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While Peter was thus preaching to them, highly displeased with St. Peter: nor would the Holy Ghost fell upon the greatest part
he have been able to have defended his conof his hearers, enabling them to speak seve duct in a satisfactory manner, had not be ral languages, and in them to magnify the been charged with a peculiar commission great Creator of the sons of men. At this from the Almighty, for extending the privithe Jews, who accompanied Peter, marvel- leges of the gospel to the Gentile world.led exceedingly, to see that the gifts of the But he had no sooner informed them that Holy Ghost were poured upon the Gentiles ; the
grace of the gospel was not confined to and Peter seeing this, told the company, any particular nation or people, nor to ranks that he knew no reason why these persons or degrees among men, than they immeshould not be baptized, as they had received diately changed their displeasure against bim the Holy Ghort as well as they ; and accor into thanks, to the beneficent Father of the dingly he gave orders that they should be human race, who had granted to the Genbaptized, and to confirm them in the lioly tiles also repentance unto life eternal. faith they had embraced, he staid with them some time.
Peter, after having fiuisked his visitation
to the new planted churches, returned to This action of St. Peter was considered in Jerusalem, and was indefatigable in instructvarious lights by the brethren at Jerusalem, |iny the converts in the religion of Jesus, who being but lately converted to the chris and preaching the glad tidings of salvation tian faith, were much attached to the reli. to the descendants of Jacob. But he did gious ceremonies of the Mosaic institution, not long continue in this pleasing course ; and therefore most of them severely charged Herod Agrippa, in order to ingratiate bimPeter at his return, as being too familiar self into the favour of the Jews, put the with the Gentiles. How powerful is the apostle James to death, and finding the acprejudice of education !
tion was highly acceptable to that stiff-neck
ed people, he resolved to extend his cruelty The Jews bad for many ages conceived to Peter, and accordingly cast bim into prie . an inveterate opposition against the Gen
But the churches were incessant in tiles, considering them as persons hated by their prayers to God for his safety; and the Almighty, whu had chosen them for his what have mortals to fear, when guarded by peculiar people. The law of Moses, in the hand of Onnipotence ? Herod was perdeed, enjoined them to be kind to their own sueded he should soon accomplish his intennation in preference to all others; and the tion, and sacrifice Peter to the insatiable rites and institutions of their religion, and cruelty of the Jews. the peculiar form of their government, rendered them very different to the inhabitants But the night before this intended execuof other countries: a separation, which, in tion, a messenger from the court of heaven after ages, they contracted into a much visited the gloomy liorrors of the dungeon, Darrower compass. They were also tena where he found Peter asleep between his ciously proud of their external privileges in keepers. The angel raised him up, and being the descendants of their progenitor took off his chains, ordered him to gird Abraham, and, therefore, looked upon the on bis garments, and follow him. Peter rest of the world as reprobates, proudly re- | obeyed, and having passed through the first . fusing to hold any conversation with them, and second watch, they came to the iron and eveu to shew them the comnioni kiudo gate leading to tlie city, which opened to nesses of humanity.
ilem of its own accord. The angel also
accompanied bim tlirough one of the If is therefore no wonder that they were streets, and then departed from him
which Peter came to himnself, and perceiv all the apostles, to be the first preacher of the ed that it was no vision ; but that his gospel among the Gentiles, God, who was great and beloved Master had really sent best able to judge of the hearts of men, had a messenger from above, and released him borne witness to them, that they were from prison. He, therefore, repaired to accepted of him, by giving them bis Holy the house of Mary, where the church was Spirit as well as he had done the Jews, and assembled, and offering up their prayers consequently, that there was no difference to the throne of grace for his safety. On
On between them. They could not, therefore, his knocking at the door, a maid who came place the Jewish yoke, which neither they to let him in, knowing his voice, ran back nor their fathers were able to bear, upon to tell them that Peter was at the door; the necks of the disciples, without tempting which they at first considered as the effect and provoking the Almighty, who had given of fancy; but the damsel continuing to af sufficient reasons to believe that the Gentiles, firm that it was really true, they concluded as well as the Jews, would be saved by the it was bis angel, or some messenger sent grace of the gospel. from the court of heaven. But on opening the door, they were convinced of their mis This declaration of St. Peter convinced take, finding ibat it was really Peter him the chureh, and it was unanimously deself, who briefly told them how he was de creed, that no other burthen than the temlivered ; and desiring them to inform his porary observance of a few particular prebrethren of his being set at liberty, retired cepts, equally convenient to the Jew and to another place.
