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First, Carnal Ecclesiastics are the bitterest enemies of Christ and his members.
Pilate and Herod acknowledged the innocence of our blessed Saviour; so that they made some scruple of sentencing him to die. But the chief Priests and scribes stood, and vehemently accused him, and stuck at nothing that might take away his character and life. It is still evident, that none of the persecutors of the followers and disciples of Christ came up to worldly minded Ecclesiastics in rancour and cruelty.
Secondly, The great ones of this world are most apt to take offence at the abasement of Christ, and the simplicity and plainness of the christian religion,
It is observable, that our blessed Lord never was but once at a court, and then he was bound and mocked, and reviled. Herod was overjoyed when he saw Jesus: but how much better had it been for him, if he had never seen him! For by insulting this sacred person, he filled up the measure of his sins, and drew the divine vengence on his own head; he being banished not long after this, by the imperial decree. This consideration should move us to be more fervent in our prayers to God for all men, and espe-: cially for the kings and rulers of this world, that the divine grace would preserve them from stumbling at this corner stone which God had laid in Sion, and from taking offence at the simplicity of the gospel; and that he would deter them from molesting the faithful followers of Christ. This should also abate our eager desires after high posts and exalted stations, and teach us to rest contented in lower circumstances, in which we are less liable to take offence at the reproach of Christ and the plainness of his salutary doctrines.
BLESSED be thy name, O heavenly Father, for giving up thy beloved Son to so many kinds of suffer
ings, to mockery, insults, reviling, and contempt for our sake. Glory be to thee, O blessed Jesus, for thy willingness in submitting thyself, who art the eternal wisdom, to be the mockery of fools; and for permitting the spirit of ridicule and slander to foam and rage against thy sacred person, that its power might be broken, and that we might not be kept eternally in its bonds. Grant, O Lord, that every one of us may, in the mirror of thine enemies, see the image of his own depravity, and own with shame and sorrow, that he has at least in his heart the latent seeds of all those corruptions which broke out in them; so that we may humble ourselves before thee, and the more earnestly seek the forgiveness of our sins in the merit of the reproaches and sufferings of the bonds, insults, and indignities which thou didst endure. Bless this consideration, and grant that it may tend to the edification and salvation of our souls, for the sake of thy numberless and undeserved sufferings. Amen.
THE UNJUST METHOD PILATE TOOK FOR PRO MOTING OUR BLESSED LORD'S RELEASE.
AND Pilate, when he had called together the chief priests and rulers, and the people, said unto them, ye have brought this man unto me as one that perverteth the people: And behold, I having examined him before you, have found no fault in this man, touching those things whereof ye accuse him; no, nor yet Herod : For I sent you to him and lo! nothing worthy of death is done unto him. I will therefore chastise him, and release him. Now at the feast of the passover, the governor was wont to release unto the people a prisoner, whom they would. Therefore, of necessity he must release one unto them at the feast.
And there was one named Barabbas, a notorious prisoner, who lay bound with them that had made insurrection with him, who had committed murder in the insurrection,' (Matth. xxvii. 15, 16. Mark. xv. 6, 7. Luke xxiii. 17.)
Pilate had already begun to deviate from the straight and plain ways of justice, and to turn into by-paths, by sending to Herod the. Lord Jesus, of whose innocence he was perfectly convinced, with a view of extricating himself out of his embarrassments, and removing this process to another tribunal. But divine providence having disappointed this contrivance of his political sagacity; for Herod sent Jesus back to him, arrayed in a gorgeous robe; he thought on a new expedient for clearing himself with honour of this troublesome affair, without either condemning an innocent person, or drawing on himself the hatred of the Jewish nation.
But before he puts his new scheme in execution, he again makes a public declaration of our Saviour's. innocence, in order to pave the way for the design he had formed. To this end, he not only summoned the chief priests and elders who were present, as the most respectable heads of this assembly, and the managers of the indictment against the innocent Jesus; but likewise made a sign to all the people, who stood in multitudes before his judgment-hall, that they should draw nearer, and, with proper silence and attention, hear what he had to propose to them. It is very probable, that by thus solemnly declaring Christ's innocence, Pilate supposed he should at least work on the populace, so that they would insist on the releasing of this innocent person. For it was natural to believe, that among such a multitude that had received so many favours from Jesus, who had healed the sick, and by doing good to all, deserved well of them, or their relations.
Thus Pilate summons the whole people to get together in a body: Let us also draw nearer to his
judgment-seat, and attentively listen to this public testimony of our Redeemer's innocence. It runs thus: Ye have brought this man unto me as one that perverteth the people: And behold, I having examined him before you, have found no fault in this man, touching those things whereof ye accuse him; no, nor yet Herod: For I sent you to him, and lo! nothing worthy of death is done unto him.'
In these words of Pilate, we may observe three particulars.
First, He summarily repeats the contents of the charge, which the chief Priests and Elders had preferred against Jesus. "You have,' said the governor, 'brought this man unto me as one that perverteth the people.' Thus the charge of rebellion was the chief point on which all their other accusations turned, as it was the article into which Pilate, who was a temporal judge and the emperor's vicegerent, would naturally make a strict enquiry. This part of their charge he publicly repeats, by which he gives them to understand, that he well knew their meaning, and was very sensible of the greatness of the crime, which they alleged against Jesus.
Secondly, He in clear and express words certifies, that Christ was innocent of the crime laid to his charge: 'I find no fault in this man, touching those things whereof ye accuse him. As if he had said, You have collected together a formidable heap of complaints, and accused this man of many crimes; yet none of these things doth he acknowledge, and I myself cannot find out the least probability of his being guilty. For, according to all circumstances, and the best information I can get, he never had any such thoughts, and is far from being in a situation to execute a scheme attended with so much difficulty.
Thirdly, He confirms his testimony by a double proof, viz. by appealing to his own examination of Jesus, and also to Herod's judgment concerning him. In the first place, he appeals to his own examination,
of which they had been witnesses: Behold, 'I have examined him before you,' i. e. I have questioned him, enquired into his case, compared his confession with your charge, and his answer with the de positions of your witnesses, and done every thing which could be expected from an impartial judge. And as by the Roman laws the plaintiff and defendant are to be confronted, (Acts xxv. 16.) I have likewise acted agreeably to this, and have examined him before you, who were present at my enquiry into his case. Therefore yourselves, would you but speak the truth, must own, that you cannot prove the man guilty of those crimes of which you accuse him.
In the next place, he appeals to Herod's judgment, adding, 'No, nor yet Herod.' Besides, Herod has not found the man guilty of any crime: For I sent you to him, and lo, nothing worthy of death is done unto him.' He probably added, You know that there has been a misunderstanding between Herod and myself, and, consequently he would hardly have acquitted the prisoner in complaisance to me. Besides, I did not acquaint him with my opinion of the man's innocence; but left the whole to his own penetration. You yourselves were also present there, and doubtless were not wanting to set off your accu sation in the best manner. But he has been found guilty of nothing worthy of death; which I conclude. from Herod's sending him back to me, and by the white robe in which he ordered him to be clothed. By this, I suppose, his design is to shew, that he looks upon him as a person of a crazed imagination, who ought to be laughed at for his chimeras, but far from having done any thing worthy of death. Now, you cannot but acquiesce in the judgment of Herod, who is of your own religion, and sovereign of Galilee, where you pretend this man has been most busy in sowing sedition. If this were true, Herod, as the ruler of the country, must have had the best informa tion of it. Such was Pilate's testimony of our bles