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my mercy, with the benefit of man's redemption, it had been done; my power should have triumphed over the impotent malice of my enemies : but now, since that eternal decree must be accomplished, my mercy must be approved, mankind must be ransomed and this cannot be done without my suffering. Thy well-meant valour is no better than a wrong to thyself, to the world, to me, to my Father.
O gracious Saviour, while thou thus smitest thy disciple, thou healest him whom thy disciple smote. Many greater miracles hadst thou done ; none that bewrayed more mercy and meekness than this last cure: of all other, this ear of Malchus hath the loudest tongue to blazon the praise of thy clemency and goodness to thy very enemies. Wherefore came that man, but in a hostile manner to attach thee? Besides his own, what favour was he worthy of for his master's sake ? and if he had not been more forward than his fellows, why had not his skin been as whole as theirs ? yet, even amidst the throng of thine apprehenders, in the heat of their violence, in the height of their malice, and thine own instant peril of death, thou healest that unnecessary ear which had been guilty of hearing blasphemies against thee, and receiving cruel and unjust charges concerning thee. O Malchus, could thy ear be whole, and not thy heart broken and contrite with remorse, for rising up against so merciful and so powerful a hand? Couldst thou choose but say, O blessed Jesu, I see it was thy providence that preserved my head, when my ear was smitten : it is thine almighty power that hath miraculously restored that ear of mine which I had justly forfeited: this head of mine shall never be guilty of plotting any further mischief against thee ; this ear shall never entertain any more reproaches of thy name: this heart of mine shall ever acknowledge and magnify thy tender mercies, thy divine omnipotence ? Could thy fellows see such a demonstration of power and goodness with unrelenting hearts ?
Unthankful Malchus, and cruel soldiers ! Ye were worse wounded, and felt it not. God had struck your breasts with a fearful obduration, that ye still persist in your bloody enterprise. And they, that ħad laid hold on Jesus, led him away,” &c.
CHRIST BEFORE CAIAPHAS. That traitor, whom his own cord made soon after too fast, gave this charge concerning Jesus, “Hold him fast." Fear makes his guard cruel: they bind his hands, and think no twist can be strong enough for this Samson. Fond Jews and soldiers ! If his own will had not tied him faster than your cords, though those manacles had been the stiffest cables or the strongest iron, they had been but threads of tow. What eyes can but run over to see those hands, that made heaven and earth, wrung together and bruised with those merciless cords; to see him bound, who came to restore us to the liberty of the sons of God; to see the Lord of life contemptuously dragged through the streets, first to the house of Annas, then from thence to the house of Caiaphas, from him to Pilate, from Pilate to Herod, from Herod back again to Pilate, from Pilate to his Calvary: while, in the mean time, the base rabble and scum of the incensed multitude runs after him with shouts and scorns ? The act of death hath not in it so much misery and horror, as the pomp of death.
And what needed all this pageant of cruelty ? wherefore was this state and lingering of an unjust execution ? Was it for that their malice held a quick despatch too much mercy? Was it for that, while they meant to be bloody, they would fain seem just ? A sudden violence had been palpably murderous ; now the colour of a legal process gilds over all their deadly spite, and would seem to render them honest, and the accused guilty.
