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have made a deep impression on the mind of Pilate, “When he was sat down upon the judgment-seat, his wife sent unto him, saying, Have thou nothing to do with that just man; for I have suffered many things this day in a dream because of him.” Anxious as Pilate already was to save Jesus, this singular circumstance coming upon him at the moment, must have greatly quickened his zeal in such a cause. He therefore redoubled his efforts to carry his point, and again said to the Jews, “Whether of the twain will ye that I release unto you? They said, Barabbas.” Pilate still persisted, “Whatshall I do then with Jesus, which is called CHRIST 2" that is, the Messiah, the great deliverer whom they expected; thinking this consideration might soften them. But he was mistaken ; they all say unto him, “Let him be crucified.”. Once more he endeavoured to move their compassion, by reminding them of the perfect innocence of Jesus. The governor said unto them, “Why? what evil hath he done?” But even this last
affecting affecting remonstrance was all in vain; they cried out the more, saying, “Let him be crucified.” When therefore Pilate saw that he could prevail nothing, but rather a tumult was made, he took water, and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, “I am innocent of the blood of this just person : see ye to it.” This was a custom both among the Jews. and the Romans, when they wished to exculpate themselves from the guilt of having put to death an innocent man. We meet with instances of this significant ablution in several classic writers”. The Mosaic law itself enjoined it in certain cases+; and it is in allusion to this ceremony that David says in the Pslams, “I will wash my hands in innocency, O Lord ; (that is,
* Sophocles—Ajax, iii.i.v. 664; & Scholias in loco. So AEneas, after having recently slaughtered so many of his enemies at the sacking of Troy by the Greeks, durst not touch his household gods, till he had washed himself in the running stream.
in testimony of my innocence) and so will I go to thine altar *.” This therefore was at once a visible declaration of the innocence of Jesus, and of Pilate's reluctance in condemning him. To this the Jews made that answer, which must petrify every heart with horror. “Then answered all the people, and said, His blood be on us and on our children. Then released he Barabbas unto them : and when he had scourged Jesus, he delivered him to be crucified.” Here let us pause a moment, and look back to the scene we have been contemplating, and the reflections that arise from it. It affords, in the first place, a most awful warning to the lower orders of the people, to beware of giving themselves up, as they too frequently do, to the direction of artful and profligate leaders, who abuse their simplicity and credulity to the very worst purposes, and make use of them only as tools, to accomplish their own private views
* Psalm, xxvi, 6.
views of ambition, of avarice, of resentment, or revenge. We have just seen a most striking instance of this strange propensity of the multitude to be misled, and of the ease with which their passions are worked up to the commission of the most atrocious crimes. The Jewish people were naturally attached to Jesus. They were astonished at his miracles, they were charmed with his discourses; and their diseases and infirmities were relieved by his omnipotent benevolence. But notwithstanding all this, by the dexterous management of their chief priests and elders, their admiration of Jesus was converted in a moment into the most rancorous hatred; they werepersuaded to ask the life of a murderer in preference to his ; and to demand the destruction of a man who had never offended them, whose innocence was as clear as the day, and was repeatedly acknowledged and strongly urged upon them by the very judge who
had tried him. Yet even that judge himself, who was - SO so thoroughly convinced of the innocence of his prisoner, and actually used every means in his power to preserve him, even he had not the honesty and the courage to protect him effectually; and his conduct affords a most dreadful proof what kind of a thing public justice was among the most enlightened, and (if we may believe their own poets and historians) the most virtuous people in the ancientheathen world. We see a Roman governor sent to dispense justice in a Roman province, and invested with full powers to save or to destroy ; we see him with a prisoner: before him, in whom he repeatedly declared he could find no fault; and yet, after a few ineffectual struggles with his own conscience, he delivers up that prisoner, not merely to death, but to the most horrible and excruciating torments that human malignity could devise. The fact is, he was afraid of the people, he was afraid of Caesar; and when the clamorous multitude cried out to him, “If thou let this man go thou art not Caesar's