Acts 1:17

I. An instance of SELF-DECEPTION, its power and fruits.

1. The possibility that only gradually Judas fell away - original basis of narrow-mindedness and self-indulgence leading to love of money and dishonesty.

2. The light turned into darkness. Near to Jesus, but the conscience, once perverted, becoming rapidly its own tempter, kicking against convictions, till convictions themselves become impossible, and the Master, once revered, is hated.

3. The higher the elevation of privilege, the deeper the fall. When remorse lays hold of such a mind it devours all hope, and casts down headlong. Warning against the beginning of evil. Appeal to those who have still opportunity of repentance to listen to the voice of remonstrance. Jesus gave Judas many times the clear note of pitiful admonition, which was rejected.

II. A GREAT LESSON ON THE DUTY OF GOD'S PEOPLE IN THEIR RELATION TO CHURCH DISCIPLINE. The supreme principle must be, not that the Church punishes, but that it solemnly recognizes the Divine jurisdiction. Judas was in God's hands, and God dealt with him. The place was left vacant, to be filled up in dependence on Divine guidance. We can cut off a name and fill up an office, but we must not lay our hand on persons. The great error which has worked so fatally in Christendom has been the Church's usurping the Divine office of punishment, and calling in the secular arm to do its evil will. We should deal with backsliders in the tenderest spirit. At the same time, this conspicuous instance serves to keep us in mind that the kingdom of Christ is a real reign of sovereign power, and that the events of men's lives, their happiness or misery, and what the world calls their fate, all are appointed in harmony with the Divine purpose which is being fulfilled in the Church. The appeal to God by lot was a recognition of the same truth. Though an old Jewish custom, it was sanctioned by God as helping his people to remember the universality of his rule. It was not a blind appeal to chance, but was accompanied with believing prayer and an exercise of human wisdom so far as it went. As at the beginning, so still and always, the Church can be purged of its evil only by God, not by man. We must expect a mingled state, while we aim at purity and maintain a spiritual oversight and watchful discipline in the Church itself. There are two extremes to be avoided:

(1) the latitudinarian indifference which says, "Let the world and the Church intermingle without attempt at distinction;"

(2) the Pharisaical censoriousness which would be constantly pulling up tares, and wheat with them, and so tends to disintegrate the Church by endless divisions and separations. Let God be the Judge; for he has said, "Vengeance is mine." Let the prevailing spirit be the charity which "hopeth all things." - R.







Men and brethren, this Scripture must needs have been fulfilled... concerning Judas.
We know not a more remarkable expression than "The wrath of man shall praise Thee, the remainder of wrath shalt Thou restrain." The manner in which God overrules wickedness, and by which crime is as much an instrument in His hands as obedience, evidences our Maker's greatness as well as His unlimited dominion. God is able to reckon with thorough certainty upon the commission of a crime, and yet leave men quite free in the commission. We are so accustomed to denounce the traitor for his crime, that we are apt to overlook the important ends which are eventually subserved. It will be our object to exhibit generally the testimony to Christianity which is furnished by the treason of Judas.

I. LET US PREMISE ONE OR TWO OBSERVATIONS UPON THE CHARACTER OF JUDAS; for bad as this was, it may by possibility be misrepresented. We see no reason to believe that Judas had any design on the life of his Master, for, seeing the consequences of his treachery, he was tern with mortification and remorse. He might have supposed it highly improbable that, by placing Christ in the hands of His enemies, he would have been instrumental in His death; for the Jews had then no legal power of putting to death; and it was not likely that the Romans would pay attention to their accusations. Judas then may have calculated that all that could be done to Christ would be putting some restraint upon His person, and preventing Him from further propagating the religion, by whose precepts he himself was condemned.

II. We shall proceed, on this supposition, in TRACING THE ENDS WHICH THE TREACHERY SUBSERVED. You may imagine that the traitor seized a favourable opportunity of indulging his avarice, and of stopping the diffusion of a religion, which, as a money-grasping man, he must have cordially disliked, Now, if he had been possessed of any information which at all tended to invalidate its truth, how eagerly would he have adduced it, and the chief priests have received it! The mere putting to death was as nothing compared with the proving Him a deceiver. And yet Judas, eager as he was for money, and anxious to crush the new religion, has no intelligence to give which may disprove Christ's pretensions. This is amongst the strongest of proofs that Christ was "a teacher sent from God."

1. Our Lord's pretensions rested chiefly on His miracles, so that to show deceit in the one would have over. thrown the other. Infidelity will sometimes argue that there might have been collusion in the miracles. Now, had this been the case, Judas must have known it, and if Judas must have known, this would have been a fine piece of intelligence to have sold to the chief priests, and by communicating it he would at once have enriched himself and destroyed Christianity. Nay, he would have done a righteous deed; and while gratifying his avarice, he would have laid up no food for remorse.

