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The silence of our Lord upon this occasion deserves notice, as highly becoming a person of a distinguished character, and known innocence: especially when men, sitting in judgment as magistrates, shew themselves destitute of a regard to justice and equity, and betray a malicious design to put a man to death, though they have no evidence against him, and the witnesses that appear, at their procurement, are inconsistent, and do not agree together. We shall have occasion, as we proceed, to observe more than once this proof of our Lord's greatness : I mean his silence.
However it follows in St. Matthew : “ And the high priest answered and said unto him: I adjure thee by the living God, that thou tell us, whether thou be the Christ, the Son of God? Jesus saith unto him, Thou hast said:” Matt. xxvi. 63—66; that is, it is as thou hast said. You have rightly expressed the character which I claim. “ Nevertheless I say unto you:” notwithstanding the meanness of my present appearance: and though at this present time I say and do nothing beside what has been manifested in my past life for justifying this claim and character, I do assure you: “ Hereafter ye will see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven. Then the high priest rent his clothes, and said: He has spoken blasphemy. What further need have we of witnesses ? Behold, now ye have heard his blasphemy. What think ye? They answered, and said: He is guilty of death;” or deserves to be put to death.
Here again we see our Lord's excellent behaviour. Though he had been silent hitherto, yet being adjured in the name of God, he answers readily and distinctly; even though he could not but very well know the perverse use which the council would make of it, and that they would charge him with blasphemy, as if the claim was without ground.
Here therefore we perceive the truth, and the courage of our Lord. In the time of his public preaching he proved himself to be the Christ, or the Messiah, by his discourses and his works. But he seldom said expressly, that he was the Messiah, for avoiding ostentation, and for preventing the abuse, which some might have made of such a declaration, and the bad consequences that might have ensued, considering how many supposed a temporal power and kingdom to be annexed to that character. But now, when the declaration could be attended with no bad consequences to others, he freely makes it: though it would soon expose him to a charge of blasphemy, which would be deemed worthy of death.
In this profession, now made, there is much majesty, unspeakable goodness, and admirable wisdom and discretion. The majesty is evident. There is also goodness, in foretelling the glory and power to which he should be advanced, and in which he should come to punish the determined and implacable enemies of truth and virtue. It was, I say, great goodness to warn and admonish those who had given such proofs of hardness of heart, of the guilt they would contract, and the miseries they would be in danger of, if they should proceed to condemn him. And the discretion is admirable, in delivering that kind and compassionate instruction and warning, without any diminution of his greatness.
8. Eighthly, the next thing which offers itself to us, is the behaviour of Peter, whose repeated denial happened at this season, whilst our Saviour was in the house of Caiaphas.
There is no need that I should insert here any of the accounts of this matter, in any of the Evangelists; it being well known to every one, that this disciple, partly out of curiosity, partly out of esteem and affection for Jesus, had followed him into the high priest's hall. At this time, when Jesus was before the high priest and elders and the council of the Jews, Peter at some small distance, in the lower part of the hall, as a stranger, and among persons chiefly of lower rank, being challenged as a disciple of Jesus, thrice denied it, or that he had any knowledge of him, and endeavoured to corroborate what he said with oaths and imprecations, the more effec. tually to secure his own safety.
This must have been very affecting to our Lord: that a disciple of his, and one of the chief, and most favoured, should act so unsuitably to his obligations and solemn professions. But behold the complete composure of our Lord's mind. He is not so offended at the bad conduct of his disciple, nor so concerned about the malicious and artful proceedings of the council, before whom he stood, but he takes care of Peter: “ He turned and looked upon Peter," Luke xxii. 61, with earnestness and tenderness. And by that piercing and gracious look, he recovered this fallen disciple, who then, not being longer able to bear company, and wanting a
place of retirement to bemoan his own falsehood and inconstancy, “went out and wept bitterly,"? ver. 62, and Matt. xxvi. 75.
