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applause from thy compacted crew; What need have we of wita nesses ? Behold, now ye have heard his blasphemy. Whui 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 death of his,. whereby, if ever, they shall be redeemed from the murder of their sentence.
O Saviour, this is not the last time, wherein thou hast received cruel dooms from them, that profess learning and holiness. What wonder is it, if thy weak members suffer that, which was endured by so perfect a Head? What care we to be judged by man's day, when thou, who art the Righteous Judge of the World, wert thus misjudged by men ?
Now is the fury of thy malignant enemies let loose upon thee: what measure can be too hard for him, that is denounced worthy of death? Now, those foul mouths defile thy Blessed Face with their impure spittle, the venomous froth of their malice: now, those cruel hands are lifted up to buffet thy Sacred Cheeks : now, scorn, and insultation, triumphs over thine humble Patience; Prophesy unto us, thou Christ, who it is that smote thee. O Dear Jesu, what a beginning is here of a Passion! There thou stand est bound, condemned, spat upon, buffetted, derided by malicious sinners. Thou art bound, who camest to loose the bands of death; thou art condemned, whose sentence must acquit the world; thou art spat upon, that art fairer than the sons of men ; thou art buffetted, in whose mouth was no guile; thou art derided, who art clothed with glory and majesty.
In the mean while, how can I enough wonder at thy infinite Mercy, who, in the midst of all these woeful indignities, couldst find a time to cast thine eyes back upon thy frail and ungrateful disciple; and in whose Gracious Ear Peter's cock sounded louder, than all these reproaches ? O Saviour, thou, who, in thine apprehension, couldst forget all thy danger, to correct and heal his over-lashing ; now, in the heat of thy arraignment and condemnation, canst forget thy own misery, to reclaim his error; and, by that seasonable glance of thine eye, to strike his heart with a need. ful remorse.
He, that was lately so valiant to fight for thee, now, the nexť morning, is so cowardly as to deny thee : he shrinks at the voice of a Maid, who was not daunted with the sight of a band. O Peter, had thy slip been sudden, thy fall had been more easy. Premo- . nition aggravates thy offence ; that stone was foreshewed thee, whereat thou stumbledst : neither did thy warning more add to thy guilt, than thine own fore-resolution. How didst thou vow, though thou shouldst die with thy Master, not to deny him! Hadst thou said nothing, but answered with a trembling silence, thy shame had been the less. Good purposes, when they are not heli,
do so far turn enemies to the entertainer of them, as that they help to double both his sin and punishment.
Yet a single denial had been but easy: thine, I fear to speak it, was lined with swearing and execration.
Whence then, Oh whence was this so vehement and peremptory disclamation of so gracious a Master? What such danger had attended thy profession of his attendance ? One of thy fellows was known to the high priest for a follower of Jesus; yet he not only came himself into that open Hall, in view of the Bench, but treated with the Maid that kept the door to let thee in also. She knew him what he was; and could therefore speak to thee, as brought in by his mediation, Art not thou also one of this man's disciples ? Thou also supposes the first acknowledged such; yet what crime, what danger was urged upon that noted disciple? What could have been more to thee? Was it, that thy heart misgave thee thou mightest be called to account for Malchus? It was no thank to thee, that that ear was healed ; neither did there want those, that would think how near that ear was to the head. Doubtless, that busy fellow himself was not far off; and his fellows and kinsmeni would have been apt enough to follow thee, besides thy discipleship, upon a bloodshed, a riot, a rescue. Thy conscience hathi made thee thus unduly timorous; and now, to be sure to avoid the imputation of that affray, thou renouncest all knowledge of him, in whose cause thou foughtest.
Howsoever, the sin was heinous. I tremble at such a fall of so great an Apostle. It was thou, O Peter, that buffetedst thy Master, more than those Jews : it was to thee, that he turned the cheek from them, as to view him by whom he most smarted: he felt thee afar off, and answered thee with a look ; such a look as was able to kill and revive at once.
66 Thou hast wounded me,” mayest thou now say, “ O my Saviour, Thou hast wounded my heart with one of thine eyes : that one Eye of thy Mercy hath wounded my heart, with a deep remorse for my grievous sin, with an indignation at my unthankfulness : that one glance of thine hath resolved me into the tears of sorrow and contrition. Oh that mine eyes were fountains, and my cheeks channels that shall never be dried !” And Peter went out, and wept bitterly. Matthew xxvi.
