedate temper, though less subject to this extreme, are prone to its opposite; their gentleness degenerates into indolence, their caution into cowardice. The principle of self, likewise, which, though subdued, is not eradicated, will in some instances appear. Add to this, the unknown access and influence which the evil spirits have upon our minds; the sudden and new emergencies which surprise us into action before we have had time to deliberate, with many other considerations of a like nature; and it will be no wonder
that some things are always amiss*, in the best and most successful attempts to promote the glory of God and the good of souls. And it is further to be noted, that some individuals will be found, who, though seemingly engaged in the same good work, and, for a time, pretending to much zeal, are essentially defective in their hearts and views; and when, at length, their true characters are exposed, the world, who either cannot or will not distinguish, charge the faults of a few upon a whole profession; as, in the former case, they wound the character of a good man for unavoidable and involuntary mistakes. We shall therefore show, that either the exceptions made, and so loudly reverberated in our ears against the Gospel-doctrine, on these accounts, are unjust, or that there was sufficient cause to reject and condemn our Lord and his apostles for the same
The character of Peter is marked with admirable propriety and consistence by the evangelists. He every where appears like himself. Earnestly devoted to his Master's person, and breathing an honest warmth for his service, he was, in a manner, the eye, the hand, the mouth, of the apostles. He was the first to ask, to answer, to propose, and to execute. He made a noble confession, for which our Lord honoured him with a peculiar commendation. He waited but for a command to walk to him upon the water. He was not
A lukewarm, cautious spirit, can easily avoid and readily censure the mistakes and faults of those, who, fired with an honest warmth for the honour of God and the good of souls, are sometimes transported beyond the bounds of strict prudence. But though the best intention cannot make that right which is wrong in itself, yet the zeal, diligence, and disinterested aim of such persons are worthy of our esteem.
afraid to expose himself in his Lord's defence, when he was surrounded and apprehended by his enemies; and though, in this last instance, his affection was ill expressed, yet his motive was undoubtedly praiseworthy. His heart flamed with zeal and love, and therefore he was always forward to distinguish himself.
But the warmth of Peter's temper often betrayed him into great difficulties, and showed that the grace he had received was consistent with many imperfections. Though he sincerely loved Christ, and had forsaken all for him, he was, at one time, so ignorant of the true design of his incarnation, that he was angry and impatient to hear him speak of his sufferings, and brought upon himself a most severe rebuke. Not content with the ordinary services allotted to him, he offered himself to unnecessary trials, as in the above instance, when he pressed to walk upon the water. The event showed him his own weakness and insufficiency, yet his selfconfidence revived and continued. When our Lord warned him again and again of his approaching fall, he thought and boldly affirmed that it was impossible.He was sincere in his protestation, but the actual experiment was necessary to convince and humble him; accordingly, when left to himself, he fell before the first temptation. And here the impetuosity of his temper was still manifest. He did not stop at a simple denial of Jesus, he confirmed it by an oath*, and at length, proceeded to utter bitter imprecations against himself, if
* Mark xiv. 71. "He began to curse and swear." Avalμati-to imprecate the most dreadful curses upon himseif, and call solemnly on God to execute them. This was, indeed, the most probable method to free himself from the suspicion of being a disciple of Jesus, for no such language had been, till then, heard among his followers.
he so much as knew him, whom he had seen transfigured in glory upon the mount, and prostrate in an agony in the garden. Such was the weakness and inconsistence of this prince of the apostles.
None of these excesses appeared in the conduct of the traitor Judas. He was so circumspect and reserved that we do not find any of the disciples had the least suspicion of him. But, whilst his heart was full of wickedness, he could find fault with others, and charge their best expressions of love with indiscretion. When Mary anointed our Lord's feet with ointment*, he was displeased at the waste, and professed a warm concern for the poor; but we are told the true reason of his economy: it was not because he cared for the poor, but because he was a thief, and had the bag, which contained the common stock, intrusted to him. The charge of the bag is an office full of temptation; and an attachment to the bag has been often at the bottom of many censures and misrepresentations which have been thrown out against the people of God. It has been, and it will be so; but the Lord has appointed, that wherever the Gospel should be preached to the end of the world, this action of Mary, with the observation of Judas upon it, and the motive from which he made it, should be handed down together, that we may not be discouraged at things of the same kind. Without doubt, the treason of Judas and his unhappy end, after having maintained a fair character so long, and shared with the rest in the honours of the apostleship, were to them an occasion of grief, and afforded their enemies a subject of reproach and triumph. But we may believe one reason why our Lord chose Judas, and continued him so long with his disciples, to have been
* John xii. 5, 6.
that we might learn by this awful instance not to be surprised if some, who have made a show in the church, been chosen to important offices, and furnished with excellent gifts, do, in the end, prove hypocrites and traitors: "Let him that thinketh he standeth, take heed "lest he fall."
A desire of pre-eminence and distinction is very unsuitable to the followers of Jesus, who made himself the servant of all; very unbecoming the best of the children of men, who owe their breath to the mercy of God, have nothing that they can call their own, and have been unfaithful in the improvement of every talent. We allow that every appearance of this is a blemish in the Christian character, and especially in a Christian minister; but if, on some occasion, and in some degree, human infirmity has wrought this way, though no example can justify it, yet those who through ignorance of their own hearts, are too rigid censurers of others, may be reminded, that this evil frequently discovered itself in the apostles. They often disputed who should be the greatest; and when our Lord was speaking of his approaching sufferings, two of them chose that unseasonable time to preclude the rest, and petitioned that they might have the chief seats in his kingdom. The first offence was theirs; but when the ten heard it, they were all moved with indignation, and showed themselves equally desirous of superiority. It is plain, therefore, that, unless the apostles were hypocrites and mercenaries, some transient escapes of this sort, (though confessedly criminal and indecent,) are no sure proofs that such a person is not in the main sincere, disinterested, and truly devoted to the service of God and his Gospel.
No less contrary to the meck and gracious spirit of