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In the first place, we will consider the crime of Judas in its various circumstances; and, secondly, the consequences to which it led, and the event in which it terminated.
Judas's crime was betraying, or rather attempting to betray his master into the hands of his enemies.
The chief priests, scribes and elders, being assembled in council, had resolved to take Jesus and put him to death. But as there were many who held him in high estimation, they feared, that a publick arrestation of him would occasion a popular tumult. They therefore deliberated, how they might take him by subtilty in the night, in the place of his retirement, when there would be none to resist their attempt.
Judas, knowing by some means or other, the subject of their deliberations, went to the chief priests and proposed, for a proper reward, to betray him into their hands. The bargain was closed; and from this time he sought opportunity to betray him. It was not long before one occurred. Jesus being retired into the garden of Gethsemane, his usual retreat for prayer, Judas brought a band of soldiers, conducted them into the garden, and by a perfidious salute, before agreed upon, betrayed him into their power. We will consider the motives and aggravations of this sin.
1. Judas's ruling lust was covetousness. This was at the bottom of the crime under consideration. He went to the chief priests and said, “What will ye give me?” Give me a reward, “and I will betray him to you.” This was not the only instance of his avarice. He was appointed by his Lord, as a domestic steward, to provide for him and his attendants, to keep their common stock and to give alms to the poor. This trust he often abused by secretly applying to his own use some of the family property. He is therefore called a thief.
When Mary honored Christ by pouring precious ointment on his head, Judas had indignation, and said, “Why was not this ointment sold for three hundred pence and given to the poor ?” “ This he spake, not because he cared any thing for the poor, but because he was a thief, and had the bag, and bare what was put therein.” Had the ointment been sold, the proceeds would have come into his hands; and he could have applied them to his own use.
His avarice, by long indulgence, had obtained such an entire command of him, that it prompted him to sell his Lord.
He might further be urged to this treacherous act, by a resentment of the rebuke which his master gave him for criminating the piety of Mary. For immediately on this rebuke, he went to the chief priests with his perfidious proposal, resolving, that as he could not have the profits of the ointment, he would make something by the sale of his Lord.
While avarice and passion concurred to urge him to this dread- , ful deed, satan by his suggestions seconded their influence. While the council were consulting how they might take Jesus, “ then entered satan into Judas, and he went and communed with them, how he might betray him to them."
Probably he might at the same time, under satan's influence, endeavor to palliate the action, by entertaining a thought, that Christ, if he was the Son of God, could elude the designs of his enemies and extricate himself out of their hands; for it is said, 6 when Judas saw that Jesus was condemned, he repented” of what he had done.
But whatever view he might have of the event, the action was perfidious. He did all that was in his power to deliver his master into the hands of his enemies, and an imagination that Jesus could defeat their design did not palliate his guilt.
2. Judas was one of Christ's disciples. He had not only heard the doctrines and seen the miracles of his Lord; but had been himself ordained to preach the same doctrines and empowered to work the same miracles. It is said, “ Jesus ordained twelve, that they should be with him, and that he might send them forth to preach, and to heal diseases and cast out devils.” Of these Judas, who betrayed him, was one. He must therefore have been convinced, that his Lord was the true Messiah. Accordingly he confessed, that he had betrayed innocent blood. Had he suspected Jesus to be an impostor, he would not have pronounced him innocent; especially at a time, when he had every motive to wish for an excuse of his own conduct
· 3. There had been a particular confidence placed in Judas. He had the care of the common property of Christ's family, and he knew the place to whichi his Lord resorted with his disciples for their family devotions. He was therefore guilty of profaning a sacred place, and of violating the obligations of intimate friendship. The Psalmist, speaking prophetically in the person of Christ concerning the treachery of Judas, aggravates it from these circumstances. “ It was not an enemy that reproached me, then I could have borne it; neither was it he that hated me, who did magnify himself against me, then I would have hid myself from him ; but it was thou, a man, mine equal and mine acquaintance. We took sweet counsel together and walked to the house of God in company. Mine own familiar friend, in whom I trusted, and who did eat of my bread, hath lifted up his heel against me."
