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68. They also expressed their blasphemy in contemning his priestly office, when they say, He saved others, himself he cannot save, chap. xxvii. 42. and also his kingly, when, in derision, they put on him a scarlet robe, platted a crown of thorns, and put it on his head, and a reed in his right hand, and bowed the knee before him, and mocked him, saying, Hail king of the Jews, ver. 28, 29.
They also expressed the greatest contempt of him, by preferring a vile and notorious criminal, who was a robber, and a murderer, before him; and accordingly, as the prophet says, He was numbered with the transgressors, as though he had been the greatest of them, whereas he had done no violence; neither was any deceit in his mouth, Isa. liii. 9, 12. Thus the apostle tells them, Ye denied the Holy One, and the Just, and desired a murderer to be granted unto you, Acts iii. 14. when Pilate made an overture to release him, they cried, with one consent, Not this man, but Barabbas, John xviii. 39, 40.
From hence we may learn,
1. That the best of men are not to expect to pass through the world without reproach, or contempt, how exact, innocent or blameless, soever their conversation be.
2. We are not to judge of persons, or things, especially in matters of religion, merely by the opinion of the world concerning them; since it is no uncommon thing for religion itself to be had in contempt, as well as those who adhere to it.
3. We ought not to have respect to the praise or esteem of men, as a motive to induce us to choose and adhere to the way of God and godliness: thus our Saviour says, I receive not honour from men, John v. 41. that is, I value it not, so as to regulate my conversation thereby; and then he adds, How can ye believe which receive honour one of another, and seek not the -honour that cometh from God only, ver. 44.
4. Let us not think the worse of Christ, or his gospel, because they are reproached, but rather, as the apostle adviseth, Go forth to him without the camp, bearing his reproach, Heb. xiii. 13. and not only be content to bear it, but count it our honour; as he says elsewhere, concerning himself, God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ,
Gal. iv. 14.
5. Let us take heed, that while we seem to honour Christ by our profession, and testify our abhorrence of the contempt that was cast on him, by his enemies, we do not reproach him by our practice; and that either by sinning presumptuously, which is called, A reproaching of the Lord, Num. xv. 30. or not by reproving and bearing our testimony against those who blaspheme and revile him; by which means, we shall partake with them in their crime.
VI. Our Saviour was condemned by Pilate. The former indignities offered him, were without any pretence, or form of law; but now he is set before a court of judicature, and there tried, and sentence passed immediately before his crucifixion. In this they had no regard to the exercise of justice, nor desire to proceed in a legal way with any good and honourable design, but to prevent the inconvenience that would have arisen from their putting him to death in a riotous and tumultuous manner, without the form of a trial. This they had in some particular instances, at other times, designed, or attempted to do, but they thought it not a safe way of proceeding; since they might afterwards have been called to an account for it, by the civil magistrate, as the town-clerk says, upon occasion of the tumult at Ephesus, We are in danger to be called in question for this day's uproar, Acts xix. 40. Therefore our Saviour, being apprehended, is brought before Pilate, the Roman governor; and there were the chief priests and elders met together, as his accusers and prosecutors; and the whole process was the most notorious instance of injustice, that ever was practised in any court of judicature in the world. Whatever pretence of law there might be, the assembly was certainly tumultuous. It is not usual for persons who are tried for capital matters to be insulted, not only by the rude multitude of spectators that are present, but by the judge himself, as our Saviour was, being spit upon, buffeted, and smote with the palms of their hands; and Pilate also, with a sarcastic sneer, unbecoming the character of a judge, says, Behold the Man; Behold your King, John. xix. 5, 14. Here we may observe,
