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our Lord testifies his acceptance of his profession and his forgiveness of his fault.
There are many important lessons which this narrative is calculated to teach. We will, however, confine our attention now to the circumstance that in reference both to Peter's past conduct and to the discharge of those duties which Christ now devolves upon him, whether in inducing humility or stimulating to exertion, our Lord calls forth the one and enforces the other by asking only the simple question, "Lovest thou me?" We think that this fact points out and illustrates the three following truths:
I. That love is peculiarly the evangelical motive.
Other religions, somewhat more elevated in their conception and elevating in their tendency, have joined to fear the inducement of hope, and have held out prizes, in this life or in another, which shall certainly be gained by their sincere and obedient followers. Temporal dominion and the unceasing gratification of their sensual appetites in paradise, are the rewards to which Mohammed, for example, endeavours to persuade his followers to be devout and obedient.
Nor was the religion of the Jews a religion of love. It is doubtless true that they received injunctions to love their God, yet those very actions which were calculated to call forth their gratitude were of such a nature, and asso
II. That Christ is peculiarly the ciated with such circumstances, as tended object of evangelical love.
III. That love to Christ is the test of evangelical religion. To these points we will now therefore endeavour to attend.
I. In general men's actions are performed from one of three motives, fear, hope, or love. These might indeed be regarded as but two, fear and hope being but different forms of direct self-interest, whilst love is a desire for the well-being of others.
The different systems of religion have accordingly as their main-spring one or other of these motives. The grosser forms of paganism, and all idolatry, in its past or present developments, have been based on fear; their deities having been regarded as malicious tyrants or vindictive punishers, and their sacrifices having been offered to procure the removal of calamities to which they were subject, or avert those which they were dreading. The lowest, and most mechanical mode of acting on the human will is impelling the man by fear; and it is not surprising that in the lowest and most material forms of religion this should be the motive appealed to.
to excite fear in the bosoms of the beholders. By mighty signs and a strong arm were they brought out of Egypt; but this, though showing Jehovah's regard for them, at the same time made him known as an awful being inflicting the severest punishment on the despisers of his authority. Their law was delivered from Mount Sinai amidst thunder and lightnings-amidst blackness, and darkness, and a tempest, and sound of a trumpet, and the voice of words; and so "terrible was the sight that Moses said, I exceedingly fear and quake." Their worship consisted of the sacrifice of unoffending victims; blood was sprinkled on the people, blood on the tabernacle, blood on the very mercyseat itself; and curses of the most fearful kind were threatened from Mount Sinai on the slightest infringement of the law. At the same time the principle of hope was appealed to; rewards were promised to them as a nation for constant and perfect obedience to the will of God; security from their enemies; peace among themselves; case, prosperity, temporal dominion, were held out as inducements to obedience; and
though the more spiritual could not and did not fail to see that service rendered from such motives was defective-though many among them were constrained by the favours shown to them as a nation, and as inducements to strive after a higher, and a purer, and a nobler service, yet the masses of the people were influenced by motives of a different kind, and worshipped Jehovah because they dreaded his anger or hoped to profit by his regard.
foul spirit of envy. Patient of all injury, forgiving all offences, finding some excuse for others' misdoings, seeking the welfare of all; love suffereth long, and is kind-beareth, believeth, hopeth, endureth all things. Wherever it exists there spring blooms afresh, and it is under the full influence of love that the "wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad, and the desert shall rejoice and blossom as the rose."
Love lasts when all else has faded. Future glories, now the theme of prophetic prediction, shall be accomplished. Languages shall cease, for spirit shall hold converse with spirit, and the language of heaven is one. Human knowledge, now so eagerly sought after, shall be ignorance compared to what we then shall know. Faith shall no more be needed and shall
Very different is it with Christianity. Hope and fear are not wrong motives, andit does not therefore discard their aid. Nay, it does more than any other system of religion, to strengthen and enlarge them. It brings to light the obscured and scarcely recognized truths of a future, a certain, an impartial judgment, and holds out a prospect of joy unspeakable and full of glory with which the faith-give way to sight-hope itself shall be ful servant shall be rewarded. But it is not on these things that it loves to insist; nor are these represented as the main springs of the believer's actions. Sinners indeed are warned that God is a consuming fire, and even Christians are stimulated to renewed energy by the hope of an "inheritance incorruptible, undefiled, and that fadeth not away." But while God is not divested of any of his glorious attributes nor his law denuded of its obligations, it is written in the brightest colours that God is love. The tear of penitence is drawn forth, self-sacrificing consecration to the cause of Christ, as in Peter's case, so in that of Christians everywhere and ever, is urged by the simple question, "Lovest thou me?" and the calm avowal of every Christian's heart is, "The love of Christ constraineth me."
