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grave in an honourable manner by his friends, and guarded by his enemies so strictly, as to cut off every 'means of deception. The former, we may conclude, retired to weep and lament, while the latter exulted in his apparent destruction.
Joseph and Nicodemus must certainly have been fully convinced that JESUS was worthy of their highest vene*ration, or they would not have ventured to shew such honour to his corpse; and it is probable that they believed he would rise from the dead, or they would scarcely have hazarded the reproaches their brethren would have cast on them, had it proved otherwise.
From the example of these two illustrious men, we are instructed, let our circumstances in life be ever so great, not to despise the Cross of CHRIST, but to think of a crucified Redeemer with the utmost reverence: and by our LORD's burial we are reconciled to the grave.
Let us now enquire after the traitor Judas.
JUDAS ISCARIOT REPENTETH, RETURNETH THE MONEY TO THE HIGH PRIEST, AND HANGETH HIMSELF.
From Matthew, Chap. xxvii.-Acts, i.
WHEN Judas, who had betrayed his LORD, saw that he was condemned, he repented himself, and brought again the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders,
Saying, I have sinned, in that I have betrayed the innocent blood. And they said, What is that to us?
sce thou to that.
And he cast down the pieces of silver in the temple, and departed, and went and hanged himself.
And falling headlong he burst asunder, and all, his bowels gushed out.
And the chief priests took the silver pieces, and said, It is not lawful for to put them into the treasury, because it is the price of blood.
And they took counsel, and bought with them the potter's field, to bury strangers in.
Wherefore that field was called, the field of blood, unto this day.
(Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by 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.)
ANNOTATIONS AND REFLECTIONS.
We read in a former Section, in what manner Judas betrayed his Master to the Jewish council, willingly yielding his mind to the suggestions of Satan, unmoved by the endearing behaviour of JESUS, which, one would have thought must have melted the most obdurate heart.
As soon as he had performed the treacherous act, and received the reward of his iniquity, the devil abandoned him to the terrors of his own conscience, which im.
* The word Jeremy is omitted, as the prediction alluded to is not to be found in the book of Jeremiah, but in that of Zechariah. Commentators have various ways of accounting for this circumstance, which some impute, and I think with great plausibility, to the error of a transcriber, which might, it seems, easily happen from the similarity of different letters in the Greek alphabet.
mediately set themselves in dreadful array against him. When he heard that his LORD was condemned to be crucified, he repented of his treachery, but with repen tance very unlike that of Peter: It led him indeed to confess his crime to the High Priest, and to bear testimony to the innocence of his Master (in which the providence of GOD remarkably appears); but we do not find that he humbled his soul before Gon, or wished for reconciliation with CHRIST as the Son of GOD.
How shocking it is to read the answer which the chief priests and elders made, when Judas declared that he had betrayed innocent blood! It plainly shewed, that they were determined to put our LORD to death, and to reject all proofs of his innocence.
None but those who have felt the bitterest pangs of remorse, can form a proper conception of the anguish of mind which the traitor endured, when he found that the sentence of condemnation passed on his LORD was irrevocable, and himself abandoned by the partners of his crime, to his own dreadful reflections! His fright. ened conscience gave him no leisure to reflect on the unbounded benevolence of CHRIST, or to seek for comfort, by pouring out his sorrows in the bosom of a friend; but hastily concluding that his own sin was unpardonable, he flung down, in an agony of distress, the price of his iniquity, and went and destroyed: himself.
The chief priests, quite at a loss how to dispose of the money, took it up, and laid it by for the present; but after our LORD's death they held a council, when, under an hypocritical pretence that it was unlawful to bring the hire of a traitor, or the price of a malefactor, into the sacred treasury, they resolved to apply the thirty pieces of silver to a purpose which would tend at once
to impress the people with great reverence for the temple, and an high opinion of their humanity and liberality towards strangers.
The Potter's field was in the neighbourhood of Jerusalem, and probably so called, on account of its having been occupied by a Potter; who might, by digging it for his manufacture, have rendered it in a great measure unfit for tillage, and consequently of little value. The strangers, to whose use it was appropriated, were foreigners, who had no sepulchres of their own, and whom the Jews disdained to inter amongst those of their own holy nation. The name of Aceldama, or the Field of Blood, was given to it by the people, because it was purchased with that money which was the price of the life of JESUS.
The prophecy alluded to is in the book of the prophet Zechariah. There is great obscurity in it; but it seems to foretell the indignities which the Jews would put upon the MESSIAH, when he should appear amongst them as a shepherd, by offering for him, in return for his care, thirty pieces of silver, the price of a slave; which he would throw from him with disdain in the house of the LORD, and give it to a Potter; after which he would break his pastoral staff, and cease to be the Shepherd of Israel.
From the example of Judas we learn, that the indulgence of covetous desires lays the mind open to the temptations of Satan, and that those who forsake CHRIST forfeit the benefit of divine grace. We are also taught, that there is no possibility of annihilating conscience, for the punishment of a man's sin always begins from himself, and from his own reflections. We are likewise in structed, that unless we seek for divine pardon and grace, the pangs of guilt will end in despair, which will be productive of effects fatal to both body and soul.
Had Judas felt a godly sorrow for his crimes, there is no doubt but he would have been pardoned; for some of our LORD's murderers were saved through faith and repentance. He had hardened his heart by resisting divine grace, and had slighted all the warnings given him by CHRIST; therefore, though he had a sense of sin, he had no hope of pardon afforded him; and his repentance, instead of working out his salvation, filled his soul with intolerable anguish, and at length led him to be his own executioner. The last desperate act proved, that the principles of religion were extinguished in his inind: for surely no one who believes in a future state of rewards and punishments will commit self-murder; because that, so far from putting an end to his misery, will only be a means of accelerating the torments of heil, which may, by proper repentance, be entirely avoided. It is certainly the height of folly, as well as wickedness, for any one to attempt the destruction of himself, since he will by such a rash step unavoidably increase and perpetuate the agonies of remorse from which he wishes to fly; and add to their sting the dreadful reflection of having perpetrated a crime, for which there is no opportunity of repentance. It is much the safest way to keep the mind perpetually on its guard against temptation; for which purpose, an habitual love of GOD and CHRIST, and frequent prayer, are the best means that can be used; for they will cer tainly obtain divine grace, which is an effectual antidote against despair.
We will now read a part of Isaiah's prophecy, which foretold our SAVIOUR'S sufferings and death in a very remarkable manner,