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manded, by virtue of some magical spells, or of some extraordinary natural secrets bestowed on them by their Master; when Judas went to sell his Master, would he have failed to give an account of these secrets to the Jewish grandees, who would have paid him handsomely, no doubt, for the curious and useful information? Or can we suppose they did receive such information, but, through carelessness, neglected to publish and apply it to that important purpose of loading the new religion with infamy, which it would so effectually have served, and which they were above all things so desirous of doing?
Again; had Christ been addicted to sensual pleasure ; had he covetously aimed at amassing riches, or ambitiously at raising himself to the temporal throne of David ; or had he been in any respect a bad man ; Judas, after so long an acquaintance, must have known it, and might have helped the Jewish rulers to set these secret immoralities in so strong an opposition to his repeated precepts for mortification, and for contempt of worldly power and wealth, as could not have failed to paint him, in the eyes of all men, the vilest hypocrite and deceiver. If, after all Christ said concerning the necessity of denying ourselves, and taking up the cross, Judas could have proved him a slave to drunkenness, gluttony, or lewdness ; if, after Christ had forbid his disciples to'lay up for themselves treasures upon earth,' Judas could have discovered his secret hoards of riches; or if, after Christ had declared ‘his kingdom was not of this world,' Judas could have made it appear, although barely on his own testimony, that his Master had been taking steps to arrive at the sovereignty, and, in order to engage a sufficient number of followers, had promised to raise the chief men of his party to the highest places of honour and profit; why did he not appear, and evidence these things at the trial of his late Master, where they would have done his business effectually before the Roman governor, and where there was so great a want of evidence, that he must infallibly have escaped, had not the whole power of the Jewish nation strained its interest to have him condemned ?
Instead of all this, the unhappy Judas, overwhelmed with grief and remorse, confesses, at the approach of death, when truth is wont to be uppermost, that he had sinned, in that he had betrayed the innocent blood. And did Judas, the very traitor who brought him to the cross, with his dying breath pronounce him innocent ? Could not even he that betrayed him, accuse him? Or, after betraying him, can we suppose he would scruple to accuse him, had he known any crime with which he could have charged him ? Had he known any thing of this nature, surely it must have prevented so shocking a repentance; surely he could never have tåken it into his head to punish himself in so horrid a manner for, bringing a known impostor to justice, much less would he have declared him innocent.
Now it must be observed here, that, if Judas thought him innocent, he must, on the strength of all the foregoing reasonings, have been actually innocent. His miracles must have been real miracles; his wise precepts, and excellent exhortations, must have come from his heart; his whole behaviour must have been a strict and close exemplification of his doctrines; his preachings must have been the voice, and he himself, the Son of God.
We are told in the gospel, that Christ, before he was taken, intimated to his apostles, even to Judas himself, that he should betray him. There is all the reason in the world for considering this as a real prophecy, and, consequently, for looking on Christ as divinely commissioned. But if we take it only for a probable guess, or an assurance founded on somewhat Christ had discovered of the traitor's secret designs; and if, in like manner, we consider Christ as no prophet at all; we must allow there could be no reason why he should both retain Judas in his service, and yet at the same time reserve the secrets and stratagems, on which he planned his imposture, from him alone of all his disciples. Taking Christ, in all respects, to be no more than a common man, had he, as one man does another, found out Judas to be of a false and fickle disposition, he would that moment have dismissed him, or, rather, had him privately put out of the way. But, if he did not find him out to be such a man till just before he was betrayed, he must have communicated all his secrets to him with the same confidence as to the rest, when he had the same opinion of him that he had of the other eleven.
Now, if I mistake not, it hath been already made to
common sense an evident truth, that Judas would have accused his Master of imposture, if he could. But that he did not, is as undeniable a truth; for, in case he had, the enemies of Christ would have urged that imposture at his trial against him, and afterward against his religion ; and must, with such a key, have easily detected all the pretended miracles of the apostles, and, by that means, have rendered abortive the infant religion they maintained. Had they been able to bring so thorough a refutation against the Author and preachers of Christianity, we cannot doubt they would have done it; not that, in doing it, they must have stifled our religion in its birth. This duly considered, the ground Christianity gained immediately after the crucifixion of its Author, in spite of the most bloody persecutions, which was all the enemy could then employ against it, and doth still maintain, in opposition to all the vices and sophistry of mankind, which is all he can now combat it with, is a full and irresistible proof, that Christ was the Son of God, and his religion a divine revelation.
