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as the High Priest took Jesus for a mere man, and yet heard him give himself out to be the Son of God, and, by assuming a seat on God's throne, make himself equal with God; he concluded that he blasphemed, and consequently deserved to die. That this dreadful accusation might have the more specious appearance, and make the stronger impression on the other members of the great council, the High Priest rent his clothes. This was customary among the Jews, as a token of extreme grief, or to testify their abhorrence of any blasphemous expressions they happened to hear. Thus Jacob rent his clothes on hearing of Joseph's death, (Gen. xxxvii. 34.) and Hezekiah did the same, when he was informed of Rabshakeh's blasphemous expressions against the God of Isreal. (2 Kings xix. 1.) This hypocritical behaviour bore an appearance of a singular zeal for God's honour; and the High Priest intended by it to signify, that his heart was pierced, and, as it were, rent with grief and indignation, by the horrible blasphemy which he had just heard. But in reality, this extravagant rending his garment was an outward act of the most wicked grimace and hypocrisy; for this iniquitous and blood-thirsty judge was inwardly glad at his heart, that he had got some foundation to pass sentence of death on the innocent Jesus.
Reflect, my brethren, whether our blessed Saviour was not in these circumstances to atone, on condition of our faith and repentance, for the hypocrisy of joining in the outward ceremonies of Divine worship, without the real devotion of the heart; of feigning seriousness and contrition, and strictly to keep fast-days, &c. when at the same time the heart, instead of being duly affected, with all this outward show remains depraved, corrupt, and unbroken; basks in the love of the world, and its sinful pleasures; and notwithstanding all these outward formalities, by new sins crucifies the Son of God afresh. Oh, that every one here, who finds this to be his own case, may humble
himself before his Saviour, and penitently implore the forgiveness of such wicked, such detestable hypocrisy !
Secondly, Upon this supposed crime the whole spiritual court of the Jews proceed to pass sentence. For when the High, Priest puts the question, "What think ye?' in order to collect the suffrages of the members of the council, they unanimously cry out, He is guilty of death.' They do not previously enquire whether the confession of Jesus is to be accounted blasphemy; this they take for granted, and declare him from whose mouth such words proceed, to be guilty of death. They make the Divine law the pretence for passing this iniquitous sentence; for it is said in Leviticus, He that blasphemeth the name of the Lord, shall surely be put to death,' (Lev. xxiv. 16.) In conformity to this law, [against which, according to the interpretation of the Jewish doctors, those who denied the unity, holiness, or truth of the Divine Being were supposed to transgress] they all judged, that the Prince of Life, by assuming to himself divine honours, and the title of the Son of God, according to justice and equity, ought to be put to death. And though the good Nicodemus and Joseph of Aramathea, if they were present, might protest against such iniquitous proceedings, and declare their disapprobation of them; (Luke xxiii. 50, 51.) it was to no purpose, they were out-voted by a very large majority. It was therefore decreed by the council, that he was guilty of death.
A few hours after, when the morning was come, this sentence was ratified. For as Jesus repeated his confession that he was the Son of God, the council confirmed their decree, and said one to another, what further need have we of witnesses, we ourselves have heard it from his mouth? As if they had said, since he has repeated his blasphemy, though we have allowed him some hours for recollection, and still persists in it, we judge it proper to confirm the sentence; as
he has blasphemed the name of God, he must die the death.
Thus did the builders reject that most precious corner stone, which God had determined to lay in Sion. Thus was the Hope of Israel, and the desire of nations, condemned by his own people. Thus was the Captain of Salvation, and the Prince of Life, sentenced to death by a wicked abuse of the Divine law. O dreadful and unheard of transaction! that the great Angel of the Covenant, who himself had given the law on Mount Sinai, should be condemned as a transgressor of the law; and that He, by whose spirit the holy scripture was inspired, should be declared guilty of blasphemy, and sentenced to die from that scripture. Let none henceforth take offence at seeing how often the witnesses of truth are still condemned to die by ignorant zealots, through their false expositions and misapplications of the holy scripture.