2. The infant religion might have been assailed with at least equal power through the moral character of its Founder. And one of the most beautiful arguments by which we may defend Christianity is derived from the more than human purity of Christ. And if it were possible to invalidate in the least degree the truth that Christ "did no sin, neither was guile found in His mouth," the whole system would fall to the ground. Mark, that "the chief priests and all the council sought for witness against Jesus to put Him to death; and they found none." Yet they were bargaining with Judas, one of His intimate associates, who must have been accurately acquainted with all the flaws, if such there were, in His character. In the silence of this traitor in selling his Master, we find irresistible attestation to the fact that Christ Jesus was indeed "a lamb without blemish and without spot."

3. The prophecies might have been frustrated. It had been declared, in Zechariah, that the Messiah should be sold for thirty pieces of silver, and this price be given to the potter. Now had the chief priest and scribes offered more than thirty pieces, or had Judas been contented with fewer, or had the price of blood, when returned by the traitor, been spent on the land of any but a potter, there would have been a defect in the evidence that Jesus was the Christ. And the infatuated rulers could not see this. Perhaps they drove a hard bargain with Judas, beating him down till they reached the exact sum which prophecy specified as the number of the pieces of metal. They never thought, when exulting that they had bought Jesus at the price of a slave, that they had completed the evidence of His being their king. The like may be said of the potter's field. With all their profligacy, they were scrupulous in touching the money; and therefore will they use it in proving Jesus the Christ. It shall buy the potter's field — the only purpose to which it can be turned; and after being the price of His blood it shall serve to prove His commission. The only prophecies with which infidelity could be successfully pressed are those in which it is impossible that the parties professedly interested should have planned or procured the accomplishment. Nothing can more directly answer this commission than those which have reference to the compact with Judas. Conclusion: This is our consolation whilst "the heathen rage and the people imagine a vain thing" — we know that the will of our Creator shall take effect. Hostility and malice and treachery shall prevail nothing against the Lord and His Christ. They shall but defend and consolidate the Church. Judas Iscariot vindicates the Master he betrayed, and sustains the cause from which he apostatised. Therefore need we be nothing dismayed if the wicked combine to oppose Christianity. There is one that sits above the tempest, and so directs it, that its fury shall be spent on those by whom it has been raised.

(H. Melvill, B. D.)

He was guide to them that took Jesus.

I. THERE ARE TWO WAYS TO TAKE CHRIST.

1. Faith takes Jesus. It takes Christ at His word.(1) In His promises.(2) In His warnings, when He directs the life by those careful provisions and restrictions which are found everywhere in His Word.(3) In His precepts, when it strives to obey that which He commands, to submit to that which He appoints.(4) In His person.(5) In His covenanted presence in this world by the Spirit.

2. Falseness takes Christ. Inspired by hatred of His words, by restlessness under His control, by uncongeniality with His spirit, it cries, "I will not; have this man to reign over me." And when that spirit of opposition is developed there is no mode of destruction too vile for falseness to accept. The world is full of those who are controlled by this hostility. Opposition to Jesus among men only lacks leadership; and whensoever such a guide is found they covenant with him even to a costly sacrifice if he will deliver the Jesus of the Church into their hands. Pilate's timidity, and Herod's overweening, weak curiosity, are bad enough in condemning Christ; but He says, "He that delivered Me unto thee hath the greater sin." It is not enough that the Judas who guides this hostility should plead his own freedom from violence. He adds meanness to his other sins when he shirks the responsibility he has assumed. There are multitudes who need no accusers before God's throne. There are those who confess that they are opponents, and mean to be such, and whose only apology is, "At all events, we do not profess to be anything better," and in God's book of remembrance their apology becomes their accusation. Then there are those who say, "We know the truth perfectly." Then, brother, if thy life is still against Christ, when thou shalt stand before that terrible bar thine own faith shall testify against thee. Of all dooms there is none so dreadful as that of him who strives to hold the privilege of professed discipleship, and yet is a guide to them that take Jesus.

II. THREE STEPS WHICH SUCH A GUIDE MUST TAKE. Only three? How short a journey it is! David sums it up with other words in his first Psalm. The likeness of Judas' life in these three respects can be traced, I fear, in that of some of us.

1. He counsels with Jesus' enemies.

2. He reveals His hiding.

3. He perverts a profession of affection.

(S. H. Tyng, D. D.)

