Luke 5:8
When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus' knees. "Go away from me, Lord," he said, "for I am a sinful man."
Sermons
Conviction of Sin in the Mind of PeterF. W. Robertson, M. A.Luke 5:8
Fifth Sunday After TrinityH. J. Hastings, M. A.Luke 5:8
HumilityCharles Kingsley.Luke 5:8
IlluminationArchdeacon Farrar.Luke 5:8
Peter's ConfessionB. Beddome, M. ALuke 5:8
Peter's Confession of SinJ. Vaughan, M. A.Luke 5:8
Peter's Cry of Despairing LoveS. W. Skeffington, M. A.Luke 5:8
Peter's Surprise and FearCanon Scott Holland.Luke 5:8
Self-Loathing in View of Infinite PurityLuke 5:8
The Awakening of St. PeterStopford A. Brooke, M. A .Luke 5:8
The Impression Made by Christ's HolinessW. G. T. Shedd, D. D.Luke 5:8
The Nearer to God, the Sharper the AnguishCanon Scott Holland.Luke 5:8
The Sense of Sin Evoked by Christ and ChristianityJ. Martineau, LL. D.Luke 5:8
The Sense of Sin in the Saviour's PresenceS. W. Skeffington, M. A.Luke 5:8
The Soul Shrinking from GodW. Clarkson Luke 5:8
The Terror of the LawCanon Scott Holland.Luke 5:8
Two Kinds of Shrinking from ChristMorgan Dix, D. D.Luke 5:8
What it was that Peter SawMorgan Dix, D. D.Luke 5:8
Fishers of MenR.M. Edgar Luke 5:1-11
A Broken NetS. Baring-Gould, M. A.Luke 5:6-11
A New Year', Word for Business PeopleMark Guy Pearse.Luke 5:6-11
A Night of Toil: the Philosophy of FailureW. Scott.Luke 5:6-11
An Image of the Preaching of the GospelVan Oosterzee.Luke 5:6-11
Blessing in Our Temporal CallingLisco.Luke 5:6-11
Christ the Lord of NatureW. J. Deane, M. A.Luke 5:6-11
Christ with the Galilean FishermenJames Foote, M. A.Luke 5:6-11
Failure and SuccessR. A. Griffin.Luke 5:6-11
Failure, Faith, and FortuneM. Braithwaite.Luke 5:6-11
Faith Triumphant in FailureDean Vaughan.Luke 5:6-11
Gospel for the Fifth Sunday After TrinityG. Calthrop, M. A.Luke 5:6-11
Peter an Example for UsFuchs.Luke 5:6-11
Place of the Miracle in the HistoryA. B. Bruce, D. D.Luke 5:6-11
Reasons for the MiracleW. J. Deane, M. A.Luke 5:6-11
The Blessed FishermenHeubner.Luke 5:6-11
The Desponding EncouragedJ. Woodhouse., J. Keble.Luke 5:6-11
The Disappointing Night and the Successful MornR. M. Spoor.Luke 5:6-11
The Faith of PeterVan Oosterzee.Luke 5:6-11
The Galilean FishersNewman Hall, LL. B.Luke 5:6-11
The Just Means of Gaining Temporal BlessingHeubner.Luke 5:6-11
The Miraculous Draught of FishesD. Longwill.Luke 5:6-11
The Nature of the MiracleA. B. Bruce, D. D., Dean Plumptre in "Poet's Bible.Luke 5:6-11
The Obedience of FaithVan Oosterzee.Luke 5:6-11
The Remarkable Transitions in the Life of FaithVan Oosterzee.Luke 5:6-11
The Sinking Fishing-Boat a Symbol of the Ruinous Tendency of Abounding ProsperityT. R. Stevenson.Luke 5:6-11
The Three F's -- a Parable of FishingT. L. Cuyler, D. D.Luke 5:6-11
The Two Draughts of FishesC. H. Spurgeon.Luke 5:6-11
This ParagraphJ. Parker, D. D.Luke 5:6-11
Use of PartnersBishop Hall.Luke 5:6-11
Weariness and FaithDean Vaughan.Luke 5:6-11
It was the coming of God in the person of Jesus Christ that excited in the breast of the apostle such shrinking of soul. Peter perceived that he stood in the presence of One in whom was Divine power, of One who was in very close association with the Holy One of Israel; and, feeling his own unworthiness, he exclaimed, with characteristic candour of impulsiveness, "Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord."

