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A. M. 4037, alive; one that had violated the laws of God, and society, and nature, and cast all fide&c. or 5442. lity and gratitude, and common humanity, behind his back. All which, and a great Vulg. Er. 33, deal more, were not only aggravations due to his crime, but the very properest occa&c. or 31. sions of remorse.
He felt indeed some regret for what he had done (as an awakened conscience cannot fence off such reflections), and he wished perhaps he had never done it; but the regret which he felt, seems rather to have been the effect of confusion and rage, than any godly relenting; the agonies of frenzy, and amazement, and despair, which are the most distant things in the world from that sober and regular sorrow, (a) which worketh repentance unto salvation, not to be repented of."
Herein then lay the defect of Judas's repentance, that the horror of his sin led him into despair. For repentance, we must know, does not barely consist in sorrow for sin, but in such a sorrow as is tempered and supported with hope; not in a mere confession of our transgressions, but in such a confession as trusts and depends on forgiveness; and, as it imports a change of manners, unless we are first persuaded that our sincere endeavours for the future will be kindly received, and our former transgressions generously passed over, all ground and encouragement for such a change is utterly taken
Reason indeed cannot lead us to infer, that sorrow for the past, or amendment for the time to come, can be any equivalent satisfaction for our offences; but revelation assures us, that God may be appeased, and it hath told us withal in what manner he is appeased, even by the precious blood of his Son," who came to give his life a ransom for many." In this matter God hath declared himself so fully, that the very heinousness of our sins is not a greater provocation than the distrust of mercy (which, in effect, is making God a liar, and disparaging the merits of Christ's sacrifice) after we have committed them. So that hope of mercy, and faith in the promises, and satisfaction of Christ, are the very life and spirit of true repentance, essential and indispensa bly requisite to quicken and recommend every part of it. And therefore no wonder if Judas's repentance proved so ineffectual, which was plainly destitute of these necessary qualifications.
If it be enquired, how Judas came to be wanting in this point? The immediate cause, no question, was, that God had forsaken him, and withdrawn his grace from him. But then if we pursue this enquiry still farther, and drive it up to its true fountainhead, the matter will fall upon Judas himself as the proper and original cause of his own misery and destruction.
For whatever we may think of the doctrine of predestination, it is certain, that the miserable Judas was not aware of any power in it to sustain his mind, when he came to reflect on what he had done. He could not interpret, that the foreknowledg of God had any causality or influence upon his sins, because he found cause enough for that arising from his own deportment: (b) For, having given way to a covetous desire, and hardened his heart by a sinful indulgence of it against all impressions of wholesome counsel, he was convinced, that the prophecy of his treason could not fail of its event, because, when the temptation offered, he could not chuse but do what he did. He had indeed lost all his power and liberty to do better, though still the necessity which he then lay under was not fatal, but natural; not of God's decreeing, but of his own procuring. Under these juster apprehensions of his crime, he is said to have repented, in the worst sense of the words, i, e. he grieved, he despaired, and then he hanged himself. And though we allow that his passions transported him too extravagantly in these latter violences, yet even from what was rational in his grief, we may learn this lesson, "That when an awakened conscience comes to estimate the nature of its guilt, there
(a) 2 Cor. vii, 10,
(b) Younge's Sermons, vol. ii.
will be found but poor shelter in all those palliations that can be formed by human From Matth. subtilty and licentious wit."
xx. 10. to the end, Mark xi.
to the end, and
The aggravations of St Peter's offence, in denying our Lord, are much of the same 15. to the end, kind with that of Judas in betraying him. That a person who, for the space of three Luke xix. 45. years and more, had the honour of our Lord's conversation, the conviction of his mira- John xii. 19. to cles, and the instruction of his doctrine; who had been let into the knowledge of those the end. mysteries which, for wise reasons, were delivered in parables, and concealed from others; admitted to his transfiguration upon the Mount, his converse with Moses and Elias, and to hear that voice from God's excellent glory, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased," (a) as himself testifies; that a person who, hereupon, had made confession of his Master's Divinity, and received his commendations for it, had been chosen a companion of his agonies, and forewarned frequently of the great danger of denying him; and hereupon grown so very resolute, that he offered (b) "to go with him into prison and to death," and to distinguish himself above any of his brethren, (c) " Though all should be offended, says he, because of thee, yet will not I be offended; and though I were to die with thee, yet would I not deny thee:"That a person, I say, placed in this rank and elevation, should fall off in the time of trial; should deny and abjure his Master, whose greatest honour it was to own, implies a guilt still more heinous, the more his knowledge and former conviction, the more his warning and long experience, the more his professions and boasted firmness of mind were conspicuous.
