The Apostle Peter
( Originally Published 1913 )
IN our last chapter, we saw how the Spirit of God came down from heaven to carry on the work which Jesus left for his people to do after his ascension. And now, before leaving this subject, it is necessary to show what the Holy Spirit did to build up the Church on the foundation which Jesus had laid for it; and to make known to a world of lost sinners, the great salvation which he had prepared for them. The best way of doing this, would be to give a sketch of the lives and labors of the twelve apostles whom our Lord had chosen, and left behind him, to carry on the important work begun by him. But this would take more room than we can spare. There are only two numbers now remaining to finish this work. All that can be done, therefore, is to make choice of three of the principal apostles, and take their histories as fair specimens of the way in which the work of building up the Church was carried on by them and their companions after Jesus, their great Master, had ascended into heaven.
The three selected for this purpose are the apostle Peter, the apostle John, and the apostle Paul. All will agree in regarding these as among "the very chief of the apostles." We begin then with THE APOSTLE PETER.
And in considering the life of this great and good man, the two points of view from which we may look at it are the facts of his history; and the lessons which it teaches.
We begin then, with considering the facts of St. Peter's history, as mentioned in the New Testament. We shall not attempt to give all the facts woven into this history. It will be enough for our present purpose if the principal facts are stated. The first fact to notice about this good man is that he was a native of the city of Bethsaida, on the northern coast of the Sea of Galilee, and that his father's name was Jonas, or Jonah. The next thing known of him is that his occupation was that of a fisherman. It is a fact that he was first brought to Jesus by his brother Andrew, who had been one of the disciples of John the Baptist. Jesus spoke kindly to him, and told him that his name should be changed from Simon, as he was then called, to Cephas, which is the Greek word for a rock, or a stone. The Latin word, that means the same thing, is the word Petrus. And so Cephas, or Peter, is the name by which he was afterwards called. St. John i : 41, 42; St. Matt. xvi : 18. It is a fact that he did not continue to follow Jesus, as one of his disciples, immediately after this first interview with him, but went back, for a while, to his old employment as a fisherman.
It is a fact that some time after this he was called by Jesus to be one of his disciples. It happened in this way :-One day, Jesus was standing on the shore of the Sea, of Galilee. A crowd of people were pressing around him, to hear him preach. He wanted a convenient place from which to speak to them. Peter was near at hand, in his fishing-boat. Jesus stepped on board the boat, and asked Peter to push it out a little way from the land. He did so; and Jesus made a pulpit of that boat, and preached to the people, as they stood upon the shore of the lake. When the sermon was ended, Jesus told Peter to push the boat out into deep water and let down the net, and he would catch a fine lot of fish. Peter said they had been fishing all night and had caught nothing. Still, he did as Jesus told him; and immediately they found more fish than their net would hold. This showed Peter the wonderful knowledge and power of Jesus. He felt afraid of him, and fell down at his feet, saying, "Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord ! " Jesus said unto him, "Fear not; from henceforth thou shalt catch men." St. Luke vi : 1-11. St. Mat-thew tells us that on this occasion Jesus said to Peter and his brother Andrew, "Follow me; and I will make you fishers of men." St. Matt. iv : 18, 19.
It is a fact that some time after this, Jesus chose out from the rest of his disciples Peter and eleven others, to be his twelve apostles. They were to be with him at all times, to hear his teachings, in private, as well as in public; to witness his miracles ; and be prepared, in this way, to take up and carry on his work when he should return to heaven. We have the account of this in St. Matt. x : 2-4; St. Mark iii: 13-19; and St. Luke vi: 13-17.
It is a fact that in these different lists of the apostles, the name of Peter always stands first.
We are not told why this was so. One thing is certain, however, it was not because he was set above the rest of the apostles, or had any power or authority superior to what was given to the others. It was, probably, only because he was quicker to speak and more ready to act than his brethren were. Two occasions are mentioned in the gospels on which he did this. One of them was when some of the followers of Jesus were offended at his preaching. They went away and would not hear him any more. Then Jesus turned to his chosen twelve and said : "Will ye also go away ? " Peter, speaking for the rest, immediately replied: "Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life." St. John vi: 66-69.
