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BY TRACTS FOR THE TIMES
Psalm cix. 7-
" Let his days be few, and let another take his office."
This Saint's Day is different from all the rest in one very striking
and awful circumstance : that it commemorates in a manner the
fall of Judas, as well as the consecration of holy St. Matthias in
his room. The sad event, which made room for this new Apostle,
is by no means left out of sight, or lightly touched upon, in the
Scripture account of his Election and Ordination. St. Peter in
his speech to the assembled Disciples, and they all afterwards in
their prayer to our Lord, make particular mention of Judas, and
of his end, so unspeakably dreadful.
Therefore, as often as we keep St. Matthias' Day, we keep the
memorial of the sin and misery of the traitor Judas also : and
our thoughts are carried back to that severe and awful Psalm, the
109th, which contains at large the sentence of the Everlasting
Judge on such wickedness as his : that kind of wickedness, which
is properly called Apostasy ; when such as have been brought un-
usually near to God fall away from Him, and their fall, by a most
just judgment, brings a curse proportionate to their first blessing.
Such was the fall of our first Parents in Paradise ; of Esau, the
first-born of a holy Patriarch ; of the Israelites in the wilderness,
with the Cloud of Glory in sight ; of Balaam, the Prophet, whose
eyes were open, and who saw the vision of the Almighty ; of
Judas, Christ's Apostle ; of the Jews, His ancient People : and
42 THE outcast's place filled.
still more, of Christians, who are now so near Him by special
grace. Such also was that event, which was the root and the
type of all these, the original fall of the Evil one himself, from
his place as a bright Archangel in Heaven, to be chief of those
who are bound in everlasting chains under darkness.
Now two circumstances of the punishment of such as .ludas
are expressed in the Text : — a verse which St. Peter also quoted
in speaking to the Disciples of his fearful end : — " Let his days be
few, and his office," or Bishoprick, "let another take." The words
in themselves sound simple enough ; they might seem to speak of
no more than all human beings must undergo, by the necessity
of their mortal nature. All our days are few : they are but as
grass, they are gone almost before we can count them. All our
places, stations, and offices, whatever they may be, must soon pass
away from us, and another take them in our place. But this, the
common lot of all, is here turned into a fearful and peculiar curse,
for those who slight high privileges, and betray sacred trusts :
Almighty God thus instructing us, that as He can make blessings
out of all to the good, — " is able even of these stones to raise
up children unto Abraham," — so out of all He can provide
punishment for the wicked. And this too is seen thi-oughout all
His dispensations. The same pillar of the cloud, which was
darkness to the Egyptians, gave light by night to the Israelites.
The voice of Christ, which was healing to the faithful, caused
the unclean spirits to cry out in torments. And for aught we
know, the same divine Presence will be heavenly Light to one sort
of souls. Hell-fire to another, to all Eternity.
No wonder then if such ordinary things as the shortness of life,
and the dread of parting with our stations here, which are trifles,
or even blessings, to the obedient, should be mentioned as real
curses to the unfaithful and unruly.
At the same time it is to be observed, that these very circum-
stances are also means in God's hand, to lessen the quantity of
mischief which is done by those who fall from Him. Their
" days are few :" let them do their worst, they must come to an
end iu threescore or fourscore years ; and it has been thought
that this was a merciful dispensation, ordered by the Almighty
about the time of the Flood ; since, according to the rate at which
man's wickedness was then increasing, the very world itself could
THE outcast's PLACE FILLED. 43
not have borne it, had men continued to live, as those before the
flood, seven, eight, or nine hundred years each. It was merciful
to the world, that their days were made in comparison few ; and
it may have been merciful even to themselves, for thev had the
less time to treasure up to themselves wrath against the day of
Again, their having to part with their office, whereinsoever
God may have trusted them, to another : — this also greatly di-
minishes the quantity of mischief they can do in it, and the quan-
tity of scandal they bring upon their calling, especially if it be a
high and holy one. Besides their having less time to do harm in,
people live in hopes that they shall ere long see a change for the
better, and their hope lessens their grief and offence.
The instance of Judas is a very plain one, for shewing forth the
dealings of God's providence in this respect. His short life as an
Apostle (for it had not been three years complete) would have
been a blessing, had he been such as St. James, the first of the
twelve who came to his great reward : he would have departed,
and been with Christ so much the sooner. But as it was, what
judgment could be more fearful ? He had purchased a field with
the reward of iniquity, and within a very few hours after, seeing
that our Lord was condemned, he came and cast down what he
had gained by it, and departed, and went and hanged himself;
and then, even in his hanging, he had to endure some violent
fall, so that he " burst asunder in the midst, and all his bowels
Thus his days were signally cut short ; and as to another
taking his office, St. Peter reminded the disciples that the Scrip-
tures concerning him were of course to be fulfilled, especially
two which he specified : " Let his habitation be desolate, and let
no man dwell therein ;" and, " His bishopric let another take."
