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who is he that smote thee? And many other things blasphemously spake they against him.
At length, after a delay of several hours, occasioned, probably, by the absence of some members of the council, the court being duly constituted, and the prisoner placed at the bar, the trial began about break of day. The high-priest commenced his proceedings by inquiring concerning his disciples and his doctrine; why he had collected the one, and what were the peculiar characteristics of the other. All this was done to draw from him, if possible, an explicit declaration, whether or not he was the Messiah; that if he acknowledged he was not, he might be punished for accepting the honours that were due only to that illustrious character; and that if he laid claim to the title, he might be condemned as a blasphemer. Justly deeming that every attempt to make a prisoner condemn himself was unjtist, our Lord called upon them to prove their accusation by witnesses, alleging that if it were well founded, this might easily be done, as he had constantly taught in the temple. An officer that stood by, hearing him give such an answer to the high-priest, smote him with the palm of the hand, as one that did not sufficiently reverence the sacerdotal dignity. Christ replied, if I have spoken evil, bear witness of the evil, by shewing wherein it consists; but if well, why smitest thou me?
When the council found that Jesus would not thus furnish them with an opportunity to condemn him, they sought false witness against him, that they might put him to death. For a long time they were unsuccessful, as the testimonies of those who came forward would not agree with each other. At length, there came two false witnesses, who asserted that this fellow, as they vilely denominated our Lord, said, I am able to destroy the temple of God, this temple that is made with hands, and to build in three days another temple made without hands. They did not exactly agree even in this testimony; but the judges before whom they spoke gladly accepted their evidence, being before determined to crucify the Lord of Glory. The accusation which was now preferred was a mis-statement and misinterpretation of what Christ said when he had purged the temple at the first passover. Destroy this temple, pointing, probably, to his body, and I will raise it up in three days. The variations in the statement were principally these two, that Christ never said that he would destroy this temple, but that when the Jews destroyed it, he would rebuild it in three days; and that he spoke concerning the temple of his body, and not the temple of Jerusalem. To this accusation our Lord, when called upon by the high-pries, made no reply, upoa which the council desired him to tell them plainly whether he was the Christ. He answered, if I tell you ye will not believe, and if I also ask you, i. e. propose the proofs of my mission, and require you to give your opinion of them, ye will not answer me, nor let me go. The high-priest, therefore, to cut the trial short, and ensnare Jesus, obliged him, upon oath, to tell whether or no he was the Christ. And Jesus, who could no longer refuse to answer, said, I am. Nevertheless, or as it ought rather to be rendered, moreover, I say unto you, though I have here appeared clothed in the weakness of humanity, hereafter ye shall see the Son of man si ting on the right hand of the power of God, and coming in the clouds of heaven to judge the nations of the earth. Then said they all, a number of them crying out together, as in great astonishment at his blasphemy, art thou then the Son of God? And he said unto them, ye say that I am, which, in the Jewish mode of speaking, was a strong affirmation. When the highpriest heard our Lord's second reply, he solemnly rent his clothes, which he was not allowed to do in cases of common grief, crving out that he had spoken blasphemy, and appealing to the council that they needed no further ...ess. With this the countil fully agreed, and immediately condemned him as deserving of death.
Then did Christ suffer a severe and cruel buffetting, similar to, if not the same as, that which we have already described. Thus, as it is excellently observed, was the judge of the world placed at the bar of his own creatures, 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 ho could, with a frown, have made his judges, his accusers, and those who had him in custody, all to drop down dead in a moment, or shrivel into nothing.
The priests and elders having thus condemned Jesus, consulted together again, and resolved to carry him before the governor loaded with chains, that he, likewise, might give sentence upon him. It happened very conveniently for their purpose that the governor was now at Jerusalem, on account of the concourse of people that assembled at the feast, as otherwise they must have gone to Cesarea with him, as it was there the chief magistrate usually resided; and they had not the power themselves of executing any sentence which concerned life and death. It was now early in the morning, and they themselves did not enter into the judgment hall, lest they should receive any pollution that might disqualify them for eating the passover.
