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some portion of the territory of Pilate, when they were surprised by this leader, and slain on the occasion which has now been presenting itself to our notice.
I conceive that sufficient has been now said to impart to us an adequate notion of the event alluded to in the first verse of our text. Proceed we now, therefore, to the consideration of the four last verses, which contain the reply which pur Saviour made in answer to the information which had been conveyed to him. These four verses, as we have already seen, are as follows: “ And Jesus answering said unto them, Suppose ye that these Galileans were sinners above all the Galileans, because they suffered such things ? I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish. Or those eighteen, upon whom the tower in Siloam fell, and slew them, think ye that they were sinners above all men that dwelt in Jerusalem ? I tell you, Nay: but except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.”
Now it is these four verses, containing the reply of our Divine Lord, to which it behoveth us more particularly to attend.
In this respect they very materially differ from that which precedes them, the consideration of which could have been of little use beyond the fact of its preparing our minds to comprehend, and fully to comprehend, the declarations which have fallen from the lips of the Divine Jesus. In the vast theatre of the world, the history of which, in some shape or other, is continually pre
senting itself to our notice, numberless are the cases, similar to that which we have been contemplating, which arrest the attention of the spectator, but which leave an impression only which is soon effaced, and which, even if it were more deeply engraven on the memory, would be of little avail in imparting to us such a knowledge of, and such an acquaintance with, facts as regards our condition as spiritual and immortal beings. Whether, to reason in the abstract, the conduct of the seditious Galileans were right, or whether it were wrong, is a question which cannot now, at this distance of time, be easily answered; and, even if it were possible to answer it in a satisfactory manner, little benefit would accrue to us in so doing, in respect of our spiritual and immortal condition, and of promoting our chances of everlasting happiness hereafter. If the Galileans were right, then were their persecutors wrong;
wrong, then were these right. In either case, we must condemn the conduct of a porition of our fellow creatures, and such an act, I repeat, can in no wise improve our spiritual condition, or enlarge our prospects of happiness in heaven. Far different, however, is it with this second portion of our text, which comprehends information which proceeded from the lips of Jesus, the only begotten Son of the eternal God. Such information, independently of the recital of any facts which may either precede or follow it, we may be assured is most essentially useful to all those who, being endowed with a reasonable soul, are naturally anxious that this soul should be rendered everlastingly happy rather than everlastingly miserable.
And more, I think, need not be said to induce you to give diligent heed to this second division of the text. By so doing, by the blessing of Almighty God, you may do that which may enable you, after this life is ended, to enter on a new life of immortality and bliss in the kingdom of heaven.
In the reply made by our Lord to his informants, he notices another catastrophe which had happened, in all probability a short time before, to certain inhabitants of Jerusalem : “Suppose ye that these Galileans were sinners above all the Galileans, because they suffered such things? Or those eighteen upon whom the tower in Siloam fell, and slew them, think ye that they were sinners above all men that dwelt in Jerusalem ? I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.”
The tower in Siloam was one of those numerous detached buildings which rose above the ordinary elevation of the city walls, and which was thus designated, in consequence of its proximity to a fountain and pool of the same name. It would appear,
from the mention of it made by our Saviour in the text, that this tower, by its unexpected fall, overwhelmed eighteen persons who happened at the moment to be standing by, and who, though in the midst of life, unexpectedly and without warning were sent headlong into eternity.
The foregoing catastrophes, therefore, according to our Saviour's explanation respecting them, prove
that these not uncommon fatal occurrences, which we are from time to time called upon to witness, are sent by Almighty God as punishments for the sins of mankind. They are sent either as direct punishments to the immediate sufferers, or as warnings to those who survive and behold them at a greater or less distance. The present remarks of our Lord remind us of the reply which the same Divine Person made to those who questioned him concerning one who had never been endowed with the gift of sight: “Who,” said they, “ hath sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind? Jesus answered, neither hath this man sinned nor his parents, but that the works of God might be made manifest in him." The truth, therefore, is, that though the numerous casualties which we experience or witness with our bodily senses, are sent by God as punishments for sin, yet is it not hence to be inferred that the actual and immediate sufferers are more sinful than those who have hitherto escaped. The Galileans, who were surprised and slaughtered by Pilate, were not sinners above other Galileans, even above those who told the tale of woe to our Lord; neither were those who were crushed to death by the sudden fall of the tower of Siloam sinners above all other men who dwelt in Jerusalem. If, however, as our Saviour positively asserts, they were not greater sinners than many others, it may naturally be asked, Were they less sinful than many who, up to the moment before us, had never been visited with the destructive power of the Almighty ? Such a question is reasonable, and suited to our present purpose, and is therefore deserving of a few moments' separate consideration.
In reply to this question, I think it may be correctly answered, that the sufferers who came under the notice of our Saviour were even less sinful than many who had hitherto never been visited by any outward manifestation of God's wrath. Many of them, indeed, may have committed offences of no trifling magnitude; but, for example, to suppose that every individual
among the eighteen on whom the tower of Siloam fell, was pre-eminent in sin, would be to entertain a notion contrary to any which could be authorized by our own ordinary experience. The poor blind sufferer, before alluded to, though deprived of a blessing, the possession of which is so essential to the due enjoyment of life, was most assuredly as free from sin as human nature possibly could be, or at least usually was at the period in which he lived. - And oftentimes does our own personal experience furnish us with instances of those who though their sufferings and privations be great, yet are they remarkable for their meekness and benevolence, and their comparative freedom from guilt.
From such and similar considerations, therefore, we can only infer that the objects of God's visitations are not always selected from the most sinful among his creatures. Nay, on the other hand, are we well warranted in believing that these visitations come in mercy as well as in judgment. According