Gentile, should be imposed on them. And
the decision was drawn up in a synodical In the morning the officers came from epistle, and sent to the several churches for Herod to the prison, with orders to bring allaying the beats and controversies this Peter out to the people, who were gathered dispute had occasioned. together to behold his execution. But when they came tothe prison, the keepers informed Soon after this council, Peter left Jerusathem that the apostle had made his escape ; lem, and went down to Antioch ; where, which so exasperated Herod, that he com using the liberty given him by the gospel, manded those who were entrusted with the he freely eat and conversed with the Gentile care of the prisoner, to be put to death. proselytes, considering them now as fellow.
citizens with the saints, and of the household Some time after this miraculous deliver- of God. This he had been taught by the ance of St. Peter, a controversy arose be vision of the sheet let down from heaven; tween the Jewish and Gentile converts, this had been lately decreed at Jerusalem; with regard to the observation of the Mosaic this he had before practised with regard to law; a dispute which gave great uneasiness Cornelius and his family, and justified the to many persons; the Jews zealously con action to the satisiaction of bis accusers; tending, that it was absolutely necessary to and this he had freely and innocentiy done salvation to be circumcised, and observe the at Antioch, till some of the Jewish brethren precepts of the ceremonial law, as well as coming thither, he, for fear of offending those of the gospel. To compose this dif them, withdrew himself from the Gentiles, ference, it was thought necessary to sum as if it had been unlawful for him to hold mon a general council of the apostles and conversation with uncircumcised persons; bretbren to meet at Jerusalem. This was notwithstanding he knew, and was fully accordingly done, and the case thoroughly satisfied, that our blessed Saviour had brodebated. At last Peter stood up, and de ken down the wall of partition between the clared that God having chosen him, out of Jew and Gentile.
By thus acting against the light of his of the world, enlarging the kingdom of bis own mind and judgment, he condemned great Master, and spreading the glad tidings what he had approved, and destroyed the of salvation among the inhabitants of va. superstructure he had before erected ; at rious countries ; and among the rest those of the same time he confirmed the Jewish Rome then the mistress of the world. In zealots in their inveterate errors, filled that capital he is said to have continued sethe ninds of the Gentiles with scruples, veral years, till the emperor Claudius, takand their consciences with fears. Nor ing advantage of some seditious tumults was this all; the old prejudices between raised by the Jews, published an edict the Jew and Gentile were revived, and whereby they were banished from Rome, the whole number of the Jewish converts and among the rest St. Peter, who returned following the apostle's example separated to Jerusalem, and was present at the synod themselves from the company of Gentile already mentioned. But how long he conchristians. Nay, even Barnabas himself tinued in the capital of Judea, is uncertain ; was carried away by this torrent of unwar for we have no account of his transactions rantable practice.
for many years. This, however, is certain,
that he was not idle in the service of his St. Paul was now at Antioch, and reso
great Master ; and Eusebius tells us, from lutely opposed St. Peter to his face ; be publicly reproved him as a person worthy Metaphrastus, that he visited several of the to be blamed for his gross prevarication.
western parts, and particularly the island He reasoned and severely expostulated with
of Great Britain ; where he continued sevehim, that he who was himself a Jew, and
ral years, spreading the glad tidings of sal
vation in these remete parts, and convertconsequently under a
immediate obligation of observing the Mosaic law, ing the several nations to the christian
faith, should throw off the yoke himself, and at the same time endeavour to impose it on
But however this be, whether St. Peter the Gentiles, who were never under the was or was not, in England, it is certain, necessity of observing the ceremonies of the that towards the latter end of Nero's reign Israelites. A severe, though an impar
he returned to Rome, where he found the tial charge ; but the remarkable eagerness
minds of the people strangely bewildered, of St. Paul to place things on a proper and hardened against the doctrines of the foundation, though he succeeded for the gospel, by the sorceries of Simon Magus, present, made a great noise afterwards in who, as is already observed, was chastised the world, and gave occasion to the ene
by Peter for his wickedness at Samaria. mies of Christianity to represent the whole
This Monster of impiety not only opposed as a compact of forgery and deceit : of the preaching of the apostles, but also did such pernicious consequences are disputes all in his power to render them and their among the principals of the church, and doctrine odious to the emperor. St. Peter, so fatal are the effects of pusillanimity, foreseeing that the calumnies of Simon and and a fear of offending persons bigotted to
his adherents would hasten his death, took insignificant ceremonies.
