John 18:38

When the Lord Jesus, in explanation of his claim to kingship, declared himself a Witness to "the truth," the turn to the conversation between him and the Roman governor was to all appearance very abrupt. Government, royalty, - these were ideas with which Pilate was familiar, in which his position bound him to take interest. With regard to truth, he might or be might not concern himself. In any case it would scarcely occur to him that there was any special connection between kingship and that witness to the truth which the accused One professed that it was his mission to bear. Whether Pilate asked the question from mere curiosity, from real interest, in ridicule, or in cynical unbelief, we cannot confidently say. The possibility that any one of these motives may have influenced him suggests the various attitudes of mind with which the truth of God is regarded by men.

I. UNBELIEF ASKS, "WHAT IS TRUTH?" WITH A CYNICAL CONTEMPT TOWARDS THOSE WHO BELIEVE THAT THEY HAVE FOUND IT. The disbelief of Christianity as a Divine and authoritative religion is no new thing. Infidelity has existed from the earliest ages of Christianity down to the present time. It has taken different forms. Atheism, agnosticism, deism, rationalism, mysticism, differ in what they affirm, but they largely agree in what they deny. The chief offence taken with our religion is because of its supernatural claim, because, by affirming Jesus to be the Son of God and to have risen from the dead, it affirms the being of a God deeply interested in man's true welfare, and interposing in order to secure it. That there is some solid basis for the Christian faith and-for the Christian Church, only the most ignorant deny. With regard to the historical facts which accounted for Christianity as a human system, there is among unbelievers difference of opinion. But when the Christian teacher or preacher declares, as he is bound to do, that the Scriptures reveal "the truth" concerning the character and purposes of God, and concerning the nature and prospects of man, then all the hostility of the opponent of religion, of the man who believes in food and clothing, in science and art, and in nothing beyond, is aroused within him; and with all the scorn of incredulity in his tones he asks, assured that there is no answer to be given, "What is truth?"

II. SCEPTICISM ASKS, "WHAT IS TRUTH?" WITH THE SADDEST DOUBT AS TO THE POSSIBILITY OF ATTAINING IT. The opponent of the believer is the infidel, who disbelieves. Between the two stands the skeptic, whose attitude is one of doubt, examination, indecision. This is a stage of thought through which most educated and thoughtful persons pass - some to faith and some to disbelief, whilst there are those who linger in this state throughout the rest of life. Christianity is no foe to candid inquiry; it bids us "prove all things;" any other principle would keep heathens, heathens, and Mohammedans, Mohammedans, all through life. What is to be avoided and blamed is the settled, contented acquiescence in doubt, which tends to no conclusion of belief, no definite action. Now, whilst there are topics upon which we are not bound to have an opinion - topics beyond our faculties, or remote from our interests - it must be maintained that religion is of importance so vital, that if truth with regard to it can possibly be attained, it must earnestly be sought. Permanent skepticism is either a sign of the weakest intellect, or it is a confession that the problem of greatest interest to us is a problem we can never solve.

III. INQUIRY PUTS THE QUESTION, "WHAT IS TRUTH?" WITH SINCERE AND PRAYERFUL INTEREST. There is no question which affords to the Christian teacher and preacher greater pleasure, when propounded with intelligence and candor, than this. It evinces a mind alive to the great purposes and the great possibilities of life. And further, there is the assurance that the seeker shall be the finder of truth. In many of their enterprises the fervent, the inquisitive, the avaricious, the ambitions, are doomed to fail. But there is a price with which truth may be bought; and the promise holds good, "He that seeketh findeth." Truth must indeed be sought in a right method and in a right spirit; so sought, it will not be sought in vain.

IV. FAITH ASKS, "WHAT IS TRUTH? "AND RECEIVES TO THE QUESTION AN ANSWER DEFINITE, ASSURED, AND SATISFYING. Belief in Christian truth is reasonable, based as it is upon evidence and testimony, upon the highest and most unquestionable authority, and upon the congruity between Christianity and the innate needs of man's understanding, conscience, and heart. Belief, as an intellectual assent, is necessary to true religion; but it is in itself insufficient. To believe the gospel is to put faith in him who is himself the Gospel, and faith in Christ is faith in God. Christ has said, "I am the Truth;" they, then, who find him, find revealed in him the mind, the very heart of God. The truth is to the Christian the favor and the fellowship of the Eternal, the law of life, the satisfaction of the whole nature. Very different are the Christian's convictions from many which are held tenaciously by the "men of this world;" for they are convictions which shall never be distrusted and abandoned; they shall outlast the perishable fabrics reared by human ingenuity and human imagination. - T.

