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that they would be answerable for it, and that thus , they might safely vote in favour of this murderer: They added, that if Barabbas had committed a false step, it was through a zeal for God's honour, and that he was a stickler for the pure doctrine of the Jewish church; that Jesus of Nazareth, on the contrary, was a known heretic, who seduced others by the speciousness of his false doctrines, and had mura dered more souls than Barabbas had bodies; that it tvas not fit such a wretch should be tolerated any longer among God's people; and that a more acceptable service could not be done to the God of Israel, than to join in delivering him up to the most shame ful death, in order to be cut off from the Jewish church as an accursed member. For such remonstrances to irritate the minds of the people, the chief Priests were not at a loss.
Secondly, On the common people, who were otherwise better affected to Christ than the chief Priests and scribes, these misrepresentations produced this dreadful effect, that the whole multitude cried aloud, *Away with this man, and release unto us Barabbas,' (Luke xxiji. 18.) Thus satan, by a wonderful arti. fice, in a few moments made such a vast multitude unanimously cry out, Away with him! O what a dismal spectacle was this, that the prince of life should be rejected, and a murderer released! How wonderful was the wise appointment of God; that the Son of his love should be the object of universal hatred, that he might regain for us the love of God, which, we had unhappily forfeited! We shall conclude this consideration with the following observations :
1. During the persecutions of Christ and his members, the thoughts and inclinations of many hearts are laid open.
By this public competition between Christ and Barabbas, were discovered the latent corruptions of the human heart. Pilate, the chief Priests, and the
people, betrayed the abominable corruptions which lay at the bottom of their hearts. Here it was evidently seen who were the greatest movers of sedition. The chief Priests had before accused Jesus, alleging that he stirred up the people; but here it is said, the chief Priests moved the people. Their misrepresentations were the boisterous winds that stirred the troubled sea of popular rage. This is still the way of those who seduce the people. They always cry out against any appearance of sedition, when they have no interest in it themselves: But they are the first to taise disturbances, when they can compass any sinister end, or oppress godliness and innocence, by popular tumults. By the instance before us, we may likewise see what an unsteady reed the people is, and how easily shaken ; how little their acclamations and applauses are to be relied on; how uncertain their approbation, how precarious their favour, how variable their inclinations, how short-lived their
gra. titude. Here we may learn to know what the world in general is, since it could prefer a flagitious murderer to the prince of life.
2. As good Ministers make it their business to kad men to Christ, so unfaithful teachers seduce men from him.
Of this the doctors of the Jewish nation gave a manifest proof, by poisoning the minds of the people with many prejudices, with hatred and rancour against the innocent Jesus; so that at length they induced them publicly to reject the Lord of Glory, and to demand the release of a murderer in preference to him. It must have touched these unfaithful shepherds to the quick, that Jesus should call them thieves; robbers, and murderers, (John x. 8-10.) But here. they made good the words of our blessed Lord, and betrayed the inveterate malice and wickedness, which they secretly harboured in their breasts. For, by the great pains they took in gaining over the muititude to favour Barabbas, did not they shew. them
selves patrons and companions of robbers and mur. derers? This is too often the case in our days. Many false teachers have a greater regard to their own temporal advantage, than for the honour of Christ, and his gospel. It therefore behoves every one who is destined for the ministry incessantly to pray to God, that he would plant in his heart such a tender regard for Christ, such a holy zeal for his honour and glory, that he may be ready, with joy, to sacrifice his own honour and interest, if he can by that means bring souls to Christ. The saying of John the Baptist should be the motto of such a conscientious min ister of the gospel, “He must increase, but I must decrease,' (John jii. 30.)
3. It is a heinous sin for a man of great authority, and influence over the people, to impose upon their ignorance, and to make them the instruments for executing a wicked design.
