The Dream of Pilate's Wife

   (No. 1647)




   "When he was set down on the judgment seat, his wife sent unto him,
   saying, Have you nothing to do with thatjust Man: for I have suffered
   many things this day in a dream because of Him." Matthew 27:19.

   I EARNESTLY wished to pursue the story of our Savior's trials previous
   to His Crucifixion, but when I sat down to study the subject I found
   myself altogether incapable of the exercise. "When I thought to know
   this, it was too painful for me." My emotions grew so strong and my
   sense of our Lord's grief became so extremely vivid that I felt I must
   waive the subject for a time. I could not watch with Him another hour
   and yet I could not leave the hallowed scene! It was, therefore, a
   relief to meet with the episode of Pilate's wife and her dream. It
   enables me to continue the thread of my narrative and yet to relax the
   extreme tension of the feelings caused by a near view of the Master's
   grief and shame.

   My spirit failed before the terrible sight. I thought I saw Him brought
   back from Herod where the men of war had set Him at naught. I followed
   Him through the streets, again, as the cruel priests pushed through the
   crowd and hastened Him back to Pilate's hall. I thought I heard them in
   the streets electing Barabbas, the robber, to be set free, instead of
   Jesus, the Savior, and I detected the first rising of that awful cry,
   "Crucify, crucify," which they shrieked out from their bloodthirsty
   throats! And there He stood, who loved me and gave Himself for me, like
   a lamb in the midst of wolves, with none to pity and none to help Him.

   The vision overwhelmed me, especially when I knew that the next stage
   would be that Pilate, who had cleared Him, by declaring, "I find no
   fault in Him," would give Him over to the tormentors that He might be
   scourged, that the mercenary soldiery would crown Him with thorns and
   mercilessly insult Him--and that He would be brought forth to the
   people and announced to them with those heart-rending words, "Behold
   the Man!" Was there ever sorrow like His sorrow? Rather than speak
   about it this day, I feel inclined to act like Job's friends, of whom
   it is written, that at the sight of him, "they lifted up their voices
   and wept; and sat down with him upon the ground seven days and seven
   nights, and none spoke a word unto him: for they saw that his grief was
   very great."

   We leave the Master awhile to look at this dream of Pilate's wife which
   is only spoken of once in the Scriptures--by Matthew. I know not why
   only that Evangelist should have been commissioned to record it.
   Perhaps he, alone, heard of it, but the one record is sufficient for
   our faith--and long enough to furnish food for meditation. We receive
   the story as certified by the Holy Spirit. Pilate, throughout his term
   of office, had grossly misbehaved himself. He had been an unjust and
   unscrupulous ruler of the Jews. The Galileans and the Samaritans, both,
   felt the terror of his arms, for he did not hesitate to massacre them
   at the slightest sign of revolt. And among the Jews, he had sent men
   with daggers into the midst of the crowds at the great gatherings and
   so had cut off those who were obnoxious to him.

   Gain was his objective and pride ruled his spirit. At the time when
   Jesus of Nazareth was brought before him, a complaint against him was
   on the way to Tiberius the Emperor, and he feared lest he should be
   called to account for his oppressions, extortions and murders. His sins
   at this moment were beginning to punish him, as Job would word it, "The
   iniquities of his heels compassed him about." One terrible portion of
   the penalty of sin is its power to force a man to commit yet farther
   iniquity. Pilate's transgressions were now howling around him like a
   pack of wolves--he could not face them and he had not Grace to flee to
   the One Great Refuge!

   But his fears drove him to flee before them and there was no way,
   apparently, open for him but that which led him into yet deeper
   abominations. He knew that Jesus was without a single fault and yet,
   since the Jews clamored for His death, he felt that he must yield to
   their demands, or else they would raise another accusation against him,
   namely, that he was not loyal to the sovereignty of Caesar, for he had
   allowed One to escape who had called Himself a King. If he had behaved
   justly, he would not have been afraid of the chief priests and scribes.
   Innocence is brave, but guilt is cowardly.