Love-love to God, and love to manis the most delightful emotion that can take possession of the human breast. Into whatever heart it enters it slays the demon of discord and banishes the
lost in the realization of its anticipated joys-but love abideth-love shall pervade every bosom of the blest-shall tune every note of praise-shall crown every song of triumph: "Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, and hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever." Thus excellent and thus enduring is the motive which the gospel peculiarly calls forth.
II. Christ is peculiarly the object of evangelical love.-We said just now that to the Jews the Divine Being was made known as one whom they behoved, to love; and there is no doubt that they were, far more than others, the objects of his regard, and the recipients of his favours. Nor can there be a question that Christians, by the manifestation of his love in the gift of his Son, are laid under still deeper obligations to gratitude, and are thus more loudly called upon to love their Father who is in heaven. But this is not the only, nor perhaps the principal way in which the
gospel calls forth and renders easy the love of the creature to the Creator.
It is comparatively easy to understand that the universal Parent-the Being who is the source of our lifewho has endowed us with faculties capable of happiness - who has surrounded us with the means of their gratification-who, by his kind and ever-watchful providence shields us from ever-threatening danger, and hour after hour supplies our returning wants, gently leading us through scenes of enjoyment, or with tender hand chastising us for our wanderings, and drawing us back to himself;—it is easy, I say, to understand that such a Being should have, not our fear or our reverence merely, but our love. This however is not the Being that the outer world or our inner consciousness makes known. These, indeed, make known to us a Creator and Preserver-but they present him to us as an awful Being -a Sovereign whose authority we have spurned, and whose laws we have broken-and a Judge, boundless in power, and surrounded by all the terrors of a judgment day. And yet more. That our love should be exercised on another, it is necessary that we should, "at all events, form something like a dis. tinct and adequate conception of him. But on the part of man towards God this is well nigh impossible. His very attributes, though we are compelled to believe, we cannot understand. Selfexistent-everlasting-infinitely powerful-every where present-all-knowing God-how can our minds grasp the idea, much less our hearts go forth in love? And compelled as we are to derive our knowledge through the senses, and unable to conceive of any thing not material, how can we form an idea of that God who is a spirit, and whom we dare not suppose to be encumbered with any thing approaching to a human frame. And yet this is the
Being whom nevertheless we are conscious we ought to love.
Nor is this all. The human mind would seem to require that there should be some sympathy between it and the object of its love. Some feeling of weakness-some experience of painsome proneness to temptation-some fear of evil-some hope of higher good -some ability to weep with others' sorrows, and to be gladdened by others' joy-these things are wanting before our love spontaneously gushes forth and our souls go out freely towards another. A perfect Being, who, as being perfect and unchangeable, can neither hope nor fear, is one towards whom human nature may well feel the profoundest reverence, but whom it must ever be a most difficult attainment for any created intelligence to love.
In wonderful condescension to our littleness, the Most High has in an astonishing manner presented us with precisely that manifestation of himself which humanity required. It is scarcely necessary to state that our Saviour, when dwelling on the earth, brought down in some measure to the level of our faculties the glorious attributes of the Deity, and at the same time showed himself such a one as to call forth our sympathy. The miracles which he wrought were instances-and instances that could be contemplated without that awe which more imposing manifestations must have excited-of divine omnipotence and omniscience; whilst the beneficent character of these miracles exhibited most illustriously the goodness and the love of God. Exposed to temptation-suffering from wantthe object of contempt, and calumny, and persecution, and finally experiencing the agony of death, human nature every where must see its counterpart and can therefore bestow its love. No one can read the narrative of our Lord's life without feeling at every step that,
though far transcending us in moral excellence, and doing what man of himself can never perform, yet there is One who had a fellow feeling with ourselves, and towards whom therefore our affections may go forth.
But this of itself is not enough. Man can never be satisfied by man. The soul of man ever seeks something nobler than itself. Though it cannot grasp the infinite, it cannot be content with the finite. The spirit that came from God, wherever it may wander, and how ever little it may retain the likeness of its Divine Original, turns ever towards God again, not in its affections, indeed, but in its cravings. Man needs a God to reverence-a God to trust in-a God to love. Thus, while our enmity to God keeping us ever from him may be compared to that power in nature which drives our earth onward at an immense distance from its centre, our cravings after him resemble that other power which prevents us from rushing further and further from the source of life. The Lord, though a perfect man, yet as a mere man could never supply man's wants; but as God-man no want remains unsatisfied. He, in whom bodily dwelt all the fulness of the Godhead, can call forth the love of man and fix it on God himself. That desire for sympathy which some have sought to gratify, by rendering their worship to departed fellow creatures, and desiring their intercession with the Supreme; and that search after the Infinite, which has led ancient and modern philosophers to worship the abstraction of their own intellect; both may be met and satisfied in that Saviour who took flesh and dwelt among us. He who said to Peter, "Lovest thou me?" was one who was fitted, more than any other being, to attract man's love; and at the same time was one on whom, throughout eternity, man's love might worthily be placed. Such is the Being whom the gospel
holds out to us as the peculiar object of our love.
