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We know this to be historical. We read of this in other books than the New Testament. Some of us, therefore, who are so much afraid of superstition as to look with some wonder if not doubt upon lines that are found in the New Testament, or Old Testament alone, may feel ourselves to be upon solid ground. Jesus loved, taught, was scourged, crowned with thorns, clothed with purple, killed. For this information we are not dependent upon evangelists; for this assurance we have the authority of men who never prayed, who, therefore, can doubt their word?
"Pilate therefore took Jesus, and scourged him," literally, flagellated him. We cannot tell what that Roman punishment was. We read about it in the olden books, but men do not understand what they read so much as what they feel. The victim was tied by the hands to a post or standard; he was compelled to assume a stooping position; the knotted thong was in the hands of a Roman executioner, and he administered the punishment largely according to his own will or passion. It was not so in the Jewish law. Always have we found some touch of grace, some hint of gospel, even in Jewish sternness. In the law there is a shadow of good things to come. The Jewish law was that "forty stripes, save one" should be administered. There was no corresponding reservation in the Roman law; the judge or the executioner might administer punishment according to personal disposition; there was no restraint as to the number of the stripes. We have heard of the knout in Russia; in our own land we have the "cat," so feared by felons; in the Roman law there was this arrangement for scourging, that men might be humbled as well as punished, that the truth might be extorted from them as well as a penalty inflicted, that they might be brought into lowliness of mind and submissiveness of temper, so that the judge could do with them what he pleased. The hands of Christ were tied to the stake, the flagellum was used upon his naked back; he was scourged by Roman hands.
"Pilate therefore." That word "therefore" has a wondrous surrounding. It is a logical term, and it is a term that expresses a force more than logical, for pressure was put upon Pilate. To find the full force of this "therefore" we must go back to the other gospels, called the synoptic gospels, where more detail is given, and there we shall find the people pressing upon Pilate, insisting that such and such a course be taken, driving him to his wits' ends, not allowing him to hesitate more than a moment, bearing away all his protestation in a storm of anger. "Pilate therefore": the storm was upon him, the tempest was beating upon his head; all the ministries that made up the momentary experience were ministries of anger, and Pilate was the victim of popular clamour. He did not know what to do. He knew what he wanted to do. A wonderful face had Pilate rocky, rugged, cavernous face, but a whole fountain of tenderness behind it all; he could have cried like a woman. He was overborne; crosslights perplexed his vision: it was right, it was wrong; he would be tender, he must not be disloyal; he would be gracious, he must not be treasonable: "Pilate therefore." In some senses a lame and impotent "therefore," but not an inhuman one, not out of keeping with the proportion of our own action, the mystery of our own policy. We are often glad of any "therefore" that will help us not to inflict punishment but to escape perplexity. Many men are more afraid of perplexity than they are of an army. Courage often breaks down at unexpected places: who would be afraid of mental bewilderment, of ambiguous thinking, of the double intentions and purposes of life? Yet some men are so constituted that a perplexity has frightened them more than a lion world. "Pilate therefore." Where is there a man who has not his reason for action? Because they are reasons they are not necessarily valid; they may belong to that multitudinous array of reasons which may be safely denominated excuses. Still, where is there a drunkard, foul-mouthed liar, thief with a hundred stealing hands, that has not his miserable "therefore" out of which to extract illicit but transitory comfort?
Let us meditate now rather than analyse. "Pilate took Jesus, and scourged him." Let us lay the emphasis upon the supplied word "him." The word is not in the original; yet there could be no sense in the history without it. Sometimes an element is present without being avowedly and nominally present; it is there in all the ghostliness of suggestion and necessity; it may not stoop to adopt the costume of grammar, but it is there, pulsing, throbbing, palpitating with infiniteness of energy. Let us dwell upon that sublime word and verily write it in italics. Written in italic because it is not there, now let us write it in italic because there is nothing else there. "Scourged him" who spoke the beatitudes! It is impossible! Surely a mistake has been made in the writing. The man who is now bent, and on whose bared back the knout falls, said, "Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled. Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God." Can he now extract any comfort from these words? Has this preacher to live his own sermon? Is his unfathomable and ineffable eloquence to be applied to and by himself? Did he see further than all these beauteous flowers? So far we might accompany him, saying, This is poetical, most rhythmical, wondrously complete and morally harmonious. Can he go further? Beatitudes could not end with peacemakers. There would have been a great omission if only the poor in spirit, the mourning, the meek, the righteous, the merciful, the pure in heart, and the peacemaking had been included; verily a hiatus all but infinite in human history would have been left if the beatitudes had ended there. But they do not there terminate. Hear what Jesus said, "Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." A beatitude like that might sing to a man when he was bound to the standard, the stake. "Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad; for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you." Now what omission is there? None. No flower is unblessed by this gracious dew; not one could lift up its drooping, fainting head and say, The Lord hath forgotten to be gracious to me. Every flower-cup is filled with this wine of blessing. But do men who speak beatitudes come to flagellation? They do, if they speak beatitudes with the right scope. If they limit their beatifications to certain negative qualities, and certain pointless amiabilities, they may escape scourging; but if they reserve their blessing for virtue as well as grace, for energy as well as patience, for the reforming spirit as well as for the acquiescing temper, then they may come to find their way to heaven through much tribulation.
