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respond with the character here given. Whatever they may profess, they are not his: they may call themselves Christians; but he calls them traitors, rebels, enemies.]
1. Those who never yet submitted to Christ's government
[Whose are ye? There are but two monarchs, who divide the whole world between them; and these are, Christ and Satan. If then you have never been smitten with that two-edged sword, the word of truth;" if you have never been so deeply wounded, that nothing but the "balm of Gilead" could heal you; if you have never cast down the arms of your rebellion, and surrendered up yourselves to Christ, we must say of you, as Christ himself did of the Jews, "Ye are of your father the devil"." And if you are Satan's vassals, from whom, and with whom, must you expect your reward? Let this question come home to your hearts; and choose ye this day whose ye will be, and whom ye will serve°.”]
2. Those who are afraid to yield themselves up to Christ
[Alas! that any should be deterred by fear or shame from acknowledging Christ; when he braved even the most cruel death, rather than deny the office which he bore for us! What can be your loss or pain, when compared with his? What is the contempt poured upon you, when compared with the accursed death of the cross to which he submitted for your sakes? Perhaps you expect to be acknowledged as his subjects, though you shun the odium of acknowledging him as your king. But this cannot be; for those who deny him shall be denied by him; and those only who confess him, shall be confessed by him in the presence of his Father, and of his holy angels P.]
3. Those who call themselves his subjects
[What our heavenly King said of himself, may be fitly applied to all his subjects; "For this end were ye born, and for this cause came ye into the world, that ye should bear witness unto the truth." Ye are to be God's witnesses in the world: "ye are to be as lights," and "as a city set on a hill." Let it appear then that "the truth has made you free." Let it be seen in you, that truth will rectify, not only the errors of the mind, but the propensities of the heart; and that, when it is "mighty through God, it will bring every thought and desire into captivity to the obedience of Christ'."]
n John viii. 44. 4 John viii. 32. VOL. XIV.
• Josh. xxiv. 14.
P Matt. x. 32, 33.
PILATE'S INQUIRY ABOUT TRUTH.
John xviii. 38. Pilate saith unto him, What is truth? THE rich and powerful are for the most part under great disadvantages for the attainment of religious knowledge. Their appointed teachers too often "prophesy smooth things to them;" and those who would deal faithfully with their consciences, are kept at a distance from them. Their dispositions and habits also are generally unfavourable for the reception of truth and hence it is, that if they have an opportunity of gaining instruction, they rarely avail themselves of it, so as to derive any essential benefit to their souls 2. Herod heard John the Baptist; but "knew not how to use the price put into his hand." Festus, and Agrippa, and Felix were variously affected with the preaching of Paul; but no one of them was savingly converted unto God. Pilate, as governor of Judæa, had Christ himself brought before him, for the express purpose of inquiring into his pretensions to the kingdom of Israel: and when our Lord had informed him what kind of a kingdom it was that he claimed, and that he came into the world to bear witness to the truth, Pilate asked him, "What is truth?" Happy man, who made such an inquiry; and who had One before him so capable of giving him instruction respecting it! Surely this man could not fail of being saved. But, alas! he waited not for an answer. We do not apprehend that he put the question contemptuously, as though he had said,
Why do you talk to me about truth?" The notice which the Evangelist takes of his question, gives us reason to think that it was intended seriously; though the event shewed, that he was not sufficiently anxious to obtain the information which he had professed to desire. However, the question was important; and, had his mind been duly impressed with its importance, we should have had to number him among the
a 1 Cor. i. 26.
followers, rather than the enemies, of that despised Nazarene.
For our present improvement, we shall endeavour
I. The importance of the inquiry
Truth is of various kinds, physical, moral, and religious. By physical truth, we mean that which comprehends all the phenomena of nature: and by moral truth, that which relates to the whole system of morals, independent of religion. That an inquiry into these is important, appears from its having been the employment of all wise men from the beginning of the world; and from the value that has been set even on the smallest measures of truth which have, by means of the most patient and laborious investigations, been at any time brought to light. But religious truth, and that especially of which our Lord came to testify, is, beyond all comparison, more important than any other. What that truth is, we will state in few words. The point upon which our blessed Lord was examined before the Jewish council, was, "Art thou the Christ?" and that before Pilate, was, "Art thou the King of the Jews?" To both of these he answered in the affirmative, "I am." Now these two points comprise all that truth, respecting which our blessed Lord came to testify: first, He is the anointed Saviour of the world; and, secondly, He is the King and Governor of all whom he saves. This is truth: this is the sum and substance of the Gospel: there is nothing connected with the justification, the sanctification, or the complete and everlasting salvation of mankind, which is not comprehended in this. Consequently, an inquiry into this must be of the very first importance.
