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Master the third time, than the cock crew, and awakened in him the first conviction of his sin: And the Lord turned and looked upon Peter. And Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said unto him, Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice. And Peter went out, and wept bitterly. St. Luke is the only evangelist who has preserved this beautiful circumstance of Christ's turning and looking on Peter. The members of the council who sat on Jesus, were placed at the upper end of the hall; in the other, were the servants with Peter at the fire : so that Jesus being probably placed on some eminence, that his judges, who were numerous, might see and hear him, could easily look over towards Peter, and observe him denying him, and in passionate terms, loud enough to be heard perhaps, over all the place. The look pierced him, and, with the crowing of the cock, brought his Master's prediction fresh into his mind. He was stung with deep remorse ; and, being unable to contain himself, he covered his face with his garment to conceal the confusion he was in, and going out into the porch wept very bitterly. All this passed while the priests examined Jesus with many taunts and revilings; and while the most zealous of Christ's disciples was denying him with oaths and imprecations, the others insulted him in the most inhuman manner. Thus a complication of injuries, insults, and indignities, was at one time heaped upon the blessed Redeemer, the meek and mild Jesus, the suffering and wonderfully patient Son of the adorable Majesty of heaven.
The Trial of Jesus before the Sanhedrim, or grand
Council of the Jews. THE band of soldiers having seized Jesus, led him to the high-priest's house, where all the chief priests, the Scribes, and the elders were assembled: And as soon as it was day, the elders of the people, and the chief priests, and the Scribes, came together, and led him into their council. Probably the trial did not begin immediately on our Lord's arrival; for though many of the judges were at the high-priest's before him, some persons of distinction might be absent, whose coming, the rest were, out of respect, inclined to wait for: but, as the passover was at hand, they had no time to lose; so that as soon as the council was fully met, the trial was begun: And the high-priest asked Jesus of his disciples, and of his doctrine." He enquired of him what his disciples were, for what end he had gathered them, whether it was to make himself a king, and what the doctrine was which he taught them? In these questions there was a great deal of art; for as the crime laid to our Saviour's charge was, that he had set up for the Messiah, and deluded the people, they expected he would claim that dignity in their presence, and so would on his own confession have condemned him, without any further process. This was unfair, as it was artful and ensnaring: to oblige a prisoner on his trial to confess what might take away his life, was a very inequitable method of proceeding; and JEsus expressed his opinion thereof with very good reason, and complained of it, bidding them prove what they had laid to his charge by witnesses: Jesus answered him, I spake. openly to the world; I ever taught in the synagogue, and in the temple, whither the Jeres always resort; and in secret have I said nothing. Why askest thou me? Ask them rohich heard me, what I have said unto them: behold they knoro what I said. It was greatly to the
honour of our blessed Redeemer, that all his actions were done in public, under the eye even of his enemies; because, had he been carrying on any imposture, the lovers of goodness and truth had thus abundant opportunities of detecting him with propriety : he therefore, in his defence, appealed to that part of his character; yet his answer was construed disrespectful: for, when he had thus spoken, one of the officers which stood by, struck Jesus with the palm of his hand, saying', Answerest thou the high-priest so? To which he meekly replied with the greatest serenity, If I have spoken evil, bear witness of the evil: but if well, why smitest thou me? Shew me, prove before this court, wherein my crime consists, or record it in the evidence on the face of my trial; which if thou cannot, how can thou answer this inhuman treatment to a defenceless prisoner, standing on his trial before the world, and in open court, and strike me undeservedly?
In this instance Jesus became an example of his own precept; and if a man smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. Matt. v. 39, bearing the greatest injuries with an unprovoked patience, worthy of the meek Lamb of God.
Jesus having declined answering the questions, whereby the council expected to have drawn from him an acknowledgment of his being the Messiah, they proceeded to examine many witnesses to prove his having assumed that character; as they considered such a pretension as blasphemy in his mouth, who being only a man according to their opinion, could not, without the highest affront to the Divine Majesty, pretend to the title of the Son of God, as it belonged only to the Messiah. But in this examination they acted like interested and enraged persecutors, rather than impartial judges, forming their questions in the most artful manner, in order, if possible, to draw expressions from them which they might pervert into suspicions of guilt, as some foundation for condemning Jesus, who had so long and
faithfully laboured for their salvation. Their witnesses however, disappointed them, some of them disagreeing in their story, and others mentioning things of no manner of importance.
At last, two persons agreed in their depositions, name ly, in hearing him say, that he was able to destroy the temple of God, and to raise it in three days. But this testimony was absolutely false; for our great Redeemer never said he could destroy and build the temple of Jerusalem in three days, as they affirmed. It is true, that after banishing the traders from the temple, when the Jews desired to know by what authority he undertook to make such a reformation, he referred them to the miracle of his resurrection ? saying, Destroy this Temple (pointing probably to his body) and in three days I will raise it up. The witnesses, therefore, either through malice or ignorance perverted his answer into an affirmation, that he was able to destroy, and build the magnificent temple of Jerusalem in three days: and the judges considering that such an act could only be performed by Divine Power, interpreted his assertion as blasphemy.
Our Saviour, during the whole time, made no reply to the evidences that were produced against him, which greatly provoked the high-priest, who, supposing that he intended by his silence, to put an affront on the council, rose from his seat, and with great perturbation, demanded the reason of so remarkable a conduct: Answerest thou nothing, said he, what is it which these witness against thee? And some of the council added, Art thou the Christ? To which our blessed Saviour answered, If I should tell you plainly, you would not believe me; and if I should demonstrate it to you by the most evident and undeniable arguments, ye would neither be convinced nor release me.
After these things, the high-priest finding it impose sible to ensnare Jesus, and being desirous of rendering
the trial as short as possible, said to him, I adjure thee solemnly, by the dreadful and tremendous name of God, in whose presence thou standeth, that thou tell us plainly and truly, whether thou art the Messiah, the Son of God? This question was artfully contrived; for, if Jesu's should answer it in the affirmative, they were ready to condemn him as a blasphemer; if in the neg.. ative, they intended to punish him as an impostor, who had deceived the people by accepting from them the honours and titles of the Messiah.
The blessed Jesus was not, however, intimidated by the consequence attending his confession of the truth, for being adjured by the chief magistrate, he immediately confessed the charge, adding, ye shall shortly see a convincing evidence of this truth, in that wonderful and unparalelled destruction which I will send upon the Jewish nation; in the quick and powerful progress which the gospel shall make over the earth; and finally in my glorious appearance in the clouds of heaven at the last day, the sign you have so often demanded in confirmation of my being sent from God.
This answer of our blessed Saviour's, caused a number of them to cry out at once, as astonished at the supposed blasphemy, Ait thou the Son of God? To which our great Redeemer replied, Ye say that I am : a manner of speaking among the Jews, which express. ed a plain and strong affirmation.
The high-priest, on hearing this second assertion, rent his clothes with great indignation, and said unto the council, Why need we trouble ourselves to seek for any more witnesses? Ye yourselves, nay, this whole assembly, are witnesses that he hath spoken manifest and notorious blasphemy; what think ye? To which they all replied, that, for assuming to himself the character of the Messiah, he deserved to be put to death.