"Took Jesus and scourged him " scourged him who blessed little children! This is impossible! But the Latin historians say it was real. The disciples did not dream this. This is written in Latin as well as in Greek, and is written in common Greek as well as in scriptural Greek. There is no doubt about it. We are now on flatly historical ground. You remember the incident? Mothers brought their children to Jesus that he would bless them; the disciples drove them away; but the Master said, "Suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not, for of such is the kingdom of heaven." What a kingdom he made! There was not a king in it; there was no decorated person in all the empire, there were no so-called "solid corner stones" about it; the kingdom was made up of little children, of men who had the child-spirit; made up of pureness, meekness, tenderness. These are moral qualities that the wind cannot blow down nor the tempest shake, and the lightning plays on them like any other blessing. Jesus took little children into his arms and blessed them. To have been in those arms what a heaven was that: what a caress! A caress which only a child could feel: and this was the Man speaker of the beatitudes and lover of little children who was scourged, flagellated and lacerated, till the thick seams rose on his quivering back! If the apostles had said this we might have doubted it, but it is declared as if on oath by men who never cared for the God of heaven.
"Then Pilate took Jesus, and scourged him" him who had fed the multitude, and not only fed the multitude as a necessity, but fed the multitude as a prevention. Here was the statesman's act as well as the redeemer's pity. Said Christ, "They have been with me now three days; I will not send them away hungry, lest" in that lest you find his deity. Many a man will give bread when dead, grim, ghastly hunger is looking at him; he pays to get rid of the ghost. But here is a man who says, "I will not send them away empty, lest" lest what? "Lest they should die by the way." Though they were out of sight they would still be fainting, and blessed be his name oh, blessed be his heart! no man faints without his beholding it.
Let us dwell upon these points, because they all help us to understand the scourging. What a pain it must have been to such a nature I "Pilate took Jesus, and scourged him " scourged him who spake parables! the Parable of the Prodigal Son that set the home-door open and kept it open all night, because the fool might return at any moment ragged and hunger-bitten; spake the Parable of the Good Samaritan, wherein, though Jews were looking at him angrily, he painted the Samaritan as the true redeemer of that man, a parable that had in it poetry and judgment. Only he dare have set up a Samaritan in that position. Now he was scourged!
Does the whole truth lie within the limits of a local incident? No. There is an Old Testament as well as a New, and in a scourging of this kind the Old Testament becomes alive again; it is no longer archaic but modern; it brings up its prophecies and says, Seal us, for now we are fulfilled; subscribe this prophecy with your hand, and let it pass as a letter that has been glorified. All this was foretold. The fifty-third chapter of Isaiah would make an excellent introduction to these closing chapters of the evangelic story. Jesus gave his back to the smiters, and his cheeks to them that plucked off the hair, in the Old Testament the same Jesus, not then manifest in the flesh, but still there. He has never been out of the world; he made it. He did not come into the world in any sense that indicates his ever having been separated from it; he came into it by vividness of manifestation, by showing himself. Historically, there was birth, there was circumcision, there was baptism; but morally, spiritually, there was a personal presence in the world that only needed disclosure. He was in the world, and the world knew him not. Not only was all this foretold, it was voluntarily accepted. No word does Jesus utter, no protest; he does not argue with Roman procurator, or with Jewish rabble. He speaks mysterious words; he evidently supports himself by eternity. He is well-backed; it is an invisible support, because so great. Had it been less, say a pair of human hands, the support might have been seen. But who has eyes to see eternity? He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he opened not his mouth; when he was reviled, he reviled not again; when he was insulted, he threatened not. Why that peace? It is not indifference, it is not even resignation, it is not an acceptance of grim fatality; it is a peace that shines, it is peace with radiance, it is peace with subdued joy. The explanation is, "I lay down my life; no man taketh it from me; I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again." When did Jesus Christ take a low and narrow view of any case or any situation? He did not feel himself to be murdered; he accepted the act as a sacrifice. "He was wounded for our trangressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon him, and by his stripes " a still larger flagellation "we are healed." What do these words mean? We cannot tell. Whoever took the sun into his own little house to examine: it and tell what it was made of? We can only say that the sun gives light, and we can only say that Jesus makes us see, gives us life and hope and immortality, and has so wrought upon us that we can say to death, "Where is thy sting? and grave black, grim, tremendous grave where is thy victory?" Any man that has wrought this miracle in us is worthy of all the crowns that make heaven royal. We stand to say that Jesus has done this for us.
