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ounces of coagulated blood, and two of serum. The heart, on all sides covered by it, was of the ordinary volume, but much loaded with fat. At the summit of the aortic (left] ventricle was discovered the breach, from which the effused blood had issued. It was irregularly lacerated, and measured about half-an-inch in diameter.”
Dr. Williams, of Southampton, communicated to our author the particulars of a somewhat similar case :
“R. W., a labourer, aged fifty-six years, had generally enjoyed good health but for ten years had suffered great despondency of mind, owing to the unfaithfulness of his wife. About six months before his death he was troubled with severe cough, wbich came on in paroxysms, generally at night and early in the morning, and after a fit of this kind was found one morning dead. A postmortem examination took place in the presence of Mr. Boulton, surgeon, of Leamington. On opening the chest, the bag of the pericardium appeared much distended with fluid, and was of a dark blue colour. On cutting into it, a pint at least of transparent serum issued out, leaving the crassamentum firmly attached to the anterior surface of the heart. On further examination to ascertain the source of this hæmorrhage, we found the left ventricle, from the origin of the aorta downwards to within an inch of the apex, ruptured. The heart appeared in no way disorganized, there was no softness of its walls, the internal membrane was healthy, and so were the valves of each cavity.” P. 100.
Reference may also be made to a case recorded by Mr. Adams,* of a man who died with severe cardiac symptoms, after great agony of body and mind. “ The pericardium was found distended, and emitted when divided a quantity of serous fuid ; but the heart was entirely concealed by an envelope of coagulated blood in three distinct layers, owing to rupture of the left ventricle close to the septum, and nearer the apex than the base of the heart."
In a case of rupture of the right auricle of the heart from violence, recorded by Ludwig in his Adversaria, it is stated :-“ the pericardium was so distended by a large quantity of transparent serum and coagulated blood as to push the lungs upwards. The yellowish serum contained in its cavity exceeded half-a-pound.” The Commentaries of the Academy of Bologna, for 1757, contain an account of a man who died suddenly. In addition to other lesions observed in the body, a small rupture was found in the left ventricle of the heart, and the pericardium was so distended as to occupy a third part of the cavity of the chest. On opening it, a large quantity of serum was discharged, and two pounds of clotted blood were seen adhering to the bottom.
Besides the cases now quoted, Dr. Stroud refers to, and briefly describes, several others ; viz. : one related by Mr. Watson in the London Medical Repository for 1814; two related in the London Medical and Physical Journal for May 1822 and April 1826 ; one in Wheeler's Manchester Chronicle for Nov. 22, 1834 ; one in the Medico-Chirurgical Review for 1836 (the case of the late Sir David Barry); one in the Edin. Medical and Surgical Journal for January 1843; one in the Dublin Medical Transactions for 1830 ; and two very interesting cases by Dr. France, in a recent number of the Guy's Hospital Reports. In all these instances, the extra
* Journal of Morbid Anatomy, Ophthalmic Medicine, &c. Art. v.
Punishment of Crucifixion described.
vasated Auid is stated to have been distinctly separated into its crassamentum and serum, blood and water.
Before dismissing the pathological subjects that have been engaging our attention, we may state that it has been asserted that a quantity of blood, or bloody fluid, has been found within the pericardium, even when there was no discoverable rupture of the heart or large blood-vessels. Two such cases are related in the German Ephemerides.
“ Both the subjects were robust soldiers who died of excessive joy, in whose bodies no morbid condition was afterwards found, except a large quantity of clotted blood in the pericardium, by which the action of the heart had been suppressed. The latter author ascribes the effect to sudden distension of the exhalants opening on the inner surface of the membrane. This would correspond to the manner in which bloody sweat is produced; but, as the exhalants of the pericardium are very inferior both in size and activity to those of the skin, it is more probable that in such cases the effusion is due either to rupture of some of the nutrient vessels of the heart itself, termed its coronary vessels, or to hemorrhage from without, penetrating by a minute or circuitous passage into its capsule. Such at least is the opinion of Morgagni, Zecchinelli
, and other anatomists. Of blood thus finding its way into the pericardium by a small aperture, which, without great attention might easily escape notice, the former gives several examples ; and in the Ephemerides, Dr. Daniel Fischer mentions the case of a soldier who died suddenly after eating a hearty dinner, and in whose body the only morbid appearance discovered on inspection was, — the pericardium filled and distended with very fluid and florid blood. The membrane having been divided longitudinally, in order to trace more exactly the source of the hemorrhage, this was found at the base of the heart, where a branch of the coronary artery had ruptured, and from which blood was still actually flowing."" P. 92.
Before proceeding to shew the bearing of the facts and reasonings hitherto adduced upon the main subject of our author's argument, we shall here introduce, for a reason that will be readily understood, a few remarks upon that mode of capital punishment that was resorted to in the case of our Lord.
