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instructed them in the divine law. Lastly, they designed by this accusation to represent our Lord as a sworn enemy to the God of Israel, who dwelt in the Holy of Holies, or the most sacred part of the temple, and whose Majesty was insulted by this menace to destroy that sacred edifice. In order to make the charge clearer, they call the temple, which Jesus threatened to destroy, the temple of God; by which addition they would insinuate, that the affront was levelled at the God of Israel himself, whose majesty was insulted by speaking contemptuously of his temple. It is not without design that these false witnesses subjoined, that he had farther the boldness to say, he would build another, after he had destroyed the Jewish temple. This contains a malignant charge, that Jesus had formed a scheme to abrogate the temple worship which had been prescribed by God himself, and introduce an idolatrous religion of his own invention. For as these blind slanderers knew nothing of the worship of God according to the new covenant, which, it is true, the Son of God was to introduce they could think of no other than some idolatrous worship which was to supercede the former that was of divine institution, as this new temple was to be erected on the ruins of the other. Such an accumulation of the worst of crimes is comprehended in the deposition of these false witnesses! However, all the effect of these calumnies and misconstructions was prevented; for the witnesses did not agree. At this the judges were extremely perplexed, seeing that the innocence of Jesus, by its unsullied lustre, broke through the thick clouds of lies and calumnies.Hence the following doctrines may be deduced.
1. The accusation of our blessed Saviour, by false witnesses, ought to be looked upon as a considerable part of his sufferings. All these persons, by whom the blessed Jesus saw himself surrounded, were so many engines of the devil, the father of lies. This unclean spirit had taken possession of the hearts of the
judges and the witnesses, and instigated the former to condemn him, and the latter to oppress his innocence by false testimonies. Satan's only aim in this was, to fix a blemish on the person and doctrine of Christ, and to disturb the minds of those who believed in him. Thus, these witnesses were one of the things which the infernal serpent was to employ against the blessed seed of the woman. For that our blessed Saviour was not unconcerned at these grievous accusations, but that he had a very painful feeling of them, is evident from his bitter lamentations, long before uttered in the Psalms by the mouth of David, in these words : 'False witnesses did rise up: They laid to my charge things that I knew not; the mouth of the wicked, and the mouth of the deceitful, are opened against me; they have spoken against me with a lying tongue.' (Psalms xxxv. 11. cix. 2.) But what affected his soul more than all the rest, was the horrid profanation of the name of the sacred God, in the oath taken by these two perjured wretches, who swear that they would deliver nothing but the real truth; whereas the poison of adders was under their lips. If St. Paul reckons among the sufferings of Christ the contradictions of sinners, (Heb. xii. 3.) how much more offensive must these false witnesses have been to him, which the father of lies employed as his most venomous arrows. In order to atone for our perjury, lying, and falsehood, the Son of God was to suffer a whole host of false and profligate witnesses thus to rise up against him. But this trans. 'cendent merit of Christ belongs to none but true penitents, who are troubled and afflicted, who mourn and weep for the many grievous sins they are conscious of; who, on account of their false testimony, their inadvertent perjuries, their rash and profane swearing, know not how to bear the insupportable burden of sin, and have now an utter abhorrence of all these works of satan. To these, I say,
this meritorious suffering of the blessed Jesus is an open city of
refuge, where they shall find safety from the pursuits of the avenger of blood.
