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Providence designed in this matter. He was a wicked man, and had no love to Christ. He had given sentence of death against him; yet this is he that proclaimed him to be Jesus, King of the Jews. His pen was so overruled, that he did not write what was in his own heart, but quite the contrary; even a fair and public testimony to the kingly office of the Son of God, This is the King of the Jews.
2. In applying a present, proper, public remedy to the reproaches and blasphemies Christ then received.
3. In keeping so timorous a person, a man of so base a spirit, that would do any thing to please the people, from receding or giving ground in the least to their importunities.
4. In casting the ignominy of the death of Christ upon those very men who ought to bear it. For it is as if Pilate had said, You have moved me to crucify your King, I have crucified him, and now let the ignominy of his death rest upon your heads, who have extorted this from me. He is righteous, the crime is not his but yours.
5. In fixing this title to the cross of Christ, amid such a confluence of people; so that it could never have been more advantageously published. How wonderful are the works of God! "His ways are in the sea, his paths in the great deeps; his footsteps are not known." His providence hath a prospect beyond the understanding of all creatures.
INFERENCE 1.-The providence of our God can, and often does overrule the counsels and actions of the worst of men for his own glory. It can serve itself by them that oppose it, and bring about the glory and honor of Christ by those very men and means which are designed to lay it in the dust. "Surely the wrath of man shall praise thee." Psalm 76: 10. The Jews thought, when they crowned Christ with thorns, bowed the knee and mocked him, led him to Golgotha and crucified him;
that now they had utterly despoiled him of all his kingly dignities; and yet even there he is proclaimed a King. Thus the dispersion of the Jews, upon the death of Stephen, spread the Gospel far and near, "For they went every where preaching the word." Acts, 8:4. Thus Paul's bonds for the Gospel fell out to the furtherance of the Gospel. Phil. 1: 12. Oh the depth of Divine wisdom! to propagate and establish the interest of Jesus Christ by those very means that seem to import its destruction! How great a support should this be to the faith of God's people, when all things seem to oppose their hopes and happiness! "Let Israel therefore hope in the Lord, for with the Lord there is mercy, and with him is plenteous redemption." Psalm 1307. He is never at a loss for means to promote his own ends.
2. The greatest services performed for Christ undesignedly, shall never be accepted nor rewarded of God. Pilate did that for Christ that not one of his own disciples at that time durst do; and yet this service was not accepted of God, because he did it not designedly for his glory, but from the mere overruling of Providence. "If there be first a willing mind, it is accepted according to that a man hath, saith the apostle." 2 Cor. 8:12. The eye of God is first and mainly upon the will; if that be sincere and right for God, small things will be accepted; and if not, the greatest shall be abhorred. So 1 Cor. 9: 17. "If I do this thing (that is, preach the Gospel) willingly, I have a reward; but if against my will, a dispensation is committed to me;" that is, if I, upon pure principles of faith and love, from my heart, designing the glory of God, and delighting to promote it by my ministry, cheerfully and willingly apply myself to the preaching of the Gospel, I shall have acceptance and reward with God; but if my work be a burden to me, and the service of God esteemed as a bondage,
Providence may use me for the dispensing of the Gospel to others, but I myself shall lose both reward and comfort. As it doth not excuse sin, that God can bring glory to himself out of it; so neither doth it justify an action, that God overrules it to his praise. Paul knew that even the strife and envy in which some preached Christ, should turn to his salvation; Phil. 1: 19; and yet he was not at all beholden to them for promoting his salvation that way. So Pilate here promotes the honor of Jesus Christ, to whom he had no love, and whose glory he did not at all design; and therefore hath neither acceptance nor reward with God. Oh then, whatever you do for Christ, do it heartily, designedly, for his glory; of a ready and willing mind; with pure and sincere aims, for this is acceptable with him.
