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priests read this title they were exceedingly displeased, because, as it represented the crime for which Jesus was condemned, it insinuated that he had been acknowledged for Messiah. Besides, being placed over the head of one who was dying by the most infamous punishment, it implied, that all who attempted to deliver the Jews should come to the same end. Wherefore, the faith and hope of the nation being thus “publicly ridiculed, the priests thought themselves bighly affronted, and came to Pilate in great concern, begging that the writing might be altered. But he would not hear them, having intended the affront, because they had constrained him to crucify Jesus, contrary both to his judgment and inclination.
When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, i. e. erected his cross, they divided his. garments, and cast lots for the shares. His coat was excepted out of this division, because, being without a sean, they agreed to cast lots for it by itself. The evangelists observe, that all this was done agreeably to antient prophecy, wherein these circumstances of Messiah's sufferings were mentioned to shew that he was to be crucified naked, and consequently that he was to suffer a most ignominious as well as a most painful death. And it was the third hour, and they crucified him ; or rather, it was the third hour when they crucified him. The evangelist means that it was the third Jewish hour when the cross was erected, and the clothes divided ; for he had mentioned our Lord's being nailed to the cross in the preceding verse. Then were two thieves crucified with him ; one on the right hand, and the other on the left. They placed Jesus in the middle by way of mock honour, because he had called himself a king, and was now crowned with thorns: or, if the priests had any hand in this, they might design thereby to impress the spectators the more strongly with the thought of his being an impostor, and to make them look on him as the chief malefactor. This passage is reconciled with Luke xxiii. 33, by supposing that Luke speaks of the nailing of the three to their crosses, whereas, Matthew and Mark speak of the erection of the crosses. (Mark xv. 28.) And the scripture was fulfilled, which saith, and he was numbered with the transgressors. In giving the history of our Lord's sufferings, the evangelists make their readers sensible, that all the circumstances of them were fore-ordained of God. Their design was to prevent the offence which might otherwise have been taken at Christ's sufferings.
The common people, whom the priests had incensed against our Lord by the malicious lies which they spread concerning him, and which they pretended to found on the evidence of the witnesses, seeing him hang as a malefactor on the cross, and reading the superscription that was placed over his head, expressed their indignation against him by railing on him. The rulers, having, as they imagined, wholly overturned our Lord's pretensions as Messiah, ridiculed him on that lead : and, with meanness of soul which will render them for ever infamous, mocked him while in the agonies of death. They scoffed at the miracles of healing by which be demonstrated hiinself Messiah, and promised faith, on condition he would prove his pretensions by coming down from the cross, In the mean time, nothing could be niore false and hypocritical ; for they continued in their unbelief, notwithstanding Jesus raised himself from the dead, which was a much greater miracle than his coming down from the cross would have been ; a miracle, also, that was attested by witnesses, whose veracity they could vot call in question. He trusted in God; let him deliver him now, if he will hate him: for he said, I am the Son of God. And the soldiers also mocked him, coming to him and offiring him vinegar, and suying, if thou be the king of the Jews, siive thyself. The insult did not lie in the offering our Lord vinegar. for that was the soldiers' common drink when mixed with water ; but it lay in what they said to him when they offered it, which shewed that they did him the office, not
out of compassion, but purely with a view to keep him alive, either that they might torment him the longer, or see him descend from the cross. Or, if they did it from compassion, they accompanied their kindness with a gibe. The thieves. also, which werc crucified with him cas! the same in his teethi Luke says, that only one of them did so, and that the other exercised a most extraordinary faith when our Lord was deserted by God, mocked by men, and banged ủpon the cross as one of the vilest malefactors. There is no contradiction between the 'evangelists, as in scripture a single thing is often expressed in the plural, especially when it is not the writer's intention to be more particular. See, for examples, Judges xii. 7, Mat. xxi. 7, Luke xxiv. 6, 33, and 1 Samuel xviii. 21. [Luke xxiii. 39. 43.] And one of the malefactors which were langed railed on him, saying, if thou be the Christ, srive thyself. and us. But the other answering rebuked him, saying, dost thou not fear God, scing thou art in the same condemnation ? And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds ; but this man hat! done nothing amiss. And he said unto Je US, Lord, remember inc. when thout comest into thy kingdom. And Jesus answered, verily I say unto thee, tv-day shalt thou be with me in paradise.
