REFUSING A LEGACY. BY THE REV. FREDERICK HASTINGS.

MATTHEW XXVII, 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 result of the act of Judas startled himself with its terrible consequences. He, like many others, was unable to conceive the evil wrapped up in his actions until he saw them developed. He showed the power of conscience in one apparently hopeless. Those who saw him with the priests, and afterwards with the band of soldiers, would not have thought it possible that he would ever have repented of his act. Conscience seemed dead. When, however, he saw what his act had brought upon Jesus, his conscience escaped from its temporary hidingplace. It lashed him with the energy of ten thousand furies. The silver soon ceased to be a salve. After he received the bribe, and committed his act of treachery, he speedily began to repent. He doubtless counted it over to see whether the priests had not defrauded him. Scarcely had he finished when the murmurings of accusation are heard. At first they are like the very distant rumblings of an approaching storm. The sound grows louder and louder. The lightnings flash around him, as those at Horeb around Elijah, breaking in pieces the rocks. Every roll of the thunder bears, as its burden, doom. Conscience heaves and struggles, threatening to rive his soul from his body. His remorse is so great that lurid thoughts of suicide flash ever and

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anon across his mind. The thoughts become acts. But ere the dead moment of suicide comes he will perform another part. He will confess the wrong, but he will accuse his tempters. He becomes a preacher for the last time. He was not unaccustomed to the work. His audience this time was distinguished and select. The priests were unwilling auditors. His text was similar to that of Saul : " I have sinned." The sermon was a warning. The application was this: "If I have

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sinned, what have not you done ? " An act most powerful in expressiveness accompanied the words. He cast down the money received. They were like molten lead on his palm. He left the pieces, for they would have a chance to cool on the marble pavement of the temple.

1. An illustration of the lack of conscience on the part of the prof ess. edly religious is seen in the treatment of a guilty soul, Judas bad as he was, was not so bad as those to whom he spoke. He had some conscience left ; they had none. They consulted about the money ; but not the man. Professedly religious, they were intolerably and intensely selfish. Pelf and position were more to them than penitence, principle, or piety. These men were priests. Hence they should have rejoiced in the confession of Judas. They ought to have congratulated one another that he had come in time, not only to save himself but to save Jesus. Surely

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they will hasten to stay further consequences of their mistake and his crime. They do not admit the mistake, but towards the penitent Judas and the innocent Jesus they are alike merciless. Hear their laconic reply to Judas : " What is that to us ? See thou to it." Ah, sophistry ! It was a great deal to them. They were involving themselves deeper by those very words. They conceived — so perverted had become their intellects and their hearts — that responsibility only attached to the immediate doer of an act and not to the promoters of it. By removing it one step back they thought they had shifted the burden. They had, however, to bear their share of it. They could not escape from the shadow of complicity in the murder of Jesus. Even as priests they ought not to have stood heartlessly by and have seen another drawn into sin and suffering, without saying, " We have to do with that, we must strive to remedy that." " See thou to that " is their conclusion. They discard their tool. He had served their ends and now is flung aside. But Judas was not so easily disposed of. The priests could not make him shoulder all the guilt. Annoyed, doubtless, they betake themselves to a select portion in the Temple, withdrawing to the part into which it is not lawful for any but priests to enter. Thus they will be rid of his painful remindings. Judas, however, follows them, and, flinging himself on the floor, with arms stretched and piteous tones, he cries, " I have sinned. Take back your pelf — your hateful pelf— and O, give me back my peace ! " The cry rings through those courts. Others will hear it. The priests

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shudder at contact with such a wretch and at words so outrageous. " Let us leave him. We shall be defiled, and so shut out from holy services at this season. Leave him ! Leave him ! Enter the inner chamber ! Shut to the doors ! " Further into the sacred precincts they press. They are safe now. He may not pass the barrier ; but he flings the money after them. Jerked into the court the pieces go rattling hither and thither on the marble floor with a dread, unpleasant ring. Every clink is an accusation to them.