4. He had been repeatedly warned of this crime in terms, which might lead him to suppose, that his intention was known to his master. After he had been with the Jewish rulers, Christ, in his presence, said to the disciples, “ One of you shall betray me. The Son of man goeth indeed, as it is written of him ; but wo to that man, by whom the Son of man is betrayed. Good were it for him, that he had never been born.” Such a warning, one would think, should have struck him with conviction, and diverted him from his design. But far from this, when all the disciples, confounded at this general premonition, asked, one by one, “Lord, is it I?” Judas had the impudence to ask the same question, to whom Jesus replied, “ Thou hast said.” Immediately on this warning, he went out from Christ's presence to perpetrate the villainy.
5. This crime was committed deliberately. He went and consulted with the priests and elders concerning the time, place and manner of effecting it. He returned, and continued his attendance on his master. He was reminded once and again of the design which he had formed, and he was solemnly premonished of its dreadful consequence. His conscience had full time to rebuke him, and ample occasion to enter its remonstrance.
He was not drawn into this wickedness by the importunity of others, but he conceived it in his own heart and proposed it of his own motion. And what was his temptation ? He hoped to get thirty pieces of silver, or thirty shekels, the price of the meanest slave. That blood which is more precious than silver and gold, he betrayed for so contemptible a reward—and his own soul, the loss of which could not be compensated by the whole world, he sold for a thing of nought.
6. He betrayed his Lord too, at a time when, and place where he was engaged in the solemnities of devotion, and by the sorrows of his soul, and the fervor of his prayers, was seeking the salvation of a guilty race. Neither the sacredness of the place to which his master was retired, nor the solemnity of the duty in which he was employed, nor the sharpness of the distress with which his soul was wounded, could awe the hardened wretch from his premeditated crime. And,
7. With what detestable dissimulation he executed it? He betrayed his master by a solemn profession of love and respect. As he had before appointed to the soldiers a token, saying, “Whomsoever I shall kiss, the same is he; hold him fast;" so when he drew near, he forthwith came up to Jesus, and said, “Hail, master, and kissed him.” In the trepidation of haste, he went forward of the company; and gave the signal before they were near enough to discriminate the person in the night. Hence John tells .us, that after the salute, Jesus went forth, and asked the soldiers, “ Whom seek ye?” They said, “ Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus answered, “I am he. If ye seek me, let these," my disciples, "go their way.”
In this transaction of Judas, there was a complication of various sins, such as ingratitude, perfidy, hypocrisy, avarice, profaneness and malice, together with a settled resolution to do evil, which no advice, or warnings could controul.
The view we have taken of Judas' conduct will suggest to us several useful reflections, to which it will be proper for us here to . attend.
1. We see, that some, under the best means, remain impenitent and finally perish in their guilt.
What excellent advantages Judas enjoyed! He lived in the company of the Son of God, daily conversed with him, beheld
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his works, heard his instructions, saw his example and retired with him for devotion; and yet he retained his corruptions, and became more hardened in wickedness. How inexcusable must he have been ? What an awful condemnation must he have deserved ?
Are there not others, who will fall under the same condemnation? You enjoy great privileges. While you condemn him look well to yourselves.
You are not allowed, like him, to live in company with the Son of God; but perhaps your advantages may be equal to his. You have Christ's gospel in your hands, and may daily see what doctrines he taught, what works he performed, and in what manner he lived. You have repeated calls and admonitions, and the most powerful motives to a holy life. If Christ were personally with you, what could you learn from his mouth, more than you may now learn from his word ?
Come then, enquire of yourselves how you have profited by these advantages. You are astonished at the impenitence of Judas. Have you repented of your own sins? Have you mottified every lust, and subdued every passion ? Have you renounced satan and the world, and yielded yourselves servants to your divine Master ? Does love to him reign in your hearts and influence your conduct ? Do you grow in knowledge and goodness under the means you enjoy ? You see, that there is such a case as men's continuing in wickedness under the best means. Be afraid, lest this, which is no uncommon case, should unhappily prove to be your's.
2. We see, that great gifts are no evidence of saving grace.
Judas possessed miraculous gifts in common with his brethren. He was one of the twelve, whom Christ ordained to preach the gospel, cast out devils and heal all manner of diseases; and yet he was a stranger to the temper of that gospel, which he preached, and in the confirmation of which he wrought miracles. Our Saviour says, Many of those, whom he will reject as "workers of iniquity, will be able to plead, “ We have prophesied in thy name, and in thy name have cast out devils and done many wonderful works.” St. Paul supposes, that one may speak with the tongue