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they would bring on their nation, by occasioning it to be said by foreigners, The Jews suffered their king to be crucified. But alag! such motives had little weight with a tumultuous rabble, frantic with rage and cruelty. Upon other occasions, men are apt to stand very much on their reputation, and think that whoever touches their character, touches their life. But this their so highly valued reputation they willingly sacrifice to their hatred against Christ.
On this remonstrance of Pilate, the chief Priests at last broke out into this declaration, which redounds to their eternal infamy. We have no king but Cesar.' At other times they grievously murmured against the Roman yoke, and held it inconsistent with their honour and liberty, to pay tribute to the emperór; but their hatred against Christ made them now pretend to be very loyal subjects to Cesar, rather than acknowledge for their Messiah and king, the unhappy victim of their malice who now stood before them; and rather than take on themselves the easy yoke of Christ's gospel, they choose to be vassals and servants to the tyrannical and cruel Tiberius. In this remarkable declaration, the Priests and Elders of the people proceeded to such a pitch of abandoned wickedness, as publicly to disown the hope of Israel, namely, the Messiah, who had been promised to them under the title of a king, and to deny this important article of their religion, before a Pagan governor. At the same time, by these words; We have no king but Cesar,' they again indirectly threatened him with the emperor's displeasure : As if he had said, “We are loyal subjects to the Roman emperor, and have brought this rebel before you to be punished. Now if
you discharge him, we are obliged in conscience as priests and rulers, to lay a report of it before his Imperial Majesty.” This was the last assault on Pilate's heart, which carried the fortress after a faint resistance of some hours. Upon this followed,
Thirdly, The actual condemnation of the Lord Jesus; which is thus related by St. Matthew, (chap.
xxvii. 24, 25.) and in our opinion, may very properly be introduced in this place. When Pilate saw that he could prevail nothing, but that rather a tumult was made; he took water, and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, I am innocent of the blood of this just person : See ye to it. Then answered all the people, and said, His blood be on us and our children! Then he delivered him to be crucified. In this account we may observe,
1. The motives that induced Pilate to condemn Jesus. These were not any crimes which our Lord had committed : for of those which had been laid to his charge, the judge had several times publicly acquitted him. Pilate therefore was at last induced to pronounce the sentence, partly because there was no hopes of giving a turn to the affair, by bringing the Jews to consent that Jesus should be released; and partly because there was reason to fear that farther opposition might occasion an insurrection: For in such a case the people would have assaulted and sacked the governor's house; and consequently Pilate have been brought under much greater difficulties to defend his conduct at the court of Rome. These were the motives by which Pilate was at last induced to proceed to the condemnation of our blessed Saviour.
2. Pilate's declaration and protest, antecedent to the sentence. Pilate, as the Evangelist observes,
• , took water and washed his hands before the multitude.' It was an usual ceremony both among the Jews (Deut. xxi. 6.) and heathens, to wash the hands as a token of a person's innocence. This custom Pilate here observes, and, besides the mere cereinony, expresses in words what he intended by this symbol, by saying, “I am innocent of the blood of this just man : See you to it.' By this, he once more publicly acknowledges the innocence of the Lord Jesus, whom he stiles a just man, an appellation which Pilate's wife had before given to our blessed Saviour. He then turns off the blame of Christ's death from him. self, and lays it on the consciences of the Jews. Thus
his design was, by washing his hands, to hint to the Jews, that as his hands which he had just washed were entirely clean, so would he be clear from all guilt, on account of the sentence and execution of this just man.
As if he had said, You have absolutely compelled me to order this innocent person to be crucified and put to death ; and you must be answerable for it before God and man,
Upon this, these infatuated wretches, without any scruple, took the guilt of this horrid crime on their own consciences; and unanimously cried out, His blood be on us, and on our children !'. By this they signified, that they were certainly convinced that this Jesus deserved to die as a seducer of the people, and that Pilate had no manner of reason to be apprehen. sive of being called to any account for it; but that they dealt sincerely with him, and would be answer. able for any blame which he might incur by it, before God and man. Nay, they farther engaged their own
. persons and their children, that the condemnation of this man would not be followed by any punishment ; and if such a thing should happen, which was not at all probable, they solemnly promised to take the whole of it on themselves and their posterity. His blood, said they, be on us, and on our children.' O dreadful words, which indicate the greatest infatuation and obduracy! How soon did that wretched nation feel the load of this curse to which they impi. ously devoted themselves, and which fell in a most signal manner on their heads, and that of their descendants, who have been groaning under its oppressive weight more than seventeen centuries.