May we change the tone of the meditation? Shall we be no longer quiet, almost silent, shall we accept another spirit, and giving way to its inspiration shall we become violent in denunciation? We might, and still be in harmony with the spirit of the text. Let us beware lest we waste our sentiment on historical humiliation. It is not enough to weep because a Man was flagellated twenty centuries ago. That Man is flagellated today; the knout still seams his quivering flesh, still makes it start up in red scars; he is still tied to the scourging post. That is the terrible truth; but for that we might paint the picture, and sell it; but it is too modern to trifle with. How is the process of scourging still going on? Pilate is dead. Certainly: the Roman Pilate is dead; but they scourge Jesus who nominally profess to serve him, and do not serve him with all their mind, and heart, and soul, and strength. That is a flagellation which is terrible to him. He was no coward under the knout, but he quails with anger-grief when he is used as a mere decoration, when his Cross is worn as an ornament and not felt as a burden. They scourge Christ who are silent when hostile attacks are made upon him. He feels our silence more than he feels the attack. Where does he suffer in the flesh? No more. What is a flesh wound, a flesh sorrow? Flesh and sorrow of that kind are but for a moment. He now feels everything upon his naked heart. The slightest puncture is as a great wound. Who has not stood back and heard Jesus attacked and reviled and dishonoured, and never spoken a word for his Friend? In that case what did Jesus Christ feel? Not the attack at all; but how his eyes reddened with tears when he marked the silence! What, said he, will ye also go away? have you nothing to say? does no holy memory awaken within? does no tender association enlarge your love and stimulate your courage with a noble inspiration? have I not visited you in sorrow, in contrition, at home, at midnight, when the child lay ill, when the new grave was dug, when all life darkened into a frown and threatened you as with a tempest of thunderbolts? What do we ourselves feel? Some men feel an insult more than a wound. In proportion to the spirituality of the relation is the sensitiveness as between the parties, as between the disciple and the Lord. Our relation to Christ is nothing if it be not one of love. It is not an intellectual relation, as who should say, Lord, I had mind enough to understand all about thy kingdom; dolts and dunces I have left behind, I had the genius that caught thy meaning; I am the clever member of the household. There is no such relation with Christ. He does not acknowledge it. He knows nothing about cleverness, except to contemn it. He puts cleverness under his feet as an enemy. It is simplicity, docility, felt necessity, rising love, answering sympathy, the intuition that will never allow itself to be iron-bound by empiricism or logic in any form. There the relation begins and operates. He feels it, therefore, when any man who has been healed by him dare not say to hissing and mocking Pharisees, "Whether he be a sinner or no, I know not: one thing I know, that whereas I was blind, now I see." If every cured blind man would speak there would be eloquence enough.
They scourge Jesus who use his name for unworthy purposes, as a social key, as an answer to many inquiries. There are men who pay more for their atheism than others pay for their Christianity. There are atheists who if they were not honest could not be in society today. There are nominally professing Christians who because they are dishonest have the entrée to all saloons and gathering-places, and the rendezvous of the great and empurpled and titled. Better be an honest atheist than a dishonest professor of Christianity. The atheist will have more chance at the last; in fact, he only will have a chance as compared with those who dishonestly or only nominally profess Christ. It is quite imaginable that at the last some poor blind atheist may have his eyes opened and may begin to pray, and may pray more in one cry than many nominal Christians have prayed in a lifetime. It is not for us to limit the kingdom, nor is it for us with licentiousness of sentiment to proclaim that they may disobey Christ, and yet be found at last in the company of those who loved him. Let every statement be made clear, definite, simple, and let the maker of the statement feel that he himself will have to answer for it at the last; then let him leave heaven to make what margin can be made by love.
