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ing him. To this the Jews made that answer, which muft petrify every heart with horror. Then answered all the people, and said, “ His blood be upon us and on our children.” Then released he Barabbas unto them. And when he had scourged Jefus, 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 ite
It affords, in the first place, a most awful warning to the lower orders of the people, to beware of giving them selves up, as they too frequently do, to the direction of arttul and profligate leaders, who abuse their fimplicity and credulity to the very worst purposes, and make use of them only as tools, to accomplish their own private views of ambition, of avarice, of refentment, or revenge. We have just seen a most striking instance of this strange propensity of the multitude to be milled, and of the ease with which their paflions 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 difcourses; 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 were perfuaded 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 repeate edly acknowledged and strongly urged upon them by the very judge who had tried him.
Yet even that judge himself, who was fo 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 effectue ally ; 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 histori. ans) the most virtuous people in the ancient heathen world. We fee a Roman governor sent to difpenfe justice in a Roman province, and invested with full powers to save or to destroy ; we fee him with a prisoner before him, in wwhom he repeatedly declared he could find no fault : and yet, after a few ineffeétual 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 devife. The faét is, he was afraid of the people, he was afraid of Cæfar; and when the clamorous multitude cried out to him, “ if thou let this man go, thou art not Cæfar's friend,” all his firmness, all his resolution at once forsook him. He shrunk from the dangers that threatened him, and facrificed his conscience and his duty to the menaces of a mob, and the dread of fovereign power.
- Could any thing like this have happened in this country? We all know that it is impossible. We all know that no dangers, no threats, no fears, either of Cæsar or of the people, could ever induce a British judge to condemn to death a man, whom he in his conscience believed to be innocent. And what is it that produces this difference between a Roman and a British judge? It is this : that the former had no other principle to govern his conduct but natural reason, or what would now be called philofo. phy; which, though it would sometimes point out to him the path of duty, yet could never inspire him with fortitude-enough to persevere in it in critical and dangerous circumstances ; in opposition to the frowns of a tyrant, or the clamours of a multitude. "Whereas the British judge, in addition to his natural sentiments of right and wrong, and the dictates of the moral fense, has the principle of religion also to influence his heart : he has the unerring and inflexible rules of evangelical rectitude to guide him ; he has that which will vanquish every other fear, the fear of God, before his eyes. "He knows that he himself must one day stand before the Judge of all; and that confideration keeps him firm to his duty, be the dangers that surround him-ever fo-formidable and tremendous.
This is one, among a thousand other proofs, of the benefits we derive, even in the present life, from the Christian
revelation. It has, in fact, had a most falutary and beneficial influence on our most important temporal interests, Its beneficent spirit has spread itself through all the different relations and modifications of human fociety, and communicated its kindly influence to almost every public and private concern of mankind.' It has not only purified, as we have seen, the administation of justice, but it has infenfibly worked itself into the inmoft frame and conftitution of civil societies. . It has given a tinge to the complexion of their governments, and to the temper of their laws. It has foftened the rigour of despotism, and lefsened, in fome degree, the horrors of war. It has descended into families, has diminished the pressure of private tyranny, improved every domestic endearment, given tenderness to the parent, humanity to the master, respect to superiors, to inferiors security and ease ; and left, in short, the most evident traces of its benevolent spirit in all the various fubordinations, dependencies, and connections of social life.
But to return to the Roman governor. Having thus bafely shrunk from his duty, and, contrary to his own conviction, condemned an innocent man, he endeavored to clear himself from this guilt, and to satisfy his conscience, by the vain ceremony of washing his hands before the multitude, and declaring, “ that he was innocent of the blood of that just person.” Alas! not all the water of the ocean could wash away the foul and indelible stain of murder from his foul. Yet he hoped to transfer it to the accomplices of his crime. “ See ye to it," fays he to the people. And what answer did that people make to him? “ His blood, said they, be on us and on our children.” A most fatal imprecation, and most dreadfully fulfilled upon them at the fiege of Jerusalem, when the vengeance of heaven overtook them with a fury unexampled in the history of the world ; when they were exposed at once to the horrors of famine, of fedition, of assassination, and the sword of the Romans. And it is very remarkable, that there was a striking correspondence between their crime and their prenishment. They put Jesus to death when the nation was assembled to celebrate the passover; - and when the nation was assembled for the same purpose,
Titus Chut them up within the walls of Jerusalem. The
Tejection of the true Meffiah was their crime, and the fol lowing of false Messiahs to their destruction was their punishment. They bought Jesus as 'a slave ; and they them. Telves were afterwards sold and bought as slaves, at the lowest prices. They preferred a robber and murderer to Jesus, whom they crucified between two thieves ; and they themselves were afterwards infested with bands of thieves *and robbers. They put Jesus to death left the Romans
should come and take away their place and nation; and the Romans did come and take away their place' and nation*. And what is still more striking, and still more ftrongly marks the judgment of God upon them, they were punished with that very kind of death which they "were so eager to inflict on the Saviour of mankind, the death of the cross; and that in such prodigious numbers, that Josephus affures us there wanted wood for crosses, and * room to place them int.
3. The history then proceeds as follows : “ Then released he Barabbas unto them ; and when he had scourged Jea fus, 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 cruci. fixion were not fufficient 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 foldiers of the governor took Jesus into the common hall, and gathered unto him the whole band of foldiers ; and they stripped him, and put on him a scarlet robe. And when they had platted à 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 to be crucified.” One haftens over
this scene of infolence and outrage with averted eyes, and can hardly bring one's mind to believe that any thing in
* Newton on Prophecy, vol. ii. p. 355. + De Bell. Jud. l. y. c. xi. p. 1247. Ed. Huds.
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 vileft crimi. nal in this country previous to his execution; and how Itrongly does it mark the difference between the spirit of Paganism and the fpirit of Christianity! “ And as they came out, they found a man of Cyrene, Simon by name, him they compelled to bear his crofs." It was usual før criminals to bear their own cross; but when they were feeble (as the blefsed Jesus might well be after all his bitter fufferings) they compelled fome 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 ftupefying potion, intended to abate the sense of pain, and to hasten death. “And they crucified him, and parted his garments, cafting lots; that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, “They parts ed my garments among them, and upon my vesture did they calt lots.” This is a prediction of king David's, in the 22d Pfalm. “And fitting down, they watched him there ; and fet up over him his accusation, written, This is Jesus, the King of the Jews ; for in extraordinary cafes it was usual to place fuch infcriptions over the criminal; but with regard to this, a remarkable circumstance occured. 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 inftead 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 infcription out of mockery, now retained it, like a true Roman, out of obstinacy. 6 What I have written (says he, peevishly) I have written ; and it shall stand;" tinconscious of what he was saying, and of his being over ruled all the while by an unseen hand, which thus compelled him to bear an undefigned 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 was fo.