There were present at that season some that told him of the Galilaeans, whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices.…
I. We are to speak on the common, but erroneous idea, that THE SINFULNESS OF AN INDIVIDUAL MAY BE CONCLUDED FROM THE JUDGMENTS BY WHICH HE IS OVERTAKES. We can affirm it to be an axiom received by the men of every generation, that punishment and sin are so near relatives, that to perform the one is to incur the other. And the axiom is a true axiom, though in certain instances it may be wrongly applied. It is a truth, a truth to which hereafter the unrolled history of the universe shall bear witness, that human guilt provokes God's wrath; and that the greater a man's offences the sterner shall be the penalties with which he is visited. And we think it altogether a surprising thing that this truth should have retained its hold on the human mind; so that in the worst scenes of moral and intellectual degeneracy it hath never been completely cashiered. We think it a mighty testimony to the character of God as the 'hater and avenger of sin that even the savage, removed far away from all the advantages of Revelation, is unable to get rid of the conviction that guilt is the parent to wretchedness, and that, let him but see a fellow-man crushed by an accumulation of disaster, and he will instantly show forth this conviction by pointing to him so branded with flagrant iniquities. But whilst the common mode of arguing thus leads to the establishment of certain truths, it is in itself an erroneous mode. This is the next thing which we go on to observe. The Jews concluded that the Galileans must have been peculiarly sinful, since God had allowed them to be butchered by the Romans. They showed, therefore, that they believed in an awful connection between sinfulness and suffering, and so far they were witnesses to one of the fundamental truths of Revelation. But, nevertheless, we gather unquestionably from Christ's address, that it did not follow that because these Galileans were massacred they were sinners above all the Galileans. Now, if we would attend to the course and order of God's judgments, we should presently see, that although wherever there is suffering there must have been sin, still nothing can be more faulty than the supposition that he who suffers most must have sinned most. There is no proportion whatsoever kept up in God's dealings with His creatures between men's allotments in this life, and their actions. On the contrary, the very same conduct which is allowed to prosper in one case entails a long line of calamities in another.
II. Now this brings us to our second topic of discourse. We have shown you the erroneousness of the inference drawn by the Jews; AND WE DO ON TO THE REPROOF WHICH THEY MET WITH FROM THE REDEEMER. We bid you, first of all, observe that Jesus, in no degree, denies the actual sinfulness of the murdered Galileans. He only sets himself against the idea which had been formed of their relative sinfulness. What they had suffered was, undoubtedly, a consequence of sin in the general — for if there were no sin, there could be no suffering. But the calamity which overtook them was no more necessarily the produce of particular sin, than was the blindness of the man concerning whom the disciples asked, "Who did sin, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" Sinful, then, the Galileans were, and, because sinful, they also suffered. But of their sinfulness we all partake, and, what then is to exempt us from partaking of their suffering? We are taught by our text that if we repent we shall be delivered; if we repent not, we must perish. And I just wish to set before you, with all plainness and simplicity, THE EXACT PLACE WHICH REPENTANCE OCCUPIES IN THE BUSINESS OF OUR RECONCILIATION TO GOD. There has been much mistake abroad on this matter, and both repentance and faith have been wrongly exhibited by a diseased theology. A man is not pardoned because he is sorry for his sins. A man is not saved because he believes upon Christ. If you once say that it is because we do this or that, that we are accepted of God, you make the acceptance a thing of works, and not one of grace. If we say to an individual, Repent and believe and thou shalt be saved, the saying is a true saying, and has the whole of God's Word on its side. But if we say, Repent, and because penitent, thou shalt be forgiven, we represent repentance as the procuring cause of forgiveness, and thus do fatal violence to every line of the gospel. Repentance is a condition, and faith is a condition, but neither the one or the other is anything more than a condition. In itself there is no virtue in repentance — in itself there is no virtue in faith. That repentance must precede pardon is clear from every line of the scheme of salvation; but that repentance must precede coming to Christ is a notion fraught with the total upset of this scheme. We deny not that a legal repentance, as it may be termed, is often beforehand with our turning to the Mediator; but an evangelical repentance is not to be gotten except from it. It is a change of heart — it is a renewal of spirit — it is the being translated from darkness to light, the being turned-from dead works to serve the living and true God. And if all this mighty renovation is to pass upon man, ere it can be said of him that he has truly repented, then he must have betaken himself to the Redeemer's fulness in order to obtain the very elements of repentance, and this is distinctly opposed to his possessing those elements as qualifications for his drawing from that fulness. Of all things, let us avoid the throwing up ramparts between the sinner and the Saviour. I am bold to say that, if the gospel be conditional, the only condition is a look. "Look unto Me, and be ye saved."
(H. Melvill, B. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: There were present at that season some that told him of the Galilaeans, whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices.