« AnteriorContinuar »
use of it against the magistrates and the ministers of justice (which was the case in the present instance) is unlawsul. 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, saith the Lord*." In all such cases, they who take the sword unjustly and rashly will probably, as our Saviour 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 persectly needless for them to draw their swords on these miscreants, since they would all perish at the siege 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 desend him, as one was actually sent to comfort him. But this would have deseated the very purpofe for which he came into world, which was, that he should " make his foul an offering for sinf." . 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 sanatics and impostors. The only weapons he made use of were of a different nature; the sword of the spirit, the shield of saith, and the armour of righteousness.
"In that same hour said Jesus to the multitudes, Are ye come out as against a thief with swords and staves, for to take me; I sat 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 sulsilled; which, as I have already observed, predicted his sufferings and
his death. Then all his disciples forsook 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 fe accomplished, is clear beyond all controversy; because it was an event which the disciples would for their own credit gladly have suppressed, if they durst. By recording this event, they recorded their own weakness, their own pusillanimity. And we may be persectly sure that they would not invent a salsehood on purpofe to perpetuate their own disgrace. We have therefore, in this incident, a demonstrative proof, both that our Lord's prophecy was actually sulsilled, and that the evangelists were men of the strictest veracity and integrity, who were determined to sacrisice 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 ashamed 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 sate with the servants in the hall of the palace, to see the end. Now the chief priests and elders, and all the council, sought salse witness against Jesus to put him to death, but found none; yea, though many salse wiP~ nesses came, yet found they none." Their object was to put Jesus to death; and for this purpofe they saught out for salse 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 sussicient to induce the Roman governor to ratisy their sentence, without which it was of no avail. There was no dissiculty in sinding out and suborning salse witnesses in abundance, who were persectly well disposed to conform 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 salse witnesses, and said, This sellow said, I am able to destroy the temple of God, and to build it in three days." Now to speak disrespectsully, or to prophecy against the temple, was considered by the Jews as blasphemy, and of course a capital offence. But the truth was that Jesus said no such thing. The expressions alluded to by the witnesses were thofe 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 purpofe, proceeds to interrogate our Saviour, hoping that he might be drawn by artsul questions to condemn himself. He arofe therefore, and said unto Jesus, "Answerest thou nothing? What is it that these witness against thee I" Is it true, or is it salse? and what have you to say in your own desence? But Jesus held his peace. -He disdained to make any answer to such unsounded 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 dignisied silence. The high priest perceiving this, had recourse to a measure 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 te break his silence, and said to the high priest, "Thou hast said that is, thou hast said what is true, I am the Messiah, the Christ, the Son of God; for all these were synonomus terms among the Jews. But as our Lord's actual appear
aace and situation did but ill accord with a character of &ch high dignity, he proceeds to assure his judges, that what he assirmed was nevertheless unquestionably true; ^nd that they themselves should in due time have the sullest proof of it. For, says he, " hereafter ye shall see th« Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven." Sitting at the right hand of power means sitting at the right hand of God, to whom the Jews sometimes gave the appellation of poiver and coming in the clouds of heaven, was with the Jews a characteristic mark of the Messiah. And the whole paslage relates not to the sinal 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 indignation) saying, he hath spoken blasphemy, by declaring himself the Christ, the Son of God, and assuming all the marks of divine power. What surther need have we of witnesses i Behold, now ye have heard his blasphemy.— What think ye ? They answered and said, he is-guilty of death;" guilty of a crime that deserves death. "Then did they spit in his sace, and buffeted him j and others smote him with the palms of their hands, saying, Prophesy unto us; who is he thai smote thee?"
• Such were the indignities offered to the Lord of all, by his own insutuated creatures; and akhough he could with one word have laid them prostrate at his seet, yet he bora 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 jndgeth righteously*." ..tr
. . t • i . .• : . "j
The evangelist now resumes the history of St. Peterj who, while these things were transacting in the council: room, sate without in the palace; and a damsel came unto. him saying, "Thou also wast with Jesus of Galilee.— But he denied before them all, saying, I know not what thou sayest. And when he was come out into the porch,
* I Pet. ii. 23.
.another maid saw him, and said unto them that were there, "This sellow 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 curse and to swear, I know not the man. And immediately the cock And Peter remembered the words of Jesus, which unto him, Before the cock crow thou shalt deny me •ice. And he went out and wept bitterly."
This most interesting story is related by all the evangelists, with a sew immaterial variations in each; but the substance is the same in all. There is however one citcumstance added by St. Luke, so exquisitely beautiful and touching, that it well deserves to be noticed here.-rHe tells us that after Peter had denied Jesus thrice, "immediately, while he yet spake, the cock crew ; and the Z,ord turned and looked vpon Peter*." What efsect that musthav
: 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 expressf .— The sacred historian therefore most judiciously makes no attempt to work upon our passions or our feelings by any display of eloquence on the occasion. He simply relates the sact, without any embellishment or amplisication; 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 most ?dTecting incident of Peter's denial of his master, are many and important; but I can only touch, and that slightly, jpn a sew.
The sirst is, that this event in the history of St. Peter is a clear and a stiking accomplishment of our Saviour's
* Ch. xxii. 6i.
f In sact, 1 cannot learn that any great master has ever yet selectad this incident as the subject of a picture.