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254

THE WOUND IN HIS SIDE.

I can scarcely bear, even for the purpose of confutation, to allude to the suspicion which has sometimes been expressed, that he did not actually die, but only swooned. I cannot but regard it as utterly incredible that so much agony should have resulted in anything short of death. As the Sabbath, and it was a special religious occasion, was nigh at hand, the Jewish elders, with a characteristic scrupulousness, anxious that the festival should not be defiled by the unsightly and unclean spectacle, requested Pilate to cause the crucified to be put to death, and their bodies to be removed. In compliance with this request, the Ro man governor directed that the legs of the sufferers should be broken. This would appear to be a usual operation in such cases, and the effect of it, or of some blow by which it was accompanied, was to put a speedy termination to life. When the persons entrusted with this office came to Jesus, they found that he was already dead, and surprised at his having expired so soon, and doubtful of the fact, a soldier pierced his side with a spear. This was undoubtedly done to make it certain that he was dead. If, as we may suppose, the soldier stood before the cross, and held his spear in his right hand, he most probably plunged the weapon into the left side, and so reached a vital part. I know not whether it is so by design, but in Rubens's celebrated picture of the Descent from the Cross, the mark of the spear is shown on the right side of Jesus. From the wound made by the soldier there issued “ blood and water."* We

* It is worthy of note, that John accompanies the record of this circumstance with a solemn asseveration of its truth : " And he that

THE WOUND IN HIS SIDE.

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have in these words a Hebrew form of expression, equivalent to bloody water, or watery blood, ---water more or less discoloured by blood. The heart is always surrounded by a small quantity of water, apparently designed to lubricate it, and facilitate its motion. It is said that in cases of persons who die after extreme suffering, this water is considerably increased in quantity.* If the history had stated simply that blood flowed from the side of Jesus, there might be some plausibility in the suspicion, either that he was not really dead, as blood does not usually flow from a dead body, or that this circumstance was fabricated for the sake of showing that Jesus was actually dead, although it would have

saw it bare record, and his record is true.”' We cannot help suspecting that the historian had reference here to a sect that appeared very early, the Docetæ, who maintained that Christ came only in appearance. There is, at least, a singular coincidence between the importance attached to the discharge of blood and water by the Evangelist, and the language of the historian Gibbon : “ While the blood of Christ yet smoked on Mount Calvary, the Docetæ invented the impious and extravagant hypothesis, that, instead of issuing from the womb of the Virgin, he had descended on the banks of the river Jordan, in the form of perfect manhood : that he had imposed on the senses of his enemies, and of his disciples ; and that the ministers of Pilate had wasted their impotent rage on an airy phantom, who seemed to expire on the cross, and, after three days, to rise from the dead.”—(The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, chapter xxi.) In more than one instance the Gospel of John appears to have reference to cotemporaneous opinions.

" The ' liquor pericardii' is, in general, in such small quantities that its effusion is scarcely evident; but when the death is slow, and even in the case of a person who is hung, it accumulates rapidly, as well as in all the pectoral vessels, besides the pericardium.”—(Michaelis on the Resurrection.)

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*

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THE APPALLING CIRCUMSTANCES OF

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proved no such thing. But putting out of view all anatomical considerations, it is impossible to account for the mention of “ blood and water,” (a phrase which may mean merely discoloured water,) save upon the supposition that there was actually such a discharge. There is no conceivable inducement for the mention of water, but its actual appearance. In this case I know not how there can linger the least doubt of the death of Jesus.

The crucifixion of Jesus was attended by certain appalling circumstances. “Now, from the sixth hour, there was darkness over all the land, unto the ninth hour.-And behold the veil of the temple was rent in twain, from the top to the bottom, and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent, and the graves were opened ; and many bodies of the saints who slept, arose, and came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city and appeared unto many.

Whether the earthquake which is recorded to have taken place was miraculous, using the word in its popular sense, and was caused as an expression of Divine displeasure, admits of a very serious doubt. Thus regarded, it surely does not correspond with the spirit of mercy and forgiveness which glorified the agonies of Jesus. Besides, it certainly admitted of a double interpretation ; and his enemies may have understood it as a token in their favour, against him. The darkness by which it was preceded, and which came on some hours before he breathed his last, was certainly calculated, if construed as a sign from

* See Matthew, xxvii. 45, 51–53.

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Heaven, to aggravate the gloom and horror of dying.

But however we may regard the earthquake, the fact that there was an earthquake, appears to be most evident from the manner in which it is mentioned. If these extraordinary circumstances were fabricated, it must have been for a certain

purpose ;

to

express the horror excited by the wickedness of those who had put Jesus to death. And the writers, who entertained so great an abhorrence of the destroyers of Jesus as to invent such an extraordinary physical phenomenon to express their indignation, would certainly not have contented themselves with such a naked statement of the fact. They would have made some remark explanatory of the convulsion of nature. They would have accompanied the account with some expression of their own feelings, which must have been strong indeed to lead them to imagine or to invent what did not really take place.

And besides, when the occurrence of the earthquake is admitted, all the other circumstances mentioned admit of being accounted for in a very natural man

The rending of the veil in the temple which hung before the Holy of holies, and which was probably worn by time, the splitting of rocks, and the opening of the graves, which, like the sepulchre in which Jesus was laid, and like the grave of Lazarus, were usually caves with stones rolled at their mouths to close them—all these may have been caused the agitation of the earth. Now I beg the reader to pause, and picture to himself the then state of things, and he will discern an impressive manifestation of

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258

THE PERTURBED STATE OF THE PUBLIC MIND.

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truth and nature in this portion of the history. The individual who had just expired on the cross, had everywhere produced the greatest sensation. The intense interest which the leading men of the nation had taken in putting him to death, proves that he could have been no common person. Everywhere the people had flocked round him in multitudes, and he was very generally regarded as a Prophet. His benignity, his wisdom, his unwonted air of authority, his extraordinary powers, had moved the public mind deeply. And now that he had just breathed his last upon cruel cross, darkness had overcast the heavens, and the earth had trembled so violently that rocks had been rent, and the stones which closed the sepulchres had been moved from their places, so that the remains of the dead were exposed to the view of the alarmed passers by. The history does not say that at the time of the crucifixion the dead arose, but that “after his resurrection” they awoke, and came into the city and appeared to many. The third day after the death of Jesus, he rose from the dead. The knowledge of this startling event must have been rumoured abroad, whispered over the city, through the guard, and among the disciples of Jesus, with the greatest rapidity, some time before the full evidence of the fact was published. Consider how the public heart was throbbing with excitement. Think how fearfully the minds of the tender and susceptible, of those especially, whose thoughts, from one cause or another, as from the recent loss of near friends, were dwelling upon the mysteries of the other world, must have been agitated by all that Jesus had said and done, by the

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