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chres; fair indeed without, but within full of rottenness and corruption; a brood of vipers !
From the example of these men let us learn the little value of external observances, when compared with genuine piety and substantial virtue, and direct our principal attention to the latter rather than to the former.
2. Let us ever keep in mind the account which Christ here gives of the nature of his kingdom-that it is not of this world. It came not froin man, but from God; it is founded on future prospects, and consists in the empire of truth over the minds and consciences of men. Had men been attentive to this maxim, they would not have attempted to produce obedience to its laws by temporal rewards, nor to pun. ish those who violate them by temporal penalties : for they are contrary to its nature and destroy its essence. Human laws govern by compulsion, and where they have produced an external conformity require no more: those of the gospel, by love, and deem no services of any walue, which proceed not from the heart. Had men been attentive to this maxim, that Christ's kingdom is not of this world, that union between the Christian religion and the civil power which has subsisted in so many countries and for so-many ages, and which every where corrupts the purity of the gospel, would never have taken place; for they would have been found incompatible with each other's prosperity. To hold out worldly honours and riches, as the reward of religious services, had a natural tendency to fill the church with men of worldly and ambitious views, who had no other object in coming into it than that of enriching and aggrandizing themselves, and would pay no regard to the interests of religion. While, on the other hand, those who were thus enriched and honoured would be zealous in supporting that form of government from which they received such benefits, however corrupt it might be.
3. Let us remember the importance of religious truth. To promote it, was the great object for which Christ was born and came into the world. The miracles which he wrought, the discourses which he delivered, his excellent example and unparalleled sufferings, were only different methods of bearing testimony to the truth; of showing its reasonable nature; of il. lustrating its superior excellence, and of establishing its divine origin. What has thus been communicated to the world at so much cost, let us learn to regard with the deepest veneration, and to prize as of the highest value. Let us show our love of the truth by inquiring after it with diligence, by professing it without reserve when discovered, by defending it with fortitude and propagating it with zeal. There cannot be a nobler employment than that of being devoted to the service of truth; it was the employment of our master, for which he was born, and in performing which he lived and died. Of courage in professing the truth he has given on the present occasion a noble example, by acknowledging himself to be the Messiah or king of the Jews; thus witnessing before Filate a good con- , fession.
4. Let us rejoice in the fresh evidence which we have of the innocence of Christ's character. The methods which are taken to asperse it only make it shine with greater lustre. After all that his enemies, actuated by the bitterest malice, can say against him, Pilate the Roman governor, and, in this instance at least, an impartial judge, acknowledges that he can find no fault in him.
John xix. 1-18.
Pilate, having declared Jesus to be innocent, endeavours to save him from the punishment of death, which the Jews wished to have inflicted; but, with the view of preserving the good will of these Jewish rulers, by gratifying their wishes in some degree, he
orders Jesus to be scourged, arrayed with the mock ensigns of royalty, and after being insulted and abused by the soldiers, brought forth to his enemies; hoping that when they saw him thus punished and degraded, their malice would be satisfied: but in this he found himself disappointed.
1. Then Pilate therefore took Jesus and scourged him.
It appears that the Romans used to scourge malefactors before they were .crucified; but this punishment seems to have been inflicted upon Jesus by the order of Pilate for a different purpose; merely to satiate the malice of his enemies, that they might the more readily consent to his release; for Luke tells us, xxiii. 16. that Pilate said, willing to save Jesus, I will therefore chastise him and release him.
2. And the soldiers platted a crown of thorns, and put it on his head, and they put on him a purple robe; Matthew calls it a scarlet robe.
3. And said, Hail, king of the Jews: and they smote him with their hands.
The word which we render thorns, also signifies a particular herb which is called acanthus; and it is the opinion of a judicious critic that the crown which Jesus wore upon the present occasion was made of this herb, and intended, like the purple robe and the reed, for derision, and not to give him pain*. The scourging and blows, however, show that his enemies were as much inclined to injure as to insult him.
4. Pilate, therefore, went forth a
gain, and saith unto them, Behold I bring him forth to you, that ye may know I find no fault in him.
5. Then came Jesus forth, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe, and Pilate saith unto them, Behold the man.
Behold the man whom you accuse of claiming kingly power, treated in a manner becoming the absurdity of his pretensions, clothed with the ensigns of royalty, the object of scorn and derision. He thought that to behold him thus humbled and degraded would have been sufficient to satisfy their utmost malice.
6. When the chief priests, therefore, and officers saw him, they cried out, saying, Crucify him, crucify him.
They were afraid that the people would begin to relent, when they saw Jesus ihus humbled and degraded, and therefore directed them what to ask for, by calling out for his crucifixion.
Pilate saith unto them, Take ye him and crucify him: for I find no fault in him.
If this wickedness be committed, it must be done by yourselves: I cannot do it: for I think him innocent, and have already punished him as much and more than he deserves.
7. The Jews answered him, We have a law; and by our law he ought to die, because he made himself the Son of God.
The evangelist Matthew tells us, xxvi. 63. that Jesus, being adiured by the high priest to declare whether he were the Christ, the Son of God, answered in the affirmative; upon which the high priest accused him of blasphemy, and, together with the rest of the council, adjudged him worthy of death. For blasphemy was by their law a capital crime: see Lev. xxiv. 16. and it is to this law that they now refer.
8. When Pilate, therefore, heard that saying, he was the more afraid;
What increased Pilate's fear of condemning him was the account which he had just heard, that Jesus professed himself to be the Son of God; supposing him hence to be some extraordinary person, like the heroes and demigods of the heathens, who were derived by natural descent from one of their divinities. To satisfy his curiosity upon this subject, he brings him back into the court of judgment.
9. And went again into the prætorium, and saith unto Jesus, Whence art thou? From whom descended, or by whom commissioned? But Jesus gave him no answer.
He had already said what was sufficient to explain the nature of his kingdom and to prove his innocence. To have entered into a formal defence of himself or into a minute history of his life, when it might have been so easily obtained from others, did not become him. At this conduct, however, Pilate testifies some displeasure.
10. Then saith Pilate unto him, Speakest thou not unto me? Knowest thou not that I have power to crucify thee, and have power to release thee?