It would seem that Crucifixion was practised among many nations from the remotest antiquity. The earliest instance on record is probably that of the chief baker of Pharaoh : for, although we read in our Bibles that he was hanged, Josephus expressly says that he was crucified; and we know that these two words are often exchangeable in the Scriptures, the one for the other. Most persons imagine that crucifixion was a Jewish mode of putting to death. Not so. The Jews only crucified the dead bodies of those who had been stoned for blasphemy: hence it was that the "nailing to a tree” was deemed by them as so peculiarly “ accursed.” Moreover, the Mosaic law enjoined that the body, so exposed, should be taken down before the sunset of the day on which the criminal had been slain. It is always to be remembered that Christ was condemned by a Roman tribunal, and was put to death by Roman law, although the guilty instigators of the
“Ephemerid. Acad. Natur. Curios. Dec. iii. Ann. 9 and 10,-p. 293 ;-Ibid. Edit. 2da. vol. v. pp. 141, 142;—Matt. Van. Geuns, De Morte Corporea, &c. p. 591 ;-Zecchinelli, Sulla Angina del Petto, fc. vol. i. pp. 95, 96;—Thurnam, in Lond. Med. Gazette, 1838, pp. 813–817 ;-Curling, ibid. pp. 894, 895 ;-Fitzpatrick, in Lond. Med. Repository, vol. xvii. pp. 295—298.
act were those of his own nation. The Jewish Rulers were the accusers, Pilate was the judge, and the soldiers were the executioners. Now crucifixion was in common use among both the Greeks and the Romans, more particularly in the case of their slaves when convicted of a capital offence. It was consequently regarded as the most ignominious and disgraceful of all punishments. Everything was thus combined to render the death of the Saviour accursed in the sight of the people. He suffered as the vilest of malefactors according to the law of the heathen masters of Judea, for alleged sedition against the authority of Cæsar ; while, at the same time, his being “nailed to the tree” represented and fulfilled, in the eyes of the Jews, the divine malediction that was always associated in their minds with the peculiar punishment for blasphemy-the pretext, it will be remembered, on which they sought His life.
Crucifixion appears to have continued in force among the Romans until the time of Constantine, the first Christian Emperor, who abolished it throughout his dominions. “He would not suffer the instrument of our salvation,” says Crevier,* “ to be dishonoured by any use, not only profane, but capable of making men look upon it with horror. He thought it indecent and irreligious that the cross should be employed for the punishment of the vilest offenders, whilst he himself erected it as a trophy, and esteemed it the noblest ornament of his diaden and military standards.”
That death by crucifixion was usually protracted and lingering is not only abundantly testified by history, but is strictly in accordance with what might be anticipated from the very nature of the punishment. It will serve to give the reader a more correct notion of it, if we insert the folluwing particulars respecting the construction of the Cross, as used in ancient times.
“ The cross consisted of a strong upright post, sharpened at the lower end by which it was fixed in the ground, having a short bar or stake projecting from its middle, and a longer transverse beam firmly joined near its top. As the middle bar, although an important appendage, has been almost universally overlooked by modern authors, it will be proper here to insert the account given of it by some of the early fathers of the church, and founded on personal observation. —The structure of the cross,' says Irenæus,— has five ends or summits, two in length, two in breadth, and one in the middle, on which the crucified person rests. - Justin Martyr, in like manner, speaks of that end projecting from the middle [of the upright post] like a horn, on which crucified persons are seated;' --and the language of 'T'ertullian, who wrote a little later, exactly corresponds.• A part, and indeed a principal part of the cross is any post which is fixed in an upright position; but to us the entire cross is imputed, including its transverse beam, and the projecting bar which serves as a seat.'t-The criminal condemned to this dreadful mode of death, having first been scourged, was compelled to carry the cross on his sboulders to the place of execution, a circumstance which implies that the scourging was not excessively severe, and that the dimensions of the gibbet did not in general much exceed those of the human body. On arriving at the spot he was stripped of his clothes; and after receiving a cup
* History of the Roman Emperors. Vol. x. p. 132. + " Irenæus, Opera, p. 166 ;—Justinus Martyr, Cum Tryphone Judæo Dialogus, pp. 271, 272 ;-Tertullianus, Ad Nationes, p. 49; Adversus Judæos, 1847) Crucifixion a lingering Mode of Death. 467 of wine, sometimes medicated with a view to impart firmness or alleviate pain, was speedily nailed to the cross, either before or after its erection. In either case he was made to sit astride on the middle bar; and his limbs having been extended and bound with cords, were finally secured by large iron spikes driven through their extremities, the hands to the transverse beam, and the feet to the upright post.” P. 36.
