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SERMON III.

Self-distrust, Watchfulness, and Prayer.

MARK XIV. 38.-Watch ye and pray, lest ye enter into

temptation.

This command of the Saviour is full of instruction. He gave it in his hour of agony, to Peter, James, and John; but to Peter with some particularity of address. Peter had reposed too much confidence,-not in the strength of his attachment to his master, for that was of immoveable firmness, but in the warmth and weakness of his heart, in the passionate impulses and accompanying timidity of his character. Simon,' said the agonized Saviour, 'sleepest thou couldst not thou watch one hour? thou, whose spirit is so ardent, whose heart is so warm, and whose promises of faithfulness have just been so vehement and impassioned?'

A milder, a more gentle rebuke, never proceeded from human mouth. Nothing could have been more tender, or more touching, than this delicacy of reference; and nothing could have been more appropriate, than the caution of the text:-Watch ye and pray, lest you yourselves come

into these same trials.

As I have already observed, there is salutary warning in this passage; and I would impress its power upon every heart. The doctrines it impresses, are threefold: 1st. a consciousness of human imperfection; 2d. the necessity of

SELF-DISTRUST, WATCHFULNESS, AND PRAYER. 131 exercising vigilance over your hearts and behaviour; and 3d. supplication to the Supreme Being to preserve you from trial, or deliver you from evil :-self-distrust, watchfulness, and prayer.

1. The first doctrine claiming your regard, is self-distrust. Do not imagine I mean unreasonable diffidence; a feeling so apprehensive of doing wrong, as never to do right. I wish you to discover decision both in your sentiments and your conduct: it is the glory of a rational being, it is the glory of a Christian. Peter discovered, indeed, temerity in promise and timidity in performance; but thirty years after that melancholy night, when he denied his lord, at the period when he composed his first epistle, he manifested the true wisdom of experience. Be always ready to give an answer, he enjoined with meekness and respect, to every man who asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you. The self-distrust I would recommend is something more than freedom from rashness; it is a deep sense of human frailty relying upon divine sufficiency.

All heart and impulse, Peter was over-confident of himself. He was most sincere, no doubt, in that devoted enthusiasm he expressed. How could he then deny his beloved Lord? From motives resembling these:-Knowing his master to be in possession of miraculous powers, and entertaining views of the Messiah extremely erroneous, he hardly expected to have his fidelity immediately brought to the proof. Besides, talking of imprisonment and death, is a very distinct thing from seeing them momently impending. In a word, Peter was an imperfect

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Christian. He has been stigmatized as timid or cowardly. In that soul-trying exigence, he was so; but justice requires you to remember, that he showed more courage than his companions. True, he exclaimed with vehement emphasis, Even should I die with thee, I will never deny thee;' but the historian adds, and thus said they all;' and when his master was apprehended, he made the only resistance of which you have any record. They had but two swords; but of those two he wielded the only one that seems to have been drawn, and not without some execution; and when the disciples all forsook Jesus and fled, Peter and John alone hovered near their Lord: they alone followed him to the palace of the High Priest. They were both moved to this procedure by affection; and if one of them uttered an untruth, it was with no malicious design, but solely to preserve himself from suspicion and arrest as an accomplice.

Still, though fear of seizure prompted the falsehood, it was altogether unjustifiable; and you cannot wonder, that he went out and wept bitterly; you cannot wonder that when the Lord turned, and LOOKED UPON HIM, he was overwhelmed with astonishment,-a deep sense of his weakness and unworthiness;-that he rushed from the palace, and in the solitude and silence of night burst into tears, tears of memory, tears of self-condemnation, tears of the bitterest remorse. You see him the oldest disciple, now in the full meridian of manhood, weeping alone, and you see a most affecting sight. You are disposed to weep with him. But pause and reflect; the warning he affords

you, is something more profitable than tears. You perceive that a more intimate knowledge of himself, a consciousness of his imperfect virtue, would have preserved him,-preserved him from rash self-confidence,-saved him from his deplorable disloyalty and fall. Yes, this true friend of Jesus, thus betrayed by 'circumstances and the infirmity of his nature into a momentary defection, is an impressive warning to all Christians. He seems to proclaim to you, 'Remember me,-me who promised to defend, but shamefully denied my master. Be more moderate and composed in your promises, but resolute and unmoved in performing them. Be sensible of this truth, that your Maker has granted your soul the powerful nerve of resolve; but still rely upon the support of an arm that is almighty. For the energies imparted, fail not to be grateful; fail not continually to exert them. Remember for your encouragement, that while with fear and trembling you strive to accomplish your salvation, God is working in you both to will and to do,-aiding you to resolve and aiding you to perform. At the same time, be not presumptuous remember the vehement wrath, the unmanly fear and falsehood, the bitter agony of Peter, and cease not day or night to be watchful.

2. By considerations of this nature, you come to the second doctrine of the text; you perceive the necessity of christian watchfulness.

Every human being that lives to maturity of reason; every human being that has a probationary life committed to him, is exposed to evil. This is the inevitable lot of

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man, since without trial you could give no proof of goodness. God commands you that seem to stand, to take heed lest you fall. God commands: he is therefore faithful, and will not suffer you to be tried above your ability; but with the trial, he will provide a way for your escape. He promises to proportion your burden to your strength. This is no more than you would naturally anticipate, from a Being of infinite perfection. But the strength he has imparted, he requires you to exert; for unless you do exert it, you have it imparted in vain. Peter was not tried above his ability to bear. Had he fortified his heart by confidence in his Master, instead of confidence in himself; had he believed in God, and believed in Christ; that is, had he reposed confidence in the Supreme Being and his Master; had he felt the conviction, that the miraculous works of his Master must have been wrought by divine power; he must have been assured, that the Father who commissioned, would not abandon his Son; and had he been watchful over himself, he could never have committed the folly of uttering three falsehoods so improbable and so useless. His Master had given commandment, 'Swear not at all;' but so imperfectly had his heart become moulded to spiritual views, that he attempted to confirm ever falsehood by swearing. Unhappy Peter, how miserably fallen! how humble even in his own estimation! Can this be the man, who expressed his attachment with such enthusiasm of sentiment and manner? My friends, he knew not himself: he was not watchful over his weaker nature. He had expected a temporal Messiah; but now, when he saw him whom he had acknowledged to be the Christ, the

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