Foreknowledge and predestination are not subjects for a careless, trifling, or cavilling mind to grapple with. Neither are they subjects which, under any circumstances, admit of being treated in an abstract or mere speculative way. That God foreknows all actions, and all occurrences, we cannot deny, without at once stripping Him of an essential attribute of His being. That His foreknowledge comprehends the final destiny of every human being, is clear. In order, however, to get rid of this inevitable conclusion, the doctrine of contingencies is sometimes resorted to; and we are asked how a thing can be certainly foreknown which is dependent upon occurrencies that may or may not take place. This is a mere evasion — the raising of a second difficulty, in order to dispose of the first. Is it more difficult for God to foresee the working contingencies, and the specific movements of pure volition, than it would be to foresee those results if they were suspended upon an absolute decree? But we are told that by pressing the doctrine of foreknowledge we place ourselves on the threshold of predestination; inasmuch as a thing definitely foreknown is as certain as a thing positively foreordained. I have neither the power nor the will to resist this inference, because I believe it to be a legitimate conclusion arising out of undeniable premisses. But then we are told, further, and by another class of persons, that foreknowledge and predestination involve in them the execution of a decree, whereby a large portion of mankind are reprobated and doomed to eternal misery; and the case of Judas is referred to as an instance in point. Here we are completely at issue with them, and for this plain reason — that the Bible speaks a different; language from that which they see fit to employ on the subject. The Bible represents the door of mercy as being wide open for the admission of every son and daughter of Adam. If the language actually employed by the inspired writers does not tell me that Christ died for all, could any other language have been adopted by them, calculated to convey the idea more forcibly, admitting that they wished to convey it at all? A second thought which presses itself upon the attention, as the result of a fair survey of the book of God, is, — that where the offers of mercy are rejected, such rejection is altogether voluntary: in other words, that obstacles to salvation rest entirely with man; and that every sinner who perishes under a blaze of evangelical light, is, to all intents, a self-destroyer. Still, however, though the theory of absolute unconditional reprobation is disproved by the testimony of Scripture, there is a rebounding echo which says that foreknowledge is certainty; and that if God foreknows who of His creatures will be finally saved, and who of them will be eternally lost, it amounts to the same thing, so far as the single point of destination is concerned, as if He had positively decreed life to some and death to others. This, again, is a position which I shall not attempt to controvert; and yet it is a position requiring to be taken in connection with the elucidation of certain principles which are constantly and practically operating in the affairs of human life. God foreknows everything; and yet man acts as if He foreknew nothing. Volition is as perfect, the will is as unfettered in the one case as it would or could be in the other. Simple foreknowledge, as distinguished from absolute predestination, is founded on free agency, and in no way does it influence or control it. The very certainty by which it is characterised is the result of free agents acting as they please, of rational intelligences ranging at large in the wide field of unrestrained liberty. If men are not saved, it is because they refuse to be saved, and for no other cause; and hence we may well ask, Where is the humility, where is the wisdom, where is the piety, of persons disquieting their minds, because their Creator is an omniscient Intelligence, and because the attribute of omniscience involves foreknowledge and certainty? You will observe that I have confined myself to the point of foreknowledge, leaving that of predestination, excepting incidently, untouched. I have done so because I consider it as irrelevant to the case of Judas, and not propounded, either directly or by implication, in the text. Predestination stands closely connected with sovereignty; and sovereignty has exclusively to do with the bestowment of good; exerting itself solely in acts of beneficence; decreeing blessings, not curses; ordaining men to life, not dooming them to destruction. At the same time, I cannot refrain from saying, in reference to predestination, that, in a practical point of view, it presents, so far as I can judge, no greater difficulties to the mind than those connected with foreknowledge. It is equally consistent with the freedom of man as a rational agent, with the universality of gospel offers, and with the fulness of gospel grace. Conclusion:

1. The subject we have considered constitutes a loud call to humanity. Instead of cavilling at difficulties, let us resolve them into the imperfection of mortal vision; and, instead of boasting our mental powers, let us lie prostrate at the Divine footstool, as those who feel their own littleness, and are sensible how blind and ignorant they are, in reference to heavenly things.

2. The subject should guard us against the error of suffering ourselves to be fettered by any human system. Let promises and precepts, doctrines, and duties, decrees and responsibilities, occupy the places assigned to them on the page of Scripture; and what God has joined together let not the presumptuous hand of man dare to put asunder.

3. The contemplation of God's foreknowledge should never be engaged in otherwise than in close connection with gospel promises and gospel precepts. God knows no such character as a sincere inquirer shut out from mercy's gate; and sooner shall the sun be shorn of its beams — sooner shall the rainbow discharge its beauteous colours — than a praying soul shall perish, because Divine foresight takes cognizance of human destination.