Judas regrets his sin ; but regret and all the amends he can make cannot stave off the evil consequences. He repents ; but Christ will still be crucified. He hurries away ; but he feels all the lighter for having rid himself of the once envied, and now hated, silver. After all, he is less to be pitied than those conscienceless, sanctimonious priests.

There lies the silver in the Temple. Who shall touch it ? Soon after the first looks of pious horror they begin to ask, What shall we do with it. Willingly would they have put it into the treasury, but for several difficulties. Preconceived ideas, the result of Pharisaic training, can not be put easily aside.

These unprincipled men remember that the silver is, in fact, the

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" price of blood." It is the earthly estimate of that which is of infinite value. They paid thirty pieces to get rid of God's best gift. Evidently it was the full reward, and not the mere earnest money, which they had agreed to pay Judas for his time and trouble in betraying Christ. Hence they saw attached to them also the stain of another's guilt. Those pieces are the reward of a man of blood. They have belonged to such a wretch that it would be contamination to other silver in the treasury to throw them therein.

One of the priests who generally liked to finger money, one who had " an itching palm for gold," has picked up a few pieces, and holds them gingerly as though fearing the blood stain would soak through into his own nature. Those thirty pieces of silver what had they been ? — in whose hands ? They had possibly been in the treasury before. They may have mingled with the widow's mite. It might even be among them. Yea, the stater which Peter took at command of Christ from the fish's mouth may have been also among them. It had been tribute paid by the Divine, and is now the "price of blood." That silver

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Or golden coin in your purse, what has it been ? Where ? It may have paid for lawful service, or it may have fostered scheming. It may have been the reward of integrity or the wages of iniquity ; the pay of

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assiduous study or the price of an assassin's stab. So those pieces of silver in the priest's hand, about the disposal of which there is much perplexity and hesitation, had been the gifts of devotion and the gain of depravity. But can moral qualities or guilt attach to the physical ? Moral qualities attach only to the spiritual, not to the material. The dagger of the assassin, which has let loose the life-blood of the good, or the block on which has been stretched the neck of some tyrant, is only horrible from association of ideas. A goal, as we pass it, may seem to us a very embodiment of the guilt that has been confined within. The blackened stones from Newgate's walls seem to cry out one against the other, as though accusing each other of guilt ; but there is no evil in them. From the dagger a penknife might be made ; or, unchanged, it might strike for liberty. The block might become part of a throne. The stones of a Newgate might hereafter enter into the building of a church. Man, however, is not always changed by change of place. His character is inherent : his acts continue their connection and identity with himself. He cannot shake them off. They are like the robe with which Hercules arrayed himself, and from which the poison of the Lernsean hydra penetrated into his very bones. He writhed and leaped and plunged in his efforts to disengage himself from it, but in vain. So evils penetrate into the nature of man where there is the suitable receptive quality of spirit. We may strive to pull it out, but, unaided by Divine power, it is impossibleThere are those who account this world accursed on account of the sin man has committed on its surface. It may bear, in great part, the image and superscription of guilt. It may appear unfit to go into the

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treasury of God's universe and to be numbered among the stars that " He called by their names." Many believe that it will only be purified by the fire of spiritual truth. When humanity is purified and all hearts renewed by God's spirit, we shall then see that the world has no longer evil staining it or stamping itself into it. It will be seen to be such as God Himself views with gladness, and in which man can dwell with delight. It was the object of Christ's life, the aim of His established truth, to create a new heaven and a new earth wherein dwelleth right-

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eousness. This shall come to pass one day ; then shall there be rejoicing because the tabernacle of God will be with men.

