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his cross. The soldiers seeing him unable to bear the weight, lead it on one Simon, a native ofCyrene in Egypt, the father of Alexander and Rufus, well known among the first christians, and forced him to bear it after the great Redeemer of mankind. The soldiers did not, however, do this out of compassion to the sufferings of Jesus, but to prevent his dying with the fatigue, and by that means elude his punishment.
The blessed Jesus, in his journey to Calvary, was followed by an innumerable multitude of people, particularly of women, who lamented bitterly the severity of his sentence, and shewed all the tokens of sincere compassion and grief. Jesus, who always felt the woes of others more than he did his own, forgetting his distress at the very time when it lay heaviest upon him, turned himself about, and, with a benevolence and tenderness truly divine, said to them, "Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not for me, but weep for yourselves, and for your children. For, behold, the days are coming in the which they shall say, blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bare, and the paps which never gave suck. Then shall they begin to say to the mountains, Fallon us ; and to the hills, Cover us. For if they do these things in a green tree, what •hall be done in the dry?" Luke xxiii. 2, Ac. As if he had said, Dry up these tears, ye daughters of Jerusalem, which ye shed in compassion to me, and reserve them for the deplorable fate of yourselves, and of your children ; for the calamities that will soon fall on you and your offspring are truly terrible, and call for the bitterest lamentations. In those day of vengeance you will passionately wish that you had never given birth to a generation, whose wickedness has rendered them objects of the wrath of the Almighty, to such a degree, as never was before experienced in the world. Then shall they wish to be crushed under the weight of enormous mountains, and concealed from their enemies in the bowels of the hills. The
thoughts of these calamities afflict my sou! far more than the feeling of my own sufferings. For if the Romans are permitted to inllict such punishments on me, who am innocent, how dreadful must the vengeance be, which they shall inflict on a nation, whose sins cry aloud to heaven, hastening the peace of the divine judgment, and' rendering the perpetrators as proper for punishment as dry wood is for the flames.
Being arrived nt the place of execution', which was called Golgotha, or the Place o Sculls, from the criminals' bones which they scattered there, some of our Redeemer's friends offered him a stupifying potion, to render himself insensible to the ignominy and excruciating pain of his punishment. But as soon as he tasted the potion, he refused to drink it, being determined to bear his sufferings however sharp, not by intoxicating and stupifying himself, but by the strength of patience, fortitude, and faith.
Jesus having refused the potion, the soldiers began to execute their orders, by stripping him quite naked, and in that condition began to fasten him to his cross. But while they were piercing his hands and his feet with nails, instead of crying out through the sharpness of the pain, he calmly, though fervently, prayed for them, and for all those who had any hand in his death; beseeching the Almighty to forgive them, and excusing them himself by the only circumstance that could alleviate their guilt; I mean their ignorance. "Father (said the compassionate Redeemer of mankind) forgive them, for they know not what they do." This was infinite meekness and goodness, truly worthy of the only-begotten Son of God, an example of forgiveness, which, though it can never be equalled by any, should be imitated by all.
But behold the appointed soldiers dig the hole in which the cross was to be erected !—The cross is placed in the ground. and the blessed Jesus lies on the bed of sorrows.—They nail him to it.—His nerves crack.—His blood distils.— He hangs upon his wounds naked, a spectacle to heaven and earth.
Thus was the only begotten Son of God, who came down from heaven, to save the world, crucified by his own creatures; and to render the ignominy still greater, placed between two thieves. Hear, O heavens! O earth, earth, earth, hear! The Lord hath nourished and brought up children, and they have rebelled against him."
It was usual for the crimes committed by malefactors to be written on a white board, with black, and placed over their heads, on the cross. In conformity to this custom, Pilate wrote a title in the Hebrew, Greek, and Latin Languages, that all foreigners, as well as natives, might be able to read it, and fastened it tothe cross, over the head of Jesus; and the inscription was, ''• This is the King of the Jews." But when the chief priests and elders had read this title, they were greatly displeased; because, as it represented the crime for which Jesus was condemned, it insinuated that he had been acknowledged for the 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 perish in the same manner. The faith and hope of the nation, therefore, being thus publicly ridiculed, it is no wonder that the priests thought themselves highly affronted; and Accordingly came to Pilate, begging that the writing might be altered. But as he had intended the affront in revenge for their forcing him to crucify Jesus, contrary both to his judgment and inclination, he refused to grant their request. "What 1 have written (said he) I have written.''
When the soldiers had nailed the blessed Jesus to the cross, and erected it, they divided his garments among them. But his
coat or vesture, being without seam, woven from the top throughout, they agreed not to rent it, but to cast lots for it, that the prediction of the prophet concerning the death and sufferings of the Messiah might be fulfilled. •' They parted my garments among them, and for my vesture did they cast lots." A sufficient indication, that every circumstance of the death and passion of the blessed Jesus was long before determined in the court of heaven; and accordingly his being crucified between two malefactors was expressly foretold, "and he was numbered with the trans
But the common people were not the only persons who mocked and derided the blessed Jesus, while he was suffering to obtain the remission of sins for all mankind, The rulers, who now imagined they had effectually destroyed his pretensions to the character of the Messiah, joined the populace, iu ridiculing him, and with a meanness of soul, which many infamous wretches would have scorned, mocked him, even while he was struggling with the agonies of death. They scoffed at the miracles by which he demonstrated himself to be the Messiah, and promised to believe on him, on condition of his proving his pretensions, by descending from the cross. He saved others, said they, himself he cannot save; if he be the king of Israel, let him now