Commentary on the Bible, by Adam Clarke, , at sacred-texts.com
Jesus is scourged, crowned with thorns, and mocked by the soldiers, Joh 19:1-3. He to brought forth by Pilate, wearing the purple robe; and the Jews clamor for his death, Joh 19:4-8. Conversation between our Lord and Pilate, Joh 19:9-11. Pilate expostulates with the Jews on their barbarous demands; but they become more inveterate, and he delivers Christ into their hands, Joh 19:12-16. He, bearing his cross, is led to Golgotha, and crucified, Joh 19:17-22. The soldiers cast lots for his raiment, Joh 19:23, Joh 19:24. Jesus commends his mother to the care of John, Joh 19:25-27. Jesus thirsts, receives vinegar, and dies, Joh 19:28-30. The Jews request that the legs of those who were crucified might be broken; the soldiers break those of the two thieves, and pierce the side of Christ; the Scriptures fulfilled in these acts, Joh 19:31-37. Joseph of Arimathea begs the body of Christ; and Nicodemus brings spices to embalm it, Joh 19:38-40. He is laid in a new sepulchre, Joh 19:41, Joh 19:42.
Pilate took Jesus, and scourged him - That is, caused him to be scourged: for we cannot with Bede suppose that he scourged him with his own hand.
As our Lord was scourged by order of Pilate, it is probable he was scourged in the Roman manner, which was much more severe than that of the Jews. The latter never gave more than thirty-nine blows; for the law had absolutely forbidden a man to be abused, or his flesh cut in this chastisement, Deu 25:3. The common method of whipping or flogging in some places, especially that of a military kind, is a disgrace to the nation where it is done, to the laws, and to humanity. See Mat 27:26, and the note there. Though it was customary to scourge the person who was to be crucified, yet it appears that Pilate had another end in view by scourging our Lord. He hoped that this would have satisfied the Jews, and that he might then have dismissed Jesus. This appears from Luk 23:16.
Platted a crown of thorns - See on Mat 27:29 (note).
And Pilate saith - The word Pilate, which we supply in our version, is added by one MS., the later Syriac, later Arabic, and the Coptic.
Behold the man! - The man who, according to you, affects the government, and threatens to take away the empire from the Romans. Behold the man whom ye have brought unto me as an enemy to Caesar, and as a sower of the seeds of sedition in the land! In him I find no guilt; and from him ye have no occasion to fear any evil.
Crucify Him - Αυτον, which is necessary to the text, and which is wanting in the common editions, and is supplied by our version in Italics, is added here on the authority of almost every MS. and version of importance. As it is omitted in the common editions, it affords another proof, that they were not taken from the best MSS.
We have a law - In Lev 24:14-16, we find that blasphemers of God were to be put to death; and the chief priests having charged Jesus with blasphemy, they therefore voted that he deserved to die. See Mat 26:65, Mat 26:66. They might refer also to the law against false prophets, Deu 18:20.
The Son of God - It is certain that the Jews understood this in a very peculiar sense. When Christ called himself the Son of God, they understood it to imply positive equality to the Supreme Being: and, if they were wrong, our Lord never attempted to correct them.
He was the more afraid - While Jesus was accused only as a disturber of the peace of the nation, which accusation Pilate knew to be false, he knew he could deliver him, because the judgment in that case belonged to himself; but when the Jews brought a charge against him of the most capital nature, from their own laws, he then saw that he had every thing to fear, if he did not deliver Jesus to their will. The Sanhedrin must not be offended - the populace must not be irritated: from the former a complaint might be sent against him to Caesar; the latter might revolt, or proceed to some acts of violence, the end of which could not be foreseen. Pilate was certainly to be pitied: he saw what was right, and he wished to do it; but he had not sufficient firmness of mind. He did not attend to that important maxim, Fiat justitia: ruat caelum. Let justice be done, though the heavens should be dissolved. He had a vile people to govern, and it was not an easy matter to keep them quiet. Some suppose that Pilate's fear arose from hearing that Jesus had said he was the Son of God; because Pilate, who was a polytheist, believed that it was possible for the offspring of the gods to visit mortals; and he was afraid to condemn Jesus, for fear of offending some of the supreme deities. Perhaps the question in the succeeding verse refers to this.