   Pilate's old sins found him out and made him weak in the presence of
   the ignoble crew, whom otherwise he would have driven from the judgment

   He had power enough to have silenced them, but he had not sufficient
   decision of character to end the contention. The power was gone from
   his mind because he knew that his conduct would not bear investigation
   and he dreaded the loss of his office, which he held only for his own
   ends. See there with pity that scornful but vacillating creature
   wavering in the presence of men who were more wicked than himself and
   more determined in their purpose! The fell determination of the wicked
   priests caused hesitating policy to quail in their presence and Pilate
   was driven to do what he would gladly have avoided. The manner and the
   words of Jesus had impressed Pilate. I say the manner of Jesus, for His
   matchless meekness must have struck the governor as being a very
   unusual thing in a prisoner.

   He had seen, in captured Jews, the fierce courage of fanaticism, but
   there was no fanaticism in Christ! He had also seen in many prisoners
   the meanness which will do or say anything to escape from death--but he
   saw nothing of that about our Lord. He saw in Him unusual gentleness
   and humility combined with majestic dignity. He beheld submission
   blended with innocence! This made Pilate feel how awful goodness is. He
   was impressed--he could not help being impressed with this unique
   Sufferer. Besides, our Lord had before him witnessed a good
   confession--you remember how we considered it the other day--and though
   Pilate had huffed it off with the pert question, "What is truth?" and
   had gone back into the judgment hall, yet there was an arrow fixed
   within him which he could not shake off.

   It may have been mainly superstition, but he felt an awe of One whom he
   half suspected to be an extraordinary Person. He felt that he, himself,
   was placed in a very extraordinary position, being asked to condemn One
   whom he knew to be perfectly innocent. His duty was clear enough--he
   could never have had a question about that--but duty was nothing to
   Pilate in comparison with his own interests! He would spare the Just
   One if he could do so without endangering himself, but his cowardly
   fears lashed him on to the shedding of innocent blood. At the very
   moment when he was vacillating--when he had proffered to the Jews the
   choice of Barabbas, or Jesus of Nazareth. At that very moment, I say,
   when he had taken his seat upon the bench and was waiting for their
   choice--there came from the hand of God a warning to him--a warning
   which would forever make it clear that if he condemned Jesus, it would
   be done voluntarily by his own guilty hands.

   Jesus must die by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God and
   yet, it must be by wicked hands that He is crucified and slain. And,
   therefore, Pilate must not sin in ignorance. A warning to Pilate came
   from his own wife concerning her morning's dream, a vision of mystery
   and terror--warning him not to touch that just Person--"For," she said,
   "I have suffered many things this day in a dream because of Him." There
   are times in most men's lives when, though they have been wrong, yet
   they have not quite been set on mischief, but have come to a pause and
   have deliberated as to their way. And then God, in great mercy, has
   sent them a caution and has set up a danger signal bidding them stop in
   their mad career before they plunged themselves finally into
   irretrievable ruin! Somewhere in that direction lies the subject of our
   present discourse. O that the Spirit of God may make it useful to many!

   I. And, first, I call your attention to THE COOPERATION OF PROVIDENCE
   WITH THE WORK OF GOD. I call it the work of God to warn men against sin
   and I call your attention to Providence working with it to bring the
   preventives and cautions of Divine Mercy home to men's minds. For,
   first, observe the Providence of God in sending this dream. If anything
   beneath the moon may be thought to be exempt from law and to be the
   creature of pure chance, surely it is a dream! True, there were, in old
   times, dreams in which God spoke to men prophetically--but ordinarily
   they are the carnival of thought, a maze of mental states--a dance of

   The dreams which would naturally come to the wife of a Roman governor
   would not be likely to have much of tenderness or conscience in them
   and would not, in all probability, of themselves, run in the line of
   mercy. Dreams ordinarily are the most disorderly of phenomena and yet
   it seems that they are ordered of the Lord. I can well understand that
   every drop of spray which flashes from the wave, when it dashes against
   the cliff, has its appointed orbit as truly as the stars of Heaven--but
   the thoughts of men appear to be utterly lawless, especially the
   thoughts of men when deep sleep falls upon them! As well might one
   foretell the flight of a bird as the course of a dream!