The other occasion was when the disciples had returned from one of the missionary tours on which they had been sent. Jesus asked them what men said about him. Different answers were given to this question; but none of them were correct. Then he asked them what they thought about him. Peter at once, answering for the rest, said : "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God." This was a noble confession. It showed that Peter had very clear views of the character of Jesus and of the work he came on earth to do. Jesus pronounced a blessing on him for this, and said: "Thou art Peter; and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." St. Matt. xvi : 18. There has been great difference of opinion among good Christian people about the meaning of these words of our Saviour. They cannot mean that Peter, in his person or in his office as an apostle, was to be the rock, or foundation, on which the Church of Christ was to be built. This is certain ; because St. Paul tells us that there is only one foundation on which this Church is built, and that is Christ himself. I. Cor. iii : 11. There can be no doubt, I think, that what Jesus meant here was that the noble confession which Peter made on this occasion was the truth on which his Church was to be built. And this we know is the case.
It is a fact that Peter, with James and John, was present to see and hear what Jesus said, and did, and suffered, on several occasions when the other disciples were not present. One of these occasions was when he raised the daughter of Jairus from the dead. Another occasion was when Jesus appeared in such wondrous glory on the Mount of Transfiguration. And, in striking contrast to this, when he sank to the earth, amidst the gloomy shades of Gethsemane, overwhelmed by the "agony and bloody sweat," Peter was one of the three chosen witnesses of that awful scene.
It is a fact that when he saw his Master walking on the water, he asked permission to come and meet him, by walking over the surface of the sea. Jesus gave him leave to come. He got out of the ship, and began that watery walk. But, when he saw the rough waves rising and swelling against him, his heart sank, his faith failed, and he was beginning to sink, when Jesus stretched forth his hand and saved him.
It is a fact that, on one occasion, Jesus sent Peter to the seaside with a fishing-line to catch a fish, in whose mouth he was to find the money required to pay the taxes due to the government for himself and his Master.
It is a fact that the night before the crucifixion of our Lord, Peter solemnly declared that he would never forsake his Master, though all the rest of his followers should do so; and, even though he should have to die for clinging to him. It is a fact, nevertheless, that he did forsake him that very night, and three times deny that he knew him ; yea, even with oaths and curses. It is a fact that, notwithstanding this, Peter was freely forgiven, on the morning of the resurrection, and restored to the place which he had forfeited, as one of the twelve apostles.
It is a fact that after the ascension of Jesus into heaven, Peter was the first to propose the election of another apostle to fill the place which had been left vacant by the death of the traitor Judas.
It is a fact that when the Holy Ghost came down on the day of Pentecost, Peter was the first of all the apostles to preach the gospel; and that three thousand souls were converted, as the result of one day's labor; and that, in all the work done in the earliest history of the new church, he was the principal preacher.
It is a fact that the first miracle of which we read in the history of the new church was per-formed by Peter. It was the miracle of healing the lame man, who was sitting at "the gate of the temple called Beautiful," when Peter and John were entering the temple, at the hour for evening prayer. Acts iii : 1-9.
It is a fact that when the apostles were for-bidden by the Jewish rulers to preach in the name of Jesus, Peter was the first boldly to tell them to their faces, that they must "obey God, rather than men "; and that, in spite of all that might be said, or done, to hinder them, they would go on, and preach " Jesus Christ, and him crucified." Acts iv : 13-23.
It is a fact that as the first miracle of mercy in the early church was performed by this apostle, so was the first miracle of judgment. We read about this in Acts v : 1-10. It was before him that Ananias and Sapphira were struck dead for the sin of lying and cheating.
It is a fact that the miraculous power of Peter was so great and so well-known that people laid their sick friends down in the streets along which he was walking, that his shadow might fall upon them, and heal them. Acts v : 15.
It is a fact that the first missionary journey undertaken, in the early church, was by this apostle.
