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use of it against the magistrates and the ministers of justice (which was the case in the present instance) is unlawful. It was meant also to check that propensity, which is but too strong and too apparent in a large part of manking, to have recourse to the sword on all occasions; and more particularly to restrain private persons from avenging private injuries, which they should rather leave to the magistrate or to God; “ for vengeance is mine, I will repay, faith the Lord*.” In all such cases, they who take the sword unjustly and rashly will probably, as our Sav. iour here forewarns them, perish with the sword; with the sword of their adversary, or of the magistrate. That denunciation might also allude to the Jews, who now seized on Jesus ; and might be meant to intimate to his disciples, that it was perfectly needless for them to draw their swords on these miscreants, since they would all perish at the fiege or capture of Jerusalem by the sword of the Romans.
If it had been the intention of Providence to protect Jesus and his religion by force, there is no doubt but a host of angels would have been sent to defend him, as one was actually sent to comfort him. But this would have defeated the very purpose for which he came into world, which was, that he should “ make his soul an offering for fint." The prophets foretold (more particularly Isaiah and Daniel) that he should do so. And besides this, nothing could be more abhorrent, from the spirit of his religion, than force, violence, and bloodshed. These instruments of destruction he left to fanatics and impostors. The only weapons he made use of were of a different nature; the sword of the spirit, the shield of faith, and the armour of righteousness.
« In that same hour faid Jesus to the multitudes, Are ye come out as against a thief with swords and staves, for to take me; I fat daily with you teaching in the temple, and ye laid no hold on me. But all this was done that the scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled; which, as I have already observed, predicted his sufferings and
* Rom. xii. 19, Ifaiah, lüi. 10.
bis death. Then all his disciples forfook him and fled." Here we have the exact completion of that prophecy, which he had just before delivered, that all his disciples should be offended because of him; that is, should desert him that very night. And that this prediction was so accomplished, is clear beyond all controverfy ; because it was an event which the disciples would for their own credit gladly have suppressed, if they durit. By recording this event, they recorded their own weakness, their own pufil. lanimity. And we may be perfectly sure that they would not invent a falsehood on purpose to perpetuate their own disgrace. We have therefore, in this incident, a demonstrative proof, both that our Lord's prophecy was actually fulfilled, and that the evangelists were men of the stricteft veracity and integrity, who were determined to facrifice every thing, even their own reputation, to the sacred cause of truth.
Jesus being now in the possession of his enemies, they that had laid hold on him led him away to Caiaphas the high priest, where the scribes and the elders were assembled. But Peter, though he had fled with the rest, yet aihamed of his cowardice, and still really attached to his Master, summoned up for the moment resolution enough to turn back and follow the croud (but with cautious and trembling steps) to the palace of the high priest, “and went in, and fate with the servants in the hall of the palace, to see the end. Now the chief priests and elders, and all the council, fought false witness against Jesus to put him to death, but found none ; yea, though many false wit nesses came, yet found they none." Their object was to put Jesus to death ; and for this purpose they faught out for false witnesses, to charge him with a capital crime. To condemn any one to death their own law required two witnesses; and it was also necessary for them to produce evidence fufficient to induce the Roman governor to ratify their sentence, without which it was of no avail. There was no difficulty in finding out and fuborning false witnesses in abundance, who were perfectly well disposed to con. form to their wilhes ; but for a long time they found none whose evidence came up to the point they aimed at; none. who could prove against Jesus a capital offence. But at
length “ came two false witnesses, and said, This fellow said, I am able to destroy the temple of God, and to build it in three days.” Now to speak disrespectfully, or to prophecy against the temple, was considered by the Jews as blafphemy, and of course a capital offence. But the truth was that Jesus said no such thing. The expreffions alluded to by the witnesses were those he spoke, when, after casting the buyers and sellers out of the temple, the Jews asked him what sign he could give them of his authority to do these things ? His answer was, not as the witnesses stated it, “ I am able to destroy this temple ;” but it was, “ destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” So St. John expressly tells us* ; and also, that by this temple he meant his own body, to which he probably pointed at the time. The high priest, sensible, perhaps, that even this evidence would not completely answer his purpose, proceeds to interrogate our Saviour, hoping that he might be drawn by artful quef- . tions to condemn himself. He arose therefore, and said unto Jesus, “ Answerest thou nothing ? What is it that these witness against thee ?” Is it true, or is it false ? and what have you to say in your own defence? But Jesus held his peace. He disdained to make any answer to such unfounded and contemptible accusations. He saw that his judges were predetermined ; that every thing he could say would be of no avail ; and that the only proper part for him to take, was to observe a dignified silence. The high priest perceiving this, had recourse to a meafure which he knew must compel our Lord to speak; “1 adjure thee, says he, by the living God, that thou tell us, whether thou be the Christ the Son of God.” This calling upon a man to swear by the living God was called the oath of adjuration, and was the Jewish mode of administering an oath either to a witness or a criminal; and when so adjured, they were obliged to answer. Jesus now therefore conceived himself bound in conscience to break his filence, and said to the high priest, “ Thou bast said ;" that is, thou hast said what is true, I am the Messiah, the Christ, the Son of God; for all there were synonomus terms among the Jews. But as our Lord's actual appear,
Chap ii. 19.
