Actions and Incidents Attending the Crucifixion of the King of the Jews. Part One.

Taken and adapted from, “Crucifixion”
Written by, John Osborne

Originally published, 1897

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Interesting questions arise concerning facts and incidents attending the crucifixion of our Lord….

The most striking and important of these is the fact of His untimely death after He had been suspended but six hours on the cross; other facts are: the unnatural darkness during the last three hours of His execution; the earthquake; the opening of the graves of many holy people preparatory to the resurrection of their bodies three days afterward, simultaneously with, or soon after, the rising of His own body. Another incident, quite singular, is, that when they came to Calvary and before attaching Jesus to the cross, they offered Him wine mingled with gall, according to Matthew, or wine mingled with myrrh, according to Mark; this was an unprecedented act, and may properly first claim our attention.

It is very certain that the chief priests and scribes were the ruling and directing powers through all the pitiless scenes of that day from the beginning at the house of Annas [Annas, was a priest, was also the father-in-law of Caiaphas – the high priest that year], during all the mockery before Pilate, and at Calvary till the close of the tragedy. These easily swayed the wicked and abandoned rabble to do whatever they suggested; this draught of wine, therefore, was provided by their direction, and it may be taken for granted that it was brought there to be offered to Jesus from no kindly or merciful motive.

What, then, were the motives? We may first review a few facts precedent. Our Lord had reached the hill of Calvary in a very faint and weary condition; He had been without rest or sleep all the night, had passed through an experience very exhausting to soul and body in the garden of Gethsemane, had taken no breakfast, and no meal the night previous except that light one of the Passover with its bitter herbs; yet with all this His mind was clear, and His voice strong to utter all His thought. Just now, at nine o’clock, was a critical time for the chief priests and scribes; they could attach Him to the cross, but there might be danger of a rescue by His country friends abiding in the city just after the celebration of the Passover. These were in such overwhelming numbers as to be able to over-awe and overpower resistance coming from any quarter that would try to prevent a forcible rescue of Jesus from the cross; and if they were to come to Calvary in any great numbers, but few words of appeal would be needed from His mouth to induce them to take such action. To close that mouth, therefore, seemed to them a most needful measure; an offer of wine with myrrh before being placed on the cross might lead Him to think they gave it to Him out of pity for His exhausted state, and that they would not offer Him the usual vinegar and gall after He had been placed there; and so, when thirst and fever should come upon Him, He would, in His confused state, the more willingly take the latter drink, deceived by the thought that it was the same pleasant wine and myrrh offered Him before.

But the Divine Man knew how ”they thus reasoned within their hearts,” and so, “when He had tasted thereof He would not drink;” not that He desired a rescue, for He knew that the darkness and earthquake soon to come would so bewilder all men, friends and foes alike, that little or no thought would, by the mass of them, be given to any one of those three crucified on Calvary.

No stress is to be laid, on the difference between Matthew and Mark, the former giving the ante-crucifixion drink as wine and gall in place of wine and myrrh; the mixture of vinegar and gall always regularly provided at crucifixions to be given during the hours of night to hush the cries of the crucified was also at hand, and it would be natural for Matthew, having written his Gospel (as it is said) after Mark’s was written, to have become confused in his recollection as to the two kinds of drink, and make the unimportant mistake of putting gall for myrrh.

The darkness and earthquake may now claim attention, both supernatural events. The darkness was ordered in the loving counsel of the Heavenly Father doubtless for two purposes; the first, that which has been already noted, to turn men’s minds away from thought of rescuing Jesus, and the second, to cover His head in the day of battle from the heat of the noon-tide sun, that so in the cool darkness, no weakness or trouble of the afflicted and fevered body might cloud or disturb His intellect, nor any disorder of the brain come in to hinder Him in the awful conflict with the powers of hell.

The earthquake was sent in order that the graves of those saints appointed for this miracle might be seen and proved by many witnesses to have been opened by no human hand, so that during the three days intervening before the resurrection of Jesus, the remarkable fact might be established beyond doubt by those who, in that time, should have examined those same riven tombs, that their occupants had actually come forth after Jesus himself had risen, and that they “had entered into the holy city, and had appeared unto many.”

The recorded words of Jesus spoken while on the cross, were uttered after the darkness came; before that, the air was filled with mockings and jibes by the chief priests and the abandoned crew whom they led and inspired; and our Lord would prefer, on His part, to maintain that silence which ever becomes the innocent in the face of a horde of unjust and malicious, but powerful and successful, accusers. But when the noonday darkness came over the land, the appalled and cowardly mob passed quickly off the scene, and only the vengeful leaders, the near relatives and friends, with the four soldiers and centurion on duty were left as His companions there; these soldiers, stolid and brutal as ever under their iron discipline, had been, by instigation of the rulers (who all the morning had been fearing a rescue), offering the vinegar and gall, contrary to the usual custom, during the time of broad daylight, but now, in the darkness, and when Jesus had sent forth the cry, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” these soldiers, understanding none of the Aramaic language in which it was uttered, conceived it to be of the same sort of disordered raving they had so often heard on the crucifixion field; and so we read the very natural statement that one of them, without prompting from any one, did according to the usual custom, ran to offer Him the abominable stuff that should close His throat and stifle His voice. But the curiosity of the ignorant leaders, who knew not the tenor of Jesus’ words, forestalled the offer of the drink, ”Let be, let us see whether Elijah cometh to take Him down;” and thus the power of speech was, tinder the Father’s providence, preserved to Jesus, that He might utter His last ever memorable words. The chief priests and scribes had always taught that Elijah must first come before the Messiah, and if he were actually to come now and at this call, Jesus would have furnished himself the proof, to them, of the falsity of His claim to the Messiahship, for now Elijah comes after Him, whereas he should come before.