In the mean time, Judas Iscariot, finding his project turn out quite otherwise than he expected, was pierced with the deepest remorse on account of what he had done. Therefore, to make some reparation for the injury, he came and confessed his sin openly before the chief priests, scribes, and elders; and, as the most decisive testimony he could give of his Master's innocence, and of his own repentance, desired them to take back the wages of his iniquity. They would not, however, either reverse their sentence, or receive the money; so that, stung with the most bitter recollection of his guilt, he cast down the thirty pieces of silver, and went and hanged himself. Comparing the account of the evangelist Matthew with that of the apostle Peter, in the first chapter of Acts, it is highly probable, that he chose for his desperate purpose a tree which grew on the brink of a precipice; and that either the branch of the tree, or the rope with which he was suspended, giving way, he fell down, and, with the violence of the fall, burst asunder, and his bowels gushed out. Thus perished Judas Iscariot, a miserable example of the fatal influence of covetousness, and a standing monument of the divine vengeance; fit to deter succeeding generations from acting contrary to conscience through the love of the world, for which this wretch betrayed his Master, and cast away his soul. The thirty pieces of silver were appropriated, by the priests, to buy the potters' field, as a place of interment for strangers. This transaction fulfilled a prophecy which is found in Zechariah, (though by an easy mistake of a transcriber, in consequence of their contracted manner of writing proper names in greek, it is said to be spoken by Jeremy,) saying, "And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the price of him that was valued, whom they of the children of Israel did value, and gave them for the potters' field, as the Lord appointed me." The historians mentioning the purchase of the potters' field with the money for which Judas betrayed his Master, being a public appeal to a very public transaction, puts the truth of this part of the history beyond all manner of exception.
Jesus being carried into the palace, and the priests, with the multitude, having taken their station without, Pilate began by asking them what accusation they had to offer against the prisoner. They, either wishing to extol their own regard to justice, and their extreme unwillingness to punish any of their countrymen, or else to insinuate that the governor had conceived an improper partiality for him, answered, if he were not a malefactor, we would not have delivered him up unto thee. Then said Pilate unto them, take ye him, and judge him according to your law, since it is not likely that he has committed any greater crime than the laws of Cæsar permit you to punishi.
But the priests peremptorily refused this proposal, because it condemned the whole of their procedure; and told him that it was not lawful for them to put any man_to death; by which they insinuated that the prisoner was guilty of a capital crime, that he deserved the highest punishment, and that none but the governor himself could give judgment in the cause. The evangelist observes, that the Jews were directed thus to speak and act, that there might be an accomplishment of the divine counsels concerning the manner of our Lord's death, of which counsels Jesus himself had given frequent intimations in the course of his ministry.
Pilate being obliged to proceed to the trial, the Jews began, and accused Jesus of perverting the nation, and forbidding to give tribute to Cæsar, resting their accusation upon this, that he gave himself out to be Christ, a king. Then Pilate entered the judgment hall again, and called Jesus, and enquired of him whether this charge was just. Jesus answered him, dost thou ask this question of thy own accord, because thou thinkest that I have affected regal power?, or dost thou ask it according to the information of the priests, who affirm that I have acknowledged myself to be a king? Pilate answered, am I a Jew? and consequently acquainted with your opinions and practices? Thine own nation, and the chief priests, have delivered thee unto me as a seditious person; what hast thou done to merit this charge? Jesus answered, my kingdom is not of this world; if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now it is evident that my kingdom is not from hence. Pilate, therefore, said unto him, art thou a king then? Jesus answered, in the Hebrew "tyle of affirmation, thou sayest that I am a king; and though I am now pleading at the peril of my life, I will not deny the charge; for to this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. My disciples are instructed in the like doctrine; for every one that is of the truth heareth my voice. This is what Paul calls the good confession which he tells Timothy Jesus witnessed before Pontius Pilate. Christ's assuming the title of king does not appear, when thus explained, to have offended Pilate, who, probably, compared him to the wise man represented by the Stoics as having arrived at the royal dignity by the complete government of his passions and desires; he therefore only asked, what is this truth you profess to teach? and, without waiting for an answer, went out again to the Jews, and saith unto them, I do not find the least fault in the man you have thus bitterly accused; he appears to me, on the contrary, to be a very harmless and unoffending character.
