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swered him nothing. And the chief priests and Scribes, who had accompanied him to Herod, stood by, vehemently accusing him. But Jesus, knowing their incorrigible prejudices, and that all he could say would avail nothing, maintained his dignified silence; still fulfilling prophecy.

Then Herod, finding his curiosity disappointed by the persevering silence of JESUS, set him at nought with his guards, and in mockery arrayed him in a splendid robe, in order to ridicule his pretensions to royalty; and afterwards sent him back again to Pilate, to dispose of as he pleased. The deference shewn to Herod on this occasion, by the Roman governor, probably contributed to their reconciliation, Luke xxiii. 6—12.


Pilate then summoned the chief priests, and the rulers, and the people, again to the prætorium, and declared, that upon examination he was satisfied of the prisoner's innocence of the charges they had brought against him, and Herod also, and therefore proposed to chastize and then to release him; for, according to the custom, he was under a necessity of releasing one prisoner to them at the feast of the passover.

But the multitudes, instigated by the chief priests and elders, clamorously demanded the release of Barabbas, a notorious robber, who had been imprisoned for sedition and murder, in preference to JESUS, "Not this man, but Barabbas," Matt. xxvii. 15-20; Mark xv. 6-11; Luke xxiii. 13-19; John xviii. 39, 40.

While Pilate was sitting on the tribunal, his wife sent a message to him, Have nothing to do with that just person, for I have suffered much in a dream this day on his account, Matt. xxvii. 19. It is by no means improbable that she had some vision of the disasters that awaited Pilate and his family. This must greatly have increased his reluctance to sentence CHRIST, knowing already that they had delivered him up through envy and malice.

He therefore made a second attempt to save him, and said, What then will ye have me do unto JESUS, called CHRIST, THE KING OF THE JEWS? But they were clamorous, saying, Crucify him! crucify him! Matt. xxvii. 21, 22; Mark xv. 12, 13; Luke xxiii. 20, 21.

Again he made a third attempt, saying unto them, Why,

what evil hath he done? I have found no cause of death in him, I will therefore chastise him, and discharge him. But they were urgent, with loud voices, requiring that he should be crucified, Matt. xxvii. 23; Mark xv. 14; Luke xxiii. 22, 23.

Still Pilate would not consent, but inflicted the milder punishment which he had proposed, hoping this would satisfy them; and treated him as a poor, weak, but inoffensive visionary, possessed with enthusiastic notions of an ideal kingdom; for he first scourged him, and then left him to the derision and mockery of his guard, and of the whole cohort, who platted a crown of thorns, adding cruelty to insult, and set it on his head *; dressed him in a purple robe, put a reed in his right hand, by way of sceptre, and bending the knee, adored him, and saluted him, Hail king of the Jews! then they spit on him, and struck him on the head with the reed, and smote him, Matt. xxvii. 27-30; Mark xv. 15-19; John xix. 1—3.

Pilate then, when the soldiers had finished their impious mockeries, went out to the people again, and said unto them, I am going to bring him out to you, that ye may know that I find no fault in him; (then came JESUS forth, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe.) And he said unto them, Behold the man!-he said no more, thinking that this pitiable spectacle would move their compassion, and disarm their rage. Unwittingly, perhaps, adopting the language of prophecy, Zech. vi. 12, derived from Balaam's famous prophecy restored, Numb. xxiv. 7 t. (See Vol. II. p. 475, 205.)

But when the chief priests and their attendants saw him, fearing that the fickle populace might relent, they cried out (εкÇavyaσav,) Crucify him! crucify him! Pilate then said,

Hasselquist, speaking of the naba or nabka of the Arabs, says, "In all probability this is the tree which afforded the crown of thorns put on the head of CHRIST. It grows very common in the East, and the plant is extremely fit for the purpose, for it has many small and most sharp spines, which are well adapted to give great pain." The crown might be easily made of these soft, round, and pliant branches; and the leaves much resemble ivy, being of a very deep green. It was like those, therefore, with which they crowned their emperors and generals.

† Pilate was a man of some literature; he was acquainted with Hebrew and Greek, as appears from his inscription on the cross: he had also spent six years in Judea. Is it then incredible that he might have read those famous prophecies, at least in the Septuagint version, and even designedly adopted their language to refute them thus, by example ? See Dissertation the first of my Dissertations on the prophetic character of CHRIST.

Take ye him, and crucify him; I will not, for I find no fault in him.

This, however, they considered as an indignant irony, to do it at their own peril; for which he might inflict a severe revenge, or accuse them to the emperor, of taking the law into their own hands. They therefore would not accept the concession, but at length recurred to the original ground of blasphemy, upon which they had condemned him in their council: they answered him, "We have a law, (Levit. xxiv. 16,) and according to our law he ought to die, because he made himself THE SON OF GOD," John xix. 4-7.