MANY useful observations might be here made on this extraordinary sentence; but as the time allowed for discourses delivered from the pulpit will not permit, it is necessary that we should proceed, in the third place, to take into consideration what followed after sentence was pronounced on our blessed Saviour.
When the sanhedrim or great council of the Jews had passed sentence of death on our blessed Lord, as a blasphemer, the assembly broke up, for the night was pretty far spent, and left Jesus in the hands of their servants; who passed the remainder of the night in treating the Son of the most high God, with infernal abuse, outrages, and indignities. Concerning this circumstance it is said in the text, And the men who held Jesus mocked him, smote him, and buffeted him, and spit in his face. And they blindfolded him, and struck him on the face with the palms of their hands, and asked him, saying, Prophesy unto us, thou Christ, who it is that smote thee? And many other things blasphemously spake they against him.'
I sincerely acknowledge, dearly beloved, my incapacity to unfold this mystery of impiety, this work of darkness; nor can I form to myself an adequate idea of the monstrous indignities, which the Lord of Glory suffered during this night from the engines of satan. Only consider, ye devout and pious souls, that if a servant could, in the presence of the whole council, and all the respectable assessors, presume to strike our glorious Redeemer on the face; consider, I say, to what enormous lengths these shameless miscreants would run, when they had him alone, when he was given up to their brutal insolence, and when no body was present who would in the least check their inhuman rage. Unquestionably there were present on this occasion, a greater number of evil spirits than of men and the former directed the hands and tongues of this riotous multitude, that all the indignities which hell could contrive might be put on our Redeemer. This was the black hour, when the prince of darkness and his apostate angels were let loose against the Son of God, and loaded the humble patience and gentleness of this Divine person with the vilest abuses and most shocking indignities.
Here that sacred person, who was to bruise the serpent's head, suffered the sharpest of its envenomed stings both in body and mind.
His exalted prophetic office, for which his Father had anointed him, and bestowed on him the gift of wisdom without measure, was most impiously mocked, and consequently his mind must have suffered extreme anguish. For his eyes being covered with a bandage, those who struck him with their impious hands said, Prophesy unto us, thou Christ, who it is that struck thee.' How must the heart of the blessed Jesus have been affected at this monstrous impiety! How many melancholy looks did he cast on these outrageous miscreants, but without any other effect than inflaming their brutal insolence! Sometimes his cheeks were red and inflamed with their in
human buffetings; at other times, they became pale at the horrid impiety of these infatuated wretches, and the thoughts of the heavy judgments that were to come upon them.
Our blessed Lord must likewise have suffered in his sacred body; and every one of his five senses must have conveyed painful sensations, in order to expiate those sins, which men commit by the indulgence and abuse of their senses. As we so often turn our eyes to forbidden objects, and give a free scope to wanton glances; so he suffers his innocent dove-like eyes to be insultingly blind-folded and covered. As we take a pleasure in listening with our ears to lies and slanders, to profane jests and impure ribaldry, so he was obliged to hear the most horrible sarcasms and bitter invectives. His smell was offended with the stench of the loathsome spittle, that was cast in his sacred face by these inhuman wretches. His taste was offended by the vinegar and gall, which they afterwards gave him to drink. His feeling was offended by the strokes and blows, which he patiently endured; and all this he underwent to atone, upon our repentance, for all those kinds of voluptuousness and delicacy which are committed by the senses, and to facilitate to us the denial of all sinful gratifications.
But who can sufficiently admire the patience and gentleness which the Son of God shewed amidst all these indignities, mockeries, and outrages? Alas, how full of resentment are we poor, sinful worms, when, according to the modern phrase, our honour is touched! How do these men of honour kindle into a flame of rage, at the least uncourteous word! They make it a point neither to bear nor forgive any injury or affront; and the least offence must be revenged by a law-suit or the sword, and atoned for by blood. And he who should be so unfashionable as to forbear either the one or the other of these methods of revenge, would be judged a person void of spirit, and lost to all sense of honour. O wretched