This attachment, this convention of the innocent, was a true night-work; a deed of so much darkness was not for the light. Old Annas, and that wicked bench of grey-headed scribes and elders, can be content to break their sleep to do mischief: envy and malice can make noon of midnight. It is resolved he shall die ; and now pretences must be sought that he
may be cleanly murdered. All evil begins at the sanctuary : the priests and scribes and elders are the first in this bloody scene; they have paid for this head, and now long to see what they shall have for their thirty silverlings. The bench is set in the hall of Caiaphas: false witnesses are sought for, and hired: they agree not, but shame their suborners. Woe is me! What safety can there be for innocence, when the evidence is wilfully corrupted ? What state was ever so pure, as not to yield some miscreants, that will either sell or lend an oath ? What a brand hath the wisdom of God set upon falsehood, even dissonance and distraction! Whereas truth ever holds together, and jars not while it is itself. O Saviour, what a perfect innocence was in thy life, what an exact purity in thy doctrine, that malice itself cannot so much as devise what to slander. It were hard if hell should not find some factors upon earth. At last two witnesses are brought in, that have learned to agree with themselves, while they differed from truth; they say the same, though false; “This fellow said, I am able to destroy the temple of God, and build it again in three days.” Perjured wretches! Were these the terms that you heard from that sacred mouth? Said he formally thus as ye have deposed ? It is true, he spake of a temple, of destroying, of building, of three days; but did he speak of that temple, of his own destroying, of a material building in that space ? He said, Destroy ye: ye say, I am able to destroy. He said, This temple of his body ; ye say, The temple of God. He said, I will make up this temple of my body in three days: ye say, I am able in three days to build this material temple of God. The words were his, the sentence yours: the words were true, the evidence false: so, while you report the words, and misreport the sense, ye swear a true falsehood, and are truly forsworn. Where the resolutions are fixed, any colour will serve. Had those words been spoken, they contained no crime ; had he been such as they supposed him, a mere man, the speech had carried a semblance of ostentation, no semblance of blasphemy; yet how vehement is Caiaphas for an answer! as if those words had already battered that sacred pile, or the protestation of his ability had been the highest treason against the God of the temple. That infinite wisdom knew well how little satisfaction there could be in answers, where the sentence was determined ; “Jesus held his peace.”. Where the asker is unworthy, the question captious, words bootless, the best answer is silence.
Ere while his just and moderate speech to Annas was returned with a buffet on the cheek, now his silence is no less displeasing. Caiaphas was not more malicious than crafty: what was in vain attempted by witnesses, shall be drawn out of Christ's own mouth ; what an accusation could not effect, an adjuration shall; “I adjure thee by the living God, that thou tell us, whether thou be the Christ, the Son of God.” Yea, this was the way to screw out a killing answer. Caiaphas, thy mouth was impure, but thy charge is dreadful. Now, if Jesus hold his peace, he is cried down for a profane disregarder of that awful name; if he answer, he is ensnared; an affirmation is death, a denial worse than death. No, Caiaphas, thou shalt well know, it was not fear that all this while stopped that gracious mouth; thou speakest to him that cannot fear those faces he hath made: he that hath charged us to confess him, cannot but confess himself; "Jesus saith unto him, Thou hast said.” “There is a time to speak, and a time to keep silence.” He, that is the Wisdom of his Father, hath here given us a pattern of both. We may not so speak, as to give advantage to cavils; we may not be so silent, as to betray the truth. Thou shalt have no more cause, proud and insulting Caiaphas, to complain of a speechless prisoner: now thou shalt hear more than thou demandest; “Hereafter shall ye see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven." There spake my Saviour; "the voice of God and not of man.” Hear now, insolent high-priest, and be confounded. That Son of man, whom thou seest, is the Son of God whom thou canst not see: that Son of man, that Son of God, that God and man, whom thou now seest standing despicably before thy consistorial seat, in a base dejectedness, him shalt thou once, with horror and trembling, see majestically sitting on the throne of heaven, attended thousand thousands of angels, and coming in the clouds to that dreadful judgment, wherein thyself, amongst other damned malefactors, shall be presented before that glorious tribunal of his, and adjudged to thy just torments.
Go now, wretched hypocrite, and rend thy garments; while in the mean time thou art worthy to have thy soul rent from thy body, for thy spiteful blasphemy against the Son of God. Onwards thy pretence is fair, and such as cannot but receive applause from thy compacted crew ; What need have we of witnesses ? Behold, now ye have heard his blasphemy. What think ye? And they answered and said, He is guilty of death.”
What heed is to be taken of men's judgment ? So light are they upon the balance, that one dram of prejudice or forestalment turns the scales. Who were these but the grave benchers of Jerusalem, the synod of the choice Rabbies of Israel ? Yet these pass sentence against the Lord of life; sentence of that