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”

The Roman Method of Crucifixion. Part One

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

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It must be remembered that the cross was not represented as an emblem of our salvation during the first 325 years of the Christianity…

…it was an abominable and detested thing, as the gallows is now, a symbol of shame and slavery; and therefore, until the time of Constantine, who was the first Roman emperor to embrace the Christian religion, there would be no endeavor made by Roman, Jewish or Christian writer to preserve any account of this dread process for the infliction of death. The little we may know about it is to be gathered from writings in which mention must be made of it from necessity, and only by allusion and as related in an illustrative way to some other topic forming the principal subject of the writing.

The apostle Paul frequently alludes to the cross as a symbol of shame and speaks of the offence (σκάνδαλον) of the cross…

…and it must have been with great horror, loathing and disgust that any unconverted man should read about Paul’s glorying in the cross of Jesus Christ, and that he rejoiced in being daily crucified with his Lord. To a Roman of polished but pagan education, such declarations would appear as the extreme aberrations of a disordered brain, and Paul would readily be reckoned as among those intellectual cranks to any one of whom a Festus might exclaim,” Thou art beside thyself, much learning hath made thee mad.”

There were some incidents attending our Savior’s crucifixion, explanations of which have been offered by writers in commentaries that do not account for those incidents consistently and in harmony with what we know of Roman policy and practice in military executions. Two of these incidents are: first, the offer of vinegar mingled with gall to Jesus when on the cross as well as before He was crucified; and secondly, the breaking the legs of the crucified at the time of their being taken down from the cross. The very inadequate explanation of these proceedings is, that they were both acts of mercy; that the vinegar and gall, or, as named in another place, the wine mingled with myrrh, was given in order to partly dull the senses or to stupefy the victim and thus to lessen the pain; and that the legs were broken as a closing act of the scene in order to hasten death and thus the termination of his misery.

These explanations are not admissible, and simply for the reason that thus the period of suffering would be shortened, and they contravene the fact that crucifixion was practiced in order that the sufferings of the victim should be as intense and prolonged as possible. It was a military punishment as at first practiced by the Romans, and had its origin in military necessity. Roman policy, as exercised toward the states that were to be subjugated, was essentially a policy of terror; “Vae victis! woe to the conquered!” was the terrible cry that sounded forth before their armies as they entered upon the bloody work of battle and destruction, and the captives taken were in greater part appointed to death in such manner as would best serve to terrify the people and make them willing, through abject fear, to pass under the Roman yoke.

Thus the death by crucifixion, was the most cruel that could be devised; but it would have been most contradictory to the spirit in which that punishment was inflicted, and would have revealed a broad inconsistency in the procedure, if at any stage the element of mercy had entered to relieve, in never so slight a degree, its bitter and protracted suffering. For it was an infliction carefully so ordered that the body of the victim should not be attached at any vital point while he was kept slowly dying “by inches” under the agonies of starvation and thirst. The sufferer was held for days under the tortures of this living death, unless at times he was fortunately rendered unconscious of his pains by the delirium that accompanied the hard fever and slight loss of blood from the wounds in his hands and feet.

Men of fairly strong constitution lasted out this bitter experience during from three to eight days; the instance recorded of longest survival being nine days; while with the case of a weak or sickly frame the wretched scene might close within the first twenty-four or forty -eight hours, but seldom in less than the time first mentioned.

Our Lord’s death came when He had been on the cross but six hours, and it is one of the objects of this and another paper to show why it should have come so soon. The material contributed by the records is so scanty and vague as to serve merely for a frame work on which to build up our complete account, such as would be furnished by the inferences fairly to be drawn from the extant records of military custom and state policy. That account should proceed upon fair and natural deductions made legitimately from known facts of history and custom; thus may we, haply, make out a rounded and complete story in which there shall be place for all necessary facts and incidents related in the Gospel narrative, and each of them shall fall without design into its own place as forming a consistent and natural part in the whole sad tragedy.