   Such wild fantasies seem to be ungoverned and ungovernable. Many things
   operate naturally to fashion a dream. Dreams frequently depend upon the
   condition of the stomach, upon the meat and drink taken by the sleeper
   before going to rest. They often owe their shape to the state of the
   body or the agitation of the mind. Dreams may, no doubt, be caused

   by that which transpires in the chamber of the house--a little movement
   of the bed caused by passing wheels, or the tramp of a band of men, or
   the passing of a domestic across the floor--or even the running of a
   mouse behind the wainscot may suggest and shape a dream.

   Any slight matter affecting the senses at such time may raise within
   the slumbering mind a mob of strange ideas. Yet whatever may have
   operated in this lady's case, the hand of Providence was in it all, and
   her mind, though fancy free, wandered nowhere but just according to the
   will of God to effect the Divine purpose! She must dream just so and no
   way else! And that dream must be of such-and-such an order, and none
   other! Even dreamland knows no god but God and even phantoms and
   shadows come and go at His bidding--neither can the images of a night
   vision escape from the supreme authority of the Most High.

   See the Providence of God in the fact that the dream of Pilate's wife,
   however caused, should be of such a form and come at such a time as
   this! Certain old writers trace her dream to the devil, who thus hoped
   to prevent the death of our Lord and so prevent our redemption. I do
   not agree with the notion! But even if it were so, I admire all the
   more the Providence which overrules even the devices of Satan for the
   purposes of wisdom! Pilate must be warned so that his sentence may be
   his own act and deed. And that warning is given him through his wife's
   dream. So does Providence work.

   Note, next, the Providence of God in arranging that with this dream
   there should be great mental suffering. "I have suffered many things in
   a dream concerning Him!" I cannot tell what vision passed before her
   mind's eye, but it was one which caused her terrible agony. A modern
   artist has painted a picture of what he imagined the dream to be, but I
   shall not attempt to follow that great man in the exercise of fancy.
   Pilate's wife may have realized in her sleep the dreadful spectacle of
   the crown of thorns and the scourge, or even of the Crucifixion and the
   death agony. And, truly, I know of nothing more calculated to make the
   heart suffer many things concerning the Lord Jesus than a glance at His
   death! Around the Cross there gathers grief enough to cause many a
   sleepless night if the soul has any tenderness left in it.

   Or her dream may have been of quite another kind. She may have seen in
   vision the Just One coming in the clouds of Heaven. Her mind may have
   pictured Him upon the Great White Throne, even the Man whom her husband
   was about to condemn to die. She may have seen her husband brought
   forth to judgment, himself a prisoner to be tried by the Just One, who
   had before been accused before him. She may have awaken, startled at
   the shriek of her husband as he fell back into the Pit that knows no
   bottom! Whatever it was, she had suffered repeated painful emotions in
   the dream, and she awoke startled and amazed! The terror of the night
   was upon her and it threatened to become a terror to her for all her
   days and she, therefore, hastens to stay her husband's hand.

   Now, herein is the hand of God and the simple story goes to prove that
   the wandering of dreamland are still under His control--and He can
   cause them to produce distress and anguish--if some grand end is to be
   served thereby. Equally remarkable is it that she should have sent to
   her husband the message, "Have nothing to do with that just Man." Most
   dreams we quite forget. A few we mention as remarkable, but only now
   and then is one impressed upon us so that we remember it for years.
   Scarcely have any of you had a dream which made you send a message to a
   magistrate upon the bench. Such an intention would only be resorted to
   in an urgent case. Though the judge were your own husband, you would be
   very hard-pressed before you would worry him with your dreams while he
   was occupied with important public business.

   Mostly a dream may wait till business is over. But so deep was the
   impression upon this Roman lady's mind that she does not wait until her
   lord comes home, but sends to him at once. Her advice is urgent--"Have
   you nothing to do with that just Man." She must warn him now, before he
   has laid a stroke on Him, much less stained his hands in His blood.
   Not, "Have a little to do and scourge Him and let Him go," but, "Have
   you nothing to do with Him. Say not an unkind word, nor do Him any
   injury! Deliver Him from His adversaries! If He must die, let it be by
   some other hand than yours! My Husband, my Husband, my Husband, I
   beseech you, have nothing to do with that just Man. Let Him alone, I
   pray you!"