I. THE WAY IN WHICH GOD NOW MANIFESTS HIMSELF TO THE WORLD. That way is threefold.

1. Nature and providence. The heavens declare his glory, and so does this wonderful and beautiful and fruitful earth. Not less so do the souls and the lives of men, created with all their faculties, preserved and enriched with all their joys and blessings. "The invisible things of him... are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made." But more than this was proved to be needed by the sad, dark history of man kind. Hence we have:

2. Special revelation. "At sundry times and in divers manners God spake unto our fathers" by Abraham, Moses, Samuel, David, etc.; but at a later time he spake unto us by his Son - by his life, his truth, his sorrow, his death, his resurrection. But this did not suffice. Divine love appeared, and human hatred slew it. Divine truth spake, and human error determinately rejected it. So God gives us what we need.

3. The direct influences of his Holy Spirit, to arouse, to quicken, to enlighten, to renew us.

II. THE FIRST EFFECT UPON THE SOUL OF THIS VISION OF GOD. What usually happens is that the soul is smitten with a sense of its sinfulness, and desires to withdraw from the Divine presence. At this we need not wonder. If conscious ignorance shrinks from great learning, poverty from great wealth, obscurity from high rank, human guilt from human purity, well may the consciously sinful soul of man shrink from the near presence of the thrice-holy God. As Adam and Eve hid themselves when they "heard the voice of the Lord God walking in the garden;" as Isaiah exclaimed, "Woe is me! I am a man of unclean lips," when he "saw the Lord" in the temple; - so do we shrink from the felt presence of the Lord in view of our own unworthiness and guilt. Remembering our spiritual estrangement, our great undischarged indebtedness to God, our impurity of heart in his sight, our manifold transgressions of his righteous law, - our souls tremble before him; and if we do not say, "Depart from me, O Lord!" as Peter did, yet our first thought is to escape from his felt presence, to put some distance, in thought and feeling, between ourselves and that Holy and Mighty One in whose power we stand so absolutely, and whose Spirit we have grieved so greatly.

III. THE INTERPOSITION OF OUR SAVIOUR. The sacred record does not state what immediately ensued, but our instructed imagination will very readily supply the remainder of the incident. We are quite sure that our gracious Master, instead of acting on Peter's word, and leaving him, drew nearer to him, and "took him by the hand," and so reassured him. Thus does he treat us now. Instead of withdrawing from us when we know and feel our guilt, he comes nearer to us. Instead of saying to us, "Depart from me!" he says, earnestly and emphatically, "Come unto me!" He says to us, "If, in my teaching and in my life and in my death, there is (as there is) the strongest possible condemnation of sin, so is there also in all these things, in my words and my actions and my cross, the greatest possible hope for the sinner. Come unto me; see in me the Propitiation for your sin, the Way back unto the Father the Divine Friend and Helper of the sorrowing and struggling human soul. Do not leave me; come to me, and abide in me!" - C.







When Simon Peter saw it he fell at Jesus' knees, saying, Depart from me.
To understand the action and the words of Simon Peter, we must know what it was that he saw. The place was the shore of the Lake of Galilee, and the time was early in the first year of the ministry of Christ. Already men were talking of the great prophet, and wondering who and what He was; and no doubt the fishermen had thought and spoken much of Him. One day Christ came; He went straight to Simon's ship, and from it He taught the people, while Simon Peter listened. And then followed that great wonder of the miraculous draught of fishes, which astounded all beholders. That was what Peter saw. But he saw more; he saw in all this what was like a call to him; not yet a direct one, but one which he could not help but understand. When you see a grand action, it is a call to you to imitate it; when you hear of a noble deed, it is a call to you to correct whatever of littleness or meanness may be in your own soul; when you see others walking with God, it is a call to you to join them, and to walk even as they. Sympathetic natures need no explanation at such times; they take in at once the meaning of the voices which they hear as they go on through life. Simon Peter felt what he saw; he felt how it bore on him; and feeling it, instantly and profoundly, his first motion was to draw back in alarm, and to pray the Lord to depart from him.

(Morgan Dix, D. D.)

Does this remind you of another scene? It must, if you are thoughtful, and accustomed to interpret scripture by scripture. It was the very thing that the Gadarenes and Gergesenes did, when Christ revealed Himself to them in His holiness, and manifested forth His glory. Compare the narratives; they run almost exactly parallel. The place was the same — the Lake of Gennesaret or its immediate shores. The main personage in each scene is the same — Christ, the power of God, and the wisdom of God. The state of preparation in human minds is the same — the Gadarenes had heard of Christ, and so had Peter. The time was the same — just after a startling miracle. The act in each case was the same, nay the very words are the same; the people of Gadara prayed Him that He would depart out of their coasts; and Simon Peter cried, "Depart from me, O Lord." But yet, notwithstanding all these correspondences, in time, in place, in deed, in result, in word, there was a difference which outweighs all agreement. Not farther asunder are the poles of this globe, not wider apart are east and west, than were the spirit of the men of Gadara and the soul of Simon Peter. Nor could the final results have been more diverse. The men of Gadara never saw Christ again; Peter never left Him. They kept all they had, and lost the Lord; he kept the Lord, and lost all else. And then the histories diverge, as streams part, never again to be united, but to flow farther and farther away from each other. On the one hand a low, material, worldly life drags sluggishly forward, passing into darkness and silence, and descending into shame and everlasting contempt: while the other, fixed on Jesus, and developed in Him, groweth more and more unto the perfect day; the name becomes an immortal name, the man is numbered with the saints in glory everlasting, and the very record of his life tells with tremendous moral force, even down to this far-off day, and here in this remote land, and is helpful, and precious, and stands like a tower of strength amidst the waves of this troublesome world.

