Sermon 495. The Greatest Trial on Record
Delivered on Sunday Morning, February 22nd, 1863, by the
Rev. C. H. SPURGEON,
At the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington
"The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord, and against his anointed."-Psalm 2:2.
AFTER OUR LORD HAD been betrayed by the false-hearted Judas, he was bound by the officers who had come to take him; no doubtthe cords were drawn as tight, and twisted as mercilessly as possible. If we believe the traditions of the fathers, thesecords cut through the flesh even to the very bones, so that all the way from the garden to the house of Annas, his blood lefta crimson trail. Our Redeemer was hurried along the road which crosses the brook Kedron. A second timehe was made like unto David, who passed over that brook, weeping as he went; and perhaps it was on this occasion thathe drank of that foul brook by the way. The brook Redron, you know, was that into which all the filth of the sacrifices ofthe temple was cast, and Christ, as though he were a foul and filthy thing, must be led to the black stream. He was led intoJerusalem by the sheep-gate, the gate through which the lambs of the Passover and the sheep for sacrifice were always driven.Littledid they understand, that in so doing they were again following out to the very letter the significant types which Godhad ordained in the law of Moses. They led, I say, this Lamb of God through the sheep-gate, and they hastened him on to thehouse of Annas, the ex-high priest, who, either from his relationship to Caiaphas, from his natural ability, or his prominencein opposing the Savior, stood high in the opinion of the rulers. Here they made a temporary call, to gratify the bloodthirstyAnnas with the sight of his victim; and then, hastening on, they brought him to the house of Caiaphas, some little distanceoff; where, though it was but a little past the dead of night, many members of the Sanhedrim were assembled. In a very shorttime, no doubt informed by some speedy messenger, all the rest of the elders came together, and sat down with great delightto the malicious work. Let us follow our Lord Jesus Christ, not, like Peter, afar off, but, like John, let us go in with Jesusinto the high priest's house, and when we have tarried awhile there, and have seen our Savior despitefully used, let ustraverse the streets with him, till we come to the hall of Pilate, and then to the palace of Herod, and then afterwards tothe place called "the pavement," where Christ is subjected to an ignominious competition with Barabbas, the murderer, andwhere we hear the howling of the people, "Crucify him! Crucify him!"
Brethren, as the Lord gave commandment concerning even the ashes and offal of the sacrifices, we ought to think no mattertrivial which stands in connection with our great burnt offering. My admonition is, "Gather up the fragments which remain,that nothing be lost." As goldsmiths sweep their shops, to save even the filings of the gold, so every word of Jesus shouldbe treasured up as very precious. But, indeed, the narrative to which I invite you is not unimportant.Things which were purposed of old, prophesied by seers, witnessed by apostles, written by evangelists, and published bythe ambassadors of God, are not matters of secondary interest, but deserve our solemn and devout attention. Let all our heartsbe awed as we follow the King of kings in his pathway of shame and suffering.
I. Come we, then, to the hall of Caiaphas. After the mob had dragged our Lord from the house of Annas, they reached the palaceof Caiaphas, and there a brief interval occurred before the High Priest came forth to question the prisoner. How were those sad minutes spent? Was the poor victimallowed a little pause to collect his thoughts, that he might face his accusers calmly? Far from it; Luke shall tell the pitifulstory: "And the men that held Jesus mocked him, andsmote him. And when they had blindfolded him, they struck him on the face, and asked him, saying, Prophesy, who is itthat smote thee? And many other things blasphemously spake they against him." The officers were pausing until the chairmanof the court should please to have an interview with the prisoner, and instead of suffering the accused to take a little restbefore a trial so important, upon which his life and character depended, they spend all the time in venting their bitter maliceuponhim. Observe how they insult his claim to the Messiahship! In effect, they mock him thus: "Thou claimest to be a prophetlike unto Moses; thou knowest things to come; if thou be sent of God, prove it by discovering thy foes; we will put thee onthy trial, and test thee, O thou man of Nazareth." They bind his eyes, and then, smiting him one after another, they bid himexercise his prophetic gift, for their amusement, and prophesy who it was that smote him. Oh, shameful question! How graciouswasthe silence, for an answer might have withered them for ever. The day shall come when all that smite Christ, shall find that he has seen them, though they thought his eyes were blinded. The day shall come, blasphemer, worldling, careless man, when everythingthat you have done against Christ's cause and Christ's people, shall be published before the eyes of men and angels, and Christshall answer your question, and shall tell you who it is that smote him. I speak to somethis morning who have forgotten that Christ sees them; and they have ill-treated his people; they have spoken ill of hisholy cause, saying, "How doth God know? and is there knowledge in the Most High?" I tell you, the Judge of men shall ere long,point you out, and make you, to your shame and confusion of face, confess that you smote the Savior when you smote his Church.
