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injured Lord, full no doubt of pity and tender remonstrance, had pierced his soul, had awakened his memory, had aroused his attention to the danger he was in, had caused him to listen at length to the predicted warning, had filled him with contrite sorrow— "Peter went out and wept bitterly." His repentance was sincere; for he sought a place of retirement, where he might weep in secret; it was deep, for he
wept bitterly;" and we know that it was lasting, for we read ever after of his devoted love to that Saviour, whom he had denied on this one occasion, but never again for ever. Oh, no! we shall hear some day of his dying for Christ, but never again of his denying Him and we are told by writers of Church history, that ever after, when St. Peter heard the crowing of a cock, he fell upon his knees and mourned under the recollection of his sin. How much more interesting is Peter weeping, than Peter boasting!
We have then in this favoured, but now fallen disciple of Christ, a warning against self-confidence, but an example also of deep and speedy repentance. Through frailty, through surprise, he fell, and that into a grievous sin; but no sooner was his conscience awakened, than his tears began to flow. There was no delay the moment "he thought thereon, he wept." His sorrow too bore some proportion to his offence. It was not a mere acknowledgment of having done wrong, such as we are too apt to content ourselves with. There was deep affliction in his repentance.
We cannot read of the repentance of Peter, without thinking how different it was from the repentance of Judas, of which we are told a few verses further on,
and shall therefore come to presently, as we trace the course of this solemn history.
We have already seen Jesus condemned by the high priest and the elders to be guilty of death; and how all manner of insults were heaped upon Him, by the unfeeling officers, into whose charge He had been given. We have seen how they mocked, and smote Him, and spat in His face, and how the very servants did strike Him with the palms of their hands; so truly were fulfilled the words of the prophet Isaiah, "I gave my back to the smiters, and my cheeks to them that plucked off the hair; I hid not my face from shame and spitting." We have seen too how our blessed Lord was tried, still more painfully than this, by the denial of Peter, so vehemently, so awfully made in the presence of them all. Still further trials, however, awaited Him. When that night, that dreadful night, was gone by, the Jewish authorities assembled their great Council, or Sanhedrim as it was called, consisting of seventy or seventy-two of the elders of the people, and of the priests; this was their chief tribunal, which had been kept up amongst them, probably from the time of Moses, who was expressly commanded to gather seventy men of the elders of Israel, to assist him and Aaron in the government of the people. Before this great council of the nation Jesus was brought; and in the morning, on His again declaring Himself to be the Son of God, they began seriously to consider how they should accomplish the sentence, already pronounced against Him; how they should put Him to death.
E. Were there any difficulties in the way of their doing this?
M. The Sanhedrim was no longer, as it had once been, the supreme authority of the country. Judea was now, you know, a Roman province, and even the Sanhedrim was obliged to submit to Roman authority. It might pass, but it could not execute a sentence of death, without the consent of the Roman governor, who at this time was Pontius Pilate. Here then was their difficulty; and no slight one, for the Roman governor was not likely to permit any one to be put to death on a merely religious ground. They determined, however, to accomplish their purpose if possible, by bringing some charge which should persuade Pilate to comply with their desires. And in such haste were they to do this, that, while it was yet early in the morning, they led Him away to the Roman hall of judgment, and delivered Him to Pontius Pilate. Thus, as far as they were concerned, the death of Jesus was determined upon; it waited only for the Roman sanction.
And now, Edward, we have a melancholy case before us. Just at this time the miserable Judas is spoken of again we are told that when he found the consequences of what he had done-when he saw that his covetousness had led not only to the apprehension of his Master, but that it would be the occasion of His death, he was seized with horror at his crime, with deep and dreadful remorse; not with repentance, for that is a godly sorrow which leadeth to eternal life; but with remorse-the stings of a guilty conscience-the sorrow of the world which worketh death--death, sometimes, even in this world, as in the case of Judas, and eternal death in the world to come. Conscience had resumed her power in the breast of
Judas-that dreadful power with which she scourges the wicked-not the healing, though painful, power with which she leads the penitent to bewail and forsake his sin.
E. Like Simon Peter, Mamma.
M. Yes; Peter wept for his sin, and at once forsook it; and most probably he tried immediately to strengthen his brethren according to his Lord's command, who had made this his especial duty at this awful season'. Judas also was filled with sorrow; but a sorrow which plunged him into further crime, even that most dreadful of all crimes, self-destruction.
E. What! did he kill himself, Mamma? did he take himself into the presence of God with all his sins upon his head? How very dreadful !
M. Most dreadful indeed: but it is too true that such was the wretched end of this miserable man. We find that the money, which had tempted him to all this wickedness, became an abhorrence to him; and that not being able to bear the possession of it any longer, he took it again to the chief priests and elders, “saying, I have sinned in that I have betrayed the innocent blood." And they said, cruelly, "What is that to us? see thou to that." Those who tempt us into sin, feel little at the sight of the misery which sin is sure to bring with it. “And he cast down the pieces of silver in the temple, and departed, and went and hanged himself." What a melancholy case! What an awful lesson on the danger of covetousness! What a dreadful proof how sure conscience is at last to recover her dominion, and to
1 St. Luke xxii. 32.
punish those who trifle with her admonitions! It is fearful too to think how men will go on stifling the whispers of conscience and drowning her unwelcome voice in the clamour of their own evil passions. What a dreadful proof have we of this in the conduct of the chief priests, which we have just noticed. We have seen how little they were affected, when they saw the agony of Judas; their consciences were not even then awakened; and so it often happens that wicked men live to the last, nay even die in their sins, having their consciences "seared," as it were, by the grievousness of their transgressions: yet if conscience should sleep even to the last in this world, it is only to awake with more terrific power in the world to come, "where the worm never dieth, and the fire is not quenched."
In the persecutors of Christ we behold conscience asleep, and their eyes blinded to the danger of their situation; so blinded, that they saw not how, at every step they took, they were fulfilling against themselves the prophecies of their own Scriptures.
E. How was that now, Mamma?
M. They took back the thirty pieces of silver, which they had given Judas for betraying Christ, and bought with the money a field to bury strangers in; for they could not, they said, put it into the treasury, because it was the price of blood; though the bargain was one of their own making! Bad men too are generally superstitious; and I dare say they would have been afraid to have kept this money. But in this very act they were accomplishing what the prophet, nearly six centuries before, had said they should do. "They took," saith the Lord by His prophet,