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Christ to death, was not only the permitter, but the wise and holy director and orderer of it, and by the wisdom of his providence overruled it to the great good and advantage of the church. Satan inspired the motion, "Then entered Satan into Judas, surnamed Iscariot, and he went his way," Luke, 22: 3, 4; his own lusts, like dry tinder, kindled presently: his heart was covetous. They covenanted to give him money, and he promised, &c.
The holy God disposed and ordered all this to the singular benefit and good of his people: the enemies of Christ did whatsoever "his hand and counsel had before determined to be done," Acts, 4: 28, and by this determinate counsel of God he was taken and slain. Acts, 2:23. Yet this in no way excuses the wickedness of the instruments: for what they did, was done, from the power of their own lusts, most wickedly; what He did, was, in the unsearchable depth of his own wisdom, most holy. God knows how to fulfil his purposes by the very sins of men, and yet have no communion at all in the sin he so overrules. Judas minded nothing but his own advantage, to get money: God permitted that lust to work, but overruled the issue to his own eternal glory and the salvation of our souls.
IV. But what was the end and issue of this deed? As to Christ, it was his death; for the hour being come, he doth not meditate an escape, nor put forth the power of his Godhead to deliver himself out of their hands. Indeed he showed what he could do, when he made them fall back and stagger with a word. He could have obtained more than twelve legions of angels to have been his life-guard; but how then should the Scriptures have been fulfilled, or our salvation accomplished?
And what did Judas get as a reward of his wickedness? It ended in the ruin both of his soul and body. For immediately a death-pang of despair seized his con
science; which was so intolerable, that he ran to the halter for a remedy; and so falling headlong, he burst asunder, and all his bowels gushed out. Acts, 1: 18. As for his soul, it went to its own place, ver. 25, even the place appointed for the son of perdition, as Christ calls him. John, 17: 12. His name is to this day, and shall be to all generations, a by-word, a proverb of reproach.
INFERENCE 1. Hence we learn that the greatest professors have need to be jealous of their own hearts, and look well to the grounds and principles of their profession. O professors, look to your foundation, and build not upon the sand, as this poor creature did. That is sound advice indeed which the apostle gives, "Let him that thinketh he standeth, take heed lest he fall." 1 Cor. 10:12. Oh beware of a loose foundation. If you begin your profession as Judas did, no wonder if it shall end as his did.
Beware, therefore, that you hold not "the truth in unrighteousness." Judas did so: he knew much, but lived not according to what he knew, for he was still of a worldly spirit in the height of his profession. His knowledge never had any saving influence upon his heart; he preached to others, but he himself was a castaway. He had much light, but still walked in darkness. He had no knowledge to do himself good.
Beware you live not in a course of secret sin. Judas did so, and that was his ruin. He made a profession indeed, and appeared well, but he was a thief. John, 12:6. He made no conscience of committing sin, so he could but cover and hide it from men. This helped on his ruin, and so it will thine, reader, if thou be guilty herein. A secret way of sinning, under the covert of profession, will either break out at last to the observation of men, or else slide thee down insensibly to hell, and leave thee there only this comfort, that nobody at present shall know thou art there.
Beware of hypocritical pretences of religion to accommodate self-ends. Judas was a man that had great skill in this. He had a mind to fill his own purse by the sale of that costly ointment which Mary bestowed upon our Saviour's feet. And what a neat cover had he for it: "This might have been sold for three hundred pence, and given to the poor." Here was charity to the poor, or rather poor charity; for this was only a blind to his base self-ends. O christian, be plain-hearted, take heed of craft and cunning in matters of religion.
Beware of self-confidence. Judas was very confident of himself. "Last of all, Judas said, Master, is it I ?" Matt. 26:25. But he that was last in the suspicion was first in the transgression. He that trusteth in his own heart is a fool." Prov. 28:26. It will be your wisdom to keep a jealous eye upon your own heart, and still suspect its fairest pretences.
