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fore taken Jesus and scourged him, (John xix. 1.) and now he is willing to permit others to take him and crucify him. How cruel is his mercy! away, What did it avail Pilate, that he was convinced of our Saviour's innocence? To what purpose did he now cry out a third time, I find no fault in him,' (See John xviii. 38. xix. 4. and 6.) since he acted contrary to such a conviction? Thus it will be of no benefit to us, to cry out, O Lamb of God that takest away the sins of the world; unless we forsake our sins, in humility lay hold on Christ's innocence, and suffer his spirit to guide us, that we may serve him in holiness and righteousness all the days of our lives? Preserve us, O Lord, from all such scandalous hypocrisy, that we may not confess thy innocence with our mouth; and yet crucify thee by our manifold sins and impieties, or without concern see thee taken away and crucified by others. This expostulation of Pilate was followed,
2. By the answer of the Jews, which was this: We have a law, and by our law he ought to die.' Hitherto, the accusation of the Jews against our blessed Saviour had turned chiefly on crimes against the civil government. They had charged him with forbidding the people to pay tribute to Cesar, and mak ing himself a king. The former crime was detrimental to the emperor's treasury, as it tended to lessen his revenue, and the latter was high treason against his Imperial Majesty; and both were equally punishable with death. But Pilate, finding in the prisoner's confession no grounds for such an indictment, had, time after time, declared him innocent. The Jews therefore dropt those points at present, and returns to the charge with a new complaint of a different nature; which could not properly come under the cognizance of Pilate. By this proceeding they exposed the greatest mystery of their religion, and debased it in the eyes of the civil judge, who was a heathen, and understood nothing of it. But rage and
malice prompted them to trespass on what was sacred; for they little regarded how much it might be profaned before Pilate's tribunal. So much pains did these sons of malice and cruelty take to render Christ, the great author of salvation, the cause of condemnation to themselves.
The Jews, in answer to Pilate's expostulation; appealed to the law, and said, "We have a law, and by that law he ought to die.' They had indeed a law, which condemned blasphemers and false prophets to be punished with death, (Lev. xxiv. 15, 16. Deut. xviii. 20.) But this law was most wrongfully applied to Christ, who had always highly honoured his Father. That Divine law, in which they ought to have discerned their wickedness, they used as a covering for their villainy. These very accusers of the Lord Jesus, were the greatest transgressors of the Divine law, (John vii. 19. Rom. ii. 23.) But when they were resolved at any rate to put Jesus to death, they made use of the law as a pretence to palliate their cruelty; and though they themselves impiously trampled the law under foot, yet they would fain have Christ executed as a transgressor of it.
How amazing and dreadful is the reflection, that the great Angel of the Covenant, who himself gave the law on Mount Sinai, should here be accused as a transgressor of the law! We, alas! had transgressed the Divine law, and by that law were to die. But, behold, he cometh in our stead, who could say,
Thy law, O my God, is within my heart," (Psalm xl. 8.) and permits the priests and people to cry out. against him, by our law he ought to die.' The blessed Jesus thus suffers himself to be condemned by the law, that we may be acquitted by the gospel. Stupenduous love! immeasurable kindness!
At the same time, our blessed Lord has hereby sanctified the sufferings of his faithful servants, who frequently are declared heritics, and punished with death, through false interpretations of Scripture by
illiterate zealots. It is no small aggravation of the sufferings of Christians, when they are condemned by declarations out of the word of God wrested from their true meaning, by an iniquitous set of unmerci. ful judges. However, by the pretended condemnation of the Son of God, according to the sentence of the law, the sting of such an offence is taken away. Alas! Christ is daily crucified even among Christians, by those who have the Scripture in their mouth, and quote it like satan in the gospel, (Matt. iv. 6.) and yet make it a covering to their vices and wickedness, by picking out of it every thing they can to excuse and palliate their sinful actions, and, as it were, to make pillows on which their carnal security may repose itself.