When Pilate then heard this argument, he was more afraid than before; and this, we may presume, both on a political and religious account. He feared now that the Jews might plausibly accuse him of superseding their law; and he dreaded also to injure some divinity, or demigod, for the Heathens universally believed that "the gods sometimes came down upon earth, in the likeness of men," Acts xiv. 11, 12. And surely the stupendous miracles performed by CHRIST, of which he could not be ignorant, justified this apprehension, joined to his wife's dream; for the Romans were remarkably superstitious about dreams. He entered therefore again into the prætorium, to reexamine JESUS apart from the Jews, and said unto him, Whence art thou? But JESUS gave him no answer, lest, perhaps, a direct answer might have decided the wavering governor to acquit him, in spite of the Jews, and so defeat the great end of his mission, to die for the sins of the world. That this, indeed, was the noble and magnanimous cause of his silence upon this occasion, contrary to his former frankness, we may collect from Pilate's answer, intimating the conflict in his own breast: Speakest thou not unto me? Knowest thou not that I have authority to crucify thee, and have authority to release thee? Jesus then immediately answered, meekly acknowledging his authority, as founded on the divine permission, and considerately apologizing in some measure for his abuse of that boasted authority, through intimidation, "Thou couldest have no authority at all over me, unless it were given thee from above. Wherefore he that delivered me up to thee for crucifixion, Caiaphas and his abettors, hath greater sin than thou hast in yielding to their importunities; especially as they have better means of knowing whence I am."

This modest and gentle answer so satisfied Pilate, that from thenceforth he sought to release him; but when he attempted it, the Jews exclaimed, "If thou release this man, thou art not Cæsar's friend: Whosoever maketh himself a king speaketh against Cæsar:" thus intimating a threat of accusing him to the jealous and suspicious Tiberius, of encouraging and abetting a rival against his imperial authority, which might complete his disgrace and ruin, John xix. 8—12.

This last argument vanquished Pilate's constancy. When he heard it, he removed his tribunal (about the third hour) to a place in the open air, called the pavement, where the Jews might hear him pronounce the sentence. And sitting down thereon, and bringing forth Jesus again from the prætorium, in order still to expose the folly and absurdity of the fear they pretended to entertain of this rival of Tiberius, in such a wretched plight, he compassionately said, "Behold your king!" again adopting the language of prophecy, Zech. ix. 10. But they cried out, Away with him! Away with him! Crucify him! Pilate, however, expostulated with the people, Shall I crucify your king? The chief priests answered, "We have no king but Cæsar." Thus publicly renouncing their national faith and hope of THE MESSIAH to restore again the kingdom to Israel, Acts i. 6; and unwittingly incurring also the denunciations of the same prophecy, for their rebellion:-" For I will no longer spare the inhabitants of the land, but will deliver up every man into the hand of his fellow, and into the hand of his king," Zech. xi. 6, (Vol. II. p. 478,) when "the Romans," whom they now basely preferred, and whom they sought to conciliate by this wicked sacrifice of the innocent, for the sins of the nation, "came to take away both their holy place and their nation," as they justly dreaded; yielding to the Machiavelian policy of Caiaphas, in council, (John xi. 48, 49, xviii. 14,) John xix. 13, 14.

Pilate then, seeing that he availed nothing, but that rather a tumult was made, addressed his last solemn appeal to their religious feelings, by transferring the guilt of the compulsory sentence he was going to pronounce from himself to them; for, according to their own usage of "washing their hands, in token

* See the reasons for this correction of the sixth hour, in the present text of John xix. 14, in the foregoing explanation of the chronology of the passion week.

of innocency," Psalm xxvi. 6,) when suspected of murder, according to the law, Deut. xxi. 6—9, and which also was a customary rite among the Romans; "he took water and washed his hands before the multitude, and said, I am innocent of the blood of this just person*: See ye to it."

Then all the people answered, and said, His blood be upon us, and upon our children! Thus absolving Pilate, and taking the guilt upon themselves and their posterity, by the most awful and general imprecation; so literally, and so dreadfully fulfilled, ever since the Roman captivity, for seventeen hundred years, unto the present day! as confessed by themselves +. See David Levi's remarkable explanation of Daniel's prophecy of the seventy weeks, (in Vol. II. page 514, note,) where he represents "murder" as the last of the crying sins of his nation, under the "second temple," Matt. xxvii. 24, 25, Luke xxiii. 23.

The extreme reluctance of Pilate to sentence CHRIST, considering his merciless character, is signally remarkable, and still more his repeated protestations of the innocence of his prisoner, although, on occasions of massacre, he made no scruple of confounding the innocent with the guilty. But he was unquestionably influenced by the overruling providence of GOD, to make the righteousness of HIS SON appear as clear as the noon day, even when condemned and executed as a "malefactor," by the fullest, the most authentic, and the most public evidence: 1. By the testimony even of his judges, Pilate and Herod. 2. By the message of Pilate's wife, delivered to him on the tribunal. 3. By the testimony of the traitor Judas, who hanged himself in despair, for betraying the innocent blood. 4. By the testimony of the Roman centurion and guard, at his crucifixion, to his divinity and righteousness. And 5. Of his fellow sufferer on the cross. Never was innocence so attested as his innocence. Then Pilate discharged Barabbas, and delivered up JESUS to their will to be crucified. And the Roman soldiers, who

Alas! the superstitious Pilate ought to have known, that no water could wash away the guilt of an unjust sentence of death, even from Ovid:

Ah, nimium faciles, qui, tristia crimina cædis,
Flumineâ tolli posse, putetis, aquá!

+ Maimonides, de Christo, § 4. "And He, [Jesus,] was the cause that Israel perished by the sword; that the remnant of them were dispersed and oppressed, the law changed, and the greater part of the world perverted."


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