They scourge Jesus who think more of bodily pain than of spiritual cruelty. There are men who would have released Jesus from the bodily pain, and yet never have taken notice of his heart wound. We are of course limited by our senses, and with a meaning that is obvious we are the victims of our senses. A blow to some people would seem to be more than neglect. There are houses of baptised people in which there is more suffering by neglect than there is by violence; indeed, violence there is none. Violence would give hope, because wherever there is passion there may by-and-by be devotion. The man who curses and swears and denies with oaths that he never knew Christ will be found in a day or two breaking his heart and calling back all his oaths and curses, and burning himself with them. But neglect, coldness, studied respectability, calculated forbearance and gentility, coldness that freezes love, these are the deadly enemies of household trust and progress; so they are the deadly enemies of ecclesiastical brotherhood and advancement. We must account the body nothing, and the soul everything; we must feel neglect more than we feel a sword-cut; we must feel the oozing of the heart's love more than the out-bursting of the heart's blood. Jews were guiltless as compared with Christians. Jesus Christ said so; he said in his last prayer, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." We know what we do. We do it on purpose; we do it by calculation; we make a study of it. They crown Jesus who obey him. Do not let us imagine that by singing about crowning Jesus we are going to do some wonderful work in coronation. We could crown him now. We speak of by-and-by casting our crowns before him, being lost in wonder, love, and praise. That is perfectly right; there is a holy meaning attached to such sacred words. But all who would crown Jesus now may do so by saying, and meaning, "Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?"
No Fault Found
Probably there is not, in the whole compass of history, a more vivid illustration of hesitancy and instability than that afforded by the conduct of Pilate immediately prior to the crucifixion. In the outset Pilate was reluctant to undertake the judgment of the case; hence he said to the Jews, "Take ye him, and judge him according to your law." Being compelled to ascend the judgment-seat, he held a private interview with Jesus, and then uttered the memorable declaration, "I find in him no fault at all." Again did the implacable Jews treat the Saviour with the most studied indignity, crowning him with thorns, and putting on him a purple robe, exclaiming, "Hail, King of the Jews!" and smiting him with their hands. Pilate again protested, saying, "Behold, I bring him forth to you, that ye may know that I find no fault in him." Hardly had the utterance fallen, when the rabble thundered out, "Crucify him, crucify him!" The hesitant judge interposed, saying, "Take ye him, and crucify him: for I find no fault in him," the savage reply was instantaneous, "We have a law, and by our law he ought to die, because he made himself the Son of God." This was as an arrow shot into the heart of Pilate, for "when Pilate therefore heard that saying, he was the more afraid." Again did he confer with Jesus, and again was he impressed with the Saviour's innocence; for, according to John, "from thenceforth Pilate sought to release him." Vainly, however, did he plead; the omnipotent appeal now rang from the maddened mob, "If thou let this man go, thou art not Caesar's friend: whosoever maketh himself a king, speaketh against Caesar." 'Twas enough; Pilate could stand no longer: "Then delivered he him therefore unto them to be crucified. And they took Jesus, and led him away."
Such are the circumstances. Pilate was destitute of strong conviction, and was consequently weak in the presence of a determined opposition. Pilate had not learned the majesty of that most majestic word ought! That word is as a consuming fire, devouring all pleas and subterfuges: it is the watchword of the absolute in truth, purity, and freedom; it is the embodiment of God; it is the summary of the universe; it is the sentinel of heaven; it is the summary and memorial of Sinai; it is the immutable standard to which all loyal spirits will eternally aspire. Men are nothing if devoid of intelligent and all-daring convictions. Such convictions will infallibly insure three results:
First. Such convictions will deliver men from the despotism of popular fury. Is any position more unenviable than that of a Pilate between two great billows of passion? See an undecided official in church or senate called upon to determine a disputed question! He is the butt of every witling: he would vote on both sides; if his opinions venture the slightest disclosure, he trembles when the storm utters its voice; he is as helpless as the debris on the impetuous river, or the dust scattered by the whirlwind. A man of strong conviction in such a position would abide in perfect calm until the storm cried itself to sleep; then would he ascend the throne, and show that Right has patience to wait and power to conquer.
