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ON THE CRUCIFIXION AND DEATH OF CHRIST.
I. THE CROSS OF CHRIST is the foundation of foundations, and the pillar of sacred wisdom; without which it is impossible to understand the mysteries of our Religion, to attain genuine holiness, or to inherit eternal life. It was, accordingly, the determination of Paul, that forgetting, in a manner, all other things which he had learned, he would "know nothing among the Co"rinthians, save JESUS CHRIST, and him CRUCI"FIED." This topic, then, is peculiarly entitled to the careful attention and pious inquiry of the Theologian, and indeed of every Christian. In treating it at present, we shall, in the first place, explain the history the crucifixion of Christ, as it is related by the
lists, collecting from Roman antiquity, but nd sparingly, what may tend to illustrate the ; and we shall then pass on to the more promysteries of Christianity, in the faith and pracf which the marrow of true godliness consists.
a 1 Cor. ii. 2.
11. Before examining the mode of crucifixion, it seems proper to make a few preliminary remarks on the terms by which this punishment is expressed, and on the form of the cross. The terms most frequently employed, are, Patibulum, Furca, Crux; which, in their more general signification, are sometimes employed indiscriminately, even by the most correct writers in the Latin tongue. Yet Crux, the CROSS, strictly and properly so called, is distinguished from the Patibulum strictly understood. The Patibulum was either the OLD or the NEW one. The OLD was a beam divided into two parts above, that is, one piece of timber rising upwards with separate branches, according to the figure of the letter Y. It was called Patibulum, not from the word patiendum, (suffering,) as many after Isidorus have thought; but from those two patentes (spreading) branches or horns: as latibulum, a den, from latendum, lurking. On account of the resemblance it bore to a certain instrument of husbandry, it was also frequently named Furca, a fork; which is entirely the same with the old Patibulum. The NEW Patibulum was introduced by Constantine; who, being unwilling that the sign of salvation should be used for the purpose of destruction, and exposed to contempt by the manner in which condemned malefactors were punished, "first set "aside the former and very ancient punishment by the
patibulum," as Victor says in his life of Constantine; or, as it is expressed by Cassiodorus,* " prohibited by "law the punishment of the Cross, which was anciently "in use amongst the Romans." He introduced in its place, another Patibulum, and one which is used in
Hist. Trip. par. i. cap. 9.
our own days, according to the form of the Greek letter II; on which malefatcors, instead of being fastened with nails, are strangled with a halter. Crux, the Cross, the form of which we shall soon show, was distinct both from the old and the new Patibulum. On these words you may consult Casaubon,* Salmasius,† and Vossius, who have learnedly corrected the mistakes of Lipsius.
III. The form of the cross was either the more rare, or more common. "The more rare form," according to Jerome,§" was divided equally in the midst in the 66 Ishape of the letter X, which is the figure of the "cross:" and Isidorus|| says no less perspicuously, "The letter X is at once the figure of the cross, and
the sign of the number ten." It is a common and a considerably ancient, but an uncertain tradition, that Andrew's cross was of this sort. The form more frequently made use of, resembled the letter T, the erect beam, however, rising a little above the cross one.
IV. To the erect beam of the cross, there was usually fastened a piece of wood in the middle, which jutted out and was prominent betwixt the thighs of the crucified person, for the purpose of his resting on it; lest, if his hands only were fixed to the transverse beam, these should break off, and the body fall down from the cross. Tertullian calls this the projection (or bracket) of the seat. It is often taken notice of by the ancients who flourished before Constantine, when the cross was still
*t. xvi. ad Ann. Bar.
altera ad Bartholinum de Cruce.
Evan. lib. ii. cap. 7. sect. 11. itemque Etymolog.
ub. i. cap. 3.
in use; and one can scarcely refer to any thing else, the well known lines of Mecanas,*
Whate'er th' events that may, betide,
Some writers speak also of a footstool, on which the feet of the sufferer rested, or to which they were fixed. But there is hardly sufficient evidence of this from antiquity.
v. The size of the cross was not always the same. Sometimes, in order to render the example more striking and impressive, or even to increase the severity of the pain, on account of the atrocity of the crime, or from hatred of the person, or for the purpose of stamping greater infamy on the man to be crucified, higher crosses than usual were erected. Hence the mockery, to which, according to Suetonius,† Galba had recourse; who, when one cried out, appealing to the laws for relief, and protesting that he was a Roman citizen, commanded, as if with an intention to mitigate the punishment by granting a kind of solace and honour, that the cross should be changed, and that another much higher than the rest, and also whitened, should be set up. But that ordinary crosses were not very high, appears from the circumstance, that generally, after the crosses were erected, the sufferers were fastened to them without the use of ladders; and from this, that their entrails were devoured by wolves and dogs. It is manifest, also, from the infamous and horrible baseness of Nero, who having
* Hanc mihi, vel acuta Si sedeam cruce, Sustine.
bound men and women to the stake, or, as Xiphlinus affirms, "having bound young men and girls naked to crosses," wrapt himself in the skin of a wild beast, and coming forth from a cave, rushed into the midst of them with great fury. Such occurrences could not have happened, unless the feet of the crucified persons had been only at a little distance, three or perhaps four feet, from the ground.
VI. Whether the cross of Christ differed in any respect from those that were commonly used; or, if it did, in what the difference consisted,-no man can now say with certainty. The Evangelists having made no mention of its having any thing peculiar, most probably it was adjusted every way in the usual manner. Some light might perhaps have been thrown upon this subject by the story of our Lord's cross having been happily found, not without an impulse of the Holy Spirit and stupendous miracles, by HELENA the Empress, mother of Constantine the Great; provided the truth of that story were sufficiently confirmed. But distinguished men, and those who possess the most profound knowledge of antiquity, regard it, I find, as not only suspicious, but entirely fabulous. The question has certainly attracted so much notice, that it is worth our while briefly to examine it, and to weigh the arguments on each side.
VII. The history of this affair is related thus. The Empress HELENA, now advanced in years, having from pious motives taken a journey to the East, visited the places which had been trodden by our Lord's sacred feet; and at the expense of her son, decorated a number of them with monuments of stupendous workman
Suet. cap. xxix.