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should expire in agony.* Within the gates, pestilence, famine, and the sword should rage through the city, and the caves in the mountains round, and the holes in the rocks, should be filled with those who vainly sought to escape from death. Horror and anguish of spirit should fall upon them all.f The Saviour saw it, as though it had already come; and turning to the women who followed him, he spoke those words which in that hour must have seemed so strange, “Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not for me, but for yourselves and for your children."
The hour was at hand when to have no children, (which had been by the Jewish women accounted a curse,) would prove the greatest blessing. Let them weep for themselves, and their country; it may be that if they can be brought to understand the nature of the crime which is now so nearly completed, they may yet escape from its punishment. The Saviour is going to the
He has been delivered up to the Gentiles—to the Roman soldiers ; but by their own governor be bas been declared to be without fault, and by the cruelty with which they are treating Him. though He has never offended them, the Jews may judge what their cruelty will be towards themselves, when by their constant rebellion they have drawn the full weight of their fury upon them. “ If they do these things in a green tree, what shall be done in the dry ? "
“A green tree” was, among the Jews, a well-known expression for a good man-and a dry tree for the worthless, fit only for burning. It is often so used in the Scriptures of the Old Testament, and was well known by those who heard Jesus speak.
There were among the thousands of Israel many who, in a short time, would be brought to the knowledge of the truth. To them the Holy Spirit would make plain the deeper meaning of His words, wbich is this :-If the punishment of sin, the sins of others, is so awful as the sufferings of Christ the sinless Saviour show it to be, what! and how fearful, will be the doom of those hardened sinners who refuse the pardon He offers, and have to bear the burthen of their own punishment for evermore! To us also the Saviour speaks : When we read the story of his life, His sufferings, and His death, our hearts may be moved within us as by the sufferings of another;—but not till we know and feel, that for us he bled, for us he died,—that He is one with us, and we are one with Him,-shall we receive that consolation of the Spirit which shall turn our mourning into joy. When we ponder on the sufferings of Christ, let us give earnest heed to the meaning of His words, “ If they do these things in a green tree, what shall be done in the dry ? " If Christ the sinless, so suffered because of the sins of others, what shall I a sinner, suffer, if my sins be not taken away.
The time of the Passoter, the great Festival of the nation, could not be a proper or a usual time for the execution of criminals, therefore it must have been purposely to add to the disgrace of the Lord Jesus, that
LUKE xxij. 32. “ there were also two others (who were) malefactors, led with Jesus to be put to death.”*
And they came to Golgotha. It may have been the common place of execution, or it may have been the first convenient spot they reached on which to raise the cross, for the Lord Jesus was weak, and faint with suffering. His body was as ours. His soul and spirit, oh how different !
It was the custom of the Romans to give to those miserable creatures they were about to crucify, a drink made of wine and myrrh, in order to stupify their senses, that they might not at once feel all the awful agonies of this dreadful death. Short must the respite have been.
* Thus did they, in their malice, bring to pass the words of the prophet Isaiah, spoken long before, “ He was numbered among the transgressors.” Isaiah liii. 12.
When the soldiers and the crowd reached the place called Golgotha or Calvary, they prepared to crucify the Lord Jesus, and first,
MARK xv. 23. “ They gave him wine mingled with myrrh: but he received it not." St. Matthew writes,
MATTHEW xxvii. 34. “They gave him vineyar to drink, mingled with gall : and when he had tasted thereof, he would not drink.”
We cannot know assuredly whether two different cups were offered to Him; one by those who pitied His sufferings, of the usual spiced drink, which He would not receive, because, as He willingly suffered the death of the cross, He would not have the pain of it lessened by any act of man. The other, by those who triumphed in his pain, of vinegar mingled with gall, the bitterness of which was an apt emblem of the bitter cup of sorrow, which they had prepared for Him. Or whether the two accounts of St. Mark and St. Matthew mean the same thing, the weak, sour wine of the country being expressed by the same word as vinegar, and bitter herbs, all of wbich were commonly called gall (or bitterness,) being mixed with it. Whichever it was, in that cup was fulfilled the prophecy of David, who a thousand years before,* had foretold that to the suffering Messiah, gall and vinegar would be given.
