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A shipwreck is a melancholy sight, even when no lives are lost. It is sad to think of the destruction of property, and disappointment of hopes which generally attend it. It is painful to see the suffering and hardship, which the ship's crew often have to undergo in their struggle to escape from drowning. Yet no shipwreck is half so melancholy a sight as the backsliding and fall of a true Christian. Though raised again by God's mercy, and finally saved from hell, he loses much by his fall. Such a sight we have brought before our minds in the verses we have now read. We are there told that most painful and instructive story, how Peter denied his Lord. Let us learn, in the first place, from these verses, how far and how shamefully a great saint may fall. We know that Simon Peter was an eminent apostle of Jesus Christ. He was one who had received special commendation from our Lord's lips, after a noble confession of His Messiahship--"Blessed are you, Simon Barjona," "I will give unto you the keys of the kingdom of heaven." He was one who had enjoyed special privileges, and had special mercies shown to him. Yet here we see this same Simon Peter so entirely overcome by fear that he actually denies his Lord. He declares that he knows not Him whom he had accompanied and lived with for three years! He declares that he knows not Him who had healed his own wife's mother, taken him up into the mount of transfiguration, and saved him from drowning in the sea of Galilee! And he not only denies his Master once, but does it three times! And he not only denies Him simply, but does it "cursing and swearing!" And above all, he does all this in the face of the plainest warnings, and in spite of his own loud protestation that he would do nothing of the kind, but rather die! These things are written to show the Church of Christ what human nature is, even in the best of men. They are intended to teach us that, even after conversion and renewal of the Holy Spirit, believers are compassed with infirmity and liable to fall. They are meant to impress upon us the immense importance of daily watchfulness, prayerfulness, and humility so long as we are in the body. "Let him that thinks he stands, take heed lest he fall." Let us carefully remember that Simon Peter's case does not stand alone. The word of God contains many other examples of the infirmity of true believers, which we shall do well to observe. The histories of Noah, Abraham, David, Hezekiah, will supply us with mournful proof, that "the infection of sin remains even in the regenerate," and that no man is so strong as to be beyond the danger of falling. Let us not forget this. Let us walk humbly with our God. "Happy is the man that fears aways." (Prov. 28:14.) Let us learn, in the second place, from these verses, how small a temptation may cause a saint to have a great fall. The beginning of Peter's trial was nothing more than the simple remark of "a maid of the High Priest." "You also were with Jesus of Nazareth." There is nothing to show that these words were spoken with any hostile purpose. For anything we can see, they might fairly mean that this maid remembered that Peter used to be a companion of our Lord. But this simple remark was enough to overthrow the faith of an eminent apostle, and to make him begin to deny his Master. The chief and foremost of our Lord's chosen disciples is cast down, not by the threats of armed men, but by the saying of one weak woman! There is something deeply instructive in this fact. It ought to teach us that no temptation is too small and trifling to overcome us, except we watch and pray to be held up. If God be for us we may remove mountains and get the victory over a host of foes. "I can do all things," says Paul, "through Christ that strengthens me." (Phil. 4:13.) If God withdraws His grace, and leaves us to ourselves, we are like a city without gates and walls, a prey to the first enemy, however weak and contemptible. Let us beware of making light of temptations because they seem little and insignificant. There is nothing little that concerns our souls. A little leaven leavens the whole lump. A little spark may kindle a great fire. A little leak may sink a great ship. A little provocation may bring out from our hearts great corruption, and end in bringing our souls into great trouble. Finally, let us learn from these verses that backsliding brings saints into great sorrow. The conclusion of the passage is very affecting. "Peter called to mind the words that Jesus said unto him, Before the rooster crows, you shall deny me thrice." Who can pretend to describe the feelings that must have flashed across the apostle's mind? Who can conceive the shame, and confusion, and self-reproach, and bitter remorse which must have overwhelmed his soul? To have fallen so foully! To have fallen so repeatedly! To have fallen in the face of such plain warnings! All these must have been cutting thoughts. The iron must indeed have entered into his soul. There is deep and solemn meaning in the one single expression used about him--"Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken to him. And he broke down and wept." The experience of Peter is only the experience of all God's servants who have yielded to temptation. Lot, and Samson, and David, and Jehoshaphat in Bible history--Cranmer and Jewell in the records of our own English Church--have all left evidence, like Peter, that "the backslider in heart shall be filled with his own ways." (Prov. 14:14.) Like Peter, they erred grievously. Like Peter, they repented truly. But, like Peter, they found that they reaped a bitter harvest in this world. Like Peter, they were freely pardoned and forgiven. But, like Peter, they shed many tears. Let us leave the passage with the settled conviction that sin is sure to lead to sorrow, and that the way of most holiness is always the way of most happiness. The Lord Jesus has mercifully provided that it shall never profit His servants to walk carelessly and to give way to temptation. If we will turn our backs on Him we shall be sure to smart for it. Though He forgives us, He will make us feel the folly of our own ways. Those that follow the Lord most fully, shall always follow Him most comfortably. "Their sorrows shall be multiplied who hasten after other gods." (Psalm 16:4.)

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