Whence art thou? - This certainly does not mean, From what country art thou? for Pilate knew this well enough; but it appears he made this inquiry to know who were the parents of Christ; what were his pretensions, and whether he really were a demigod, such as the heathens believed in. To this question we find our Lord gave no answer. He had already told him that his kingdom was not of this world; and that he came to erect a spiritual kingdom, not a temporal one: Joh 18:36, Joh 18:37. This answer he deemed sufficient; and he did not choose to satisfy a criminal curiosity, nor to enter then into any debate concerning the absurdity of the heathen worship.
Hath the greater sin - It is a sin in thee to condemn me, while thou art convinced in thy conscience that I am innocent: but the Jews who delivered me to thee, and Judas who delivered me to the Jews, have the greater crime to answer for. Thy ignorance in some measure excuses thee; but the rage and malice of the Jews put them at present out of the reach of mercy.
Pilate sought to release him - Pilate made five several attempts to release our Lord; as we may learn from Luk 23:4, Luk 23:15, Luk 23:20, Luk 23:22; Joh 19:4, Joh 19:12, Joh 19:13.
Thou art not Caesar's friend - Thou dost not act like a person who has the interest of the emperor at heart. Ambassadors, prefects, counsellors, etc., were generally termed the friends of the emperor. This insinuation determined Pilate to make no longer resistance: he was afraid of being accused, and he knew Tiberius was one of the most jealous and distrustful princes in the world. During his reign, accusations of conspiracies were much in fashion; they were founded on the silliest pretenses, and punished with excessive rigour. See Calmet, Tacit. An. l. i. c. 72, 73, 74. Sueton. in Tiber. c. 58.
The Pavement - Λιθοστρωτον, literally, a stone pavement: probably it was that place in the open court where the chair of justice was set, for the prefects of provinces always held their courts of justice in the open air, and which was paved with stones of various colors, like that of Ahasuerus, Est 1:6, of red, blue, white, and black marble; what we still term Mosaic work, or something in imitation of it; such as the Roman pavements frequently dug up in this and other countries, where the Romans have had military stations.
Gabbatha - That is, an elevated place; from גבה gabah, high, raised up; and it is very likely that the judgment seat was considerably elevated in the court, and that the governor went up to it by steps; and perhaps these very steps were what was called the Pavement. John does not say that Lithostroton, or the Pavement, is the meaning of the word Gabbatha; but that the place was called so in the Hebrew. The place was probably called Lithostroton, or the Pavement: the seat of judgment, Gabbatha, the raised or elevated place.
In several MSS. and versions, the scribes not understanding the Hebrew word, wrote it variously, Gabbatha, Gabatha, Kapphatha, Kappata, Gennetha, Gennaesa, and Gennesar. Lightfoot conjectures that the pavement here means the room Gazith in the temple, in which the grand council, called the Sanhedrin, held their meetings.
It was the preparation of the Passover - That is, the time in which they were just preparing to kill the paschal lamb. Critics differ widely concerning the time of our Lord's crucifixion; and this verse is variously understood. Some think it signifies merely the preparation of the Sabbath; and that it is called the preparation of the passover, because the preparation of the Sabbath happened that year on the eve of the Passover. Others think that the preparation of the Sabbath is distinctly spoken of in Joh 19:31, and was different from what is here mentioned. Contending nations may be more easily reconciled than contending critics.
The sixth hour - Mark says, Mar 15:25, that it was the third hour. Τριτη, the third, is the reading of DL, four others, the Chron. Alex., Seuerus Antiochen., Ammonius, with others mentioned by Theophylact. Nonnus, who wrote in the fifth century, reads τριτη, the third. As in ancient times all the numbers were written in the manuscripts not at large but in numeral letters, it was easy for Γ three, to be mistaken for Ϛ six. The Codex Bezae has generally numeral letters instead of words. Bengel observes that he has found the letter Γ gamma, Three, exceedingly like the Ϛ episemon, Six, in some MSS. The major part of the best critics think that τριτη, the third, is the genuine reading. See the note on Mar 15:25.
Behold your king! - This was probably intended as an irony; and, by thus turning their pretended serious apprehensions into ridicule, he hoped still to release him.
Away with him - Αρον: probably this means, kill him. In Isa 57:1, it is said, και ανδρες, δικαιοι αιρονται, and just men are taken away; that is, according to some, by a violent death.
Then delivered he him - This was not till after he had washed his hands, Mat 27:24, to show, by that symbolical action, that he was innocent of the death of Christ. John omits this circumstance, together with the insults which Christ received from the soldiers. See Mat 27:26, etc.; Mar 15:16, etc.