   She words her message very emphatically. "Have you nothing to do with
   that just Man: for I have suffered many things in a dream concerning
   Him. Think of your wife! Think of yourself! Let my sufferings about
   this Holy One be a warning to you. For my sake let Him alone!" And yet,
   do you know, her message, to my ear, sounds rather authoritative for a
   woman to her husband, and he a judge! There is a tone about it that is
   not ordinarily in the address of wives to husbands. "Have you nothing
   to do with this just Man: for I have suffered many things this day in a
   dream because of Him."

   It shows a wonderful Providence of God that this lady was moved to send
   so strong a message to her self-willed husband--to beseech, to entreat,
   to implore--almost to demand of him that he let this just Man go. O
   Providence, how mightily can you work! O Lord, the seraphim obey You,
   but You find an equally willing servitor in a wife who, at Your
   bidding, stands between her husband and a crime!

   Once more, about this Providence I want you to notice the peculiar time
   in which her warning came. It was evidently a dream of the morning--"I
   have suffered many things in a dream this day." The day had not long
   broken--it was yet early in the morning. The Romans had a superstition
   that morning dreams are true. I suppose it was after her husband had
   left her that she thus dreamed. If I may be allowed not to state a
   fact, but to make a conjecture, which seems to me most probable, she
   was a dearly beloved wife, but sickly and, therefore, needed to rest
   further into the day than her husband. And when he had left his couch,
   she had yet another sleep. And being a sensitive person and all the
   more likely to dream, she awoke from her morning sleep oppressed with a
   terror which she could not shake off. Pilate was gone and she was told
   that he was in the judgment hall.

   She asked her attendants why he was there so early and they replied
   that there had been an unusual clamor in the courtyard, for the High
   Priests and a mob of Jews had been there and the governor had gone out
   to them. They might, perhaps, also tell her that Jesus of Nazareth was
   brought there a prisoner and the priests were entreating Pilate to put
   Him to death, though they had heard the governor say that he found no
   fault in Him. "Go," she said to her maid, "call to one of the guards
   and bid him go at once to my husband and say what I tell you. Let him
   speak aloud, that some of the cruel Jews may hear it, and be moved from
   their cruel purpose. Let him say that I implore my husband to have
   nothing to do with that just Man, for I have suffered many things this
   very morning in a dream concerning Him."

   Just at the moment, you see, when Pilate had sat down on the judgment
   seat, the warning came to him. When there was a little lull and he was
   anxious to acquit his Prisoner--at that instant of time which was the
   most hopeful, this weight was thrown into the right side of the
   scale--thrown in most wisely and mercifully to keep back Pilate from
   his grievous sin. The warning came at the nick of time, as we say,
   though, alas, it came in vain! Admire the punctuality of Providence!
   God never is before His time. He never is too late. It shall be seen
   concerning all that He does that on the same day determined by the
   prophecy, the fulfillment came. My soul stands trembling while she
   sings the glory of her God, whose Providence is high, even like
   Ezekiel's wheels! But the wheels are full of eyes and, as they turn,
   all the surroundings are observed and provided for so that there are no
   slips, or oversights, or accidents, or delays. Prompt and effectual is
   the operation of the Lord!

   Thus much concerning Providence and I think you will all agree that my
   point is proven--that Providence is always co-working with the Grace of
   God. A great writer who knows but little about Divine things, yet,
   nevertheless, tells us that he perceives a power in the world which
   works for righteousness. Exactly so! It is well spoken, for this is the
   chief of all powers! When you and I go out to warn men of sin, we are
   not alone, all Providence is at our back! When we preach Christ
   Crucified, we are workers, together, with God! God is working with us
   as well as by us! Everything that happens is driving towards the end
   for which we work when we seek to convince men of sin and of
   righteousness. Where the Spirit of God is, all the forces of Nature and
   Providence are mustered!

   The fall of empires, the death of despots, the rising up of nations,
   the making or the breaking of treaties, terrific wars and blighting
   famines--are all working out the grand end! Yes, and domestic matters,
   such as the death of children, the sickness of wives, the loss of work,
   the poverty of the family and a thousand other things are working,
   working, always working for the improvement of men. And you and I,
   lending our poor feebleness to cooperate with God, are marching with
   all the forces of the universe! Have comfort, then, in this, O workers
   for Jesus! Suffering many things for Him, be of good courage, for the
   stars in their courses fight for the servants of the living God! And
   the stones of the field are in league with you!

