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CHAPTER XXXVII.

Pilate gives the Jews their Choice of Jesus or Barab: bas to be released : Upon the Clamour of the common People, Barabbas is loosed, and Jesus delivered up to be crucified: He is crowned with Thorns, spit

on, and mocked. THE Roman governors at the_passover, made it a custom to court the favour of the populace, by gratify, ing them with the release of any one prisoner they pleased. And at this feast, there was one in Prison named Barabbas, who, at the head of a number of rebels, had made an insurrection in the city, and committed murder during the tumult.

There being now again a great multitude of people assembled before the governor's palace, they began to callaloud on him to perform the annual office of mercy, customary at the festival they were now celebrating. Pilate, glad of this opportunity, told them, that he was willing to grant the favour they desired; and asked them whether they would have Barabbas or JEsus released unto them? But without waiting for an answer, he offered to release Jesus, knowing that the chief priests had delivered him through envy; especially as Herod had not found him guilty of the crimes he had been accused of.

During these transactions, Pilate received a message from his wife, then with him at Jerusalem, and who had that morning been informed of something in a dream which gave her great uneasiness. Perhaps it presaged the vengeance of the Almighty pursuing her husband and family, on account of the injustice he was going to commit. But whatever the dream was, it had so great an effect on this Roman lady, that she could not rest till she had sent an account of it to her husband, who was then sitting on the tribunal in the

pavement, and begged him to have no hand in the death of the righteous person who was then brought to his bar

As the people had not yet determined whether they would have Jesus or Barrabbas released to them; Pilate therefore, when he received the message from his wife, called the chief priests and rulers together, and in the hearing of the multitude, made a speech to them, in which he gave them an account of the examination, which Jesus had undergone, toth at his own and Herod's tribunal, declaring that in both courts it had turned out honourably to his character; for which reason he proposed to them, that he should be the object of the peoples favour, and be acquitted.

The intent of Pilate, in doing the priests the honor to consult their inclinations in particular, might, in all probability, be with a design to soften their stony hearts, and, if possible, to move them for once to pity an unhappy and innocent man. But he was persuaded that if pity was absolutely banished from their callous breasts, his proposal would have been acceptable to the people, whom he expected would embrace the first opportunity of declaring in his favour. Yet in this he was disappointed. They cried out all at once, Away with this man, and release unto us Barabbas.

Ye apostate mortals, a few hours ago ye listened with rapture to his heavenly discourses, beheld with transport the many salutary miracles wrought by this benevolent son of the Most High, and earnestly importuned him to take possession of the throne and sceptre of David ! Now nothing will satiate your infernal malice but his precious blood ! But remember ye miscreants, ye monsters in the human form, that this same Jesus, whom ye beheld with such contempt before the tribunal of the Roman governor ; this Jesus, whose blood your infernal mouths so loudly requested, sha! one day come in the clouds of heaven to take

vengeance on his enemies ! And how will you be able to bear the sight of his appearance, when the very heavens themselves will melt at his presence," the sun become black as sackcloth of hair," the moon be turned into · blood, and the stars fly from their spheres? How will ye then repent of your unjust demand, and call to the mountains and rocks to fall on you, and hide you from the presence of that immaculate Lamb of God, the tremendaous judge of quick and dead !

The governor himself was astonished at this determination of the multitude, and repeated his question, for he could hardly believe what he had himself heard. But on their again declaring that they desired Barabbas might be released, he asked them, What he should do with Jesus, which is called Christ? as if he had said, you demand that Barabbas should be released; but what shall I then do with JESUS ? you cannot surely desire me to crucify him, whom so inany

of
you

have acknowledged as your Messiah? But they cried, saying, crucify him, crucify him. Then Pilate said unto them, Why, what evil hath he done? And they cried out the more exceedingly, Crucify him. They were so resolutely determined to have him destroyed, that notwithstanding Pilate urged them again and again to desire his release, declared his innocence, and offered several times to dismiss him : they would not hear it, uttering their rage, sometimes in hollow, distant inarticulate murmurs, and sometimes in furious outcries: to such a pitch were their passions raised by the craft and artful insinuations of the priests, and their own thirst for his blood.

Finding it therefore in vain to struggle with their prejudices, Pilate called for water, and washed his hands before the multitude, crying out at the same time, that the prisoner had no fault, and that he himself was not accessory to his death.

Pilate, by this act and declaration, seems to have in:

tended to make some impression on the Jewish populace, by complying with the institutions of Moses, which orders, in case of an unknown murder, the elders of the nearest city to wash their hands publicly, and say, Our hands have not shed this blood. And in allusion to this law, the Psalmist says, I will wash mine hands in innocency. According therefore, to the Jewish rites, Pilate made the most solemn and public declaration of the innocence of our dear Redeemer, and of his resolution of having no hand in his death, Perhaps he flattered himself, that by this solemn appeal, he should have terrified the Jewish populace; for a person of his understanding and education, could not but be sensible, that all the water in the universe was not sufficient to wash away the guilt of an unrighteous sentence. But notwithstanding the solemnity of this declaration, the Jews continued inflexible, and cried out, with one voice, His blood be on us and on our children. Dreadful imprecation! It shocks humanity! An imprecation which brought on them the dreadful vengeance of Omnipotence, and is still a heavy burden on that perfidious people who are dispersed all over the earth!

Pilate, finding it impossible to alter their choice, reJeased unto them Barabbas. And as it was the general practice of the Romans to scourge those criminals they condemned to be crucified, Pilate ordered the blessed Jesus to be scourged before he delivered him to the soldiers to be put to death. The soldiers having alcordingly scourged Jesus, and received orders to crucify him, carried him into the Prætorium, or common hall, where they added the shame of disgrace to the bitterness of his punishment; for sore as he was by reason of the stripes they had given him, they dressed him in a purple robe, in derision of his being the King of the Jews. Having dressed him in this robe of mockmajesty, they put a reed in his hand, instead of a sceptre, and after platting a wreath of thorns, they put it on his head for a crown; forcing it down in so rude 3

manner, that his temples were torn. And his face besmeared with his most precious blood. To the Son of God in this condition, the rude soldiers bowed the knee, pretending to do it out of respect; but at the same time gave him severe blows on the head, which drove the prickles of the wreath afresh into his temples, then spit on him, to express their highest contempt and disdain.

The office of governor, obliging Pilate to be present at this shocking scene of inhumanity, he was ready to burst with grief. The sight of an innocent and virtuous man, treated with such shocking barbarity, raised in his breast the most painful sensations of pity: and though he had given sentence that it should be as the Jews desired, and had delivered our dear Redeemer to the soldiers to be crucified, he was persuaded, that if he showed him to the people in that condition, they must relent, and petition him to let him go. Filled with this thought, he resolved to carry him out, and exhibit to their view, a spectacle capable of softening the most envenomed, obdurate, enraged enemy. And in order to render the impression still more poignant, he went out himself, and said unto them, Though I have sentenced this man to die, and have scourged him as one that is to be crucified ;, yet I once more bring him before you, that I may again testify how fully I am persuaded of his innocence, and that ye may yet have an opportunity of saving his life, and clearing the guiltless.

No sooner had the governor finished his speech, than Jesus appeared on the pavement; with his hair, his face, his shoulders all clotted with blood, and the purple robe bedaubed with spittle. And that the sight of Jesus in this distress might make the greater impression on the people, Pilate, while he was coming forward, cried out, Behold the man! As if he had said, will nothing make you relent? Have you lost all the feelings of humanity and bowels of compassion? Can

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