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mankind: " they are even foolishness unto the natural man ; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned." In order to understand them aright, we must receive them simply on the authority of God; and conclude them to be true, because he has revealed them. We must beg of him "the gift of his Holy Spirit, that we may know the things which are freely given to us of God:" for then only shall we know him, when he gives us an understanding to know him," and reveals his dear Son in our hearts as the hope of glory. If we are so wise that we will not seek instruction from him, God will "take us in our own craftiness"———]
4. With diligence
[It is not a transient or superficial inquiry that will suffice: we must "search for wisdom, and dig for her as for hid treasures." We must not presently give over the pursuit, because we find that we have not yet attained: the promise is, "Then shall ye know, if ye follow on to know the Lord." There are in the Gospel heights and depths which cannot be explored: and therefore, however deep our acquaintance may be with this stupendous mystery, we should still "not count ourselves to have attained," but continue to "give attendance to reading," and to pray with unabated fervour, "Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law!" -]
5. With a determination to embrace whatever we may find to be agreeable to the mind and will of God
[This is the main point: "If we will do God's will, we shall know of the doctrine whether it be of him." If we will not receive the truth in the love of it, God will give us over to believe a lie, in order to our more aggravated condemnation. To receive it speculatively will be to no purpose: for it were better to be wholly ignorant of it, than to "hold it in unrighteousness," or turn from it after having once professed to embrace it –
[As Pilate asked of Jesus, "What is truth?" so you are come hither professedly to make the same inquiry. Behold then, in Christ's stead we answer your inquiry: This is truth; that Jesus is the Christ; and that his people look unto him as the Saviour of the world. This is truth; that Jesus is also the King of Israel; and that all who are his, submit to his government Now go not away, as Pilate did, regard
i 2 Thess. ii. 10-12.
k Rom. i. 18. Heb. vi. 4-6. 2 Pet. ii. 21.
less of your own question; but reflect upon it; importance; meditate on the answer given to it; your own hearts, how far you understand it you feel it
consider its and examine
and how far your lives are conformed to "If you know the truth, it will make you free :" but if it do not "sanctify you" in this world, it can never profit you in the world to come."]
PILATE'S FURTHER ATTEMPT TO SAVE JESUS.
John xix. 5. Then came Jesus forth, wearing the crown of thorns, and the purple robe. And Pilate saith unto them, Behold the man!
IT is common to speak of our fallen nature as altogether corrupt, and destitute of any good thing. But this must be understood with caution: for though it is true that there is nothing really and spiritually good in the natural man, (as Paul says, " In me, that is, in my flesh, dwelleth no good thing,") yet there is a principle of conscience, which, in proportion as it is enlightened, deters men from evil, and prompts them to what is good. Of this we have many examples in the Holy Scriptures; and a very striking one in the passage before us. Pilate was persuaded in his mind that Jesus was innocent, and therefore could not endure the thought of putting him to death. He strove by every means in his power to pacify those who sought his life: a great many different times he bore witness to his innocence; and, when that would not succeed, he laboured in a variety of ways to release him. He offered to inflict upon him the punishment of scourging, under the idea that his enemies would be satisfied with that: and now, after having inflicted that punishment, and permitted him to be treated with every species of indignity, he had recourse to one more device, in hopes that he should at last prevail upon them to spare him. He brought forth Jesus, arrayed as he was in mock majesty, and his face defiled with blood and spitting; and said unto the people, "Behold the man!"
This may be viewed,
I. As a political expedient—
Pilate, not daring absolutely to refuse the demands of the Jews, yet still bent on effecting the release of Jesus, had recourse to this,
1. To excite their pity
[He well knew that the most savage heart, however insensible to the cries of misery when heard only at a distance, is apt to relent, when the suffering object is presented before the eyes. He therefore set Jesus before them in this state; hoping thereby, that they would be moved with compassion at the sight of his unmerited distresses. Pilate's address to them was probably to this effect: "Behold the man whose crucifixion you have demanded: I have already repeatedly told you that I could find in him nothing worthy of death: but, as I take for granted that you have some cause for your complaints, I have examined him by scourging; yet I am still constrained to renew my testimony, that I can find in him no fault at all. Supposing however that he has in some respect offended against your law, I can assure you he has already suffered severely for it; and therefore I hope you will be satisfied, without urging me to proceed any further against him. Look, and see what a pitiable object he is: and let your anger give way to the nobler sentiments of pity and compassion.'
Well might Pilate adopt this expedient, because Christ himself is represented as pleading in this very manner with his relentless persecutors, though, alas! without attaining the object of his desires ".]
