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of Judas. Had the sight of the Holy Jesus awakened within him, even then, the repentance of sorrowing love, like Peter he might have wept floods of bitter tears; but the thought of the lovingkindness of his Lord would have kept him from despair. He he could not indeed have undone his crime, and saved the life he had betrayed, but he would have fallen at his injured master's feet: he might have risen from thence but to die with him, but we cannot doubt that he would have been forgiven. Alas! it was horror, not repentance, the madness of disappointment, not the softness of soul-subduing grief, that filled the despairing wretch, as
Verse 5. “He cast down the pieces of silver in the temple, and departed, and went and hanged himself.”
The way from the Temple to the spot where Judas died by his own hand, is long, and it is fearful to think of the despairing agonies of the wretched man, as he rushed down the steep sides of Mount Moriah on which the Temple stood, up the hill of Zion, through the city gate, straight on to the precipice that overhangs the dark valley of Hinnom, the accursed place spoken of by all the prophets as the type of Hell. What took him there? Oh! it was into that valley that all that was defiling and defiled was cast. There, upon a tree jutting from the rock, he must have hanged himself in his desperate haste, for it is written, “and falling headlong, he burst asunder in the midst, and all his bowels gushed out.” *
And the chief priests whom he had left in possession of the money which he had thrown down before them,—what did
They, the hypocrites, who had not feared to give the bribe
Verses 6–8. “ Took the silver pieces, and said, It is not lawful for us to put them into the treasury, because it is the price of blood. And they took counsel (probably not then, but later) and bought with them the potter's field, to bury strangers in.* Wherefore that field was called, The field of blood, unto his day.”
* Acts i. 18.
We know that the plot of ground they purchased with the price of the traitor's crime, was the very place whereon he fell, for the writer of the book of Acts who tells what became of his body, mentions that the "place was purchased with the reward of iniquity, and (that) it was well known unto all the dwellers of Jerusalem, insomuch as that field is called in their proper tongue Aceldama, that is to say, the field of blood.”+
It was no doubt the horrid end of Judas in that place, where his body lay a dreadful sight, that caused the chief priests to make choice of it and to purchase it in his name, to be used evermore as a charnel-house.
It is one of the places to this day easily known ; for a little deserted chapel marks the spot above; and below where Judas fell, there still are the ruins of a charnel-house built in later ages, through the high walls of which the dead were thrown, and at the bottom of which blackened bones are still to be seen. “No grass grows around, no herb or wild flowers. The shepherd and his flock do not wander near. It is still regarded as an accursed place." St. Matthew adds to his account
Verse 9. " Then was fulfilled that which was written by Jeremy the prophet, saying, And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the price of him that was valued, whom they of the children of Israel did value ; and gave them for the potter's field, as the Lord appointed me.”
In the xi. chap. of the prophecies of Zechariah at the 12th and 13th verses, there is a passage so extremely like what is repeated by St. Matthew, as foretelling the purchase of the potter's field with the price of the Saviour's blood by the Lord's direction, that it is probable it is to this passage rather than to any in Jeremiah that he referred.
* It is probable that it had once been a place used by potters for the sake of the clay, which, being worked out, left it worthless, and to be had at so small a price.
of Acts i. 19. See Robinson's Biblical Researches.
f Carne's Syria.
And now before we leave the traitor Judas in his dishonored grave, let us give one more look upon his character and history. We turn shuddering from them both, but we have more connection with them than we think. There is in every human heart a small seed that might grow into that poison-tree, which blasted every principle of good in the heart and mind of Judas : the love of gain—the desire of worldly advancement.
Few are the men or women, who before God can truly say, "I never had, I never shall have such a motive for ought I have done or shall ever do, in what I would fain believe to be the service of God." Oh! the heart is subtle and deceitful. There are some whose very nature scorns the love of money ; to them gain is no temptation, but not for that, are they the more free from the germ of the traitor's sin. By such natures the desire of man's esteem is often most keenly felt. It matters not what sort of advancement it is that is prized, whether it is in actual position, or to be raised in public opinion, or to be thought highly of among religious people, or even to be looked upon as martyrs. If any such be the motive for joining the people of God, take good heed;—the seed may yet be small, but who shall say how great may be the tree, how bitter its fruits? It is of this world's produce, it cannot bear the fruits of eternal life. But if the motive be the love of God and of His Christ, it is of heaven, and the Holy Spirit will foster its growth, and it will become so strong that it will master and overcome all difficulties and all temptations. It was this difference of motive that divided Judas from the other apostles. They, like him, looked for and expected an earthly kingdom, for neither did they understand an entirely Spiritual Messiah. They also were disappointed: but their love was for their Lord, not for themselves; and
step by step they were led by Him, till they were able to devote tbeir lives and all that they had to His cause ; while Judas, seeking self in every thing, sank lower and lower from crime to crime, till “Satan entered into him," and his treason hurried him to the valley of Hinnom, -his body to the field of blood, his soul !- we dare not suffer our imaginations to picture to ourselves that abode, which in Scripture is expressed as “his own place.'
Prayer. O Jesus, blessed Lord! watch over my heart. Destroy by thy power, and by thy grace, the small seed of evil, the worldly self-seeking that would betray thy cause. Come thou, O Christ, most holy, most divine, dwell thou within me. Let me be thine, not to have praise among thy followers, not to win honor from thy name, but because I love Thee, and because I would rather forward thy cause than be the greatest of the children of men. Thou only canst discern the thoughts and intentions of the heart; at thy feet I fall, beseeching thee for thy mercy's sake to keep me from evil, that I may never in thought, word, or deed, betray thy cause. Hear me, most Holy Father, for thy Son's sake. Amen.
Jesus was given up by Pilate to be crucified !
The place of execution was without the gates. This was the case in most towns, and in Jerusalem it had always been intended to keep up a sort of resemblance to the camp of the Israelites in the wilderness,t in which it had been forbidden by God's law to put any one to death; therefore, no doubt, a place outside the walls was set apart for this unhallowed use. We must remember, that among the Jews the very touch of * Acts i. 25.
† John xix. 51.
the dead was considered as defiling. But it is by no means certain that the place in which Jesus was crucified, was the usual place of public execution. It is more probable that it was not ; for we shall find it mentioned by St. John, that there was a garden there, which would scarcely have been, if it had been set apart for so hateful a purpose. Its name Calvary, or Golgotha, which means the place of a skull, would have been rather a word which would have meant the place of skulls, had it been so called from the number of dead men's bones strewn about upon it. It seems more likely, as has been long supposed, that the name of the place was taken from its shape, a small round mount wbich men had spoken of as being like a skull, till it came to have the name "the place of a skull given to it.
It is perfectly well known at this day, and it lies far from that whereon the temple stood, near which was Pilate's judgment-ball. Up that long and weary way the Saviour passed, amidst the wild tumult and uproar of his triumphant enemies.
John xix. 17. "And he, bearing his cross went forth into a place called the place of a skull, which is called in the Hebrew Golgotha.”
It was the established custom that each criminal condemned to the shameful death of the cross, should be forced to carry to the place of execution the cross beam on which his arms were to be stretched, and to which his hands were to be nailed. This Jesus was required to do; but he was already so worn out that he sank under the burthen. His bodily nature was no stronger than our own. He had passed a sleepless night in the open air, and in such agitation of mind that he had sweat great drops of blood. At earliest dawn he had been hurried from place to place. He had been reviled, insulted, his feelings set at nought, abused, scourged, and spit upon. The morning hours had worn away, and he had not been given one moment's rest; what wonder then that noon found him faint and exbausted,