It may be again stated, since the fact is a controlling one and too important to be lost sight of for a moment, that the policy and usage of Rome in her treatment of every nation and tribe subdued to her arms was unvaryingly that of the utmost cruelty…

…and that cruelty was continued in practice until nation, tribe or people had become so completely overawed and reduced that no hope or thought remained to them of opposition to Roman sway. When a Roman general, upon his invasion of a country, had fought a battle and gained a victory, he had a large number of captives, both of those taken from the defeated army and of the unarmed dwellers in cities and villages near the battlefield. They were all different in class and various in condition, and at the absolute disposal of the victor.

With the end of subjugation in view, there was no exchange of prisoners, neither could the captives be allowed to go free. There thus remained for them the fate of either slavery or death; and the only problem before the general was, how to so assort them that those best fitted by education, by trade or other adaptation, could be made useful as slaves in Rome. Such were reserved for the slave market there, and the remaining mass of captives, and generally the far greater part, were made useful to Roman policy in subjugating the country by being put to the slow tortures of starvation; for after long experience in various sorts of military punishment it had been found that this was the most agonizing and protracted method of torment in all the repertory of cruelty.

For the purpose, therefore, of securing the doomed men during the days of gnawing hunger, when in desperation they might use any extreme violence to escape its agonies, the most simple and obvious method was to bind each of them by cords or withes to a tree or post; and thus for the great herd of the condemned a wide space near the camp was reserved in which, in addition to the trees growing there, holes were dug for countless posts; each post was set up by two out of a party of four soldiers detailed to crucify a victim; the other two soldiers passed with the condemned man to the nearest wood or to the ruined houses of some village to obtain the cross bar to be affixed at the top of the post or at a suitable height on the living tree, they also provided themselves with ropes or green withes with which to suspend the man from the cross bar; he bore the cross thus provided for his own crucifixion, for the indolent and merciless soldiers compelled him.

After they had returned in this manner to the place in the field where the upright post had been already set by other captives under direction of the other two soldiers, the cross bar was securely fixed at the top and then two short stakes of equal length were prepared. These were made with the upper end ”square across,” and with the lower end sharpened, and were driven into the ground close beside and nearly in front of the upright post, ” being separated from each other by a little space. The tops of these stakes were from six to eighteen inches from the ground, and on these the victim was forced to stand, a foot on each stake, while the four at once attached the cords around his body, and fastened them over the cross bar close to the upright, so that when the stakes had been taken from under his feet the body hung suspended by the cords or withes. It was then but a short task to drive a nail through each hand and foot so that the poor wretch might be thoroughly secured against any hope of escape; for if left without this nailing, the arms and hands might be readily used for untying the cords that suspended him and so escape would be easy during the darkness of the night.

End of part one.

THE SABBATH, GENTILES, AND THE SEVEN NOAHIDE LAWS

Taken and adapted from,  Leif’s Articles,
Regarding Adventism, Sabbatarianism, Sabbath, Legalism. 
Written by, Leif L
Materials sourced from  Solus Christus | In Christ Alone

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[The Seven Laws of Noah (Hebrew: שבע מצוות בני נח Sheva Mitsvot Bne Noah), also referred to as the Noahide Laws or the Noachide Laws (from the English transliteration of the Hebrew pronunciation of “Noah”), are a set of imperatives which, according to the Talmud, were given by God as a binding set of laws for the “children of Noah” – that is, all of humanity.

Accordingly, any non-Jew who adheres to these laws because they were given by Moses is regarded as a righteous gentile, and is assured of a place in the world to come (Hebrew: עולם הבא Olam Haba), the final reward of the righteous.

The seven Noahide laws as traditionally enumerated are:

Do not deny God.
Do not blaspheme God.
Do not murder.
Do not engage in illicit sexual relations.
Do not steal.
Do not eat of a live animal.
Establish courts/legal system to ensure obedience to the law.

