Having discussed both the counsel of ungodly and the way of the sinner, St. Hilary moves on to the seat of pestilence:
Now the third condition for gaining happiness is not to sit in the seat of pestilence. The Pharisees sat as teachers in Moses’ seat, and Pilate sat in the seat of judgment: of what seat then are we to consider the occupation pestilential? Not surely of that of Moses, for it is the occupants of the seat and not the occupation of it that the Lord condemns when He says: ‘The Scribes and Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat; whatsoever they bid you do, that do; but do not ye after their work (Matt 23:2).’ The occupation of that seat is not pestilential, to which obedience is enjoined by the Lord’s own word. That then must be really pestilential, the infection of which Pilate sought to avoid by washing his hands. For many, even God-fearing men, are led astray by the canvassing for worldly honours; and desire to administer the law of the courts, though they are bound by those of the Church.
Scripture offers two examples of seats: that of Moses (whose occupants are the Pharisees) and that of Pontius Pilate. Note that those who occupy both seats are sinners. Christ famously calls the Pharisee hypocrites (Matthew 23:13), but the seat itself, as St. Hilary points out, Christ Himself says is not the source of the problem. If one occupied the seat sans hypocrisy, one would be blessed by that seat.
The seat of Pilate, however, is a seat of judgement — something reserved for God. In his arrogance, Pilate believes his seat has the power to wash away the sin that he commits when he hands Christ over to be crucified. The world is always offering us the glory of men by substituting seats of worldly power for things that rightly belong to God. We are led to believe that politicians have power over life and death, judgement and the forgiveness of sin. Pilate himself believes that he has Christ’s life in his hands — that he can forgive His “sin,” judge him innocent and thus save Christ’s life:
Don’t you know that I have power to crucify you, and have power to release you? (John 19:10)
In other words, Pilate, like Adam before him, grasped at power that properly belongs to God:
Jesus answered, ‘You could have no power at all against me, except it were given you from above'(John 19:11)