It is a fact that in the course of this journey he healed a lame man, who had been confined to his bed eight years, with palsy. He also raised to life a good Christian woman, named Tabitha, or Dorcas. She lived at Joppa, and had spent her time in making garments for the poor. She was the founder of the first Dorcas society of which we have ever heard; and her name has been connected with these excellent charities since then, all over the world. Acts ix: 32-43.
It is a fact that when the time came for the opening of the kingdom of heaven to the Gentiles, it was the apostle Peter who had the honor of performing this important act. He was the first minister of Christ who ever preached the gospel to a Gentile, and made to him the offer of eternal life. He did this when he preached to Cornelius, the Roman centurion, and received him into the church by baptism. We read about this great event in the tenth chapter of the Acts.
It is a fact that, after this, Peter was put in prison by Herod, who was persecuting the Christians. He had just put the apostle James to death and intended to do the same with Peter. But his friends united in earnest prayer to God for him; and God sent an angel, who struck off his chains, opened the prison door, and set him free. Acts xii : 1-20.
After this we have no clear account of the ministry of St. Peter. We only know that he spent the rest of his life in going about from place to place, preaching the blessed gospel of the great Master whom he loved so well.
It is a fact, however, that he wrote the two epistles which bear his name and which have been such a comfort and blessing to the church for more than eighteen centuries. And then, the last fact in his history is that he suffered martyrdom, by crucifixion, in the city of Rome. We have no definite information about the time when this event took place, or about the particulars connected with it. It is generally believed that the death of St. Peter occurred about the same time as that of the apostle Paul ; and, that they both took place during the persecution that arose under the cruel and bloody emperor Nero. The tradition is that when St. Peter came to the place of execution, he requested to be crucified with his head downwards, because he felt that he was not worthy to suffer in the same way in which his great Master was put to death.
Here we have woven together more than twenty facts that make up the history of the apostle Peter.
The next thing for us to do is to notice some of the more important lessons taught us by this history.
The first lesson we may learn from the history of this apostle is, about—THE DANGER OF SELF-CONFIDENCE.
Solomon says, "He that trusteth in his own heart is a fool." Prov. xxviii : 26. By a man trusting in his own heart, he means, having too much self-confidence. And the folly of this sort of trust is seen in this, that it keeps us from seeking the help of God; and without this help, we are not able to resist temptation when it overtakes us; and then we are sure to fall. We see a striking illustration of this in the case of Peter. When Jesus told the disciples that they would all forsake him, Peter had such trust in his own heart—such confidence in himself,—that he said, "Though all men forsake thee, yet will I never forsake thee." And, when Jesus told him that, on that very night, he would deny him thrice, Peter, confidently, declared: "Though I should die with thee, yet will I not deny thee." And, no doubt, he was perfectly honest in saying this. He meant just what he said. The trouble with him was that he did not know himself. He trusted too much in his own heart. His confidence in himself led him to neglect praying for the help and strength he would need when the temptation to deny his Master came before him.
And so, that very night, when Jesus was delivered into the hands of his enemies, and some of those about him said to Peter,—"Thou art one of this man's disciples," his courage failed him. He not only denied that he was a follower of Jesus, but even declared, with oaths and curses, that he did not know him. Here we see the folly of self-confidence, of which Solomon speaks.
And how many illustrations of this self-confidence we meet with !
"The Folly of a Soldier's Self-Confidence." When the English commander, General Brad-dock, in the early history of this country, was leading his little army through Pennsylvania to attack the French fort DuQuesne, where Pittsburgh now stands, George Washington, then a colonel, was an officer in the general's staff. The French had enlisted the Indians on their side. Washington understood the mode of fighting which the Indians adopted. He knew their custom was to hide themselves in trees and fire upon their enemies without being seen.
As the English army was pursuing its march, not far from the fort they were to attack, they came to a dense forest through which they had to make their way. Washington knew that it was in just such a woody region that they might expect to find the Indians. He told General Braddock what he feared and suggested that he should command the army to halt, and send forward some scouts to examine the woods and find out if there were any Indians there before marching through. But the general had so much confidence in himself and in his own way of managing his army that he refused to listen to Washington's advice.