Soon the appointed moment came for Him to close the mournful scene; ”there was set there a vessel full of vinegar; ” this was the common, sour, cheap wine such as the soldiers could afford to have as a regular drink; this vessel of vinegar (of course without either gall or myrrh) was there as provided for themselves, when, having completed the task of execution, and with a long, idle day before them, ”sitting down, they watched Him there,” as they had often done before at similar scenes; thus with the means for playing games of chance, and with a cheap sour rink each crucifixion party passed each hot, monotonous day of their watch.

Our Lord now, in order that His vocal organs might be for an instant clear and strong, invited the drink by the words, “I thirst;” there was no delirium in His speech, and the centurion, seeing it really a case of thirst, doubtless bade the soldiers give Him the vinegar; he was obeyed; and then, with soul fully relieved and resigned, Jesus cried with a loud voice, “It is finished. Father, into thy hands I commit my spirit,” and having so said. He bowed His head and yielded up His spirit. The centurion was amazed: through all his long experience in crucifixions, he had never known a similar case; the earthquake and the darkness might have impressed him, although he had known and felt such before, but here was a man praying for his murderers, silent under the scornful taunts of his enemies, innocent of crime, as Pilate, his own general, had testified; and yet he had declared himself forsaken of God; after all these mutually contradictory events, came the astounding climax of the man’s death after having been but six hours on the cross!

“Truly, this man was a Son of God!” was the cry of the pagan centurion, in whose system of belief a Son of God was a demigod, a man endowed by the principal gods with irresistible power over some particular forces in the celestial or earthly realm.

But what was the cause of our Lord’s death at so early a period in His execution? This we shall look at in our next segment.

THE GREAT PREPARATIVES FOR  THE SAINTS’ REST

 Taken and adapted from, “THE SAINTS’ EVERLASTING REST”
Written by Richard Baxter

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There are four things which principally prepare the way to enter into it; particularly…

1. The glorious appearing of Christ;
2. The general resurrection;
3. The last judgment; and,
4. The saints’ coronation.

THE passage of paradise is not now so blocked up as when the law and curse reigned. Wherefore finding, beloved Christians, a new and living way consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, the flesh of Christ, by which we may with boldness enter into the holiest, I shall draw near with fuller assurance; and, finding the flaming sword removed, shall look again into the paradise of our God. And because I know that this is no forbidden fruit, and withal that it is good for food, and pleasant to the spiritual eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one truly wise and happy; I shall, through the assistance of the Spirit, take and eat thereof myself, and give to you, according to my power, that you may eat. The porch of this temple is exceeding glorious, and the gate of it is called Beautiful. Here are four things as the four corners of this porch.

1. The most glorious coming and appearing of the Son of God may well be reckoned in his people’s glory. For their sake he came into the world, suffered, died, rose, ascended; and for their sake it is that he will return. To this end will Christ come again to receive his people unto himself, that where he is, there they may be also. The bridegroom’s departure was not upon divorce. He did not leave us with a purpose to return no more. He hath left pledges enough to assure us to the contrary. We have his word, his many promises, his ordinances, which show forth his death till he come; and his Spirit, to direct, sanctify, and comfort till he return. We have frequent tokens of love from him, to show us he forgets not his promise, nor us. We daily behold the forerunners of his coming, foretold by himself. We see the fig-tree puts forth leaves, and therefore know that summer is nigh. Though the riotous world say, My Lord delays his coming; yet let the saints lift up their heads, for their redemption draws nigh. Alas! fellow-Christians, what should we do if our Lord should not return? What a case are we here left in! What! leave us in the midst of wolves, and among lions, a generation of vipers, and here forget us! Did he buy us so dear, and then leave us sinning, suffering, groaning, dying daily; and will he come no more to us? It cannot be. This is like our unkind dealing with Christ, who, when we feel ourselves warm in the world, care not for coming to him; but this is not like Christ’s dealing with us. He that would come to suffer, will surely come to triumph. He that would come to purchase, will surely come to possess. Where else were all our hopes? What were become of our faith, our prayers, our tears and our waiting? What were all the patience of the saints worth to them? Were we not left of all men the most miserable? Christians, hath Christ made us forsake all the world, and to be forsaken of all the world? to hate all, and be hated of all? and all this for him, that we might have him instead of all? And will he, think you, after all this, forget us and forsake us himself? Far be such a thought from our hearts! But why staid he not with his people while he was here? Why? Was not the work on earth done? Must he not take possession of glory in our behalf? Must he not intercede with the Father, plead his sufferings, be filled with the Spirit to send forth, receive authority, and subdue his enemies? Our abode here is short. If he had staid on earth, what would it have been to enjoy him for a few days and then die? He hath more in heaven to dwell among; even the spirits of many, generations. He will have us live by faith, and not by sight.