9. In the ninth place we will observe the history of our Lord's first appearance before Pilate. “ When the morning was come, all the chief priests and elders of the people took counsel against Jesus to put him to death. And when they had bound him, they led him away, and delivered him to Pontius Pilate the governor,” Matt. xxvii. 1, 2. And Jesus stood before the governor. And the governor asked him, saying: Art thou the king of the Jews ? And Jesus said unto him: Thou sayest,” ver. 11; that is, it is as thou sayest. You have rightly expressed my character. I acknowledge inyself to be the king of the Jews. Thus our Lord here professes again plainly the same thing which he had said before the Jewish council: whatever bad use might be made of it, to his detriment.
St. Matthew's account is just, but it is very concise and summary. Therefore, though we ought to study brevity, I think we should take in also a part of St. John's account, which is more full. “ Then Pilate entered into the judgment hall again, and called Jesus, and said unto him: Art thou the king of the Jews ? Jesus answered him: Sayest thou this thing of thyself, or did others tell it thee of me? Pilate answered, Am I a Jew? Thy own nation and the chief priests have delivered thee unto me. What hast thou done? Jesus answered: My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered up to the Jews. But now is my kingdom not from hence. Pilate therefore said unto him: Art thou a king then? Jesus answered: Thou sayest, that I am a king. To this end was I born, and for this end came I into this world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Every one that is of the truth, heareth my voice.”
By which we perceive, that our Lord was not unwilling to speak when there was occasion : and that, being fully composed in his mind, when he speaks his words are wise and proper. He not only undauntedly acknowledges his character of the Messiah, but Pilate being a stranger, he condescends also to give him some information concerning the nature of his kingdom, and of the title which he assumed, of “ the king of the Jews:" letting him know, that it was not a worldly kingdom, supported by sanctions of worldly rewards and punishments, human force and authority, but is a kingdom of truth: and that his design was to bear testimony to truth, especially religious truth; the interest of which is supported and carried on by reason and argument only, and by appeals to the understanding, judgment and conscience of men. Such a king I am : and every one who is a lover of truth, will receive me for his Lord and Master, and become my disciple and follower. Thus, as St. Paul says, “ Jesus Christ before Pontius Pilate witnessed a good confession," i Tim. vi. 13.
It is added in St. Matthew, in the place before quoted: “ And when he was accused of the chief priests and elders, he answered nothing. Then saith Pilate unto him: Hearest thou not, how many things they witness against thee? And he answered him never a word: insomuch that the governor marvelled greatly,” Matt. xxvii. 12--14. Our Lord having said what was sufficient to give Pilate satisfaction concerning the nature of his claim, and the innocence of his behaviour, if Pilate was impartial and equitable, as related in St. John, he refused to plead any longer. That would have looked like disputing and arguing; which was below his dignity, and unsuitable to his present circumstances.
10. There is another thing, in the tenth place, mentioned by St. Luke, which we cannot overlook, the appearance of Jesus before Herod the Tetrarch. « Then said Pilate unto the chief priests, and to the people : I find no fạult in this man. And they were the more fierce, saying, he stirreth up the people, teaching throughout all Judea, beginning from Galilee unto this place. As soon as he knew that he belonged to Herod’s jurisdiction, he sent him to Herod, who was also at Jerusalem at that time. And when Herod saw Jesus, he was exceeding glad : for he was desirous to see him of a long season, because he had heard many things of him, and he hoped to have seen a miracle done by him. Then he questioned him in many words: but he answered him nothing. And the chief priests and scribes stood and vehemently accused him : and Herod with his men of war set him at nought, and mocked him, and arrayed him in a gorgeous robe, and sent him again to Pilate,” Luke xxiii. 4–11.
