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you bear to see the innocent, a son of Abraham, thus injured ? Perhaps, also, the soldiers were suffered to buffet Jesus again on the pavement before the multi. tude, in order to excite their pity, or at least their pride : for though they might not pity Jesus as a person unjustly condemned; yet when they saw one of their countrymen insulted by Heathens, it was natural for the governor to suppose, that their national pride being provoked, it would have induced them to have demanded his enlargement: but all this was to no purpose. The priests, whose rage and malice had extinguished not only the sentiments of justice and 'feelings of pity, natural to the human heart, but also that love which countrymen bear for each other, no sooner saw Jesus, than they began to fear the fickle populace might relent, and therefore, laying decency aside, they led the way to the multitude, crying out with all their might, Crucify him : Crucify him! Release not this man, but Barrabbas !
The governor vexed to see the Jewish rulers thug obstinately bent on the destruction of a person, from whom they had nothing to fear that was dangerous, either with regard to their church or state, passionately told them, that if they would have him crucified, they must do it themselves; because he would not suffer his people to murder a man who was guilty of no crime. But this they all refused, thinking it dishonourable to receive permission to punish a person who had been more than once publicly declared innocent by his judge: besides they considered with themselves, that the governor might afterwards have called it sedition, as the permission had been extorted from him. Accordingly they told him, that even though one of the things alledged against the prisoner were true, he had committed such a crime in the presence of the council itself, ás by law deserved the most ignominious death. He had spoken blasphemy, calling himself the Son of God, a title which no mortal could assume without the highest degree of guilt: We have a laro, and by our law he
ought to die, because he made himself the son of God, a
Pilate's fear was increased when he heard that Jesus called himselt the Son of God: but knowing the obstinacy of the Jews in all matters of religion, he was afraid they would make a tumult in earnest: or, perhaps he was himself more afraid than ever to take away his life, because he suspected it might be true. He doubtless remembered the miracles said to have been performed by Jesus, and therefore suspected that he really was the Son of God : for it is well known that the religion which the governor professed, directed him to acknowledge the existence of demi-gods and heroes, or men descended from the gods: nay, the Heathens believed, that their gods themselves sometimes appeared upon earth in the form of men and conversed with them.
These reflections induced Pilate to go again into the judgment-hall, and ask Jesus from what father he sprung, and from what country he came? But our blessed Saviour gave him no answer, lest the governor should reverse his sentence, and absolutely refuse to crucify him. Pilate marvelled greatly at this silence, and said unto Jesus, Why dost thou refuse to answer me? Thou canst not be ignorant that I am invested with absolute power, either to release or crucify thee. To which Jesus answered, I well know that thou art Cæsar's servant, and accountable to him for thy management. I forgive thee an injury, which, contrary to thy inclinations, the popular fury constrains thee to do unto me. Thou hast thy power from above, from the emperor: for which cause, the Jewish high-priest, who hath put me into thy hands, and by pretending that I am Casar's cnemy, forces thee to condemn me; or if thou refusest, will accuse thee as negligent of the emperor's interest; he is more guilty than thee: Ilc that delivered me unto thee hath the greater sin, being instigated thereto by malice,
Hearing this sweet and modest answer, such an impression was thereby made on Pilate, that he went out to the people, and declared his intention of releasing JESUS, whether they gave their consent or not. Upon which the chief priests and rulers of Israel cried out, If thou let this man go, thou art not Cæsar's friend ; whosoever maketh himself a king, speaketh against Cæ
If thou releasest the prisoner, who hath set himself up for a king, and endeavoured to raise a rebellion in the country, thou art unfaithful to the interest of the emperor thy master. This argument was weighty, and shook Pilate's resolution to the very basis: he. was terrified at the thought of being accused to Tiberius, who in all affairs of government always suspected the worst, and punished the most minute crimes relative thereto, with death. The governor being thus constrained to yield contrary to his inclination, was very angry with the priests for stirring up the people to such a pitch of madness, and determined to affront them. He therefore brought Jesus out a second time into the pavement, wearing the purple robe and the crown of thorns; and, pointing to him ; said, Behold your King ; ridiculing the national expectation of a Messiah, as their deliverer.
Stung to the quick, by this sarcastical expression, they cried out, Away with him, away with him, cruciJy him. To which Pilate answered, with the same mocking air, Shall I crucify your king? The chief priests answered, We have no king but Cesar. Thus did they publicly renounce their hope of the Messiah, which the whole economy of their religion had been calculated to cherish: they also publicly acknow• ledged their subjection to the Romans: and, consequently, condemned themselves, when they afterwards rebelled against the emperor Vespasian, who, with his son Titus, destroyed their city and temple.
We may here observe, that the great unwillingness of the governor to pass sentence of death ipon Jesus,
has something in it very remarkable. For from the character of Pilate, as drawn by the Roman historians themselves, he seems to have been far from possessing any trụe principle of virtue. To what then could it be owing, that so wicked a man should so steadily adhere to the cause of innocence, which he defended with uncommon bravery, and perhaps would never have abandoned it, had he not been forced by the threatenings of the chief priests and rulers of Israel? And when he did yield, and passed sentence upon our dear Redeemer, why did he still declare him innocent? This can certainly be attributed to no other cause than to the secret and powerful direction of the providence of the Almighty, who intended that at the same time his son was condemned and executed as a malefactor, his innocence should be made appear in the most public manner, and by the most authentic evidence; even that of the judge himself.
judge himself. It was the power of the Almighty that set bounds to the inveterate malice and fury of the Jews, that would not suffer them to stain the innocence of the blessed Jesus, at the same time they deprived him of his life ; but said to their boisterous malice, as he had before said to the foaming billows of the ocean, Hilherto shalt thou come, but no further, and here shalt thy proud waves be stayed : for none can stay his hand, or controul his will.
Jesus is led forth to Calvary: Simon, the Cyrenian,
compelled to carry the Cross : He is crucified between two Malefactors: A Title is put upon the Cross by Pilate, and Lots cast for his Garment : The Multitude, the Rulers, the Priests, and the Soldiers revile Jesus: The conversion of one of the Thieves: The great and unnatural Eclipse of the Sun: Jesus speaks to his Friends from the Cross, cries, “ It is finished," recommends his Spirit into
the Hands of his heavenly Father, and expires. O my soul! come and follow thy Redeemer to the last scene of the most innocent and useful course that was ever passed on earth: follow him to Calvary's horrid eminence, to Calvary's fatal catastrophe; there fix thy most constant attention on that lovely, that sorrowful spectacle. Behold the spotless victim nailed to a tree, and stabbed to the heart; hear him pouring out prayers for his murderers, before he poured out his soul for transgressors; see the wounds that stream with forgiveness, and bleed balm for a distempered world. O! see the justice and goodness of the Almighty, his mercy, and his vengeance; all his tremendous and gracious attributes manifested; manifested with inexpressible splendour, in the most ignominious, and yet grandest of transactions that ever the world beheld!
After sentence was pronounced against the blessed Jesus, the soldiers were ordered to prepare for his execution; a command which they readily obeyed, and after clothing him in his own garments, led him away to crucify him. It is not said that they took the crown of thorns from his temples; probably he died wearing it, that the title placed over his head might be the better understood by the spectators.