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a shower of curses, in retribution for the contempt which you have offered it. But though you cannot annihilate your conscience, there is one thing which you may do; you may pacify it, through the blood of Jesus, and even make it the minister of consolation. You may have your sins forgiven, through the efficacy of his atonement; and conscience, instead of directing your eye downward to the dungeons of despair, may point with benign aspect toward the world of light and the crown of glory. This you may do; and happy, thrice happy are ye, who actually do it.
6. We may learn from the history of Judas an important lesson in respect to the nature of repentance. It is expressly declared that he repented ; confessed his guilt; acknowledged the innocency of Jesus; and restored the reward of his iniquity: nevertheless, it is declared that he was a son of perdition. It is an important question, in what respects his repentance was defective.
It was defective as it respected the principle. The inspired historian
says, “When he saw that he was condemned, he re. pented,” &c. It has been supposed that Judas, in the expectation which commonly prevailed among the disciples that our Lord would set up a temporal kingdom, thought it possible that he might escape out of their hands, as he had done in a miraculous way
from the hards of his enemies, on some former occasions; but finding that he was not only taken, but actually condemned, and seeing the awful consequences of his conduct staring him in the face, he repented now that he had done the deed. He repented, you observe, not of the deed itself, in which the sin essentially consisted, but of the consequences which he saw were likely to result from it, and which his conscience admonished him would be of a burdensome nature. As repentance consists in sorrow for sin, in itself considered, and as the repentance of Judas had respect to the effects of it, it was manifestly defective in respect to its principle.
It was defective also, as it was not accoinpanied by hope in God's mercy, and faith in the Saviour. There is no true repentance without both these exercises. Conviction, if it continue, will ripen into despair, unless the mind fasten upon the glorious hope set before it in the gospel. Judas, when he found that his entreaties for the release of Jesus would avail nothing, instead of confiding in the merits of the Saviour for forgiveness, and casting himself on divine mercy, resigned hiinself up to absolute despair, and completed the climax both of his guilt and ruin, by taking his own life.
Now it scarcely admits of question, that there is much that
passes among men for repentance, which can stand the Bible test no better than would that of Judas, And I would that every one of you, who reads these pages, would inquire diligently into your own personal experience in reference to this matter. Many of you believe that you have exercised genuine
. repentance for sin; and in view of that repentance you dare to hope that you shall ere long go to be the inhabitants of a holy heaven. But inquire what you have repented of. When you have thought of your sins, and of the fearful and eternal consequences which sin, unrepented of, must entail upon you, have you repented merely in view of those consequences; and have you thought little or nothing of the evil nature of sin, and of its intrinsic odiousness, as an offence committed against the character, the government, the grace of God? And though you may have broken off external sins, and may sometimes
gle against certain sins of the heart, yet would you gladly cherish these, provided you could be sure the indulgence of them would not land you in hell ? Then rely on it, your repentance is no better than was that of Judas. It lacks the great principle of evangelical repentance; it has in it nothing of godly sorrow for sin ; it is nothing better than the repentance which the criminal feels, when the gallows and all the apparatus of death are just before him, and the thought of suffering the awful sentence of the law, drinks up his spirits, while yet he cares as little for the honor of the lawgiver, as when he committed the crime which has brought him into these fearful circumstances.
You learn, moreover, from the case of Judas, what a wide difference there is between despair and repentance. I know how strongly the sinner, in these circumstances, enlists the sympathies of his fellow creatures, and how Christians are ready to weep, when they trace in his countenance the lines of despair. And it is right that it should be so; for there is not a greater calamity, short of absolute reprobation, that befals an individual on this side the world of wo; nevertheless, it ought not to be forgotten, that in this calamity there is a sin, a sin of most appalling magnitude. Suppose it do not lead, as in the case of Judas, to self-destruction; still it is a sin of deepest dye against the mercy of God, and the atonement of Christ, and the boundless riches of divine grace as displayed in the whole work of redemption. It is the essence of unbelief: it is more, it is practically giving the lie to all the overtures and promises of mercy contained in the Bible. Let the sinner then beware how he sinks under the power of this tremendous evil. Let him remember, that however aggravated may have been his
guilt, before yielding to it, it is greatly increased afterwards ; and there is too much reason to fear that he may find at last, that in the act of yielding to it, he sealed his own eternal condemnation.
Are you convinced, then, of guilt ? Beware of these two evils : on the one hand, take heed that you do not mistake the nature of repentance, and substitute an exercise that is merely selfish for one that has a proper respect to the evil nature of sin, and to the holy character of God. On the other hand, take heed that you do not lose sight of the mercy of God, and the atonement of Christ, and sink down into a state of despair, under an impression that your guilt is too great to be forgiven. You may indeed safely believe that your sins are as great as they appear to be; but with this awful conviction, you are to look to the mercy of God in a Redeemer to keep you from sinking; nay, you are to look to him, and rise above your fears, and indulge the sweet hope of foregiveness, even the hope of attaining to an immortal crown. Here, and only here, there is relief. and hope, and salvation ; but look whithersoever else you will, or do whatever else you may, as God's word is true, you perish.