2. To shame their enmity
[The nation had accused Jesus of stirring up rebellion in the land. Now Pilate hoped, that a sight of him in his present deplorable state would convince them, that there was nothing to fear from him on this head: for the meekness with which he had borne all his sufferings shewed clearly, that he was not of a turbulent disposition; and the circumstance of his not having a single friend or partisan to speak for him, proved, that, whatever his inclination might be, he had not the power to do harm. "Look at him," we may suppose Pilate to say: 66 see what a contemptible appearance he makes! Is this a man of whom the whole nation has cause to be afraid? Is this a man of whose power and influence you need to be so jealous, that you cannot rest till he is put to death? Supposing that he has
had some influence, what will he have in future? Only let him alone, and in a little time it will scarce be known that such a poor despised creature exists."
Such were the arguments with which David had repeatedly appeased the murderous wrath of Saul. And Pilate might reasonably hope that they would have weight, especially when addressed to them by the judge and governor, whose exclusive duty it was to watch over the interests of the state. But, alas! the chief priests and scribes, who had acted covertly before, now took the lead in clamour and tumult, and bore down all before them. Nothing but the crucifixion of Jesus would satisfy them; and they gave Pilate to understand, that, if he did not comply with their wishes in this respect, they would denounce him as an enemy to Cæsar, and a traitor to his own country d.]
There is yet another view in which we may regard the words of Pilate; namely,
II. As a prophetic intimation
It is well known that Caiaphas, when intending nothing himself but to recommend the execution of Jesus as necessary for the good of the state, unwittingly uttered a prophecy respecting the saving benefits of his death, and that not to the Jews only, but to all the world. Now the words of Pilate bear much more of a prophetic aspect than those of Caiaphas, since they accord with many acknowledged prophecies, not in spirit merely, but almost in the express terms. Moreover, Pilate's wife had had somewhat of a revelation respecting Jesus that very morning, and had sent word of it to Pilate, whilst he was yet upon the seat of judgment: and he himself had invariably, and with great constancy, borne testimony to the innocency of Jesus: so that his words on this occasion might well bear that kind of construction which God himself has taught us to put upon the words of Caiaphas. But, as the Scripture affirms nothing respecting this, so neither do we: we may however, with great propriety, put these words into
c 1 Sam. xxiv. 14. and xxvi. 20.
e John xi. 49-52.
d ver. 6, 12.
f Isai. xl. 9. and xlv. 22. and lxv. 1. and Zech. xii. 10.
the mouth of a Christian preacher, and take occasion from them to lead you to the
CONTEMPLATION of your suffering Lord. I say then, "Behold the man!" Behold him,
1. To engage your confidence
[To a superficial inquirer, all these humiliating circumstances would appear to justify a doubt whether Jesus were the Son of God. But to one who examines thoroughly the prophecies relating to him, these very circumstances afford the most satisfactory proof that he was indeed the Christ. Was he treated with the utmost contempt, and that too by the whole nation? Was he mocked, reviled, spit upon? Was he beaten with scourges, so that his flesh was even ploughed up with stripes? Then I see that he was the Christ; for not only the ancient prophets, but he himself expressly told us that it should be so. Did he endure all these things without one word of murmur or complaint? Then I am sure that he was the Christi.
But it is not in this view only that his sufferings afford us grounds of confidence. Whilst they prove him to be the true Messiah, they prove also, beyond a possibility of doubt, his willingness to save all who come unto him. In enduring all these things, he submitted willingly. He could, if he had chosen, have had more than twelve legions of angels for his defence but then the Scriptures would not have been fulfilled, nor would the work of our salvation have been accomplished. If then he willingly submitted to these indignities for us when we were enemies, what will he not do for us when we throw down the weapons of our rebellion, and implore his mercy? Surely no person, whatever he may have been or done, shall ever apply to him in vain
2. To inflame your gratitude
[It is well said by the Apostle, that "the love of Christ passeth knowledge." It is not possible for any finite mind to comprehend it. Something of it indeed "every saint may comprehend;" but its full extent can never be explored. That however which we do see of it, should operate with irresistible energy upon our minds. Brethren, "behold the man!" See the royal robe, which they have put upon him; the cane in his hand, for a sceptre; the crown of thorns upon his head; and the blood issuing from his lacerated temples: see him ready to faint through the severities inflicted on him; and
h Compare Isai. xlix. 7. and 1. 6. and liii. 3-5. and Ps. cxxix. 3. with Mark x. 32-34.
1 Isai. liii. 7. with 1 Pet. ii. 33.
* Eph. iii. 18, 19.