Bearing his cross - He bore it all alone first; when he could no longer carry the whole through weakness, occasioned by the ill usage he had received, Simon, a Cyrenian, helped him to carry it: see the note on Mat 27:32.
Golgotha - See on Mat 27:33 (note).
Two other - Matthew and Mark in the parallel places calls them robbers or murderers; they probably belonged to the gang of Barabbas. See about the figure of the cross, and the nature of crucifixion, on Mat 27:35 (note).
Pilate wrote a title - See on Mat 27:37 (note).
Hebrew,... Greek,... Latin - See on Luk 23:38 (note).
On Mat 27:37 (note), I have given this title in Hebrew, Greek, and Latin, as mentioned by this evangelist. The reader, however, will not be displeased to find the same title repeated here in a character which was written in the fourth century, and is probably nearly resembling that used in the earliest ages of Christianity. The Greek and Latin character, which is inserted here, is an exact fac-simile of that in the Codex Bezae, cut and cast at the expense of the University of Cambridge, for Dr. Kipling's edition of that most venerable MS. which contains the Greek text of the four evangelists and Acts; and the Latin text of the same, as it existed before the time of St. Jerome. Having examined the MS. myself, I can say that these types are a very faithful representation of the original.
In Hebrew, Ἑβραιστι.
יסוע נצריא מלכא דיהודיא
In Greek, ἙλληνιϚι.
ΙΗΣΟΥΣ Ο ΝΑΖΩΡΕΟΣ Ο ΒΑΣΙΛΕΥΣ ΤΩΝ ΙΟΥΔΑΙΩΝ
In Latin, ῬωμαΐϚι.
IEHSUS NAZARENUS REX IUDAEORUM
What I have written, I have written - That is, I will not alter what I have written. The Roman laws forbad the sentence to be altered when once pronounced; and as this inscription was considered as the sentence pronounced against our Lord, therefore, it could not be changed: but this form of speech is common in the Jewish writings, and means simply, what is done shall continue. Pilate seems to speak prophetically. This is the king of the Jews: they shall have no other Messiah for ever.
To every soldier a part - So it appears there were four soldiers employed in nailing him to and rearing up the cross.
The coat was without seam - Several have seriously doubted whether this can be literally understood, as they imagine that nothing with sleeves, etc. can be woven without a seam. But Baun, de Vest. Sacer. Heb. l. 1, c. 16, has proved, not only that such things were done by the ancients, and are still done in the east, but himself got a loom made, on which these kinds of tunics, vents, sleeves, and all, were woven in one piece. See much on this subject in Calmet. The clothes of a Hindoo are always without a seam; and the Brahmins would not wear clothes that were otherwise made. Besides, the Hindoos have no regular tailors.
Our Lord was now in the grand office of high priest, and was about to offer the expiatory victim for the sin of the world. And it is worthy of remark that the very dress he was in was similar to that of the Jewish high priest. The following is the description given of his dress by Josephus, Ant. b. iii. c. 7, s. 4: "Now this coat (χιτων) was not composed of two pieces, nor was it sewed together upon the shoulders and sides, but it was one long vestment, so woven as to have an opening for the neck; not an oblique one, but parted all along the back and breast; it was also parted where the hands were to come out." A little before, the same author says, that "the high priest had a long robe of a blue color, which hung down to the feet, and was put over all the rest." It is likely that this was the same with that upper garment which the soldiers divided among them, it being probably of a costly stuff. I may just add here, that I knew a woman who knit all kinds of clothes, even to the sleeves and button holes, without a seam; and have seen some of the garments which she made; that the thing is possible I have the fullest proof. For an explanation of χιτων and ἱματιον which we translate cloak, and coat, see the note on Luk 6:29.
That the scripture might be fulfilled - These words are found in the common printed text, in Mat 27:35; but they are omitted by ABDEFGHKLMSU, Mt. BHV, 150 others; the principal versions, Chrysostom, Titus Bost., Euthymius, Theophylact, Origen, Hilary, Augustin, Juven. See Griesbach's second edition. But in the text of John they are not omitted by one MS., version, or ancient commentator.
The words are taken from Psa 22:18, where it appears they were spoken prophetically of this treatment which Jesus received, upwards of a thousand years before it took place!
But it should be remarked that this form of speech, which frequently occurs, often means no more than that the thing so fell out that such a portion of Scripture may be exactly applied to it.
