Verse 38. "The cock shall not crow, &c." - See on Matt. xxvi. 34. Dr. Lightfoot has very properly remarked that we must not understand these words, as if the cock should not crow at all before Peter had thrice denied his Master; but we must understand them thus: "The cock shall not have finished his crowing before thou wilt thrice deny me. When the time was near, the very night in which this was to happen, Christ said, This very night the cock shall not crow his second time, &c. But here, two days before that time, he says, the cock shall not crow; that is, shall not have done his crowing. The Jews, and some other nations, divided the cock- crowing into the first, the second, and the third times."
1. ON peters denial of our Lord much has been written: by one class he has been incautiously excused, and by another rashly censured. Peter was self-confident, but he was certainly sincere, and, had he trusted more in God and less in himself, he would not have miscarried. He did not look to his Maker for strength, and therefore he fell. He was surprised, and found unarmed. It is a well-known fact that circumstances have occurred in which persons of the most bold, intrepid, and adventurous minds have proved mere cowards, and acted to their own disgrace and ruin. Facts of this kind occur in the naval and military history of this and every other country. No man is master of himself at all times; therefore prudence and caution should ever be united to courage. Peter had courage, but he had not caution: he felt a powerful and determined will; but the trial was above his own strength, and he did not look to God for power from on high. He was warned by this miscarriage, but he dearly bought his experience. Let him that readeth understand.
2. A fact which occurs in the English Martyrology will serve to illustrate the history of Peter's denial and fall. In the reign of Queen Mary, when the Papists of this kingdom burned all the Protestants they could convict of denying the doctrine of transubstantiation, a poor man who had received the truth in theory, but had not as yet felt its power, was convicted and sentenced by their bloody tribunal to be burned alive. While they were drawing him to the place of execution, he was very pensive and melancholy; and when he came within sight of the stake, &c., he was overpowered with fear and terror, and exclaimed, O! I can't burn! I can't burn! Some of the attending priests, supposing that he wished to recant, spoke to him to that effect. The poor man still believed the truth-felt no disposition to deny it-but did not feel such an evidence of his Maker's approbation in his own soul as could enable him to burn for it! He continued in great agony, feeling all the bitterness of death, and calling on God to reveal himself through the Son of his love. While thus engaged, God broke in upon his soul and he was filled with peace and joy in believing.
He then clapped his hands, and exclaimed with a powerful voice, I can burn! I can burn! He was bound to the stake, and burned gloriously, triumphing in God through whom he had received the atonement. This was a case in point. The man was convinced of the truth, and was willing to burn for the truth; but had not as yet power, because he had not yet received an evidence of his acceptance with God. He pleaded for this with strong crying and tears, and God answered him to the joy of his soul; and then he was as able as he was willing to go to prison and to death. Without the power and consolation of the Spirit of God, who could be a martyr, even for Divine truth? We see now plainly how the case lies: no man is expected to do a supernatural work by his own strength; if left to that, in a case of this kind, his failure must be inevitable. But, in all spiritual matters, assistance is to be sought from God; he that seeks shall find, and he that finds Divine strength shall be equal to the task he is called to fulfill. Peter was incautious and off his guard: the trial came-he looked not for power from on high, and he fell: not merely because he was weak-not because God withheld the necessary assistance-but because he did not depend on and seek it. In no part of this business can Peter be excused-he is every where blamable, and yet, through the whole, an object of pity.