   II. Secondly, I gather from this story THE ACCESSIBILITY OF CONSCIENCE
   TO GOD. How are we to reach Pilate? How are we to warn him? He has
   rejected the voice of Jesus and the sight of Jesus--could not Peter be
   fetched to expostulate with him? Alas, Peter has denied his Master.
   Could not John be brought in? Even he has forsaken the Lord! Where
   shall a messenger be found? It shall be found in a dream--God can get
   at men's hearts, however hardened they may be. Never give them up,
   never despair of awakening them. If my ministry, your ministry and the
   ministry of the

   blessed Book should all seem to be nothing, God can reach the
   conscience by a dream! If the sword comes not at them at close
   quarters, yet what seems but a stray arrow from a bow drawn at a
   venture shall find the joints in their harness.

   We ought to believe in God about wicked men and never say of them, "It
   is impossible that they should be converted." The Lord can wound
   leviathan, for His weapons are many and they are suited to the foe. I
   do not think a dream would operate upon my mind to convince me, but
   certain minds lie open in that direction, and to them a dream may be a
   power. God may use even superstition to accomplish His beneficent
   purposes. Many besides Pilate have been warned by dreams. Better still,
   Pilate was accessible through the dream of his wife. Henry Melvill has
   a very wonderful discourse upon this topic, in which he tries to show
   that probably, if Pilate had dreamed this dream, himself, it would not
   have been so operative upon him as when his wife dreamed it. He takes
   it as a supposition, which nobody can deny, that Pilate had an
   affectionate and tender wife who was very dear to him. The one brief
   narrative which we have of her certainly looks that way--it is evident
   that she loved her husband dearly--and would, therefore, prevent his
   acting unjustly to Jesus.

   To send a warning by her was to reach Pilate's conscience through his
   affections. If his beloved wife was distressed, it would be sure to
   weigh heavily with him, for he would not have her troubled. He would
   gladly shield his tender one from every breath of wind and give her
   perfect comfort. And when she pleads, it is his delight to yield. It
   is, therefore, no small trouble to him that she is suffering--suffering
   so much as to send a message to him. She was suffering because of One
   who deserves her good opinion--One whom Pilate, himself, knows to be
   without fault. If this lady was, indeed, the wife of Pilate's youth,
   tender and dearly beloved, and if she was gradually sickening before
   his eyes, her pale face would rise before his loving memory and her
   words would have boundless power over him when she said, "I have
   suffered many things in a dream."

   O Claudia Procula, if that were your name, well did the Lord of Mercy
   entrust His message to your persuasive lips, for from you it would come
   with tenfold influence! Tradition declares this lady to have been a
   Christian and the Greek Church has placed her in their calendar as a
   saint. For this we have no evidence--all that we know is that she was
   Pilate's wife and used her wifely influence to stay him from this
   crime. How often has a tender, suffering, loving woman exercised great
   power over a coarse, rough man! The All-Wise One knows this and,
   therefore, He often speaks to sinful men by this influential agency. He
   converts one in a family that she may be His missionary to the rest.
   Thus He speaks with something better than the tongues of men and of
   angels, for He uses Love, itself, to be His orator.

   Affection has more might than eloquence. That is why, my Friend, God
   sent you, for a little while, that dear child who prattled to you about
   the Savior! She is gone to Heaven, now, but the music of her little
   hymns rings in your ears even now and her talk about Jesus and the
   angels is yet with you. She has been called Home, but God sent her to
   you for a season to charm you to Himself and win you to the right way.
   Thus He bade you cease from sin and turn to Christ. And that dear
   mother of yours, who is now before the Throne of God, do you remember
   what she said to you when she was dying? You have heard me a great many
   times, but you never heard a sermon from me like that address from her
   dying couch! You can never quite forget it, or shake yourself free from
   its power. Beware how you trifle with it!

   To Pilate, his wife's message was God's ultimatum! He never warned him
   again and even Jesus stood silent before him. O my Friend, to you it
   may be that your child, your mother, or your affectionate wife may be
   God's last messenger, the final effort of the warning angel to bring
   you to a better mind! A loving relative pleading with tears is often
   the forlorn hope of mercy. An attack so skillfully planned and wisely
   conducted may be regarded as the last assault of love upon a stubborn
   spirit and, after this, it will be left to its own devices. The
   selection of the wife was, no doubt, made by infinite wisdom and
   tenderness, that if possible, Pilate might be stopped in his career of
   crime and strengthened to the performance of an act of justice by which
   he would have avoided the most terrible of crimes.