Pilate saith unto Him, What Is truth?
In all deference to Lord Bacon, we cannot believe that this sentence was spoken in jest. In Pilate's whole conduct there is no trace of such a tone. It betrays much of uncertainty, nothing of lightness. He was cruelly tormented with the perplexity of efforts to save his prisoner. He risked his own reputation. He pronounced Him, almost with vehemence, to be innocent. He even felt awe, and was afraid of Him. In such a frame of mind, mockery was impossible. Sarcasm there was: but it was mournful, bitter sarcasm which hides inward unrest.


1. Indecision of character. He first throws the blame on the priests — and then acknowledges that all responsibility is his own: washes his hands. And then — "Knowest thou not that I have power," &c. He pronounces Jesus innocent; and then delivers Him to be scourged; yields Him up to be crucified, and then tries every underhand expedient to save Him. What could a mind, like a feather on the wind, know of truth, which remaineth like a rock amidst the changeful fashions of the minds of men? "A double-minded man is unstable in all his ways."

2. Falseness to his own convictions. Pilate had a conviction that Jesus was innocent. Instead of acting at once on that, he argued and debated till She practical force of the conviction was unsettled. I do not say that a man is never to re-examine a question. A young man of twenty-three, with such light as he has, forms his views: is he never to have more light? Is he never in manhood, with manhood's data and experience, to modify, or even reverse, what once seemed the very Truth itself? Nay, this were the weak pride of consistency, the cowardice which dares not say I have been wrong. The best and bravest have struggled from error into truth; they listened to their honest doubts, and tore up their old beliefs by the very roots. Distinguish however. A man may unsettle the verdict of his intellect; it is at his peril that he tampers with the convictions of his conscience. Every opinion and view must remain an open question, freely to be tried with fresh light. But there are eternal truths of right and wrong, upon which it is perilous to argue. Now Pilate was false to his conscience. Jesus' innocence was not a matter of probability, nor one in which fresh evidence was even expected. Every charge has fallen to the ground. When a man brings a clear and practised intellect to try questions, by the answer to which he does not mean to rule his conduct, let him not marvel if he feels, as life goes on, a sense of desolation; existence a burden, and all uncertain.

3. The taint of the worldly temper of his day. Pilate knew how many systems pretended to an exclusive possession of truth; and how the pretensions of each were overthrown by another. And his incredulity was but a specimen of the scepticism fashionable in his day. And his desire to save Jesus was precisely the liberalism current in our day as in his — an utter disbelief in the truths of a world unseen, but at the same time a half-benevolent, half-indolent unwillingness to molest the poor dreamers who chose to believe in such superstitions. This is the superficial liberalism which is contracted in public life; never going deep; satisfied with the brilliant flippancy which treats religious beliefs as phases of human delusion, seeing the hollowness of the characters around, and believing that all is hollow; and yet not without moments of superstition, as when Pilate was afraid hearing of a Son of God; not without moments of horrible insecurity, when the question, "What is truth?" is a sarcasm on themselves and human life, wrung out of the loneliest and darkest bewilderment that can agonize a human soul. To such a character Jesus would not explain His truth. God's truth is too sacred to be expounded to superficial worldliness in its transient fit of earnestness.

4. That priestly bigotry which forbids inquiry and makes doubt a crime.(1) The priests of that day had much to answer for. One — of whom they only knew that He was a man of unblemished life — came forward to proclaim the truth. But it was new; they had never sanctioned such; and so they settled that the thing was heresy. Then they proceeded to bind that decision upon others. A man was heard to say, "Why, what evil hath He done?" Small offence enough, but it savoured of a dangerous candour towards a suspected man; and in the priestly estimate, candour is the next step to heresy. They stifled Pilate's soul's rising convictions with threats and penalties — "If thou let this man go, thou art not Caesar's friend."(2) The results of this priestcraft were twofold. The first was seen in the fanaticism of the people; the second in the scepticism of Pilate. And these are the two results which come from all claims to infallibility, and all prohibition of inquiry. They make bigots of the feeble-minded who cannot think; cowardly bigots, who at the bidding of their priests or ministers swell the ferocious cry for the persecution of some opinion which they fear and hate; turning private opinion into civil crime; and they make sceptics of the acute intellects which, like Pilate, see through their fallacies, and like Pilate too, dare not publish their misgivings. And it matters not in what form that claim to infallibility is made. These two things must follow — you make fanatics, and you make sceptics; believers you cannot make.


