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wouldst thou, for this purpose, be thus attended? And, ye foolish Priests and Elders ! why sent you such a band, and so armed, for this apprehension? One messenger had been enough for a voluntary prisoner. Had my Saviour been unwilling to be taken, all your forces, with all the legions of hell to help them, had been too little: since he was willing to be attached, two were too many. When he did but say, I am he, that easy breath alone routed all your troops, and cast them to the earth, whom it might as easily have cast down into hell. What if he had said, “I will not be taken?” where had ye been? or what could your swords and staves have done against Omnipotence?
Those disciples, that failed of their vigilance, failed not of their courage. They had heard their Master speak of providing swords, and now they thought it was time to use them : Shall we smite? They were willing to fight for him, with whom they were not careful to watch. But, of all other, Peter was most forward : instead of opening his lips, he unsheaths his sword; and instead of “Shall I ?” smites. He had noted Malchus, a busy servant of the high priest, too ready to second Judas, and to lay his rude hands upon the Lord of Life: against this man, his heart rises, and his hand is lift up. That ear, which had too officiously listened to the unjust and cruel charge of his wicked master, is now severed from that worse head, which it had mis-served.
I love and honour thy zeal, O blessed disciple: thou couldst not brook wrong done to thy Divine Master. Had thy life been dearer to thee than his safety, thou hadst not drawn thy sword upon a whole troop. It was in earnest that thou saidst, Though all men, yet not I; and, Though I should die with thee, yet I will not deny thee. Lo, thou art ready to die upon him, that should touch that Sacred Person : what would thy life now have been, in comparison of renouncing him?
Since thou wert so fervent, why didst thou not rather fall upon that treachor that betrayed him, than that serjeant that arrested him? Surely, the sin was so much greater, as the plot. of mischief is more than the execution; as a domestic is nearer than a stranger; as the treason of a friend is worse than the forced enmity of a hireling. Was it, that the guilty wretch upon the fact done subduced himself, and shrouded his false head under the wings of darkness? Was it, that thou couldst not so suddenly apprehend the odious depth of that villainy, and instantly hate him that had been thy old companion? Was it, that thy amazedness as yet conceived not the purposed issue of this seizure, and astonishedly waited for the success? Was it, that though Judas were more faulty, yet Malchus was more imperiously cruel ?
Howsoever, thy courage was awaked with thyself; and thy heart was no less sincere than thy hand was rash. Put up again thy sword into his place ; for all they, that take the sword, shall perish with the sword. Good intentions are no warrant for our actions. O Saviour, thou canst at once accept of our meanings, and censure our deeds. Could there be an affection more worth encouragement, than the love to such a Master? Could there be a more just cause, wherein to draw his sword, than in thy quarrel? Yet this love, this quarrel cannot shield Peter from thy check : thy meek tongue smites him gently, who had furiously smote thine enemy; Put up thy sword.
It was Peter's sword; but to put up, not to use: there is a sword, which Peter may use ; but it is of another metal. Our weapons are, as our warfare, spiritual : if he smite not with this, he incurs no less blame, than for smiting with the other. As for this material sword, what should he do with it, that is not allowed to strike? When the Prince of Peace bade his followers sell their coat and buy a sword, he meant to insinuate the need of these arms, not their improvement; and to teach them the danger of the time, not the manner of the repulse of danger. When they therefore said, Behold, here are two swords; he answered, It is enough: he said not, “Go buy more.” More had not been enow, if a bodily defence had been intended. David's tower had been too strait to yield sufficient furniture of this kind. When it comes to use, Peter's one sword is too much: Put up thy sword. Indeed, there is a temporal sword ; and that sword must be drawn, else wherefore is it? but drawn by him, that bears it; and he bears it, that is ordained to be an avenger, to execute wrath upon him that doth evil ; for he bears not the sword in vain. If another man draw it, it cuts his fingers ; and draws so much blood of him that unwarrantably wields it, as that he, who takes the sword, shall perish with the sword.
Can I choose but wonder, how Peter could thus strike unwounded ? how he, whose first blow made the fray, could escape hewing in pieces from that band of ruffians ? This could not have been, if thy power, O Saviour, had not restrained their rage; if thy seasonable and sharp reproof had not prevented their revenge.
Now, for ought I see, Peter smarts no less than Malchus: neither is Peter's ear less smitten by the mild tongue of his Master, than Malchus's ear by the hand of Peter.“ Weak disciple ! thou hast zeal, but not according to knowledge : there is not more danger in this act of thine, than inconsideration and ignorance. The cup, which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it? Thou drawest thy sword, to rescue me from suffering. Alas! if I suffer not, what would become of thee? what would become of mankind? where were that eternal and just decree of my Father, wherein I am a Lamb slain from the beginning of the world? Dost thou go about to hinder thine own
and the whole world's redemption? Did I not once before call thee Satan, for suggesting to me this immunity from my Passion ? and dost thou now think to favour me with a real opposition to this great and necessary work? Canst thou be so weak as to imagine, that this suffering of mine is not free and voluntary? Canst thou be so injurious to me, as to think I yield, because I want aid to resist ? Have I not given to thee and to the world many undeniable proofs of my Omnipotence? Didst thou not see how easy it had been for me, to have blown away these poor forces of my adversaries? Dost thou not know, that, if I would require it, all the glorious troops of the angels of heaven, any one whereof is more than worlds of men, would presently shew themselves ready to attend and rescue me? Might this have stood with the justice of my decree, with the glory of my mercy, with the benefit of man's redemption, it had been done; my power should have triumphed over the impotent malice of my enemies : but now, since that eternal decree must be accomplished, my mercy must be approved, mankind must be ransomed; and this cannot be done without my suffering. Thy well-meant valour is no better, than a wrong to thyself, to the world, to me, to my Father.”
