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disputes might be supposed to arise between him and the Roman governor Pilate, occasioned by encroachments on each other's rights and prerogatives.
To this Herod the blessed Jesus was now sent; and in this proceeding Pilate's views were political;" but at the same time, they were wicked. In the first place, he thought that by this means he should with honour free himself of this troublesome affair about Jesus of Nazareth. He thought this a very proper expedient to avoid condemning a person whom he looked upon as innocent, and incurring the hatred of the Jewish clergy and people. He concluded that as Herod was a Jew, he could better decide this cause, which seemed principally to relate to the Jewish religion. He thought that Herod would certainly be offended with the chief Priests, because they had overlooked him, and had not immediately brought their prisoner before his judgment-seat; and therefore it was not probable that he would order Jesus to be put to death, out of complaisance to them : And in case he should, Pilate imagined that he should have no hand in condemning the innocent. Pilate was likewise pleased to think, that he should at the same time pay a compliment to Herod; so that, on another occasion, Herod might gratify him in return. Such in all probability, were his views and designs in this proceeding.
However, the greatest injustice lay concealed under this pretence of political prudence. For Pilate thus delivered up an innocent and righteous man, whom it was his duty not only to acquit at his tribunal, but also to protect against the rage and malice of his enemies. He sent the blessed Jesus to a judge, who, it was well known, had before saught his life, and had rendered himself odious to all good men by the scandalous and unjust execution of John the Baptist. (See Josephus's Jewish Antiquities, B. xviii. C. 7.) On this account, the accusers of the Lord Jesus desired nothing more, than to be referred to
Herod; being persuaded, that it would be no difficult matter to obtain his order for putting Jesus to death. From this account of the occasion of our blessed Saviour's sufferings before Herod, we shall deduce the following truths.
First, The enemies of true piety at present deal with the members of Christ, as they formerly did with the Head. This we shall endeavour to prove as follows, from the words here explained.
1. As the enemies of our blessed Lord construed his silence to be a sign of bad cause, and on that account urged their groundless accusations with the more boldness; so it is just the same in our days.. When the faithful servants of God forbear answering the calumnies, and libels dispersed abroad against them, accounting it an unprofitable waste of time, the world cries out, "We may see what kind of consciences these people have, who have not a word to say in their own defence. If they were innocent, doubtless they would not let such things go unanswered." Thus they slander the more boldly, and publish new accusations without the least sense of discretion or modesty.
2. As our blessed Saviour's enemies were continually repeating their former accusations, only dressing them in a new garb; so is it still the way of persecutors and detractors who renew old calumnies which had long since been refuted by the most convincing apologies, and put them forth into the world under a new appearance.
3. As the accusers of Christ charged him with moving seditions and tumults, in order to instigate the civil power against him; so at present, ill designing men infuse an ill opinion of the good and virtuous into the men of power. They represent them as conceited, self-willed, obstinate persons, who are wanting in due respect to their Sovereigns; who speak evil of dignities and magistrates; who occasion all kinds of trouble and disturbances in
states, and would introduce a new system of religion; so that it were better for government to banish them out of their respective dominions.
As the enemies of Christ accuse his doctrine as tainted with the poison of pernicious errors; so now unnecessary admonitions are given against such pretended secret poison. The enemies of the truth cannot deny, that the writings of those authors they condemn contain a great deal of good; but they pretend, without any just grounds, that it is mixt with so much poison as not to be read without extreme danger.
5. As the accusers of the blessed Jesus charged him, that at least he prepared the minds of the people for a revolt, though it was not actually broke out into open rebellion; so in our days, the pure doctrine of Christ is accused as the foundation of all heresy, and pernicious errors; and therefore the followers of Antichrist pretend, that the growing evil is to be opposed in time, and that the sparks which lie concealed in the embers must be quenched, lest they kindle a conflagration, in which the church and state may be involved.
6. As the accusers of Christ represented him as one of that rebellious multitude, which had made an insurrection in Galilee, and refused to pay tribute to the Roman emperor; so it is in our times. Thus Luther was charged by his adversaries with acting in concert with Thomas Muntzer; and thus many faithful servants of God are accused of holding the tenets of the ancient or modern heretics, and of propagating, almost the same impious doctrines.
7. Lastly, As the enemies of our blessed Saviour mingled some truths with their false accusations; as, for instance, that Jesus began to teach in Galilee but perverted those truths to a very wicked purpose; so likewise many things are laid to the charge of the faithful servants of God, which are really true; but these are mixed with false imputations, and such im.
pious designs as never entered into their thoughts. By this conformity between the ancient and modern opposers of truth, we see that the scene continues much the same to this day, though the persons who act this base part are changed from time to time. But happy is it for us, that satan began at the head and captain of our Salvation, since by that means the way is paved for the members, that they may get over the offence of the cross. Praised be the Lord Jesus for submitting to all these accusations for our sake.
Secondly, Political prudence, unless it be governed by the superior light of God's word, has always shewn itself an enemy to Christ and his cross.
Of this we here see a remarkable instance in Pilate. The political prudence, which he shewed on this occasion, was a carnal prudence, tending to increase the sufferings of the innocent Jesus, and expose him to farther insults; though God at the same time conducted these several incidents, so as to accomplish his decrees. For,
1. By this was fulfilled that prophecy concerning the Messiah, The kings of the earth set themselves and the rulers take counsel together against the Lord and against the Messiah, or his Anointed,' (Psalm ii. 2. Acts iv. 27.)
2. By this circumstance Christ's innocence became still more conspicuous, and more publicly known.
3. By this delay of the proceedings against our blessed Saviour, his enemies and accusers had some time to reflect on what they were about, before they plunged themselves deeper in blood-guiltiness. However, these were not the effects of Pilate's sagacity or prudence; but of the divine wisdom, which directs every thing to good and wise ends. This is too often the behaviour of magistrates and judges in our days. Political men will not put themselves to the least inconveniency for the sake of the innocent
and good; and when they might, and ought to protect them, they are given up to the popular rage. This is usually covered with some outward pretence, while the mind has another object in view. This is accounted prudence and sagacity by the world; but in the sight of God, it is folly and sin. Without the light of divine grace, no man can discharge a civil post or worldly employment, so as to preserve his integrity, and a conscience void of offence. The power of darkness will prove too strong for a man before he is aware of it, unless he is supported by power from on high. What great reason therefore, have civilians and politicians to apply to the living God for the guidance of his spirit.
Thirdly, Christ, by these circumstances of his passion, was to expiate many kinds of sin. He has atoned,
1. For our suppressions of good motions when they arise in the mind, and our hypocrisy in this particular. Therefore he suffered himself to be charged with raising rebellions and commotions among the people.
2. He has atoned for the turbulent and rebellious motions, which frequently rise in our hearts against the divine law, to which the carnal mind will not be subject; and likewise against the ordinance of the civil power.
3. He has atoned for our voluntary subjection to the power of the prince of darkness. Therefore he submitted to be brought before the civil powers, and even before Herod, a foreign prince to whose government he did not properly belong, being a native of Judea and not of Galilee, and was mocked and reviled before them.
4. He atoned for our fear of man, in omitting to protect truth and innocence.
5. He atoned for the abuse of the Sovereign power by which we endeavour to accomplish our wicked design by rendering our enemy obnoxious to the