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life, may be brought from the spirit and conduct of those who persecuted him, as also of the wretch who betrayed him.
· The chief-priests, the scribes, and elders of the Jews, de, spised him for the meanness of his parentage, and lowness of the character he appeared in. They hated him for the freedom of his reproofs. They envied him for the superiority of his wisdom. They persecuted him, because they. could not refute him. They ascribed his miracles, which they could not deny, to the devil. They purchased evidence against him; and, when that evidence proved insufficient, they helped it out with factious clamours, and a popular demand for his blood. They bought off the soldiers, who otherwise would have been witnesses of his resurrection. And, as his disciples were poor and needy men, the money
. of these wealthy enemies was always ready for such of his followers as would betray him.
These things considered, we may reasonably presume such adversaries would leave no methods untried to destroy him, or throw discredit on the work he had in hand. Nor are we to wonder, if among so many necessitous followers of Christ, one was found, who was base enough to prefer their, money to the service of a Master so often in distress for the necessaries of life.
If this traitor was capable of selling the liberty of his Master, and betraying his person into the hands of his most virulent enemies, we may be sure he would have made no scruple to expose the artifice of his preachings, or to detect the deceit of his miracles, had there been any thing dark or fraudulent in either. In the first place, this would have better served the purposes of the Jewish rulers, than any thing that could have been done to Christ's person; for this would have ruined his cause, and suppressed his religion, the propagation of which, did not depend, as the event fully proved, on the liberty or life of Christ. What was the life of Christ, considered in itself, to the Jews, more than that of another man? Or had they any other reason for desiring his death, but that they might by that means stop the progress of his religion, by destroying its author, and intimidating his disciples? Judas, therefore, could by no means have merited so great a reward from them, as by proving his Master to be an impostor, and furnishing them with materials whereby they might expose his miracles to the contempt, his doctrines to the suspicion, and his name, of consequence, to the abhorrence of mankind.
In the next place, This was what Judas would have much rather chosen to have done, because this would have given hím the character of a friend to truth, not a traitor; and would have really been the action of an honest man, rather than of a villain.. It would have been no fault in him to follow Jesus, while he thought him the Messiah ; and, when he found him to be a cheat, it would have been a virtue to expose bis practices, and to prevent the credulity of the world from being abused by falsehood instead of truth, and legerdemain instead of miracles. Besides, if we may judge by his conduct, we cannot help concluding, that, next to the enriching himself, his grand aim was to assist the chiefpriests and elders in stifling the new sect and religion of his Master : but by no means to take away the life of that Master.
How the thoughts of Judas wrought from the time that Satan entered into him, and put him upon consulting with the enemies of Christ, he who tempted him to so foul a treachery may best explain; or they, who have hearts like his own, may guess; but it is pretty clear from his conduct, that he rather intended to strike at his Master's credit and liberty, than his life; for, when he saw how things were going, and that Christ was condemned, he repented of what he had done, returned the money, and destroyed himself, either by hanging himself, as the word in St. Matthew is translated, or rather, as Dr. Hammond expounds it, by giving himself up to an outrageous fit of despair, that strangled, and tore him to pieces. Be this as it will, it is plain the effects of his treachery had taken a turn he by no means expected, or indeed had any reason to expect; for he knew nothing could be laid to his Master's charge, which either the Jewish or Roman laws had made capital; he knew the Jews, who alone were his enemies, had no power at that time to put any man to death; and he thought it highly improbable, that the Roman equity would take away the life
of a man who could be accused of nothing but what related to the religion of the Jews, which the Romans laughed at, as a matter altogether superstitious and trifling.
From hence it appears, as clearly as any thing can do, that Judas, in betraying his Master, had no design to assist the Jews in the murder of that Master. What, then, was his design? Why, it was to get money for gratifying the Jews, by putting Christ into their hands, in order, at most, to stop the progress of his religion by the imprisonment, banishment, or disgrace, of its author. Something he must do, to earn the money he coveted ; and this seemed more agreeable to his nature, which was treacherous, not bloody, than any other service he could do.
But if, notwithstanding all that hath been said, it is still insisted, that he must, all along, have had the death of his Master in view, inasmuch as he could have expected nothing less from the implacable spirit of the Jews, and the iniquity of the judge; it will follow, that Judas could have had no thoughts of sparing the practices of his Master, since he had no tenderness for his life. If he could resolve to spill the blood of one who had treated him, and every body else, with a mildness and sweetness exceeding those of all other men, he could not, surely, think of concealing the disingenuous artifices, or screening the pretended miracles, of a man whose life he hunted with the heart of a blood-hound.