Neither disconcerted nor abashed by this declaration of Pilate, the priests persisted In their accusations with more vehemence than before, affirming that he had attempted to raise a seditiou in Galilee. They artfully mentioned. Galilee to inflame Pilate, who, they knew, was prejudiced against the people of that country. To this heavy charge Jesus made no answer at all. Nay, he continued mute, notwithstanding the governor expressly required him to speak in his own defence. A conduct so extraordinary in such circumstances astonished Pilate exceedingly; for he was ignorant of the divine counsels, which were then hastening to an accomplishment.
In the mean time, desirous to get rid of the affair, wishing to conciliate the respect of Herod, and believing that prince to be the best judge concerning an affair which is said to have happened within his province, he sent Jesus to him immediately, as he happened then to be at Jerusalem. The king, who had for a long time desired to see Jesus, rejoiced at this opportunity; for he hoped to have had the pleasure of seeing him work some miracle or other. Nevertheless, because Herod had apostatized from the doctrine of John the Baptist, and had put his teacher to death, Jesus, liberal as he was of his miracles to the poor and afflicted, would not work them to gratify the
curiosity of a tyrant, nor so much as answer one of his questions, though he proposed many to him Herod, finding himself thus disappointed, ordered Christ to be clothed with an old robe, in colour ke those which kings used to wear, and permitted his attendants to insult him, and to ridicule his pretensions to the dignity of Messiah. He would not, however, condemn him, being, perhaps, unwilling to increase the remorse which he already felt on account of the murder of the Baptist. And the same day Herod and Pilate were made friends together; for before this they were at enmity between themselves.
As at former passovers, the governor had obliged the people by releasing any one prisoner whom they pleased from confinement, the crowd which was gathered together began now to desire that they might again experience this favour. There was then in custody a notorious villain, whose name was Barabbas, one who had excited a sedition, in the course of which he had committed murder. Pilate, glad of this opportunity, told the multitude that he was ready to comply with the established custom, and would therefore release either Jesus or Barabbas; but as the former had not had even the charge of murder brought against him, he wished rather that he might be the object of mercy. Pilate is said to have done this, because he had been informed by some of the friends of our Lord that the chief priests had delivered him from motives of envy. While these things were doing, the governor received a message from his wife, who happened to be with him in Jerusalem, and who had had a dream that morning about Jesus, which gave her so great uneasiness, that she could have no rest till she sent an account of it to her husband. The people had not yet said whether they would have Jesus or Barabbas released to them. Therefore, when Pilate received his wife's message, he called the chief priests and the rulers together and, in the hearing of the multitude, made a speech to them, wherein he gave an account of the examination which Jesus had undergone at his tribunal, and at Herod's; and declared that, in both courts, the trial had turned out honourably to his character. Wherefore, he proposed to them that he should be the object of the peoples' favour, after having received some chastisement, which might save his prosecutors from the disgrace of having conducted a frivolous and vexatious suit. But the chief priests and elders persuaded the multitude that they should ask Barabbas, and destroy Jesus. And they cried out all at once, saying, away with this man, lead him to immediate crucifixion, and release unto us Barabhas. Pilate having again pressed them to prefer Jesus to sc abandoned a villain, they began to cry out the more exceedingly, crucify him, crucify him. Finding it, therefore, in vain to struggle with them any longer, he called for a bason of water, and washed his hands before the multitude, crying out at the same time, that the prisoner was a just man, and that he was innocent of his blood. Whether this was done in conformity to Jewish or heathen customs, it was a striking appeal both to the senses and consciences of the multitude; and they acknowledged it to he such, by replying, his blood be upon us and on our children-an imprecation, the weight of which lies heavy on the Jewish nation to this day, and has been awfully fulfilled in a long succession of dreadful calamities. The governor, finding by the cound of the cry that it was general, and that the people were fixed in their determination, passed the sentence which they desired.
