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“Then released he Barabbas unto them; and when he had scourged Jesus, he delivered him to be crucified. It was the custom of the inhuman Romans to scourge their criminals before they crucified them; as if the exquisite tortures of crucifixion were not sufficient without adding to them those of the scourge. But in this instance the Roman soldiers went further still ; they improved upon the cruelty of their masters, and to torments they added the most brutal mockery and insult. “Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the common hall, and gathered unto him the whole band of soldiers; and they stripped him, and put on him a scarlet robe. And when they had platted a crown of thorns, they put it upon his head, and a reed in his right hand; and they bowed the knee before him, and mocked him, saying, Hail, king of the Jews! And they spit upon him, and took the reed, and smote him on the head. And after they had mocked him, they took the robe off from him, and put his own raiment on him, and led him
- away away to be crucified.”. One hastens over this scene of insolence and outrage with averted eyes, and can hardly bring one's mind to believe that anything in the shape of man could have risen to this height of wanton barbarity. What a difference between this treatment of an innocent and injured man, to that of the vilest criminal in this country previous to his execution ; and how strongly does it mark the difference between the spirit of Paganism and the spirit of Christianity “And as they came out, they found a man of Cyrene, Simon by name: him they compelled to bear his cross.” It was usual for criminals to bear their own cross; but when they were feeble (as the blessed Jesus might well be after all his bitter sufferings) they compelled some one to bear it for him; and this Cyrenian was probably known to be a favourer of Christ. “And when they were come to a place called Golgotha, they gave him vinegar to drink, mingled with gall; a kind of stupefying potion, intended to abate the sense of pain, and to
hasten death. “And they crucified him, and parted his garments, casting lots; that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, They parted my garments among them, and upon my vesture did they cast lots.” This is a prediction of king David's, in the 22d Psalm. “And sitting down, they watched him there; and set up over him his accusation, written, This is Jesus, the King of the Jews: ” for in extraordinary cases it was usual to place such inscriptions over the criminal. But with regard to this, a remarkable circumstance occurred. We learn from St. John, that many of the Jews read this inscription, which gave them infinite offence; as being a declaration to all the world that Jesus really was their king. The chief priests therefore came to Pilate, and begged of him to alter the inscription; and instead of writing, “This is the King of the Jews,” to write, “He said I am the King of the Jews.” Pilate, who put up this inscription out of mockery, now retained it, like a true Roman, out of obstimacy;
“What I have written, (says he, peevishly) I have written;” and it shall stand ; unconscious of what he was saying, and of his being overruled all the while by an unseen hand, which thus compelled him to bear an undesigned testimony to a most important truth; that the very man whom he had crucified as a malefactor, did not merely say that he was the king of the Jews, the true Messiah, but that he really 2008 SO. “Then were two thieves crucified with him, the one on the right hand, the other on the left.” This was done with a view of adding to the ignominy of our Saviour's sufferings. But this act of malignity, like many other instances of the same nature, answered a purpose which the authors of it little thought of or intended. It was the completion of a prophecy of Isaiah, in which, alluding to this very transaction, he says of the Messiah, “he was numbered with the transgressors”.” They then
continued their insults upon him, even while * Isaiah, liii. 12.
while hanging in agony upon the cross, as we find related in the five following verses. We are then told, that “from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour.” The sixth hour of the Jews corresponds to our twelve o'clock, and their ninth hour of course to our three. There was therefore a darkness over all the earth, from twelve at noon till three in the afternoon. This darkness must have been supernatural and miraculous. It could: not be an eclipse of the sun, because that cannot happen but in the new moon; whereas this was at the feast of the Passover, which was always celebrated at the full moon. It is taken notice of by several ancient writers, both Heathen and Christian ; and Tertullian expressly declares, that it was mentioned in the Roman archives*. From whence it appears, that it was not confined to the land of Judaea, but extended itself, as it is expressed by St. Luke, over all the earth+. And about the ninth hour Jesus cried - - with * Tertull. Apol. c. 21. + Luke, xxiii. 44.