Here we see our Lord's continued meekness and patience, in submitting to be thus sent from one to another, and enduring all manner of scoffs and insults without complaint. We likewise see his true greatness. He works not any miracle before Herod, either of salvation or destruction; though this last might have been justly done. He says not a word by way of apology for himself, his innocence being conspicuous, and all the accusations brought against him false and groundless. Our Lord's behaviour is admirable. If he had not been a person of consummate wisdom, and had not now had the full command of himself, he might have been induced to exert his power in performing some work of an extraordinary kind, or to say something strongly in his own behalf': but his silence and inaction are more becoming. He behaves as one ought to do, who had wrought such miracles as he had done, many of them in the territories of Herod, who might have informed himself concerning them if he had pleased : and as became him in the presence of that man who had unrighteously put John the Baptist to death, and still lived in the sins for which he had been reproved by him, and now added the prodigious sin and folly of insulting, and contemptuously ridiculing and mocking a man, concerning whom many great things had been reported to him, and in whom no fault had been found, after a very public life, into which the strictest inquiries had been made.
11. Now we are led to take notice of the demand made by the people, at the instigation of the rulers, that Barabbas might be delivered to them.
For Pilate was convinced, that in this cause the chief men of the Jews had been actuated by envy: therefore he put the people in mind of a custom they had for him to release to them a prisoner at that feast. And the more to incline them in favour of Jesus, he proposed him to them, together with another, who was infamous, or as St. Matthew styles him, a “notable prisoner,” Matt. xxvii
. 16, or notorious transgressor, whose crimes are more particularly put down in the other Evangelists. Mark xv. 7; Luke xxiii. 25; Johın xviii. 40." The governor answered, and said unto them, Whether of the two will ye that I release unto you? They said, Barabbas. Pilate said unto them, What then shall I do with Jesus, who is called Christ? They all said unto him: Let him be crucified,” ver. 21, 22.
How provoking is this! Yet not one word proceeds from Jesus. He might indeed justly have spoken out, and addressed himself to the people, and all present, saying, shameful in
dignity! O unexampled preference! Do you not know the demerits of the prisoner, whom you • desire to have released unto you? And do you demand that I should be put to death? Have ! you never been present at my discourses in the temple or the synagogues? Have you never seen or heard of any of the mighty works done by me, equalling or exceeding those done by
of your prophets, Moses himself not excepted ? Have you forgot your own loud and • cheerful acclamations, and the solemn and willing pomp with which you lately conducted me
into this city, saying, “ Hosannah to the Son of David: blessed is he that cometh in the name • of the Lord!". These and other things might have been justly and properly said. But our Lord's silence is greater than all words; more significant and moving than the most pathetic speech that could be made.
12. The last thing to be mentioned here is the sentence pronounced by Pilate.
Says St. John: “When Pilate therefore heard that saying, he brought Jesus forth, and sat down in the judgment seat--Then delivered he him therefore to them to be crucified, ” John xix. 13, 16. To the like purpose in St. Matthew, chap. xxii. 26; and St. Mark, chap. xv. 15. Or, as in St. Luke, chap. xxiii. 24, 25. “ And Pilate gave sentence, that it should be as they required—and he delivered Jesus to their will.”
That is the sentence. But it may be perceived, that for the sake of brevity, I pass over divers things, which happened at this time: the scourging ordered by Pilate, the derisions and insults of the soldiers, “ who platted a crown of thorns, and put it upon his head, and put on him a purple robe, and said: Hail, king of the Jews. And they smote him on the head with a reed, and spat upon him, and bowing their knees, worshipped him:” that is, derided him with many tokens of mock-honour and respect.
It was amazing meekness in our Lord, to bear all this treatment without punishing it: true greatness to make no remonstrances against such crying abuse. This was not a time for him to use earnest expostulations or loud complaints. His former life testified his innocence, and condemned all accusations brought against him, and covered with shame the indignities offered
• Ο μεν σατηρ και κυριος ημών Ιησες Χριςος, ψευδομαρτυ- κρειττες γεγονεναι φωνης ελεγχυσης την ψευδομαρτυριαν, και ρεμενος μεν, εσιωπα κατηγορεμενος δε, δεν απεκρίνατο: πει- λεξεων απολογεμενων προς τας κατηγοριας. Orig. Contr. Cels. θομενος, παντα τον βίον εαυτε, και τας εν ιεδαιοις πραξεις, 1. i. in.
to him, and those by whom they were offered. He therefore was silent, and referred himself to the judgment of God: as St. Peter says admirably: “ Who when he was reviled, reviled not again : when he suffered, he threatened not : but committed himself to him who judgeth righteously,” 1 Pet. ii. 23.