   So, then, we may safely conclude that the Lord has His missionaries
   where the city missionary cannot enter. He sends the little children to
   sing and pray where the preacher is never heard. He moves the godly
   woman to proclaim the Gospel by her lip and life where the Bible is not
   read. He sends a sweet girl to grow up and win a brother or a father
   where no other voice would be allowed to tell of Jesus and His love! We
   thank God it is so! It gives hope for the households of this godless
   city--it gives us hope, even, for those for whom the Sabbath bell rings
   out in vain. They will hear, they must hear these home preachers--these
   messengers who tug at their hearts! Yes, and let me add that where God
   does not em-

   ploy a dream, nor use a wife, yet He can get at men's conscience by no
   visible means but by thoughts which come unbidden and abide upon the

   Truths long buried suddenly rise up and when the man is in the very act
   of sin he is stopped in the way, as Balaam was when the angel met him.
   How often it has happened that conscience has met a guilty man even in
   the moment when he meant to enjoy the pleasure filled with wrong, even
   as Elijah met Ahab at the gate of Naboth's vineyard! How the king
   starts back as he beholds the Prophet--he would sooner have seen the
   very devil, than Elijah! Angrily he cries, "Have you found me, O my
   enemy?" Though, indeed, Elijah was his best friend, had he known it!
   Often does conscience pounce upon a man when the sweet morsel of sin
   has just been rolled under his tongue and he is sitting down to enjoy
   it! The visitation of conscience turns the stolen honey into bitterness
   and the forbidden joy into anguish!

   Conscience often lies like a lion in a thicket--and when the sinner
   comes along the broad road it leaps upon him and, for a while, he is
   sorely put to it. The bad man is comparable to leviathan, of whom we
   read that his scales are his pride, shut up together as with a close
   seal--so that the sword of him that lays at him cannot hold, nor the
   spear, the dart, nor the javelin--and yet the Lord has a way of coming
   at him and sorely wounding him. Let us, therefore, both hope and pray
   for the very worst of men! Brothers and Sisters, use for the good of
   men anything which comes in your way! Use not only sober argument and
   sound doctrine, but even if a dream has touched your heart, do not
   hesitate to repeat it where it may have effect. Any weapon may be used
   in this war.

   See to it that you seek the souls of men, all of you! You who are wives
   should be especially stirred up to this sacred work. Remember Pilate's
   wife and think of her as affectionately giving the warning to her
   husband and go and do likewise. Never keep back from an ungodly husband
   the Word of God which may convert him from the error of his ways! And
   you, dear children, you sisters, you of the gentler sort, do not
   hesitate, in your own quiet way, to be heralds for Jesus wherever your
   lot is cast. As for us all, let us take care that we use every occasion
   for repressing sin and creating holiness. Let us warn the ungodly at
   once, for perhaps the man to whom we are sent has not yet performed the
   fatal deed. Let us stand in the gap while yet there is space for

   Pilate is even now sitting on the judgment seat. Time is precious. Make
   haste! Make haste, before he commits the deed of blood! Send the
   messenger to him! Stop him before the deed is done even though he
   should complain of your interference. Say to him, "Have you nothing to
   do with that just Man: for I have suffered many things because of Him
   and I pray you do nothing against Him." That is our second point. God
   bless it. Although I cannot preach upon it as I would, the Spirit of
   God can put power into it.

   III. Thirdly, we have, now, the lamentable task of observing THE
   FREQUENT FAILURE EVEN OF THE BEST MEANS. I have ventured to say that,
   humanly speaking, it was the best means of reaching Pilate's conscience
   for his wife to be led to expostulate with him. He would hear but few,
   but he would hear her. And yet even her warning was in vain. What was
   the reason? First, self-interest was involved in the matter and that is
   a powerful factor. Pilate was afraid of losing his governorship. The
   Jews would be angry if he did not obey their cruel bidding. They might
   complain to Tiberius and he would lose his lucrative position.

