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THE-last, always the last, on the lists of the apostles, is Judas Iscariot. He is always branded, too, by those fearful and thrilling words, "who also betrayed him.” And it is sad, that we must close the roll which we have been examining of this glorious apostolic company, with the name of a traitor.
His surname of Iscariot, probably designates his birthplace; as it signifies "the man of Carioth or Kerioth," which was a town in the tribe of Judah. But this is hardly more than conjecture. There is a solemn obscurity hanging over the life of this man, shrouding every thing in silent and immovable shadow; except one deed of gigantic enormity, which raises its high and desert head, and frowns in gloomy solitude over the surrounding waste of darkness and clouds. He is called the son of Simon. Who is Simon? Search the Scriptures for him. The search will be vain. He is only known, as has been forcibly
said, only known by the misfortune of having such a son.
The early dispositions of Judas must have been bad, or he would not have proved himself the wretch that he did, so soon after joining himself to such a Master; and a circumstance recorded in the Gospel of John, plainly intimates to us what the chief vice of his character was.. We are informed, that on a visit which Jesus made to Bethany, where Lazarus lived, whom a little while before he had raised from the dead, a supper was made for him there; that Lazarus, with not one trace of death on his countenance, though but just now brought up from the grave, sat at table; and that Martha, with her usual assiduity, served. "Then took Mary a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair; and the house was filled with the odor of the ointment." This offering, though it may not have been useful, was certainly grateful and generous, and was beside in conformity with the custom of the country, and deserved, therefore, an approving comment from the friends and followers of Jesus. But what was the sequel? "Then saith one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon's son, who was to betray him, Why was
not this ointment sold for three hundred pence, and given to the poor ?" From an honest and really charitable man this remark would have been but a cold one, at such a season; but Judas was neither; and he said this, proceeds the historian," not that he cared for the poor, but because he was a thief, and had the bag, and bare off what was put therein."* Thus it appears, that the root of all this traitor's wickedness was avarice, and that it had already borne the deadly fruits of fraud and theft. He had the bag. He had been the treasurer of the fraternity; and so strong was his odious passion, and so weak was his principle, that he was unable to resist the temptation which the trust afforded him, of purloining whatever he could from the common stock, which of necessity must have been a scanty one; and on this occasion he was grievously disappointed, that he could not have the handling of the large sum of three hundred Roman denarii, under the pretence of distributing it to the poor. It is to be presumed that his peculiarities were not known to the apostles at that time, but that they came to light afterwards. If they had then
* In our English bible it is," and bare what was put therein ;" a translation which does not seem to give the true meaning of the passage, though the Greek verb admits of both senses.
been aware of his conduct, they would doubtless have spurned and avoided him.
Their Master, however, was acquainted both with what he did, and with what he was; for it was on an occasion previous to this, that in re minding the disciples of his own strong claimi on their attachment, he said, "Have not I chosen you twelve? and one of you is a devil!" Here, too, as we are informed, "he spake of Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon." And let it be observed, that neither the apostleship of Judas, nor his being the treasurer of the apostles, were causes of his avarice and treachery, and that therefore the knowledge which his Master possessed of his unsoundness is no excuse for it. If he had been a man of common goodness only, the trust which was reposed in him would have prompted him to a worthy exercise of it. Consequently it did not occasion, it only was the means of drawing forth and exposing his baseWhy our Saviour, acquainted as he was with the character of Judas, permitted him to hold the office of purse bearer; or why he ever called him to be an apostle, are questions of a different import. Before we attempt to assign any reason or motive for the course of Jesus in this respect, let us attend for a moment to its
consequences, and its bearing on the credibility of his gospel.
I have already stated, in my introductory remarks, that among the reasons which existed in the mind of our Lord, for calling to himself a company of apostles, one probably was, that his conduct and instructions, being scrutinized by a number of individuals, and continually spread open to their observation, might be sufficiently attested and vindicated, at first to them, and afterwards to the world. This test was made more perfect by the introduction of one among his attendants, whose heart was corrupt, and who would probably turn to as bad account as possible the confidence reposed in him. Thus we see that the inquisition to which the author of our religion was exposed, was a complete one. The honest disciples would have published any thing which they might have seen inconsistent with rectitude; and the traitor, the unprincipled disciple, would have magnified any fault or misconduct in his Master, if he could have found any there, as an excuse for his treachery. We ought not to be too hasty in ascribing motives to our Saviour in so grave a concern as this; but with the facts before us, we cannot but feel satisfied that his character rests on a firmer basis, from