(Morgan Dix, D. D.)

The feeling of St. Peter, as he uttered this cry, is not unmixed with sensations of reverence and love. True, it contains within it elements of terror; it is not the language of that perfect love which casts out fear; it is lower than the awe which inspires angels and just men made perfect as they are conscious of the imperfections and limitations of creaturely existence in the presence of the great Alpha and Omega of all creation. But it is the cry of despairing love, not of despairing hate; the cry of one who yearns after an unattainable height, not of one who is content to wallow in the mire of his sins.

I. Undoubtedly it was the effect of FEAR PRODUCED BY A SENSE OF SIN. The consciousness of standing before a Being of infinite holiness produces in sinful man a thrill of moral agony; the force of contrast brings into strong relief the hideous, intolerable deformity of sin; in the light of that presence sin becomes exceeding sinful, and the yawning depths of iniquity which lie hid in man's nature are no longer veiled by the mists of custom and long habit. Man for the most part is unconscious of the real foulness of his sin; the moral atmosphere around him is charged therewith; he imbibes its taint at every breath; the world around him is penetrated with it; it enters into him at every pore, it suffuses itself more or less over his whole nature. Hence arises the further realization of sin which results from growth in holiness, the explanation of the seeming difficulty that the saintliest of mankind confess themselves the greatest sinners. Men living at a distance from God are actually without any standard by which to measure their deflection from the Divine law. Only when a man begins to ascend the hill of God, to make his way out of the foul miasma amid which he has been living and moving, can he in any measure discover the real proportions of things, or bring home to his heart the miserable and loathsome forms of evil by which he has been hitherto surrounded.

II. St. Peter's words seem to arise out of some feeling of REPUGNANCE BETWEEN HIS HUMAN WILL AND THE WILL OF AN ALL-HOLY GOD. There is, alas l even in regenerate nature, a certain amount of antagonism towards the good and acceptable and perfect will of God. We can none of us be brought into the immediate presence of God without being conscious of the claim which is made upon us thereby of striving after a more complete renunciation of our own lusts and desires, a more entire conformity to that likeness which we instinctlively feel to be the law and pattern of redeemed humanity. At this, man's nature rebels.

III. These words seem to spring also from a REVERENT HUMILITY. An intensified form of the centurion's faithful saying (Matthew 8:8). St. Peter had been treating our Blessed Lord too much as a mere man; he had been mingling familiarly in His company, listening to Him as a mere human teacher; and now the consciousness lights up within him that God was in that place and he knew it not — that he had been standing at the very gate of heaven. CONCLUSION: Wounded with a sense of exceeding sinfulness, or conscious of a will struggling against the Divine purpose, or penetrated with a feeling of unworthiness, you may be ready to exclaim, "Depart from me," &c. Yet in that cry is the earnest of your acceptance, not of your rejection. In that cry lies a sure augury of future success. It is the first step towards penitence, self-examination, confession, and God's absolving word.

(S. W. Skeffington, M. A.)

Observe well what it was which led to this conviction of guilt in Peter's soul. Not terror, or judgment; not any view of the anger and justice of the Being with whom he had to do. It was simply the reception and consciousness of a very great and exceeding kindness. This made him love what he admired; and the love and the admiration which he felt to God became, by an easy change, hatred and detestation against himself. He was softened at the moment that he was convinced; and upon his melted heart and conscience he wrote the large, deep characters of sin,

1. The greatest and surest test of every man's state before God is this — How does he feel toward sin? It is a great thing to have faith enough to see the requirements of a holy God; faith enough to be conscious that there is a distance; faith enough to fear.

2. There is no feeling in Peter's breast akin to the desire to get rid of his religious thought. He was asking rather that which he thought he ought to ask, than what he wanted to ask. The humility was real; but it was not enlightened. It was exactly what every man ought to say and feel, if he saw only his own breast, and did not see the bosom of God.