O fellow-Christians, what a day will that be, when we, who have been kept prisoners by sin, by sinners, by the grave, shall be brought out by the Lord himself! It will not be such a coming as his first was, in poverty and contempt, to be spit upon, and buffeted, and crucified again. He will not come, O careless world! to be slighted and neglected by you any more. Yet that coming wanted not its glory. If the heavenly host, for the celebration of his nativity, must praise God; with what shouting will angels and saints at that day proclaim glory to God, peace and good-will toward men! If a star must lead men from remote parts, to come to worship the child in the manger; how will the glory of his next appearing constrain all the world to acknowledge his sovereignty! If, riding on an ass, he enter Jerusalem with hosannas; with what peace and glory will he come toward the New Jerusalem! If, when he was in the form of a servant, they cry out, “What manner of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him?” what will they say when they shall see him coming in his glory, and the heavens and the earth obey him? “Then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn.” To think and speak of that day with horror doth well become the impenitent sinner, but ill the believing saint. Shall the wicked behold him, and cry, “Yonder is he whose blood we neglected, whose grace we resisted, whose counsel we refused, whose government we cast off!” and shall not the saints, with inconceivable gladness, cry, “Yonder is he whose blood redeemed us, whose Spirit cleansed us, whose law governed us; in whom we trusted, and he hath not deceived our trust; for whom we long waited, and now we see we have not waited in vain! O cursed corruption! that would have had us turn to the world and present things, and say, Why should we wait for the Lord any longer? Now we see, Blessed are all they that wait for him.” And now, Christians, should we not put up that petition heartily, “Thy kingdom come? The Spirit and the bride say, Come: and let him that hears,” and reads, “say, Come.” Our Lord himself says, “Surely I come quickly. Amen: even so, come! Lord Jesus.”

2. Another thing that leads to paradise; is that great work of Jesus Christ, in raising the body from the dust and uniting it again unto the soul. A wonderful effect of infinite power and love! “Yea wonderful indeed,” says Unbelief, “if it be true. What, shall all these scattered bones and dust become a man?” Let me with reverence plead for God, for that power whereby I hope to arise. What sustains the massive body of the earth? What limits the vast ocean of the waters? Whence is that constant ebbing and flowing of the tides? How many times larger than all the earth is the sun, that glorious body of light? Is it not as easy to raise the dead as to make heaven and earth, and all of nothing? Look not on the dead bones, and dust, and difficulty, but at the promise. Contentedly commit these bodies to a prison that shall not long contain them. Let us lie down in peace and take our rest; it will not be an everlasting night, nor endless sleep. If unclothing be the thing you fears, it is that you may have better clothing. If to be turned out of doors be the thing you fears, remember that, when “the earthly house of this tabernacle is dissolved, you hast a building of God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.” Lay down cheerfully this lump of corruption; you shalt undoubtedly receive it again in incorruption. Lay down freely this terrestrial, this natural body; you shalt receive it again a celestial, a spiritual body. Though you lay it down with great dishonor, you shalt receive it in glory. Though you art separated from it through weakness it shall be raised again in mighty power; “in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump; for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.” “The dead in Christ shall rise first. Then they who are alive and remain, shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air.” Triumph now, O Christian, in these promises; you shalt shortly triumph in their performance. This is the day which the Lord will make; we shall rejoice and be glad in it. The grave that could not keep our Lord, cannot keep us. He arose for us, and by the same power will cause us to arise. “For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, them also who sleep in Jesus will God bring with him.” Let us never look at the grave, but let us see the resurrection beyond it. Yea, let us be “steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, for inasmuch as we know our labor is not in vain in the Lord.”

3. Part of this prologue to the saints’ rest is the public and solemn process at their judgment, where they shall first themselves be acquitted and justified, and then with Christ judge the world. Young and old, of all estates and nations, that ever were from the creation to that day, must here come and receive their doom. O terrible! O joyful day! Terrible to those that have forgotten the coming of their Lord! joyful to the saints, whose waiting and hope was to see this day! Then shall the world behold the goodness and severity of God; on them who perish, severity; but to his chosen, goodness. Every one must give an account of his stewardship. Every talent of time, health, abilities, mercies, afflictions, means, warnings, must be reckoned for. The sins of youth, those which they had forgotten, and their secret sins, shall all be laid open before angels and men. They shall see the Lord Jesus, whom they neglected, whose word they disobeyed, whose ministers they abused, whose servants they hated, now sitting to judge them. Their own consciences shall cry out against them, and call to their remembrance all their misdoings. Which way will the wretched sinner look? Who can conceive the terrible thoughts of his heart? Now the world cannot help him; his old companions cannot; the saints neither can nor will. Only the Lord Jesus can; but there is the misery, he will not. Time was, sinner, when Christ would, and you would not; now, fain would you, and he will not. All in vain is it to “cry to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of Him that sits upon the throne;” for you hast the Lord of mountains and rocks for thine enemy, whose voice they will obey, and not thine. I charge thee, therefore, before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing, and his kingdom, that you set thyself seriously to ponder these things. But why tremble you, O humble, gracious soul? He that would not lose one Noah in a common deluge, nor overlook one Lot in Sodom; nay, that could do nothing till he went forth; will he forget thee at that day? “The Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptation, and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment, to be punished.” He knows how to make the same day the greatest terror to his foes, and yet the greatest joy to his people. “There is no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect?” Shall the law? “The law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made them free from the law of sin and death.” Or shall conscience’? “The Spirit itself bears witness with their spirit, that they are the children of God. It is God that justifies, who is he that condemns?” If our Judge condemn us not, who shall? He that said to the adulterous woman, Hath no man condemned thee? neither do I; will say to us, more faithfully than Peter to him, Though all men deny thee, or condemn thee, I will not. Having confessed me before men, thee “will I also confess before my Father who is in heaven.”