1. I am not about to be guilty of the presumption of answering the question which Jesus did not answer. The truth cannot be compressed into a sermon. Think you, that if Christ Himself could have answered that question in a certain number of sentences, He would have spent thirty years of life in witnessing to it! Some men would compress into the limits of one reply, or one discourse the truth which it took Christ thirty years to teach, and which He left unfinished for the Spirit to complete.

2. The truth is infinite as the firmament above you. In childhood, both seem near and measureable; but with years they grow and grow; and seem further off, and further and grander, and deeper and vaster, as God Himself; till you smile to remember how you thought you could touch the sky, and blush to recollect the proud and self-sufficient way in which you used to talk of knowing or preaching "the truth."

3. The truth is made up of principles; an inward life, not any mere formula of words. God's character; spiritual worship; the Divine life in the soul. How shall I put that into sentences ten or ten thousand? "The words which I speak unto you are life." How could Pilate's question be answered except by a life?

4. The appointed ways to teach this truth.(1) Independence. Independence is nothing more than a deep sense of personal responsibility; a determination to trust in God rather than in man to teach; in God and God's light in the soul. You choose a guide among precipices and glaciers; but you walk for yourself; you use your own strength; you rely on your own nerves. You select your own physician, deciding upon the respective claims of men, the most ignorant of whom knows more of the matter than you. You prudently hesitate at times to follow the advice of the one you trust most, yet that is only independence without a particle of presumption. And so precisely in matters of religious truth. No man cares for your health as you do; therefore you rely blindly upon none. No man has the keeping of your own soul, or cares for it as you do. For yourself therefore, you inquire and think, and you refuse to delegate that work to bishop, priest, or church.(2) Humbleness. There is no infallibility in man. We may err: that one thought is enough to keep a man humble. There are two kinds of temper contrary to this spirit.(a) A disputing, captious temper. Disagreement is refreshing when two men lovingly desire to compare their views to find out the truth. Controversy is wretched when it is an attempt to prove one another wrong. Therefore Christ would not argue with Pilate.(b) A hopeless spirit. Pilate's question breathed this. He felt that Jesus was unjustly condemned, but He thought Him in views as hopelessly wrong as the rest. In that despairing spirit no man gets at truth: "The meek will He guide in judgment"(3) Action. This was Christ's rule — "If any man will do His will" Here we are in a world of mystery, where all is difficult, and very much dark — where a hundred jarring creeds declare themselves to be the truth, and all are plausible. How shall a man decide? Let him do the right that lies before him. Whatever else may be wrong, it must be right to be pure — to be just and tender, and merciful and honest. It must be right to love, and to deny one's self. Let him do the will of God, and he shall know.

(F. W. Robertson, M. A.)

(Text and John 19:5): —

1. As out of the mouth of babes and sucklings, so, out of the mouth of a witness as unconscious as they, God has ordained strength because of the enemy. It is said that in nature the stinging nettle is closely attended by the healing blade, so here the sceptic's question with its most appropriate answer. It may be worth while, for once, to get a sermon from the Procurator's chair.

2. Though the preacher is ancient, the subject is not, for the sceptical question which he answered so well is a question of the day. The truth doubted is the same which unbelief doubts now. For Pilate did not doubt his senses or his reason on the reality of the plain palpable facts of observation, but the truth which Christ had been speaking, the truth about God and eternity and duty and destiny. And his position was not one of denial, only of agnosticism. He asks the question and does not wait for the answer, a method of investigation which is by no means obsolete in the nineteenth century.

3. Now let us look at the answer; and as we think of it, we remember what Christ said the very day before: "I am the Truth." There is —