the greater pains, and was still more assidu
ous to confirm those he had been any ways As we have now related all the transac
instrumental in converting to the sublime tions of this apostle, that are founder on truths they had received. And in order to scripture authority, we shall have recourse
this, he strongly opposed the great deceiver to ancient historians for the residue of his
of mankind; for in the last years of his life, life.
be seems to have wrote his two epistles to the Some time before this contest at Antioch, dispersed Jews in Pontus, Galatia, CappaSt. Peter preached the gospel in various parts | docia, and Bythinia : and in an appointed
At his coming to the place of execution, ner, but with his head downward : affirm. ing, that he was unworthy to suffer in the
same posture in which bis Lord had suffered
encounter with Simon, discovered his magi Master, and on his asking him whither he cal impostures, and through the power and was going, answered, “ to Rome, to be assistance of the Almighty, brought him
crucified a second time :” which Peter tak. to an exemplary and miserable death. ing for a reproof of his cowardice, returned
again into the city, and was soon after appreThe circumstances which attended this hended, and cast, together with St. Paul, remarkable eventare related as follow : The into the Mamertine prison.
Here they apostle meeting with Simon at Rome, and were confined eight or nine months ; but finding him still pretending to be some great spent their time in the exercise of religion, person, even the promised Messiah, he especially in preaching to the prisoners, could not help opposing zealously his pre and those who resorted to them. And dursumptuous arrogancies. But Simon, more ing this confinement, it is generally thought incensed by the opposition, offered to give St. Peter wrote the second epistle to the the people such an evident demonstration dispersed Jews, wherein he endeavours to of bis being what he pretended, that he confirm them in the belief and practice of would place the whole beyond contradic christianity, and to fortify them against tion, by immediately ascending up to hea those poisonous and pernicious principles
Upon this by the help of some and actions which even then began to unperceived device, he raised himself from break in upon the christian church. the earth, and seemed to be moving towards the regions of heaven. St. Peter and St. Nero at last returning from Achaia, enPaul beholding the delusion, had recourse tered Rome in triumph; and soon after his to prayers, and obtained their petitions of arrival, resolved that ihe apostles should fall the Almighty, namely, that the impostor as victims and sacrifices to his cruelties and should be soon discovered for the honour revenge. While the fatal stroke was daily of the blessed Jesus. Accordingly, he expected, the christians. in Rome were confell headlong to the ground ; by which he tinually offering up their prayers to heaven was so bruised, that he died in a very to protect these two holy persons.
But the short time.
Almighty was now willing to put an end to
their sorrows ; and after sealing the truth Such was the end of this miserable, this they had preached with their own blood, to unhappy man; but the news of it no sooner receive them into the regions of eternal bliss reached the emperor's ears, than he vowed and happiness, and exchange their crowns revenge, both for the death of his favourite, of martyrdom for crowns of glory. Accord
. and the endeavours used by the apostles to ingly they were both condemned by the • turn mankind from darkness unto light, cruel emperor of Rome; and St. Peter havand from the power of Satan unto God.” ing taken his farewel of the brethren, esAccordingly he issued orders for apprehend pecially of St. Paul, was taken from the ing St. Peter, together with his companion prison, and led to the top of the Vatican St. Paul. St. Ambrose tells us, that when mount near the Tiber, where he was senthe people perceived the danger to which tenced to surrender up his life on the cross. St. Peter was now exposed, they prayed him to quit Rome, and repair for a while to some secure retreat, that his life might be he begged the favour of the officers, that he preserved for the benefit of the church. might not be crucified in the common man. Peter, with great reluctance, yielded to their intreaties, and made his escape by night; but as be passed the gate, he was met by a person in the form of his great and beloved before him. This request was