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while they pretended to pay him the respect of subjects.
31. And after that they had mocked him, they took the robe off from 'him, and put his own raiment on him, i. e. his own upper garment, which was the only part of his dress which they had taken off, and led him away to crucify him.
32. And as they came out, they found a man of Cyrene, Simon by name; him they compelled to bear his cross.
It appears that it was usual with the Romans to make the malefactor himself carry his cross to the place of execution; and John tells us, xix. 17, that Jesus bare his cross.
But, finding him, probably, after a short time, too weak for supporting so great a burden, they compelled this Jew of Africa, of which Cyrene was a part, to perform this service * Mark says, xv. 21, that he was the father of Alexander and Rufus, two well-known Christians, which gives some degree of probability to the conjecture of those who suppose Simon himself to have been a follower of Jesus, and, on this account, to have been selected for this disgraceful employment.
33. And when they were come to a place called Golgotha, that is to say, a place of a skull, so called because it was the place of execution.
This is a Syriac word: the Latin name, mentioned by Luke, is Calvary : but they both signify the same thing.
* But this not out of any kindness to Jesus, but that he might not die with fatigue, and escape the dreadful punishment which they intended for him.
34. They gave him vinegar to drink, mingled with gall; and when he had tasted thereof, he would not drink.
Such potions as this, we are told, were commonly given to malefactors, when about to be crucified; and the design of them was to deaden the sense of pain, by producing the effect of an opiate. It was with this friendly design that it was presented to Christ: but, when he had tasted it, and discovered what it was, he refused to drink it; resolving to meet death in all its horrors; lest the value of his testimony to the truth should be destroyed or injured, by accepting any thing that should render him insensible to pain.
35. And they crucified him, and parted his garments; casting lots, or by casting lots.
It was usual with the Romans to allow the soldiers who attended the execution of a malefactor, to divide his clothes among them, in nearly equal shares: this they did in the present instance, with the rest of the clothes of Jesus. But as his under garment was of peculiar value, being without seam from the top to the bottom, they chose not to divide it, but to cast lots who should have it. The remainder of this verse, taking notice of the fulfilment of a prophecy by this event, is an evident interpolation ; for it is not found in the best manuscripts, nor in the oldest translations, of the New Testament. It appears to have been introduced here from John xix. 24, where we have nearly the same words.
36. And sitting down, they watched him there;
37. And set up over his head his accusation, written, “ This is Jesus the king of the Jews.”
It was usual to set up over the malefactor a white
board inscribed with black letters, announcing the crime for which he suffered. Pilate orders this to be donc, on the present occasion,
and that the inscription shall be, king of the Jews. The Jews considered this as a national affi'ont: for it intimated that Jesus had been acknowledged by them as their king, and that, notwithstanding their acknowledging him in that character, he suffered the most ignominious of all punishments, that of crucifixion; and they desired Pilate therefore to alter it; but he refused to grant their request. John xix. 21, 22.
38. Then were there two thieves crucified with him, one on the right hand, and another on the left.
These were condemned to death before, but reserved for execution till the feast of the passover, because it was a public occasion, and persons from all countries were assembled at Jerusalem at that time. It has been supposed that Jesus was crucified between them both, to intimate that he was regarded as worse than both.
1. It is difficult to say which is more to be admired, the insolence and barbarity of the soldiers towards Jesus, or his patience and composure in submitting to them. They had just heard him condemned to be crucified; with the nature of that punishment they were well acquainted: they knew it to be the most painful and lingering death which human sagacity had yet dis covered; for they had seen many unhappy men pass through it. Whatever was the character of the criminal, or the nature of his crime, had it been the most enormous that was ever committed, such a sentence qught to have awakened their compassion, and taught them, while they detested the crime, to pity the sufferer. This would have been their conduct, if their hearts had been impressed with the feelings of humanity: but in this case they had heard the trial of the prisoner, and discovered that, although there was much clamour and violence against him, there was no good evidence of guilt, and that the judge, by whom he was tried, had pronounced him ipnocent, and shown a strong inclination to set him at liberty. These were additional motives for lenity and tenderness. As the justice of his sentence was at least doubtful, if it was not clearly unfounded, they ought to have endeavoured to soften its rigour, by abstaining from every thing that was harsh and unnecessary; by mild avd gentle treatment; yet none of these considerations seem to have had any weight with them: they make sport of a dying man: they do every thing in their power to increase and aga gravate his sufferings. Having heard him accused of calling himself a king, and of assuming royal authority in opposition to Cæsar, whom they had sworn to defend, loyalty is awakened in their breasts; and under colour of this specious motive, there is no outrage too great for them to commit: they adorn him with all the ensigns of royalty, in order to show their contempt of his pretensions: he has a scarlet robe; but it is the old cloak of a Roman soldier, or the tattered cast off garment of the Roman governor: he has a crown upon his head; but it is made of weeds; a sceptre in his hand; but it is a reed: he is saluted as king, and offered the homage of an eastern monarch; but it is to show how little he deserved either; and all this is accompanied with the bitter sarcasms and cruel taunts of rude and vulgar minds, with blows upon his head, with spitting upon his robe, or in his face! How unworthy was such behaviour of Romans, who called themselves civilized and polished, and denominated the rest of the world barbarians! How unbecoming the character of men! Why, we may be disposed to ask, does Heaven permit such wicke edress? Why does it not send down fire to consume them in a moment, or open the earth to swallow them up, or send some animal more savage than theniselves to tear them in pieces ? Such are the things
we naturally expect to behold, after seeing the severe measures which God pursued for the protection of former prophets, and the many wonderful miracles wrought in behalf of Jesus himself: but not so has it appeared proper, for very important reasons, to him who governs the world. It was thought right to exhibit the founder of our religion in the most humiliating circumstances, that his disciples might not be surprised or offended at any insolence or abuse, which they were destined to receive from the world: the passions of men were suffered to rage against Jesus, without restraint, that he might have an opportunity of manifesting a useful example of patience under suffering, for the instruction of future generations: for he bears all these accumulated indignities in silent composure and perfect resignation; without remonstrating with his enemies, upon the barbarity of their treatment; without murmuring against God for permitting it.
2. How great was the fortitude of Jesus in refusing a stupifying draught, at the moment he was about to undergo the dreadful pains of crucifixion !
Ordinary persons would have been so overwhelmed by the near prospect of such torments, as to be deprived of their senses, and to be incapable of distinguishing the taste of what was presented to them, or, if they retained the use of their faculties, so far as to know what was given them, they would receive such a portion with gratitude, and swallow it with eagerness. To alleviate pain, especially pain that has not been merited, is deemed excusable, if not commendable: but the sufferings of Christ were of a peculiar nature, intended by Providence to prove his integrity, and the truth of his divine mission, by showing that no violence of pain was sufficient to induce him to deny what he had before asserted; and the force of this testimony would have been greatly weakened, if he had voluntarily declined or diminished the pains of dying: for the enemies of Christianity would then have been able to say, that the sincerity of his declarations had never been put to a severe trial. On this account he declined the humane offer