3. Would not Pilate recede from what he had written on Christ's behalf? How shameful is it for christians to retract what they have said or done for Christ. Did Pilate say, "What I have written, I have written?" and shall not we say, What we have believed, we have believed; and what we have professed, we have professed? What we have engaged to Christ, we have engaged. As God's election, so your profession must be irrevocable. Oh let him that is holy be holy still. The counsel given by a reverend divine in this case, is both safe and good. "Be sure you stand on good ground, and then resolve to stand your ground against all the world. Follow God, and fear not men. Art thou godly? repent not, whatsoever thy religion cost thee. Let sinners repent, and let saints repent of their faults, but not of their faith; of their iniquities, but not of their righteousness. Repent not of your righteousness, lest you afterward repent of your repentance. Repent not of your zeal, or your forwardness, or activity in the holy ways of the Lord. Wish not yourselves a step further back, or a cubit lower in your stature in the grace of God. Wish
not any thing undone, concerning which God will say, Well done."
In Galen's time it was a proverbial expression, when any one would show the impossibility of a thing, You may as soon turn a christian from Christ as do it. A true heart-choice of Christ is without reserves, and what is without reserves will be without repentance. There is an obstinacy of spirit which is our sin. But this is our glory. In the matters of God, saith Luther, I assume this title, Cedo nulli, "I yield to none."
4. Remember when your hearts begin to startle at the sufferings and reproaches of Christ, there is an honorable title affixed to his cross. And as it was upon his, so it will be upon your cross also, if ye suffer for Christ. Moses saw it, which made him esteem the very reproaches of Christ above all the treasures of Egypt. Heb. 11:26. How did the martyrs glory in their sufferings for Christ! calling their chains of iron, chains of gold; and their manacles, bracelets.
It is related of Ludovicus Marsacus, a knight of France, that when he, with other christians of an infe rior rank, were condemned to die for religion, and the gaoler had bound them with chains, but did not bind him, being a more honorable person than the rest; he was displeased with the omission, and said, "Why do not you honor me also with a chain for Christ, and create me a knight of that illustrious order?"
"To you (saith the apostle) it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe, but also to suffer for his sake." Phil. 1:29. There is a twofold honor attending the cross of Christ; one in the very sufferings themselves; another, as the reward and fruit of them. To suffer for Christ is a great honor. Yea, an honor peculiar to the saints. The angels glorify Christ by their active, but not by their passive obedience. This is reserved as a special honor for saints."
And as there is honor in being called to suffer on Christ's account; so Christ will confer special honor upon his suffering saints, in the day of their reward; "He that confesseth me before men, him will I also con. fess before my Father which is in heaven." Matt. 10:32. O sirs, one of these days the Lord will come in the clouds of heaven, with a shout, accompanied with myriads of angels and ten thousands of his saints, those glittering courtiers of heaven. The heavens and earth shall flame and melt before him; and it shall be very tempestuous round about him; the graves shall open, the sea and earth shall yield up their dead. You shall see him ascending the awful throne of judgment, and all flesh gathered before his face; even multitudes, multitudes that no man can number. And then to be brought forth by Christ before that great assembly, and there to have an honorable mention and remembrance made of your labors and sufferings, your pains, patience, and self-denial, of all your sufferings and losses for Christ; and to hear from his mouth," Well done, good and faithful servant:" Oh what honor is this! Yet this shall be done to the man that now chooses sufferings for Christ, rather than sin; that esteems his reproach greater riches than the treasures of Egypt.
It is an honor the angels have not. I make no doubt but they would be glad (had they bodies of flesh as we have) to lay their necks on the block for Christ. But this is the saint's peculiar privilege. The apostles went away from the council rejoicing that they were honored to be dishonored for Christ; or, as we translate it, counted worthy to suffer shame for him." Acts, 5: 41. Surely, if there be any marks of honor," they are such as we receive for Christ's sake. If there be any shame that hath glory in it, it is the reproach of Christ, and the shame you suffer for his name.
5. Did Pilate so assert and defend the honor of Christ.