2. Never did the innocence of the blessed Jesus shine with greater lustre, than when the lying Spirit used his utmost efforts in obscuring it. In this instance, God confounded some of the enemies of Christ by the means of others, and so perplexed the false witnesses, that, quite contrary to their intentions, they bore testimony to our Saviour's innocence. St. Matthew informs us, that though many false witnesses presented themselves, yet out of them all, not any two agreed in their depositions. For if only two witnesses who agreed in their evidence, could have been procured, sentence would have immediately been passed, according to the law of Moses, which says, . At the mouth of two or three witnesses, shall the matter be established. (Deut. xix. 15.) Thus the very contrivances put in practice by satan, for oppressing the innocence of Jesus, were so over-ruled by the wonderful Providence of God, that they served the more to display his innocence, and consequently to bring a greater confusion on satan's instruments. Unquestionably the Son of God saw the hand of his Heavenly Father in this proceeding, which was a powerful consolation to him at this juncture, and :nimated him to enter on his sufferings with the greater resignation and cheerfulness. Such an High Priest of unsullied innocence, and perfect holiness, in whom no guilt could be found, did our case require. The innocence of our mediator, thus breaking through all false charges, like the sun through the clouds ad vapours, must be our shield against the just accusations of the law and our own consciences. Alas! with what a crowd of witnesses does a sinner find himself surrounded; when, before the judgment seat of God, he is accused by the law of having offended the Divine Majesty, and wilfully transgressed his commandments; of having hated God, injured his neighbour, and polluted his body, which ought to
have been the temple of God ? Heaven and earth, and all the creatures whom he has abused, by applying them to his wicked purposes, will then witness against him. The places where he committed his abominations, and sinned either alone or in concert with others, will witness against him: For the stone shall cry out of the wall, and the beam out of the timber shall answer it.” (Hebac. ii. 11.) The very members of his body, which he yielded as instruments of unrighteousness, will reproach him for his sins. Then the sinner may say from fatal experience, · Thou renewest thy witnesses against me, and increasest thine indignation upon me.' (Job x. 17.) Then it is, that he first learns to place a due value on the innocence of Christ, which was so virulently assailed by false witnesses; then he first comes to the knowledge of the transcendent benefit of his meritorious sufferings; and finds that behind this shield only, we can be safe from the accusations of the law, corroborated by the testimonies of so many witnesses. If our benign Mediator interposes; if he invalidates the accusations, by offering to pay our ransom ; if he says to his Heavenly Father, Deliver him from going down to the pit ; I have found a ransom ;' (Job xxxiii. 24.) then the sinner, who already felt the sentence of death in his conscience, is raised to hopes of life and immortality; and by faith triumphing over the terrors of death, may cry out with a holy confidence, “Who shall lay any thing to my charge ? It is God that justifieth. Who shall condemn me? It is Christ who, after being unjustly sentenced to be crucified, died and rose again, and now sitteth at the right hand of God, and also maketh intercession for me.” (Rom. viii. 33, 34.) Such is the proper and salutary use which we ought to make of this circumstance in our Saviour's sufferings.
In the same manner, when by following Christ we are brought before magistrates for the truth's sake, and there accused by false witnesses who join in charging us with crimes, of which we know ourselves to be entirely guiltless; we may put our trust, and take comfort in his innocence. Not only Stephen, the first martyr after Christ's death, but many other undaunted professors of his religion, have been made like unto their illustrious head in this particular. This diabolical expedient, the Pagans made use of in persecuting Christians; and by bribing and suborning notorious prostitutes, or by menacing them with the severest torture, prevailed on them to appear in court and depose, That they had been Christians, and frequented the Christian assemblies, where they had seen with their own eyes the debaucheries committed there. These false depositions were immediately entered on record, and copies of them were dispersed through the empire, to raise an abhorrence of the Christians in the breasts of the ignorant and well disposed. In the persecutions raised by the Pope's adherents against the professors of the truth, what atrocious accusations have been likewise brought against the innocent, which were supported by multitudes of suborned witnesses ? In such dreadful conjunctures, what an enlivening comfort, what a happy encouragement is it to a member of Christ to reflect, that the most illustrious Captain of his salvation was likewise enured to this kind of suffering, and has obtained sufficient strength for him to come off as conqueror ?
2. In considering the behaviour of the blessed Jesus, during the iniquitous proceedings of the Jewish Sanhedrim, or spiritual court, we shall observe,
First, The question put by the High Priest.
Secondly, The silence of our blessed Lord on that occasion.
As for the High Priest's question, it is said, “Then the High Priest stood.” He arose from his seat full of perturbation, wrath, and pretended zeal: his whole mind being violently agitated: and as he now despaired of procuring a sufficient foundation for convicting Jesus of any capital crime by the deposition of