3. This feeling operates differently, according to the moral temperament, or according to the stage in which a man may happen to stand in the Divine life.(1) In one, it becomes despair. The soul dares not to admit the thought that it could ever be received into the love of God. The dread of the sin of presumption — from which it is the farthest off — is always haunting it. The very name and joys of heaven seem a mockery to him.(2) In another man it destroys all sense of God's mercy. Peace, instead of being a fact, established by the Cross, and simply taken, is always a thing put off and off to some distant future. What is this but putting Christ away?(3) Others seek an intermediate agency between Christ and their soul.

4. It is an unspeakable comfort to know that this awful prayer, which Peter made in ignorance, was not answered. Christ did not depart from him. Thank God, He knows when to refuse a prayer. He never leaves those who are only ignorant.

(J. Vaughan, M. A.)

Such has ever been the effect of God's presence felt and realized by a human soul. Even the sinless angels veil their faces, and worship with an awful reverence before the throne on high; how much less can man's nature, penetrated with the mystery of sin, endure without agony the blinding light and holiness of God! Thus Adam and his wife, in the first moments of self-conscious guilt, hid themselves among the trees of the garden from the presence of the Lord God; the people of Israel trembled at the foot of Sinai, and entreated to hear the voice of God no more; Manoah fears death as the consequence of the vision of God; the blameless Daniel falls prostrate and weakened before the great Angel of the Covenant; Isaiah is oppressed with a painful sense of guilt after witnessing the adoration of the Eternal. And even when God Incarnate on earth had concealed beneath the tabernacle of our humanity the rays of His Divine glory, and talked with man face to face, yet there were moments when the glory of the Divine nature flashed forth from behind the thin veil of flesh, and confounded the awe-struck senses of the beholders. There were moments at which even His enemies were driven back, and fell before His presence; and many more occasions on which the hearts of apostles and friends failed them for fear when they felt that God was, indeed, in the midst of them.

(S. W. Skeffington, M. A.)

This is a cry which has a long story behind it. It carries us far back as we trace it step by step along the pages of the Old Testament. St. Peter is testifying to his hold on the significance of the law. His words carry us back to the voice of Adam as he saw God draw near in the evening amid the pleasant garden, and he knew the chill of a terrible fear and hid himself among the trees. Ever since that dismal day there had been in man a blind terror lest his Father should come too near him. This is the terror which passes like a shudder through primitive faiths, and turns savage religions into acts of alarm, into rituals of panic. Men are nervous, discomfited, when their God is near; and the very cruelties of these savage faiths are cruelties of fear. They know not the secret of their dread; they cannot syllable the confession, "I am a sinful man." They only know the fear, and passionately, and at any cost, beseech God to depart out of their coasts. This is the terror which is at work to purge witchcraft. Jacob fleeing from his home, when he awakes at Bethel, exclaims, "How dreadful is this place; this is none other but the house of God." It is the terror, this terror with its deep ground-tone, which meets us, in its simplest and most natural fashion, in Manoah, when the vision of the angel did wondrously and vanished, and he cried to his wife, "We shall surely die, because we have seen God." And we know its utterance, its stormy utterance, in the mouths of Israel, at the foot of Sinai, as they cried to Moses, not "Bring us near to God," but " Set bounds lest He break forth upon us. Why should we die? If we hear the voice of the Lord our God any more, we shall die."

(Canon Scott Holland.)

It is not the gross and carnal only, or the ignorant, who know this start, this touch of shame. The cry breaks from the lips of the purest and the highest; and it breaks from them with intenser violence, and with more startling passion. The nearer to God, the sharper the anguish, and the more vehement the protestation, "Depart from me." It is Job, with his whole heart aflame with righteousness, after a life which — as it lay there under his human review — looked so fair and high and blameless; it is he who is stricken with the ancient fear as he sees God with the seeing of the eye, and thus abhors himself. And it is Isaiah, the evangelical prophet, who crowds into hot words the fullest passion of the old cry (Isaiah 6:1-5). So has it ever been, until the last word of the last prophet is there to tell us how he wondered lest He, for whom they had all, one after another, so ardently waited, should consume them by His very coming: "Who shall abide the day of His coming? Who shall stand when He appeareth? for He is like a refiner's fire."

(Canon Scott Holland.)

