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they see strange supernaturalsights, and hear strange supernatural sounds. Moreover, the sentiment that breathes through these works is mystical rather than real, and the current of thought looks deep only because, being turbid, it is obscure. There is a pensive solemnity in their tone that is not easily distinguishable from real piety, and, enchanted by this into a sort of dreamy forgetfulness of all realities, the reader is unconsciously led on into the shades of a darkness that is fast closing him in on all sides; nor will he discover that the light is waning from before his eyes, unless he lifts them heavenward, and observes that all things above and around him look undefined in their outlines, confused and dim. In a word: Error breaks not, like the light of the risen sun on the waking eye, at once full upon you, but creeps, like the twilight of the closing day, slowly over you.
It is, therefore, one test for determining whether we are verging towards the dim obscure of error, in any case, to observe whether there be a growing indistinctness in our views of doctrine ; whether shadowy doubts and fitting forms of unreal shapes seem to be gathering around us; whether we begin to feel uncertain whether what we have hitherto regarded as undoubted truth be, after all, truth; and whether certain principles which we have been wont to view as false be, after all, false; and thus, getting bewildered in a maze of mental intricacies, we are tempted to give ourselves blindly up to the guidance of some assumed infallible authority, or to plunge reckless into the dark void of infidelity.
The Church of Rome glories in (and this her ambiguous modern friends regard as a commendable feature in her system) her solemn mystery, and imposing ceremonial, and multiplied objects of devout interest, as serving to keep up a ceaseless round of what is imagined to be holy service. We grant her all of this kind that she claims. It is when the sun is withdrawn that the planets and all the minor constellations appear: it is the distinctive feature of the day that then the sun alone is seen to shine. The Romish Church may present to the
the enchanting scenery of a firmament lighted up with the soft lustre of the moon, and studded with many stars, in her enthroned Virgin, and confessors, and milky-way of multiplied minute saints; but these are so visible only because Christ, the Sun of righteousness, has been placed, by that Church's own turning away from Him, under the horizon. Truly may we say of the Church of Rome that her light (for we deny not that she has some light) resembles that of the stars, in that she “ rules by night."
It has been the favourite resource of some who have involved themselves in the mystery and the mazes of theologic perplexities to go,
for a time, into what is termed a state of "retreat. This we believe to be the most dangerous course which individuals, in this condition, could possibly adopt. Retirement occasionally for a time, to give ourselves with the less distraction to meditation and prayer, especially when we are about to enter upon any arduous acts of duty, may be advisable;
but it is not the best method for clearing our perceptions of the relations of religious truths. To flee from the world, also, in order to battle successfully with temptation, is undoubtedly the safest course ; but in all cases of speculative mental difficulties our counsel would be,-“Go into the world; mix with men ; listen to persons of unperverted common sense ; occupy yourself in active duties." There is nothing like the stern realities of life for curing the morbidnesses of the mind. If at any time you are placed in doubt whether a book you have read, or a sermon you have heard, breathes the spirit of true evangelic piety, read immediately after it one of the epistles of St. Paul: mark the healthy robustness and the manly simplicity of his sentiments. If unavoidably you should get involved in the intricacies of bewildered thought upon any theologic question, be not hasty to form a conclusion, lest you tempt God, but wait patiently for his Spirit to give you light, and you shall never be greatly misled. Truth, rest assured, carries with it a growing distinctness; and though for a time, like the blind man whose eyes Christ opened, men may appear to you but as trees walking, yet if you keep your gaze intently on it, and suffer not yourself to be diverted by earth-born shadows, all things will at length stand out distinct and clearly defined ; and you shall be in no danger any longer of mistaking the ideal for the real.
