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MATTHEW XXVII. 1-5.
1 When the morning was come, all the chief priests and elders of the people took counsel against Jesus to put him to death.
2 And when they had bound him, they led him away, and delivered him to Pontius Pilate the governor.
3 Then Judas, which had betrayed him, when he saw that he was condemned, repented himself, and brought again the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders,
4 Saying, I have sinned in that I have betrayed the innocent blood. And they said, What is that to us? see thou to that. • 5 And he cast down the pieces of silver in the temple and departed, and went and hanged himself.
THE deed is done! Treason has accomplished his work. The Son of man is in the hands of sinners. He has heen arraigned at their bar, convicted of blasphemy, sentenced to death : and, as if that were too little, reviled, ridiculed, abandoned to the coarsest effusions of malignity, and the most vulgar insolence. All this in the presence and by the hands of ministers of religion ! of ministers assembled in solemn council, acting in the name of God, and professing to guard the interests of his truth, and to maintain the purity of his worship! Of all the forms of depravity, there is none so desperate and execrable as that which reigns in wicked ecclesiastics. No heart is so hard, so pitiless, so entirely estranged from all “compunctious visitings;" no conscience so seared ; no spirit so fertile, refined, persevering in barbarity; no thirst for blood so insatiable; no vengeance so cool, so cruel, so devilish, as are to be found in a priest who has sold himself to work iniquity. Whatever it is, it was permitted to take its full sweep, to put forth its whole force, against our Lord Jesus Christ. He had done no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth. But this was the hour of sinners, and the power of darkness. “ The dunnest smoke of hell” enwrapped their minds; the foulest spirit of the pit swayed their measures; and the malice of the devil and of the priesthood, expended all its trea
sures upon Him who was fairer than the sons of men. Why, O Saviour, was all this shame and sorrow poured into thy cup ? Why was thine Almighty power held in abeyance ? Where were thy distracting thunders, and thine obedient lightnings? Where those twelve legions of angels, any one of whom could have blasted these conspirators into death? Where the divinity of that eye which in a moment could have looked them into hell ? Ah, How then should the scriptures have been fulfilled that thus it must be! If the Lord Jesus Christ had exercised his power, he would have hurled instant confusion and perdition among the rebels; and appeared in all his glory as the sinless One. But where, then, would have been the sacrifice for our sins ? What the hope of our souls? All thanks be to thee, thou patient Son of God, that thou didst not refuse the cup which thy heavenly Father gave thee to drink! The glory of the divine government was to be maintained and vindicated, and his people to be redeemed by the blood of his covenant: therefore, when he was reviled, he reviled not again; when he suffered, he reproached not ; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously ; and went as a lamb to the slaughter; and as a sheep before her sheurers is dumb, so he opened not his mouth.
Let us trace the sequel.
The Roman governor had taken away from the Jews the power of inflicting capital punishment. This explains the circumstance mentioned, verse 1. That when the morning was come, all the chief priests and elders of the people TOOK COUNSEL against Jesus to put him to death. Of their inclination, there can be no doubt; they had already declared him to be guilty of death ; and had nothing but their mercy stood in the way, they had executed their sentence upon the spot. But considerations of prudence interposed to check the course of malice. Had they ventured to take into their own hands the execution of their own sentence, it would have been such an act of rebellion as might have brought down upon their heads the whole weight of the Roman governor's resentment. It is wisely ordered, in the providence of God, that personal fear often restrains those who are lost to every sense of righteousness and humanity. Here is one of the principal guards which he has placed over the order and peace of civil society. Villains, who are not deterred by the atrocity of their designs, and who make no account of the misery which would follow their success, are often kept within bounds by the fear of consequences to themselves. They