1. Concerning his persecutors, that they sought false witnesses against him, that is, they endeavoured to persuade, or bribe any that they could find, among the most vile and profligate wretches, to come in against him; nevertheless, they could not bring this matter to bear for some time: thus, it is said, They sought false witness against Jesus to put him to death, but found none; yea, though many false witnesses came, yet found they none, Matt. xxvi. 59, 60. The evidence that many gave was not regarded, and therefore they were set aside; at last they found two, whom they depended on, as legal evidences: but it is observed, that their witness did not agree together, Mark xiv. 59. and, if they had agreed in their testimony, the matter alleged against him was no crime, namely, We heard him say, I will destroy this temple that is made with hands; and, within three days, I will build another made without hands, ver. 58. which refers to what he had said when he drove the buyers and sellers out of the temple, and foretelling his resurrection from the dead, he uses this metaphorical way of speaking; that when they had destroyed this temple, meaning his VOL. II. 3 I
body, he would raise it up in three days. We will suppose, that the Jews, then present, did not understand what he meant by this expression, or that he did not explain it, as the evangelist does: but let them take it in what sense they would, it carries in it no crime for him to say so; and therefore it is observed, that when this was witnessed against him, though the High Priest urged him to make a reply, he held his peace, and answered nothing, because there was nothing alleged worth an answer; the thing he was charged with, carried in it its own confutation, and inferred not the least degree of guilt in him. This his enemies themselves seemed to be sensible of; and therefore they ask him this trying question, Art thou the Christ, the Son of the Blessed? expecting that his reply to this would have afforded matter for them to proceed upon his conviction. To this our Saviour gives a direct answer, saying, I am; and ye shall see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven, ver. 62. Here he was called to give a reply; the question was worthy of an answer; and therefore he does not, on this occasion, hold his peace, but witnessed a good confession, though he knew it would cost him his life.
2. Some things may be observed concerning Pilate's conduct in his trial; as,
(1.) He acted contrary to that good advice that was given him by his wife; which, because the Evangelist thinks it worthy to be taken notice of, as occasioned by a dream, in which she told him, She had suffered many things because of him, Matt. xxvii. 19. gives ground to conclude that it was a divine dream, which rendered the advice more solemn, and, as such, deserved his regard.
(2.) He acted against the dictates of his own conscience; for he knew that the chief priests had delivered him for envy, Matt. xv. 20. and therefore he ought to have stopped all farther proceedings, as in cases of malicious prosecutions; and it farther appears that he acted against his conscience, in that he took water and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, I am innocent of the blood of this just Person, Matt. xxvii. 24.
(3.) He appears to have been a very mean-spirited man, and therefore was apprehensive that the Jews had he released our Saviour, would have accused him to Cæsar, for sparing one whom they would have pretended to have been an usurper, and a rebel, inasmuch as he is styled King of the Jews. Accordingly he feared that he should have been turned out of his place, or otherwise punished, provided the matter were not fully heard, or the misrepresentations that might be made thereof, were believed by him. This seems the main reason of his delivering our Saviour up to them, to be crucified: thus it is
observed, that Pilate first sought out to release him; but, upon the Jews saying, If thou let this man go, thou art not Cæsar's friend, he brought Jesus forth, and sat down in the judgment seat, and, in haste, delivered him unto them to be crucified, John xix. 12, 13, 16.