   Alas, such things as these are holding some of you captives to sin at
   this moment. You cannot afford to be true and right, for it would cost
   too much! You know the will of the Lord. You know what is right, but
   you renounce Christ by putting Him off and by abiding in the ways of
   sin that you may gain the wages thereof. You are afraid that to be a
   true Christian would involve the loss of a friend's goodwill, or the
   patronage of an ungodly person, or the smile of an influential
   worldling--and this you cannot afford. You count the cost and reckon
   that it is too high. You resolve to gain the world, even though you
   lose your soul! What then? You will go to Hell rich! A sorry result
   this! Do you see anything desirable in such an attainment? Oh that you
   would consider your ways and listen to the voice of wisdom!

   The next reason why his wife's appeal was ineffectual was the fact that
   Pilate was a coward. A man with legions at his back and yet afraid of a
   Jewish mob--afraid to let one poor Prisoner go whom he knew to be
   innocent--afraid because he knew his conduct would not bear inspection!
   He was, morally, a coward! Multitudes of people go to Hell because they
   have not the courage to fight their way to Heaven. "The fearful and
   unbelieving shall have their portion in the lake which burns with fire
   and brimstone, which is the second death." So says the Word of God!
   They are afraid of encountering a fool's laugh and so rush upon
   everlasting contempt! They could not bear to tear themselves away from
   old companions and excite remarks and sarcasm among ungodly wits--and
   so they keep their companions and perish with them!

   They have not the pluck to say, "No," and swim against the stream. They
   are such cowardly creatures that they will sooner be forever lost than
   face a little scorn. Yet while there was cowardice in Pilate, there was
   presumption, too. He who was afraid of man and afraid to do right, yet
   dared to incur the guilt of innocent blood! Oh, the cowardice of Pilate
   to take water and wash his hands, as if he could wash blood off with
   water! And then to say, "I am innocent of His blood"--which was a lie--
   "see you to it." By those last words he brought the blood upon himself,
   for he consigned his Prisoner to their tender mercies and they could
   not have laid a hand upon Him unless he had given them leave. Oh, the
   daring of Pilate in the sight of God to commit murder and disclaim it!

   There is a strange mingling of cowardliness and courage about many men.
   They are afraid of a man, but not afraid of the eternal God who can
   destroy both body and soul in Hell! This is why men are not saved even
   when the best of means are used, because they are presumptuous and dare
   defy the Lord! Besides this, Pilate was double-minded. He had a heart
   and a heart. He had a heart after that which was right, for he sought
   to release Jesus. But he had another heart after that which was
   gainful, for he would not run the risk of losing his post by incurring
   the displeasure of the Jews. We have plenty around us who are
   double-minded. Such are here this morning--but where were they last
   night? You will be touched by today's sermon! How will you be affected
   tomorrow by a lewd speech or a lascivious song?

   Many men run two ways. They seem earnest about their souls, but they
   are far more eager after gain or pleasure. Strange perversity of man
   that he should tear himself in two! We have heard of tyrants tying men
   to wild horses and dragging them asunder, but these people do this with
   themselves. They have too much conscience to neglect the Sabbath and to
   forego attendance at the House of Prayer--too much conscience to be
   utterly irreligious, to be honestly infidel-- and yet, at the same
   time, they have not enough conscience to keep them from being
   hypocrites! They let, "I dare not," wait upon, "I would." They want to
   do justly, but it would be too costly! They dare not run risks and yet,
   meanwhile, they run the awful risk of being driven forever from the
   Presence of God to the place where hope can never come!

   Oh that my words were shot as from a cannon! Oh that they would hurl a
   cannon-shot at indecision! Oh that I could speak like God's own thunder
   which makes the hinds to calve and breaks the rocks in pieces! Even so,
   I solemnly warn men against these desperate evils which thwart the
   efforts of mercy, so that, even when the man's own wife, with tender
   love, bids him escape from the wrath to come, he still chooses his own

   IV. Lastly, we have a point which is yet more terrible, THE

   WHO THUS TRANSGRESS. This Pilate was guilty beyond all excuse. He
   deliberately and of his own free will condemned the just Son of God to
   die, being informed that He was the Son of God and knowing both from
   his own examination and from his wife that He was a "just Man." Observe
   that the message which he received was most distinct. It was suggested
   by a dream, but there is nothing dreamy about it. It is as plain as
   words can be put-- "Have you nothing to do with that just Man: for I
   have suffered many things this day in a dream because of Him."

