« PreviousContinue »
To how great a pitch of wickedness must the chief priests and elders have arrived, when they dared to proceed in their persecution of Christ, after so public an acknowledgment of his innocence by the
very person who had betrayed him! Instances have occurred in which judges, misled by false appearances or for want of a thorough knowledge of the subje&, have punished the innocent and let the guilty go free: in every such case, whereever it has appeared that the ignorance of the judge, who presumed to pass sentence, has proceeded from inattention and a want of due application to the evidence produced, the whole world has joined in condemning him as unworthy of the important office: what, then, muft those have to answer for, and how infinitely greater must be their guilt, who persecute the innocent, knowing them to be so? Judas's idol, as I have before had occasion to observe, was wealth ; at whose shrine he sacrificed honor, conscience, and every virtue which adorns human nature: this hardened his heart against the gentle admonition of his Lord, conveyed in the words, “ Judas, betrayest thou the Son of man with a kifs ?” May his wretched case prove a warning to us, to avoid covetousness and inattention to the admonitions of our own consciences! as by them Christ speaks to us, as he did to Judas when he betrayed him. How foon was this dear-bought and ill-gotten wealth cast from him with abhorrence!
Self-destru&ion is a crime, of all others, the most dreadful; as it cannot be repented of, and the Gospel threatens the heaviest punishment against unrepented fins. God, who
gave us life, and who knows what is best for us, has alone the right to put a period to it. How great, then, is the presumption of those who, ufurping his prerogative, dare to rush into their Maker's presence uncalled! Dreadful, indeed, must be their situation, who, when the Almighty in mercy sends down great afflictions on them, for the purpose of bringing them to a sense of their danger and of reclaim
ing their wandering steps, instead of sanctifying them to the end designed, resist his fatherly correction, and, to escape from it, plunge themselves, by wilful and
premeditated self-murder, into tenfold guilt! It not unfrequently, however, happens, that events of this nature are produced by disorders ; particularly, those which prey upon the spirits : in this case, the parties can be considered as no more answerable than for any other acts which delirium, the consequence of a raging fever, or insanity, may cause them to commit; and are objects of compassion, inftead of condemnation. Let those, therefore, who are of a meek and timid dispofition, guard themselves against habitual melancholy, or despair: for when our foe finds we are not to be allured from our duty, he endeavors to distract and interrupt us in our most earnest desires of serving and obeying God. This is one of our severest trials; but, even this, we may be assured of overcoming, if we will apply to Him for assistance; who is both willing and able to carry us safe through all difficulties and dangers, till we arrive at the place of the blessed, there to dwell with him for ever and ever.
Ready as we are to condemn the traitor Judas, there are too many (I fear) who pretend to repentance, without advancing fo near towards it as even he did: let them not deceive themselves. How can they expect to have their repentance accepted who retain the wages of iniquity, and refuse to acknowledge the injuries they have done to others ? such penitence is a mere pretence; by which they may, indeed, impose upon their fellow-creatures, nay, perhaps upon themselves, but can be of no avail in the sight of God.
“ 28. Then led they Jesus from Caiaphas unto the hall of Judgment : and " it was early; and they themselves went " not into the judgment-hall, left they " should be defiled; but that they might
eat the Passover."
Although the Jews were at this very time engaged in the most iniquitous persecution ever known, endeavoring by means of false witnesses to shed innocent blood, yet these same people scrupled to enter the Judgment-hall, where all this premeditated mischief and villany was to be transacted, • left they should be defiled,' and unfit to eat the Passover. Nothing can more strongly prove what I have observed before, that they only attended to the ceremonial part of their religion, omitting the weightier matters of the law-judgment, mercy,
and truth; and were, as our Lord upon another occasion calls them, “whited
fepulchres, beautiful without, but within “ full of corruption and all uncleanness."
Pilate then went out unto them, " and said, What accusation bring ye against this man?
30. They answered and said unto him, If he were not a malefactor, we “ would not have delivered him up unto