Mary the wife of Cleophas - She is said, in Mat 27:56, (see the note there), and Mar 15:40, to have been the mother of James the Less, and of Joses; and this James her son is said, in Mat 10:3, to have been the son of Alpheus; hence it seems that Alpheus and Cleopas were the same person. To which may be added, that Hegesippus is quoted by Eusebius, Hist. Eccl. l. iii. c. 11, as saying that Cleopas was the brother of Joseph, the husband of the virgin. Theophylact says that Cleopas, (brother of Joseph, the husband of the virgin), having died childless, his brother Joseph married his widow, by whom he had four sons, called by the evangelists the brothers of our Lord, and two daughters, the one named Salome, the other Mary, the daughter of Cleopas, because she was his daughter according to law, though she was the daughter of Joseph according to nature. There are several conjectures equally well founded with this last to be met with in the ancient commentators; but, in many cases, it is very difficult to distinguish the different Marys mentioned by the evangelists.
The disciple - whom he loved - John, the writer of this Gospel.
Woman, behold thy son! - This is a remarkable expression, and has been much misunderstood. It conveys no idea of disrespect, nor of unconcern, as has been commonly supposed. In the way of compellation, man! and woman! were titles of as much respect among the Hebrews as sir! and madam! are among us. But why does not Jesus call her mother? Probably because he wished to spare her feelings; he would not mention a name, the very sound of which must have wrung her heart with additional sorrow. On this account he says, Behold thy son! this was the language of pure natural affection: "Consider this crucified man no longer at present as any relative of thine; but take that disciple whom my power shall preserve from evil for thy son; and, while he considers thee as his mother, account him for thy child." It is probable that it was because the keeping of the blessed virgin was entrusted to him that he was the only disciple of our Lord who died a natural death, God having preserved him for the sake of the person whom he gave him in charge. Many children are not only preserved alive, but abundantly prospered in temporal things, for the sake of the desolate parents whom God hast cast upon their care. It is very likely that Joseph was dead previously to this; and that this was the reason why the desolate virgin is committed to the care of the beloved disciple.
I thirst - The scripture that referred to his drinking the vinegar is Psa 69:21. The fatigue which he had undergone, the grief he had felt, the heat of the day, and the loss of blood, were the natural causes of this thirst. This he would have borne without complaint; but he wished to give them the fullest proof of his being the Messiah, by distinctly marking how every thing relative to the Messiah, which had been written in the prophets, had its complete fulfillment in him.
A vessel full of vinegar - This was probably that tart small wine which we are assured was the common drink of the Roman soldiers. Our word vinegar comes from the French vin aigre, sour or tart wine; and, although it is probable that it was brought at this time for the use of the four Roman soldiers who were employed in the crucifixion of our Lord, yet it is as probable that it might have been furnished for the use of the persons crucified; who, in that lingering kind of death, must necessarily be grievously tormented with thirst. This vinegar must not be confounded with the vinegar and gall mentioned Mat 27:34, and Mar 15:23. That, being a stupifying potion, intended to alleviate his pain, he refused to drink; but of this he took a little, and then expired, Joh 19:30.
And put it upon hyssop - Or, according to others, putting hyssop about it. A great variety of conjectures have been produced to solve the difficulty in this text, which is occasioned by supposing that the sponge was put on a stalk of hyssop, and that this is the reed mentioned by Matthew and Mark. It is possible that the hyssop might grow to such a size in Judea as that a stalk of it might answer the end of a reed or cane in the case mentioned here; but still it appears to me more natural to suppose that the reed was a distinct thing and that the hyssop was used only to bind the sponge fast to the reed; unless we may suppose it was added for some mystical purpose, as we find it frequently used in the Old Testament in rites of purification. The various conjectures on this point may be seen in Bowyer's Conject. and in Calmet.
It is finished - As if he had said: "I have executed the great designs of the Almighty - I have satisfied the demands of his justice - I have accomplished all that was written in the prophets, and suffered the utmost malice of my enemies; and now the way to the holy of holies is made manifest through my blood." An awful, yet a glorious finish. Through this tragical death God is reconciled to man, and the kingdom of heaven opened to every believing soul.
"Shout heaven and earth, this Sum of good to Man!"
See the note on Mat 27:50.
The prodigies which happened at our Lord's death, and which are mentioned by the other three evangelists, are omitted by John, because he found the others had sufficiently stated them, and it appears he had nothing new to add.