I. THE TRUTH ABOUT HUMANITY. What is man? What are we to think of human life? Come now, ye biologists, here is a life to study! Come, ye anthropologists, "Behold the man!" By all means study all kinds of men, the most degraded specimens you can find if you choose; but do not consider your induction complete till you have given as much attention at least to the noblest and the best. You know the common reference to the play of Hamlet with Hamlet left out. Surely you do not intend to reach a conclusion as to man's place in nature with THE MAN left out? Why should attention be fixed so exclusively on the facts which belong to the lower phases of life? So long as one keeps working mainly amongst molluscs or even among troglodytes, it is not difficult to think that all is only "living matter." But when we come to the higher ranges of life we cannot dispose of them in so easy a way. It is impossible to do it honestly in dealing only with ordinary men; the difficulty is greatly increased when we are confronted with great minds and noble souls; but when we look at the greatest of all, it becomes nothing less than an insult to reason to suggest it. It is impossible to believe that we are looking at a mere phase of the animal life flickering up for a moment and falling back again to be "cast as rubbish to the void." It becomes manifest that in Him there is life clear out of the range of protoplasm and its variations, infinitely higher than any conceivable mode of living matter. See how the life shines out in contrast with the poverty and meanness of its setting, a demonstration that spirit and not flesh is the ultimate truth of humanity. See Him before Pilate, His form scarred, to all appearance a common criminal. And then think of that great soul of His, see it in its awful and majestic loneliness; compare the magnificence of this spirit with the shame of the flesh; the glory of the life with the abjectness of the living matter; and then say, if you dare, that the real truth of that manhood is to be found in the paltry matter of it, and not in the magnificent, glorious Divine Spirit. Behold the man, and see that spirit lords it over matter, and life triumphs over death. And, accordingly, when we read a little further on of His resurrection from the dead, we cannot be surprised. It is the survival of the fittest. Is He not, of all men that ever lived, the very fittest to survive, and can we suppose that nothing in that noble soul survived after He bowed His head and gave up the ghost? It is not possible. The Apostle Peter was certainly right when he said it was not possible that He should be holden of death.

II. THE TRUTH ABOUT GOD. As we continue beholding the "Man" He grows upon us wonderfully, as He grew upon His first disciples who began by asking: "What manner of man is this?" and ended by seeing in Him "the glory of the Only Begotten," &c. We find that noble life reflecting all of the glory of God which it is possible and needful for us to see. Elsewhere in nature we can, as it were, touch the hem of His garment, but we cannot know Him till we look upon His face. The face is nature's mode of revelation and recognition. Your face is not yourself, it is only the outward expression or incarnation of your spirit; but if I refuse to look into your face and will not listen to your voice, I must remain unacquainted with you. In the same way, the Man Christ Jesus is the face of God to us. By looking at Him we become acquainted with our Father in heaven; not otherwise. "No man cometh unto the Father but by Me." Hence present day agnosticism. The agnostic is perfectly right in saying that God cannot be known by the pure intellect, but neither can we know one another in any such way. "Behold the man" is the gospel for the agnostic.

III. LIVING, SAVING TRUTH. It has a wondrous power on the beholder. As we look and listen we are brought to our knees, constrained to cry out for pardon and for purity. And as we watch Him through the shame and agony of that awful day — crucified for us — our hearts are won. Divorced from sin, the hatefulness of which is seen in the awful sacrifice as nowhere else; divorced from sin we are yielded unto God and have peace, and hope, and life. And as still we follow Him through the gates of death up to the throne on which He now is seated, we find as deep a meaning in the second word of Pilate as in the first — "Behold your King." And now we know Him as our life, for His Spirit takes the throne of our heart, and as we still continue beholding in the Man Christ Jesus, as in a glass, the glory of the Lord, we are changed into the same image, from glory to glory by the Lord, the Spirit; and thus there is developed in us true life, not the mere agitation or fluctuation of living matter for a few years; but life indeed.

(J. Monro Gibson, D. D.)

He who asked it was the only man to whom the Redeemer vouchsafed no reply. All other inquirers after truth received a prompt and full response. The reason must be looked for in the character of Pilate, in the spirit and temper in which the question was propounded. Pilate was an educated Roman, and the age in which he lived was one of almost universal scepticism among educated Romans. Christianity to such a man could be, of course, only a new sect of Judaism, and Jesus only the deluded founder of a new heresy. Pilate has ever had his successor, and there is a remarkable likeness between this age and his in the prevalence of scepticism among the educated classes. It is now fashion. able to be a disciple of Comte, of Herbert Spencer and of Darwin. The conflict thickens around us, and the very conflict itself creates a class of men who treat all religious beliefs as equally harmless delusions. To these Pilate-minded souls there comes no reply to the light, flippant cavillings concerning ethereal verities. Pilate's cry is in the air to-day. It is repeated on every side, in treatise, novel, poem, magazine, journal. What is God? What is Christ? What is man? What, then, is the spirit in which the question must be asked to obtain a reply?

I. IT MUST NOT BE IN PILATE'S SPIRIT — IN SCEPTICISM OR SCEPTICAL INDIFFERENCE. Such a spirit is wanting in the very first element to ensure success. It is like the act of a traveller, knocking at the gate of some deserted oracle of Isis or of Delphos, and demanding in derision a response from the dead divinity. In this light, what an absurdity — nay, what an insult — is the prayer-gauge of Professor Tyndall. In what does it differ from the wild experiment of Rousseau? He will cast a stone at a particular tree, and if it strikes the tree he will conclude that the Deity has accepted the test, has guided the universe, and that there is a God. If the stone misses the mark, he will conclude there is no God. He hurls the stone, which flies wide of the mark. There is no condescension to such a trifler. The cry of the flippant sceptic will never reach the heavens. "He that comes to God must believe that He is."

