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periods of felicity, and say with Moses, Lord shew me thy glory! O Lord, dissipate the clouds and darkness that are around thy throne! O Lord, shorten the time that separates us !... No man can see my face and live. Well ! let us die then. Let us die to become immortal. Let us die to know God. Let us die to be made partakers of the divine nature. Happy to form such elevated wishes! Happier still to see them accomplished. Amen.
THE SENTENCE PASSED UPON JUDAS BY
MATTHEW xxvi. 24.
The son of man goeth as it is written of him: but wo unto that man, by whom the son of man is betrayed: it had been good for that man if he had not been born.
THIS verse is part of a period beginning at the
seventeenth, and ending with the twenty-fifth verse, in which the evangelist narrates two events, the last passover of Jesus Christ, and the treason of Judas. One of my colleagues will explain the other parts of this passage of sacred history, and I shall confine myself to this sentence of our Saviour against Judas, It had been good for that man if he had not been born. ! This oracle is most unequivocal. It conveys a melancholy idea of the condition of the unhappy criminal. It should seem, Jesus Christ enveloped in qualified terms a truth the most dreadful immaginable. These words, It had been good for that man, if he had not been born, are equivalent to these, Judas is forever excluded from the happiness of beaven; Judas is forever condemned to the punishment of hell. It is the same truth which the TOL. V.
apostles expressed, after the example of their master, in milder terms, Thou Lord, which knowest the hearts of all men, sher whether thou hast chosen Justus or Matthias, that he may take the part of this apostleship, from which Judas by transgression fell, that he might go to his own place, Acts i. 24. 28. What is this place? The answer is easy, though some ancient heretics affirmed extravagant things about it. It is the place reserved for those, against whom the door of mercy is shut; it is the place reserved for those who must forever serve for victims to divine justice.
If you recall to mind all the most guilty persons, and those whose condition is the most desperate, you will not find one, of whom that can be said without rashness, which is here affirmed of Judas. Judas is the only person, literally the only person, whom we are allowed with certainty to declare is in the torments of hell. Certainly, we cannot help forming lamentable ideas of the condition of some sinners, who died in perpetrating their crimes ; as of some who were less men than monsters of humanity, and who died in blaspheming God, and attacking religion and morality, as Pharaoh, Belshazzar, Julian, and others : but after all it is not for us to set limits to the mercy of God. The holy Spirit hath ways unknown to us to convert the hearts of men. Judas is the only one without exception, of whom I dare venture to affirm, he is irrecoverably lost. And when I form this judgment of his destiny, I do not ground it merely on his betraying Jesus Christ; for it is not impossible, that after he had committed that crime, he might have obtained forgiveness by repentance. I do not ground it ou the manner of his death, for he was distracted, and madness is sometimes caused by trouble, and in such a case reason haih no share, and divine justice doth not impute sin to a man deprived of his senses. I ground my judgment of the punishment of Judas on the words of my text, It had been good for that man, if he had not been burn; words never denounced by the spirit of God against any other wretch that ever was. Thus the object which I exhibit to your view to day, is not only a particular object, but it is even an unique, a sole, a single object.
But perhaps because it is a singular case, you think it does not regard you, and that you need not make any inferences concerning your own eternal destiny from it. And does not this object regard you! Alas ! my brethren, I dare not ... but however hear me; condescend to accompany me in this mortifying, and (I must tell you, hoiv improper soever it may seem to conciliate your attention) deign to accompany us in this alarming meditation. Come and examine what a melancholy likeness there is between the features of some of our hearers and those of the miserable Judas. How like are their dispositions! How sad soever the examination may be, there is at least one comfortable consideration, at least one difference between them and this traitor, that is, Jesus Christ hath pronounced the decree of his condemnation, whereas he hath not yet pronounced the sentence on my hearers; the door of mercy is yet open to them, the time of their visitation is not yet quite expired. O that they would avail themselves of the few inestimable moments that remain ! O that they would throw themselves at the feet of that Jesus, whom they have so often betrayed ! O that they may be washed in that blood, which they have so unworthily trodden under foot ! God Alnighty grant, for his great mercy's sake, that this may be i
the effect of this discourse! Grant, O God, that such of us as are best established in piety, may be filled with holy fear, by seeing to what excess self interest may be carried ! O Lord, incline my heart unto thy testimonies, and not unto covetousness. Amen.
It had been good for that man, if he had not been born, or what is the same thing in this place, if he had never existed, and were not to exist any longer. Let us first explain the meaning of Jesus Christ by a few reflections, and justify the idea I have given you of the words.
1. Existence is the foundation of happiness and misery. Nothing hath no properties. “Not to exist is to be neither happy nor miserable. To exist is to be capable of one or the other, or both together. Existence considered in itself is indifferent to the being existing; it is the happiness or the misery with which it is accompanied, which determines the value of it. If it were possible for a man to exist without being either happy or miserable, his existence would be in some sort useless and indifferent, and it would be true in regard to him, that it would be neither good nor evil to him to be born, or not to be born. If the existence of a man be accompanied with equal degrees of happiness and misery, we must form the same judgment; misery is compensated by happiness, and happiness by misery; the balance is equal, and preponderates neither way. If there be more happiness than misery in his existence, it is true in regard to him, that it is better for him to be than not to be: on the contrary, if misery exceed happiness .... finish this proposition yourselves, and apply it to the subject in hand. It had been good for Judas, if he had not been born. So Jesus Christ declares. The existence of Judas then must be attended