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yet am I a sinner; and as such would implore God's compassion, and tremble at his judgments!
II. His petition: "Depart from me, oh Lord!"
This may seem strange; but it will not appear so much so, if we consider the state of Peter's mind at this time. This was not a bidding defiance to Christ, or so much as expressive of any indifference to or disapprobation of him. He reverenced, he loved him; and his presence was so far from being disagreeable, that it was above all things the object of desire and delight. He was so far from being weary of his company, that he would go through fire, and as he once did, through water to enjoy it. This was not like the language of profane sinners: Depart from us, we desire not the knowledge of thy ways; or that dialect of devils, What have we to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of David!-The following things seem to be implied.
1. Great fear and distress. Few, unless they have been in something of the same situation, can guess at the various agitations of Peter's mind. What a sense he now had of his own vileness, and what views of the excellency of Christ! Perhaps his inward feelings might be well expressed in those words of Job: I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear, but now mine eye seeth thee: I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes! Or those of the prophet Isaiah: Woe is me, for I am a man of unclean lips, and dwell among a people of unclean lips; for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of Hosts! The more we see of God's greatness, the more we see of our own sinfulness; and adoring thoughts of God are always attended with abasing thoughts of ourselves. The knowledge of God always renders the creature contemptible to a good man, and no creature so contemptible as himself. Rebecca alighted from her camel when she saw Isaac, and prostrated herself before him: and whatever opinion we may have entertained of ourselves
before, sure I am, that we shall be sensible of our own nothingness when we view ourselves in the light of the divine perfections. Thus the Psalmist expresses himself: Oh Lord, our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth, who hast set thy glory above the heavens: and then it follows, What is man, that thou art mindful of him; and the son of man, that thou visitest him! (Psal. viii. 1, 4.) The reason why carnal men and hypocrites do not humble themselves before God is, because they do not know him: the reason why the best of men humble themselves no more before him is, because they are so little acquainted with him. They would have lower apprehensions of themselves, if they had higher apprehensions of God. His greatness shews our littleness, his wisdom our folly, his strength our weakness, his holiness our impurity. Hence a holy awe of his majesty is always the fruit of familiar commuuion with him. To what intimacy was Abraham admitted, when he pleaded for Sodom; and in what language does he speak of himself at the same time that he expresses a humble fear, lest God should be offended at the liberty he assumed. I have taken upon me to speak unto the Lord, who am but dust and ashes: oh let not the Lord be angry, and 1 wil! speak yet but this once. Much like this seems to be the temper of Peter; deep humility mixed with slavish fear.
2. It implies modesty and diffidence, which kept him at a distance from him who not only admits, but invites to the greatest nearness. Peter felt on this occasion somewhat like the centurion, when he said, I am not worthy that thou shouldst come under my roof. As if he should say, 'Great would be my happiness to have a visit from thee; but I do not deserve it, and therefore cannot expect it.' It is a favour too great for so mean a person, so grievous an offender. It is also like the language of the same apostle in another place: Dost thou wash my feet? Thou may
est wash the feet of my fellow disciples, they are more fit to be thus honoured and indulged; but thou shalt never wash my feet; not considering that this show of humility and self-denial was a direct contradiction to the will of Christ. And thus it is when souls are coming to the Saviour. When other sins are in some measure subdued, unbelief, under the disguise of humility, starts up, and makes the greatest opposition. They are discouraged on account of their unfitness and unworthiness, the want of this or the other qualification; and these are now as great a bar in their way, as the love of the world and the pleasures of sin were before. Lord, says Peter, depart from me: I have deserved that it should be so, and therefore can hardly desire that it should be otherwise. I cannot bear that thou shouldst stoop so low as to take notice of such a wretch as I am, such a rebel as I have been.
"Love bid me welcome,
S. This request bespeaks rashness and inconsideration, much remaining darkness and ignorance. That might be applied to Peter here, which is said of him in another place: He wist not what to say, for he was sore afraid. Reason, religion, his own wants and necessities, as well as Christ's known and experienced readiness to dissipate his terrors, and grant all needful indulgence to his people, should have engaged him to say, Come unto me, instead of, depart from me. The more sinful I am, the more need I stand in of a Saviour. I am laden with guilt, oh come to me with discoveries of thy pardoning grace! I am all over polluted, come to me in the cleansing operations of thy Spirit! I am overwhelmed with grief and sorrow, oh make me to hear joy and gladness, that the bones which thou hast broken may rejoice! In
stead of saying, Depart from me, he should have put up the same petition as he did when sinking in the deep waters: Lord, save, or I perish! Woe unto you, says God, if I depart from you. Therefore, as we value our own souls, as we would not be left under the power of Satan, and dominion of our lusts; as we would have divine providences, or gospel ordinances be for our spiritual advantage; as we would be useful in life, comfortable in death, and happy for ever, we should implore his presence as our greatest privilege, and deprecate his absence as the greatest of all evils.
To conclude: In what Peter said aright, let us imitate him. In confessing and bewailing our sins, we can hardly exceed. We are sinful men, and should acknowledge ourselves to be so before God; saying with Daniel, To us belongeth confusion of face, because we have sinned against thee. But in what he said wrong, we should beware of following his example; for a rash word has cost many a child of God a load of sorrow on reflexion.
Finally; We are instructed by what has been said, that it is not humility, but infidelity, to reject the blessings of the gospel as too good or too great, either for us to receive or Christ to bestow. Do we say with Peter, Lord depart from us; woe, woe unto us, if he were to take us at our word!
If Jesus hide his lovely face,
What griefs o'erwhelm my mind!
All earthly beauties fade away,
Return, dear Saviour, oh return,
MATT. ii. 8.
And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, Go, and search diligently for the young child; and when ye have found him, bring me word again, that I may come and worship him also.
IN the foregoing verses we have the wise men's so
licitous enquiry after the new-born Messiah, which excited an anxious concern in Herod, who, though he had done great things for the jews, was one of the most deceitful and cruel princes in the world. Having therefore learned from the chief priests and scribes where Christ was to be born, he privately called for the venerable personages before mentioned, and what followed is here recorded.
1. He sent them to Bethlehem. That was to be the birth place of the Saviour of the world. It was prophesied that it should be so, (Micah v. 2.) and it really was so. It was the city of David; and therefore it was fit that he should draw his first breath there, who was the offspring, as well as root of David. It was little among the thousands of Judah; and therefore it was wisely ordained that he should be born there, who was despised and rejected of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. He was