The Blending of Flesh with Faith
Charity requires us to believe that it was Peter’s love and faith that motivated his promise to defend Christ. Such was his love for Christ, the fruit of the words of eternal life, and the power of the living Son of God that he could do nothing but follow and enjoy Christ, even unto death. But in the same soul and even in the same action there was a mixture of faith and flesh. The desire and purpose came from faith, the confidence and resolution came from flesh.
Self-dependence and pride, or any other carnal affection which is deeply rooted in the nature of all men, are often found in the most holy actions of men. It was faith that made Peter go down into the water, but it was flesh that made him sink (Matthew 14:30). Faith made him zealous in Christ’s cause, but flesh drew his sword at Malchus’s ear (John 18:10). Faith made him follow Christ, but flesh made him follow afar off. Faith made him accompany Christ to the garden, but flesh made him sleep. Faith made him promise perseverance, but flesh made him peremptory in that promise. In a word: faith made him resolute to confess, but flesh to contradict his master.
Vows and promises given without condition cannot but prove dangerous to the strongest faith. God must give us perseverance before we promise it; it is not in our power, though it is our duty, to perform it. Though Peter may, by virtue of Christ’s promise, be sure not to fall into hell, he cannot be sure by that same promise not to fall into temptation. Though he can be sure that faith will have the last victory, he cannot be sure that faith will have every victory. Though faith cannot die and be finally dried up, yet it may ebb and languish. Though even now in the mind of Peter, faith can look undaunted on the nails of the cross, yet presently it may be affrighted at the voice of a maid. He who has given faith to us, is the only one who can give life and action to our faith. Christ is both the quickener and the object of our faith; by His power it works and on His merits it relies. When He is pleased to withdraw Himself, when both the object and mover of faith is absent, faith will be inoperative.
As we cannot see the sun without the light of the sun, so neither can we believe in Christ without the grace of Christ. Lord, let me never barely promise, but let me pray, and let my purpose to die for Christ be seconded with the supplication that I may not deny him. Whenever I have an arm of confidence to lift in defence of the truth let me have a knee of humility to bow before the throne of grace. Lord, give me what I may promise, and I will promise what you require.