In the instance before us, the chief Priests incurred the guilt of this heinous sin, And the antichristian persecutors of the church of Rome tread in their footsteps, and like them keep the people in the grossest ignorance, that they may turn and wind them any way as their interest may require. How unhappy is the people of whom it may be said, “They who leael thee cause thee to err !' (Isaiah iii. 12.) But woe to those designing hypocrites, who take advantage of the ignorance and simplicity of the people, to cause them to err! Cursed is he that maketh the blind to go out of the way: And all the people shall say, Amen,’ (Deut. xxii. 18.)
4. Jesus Christ is still daily rejected among Christians.
Though our ears no longer hear those dreadful words, away with Jesus, yet many thousands prefer Barabbas to him ; for as often as we prefer our sinful lusts to the commands of our Saviour, and fulfil the former, while we postpone the latter, we hold with Barabbas, and reject the blessed Jesus. The cry of all the proud and ambitious is, Away with this Jesus, who would have us sacrifice our honour to his! The cry of the voluptuous is, Away with Jesus, who would have us renounce the pleasures of this world, take up our cross, and mortify the filesh! The cry of the whole multitude of the covetous is, Away with this Jesus, who would have us renounce our mammon, and give part of the money which we have earned with so much pains, in alms to the poor! We shall follow no such leader. This is the cry of all the children of antichrist. On every allurement to sin, Christ and satan, as it were, stand in competition ; the former admonishes, the latter intices; Christ enjoins, satan forbids. If we give way to the temptation, we side with satan, who was a rebel and murderer from the beginning, and, reject the blessed Jesus. Alas! this wickedness is daily acted. Every one, who will not submit to the easy yoke of Christ, and obey his precepts, rejects him, and makes choice of Barabbas. Every one who delights in and countenances vice, and on the contrary, suppresses true religion and virtue; every one who persecutes the godly, and connives at the impiety of the wicked, especially when they are persons of rank, or protected by men in power, rejects Jesus, and prefers Barabbas. If we are guilty of this dreadful sin, the consequence of it will be, that we shall be rejected by Christ in our turn, when he cometh in the glory of his Father at the last day.
5. The disciples of Christ are not to expect better treatment from the world, than what their Lord and master met with. As the whole multitude cricd out, Away with him, give us Barabbas ; so likewise they cried out against St. Paul, Away with him! (Acts xxi. 36.) and the same outcry was repeated numberless times afterwards against the primitive Christians ; Away, said their persecutors, with these Atheists! And this was, because they would not acknowledge the idols of the heathens to be gods.
How often is the name of the Saints traduced as evil? But Christ says, ' Blessed are ye when men shall say all manner of evil against you falsely for my sake." We are not therefore to take offence when this hap. pens to other faithful servants of God; nor are we to think it strange, when we see every thing dark and tempestuous about us, and when the world cries out, that we aro not worthy to live, Happy are we when this comes upon us for Christ's sake! for it is infie nitely better to be rejected by the world in fellow, ship with Christ than to enjoy the esteem, love, and applause of the world for a season, and afterwards to hear these dreadful words proceed from the mouth of our Redeemer and Judge, Depart from me, ye that work iniquity,' (Matth. vii. 23.)
We also thank thee, O gracious Saviour, for this part of thy sufferings which we have now considered. Grant that our hearts may be mollified and changed by such considerations; may be filled with hatred against sin, and excited to a cordial love of thee. Preserve us from impiously rejecting thee, and from preferring the service of satan to the fellowship of thy sufferings. Give us we beseech thee, henceforth by thy spirit, the will and ability constantly to reject the evil and choose the good, to bear thy reproach, to take upon us thy cross, and willingly to submit to be rejected with thee by the world, that we may be acknowledged by thee before the Father and his holy angels. Grant this for the sake of thy meritorious sufferings. Amen.
CONSIDERATION XI. PILATE'S FRUITLESS ENDEAVOURS TO RELEASE
THE LORD JESUS. * PILATE therefore, willing to release Jesus, saith again unto them, What will ye then that I shall