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king both parties, and pretending that they are equal. ly in the wrong, and give themselves too much troų. ble about truth. The controversies about truth appear to them as mere cavils about words; and if matters go well with them, if they enjoy riches, honours, and pleasures, it is the least of their care how it fares with truth.

Those who are regardless of truth, and look upon one religion as good as another, are for the most part, indeed, to be found among the rich and mighty of this world; who look upon it as the characteristic of prudence to swim with the stream, and to have no farther concern with truth than as it may promote their present interest.

interest. Hence it is not to be wondered at, that God should permit such errors to reign in the world, not only among the mean and illiterate, but also among persons of the greatest learning and abilities, who are looked on as lights of the world and pillars of the state. The cause of this is assigned by St. Paui in these words : ' They received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved ; for this cause God shall send on them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie ; that they all might be condemned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.' (Thess. ü. 10, 11, 12.) It is no more than just and equitable, that they who make a jest of truth, should be deprived of its efful. gent light, and cast into outer darkness; where, as a punishment, they must give credit to fictions and lying words, since they refuse to give God the honour due unto his name, and to acquiesce in the testimony of his sacred word. Hence also it happens, that the great, the wise, and powerful of this world drop off like unripe fruit, and desert to the camp of antichrist, not only in times of persecution for the sake of the gospel, or when any danger is to be apprehended; but also when they can promote their temporal advantage, or get a step higher in the world,

Thus many

32 CHRIST'S SUFFERINGS BEFORE by such a desertion of the truth*. This scandalous indifference for the truth likewise prevails among the lower class of people, the generality of whom are more taking up in providing for the necessities of life, than in enquiring how they may obtain a true knowledge of the truth of the gospel. It is God's express will, that all men should come to the know. ledge of the truth,' (1 Tim. ii. 4.) But these persons think, that to enquire after religious truths does not belong to them; and as for the learned, they may dispute to the day of judgment which religion is the best: But for their part they will keep to that in which they were born and educated, and in which their ancestors lived before them. Protestants continue to argue while they do not see any opportunity of bettering their condition, by embracing a false religion. But when such a temptation presents itself, they undervalue the truth and em. brace error, without examining into the merits of both religions.

Candid laymen are generally sooner convinced of the innocence of the servants of God, than bigotted ecclesiastics, who are of a contrary opinion.

Pilate perceived that Jesus was innocent, when the chief Priests and Scribes, who were blinded by prejudice, and inflamed with passion, would not be convinced. This is still the case in the world. Statesmen and lay-magistrates are sooner convinced of the innocence of the witnesses of truth, than their ecclesiastical judges and adversaries, who, though they are in a spiritual office, are strangers to the spiritual life; nor are they taught of God. But alas ! this conviction had no salutary effect on Pilate ; for he proceeded no farther, but turns his back on the self

vorno * In this paragraph the author alludes to those who disist the Protestant cause in Germany bring allured by ihe Piipish party, and gained over to their church, by promises of prefermens, &c. of which there are too many instances. W.

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existent truth, and asks, what is truth ? And though, he was conscious of Christ's innocence, yet he delivered him up to the barbarous cruelty of his ene. mies. Few, indeed, will expose themselves to any inconveniency for the sake of the persecuted mem bers of Christ. When the men of this world are under any apprehensions, that by protecting their innocence they may subject themselves to suspicions and an evil report and make themselves enemies among

the great, they do not choose to interpose in their defence. Woe to them, who for their own private interest molest and persecute the innocent! In order to atone for this depravity of mankind, Christ Jesus, the ever-glorious Son of God, permitted himself to be thus treated, to the inexpressible comfort of his members, when they come to suffer the like ill treatment for his sake.

