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approaching. Pilate asked them, what accusation they had against Jesus, whom they had delivered bound to him. They identified no specific charge against him at first; but replied, that had he not been a malefactor they should not have commenced the prosecution against him. Pilate then told them to pursue the process in their own way, and according to their own law. The chief priests replied, that their authority did not extend to the taking of life, which they hoped might be the verdict against the prisoner. Pilate then left them and returned to the judgmenthall; and now commenced the most interesting trial ever witnessed by these heavens, and this earth!
The incarnate God was the prisoner at the bar ! The inhabitants of both worlds were spectators of the scene ! Consequences as eventful as eternity, were suspended on the issue of this trial !
The first question, Pilate asked Jesus, was, whether he was king of the Jews. To this Jesus did not give a direct reply: Pilate had unquestionably been informed that Jesus made this claim, and if by this lie meant to assume the authority of a temporal prince it would amount to treason against Cæsar and the Roman goverment and subject him to capital pun. ishment, Christ's answer to Pilate's question was this : saycst thou this thing of thyself, or did others telt it thee of me?" By this Jesiis inquired, whether Pilate asked the question for his own satisfaction, or because of any suspicion he himself had of Jesus? assuming temporal dominion; or whether the accusation was from his prosecutors. Pilate perfectly understood him and replied in these words. Am I a Jew? intimating that he was not, and that during his regency in the province, he had never found Jesus disloyal to the government; that the accusation was from his own nation ; that he acted only as judge, and wished Jesus to inform him respecting the facts of which he stood accused. Upon this Jesus replies with decision, and tells Pilate that his kingdom was
not of this world ; that he never assumed princely authority, nor intermeddled with the affairs of civil government. And to assure Pilate of this fact, observes farther, that if his kingdom had been of this world, his servants would have fought, and that he should not bave been brought, without resistance, to that tribunal, Pilate now admits, that Jesus claimed no temporal prerogatives, but is. inquisitive to know, whether he was a king over any kingdom. Hast thou a kingdom over which thou présidest of any description ? Jesus answers, “ thou sayest, that I am a king,' or thou mayest say in truth, that I am king and governor of the whole universe ; and adds, for this end, or because I sustain this exalted character, was I born, that I should bear tes, timony to the truth on which my kingdom rests ; and then asserts, that every one, who is of the truth, will hear his voice or give the fullest credit to his declarations. Upon this Pilate asks the question, «What is truth ?, and then as if enveloped in the full blaze of truth itself, retires from the judgment-hall, and informs the Jews, that he found no fault at all in him.
What I shall attempt at this time, will be an appropriate answer to Pilate's last question, What is truth ?! That your minds may be assisted in this interest. ing subject, I shall,
I. Show, what we are to understand by truth in reference to this question. And,
11. Point out its nature and effects. I. I shall show, what we are to understand by truth, in reference to the question, 'What is truth?'
There is a rule of right in the nature of things pri, or even to the consideration of an express law, to which all moral beings are obliged to conform. Mor: al obligation is grounded in the difference between Fight and wrong which exists necessarily; and truth taken in the widest sense, is the exposition of this
difference exactly as it exists, in the mind of the in: finite God. The divine law is a perfect rule, draw. ing an undeviating line between virtue and vice, requiring that we love the one and hate the other, according to the difference existing between them in the nature of things. The law of God is said to be holy, just and good, because it explains and enjoins obligation according to the eternal and unerring standard of rectitude. To this unalterable standard, al moral beings in the universe are, and will be forever, under obligation to conform. In this respect there is no difference between God and his creatures. The moral excellence of Deity consists in his disposition invariably to regard this eternal and uncreated stand. ard of right. In his word, God frequently appeals to this standard in vindicating the rectitude of his administration in the government of the world. God speaks in Micah. vi. 3. 'O my people what have I done unto thee? and wherein have I wearied thee? Testify against me.' He submits his conduct to be approved by his creatures, only as it coincides with what is fit and right in the nature of things.
Neither does God criminate creatures, only as they violate morał obligation. God and his crea. tures are bound to do right by one and the same rule: If it should be imagined, at first thought, that God is not duly revered by conceiving him bound to do right, it might be asked, whether he would not be dishonored, upon the contrary supposition? If God were not bound to do right, would he refer his crea: tures to the nature and fitness of things in the vindi. cation of the equity of his ways? It is the glory of God that he implicitly adheres, in all his acts, to the standard of moral excellence, and his obligation thus to do, explains the reasonableness and authority of his law. God's law is reasonable, not simply because it is his law; but because it is excellent, and in its own nature conformable to the eternal standard of recti
tude. God's law is binding on us, not because we are commanded to yield obedience to it, but because his conimandment is in itself right. The mouths of the wicked in the other world will be stopped, and they become guilty before God, because he will convince them, that the extent of his vindictive displeasure is conformable to the same fitness, as the law they had violated. God will not punish the wicked like an arbi. trary despot, because he has more power than they ; but because he is under an eternal obligation thus to do, from which he cannot depart, without forfeiting his holiness. To say this of the ever-blessed God, is vastly more honorary to his character, than to conceive him above such obligation. If we should say, God is above the eternal rule of right, and is not ob. liged to conform to it, no reason can be given to make it certain, that his adherence to this standard will be uniform. If we should say, that moral obligation does not arise from the necessary and immutable difference between right and wrong, we must admit, that it rests on some other foundation. And if on any other, it must be the revealed law. The revealed law of God is, that we should love him with all our heart, and our neighbor as ourselves. To this law it is our indispensable duty to yield obedience, and for this reason and no other, that it is fit and right in the nature of things. Supposing God should create another world, and furnish it with a superior order of intelligences, and should make a law enjoining them to commit murder and suicide, would it be right in them to regard this law ? It certainly would not, and for this plain reason, it would be contrary to what is right in the nature of things. It is impossible for God to change vice into virtue, or virtue into vice. Sin is wrong in its own nature, and it is impossible for God to make it otherwise by a law. It is hence evident, that law is not the ground of moral obligation ; but moral obligation the ground
of law, since law is no farther binding, than it is right and fit in the nature of things. To say that God can. . not destroy the standard of moral obligation, is saying no more, than that he cannot do wrong, and saying that he is under this obligation, is saying no less, than that he is infinitely good.
We are now prepared to answer Pilate's question, • What is truth? Truth in reference to this question is the testimony of Jesus Christ to the excellency and authority of the law of God, grounded on the eternal and unalterable difference between right and wrong, as it exists in the nature of things. To bear testi. mony to the truth in this wide extent, was the ultimate end for which Christ came unto the world, and performed his mediatorial work.
The scriptures are Christ's testimony. These contain a true account of sin and holiness, of their eternal and immutable difference, as they lie in the infinite mind of God. Jesus Christ is called ' the truth, the faithful and true witness,' and is the divine ex. pounder of truth, as it exists in the nature of things. Truth, in its appropriation to the question before us, is the exposition of Jesus Christ, bequeathed to the world, of God's unalterable conformity to the stand. ard of moral obligation in the kingdom of providence ; or it is a dispensation of combined truth, which God, by an eternal rule of righteousness, was bound in honor to himself to exhibit, for the highest possible good of the universe. God is, in no case, amenable to creatures, as such, in themselves considered'; but he is obliged, from the infinite perfection of his nature, to make that display of truth, which should set moral good and evil in such contrast, as should result most to his own honor, and to the holiness and felicity of his moral kingdom. If we only take the pains to examine closely the several parts of truth, Jesus has unfolded to the world, in the dispensation he has revealed and executed, we shall see that his