It is important,
1. For the forming of our principles
[Man without a principle is like a ship without a rudder, driven by every wave of temptation, and every gust of passion.
Compare Acts ii. 36. where these two points, that "Jesus is both Lord and Christ," are spoken of precisely in this view.
He has nothing whereby to judge of good and evil in matters of the greatest moment; no standard, to which he can refer a doubtful opinion; no touchstone, by which he can try a spe
But whither can a man go for the forming of his principles? If he apply to heathen philosophers, he finds nothing fixed, nothing certain, nothing wherein they are generally agreed. Even the question, "What is the chief good of man?" he finds unsettled; and can obtain no clew that can lead him to any definite judgment.
But in the Gospel, all his doubts are solved. There he sees, that love to Christ as his Saviour, and obedience to him as his King, are to be the main-spring, which must set every wheel in motion. Whatever accords with the principle of love to him, and with the rule of his revealed will, is good; and whatever deviates from the one or other, even if it be only an hair's breadth, is wrong. To this standard every feeling of the heart, and every expression of it in act, may be referred; and, if rightly referred, its true nature and quality will be infallibly determined.]
2. For the regulating of our conduct
[As the principles of the greatest philosophers were involved in doubt and uncertainty, so were they altogether destitute of any sanctifying influence: they wrought no change on the morals of men; they produced no consistent change even on their own morals. Even Christianity itself, if there be not a direct and constant reference in the mind to that particular truth spoken of in the text, will not prevail to the renovating of the soul. Of this we have decisive evidence in the lives of nominal Christians; who, though they have a higher standard of morals than the heathen, are strangers to that heavenliness of mind, which characterizes a real saint.
But the knowledge of this truth will bring, not the actions only, but even "the thoughts, into captivity to the obedience of Christ." The truth, cordially embraced, will operate as fire on metal, pervading the whole soul, and transforming it, as it were, into its own image.]
3. For the saving of the soul—
[Whatever God may do in a way of uncovenanted mercy, (respecting which, as there is nothing revealed, it were presumptuous to speak;) men ignorant of the Gospel are invariably represented as in a state of guilt and condemnation. "If our Gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost." Indeed, the very circumstance of "Christ's coming into the world on
See the want and the attainment of it contrasted. Eph. iv 17-24.
purpose to bear witness to the truth," and his submitting to the accursed death of the cross in confirmation of that truth, is proof sufficient, that the knowledge of the truth is essential to our happiness, and that every living creature is bound to inquire into it.]
The objects and reasons of our inquiry being thus defined, we proceed to notice,
II. The manner in which it should be made
Here Pilate was greatly defective: and, in marking his defects, we are unavoidably led to notice the manner in which such an inquiry should be made : it should be made,
1. With seriousness
[Some will inquire about religion with as much levity as if it were quite a trifling concern: they have nothing in view but the gratifying of their curiosity. They resemble the Jews who came to converse with Paul when he was a prisoner at Rome; "We desire to hear of thee what thou thinkest:" or those who ridiculed the doctrine of the resurrection; "We will hear thee again of this mattere:" or those foolish women, of whom we read, that they were ever learning, but never able to come to the knowledge of the truth." But religion is a serious matter; and in our inquiries respecting it we should remember, that on our acceptance or rejection of the truth our everlasting welfare depends
2. With candour
[While some are light and trifling, others make inquiries only that they may carp and cavil at the word. Such were the Herodians, the Sadducees, and Pharisees of old, who brought forth their respective difficulties, merely to ensnare Jesus, and entangle him in his talk: and such were those also, who "urged him vehemently to speak of many things, that they might find something whereof to accuse him." But we should rather imitate the Beræans, who, instead of determining at once that all which they heard from time to time was folly and delusion, "searched the Scriptures daily, to find whether things were as they had been represented to them” — — —-]
3. With humility
[There are many things revealed to us in the Gospel which are contrary to the generally prevailing opinions of
d Acts xxviii. 22. e Acts xvii. 32.
f 2 Tim. iii. 7.
h Luke xi. 53, 54.