Second. Such convictions enable men to sacrifice the highest human patronage. To be "Caesar's friend" is an object in whose attainment the sublimest principles are often trodden in the dust. There are men who can see no higher than Caesar. Their feeble vision is so dazzled by the light of earthly pomp that they cannot see the "glory which excelleth." The true-born son of thought and feeling looks through the mock-splendour of earthly jets to the palace where reigns the King Eternal, whose garment is light, and whose throne is built of the riches of the universe; and beholding the Majesty of heaven, he scorns the patronage of any Caesar for which he must pay his blood or mortgage his eternity!
Third. Such convictions enable men to serve the truth in the most perilous circumstances. "Perfect love" of principle will "cast out fear" of personal injury. He is the truly royal man who, in divine strength, "plants his footsteps on the sea, and rides upon the storm." Ornamental men may be applauded in seasons of calm, but they are useless when fire-bolts are flying, and foundations shaking, and thunders rolling; then we require men who can front frowning senates, and abash them with the regal decree, "We ought to obey God rather than men!"
Let us be strong, "strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus." Being found mighty in faith, "rooted and grounded in love," invincible in argument, and unimpeachable in life, we shall be the faithful servants of all the principles which can inspire and ennoble the race. We shall be firm as the eternal granite, and gentle as the harmless dove. When the enemy demands our crucifixion of the truth, instead of being Pilate-like, we shall reply by a louder utterance of its praise, and a pro-founder reverence at its throne!
What Scripture Saith
You will infer from the text that I want to insist upon a right way of reading the Bible. Our prayer, therefore, has been, Open thou our eyes, that we may behold wondrous things out of thy law; open thou our understanding, that we may understand the Scriptures! In my judgment, I know of hardly anything that has been so mischievous in what is termed Christian education as the tearing away of little pieces of Scripture under the name of texts. Portions of Scripture so treated have been made to represent false meanings, and have gone up and down the ages of the Church doing all sorts of spiritual harm. There ought to be no texts in any partial sense, or in any sense which mangles and mutilates the integrity of Holy Writ. The subject is never in the text, it is always in the context. If any man take a text, he should take all the texts bearing upon the subject, so that we may know the exact evidence of Scripture in its volume and weight and applicableness. An error may be sealed by a text; a denomination may be falsely based upon a portion of Scripture torn from the current in which it is found. We ought not to want little mottoes and short maxims; we ought to have grown out of the childishness of wanting a text; we should now want the Scriptures, a thousand texts, or all the texts that can be found bearing upon the subject that is to be elucidated. But herein the pulpit is dragged down. There are persons who will always insist upon having a text, one text, a little verse; they like to be surprised by it. They are not students of the divine word; they are the victims of their own foolish curiosity. We ought to say, What does the whole Bible declare upon a given subject? Let us have all the evidence carefully and luminously put before us, then by the aid of the Spirit of God who wrote the testimony we may be able to come to broad and intelligible and useful conclusions.
Consider how far this involves your own spiritual misadventures. How many little torn texts have you in your memory? What do you know about the Book as a structure, a unity, a complete figure and integer? Have you ever really read the Bible? I know you have read the Gospels, you have also perused many of the Psalms: what do you know about the Book of Numbers, Deuteronomy, the Judges, the Chronicles? If you do not know them all, almost by heart, how can ye understand the Scriptures? A few instances will show more precisely the meaning of the expression "Again another Scripture saith." It is that "other Scripture" we want, that supplementing, completing, and illuminating Scripture. Many of us have the one text but not the other. The devil had a set of texts. The devil saith unto him, "It is written"; and Christ answered, "Yes, and it is written again." It is that "again" that explains the quotation. We must therefore have regard to the proportion of faith, or the analogy of faith, or the general balance and drift of scriptural testimony; in this way we shall clear out many denominations, sects, eccentric communions of people who build themselves on rags and patches of divine testimony.