(4.) When he thought it his interest to comply with the Jews in this matter, he did not pass sentence on him himself, it may be, thinking that not so adviseable, as being contrary to the profession he had a little before this, made of his innocency: but he asked his prosecutors, what he should do with him? which was a flagrant instance of barbarity and injustice, in one who had the character of a judge or magistrate.*
VII. Our Saviour was tormented by his persecutors, scourged, buffeted, smitten with the palms of their hands, crowned with thorns, which, as most divines suppose, pierced his head, and drew blood from thence, which was a part of the torments he endured. And to this we may add, that they compelled him to bear his cross, till his strength was so exhausted, that he could carry it no longer; and then they obliged one Simon, à Cyrenian, to bear it; or, as Luke says to bear it after him, John xix. 17. compared with Luke xxiii. 26. that is, as some suppose, to help him to carry it, going behind, and bearing a part of the weight thereof. These things he endured, immedi ately before his crucifixion, from wicked men, divested of all humanity, as well as religion: but still there is something more afflictive than this, which he endured; accordingly it is farther observed,
VIII. That he conflicted with the terrors of death, felt, and bore the weight of God's wrath; these were the sufferings which
• Pilate is characterized, by various writers, as a man of inhuman cruelty, insatiable avarice, and inflexible obstinacy. An instance of his cruelty we have mentioned in Luke xiii. 1. in his mingling the blood of the Galileans with their sacrifices, that is, as some suppose he fell upon them without a fair trial, and murdered themwhile they were engaged in a solemn act of religious worship, offering sacrifice at Jerusalem, in one of the public festivals; pretending, though without a fair trial that they were of the same mind, with Judas of Galilee, who had persuaded many of the Galileans to refuse to give tribute to Cæsar. A learned writer (Vid. Grot. in Luke xiii. 1.) supposes, not only that this was the occasion of this inhuman action, which is not improbable, (though Josephus makes no mention of it) but also that this is one of those things which was reported to the emperor, who did not approve of it. And afterwards there were other instances of his oppression and mal-administration laid before Tiberius, which, had not that emperor's death prevented, it would have occa sioned his disgrace; and afterwards he fell under the displeasure of his successor, and was not only turned out of his procuratorship, but reduced to such miserable cir cumstances, that he laid violent hands on himself, (Vid. Phil. Jud. de Leg. ad Caj & Joseph. Antiq. Lib. XVIII. cap. 5. & Euseb. Hist. Eccles. Lib. II. cap. 7.) There fore we may well suppose, that though he had, in other respects no regard to the Jews; yet, on this occasion, he feared, lest they should report his vile actions to the emperor, and that they would represent this to him with a malicious insinuation, that he was his enemy, because he spared our Saviour: this occasioned him to deliver him up to them, to do what they roould with him.
he endured, more especially in his soul. From whence we may observe, that the death he was going to endure, was exceeding formidable to him, and accompanied with great terrors; therefore there must certainly be some bitter ingredient in it, more than in the death of others. If we enquire what it was therein that seemed so terrible to him, when many of the martyrs, who have been, as the apostle says, pressed out of measure above strength, 2 Cor. i. 8. that is, suffered as much as frail nature could well bear, have endured it without any dread of the wrath of God, the sting and bitterness thereof being taken away; why then should our Saviour, who never contracted the least degree of guilt, have any conflict of this nature in his own spirit? To this it may be replied, that there were some things in his death that rendered it more formidable, than it ever was to any of his saints and martyrs. For,
1. It is more than probable that the powers of darkness had a great hand in setting before his view the terrors of the wrath of God due to sin, which none are better able to do, than they who are the subjects thereof; and therefore it is observed, in this answer, that he conflicted with the terrors of death, and the powers of darkness. The devil is sometimes said to have the power of death, Heb. ii. 14. that is, if the Spirit of God do not come in with his comforting presence, but Satan be suffered to do what he can to fill the soul with horror, he hath certainly power to make death, beyond measure, terrible. His design herein, with respect to our Saviour, was either to drive him to despair, induce him to repent of his undertaking what he came into the world about, or, at least, to take some indirect methods to decline sufferings. That Satan had some hand in this matter, we may infer from what our Saviour says, when, considering himself as fallen into the hands of his enraged enemies, he tells them, not only that this was their hour, that is, the time in which they were suffered to express their rage and malice against him, but that it was the hour of the power of darkness, Luke xxii. 53.
2. His death was in itself more terrible than the death of his people, when the sting and bitterness thereof is taken away from them; therefore it is farther observed, in this answer, that he felt and bore the weight of God's wrath, which was the punishment of the sins of his people, for whom he suffered. It was upon this account that he is said to begin to be sore amazed, and to be very heavy, to cry out, My soul is exceeding sorrow ful, even unto death; and to pray, that, if it were possible, this part of his sufferings might pass from him, Mark xiv. 33-36. We cannot suppose that he was afraid of death; but the wrath of God, was what he principally feared. And, since this wrath is, in itself, so terrible, he might well be supposed to be ama