According to the Talmud, the rabbis agree that the seven laws were given to the sons of Noah. However, they disagree on precisely which laws were given to Adam and Eve. Six of the seven laws are exegetically derived from passages in Genesis, with the seventh being the establishing of courts.  –Wiki]

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A weakness in the Sabbatarian worldview is the attempt to anchor the identity of the church and validate it through its connection with Torah-observant Judaism.

They understand genuine Christian origins to be found in observant and obedient Jews who accepted Jesus as their Messiah. I don’t dispute the fact that this is true among the earliest believers, but there was a divinely ordained change recorded in the New Testament which Sabbatarians seem to ignore.

Historic “Gentile Christianity” did not spring from Torah-observant Judaism, but rather, from first century “God-fearers” who accepted the gospel of Jesus. The “God-fearing” Gentiles who worshipped the God of Israel without the ceremonial requirements of Moses (circumcision, Sabbath, kosher, etc.) was valid in the eyes of Jews, who recognized that God never required Gentiles to keep these particular commands.

Therefore, Gentile worship of Yahweh, without the observance of Shabbat, was (and still is) entirely acceptable to Jews.

The book of Acts chronicles the foundational changes that happened in the Christian church in its first few decades. In Acts chapter 2, Christianity was simply a sect of Judaism, born at the feast of Pentecost (2:1); all of its adherents and converts were practicing Jews who met in the temple daily (2:46). It passed through the challenges that Gentile converts put on the movement (chapters 10-15), to the point where Paul became frustrated with the prevailing Jewish rejection of the gospel and said to them,  “Therefore let it be known to you that the salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles, and they will hear it!” (28:28)

First Century Jewish Relations with Gentiles

During the first century, Jews were more “evangelical” than the Jews of today. Non-Jews who were seeking to learn about the God of Israel and live their lives according to righteous principles were welcomed into early first century synagogues.

“Outsiders could and did enter the Jewish fold. Some were resident aliens (gerei toshav) who resided in a Jewish milieu, sometimes marrying a Jew, sometimes living as slaves in a Jewish household and becoming part of the family in the narrower and the wider sense, and adopting Jewish practices. Outsiders regularly attached themselves to the Jewish people in this way. Some (like Ruth with her “Your people will be my people, your God will be my God”: Ruth 1:16-17) made a more deliberate choice of Judaism and were full converts (gerei tzedek, literally “righteous proselytes”). … Between the gerei toshav and the gerei tzedek was a third group, semi-proselytes or “God-fearers” who though still gentiles were regarded as friends of the Jews.” – – Judaism in transition, 175 BCE-150 CE: Christian and Jewish perspectives, by Rabbi Raymond Apple

God-Fearers and the Law

The non-Jews who sought to honour God but did not convert to Judaism were called “God-fearers”. This is a term that is used in the New Testament at the time when early Judaic Christianity was at the cusp of an explosion of Gentile converts, when it would walk on its own apart from the temple and other Mosaic structures of Judaism, within which this new religion was born and incubated.

Ancient Jews did not teach Gentiles that conversion to Judaism and obedience to all the laws in the Torah were necessary for them to become a part of the future kingdom of God. However, they were required to adhere to the seven Noahide laws:

“Being a gentile might prevent a person from enjoying the blessings of monotheism and morality, but gentiles were not automatically debarred from the World to Come: the righteous (other versions read ‘pious’) of the nations had a place in the afterlife. The commandments of Judaism did not obligate the gentile apart from the Seven Noahide Laws, basic ethics that derive from the post-diluvian age when civilisation had to be reconstructed. These seven laws prohibited murder, robbery, adultery, idolatry, blasphemy and cruelty to animals and required a system of justice (b. Sanhedrin 56b, Tosefta Avodah Zarah 8:4).” – Judaism in transition, 175 BCE-150 CE: Christian and Jewish perspectives, by Rabbi Raymond Apple

“According to religious Judaism, any non-Jew who lives according to the Seven Laws of Noah is regarded as a righteous gentile, and is assured of a place in the world to come, the final reward of the righteous.” – Wikipedia, Jewish Eschatology

Although these seven laws are based on Jewish tradition, they do show that Jews did not require Sabbath observance of Gentiles.

