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Jesus endured the taunts of the passers-by, and the mockeries of the priests, as well as the lingering pains of crucifixion. It was while enduring the agonies of such a death that Jesus spoke pardon to the penitent robber at his side, saying, “To-day shalt thou be with me in Paradise.”
The term Paradise is found in most of the languages of the East, and to have originally signified a garden or park. The Greek translators of the Pentateuch, and Jeroine in the Latin Vulgate, employed this word to designate the garden in Eden. Among the Jews, however, it came to be used to denote the abode of the blest in the life to come. When, accordingly, the Saviour tells the dying robber, “This day shalt thou be with me in Paradise,” he uses a common expression, which could be understood only as synonymous with heaven.
It was now midday ; but as if to hide from the face of heaven the terrible scene which Golgotha presented, a veil spread itself along the skies, "and there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour."
Some have found a confirmation of this phenomenon in the mention of an eclipse of intense darkness by Phlegon, a freedman of the Emperor Hadrian. But even if it could be shown that the crucifixion, and Phlegon's eclipse, happened the same year, which is denied by Weisler and De Wette, still the two could not be regarded as identical, since no eclipse could have occurred at the time of the Passover when the moon was full. Some who have written in opposition to Gibbon's remarks in his fifteenth chapter on the phenomenon, as well as Milman, Neander, and others, refer this darkness to that preternatural gloom which usually precedes an earthquake. But Alford well remarks, “that it is clear that no earthquake in the ordinary sense of the word is here intended." He
with Ellicott that this darkness was “strictly supernatural, the appointed testimony of sympathizing nature.” Blunt, in his Scripture Coincidences, thinks that there is a confirmation of this view in the "change of conduct,” which after the sixth hour was observed “in the merciless crew that surrounded the cross."
About the ninth hour, while this darkness still brooded over the scene of the crucifixion, the Saviour, in the anguish of his soul breaking the deep silence of nature, uttered in the opening
words of the twenty-second Psalm, that touching appeal, Hid, 'Hai, daud oaßazlavé; “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” Lightfoot says that ’Hid, 'mn is not properly Syriac, and that when those who stood near the cross said, “Behold he calleth Elias,” they truly so understood the Saviour's words. Yet as the whole phrase in which these words stand is a literal quotation from the twenty-second Psalm with the exception of oaßaxilavi, an Aramaic form, the Jews, familiar as they were with the writings of David, could not have understood him as calling for Elias. We may rather suppose that the returning light was accompanied with the mockeries which preceded the departing shadows. Ha! exclaim the emboldened spectators in bitter irony, and with a play on the Saviour's words—ha ! he calls for Elias. “Let us whether Elias will come to save him." Mark ascribes these words to one who at the call, "I thirst," John xix. 28, filled a sponge
with the sour wine which was the common drink of the Roman soldiers, and placing it on a reed held it at the Saviour's mouth. It may be that this was done by a secret follower of Christ, who, wishing to soothe the agonies of his dying master, joined in the derisive taunt, “Let us see whether Elias will come to save him," in order to minister to the sufferer's wants unsuspected.
With the words, “It is finished—Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit,” the sufferings of our Saviour ended. His enemies had accomplished their purpose, and there was no more that they could do. But with them it was not an hour for rejoicing. Though the darkness had rolled away, and they could see their victim motionless on the cross, yet a new and more dreadful terror seized them. For with these last words of Christ, the vail of the temple which separated the holy place from the holy of holies, was rent asunder, the earth rocked beneath their feet, and even the doors of the tombs around the sacred city were opened. Well did the awe struck centurion say, “Truly this was the Son of God.”
THE DEMONIACS OF THE NEW TESTAMENT.
The writers of the New Testament speak of demons and possessions by evil spirits. There are many who maintain that Jesus and his apostles adopted this phraseology ad hominem,accommodating their words to the prejudices and superstitions of the times and of the people with whom they were conversant; while in fact they spoke of diseases, epileptics, hypochondriacs and deranged people. But others dissent from such views, and maintain that they meant to be understood as speaking of real demons and of possessions by evil spirits. We propose to examine, in this paper, these different opinions. We first advert to the arguments of those who deny the existence of demons in the proper sense, and of the real possessions by evil spirits.
Those who maintain that demoniacs are only epileptics, hypochondriacs, or deranged people, go back to the notions of the Greeks and Romans of a very early period, for the purpose of showing that demons were but the ghosts of dead men, who once sustained infamous characters, and whose malignant dispositions continued after their departure from the body, and influenced them to haunt and afflict men who were still in the body.
