صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني

ingratitude; he began to hate himself, and to fear the light of morning, and to dread the aspect of that mild face, which, however mildly it might regard him, could speak nothing to his heart but judgment and agony. Morning came. The relentless and exulting enemies of Jesus met to adopt measures for securing their prey. As the fate of his Master approached nearer to its bloody catastrophe, the anguish of Judas became more intense, and his crime showed itself in all its horrors. Perhaps he did not apprehend that the priests would have pushed their malignity to the extreme of death. At any rate, his own malice and cupidity were wholly terrified away, . and he resolved to make one wild effort to save the victim. He rushed to the conclave, with the now hateful silver grasped convulsively in his hand, and reaching it out to his employers, he exclaimed, “I have sinned, in that I have betrayed innocent blood." Deluded man! Innocent or guilty it was the same to them, so long as they could shed it.

“And they said, What is that to us? See thou to that!” Stung to the quick by this cold and insulting reply, and feeling himself cast away

like

a tool which has been broken in the using, and having now no refuge from the fiends that were pursuing him, existence became

a burthen too heavy for him to bear; and he threw the pieces of silver on the pavement of the temple, “and departed, and went and hanged himself.”

I know not how others may feel on perusing the history of this wretched man, but for my own part, I confess that my indignation is plentifully mingled with pity. How dark was the close of his short career! How terrible was the punishment of his guilt; death by his own hands! The price of blood lies scattered at the feet of the priests; the betrayer has come to his end, even before the betrayed; his apostleship is ended; no softened multitude will listen to the tidings of salvation from his lips; no converts to a pure and purifying faith will bow to receive the waters of baptism from his hands; no countries will contend for the honor of his grave; no churches will call themselves by his name; no careful disciples compose his limbs; no enthusiastic devo tees gather up his bones; his dust is scattered to the winds; his name is only preserved by its eternal ignominy. He was a martyr — the first martyr — but it was to avarice. He has had his followers, too; but they have been only those, who, as wicked and as wretched as himself, have, from that day to this, and in the countless forms of selfishness, sold, for a few pieces of silver, their consciences, their Saviour, and their souls. *.

By an observable coincidence, it so happened that the money which Judas had received and returned, became desecrated by his touch. There was a Jewish law, which forbade that the price of blood should be put into the treasury. The priests, therefore, though they gathered up the pieces which the traitor had thrown down before them, were unable to appropriate them to the uses of the temple, and after consulting together, agreed to purchase with them a field in the vicinity of Jerusalem, called the Potter's Field, to bury strangers in. The piece of ground thus purchased, acquired the significant and fearful name of The Field of Blood.

* In the Life of Thomas Firmin, that wealthy and eminently liberal and pious citizen and merchant of London in the seventeenth century, a curious legend is related from memory, respecting the punishment of Judas in another state, which shows how the feelings of men relent, even towards the greatest transgressors. The legend is cited by the author, to illustrate the value of charitable deeds. As, notwithstanding its wildness, it is conceived and told in a truly poetical manner, and has, if I may judge, a favorable influence on the affections, I shall offer no apology for repeating it.

“I have read somewhere, (but so long since, that I forget the author's name, and the subject of his book,) that the punishment of Judas, who betrayed our Saviour, is, that he stands on the surface of a swelling, dreadful sea, with his feet somewhat below the water, as if he were about to sink. The writer saith, besides his continual horror and fear of going to the bottom, a most terrible tempest of hail and wind always beats on the traitor's naked body and head; he suffers as much by cold, and the smart of the impetuous hail, as it is possible to imagine he could suffer by the fire of purgatory, or of hell. But, saith my author further, in this so great distress Judas has one great comfort and relief; for whereas the tempest would be insupportable, if it-beat always upon him from all sides ; at a little distance from him, and somewhat above him, there is stretched out a sheet of strong coarse linen cloth ; which sheet intercepts a great part of the tempest. Judas regales himself by turning sometimes one side, sometimes another side, of his head and body, to the shelter of this sheet. In short, the sheet is such a protection to him, that it defends him from the one half of his punishment. But by what meritorious action, or actions, did Judas deserve so great a favor ? Our author answers, he gave just the same quantity of linen cloth to a certain poor family for shirting. It had been impossible that this gentleman should hit on such a conceit as this, but from our natural opinion of the value and merit of charity ; it seems to us a virtue so excellent, that it may excuse even Judas from some part of his punishment. I can hardly afford to ask the reader's pardon for this tale ; I incline to think, that divers others may be as well pleased with the wit of it, and the moral implied in it, as I have been, who remember it after above forty years' reading, without remembering either the author, or argument of the book.”

When the tragedy of the crucifixion was over, and the eleven, comforted and reassured by the appearance of their risen Lord, had assembled together in Jerusalem, with the other disciples, to the number of about an hundred and twenty, Peter proposed to the company that a disciple should be chosen by lot to take “ the ministry and apostleship, from which Judas, by transgression, fell.” In the address which he made on this occasion, he gives an account of the death of Judas, which differs somewhat from the relation of Matthew. “ Now this man,” he says, "purchased a field with the reward of iniquity; and falling headlong, he burst asunder in the midst, and all his bowels gushed out.” Several explanations have been given to reconcile this discrepancy, either of which is sufficiently probable to answer the purpose.

The most common one is, that Judas hung himself, as Matthew relates, and afterwards, by some accident, fell from the place where he was suspended, and was mangled in the shocking manner described by Peter.

According to the apostle's recommendation, his brethren proceeded to fill the traitor's forfeited place; and the lot fell upon Matthias, who had long been a disciple of Jesus, and is conjectured to have been one of the seventy. Thus was the miserable Judas, the apostate, the suicide, rejected from the apostolic company, even after his death, and his name and his memory blotted out, as entirely as was possible, from the records of the faithful. With the passages of Scripture which were applied on this occasion by Peter,

« السابقةمتابعة »