It was not at all surprising to him that Jesus should draw very near, and should ask for his boat, and with him launch out. He was not alarmed or disturbed at such an invitation; rather, everything in it to him was most natural and most habitual. There seemed nothing to herald a spiritual crisis; it is the old task of the fisherman to which he is used, the task familiar to him all his days. From earliest childhood he had lived with the nets and the boats on the edge of those home waters. It is the old art that would be his surely till death should lay him to sleep, or till be became too old to do more than watch the younger men take his place in the old haunts. Everything stood for him that morning as it had ever been; nothing seemed ready for any great shock or surprise. No word of expectancy gathered over that sleeping scene. There lay the broad waters as they had lain a thousand times before under his eyes; there stood the hills, quiet and ancient and unmoved; and the same sky bent over him as had ever bent over him, familiar and dear; and the same shores spread away with the old curves and creeks and headlands, and villages greeting him with all that motionless image of home. What symptom was there of that coming joy? How should he expect anything at all? He was too weary to expect much, for he had toiled long and taken nothing. It was but in a dull, passive acquiescence that he pushed out his boat. Aimless and dispirited as he was how could he guess that it was to be the very last time that he would ever be as he had always been, the very last time that he would sit there on the shore mending his nets. Suddenly, like a flash of lightning, the moment is upon him; there is a start, a wonder, as the fish swarm into the net. What is it, this strange draught? What is it but a stroke of luck? Nay, a finger is upon him, admonitory and masterful, a thrill shoots through him, and he tingles as with a touch of flame. He turns to look at Him who sits there close by him in the boat. Who is He, and what? So quiet He seems, so human, so near, so serene; yet an awe has fallen upon Peter, and a terror shakes him. Very near and very intimate the Master is, and yet how is it that behind these steady human eyes there grows a terror — a terror as of the fires of Sinai or the thunderings of Horeb? How is it that within that quiet, gentle voice of His, there seems to be ringing the sound of that trumpet that grows louder and louder, until Israel fell on their faces afraid? The Master sits as He had always sat, and looked as He had always looked; and yet this tremor, this dread, as of a guilty thing surprised! It is the old-world fear, it is the ancient dismay that has fallen upon him, such as fell upon Isaiah when he saw the Lord high and lifted up between the cherubim. He cannot be mistaken; his true and pure spirit reads off the secret at a glance and at a flash. How, he knows not; but it is God upon whom He is looking. He is sure of it. He is seeing God, and therefore he cannot endure it; God very near; he sees Him with the seeing of an eye, as Job of old, and therefore he abhors himself in dust and ashes.

(Canon Scott Holland.)

After his first interview with Christ, Peter went home to his daily work. The words Christ had spoken to him were allowed to sink deep into his heart. There was a pause in life before the next impression was made upon him. For the first time in his life the unlearned fisherman had been recognized by one greater than himself. We may imagine in some degree what were his thoughts as he lay at night within his boat, rocked on the indolent surge of the lake, letting his thoughts wander with his eyes among the stars, and hearing nothing but the cry of the wild fowl on the lake, and the rustle of the oleander on the shore: "Shall I meet Jesus once again, or will He forget me in the greatness of His work?" And one fair morning, as he sat on the glittering beach of shells, mending his nets, his desire was answered. By all that Peter had gone through there had been kindled in his soul the first sparks of love to Christ, fitly mingled with veneration. But as yet there had been no spiritual element connected with them, and Christ's object was to awaken more than friendship. Peter loved, reverenced, believed; but he had not linked his love and reverence and faith to any profound feeling such as knits the forgiven sinner to a forgiving Father. And it is in what now took place, in the awakening of the slumbering forces of the spirit, that Peter was lifted into another and a higher, though a more sorrowful and more tempted life. Peter's expression of his emotion reveals one of those states of mingled feelings which seem too strange to be understood, but which we feel to be true to our human nature. It was a mixture of repulsion and attraction, of fear that repelled, of love that drew. "Depart from me," &c., that was the cry of his lips, and it rose half out of fear at the revelation of holiness, half out of shame at the revelation of his own sinfulness. But with this was something more. His fear and shame sprang out of his lower self; but he could not remain in fear or shame with that wonderful and tender face looking down upon him, as he knelt among the nets. His higher being rose in passion to meet the encouragement of Christ. That which was akin to Christ in him saw and recognized with joy — joy that took then the garments of a noble sorrow, the beauty of holiness in Christ; remembered that this holiness had come to meet him, sought him out and loved him — and at the thought, all his nobler nature darted forward with a cry, repelled the lower that would have exiled Christ through fear, and threw him down, forgetting all else in utter love and broken-hearted humbleness, at the feet of Christ. "Depart from me — no, never, my Lord and Master, never leave me. There, in Thy holiness, can I alone find rest; in being with Thee always alone salvation from my wrong-doing; in loving Thee with all my heart alone the strength I need to conquer fear, and passionate impulse, and weakness in the hour of trial." Yes, that is the great step which takes us over the threshold into the temple of a spiritual life with God. And the life which succeeds that revelation of holiness and sin is no life of mere feeling. "Follow Me," said Christ, "and I will make you a fisher of men"; and Peter left all and followed Him. This part of the story does not tell us to throw aside our daily work, unless it should happen that we have a special apostolic call; but it does tell us to change our motives, our ideas, our aims: to live the life of Christ, the life that gives up life to others.