What inexpressible joy, that our dear Lord, who loves our souls and whom our souls love, shall be our Judge! Will a man fear to be judged by his dearest friend? or a wife by her own husband? Christian, did Christ come down and suffer, and weep, and bleed, and die for thee, and will he now condemn thee? Was he judged, condemned, and executed in thy stead, and now will he himself condemn thee? Hath he done most of the work already, in redeeming, regenerating, sanctifying and preserving thee, and will he now undo all again? Well then, let the terror of that day be never so great, surely our Lord can mean no ill to us in all. Let it make the devils tremble, and the wicked tremble, but it shall make us leap for joy. It must affect us deeply with the sense of our mercy and happiness, to see the most of the world tremble with terror, while we triumph with joy; to hear them doomed to everlasting flames, when we are proclaimed heirs of the kingdom; to see our neighbors, that lived in the same town, came to the same congregation, dwelt in the same houses, and were esteemed more honorable in the world than ourselves, now, by the Searcher of hearts, eternally separated. This, with the great magnificence and dreadfulness of the day, the apostle pathetically expresses: “It is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you; and to you who are troubled, rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven, with his mighty angels, in flaming fire, taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ; who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power; when he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe, in that day.”

Yet more: we shall be so far from the dread of that judgment, that ourselves shall become the judges. Christ will take his people, as it were, into commission with himself, and they shall sit and approve his righteous judgment. “Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world?” Nay, “know ye not that we shall judge angels?”–1 Corinthians 6:2, 3. Were it not for the word of Christ that speaks it, this advancement would seem incredible, and the language arrogant. Even Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied this, saying, “Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints, to execute judgment upon all, and to convince all that are ungodly among them, of all their ungodly deeds which they have ungodly committed, and of all their hard speeches which ungodly sinners have spoken against him.” Thus shall the saints be honored, and “the upright shall have dominion in the morning.” O that the careless world “were wise, that they understood this, that they would consider their latter end!” that they would be now of the same mind as they will be when they shall see the heavens pass away with a great noise, and the elements melt with fervent heat, and the earth also, and the works that are therein, burnt up! when all shall be on fire about them, and all earthly glory consumed. “For the heavens and the earth which are now, are reserved unto fire against the day of judgment, and perdition of ungodly men. Seeing, then, that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens, being on fire, shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat?”

4. The last preparative for the saints’ rest is their solemn coronation and receiving the kingdom. For as Christ, their head, is anointed both King and Priest, so under him are his people made unto God both kings and priests, to reign, and to offer praises for ever. The crown of righteousness, which was laid up for them, shall by the Lord, the righteous Judge, be given them at that day. They have been faithful unto death, and therefore he will give them a crown of life. And according to the improvement of their talents here, so shall their rule and dignity be enlarged. They are not dignified with empty titles, but real dominion. Christ will grant them to sit with him on his throne, and will give them power over the nations, even as he received of his Father; and he “will give them the morning star.” The Lord himself will give them possession, with these applauding expressions: “Well done, good and faithful servant; you hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things; enter you into the joy of thy Lord.”

And with this solemn and blessed proclamation shall he enthrone them: “Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” Every word is full of life and joy. “Come “ — this is the holding forth of the golden scepter, to warrant our approach unto this glory. Come now as near as you will; fear not the Bethshemites’ judgment; for the enmity is utterly abolished. This is not such a “Come” as we were wont to hear, “Come, take up your cross and follow me.” Though that was sweet, yet this is much more. “Ye blessed” — blessed indeed, when that mouth so pronounce us! For though the world hath accounted us accursed, and we have been ready to account ourselves so; yet, certainly, those that he blesses are blessed; and those only whom he curses are cursed; and his blessing cannot be reversed. “Of my Father“ — blessed in the Father’s love, as well as the Son’s; for they are one. The Father hath testified his love in their election, donation to Christ, and in the sending of Christ, and accepting his ransom, as the Son hath also testified his. “Inherit” — no longer bondsmen, nor servants only, nor children under age, who differ not in possession, but only in title, from servants; but now we are heirs of the kingdom, and joint-heirs with Christ. “The kingdom” — no less than the kingdom! Indeed, to be King of kings and Lord of lords is our Lord’s own proper title; but to be kings, and reign with him, is ours. The enjoyment of this kingdom is as the light of the sun; each has the whole, and the rest none the less. “Prepared for you” — God is the Alpha as well as the Omega of our blessedness. Eternal love hath laid the foundation. He prepared the kingdom for us, and then prepared us for the kingdom. This is the preparation of his counsel and decree, for the execution whereof Christ was yet to make a further preparation. “For you” — not for believers only, in general, who, without individual persons, are nobody; but for you personally. “From the foundation of the world” — not only from the promise after Adam’s fall, but from eternity. Thus we have seen the Christian safely landed in paradise, and conveyed honorably to his rest. Now let us a little further, in the next chapter, view those mansions, consider their privileges, and see whether there be any glory like unto this glory.

The Roman Method of Crucifixion. Part Three, Finale

Taken and adapted from, “Crucifixion”
Written by, John Osborne

Originally published, 1897

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During the long and frequent wars waged by Rome…

…the constant practice of crucifixion continued in her unvarying course of conquest, the Roman soldiers in crucifying their thousands of captives, must have become adepts in the art. Constant opportunities for observation would teach them that victims suspended by certain portions of the body would survive much longer than when suspended by other portions; they would find that where a red swelling came in consequence of stricture by the rope, there the heat and fever would occur, the inflammation would be followed by suppuration and mortification, and then by a gangrene which would all too quickly terminate the sufferer’s life.

We of this day know that if any of the limbs had been bound by the ropes for suspension, there would have been a stoppage of the circulation of the blood and then would have ensued the consequences just above stated; the soldiers, of course, knew nothing about the circulation of the blood, but experience acquired from repeated observation would ere long indicate to them by what parts suspension could be made so as to permit of longest duration of life; manifestly, then, the method concluded on would be, as the man stood on the two stakes at the foot of the post and with his back against it, to pass the rope around the waist and just under the ribs, then tie it with a hard knot moderately tight, leaving the knot at the middle of his back, then the two ends of the rope, being long enough, were passed over the cross-bar close to its junction with the post, and a turn or two around the post would make all secure; then the nails through hands and feet would prevent any violent movement of the body, and particularly would keep the hands from any attempt to untie the rope.