It was the preparation - Every Sabbath had a preparation which began at the ninth hour (that is, three o'clock) the preceding evening. Josephus, Ant. b. xvi. c. 6, s. 2, recites an edict of the Emperor Augustus in favor of the Jews, which orders, "that no one shall be obliged to give bail or surety on the Sabbath day, nor on the preparation before it, after the ninth hour." The time fixed here was undoubtedly in conformity to the Jewish custom, as they began their preparation at three o'clock on the Friday evening.
That the bodies should not remain - For the law, Deu 21:22, Deu 21:23, ordered that the bodies of criminals should not hang all night; and they did not wish to have the Sabbath profaned by either taking them down on that day, or letting them hang to disturb the joy of that holy time. Probably their consciences began to sting them for what they had done, and they wished to remove the victim of their malice out of their sight.
For that Sabbath day was a high day -
1. Because it was the Sabbath.
2. Because it was the day on which all the people presented themselves in the temple according to the command, Exo 23:17.
3. Because that was the day on which the sheaf of the first fruits was offered, according to the command, Lev 23:10, Lev 23:11. So that upon this day there happened to be three solemnities in one. - Lightfoot. It might be properly called a high day, because the passover fell on that Sabbath.
Their legs might be broken - Lactantius says. l. iv. c. 26, that it was a common custom to break the legs or other bones of criminals upon the cross; and this appears to have been a kind of coup de grace, the sooner to put them out of pain.
With a spear pierced his side - The soldier who pierced our Lord's side has been called by the Roman Catholic writers Longinus, which seems to be a corruption of λογχη, lonche, a spear or dart, the word in the text. They moreover tell us that this man was converted - that it was he who said, Truly this was the Son of God - that he traveled into Cappadocia, and there preached the Gospel of Christ, and received the crown of martyrdom. But this deserves the same credit as the other legends of the Popish Church.
Whether it was the right or the left side of Christ that was pierced has been a matter of serious discussion among divines and physicians; and on this subject they are not yet agreed. That it is of no importance we are sure, because the Holy Ghost has not revealed it. Luke Cranache, a famous painter, whose piece of the crucifixion is at Augsburg, has put no wound on either side: when he was asked the reason of this - I will do it, said he, when I am informed Which side was pierced.
Blood and water - It may be naturally supposed that the spear went through the pericardium and pierced the heart; that the water proceeded from the former, and the blood from the latter. Ambrose, Augustin, and Chrysostom, make the blood an emblem of the eucharist, and the water an emblem of baptism. Others represent them as the emblems of the old and new covenants. Protestants have thought them the emblems of justification, which is through the blood of the Lamb, and sanctification, which is through the washing of regeneration; and it is in reference to the first notion that they mingle the wine with water in the sacrament of the Lord's supper. The piercing appears to have taken place because his legs were not broken; and, as the law in this case stated that the criminals were to continue on the cross till they died, the side of our Lord was pierced to secure the accomplishment of the law; and the issuing of the blood and water appears to be only a natural effect of the above cause, and probably nothing mystical or spiritual was intended by it. However, it affords the fullest proof that Jesus died for our sins. Dr. Lightfoot thinks that there is a reference here to the rock in the wilderness which Moses smote twice, and which, according to the Jews, Shemoth Rabba, fol. 122, "poured out blood at the first stroke, and water at the second." Now St. Paul says, Co1 10:4, That rock was Christ; and here the evangelist says, the soldier pierced his side, and there came out blood and water. St. John therefore, in what he asserts in the 35th and 36th verses, wishes to call the attention of the Jews to this point, in order to show them that this Jesus was the true Messiah, who was typified by the rock in the wilderness. He knoweth that he saith true, that ye might believe.
He that saw it - Most probably John himself, who must have been pretty near the cross to have been able to distinguish between the blood and the water, as they issued from the side of our blessed Lord.
And he knoweth - This appears to be an appeal to the Lord Jesus, for the truth of the testimony which he had now delivered. But why such a solemn appeal, unless there was something miraculous in this matter? It might appear to him necessary:
1. Because the other evangelists had not noticed it.
2. Because it contained the most decisive proof of the death of Christ: as a wound such as this was could not have been inflicted, (though other causes had been wanting), without occasioning the death of the person; and on his dying for men depended the salvation of the world. And,
3. Because two important prophecies were fulfilled by this very circumstance, both of which designated more particularly the person of the Messiah. A bone of him shall not be broken, Exo 12:46; Num 9:12; Psa 34:20. They shall look upon him whom they pierced, Zac 12:10; Psa 22:16.