(Stopford A. Brooke, M. A .)

We have here a specimen of the Redeemer's method of teaching. He taught by actions. His miracles had a voice. The advantage of this symbolic teaching twofold:

1. It was a living thing.

2. It saves us from dead dogmas. Our thoughts branch off into two divisions.

I. THE MEANING AND OBJECT OF THE MIRACLE. More than all others it taught God's personality. The meaning and intention of every miracle is to break through the tyranny of the words "law" and "Nature."

II. THE EFFECTS PRODUCED ON PETER'S MIND. The sense of personal sin.

1. When we come to look at the cause of this we see that the impression was(a) partly owing to the apostle's Jewish education. The Jews always recognized the personality, of God, therefore this only awoke what was acknowledged before;(b) partly also it was produced by the pure presence of Jesus Christ. Wherever the Redeemer went, He elicited a strange sense of sin. And this is not the case only in our Redeemer's personal ministry, but it is so wherever Christianity is preached.

2. The nature of this conviction of sin in Peter's bosom. There is a remorse which is felt for crime, but this was not Peter's case. The language of holy men when they speak of sin is startling. In order to understand it, and to comprehend Peter's conviction of guilt, we must look at the three principles which guide the life of three different classes of men.

(a)Obedience to the opinion of the world;

(b)The standard of a man's own opinion;

(c)The light of the life of God.The first of these makes the man of honour; the second, the man of virtue; the third, the man of saintliness. Up to this time Peter had lived an upright man, full of self-reliance; from this time he began to walk lowly and learnt self-forgetfulness. This is the way in which Christ produces conviction of sin — by placing before us infinite love, infinite loving-kindness, and a perfect humanity. We fall in the dust before this, and say, "We are sinful men, O Lord." We are sinners, we have erred exceedingly, and we have seen the infinite charity of God stream forth in the majesty of Jesus Christ. It is possible for us to bear the splendour of that presence only when love has taken the place of fear, and we feel that we need fear nothing, neither death nor hell nor men.

(F. W. Robertson, M. A.)

Few stories in the New Testament are as well known as this. Few go home more deeply to the heart of man. Most simple, most graceful is the story, and yet it has in it depths unfathomable. Great painters have loved to draw, great poets have loved to sing, that scene on the Lake of Gennesaret. The clear blue water, land-locked with mountains; the meadows on the shore, gay with their lilies of the field; the rich gardens, olive-yards, and vineyards on the slopes; the towns and villas scattered along the shore, all of bright white lime-stone gay in the sun; the crowds of boats, fishing continually for the fish which swarm to this day in the lake; everywhere beautiful country life, busy and gay, healthy and civilized — and in the midst of it, the Maker of all heaven and earth sitting in a poor fisher's boat, and condescending to tell them where the shoal of fish was lying. It is a wonderful scene. Let us thank God that it happened once on earth. Though our God and Saviour no longer walks this earth in human form, He is near us now and here. There is in us the same heart as there was in St. Peter for evil and for good. When he found suddenly that it was the Lord who was in his boat, his first feeling was one of fear. Do we never feel the thought of God's presence a burden? God grant to us all, that after that first feeling of dread and awe is over, we may go on, as Peter did, to the better feelings of admiration, loyalty, worship; and say at last, as Peter said afterwards, "Lord, to whom shall we go? for Thou hast the words of eternal life"But do I blame St. Peter for saying, "Depart from me," &c. Who am I, to blame St. Peter? Especially when even the Lord Jesus did not blame him, but only bade him not to be afraid. And why did the Lord not blame him, even when he asked Him to go away? Because St. Peter was honest. He said frankly and naturally what was in his heart. He spoke not from dislike of our Lord, but from modesty; from a feeling of awe, of uneasiness, of dread, at the presence of One who was infinitely greater, wiser, better than himself. And that feeling of reverence and honesty is a Divine and noble feeling — the beginning of all goodness. Peter felt unworthy to be in such good company. He felt unworthy — he, the ignorant fisher-man — to have such a guest in his poor boat. "Go elsewhere, Lord," he tried to say, "to a place and to companions more fit for Thee. I am ashamed to stand in Thy presence. I am dazzled by the brightness of Thy countenance, crushed down by the thought of Thy wisdom and power, uneasy lest I say or do something unfit for Thee; Thou knowest not what a poor miserable creature I am at heart — Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord." There spake out the truly noble soul, who was ready the next moment, as soon as he had recovered himself, to leave all and follow Christ; who was ready afterwards to wander, to suffer, to die upon the cross for his Lord; and who, when he was led out to, execution asked (it is said) to be crucified with his head downwards, seeing that it was too much honour for him to die looking to heaven, as his Lord had died. Do you not understand me yet? Then think what you would have thought of Peter, if, instead of saying what he did, he had said, " Stay with me, for I am a holy man, O Lord. I am just the sort of person who deserves the honour of Thy company; and my boat, poor though it is, more fit for Thee than the palace of a king."