Held in such a way, there would be pressure exerted by the sufferer’s weight only on the soft and yielding viscera of the abdomen, on the ribs and other framework near to the exterior, but no constriction could be brought on any large vein or artery to cause obstruction or hindrance to the circulatory flow.

After such simple methods were the doomed men prepared for their horrible fate; and to the number of hundreds, sometimes of thousands, were set up on crosses without the camp. Josephus relates that at the siege of Jerusalem by Titus there could not be found wood enough to erect crosses for all the prisoners condemned to that death. The crucifixions were occasions of rare sport for the degraded soldiery; they gloried in the mockery, the jibes and insults that could be freely flung into the faces of the condemned; in the hearts of such men, unsoftened by any influence of Christian civilization, were harbored no feelings of pity or mercy, their words, albeit often in a language unknown to those on the cross, were yet sufficiently interpreted to the victims by glaring eyes and gestures of hate, and by acts of cruelty and brutality.

During the days through which the sufferers survived, their torments would be the sport and jest of the executioners…

…and when, from the loss of blood at the wounds, from the bitter pangs of hunger and thirst, and also from exposure to the scorching heat, a raging fever had come upon the victim by the second or third day, then the pleasure of the hardened brutes was greatest; they gloated over the pitiable throes and convulsions, and took delight in the groans, shrieks and curses of the hapless sufferers. So through the long drawn hours of every day did their besotted natures find interest and entertainment in the hard wretchedness of the crucified; through the day indeed, but not through the night. For then came the soldiers’ time for sleep, and no sleep was possible if these awful cries from the field of torment near to camp came to fill their ears; for the delirium and fever would not end with the day but continue unrelieved through the hours of night. The cries must be stopped during the night if the soldier would have his rest undisturbed. Therefore, some means must be provided for closing the mouths and hushing the voices of these raging men.

An infernal drink was made whose corrosive and astringent qualities admirably served this purpose; a vinegar of scarifying acidity that resulted from the acetous fermentation of a strong wine, received a strong admixture of gall, a vegetable product; and this, when administered in such scant quantity on a bunch of hyssop as to just moisten the mouth and throat, hotly parched and swollen to great tenderness as they were, would by its irritating and rasping influence corrugate and constrict the throat and paralyze the vocal cords. So with a pail of the mixture and with hyssop tied at the end of a stick, the watch specially detailed at night for this duty, passed everywhere among the groves of crosses, offering the vile stuff to every one they heard crying out; and eagerly was the little sop received; for it was at least, moisture, a semblance of the pure drink they were longing and moaning for; but the next moment came the hard gripe of acid and gall, increasing their suffering, closing the throat and almost stopping the breath. Thus was quiet secured for the night by the guard furnished with vessels of vinegar mingled with gall, until the daybreak came and the awakening of the camp, when these duties were no longer required, and the victims resumed their mournful cries as one by one they recovered from the effects of the bitter mixture.

So through the days of suffering and nights of horror when even the poor relief of a cry was denied them, did the heavy hours of torture pass; by the end of the second day many of those with weak constitutions would be relieved by death, others in greater number would succumb during the third, fourth and fifth days, by the sixth and seventh only those of greatest vitality would survive, and by the seventh or eighth day the last of them had passed away, all having been kept on their crosses till death. But what was to be done with those remaining alive, if, on any day before the eighth, military policy or necessity required the removal of the army? They must not be released, nor must they be left to be rescued by friends and relatives and in a condition to be nursed back to life and health after the army had withdrawn; nor, on the other hand, should their torment be brought to a merciful end by a spear thrust in some vital part, but some way must be devised for rendering the short remnant of their lives still a prolonged misery even after their rescue by friends when the army had gone.

Such a way was found; just before departure, the guard with clubs passed among the crosses, and whenever the doomed one on any of them gave signs of life, a blow on each leg broke the bones, and so the poor wretch, even if delivered and restored to freedom, was forever a helpless cripple from the compound fractures of his legs. There was little surgical skill among those barbarous people to amend so great a disaster; the victim must suffer on till death, his only comfort being in the sympathy and alleviating cares rendered at the hands of his friends.

The offering of the vinegar and gall and the leg-breaking have both, in the absence of positive knowledge on the subject, been wrongly interpreted as acts of mercy…

…the drink, it is asserted, was intended as a stupefying potion to dull the pain by taking away in whole or in part the consciousness of the victim; and the breaking of the legs it is said, was for the purpose of hastening death and so giving quicker relief to the intolerable suffering; but such theories are wholly inconsistent with the policy of utmost cruelty practiced by the Romans. To have rendered any one insensible to pain or suffering would have been to defeat the very object in view when he was attached to the cross; and if there had been any real purpose to shorten the misery of the wretched men, a spear thrust into the heart would have effected that result much sooner and more surely than the leg-breaking. And further, no stupefying effect could be produced by the vinegar and gall, indeed, it would have a result entirely the opposite; and breaking the legs would not necessarily hasten death; it might in some case accidentally happen that some small and sharp slivers from the broken bone might be driven through the wall of the femoral artery or femoral vein, and so death would immediately result. Doubtless this happened…  But yet the men who gave the blows knew nothing about arteries and veins, so that death by loss of blood in this way, being a mere contingency, we cannot conclude that such an end was calculated on or looked for by the executioners.

