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LECTURE V.

PART I.*

HEBREWS, VII. 26.

Such an High Priest became us, who is holy, harmless, and undefiled.

WE left the Lamb of God yesterday, already bound before his shearers; and waiting, only until, by competent authority, it should be pronounced, that he was without spot or blemish, to be led to the slaughter, and to be offered as the sacrifice.

And now, the day had dawned; and, the Sanhedrim having assembled, the trial commenced.† But how did these heads of the house of Jacob, these princes of the house of Israel, proceed?

* In preparing this Lecture for the press, it was thought proper, to introduce much matter, which, for want of time, had been omitted in the pulpit; for the convenience, therefore, of the reader, it has been divided into two Parts.

+ Mark, xiv. 55.

They proved themselves genuine disciples of those, who, in times past, had slain the prophets; of those, who had abhorred judgment and perverted all equity; they proved it, by lying in wait for blood, and working privily for the innocent, without a cause.* Instead of endeavouring to ascertain the truth, and to protect the defenceless, these workers of iniquity betrayed the malignity of their hearts, and the injustice of their intentions, by seeking, by diligently seeking, for evidence against the party accused. Like those disputers of the world, who, wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight, seem to examine the evidences of religion, though pre-determined to reject them with disdain; the judges of Jesus were already sworn together against him; and had resolved on the sentence, which they would pronounce, however slight might be the proof of their victim's guilt, or however triumphant his defence; for, when they failed to establish any real charge against him, they actually suborned false witnesses, and laboured to effect their object by collusion. If, then, any men, were ever more guilty than others, of malice prepense, and murder aforethought, these were they. Yes:

*Micah, iii. 9. vii. 2. Matt. xxvi. 59, 60.

+ Psalm cii. 8.

not only did their lips speak lies, not only did their tongues mutter perverseness, but their hands were defiled with blood, and their fingers with iniquity. None cried for justice, none pleaded for the truth; they trusted in vanity, they spake lies, they conceived mischief, they brought forth iniquity.* (1)

But, notwithstanding all their exertions, they failed. So guiltless and guileless, so free from all appearance even of evil, had been our blessed Lord's career upon earth, that, though many false witnesses came, yet they failed to adduce any thing, which malice, however ingenious to sophisticate, or prejudice, however willing to be duped, could torture into the semblance of guilt. Thus did these blind leaders of the blind, unconsciously fulfil those very scriptures, which they were interpreting of the Messiah, but which they would not understand: False witnesses did rise up: they laid to my charge things that I knew not; they rewarded me evil for good, to the spoiling of my soul.+

Of the kind of evidence which was borne against him, the Evangelists have afforded us a curious instance: At last came two false witnesses, and said,.. This fellow said, I am able to destroy

* Isaiah, lix. 3, 4.

+ Psalm xxxv. 11, 12.

the temple of God, and build it in three days.* (2) Now, this was craftily devised. For, to speak against the temple of Jehovah, much more to prophesy against it, was, in the construction of Jewish law, a crime and misdemeanour of so heinous a nature, that no proof even of miraculous powers, in the person who had so offended, could be admitted in his defence. But, among the members of the Sanhedrim, our Lord had some secret disciples, though they were in number so few, that the Evangelists do not consider it worth while to mention them as exceptions, when they speak of the acts of the whole council. Besides Nicodemus, and Joseph of Arimathea, we know that there were others among the rulers, who had certainly believed on him, a short time before; and, though they dared not openly declare themselves his disciples, yet, under the pretext of seeing justice done to the prisoner, they may have put such questions to the witnesses, as drew forth those answers, which, not agreeing together, were unworthy of credit. the present case, the first witness, insinuating, rather than asserting the falsehood, repeated, very nearly, the words which had been used by the

*Matt. xxvi. 61. Mark, xiv. 58.

In

Lord Jesus, on the occasion referred to. * To this evidence, it was a clear objection, that the words might have been uttered in some figurative sense, though their meaning was not apprehended. The next witness, therefore, added to our Saviour's speech; and reported it thus:..I will destroy this temple, that is made with hands, and, within three days, I will build another, made without hands. So that, here, as in the former instances, St. Mark observes, their witness did not agree together; and, except at the voice of two witnesses, our Lord could not be condemned. Moreover, the addition of the words, within three days, I will raise it up, which, he was admitted, by both witnesses, to have uttered, proved too much for their purpose; and clearly showed the figurative interpretation to be correct. For, to suppose, that he could, within three days, or rather on the third day, rebuild a temple, in the erection of which a whole nation had been employed for forty and six years, would have been an absurdity too great, to be admitted by any, who were not prepared to receive him as the Messiah.

Nothing can more clearly show the strait to which his enemies were reduced, in order to

* Matt. xxvi. 61. John, ii. 19.

+ Mark, xiv. 58.

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