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It affords, in the first place, a most awful warning to the lower orders of the people, to beware of giving themselves up, as they too frequently do, to the direction of artful and profligate leaders, who abuse their simplicity and credulity to the very worst purposes, and make use of them only as tools, to accomplish their own private views of ambition, of avarice, of resentment, or revenge, We have just seen a most striking instance of this strange propensity of the multitude to be misled, and of the ease with which their passionsareworked up to the commission of the most atrocious crimes. The Jewish people were naturally attached to Jesus. They were astonished at his miracles, they were charmed with his dis ' courses; and their diseases and infirmities were relieved by his omnipotent benevolence, But notwithstanding all this, by the dexterous management of their chief priests and eldersa their admịration of Jesus was converted in a moment into the most rancorous hatred; they were persuaded to ask the life of a murderer in preference to his ;' and to demand the der struction of a man who had never offended them, whose innocence was as clear as the
day, and was repeatedly acknowledged and strongly urged upon them by the very judge who had tried him.
Yet even that judge himself, who was so thoroughly convinced of the innocence of his prisoner, and actually used every means in his power to preserve him, even he had not the honesty and the courage to protect him effecą tually; and his conduct affords a most dread ful proof what kind of a thing public justice was among the most enlightened, and (if we may believe their own poets and historians) the most virtuous people in the ancient heathen world. We see a Roman governor sent to dispense justice in a Roman province, and invested with full powers to save or to destroy : we see him with a prisoner before him, in whom he repeatedly declared he could find no fault; and yet, after a few ineffectual struggles with his own conscience, he delivers
that prisoner, not merely to death, but to the most horrible and excruciating torments that human malignity could devise, The fact is, he was afraid of the people, he was afraid of Cæsar; and when the clamorous multitude cried out to him, if thou let this man go, thou art
not Cæsar's friend," all his firmness, all his resolution at once forsook him. He shrunk from the dangers that threatened him, and sacrificed his conscience and his duty to the menaces of a mob, and the dread of sovereign power.
Could any thing like this have happened in this country? We all know that it is impossible. We all know that no dangers, no threats, no fears, either of Cæsar or of the people, could ever induce a British judge to condemn to death a man, whom he in his conscience bea lieved to be innocent. And what is it that produces this difference between a Roman and a British judge? It is this: that the former had no other principle to govern his conduct but natural reason, or what would now be called philosophy; which, though it would sometimes point out to him the path of duty, yet could never inspire him with fortitude enough to persevere in it in critical and dangerous circumstances; in opposition to the frowns of a tyrant, or the clamours of a multitude. Whereas the British judge, in addition to his natural sentiments of right and wrong, and the dictates of the moral sense,
has the principle of religion also to influence his heart: he has the unerring and inflexible rules of evangelical rectitude to guide him; he has that which will vanquish every other fear, the fear of God, before his eyes. He knows that he himself must one day stand before the Judge of all; and that consideration keeps him firm to his duty, be the dangers that surround him ever so formidable and tremendous.
This is one, among a thousand other proofs, of the benefits we derive, even in the present life, from the Christian revelation. It has, in fact, had a most salutary and beneficial influence on our most important temporal interests, Its beneficent spirit has spread itself through all the different relations and modifications of human society, and communicated its kindly influence to almost every public and private concern of mankind. It has not only purified, as we have seen, the administration of justice; but it has insensibly worked itself into the inmost frame and constitution of civil societies. It has given a tinge to the complexion of their governments, and to the temper of their laws. It has softened the rigour of despotism, and
lessened, lessened, in some degree, the horrors of war, It has descended into families, has diminished the pressure of private tyranny, inaproved every domestic endearment, given tenderness to the parent, humanity to the master, re, spect to superiors, to inferiors security and ease; and left, in short, the most evident traces of its benevolent spirit in all the various suba ordinations, dependencies, and connections of social life,
14630 But to return to the Roman governor, Having basely shrunk from his duty, and, contrary to bis own conviction, condemned an innocent man, he endeavoured to clear himself from this guilt, and to satisfy his conscis ence, by the vain ceremony of washing his hands before the multitude, and declaring) so that he was innocent of the blood of that just person.” Alas! not all the water of the ocean could wash away the foul and indelible stain of murder from his soul. Yet he hoped to transfer it to the accomplices of his crime,
See ye to it,” says he to the people. And what answer did that people make to him? $ His bleod, said they, bę on us and on our children." A most fatal imprecation, and