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TRIAL AND CONDEMNATION OF JESUS,HIS PUNISHMENT
WHEN the enemies of Jesus saw him in their hands, they were not less embarrassed than before that event. From the time the Romans had subdued the Jewish dation, they had no longer the right of the sword. To punish those who had sinned against religion, it was sufficient at any former period, that the high priest pronounced sentence on the culprit. The Romans, more tolerant in this point, rarely punished with death; and, besides, to take away life they required decisive proofs against the accused.
Annanias, father-in-law of the high priest Caiphas, was known
the Jews for subtile It was to Annanias' house, therefore, that they first conducted Jesus. We are ignorant of what passed in this first scene of the bloody tragedy of Christ; it is only to be presumed, that he underwent an examination which proved no way favourable to him.
From the house of Annanias they conducted Jesus to that of Caiphas. He was the man most interested by his office in the ruin of every innovator in matters of religion, yet we do not find that pontiff speaking with anger; he conducted himself according to law,
man who understood his profession.
“ Who," said he to Jesus, " are your disciples, their number and names ?” Jesus made no answer. “ But at least," continued Caiphas, “ explain to me your doctrine. What end does it propose ? you must have a system.
Tell us then what it is." At last the Messiah condescended to say, “ I spoke openly to the world; it is not I, but those who have heard me, that ought to be interrogated.”
Here one of the officers of the high priest gave Jesus a blow on the ear, saying, “ Answerest thou the high priest so *?” The reprimand was harsh, but it must be owned, that the answer of Christ was little respectful to a man invested with authority, and the right of putting questions in order to discover the truth from the mouth of the accused. Jesus ought to have been better acquainted with his own doctrine than the peasants of Galilee or Judea, before whom he had through preference affected to preach in an unintelligible manner. It was therefore very just and natural to supposę, that Jesus could give a better account of his true sentiments and obscure parables, than an ignorant multitude, who had listened without being ever able to comprehend him. He alone could be supposed to possess the secret of uniting into system the scattered and unconnected principles of his hea. venly doctrine.
Caiphas, unable to draw any thing from the accused,
* We remark with surprise that Christ forgot on this occasion to put in practice the excellent counsel which he had given in the serinon on the Mount, — when a person receives a blow on the one cheek, to turn the other; so true it is, that preachers do not always act as they preach ta others.
waited till next morning when the council would assemble, in order to continue this inquest. Christ appeared before the Sanhedrim, the most respectable tribunal in the nation. The gospel represents the priests and chiefs of the Jews occupied during the whole night that Jesus was arrested, in searching for and suborning false witnesses against him. They produced two persons, on whom they very unjustly bestowed this epithet. These witnesses indeed deposed to a fact verified by the gospel itself. “We heard him say that he would destroy the temple, and rebuild it in three days." It is at least certain, that Jesus had uttered these words, “ Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up*.” But the poor witnesses knew not that he then spoke in his figurative style. Their mistake was pardonable, for, according to the gospel, the apostles themselves did not discover the true sense of these words till after the resurrection of their master.
This evidence was not sufficient to condemn Jesus to death. The Jews, however iniquitous we may suppose them to have been, did not sentence fools to die; and these words of Christ must have appeared to them the mere effect of delirium. Accordingly the high priest contented himself with asking, what he had to answer: and as the accused refused to speak, he did not further insist on that point.
He passed then to questions more serious : “ Are you the Christ?" said he to Jesus, How did the Messiah answer this question ? " If I tell it you, you will not believe me, and you will not suffer me to depart. But
* St. Matt. xxvi. 61. St. Mark, xiv. 58. St. John, ii. 19-21. hereafter the Son of man shall sit on the right hand of God." “ You are then the Son of God ?" continued the priest.-“ You have said it,” replied the accused. " But it is not sufficient that we should say it: it is you who are to answer; once more, are you the Christ ? I conjure you by the living God tell us if you are his Son?” -“ You have said it," answered Jesus: “ The Son of man,” (i. e. the Son of God) “ shall one day come in the clouds of heaven." Notwithstanding these perplexed answers, the judges imagined they understood the meaning of his words; and they plainly perceived, that he wished to give himself out for the Son of God. “He hath spoken blasphemy," said they ; and immediately concluded, that he deserved death*, - a judgment which was valid according to the law of the Jews, and which mast also appear so to Christians, whose sanguinary laws punish with death those whom the clergy accuse of blasphemy. - The Christians have therefore no right to blame the conduct of the Jews, so often imitated by ecclesiastical and secular tribunals t.
* A devout magistrate has drawn up a memoir to prove, that in the process of Jesus Christ, according to the criminal ordinance of Louis XIV. there were thirty-two nullities, There certainly would not be found any nullities according to the jurisprudence of the Inquisition, who burn blasphemers alive with a slow fire. St. Louis contented himself with making their tongues be bored with a red hot iron.
+ Even the laity have considered it their duty to imitate these ferocious monsters. We every day, says Mirabaud, see that religion, or the cause of heaven, hoodwinks the humane, equitable and rational on every other occasion; so much, that they make it a duty to treat those who deviate from their mode of thinking with the utmost barbarity. An heretic,
On the other hand, if it was necessary that Christ should die; if he wished it; if the reprobation of the Jews
an incredulous person, ceases to be a man in the eyes of the superstitious. Every society infected with the venom of religion, presents innumerable examples of juridicial assassinations which the tribunals commit without scruple, and without remorse. Judyes, who are equitable on erery
other occasion, are no longer so wken there is a question before them as to theology. In bathing themselves in blood they believe they conform to the views of the divinity. Almost every where the laws are subordinate to superstition, and are accomplices in its fury. They legitimate or transform into duties those cruelties which are the most contrary to the rights of humanity.- Are not all these avengers of religion, who, with gaięty of heart, and through piety and duty, immolate those victims to it which it appoints, blind intolerants ? Are they not tyrants who have the injustice to outrage opinion, and the folly to believe that they can enslave the mind ? Are they not fanatics on whom the law, dictated by inhuman prejudices, impose the necessity of becoming ferocious brutes ? Are not all those sovereigns who, to avenge heaven, torment and persecute their subjects, and sacrifice human victims to their gods, men whom religious zeal has converted into tigers ? Are not those priests so careful of the soul's health, who insolently break into the sanctuary of the thoughts, to the end that they may find in the opinions of man motives for injuring him, odious knaves and disturb. ers of the mind's repose, whom religion honours, and whom reason detests? What villains are more odious in the eyes of humanity than those infamous Inquisitors, who by the blindness of princes enjoy the advantage of judging their own enemies, and committing them to the flames? Never, theless the superstition of the people makes them respected, and the favor of kings overwhelms them with kindness. In short, do not a thousand examples prove that religion has every where produced and justified the most unaccountable horrors? IIas it not a thousand times armed men with the poniards of homicides; let loose passions much more terrible