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but so far is he from being able to do this, that he is constrained, by remorse of conscience, to declare, that he had never seen any thing in the behaviour of his master which could be imputed to him as a crime, or justify either his own conduct, in delivering him up into their hands, or theirs in condemning him to death.
And they said, What is that to us? see thou to that.
If thou hast done wrong in delivering up a man whom thou thinkest to be innocent, that is thy concern, and not ours; trouble us not with the business : we are satisfied that he deserves the sentence that we have passed upon him; for we know him to be a blasphemer.
5. And he cast down the pieces of silver in the temple, and departed, and went and hanged himself.
Judas held the crime which he had committed in so much abhorrence, that he could not bear to carry with him the money which he had received as the wages of iniquity, and which every moment reminded him of his guilt, but offered it to the chief priests and elders; and when they refused to receive it, he went and threw it down in the temple, that it might be put into the treasury, whence he retired to put an end to that existence which a consciousness of guilt had rendered insufferably painful.
6. And the chief priests took the silver pieces, and said, It is not lawful for to put them into the treasury, because it is the price of blood.
The law of Moses prohibited the children of Israel from bringing into the temple the price of prostitution: Deut. xxiii. 18. Hence these chief priests and elders inferred that the price of blood, or the reward paid for delivering up a man to be condemned to death, would be equally offensive to the Divine Being. Here we may observe how the men who rejoiced in the treachery, ex: press their abhorrence of the traitor, and how careful those are to observe a ceremonial law who totally disregard the fundamental principles of mercy, justice and truth!
7. And they took counsel, and bought with them the potter's field to bury strangers in.
This field was provided for the burial of strangers, i. e. not Gentiles but Israelites who came to Jerusalem, from foreign countries, for religious purposes, but, being taken ill, died there. Some provision of this kind there was probably already; but, on account of the great number of strangers that died at Jerusalem, it was become necessary to make some addition to their burying ground.
8. Wherefore that field was called the field of blood unto this day.
Bishop Pearce thinks this verse an interpolation, produced by inserting in this place what is said in Acts i. 19, of the field in which Judas falling headlong, his bowels gushed out; “ for this place was from that time called the field of blood,” in confirmation of which he observes, that the next verse has no connexion with this, but with the 6th and 7th only.
9. Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremy the prophet, saying, And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the price of him that was valued, whom they of the children of Israel did value,
10. And gave them for the potter's field, as the Lord appointed me.
As these words are found in Zech. xi. 12. 18, and in no part of the prophecies of Jeremiah, it has created some difficulty to account for the introduction of this
prophet's name here. The excellent critic just referred to supposes that Matthew wrote originally the prophet, without mentioning any name, which is a common method of quotation with him, but that some very early transcriber inserted, by mistake, the name of Jeremiah, instead of that of Zechariah, which has cantinued in all our copies from that time.
In this portion of the evangelical history which we have been considering, we have two memorable examples of the weakness of human nature, which, although they differ considerably from each other, yet afford us very instructive lessons,
]. In the conduct of Peter we see a shameful want of fortitude, and a striking contrast between his present behaviour and late professions. He who, a few hours before, declared to his master, in the most solemn manner, Although all men shall be offended because of thee, yet will I never be offended, and though I should die with thee, yet will I not deny thee; he who was so full of courage as to lift up his sword in defence of his master, and to attempt to oppose by force a whole band of soldiers, is now so terrified that he trembles at the voice of a woman, who only charges him with being a follower of Jesus: he is ashamed of having been the companion of Christ; of an acquaintance with one whom he ought to have been proud to acknowledge as his master and friend: he denies a clear and unquestionable fact, well known to all that knew Peter, not once only, 'which sudden surprise might have rendered excusable, but repeatedly; not with simple asseverations, but with the most solemn appeals to God for the truth of his assertions, and with dreadful imprecations of divine vengeance upon his head, if he were guilty of falsehood; and all this he does, after being warned of his danger. What accumulated guilt is here! How unlike is this conduct to the character of the man whose name imported that he was a rock, and that upon the foundation of his testimony and resolution, the church of Christ was to be built! What a disgraceful fall do we behold from the greatest confidence to the greatest terror, from the strongest professions of attachment, to the most abject denial Justice requires, however, that while we thus represent the heinousness of his crime we should notice the sumntame of med crime, we should notice the symptoms of goodness which accompanied it: if he was guilty of a great crime in denying his master, yet he persisted in it only for a short time, during a few hours at farthest. As soon as his master's words are brought to his remembrance, by the sound of the trumpet, he repents of what he has done, and shows the sincerity and force of his sorrow by tears, which flowed so violently that he was obliged to seek retirement, to give full vent to his passion.But the best proof of his repentance appeared in the conduct of his life, by his steady professions of attachment to his master, of whoin he was now ashamed, in the midst of the greatest opposition and danger. 2. In the conduct of Judas we have an example of another great crime committed by a disciple of Jesus, but where the circumstances were very different. The one sold his master for money; the other only denied him, and that when he apprehended his own life to be in danger: the one was led into temptation by attachment to his master, and by following him in his last moments; the other, offered himself voluntarily for sale. What will ye give me, said he, and I will deliver him into your hands. These circumstances discover very different degrees of guilt; and as the nature of the crimes was different, so also was the issue. Both Peter and Judas indeed repented, but not after the same manner. Peter melts into tears at the recollection of what he had done: his sorrow is distressing: but it is mixed with the hope of pardon, and therefore may be borne. But Judas had committed so black a crime as to exclude every ray of hope: the door of mercy appears to be shut against him; and he can find no ease to himself but by putting an end to his being. Something commendable, however, and good there is even in Judas: he discovers evident tokens of deep remorse for what he had done: conscience therefore was not entirely stifled in his breast: he bears testimony to the innocence of Jesus, even before those who had condemned him as worthy of death, and thus did every thing he was now able to do, to repair the injury.
From the disgraceful fall of this apostle, let us learn not to rely too much upon good purposes and resolutions. Such confidence may expose us to temptations which we are not able to withstand, and which may lead us to make shipwreck of faith and a good conscience: it is better to distrust our strength than to be too confident of it: had Peter been properly sensible of his own weakness, he would not have attempted to follore Jesus, but have retired with the other apostles, an d. thus by keeping himself out of the way of danger, h: we escaped much guilt We see what dangers att end those who allow themselves any deviation from the truth: one falshood generally leads to many more. Peter having once denied his master, was impelli a to do it a second and a third time, and to add the guilt of perjury to falsehood. We see also how necessary fortitude is to a Christian: it is the shield of virtue: h e who wants it will be the prey of every adversary.
Let those who cherish an inordinate love of money remember the sad example of Judas Iscariot, and beware lest, by following his steps, they bring themselves to a like miserable end.
Matthew xxvii. 11---25. 11. And Jesus stood before the governor; and the governor asked him, saying, Art thou the king of the Jews ?