Then they assume that the like notions prevailed among the Jews, and that Christ and his apostles, if they intended to be understood,were obliged to use language in accommodation to these superstitions.
But what proof is there that the Jews understood by demons the spirits of dead men? We see none whatever. The fact that Greeks and Romans adopted such superstition avails nothing proof that the Jews of our Saviour's time believed in such absurd opinions. On the contrary, it is well known that the Jews believed in the existence of holy and wicked angels, and that they derived these sentiments from their sacred Scriptures ; that they understood by demons, angel sthat had fallen from their original high standing, and who were the agents of Satan, the prince of the demons.
That such was their opinion, will be seen by recurring to
Matthew, 12th chapter, and to parallel passages in the other Evangelists. The Pharisees allege that Jesus cast out demons by Beelzebub, the prince of the demons. Thus it seems plain that they accounted wicked angels as agents of a powerful prince who employed and controlled them.
Is it not, then, a mere assumption that the Jews believed the ghosts of dead men to be the tormentors of the living ?
But we stop not here. We are constrained to consider the three great points which they attempt to establish.
First. It is maintained that the symptoms of demoniacs were like the ordinary symptoms of epilepsy, or hypochondria, or derangement. Supposing we admit that some of the symptoms were the same, will that prove the truth of the assumption? Some of the symptoms of an epileptic may be like some of those of a hypochondriac, and some of those of a hypochondriac may be like those of a mad person. But all this is far from proving that epilepsy, hypochondria and insanity are all the same.
In order to make this argument of any validity it must be shown that demoniacs never exhibited anything contrary to, or different from the above named diseases. But this has not been shown, nor can it be. We expect to show in a subsequent part of this discussion that demoniacs exhibited many things that were altogether irreconcilable with the notion that they were only the subjects of those above mentioned diseases. And we proceed to another point.
Secondly. It is maintained that demoniacs are only diseased persons. To prove this assumption many cases are cited. The first is that of the man possessed of “an unclean spirit,” who dwelt in the tombs, who was boisterous and ungovernable, and who attacked travellers as they passed that way. Mark v. 2, and Luke viii. 27. This person, it is said, “showed all the signs of insanity.” “He had the wild notion that innumerable evil demons dwelt within him.” “And the great strength which he showed in breaking the chains with which they attempted to bind him is just what we often witness in the insane, who exhibit a surprising degree of strength.". His address to Jesus as the Son of God is accounted for on the supposition that he had "some lucid intervals," and "and had heard enough of Jesus to account him the promised Messiah.” Ilis petitions that Jesus
would not "torment him before the time"; and that he would permit the demons to enter the herd of swine,” are alleged as proof positive of derangement.
Besides, it is said, “a real demon would not be likely to choose such a habitation," and that he is called an "unclean spirit,” because he was “the spirit of one dead,” which was reckoned unclean; and that the demons did not enter the swine,” but that "the crazy man ran after them so impetuously that he frightened them into the water."
Surely this is a very great discovery. But how does it appear that one so exceedingly crazy as to be ungovernable, and a terror to all passers by, dwelling in tombs and cutting himself with stones, and whom no one could bind with chains, had such “lucid intervals” as to know more of the real character of Jesus than all the ruling ecclesiastics of the time, and all the men who had their reason. But a still greater wonder is, that he should have the disposition to do it, after Jesus had commanded his insanity to depart from him and was obeyed.
Why should we not rather suppose that the disease of the man fell suddenly upon the animals; and that through epileptic fits they fell down the precipice into the sea !
Besides, why might not a real demon be as ready to enter swine, as was Satan to choose a serpent to tempt our progenitors, and to destroy the race? What better residence could an “unclean spirit" desire, than "unclean beasts” ?
But regard carefully the narrative of the inspired writer, and see how entirely inconsistent with the idea that this man was only a deranged person. “No man could bind him with chains.” He had supernatural strength. “He was always night and day in the mountains, or in the tombs.” Does it appear that there was any room for “lucid intervals.” But the moment that he saw Jesus afar off, "he ran to worship him.” This was conduct different from that of all his countrymen, who had always been sane. And it is to be accounted for only by supposing that there was something within him which recognized the real character of the Son of God. Therefore he said : “Jesus, thou Son of God, Most High, I adjure thee by God, that thou torment me not.' It would seem that this man was more fully acquainted with the character of Jesus than