This however may be said with relation to the difference between the crime of Judas and that of St Peter, that the former proceeded from a spirit of malice, and fixed resolution to do evil, occasioned by a sordid and covetous temper; that it was nourished up by long contrivance and deliberation, was carried on by hypocrisy and deep dissimulation, was executed with perfidy and great violence, and ended, at last, in the agonies of horror and despair; whereas St Peter's crime, though a very great one, was but of a short continuance, and never in his intention at first; was indeed the effect of fear and human infirmity, occasioned, in a great measure, by surprise and want of recollection; not so much the act of the man, as it was the force of the temptation he was under; and therefore, when he (d) "came to remember the words which Jesus had said unto him," and thereupon to consider how shamefully he had fallen from his courage and constancy; how easily he had been betrayed into a crime he thought himself not capa ble of; how base he had been to so kind a master, how false to his promises, how regardless of truth, how peremptory in a most notorious falsehood, and how profane and profligate in his oaths and curses;-when he came to consider all this, I say, a godly sorrow swelled his heart, and tears gushed out of his eyes: "He went out, and wept bitterly." [It must be confessed, however, that instead of going out and weeping bitterly in private, he ought to have confessed his sin, and proclaimed his Master publicly before all in whose presence he had denied him; but this would have been a degree of perfection to which he was not then equal, though he fully reached it afterwards. He seems indeed to have been left to himself in that trying emergency, and afterwards received into favour, to shew to the governors of the church, how they should conduct themselves towards such of the faithful as might apostatize, through mere human frailty, in those dreadful persecutions, which our Lord foresaw would be brought on his disciples for his name's sake.]
Judas, in like manner, might weep for his transgression perhaps, but his tears must have been ineffectual, because the season of that grace, which he had long resisted and defeated, was departed from him, and God provoked to give him over to his own perverseness; whereas our Saviour, who foresaw from what principle St Peter's offence
(6) Luke xxii. 33.
(d) Ibid. xxvi. 75.
(a) 2 Pet. i. 17, 18. VOL. III.
(c) Matth. xxvi. 35.
A. M. 4037. would arise, and how sudden his conversion would be, (a) "had prayed for him, that &c. or 5442. his faith might not fail," and thence his recovery did proceed. We should be injurious Vulg. Ær. 33. however to the memory of this apostle, if we should here neglect to relate how his after-behaviour shewed the sincerity of his repentance, and made an ample amends for the scandal of his offence.
&c. or 31.
(b) It was this same St Peter who, after our Lord's resurrection, returned to the fervour of affection for which he was remarkable before; that so exerted himself at the day of (c) Pentecost, and proved, by irrefragable arguments, that Jesus Christ was the Son of God; that maintained his point against the Jewish rulers, (d) despising their rebukes and angry menaces, and telling them plainly, (e) that "God was to be obeyed rather than man;" that confirmed his brethren by his resolute behaviour, and (ƒ) made it a matter of rejoicing, that he was "accounted worthy to suffer shame" for the once abjured name of Christ. In a word, it was he who, after a long labour of preaching, and persecutions of all kinds, at length finished his course, and glorified God by the same sort of death that his Blessed Son condescended to undergo for our sakes. So that St Peter was not more different from himself, when trembling at the voice of a silly damsel, than the same St Peter afterwards, the glorious and invincible apostle, before the council, in prison, and upon the cross, was from the cowardly and infamous renegade in the high priest's palace. This settled and deliberate fidelity was a noble compensation for the infirmity and transports of this fall. This shewed what the man was, when perfectly himself, and supported by the grace of God, as the other did, what he was, when naked and destitute of heavenly succours, depending upon his own strength, and left in the hand of his own passions.
