Page images

Christ had always been remarkable for submission to magistracy, and for contempt of human grandeurs, However, he had been accused before Pilate of having forbidden to pay tribute to Cæsar, and of having affected royalty. Pilate had examined him on these two articles, and on both Jesus Christ had justified his innocence, confounded his accusers, and satisfied his judge.

An upright judge would have acquitted this illustrious prisoner, after he had acknowledged his innocence. Pilate took another method. Whether it were cowardice, or folly, or policy, or all these dispositions together, he seized the first opportunity, that offered, to remove a cause into another court, which, he thought, he could not determine without danger to himself.

My brethren, I have known many magistrates of consummate knowledge; I have seen many of incorruptible principles, whose equity was incapable of diversion by those bribes, which the scripture saith, blind the eyes of the wise, Exod. xxiii. 8. But how rare are they, who have resolution enough, not only to judge with rectitude, but also to support, with an undaunted heroisin, those suffrages, which are the dictates of equity and truth! Pilate, instead of discharging Jesus Christ from his persecutors, and executioners, in some sort, assisted their cruelty. Neither able sufficiently to stifle the dictates of his own conscience to condemn him, nor obedient enough to them to acquit him, he endeavored to find a judge either more courageous, who might deliver him, or less scrupulous, who inight condemn him to death.

The countrymen of Jesus Christ furnished Pilate with a pretence. They were the more fierce, saith ourevangelist, saying He stirreth up the people from Galilee to this place. Who were they who brought

[ocr errors]

We may

this accusation against Jesus Christ ? Were they only Roman soldiery, and the Jewish populace ? No: they were divines and ecclesiastics ! let us turn from these horrors. When Pilate heard of Galilee, adds St. Luke, he asked whether the man were a Galilean. Jesus Christ was born in Bethlehem, a town in Judea, according to this prophecy of Micah : And thou, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, art not the least among the princes of Judah ; for out of thee shall come a governor, that shall rule my people Israel, Matt. ii. 6. But his mother was of Nazareth, a town of Galilee, from whence she came to Jerusalem with Joseph, on account of a command of Augustus, which it is needless to enlarge on here. In Galilee, therefore, and particularly at Nazareth, Jesus Christ passed those thirty years of his life, of which the evangelists give us no account. remark, by the way, that these circumstances brought about the accomplishment of this prophecy, He shall be called a Nazarene, ver. 23. This prophecy, cited in the new testament, is not to be found literally in the old : but the prophets very often foretold the contempt that the Jews would pour on Jesus Christ; and his dwelling in Galilee, particularly at Nazareth, was an occasion, as of their contempt, so of the accomplishment of prophecy. The Jews considered Galilee, as a country hateful to God; and although Jonah was born there, yet they had a saying, that no Galilean had ever received the Spirit of God. Hence the Sanhedrim said to Nicodemus, Search, and look ; for out of Galilee ariseth no prophet, John vii. 52. Agreeably to this notion, when Philip said to Nathaniel, We have found him of whom Moses and the prophets did write, Jesus of Nazareth, chap. i. 45. the latter replied, Can there any good

thing come out of Nazareth ? ver. 46.

The Jews were transported to find, that Jesus Christ was an inhabitant of this city ; because it served them for a pretence to give him a name of contempt, accordingly, they called him a Nazarene. They afterwards

gave the same despicable name to his disciples. St. Jerom tells us, that in bis time they anathematized christians under the name of Nazarenes. We see also in the book of Acts, that christians were called Galileans; and by this name they are known in heathen writers.

Let us return. Herod Antipas, (son of Herod the great, the same whom John the Baptist reproved for keeping Herodias, his brother Philip's wife) reigned in Galilee, under the name of Tetrarch, when Jesus Christ was cited before Pilate. This was what engaged the Roman governor to send him to this prince. Whether Antipas, the Tetrarch of Galilee, descended from heathen parents, as some affirm; whether he were of Jewish extraction, as others say; or whether he were an Idumean, according to the general opinion, is not very material. It is very certain, that if this prince were not sincerely of the religion of Moses, he pretended to be so; and as the law required all heads of families to celebrate four grand festivals in the year, at the capital of Judea, he had come up to Jerusalem to keep the passover, at which time the Lord Jesus underwent his passion.

