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had cruelly scourged, and from his temples pierced with the thorny diadem! But all the meekness and resignation of this holy sufferer made no impression on his unfeeling tormentors. They spat on him! they snatched from his hand the stick which they had given him for a sceptre, and smote him on the head, driving the thorns into his sacred forehead and temples! yet not a word of expostulation escaped his lips; for he perfectly resigned himself to the Divine Will, and submitted his cause to the FATHER.
In the mean while Pilate (as we may suppose) was attending to the trials of other prisoners; and whilst he was sitting on the tribunal, his wife sent to inform him of her dream. Pilate, being alarmed at the message, went himself into the hall, to see what they had done with the prisoner, and appears to have been greatly moved with the condition he found him in; he therefore returned to the Jews, that they might know what torments CHRIST had endured, and declared, that he could not find any fault in him that made him obnoxious to the Roman government. Then came Jasus forth, wearing the ensigns of mock royalty, stained with his own blood! Pilate emphatically pointed him out as an object of commiseration, "BEHOLD THE MAN;" but they hardened their hearts against compassion, against every worthy sentiment, and renewed the cry of CRUCIFY HIM! CRUCIFY HIM! Pilate, finding them inexorable, desired to deliver JESUS into their hands, and again declared his opinion of his innocence; but the Jews insisted that he was according to their law, deserving of death.
Pilate, apprehensive that his resistance would raise sedition amongst the Jews against the Roman state; and hi nking, perhaps, agreeably to heathen superstition,
that JESUS might be descended from one of their imaginary deities, took him again into the house, and desired to be informed from his own mouth concerning the divine original he pretended to; but JESUS knowing that Pilate was, in his own conscience, already convinced of his innocence, gave him no answer. The governor was astonished, that a man in such circumstances should make no reply to one who had the power of condemning or releasing him; but JESUS calmly told him, that he could have no power against him, had it not been given him from above; meaning (as I apprehend) that had the Jews continued faithful, the Romans would have had no authority over their nation; therefore the sin of trying CHRIST for his life originated with those who had provoked God to bring them into subjection. Pilate examined CHRIST only as a Man accused of seditious intentions against the Emperor's government: the Jewish Council rejected him as the MESSIAH, notwithstanding the undeniable proofs he had given them that he was so. Not that Pilate was free from guilt in this affair; for convinced, as he certainly was, of our LORD'S innocence, he was very unjust in ordering him to be executed: but still the Jewish High Priest, who delivered him into Pilate's hand, had the greater sin.
Pilate, satisfied of the injustice of the persecution, resolved the more earnestly to procure CHRIST's release; but the Jews still insisted that sentence should be passed; and effectually put a stop to his intentions, by insinuating that suffering a man to live, who pretended to be a king independently of the Roman Emperor, was in effect to arraign the lawfulness of Cæsar's universal monarchy.
TIBERIUS, who was then Emperor, was a very suspicious prince, and constantly employed spies to watch
the conduct of his officers. This made Pilate appre hensive that he might be charged with want of zeal for Cæsar's interest; he therefore brought JESUS out of the hall again, and seating himself on the tribunal, was resolved to manage this incident so as to procure from the Jews a public acknowledgment of Cæsar's authority: and, therefore, pointing to JESUS, as he now ap peared in this mock pomp of royalty, he said to them, "Behold your king, if you think fit to own him, as it is said many of you have done." But they cried with indignation, "Away with him, away with him, crucify him." Pilate, as if surprised at such an extravagant demand, said, "What, shall I crucify your king?" And the chief priests answered in the name of the people, "We have no king but Cæsar." Thus did they indirectly acknowledge that the sceptre was departed from Judah, even whilst they were rejecting SHILOH; whose spiritual kingdom the patriarch Jacob, by divine inspiration, predicted should commence at that period: and thus did they unknowingly pronounce the wrath of GoD upon the Jews, who, from that time, have had no king of their own, but the kings of other nations have ruled over them.
Pilate, finding it to no purpose to oppose the popular tumult, determined to do all he could, consistently with his worldly interest, for the quieting of his conscience; he therefore washed his hands, as a token that he did not willingly consent to the death of JESUS; and warned the Jews that they were answerable for the consequences of it. What was their horrid reply? « HIS BLOOD BE ON US, AND ON OUR CHILDREN!" The succeeding history of the Jewish nation will shew, that this terrible imprecation was dreadfully answered by
the ruin which fell on them, and the calamities to which they have ever since been continually exposed.
Pilate had no courage to resist the violence of the Jews, but at length yielded to their importunity; and gave sentence that it should be as they required. Barabbas was released, and JESUS delivered unto their will. The severe discipline of scourging he had already undergone, therefore it was not repeated; but the Jewish rabble for a while insulted him, as the Roman soldiers had done before. They derided his pretensions to a kingdom, and abused him as the vilest of slaves; then stripped him with disdain, as if the ensigns of mock royalty (consisting, as we may suppose, of old tattered robes) were too good for him; and put his own garments on him, and led him away to CRUCIFY HIM.
There is a passage in the prophecy of Isaiah so accordant with this part of our SAVIOUR's history, that it will be proper to read it, before we proceed any further. It appears like an oration addressed by CHRIST to those who heard his doctrine, and now beheld his sufferings; for such words as these he certainly would have used, had he thought proper to speak at all: but he knew it was requisite for him to submit in silence, and leave the written word of God to account for his submission.
A PART OF ISAIAH'S PROPHECY, RELATING TO THE MESSIAH.
From Chap. iv.
THE LORD JEHOVAH hath given me the tongue of the learned; that I might know how to speak a season
able word to the weary. He wakeneth morning by morning mine ear, to hearken with the attention of a learner.
The LORD JEHOVAH hath opened mine ear; and I was not rebellious; neither did I withdraw myself backward.
I gave my back to the smiters, and my cheeks to them that plucked off the hair: my face I hid not from shame and spitting.
For the LORD JEHOVAH is my helper; therefore I am not ashamed. Therefore have I set my face as a flint: and I know that I shall not be confounded.
He that justifieth me is near at hand: who is he that will contend with me? Let us stand forth together: Who is mine adversary? Let him come on to the
Behold the LORD JEHOVAH is my advocate: who is he that shall condemn mé? Lo! all of them shall wax old as a garment, the moth shall consume them.
Who is there among you that feareth JEHOVAH? Let him hearken unto the voice of his servant: that walketh in darkness, and has no light; let him trust in the name of JEHOVAH; and rest himself on the support of his GOD.
Behold, all ye who kindle a fire: who heap the fuel round about: walk ye in the light of your fire, and of the fuel which ye have kindled. This ye shall have at my hand; ye shall lie down in sorrow *.
ANNOTATIONS AND REFLECTIONS.
This part of ISAIAH's prophecy must have appeared very obscure, till our LORD by his preaching threw *Bishop Lowth's translation.