This preliminary mockery being over, Caiaphas, the high priest came in; he began at once to interrogate the Lord before the public trial doubtless with the view of catching him in his speech. Thehigh priest asked him first of his disciples. We do not know what questions he asked; perhaps they were something like these: "What meanest thou, to allow a rabble tofollow thee wherever thou goest? Who art thou, that thou shouldst have twelve persons alwaysattending thee and calling thee Master? Dost thou intend to make these the leaders of a band of men? Are these to be thylieutenants, to raise a host on thy behalf? Or dost thou pretend to be a prophet, and are these the sons of the prophets whofollow thee, as Elisha did Elias Moreover, where are they? Where are thy gallant followers? If thou art a good man, why arethey not here to bear witness to thee? Where are they gone? Are they not ashamed of their folly, now that thy promises ofhonorall end in shame?" The high priest "asked him of his disciples." Our Lord Jesus on this point said not a syllable. Whythis silence? Because it is not for our Advocate to accuse his disciples. He might have answered, "Well dost thou ask, 'Whereare they?' the cowards forsook me; when one proved a traitor, the rest took to their heels. Thou sayest, 'Where are my disciples?'there is one yonder, sitting by the fire, warming his hands, the same who just now denied me with an oath." But no,he would not utter a word of accusation; he whose lips are mighty to intercede for his people, will never speak againstthem. Let Satan slander, but Christ pleads. The accuser of the brethren is the prince of this world: the Prince of peace isever our Advocate before the eternal throne.
The high priest next shifted his ground, and asked him concerning his doctrine-what it was that he taught-whether what he taught was not in contradiction to the original teachings of their great law-giverMoses-and whether he had not railed at the Pharisees, reviled the Scribes, and exposed the rulers. The Master gave a nobleanswer. Truth is never shamefaced; he boldly points to his public life as his best answer. "I spake openly to the world; Iever taughtin the synagogue, and in the temple, whither the Jews always resort; and in secret have I said nothing. Why askest thoume? ask them which heard me, what I have said unto them: behold they know what I said." No sophistries-no attempt at evasion-thebest armor for truth is her own naked breast. He had preached in the market-places, on the mountain's brow, and in the templecourts; nothing had been done in a corner. Happy is the man who can make so noble a defense. Where is the joint in suchharness? Where can the arrow pierce the man arrayed in so complete a panoply? Little did that arch-knave Caiaphas gainby his crafty questioning. For the rest of the questioning, our Lord Jesus said not a word in self-defense; he knew that itavailed not for a lamb to plead with wolves; he was well aware that whatever he said would be misconstrued and made a freshsource of accusation, and he willed, moreover, to fulfill the prophecy, "He is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and asa sheepbefore her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth." But what power he exerted in thus remaining silent! Perhapsnothing displays more fully the omnipotence of Christ, than this power of self-control. Control the Deity? What power lessthan divine can attempt the task? Behold, my brethren, the Son of God does more than rule the winds and commend the waves,he restrains himself. And when a word, a whisper, would have refuted his foes, and swept them to their eternal destruction, he"openeth not his mouth." He who opened his mouth for his enemies, will not utter a word for himself. If ever silence weremore than golden, it is this deep silence under infinite provocation.
