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witnesses, he turned his thoughts on extorting some thing from our Saviour's own mouth, in order to condemn him. He therefore asked him with great emotion, • Answerest thou nothing to what these witness against thee?' By this means, he hoped to induce Jesus to answer to these depositions: and either to deny them, or acknowledge himself guilty of the charge. He concluded, that it behoved our blessed Saviour to explain himself on this head : especially as he was accused of open blasphemy against the temple and worship of God. It was the duty of the High Priest to charge it home to the consciences of these perjured witnesses, and to punish them agreeably to the Divine Law; “If a false witness rise up against any man, to testify against him that which is wrong: the Judges shall make diligent inquisition; and behold if the wit. ness be a false witness, and hath testified falsely against his brother: then shall ye do unto him, as he had thought to have done to his brother: So shalt thou put the evil away from among you. Thine eye shalt not pity.' (Deut. xix. 16, 18, 19.) On the contrary, the High Priest countenances and protects those witnesses who had deposed such notorious falsities against our blessed Lord, and by his authority supports their groundless evidence, as if it had contained aceusations worthy of an answer from the accused.
Secondly, Upon this the Lord Jesus was silent: · But Jesus held his peace and answered nothing.' Indeed, the witnesses were convinced in their own consciences, that all their depositions put together were but of little weight, and that they could afford nothing to ground a sentence of death upon. As these lying testimonies carried their own confutation with them, and one false witness, by his contradiction, invalidated the depositions of another; the divine wisdom, who well knew when to speak and when to be silent, did not think there was any occasion for him to open
his mouth, in order to vindicate his innocence. Thus, his not answering at all implied a sufficient answer to
these incoherent evidences. Besides, they deserved no answer; for they had already judged Christ in their hearts, and suborned these witnesses merely for a show, or rather a mockery of justice. They had before allowed one of the officers of the court to strike Jesus on the face, when he desired that he might be legally convicted by witnesses. He therefore, as it were, wraps himself up in silence; recommends the affair to his Heavenly Father; and with a serene, tranquil mind, patiently waits the issue. As his unrighteous judges had unknowingly fulfilled what had been predicted by the spirit of prophecy, concerning the subornation of false witnesses against the Messiah; so now the Lord Jesus designedly accomplishes what had been foretold by the prophet concerning the Messiah's silence on that occasion, viz. “As'a sheep -before his shearers is dumb, so he opened not his mouth.” (Isaih liï. 7.) Hence we may learn the following truths.
1. A person, whose mind is disturbed by any vehement passion, is of all others the most unfit for enquiring after truth. We have observed above, that the High Priest's rising up from his seat was the effect of the agitation of his mind, which did not allow him to sit down calmly during the trial ; yet this head of the Jewish clergy would fain arrogate to himself the honour of discovering the truth, as if it depended solely on him ; whereas, under this perturbation of mind, he was as unfit for it, as a blind man is to judge of colours. This wretched judge was a true representation of those learned men, who are actuated by the passions of ambition, hatred, anger, &c. and yet would be esteemed oracles, whose words are the standard of truth; who, as Judges, sit on the bench, though they are so blinded by his passion, that they are unable to discern either truth from error or innocence from guilt ; who, as Divines, set up to expound the holy Scriptures, and would fain be accounted champions for the pure doctrines of chris
tianity, and yet, from their intemperate zeal, foam, and rage more like irrational beasts, than speak and write as it becometh rational creatures; who as Philosophers, discover new truths, and would be thought promoters of science and virtue, and yet are wretched slaves to their humours and passions.