The army entered the forest; but they had not gone far before they were fired upon from every side. The firing was kept up. The soldiers were falling to the ground, killed, or wounded; but no enemy was in sight, and no one could see where the firing came from. General Braddock and his chief officers were killed. The army was defeated; and Washing-ton, the principal officer left alive, gathered their shattered ranks together; led them out from the woods and marched them back to. the place from which they had started. The failure of that military enterprise, stands out on the page of history as a striking illustration of the folly of self-confidence.
"The Folly of a Sailor's Self-Confidence." The captain of a ship had brought his vessel to the entrance of the channel that leads to the harbor of one of the principal seaport towns of Scotland. He had often sailed in and out of that harbor. He felt confident that he could take the vessel in himself. When the pilot came and offered his services, he said: "No, I'll be my own pilot. I know every rock in the channel. I am sure I can take the ship safely in."
He started on his way. It was blowing a gale at the time. But he had not got far before the ship was dashed against a hidden rock of which he did not know. The vessel went to pieces, almost in sight of the harbor, and the captain and his crew were all lost. Here we see the folly of self-confidence.
But we often see this folly even when it does not lead to such fatal results as followed in the illustrations already given. This is clearly shown in the following fable:
"The Owl That Thought He Could Sing." "What in the world can bring so many people into the grove to hear the nightingales sing? " said a young owl to his mother.
The old owl didn't know and didn't care—she was busy watching a bat.
"I am sure I have as fine a voice as any nightingale and a good deal stronger."
"Stronger, certainly, my son," said the owl, blinking her eyes, for the bat had escaped.
"I shall go into the grove tonight, and give them a song," said the self-confident young owl.
The old owl opened her round eyes very wide, but said nothing.
So, when night came, and the hour for the sweet singing of the birds drew near, he flew heavily along and placed himself in a part of the grove where he could be seen and heard to the best advantage.
But the nightingales did not like the prospect either of his company or his help in their concert; so those of them who were going to sing flew away to another grove, while those who were to be quiet for the night kept snugly at roost.
"Where can the nightingales be?" said one of the people who had come to hear them.
Then the self-confident young owl set up a hoot so long and loud that it startled the people.
"That horrid creature has frightened them all away," said one. "Where's my gun ? I'll soon fix him." The owl took the hint and without waiting till the gun appeared hastened back home.
"Your feathers are ruffled, my son," said the old owl. "Have you been singing?"
Then the foolish young owl told about his
disgrace and his narrow escape from death.
"It is just what I expected," said his mother, and I'm glad you are safe back."
"Then why did you let me go? " he asked.
"Because I saw you wouldn't mind what I said, and that nothing but experience would teach you the folly of thinking too much of yourself."
That young owl had reason to feel thankful that he had learned this lesson without any greater harm or loss to himself.
The first lesson from the history of this apostle is about the danger of self-confidence.
The second lesson from this history is about-DELIVERANCE FROM TEMPTATION.
When we rise in the morning we can never tell what will happen to us before evening. But Jesus knows all about things before they come to pass. At the beginning of a day, or week, or month, or year, he has a clear view of all that can happen to the end of it. Early in the evening of the night on which he was betrayed, Jesus said to Peter: "Simon, Simon, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat; but I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not." St. Luke xxii : 31, 32. Looking forward through that sad and solemn night Jesus saw that Satan, the great enemy of souls, had laid a snare or prepared a temptation for Peter which, he thought, would ruin his soul forever. He had arranged things in such a way that Peter would be tempted to deny his Master, and would be most likely to yield to the temptation ; and this was so great a sin that it would seem sure to prevent him from being one of the apostles, and cause him to lose his soul. And such would have been the result, no doubt, if Jesus had not seen this temptation coming, and had not prepared a way of escape in the very midst of it. He prayed for Peter, "that his faith might not fail." And it was this prayer of Jesus that saved Peter. For we read in the gospel that as soon as he had committed his great sin he was sorry for it. "He went out and wept bitterly." And it was just here that the prayer of Jesus secured to Peter the grace that led him to true repentance; and this was what saved him. It was in this way that he was brought out of his temptation. We do not wonder, therefore, to find St. Peter using these comforting words in one of his epistles : "The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptation." II. Peter ii: 9. He knew very well about this. He could speak from his own experience here. His history affords a beautiful illustration of this passage from his epistle. And as we are all exposed to temptation it will be a great help and comfort to us to remember that what Jesus did for Peter he can do for us.