II. We come, in the next place, to consider what followed our Saviour's confession, with regard to his

By the confession which our blessed Lord made concerning his kingdom, &c. they were still more irritated; for they would by no means have it thought, that they had condemned an innocent man, and delivered him up to Pilate. St. Mark says, that the chief Priests accused him of many things. They not only repeated their former charge ; but enlarged and aggravated the accusation, by many new and fictitious articles. They concluded, that the greater number of crimes they laid to his charge, the more probability there was of overwhelmning our Saviour's innocence; that if one complaint should not incense Pilate against him, perhaps another might prove more effectual ; and lastly, that if one single charge by itself should not have the desired effect, yet all the articles taken together might turn the scale against the innocent Jesus.

This was the contrivance of the chief Priests, and likewise, as St. Matthew adds, of the Elders of the people; and consequently of all the heads of the

VOL. II,

accusers.

E

Jewish church, whom it mostly concerned to support, and defend their carnal authority, which had been weakened by the spiritual doctrines of Christ. The best way to compass their ends they imagined would be by removing Jesus out of the way, that he might no longer oppose their hypocrisy, by his preaching. But as Pilate had witnessed, and probably caused it to be proclaimed by a herald, that he found no guilt in the man, they were the more provoked; so that Pilate's declaration of our blessed Saviour's innocence, like oil poured on the fire, the more inflamed their minds, and caused louder exclamations against Jesus. Hence we learn the following truths :

1. It is the usual stratagem of the world to accumulate false accusations against the witnesses of the truth,

It is said, “They accused Jesus of many things.' This is a wicked device which the enemies of truth, both in the Pagan and Popish persecutions, have constantly practised. What a hideous groupe of ca-lumnies did the Pope's adherent's vent against Luther! so that one cannot but wonder where the lying Spirit could collect all its materials for such absurd accusations, as they invented to asperse this glorious instrument of God?

2. As we have heaped sin upon sin, so in our Saviour's sufferings, one accusation upon another was brought against him,

What innumerable sins have been the consequence of the first fall! Hence St. Paul says, By one man's disobedience many are made sinners,' (Rom. v. 19.) How has the venom, which lurked in the disobedience of our first parents, spread itself into numberless channels, and infected their unhappy descendants! . How many millions of dreadful sins have sprung from that corrupt fountain ! And we still daily see men adding sin to sin, 'till the measure is full, so as at last to run over.

The Son of God suffered one accusation upon another to be heaped on him, in order

TIÉ TRIBUNAL OF PILATE.

35

to cover the multitude of our sins. But this is a comfort which can be properly valued only by an awakened conscience; to which satan lays open such a large and dreadful catalogue of sins, that the sinner is astonished at the multitude of his transgressions, and cries out, “My sins are more in number than the hairs of my head, or the sand on the sea-shore,' (Psalm xl. 13.) When the sinner stands thus aghast, and terrified at the number and heinousness of his sins, then he finds comfort in the multitude of accusations heaped on his innocent Redeemer. He may be well assured, that his heavenly Father will forgive his numberless sins; and that he shall be safe under the defence and protection of his Saviour's innocence, whatever accusations satan may bring against him.

3. The authority of a high post or dignity is often abused, in order to gain credit to false accusations.

The accusations brought against the blessed Jesus were mere calumnies and falsities; but as they were preferred by the chief Priests and elders of the people they imagined that their high stations would induce Pilate the sooner to give credit to their false charge. This is still the way in the persecutions of true Christians. When the enemies of the truth have on their side persons of great note and learning, who join with them and defend their proceedings, they think that whatever comes from them must be received as di: vine oracles; and that what is wanting in proof of the accusations must be made up by tho authority of the learned or dignified accuser. Our blessed Lord in his sufferings experienced many disadvantages from the dignity of his enemies, which made an unhappy impression even on the minds of his own disciples. For after his resurrection, they seem to distrust his promises, saying, the chief Priests and our rulers delivered liim to be condemned to death, and have crucified him; but we trusted that it had been he, who shouldhave redeemed Israel,'(Lukexxiv. 20.)

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