The minds of men according to their make, are apt to be variously affected with different arguments, though in themselves perhaps nearly equal, and though applied to the same purpose. But, of all the arguments in favour of Christianity, none strikes me with greater force than this, drawn from the history of Judas; especially when I consider, that the Jewish priests and rabbis might, on looking into the prophecies, so easily have seen, that the Messiah must have come at the time Christ appeared, and must have been sold, betrayed, and put to death, precisely at the time, and in the manner, he was. That these wise and learned men should, directly against their own intention, have been, by their plotting and bribing for his destruction, the chief instruments to prove Christ the Messiah, hath something in it very astonisbing ; something that cannot be rationally traced up to any other cause, but that overruling Providence which dictated the prophecies, and was concerned to see them fulfilled. Had not king Herod, and Pontius Pilate, 'with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, taken counsel together against the Lord, and against his Christ;' and had he not been sold to them exactly for thirty pieces of silver ; the prophecies of David and Zechary must have been false. Since, by their own computation, the time must have been at hand, when, according to Daniel, “ the Prince must be cut off,' how could they avoid, either when they were consulting about his death, or when they were telling out the pieces to Judas; how, I say, could they avoid reflecting on the qualities of the metal, or the number of the pieces? Had they paid him in gold, or given him one piece more or less, they might have afterward proved Jesus not to be the Messiah. Had not Judas been an apostle and bishop, Jesus could not have been the Messiah; for the prophecy of David, in Psalm cix, where speaking of the traitor, he says, ' Let his days be few, and let another take his bishoprick,' could not have been verified, as it was by his disastrous death, and the election of Matthias into his place. Let infidelity behold, and be amazed (for it cannot be convinced), when it finds the Jewish rulers chaffering and cheapening with Judas about the blood of his Master, and at length, contrary to the treacherous intention of his heart, and the malicious designs of theirs, unwittingly agreeing on the single scheme that could fulfil the prophecies, and prove, beyond question, what they were that instant labouring to disprove, that Christ was actually the Messiah ; that the wonders he wrought were true and genuine miracles; and that the religion he -preached was the very will and word of God.
But, I foresee, an infidel will be ready enough to object here, that the story about Judas tells ill, and seems improbable, alleging, that if Judas had known his Master to be an impostor, his conscience could never have thrown him into such deadly agonies for having brought him to the cross; and that, if he had not only seen Christ work so many miracles, but also wrought some himself in the name, and by the power of Christ, it had been impossible for him to turn either apostate or traitor.
If historical facts, so very possible, and so well vouched as this, may be refuted by surmises, then it will be unsafe to build any thing on the accounts of former times. But, that the objector may not think this altogether so extraordinary a phenomenon in a very depraved mind, let him strictly examine his past life, and perhaps he may recollect his having acted, on some occasions, directly against the convictions of reason, and the admonitions of conscience, when, as in the case of Judas, the prospect of some worldly advantage, or the dread of some very threatening evil, or both at once, have, for the time, proved too strong for all his prudence and principles. This is no uncommon case ; although I shall readily own, that it is difficult, perhaps impossible, to find a case so hard to be reconciled to reason as that of Judas; which, considering what he had formerly seen Christ do, and what he had done himself, may require a mind as irregular and black as his own to account for. It may be, a man, whose mind was so untowardly turned as his, might have doubted whether the miracles he wrought himself were the effects of a good or evil power. We have too much reason to think there are men, who, from the inveterate habits and violent motions of a bad heart, are capable of acting against the clearest convictions a bad head can receive. Besides, I believe we should not be far from the truth, if we should say conviction is never perfect, I mean in matters of morality or religion, if the heart does not second it. It is, however, after all, by no means so strange, that a very ill-minded man, like him, should fall, as that the better disciples of our Saviour should stagger in the faith, as we find they were inclined to do, after all they had seen and done, upon their Saviour's crucifixion. If so honest a man, and so zealous a servant, as Peter, could, through fear, forswear his Master, notwithstanding the reasons for his faith were so strong; we are not to be surprised, that such a monster as Judas should, in spite of the like reasons for his faith, through covetousness, sell the same Master.
If parallel instances from Scripture might be allowed on this occasion, we might serve ourselves with several. Simon Magus saw the miracles wrought by Peter and John at Samaria; but, instead of becoming by that means a true and real Christian, he would have purchased the same power with money, in order to make ten times the sum by it, and to get himself the name of something more than man. Was not Balaam a real prophet? And yet was he not a very bad man? Did be not give advice to the enemies of the Israelites, advice the most dangerous and pernicious to that people, whom God, by a very extraordinary revelation, had taught him to distinguish from all others, as his peculiar people ? Wholesome food turns to corruption on a vitiated stomach;