"An Illustration from History." In an old English history, called "The Chronicles of Froissart," there is an account given of the escape of the garrison from a besieged citadel, which illustrates very well this part of our subject. An enemy's army had encamped before this citadel, for the purpose of taking it. They had completely surrounded it. It was impossible for anyone to go in or out of the place. The day was fixed for storming the fortifications and putting the garrison to death. The assault was made. The walls were mounted and the gates forced open; but no one was found within. What had become of them ? On examining the place, it was found that through the solid rock, on which the fortress was built, a secret passage-way had been made. It led down under the walls, far away from the besieged citadel, out into the beautiful country beyond it. Thus the soldiers and inhabitants of that fortress found "a way of escape" from the power of their enemies.
"An Illustration from Daily Life." A gentle-man who lived in a small country town in England obtained a situation for his son, a promising young man, in one of the banks in the city of London. His father took him up to London and introduced him to the president of the bank and the other officers. On taking leave of his son, the father said : "Harry, my boy, you must be obedient, obliging, civil, and respectful; be attentive to your business and trustworthy. Above all things, never forget these four words—" Thou, God, seest me." Harry promised his father, solemnly, to do as he had said. And he did so for awhile. He gained the confidence of all about him, and rose, by degrees, till he held one of the most responsible positions in the bank. Thousands of pounds passed through his hands every day. At last, temptation overtook him. The thought came into his mind how easy it would be to make himself rich by quietly taking some of this gold and silver, without anyone knowing it. He was frightened when this idea first entered his mind, and tried to put it away. But still it would come back to him, again and again, till he ceased to be alarmed at it. Finally, it seemed to take full possession of him. He made up his mind to do it.
One evening, when all the others had left the bank, he remained behind, under pretence of finishing some business. He went to the vault and put in the keys. The heavy door flew open. But, just as he had reached out his hands, and grasped the money, his father's words-" Thou, God, seest me "—came into his mind. The money dropped from his hands, as if it had been red-hot iron. He fell on his knees and cried,—"O, God, save me from this temptation ! " And God did save him. He put the money back, and closed the vault. Then he went to the president, and, with bitter cries and tears, confessed his fault and offered to resign his situation.
The president was a wise and good man. He said he would keep the secret to himself ; and not allow him to give up his situation in the bank. But he told him to seek every day the help of that God who had delivered him from this great temptation.
He went back to his duties, feeling that he had no strength in himself, but firmly relying on the grace of God to " deliver him from evil," and remembering the great truth-" Thou, God, seest me."
Let us always remember this lesson from the history of St. Peter, about deliverance from temptation.
The third lesson we learn from this history is about—OVERCOMING PREJUDICE.
The word prejudice is made up of two Latin words. One of these means, to judge, or to form an opinion, or to make up our minds on any subject; and the other means, beforehand. And a person who has a prejudice, is one who has made up his mind about something before he understands it. When Nathanael first heard our Saviour spoken of as " Jesus of Nazareth," he asked: "Can any good thing come out of Nazareth ? " He had a prejudice against it. He had made up his mind that nothing good could come out of it, before he really knew the place. And so the Jews and the Samaritans had a very great prejudice against each other. The Jews thought it impossible that there should be any good Samaritans, and the Samaritans thought it impossible that there should be any good Jews. But they were both mistaken. They had made up their minds on this subject before they understood it.
But perhaps there never was a stronger prejudice than that which the Jews had toward the Gentiles. They thought it was impossible for them to be saved; and they would never share any of their religious privileges with them. And as the apostle Peter was a Jew, he had this strong prejudice against the Gentiles. And how strong this prejudice was, we see from the great trouble taken to overcome it. When God wished to have Peter go and preach the gospel to the Gentiles, his prejudice against them was so strong, that three miracles had to be performed before that prejudice could be overcome and he be willing to obey God's command in this matter. We read about this in the tenth chapter of the Acts of the Apostles.
