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Thus their weak minds were not a little offended at the high rank and reputation of those, who had promoted their master's death. This has been often the case with the faithful members of Jesus Christ. At the council of Constance, (which was held about a hundred years before the reformation begun by Luther) where John Huss was unjustly condemned to be burnt as a heretic, his Imperial Majesty, several Embassadors, three Electors, a great number of Princes, three Patriarchs, twenty-eight Cardinals, and a hundred and fifty-five Bishops, besides Divines and Civilians from all parts of Europe, were present; and yet by such an august assembly of great personages was truth condemned, and innocence oppressed. Who will therefore take offence at such things, or be awed and deterred from the confession of truth? The way has been long since smoothed for us, to get over this rock of offence by Christ himself and his blessed martyrs.
Lastly, we are to enquire what followed after our Saviour's good confession, with regard to Christ himself. The blessed! Jesus was silent on this occa. sion, to the astonishment of all who were present. Hence we may observe,
First, That mention is made of it in Pilate's words to Jesus; for he wonders at his silence, and in his surprise, asks him this question : 'Answerest thou nothing? As if he had said, art thou quite insensible to thy own reputation and safety, since thy life and character are at stake? And dost thou not hear thyself accused of crimes, which the law punishes with death? How canst thou be silent at such a crisis, and suffer thy enemies to accuse thee without making any defence, or opposition to the charge they bring against thee? St. Matthew and St. Mark observe, that Pilate farther added, “Hearest thou not, how many things they witness against thee ?' Hence it may, with some probability, be inferred, that the chief Priests and Elders brought witnesses with
them before Pilate, to back the indictment with their testimony. Notwithstanding all this, our blessed Lord continued silent. It seems as if Pilate had some compassion on Jesus, and imagined that his silence might proceed from fear and despondency, so that he would not presume to speak in his own defence; and therefore these words may be looked upon as a permission and encouragement to Jesus to speak his mind, and to vindicate himself in the best manner he could.
Secondly, We have here likewise an account of our blessed Lord's behaviour after these words of Pilate. The Evangelist informs us, that Jesus answered him to never a word. For neither the high rank of his accusers, nor the heinousness of the accusation, nor yet Pilate's encouraging question, could induce the blessed Jesus to break his silence. He stood firm and immoveable as a rock, amidst the outrageous fury of the Jews and Gentiles, and the tu. multuous waves of their clamorous accusations. Now this silence was founded both on propriety, and justice. For,
1. He had before made an ample confession of the truth : But Pilate had ridiculed the declaration he had made, and consequently rendered himself unworthy of any farther information ; for he, that is notfaithful in the grace he has received, will have no more intrusted to him.
2. He knew that the judge himself was perfectly convinced of his innocence.
3. The charge which the Jews alleged against him consisted of things, that were either manifestly false, or of such a nature, that they did properly fall under the cognizance of Pilate.
4. Christ was not willing, by his reply, to give the Jews any further occasion of sinning by additional lies, and repeated accusations.
5. He was desirous to shew, that he was from his heart willing to die for us, by suffering the sent
Ctrist's SUFFERINGS BEFORE
tence of death to be executed on him, without offers ing any plea in arrest of judgment.
6. Lastly, He was determined to fulfil the prophe. cies which had before declared, that as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he would not open his mouth,' (Isaiah liii. 7. compare Psa. xxxviii. 14, 15.)
Thirdly, We have here an account of the effect which our Saviour's silence had on Pilate. Concerning this circumstance, we are told, that 'the governor marvelled greatly.' It must have appeared something strange to Pilate, that a criminal, who was brought before his judgment-seat, should be silent at such a juncture.
For those who have the worst cause are generally most importunate, and loud in justifying themselves before a court of judicature. Pilate therefore wondered at this man's extreme timidity, or rather magnanimity, since he seemed to despise all the terrible accusations brought against him, and shewed by his silence that he was ready to suffer death. To conclude the subject, we shall here make the following observations :
1. Though God frequently permits impious men and hypocrites to be disappointed in their wicked designs; yet they seldom desist from their evil purposes, and leave their wicked ways.
The chief Priests and Scribes had already been disappointed by their false witnesses, when they examined Jesus before their council; one evidence contradicted another, and their depositions were so incoherent, that they afforded no sufficient proof to condemn Jesus as guilty of the charge. Nevertheless, though the Divine Providence had baffled this wicked attempt, yet they persevere in it, and come to Pilate, attended by other false witnesses; and therefore as truth did not avail them, they had recourse to lies and falsehood. This depravity is still too common among men. How often does God permit sinners to be disappointed ; so that their sins bring ridicule and disgrace upon them, or ruins their sub
stance and health ? How often does a drunkard in hisebriety commit such things as expose him to contempt and disgrace, or by his intemperance contract some severe distemper? Yet on the first invitation of his debauched companions, as soon as the longsuffering of God has permitted him to recover his strength, he returns to that same vice which had occasioned his illness. How often is
How often is a person who is entangled in the snares of impurity detected, and his leud practices come to light? How often is the thief surprised in the very fact, and in consequence of it, publicly undergo some ignominious punishment, yet both the one and the other still go on in their wickedness; only for the future they use more caution, that they may not be surprised. Thus did this depravity of the human heart make a part of our Saviour's sufferings; and we may observe it in his enemies and accusers, as in a mirror of injustice and obduracy.
2. Christ by his silence before Pilate appeared in the form of a sinner, and atoned for our clamorous importunities, and false justifications, in our own defence.
When a sinner is awakened by his conscience, and his secret sins are placed before his eyes, he no longer pretends to excuse and justify himself; but lays his hand on his mouth, and owns himself guilty, Now Christ having permitted the sins of the whole world to be imputed to him at the Divine tribunal, by his silence on this occasion before a human tribunal, put on the appearance of a convicted sinner, who, uniler the condemnation of his conscience, dares not open his mouth. And as our petulant tongues are so ready, and our voices so loud in palliating our sins, and justifying our iniquitous proceedings, when perhaps, our heart at the same time is convinced that we are guilty, our blessed Saviour was silent for the expiation of this depravity of human nature, therefore thankfully acknowledge, that our Redeemer
was pleased to be silent in our stead, and praise hiše for this instance of his love. Let us, out of reverence to his silence before Pilate, henceforth cease to justify our faults, and excuse our misdoings. Let us say with holy Job, “I have uttered that I understood not, therefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes, (chap. xliii. 3, 6.) Oh, that we may thus judge ourselves! and then we shall not be judg,ed, and condemned of the Lord.
We praise thee, O faithful and ever-living Saviour, for all the several species of sufferings which thou didst patiently endure, in order to procure for us the forgiveness of our manifold sins and impieties before the Divine tribunal. Bless, O Lord, to our souls the consideration of this part of thy sufferings. May every insult, every indignity and unjust treatment, to which thou hast submitted in our stead, be for our eternal advantage! When we acknowledge our guilt, and confess our sins, clothe us with the spotless robe of thy innocence. When the consciousness of our numberless misdeeds alarm and terrify us, so as to render us incapable of pleading for ourselves, do thou speak for us, as our Patron and Intercessor. Make us sensible that thou art the only refuge of terrified consciences ; so that flying to theę we may find life, safety, and rest, and be acquitted from all accusations brought against us at the tribunal of thy heavenly Father.
Grant this for the sake of thy name. Amen.
'THE SUFFERINGS (F CHRIST BEFORE HEROD.
And the chief Priests were the more fierce, saying, He stirreth up the people, teaching throughout