During this preliminary examination, our Lord suffered an outrage which needs a passing notice. When he had said, "Ask themthat hear me," some over-officious person in the crowd struck him in the face. The margin in John 18:22, very properly corrects our version, and renders the passage, "with a rod." Now, considering that our blessed Lord sufferedso much, this one little particular might seem unimportant, only it happens to be the subject of prophecy in the book ofMicah 5:1, "They shall smite the Judge of Israel with a rod upon the cheek." This smiting while under trial is peculiarly atrocious.To strike a man while he is pleading in his own defense, would surely be a violation of the laws even of barbarians. It broughtPaul's blood into his face, and made him lose his balance when the high priest ordered them to smite him on the mouth. I thinkI hear his words of burning indignation: "God shall smite thee, thou whited wall: for sittest thou to judge meafter the law, and commandest me to be smitten contrary to the law?" How soon the servant loses his temper: how far moreglorious the meekness of the Master. What a contrast do these gentle words afford us-"If I have spoken evil bear witness tothe evil; but if well, why smitest thou me?" This was such a concentrated infamy, to strike a man while pleading for his life,that it well deserved the notice both of evangelist and prophet.
But now the Court are all sitting; the members of the great Sanhedrim are all in their various places, and Christ is brought forth for the public trial beforethe highest ecclesiastical court; though it is, mark you, a foregone conclusion, that by hook or by crook they will find himguilty. They scour the neighborhood for witnesses. There were fellows to be found in Jerusalem, like those who in the oldentimes frequented the Old Bailey, "straw witnesses," who wereready to be bought on either side; and, provided they were well paid, would swear to anything. But for all this, thoughthe witnesses were ready to perjure themselves, they could not agree one with another; being heard separately, their talesdid not tally. At last two came, with some degree of similarity in their witness; they were both liars, but for once the twoliars had struck the same note. They declared that he said "I will destroy this temple that is made with hands, and withinthreedays I will build another made without hands," Mark 14:58. Now here was, first, misquotation. He never said, "I will destroy the temple," his words were, "Destroy this temple, andin three days I will raise it up." See how they add to his words and twist them to their own ends. Then again, they not onlymisquoted the words, but they misrepresented the sense, wilfully, because he spake concerning the temple of his body, andnot the literal temple in which they worshipped; and this they must haveknown. He said, "Destroy this temple"-and the accompanying action might have showed them that he meant his own body, which was raised by his glorious resurrectionafter destruction upon the cross. Let us add, that even when thus misrepresented, the witness was not sufficient as the foundationof a capital charge. Surely there could be nothing worthy of death in a man's saying, "Destroy this temple, and I will buildit in three days." A person might make use of those words a thousandtimes over-he might be very foolish, but he would not be guilty of death for such an offense. But where men have madeup their minds to hate Christ, they will hate him without a cause. Oh! ye that are adversaries of Christ-and there are somesuch here to-day-I know ye try to invent some excuse for your opposition to his holy religion; ye forge a hundred falsehoods;but ye know that your witness is not true, and your trial in conscience through which you pass the Savior, is but a mock one.Oh that ye were wise, and would understand him to be what he is, and submit yourselves to him now.