Peter was at Joppa, at this time, staying at the house of Simon the tanner, by the seaside. Here he had a vision. In the vision, he saw a great sheet, fastened by the four corners, and let down from heaven. In this sheet were all manner of four-footed beasts, and creeping things, and fowls of the air. As he gazed on them, he heard a voice saying, "Rise, Peter, slay and eat." But many of these creatures were such as the Jews thought unclean. So Peter declined to do this, for he said that "nothing common, or unclean, had ever entered his mouth." The same voice told him not to call anything unclean that God had cleansed. This was done three times; and all was taken up to heaven. Here was the first miracle performed to over-come the prejudice of Peter.
Just as this vision ended, three men came to the house of Simon, inquiring for Peter. They were sent by Cornelius, a Roman centurion, who lived at Caesarea, on the seacoast, more than a day's journey from Joppa. Cornelius was trying to find out the way of salvation. He had prayed earnestly to God for direction. God had sent an angel to tell him to send to Joppa, and ask Simon Peter to come and preach the gospel to him, or to tell him how he was to be saved. This was the second miracle wrought on purpose to overcome the prejudice of Peter.
And while these men were inquiring for Peter, the Spirit of God spoke to him and told him to go with the men and do what they wanted him to do, because he had sent them. This was the third miracle that took place on this occasion. And thus the strong prejudice of Peter was overcome. He went with these men. He preached the gospel to a company of Gentiles. And when he saw the Holy Ghost come down on them, in a visible form, as it had come down on the apostles, on the day of Pentecost, he baptized them, and received them into the church. And thus Peter had the honor of being the first minister of Christ who preached the gospel to the Gentiles. He first opened the door of the Christian church to them. The prejudice of Peter, if it had not been overcome, would have prevented him from being. useful in this way.
And if we wish to be useful, and do the work God has for us to do, we must try to overcome our prejudices.
"A Lesson from a Pair of Shoes." There was a minister of the gospel once, who had a member of his church who was a shoemaker. He thought no one could be a Christian who did not think and feel just as he did. This interfered with his usefulness. His minister had often talked with him on the subject, but in vain. At last, he concluded to give him a lesson from his own trade, which he would not be likely to forget, and which he hoped would do him good. He did it in this way:
He sent for the shoemaker one day, and when he came in, he said, "I wish you to take my measure for a pair of shoes."
"I will do so with pleasure; please take off your boot."
The minister did so; and the shoemaker took his measure, put down the figures in his note-book, and was going away, when the minister said to him, "I want a pair of boots also for my son."
"Very good, sir. Can I take the young man's measure ? "
"That is not necessary," said the pastor, "you can make my boots and his from the same last."
"Please, your reverence, that will never do," said the shoemaker, with a smile of surprise.
"O yes, it will do very well. Make my shoes and my son's on the same last."
"That cannot be, your reverence. If a shoe is to fit it must be made on a last that is just the size of the person's foot who is to wear it."
"Is that so ? " said the minister. "You say every pair of shoes must be made on their own last or they will not fit. And yet you think that God must make all Christians on your last; and if they do not think and feel just as you do you think they are not true Christians."
"I thank your reverence for this lesson," said the shoemaker. "I will try and remember it, and pray God to help me to overcome my prejudices."
This is a good lesson for us all to learn.
The last lesson of which we may speak, as taught us by the history of this apostle, is about—THE BENEFIT OF TRIALS.