(Charles Kingsley.)

When Simeon, on the verge of life, uttered his parting hymn within the Temple, he told Mary, with the infant Jesus in his arms, that, by that child, "the thoughts of many hearts should be revealed." Never was prophecy more true; nor ever perhaps the mission of our religion more faithfully defined. For wherever it has spread, it has operated like a new and Diviner conscience to the world; imparting to the human mind a profounder insight into itself; opening to its consciousness fresh powers and better aspirations; and penetrating it with a sense of imperfection, a concern for the moral frailties of the will, characteristic of no earlier age. The spirit of religious penitence, the solemn confession of unfaithfulness, the prayer for mercy, are the growth of our nature trained in the school of Christ. The pure image of His mind, as it has passed from land to land, has taught men more of their own hearts than all the ancient aphorisms of self-knowledge, has inspired more sadness at the evil, more noble help for the good that is hidden there; and has placed within reach of even the ignorant, the neglected, and the young, severer principles of self-scrutiny than philosophy had ever attained. The radiance of so great a sanctity has deepened the shades of conscious sin. The savage convert who before knew nothing more sacred than revenge and war, is brought to Jesus, and, as he listens to that voice, feels the stain of blood growing distinct upon his soul. The voluptuary, never before disturbed from his self-indulgence, comes within the atmosphere of Christ's spirit; and it is as if a gale of heaven fanned his fevered brow, and convinced him that he is not in health. The ambitious priest, revolving plans for using men's passions as tools of his aggrandisements, starts to find himself the disciple of One who, when the people would have made Him King, fled direct to solitude and prayer. The froward child blushes to think how little there is in him of the infant meekness which Jesus praised; and feels that, had he been there, he must have missed the benediction, or more bitter still, have wept to know it misapplied. Nay, so deep and solemn did the sense of guilt become under the influence of Christian thoughts, that at length the overburdened heart of fervent times could endure the weight no longer; the Confessional arose, and it became the chief object of the widest sacerdotal order which the world has ever seen, to soothe the sobs, and listen to the whispered record of human penitence. Everywhere the Christian mind proclaims its need of mercy, and bends beneath the oppression of its guilt; and since Jesus began to "reveal the thoughts of many hearts," Christendom, with clasped hands, has fallen at His feet and cried, "We are sinful men, O Lord." In nurturing this sentiment, in producing this solemn estimate of moral evil and quick perception of its existence, the religion of Christ does blot perpetuate the influence of His personal ministry.

(J. Martineau, LL. D.)

A flash of supernatural illumination had revealed to him both his own sinful unworthiness and who He was who was with him in the boat. It was the cry of self-loathing which had already realized something nobler. It was the first impulse of fear and amazement, before they had had time to grow into adoration and love. St. Peter did not mean the "Depart from me"; he only meant — and this was known to the Searcher of hearts — "I am utterly unworthy to be near Thee, yet let me stay." How unlike was this cry of his passionate and trembling humility to the bestial ravings of the unclean spirits, who bade the Lord to let them alone; or to the hardened degradation of the filthy Gadarenes, who preferred to the presence of their Saviour the tending of their swine!

(Archdeacon Farrar.)

We read in profane history of an old woman who fell mad on seeing her deformity in a looking-glass. There is enough in the view which the mirror of the Word gives us of our individual character, if not to drive us to derangement and despair, to prostrate us in the dust of self-abasement and self-abhorrence; and still more affecting and overpowering does this view of ourselves become in the presence of the Infinite Purity.

I. In the first place, A VIEW OF THE CHARACTER OF JESUS CHRIST AWAKENS THE FEELING OF SINFULNESS. It is absolutely perfect. The character of Jesus is fathomless; and what has been remarked of Christianity by one of the early Roman bishops, may with equal truth be said of the character of its Author: "It is like the firmament; the more diligently you search it, the more stars will you discover. It is like the ocean; the longer you regard it, the more immeasurable will it appear to you." When the characteristic qualities of Christ are distinctly beheld in their holy and spotless beauty by a sinful man, the contrast is felt immediately. The instant that his eye rests upon the sinlessness of Jesus, it turns involuntarily to the sinfulness of himself. He realizes that he is a different man from "the man Christ Jesus;" and that except so far as he is changed by Divine grace, there can he no sympathy and union with Him. This is a proper and blessed mood for an imperfectly sanctified Christian. It corresponds with the facts of the case. How can pride, the essence of sin, dwell in such a spirit? It is excluded.