When we call to mind the perfect innocence of our Lord Jesus, the uncommon love he bare to mankind, and the many substantial good offices which he did to multitudes groaning under the burden of their affiiciions ; when we think of the csteem in which the common people held him all along, how cheerfully they followed him to the remotest corners of the country, and with wliat pleasure they heard his discourses; it cannot but be matter of the greatest surprize, to find them, at the conclusion, rushing all of a sudden into the opposite extremes, and every body, as it were, combined to treat him with the most barbarous cruelty. When Pilate asked the people if thoy inclined to have Jesus released, his disciples, though they were very numerous, and might have made a great appearance in his behalf, remained quite silent : the Roman soldiers, notwithstanding their general bad deelared him an innocent person, most inhumanly insulted him; the scribes and Pharisees ridin culed him: the common people, who had received him with bosannas a few days before, wagged their heads at him as they passed by, and ra:led on him as a deceiver : nay, the very thief on the cross reviled bim. This sudden revolution in the lumours of the nation may seem unaccountable. Yet, if we could assign a proper reason for the silence of the disciples, the principles which influenced the rest miglit be discovered in their several speeches. Christ's followers had attached themselves tu, bim in expectation of being raised to great wealth and power in his kingdom : but, seeing no appearance of what they looked for, they permitted him to be condemned, perhaps, because they thought it would have obliged him to save his life by a miracle, which would have broken the Roman yoke. With respect to the soldiers, they were angry that any one should have pretended to royalty in Judea, where Cæsar had established his authority. Hence they insulted him with the title of king, and paid him mock honours. The common people seemed to have lost their opinion of ham, because he had neither convinced the council, nor rescued himself when they condemned him. They began, therefore, to look upon the story that was industriously reported of him,'viz. bis having boasted that he could destroy and build the temple in three days, as a kind of blasphemy, because it required divine power to execute such an undertaking. Accordingly, in derision, they saluted him by the title of the destroyer and builder of the temple in three days; and, with a malicious sneer, badle bim save himself and come down from the cross, insinuating that the one was a much easier matter than the other. The priests and scribes were filled with the most implacable hatred of him, because he had torn off their snusks, and showed them to the people
in their true colours. Therefore, they ridiculed his miracles from whence he drew his reputation, by pretending to acknowledge them ; but, at the same time, adding reflection, which they thought entirely confuted them. He saved others ; himself he, cannot sare.
To conclude: the thief also fancied that he must have delivered both liimself and them if he had been the Messiah : but as no sign of such a deliverance appeared, he upbraided him for making pretensions to that high character, saying;. if thou be the Christ, save thyself and us.
During the last three hours that our Lord hanged on the cross, a darkness the face of the earth, to the great terror and amazement of the people present at his execution. This extraordinary alteration in the face of nature was peculiarly proper whilst the Son of righteousness was withdrawing his beams from the land of Israel, and from the world; not only because it was a miraculous testimony borne by God himself to his innocence, but also because it was a fit emblem of his departure, and its effects, at least, till his light shone out anew, with additional splendour, in the ministry of his apostles. The darkness which now covered Judea, together with the neighbouring countries, beginning about noon, and continuing till Jesus expired, was not the chlect of an ordinary eclipse of the sun, for that can never happen, except when the moon is about the change ; whereas, now it was full moon; not to mention that total darknesses occasioned by eclipses of the sun never continue above twelve or fifteca, minutes. . Wherefore, it must have been produced by the divine power, in a manger ve are not able to explain. Accordingly, Luke, after relaiing that there was darkness over all the earth, adds, and the sun wis darkcned, whichi, perhaps, may imply that the darkness of the sun did not occasion, but proceeded from the darkness that was over all the land. [Luke xxiii. 44.]
Farther ; the Christian writers, in their most antient apologies to the heathens, afirm, that as it was full moon at the passover when Christ was crucified, no such eclipse could happena by the course of nature. They observe, also, that it was taken notice of as a prodigy by the heathens themselves. To this purpose, we have still, remaining the words of Phlegon, the astronomer and freed-man of Adrian, cited by Origen from his book, at a time when it was in the hands of the public. The heathen, author, in treating of the fourth year of the two hundred and second Olympiad, which is the nineteenth of Tiberias, and supposed to be the year in which our Lord was, crucified, tells us, “ that the greatest eclipse of the sun that ever was, happened then; for the day was so turned into vight, that the stars in the beayen were seen.” If. Phlegon, as Christians generally suppose, is speaking of the darkness which accompanied our Lord's crucifixion, it was not circumscribed within the land of Judea, but must have been universal. This, many learned men have believed, particularly Huet, Grotius, Gusset, Reland, and Alphen. Josephus, it is true, takes no notice of this , wonderful phenomenon ; but the reason may be, that he was unwilling to mention any circumstance favorable to Christianity, of which he was no friend. Luke mentions the eclipse immediately after the repentance of the thief, and connects the two fn the following manner ; " "To-day shalt thou be with_ine in paradise. And it was about the sixth hour, and there was darkness, &c.” Perhaps, this may imply that the note of tine mentioned, must be referred both to the thief and to the eclipse. It was about the sixth hour when the thief expressed his repentance, and at the same time the eclipse came on, about three hours before Jesus expired.
When the darkness began, the disciples would naturally look on it as a prelude to: their Master's deliverance : for, though the chief priests, elders, and people, in mockery, desired bim to come down, his friends could not help thinking that he who bad delivered so many from incurable discases, who had created limbs for the mained