The Noahide Laws

In the first century A.D. many Greek and Roman women converted to Judaism, but few men took this step, due to the rite of circumcision. These “God fearers” were expected to obey the seven Noahide laws, but were not required to observe the specifically “Jewish” laws of circumcision, the Sabbath, festivals and eating regulations. Long before the Christian Era, Jews recognized that Gentiles were not expected by God to keep the Sabbath commandment, unless they converted to Judaism through circumcision.

“God-fearers (or ‘Fearers of God’) are considered to be of significant importance to the popularity of the Early Christian movement. They represented a group of gentiles who shared religious ideas with Jews, to one degree or another. However, they were not converts, but a separate gentile community, engaged in Judaic religious ideas and practices. Noahidism would be a modern parallel. Actual conversion would require adherence to all of the Laws of Moses, which includes various prohibitions (kashrut, circumcision, Sabbath observance etc.) which were generally unattractive to would-be gentile (largely Greek) converts.” Wikipedia, article God Fearer

Cornelius the God-Fearer

In Acts chapter ten we are introduced to Cornelius, a Roman centurion, and a God-fearer. There was a certain man in Caesarea called Cornelius, a centurion of what was called the Italian Regiment, a devout man and one who feared God with all his household, who gave alms generously to the people, and prayed to God always. Acts 10:1-2

Prior to Cornelius, all believers in Christ were circumcised, Sabbath-keeping, Torah-observant Jews, without exception. It was expected (even by the apostles) that in order to become a Christian, it was natural and necessary to first be a devout Jew; after all, the promises of both covenants are to the house of Israel (see Jeremiah 31:31). This is why there was such great contention over the issue of circumcision in the early church.

For a Roman or Greek to completely bypass the Sinaitic covenantal requirements, and be grafted into the new covenant by faith only, was unknown.

“The [post-destruction] Judeo-Christians suffered a diminution in numbers and now, though not without an internal struggle, rebuilt and repositioned themselves as an increasingly gentile group, with new adherents directly coming to the new group without having to go through the old one first.” …

“After much internal debate it became possible for an outsider to become a Christian without ever being part of Judaism, either through genealogy or choice. Could you be a Jew without the Sabbath, festivals, circumcision (Jews were not the only ancient people to view uncircumcision as shameful) and dietary laws? The answer was no – but you could become a Christian.” – Judaism in transition, 175 BCE-150 CE: Christian and Jewish perspectives, by Rabbi Raymond Apple

The conversion of Cornelius, a non-Torah observant Gentile, created a crisis in the early church. His account reveals God fulfilling his promises given to Abraham, and through Isaiah, Jeremiah, Hosea and Amos of opening the way of salvation to the Gentiles, while not requiring the distinctive observances of Judaism.

What Think Ye of Christ?

Taken and adapted from, “Sermons of the Reverend George Whitefield”
Written by George Whitefield

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–Matthew 22:42

When it pleased the eternal Son of God to tabernacle among us, and preach the glad tidings of salvation to a fallen world…

…different opinions were entertained by different parties concerning him. As to his person, some said he was Moses; others that he was Elias, Jeremias, or one of the ancient prophets; few acknowledged him to be what he really was, God blessed for evermore. And as to his doctrine, though the common people, being free from prejudice, were persuaded of the heavenly tendency of his going about to do good, and for the generality, heard him gladly, and said he was a good man; yet the envious, worldly-minded, self-righteous governors and teachers of the Jewish church, being grieved at his success on the one hand, and unable (having never been taught of God) to understand the purity of his doctrine, on the other; notwithstanding our Lord spake as never man spake, and did such miracles which no man could possibly do, unless God was with him; yet they not only were so infatuated, as to say, that he deceived the people; but also were so blasphemous as to affirm, that he was in league with the devil himself, and cast out devils by Beeluzbul, the prince of devils. Nay, our Lord’s own brethren and kinsmen, according to the flesh, were so blinded by prejudices and unbelief, that on a certain day; when he went out to teach the multitudes in the fields, they sent to take hold of him, urging this as a reason for their conduct, “That he was besides himself.”