The reputation of our Saviour had reached this prince. The gospel tells us the absurd notion that he had entertained of him. He thought him John the Baptist, whom lie had sacrificed, with as much cowardice as cruelty, to the revenge of Herodias. His notion was founded on an opinion of the Jews, who thought, that many prophets, particularly they who had sealed the doctrine with their blood,

would rise again at the coming of the Messiah. Herod was glad of an opportunity of informing himself on this article. He flattered himself, that if he should not see such a singular object as a man raised from the dead, at least, Jesus Christ would not refuse to conciliate his esteem, by gratifying his curiosity, and by performing some extraordinary work in his presence. But should providence interrupt the ordinary course of nature to amuse a profane court ? Jesus Christ not only would not prostitute his miraculous gifts before Herod; he would not even deign to answer him.

A very little attention to the genius of the great will be sufficient to convince us, that the silence of Jesus Christ, and his refusal to condescend to the caprice of Herod, must naturally expose him to the contempt of this prince, and to that of his courtiers. Accordingly, we are told, that they set him at nought, and mocked him, and sent him back again to Pilale. Some have inquired a reason, why Herod put on him a white garment ;* and some learned men have thought, he intended thereby to attest his innocence; and this opinion seems

* Our author follows the reading of the French bible,-revestu d'un vestement blanc : Our translation reads it, arrayed in a gorgeous robe ; and the original word signifies both. A white gar!nent was a gorgeous, a splendid garment; because priests and kings wore white garments, see Esther, viii. 15.—2 Chron. v. 12. The heavenly visions, which are recorded in scripture, and which were intended for the more easy apprehension and instruction of those who were honored with them, preserve an analogy in their imagery between themselves and the known objects of real life. Hence God, Christ, angels, and the spirits of the just, are represented as clothed in white, Dan. vii. 3. Luke ix. 29. Acts i. x. ‘and Rev. ii. 4.

Herod's design in arraying Christ in white is not known; and whether we ought with Causabon, in the following words, to find a mystery in it, we will not pretend to say. “Cum igitur vestis, apud veteres, regia pariter et sacerdotalis esset ; quis mysterio factum a providentia divina non agnoscat; quod verus rex, verus sacerdos, a suis irrisoribus candida veste amicitur ? Fuit, quidem, istorum animus pessimus : sed hoc veritatis significationem mysticam, neque hic, neque in crucis titulo lædebat." Exerc. io Bar. Anual. S. 73. E, 16. VOL, II.


to agree with what Pilate said to the Jews; neither I nor Herod have found any fault in this man, touching those things whereof ye accuse him. But they who advance this opinion, ought to prove that the Jews, or the Romans, did put white garments on persons whom they acquitted. I own, though I have taken some pains to look for this custom in the writings of antiquity, I have not been able to find it : however, it doth not follow that others may not discover it. Nor is it any clearer, in my opinion, that the design of those who put this habit on Jesus Christ, was the same with that of the soldiers, who put a reed in the form of a sceptre in his hand to insult him, becanse he said, he was a king. I would follow the rule here, which seems to me the most sure, that is, I would suspend my judgment on a subject that cannot be explained.

I add but one word more, before I come to the principal object of our meditation, The evangelist remarks, that the circumstances which he related, I mean the artful address of Pilate to Herod, in sending a culprit of his jurisdiction to his bar; and the similar artifice of Herod to Pilate, in sending him back again, occasioned their reconciliation. What could induce them to differ? We are told, that some subjects of Herod Antipas, who probably had made an insurrection against the Romans, had been punished at Jerusalem during the passover by Pilate, Luke xiii. 1. who had mixed their blood with that of the sacrifices, which they intended to offer to God at the feast. But the scripture doth not say, whether this affair occasioned the difference, that subsisted between the Tetrarch of the Jews and the Roman governor. In general, it was natural for these two men to be at enmity. On the one hand, the

« PreviousContinue »