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often be making! Let us retire from the business and the snares of life; that we may attend to the voice of conscience, and of God speaking by it; and may so taste the wormwood and gall, that our souls may long have them in remembrance. To conclude; let us express the sincerity of our godly sorrow by a more cautious and resolute guard against the occasions of sin, if we would not be found to trifle with God when we pray that he would not lead us into temptation, but would deliver us from evil.
MATT. XXVII. 1-10. MARK XV.
66-71, xxiii. 1. JOHN XVIII. 28.
AND as soon as it was day, the elders of the people, and the chief priests and the Scribes came together, led him into their council, saying, Art thou the Christ? tell us. And he said unto them, If I tell you, ye will not believe: And if I also ask you, ye will not answer me, nor let me go. Hereafter shall the Son of man sit on the right hand of the power of God. Then said they all, Art thou then the Son of God? And he said unto them, Ye say that I am. And they said, What need we any further witness? for we ourselves have heard of his own mouth.
MATT. XXVII. 1, 2. MARK XV. 1. LUKE xxIII. 1. JOHN XVIII. 28.
And straightway in the morning all the chief Priests held a consultation with the elders and Scribes and the whole council, against Jesus to put him to death: And the whole multitude of them arose, and when they had bound Jesus, they led him away from Caiaphas unto the hall of judgment, and delivered him to Pontius Pilate the governor: and it was early.
MATT. XXVII. 3—10.
Then Judas which had betrayed him, when he saw that he was condemned, repented himself, and brought again the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, saying, I have sinned, in that I have
betrayed the innocent blood. And they said, What is that to us? see thou to that. And he cast down the pieces of silver in the temple, and departed, and went and hanged himself; (and falling headlong, he burst asunder in the midst, and all his bowels gushed out. Acts i. 18.)
And the chief priests took the silver pieces, and said, It is not lawful for to put them into the treasury, because it is the price of blood. And they took counsel, and bought with them the potter's field, to bury strangers in. Wherefore that field was called, The field of blood, unto this day. Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremy the prophet, saying, And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the price of him that was valued, whom they of the children of Israel did value; and gave them for the potter's field, as the Lord appointed me.
In how fatal a manner does the way of transgressors deceive them! Judas, no doubt, but a few hours before, was thinking with eager impatience of receiving this sum of money, which was the wages of unrighteousness: but though he might for a little while roll it as a sweet morsel under his tongue, yet how soon was it turned into the gall of asps within him? (Job. xx. 12-14.)
We see the force of conscience, even in the worst of men. He that had slighted all the warnings that his Master gave him, and neither was affected by the remembrance of his goodness to him, nor by the fear of his displeasure, while he was set upon accomplishing his covetous design, no sooner comes to feel the sting of an awakened conscience, but he is filled with horror, and is unable to endure the cutting anguish of his own reflections. And thus could God, in a moment, drive the most hardened sinner into all the agonies of remorse and despair, by letting loose his own thoughts upon him, to prey upon his heart like so many hungry vultures, and make him a terror to others, and an executioner to himself.
We must surely admire the wisdom of Providence, in extorting even from the mouth of this traitor so honourable a testimony of the innocence of Jesus, though to his own condemnation. And who could have imagined that the supreme court of Israel itself should have been so little impressed with it, as coldly to answer, What is that to us? See thou to that. Is this the language of rulers, yea, of priests? But they had
cast off the fear of that God whose ministers they were, and had devoted themselves to gain and ambition. They therefore felt no remorse, even when Judas trembled before them, and appeared almost distracted under the sense of a crime, in which they had been confederates with him. But their consciences were seared as with a red hot iron, and all their familiar converse with Divine things served only, in such a circumstance, to harden their hearts: as tempered steel gathers strength from the furnace and the hammer.
Judas repents; he confesses his crime; he throws away the reward of his guilt: yet was there nothing of godly sorrow in all this. Despairing, be becomes his own executioner; and flies to death, and to hell, as a refuge from the rage and fury of an awakened conscience. Fatal expedient! thus to seal his own damnation! But the righteous judgment of God erected him as a monument of wrath, and verified our Saviour's declaration, It had been good for that man if he had never been born. (Mat. xxvi. 24. and Mark xiv. 21.) Tremble, O our souls, at this thought! that Judas, even one of the twelve, should fall into such depths of sin and ruin! May we each of us be jealous over ourselves! and may we never presume to censure whole bodies of men for the fault of particular members, when we find their was a traitor and reprobate among the holy band of the apostles.
