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The servants and common people then began to fall upon
him as a man already condemned; spitting upon him, buffetting him, and offering him all manner of rudeness and indignities; they blindfolded him, and some of the council, in order to ridicule him for having pretended to be the great Prophet, bid him exercise his prophetical gift, in declaring by whom he was smitten. Surely those miscreants could hardly invent any thing more expressive of the contempt in which they held our great Redeemer's pretensions to the Messiah.
Thus was the great Judge of all the earth placed at the bar of frail mortals, falsely accused by the witnesses, unjustly condemned by his judges, and barbarously insulted by all. Yet, because it was agreeable to the end of his coming, he patiently submitted, though he could with a frown, have made his judges, his accusers, and those who had him in custody, to expire in a moment, or utterly dwindle away.
Jesus is led before Pilate: Judas relents, carries back
the Money, and hangs himself: The Governor refuses to judge our blessed Saviour, declares him innocent, and sends him to Herod; who, after hearing
his Accusers, sends him back again. THE Saviour of the world, whom the whole Jewish nation, had so long expected, having been thus condemned by the Sanhedrim, they consulted together, and resolved to carry him before the governor, that he might likewise pass sentence on him. The Roman governors of Judea, generally resided at Cæsarea; but at the great feasts they came up to Jerusalem to prevent or suppress tumults, and to administer justice: it being a custom for the Roman governors of provinces, to visit the principal towns under their jurisdiction on this latter account. Pilate, being accordingly come to Jerusalem some time before the feast, had been informed, probably by Joseph of Arimathea, of the great ferment amongst the rulers, and the true character of the person on whose account it was raised; for he entertained a just notion of it: he knew that for envy they had delivered him. He knew the cause of their envy, was impressed with a favourable opinion of Jesus, and wished if possible, to deliver him from his vile persecutors, who sought to put him to death.
The Jewish council early in the morning brought Jesus to the hall of judgment, or governor's palace. They themselves, however, went not into the hall, but stood without, lest they should be rendered incapable of eating the passover, by being defiled.
Judas Iscariot, who had delivered his Master into the hands of the council, finding his project turned out very different from what he expected, was filled with the deepest remorse for what ho had done. He saw all his golden dreams of temporal honours and advantages, sunk at once to nothing: he saw his kind, his indulgent Master condemned, and forsaken by all his followers. He saw all this, and determined to make all the satisfaction in his power for the crime he had committed: accordingly, he came and confessed openly his sin before tlie chief priests and elders, offered them the money they had given him to commit it, and earnestly wished he could recal the fatal transaction of the preceding night. It seems he thought this was the most public testimony he could possibly give of his Master's innocence, and his own repentance: I have, said he, committed a most horrid crime, in betraying an innocent man to death. But this moving speech of Judas had no effect on the callous hearts of the Jewish rulers: they affirmed, that however they might think the prisoner innocent, and for that reason had sinned in bringing the sentence of death upon his head, they were not to blame; because they knew him a blasphemer, who deserved to die: What is that to us? said they, see thou to that. Nay, they even refused to take back the money they had given him as a reward for performing the base act of betraying his Master, who had descrved from hiin the best of treatment.
Convinced now, that it was not in his power to assist his Saviour, Judas's conscience, being stung with remorse, lashed him more furiously than before, suggesting thoughts, which by turns, made the deepest wounds in his soul. The incocence and benevolence of his Master, the many favours he himself had received from him, and the many kind offices he had done for the sons and daughters of affliction, crowded at once into his mind, and rendered his torment intolerable. He was, if we may be allowed the comparison, like one placed on the brink of the infernal lake. Racked with these agonizing passions, unable to support the misery, he threw down the wages of his iniquity in the temple, and confessing at the same time his own sin, and the innocence of his Master, went away in despair, and
hanged himself. Thus perished Judas Iscariot, the traitor, a miserable example of the fatal influence of covetousness, and a standing monument of divine vengeance, to deter future generations from acting in opposition to the dictates of conscience, through a love of the things of this world; for which this wretched mor tal betrayed his Master, his friend, his Saviour, and ac, cumulated such a load of guilt on himself as sunk his soul into the lowest pit of anguish and despondency. The people gathered up the pieces of silver, cast down by Judas, and delivered them to the priests, who, thinking it unlawful to put them into the treasury, because they were the wages of a traitor, agreed to lay them out in purchasing the potter's field, and to make it a common burial-place for strangers. This the evangelist tells us was done, that a particular prophecy relating to the Messiah might be fulfilled. And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the price of him that was valued, and gave them for the potter's field, as the Lord appointed me. This prophecy is found in Zachariah, but by a mistake of some copyist, the word Jeremy is inserted in the Greek manuscripts of St. Matthew's gospel: unless we suppose with the learned Grotius, that this remarkable prophecy was first made by Jeremiah, and afterwards repeated by the immediate direction of the Spirit, by Zechariab; and that therefore, the evangelist has only ascribed the prophecy to its original author: but however this be, the prophecy is remarkable, and was remarkably fulfilled; and the evangelist puts the truth of this part of the history beyond all manner of exception, by thus appealing to a public transaction.
We have before remarked, that the chic priests and elders refused to go themselves into the judgment-hall
, Jest they should contract some pollutions in the house of an Heathen, which would have rendered them unfit for eating the passover. The same reason also hindered them from entering the governor's palace on other festivals, when that magistrate attended in order to administer justice : kind of structure was therefore erected, adjoining to the palace, which served instead of a tribunal or judgment-seat. This structure, called in the Hebrew Ġabatha, was finely paved with small pieces of marble of different colours : being always exposed to the weather. Perhaps it resembled a stage, but larger, open on all sides, and on one part of it a throne was placed, whereon the governor sat to hear causes. One side of this structure joined to the palace, and a door was made in the wall, through which the governor passed to his tribunal. By this contrivance, the people might stand round the tribunal in the open air, hear and see the governor when he spake to them from the pavement, and observe the whole administration of jus. tice, without danger of being defiled either by him or any of his attendants.
The great Redeemer of mankind was brought before this tribunal: and the priests and elders having taken their places around the pavement, the governor ascended the judgment-seat, and asked them what accusation they brought against the prisoner? Though nothing could be more natural than for the governor to ask this question, yet the Jews thought themselves highly affronted by it. They probably knew his sentiments concerning the prisoner, and therefore considered his question as intended to insinuate, that they brought one to be condemned, against whom they could find no accusation. Pilate might indeed speak to them in a stern manner, and by that means sufficiently indicate his displeasure: but, however that be, the Jews haughtily answered, if he had not been a very great and extraordinary malefactor; we should not have given thee this trouble at all, much less at so unseasonable an hour as the present.
Jesus was then examined by Pilate, who finding he had not been guilty either of rebellion or sedition, but that he was accused of particulars relating to the religion and customs of the Jews, grew angry, and said, what are these things to me? Take his yourselves,