As the soldiers detailed for this leg-breaking duty passed the doomed men in review, many would be found with life so nearly gone as to present almost the semblance of death; the exhausted body was still, the heart worn out by fever and pain, had nearly ceased to beat, or at least its throbs were so feeble as to send the blood slowly to the inner parts of the body, leaving the exterior so little colored by it as to induce belief that the pallor indicative of death had already come; so there was doubt whether the victim yet lived or might be only in a faint; that doubt was quickly and brutally solved by the thrust of a spear into his side; if blood in its natural state followed, the sufferer was yet living and his legs were broken; but if no blood or if blood separated into white scrum and red fibrin as we of this day know it, came forth, he was dead, and the soldiers would not uselessly waste their strength in giving the unnecessary blows with their clubs.

The Poisoned Arrow

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There was once a king of England, named Edward the First…

…he was the son of Henry the Third; and while his father was yet alive, Edward, who was a prince of great courage and bravery, resolved to join the crusaders in the Holy Land. These crusaders were people of many different nations, all united together to accomplish one object: namely, to rescue Jerusalem from the Turks and Saracens. The holy city had long been trodden under foot by the infidels; and the Christians there had been so cruelly treated, that it had roused the indignation of all Europe; and many crusades had been undertaken, and many a brave crusader had died on the plains of Palestine, far from his home and all its beloved ones, rejoicing in the thought, that his last breath was spent in so noble a cause. Prince Edward, ardent and enterprising, and burning to distinguish himself, sailed from England, accompanied by his wife Eleanor, and a large army of soldiers; and finally arrived in Syria.

You will think it strange that a young and delicate woman, such as Eleanor of Castille was, should possess courage and resolution sufficient to leave her home, to traverse many thousands of miles, to go into an enemy’s country, the seat of war and bloodshed, and to brave the scorching sun and enervating climate of the Middle-east. But Eleanor’s was no ordinary character: she loved her husband with deep and fond affection; and when he was leaving his native land, perhaps never to return, she thought not of herself, but of him who was so dear to her: and prince Edward felt and returned her affection.

Each crusader wore a cross on his right shoulder: the color of the English cross was white; of the French red; of the German black; of the Italians yellow; and of the Flemish green.

Shortly after the arrival of the English army, headed by Prince Edward, the contest was renewed with great vigor; and the red flag of England soon gained the ascendency; the Saracens were defeated in several battles, and the enemies of Christians began to tremble for the result. For a while, victory succeeded victory; for the turbaned hosts could not withstand the youthful arm, which every day spread confusion and dismay in their ranks; and they fled on all sides. But their animosity was not extinguished….

It was the custom of Prince Edward, after the fatigue and heat of the day were over, to sit at the door of his tent with his beloved Eleanor, and thus enjoy the exceeding loveliness of a calm evening. The moon had risen, and was shedding her pale light on the luxuriant and varied prospect before them, as they took their accustomed seat, one evening, more than usually glad of the refreshing breeze and peaceful stillness of the hour. The small but gallant band of soldiers was encamped around them: small, compared to what it had been, for disease and war had, alas! thinned their ranks; but gallant, undaunted, and brave, as when they first landed on the shores of Palestine. The wearied men had sought that sleep, which they much needed; and nothing was heard save the “All’s well,”of the watchful guard, or the distant neighing of a war-steed.

The thoughts of Prince Edward and his Eleanor were that evening turned upon England, and upon the home so dear to both; when Eleanor, taking up her guitar, commenced singing, in her rich melodious voice, one of the melodies of her native Spain. She had scarcely finished, when a sentinel approached, saying a courier from England waited his highness’s pleasure.

“Admit him,” said the prince. “Ah! Sir John Fitzwalter! Welcome to Palestine! How fares it with the king? Is all well in England? What tidings, good Sir John; what tidings?” “I rejoice in being able to inform your highness that all was well when I left,” replied Sir John. “His majesty was in tolerable health: but these letters from your royal father may inform your highness of farther particulars.”

The prince took the letters, and was engaged in reading the earnest desires of the king to his son, urging his immediate return home, as he felt his constitution rapidly decaying; when Eleanor suddenly uttered a piercing shriek, for the letters dropped from the prince’s hand, and Sir John Fitzwalter, rushing from the tent, shouted to the soldiers to secure the assassin; and, having given the alarm, flew back, to save, if possible, the life of his beloved prince.

It was too true: an arrow, shot from a distance by some unknown hand, had pierced deep into his arm; and as Sir John dispatched the frightened attendants for medical assistance, and Eleanor, the horror-stricken Eleanor, stood pale and breathless by, conceiving it for the moment to be some frightful dream, the prince himself drew the deadly shaft from his arm, and said with a faint smile, “Tis of no avail, Fitzwalter, the arrow is a poisoned one. Weep not, sweet Eleanor, we shall meet again; farewell!”

“Assist me, oh! thou God of mercy!” exclaimed Eleanor; and, with a sudden resolution and a devotedness of love rarely to be equaled, she knelt down by the side of her husband; and, before he could prevent her, she sucked the poison from the wound; and thus, at the imminent hazard of her own life, she preserved the life of Prince Edward. The eyes of Edward of England were suffused with tears, as he, clasping his wife affectionately to his heart exclaimed, “This is a woman’s love!”

My dear friend, you and I have been shot by that poisoned arrow of sin.

And that by the arch-assassin, Satan. We were doomed to die. Our fate should have been sealed, for sin is a fatal poison. Death was all we could expect. Yet Christ in his infinite mercy, came down from heaven. Love, infinite love, did not just risk his life for us, but gave his life for us. He died for us. Jesus died so that we might live. It was our only hope, it was and is, our only shot. We cannot get all the poison out of our lives. Many, spend their lives trying to do exactly that, that is, we try to suck the poison out of our own lives and character. Only Jesus can take our poison from us. He died so that he could. Only Jesus could heal all of our deadly wounds.