With respect to the degree and usual duration of the sufferings inflicted by this horrible punishment, Dr. Stroud remarks :
“ The bodily sufferings attending this punishment were doubtless great, but, either through'ignorance or design, have been much exaggerated. The insertion of the cross into its hole or socket, when the criminal was previously attached to it, did not necessarily produce the violent concussion which has been supposed ; and as the body rested on a bar, it did not bear with its own weight on the perforated extremities. At all events, there have been many examples of persons enduring these sufferings with the utmost fortitude, and almost without a complaint, until relieved from them by death. A fact of importance to be known, but which has not been sufficiently regarded, is that crucifixion was a very lingering punishment, and proved fatal not so much by loss of blood, since the wounds in the hands and feet did not lacerate any large vessel, and were nearly closed by the nails which produced them, as by the slow process of nervous irritation and exhaustion. This would of course be liable to variety, depending on differences of age, sex, constitution, and other circumstances; but for persons to live two or more days on the cross was a common occurrence, and there are even instances of some who, having been taken down in time and carefully treated, recovered and survived. In many cases death was partly induced by hunger and thirst, the vicissitudes of heat and cold, or the attacks of ravenous birds and beasts ; and in others was designedly accelerated by burning, stoning, suffocation, breaking the bones, or piercing the vital organs.
P. 38. Numerous instances might be adduced from the writings of Martyrologists in proof of the slowness of death from crucifixion-according to Origen and other early fathers, the sufferer usually survived about two days ; —but we prefer to quote the following accounts from two works of recent date.
“The capital punishments inflicted in Soudan'-observes Captain Clapperton writing in 1824, are beheading, impaling, and crucifixion ; the first being reserved for Mahometans, and the other two practised on Pagans. I was told, as a matter of curiosity, that wretches on the cross generally linger three days before death puts an end to their sufferings.'—When describing the punishments used in Madagascar, the Rev. Mr. Ellis remarks,– In a few cases of great enormity a sort of crucifixion has been resorted to; and in addition to this, burning or roasting at a slow fire, kept at some distance from the sufferer, has completed the horrors of this miserable death...... In the year 1825 a man was condemned to crucifixion who had murdered a female for the sake of stealing her child. He carried the child for sale to the public market, where the infant was recognised, and the murderer detected. He bore his punishment in the most hardened manner, avenging himself by all the violence he was capable of exercising upon those who dragged him to the place of execution. Not a single groan escaped him during the period he was nailed to the wood, nor wbilst the cross
“Claudius Salmasius, De Cruce, &c., pp. 229–340, &c.;--Justus Lipsius, De Cruce, pp. 98—109, &c.; Dr. Adam Clarke, The New Testament, with a Commentary, &c.; Comment on Matt. chap. 27, v. 35.”
was fixed upright in the earth. The wooden frame used in the place of a cross resembles a gallows. To this the malefactor is pailed whilst it remains flat upon the earth, after which it is lifted up with its miserable burden, and fixed in two boles made in the ground for the purpose. Here the sufferer is kept until he dies of cold, hunger, or agony. Some criminals after being nailed to the frame, have remained for hours for the gaze of the multitude. A fire has oftentimes been placed to windward of them, by which they and the cross have been consumed together.'” P. 42.
Mr. Slade also, in his record of Travels in Turkey, Greece, &c., gives the following horrible account of the execution at Constantinople of a captain of banditti, a few years ago : “ As a preparatory exercise, he was suspended by his arms for twelve hours.
The following day a hook was thrust into his side, by which he was suspended to a tree, and there hung enduring the agony of thirst till the third evening, when death closed the scene; but before that about an hour the birds, already considering him their own, had alighted on his brow to peck bis eyes. During this frightful period he uttered no unmanly complaints, only repeated several times,– Had I known that I was to suffer this infernal death, I would never have done what I have. From the moment I led the klephte's life I had death before my eyes, and was prepared to meet it, but I expected to die as my predecessors, by decapitation." . P. 43.
From what has now been stated, it may be very reasonably inferred that the death of Jesus, within six hours after He was nailed to the "accursed tree" was not, as is frequently believed, the result of extreme bodily torture, and therefore, as our author observes, that, “although the ordinary sufferings of crucifixion contributed to his death, they were not its immediate cause.” It is certain that the byestanders, and others engaged in the dreadful act, were surprised at the suddenness of the Saviour's death; for we find that Pilate scarcely believed that such could be the case, when Joseph applied to him to take the body down from the cross.*
Admitting, then, that there was something unusual and extraordinary in the quickness with which the sufferings of our Lord came to a close, we now proceed to enquire, with all due reverence, whether any probable es. planation can be offered to account for it. And here we must first remark that there is nothing in any of the sacred narratives, to make us believe that the human nature of the sufferer was brought to the verge of exhaustion by the bodily and mental sufferings—however great these may have been--which He had undergone, during the eighteen hours that elapsed from his agony in the garden up to the moment that preceded his dissolution. Commentators have repeatedly dwelt upon the circumstances of his crying with a loud voice “My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me!" of his then saying "I thirst,” and receiving the vinegar that was offered to Him; and, last of all, of his again crying in a loud tone, “ It is finished ; Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit,”—as being utterly irreconcileable with the supposition that life was at its last ebb, from the extinction of vital energy. These were evidences and signs—to use the language of an intelligent and pious writer—that “his life was whole in Him and nature strong. The voice of dying men is one of the first things that fails.
* St. Mark, ch. XV., V. 44.