And now begins that dread scene, which the writers of the gospels tell in words so few, that in our days, when the awful death of crucifixion is unknown, we cannot realize its horrors, unless with solemn thought we stop to ponder upon it. The writers of the gospel related fact, and they never sought to excite the feelings of their readers ; for they wrote when all those things had just happened; when those still lived who had crucified the Lord Jesus, and men's minds were so stirred within them, that to hear or to read the simple fact was enough for good or for evil, to cut them to the heart.* The Gospel of St. John, it is true, was not written till that generation had passed away; but all men knew that he had seen with his
* Psalm lxix, 21,
what he related, and well they knew and understood the awful nature of the death of the cross. Each Jew who survived the destruction of Jerusalem had with anguish of soul beheld thousands of his countrymen writhing in agonies beneath the burning heat of the day, and the chilling dews of night, nailed on crosses round their city walls. They knew what death that was, to which they had doomed their Lord. Each Greek and Roman knew it well, for the cross was the cruel punishment to which the worst of their criminals were condemned, and its agonies were so well understood that their own writers spoke of it as the most cruel and disgraceful death, “ the worst possible punishment." I What men have seen, needs to them no description; and when we reflect that those who read the gospels in early times felt that they not only had seen, but that, under possible circumstances, might themselves die the death of the cross, (many of the Christian martyrs did actually so die, even centuries after the death of Christ) we comprehend that the few words
LUKE xxiii. 33. “And when they came to the place called Calvary, there they crucified him.” were enough to fill them with a shuddering horror of the deed.
But with us it is very different. Not only does the blessing of our christian laws protect us from beholding torture of any kind inflicted by the hands of men, but from our earliest childhood, we are so accustomed to hear and to repeat that Christ was crucified, that when we read it now, we have great need to call home our most solemn thoughts, and to pray for God's help, by the Holy Spirit, to be with us, as we enter upon the dreadful scene of the crucifixion. The time is long past, and the Saviour entered into His glory; but the deed that was that day done was the fulfilment of the promise made to our first parents. On the cross, sinful men murdered the seed of the woman, and thus Satan bruised his heel; but in that
* Acts ii. 3, 6, 7; v, 33; vii. 54. of Josephus declares that the multitude who were put to death in this manner by the Romans, during the siege of Jerusalem, was so great that at last there was no room round the city walls to plant more crosses, nor any wood left to make them,
deed his own power was destroyed for ever, for the death of Christ was the salvation of the world. By the cross, man was redeemed from the yoke of the Evil One; and thus did the seed of the woman bruise the serpent's head. The time is long past, but the power of the deed done that day is for ever present. The tears, the blood of Christ, are the baptism of hope to each new-born child. Over the bed of the dying there glimmers a holy light. It shines from the cross of Christ. With deep reverence then, we would approach the sacred scene, and, from all lightness of spirit, from all wandering of thought, we pray ' by thine agony and bloody sweat, by thy cross and passion, Good Lord, deliver us."
Matthew xxviii. 35. “And they crucified him.”*
Those few words “and they crucified him,", will better convey to us their awful meaning, when we know what death by crucifixion is.-"It causes death by the sympathetic fever which is excited by the wounds, and aggravated by exposure to weather, privation of water, and the painfully-constrained position of the body. In the first stage, while the inflammation of the wounds is characterized by heat, swelling, and great pain with agonizing spasms, the fever is highly inflammatory, and the sufferer endures burning heat, intense thirst, throbbing headache, restlessness, and anxiety. As soon as suppuration sets in, the fever somewhat abates; as the wounds cannot heal, the suppuration continues, and the fever assumes a hectic character, which must, sooner or later, exhaust the powers of life. The inflammation of the wounds however, is so intense that