Thus was the King and the Lord of glory judged by man’s judgment, when manifest in flesh: far be it from any of his ministers to expect better treatment. No, if we come in the spirit and power of our Master, in this, as in every other part of his sufferings, we must follow his steps. The like reproaches which were cast on him, will be thrown on us also. Those that received our Lord and his doctrine, will receive and hear us for his name’s sake. The poor, blessed be God, as our present meeting abundantly testifies, receive the gospel, and the common people hear us gladly; whilst those who are sitting in Moses’ chair, and love to wear long robes, being ignorant of the righteousness which is of God by faith in Christ Jesus, and having never felt the power of God upon their hearts, will be continually crying our against us, as madmen, deceivers of the people, and as acting under the influence of evil spirits.

But he is unworthy the name of a minister of the gospel of peace, who is unwilling, not only to have his name cast out as evil, but also to die for the truths of the Lord Jesus.

It is the character of hirelings and false prophets, who care not for the sheep, to have all men speak well of them. “Blessed are you, (says our Lord to his first apostles, and in them to all succeeding ministers) when men speak all manner of evil against you falsely for my name’s sake.” And indeed it is impossible but such offenses must come; for men will always judge of others, according to the principles from which they act themselves. And if they care not to yield obedience to the doctrines which we deliver, they must necessarily, in self-defense, speak against the preachers, lest they should be asked that question, which the Pharisees of old feared to have retorted on them, if they confessed that John was a prophet, “Why then did you not believe on him?” In all such cases, we have nothing to do but to search our own hearts, and if we can assure our consciences, before God, that we act with a single eye to his glory, we are cheerfully to go on in our work, and not in the least to regard what men or devils can say against, or do unto us.

But to return. You have heard what various thoughts there were concerning Jesus Christ, whilst here on earth; nor is he otherwise treated, even now he is exalted to sit down at the right hand of his Father in heaven. A stranger to Christianity, were he to hear, that we all profess to hold one Lord, would naturally infer, that we all thought and spoke one and the same thing about him. But alas! to our shame be it mentioned, though Christ be not divided in himself, yet professors are sadly divided in their thoughts about him; and that not only as to the circumstances of his religion, but also of those essential truths which must necessarily be believed and received by us, if ever we hope to be heirs of eternal salvation.

Some, and I fear a multitude which no man can easily number, there are amongst us, who call themselves Christians, and yet seldom or never seriously think of Jesus Christ at all.

They can think of their shops and their farms, their plays, their balls, their assemblies, and horse-races (entertainments which directly tend to exclude religion out of the world); but as for Christ, the author and finisher of faith, the Lord who has bought poor sinners with his precious blood, and who is the only thing worth thinking of, alas! he is not in all, or at most in very few of their thoughts. But believe me, O ye earthly, sensual, carnally-minded professors, however little you may think of Christ now, or however industriously you may strive to keep him out of your thoughts, by pursuing the lust of the eye, the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life, yet there is a time coming, when you will wish you had thought of Christ more, and of your profits and pleasures less. For the gay, the polite, the rich also must die as well as others, and leave their pompousness and vanities, and all their wealth behind them. And O! what thoughts will you entertain concerning Jesus Christ, in that hour?

But I must not purpose these reflections: they would carry me too far from the main design of this discourse, which is to show, what those who are truly desirous to know how to worship God in spirit and in truth, ought to think concerning Jesus Christ, whom God hath sent to be the end of the law for righteousness to all them that shall believe.

I trust, my brethren, you are more noble than to think me too strict or scrupulous, in thus attempting to regulate your thoughts about Jesus Christ: for by our thoughts, as well as our words and actions, are we to be judged at the great day. And in vain do we hope to believe in, or worship Christ aright, unless our principles, on which our faith and practice are founded, are agreeable to the form of sound words delivered to us in the scriptures of truth.

