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TIE CONSEQUENCE OF OUR BLESSED SAVIOUR's
GOOD CONFESSION BEFORE PILATE.
PILATE saith unto him, What is truth? And when he had said this, he went out unto the Jews, and saith unto the chief Priests and the people, I find no fault in this man. And the chief Priests were the more fierce. And when he was accused of the chief Priests and Elders, he answered nothing. Then saith Pilate unto him ; answerest thou nothing? behold, 'hearest thou not how many things they witness against thee ? Jesus answered him to never a word, insomuch that the governor marvelled greatly.' (Matth. xxvii. 12, 13, 14. Mark xv. 3, 4, 5. Luke xxiii. 4. John xviii. 38.)
In the last consideration, we have enlarged upon the good confession, which our Saviour made concerning his kingdom before the tribunal of Pilate; we shall now farther consider what followed that good confession.
First, with regard to Pilate,
1. With regard to the Roman governor, two things followed our Lord's confession, namely, 1. A question, 2. An acknowledgment of our blessed Saviour's innocence,
1. The question is this: What is truth? Jesus, in his confession, had several times mentioned the word truth, viz. 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 who is of the truth heareth my voice.' Upon this, Pilate starts the question, "What is truth? At first one would, , from these words, be inclined to entertain a favourable opinion of Pilate, and to admire his willingness
to be instructed. We should be apt to think that the words of the blessed Jesus had kindled in him such a desire of knowing the truth, that he wished for nothing more passionately than to be thoroughly instructed by this divine Prophet, of whom he had already heard such a great character. But this good opinion, which might be conceived of Pilate from the sound of his words, is immediately effaced by his subsequent behaviour. For he had no sooner asked the question, than he turned his back on the Lord Jesus without staying for an answer, and went out to the Jews who were standing without the judgmenthall. Hence it is evident that he did not ask this question from any desire of information ; it being
; probable that he thought it derogatory to his honour, to be taught by a contemptible Jew who stood bound before him as a prisoner ; but that he asked it in an ironical manner, and with a mind filled with sceptical prejudices at least, if not with an aversion to, and contempt of, the truth.
If these words therefore be construed according to the temper from whence they proceeded, the meaning of the question will appear to be this: “Why dost thou talk of truth? Truth never made any man's
-? fortune. It is no wonder, indeed, that the rulers of thy nation are so inveterate against thee, and are bent upon removing thee out of the way.
I suppose thou hast told them the truth with too much freedom, and offended them by thy reproofs and public discourses, If it is thy sole business to tell the truth, thou wilt have but few adherents; so that the Emperor mymaster may be very easy about thy imaginary kingdom. Besides, if the whole quarrel between thee and the Jews be about the truth of religion, those affairs do not properly belong to my office; nor shall I throw away my time in the examination of these religious disputes: we Romans leave every one to teach and believe as he thinks fit, if he does but behave like a good citizen, and take care not to disa
turb the trai quillity of the state.” To this ironical question Pilate subjoined.
2. A confession of the innocence of the blessed Jesus. For when Pilate had said this, he went out again unto the Jews, who were gathered together in great numbers in the area before his judgment-hall, and called out openly, or perhaps proclaimed by a herald, in the hearing of the chief Priests and all the people, I find no fault in this man.' As if he had said, I have examined this man apart concerning the things of which you accuse him, and have carefully şified the whole matter; but I find him guilty of no manner of crime. You say, We found him perverting the people ; but for my part, I can find no shadow of truth in this accusation. He, indeed, owns that he is a King; but, at the same time, he declares that he makes it his sole business to bear witness to the truth. This confession, by the Roman law, is no capital crime. If that were the case, all the philosophers throughout the whole Roman empire would deserve to be crucified ; since every one of them thinks he teaches nothing but the truth. son has too high a conceit of his doctrines, and thinks that he alone is so quick-sighted as to see clearly into truth, this is a failing common to other philosophers, and rather de serves pity than any punishment. At least, with regard to the faults you charge him with, I find him entirely innocent. This, probably, was the opinion of Pilate ; and this declaration of our Saviour's innocence he caused to be publicly declared bufre all the people; which, in some measure, was a political stratagem. For as he knew that the rujers of the people had delivered Christ to him out of envy, which opinion is afterwards confirmed by St. Matthew, (chap. xxvii. 18.) he thought it best publiciy to declare his innocence to the people, who perhaps were better inclined towards Jesus, and thereby to give them an opportunity of taking the innocent prisoner under their protection,
If this per
This is the first testimony, which Pilate gave of our Lord's innocence, and is of great importance : For,
First, This witness of our Saviour's innocenee was a person in a public character, and bore the of: fice of a judge.
Secondly, He was the Roman emperor's vicegerent, and consequently it was incumbent on him by his post, capitally to punish all rebellious and seflitious persons.
Thirdly, He was quite impartial in this affair, and acted without being prejudiced either by hatred or love to Jesus.
Fourthly, He gave this remarkable testimony of his innocence, after having heard his cause, and strictly examined the prisoner.
Fifthly, He did it voluntarily and freely from his own conviction, and not at the request of any other person.
Lastly, By this declaration of Christ's innocence, he at the same time represented the sentence of death which the Sanhedrim had already past on him as an act of cruelty and injustice. From these circumstances which followed Christ's good confession we shall deduce the following truths.
1. The doctrine of the regal dignity of Christ has always been ridiculed by the world.
Pilate thought it the height of extravagance, that a mean person, who was bound as a common criminal, without money or soldiers to execute any thing of importance, should set himself up for a king; and
a still more extraordinary, that he should expect to become the sovereign and conqueror of the world, by bearing witness to the truth. This the heathen governor laughed at in his heart, and thus ridiculed this noble confession of Christ concerning his kingly dignity. The followers of Christ, in imitation of their Saviour, must willingly suffer themselves to be ridiculed and despised; being assured that though
they are not honoured by the world, yet that, after being ridiculed and reviled here, they shall at last reign with Christ, and sit on his throne.
2. The sincere love of truth is seldom found among the great, the rich, the wise and prudent of this world.
God has said, “he requireth truth in the inward parts,' (Ps. li. 6.) and exhorts us to love the truth, (Zec. viii. 19.) but where shall one find the love of truth in the world? for truth is fallen in the street, and equity cannot enter ; the truth faileth, and he that departeth from evil maketh himself a prey,' (Isa. lix. 14, 15.) The love of truth is found more particularly wanting among the great and powerful of this world, who look upon truth and particularly ihe truths of religion, as something below their regard, and not worth enquiring after.
Thus the scene continues the same in our days, as it was before Pilate's judgment-seat. On one side stood the blessed Jesus in defence of the truth, -which he maintained, and at last sealed with his blood; on the other side stood the Jews in opposition to the truth, which they hated and persecuted in the person and doctrine of Christ, and sought to oppress by lies and calumnies ; and between these stood Pilate ridiculing both parties, and making a jest of both Jesus and the Jews. Thus in our days these three parties, with regard to the truth of religion, still exist. Some have a sense of the transcendent value of truth; they esteem it a precious gift of God, and as an invaluable jewel which he has committed to mankind; and accordingly they openly profess it, and are ready to sacrifice their lives and fortunes, and all that is dear and valuable, in defence of it. Others shew themselves declared enemies of the truth, and endeavour to suppress it, by changing it into error and falsehood, and hate and persecute the professors of it as obstinate heretics. Others again observe a culpable neutrality, ridicu.