Imatges de pàgina
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consternation that he could not again collect himses Thus satan found out his weak side, where he was the least prepared for an attack. For there is nothing which ministers of state are more afraid of than their sovereign's displeasure ; being very sensibit, that it may be attended with disgrace and ihe loss of all their temporal possessions.

This advantage the subtil fiend continually makes use of, to tempt men to sin. He know's the natur! constitution and predominant inclinations of every one, and directs his temptations accordingly. He knows how to lay the bait to allure, and at other times bosto terrify the sinner. The proud and ambitious mun hentices to sin by the hopes of temporil honours, and terrifies him with the fear of disgrace, and of being deprived of his posts and dignitics. He allures á voluptuous sensualist by the bait of carnal deighs and elegant entertainments; and, on the other hand, le terrifies him with the fear of afiliction, imprisonment, distress, and pain. He draws in the miser by the hopes of profit, and other temporal advantages, at terrifies him with the fear of losing his estate and money. When, for instance, a man is immoderately fond of this world, and falls into such circumstances, that, on one side, he has hopes of making great additions to his fortune by renouncing the truths of the gospel, and going over to the kingdom of darkness; but, on the other hand, by steadfastly adhering to the pure truth of the gospel, he is in danger of being stripped of every thing he has; satan points his batteries against that side of the heart where it is weakest. He lays hold of him by his fondness for earthly things, and suggests to him, that he may for once set aside his conscience, otherwise he must be reduced to want and poverty. At the same time, he represents the danger to be very great, and the loss irretrievable; so that at length, the unwary sinner, unless some higher strength enable him to withstand the temptation, and his soul be fortified by grace, surrenders himself on

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satan's terms. Happy are they, who are made wise by the miscarriage of others ! who learn to secure their innocence, and to know their own weakness, that the evil one may not take advantage of it to their destruction.

2. We can never be secure from satan's assaults till we have intrenched ourselves within a settled resolution of denying the world.

We are like an open city, without fornication, walls, or motes; and consequently cannot sustain a siege. This Pilate found to be true by fatal experience. The favour of the Roman Emperor being, as he thought of greater concern to him than a good conscience and the favour of God, he at last sunk under the temptation which assaulted him. By one indirect menace of the Emperor's displeasure, he lays down his arms.

His haughtiness which, but a little before, had displayed itself in these arrogant words, * Knowest thou not that I have power to release thee,' was at once pulled down ; and the devil gained a compleat triumph over his weakness.

Thus it happens when a man accounts the friend. ship of the world, and favour of the great, an indispensible part of his happiness. Then, in order to avoid the loss of it, integrity and a good conscience are frequently laid aside, and he becomes the contemptible slave of those whom he looked upon as his vassals. Here we see how far the natural love of viriue and justice extends; and that is no further than to the confines of denying the world. Pilate, for the sake of Christ and his own integrity, should have risqued the danger of being informed against at Rome, as a favourer of the emperor's enemies; on the contrary, he became a betrayer of Justice, and delivered the innocent into the hands of his enemies. Let this be a warning, and powerful incitement to us, absolutely to deny the world and all its sinful customs. The world must be so little to our eyes, and our Saviour so great, that we should be ready to part

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with all, rather than offend him by any deliberate sin, or injure his honour. This renouncing of the world is the partition-wall between mere morality and genuine Christianity. Whatever progress a person by his natural strength may make in the government of his passions, and the practice of outward moral virtues, if he does not deny himself, and renounce the world, he will yield to the first temptation that assaults him. Whoever does not fear and love God above all things, and put an entire trust and confidence in him, will not be able to act even in a temporal office with untainted integrity, and a conscience void of offence; much less will he be able worthily to discharge a spiritual office : But as soon as he is threatened by the great and powerful, he will, like Pilate, set aside his conscience, and do what he himself knows to be sin: ful. In a word, he will not be able rightly to perform one single duty that the Christian religion requires. For however praise-worthy his intention may be, and though he has even made a good beginning towards putting it into execution ; yet when he comes to be menaced by others, who say all manner of evil of him ; he then forgets his laudable designs, conforms to the world, and again gives himself up to what he had hitherto avoided from the dictates of his conscience. Hence we may see, that Christ lays no unnecessary burden upon us, in requiring that we should renounce the world ; on the contrary, we should look upon it as a necessary preservative against the snares of the tempter.