How many persons there are who say, when they are asked to join some great philanthropic or benevolent movement, that they prefer to work secretly, and not to let the left hand know what the right hand doeth. They justify themselves by a text; they forget that "another Scripture saith," "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven." How now? Why do you not quote the "other Scripture"? Why do you not say with Jesus Christ in the time of temptation, "It is written again"? What becomes now of your little selfish secrecy? You might say, "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven," and then having accomplished that good, you might go out and do no end of useful service, and say nothing about it The first text would come in admirably after you had attended to the duty or fulfilled the opportunity created by the second. Is it true what I hear that you never allow the right hand to speak to the left, because the right hand has nothing to report?
How many persons excuse themselves from public worship on the ground of a text! They say, in a tone that is itself not only weak but impious, "Thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and pray to thy Father which is in secret." That is beautiful, that is perfectly right; but "again another Scripture saith," "Forsake not the assembling of yourselves together, as the manner of some is." Now how long will you remain in cold and isolated secrecy? Not only are we to attend to God in the closet, we are to worship him in the public assembly; we can get something in the assembly we cannot get in the closet, as truly as we can get something in the closet that we cannot get in the public assembly. Public worship ought to be a grand opportunity for the highest education and stimulus of our minds and hearts. We complete each other; we get in the commonwealth what we cannot get in the individual. We should hear each other's voices, study each other's method, commingle with each other's aspirations, and enter into all the mystery so far as is practicable of one another's agonies and burdens and miseries. We were not made to live alone, we were made for society. On the other hand, if any man shall say, "Forsake not the assembling of yourselves together," and be always in the public thoroughfare or always in the huge assembly, then he should remember that "another Scripture saith," "Thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet." Thus the one Scripture supplements the other, completes it, or explains it. If any man shall vaingloriously go about saying, "I have been doing good all day long; I am weary in the service of humanity; if any man has seen me today he has seen a very busy man in the cause of Christ," then he should remember that "another Scripture saith," "Let not your left hand know what your right hand doeth." Remember always that "other Scripture."
How often we hear persons delight in calling Christ, in the words of the prophet, "The Prince of Peace." They stand upon that text, they seem to know no other. That expression exactly represents the purpose of Christ's advent and priesthood in the universe. He is the Prince of Peace; when he was born the angels said, "Peace on earth and goodwill toward men." So they did; Isaiah did call the coming One the Prince of Peace. We would not detract from the glory of that light; not one tiniest jewel would we take out of that diadem. But "another Scripture saith," "I have come to send a sword upon the earth." Jesus Christ was the greatest fighter; no warrior was ever so deeply engaged in battle as was the Prince of Peace. He had not a day's rest in all his brief ministry. By reason of his strenuous efforts, his continued controversies, his unceasing conflicts, his three years were three generations, the longest ministry ever exercised by man. Yet how prone are we to forget the sword element! We conceal from ourselves the sterner and severer aspects of Christ's ministry. No man can know what peace is who does not know the meaning of the sword. There can be no peace until there is righteousness; and righteousness comes by many a conflict, many a fierce thank God, by many a bloodless! controversy. Have you ever fought for the Master? not querulously, or resentfully, sharply; but enduringly, patiently, argumentatively, and, above all, by that great logic and eloquence of exemplification? A Christian man cannot be silent in the presence of wrong. When the Church becomes dumb in the sight of oppression and injustice, the Church is no other than a dumb dog that cannot even bark. So let us always balance one text with another. If any man shall be furiously controversial, needlessly combative, if he be always fighting the wind and raising up little figures that he may break them down again, then let him remember that "another Scripture saith," "The name of your Master is Prince of Peace." Thus we find in Scripture a self-emendation or a self-completion, and unless we get into the rhythm of this music we shall, even as preachers, totally misrepresent the testimony of divine revelation. The text has ruined many a preacher; it has actually made a fool of him, has almost lured him into blasphemy, for he has been building upon a point when he ought to have been building upon a line; he has been endeavouring to set a kingdom upon an apothegm, instead of on a wide and immovable philosophy.