In whichever light we take his conduct, he must have been ready to do all the mischief in his power to the religion from which he had apostatized. Now, could he have shewn the miracles of Christ to have been wrought by magic, or the power of natural causes, or to be no miracles, but mere tricks or deceits; or could he have proved his Master, from any thing in the secret instructions he gave his disciples, or from any thing in his private life or conversation, to be a bad man, and an impostor; these proofs, put into the hands of the Jewish rulers, must have enabled them all at once to throw contempt on the apostles, and to ruin the religion they preached.
It is now time to observe, that, had Christ been only a mere man, or any thing less than what he gave himself out for, the Messiah, and the Son of God, he must have been an impostor; and Judas must have known it, and been able
to prove it. It is certain Christ took on him the prophetic character and style of the Messiah, and called himself the Son of God. In this light he set himself not only in private to his own disciples, but publicly to the unbelieving Jews, who attempted to stone him for so doing. It is certain also, that he every day did such things as convinced numbers that the power of God was with him; and forced those who hated him to own, performances of that kind could not be effected by virtue of mere natural causes. These things he did so often, and so openly, and appealed so confidently to them, as proofs of his divine mission, that his disciples, who saw them all, must have examined them with all the attention and sagacity they were masters of; and, that they were not ready to swallow every juggling trick for a miracle, is plain from their unaccountable doubts, and strange incredulity. If, on the one side, such miracles were exceedingly convincing, it was, on the other, no easy matter to believe, that a man, subject to hunger, thirst, and other human infirmities, was the Son of God; or that, if he was, he should suffer himself to be put to death ; and that being dead, he should rise again to life the third day, and ascend openly into heaven. Before they could believe things so incredible on the strength of miracles, those miracles must have been closely attended to, and severely scanned. Had they been found to have any deceit or management in them, they must have proved him who wrought them to be a cheat, and, considering the little worldly advantage, or rather the danger, there was in following him, the detection of any one pretended miracle must have ruined his credit with his disciples, and banished them all from about him. Had Judas, in particular, found out any thing of this sort, he would probably have taken an earlier opportunity of making his fortune by accusing such a Master; at least, one so little subject to scruples would not, after he had done the thing, have suffered so violent a remorse.
But what puts this matter out of all dispute, and fully demonstrates, that, had Christ been an impostor as to his miracles, Judas must have known it, is, that Judas was not only an eye-witness of the miracles Christ wrought, or pretended to work, but did, by virtue of the powers conferred on him by Christ, work miracles himself. He was sent out with the rest of the twelve; and we have this account of the joint commission, in which the twelve are all set down by name, beginning with Simon Peter and ending with Judas Iscariot: “And when Christ had called unto him his twelve disciples, he gave them power against unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all manner of sickness, and all manner of disease. These twelve Jesus sent forth, and said, As ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand. Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils : freely ye have received, freely give;' Matt. x. Pursuant to this most extraordinary commission, 'they departed and went through the towns, preaching the Gospel, and healing every where;' Luke ix.
On this transaction we may make two reflections, extremely to our present purpose. First, If Jesus had not been perfectly sure he could communicate the aforesaid power in the free and ample manner in which bis disciples were commanded to use it, he must have been lost to common sense, and all his own designs, to send them out on such an errand; for in case they should fail of success in their attempts to heal the sick, or raise the dead, the whole world must have treated them as villains or madmen; nor could they help bestowing the like appellations on their Master ; which must have been attended with the immediate disappointment of all his schemes. Surely no impostor in the world ever acted such a part as this; nor is it in the wit of man to contrive a more certain method of ruining his own credit, and proving himself a cheat to all mankind.
In the second place, If the disciples, having tried the virtue of their commission, found they could work none of those miracles which their Master had ordered them to work, had not Judas, then, wherewithal sufficiently to instruct the chief-priests and elders how to baffle all his Master's pretences to a miraculous power? Could he not at any time appear as a witness to prove his Master had attempted to communicate that power, and failed ? And would not this have shewn, either that his Master had in reality no such power, or that, if he had, it was not to his credit to impart the secret of it even to his greatest confidants? But, if we take the thing in another light, and suppose they did, in some manner or other, do things somewhat like those they were com