II. We have been pursuing these reflections ; but the money thrown by Judas has still to be disposed of. Let us look now at the schemes of the conscienceless to get rid of an unwelcome legacy. If a legacy were left to us, we should probably wish to retain it. Not so these men. Slowly it is accepted on trust. One or two pieces are taken up ; but the rest lie scattered about the floor of the Temple. What shall be done with them ? Shall they be swept out and left to the poor and profane to pick up ? Surely those Pharisaic priests will not soil their fingers with it ! Will they not ? See them take the silver up and deliberate as to what to do with this unceremonious, roughly-conveyed,

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unexpected, and somewhat inconvenient legacy. They meet when their hands are free of Christ, and when there is a lull in the Temple service, to settle the point. " And now, how about those thirty pieces of sliver ? " says one, who opens the discussion. " Pity — great pity ! — to waste them ; we must not be unmindful of the interests of the Temple." " Throw them into the treasury," says another, who is not troubled with any qualms as to its being the price of blood ; " if any swearing by the gold of the Temple is a debtor, surely this money may be used for its support ? It has, in fact, been bequeathed to the Temple."

" What matters," says a third, "what purpose it has formerly served? It will serve a good end now." " But, then, it is the price of blood," says a fourth ; " and our second book of the law [Deut. xxiii, 18] forbids that we shall bring even ' the price of a dog into the house of the Lord our God.' How much less may we put into the treasury this, which is the price of the Blasphemer, whom, to the glory of the God of Israel, and spite of the obstinate Prsetor, we have succeeded in crucifying ! Shall we put into our sacred treasury the possession of that despicable wretch who was willing to take it as the bribe of betrayal ? My advice is to cast it away over the parapet into Kedron, and let it perish."

Another here arises and suggests-that it may be well to cause it to be melted over again, and thus get out the stain. He argues that as the gold and silver of Jericho came into the treasury, and as the censers of

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Korah and his company were made into brazen plates for the altar, so

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this might be used for the service of the Lord, and the offering be as a " sweet smelling savour " to the Majesty on High.

" Horrible ! " ejaculates, probably, Joseph of Arimathea. We suppose another here to rise and propose that they should purchase with it something of use to the Temple.

" Nay," says Caiaphas, the ruler of the Sanhedrim — that master of shuffle and expediency — " that would not be expedient ; better do something with it that will gain us the reputation for benevolence and save our consciences at the same time."

"JBuy the potter's parcel of ground," says a venerable rabbi from the corner of the council-room, who had been in close consultation with blind Annas, the father-in-law of Caiaphas. Judas had commenced negotiations for it, and they were as suddenly broken off as was the rope with which he hung himself. It could be bought for just the thirty pieces he brought back, as by his suicide in it the value is lessened. Moreover, it is certainly not worth more. It has been well worked in past time, and there is little clay left therein.

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" Good suggestion ! " " Bright thought ! " " Capital device ! " was doubtless the murmur that rose from various parts of that councilchamber. Priests will thus keep within the law, but secure their consciences and personal advantage at the same time. How conscientious were these unprincipled men ! Henceforth they will have no more difficulty about burying the Gentile dogs dying in the city, or of finding recipients for the legacy they would not accept. A deputation waits speedily upon the owner to secure the parcel of almost useless ground. They find the owner most willing to sell it for the exact amount of the legacy of Judas. The vendor who had thought that he would not obtain the money for the field Judas had purchased with the reward of his iniquity is delighted that, after all, he is not a loser by the death of the man of Kerioth. The priests congratulate themselves on their acuteness in buying with the " reward of iniquity " that which had been the place of suicide of the betrayer. They think that society will never know that they had bought it in order to get rid of the inconvenient legacy ; but the truth of it oozed out, and public opinion stamped it rightly as Aceldama — the field of blood. This name was perpetually attached, and thus was fulfilled the remarkable words in which this result was foretold, " And I said unto them, If ye think good give me

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my price 'and if not, forbear. So they weighed for my price thirty pieces of silver. And the Lord said unto me, Cast it unto the potter : a goodly price that I was prised at of them. And I took the thirty pieces of silver, and cast them to the potter in the house of the Lord." (Zech. xi 12, 13.)

