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..OF JESUS CHRIST.:. i 133 :

ICE

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Containing an account of the motives on which

the Jewish council and the Roman governors in

Judea proceeded in condemning Jefus to be cru- ;cified.

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TF Jesus was a person of such distinguished
I excellence and usefulness as he is describ-
cd in the history of the gospel, it may appear
unaccountable and surprising how he came
to incur the aversion and hatred of his coun-
trymen to such an extraordinary degree : how
it happened that the supreme council of Je-
rusalem, with the approbation of the popu.
lace, and the concurrence of the Roman go-
vernors, condemned him to be crucified as an
impious and hateful criminal. This deserves
our particular attention and enquiry, as here.
by we may attain a more complete knowledge
of the character of Jesus Christ, and the de.
sign of his religion,
· Jesus was condenįned in three different
courts.—He was first condemned in the coun-
cil of Jerusalem :-their sentence was con-
firmed by Pontius Pilate, at that time gover.
nor in Judea :--and being sent by Pilate to
be tried by Herod governor in Galilee, He-
rod and his council rejected and despised him.

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The views and motives on which each of them proceeded, appear to have been different; according to their different and peculiar characters, and the different lights in which they were thereby led to consider the pretensions and character of Jesus. In

ist, The high priests, and rulers of the Jews, especially the Pharisees, whose influ. énce at that time predominated in the Jewish council, were extremely fuperftitious. They observed with a peculiar feverity, the outward forms and ceremonies of the law, whilst they made but small account of the moral and eternal rules of justice, equity and mercy, which Jesus called the weightier matters of the law. Nay to such a pitch of superstition did they carry this external preciseness and formality, that a great variety of rites were invented by themselves, or admitted by tradition of the elders. These were honoured and observed with more exactness and severity, than the most important laws of God. **They • taught for doctrines the commandments of

men, and by their traditions, transgressed • the commandments of God.'' By means of this ceremonial exactness and severity, they had the appearance of extraordinary sanctity; were in high credit and authority among the

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• Mat. xv. 3.

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credulous and undiscerning multitude; and swelled with an immoderate conceit of their own religious importance, and of the deference that was due to their superior merit and capacity. Hence they were disposed to entertain a peculiar jealousy of every one, who, by giving a different and juster view of the nature and design of true religion, might endanger their authority and influence among the people of Jerusalem. Those, in a more especial manner, who, as teachers of religion, attempted to reduce it to a fimpler form, though nearer to the plan of reason, and the express command of God, were fure of being the object of their implacable aversion and revenge. That this was their peculiar character, fufficiently appears from the history of the gospel: and from hence it was that they conceived such a violent and implacable enmity against Jefus.--It was one great design of the doctrine which he taught, to reduce religion and the worship of his heavenly Father to a fimpler form, than what had been directed by the laws of Mofes, and consequently to a much simpler forin than what had been taught by the present rulers of the Jewish church. Jefus placed the soul and substance of religion, in the spiritual and virtuous difpofitions of the heart of man, and in the pro

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per influence of these upon the conduct of
his life; in the exercise of judgment, mercy
“and the love of God,' which he called the
"weightier matters of the law. This doctrine
Jesus taught, not only as of itself the most ra-
tional and useful fyftem, but as a doctrine
which he had an immediate commission from
God to deliver to mankind; and in proof of
this commission wrought many glorious signs.
and wonders in the presence of the people, -
Had this doctrine and authority succeeded at
Jerusalem, it was easy for the chief priests
and rulers to foresee, that their beloved fu-
perstition would very foon fall into disuse,
and be despised; that the reputation of their
wisdom and superior discernment, would be
loft; and alongst with these, the influence
they had obtained upon the conscience and
religion of the populace; an influence which
in the highest manner gratifies the ambition
and pride of man. From hence proceeded
their inveterate enmity to Jesus; and stimu.
lated by this enmity and hatred, they con- '
demned him, as a blafphemer, to be crucified.
Their superstition, their vanity, and their love
of power, which appear to have been the
chief ingredients in their character, were all
equally offended by the doctrine and authori-
ty of Jesus. ift, Their fuperftition and ex4

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et e treme attachment to external forms, was hurt m.. by his authority. * Hence it was, that one of el by the witnesses whom the judges had suborned,

witneffed against him, as a crime, that he had of pai faid, the temple of Jerusalem should be demetra stroyed: t and hence, the crime which Stefree phen, the first martyr that suffered in the 2018 cause of Christianity, was accused of, was

this, that he had said, that Jesus would destroy the temple, and change the customs

which Moses had delivered.—2dly, Their va- prici nity and pride was equally offended. # Hence

they deemed it an opprobrious thing, that a Nazarene, the son of a carpenter, and a perfon undistinguished either by his birth or education, should seem to equal them in wisdom,

and assume the office of a teacher of religiand on-3dly, In fine, their love of power and

popularity, was offended and provoked: hence their consultation together in the council; $. What do we; for this man doth * many miracles; if we let him thus alone, all * men will believe on him.” Hence the reflexion of the Pharisees, among themselves, when they observed the growing reputation of his miracles; ** ' Perceive ye how ye prevail nothing? behold the world is gone after

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