The Romans usually scourged the criminals whom they condemned to be crucified; with this custom Pilate complied, and his orders were executed with rigour, and probably in the presence of the Jews.
The soldiers having received orders to crucify Jesus, carried him into the prætorium after they had scourged him. Here they added the shame of disgrace to the bitterness of his punishment; for, sore as he was, by reason of the stripes they had laid on him.
they dressed him as a fool in an old purple robe, in derision of his being king of the Jews. Then they put a reed into his hand instead of a sceptre; and, having made a wreath of thorns, they put it on his head for a crown, forcing it down in such a rude manner, that his temples were torn, and his face besmeared with blood. To the Son of God, in this condition, the rude soldiers bowed the knee, pretending respect; but, at the same time, gave him severe blows, which drove the prickles of the wreath afresh into his temples, then spit upon him, to express the highest contempt of him. The sight of the sufferings of Jesus so far excited the compassion of Pilate, that he determined to make another effort to procure his liberation. With this view, therefore, he resolved to carry him out, a 'spectacle which might have softened the most envenomed, obdurate, enraged enemies. And that the impression might be the stronger, he went out himself and spake to them. [John xix. 4.] Pilate, therefore, went forth again, and saith unto them, behold, I bring him forth to you that ye may know that I find no fault in him. Though I have sentenced him to die, and have scourged him that is to be crucified, I bring him forth to you this once, that I may testify to you again how fully I am persuaded of his innocence; and that ye may yet have an opportunity to save his life. Upon this, Jesus appeared upon the pavement, having his face, hair, and shoulders, all covered with blood, and the purple robe bedawbed with spittle. But that the sight of Jesus in this distress might make the greater impression upon the multitude, Pilate, while he was coming forward, cried, Behold the man! as if he said, will nothing make you relent? have you no bowels, no feelings of pity? can you bear to see the innocent thus injured? Perhaps, also, the soldiers were allowed to mock and buffet him anew on the pavement before the multitude for though the Jews would not take pity on Jesus as a person urjustly condemned, yet, when they saw one of their countrymen insulted by heathens, it was natural for the governor to think, that their national pride being provoked, they would have demanded his release out of spite. But all was to no purpose. The priests, whose rage and malice had extinguished, not only the sentiments of justice and feelings of pity natural to the human heart, but that love which countrymen bear to one another, no sooner saw Jesus, than they began to fear the fickle populace might relent. And, therefore, laying decency aside, they led the way to the mob, crying out with all their might, crucify him! crucify him! The governor, vexed to find the grandees thus obstinately bent on the destruction of an innocent person, fell into a passion, and told them plainly, that if they would have him crucified, they must do it themselves, because he would not suffer his people to murder a man who was guilty of no crime. But they refused this also, thinking it dishonourable to receive permission to punish one whom his judge considered as undeservedly condemned; and perhaps, thinking that Pilate might afterwards accuse them of sedition, for executing a sentence themselves which they had extorted from the governor by the vehemence of their clamour. Wherefore, they told him, that as Jesus had spoken blasphemy m calling himself the Son of God, they had a law handed down to them by their ancestors, and originally received from God, by which such offenders were adjudged
When Pilate heard that Jesus called himself the Son of God, he was more perplexed than ever, beginning to apprehend, from the comparison of this declaration with the reports he had frequently received, that he might really be some demigod, or some deity in human shape, such as his religion taught him had, in many instances, appeared. He therefore resolved to proceed cautiously; and, going again into the judgment hall, saith unto Jesus, whence art thou? art thou a mortal man, or the offspring of the immortal gods? But Jesus gave him no answer, lest Pilate should