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in the softer and gentler graces of that character, even “the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit," and so to be “exceeding jealous for the Lord's sake;" but, never “avenging ourselves,” to leave our cause in "his hands, who judgeth righteously.”
But may we not hope, that while our adorable Redeemer intended to leave us a bright and beauteous pattern of “suffering patience,” he had also thoughts of mercy to the guilty one who dared to raise his hand against him. Since it is true that “ a soft answer turneth away wrath,” may we not hope, that the answer of our Lord to him was as a voice of mercy to his soul. It may be that the godless act on his part was returned into his bosom as a messenger of peace; and that, like Saul at an after period, he was arrested at the height of his wickedness, and made to bow before him whom he had persecuted. If so, what a glorious triumph of divine grace will the day of the revelation of all things display, when at the right hand of the throne there shall appear, robed in the splendour of the redeemed hosts of God, encircled with the crown of unfading glory, him who with cursing and imprecation denied his King, and him who struck him with the palm of his hand; the one melted into the godly sorrow of repentance by the gentle look of his Master, the other subdued into his service by the “still, small voice" of his love.
JOHN XVIII. 28—40.
Then led they Jesus from Caiaphas unto the hall of judgment : and it was
early : and they themselves went not into the judgment-hall, lest they should be defiled, but that they might eat the passover. Pilate then went out unto them, and said, What accusation bring ye against this man! They answered and said unto him, If he were not a malefactor, we vould not have delivered him up unto thee. Then said Pilate unto them, Take ye him, and judge him according to your law. The Jews therefore sait unto him, It is not lauful for us to put any man to death : That the say ing of Jesus might be fulfilled, which he spake, signifying what death ke should die. Then Pilate entered into the judgment-hall again, and called Jesus, and said unto him, Art thou the King of the Jews ? Jesus answerel him, Sayest thou this thing of thyself, or did others tell it thee of me! Pilate answered, Am I a Jew? Thine oun nation and the chief priests have delivered thee unto me : What hast thou done? Jesus answered, Mi kingdom is not of this world : If my kingdom were of this world, the would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered 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 cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth heoreth my voice. Pilate saith unto him, What is truth? And when he had said this, he went out again unto the Jews, and saith unto them, I find in him no fault at all. But ye have a custom, that I should release unto you one at the passover : will ye therefore that I release unto you the king of the Jews? Then cried they all again, saying, Not this man, but Barabbas. Now Barabbas was a robber.
The mockery of the trial of Jesus before the High Priest is at an end, and now he is hurried before the tribunal of another Judge. Falsely accused, and unjustly condemned by
his own people, they were yet powerless to execute the sentence they pronounced, and therefore they hastened to deliver him to the Roman governor, and by every means to induce him to do as they desired. Apart from the deep guilt of this transaction, what indecent haste marked their whole conduct in "taking him from prison and from judgment;”—what rancorous hatred and malice did they exhibit towards him! Without affording him a moment's rest, after the solemn mockery in the High Priest's palace, and all the indignities which he endured, "they led him away into the hall of judgment."
“ They led him away!” The Prince of Peace, the Lord of Life, the Son of God, the King of Glory! In thinking of such a scene as this, the mind is impressed with two opposite reflections—the guilt of those who thus dared to persecute, even unto death, the Son of God; and the greatness of his love, in voluntarily submitting to every insult, and every wrong, for the sake of his people. Indeed, through the whole history of our Lord's sufferings, the two feelings run parallel, and just as one emotion deepens, the other becomes more powerful; the more amazement with which we are filled at the wickedness of the wicked, in their treatment of the Lord of glory, the more fully do we enter into the apostle's experience of the height, and depth, and length, and breadth of the love of God, that “it passeth knowledge."
And yet these people, who were thus engaged, were full of zeal for the law; indeed this was their pretext for their conduct towards Jesus. Thus we are told, when they led Jesus to Pilate, “they themselves went not into the judgment-hall, lest they should be defiled, but that they might eat the passover."
Doubtless among this band there were some hypocrites,
men who made their religion only a cloak for their enormities-who “ loved the praise of men more than the praise of God”— who only for a pretext made long prayers, standing at the corners of streets, and sounding a trumpet before them, when they gave their alms—who professed to be rigidly scrupulous in their religious observances, paying “tithe of mint, anise, and cummin,” but who at the same time robbed the fatherless and oppressed the widow, and whose zeal in making proselytes was only equalled by their guilt in making them "tenfold more the children of hell than themselves.” Doubtless many of this class assisted in this wicked work against the man who had on so many occasions laid bare the iniquity of their practices, and predicted the judgment of God on their hypocritical conduct.
But perhaps the greatest number, and the most active of the persecutors of Jesus, were to be found among the class of sincere religious formalists; men who sought after righteousness, but who found it not, because they sought it from the works of the law-men who religiously trusted in the forms and ceremonies of the temple worship, who thought of nothing, and wished for nothing beyond their brazen altar, their veil, and their Holy of Holies; and who devoutly considered as matters of the last importance the size of their phylacteries and the shape of their garments. These were among the most active, and constant, and hostile opponents of him who came to abrogate their religion of ceremonies, by introducing the substance of which these were but the shadow. These were the persons who, in persecuting Jesus unto death, thought that "they were doing God service.” Just as on a future occasion, one of the most learned and devoted of their number “thought that he ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth ;" even as he himself also pourtrays the leading characteristic of those who were the most unwearied persecutors of the infant church, "and was zealous toward God, as ye all are this day.”
And it is ever at the hands of men of this character that
pure and undefiled religion suffers most. They sacrifice and burn incense to their own pride, and count no penance too great, if it only wears the aspect of a meritorious service; but the whole volume of their hatred is poured forth against that pure and holy doctrine which lays them at the foot of the cross, as “poor, and miserable, and blind, and naked;" without hope save in the righteousness of another. In the case before us, they would not run the risk of ceremonial uncleanness at the very moment when they were persecuting Jesus to death. And so after their example will many self-righteous religionists stab vital godliness to the heart, while they assiduously heap around them the powerless, dull, and spiritless forms on which they vainly depend, like the foolish builder who reared his house upon the sand.
Beloved, let us beware how we substitute the religion of form for the religion of power. There is no more subtle device of our great enemy to keep us from the soul of religion, than to engage us too much with the body of religion. If he can enthral us with empty forms and solemn ceremonies, he effects a fearful amount of evil; he draws a screen between us and all that is soul-saving and soul-satisfying. Oh that we may ever use form only as a vehicle for our desires! Oh that it may be made vital, and profitable, by containing the fire of the Spirit! And thus, instead of being a dark and dreary medium, through which no glimmering of light beyond can be descried, it will prove clear and transparent, and fitted to let in the