Joseph of Arimathea - See on Mat 27:57-60 (note); and particularly Mar 15:42, Mar 15:43 (note).
Nicodemus - See on Joh 3:1 (note), etc.
Myrrh and aloes - Which drugs were used to preserve bodies from putrefaction. Calmet says that the aloes mentioned here is a liquor which runs from an aromatic tree, and is widely different from that called aloes among us.
Some have objected that a hundred pounds' weight of myrrh and aloes was enough to embalm two hundred dead bodies; and instead of ἑκατον, a hundred, some critics have proposed to read ἑκατερων - a mixture of myrrh and aloes, of about a pound Each. See Bowyer's Conjectures. But it may be observed that great quantities of spices were used for embalming dead bodies, when they intended to show peculiar marks of respect to the deceased. A great quantity was used at the funeral of Aristobulus; and it is said that five hundred servants bearing aromatics attended the funeral of Herod: see Josephus, Ant. b. xv. c. 3, s. 4; and b. xvii. c. 8, s. 3: and fourscore pounds of spices were used at the funeral of R. Gamaliel the elder. See Wetstein in loc.
Wound it in linen - See on Joh 11:44 (note).
There was a garden - It was an ancient custom for particular families to have burying places in their gardens. See Kg2 21:18, Kg2 21:26.
New sepulchre - See on Mat 27:60 (note).
Because of the Jews' preparation - From this it may be conjectured that they had designed to have put him in a more magnificent tomb; or, that they intended to make one expressly for himself after the passover: or, that they had designed to have put him somewhere else, but could not do it for want of time; and that they put him here because the tomb was nigh. It appears plainly, from embalming, etc., that none of these persons had any hope of the resurrection of Christ. They considered him as a great and eminent prophet, and treated him as such.
1. In the burial of our Lord, a remarkable prophecy was fulfilled: His death was appointed with the wicked; and with a rich man was his tomb. See Lowth on Isa 53:9. Every thing attending his mock trial, his passion, his death, his burial, etc., afforded the fullest proof of his innocence. In still continuing to reject him, the Jews seem to have exceeded the ordinary bounds of incredulity and callousness of heart. One might imagine that a candid attention to the Gospel facts, collated with those passages in the law and in the prophets which they acknowledge to speak of the Messiah, would be sufficient to furnish them with the utmost evidence and fullest conviction that he is the Christ, and that they are to expect none other. But where people once make a covenant with unbelief, argument, reason, demonstration, and miracles themselves, fail to convince them. As their conviction, through this obstinacy, is rendered impossible, it belongs to God's justice to confound them. At present they have scarcely any correct knowledge of the true God; and, while they continue to reject the genuine faith, they are capable of crediting the most degrading absurdities.
2. The holy sepulchre, or what has long passed for the burial place of our Lord, is now no more! On the following information the reader may depend: "On the night of October 11, 1808, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre was discovered to be on fire; and between five and six in the morning the burning cupola, with all the melting and boiling lead upon it, fell in. The excessive heat which proceeded from this immense mass of liquid fire, caused not only the marble columns, which supported the gallery, to burst; but likewise the marble floor of the Church, together with the pilasters and images in bas relief that decorate the chapel, containing the holy sepulchre, situated in the centre of the church. Shortly after, the massive columns which supported the gallery, fell down, together with the whole of the walls." Thus has perished the famous church raised by the Empress Helena fourteen hundred years ago, over the place where the body of our blessed Lord was supposed to have been deposited, while he lay under the power of death. And thus has perished an engine of superstition, fraud, and imposture. To the most sinful purposes has this holy sepulchre been abused. The Greeks and Armenians have pretended that, on every Easter-eve, fire descends from heaven, and kindles all the lamps and candles in the place; and immense crowds of pilgrims frequent this place, on these occasions, in order to witness this ceremony, to light a taper at this sacred flame, and with these candles to singe and daub pieces of linen, which are afterwards to serve for winding sheets; for, says Mr. Maundrell, who was present, April 3rd, 1697, and witnessed the whole of this absurd and abominable ceremony, "it is the opinion of these poor people that, if they can but have the happiness to be buried in a shroud smutted with this celestial fire, it will certainly secure them from the flames of hell."
See the whole of his circumstantial account of this imposture, and the ridiculous and abominable ceremonies with which it is accompanied, in his Journey from Aleppo to Jerusalem, edit. 5th, pp. 94-97; and let the reader thank God that he is not degraded with a superstition that renders the grace of the Gospel of none effect.