JOHN XVIII. 28-40.
AND they themselves went not into the judgmenthall, lest they should be defiled; but that they might eat the passover. Pilate then went out unto them, and said, What accusation bring ye against this man? They answered and said unto him, If he were not a malefactor, we would not have delivered him up to thee. Then said Pilate unto them, Take ye him, and judge him according to your law. The Jews therefore said unto him, It is not lawful for us to put any man to death: That the saying of Jesus might be fulfilled, which he spake, signifying what death he should die. Then Pilate entered into the judgment-hall again, and called Jesus; And Jesus stood before the governor; and the governor asked him, saying, Art thou the king of the Jews? Jesus
answered him, Sayest thou this thing of thyself, or did others tell it thee of me? Pilate answered, Am I a Jew? Thine own nation and the chief priests have delivered thee unto me: what hast thou done? Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world: If my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence. Pilate therefore said unto him, Art thou a king then? Jesus answered Thou sayest that I am a king. To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice. Pilate saith unto him, What is truth? And when he had said this, he went out again unto the Jews, and saith unto them, I find in him no fault at all. But ye have a custom, that I should release unto you one at the Passover: will ye therefore that I release unto you the King of the Jews? Then cried they all again, saying, Not this man, but Barabbas. Now Barabbas was a robber.
How much exactness in the ceremonials of religion may be found in those who have even the most outrageous contempt for its vital principles and essential duties! Yea, how much of that exactness may be made subservient to the most mischievous and diabolical purposes! These wolves in sheep's clothing would not enter into the house of a heathen, lest they should be polluted, and become unfit to eat the passover; yet they contrive and urge an impious murder, which that very heathen, though he had much less evidence of Christ's innocence than they, could not be brought to permit without strong reluctance, and a solemn, though vain transferring of the guilt from himself to them.
Justly might our Lord say in the words of David, They laid to my charge things that I knew not; (Psal. xxxv. 11.) But what can defend the most innocent and excellent against malicious slanders and defamations! Or who can expect, or even wish, wholly to escape, when such accusations are brought against Christ, even by the rulers of his nation, who should have been men of distinguished generosity and honour! But instead of this they were all an assembly of
2 B 2
murderers, and lay in wait for their prey, like so many devouring lions.
Pilate would renew the examination of the cause; and so far he acted a cautious and an honourable part. Yet, alas, how many that set out on such maxims want courage and resolution to pursue them! But the courage of Christ never failed. He witnessed before Pontius Pilate the good confession we have now been reading (1 Tim. vi. 13); and owned himself a King, though at the same time he declared (what it were to be wished all his followers had duly regarded) that his kingdom is not of this world. Greatly do we debase it, if we imagine it is; and most unworthy is it of those that call themselves the ministers of his kingdom to act as if they thought it was. Yet such is the wickedness of some, and such the blindness of others, in the Roman church, that, though of all the churches in the world it is manifestly the most secular kingdom, it arrogates to itself the name not only of a part, but of the whole, of Christ's kingdom here below.
Christ came to bear witness to the truth; and a careful attendance to his testimony will be the best proof we can give that we love the truth, and the best method we can take to make ourselves acquainted with it. And of so great importance is the truth, that it surely deserves the attentive inquiry and the zealous patronage of the greatest and the busiest of mankind. Let us not therefore, when we begin to ask what it is like Pilate, hurry on to some other care before we can receive a satisfactory answer; but joyfully open our minds to the first dawnings of that celestial day, till it shine more and more to irradiate and adorn all our souls. On the whole, imperfect as the character of this unhappy governor was, let us learn from him candidly to confess the truth, so far as we have discovered it; let us learn more steadily than he to vindicate the innocent and worthy, and on no terms permit ourselves, in any degree, to do harm to those in whom, on a strict and impartial inquiry, we can find no fault.
JOHN XIX. 1—14.
THEN Pilate therefore took Jesus, and scourged him ; and the soldiers platted a crown of thorns, and put it on his head, and they put on him a purple robe, and said, Hail, King of the Jews! and they smote him with their hands.
Pilate therefore went forth again, and saith unto