“He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, And by His scourging we are healed. All of us like sheep have gone astray, Each of us has turned to his own way; But the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all To fall on Him.… Is. 53:5-6.

My dear friend, what will you do? Will you trust your own efforts to save you? Or, will you not repent of both your sin and your works to save yourself?  Will you not let the one who loves you more than you can realize, take care of you, –take your poison, heal your wounds, and give you His righteousness. It is my prayer that you do so, right now.

Grace and peace.

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The Story was taken and adapted from, “Anecdotes of Kings”
Author Unknown

The Roman Method of Crucifixion. Part Two

Taken and adapted from, “Crucifixion”
Written by, John Osborne
Originally published, 1897

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Let us now call attention to the absurdities in the representations of crucifixion…

…offered to us by the religious artists of Christendom in the hundreds of paintings and sculptures in the galleries of the Old World. The cross is nearly always made of such height that the victim on it is elevated with his feet almost or quite above the head of one standing on the ground nearby. For the earlier events, the cross is shown laid on the ground already completed, with the victim extended upon it and the soldiers are driving nails through hands and feet; next after this is the scene where they are raising up the cross with the condemned man thus attached only by the nails, to set it in the hole prepared for it. Now all this, while highly pathetic and poetic, is wholly and absurdly improbable and it might be said impossible. We cannot follow our imaginative painters in these scenes nor accept their presentation of them as sufficiently authoritative in the case; for they had no more reliable accounts of the processes in crucifixion than we of this day have.

The stolid brutes who composed the mass of a mercenary Roman army did not, we may be quite sure, perform any of their tasks with an eye to the picturesque, the pathetic or the poetic. The lazy and degraded creatures went through their work only to do what was actually necessary for the end in view. They would not make the upright post any longer than would suffice to raise the victim’s feet a little from the ground; and for this purpose a height of six or twelve inches would be as good as six feet. They would not first attach the cross-bar before setting the upright post because, as they had other condemned men in their charge to crucify, they would make use of them in setting the upright post while others of their own party were looking up the cross-bar. The rough hewing of a notch or ”revet” at the top of a post could be done before it was set in the hole, and the bar when brought could be quickly nailed in the notch. Nor would they give themselves the needless trouble and delay of completing the cross and attaching the victim while it lay prone on the ground and then raising it all to be set and steadied in the hole till secured by the filled-in earth.

A soldier of any age or country is notorious for exercising his wits to make himself comfortable in the performance of his duty, and we may be confident that every crucifixion was performed with strict regard to economy of labor, and not with the least reference to artistic effect. A climax of absurdity is reached when a modern commentator declares that the soldiers raised up the cross with the victim on it and then allowed it to drop into the hole with a heavy thud (!) that it might produce greater pain where the nails passed through the sensitive limbs! Where did our wise expositor learn that?

There is also another far greater absurdity in representing the sufferer as attached to the cross only by the nails through hands and feet. The crucifix in art with but very few exceptions has this utterly inept presentation; for a moment’s consideration must suffice to show how ill-fitting it must have been to the actual facts of the case. It would be impracticable for any man to maintain the posture represented by this figure on the crucifix of art, stretched symmetrically upright, the body in its whole length kept parallel with the upright post, the shoulders at nearly a level with the cross-bar, the arms stretched out along the bar at nearly right angles to the body, and thus the whole weight made to rest on the one or two nails through the feet. It would be impossible for any human being by the utmost exercise of muscle and will to maintain such a position for even six minutes, not to say for six hours or days. To declare that he could do this is to go directly against all that we know concerning the limits of human endurance or persistence.

The legs could not be thus extended and kept on the tense stretch; they would be very soon bent outward at the knees so as to let the body downward and forward, and it would then be held and practically supported by the nails through the hands; by this a great weight would be brought upon the two small carpal bones of the hand where the nails passed between them, and upon the fine and lax ligaments uniting them at the first knuckle, and it would be entirely too great for them to sustain; the delicate bones would be broken and the ligaments ruptured; by this means the wound would be so opened and enlarged as to allow the passage of the nail-head through it, the arm would then be released and the victim would fall from the cross.

More than this, accounts all agree that after the doomed man had been on the cross for twenty-four or thirty-six hours, exposed to a burning sun by day and to the chilling damps of night, to rain or cold, there came a raging fever and a violent delirium…

…in the unconsciousness attending these attacks the body must have been subject to pitiable writhings and contortions, and unless held by some securer means than nails through the delicate structures of hands and feet, it would surely be loosened and fall. In some cases there was a wooden pin driven into the post about midway to serve as a kind of seat to bear up nearly all the weight of the body; but this does not relieve the difficulty, for the upper part of the body would still be free to writhe and sway about to a degree sufficient to effect its release from the nails in the hands; the wooden pin at the middle would also serve as a fulcrum, by means of which the arms and legs, as powerful levers, would, in the convulsive throes of a delirious state, certainly and quickly tear the hands and feet from their fastenings. From all these considerations we are well warranted in concluding that other means than the three or four nails were of necessity used in keeping the body attached to the cross.