II. IN THE SPIRIT OF AN EARNEST SEEKER OF TRUTH. "Every one that is of the truth heareth My voice." Every one wishes to have truth on his side, but it is not every one who wishes sincerely to be on the side of truth. He that does shall most surely find the precious pearl. There is such a thing as honest doubt. There is the real perplexity of truth-loving minds grappling with some difficulty which they would fain remove. To such Jesus says, "If ye continue in My word ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." "Then shall we know, if we follow on to know the Lord." The history of Christianity abounds with illustrations of this. In the latter part of the last century, Lord Lyttleton and Gilbert West agreed to write something in favour of infidelity. For this purpose Lyttleton chose the conversion of St. Paul, and West the resurrection of Christ. They were honest doubters, and, being honest, their studies ended in conviction. Both took up their pens and became champions of Christianity; Lyttleton produced a treatise on the conversion of St. Paul, "to which," says Dr. Johnson, "infidelity has never been able to fabricate a specious answer." West, a work on the resurrection of our Lord, of masterly power. How different the spirit of Strauss, Renan, Buckle, and Spencer!

III. IN A SPIRIT OF WILLINGNESS TO FOLLOW IT, TO OBEY ITS VOICE, TO SUBMIT TO ITS GUIDANCE. Men, it is to be feared, are too often afraid to know the truth, lest it prove a hard master. They "love darkness rather than light, because their deeds are evil." Unbelief in religion has its seat in the heart, and not in the head; in the will, and not in the understanding. And it will ever be found that in those communities and nations where the greatest corruption in morals prevails, there infidelity abounds. It was only a degradation like that of France in the days preceding her first revolution that could have produced the monstrous unbelief of those days. But to earnest souls, to honest hearts, to men who are willing to do God's will, willing to be changed, to be made pure, here is an infallible test.

(Bp. Cummins.)

A question.

I. IMPORTANT. Nothing more necessary for the mind to know.

II. OLD. Men in all ages have been asking it.

III. INTRICATE. Not to ascertain what is truth relative and ephemeral, but what is truth absolute and eternal.

IV. ANSWERED. Jesus has replied to it for all time, "I am the Truth."

(T. Whitelaw, D. D.)

Pilate received no answer, but, first, he did not wait for one, and therefore showed a disregard to its importance; and therefore, secondly, the Saviour saw that He was in a state of mind that would render an answer worse than useless. If a man asks the way to Zion with his face thitherward, direction will be thankfully received; but when a man abuses or neglects the light he has, more would only enhance his guilt and misery. So there are many inquirers who will succeed no better than Pilate.

1. The superficial inquirer. Truth is that which he is too frivolous to discover or comprehend.

2. The inattentive inquirer. He is too indolent to attain it. The promise of success is only to the diligent, "If thou criest after knowledge," &c.

3. The prejudiced inquirer. He never sincerely denies or impartially examines, and takes the Bible in his hand to raise objections rather than to sit at the Master's feet and become wise unto salvation.

4. The proud inquirer. Truth is too humbling for him to submit to. It is no easy thing to receive the kingdom of God as a little child.

5. The sensual inquirer. Truth is too holy for his lust, and he makes the Bible his enemy by his wickedness, and then hates it because it does not prophecy good.

6. The sincere inquirer. We will take the question from him rather than from Pilate.


1. Moral truth, truth between man and man, consists in the agreement between our thoughts and words. Religious truth is that which shows us things as they are in relation to God and our responsibility to Him. Truth shows us things also as they ought to be, God being judge. It is possible for truth to be made known, and it has been made known so far as is necessary: and if this be admitted then in the Bible alone is it to be found in purity and perfection. This Word is truth. Some wish that Christ had answered the question. What light He might bare thrown had He said, "This is truth." But He has answered it, and you have His reply in your hands. And that reply is sufficient, whatever some may say. If you come to this Book and ask how it was that sin was permitted to enter into this world, &c., you will read no answer; but if you ask, "What must I do to be saved?" the response is so plain that a wayfaring man though a fool need not err.

2. Viewing the gospel then as an answer to the inquiry, let us refer to its facts. Now the birth, miracles, death, resurrection of Christ, &c., are facts, or they are nothing. Take, e.g., the Resurrection. Everything depends upon that, and if that be incapable of proof there is no event that can be proved by any testimony whatever — for the apostles were eye, ear, and hand witnesses (1 John 1:1).