Besides, many deceivers are gone abroad into the world. Mere heathen morality, and not Jesus Christ, is preached in most of our churches. And how should people think rightly of Christ, of whom they have scarcely heard? Bear with me a little then, whilst, to inform your consciences, I ask you a few questions concerning Jesus Christ. For there is no other name given under heaven, whereby we can be saved, but his.

What think you about the person of Christ?  “Whose Son is he?”

This is the question our Lord put to the Pharisees in the words following the text; and never was it more necessary to repeat this question than in these last days. For numbers that are called after the name of Christ, and I fear, many that pretend to preach him, are so far advanced in the blasphemous chair, as openly to deny his being really, truly, and properly God. But no one that ever was partaker of his Spirit, will speak thus lightly of him. No; if they are asked, as Peter and his brethren were, “But whom say ye that I am?” they will reply without hesitation, “Thou art Christ the Son of the ever-living God.” For the confession of our Lord’s divinity, is the rock upon which he builds his church. Was it possible to take this away, the gates of hell would quickly prevail against it. My brethren, if Jesus Christ be not very God of very God, I would never preach the gospel of Christ again. For it would not be gospel; it would be only a system of moral ethics. Seneca, Cicero, or any of the Gentile philosophers, would be as good a Savior as Jesus of Nazareth. It is the divinity of our Lord that gives a sanction to his death, and makes him such a high-priest as became us, one who by the infinite mercies of his suffering could make a full, perfect sufficient sacrifice, satisfaction and oblation to infinitely offended justice.

And whatsoever is a minister and makes use of her forms, and eats of her bread, and yes holds not this doctrine (as I fear too many such are crept in amongst us) such a one belongs only to the synagogue of Satan. He is not a child or minister of God: no; he is a wolf in sheep’s clothing; he is a child and minister of that wicked one the devil.

Many will think these hard sayings; but I think it no breach of charity to affirm, that an Arian or Socinian cannot be a Christian. The one would make us believe Jesus Christ is only a created God, which is a self-contradiction: and the other would have us look on him only as a good man; and instead of owning his death to be an atonement for the sins of the world, would persuade us, that Christ died only to seal the truth of hid doctrine with his blood. But if Jesus Christ be no more than a mere man, if he be not truly God, he was the vilest sinner that ever appeared in the world. For he accepted of divine adoration from the man who had been born blind, as we read John 9:38, “And he said, Lord I believe, and he worshipped him.”

Besides, if Christ be not properly God, our faith is vain, we are yet in our sins: for no created being, though of the highest order, could possibly merit anything at God’s hands…

…it was our Lord’s divinity, that alone qualified him to take away the sins of the world; and therefore we hear St. John pronouncing so positively, that “the Word (Jesus Christ) was not only with God, but was God.” For the like reason, St. Paul says, “that he was in the form of God: That in him dwelt all the fullness of the godhead bodily.” Nay, Jesus Christ assumed the title which God gave to himself, when he sent Moses to deliver his people Israel. “Before Abraham was, I AM.” And again, “I and my father are one.” Which last words, though our modern infidels would evade and wrest, as they do other scriptures, to their own damnation, yet it is evident that the Jews understood our Lord, when he spoke thus, as making himself equal with God; otherwise, why did they stone him as a blasphemer?

And now, why should it be thought a breach of charity, to affirm, that those who deny the divinity of Jesus Christ, in the strictest sense of the word, cannot be Christians?

For they are greater infidels than the devils themselves, who confessed that they knew who he was, “even the holy one of God.” They not only believe, but, which is more than the unbelievers of this generation do, they tremble. And was it possible for arch-heretics, to be released from their chains of darkness, under which (unless they altered their principles before they died) they are now reserved to the judgment of the great day, I am persuaded they would inform us, how hell had convinced them of the divinity of Jesus Christ, and that they would advise their followers to abhor their principles, lest they should come into the same place, and thereby increase each other’s torments.