And here it is pertinent for everyone to inquire, where, then, did the unpractical artists obtain the notion of nails as the only means? The answer is not far to seek; it was through a misconception of the exact meaning of the passage in John 20:25. Our artists were devout men, and were, as they thought, guided strictly by the words of the Divine Book, and since, in the only place where mention is made of any of the instruments of crucifixion, the nails alone are alluded to, the painters forthwith concluded that these were exclusively the means used for attachment to the cross. But Thomas’ declaration was made not for the purpose of setting forth an exhaustive description of the method of crucifixion, but for another and entirely different purpose; he was seeking for evidence of the identity of the body of this man, alleged to be that of Jesus, with the body of his Master whom he knew they had applied to the cross, and he sought for that evidence in the marks that could be left by only one class of the instruments of crucifixion namely, the nails. Thomas did not add, “Except I shall also see on His body the red marks left by the ropes that supported Him, I will not believe; “Thomas knew better than to say that, for it was now the eleventh day since Jesus had been suspended by the ropes, and during eight days of those eleven the blood had been coursing through His revived body, all the functions of life were again in full and vigorous exercise, and the red marks made by the ropes had therefore disappeared. It was a strange error for artists to adopt summarily the conclusion that the sole mention by Thomas of the nails implied the sole use of them as the affixive appliances for the crucifixion of our Lord.

Thus with close adherence to all elements of the practical, and also of the probable, where ever statements of fact have failed in this study of our subject, we find that the conclusions of the commentators need to be modified by the substitution of one little word for another little one; they all agree that the victim was affixed by ropes or nails, it needs that “and” be put in place of “or,” and then the statement, by ropes and nails will be in accord with what was the fact in every instance. The weight of the sufferer being thus wholly borne by the ropes or withes which held him suspended, we may consider in what manner and by what portions of the body he could be hung so as best to fulfil the object for which he was crucified; for it may be again repeated that the purpose was to prolong life to the utmost, that he might undergo the fullest measure of torment from starvation and thirst.

A New Heart –Brief Comments on Ezekiel 36

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Written by, John Berridge

Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean; from all your filthiness, and from all your idols will I cleanse you. A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you; and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and will give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes. Then, when I shall have taken them from among the heathen. Ezekiel 36:25-27

Sin makes a sinner guilty before God…

…filthy in ourselves; both a guilty and filthy creature: guilty, as being contrary to the authority of God; filthy, as being contrary to the holiness of God. Guilt produces fear; filth produces shame. 

I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall he clean. —A fountain is opened for sin and uncleanness—a type of the blood of Christ. This must be sprinkled on the unclean: an application must be made of the blood of Christ, and made by the Spirit of God. This typified by the water of purification: Num. 19. This cleanseth from all filthiness, and from all idols. Henceforth the sprinkled sinner saith, What have I to do any more with idols ? Hos. 14:8. The Lord is my God.

A new heart will I give you. —A heart devoted to the Lord; devoted to the love and service of God.

A new spirit will I put within you. —A meek and lowly spirit; a child-like teachable spirit; a kind and brotherly spirit; a forgiving merciful spirit.

I will take away the stony heart. —Insensible of its own hardness, and of sin, and of God’s love; unapt to receive divine impressions, or to return devout affections, inflexible.

And give you a heart of flesh. —A tender heart; sensible of sin; mourning for it; humbled under it; fearful of God’s displeasure; feeling the power of God’s word; and sensible of spiritual pleasure and pain.

Now God makes this wholly his own act. He does not say, I will take away the stony heart, if you do not resist me; nor yet, I will earnestly persuade you to take it away : but he says absolutely, I, myself, will take it away, making it wholly his own act. Hence the event is certain; for God by the sweet and powerful operations of his Spirit effectually overcomes the resistance of the will. Hence renovation ensues, and conversion to God. Is nothing then to be done by the sinner? Yes, he says, For this will be inquired of; and a spirit of prayer is given for this purpose.

And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes. —Now a spiritual nature is received, capable of spiritual worship and service. The wheels of obedience are how made, and set in order; but a spring is yet wanting to set them a-going, which the Lord here promises to bestow. I will put my Spirit within you. Will before was given, now power; and constant additional supplies of his Spirit are needful to keep the wheels going. Then shall ye loathe yourselves: ver. 31.

Self-loathing is not only consistent with a sense of pardon, but is the fruit of it. While we feel sin within us to condemn us, faith discovers a righteousness without us, which can justify us; and while we rejoice in Christ, as the Lord our righteousness, we shall ever have cause enough in ourselves for humiliation. The gospel teaches men to feel sin, and believe for righteousness.

Faith will carry heaven in one hand, and hell in the other: hell as deserved by us; heaven as purchased for us. It will also powerfully incline us to respect all the commandments of God.

Are you Hidden in the Rock?

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“He only is my rock and my salvation.”

–Psalm 62:6.

Many years ago a passenger train on a mountainous railroad was rounding a sharp curve…

..when the engineer saw two children playing on the track; he pulled the reverse lever, and blew the whistle, but the children seemed not to hear it, or to see their great danger.

As the great train came almost upon them, the sister seized her little brother, and snugly tucked themselves away in the niche of an immense rock; and as the train passed by, the young child clapped his little hands until the train was out of sight, as if defying it to harm him.

So is he that makes Christ his rock, and his salvation.

The hosts of hell may come nigh unto him, the innumerable temptations and devices of Satan may press hard upon him, but he can clap his hands, and defy them to harm him, because he is hid in The Rock.

Dear troubled soul, are the marshaled hosts of Satan at your heels? Are the combined devices of hell’s train constantly in your pathway? Is the army of worldly temptations surrounding you? Get yourself to the Rock of your salvation, and you shall find refuge in the “Rock of Ages,” where you may go in and out in peace, and find rest unto your troubled soul. And be

“Safe in the arms of Jesus,
Safe on his gentle breast,
There by his love o’ershadowed,
Sweetly your soul shall rest.”

Taken from, “Polished Stones and Sharpened Arrows”