Finding that their witness, even when tortured to the highest degree, was not strong enough, the high priest, to get matter of accusation, adjured him by the Most High God to answer whether he was the Christ, "the Son of the Blessed." Being thus adjured, our Master wouldnot set us an example of cowardice; he spake to purpose; he said, "I am," Mark 14:62, and then, to show how fully he knew this to be true, he added, "ye shall see the Son of mansitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven." I cannot understand what Unitarians do with thisincident. Christ was put to death on a charge of blasphemy, for having declared himself to be the Son of God. Was not thatthe time when any sensible person would have denied the accusation? If he had not really claimed to be the Son of God, wouldhe not now have spoken? Would he not now, once for all, have delivered our minds from the mistake under which we arelaboring, if, indeed, it be a mistake, that he is the Son of God? But no, he seals it with his blood; he bears open testimonybefore the herd of his accusers. "I am." I am the Son of God, and I am the sent-one of the Most High. Now, now the thing is done. They want no further evidence. The judge, forgetting the impartialitywhich becomes his station, pretends to be wonderfully struck with horror, rends his garments, turns round to ask his co-assessorswhether they need any furtherwitness, and they, all too ready, hold up their hands in token of unanimity, and he is at once condemned to die. Ah! brethren,and no sooner condemned, than the high priest, stepping down from his divan, spits in his face, and then the Sanhedrim follow,and smite him on his cheek; and then they turn him down to the rabble that had gathered in the court, and they buffet himfrom one to the other, and spit upon his blessed cheeks, and smite him, and then they play the old game again, which theyhad learned so well before the trial came on; they blindfold him for a second time, place him in the chair, and as theysmite him with their fists they cry. "Prophet! Prophet! Prophet! who is it that smote thee? Prophecy unto us!" And thus theSavior passed a second time through that most brutal and ignominious treatment. If we had tears, if we had sympathies, ifwe had hearts, we should prepare to shed those tears, to awake those sympathies, and break those hearts, now. O thou Lord oflife and glory! how shamefully wast thou illtreated by those who pretended to be the curators of holy truth, the conservatorsof integrity, and the teachers of the law!
Having thus sketched the trial as briefly as I could, let me just say, that, throughout the whole of this trial before theecclesiastical tribunal, it is manifest that they did all they could to pour contempt upon his two claims-to Deity and toMessiahship. Now, friends, this morning-this morning, as truly as on that eventful occasion-you and I must range ourselveson one of two sides. Either this day we must cheerfully acknowledge his Godhead, and accept him also asthe Messias, the Savior promised of old to us; or else we must take our post with those who are the adversaries of Godand of his Christ. Will you ask yourself the question, on which side will you now stand? I pray you, do not think that Christ'sDeity needs any further proof than that which this one court gives. My dear friends, there is no religion under heaven, nofalse religion, which would have dared to hazard such a statement, as that yonder man who was spit upon and buffeted was noneother than incarnate God. No false religion would venture to draw upon the credulity of its followers to that extent.What! that man there who speaks not a word, who is mocked, despised, rejected, made nothing of-what! he "very God of veryGod?" You do not find Mohammed, nor any false prophet, asking any person to believe a doctrine so extraordinary. They knowtoo well that there is a limit even to human faith; and they have not ventured upon such a marvellous assertion as this, thatyonderdespised man is none other than the upholder of all things. No false religion would have taught a truth so humbling tohim who is its founder and Lord. Besides, it is not in the power of any man-made religion to have conceived such a thought.That Deity should willingly submit to be spit upon to redeem those whose mouths vented the spittle! In what book do you readsuch a wonder as this? We have pictures drawn from imagination; we have been enchanted along romantic pages, and we have marvelledat the creative flights of human genius; but where did you ever read such a thought as this? "God was made flesh and dweltamong us"-he was despised, scourged, mocked, treated as though he were the offscouring of all things, brutally treated, worsethan a dog, and all out of pure love to his enemies. Why, the thought is such a great one, so God-like, the compassion init is so divine, that it must be true. None but God could have thought of such a thing as this stoop from the highestthrone in glory to the cross of deepest shame and woe. And do you think that if the doctrine of the cross were not true,such effects would follow from it? Would those South Sea Islands, once red with the blood of cannibalism, be now the abodeof sacred song and peace? Would this island, once itself the place of naked savages, be what it is, through the influenceof the benign gospel of God, if that gospel were a lie? Ah! hallowed mistake, indeed, to produce such peaceful, such blessed,suchlasting, such divine results! Ah! he is God. The thing is not false. And that he is Messiah, who shall doubt? If God should send a prophet, what better prophet could you desire? What character would you seek to have exhibited more completely humanand divine? What sort of a Savior would you wish for? What could better satisfy the cravings of conscience? Who could commendhimself more fully to the affections of the heart? He must be, we feel at once, as we see him, one alone byhimself, with no competitor; he must be the Messiah of God.