III. We come, in the last place, to consider the consequence of Pilate's timidity and irresolution; and here the three following particulars deserve our notice.

First, The preparation made for condemning the Lord Jesus. This is described in these words: "When Pilate therefore heard that saying, he brought Jesus forth,'out of the hall of Judgment, where he had privately examined him whether he was the Son of

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God, and sat down in the Judgment-seat, in a place that is called the pavement, but in the Hebrew Gabbatha.' There was probably a pompous tribunal erected adjoining to Pilate's house, on a raised paved area, where he usually pronounced sentence of death on malefactors. In this elevated seat of judgment he seats himself with great parade ; and as he had ex

; tremely weakened his authority by his scandalous pliableness throughout this whole affair, he was now for recovering the respect due to him, by pronouncing sentence on Jesus with great pomp and solemnity.

St. John likewise particularly specifies the time of the day, and the season of the year, when this happencd. Concerning the latter the Evangelist says, “It was the Preparation,' i. e. the day before the Sabbath, (Mark xv. 42.) or the Friday preceding the Passover, when they prepared themselves for the approaching Sabbath, which was a high day, and to be observed with particular solemnity. As for the time of the clay, the Evangelist observes, that it was about the sixth hour,' i. e. according to our computation of time, about twelve of the clock at noon. For the Jews used to compute their hours from Sun rising, and divided the day into twelve equal parts or hours, (See John xi. 9.) • Are there not twelve hours in the day?' Thus it appears, that it was twelve of the clock or 'near mid-day. There is nothing contradictory to this in the gospel by St. Mark, (chap. xv. 25.) who says, that it was about the third hour when they crucified our blessed Saviour. For either these words may be rendered, “It was the third hour, after they had crucified him,' namely, when the soldiers, as we have observed above, parted his garments; or the third hour in St. Mark may be understood of the second larger division of the day, which began at the end of the third hour from sun-rising. For as the Jews divided the night into four parts or watches; so likewise they divided the day into four parts or equal divisions, called the temple-hours, or hours of prayer.

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Each of these divisions took its name from the hour of the day, at the end of which it began. For instance, the first quarter or division of the day was called the first temple-hour, and comprehended the first, second, and third, of the twelve common hours of the day. The second division was called the third temple-hour, which lasted from the fourth to the fixth hour of the day inclusively, in which the condemnation of Jesus happened. The third great division was called the sixth hour, which included the seventh, eighth, and ninth hour of the day, during which our blessed Saviour was crucified. The fourth division was called the ninth hour, and this included the tenth, eleventh, and twelfth hour of the day. Ву either of these methods, the two Evangelists may very easily be reconciled, without the least necessity of making any alteration in the text, of either St. John or St. Mark's gospel. Indeed there are a few copies where the fourteenth verse of the nineteenth chapter of St. John runs thus, - It was about the third hour.' This was the preparation which Pilate made for condemning the Lord Jesus. After this follows,

Secondly, Pilate's last effort to release our blessed Lord; but this was very faint, and proved ineffectual. "And he said unto the Jews, Behold your king! As if he had said, Look on him again; consider how severely he has been handled, by scourging and other abuses. Suppose he has acted indiscreetly, he seems to have been sufficiently punished ; for you see what a wretched spectacle he is. Now I refer it to you, whether it would not better become you to shew him mercy and spare his life, than to punish him any farther.

But the Jews cried out, ‘Away with him! Away with him! He is none of our king, Crucify him!' Hence it appears, that these words of Pilate only added fuel to the flames. Pilate then saith unto them, shall I crucify your king? He now would fain work on them by remonstrating, that such an action would be a scandal to them, and what an indeliable stain

VOL. II.

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