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ance and situation did but ill accord with a character of fuch high dignity, he proceeds to assure his judges, that what he affirmed was nevertheless unquestionably true; and that they themselves fhould in due time have the fullest proof of it. For, says he, “ hereafter ye shall see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and com: ing in the clouds of heaven.” Sitting at the right hand of power means fitting at the right hand of God, to whom the Jews fometimes gave the appellation of power ; and coming in the clouds of heaven, was with the Jews a char, acteristic mark of the Messiah. And the whole passage relates not to the final judgment, but to the coming of Christ to execute vengeance on the Jews in the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans. " Then the high priest rent his clothes, (a mark of extreme horror and indigna, tion) saying, he hath spoken blafphemy, by declaring himself the Christ, the Son of God, and assuming all the marks of divine power. What further need have we of witnesses ? Behold, now ye have heard his blafphemy. What think ye? They answered and said, he is guilty of death ;” guilty of a crime that deserves death. “ Then did they fpit in his face, and buffeted him; and others (mote him with the palms of their hands, saying, Pro phesy unto us ; who is he that smote thee?". , .;
Such were the indignities offered to the Lord of all, by his own infatuated creatures ; and although he could with one word have laid them prostrate at his feet, yet he bore all these insults without a single murmur or complaint, and never once spake unadvisedly with his lips. “Though he was reviled, he reviled not again ; though he suffered, he threatened not, but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously*.”
The evangelist now resumes the history of St. Peters who, while these things were transacting in the council. room, fate without in the palace; and a damsel came unto him saying, “ Thou also wast with Jesus of Galilee. But he denied before them all, faying, I know not what thou sayeit. And when he was come out into the porch,
- * 1 Pet. ü. 23.
another maid faw him, and said unto them that were there, This fellow also was with Jesus of Nazareth. And again he denied with an oath, I do not know the man. And after a while came unto him they that stood by, and said to Peter, Surely thou also art one of them, for thy speech betrayeth thee. "Then began he to curfe and to fwear, faying, I know not the man. And immediately the cock crew. And Peter remembered the words of Jesus, which faid unto him, Before the cock crow thou shalt deny me thrice. And he went out and wept bitterly."
This most interesting story is related by all the evangelifts, with a few immaterial variations in each ; but the substance is the fame in all. There is however one circumstance added by St. Luke, fo exquisitely beautiful and touching, that it well deserves to be noticed here. He tells us that after Peter had denied Jesus thrice, “im. mediately, while he yet fpake, the cock crew ; and the Lord turned and looked upon Peter*." What effect that look must have had on the heart and on the countenance of Peter, every one may, perhaps, in some degree conceive; but it is utterly impossible for any words to describe, or, I believe, even for the pencil of a Guido to expresst. The facred historian therefore most judiciously makes no attempt to work upon our paflions or our feelings by any display of eloquence on the occasion. He simply relates the fact, without any embellishment or amplification; and only adds, “and Peter remembered the words of the Lord, how he had said unto him, before the cock crow thou shalt deny me thrice; and he went out and wept bitterly."
The reflections that croud upon the mind from this moft affecting incident of Peter's denial of his master, are ma. ny and important; but I can only touch, and that slightly, on a few.
The first is, that this event in the history of St. Peter is a clear and a stiking accomplishment of our Saviour's
Ch. xxii. 61. -- In fact, I cannot learn that any great master has ever get selected this incident as the subject of a picture.