   Pilate condemned the Lord with his eyes open and that is an awful way
   of sinning. Oh, my dear Friends, am I addressing any here who are
   purposing to do some very sinful thing, but have lately received a
   warning from God? I would add one more caution! I pray you, by the
   blessed God, and by the bleeding Savior, and as you love yourself, and
   as you love her from whom the warning may have come to you, stop and
   hold your hand! Do not do this abominable thing! You know better. The
   warning is not put to you in some mysterious and obscure way, but it
   comes point blank to you in unmistakable terms. God has sent conscience
   to you and He has enlightened that conscience so that it speaks very
   plain English to you! This morning's discourse stops you on the highway
   of sin, puts its pistol to your ear and demands that you "Stand and

   Stir an inch and it will be at your own soul's peril. Do you hear me?
   Will you regard this Heaven-sent expostulation? Oh, that you would
   stand still, awhile, and hear what God shall speak while He bids you
   yield yourself to Christ today! It may be now or never with you, as it
   was with Pilate that day. He had the evil thing which he was about to
   do fully described to him and, therefore, if he ventured on it, his
   presumption would be great. His wife had not said, "Have nothing to do
   with that Man," but, "with that just Man," and that word rang in his
   ears--and again and again repeated itself till he repeated it, too!
   Read the 24th verse. When He was washing his wicked hands he said, "I
   am innocent of the blood of this just Person"--the very name his wife
   had given to our Lord!

   The arrows stuck in him! He could not shake them off! Like a wild
   beast, he had the javelin sticking in his side, and though he rushed
   into the forest of his sin, it was evidently still rankling in him--
   "this just Person" haunted him!

   Sometimes God makes a man see sin as sin and makes him see the
   blackness of it. And if he then perseveres in it, he becomes doubly
   guilty and pulls down upon himself a doom intolerable beyond that of
   Sodom of old. Beside that, Pilate was sinning not only after distinct
   warning--and a warning which set out the blackness of the sin--but he
   was sinning after his conscience had been touched and moved through his

   It is a dreadful thing to sin against a mother's prayers! She stands in
   your way. She stretches out her arms--with tears she declares that she
   will block your road to Hell! Will you force your way to ruin over her
   prostrate form? She kneels! She grasps your knees! She begs you not to
   be lost! Are you so brutal as to trample on her love? Your little child
   entreats you--will you disregard her tears? Alas, she was yours, but
   death has removed her, and before she departed she entreated you to
   follow her to Heaven and she sang her little hymn--"Yes, we'll gather
   at the river." Will you fling your babe aside us though you were
   another Herod that would slay the innocents and all in order that you
   may curse yourself forever and be your own destroyer?

   It is hard for me to talk to you like this. If it is coming home to any
   of you, it will be very hard for you to hear it. Indeed, I hope it will
   be so hard that you will end it by saying, "I will yield to love which
   assails me by such tender entreaties." It will not be a piece of mere
   imagination if I conceive that at the Last Great Day, when Jesus sits
   upon the Judgment Seat, and Pilate stands there to be judged for the
   deeds done in the body, that his wife will be a swift witness against
   him to condemn him! I can imagine that at the Last Great Day there will
   be many such scenes as that, wherein those who loved us best will bring
   the most weighty evidences against us, if we are still in our sins! I
   know how it affected me as a lad when my mother, after setting before
   her children the way of salvation, said to us, "If you refuse Christ
   and perish, I cannot plead in your favor and say that you were
   ignorant. No, but I must say, Amen, to your condemnation."

   I could not bear that! Would my mother say, "Amen," to my condemnation?
   And yet, Pilate's wife, what can you do otherwise? When all must speak
   the truth, what can you say but that your husband was tenderly and
   earnestly warned by you and yet consigned the Savior to His enemies?
   Oh, my ungodly Hearers, my soul goes out after you! "Turn you, turn
   you, why will you die?" Why will you sin against the Savior? God grant
   you may not reject your own salvation, but may turn to Christ and find
   eternal redemption in Him! "Whoever believes in Him has everlasting