A poor soul is fond of quoting, "Bear ye one another's burdens." Is that a text? Yes, it is. He says, I am burdened, help me to carry my load. Every charitable institution borrows the motto; every begging letter is full of it; every complaint suggests it. It is a sweet Scripture; there is no denying its divine authority; without it the Bible would be incomplete. Yet "another Scripture saith," "Every man shall bear his own burden." We must have no burden-bearing that means a premium upon incapacity or laziness. There is only one way of teaching the indolent man, and that is by letting him hunger. "If a man will not work," saith the apostle, "he ought not to eat." That may bring him to his senses. Has every man to fight his own battles? Yes, certainly. Have we to bear one another's burdens? Yes, undoubtedly. It is for wisdom to reconcile the paradox, if it need reconciliation. There are persons carrying burdens who ought not to carry them one inch farther honest, noble, good souls that in human estimation have never done anything really wrong or vicious. They are overburdened, and it becomes us well to help them at least one finger, if not a whole hand, in bearing the burden; they would assist if they could, and we must assist them because we can. On the other hand, there are persons who will never let you alone; they have always a new request, a new necessity, and they are always proving their own incapacity and worthlessness. If you give them money they put it into bags, as Haggai says, that have holes in them; you are endeavouring to give them water in a sieve, and you cannot do so, because the water runs away. I do not know why such people were created, unless it be to try the patience and perfect the temper of other people. To such we must preach a rather stern doctrine every man must bear his own burden. How to carry both these great principles is often a great difficulty Better to err a little in helping than in not helping. Adam Clarke said, if in a hundred cases that came before him there were ninety-nine impostures, he would rather reply to the whole hundred and be imposed upon ninety-nine times than reject the one really genuine case. Believe me, you will be forgiven if you do more good. I think I am entitled now to write you a certificate and sign it, which you can show anywhere, to the effect that if you will go on doubling all your good, no ill will befall you at the last. The angels will not spite you by saying that you have been doing far too much good. They will not say to you, Poor soul, you have been working too hard down in the little dark earth; you should not have done one tenth of what you have done. Why, you have quite exhausted yourself in the service of charity; you have ceased to win our respect because you have been so easily imposed upon. There are no idiot angels. You go (in doing the good, and I will answer for the consequences.
We come now to the most sacred ground of all to the great mystery of the universe. Read the text; these are the pathetic words "They led him away to a place called Calvary." They did it? Yes: they led him away, arrestingly; they took him into custody, they laid strong hands upon him and led him away? So the text says. But "another Scripture saith," "I lay down my life: no man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself." Then he led them away? Yes; that is the higher meaning. Viewed within the darkness of this twilight world, Christ was led like a lamb to the slaughter, Christ was led away; but read in the light of heaven's eternal noon, it was the Saviour who led them away, that they might witness the tragedy and the mystery of his self-sacrifice. Thus it is written, man murdered the Son of God; the apostle said, and said truly, in his great speech, "Ye killed the Prince of life; him have ye taken and by wicked hands have crucified." That is right, within its own limits; yet Jesus Christ himself rises and says, O fools, and slow of heart to believe all the deeper meaning of my history and revelation to mankind! You are right in the letter, they did lead me away, and yet I led myself away. I went voluntarily to the Cross. This commandment did I receive of my Father, that I might lay down my life and take it again; I was not killed in the higher sense, I gave my life for every man.
Thus we bring within our purview this Scripture and that, the first text and the second, the devil's quotation and Christ's, "It is written again." John's first text, and John's second, wherein he says, "And again another Scripture saith." Why not read this book in all its parts? Why not bring those parts together, and constitute the radiant and glorious unity of the divine thought? When will men read the Bible lovingly, sympathetically, spiritually? They would then see that those men who are said to spiritualise Scripture are not often so far wrong as they appear to be. There is a spiritualisation that is objectionable; but there is a materialisation which is more objectionable still, a literalisation that tends to weakness and poverty and nothingness. When I read, "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth," and preach a gospel sermon from it, I am not so far wrong as I at first sight may appear, for, "another Scripture saith," "Without him [that is, without Christ] was not anything made that was made." So in Genesis we find John, in Leviticus we find Calvary, in Creation we find the Saviour, in Providence we find the Cross. O remember, lest you get wrong by taking out some little line and saying, This is God's book, and this is God's testimony. Say, I will find out what the other Scripture saith; I will compare Scripture with Scripture. I will go a second time to the Book as Christ went a second time to the altar, and in going the second time I may find the completing text, I may bring on the topstone with shoutings of "Grace, grace unto it!" for the building is beauteous; it is of fair aspect, it is hospitably roomy; it is the home of the soul.
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Parker, Joseph. "Commentary on John 19". The People's Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the First Week of Advent