If you would not do as Judas did, or come to such an end, take heed that you live not unprofitably under the means of grace. Judas had the best means of grace that ever man enjoyed. He heard Christ himself preach, he joined often with him in prayer, but he was never the better for it all; it was but as the watering of a dead stick, which will never make it grow, but rot it the sooner. Oh it is a sad sign, and a sad sin too, when men live under the Gospel from year to year, and are never the better. I warn you to beware of these evils, all ye that profess religion. Let these footsteps by which Judas went down to his own place, terrify you from following him in them.
2. Learn hence, also, that eminent knowledge and profession greatly aggravate sin. "Judas Iscariot, one of the twelve." Poor wretch! better had it been for him if he had never been numbered with them, nor enlightened with so much knowledge; for this rent his conscience to pieces, when he reflected on what he had
done, and drove him into the gulf of despair. To sin against clear light is to sin with a high hand. Those that had an agency in the death of Christ, through mistake and ignorance, could receive the pardon of their sin by that blood they shed. Acts, 3:19. Take heed therefore of abusing knowledge, and wresting conscience.
3. Learn hence, that unprincipled professors will sooner or later become apostates. Judas was an unprincipled professor, and see what he came to! Ambition invited Simon Magus to the profession of Christ, he would be some great one," and how quickly did the rottenness of his principles discover itself in the ruin of his profession! That which wants a root must wither. Matt. 13 20, 21. That which is the predominant interest will prevail with us in the day of our trial. Hear me, all you that profess religion, and have given your names to Christ; if that profession be not built upon a solid and real work of grace in your hearts, you will never honor religion, nor save your souls by it. Oh it is your union with Christ, that, like a spring, maintains your profession. So much as you are united to Christ, so much constancy, steadiness, and evenness you will manifest in the duties of religion, and no more.
O brethren, when he that professes Christ for company, shall be left alone as Paul was; when he that makes religion a stirrup to help himself into the saddle of preferment and honor, shall see that he is so advanced to be drawn forth into Christ's camp and endure the heat of the day, and not to take his pleasure; in a word, when he shall see all things about him discouraging and threatening; his dearest interest on earth exposed for religion's sake; and that he has no faith to balance his present losses with his future hopes; I say, when it comes to this, you shall then see the rottenness of many hearts discovered, and Judas may have many
associates who will part with Christ for the world. Oh therefore look well to your foundation.
4. Moreover, in this example of Judas you may read this truth; that men are never in more imminent danger than when they meet with temptations suited to their besetting sins, to their own iniquity. Oh pray, pray that ye may be kept from a violent besetting temptation. Satan knows that when a man is thus tried he falls by the root. The love of this world was all along Judas' master-sin, this was his predominant lust. The devil found out this, and suited it with a temptation which carried him immediately. This is the dangerous crisis of the soul. Now you shall see what it is, and what it will do. Put money before Judas, and presently you shall see what the man is.
5. Hence, in like manner, we are instructed that no man knows where he shall stop when he first engages himself in a way of sin.
Wickedness, as well as holiness, is not born in its full strength, but grows up to it by insensible degrees. So did the wickedness of Judas. I believe, he himself never thought he should have done what he did: and if any had told him, in the beginning of his profession, Thou shalt sell the blood of Christ for money, thou shalt deliver him most perfidiously into their hands that seek his life; he would have answered, as Hazael did to Elisha, "What, is thy servant a dog, that he should do this thing?" 2 Kings, 8:13. His wickedness first discovered itself in murmuring and discontent, taking a pique at some small matters against Christ, as you may find by comparing John 4, from ver. 60 to 70, with John 12, from ver. 3 to 9. But see to what it grows at last. That lust or temptation that at first is but a little cloud as big as a man's hand, may quickly overspread the whole heaven. Our engaging in sin is as the motion of a stone down hill, vires acquirit eundo, "it strengthens