Come, now, sirs, on which side will you range yourselves? Will you smite him? I put the question-"Who is it that will smitehim this day? Who is it that will spit upon him this day?" "I will not," says one, "but I do not accept nor believe in him."In that you smite him. "I do not hate him," says another, "but I am not saved by him." In refusing his love you smite him. Whoeveramong you will not trust him with your soul-in that you smite him, smite him inthe tenderest part: since you impugn his love and power to save. Oh! "Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish fromthe way, when his wrath is kindled but a little." That suffering man stands in the room, and place, and stead of every onethat will believe on him. Trust him! trust him!-you have then accepted him as your God, as your Messiah. Refuse to trust him!-youhave smitten him; and you may think it little to do this to-day; but when he rides upon the clouds of heaven you will seeyour sin in its true light, and you will shudder to think that ever you could have refused him who now reigns "King of kings and Lord of lords." God help you to accept him, as your God and Christ, to-day!
II. But our time flies too rapidly, and we must hasten with it, and accompany our Savior to another place.
The Romans had taken away from the Jews the power to put a person to death, they sometimes did it still, but they did it,as in the case of Stephen, by popular tumult. Now, in our Savior's case they could not do this, because there was still astrong feeling in favor of Christ among the people, a feeling so strong, that had they not been bribed by the rulers, theywould never have said, "Crucify him! crucify him!" You will remember that the priests and rulers did notarrest him on the feast day, "lest" said they "there be a tumult among the people." Besides, the Jewish way of puttinga person to death, was by stoning: hence, unless there was a sufficient number of persons who hated him, a person would neverget put to death at all. That is why the method of putting to death by stoning was chosen, because if a person was generallythought to be innocent, very few persons would stone him; and although he would be somewhat maimed, his life might possiblybespared. They thought, therefore, the Savior might escape as he did at other times, when they took up stones to stone him.Moreover they desired to put him to the death of the accursed; they would confound him with slaves and criminals, and hanghim like the Canaanitish kings of old; therefore they hound him away to Pilate. The distance was about a mile. He was boundin the same cruel manner, and was doubtless cut by the cords. He had already suffered most dreadfully; please to rememberthebloody sweat of last Sabbath week; then remember that he has already twice been beaten; and he is now hurried along, withoutany rest or refreshment, just as the morning is breaking, along the streets to the place where Pilate lived, perhaps the towerof Antonia, close to the temple itself; we are not quite sure. He is bound and they hurry him along the road; and here theRomish writers supply a great number of particulars of anguish out of their very fertile imaginations. After they hadbrought him there a difficulty occurred. These holy people, these very righteous elders, could not come into the companyof Pilate, because Pilate, being a Gentile, would defile them; and there was a broad space outside the palace, like a raisedplatform, this was called "the pavement," where Pilate was wont to sit on those high days, that he might not touch these blessedJews. So he came out on the pavement, and they themselves went not into the hall, but remained before "the pavement." Alwaysnotice, that sinners who can swallow camels will strain at gnats, crowds of men who will do great sins are very much afraidof committing some little things which they they think will affect their religion. Notice, that many a man who is a big thiefduring the week, will ease his conscience by rigid Sabbatarianism when the day comes round. In fact, most hypocrites run forshelter to some close observance of days, ceremonies, and observations, when they have slighted the weightier matters of thelaw.