3. But have not controversies arisen about Scripture doctrines? Yes; but observe the following rules and you will not go far astray.(1) Pray for guidance to the Father of lights.(2) Acknowledge no human authority in Divine things.(3) Remember that Christians do not differ so much as some imagine — when they pray they are all one.(4) Do not be guided by any single phrase, but by the entire texture of revelation — its strain and tendency.(5) That is likely to be truth which agrees the most with the experience of those who give the best evidence of being "born again" and "led by the Spirit."


1. Depends on the value of the truth itself. The gospel is the one thing needful. All the suffering in the world has arisen from the loss or absence of truth. Satan fell because "he abode not in the truth." While Adam abode in the truth he was safe; but as soon as he believed the devil's lie he fell, and involved all his posterity in his ruin. Idolatry is a lie, so is Pharisaism and Popery. What a blessing if they could all be driven back to the place from whence they came.

2. Appears from the character and procedure of God Himself. He is "the God of truth," and His Spirit is "the Spirit of truth." Observe —(1) What God has done for the truth. He has magnified it above all His name. A thousand miracles have been wrought for it, and ages have been employed to accomplish it. A whole nation was separated to be its depositaries and witnesses. Prophets and apostles were inspired, and ministers have been raised up to preach it. Christ was born to be a witness to it.(2) What has been done by it? It has abolished human sacrifices and gladiatorial exhibitions; softened the horrors of war; made marriage honourable; raised the tone of public morals, &c. "What has it not done for our country, our families, ourselves?"

(a)By this truth we have been born again.

(b)It has been our comfort in affliction.

(c)It has fed our understanding.

(d)It has opened a thousand sources of pleasure.

(e)It prepares us for all the duties of life.

(f)It will be our great solace in death.


1. To seek to understand it. Let us explore the length and breadth of our heritage.

2. To apply it to the purposes for which it is given — not to gratify the curiosity, amuse, or furnish matter for controversy, but to believe in Jesus Christ and have life through His name.

3. To confess it. While we are to believe "with the heart" we are to confess "with the mouth." "Whosoever shall be ashamed," &c.

4. To defend it. "Earnestly contend for the faith," &c.

5. To diffuse it.

(W. Jay.)

Truth, the mother of Virtue, is painted in garments as white as snow. Her looks are serene, pleasant, courteous, cheerful, and yet modest: she is the pledge of all honesty, the bulwark of honour, the light and joy of human society. She is commonly accounted the daughter of Time or Saturn, because Truth is discovered in the course of time; but Democritus feigns that she lies hid in the bottom of a well.

(Andrew Tooke.)

Truth is the most glorious thing: the least filing of this gold is precious. Truth is ancient; its grey hairs may make it venerable; it comes from Him who is the Ancient of Days. Truth is unerring: it is the star which leads to Christ. Truth is pure (Psalm 119:140): it is compared to silver refined seven times (Psalm 12:6). There is not the least spot on truth's face: it breathes nothing but sanctity. Truth is triumphant: it is like a great conqueror; when all its enemies lie dead it keeps the field, and sets up its trophies of victory. Truth may be opposed, but never quite deposed. In the time of Diocletian things seemed desperate, truth ran low: soon after was the golden time of Constantius, and then truth did again lift up its head. When the water in the Thames is lowest, a high tide is ready to come in. God is on truth's side, and so long there is no fear but it will prevail. "The heavens being on fire shall be dissolved" (2 Peter 3:12), but not that truth which came from heaven (1 Peter 1:25).

(T. Watson.)

I. THE TRANSCENDENT IMPORTANCE OF RELIGIOUS TRUTH TO MAN. This might be proved, inasmuch as man is —

1. An intellectual being. The reason of man forms the link between man and his Gods and in as far as it is unperverted, seeks after truth. There was no feature in the mighty mind of Newton, who grasped the universe almost in his span, that was so remarkable as his childlike, simple love of truth. Truth in art, in science, in metaphysics, in morals, and in nature, ought to be the aim of the mind, but if truth in pursuits which have merely to do with things seen and temporal be of moment, how much more truth, even in an intellectual point of view, in reference to the reality of a world that never changes and that never passes away. If to know the glorious works of God be an exalted study, how much more to know the nature of that Great Architect who built and beautified the universe! If to measure the dimensions, and to understand the proportions of things visible be noble, how much more to explore and to investigate the nature, the proportion, and the dimensions of the wondrous things that are connected with the world to come!