St Paul (g) represents our Saviour "as a merciful high priest, because he was touched with a feeling of our infirmities;" and as it is natural for us to compassionate those that are in the same state of misery with ourselves, so might our Lord, from the society of suffering, have been induced, at this time, to admit the penitent upon the cross into a participation of bliss, who, at another time, would not have met with so ready a reception. (h) It might therefore be no small advantage to the penitent thief, that he happened to die in company with Christ, though it is certain, that the good disposition which he discovered in his behaviour and confession was enough to recommend him to the Divine mercy.
It is highly probable, that this man never knew any thing of Jesus before, otherwise than by common fame; nay, that he was prepossessed against him as an impostor, and joined with his companion in reviling him at first; and therefore the greater was his virtue in overcoming these prejudices so soon, and in suffering the meekness and patience, the charity and piety, of our Lord's miraculous death to disabuse him. This is so far from making him a late penitent, that it gives him the glory of an early convert; one whose heart was open to the first impression of grace, and wanted, not so much the inclination, as the opportunity of embracing the truth before.
But admitting that he had seen and heard of Christ before, yet, that he should now come in to the acknowledgment of him, and believe him to be the Saviour of the world, when one of his disciples had betrayed, another had denied, and all of them had forsaken him; and proclaim him to be the Son of God, and Lord of life, when he was hanging on the cross, suffering the pangs of death, and seemingly deserted by his Father: That he should take sanctuary in a dying and universally despised man, publish his innocence in the face of triumphant malice, and, through the thickest cloud of shame and suffering that ever intercepted the glories of the Son of God, discover his Divine power,
(a) Luke xxii. 32.
(d) Ibid. iv. 19, 20.
h) Taylor's Life of Christ.
(b) Stanhope's Sermons on several Occasions. (e) lbid. v. 29.
(c) Acts ii. 14.
(f) Ibid. ver. 41.
(g) Heb. iv, 15.
xx. 10. to the
acknowledge his celestial kingdom, throw himself upon his protection, and call upon From Matth. him as the great disposer of rewards and happiness after death. This was a confession end, Mark xi. so resolute, so singular, so illustrious, as never was outdone, as never can, in all respects, 15. to the end, be equalled, except the same Jesus were again to be crucified: For no man's conversion Luke xix. 45, ever had, ever can have, upon other terms, such disadvantageous and discouraging cir-John xii. 19. to cumstances as this man laboured under, and yet so generously overcame.
to the end, and
Well therefore might (a) St Chrysostom (as he does with great force and eloquence) rebuke the impudence of those late penitents who presume to take sanctuary in this example: For what affinity, what shadow of resemblance, is there between a man submitting to the first impression, and accepting of offers as soon as made; and one who has lived under the ministry of the Gospel, and enjoyed both the outward calls of God's word, and the inward solicitations of his Spirit, but turned the deaf ear continually to both? Between a man who to our Lord paid the highest degree of homage and respect, even when he had made himself of no reputation, and appeared in the guise of the vilest malefactor; and one who, notwithstanding his resurrection from the dead, and exaltation to glory, notwithstanding the conquest made by the gospel, and the infamy of denying him now, continues still to injure and affront, to despise and defy him in his most prosperous and triumphant condition?
In a word, no Christian who hath lived under the dispensation of the Gospel can, at the end of his days, plead the same ready compliance to the calls of grace, and no man whatever can have the opportunity of exerting the same vigorous faith; because Christ could die but once, and it was his shame and suffering alone that made the confession of this penitent so peculiarly glorious, and such as the whole series of a pious life in other men can hardly parallel. So that if we are allowed to make any use, or to draw any consolation from this example, it can be no more than this,―That repentance, when true, is never too late; and therefore the thief upon the cross is a sovereign antidote against despair. But men may out-stay the day of grace: They may not go about the work until it is too late; until they have lost both the will and the power to repent; and therefore this example, when truly considered, is an excellent preservative likewise against presumption.