Well, Pilate receives him bound. The charge brought against him was not, of course, blasphemy; Pilate would have laughed atthat, and declined all interference. They accused him of stirring up sedition, pretending to be a king, and teaching thatit was not right to pay tribute to Caesar. This last charge was a clear and manifest lie. He refuse to pay tribute? Did not he send to the fish's mouth to get the money? He say that Caesar must not have his due? Didhe not tell the Herodians-"Render unto Caesar the things that are Cresar's?" He stir up a sedition?-the man that had "not where to lay his head?" He pretend to snatch the diadem from Caesar?-he, the man who hid himself, when the people would have taken him by force and made him a king? Nothing can be more atrociouslyfalse. Pilate examines him, and discovers at once, both from his silence and from his answer, that he is a most extraordinaryperson; he perceives thatthe kingdom which he claims is something supernatural; he cannot understand it. He asks him what he came into the worldfor, the reply puzzles and amazes him, "To bear witness to the truth," says he. Now, that was a thing no Roman understood;for a hundred years before Pilate came, Jugurtha said of the city of Rome, "a city for sale;" bribery, corruption, falsehood,treachery, villany, these were the gods of Rome, and truth had fled the seven hills, the very meaning of the word was scarcelyknown. So Pilate turned on his heel, and said, "What is truth?" As much as to say, "I am the procurator of this part ofthe country; all I care for is money." "What's truth?" I do not think he asked the question, "What is truth?" as some preach from it, as if he seriously desired to know what it really was, for surely he would have paused forthe divine reply and not have gone away from Christ the moment afterwards. He said, "Pshaw; What's truth?" Yet there was somethingso awful aboutthe prisoner, that his wife's dream, and her message-"See that thou have nothing to do with this just person," all workedupon the superstitious fears of this very weak-minded ruler; so he went back and told the Jews a second time, "I find no faultin him;" and when they said, "He stirreth up the people, teaching throughout all Jewry, beginning at Galilee to this place,"he caught at that word "Galilee." "Now," he thought, "I will be rid of this man; the people shall have their way, and yetIwill not be guilty." "Galilee?" said he; "why, Herod is ruler there; you had better take him to Herod at once." He thusgained two or three points; he made Herod his friend; he hoped to exonerate himself of his crime, and yet please the mob.Away they go to Herod. Oh! I think I see that blessed Lamb of God again hounded through the streets. Did you ever read sucha tale? No martyr, even in bloody Mary's time, was ever harried thus as the Savior was. We must not think that his agonieswere allconfined to the cross; they were endured in those streets-in those innumerable blows, and kicks, and strikings with thefist, that he had to bear. They took him before Herod, and Herod having heard of his miracles, thought to see some wonderfulthing, some piece of jugglery, done in his presence; and when Christ refused to speak, and would not plead before "that fox"at all, then Herod treated him with a sneer. "They made nothing of him." Can you picture the scene? Herod, his captains, hislieutenants, all, down to the meanest soldiers, treat the Savior with a broad grin! "A pretty king," they seem to say;"a miserable beggar better! Look at his cheeks, all bruised where they have been smiting him: is that the color of royalty'scomplexion?" "Look," say they, "he is emaciated, he is covered with blood, as though he had been sweating drops of blood allnight. Is that the imperial purple?" And so they "made nothing of him," and despised his kingship. And Herod said, "Bringout that costly white robe, you know, if he be a king, let us dress him so," and so the white robe is put on him-not apurple one-that Pilate put on afterwards. He has two robes put on him-the one put on by the Jews, the other by the Gentiles;seeming to be a fit comment on that passage in Solomon's song, where the spouse says, "My beloved is white and ruddy"-whitewith the gorgeous robe which marked him King of the Jews, and then red with the purple robe which Pilate afterwards castupon his shoulders, which proved him King of nations too. And so Herod and his men of war, after treating him as shamefullyas they could, looking at him as some madman mare fit for Bedlam than elsewhere, sent him back again to Pilate. Oh! can younot follow him? You want no great imagination-as you see them dragging him back again! It is another journey along those streets;another scene of shameful tumult, bitter scorn, and cruel smitings. Why, he dies a hundred deaths, my brethren, it isnot one-it is death on death the Savior bears, as he is dragged from tribunal to tribunal.
