In a gallery in Europe are shown, side by side, the first and the last works of a great artist. The first is very rude and most faulty; the last is a masterpiece. The contrast shows the results of long culture and practice. These two names are like those two pictures. “Simon” shows us the rude fisherman of Galilee, with all his rashness, his ignorance, his imperfectness. “Peter” shows us the apostle of the Acts and the Epistles, the rock firm and secure, the man of great power, before whose Spirit-filled eloquence thousands of proud hearts bow, swayed like the trees of the forest before the tempest; the gentle, tender soul whose words fall like a benediction; the noble martyr witnessing to the death for his Lord. Study the two pictures together to see what grace can do for a man.
It is not hard to take roses, lilies, fuchsias, and all the rarest flowers, and with them make forms of exquisite beauty; but to take weeds, dead grasses, dried leaves trampled and torn, and faded flowers, and make lovely things out of such materials, is the severest test of skill. It would not be hard to take an angel and train him into a glorious messenger; but to take such a man as Simon, or as Saul, or as John Newton, or as John Bunyan, and make out of him a holy saint or a mighty apostle – that is the test of power. Yet that is what Christ did and has been doing ever since. He takes the poorest stuff despised and worthless, outcast of men ofttimes and when he has finished his gracious work we behold a saint whiter than snow. The sculptor beheld an angel in the rough, blackened stone, rejected and thrown away; and when men saw the stone again, lo! there was the angel cut from the block. Christ can take us, rough and unpolished as we are, and in his hands our lives shall grow into purity and loveliness, until he presents them at last before the throne, faultless and perfect.