3. We have here the sentence itself: " Then he delivered him to be crucified.' Now Pilate, sitting with great pomp on his judgment-seat, pronounced the sentence for crucifying Jesus, and declared that he would give him up to his soldiers to be crucified; since the Jews had openly declared, that they would be answerable for all the guilt and ill consequences that might attend this proceeding. On these cir
cumstances, we shall make the following observations, with which we shall conclude this Consideration.
First, That every circumstance of our blessed Sa. viour's passion has been conducted by the Divine wisdom.
1. It was not by mere accident that Pilate pronounced sentence on the blessed Jesus in a place, which from its elevation was called Gabbatha. For this condemned Jesus was to stand for an ensign lifted up on high to all nations, to which the Gentiles should seek, (Isaiah xi. 10.) Therefore his sentence of condemnation was to be pronounced in a raised place, publicly in the eyes of the whole world, and not in a cor- ' ner.
2. The specifying of the hour, in which the sentence was pronounced, indicates, that as God tells the hours in the sufferings of his blessed Son, so does he likewise in the suffering of his children by grace and adoption. Time never seems more tedious to men, than when they labour under sufferings. Then they not only count the days, but the very hours and minutes. But God likewise counts the hours of their sufferings, and for every hour of pain, reproach, or mockery, will ald a new gem to their diadem of glory. Hence we ought to be thoroughly persuaded, that as the providence of God over-ruled with regard to the time and place of the condemnation and crucifixion of our blessed Lord, so likewise will it also direct the time and place of our sufferings for his sake; and that no affliction shall befal us, at any place or time but by the appointment or permission of our heavenly Father, the supreme disposer of all events.
Secondly, As we often illegally place ourselves on the Judgment-seat of private censure, to condemn our innocent neighbour; so the Son of God was to suffer himself to be condemned, by an iniquitous judge on his seat of judgment.
Our blessed Lord has solemnly warned us, saying, * Judge not; condemn not;' but who is it that pays
a due regard to these precepts? Of all our Saviour's injunctions, not one is more frequently violated than this; and this is frequently done, not only by the ignorant and unlearned, but by those also who know better, and observe a decent regard to religion in their outward behaviour. At polite visits and other meetings, what is the usual topic of conversation, but censure? We condemn our absent neighbour ; his gesture, his sayings, and all his actions are canvassed over, exposed, censured, and judged, without the least indulgence. On such occasions, frequently a definitive sentence is unjustly pronounced, without allowing the party condemned a hearing. Now as we so often as. cend the seat of judgment, and, instead of judging ourselves, and strictly examining our own actions, precipitately condemn our neighbour; the Son of God was pleased to submit to this condemnation, which was pronounced from an unjust tribunal. May this consideration awaken in us all an absolute
abhorrence of all scandal, rigid censures, and calumny.
Thirdly, So great is the benevolence of God, that he often out of his exuberant goodness, as it were, presses his overtures of grace on man.
As Pilate, in the instance before us, is for obtruding Jesus on the Jews as their King, when they vehemently rejected him, and would hear of no such thing; God often proceeds in the same manner with sinners, not only by making a tender of his grace to them with singular impressions; but he, as it were, presses them to accept of it. Sometimes, in order to win their stubborn and refractory hearts, he showers down a profusion of blessings on them. Sometimes he finds it necessary to make use of the rod of correction ; lays them on a sick bed ; permits them to fall into difficulties; and by these visitations, earnestly labours to gain their minds. But if, after all these indulgent trials and awakening calls, they still con
inue unmoved; what can follow buta severe account for the obstinate rejection of such repeated offers of grace? But, alas ! how often have we been thus in.