2. A moral and responsible being. All within us and without us tell and testify that we have to do with the great unseen God. The ties which bind the creature to his Creator and his Preserver, must of all ties be the most intimate. There is a conscience in man that testifies, and a reason that responds to the testimony, that there is verily a God that judgeth in the earth. If it were not that man is a responsible being, why do we find among the savage as well as the sage a conscience exercising its power. If then man be a responsible being, how emphatically interesting to man to know that God with whom he has to do — how he may approve himself in the sight of his Heavenly Ruler, and how he may enjoy His favour.

3. An immortal being. Were man what the infidel represents him, it might be indeed of little moment what man knew, or of what he was ignorant. But if man be an immortal being, then that fact stamps upon man an infinite worth, and stamps, therefore, upon religious truth a worth that is infinite also.

4. A fallen being. The proofs of evil are as plain as the proofs of existence, and along with these there are proofs that that depravity is not accidental, but that it is the painful consequences of man's own fatal choice. There is a sense of guilt upon man that makes him dread to meet his God. If it were all well with man, if there were peace in his conscience, it might be, comparatively speaking, of little moment to ascertain truth. But, being guilty, man needs to know how he may be reconciled to God; how his guilt may be removed and his ruin remedied.

II. WHERE THEN IS TRUTH TO BE FOUND? "Thy Word is truth." Then how transcendent the importance of the Scriptures of truth to man.

1. As an intellectual being. Does man sigh for information respecting God, His character, the worship He requires? Let Him open the Scriptures of truth, and there he finds "shallows in which & lamb may wade, and depths in which an elephant may swim." There are those glorious heights — that sublime morality — those splendid discoveries which elevate and expand the intellect. Yea, the Word of God is the great foster-mother of all the arts and sciences of civilized life.

2. As a responsible being. He asks reason, but it can give him little information; conscience, but its rays are half quenched within him. But let him open the Word of God, and there you will see written, as in letters of light, all that his Father would have him to do, so plain, that "he who runs may read."

3. An immortal being. It does not point him to a Mahometan paradise, or tell him of a place of liquid fire, such as heathen poets have described, but in its simple sublimity tells us that "after death comes the judgment;" of "the worm that dieth not, and the fire that is not quenched;" of heaven, in the simple declarations of glory.

4. As a sinful being. If it simply told us how we might know God and ascertain His will and the dread sanctions of His law, it would but have enhanced our misery and increased our guilt. But it is as a revelation to lost man of the glad tidings of eternal life through the blood of the Lamb that the Book of God is of most transcendent interest to man.

(H. Stowell, M. A.)

Pilate saith unto them I find no fault in Him.
I. THE SECRET MOTIVE. A conviction of the innocence of Christ (ver. 28). A valuable testimony.

1. Directly to the blamelessness of Christ. Whatever violations of ecclesiastical law or social custom might be laid to Christ's charge, Pilate saw that He was no plotter of sedition.

2. Indirectly to the sinlessness of Christ. That the charge of treason was the strongest the Jews could prefer — the one they could most easily establish — may be assumed. If, therefore, this failed, it is more than likely that every other would have proved abortive.

II. THE OSTENSIBLE PRETEXT — a desire to honour Jewish customs (ver. 39).

1. The custom was dubious.(1) On the one hand it might be eulogized as a fitting mark of a festive season, and a reminder of the Divine clemency, of which the feast was a memorial.(2) But on the other its observance involved a crime (Proverbs 17:15), and the liberation of Barabbas was no boon to the people.

2. The pretext was bad. Christ required not to be liberated ez gratia, but as innocent.

III. THE FORMAL, PROPOSAL — to release Jesus (ver. 39). Pilate committed three mistakes.

1. In not immediately discharging Christ. Justice commanded, and conscience prompted to this. Had he done this he might have suffered, but he would have acted courageously and right. But he hesitated, and was lost.

2. In proposing to release Christ as a matter of grace instead of justice. There are times when compromises are permissible, but when one course alone is right and the other sinful, there is no room for compromise.

3. In putting Christ in competition with Barabbas. To do so was —

(1)A moral wrong — knowing as he did the character of both.

(2)A tactical mistake; for though intended in Christ's interest, believing that between the two the people would never hesitate, it had exactly the contrary result.

IV. THE UTTER DEFEAT — by the preference of Barabbas (ver. 40).

1. With unexpected eagerness. It must have startled the governor to hear the people's response, to see his hopes so quickly blighted. But the hope of the wicked is usually shortlived (Job 8:13; Job 5:13).

2. With prompt decision.

3. With deafening clamour.Learn —

1. The danger of trifling with conscience.

2. The doubtfulness of compromise.

3. The madness of sin.

(T. Whitelaw, D. D.)