But let us enquire, what particular law that was, by which the lawgiver himself was here adjudged to die? He has, say the Jews, made himself the Son of God. By their former accusation of setting up for a king, he had been arraigned for high treason against Cesar; but by this charge they make him guilty of high treason against the Divine Majesty. Thus they represent Jesus as one, who not only exalted himself above the head of the Roman empire, but above all created beings, and made himself equal with God. Consequently they make him guilty of death on a double account, namely, by the Roman laws, as a rebel, and by the Jewish law, as a blasphemer.
Alas! deluded mortals, it was not our blessed Saviour that made himself the Son of God, but he who said unto him, 'Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee,' (Psalm ii. 7. Heb. v. 5.) and who at the same time enjoined all the kings and judges of the earth to kiss, or worship, his Son.' We had arrogated an equality with God, for which here the real Son of God was to atone. In the state of innocence, we were the beloved children of God; but instead of resting satisfied with this honour, we would be as gods, (Gen, iii. 5.) On the contrary, by the
attempt, we became like unto our seducer the devil, and fell under the sentence of temporal and eternal death.
THANKS be to thee, O blessed Jesus, for thine unspeakable love, which moved thee to debase thyself so low, and to permit such a false accusation to be brought against thee, as that thou madest thyself the Son of God; by which thou didst obtain for us the glorious privilege of being sons and daughters of the Almighty. Bless that part of the Divine word, which we have now considered. Grant that the contemplation of the mournful spectacle, exhibited to the people after thy painful scourging, may powerfully move the hearts of all those who, in their carnal security, are going forward in trespasses without any dread of the Divine wrath, and impress on them a deep sense of God's displeasure against sin. Grant that it may likewise become a comfort to all penitent and faithful Christians; and in all temptations to sin, put us again in mind of that part of thy sufferings, which we have now viewed as it were at a distance, that we may be powerfully restrained from yielding to them. Remind us more particularly of these thy sufferings at the tremendous hour of death, that we may thence derive comfort and confidence to recommend our souls to thee, our merciful Saviour, and die in thy faith. Grant this for the sake of thy name. Amen.
PILATE'S LAST DISCOURSE WITH THE LORD JESUS.
"WHEN Pilate therefore heard that saying, he was the more afraid; and he went again in into the judg ment-hall, and saith unto Jesus, Whence art thou
But Jesus gave him no answer. Then saith Pilate unto him, Speakest thou not unto me? Knowest thou not, that I have power to crucify thee, and have power to release thee? Jesus answered, Thou couldest have no power at all against me, except it were given thee from above: Therefore, he that delivered me unto thee hath the greater sin,' (John xix. 8-11.)
In these last words which Pilate spoke to the Lord Jesus, we may observe,
First, The occasion of this discourse: When Pilate therefore heard that saying, he was the more afraid, and went again into the judgment-hall. The chief priests, being disappointed in their first accusation, now brought a new article against the prisoner, and accused Jesus, saying, That he made himself the Son of God; and that consequently, according to their law, by which they were governed under the protection of the Romans, he ought to die. This new charge occasioned uncommon emotions in the mind of the Roman judge. For it was the belief of both Romans and Greeks, that there were a multitude of gods and goddesses, who propagated their race, and begot children; who sometimes used a visible shape to come down from heaven, and converse with men. Thus the heathens at Lystra took Paul and Barnabas for such deities, and cried out, The gods are come down unto us, in the likeness of men,' (Acts xiv. 11, 12.) When Pilate heard that Jesus made himself the Son of God, he concluded, that if he was the offspring of the immortal gods, some dreadful vengeance would fall on him and his family. For he had already caused this Divine person to be scourged, and permitted his soldiers to insult him with all manner of indignities, and illegal abuses. His conscience now reproached him for what he had done, and excited in him that servile fear of which the Evange list takes notice above.