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barbarians, wished the label affixed to the upper part of the cross to bear, that he was their king; and nou thing could induce liim to recede from this resolution. " What is written is written," said he to those who Fequested him to alter an inscription dishonourable to their nation. It is also proper to observe, that this inscription is differently expressed by the four evangelists.
The Jews treated Christ as a king dethroned, and made him experience the most bloody outrages. Though he had said that, if he were inclined, he could make legions of angels come to his protection, yet the Jews, notwithstanding their natural credulity, paid no credit to his assertion, and nothing could stop their religious cruelty, excited by the priests. They made him take the road to Calvary. Christ sunk under the weight of his cross, but they loaded one Simon with it, who was more vigorous than him; the unfortunate Jesus must have been indeed much enfeebled by what he had. suffered during both the night and the morning.
At last Christ was placed on the cross, the usual pupishment of slaves. He did not suffer long under the agonies of crucifixion : after invoking his Father, and lamenting his being so shamefully abandoned, he expired, it is said, between two thieves*. Here it is pro
* St. Matt. xxvii. 44. St. Mark, xv. 32. St. Luke, xxiii. 39, &c. It is said that Jesus when dying exclaimed, Eli! Eli ! lamma sabbactani! (My God! my God! why hast thou forsaken me!) This complaint was very ridiculous in the mouth of Christ; the part he acted having been agreed on with his father from all eternity, he ouglit to have known what he had to expect. At least we may suppose that this exclamation was but a feint meant to deceive the spectators -a conduct little becoming a divinity.
per to remark, that the Holy Ghost, who inspired St. Mark, makes Jesus die at the third hour, that is, at nine o'clock in the morning, whilst the Holy Ghost, who in like manner inspired St. John, makes Jesus die at the sixth hour, that is, at mid-day. The Holy Ghost is not more consistent in the story of the tro thieves, in whose company Jesus was crucified. St. Matthew and St. Mark tell us, that the two thieves insulted him with abusive language ; while St. Luke assures us, that one only of the two abused the Saviour, and that the other reprimanded his comrade for his insolence, and besought Jesus “ to remember him when he should come to his kingdom.” But our interpreters have a thousand ways of proving that the Holy Ghost never contradicts himself, even when he speaks in the most contradictory manner. Those who have faith are satisfie with their arguments, but they do not so powerfully impress the freethinkers, who have the misfortune to reason.
The remorse of Judas soon revenged Jesus on this traitor. He restored to the priests the thirty pieces he had received from them, and went forthwith to hang himself *. According to St. Matthew, the selling of
* According to the gospel of The Infancy of Jesus, chap. XXX. Judas was possessed of a devil from his infancy, and would bite every body when the demon agitated him ;-he one day bit the little Jesus, on the side, who fell a weeping: Satan came out of Judas under the form of a mad dog. Codex Apocryph. N. T. tome 1, p. 197. Some heretical Christians have much esteemed Judas Iscariot, maintaining that without him the mystery of the redemption could not have been accomplished ;-an idea not' destitute of reason. Indeed, why blame a man, who, by selling his master, was only the instrument of the salvation of the universe, and
Jesus for thirty pieces had been foretold by Jeremiah : it must however be observed, that the prediction does not appear in the writings of this prophet, which would create a suspicion that the evangelists, little satisfied with applying to Christ some prophecies, such as are extant in the Old Testament, have taken the liberty of drawing from their own store, or forging them when in need. But our able interpreters are not at all em, barrassed with this; and a holy blindness will always prevent these bagatelles from being perceived,
The Gospel informs us, that at the death of Christ all nature seemed to take part in the grand event. At the moment he expired there was a total eclipse; a frightful shaking of the earth was felt, and several holy personages came out of their tombs to take a walk on the streets of Jerusalem*. The Jews alone had the misfortune to see nothing of all this; it appears, that these wonders were performed only in the fancy of the disciples of Jesus. As for the eclipse, it was doubtless an inconceiyable prodigy, which could not have taken place without a total derangement in the machine of the world. A total eclipse of the sun during full moon, the time at which the celebration of the passover was fixed by the Jews, is of all miracles the most impossible. No contemporary author has mentioned it, though this phenomenon well merited
executor of the decrees of God himself? These heretics have also a gospel, of which they make Judas the author, St. Ireneus, b. 1. contra. Hæreş. c. 35.
* How then is Christ termed " the first fruits of them that sleep?" And what are we to make of the resurrection of Lazarus, which preceded this, if Jesus Christ is to be held the first born from the dead?”
to be transmitted to posterity * The incredulous therefore maintain, that there was no eclipse on this occasion, but of the common sense of those who saw all these marvels, or of the good faith of the writers who have attested them. With respect to the shaking of the earth, they suspect that the apostles of Jesus, benumbed with fear at the sight of their divine master's fate, were the only persons who felt it. In this way indeed the thing becomes very probable.
When Jesus was dead, or believed to be sot, after an incision had been made in his side, from which came blood and a whitish fluid, which they took for water, his body was embalmed, and deposited in a tomb. This was done on Friday evening. He had several times intimated, that he would rise again the third day, that is, at the end of three days and three nights. Yet on the Sunday following, early in the morning, the
* Some writers pretend, that the eclipse here spoken of has been attested by Thallus, an author wholly unknown, and by Phlegon, whose work no longer exists, but has been cited by Julius Africanus, a Christian author of the third century. This Phlegon says merely, that in the fourth year of the 2020 Olympiad there was a considerable eclipse; but this has nothing marvellous in it.
+ If the punishment of Jesus is proved by the Gospel, some circumstances may create a doubt whether he died immediately. We are told, that they did not, according to custom, break his legs. His friends had the liberty of taking away his body, and they might take care of his wounds on finding that he was not dead, and in this manner bring him back to life, at least for some time. It proper to observe, that they laid him in a tomb quite new, from whence his disciples had perhaps taken care to get him out. We how: ever thought it our duty to follow the vulgar opinion, in sup posing that Jesus was actually dead.
tomb, wherein he had been laid, was found empty.. - The Jews, always opiniative, did not admit that he was risen again. They held it more natural to believe that he had failed in his word; or to suppose that his disciples had found means to carry him off. This could easily have been executed by force ; by bribing the guards, whom the priests and Pharisees had placed around his sepulchre; or by cunning. As Pilate took but little interest in the matter, we do not find that he punished the guards merely from compliance to the fears of the Jews, for neglecting to take care of what he had confided to them, and which appeared to bim very ridiculous. The idolatrous governor, little acquainted with the resources or designs of the apostles, never suspected they could persuade any person, that a man, whose death was well attested, could return to life*, It was, however, on this mar
* It is not surprising that a pagan should doubt the re. surrection of Christ. From the first day of the church, several Christians have not believed it, perceiving very plainly the incongruity of supposing that the Son of God could die; they have therefore denied the death of their divine master. On this subject the followers of Basilides affirm, that Jesus at the time of his passion assumed the appearance of Simon the Cyrenean, and transferred to him his own, under which the said Simon was crucified in his stead, while Christ, who beheld this without being himself seen, laughed at their mistake. St. Ireneus, lib. i. c. 23. S. Epiph. hærs. xxiv. num. 3. The Cerinthians, or disciples of Cerinthus, who was contemporary with the apostles, and the Carpocratians, in like manner, denied that Jesus could have been actually crucified. Some have maintained, that the traitor Judas was punished in place of his master.
Yet these sectaries regarded Christ as a mere man, and not as a god. Thus we find Christians contemporary with the apostles believing in Christ, and yet, like heretics, doubting of his death.-M, de Tillemont,