LXXXVII. Literalism and Party Spirit.

JOHN viii. 59. “Then took they up stones to cast at Him.'”
JOHN xix. 7. “We have a law, and by our law He ought to die.”

THE prevailing motive which led the Jewish people to the
dreadful crime of our Lord’s crucifixion, was the one fixed
idea of devotion to the law of Moses. “We have a law ”
—a law delivered amidst Sinai’s thunder, a law which is the
type and centre of all law—” And by our law He ought
to die,” because He made Himself the Son of God. They
little imagined when they thought themselves to be the
just avengers of the law, that they were destroying Him
to whom all the law and the prophets bear witness. This
crime was not the result of rash innovation or of undue
precipitation, but the result of a fixed adherence to exist-
ing usages, and of resistance to change in every form. It
teaches us that there are times when such a frame of mind
is not a sign of a humble mind, but a mark of audacious
and reckless presumption.
I. This is the one signal example of the truth that
enormous evils may flow from carrying to excess one idea,
however good. In the story of the Crucifixion we may see
reflected the acknowledged evil of narrowness of purpose,
idolatry of single principle. Common sense is the one salt
which alone can save such exaggerations from their own
II. This aspect of the Passion brings before us the value
of those feelings of common humanity, the milk of human
kindness, which resist all efforts of the hard logic, or dry
reason of man to set them aside.
Nothing could be more complete than the arguments by
which the purposes of the Jewish priests were sustained,
but within and above them all they might have seen a
pathos of suffering, a tragedy of life and death, to which
nevertheless they were wholly insensible, but by which the
world has since been moved to sympathy. This is a general
condition of our lot on earth. Always on the one hand
is the rude, ruthless, adamantine exhibition of inexorable
logic; always on the other are the pathetic, inexhaustible
emotions which spring up from the depths of human nature.
A. P. Stanley, D.D.