See, they bring him to Pilate a second time. Pilate again is anxious to save him. He says, "I have found no fault in thisman touching those things whereof ye accuse him: no, nor yet Herod; I will therefore release him!" "No, no," they say; andthey clamor greatly. He proposes a cruel alternative, which yet he meant for tender mercy "I will therefore chastise him,and let him go." He gave him over to his lictors to be scourged. The Roman scourge was, as I have explainedbefore, a most dreadful instrument. It was made of the sinews of oxen, and little sharp pieces of bone, which, you know,cause the most frightful lacerations, if by accident you even run them into your hand; little sharp pieces, splinters of bone,were intertwisted every here and there among the sinews; so that every time the lash came down some of these pieces of bonewent right into the flesh, and tore off heavy thonglulls, and not only the blood but the very flesh would be rent away. TheSavior was tied to the column, and thus beaten. He had been beaten before; but this of the Roman lictor was probably themost severe of his flagellations. After Pilate had beaten him, he gave him up to the soldiers for a short time, that theymight complete the mockery, and so be able to witness that Pilate had no idea of the royalty of Jesus, and no complicity inany supposed treason. The soldiers put a crown of thorns on his head, and bowed before him, and spat on him, and put a reedin hishands; they smote the crown of thorns into his temple, they covered him with a purple robe; and then Pilate brought himout, saying, "Behold the man!" I believe he did it out of pity. He thought, "Now I have wounded him and cut him to piecesthus, I will not kill him; that sight will move their hearts." Oh! that Ecce Homo ought to have melted their hearts, if Satan had not made them harder than flints and sterner than steel. But no, they cry,"Crucify him! crucify him!" So Pilate listensto them again, and they change their note, "He hath spoken blasphemy." This was a wrong charge to bring; for Pilate, havinghis superstition again aroused, is the more afraid to put him to death; and he comes out again, and says, "I find no faultin him." What a strong contest between good and evil in that man's heart! But they cried out again, "If thou let this mango thou art not Caesar's friend." They hit the mark this time, and he yields to their clamor. He brings forth a basin of water,and he washes his hands before them all, and he says, "I am innocent of the blood of this just person: see ye to it."A poor way of escaping! That water could not wash the blood from his hands, though their cry did bring the blood on their heads-"His blood be on us and on our children." When that is done, Pilate takes the lastdesperate step of sitting down on the pavement in royal state; he condemns Jesus, and bids them take him away. But ere heis taken to execution, the dogs of warshall snap at him again. The Jews no doubt having bribed the soldiers to excessive zeal of scorn, they a second time-(oh!mark this; perhaps ye thought this happened only once. This is the fifth time he has thus been treated)-the soldiers tookhim back again, and once more they mocked him, once more they spat upon him, and treated him shamefully. So, you see, therewas once when he first went to the house of Caiaphas; then after he was condemned there; then Herod and his men of war; thenPilate after the scourging; and then the soldiers, after the ultimate condemnation. See ye not how manifestly "he wasdespised and rejected of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised,and we esteemed him not." I do not know when I ever more heartily wished to be eloquent than I do now. I am talking to myown lips, and saying, "Oh! that these lips had language worthy of the occasion!" I do but faintly sketch the scene. I cannotlayon the glowing colors. Oh, that I could set forth thy grief, thou Man of Sorrows! God the Holy Ghost impress it on yourmemories and on your souls, and help you pitifully to consider the griefs of your blessed Lord.
I will now leave this point, when I have made this practical application of it. Remember, dear friends, that this day, astruly as on that early morning, a division must be made among us. Either you must this day accept Christ as your King, orelse his blood will be on you. I bring my Master out before your eyes, and say to you, "Behold your King." Are you willingto yield obedience to him? He claims first your implicit faith in his merit: will you yield to that? Heclaims, next, that you will take him to be Lord of your heart, and that, as he shall be Lord within, so he shall be Lordwithout. Which shall it be? Will you choose him now? Does the Holy Spirit in your soul-for without that you never will-does the Holy Spirit say, "Bow the knee, and take him asyour king?" Thank God, then. But if not, his blood is on you, to condemn you. You crucified him. Pilate, Caiaphas, Herod, the Jews and Romans, all meet in you. You scourged him;you said, "Let him be crucified." Do not say it was not so. In effect you join their clamours when you refuse him; when you goyour way to your farm and to your merchandise, and despise his love and his blood, you do spiritually what they did literally-you despise the King of kings. Come to the fountain of his blood, and wash and be clean.
III. But we must close with a third remark. Christ really underwent yet a third trial. He was not only tried before the ecclesiasticaland civil tribunals, but, he was really tried before the great democratical tribunal, that is, the assembly of the peoplein the street.