ABOUT the same time that the Word became flesh in Bethlehem, and the angels of God sang their seraphic anthem at his appearance, there was joy also in the cottage of Simon of Carioth, in the tribe of Judah, for there likewise had a son, though only a mortal, seen the light of this world. I imagine that the heavenly guardians of the little ones also offered him their greetings of welcome; and his parents, thankful and hopeful, called the boy “Judas," that is, the praise of God, or the Confessor ; and thus with silent emotion dedicated him to the Almighty, who had graciously given him to them,
The little boy was probably of pleasing appearance; for it was not yet written on his forehead what he should eventually become, and what should befall him in the course of his earthly pilgrimage. We are without any tradition respecting Judas's earlier life; but we certainly do not mistake, if we take it for granted that his gradual development was. such as to justify uncommon hopes. He soon showed himself possessed of superior abilities, acute understanding, strong excitability, and energetic will; and therefore seemed, as he was probably soon conscious of himself, to be capable of deeds of a superior kind, than the limited current of quiet civil life affords opportunity for performing. Like the electric fluid which pervades the air, and according as the conditions meet, either concentrates itself to a destructive thunderbolt, or thickens
into sheet-lightning, which purifies and refreshes the atmosphere. Such was the alternative which lay in the nature of the man of Carioth. It was to be foreseen that he would eventually render himself conspicuous on the stage of public life in some way or other. Accordingly, as with the abundance of his talents, he fell under heavenly or adverse influence, he would necessarily develope himself, either as a chosen instrument of God, or as an apostle and standard-bearer of Satan. Alas! he took the left hand road ; and we exclaim respecting him, with deeper and more well-founded grief than Isaiah concerning the King of Babylon, “How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning !"
The heathen world is ignorant of a Judas, and could not produce such a character. Such a monster matures only in the radiant sphere of Christianity. It was Judas's misfortune that he was born under the most propitious star. He entered into too close contact with the Saviour not to become either entirely his or wholly Satan's. There was a time when, with reference to Judas, “the candle of God shone upon his head, and when the secret of God was upon his tabernacle.” Once he was not wanting in susceptibility for impressions of the most devotional kind, and his soul was capable of every noble elevation of feeling. The appearing of the “fairest of the children of men” in the glory of his marvellous deeds, attracted him, though less excited by him in his character of Saviour and the friend of sinners. He swore fealty to the banner of Jesus with youthful enthusiasm, though with an unbroken will; and the Searcher of Hearts confidingly admitted him into the circle of his nearest and most intimate disciples. This favour would never have been granted to Judas, if he had attached himself to the Saviour simply from interested motives. At the moment when he offered his services to the latter, he was no hypocrite, at least not consciously so. And when he afterwards prayed, studied the word of God, and even preached it with the other disciples, it was doubtless done for a time with a degree of inward truthfulness; it was only in the sequel that he resorted to intentional deception and dissimulation, The Lord appointed him to the office of receiver and almoner in his little circle ; and assuredly did so for no other reason than that he perceived he was the fittest for that vocation. Amidst the superabundance of pious sentiments, an evil root remained within, which was the love of the world, and especially of its gold and empty honour. And, in fact, Judas deceived himself, when he ascribed his admission amongst the disciples of Jesus, to much deeper and holier motives than the longing for the realisation of those earthly and enchanting ideas, which his lively imagination depicted to him as connected with that kingdom, which the Lord had appeared to establish.
As, on attaching himself to the cause of the great Nazarene, he fully supposed he was following the attraction of a higher and nobler excitement; so his fellow-disciples believed it no less of him. The latent wound did not escape the Saviour's eye, but the mischief was not incurable, and Christ had appeared in order that, as the Divine Physician, he might heal the sick, and bind up the wounded.
The compassionate love of Jesus left no means untried to accomplish the cure : but alas! the result did not correspond with his tender and unwearied solicitude. It only too soon appeared that the pleasing enthusiasm which had borne Judas on its wings so near the Prince of Peace, was, in its inmost centre, anything but pure fire from heaven, For the more his delusive ideas concerning the real nature of Christ's kingdom were dispelled by the Lord's manner of life, as well as by his expressions and discourses, the fainter burnt the torch of his specious zeal, and what remained of it in his heart was the impure fire of a selfish, earthly expectation and desire. The observation, that "every one has his price, at which he may be bought,“ seems almost too strong; but the words are actually applicable to every unregenerate man, however long a time may elapse until they are fulfilled. O do not let us deceive ourselves ! even the most magnanimous characters, as long as they are not sanctified by Christ, are capable, according to circumstances, of acting not only meanly, but even basely and vulgarly.