CHRIST BEFORE PILATE. Well worthy were these Jews to be tributary. They had cast off the yoke of their God, and had justly earned this Roman servitude. Tiberius had befriended them too well, with so favourable a governor as Pilate. Had they had the power of life and death in their hands, they had not been beholden to a heathen for a legal murder. I know not, whether they more repine at this slavery ; or please themselves to think, how cleanly they can shift off this blood into another's hand. These great masters of Israel flock froin their own consistory to Pilate's judgment-hall. The sentence had been theirs, the execution must be bis ; and now they hope to bear down Jesus, with the stream of that frequent confluence.
But what ails you, O ye Rulers of Israel, that ye stand thus thronging at the door? Why do ye not go in to that public room of judicature, to call for that justice ye came for? Was it, for that ye would not defile yourselves with the contagion of a heathen roof? Holy men! your consciences would not suffer you to yield to so impure an act; your Passover must be kept, your persons must be clean: while ye expect justice from the man, ye abhor the pollution of the place." Woe to you Priests, Scribes, Elders, Hypocrites : can there be any roof so unclean, as that of
your own breasts ? Not Pilate's walls, but your hearts are impure. Is murder your errand; and do you stick at a local infection? God shall smite you, ye whited walls. Do ye long to be stained with blood, with the blood of God? and do ye fear to be defiled with the touch of Pilate's pavement? Doth so small a gnat stick in your throats, while ye swallow such a camel of Hagitious wickedness? Go out of yourselves, ye false dissemblers, if ye would not be unclean. Pilate, onwards, bath more cause to fear, lest bis walls should be defiled with the presence of so prodigious monsters of impiety.
That plausible governor condescends to humour their supersti. tion. They dare not come into him : he yields to go forth to them. Even Pilate begins justly, What accusation bring you against this man? It is no judging of religion by the outward demeanour of men : there is more justice amongst Romans, than amongst Jews. These malicious Rabbies thought it enough, that they had sen. tenced Jesus: no more was now expected, but a speedy esecution. If he were not a malefactor, we would not have delivered him up unto thee. Civil justice must be their hangman. It is enough conviction, that he is delivered up to the secular powers. Themselves have judged, these other must kill.
Pilate and Caiaphas have changed places : this pagan speaks that law and justice, which that high priest should have done; and that high priest speaks those murdering incongruities, which would better have beseemed the mouth of a pagan.” “What needs any new trial ? Dost thou know, Pilate, who we are? Is this the bonour, that thou givest to our sacred priesthood? Is this thy valuation of our sanctity ? Had the basest of the vulgar complained to thee, thou couldst but have put them to a review. Our place and holiness looked not to be distrusted. If our scrupulous consciences suspect thy very walls, thou mayest well think there is small reason to suspect our consciences. Upon a full hearing, ripe deliberation, and exquisitely-judicial proceeding, we have sentenced tbis malefactor to death : there needs no more from thec, but thy command of execution.” O monster, whether of malice or unjustice ! Must he then be a malefactor, whom ye will condemn? Is your bare word ground enough to shed blood? Whom did ye ever kil, but the righteous ? By whose hands perished the prophets? The word was but mistaken ; ye should have said, “If we had not been malefactors, we had never delivered up this innocent man unto thee.”
It must needs be notoriously unjust, which very nature hath taught pagans to abhor. Pilate sees and hates this bloody suggestion and practice : “ Do ye pretend holiness, and urge so injurious a violence ? If he be such as ye accuse him, where is his conviction? If he cannot be legally convicted, why should he die? Do you think I may take your complaint for a crime? If I must judge for you, why have you judged for yourselves ? Could ye suppose, that I would condemn any man unheard ? If your Jewish laws yield you this liberty, the Roman laws yield it not to me. It is not for me, to judge after your laws, but after our own. Your prejudgment may not sway me. Since ye have gone so far, be ye your own carvers of justice; Take ye him, and judge him accord. ing to your law.” Pilate, now happy had it been for thee, if thou hadst held thee there! Thus, thou hadst washed thy hands more clean, than in all thy basons. Might law have been the rule of this judgment, and not malice, this blood had not been shed.