III. Love to Christ is the test of evangelical religion.-If there be a revelation from God, and if love be the motive which is distinguished from all others as the main spring of right action, and if Christ is held forth as the peculiar object of love, it is plain that love to Christ must furnish an unfailing criterion by which to judge of the possession of real religion. Where that is and acts, there religion exists; where that is not, no matter what may be the opinion or the conduct, there is no religion. This standard is accordingly clearly recognized in scripture. "If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ let him be anathema."
Nor is it difficult to show that this standard must approve itself to any one who will take pains impartially to regard it. It is true that, applied by man, mistakes would frequently and must needs occur. We can only judge of motives by actions; and these may often appear to spring from one motive when they really spring from another. But as the motives alone give moral worth to actions, all judgment must be defective where these are not the object of regard. And as the Supreme Judge can never mistake, the having or not having right motives must certainly decide the character and determine the desert.
Now love to Christ furnishes a proper test of character. Because, first, want of love to Christ evidences disobedience to God. The gospel of Christthe message of God to a sinful worldis commonly spoken of and looked upon as an amazing manifestation of the divine goodness and mercy, and as laying man under infinite obligations; and man is declared to be most ungrateful if he does not with a willing heart embrace its offers. But this is not the only way in which it should be re
garded. It is, indeed, a message of mercy and love, but it is a command stamped with divine authority, and obedience to which is demanded under the sanction of the heaviest penalties. The greatness of the condescension and the vastness of the blessing in no respect lessen the force of the command. But men forget this, and thus, while anxious to vindicate themselves from all charges of infringing the moral law of God, all the while they are guilty of this great act of disobedience, and are actually endeavouring to prove their innocence of one crime in order that more contentedly they may commit a greater. If there be any one here who has been wont to think his own inclination only is concerned in his treatment of the gospel of salvation, know this-that in turning your back on the mercy offered through Jesus Christ, you are committing an act of the grossest disobedience to the will of the Most High. God commands all men every where to repent, and enjoins upon us faith in and love to that Saviour, by whom alone our sins may be forgiven. The man who loves not Christ disobeys the command of God.
place the criterion of moral excellence, we shall find it conspicuously manifest in our Jesus. Is it in delight in communion with God and desire for his glory? See him alone on the mountainside after evening has set in, and before the day has broken-nay, sometimes all night, in prayer to God. Hear him in his teaching vindicating the divine honour, see him magnifying the law by his obedience-manifesting in a word by his whole life that his Father's business was that which he would be about. Is it placed in goodwill to man, and desire for his well-being? His toilsome travels, his weary watchings, his protracted teachings, his wondrous works, his consent to take our flesh, his life in all its griefs, his death in all its agony
all proclaim that he came to bring peace on earth, goodwill to men. Is it sought in condescension to inferiors? He takes children in his arms. readiness to console the afflicted and pity the distressed? "Weep not," he said, in tenderest tones, to the widow of Nain. And never did he send any from him without a blessing. Is it placed in forbearance of others' feelings, and gentleness of reproof? "Lovest thou me ?" is all that he says to him who, having been the most forward in his professions, was the first to deny him. Or is it in bearing injuries with meekness, and showing forgiveness to his oppressors ? We need only point to the last scene, when priests, in their envy, had sought his destruction; when the people, whose benefactor he had shown himself, preferred to him a murderer; when perjury had procured his condemnation by a
Because, secondly, want of love to Christ evinces aversion to holiness. Religion may perhaps be defined to be likeness to God's moral nature, or sympathy with all the purposes of God's moral government; or hatred to all evil; or a predominant and constant taste for holiness. If so, and if there can be found a means of estimating such a disposition, it is plain that there is a test of real religion. And if there is presented to us an embodiment of per-mean-spirited and time-serving judge; fect holiness, our feelings and our conduct in regard to that Being supply us with such a means. That Christ was so can scarcely need to be shown to any one acquainted with the sacred narratives.
In whatever point of character we
and when, as the consummation-act of such cowardly atrocity, his enemies with taunts derided his sufferings, and mocked him in the very agony of death; instead of lifting up his voice to heaven and calling down fire upon them, he puts up a prayer for them and suggests a pallia