III. Notice how direst sin and conscienceless scheming are overruled by Christ. The transmuting power of Him who is the Lord of Conscience is certainly seen in this transaction. He transmutes bad deeds and overrules them. Everything coming in contact with him is benefited. The betrayal of His life becomes to strangers and outcasts, dying in the streets of Jerusalem, a great boon. A cemetery is provided for them ; and the cross intended for shame becomes the symbol of Christian faith. The sneering and scoffing in the epithets " Nazarene," " Galilean," " Christian," are taken up and fashioned into a crown of glory. So every man coming near to Christ is changed ; the evil sinks, the good in his nature is raised. So, also, the world shall be changed one day by Him. We see a hint of this, and of the far-reaching effects of His death, in the act of the Empress who caused as many as two hundred and seventy shiploads of earth from that field of blood to be carried to Pisa. Some is said to be in the Campo Santo, also at Rome, and more even reached Paris, and is in the cemetery of the Innocents. Some of that earth is enclosed at Pisa by most costly cloisters, and it is thought the greatest privilege to be allowed to be buried therein. In fact, it is only possible by royal permission. Moreover, the soil is said entirely to decompose, in less than forty-eight hours, all flesh that

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might be in it. The evils of the world shall, as this tradition hints, be transmuted and made to disappear. Christ has spilled His blood for the world and on the world. He shall transmute its shining sins into sincere service, its dull guilt into unmerited glory. Christ's life and death have purchased rest for those who are strangers to the mercy of God and aliens from the commonwealth of the spiritual Israel. As in Christ's day rejected and contemned taxgatherers and those of loose lives went into the kingdom of heaven before the pretended pious and outwardly respectable, so has it been ever since. Many a soul feeling the burden of life, many a heart-broken waif dying in the streets of the city or high up in its neglected garrets, or choking in the waters of the river, seeking thus blindly to wash out sin, may yet find rest in

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Christ. The Aceldama of such souls becomes changed, through Christ, into a resting-place. But for the men coming face to face with truth, but rejecting its claims ; for the men hardening their hearts against Christ ; for the men straining at gnats and swallowing camels ; for the men who profess to be conscientious but are ravening wolves, what can purchase rest ? For those men who live impurely while standing under the very cross, what real rest can they have ? Ah, there are none so hopeless, none whose lives are so hard to transmute, none whose hearts are so hard to change, as the men who are careful about outward con-

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duct, punctilious on minor points, who are bound by bigotry, who strain conscience to the last extremity, who strive to keep within law, but who are without principle. They seem to think that if they can only keep from the commission of any outward wrong all will be well ! These are difficult to move. What a revelation to themselves will come when death tears off the coverings of their deceit !

We see, from the doings of these Judean priests, that it is possible to be anxious about the welfare of God's house, the support of the sanctuary, the observances of law, and yet have deep evil in the soul. Those proud and bigoted religionists yielded to their desire to retain " place and nation," yielded to their envy and hate of goodness, so as to crucify the blameless Jesus. They were anxious about the "mint, and anise, and cummin ; " but they neglected the weightier matters of justice, truth, and mercy. We see how they could dispose of that which another left — how little they did for the strangers themselves ! They appeared generous, but they were selfish.. They gave that which cost them nothing. We never really give to God unless there is some selfdenial in the giving. We must feel the giving. There are many who give even trifles — "mites," coppers — who are approved of God as much as if they gave thirty pieces of silver. The man who knows not how to spare the mite he gives to any object does far more than the man who may give his thousands to some hospital. Such even give for amusement at times. Said one of the Rothschilds once, " I sometimes give a sovereign to a beggar for the pleasure of seeing his looks of surprise." What is it to such to give ? But where we have to deny our-

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selves, and, perhaps, scheme and " screw " to give, we then not only win the approval of loved ones, but the commendation of the Saviour, The priests were very generous, but at another's cost.

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Looking back over our course of thought, we would say : Let us, at least, avoid betraying our Master. Let us never give the salute of the lips and then the smite of the palm. Let us be faithful to Him to whom we have given ourselves. Let us never have to fling down the result of life's work, saying, " Useless, useless ! " Let us never have consciences that are conscienceless. Let us never become hardened in bigotry and pride. Let our stony hearts be changed and our seared consciences be softened by the power of God's Holy Spirit. And let our souls, which would have possibly been as a waste — worked-out potter's field — become, by the power of the betrayed, crucified, and now risen Christ, as a garden of the Lord.

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