Sect. II. Having already observed the account of our Lord's being apprehended, with the circumstances of it, and many marks of meekness and greatness therein, and the history of our Lord's being carried to Annas and Caiaphas, and then to Pontius Pilate the Roman governor in Judea, with the indignities there cast upon him, and his admirable behaviour upon every occasion, till Pilate unwillingly pronounced sentence that he might be crucified:
I now proceed to the remaining part of this affecting history, written indeed, as every other part of the gospels is, without ornaments and embellishments, and without any designed artifice to raise the passions, being throughout only plain relations of matters of fact, with their several circumstances. Which, however, being for that very reason the more apparently credible, are moving in a great degree, and afford ground for many just reflections and observations, and secure the truest respect and esteem for him whose history is here related.
1. Our Lord is now carried away to the common place of execution, without the city of Jerusalem, bearing his own cross according to the custom of the Romans, till he having been much fatigued by the sufferings already endured, they compelled another to carry it, or help in bearing it, holding up the hinder part of it.
Here offers itself to our consideration the answer which our Lord made to those who lamented and bewailed him. Says St. Luke: “ And as they led him away, they laid hold upon one Simon a Cyrenian coming out of the country. And on him they laid the cross, that he might bear it after Jesus. And there followed him a great company of people, and of women, which also bewailed him, and lamented him. But Jesus turning unto them, said: Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. For behold the days are coming, in which they shall say: Blessed are the barren, and (or even] the wombs that never bare, and the paps which never gave suck. Then shall they begin to say to the mountains: Fall on us: and to the hills, Cover us. For if they do such things in a green tree, what shall be done in the dry?” Luke xxiii. 26. That is, bewail not me, but rather think of the dreadful calamities which are coming upon this city and people, for rejecting my mission, and putting me to death, and for the other sins which they will be guilty of: even as I myself, beholding this city some while ago, wept over it in the prospect of the heavy judgments impending over it.
This is a demonstration of a most excellent temper. At the very time that our Lord is ill. treated in the most unrighteous manner, and has a near prospect of the pain and shame of the cross, he breaks out into compassionate expressions for his enemies, and appears to be touched with a concern for those calamities which were coming upon the most hardened sinners. His. concern for them seems to make him forget and overlook his own afflictions. That is the first thing.
2. We are led in the next place to observe our Lord's refusing a stupifying potion of liquor offered to him, mentioned Mark xv. 22, 23. “ And they bring him to the place called Golgotha, which is, being interpreted, the place of a skull. And they gave him to drink wine mingled with myrrh. But he received it not.” It is probable, that this was a draught of generous wine, improved likewise with spices, and made intoxicating and stupifying in a great degree. It was either a potion ordinarily allowed to malefactors condemned to the cross : or else was prepared by some who had an affection for our Lord, to abate the pain of the piercing and lingering sufferings which he was going to endure. “ But he did not receive it:" * being determined to give a complete example of patience, by enduring all the pain of the death assigned him without any abatement.
There is no need to add remarks on this particular. Every one sees the composure of our Lord's mind, and the propriety of his action. To have received it might have been no disparagement to a person of an ordinary character. But it was very becoming Jesus to reject it.
• Noluit autem imbibere Christus, quia, ut diximus, menti exsternendæ adhibebatur. In cruce antem. pendens postea, uia sitiebat, sia caza oges, * accepit acetum,' id est,
bit, Jobu xix. 30. Grot. ad Matt. xxvii. 34. VOL. V.