II. INTIMATELY CONNECTED, IN THE SECOND PLACE, WITH A VIEW OF CHRIST'S CHARACTER, IS THAT OF CHRIST'S DAILY LIFE. When this with its train of holy actions passes before the mind of the believer, it produces a deep sense of indwelling sin. This sense of sin as related to justice should hold a prominent place in the Christian experience; and in proportion as it is first vividly elicited by the operation of the law, and then is completely pacified by a view of Christ as suffering "the just for the unjust," will be the depth of our love towards Him, and the simplicity and entireness of our trust in Him. Those who, like Paul and Luther, have had the clearest perception of the iniquity of sin, and of their own criminality before God, have had the most luminous and constraining view of Christ as the" Lamb of God."

III. Having thus directed attention to the fact that there is such a distinct feeling as guilt, we remark, in the third place, THAT THE CONTEMPLATION OF THE SUFFERINGS AND DEATH OF CHRIST BOTH ELICITS AND PACIFIES IT, IN THE BELIEVER. Whoever beholds human transgression in the light of the Cross, has no doubts as to the nature and character of the Being nailed to it; and he has no doubts as to his own nature and character. The distinct and intelligent feeling of culpability forbids that he should omit to look at sin in its penal relations, and enables him to understand these relations. The vicarious atonement of Christ is well comprehended because it is precisely what the guilt-smitten conscience craves in its restlessness and anguish. The believer now has wants which are met in this sacrifice. His moral feelings are all awake, and the fundamental feeling of guilt pervades and tinges them all; until. in genuine contrition, he holds up the Lamb of God in his prayer for mercy, and cries out to the Just One: "This oblation which Thou Thyself hast provided is my propitiation; this atones for my sin." Then the expiating blood is applied by the Holy Ghost, and the conscience is filled with the peace of God that passeth all understanding. "Then," to use the language of Leighton, "the conscience makes answer to God: 'Lord, I have found that there is no standing in the judgment before Thee, for the soul in itself is overwhelmed with a world of guiltiness; but I find a blood sprinkled upon it that hath, I am sure, virtue enough to purge it all away, and to present it pure unto Thee. And I know that wheresoever Thou findest that blood sprinkled, Thine anger is quenched and appeased immediately upon the sight of it. Thine hand cannot smite when that blood is before thine eye.'" We have thus considered the effect, in awakening a sense of sin, produced by a clear view of the character, life, and death of Christ. But how dim and indistinct is our vision of all this! It should be one of our most distinct and earnest aims, to set a crucified Redeemer visibly before our eyes,

(W. G. T. Shedd, D. D.)

I. Remark his CONFESSIONS "I am a sinful man."

II. His PETITION — "Depart from me, O Lord!" The following things seem to be implied.

1. Great fear and distress. Few, unless they have been in something of the same situation, can guess at the various agitations of Peter's mind. What a sense he now had of his own vileness, and what views of the excellency of Christ I Rebecca alighted from her camel when she saw Isaac, and prostrated herself before him: and whatever opinion we may have entertained of ourselves before, sure I am, that we shall be sensible of our own nothingness when we view ourselves in the light of the Divine perfections.

2. It implies modesty and diffidence, which kept him at a distance from Him who not only admits, but invites to the greatest nearness. Peter felt on this occasion somewhat like the centurion, when he said, "I am not worthy that thou shouldst come under my roof."

3. This request bespeak a rashness and inconsideration, much remaining darkness and ignorance. That might be applied to Peter here, which is said of him in another place: "He wist not what to say, for he was sore afraid."

(B. Beddome, M. A)

Let us consider, with reference to this subject —

I. The truth of Peter's confession.

II. The unreasonableness of his petition. That Peter was a sinful man, who can possibly doubt? He was the child of Adam, inheriting his corrupt nature; and it must therefore needs be that he was a sinner before God. With some, the alarms of conscience are soon appeased; such heavings of the soul within are lulled speedily to rest. Some endeavour to quiet them by sedatives, or soothing applications, altogether inadmissible. "Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." Such are the gracious purposes of God towards us. To depart from Him, because we are sinners, would be to reverse the order of Heaven's law and appointment. What is it, however, which will cause God to depart from us, or ourselves to desire that He should do so? Every kind and form of wilful and habitual sin; all unfaithfulness to God.

(H. J. Hastings, M. A.)

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