It may be deemed perhaps some mistake in the evangelist, or rather a disparagement to the Holy Spirit, by whose direction, we say, it was he wrote, that St Matthew cites Jeremiah for a passage which nowhere occurs but in the prophet Zechariah; but then it should be proved that St Matthew does actually cite Jeremiah. (b) In most of the Latin and Greek copies, indeed, we have the word Jeremiah at present, but it is much to be questioned whether it was in the original, since the Syriac and Persic versions mention no name but barely the prophet; and those copies, in (c) St Austin's opinion, are most to be relied on which have not the name of Jeremiah inserted in them, because this might possibly proceed from the ignorance or carelessness of some transcriber. (d) Some of our modern reconcilers have another way of accounting for this. They endeavour to prove (e), from the writings of the Jewish Rabbins, that, both before, under, and after the second temple, the order of the Sacred Books was several times transposed, and that in the time when St Matthew wrote his Gospel, the book of Jeremiah (as does now that of Isaiah), stood first in the volume of prophets, and so became the running title of all the rest: For that the first book in a volume may give the name to the rest, is obvious, say they, from the words of our Saviour's telling his disciples, that (ƒ)" all things must be fulfilled which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning him :" where,
(a) Tom. v. orat. 7. Evang. tom. iv. lib. iii. c. 7. Test. apud. Matth.
(b) Kidder's Demonstration of the Messiah, part ii. (c) De Content.
A. M. 4037, by the word psalms, he means all the hagiographa, consisting of hymns to God, and &c. or 5442. documents of life, and are all so called, because in that part of the division of the Old
Vulg. Er. 33, Testament they had obtained the first place.
&c. or 31.
But as there are no words cited in the like manner from any other prophet in the whole New Testament (a), others have imagined, that the passage which St Matthew quotes, was originally in the authentic copies of Jeremiah, but that by the malice of the Jews it was erased, because it was looked upon as too plain a prophecy of this circumstance of our Saviour's life; or rather, that it was recorded in a certain apocryphal book of Jeremiah's, from whence St Matthew took it. That there was such a book extant is evident from the testimony of St Jerome (b), who expressly tells us, that he read the very words here quoted in an Hebrew volume, communicated to him by a Jew of the Nazarene sect: And, that it was no disparagement to cite an apocryphal book, is manifest from the practice of the apostles, who make mention (c) of Jannes and Jambres, though they nowhere occur in canonical Scripture; who quote (d) the prophecy of Enoch, though generally reputed an apocryphal book; nay, and produce the sayings of Aratus (e), Epimenides (f), and Euripides (g), though these were profane heathen authors: For though such books, say they, were not received into the canon, yet they might nevertheless contain such truths as were worthy of belief.
Those, however, who have compared the writings of these two prophets together, have observed, that Zechariah was so close an imitator of Jeremiah, as to give just occasion for the saying of the Jews, viz. " that the spirit of Jeremy had passed into Zechary, and so, both together, made but one prophet:" And from hence others have concluded, that the ixth, xth, and xith chapters of Zechariah were not wrote by him, but by Jeremiah, though at present they go under the other's name. The Book of Psalms, we know, though the whole collection be called David's, contains many pieces that were not of his composition. In that of Proverbs, there are several wise sentences (besides those of Solomon) ascribed to (h) Agur, the son of Jaketh, and to (i) the mother of king Lemuel; and, by parity of reason, these chapters of Zechariah might originally have been written by the prophet Jeremiah, though, in process of time, they happened to creep in among the works of his great imitator.
And indeed, whoever looks into the contents of these chapters, will soon perceive that such things are related in them as are inconsistent with the time wherein Zechariah lived, but very well agree with that of Jeremiah: That what he says, for instance, (k) of the pride of Assyria being brought down," and the sceptre of Egypt being depart ed," could not be foretold by him, because these events were then passed and gone, but might very well be predicted by Jeremiah; that what he says (1) of Gaza and Askelon, as cities then in being, could not be recorded by him, forasmuch as these places were destroyed long before his days, but might properly enough be mentioned by Jeremiah, because in his time they were subsisting; and that the earthquake (m), which he alludes to, in the days of Uzziah, was of too distant a date to be remembered in his time, though it is not unlikely that tradition might have transmitted the report of it down as far as the days of Jeremiah. If then there be found in Zechariah things inconsistent with his time, but such as comported very well with the period wherein Jeremiah lived, it is natural to think, that though the whole book went under another's name, yet still such parts of it as contained these things, must have been written by a person with whom they were coincident; and that therefore St Matthew is so far from committing any blunder, that he makes a very valuable discovery in ascribing the prophecy now before us to its proper author.
(a) Vid Calmet's Commentary, Whitby's Annotations, and Kidder's Demonstration of the Messiah, part ii.
(d) Jude ver. 14.
(e) Acts xvii. 28.