And yet, whilst he does what is a very great instance of resolution and fortitude, the principle, from which it proceeded, is not particularly mentioned. “ He received it not.” That is all which is here said. Nothing is added to enhance such generous self-denial.
3. We now observe our Lord's prayer for his enemies : which follows next after the words before cited from St. Luke, ch. xxiii. 32—31. “ And there were also two others, malefactors, led with him to be put to death. And when they were come to the place called Calvary, there they crucified him, and the malefactors, one on the right hand, and the other on the left. Then said Jesus: Father, forgive them: for they know not what they do."
It is plain, that it was now the beginning of the crucifixion. I think it likely that this compassionate prayer was offered up by our Lord at the very time that they were nailing his hands and feet to the wood of the cross, or else, immediately afterwards, as soon as the cross was set up: at which time the pain felt by him must have been the most acute that can be conceived.
In this prayer are divers things remarkable, proofs of an heroic mind.
Here appear, at this time, under the heaviest load of ignominy, and the most painful sufferings, a calm and composed frame, acquiescence in the disposal of Providence, and a full persuasion of the favour and good will of God.
Toward men here appear meekness and benevolence. The mind is not filled, as it justly might, with bitter resentment and indignation, manifesting itself in loud complaints of injustice, appeals to heaven for the innocence of the sufferer, and earnest expostulations of immediate and exemplary vengeance upon unrighteous enemies.
Instead thereof, our Lord, sensible indeed of their guilt, and conscious of his own innocence, and persuaded that this treatment of him was offensive to the supreme Judge, intercedes in behalf of those who were the instruments of such pain : desiring that they might be forgiven, and alleging the only thing that could alleviate their guilt or punishment: “ they know not what they do.” This may relate more especially to the heathen soldiers, the immediate instruments. But it will comprehend, and undoubtedly was designed in favour of the Jews also, or many of them, whose prejudices prevailed against evidence. So St. Paul speaks of the Jews at Jerusalem, Acts xiii. 27.“ -because they knew him not, nor yet the voices of the prophets--they have fulfilled them in condemning him.” And 1 Cor. ii. 2. “ Had they known him, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory." The like is said by St. Peter, Acts iii. 17. “ And now, brethren, I know, that through ignorance ye did it, as did also your rulers.”
That is the third thing, our Lord's compassionate prayer for his enemies. And we should remember the time when it was offered: not before his passion nor after it, when the pain and anguish of his sufferings were over, and he was raised from the dead: but at the time when pain and shame, and every evil thing that can be thought of, concurred to excite displeasure and resentment.
4. Another thing, which cannot be unobserved by us, is our Lord's amazing patience, and wonderful silence, under all the reproaches cast upon him at this time. So it follows in St. Luke, soon after the forementioned prayer, ch. xxiii. 35, 36. “ And the people stood beholding, and the rulers also with them derided him, saying: He saved others. Let him save himself, if he be the Christ, the chosen of God. And the soldiers also mocked him, saying: If thou be the king of the Jews, save thyself.” Or as in St. Matthew, ch. xxvii. 39, 42, 43. “ And they that passed by reviled him, wagging their heads—Likewise also the chief priests mocking him, with the scribes and elders, said: He saved others, himself he cannot save. If he be the king of Israel, let him now come down from the cross, and we will believe him. He trusted in God. Let him deliver him if he will have him.”
These scoffs must have been very trying. Nevertheless our Lord bears them meekly and patiently. He does not come down from the cross as he might: nor strike these blasphemers dead as he could. He does not make any reply as he might have done, to those especially who stood near the cross: reminding them of the innocence of his life, the greatness of his works, or any other demonstrative proofs of the special regard and approbation of the Father. Nor does he remind them of his expected resurrection, which he had foretold. But he silently bears all the reproaches which the present circumstance seemed to justify. This silence is greater than all words. It was, as he said at the beginning of this strange scene, “ their hour, and the power of darkness.” And he had « committed himself to him that judgeth righteously.” He now therefore meekly endures all, which the malice of evil and pre