2. We should never venture on a crime, trusting to a lie: For a lie will confute itself. It is without connection, and built on a sandy foundation. Therefore, whatever evil is spoken of us by others, if it be false, let it never disturb our peace. It is the language of pride, indeed, to object, How ! shall I suffer such calumny? What will the world think of me? Would it not be said, that my silence is a confession of my guilt ? Who knows what prejudice it may do my character ? But the meek followers of the mild and lowly Jesus, though they know, that in matters which concern the honour of God, and the order instituted by him, discreet apologies and vindications of the innocent are not prohibited, yet they have also learned to forego their own honour, and in silence and suffering to imitate the Lamb of God, who opened not his mouth. Therefore, when lies and calumnies are so notorious and palpable, as to carry their own confutation with them, they choose rather to be silent, to recommend their cause to God, and patiently to wait for his aid; and in the mean time, walk on undaunted in their innocence and integrity. They likewise find, that this is the best way to overcome envy, malice, and slander; for the fire quickly dies away without the addition of fuel to foment it. It is the true Christian's constant maxim in such circumstances : 'I will be dumb, and will not open my mouth, because it is thy doing.' (Psalm xxxix. 9.)
O Most merciful and gracious Father! praised be thy glorious name for bringing to light and publicly manifesting the innocence of thy beloved Son, by the contradictory depositions of his enemies; and for applying his spotless perfection to us as our own, that it may be our defence and shield against the accusation of satan, and our awakened consciences. Bring us to the knowledge and confession of our depravity. Convince us of our guilt, that we may cease from justifying ourselves at thy tribunal, and seek protection under the shadow of our sinless Mediator's wings. May his innocence be our shield and refuge at the hour of death, when the enemy will not fail bitterly to accuse us, to raise up false witnesses against us, and to place before our eyes all the wickedness, which we have actually committed during the whole course of our lives : Then sprinkle our consciences, with the propitiating blood of our Lord and Saviour, so that our accuser may be utterly confounded, and we may depart hence secure of thy favour, and full of a lively hope of eternal felicity. Grant this, O Lord, for the sake of the innocence of thy beloved Son, Jesus Christ. Amen.
THE GOOD CONFESSION OF THE LORD JESUS BEFORE THE SANHEDRIM, OR SPIRITUAL
COURT OF THE JEWS. 'AGAIN, the High Priest asked Jesus, Art thou the Christ, the Son of the Blessed ? I adjure thee by the living God, that thou tell us, whether thou be the Christ, the Son of God? Jesus saith unto him, Thou hast said ; I am. Nevertheless, I say unto you, Hereafter
ye shall see the Son of Man, sitting on the right hand of Power, and coming in the clouds of heaven.' (Matt. xxvi. 63, 64. Mark xiv. 61, 62.)
In these words, we have an account of the good confession of our blessed Lord before the Jewish
Sanhedrim, or spiritual court, which seems to have
First, The cause and occasion of this confession.
I. The behaviour of the High Priest was the occasion of this good confession. We
be sure that this inveterate enemy of Christ was exasperated beyond all patience, when not only his suborning witnesses proved abortive, but also his new expedient of drawing something from the mouth of the party accused, was quite frustrated, by the entire silence of our blessed Saviour. He therefore goes another way to work, and begins to talk to the prisoner in a higher and more resolute tone of voice. He accosts our blessed Lord with a question; to which he adds a solemn adjuration to confess the truth.
The High Priest's question is thus related by St. Mark : 'Again the High Priest asked him, and said unto him, Art thou the Christ the Son of the Blessed?' The word again alludes to something that had passed before. For the false witnesses being successively heard, and the High Priest being also convinced that, from all their depositions he could not collect a sufficient proof to convict our blessed Saviour of any capi. tal crime; he endeavours to get from his own mouth something on which he might found a charge. With this design, the High Priest asks this question, 'Answerest thou nothing, what is it that these witness against thee ?' But Jesus, who saw into the malicious artifice of his judge, would not be induced by this insidious question to break his silence; but at the same time, by making no reply, gave him to understand, that the accusations of the false witnesses did not deserve any answer, as they sufficiently confuted one another.
This stratagem of the High Priest being thus baffled, he accosts the blessed Jesus with another, and indeed a double question ; which was immediately