You will say, "How?" Well, the trial was somewhat singular, but yet it was really a trial. Barabbas-a thief, a felon, a murderer,a traitor, had been captured; he was probably one of a band of murderers who were accustomed to come up to Jerusalem at thetime of the feast, carrying daggers under their cloaks to stab persons in the crowd, and rob them, and then he would be goneagain; besides that, he had tried to stir up sedition, setting himself up possibly as a leaderof banditti. Christ was put into competition with this villain; the two were presented before the popular eye, and tothe shame of manhood, to the disgrace of Adam's race, let it be remembered that the perfect, loving, tender, sympathizing,disinterested Savior was met with the word, "Crucify him!" and Barabbas, the thief, was preferred. "Well," says one, "thatwas atrocious." The same thing is put before you this morning-the very same thing; and every unregenerate man will make thesame choice that the Jews did, and only men renewed by grace will act upon the contrary principle. I say, friend, thisday I put before you Christ Jesus, or your sins. The reason why many come not to Christ is because they cannot give up theirlusts, their pleasures, their profits. Sin is Barabbas; sin is a thief; it will rob your soul of its life; it will rob Godof his glory. Sin is a murderer; it stabbed our father Adam; it slew our purity. Sin is a traitor; it rebels against the kingofheaven and earth. If you prefer sin to Christ, Christ has stood at your tribunal, and you have given in your verdict thatsin is better than Christ. Where is that man? He comes here every Sunday; and yet he is a drunkard? Where is he? You prefer that reeling demon Bacchus to Christ. Where is that man? He comes here. Yes; and where are his midnight haunts?The harlot and the prostitute can tell! You have preferred your own foul, filthy lust to Christ. I know some here that havetheirconsciences open pricked, and yet there is no change in them. You prefer Sunday trading to Christ; you prefer cheatingto Christ; you prefer the theater to Christ; you prefer the harlot to Christ; you prefer the devil himself to Christ, forhe it is that is the father and author of these things. "No," says one, "I don't, I don't." Then I do again put this question,and I put it very pointedly to you-"If you do not prefer your sins to Christ, how is it that you are not a Christian?" I believethis is the main stumbling-stone, that "Men love darkness rather than light, because their deeds are evil." We come not to Christ because of the viciousness of our nature, and depravity of our heart; and thisis the depravity of your heart, that you prefer darkness to light, put bitter for sweet, and choose evil as your good. Well,I think I hear one saying, "Oh! I would be on Jesus Christ's side, but I did not look at it in that light; I thought the question was. "Wouldhe be on my side? I am such a poor guilty sinner that I would fain stand anywhere, if Jesu's blood would wash me." Sinner! sinner!if thou talkest like that, then I will meet thee right joyously. Never was a man one with Christ till Christ was one withhim. If you feel that you can now stand with Christ, and say, "Yes, despised and rejected, he is nevertheless my God, my Savior,my king. Will he accept me? Why, soul, he has accepted you; he has renewed you, or else you would not talk so.You speak like a saved man. You may not have the comfort of salvation, but surely there is a work of grace in your heart,God's divine election has fallen upon you, and Christ's precious redemption has been made for you, or else you would not talkso. You cannot be willing to come to Christ, and yet Christ reject you. God forbid we should suppose the possibility of anysinner crying after the Savior, and the Savior saying, "No, I will not have you." Blessed be his name, "Him that cometh tome,"he says, "I will in no wise cast out." "Well," says one, "then I would have him to-day. How can I do it?" There is nothingasked of thee but this. Trust him! trust him! Believe that God put him in the stead of men; believe that what he sufferedwas accepted by God instead of their punishment; believe that this great equivalent for punishment can save you. Trust him; throw yourself on him; as a man commits himself to the waters, so do you; sink or swim! You will never sink, youwill never sink; for "he that believeth on the Lord Jesus Christ hath everlasting life, and shall never come into condemnation."
May these faint words upon so thrilling a subject bless your souls, and unto God be glory, for ever and ever. Amen and Amen.