4. The doctrine of Divine foreknowledge, as taught in Scripture directly and inferentially, tends, when duly apprehended, through a spiritual medium, both to impart comfort, and to prompt exertion. In proportion as faith and hope ripen into assurance, the soul is perceptibly strengthened for the performance of its active duties; and on the same principle, the certainty of Divine foreknowledge, irradiated with the bright beams of evangelical promise, so stimulates the believer's energies Chat he becomes "ready to every good work" — "steadfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord."

(Wm. Knight, M. A.)

From these learn —

1. How great a sin avarice is, and to what a depth of wickedness it precipitates a man.

2. How deep the fall of those who fall from great grace and from high privileges.

3. How grievous the sin of desperation. It was this which made the difference between the sin of the traitor and that of the denier.

(Cornelius Lapide.)

He fell headlong, or, rather, flat on his face (cf. Josephus, "Jewish Wars," 6:1-6), a fact not contradictory, but additional, to the circumstances mentioned in Matthew 27:5, where the word is the same as that used by the LXX. concerning Ahithophel. Theophylact explained that the rope broke, Judas having flung himself off some height. It will be remembered that ten thousand Idumean captives, cast down from the top of a rock, after Amaziah's victory, "were all broken in pieces" (2 Chronicles 25:12).

(Bp. Jacobsen.)

The Duke of Buckingham, having by an unfortunate accident lost the army which he had raised against the usurper Richard III., was forced to flee for his life without page or attendant. At last he took refuge in the house of Humphrey Bannister at Shrewsbury, who, being one of his servants, and having formerly raised him from a low condition, would, he trusted, be ready to afford him every possible protection. Bannister, however, upon the king's proclamation, promising £1,000 reward to him that should apprehend the Duke, betrayed his master to John Merton, high sheriff of Shropshire, who sent him under a strong guard to Salisbury, where the king then was, by whom he was condemned to be beheaded. But Divine vengeance pursued the traitor and his family; for, on demanding the £1,000, that was the price of his master's blood, King Richard refused to pay it, saying, "He that would be false to so good a master ought not to be encouraged." He was afterwards hanged for manslaughter: his eldest son fell into a state of derangement, and died in a hog-sty; his second son became deformed and lame; his third son was drowned in a small pool of water, and the rest of his family perished miserably.

At Jerusalem traces of an ancient gateway have been discovered, apparently that known as "The Gate of the Potters," the quarter where earthenware was manufactured. Opposite to this lies the "Potter's Field," still called Aceldama, on which rises an old ruin thirty feet long and twenty feet wide, the whole forming a flat-roofed cover to a dismal house of the dead. Two caverns open in the floor, their rocky sides pierced with holes for bodies; and galleries of holes run into the hill from the bottom. Holes in the roof are still seen through which the corpses were let down by ropes, and there are marks of the steps by which the tombs were entered.

(C. Geikie, D. D.)

Bought with the price of blood (Matthew 27:8), and, according to received tradition, stained with the blood of Judas. The name would remind Jewish readers of that bloodshedding, the consequences of which had been invoked on themselves and on their children. The place commonly shown as Aceldama has ever been famous on account of the sarcophagus virtue possessed by the earth in hastening the decay of dead bodies. Shiploads of it were carried to the Campo Santo in Pisa.

(Bp. Jacobsen.)

The gambling spirit, which is at all times a stupendous evil, ever and anon sweeps over the country like an epidemic, prostrating uncounted thousands. There has never been a worse attack than that from which all the villages, towns, and cities are now suffering.

1. This sin works ruin, first, by providing an unhealthful stimulant.

2. Again, this sin works ruin by killing industry.

3. Furthermore, this sin is the source of dishonesty.

4. Notice also the effect of this crime upon domestic happiness.

(T. de Witt Talmage.)

The first quotation (ver. 20) down to "therein" is taken substantially from Psalm 69:25, with some compression of LXX., and a variation in the number of the pronoun from plural to singular, by which Judas is taken as a representative of Christ's enemies. This Psalm, quoted in the New Testament oftener than any other, except 22., is pre-eminently Messianic. Ver. 9 is applied to Christ by John (John 2:17); the words immediately following by Paul (Romans 15:3); and the fulfilment of ver. 21 is noted by John (John 19:28-30). The second quotation is taken with verbal exactness from LXX., Psalm 109:8 — the Iscariot Psalm. The conduct of Judas warranted the identifying him with Doeg and Ahithophel. David and his enemies are treated as types of Christ and His enemies. And after the exposition given by our Lord (Luke 24:44), it is out of the question to impute to Peter misunderstanding or misapplication.

(Bp. Jacobsen.)

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