The awful period arrived in which Judas actually succeeded in mastering the serious reflections which arose in his still susceptible conscience, against the impious desire of his heart for a self-chosen indemnification for the disappointment he had experienced.
Probably, under the deceitful idea that he only intended to borrow, he laid his thievish hand, for the first time, upon the charitable fund entrusted to him; and after he had once broken through the barriers of his moral consciousness, the next and every subsequent embezzlement became easier and less objectionable. But the condemning voice of conscience was now awakened by the sight of his Sacred Master. The Light of the World was to him a burning fire; the Saviour of sinners, even by his mute appearance, an inquisitor before whom he must either expose himself as a guilty criminal, or envelope himself in the veil of hypocritical deceit; and he chose the latter.
For a considerable time he thought himself safe in the disguise of his conscious hypocrisy, until the scene occurred in the house of Simon the Leper at Bethany. Mary's devotedness to the Saviour induced her to pour the costly ointment upon him, Judas, destitute of feeling for the tenderness and deep significancy of the act, endeavoured to depreciate it by the sanctimonious, and yet rude remark, that the ointment had better have been sold, and the product given to the poor.
But the Lord, immediately interfering for the aggrieved woman, praised her work as
good,” and as an act which should never be forgotten; at the same time reproving the ill-timed censure of the heartless hypocrite with the serious words, which must have penetrated into his utmost soul, “ The poor ye have always with you, but me ye have not always.” From those words, he became fully aware that the Lord saw through him, and knew of his crime.
This was a decisive moment for Judas—a moment in which blessing and cursing were once more offered to his choice. The erring disciple must now either cast himself down at Jesus's feet, with streams of penitential tears, and seek, by a frank confession of his lost condition, deliverance and mercy at the throne of grace; or his mortified pride must gain the victory, and by urging him to the opposite course of a wilful hardening, afford Satan the opportunity of imparting the infernal spark of a secret bitterness against him.
We know which of these too courses Judas took. Immediately after his Master uttered these words, which were only a mild reproof, and intended to heal, Judas hastened away from the company at Bethany. He now felt himself more at home, and more in his element amongst the adversaries of Jesus than in the sphere of his previous confederates. The bargain of the thirty pieces of silver was concluded-more from a secret thirst of revenge, than from avarice and the love of money. Judas met the remonstrances of his conscience with the excuse, that it would be an easy thing for the wonder-working Rabbi, if he chose, to save himself from the hands of his enemies, However, he knew only half of what he was doing. He had plunged himself into a vortex against which he was unable to struggle. He no longer guided himself; another dragged him away behind him. He had reached the horrible state of those whose “ feet stumble upon the dark mountains."
It might have been supposed that Judas would have been no longer able to bear the company of Jesus. We nevertheless soon see him again in his old place amongst the Twelve, and in the last social evening circle at Jerusalem, we see the Lord again trying everything to save the soul thus sick unto death. From a delicate wish to spare his feelings, he does not require him to give up the custody of the money, but leaves him still in the office assigned him.
It was neces sary, however, that the Lord should give him to understand the danger in which he knew the poor man's soul to be placed ; and hence, whilst sitting at table, the Saviour begins, with deep emotion and affectionate grief, to say to his disciples, “Verily, verily I say unto you, that one of you shall betray me !" The Eleven are struck with inexpressible amazement. They look at each other with alarm and grief, and break out in turn into the anxious inquiry, “ Lord, is it I?" The son of perdition does not discover himself. Ah, only a few minutes now remain of his day of grace! A voice from within, as though it were his good angel, says to him, “Reveal thyself, Judas ; throw down the mask, and escape from eternal perdition before the door of mercy is closed.” But Judas resists, and envelopes himself still more deeply in his disguise ; for another voice still more powerful pervades his soul
, and drowns every better feeling within him. The Lord then defines his meaning more particularly, and says, “One of you that dippeth his hand with me in the dish, the same shall betray me," and then solemnly pronounces the Woe upon the man who should commit this heinous crime, and reveals to him his fate.