How palpably doth their tongue bewray their heart! It is not lawful for us, to put any man to death. Pilate talks of judgment; they talk of death. This was their only aim. Law was but a colour; judgment was but a ceremony: death was their drift; and without this, nothing. Blood-thirsty Priests and Elders ! it is well, that this power of yours is restrained : no innocence could have been safe, if your lawless will had had no limits. It were pity, this sword should be in any, but just and sober hands. Your fury did not always consult with law : what law allowed your violence to Stephen, to Paul and Barnabas, and your deadly attempts against this Blessed Jesus whom ye now persecute? How lawful was it for you, to procure that death, which ye could not inflict ? It is all the care of hypocrites, to seek umbrages and pretences for their hateful purposes; and to make no other use of laws, whether divine or human, but to serve turns.
Where death is fore-resolved, there cannot want accusations. Malice is not so barren, as not to yield crimes enough. And they began to accuse him, saying, “We found this fellow perverting the nation ; and forbidding to give tribute unto Cæsur, saying that he himself is Christ and king. What accusations saidst thou, o Pilate? Heinous and capital. Thou mightest have believed our confident intimation; but since thou wilt needs urge us to particulars, know that we come furnished with such an indictment, as shall make thine ears glow to hear it. Besides that blasphemy, whereof he hath been condemned by us, this man is a seducer of the people, a raiser of sedition, a usurper of sovereignty." () impudent suggestion! What marvel is it, O Saviour, if thine honest servants be loaded with slanders, when thy most innocent person escaped not so shameful criminations ? Thou, a perverter of the nation, who taughtest the way of God truly! Thou, a forbidder of VOL. II.
tribute, who payedst it, who prescribedst it, who provedst it to be Cæsar's due! Thou, a challenger of temporal sovereignty, who avoidedst it, renouncedst it, professedst to come to serve ! Othe forehead of malice! Go, ye shameless traducers, and swear that truth is guilty of all falsehood, justice of all wrong ; and that the sun is the only cause of darkness, fire of cold.
Now Pilate startles at the charge. The name of tribute, the name of Cæsar, is in mention: these potent spells can fetch him back to the Common Hall, and call Jesus to the bar. There, O Saviour, standest thou meekly to be judged, who shalt once come to judge the quick and the dead. Than shall he, before whom thou stvodest guiltless and dejected, stand before thy dreadful Majesty guilty and trembling.
The name of a king, of Cæsar, is justly tender and awful. The least whisper of a usurpation or disturbance is entertained with a jealous care. Pilate takes this intimation at the first bound ; Art thou then the K’ing of the Jews ? He felt his own freehold now touched : it was time for him to stir. Daniel's Weeks were now famously known to be near expiring. Many arrogant and busy spirits, (as Judas of Galilee, Theudas, and that Egyptian seducer,) taking that advantage, had raised several conspiracies, set up new titles to the crown, gathered forces to maintain their false claims. Perhaps, Pilate supposed some such business now on foot; and therefore asks so curiously, Art thou the King of the Jews ?
He, that was no less Wisdom than Truth, thought it not best, either to affirm or deny at once. Sometimes, it may be extremely prejudicial, to speak all truths. To disclaim that title suddenly, which had been of old given him by the prophets, at his birth by the Eastern Sages, and now lately at his procession by the acclaiming multitude, had been injurious to himself; to profess and challenge it absolutely, had been unsafe, and needlessly provoking. By wise and just degrees, therefore, doth he so affirm this truth, that he both satisfies the inquirer, and takes off all peril and prejudice from his assertion. Pilate shall know him a King ; but such a King, as no king needs to fear, as all kings ought to acknowledge and adore : My kingdom is not of this world.
It is your mistaking, Oye Earthly Potentates, that is guilty of your fears. Herod hears of a King born; and is troubled : Pilate hears of a King of the Jews; and is incensed. Were ye not ignorant, ye could not be jealous. Had ye learned to distinguish of kingdoms, these suspicions would vanish. There are secular kingdoms, there are spiritual ; neither of these trenches upon other : your kingdom is secular, Christ's is spiritual ; both may, both must stand together. His laws are Divine; yours, civil: His reign is eternal ; yours, temporal : the glory of His rule is inward, and stands in the graces of sanctification, love, peace, righteousness, joy in the Holy Ghost ; yours, in outward pomp, riches, magnificence: His enemies are the Devil, the World, the Flesh; yours are bodily usurpers, and external peace-breakers :