When Jesus foresaw the great trial that was coming on Peter, during the night of his betrayal, he could easily have saved him from it if he had thought it best and wisest to do so. Before leaving the upper chamber in Jerusalem where he kept the Passover for the last time with his disciples, he could have sent Peter on some errand or could have given him something to do that would have occupied him till the next day. Then he would not have been ex-posed to the temptation of denying his Master. This could easily have been done. But Jesus did not do this. And the reason was he knew very well that though the trial would be very painful to Peter, and would cause him to shed many bitter and sorrowful tears, yet it would be useful to him in the end, and would help to make him a better minister than he could have been without it. It would show him his own weakness, and teach him how to sympathize with others in their troubles and to be kind and tender in his dealings with them. And this is what Jesus meant when he said to Peter after telling him about this coming trial:
"And when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren. "
And no doubt Peter had this sorrowful event in his mind, and the benefit he had derived from it, when, in one of his epistles, he compares the trials through which God causes us to pass to the fire into which the jeweler puts his gold when he desires to have it purified. I. Peter i : 17. He was a more useful minister for having passed through this trial than he ever could have been without it. The benefit of it followed him through all his life. And this was the reason why Jesus did not save him from that trial, but saved him in it.
And in the same way God intends to do us good by all the trials through which he causes us to pass. It is not for his pleasure, but for our profit that these trials are allowed to come upon us; and the profit will surely follow if, as Paul says, we are rightly " exercised thereby."
It would be easy enough to give many illustrations of this important lesson, but there is room for only one. We may call it:
"The Marble-Block; or, The Sculptor's Les-son." "One of my scholars," says a Sunday-school teacher, "had a little sister who was lame. Her name was Annie. I often called to see her, and pitied her as I saw her sitting by the window watching the other children on the playground. In addition to her lameness she was sometimes so sick that she could not sit at the window. One bright spring day I bought for her some oranges and candies and a pretty picture-book, and hoped to comfort her with these. I gave her the oranges and candies, and read to her from the little book; but still she seemed sad.
"'Why are you so sad to-day, Annie, dear? ' I said.
" `Oh, ma'am,' she replied, `I don't see why God should afflict me, and yet let other children be so well and happy. But if I only knew that God was not angry with me I shouldn't care so much.'
"I asked her to take a little walk with me. In the course of our walk I took her into the room of a sculptor whom I knew. Here were a number of beautiful marble figures and some blocks of rough marble. The artist was at work on one of these, and Annie and I watched him with great interest. Presently I pointed to a great rough, dark block of marble that stood in the middle of the room, and said: `Do you like that, Annie ? '
" Oh, no,' she said, `why did they bring such an ugly block here ? '
" `That block,' said the artist, `I shall begin to work upon tomorrow. Come in and see it again.'
"The next day Annie and I went in again. The artist spent most of that day in simply knocking off the rough places. Day after day we watched him ; and every day the block seemed to grow less ugly. The sharp chisel cut here, and there, and everywhere. As we watched him we often thought if the block was alive and could feel how much it would suffer from the blows of that chisel !
"After a while the artist sent us an invitation to come to his studio. I took my little friend and went. As we entered, he said : `I have something to show Annie.' Then he drew aside a thin, white veil, and behold! there stood before us, white as the driven snow, the beautiful image of an angel, that had been made out of that rough marble block. Annie shouted with joy when she saw it.
"'Now, Annie, dear," I said, `do you think the sculptor hated that rough block of marble when he gave it so many hard knocks ? '
"'Oh, no,' said she, `he loved it; and every blow he gave showed his love for it.'
" `And so, my dear child,' said I, `does God love us. And the trials which he sends on us are the proofs of his love. As the sculptor was trying to make this image of an angel out of the marble block, by every blow he gave it, so God, by all the afflictions of this life, is fitting us to be like the angels in the heavenly kingdom.'
" `Now, I shall never feel sad on account of my lameness,' said Annie. `To think that this is a proof of God's love will always make me happy.
Let us remember these four lessons when we think of the history of the apostle Peter. The lesson about self-confidence—about deliverance from temptation—about overcoming prejudice—and about the benefit of trials.
We may close this subject with the Collect for All Saints' Day: "0 Almighty God, who hast knit together thine elect in one communion and fellowship, in the mystical body of thy Son Christ, our Lord : grant us grace so to follow thy blessed saints, in all virtuous and godly living, that we may come to those unspeakable joys which thou hast prepared for those who unfeignedly love thee; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.