1. This was a novel charge. For when He stood before Caiaphas nothing was said of any evil that He had done, but only of evil that He had spoken. This had broken down, and they did not venture upon it a second time, because they knew that Pilate did not care what the man had said. The Romans were a practical people, and so Pilate asked, "What hast Thou done?" For this reason the priests brought forward this newly-invented accusation, which might mean little or much, as the hearer chose to interpret it — malice is seldom specific in its charges.

2. It was a charge which they did not attempt to sustain. How craftily they evaded the task of supplying proof I Their suborned perjurers were left behind. "If He were not a malefactor," &c., "You must take it for granted that He is guilty, or we would not say so." This style of argument we hear now: we are expected to give up the faith because scientists condemn it, and they are such eminent persons that we ought to accept their dicta without further delay. I confess I am not prepared to accept their infallibility any more than that which hails from Rome. The Roman governor was not to be overridden by priests, neither are we to be led by the nose by prentendedly learned men.

3. They could not have sustained the charge, and so far they were wise in not attempting the impossible. They might be foolhardy enough to wrest His words, but they hesitated before the task of attacking His deeds. Before His awful holiness they were for the moment out of heart, and knew not what slander to invent.

4. This charge was never denied by Christ. It was useless to deny it before the priests. He had already challenged them to find fault with His life, saying, "I spake openly," &c. But there might have been some use, one would think, in His answering to Pilate, for Pilate was evidently very favourably impressed with his prisoner. But our Lord had come on earth on purpose to be "numbered with the transgressors." He says nothing because, though in Him is no sin, He has taken our sin upon Himself. Yet further, our Lord willed that by being counted as a transgressor by Pilate He might die the death appointed for malefactors by the Roman law. If the Jews had put our Lord to death for blasphemy, it would have been by stoning; but then, none of the prophecies predicted this. The death ordained for Him was crucifixion. Call Him not malefactor, but benefactor. What a benefactor must He be who in order to benefit us allows Himself to be branded as a "malefactor"! Should not this sweeten every title of reproach that can ever fall upon us?


1. This charge, in the sense in which they intended it, was utterly false, for when the multitude would have made Him a king, He hid Himself: and ever declined to usurp judicial functions.

2. This charge did not come from the governing power. When Pilate asked, "Art Thou the King of the Jews?" the wise reply was, "Sayest thou this of thyself?" &c. As the governor of this nation you have to watch carefully, for the people are seditious; have you ever seen or heard anything of Me that looks like an attack upon your authority?

3. It was a frivolous charge on the very face of it. How could that harmless, forsaken Man be a peril to Caesar? Moreover, it would seem a strange thing that the Jewish people should bring before the Roman governor their own king. Is this the way that subjects treat their monarchs?

4. The Lord never denied this charge in the sense in which he chose to understand it.(1) He explained what He meant by being a king, and notice carefully that He did not explain it away.(2) Having explained His meaning, He confessed that He was a King.

III. THE ACQUITTAL WHICH PILATE GAVE TO JESUS. This verdict is that of all who have ever —

1. Examined Christ. Some have examined Him with an unfriendly eye, but in proportion as they have been candid, they have been struck with His life and spirit. No character like that of Jesus is to be seen in history, nay, not even in romance. If any one says the four Gospels are forgeries, let him try to write a fifth which shall be like the other four.

2. Associated with Christ. One disciple who was with Christ betrayed Him, but he spoke nothing against Him. Nay, his last witness is. "I have sinned in that I have betrayed the innocent blood." If there had been a fault in Jesus. the traitor would have spied it out; his unquiet conscience would have been glad enough to find therein a sedative. "Which of you convinceth Me of sin?" is the challenge of Jesus, to which there is no reply.

3. Lived with Christ spiritually. In the course of His providence He has brought some of us very low. What is the verdict? "I find no fault at all in Him." He is everything that is lovely. He is all my salvation and all my desire. Out of so many believers surely some one or other, when they came to die, would have told us if He is not all that He professes to be.

4. Of every one some day. If any of you reject Christ, when you shall stand at His judgment-seat, you shall then be obliged to say, "I find no fault at all in Him." There was no failure in His blood, the failure was in my want of faith; no failure in His Spirit — the failure was in my obstinate will. Conclusion:

1. Beware of an external religion, for the men who falsely accused Christ were very religious people, and would not go into Pilate's hall for fear of polluting themselves.

2. Shun all proud worldliness like that of Pilate.

3. Submit to Jesus the King.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

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