7. From the history of Judas we are furnished with conclusive evidence that the gospel is no fable.
It must be acknowledged on all hands, that Judas had the best possible opportunity to know whether our Lord was what he professed to be ; for he had been a member of his family ; had been privileged to hold daily and familiar intercourse with him ; had not only witnessed his miracles, but knew all that any of the disciples did in respect to the economy of his mission. If therefore his miracles had been merely pretended, or his religion an imposture, it were impossible but that Judas must have known it; and if he had been in any such secret, the circumstances in which he placed bimself by betraying his Lord, must certainly have brought it out. If he had known that Jesus was an impostor, most gladly and triumphantly would he have revealed the fact in justification of his own conduct. But nothing of this kind is even attempted. On the contrary, he pointedly condemns himself for what he has done, gives his testimony to the innocence of Jesus, and hangs himself, because he cannot bear the lashes of his own conscience. No stronger testimony than this to the truth of Christianity could be desired. It is, indeed, the testimony of a wicked man and of a traitor ; but in the present case that very circumstance gives to the testimony its greatest weight.
Nor was Judas the only wicked man who has rendered a
tribute to the truth and excellence of the gospel. This is done by every hypocrite ;-every man who strives to pass with the world for a Christian, when his heart is full of evil affections and evil purposes. For in assuming the Christian garb, he does that which he believes will commend him to the favor of his fellow men ; and if he did not consider Christianity as good in itself, and if he did not believe that it is regarded so by others, he could have no motive even to appear to be a Christian. And the same thing substantially occurs, when men, even the worst of men, attempt to revile religion, and to pour contempt upon the character of its professors; and instead of coming forth fairly and honestly, and calling things' by their right names, they ridicule the Christian virtues under some opprobrious epithet; calling piety fanaticism, or charity ostentation, or a regard to the dictates of conscience, meanness or timidity. The reason of this is, that these wicked men know that virtue, religion, Christianity, and every thing of which it is composed, is in itself good; and that men are constituted in such a manner that they cannot think otherwise, even if they desire to do so; and the only way in which they can accomplish their purpose is by distorting, and misrepresenting, and misnaming the genuine quality. Many a man in this way, when he thinks not of it, and when he is laboring to the utmost to bring the blessed gospel into contempt, is really furnishing a weighty argument in its favor.
But there is another way in which wicked men lend their testimony to the truth of the gospel : it is by the acknowledgments which they often make in sickness, and especially in the near prospect of death. When I hear a man revile Christianity, I choose, if possible, to suspend my opinion as to his honesty in doing it, until I can learn what passes upon his death bed; for experience has proved that there is many a man who in health will manifest a perfect contempt of the gospel, who cannot realize the approach of a dangerous illness, without being well nigh distracted with apprehension and terror. But a few years ago, I saw a man sitting before me, from Sabbath to Sabbath, who often discovered in his countenance the very
insolence of error. He professed, indeed, to believe in Christianity; but it was one of those corrupt forms of it, which recog. nize none of its peculiarities,—which deny that the soul is in danger on the one hand, and furnish no adequate provision for its escape on the other. And when the terrors and glories of the true gospel were spread before him, often have I witnessed a cold frown of disapprobation, or an affected smile of contempt. But all this, you will observe, was in the days of vig
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orous health and of high prosperity. At length, there came over his cheek an ominous flush which told his friends that he was sinking under an insidious disease; and they saw, while he was yet gay and sportive, the symptoms of approaching dissolution. They told him of their apprehensions, but he did not believe it; and the reason was, he could not let go of this world, much less endure the thoughts of going into another. But even his skepticism on this subject at length yielded, and he felt that he must die; and then all bis infidelity (for what he professed was no better) had gone to the winds, and he believed that there was an eternal hell, and wished and longed and prayed, and besought others to pray, that he might receive mercy from an Almighty Saviour. As soon as he saw that he must die, he was in theory an orthodox Christian ; no more infidelity had he then, than his Christian mother who was pouring out her supplications at bis bedside ; and he warned his companions not to reject the gospel as he had done; for in doing so they would cut shemselves off from consolation, when they needed it most. When the spirit fled, there seemed to be a pressure of awful apprehension on the mind of every spectator, which no one dared to utter—which no one could have uttered if he had dared.
I mention this instance, not as a solitary, or an uncommon one of its kind, but because it is one of several which have fallen under my own observation. Such instances almost every minister of the gospel, no doubt, has to encounter. And every one of them is a testimony to the truth and excellence of the gospel which cannot be set aside. The man to whom I have referred was an infidel as long as he could be ; but when he came to be brought nearly in contact with the actual reality of death, all his infidel dreams were broken up, and he acknowledged that he felt that to be true, which before he had contended against as false, and even ridiculed as foolish and fanatical. In these circumstances, surely, he could have no motive to belie his honest convictions; and he could not have been mistaken in the forebodings of his own conscience, or in his need of forgiveness or salvation. And forgiveness and salvation are the very blessings which the gospel proflers.
The confessions of men who have rejected the gospel in the hour of death, furnish indeed but a small part of the evidence of its truth; nevertheless, this is a species of evidence which is well fitted to come home to the bosoms of the unreflecting, and which is too important to be passed lightly over by any of us. -But perhaps no one who will read this, has a doubt, in respect to the claims which the gospel makes to divinity. You