O Gracious Saviour, while thou thus smitest thy disciple, thou healest him, whom thy disciple smote. Many greater miracles hadst thou done ; none that bewrayed more mercy and meekness, than this last cure : of all other, this ear of Malchus hath the loudest tongue, to blazon the praise of thy clemency and goodness to thy very enemies. Wherefore came that man, but in a hostile manner to attach thee? Besides his own, what favour was he worthy of for his master's sake? And if he had not been more forward than his fellows, why had not his skin been as whole as theirs ? Yet, even amidst the throng of thine apprehenders, in the heat of their violence, in the height of their malice, and thine own instant peril of death, thou healest that unnecessary ear, which had been guilty of hearing blasphemies against thee, and receiving cruel and unjust charges concerning thee.
O Malchus, could thy ear be whole, and not thy heart broken and contrite with remorse for rising up against so merciful and so powerful a hand? Could thou choose but say, “ O Blessed Jesu, I see it was thy Providence, that preserved my head, when my ear was smitten ; it is thine Almighty Power, that hath miraculously restored that ear of mine, which I had justly forfeited: this head of mine shall never be guilty of plotting any further mischief against thee; this ear shall never entertain any more reproaches of thy name; this heart of mine shall ever acknowledge and magnify thy tender mercies, thy Divine Omnipotence?" Could thy féllows see such a demonstration of power and goodness, with unrelenting hearts? Unthankful Malchus
and cruel soldiers ! ye were worse wounded, and felt it not. God had struck your breasts with a fearful obduration, that ye still persist in your bloody enterprise. And they, that had laid hold on Jesus, led him away, &c.
CONTEMPLATION XXX.-CHRIST BEFORE
That traitor, whom his own cord made, soon after, too fast, gave this charge concerning Jesus, Hold him fast. Fear makes his guard cruel : they bind his hands, and think no twist can be strong enough for this Sampson. Fond Jews and soldiers ! if his own will had not tied him faster than your cords, though those manacles had been the stiffest cables or the strongest iron, they had been but threads of tow.
What eyes can but run over, to see those hands, that made heaven and earth, wrung together and bruised with those merciless cords; to see Him bound, who came to restore us to the liberty of the sons of God; to see the Lord of Life contemptuously dragged through the streets, first to the house of Annas, then from thence to the house of Caiaphas, from him to Pilate, from Pilate to Herod, from Herod back again to Pilate, from Pilate to his Calvary: while, in the mean time, the base rabble and scum of the incensed multitude runs after him with shouts and scorns ? The act of death hath not in it so much misery and horror, as the pomp of death.
And what needed all this pageant of cruelty? Wherefore was this state and lingering of an unjust execution ? Was it, for that their malice held a quick dispatch too much mercy? Was it, for that, while they meant to be bloody, they would fain seem just? A sudden violence had been palpably murderous: now, the colour of a legal process gilds over all their deadly spite; and would seem to render them honest, and the accused guilty.
This attachment, this convention of the innocent was a true night-work; a deed of so much darkness was not for the light. Old Annas and that wicked bench of grey-headed Scribes and Elders, can be content to break their sleep to do mischief. Envy and malice can make noon of midnight.
It is resolved he shall die ; and now pretences must be sought, that he may be cleanly murdered.
All evil begins at the sanctuary. The Priests and Scribes and Elders are the first in this bloody scene. They have paid
for this head ; and now long to see, what they shall have for their thirty silverlings.
The bench is set in the hall of Caiaphas. False witnesses are sought for, and hired : they agree not, but shame their suborners. Woe is me, what safety can there be for innocence, when the evidence is wilfully corrupted ? What State was ever so pure, as not to yield some miscreants, that will either sell or lend an oath? What a brand hath the wisdom of God set upon falsehood, even dissonance and distraction ! whereas truth ever holds together; and jars not, while it is itself. 0 Saviour, what a perfect innocence was in thy life, what an exact purity in thy doctrine, that malice itself cannot so much as devise what to slander !
It were hard, if hell should not find some factors upon earth. At last, two witnesses are brought in, that have learned to agree with themselves, while they differed from truth. They say the same, though false ; This fellow said, I am able to destroy the Temple of God, and build it again in three days. Perjured wretches ! Were these the terms, that you heard from that Sacred Mouth? Said he formally thus, as ye have deposed? It is true, he spake of a temple, of destroying, of building, of three days; but did he speak of that temple, of his own destroying, of a material building in that space? He said, Destroy ye : ye say, I am able to destroy. He said, this Temple of his body : ye say, the Temple of God. He said, I will make up this Temple of my body in three days : ye say, I am able in three days to build this material Temple of God. The words were his, the sentence yours : the words were true, the evidence false. So, while you report the words and misreport the sense, ye swear a true falsehood, and are truly forsworn. Where the resolutions are fixed, any colour will serve.
Had those words been spoken, they contained no crime ; had he been such as they supposed him, a mere man, the speech had carried a semblance of ostentation, no semblance of blasphemy: yet how vehement is Caiaphas for an answer ! as if those words had already battered that sacred pile, or the protestation of his ability had been the highest treason against the God of the Temple.
That Infinite Wisdom knew well, how little satisfaction there could be in answers, where the sentence was determined ; Jesus held his peace. Where the asker is unworthy, the question captious, words bootless, the best answer is silence.
Erewhile, his just and moderate speech to Annas was returned with a buffet on the cheek: now, his silence is no less displeasing. Caiaphas was not more malicious than crafty: what was in vain attempted by witnesses, shall be drawn out of Christ's own mouth ; what an accusation could not effect, an adjuration shall ; I adjure thee by the living God, that thou tell us whether thou be the Christ, the Son of God. Yea, this was the way to screw