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Finding they could not prevail with Pilate by charges of a breach of their own laws, they now change their battery, and endeavor, by working on his fears, to bring him over to their purpose. With this view, they now represent Jesus as a rival to Cæfar and an enemy to the Roman power; declaring that, if he suffered him to escape, he could be no friend to that
government. This touched Pilate in the tenderest part ; his place and emoluments were at stake : he therefore, again, brings Jesus forth, and places himself on the Judgment-seat. Here again he makes another effort to save him, by an appeal to their feelings ; representing our Lord as an object of their compassion ; but all his endeavors to bring them to reason and justice proved fruitless, and served only to irritate them the more: and though, upon all other occasions, they were extremely jealous of the encroachment of the Roman power, yet, now that the gratification of their malice depended upon it, they seem happy to acknowledge it in its utmost ex4M 2
tent, declaring That they will have no king but Cæsar. Pilate, who, doubtless, intended to mock and deride them, asks If he shall crucify their King ? and, when they became extremely outrageous, gave a reluctant consent to his being put to death. In the conduct of Pilate we have a memorable instance (which is confirmed by every day's experience) of the unfitness of a timid, or self-interested, person, to fill any place of importance. His character seems to have been a strange mixture of good and evil : the principles of natural justice and humanity held a struggle in his mind with those of fear and self-interest; unfortunately for him, the latter prevailed, and made him a partaker of that guilt which, by his power, he might and ought to have prevented; and, rather than risk the displeasure of the Jews—the exciting a tumult amongst them, or furnishing them with a plausible ground of complaint against him to Cæsar, he determined to sacrifice a person of whose innocence he was convinced, but who, being a stranger
of no rank or consequence in the world, he fet no account by.
The other three evangelists mention That a man, of the name of Simon of Cyrene, was compelled to carry his cross ; whereas St. John says That our Lord himself bore it: these differences are, however, easily explained. It seems probable that our Lord carried it part of the way ; but, the distance being very considerable and the weight very great, he must have been unable to bear it the whole way, and Simon was therefore compelled to relieve, or at least to assist him in the task.
Let us here pause, and take a view of the Lord of glory going to execution, weighed down with every misery and distress which power, malice, and invent: and if such a picture will not excite in us abhorrence and detestation of the cause of his sufferings, we must be far gone in guilt indeed. Many who followed him to execution were, there is no doubt, amongst those who a short time before attended his public entry into Jerusalem with loud hosannas and every demonstration of joy and respect, yet now, in his distress, not only refused him the common offices of humanity, but joined in reviling and insulting him. The fickleness and inconsistency of the multitude never shewed itself more strongly, than upon the present occasion; and may afford a useful warning to such as are inclined to place any dependance upon popular favor. How sublime is the conduct of our merciful Saviour: how superior to every fystem of morality ever offered to mankind! Instead of resenting the ill-usage he experienced, he endures it all, with the utmost patience and resignation, and prays to his father in favor of the very persons whowereinfli&ting thesetorments upon him.
They arrive, at length, at Golgotha, the place fixed upon for his execution, where they consummate their execrable barbarity by nailing our blessed Lord to a cross; and, to render his death ftill more ignominious, they crucify two common malefactors, one on each side of him.
I have already treated so fully on the conduct of the penitent malefactor who suffered at the same time with our Lord, and the obvious inferences to be drawn from it, that little remains for me to observe in this place; suffice it therefore to remark, that if, from the conduct of the penitent thief, we may be too apt to indulge hopes of the efficacy of a late repentance, we should turn and consider the fate of the other ; who, possessing equal advantages, instead of profiting by the opportunity offered him (an opportunity fo favorable as could never have been within the compass of his thought when he, as even the worst of men I suppose sometimes do, determined on a reformation at some future period,) joins the merciless persecutors of our dying Lord in taunts and revilings, thereby adding to his guilt at the last moment of his life. Let us not be misled by such fallacious hopes to flight the admonitions of our conscience, whilst in full health and vigor of body and mind; nor say to