No man dwelt in Judas's portion or habitation, for it was used
only to bury strangers in, and was called the Field of Blood.
Another took his Apostle's or Bishop's office, namely, the Apostle
of to-day, St. Matthias.
Thus Christ so ordered things, that the very downfall of one
of His own Apostles, which beforehand one would expect to
be well-nigh the ruin of the Church, was made consistent with
its continuance and prosperity.
44 THE outcast's place filled.
Had Judas been allowed more time to exercise the powers of an
Apostle, who knows what incurable harm he might have done
in the infant Church ?
Had his place not been filled up, it might appear as though
God were forsaking us ; as if the whole Church might possibly
one day fail, through the unworthiness of its pastors. This the
Almighty has, we trust, effectually provided against, by what is
called the Apostolic succession, the handing on of His grace from
age to age through the Bishops ; of His care for which, the ordi-
nation of St. Matthias is the first example in the Church. We
know by it, that it is not His will to let His Church's being de-
pend on the character of His ministers ; since after the very
worst, after Judas by transgression had fallen, another was elected
to take his part of the ministry and Apostleship. And so, what
is truly wonderful to think of, he whom Christ had ordained,
fell away and was lost ; but he whom the Apostles ordained in
the absence of Christ, and before the coming of the Holy
Ghost, stood firm, and kept his crown. Our Lord intended, as
it may seem, in this as in many other ways to teach us, how
entirely He would have us regard His Church's commission as all
one with His own.
Further, the Scriptures appear to signify, that this His dis-
pensation concerning Judas was a kind of type or pattern of His
dealings with the whole Jewish people when they proved un-
faithful. For the sixty-ninth Psalm, which St. Peter on this
occasion interpreted of Judas, " Let his habitation be desolate,
and let no man dwell therein," is explained by St. Paul in the
Epistle to the Romans as concerning the unbelieving Israelites,
and the punishment they would undergo for rejecting Christ '.
Nor is it hard to understand wherein the two are alike, and how
the one may stand for the other — the traitor Apostle for the
rebeUious Jewish nation.
They are alike in this, that they both came so very near
Christ, by His special favour; and therefore, when they proved
unworthy, their punishments might well prove to be alike. Thus,
as Judas's days were few, — as he was cut off suddenly in the
early time of his Apostleship, — so were the days of the Jewish
> Horn. xi. 9, 10.
THE outcast's PLACE FILLED. 45
people few, in comparison with what God intended for them, in
comparison of His true everlasting Church. They had been
God's people for many hundred years, but those years were but
a few days in God's sight, whereas He meant them to have been
His people for ever.
Then, whereas it is written of Judas, " Let another take his
office," we know that the Christian Church, gathered from
among both Jews and Gentiles, has been put in the place of
Israel, to be God's minister, and by its union with Christ, to be
Priest, Prophet, and Ruler on earth. And as Judas's name is a
name of reproach, as the very place where he died had an evil
mark set upon it, so, ever since the children of Israel were cast
off for rejecting Christ, their name, according to the threatening
of Moses, has become a proverb and a byeword and an astonish-
ment among all people.
Now it is a serious and alarming thought for us all. If Judas
Iscariot, who, favoured as he was, had never received the Holy
Ghost ; if the Jewish people, whose highest privileges were but
a shadow of what we receive in Baptism, — if they had their days
cut off by so dreadful a sentence, and their place in God's world
given over to others : what are Christians, what are Christian pas-
tors to expect, should they prove, after all, unclean and unworthy ?
As for the Church of God, we see and know, even by the ordi-
nation of St. Matthias, that He will protect her and prolong her
days, even through the worst times which evil men may bring
upon her : " He hath no need of the sinful man." Though a
whole generation proved Judases, He could raise up others like
Matthias in their stead. But to us severally it is a fearful
thought, how near we may go, — how near, alas ! we have gone,
towards forfeiting our privileges, and bringing the traitor's curse
Many Christians, too surely, have been miserably trifling with
their own blessings, ever since they were able to think at all.
They began by trifling with their prayers : they cared not to say
them earnestly, though they were told never so often to do so.
Satan was watching, ready enough to interrupt those whom he
saw rather wishing to be interrupted. And so it has come to
))ass, that although they have gone on saying prayers regularly
all their lives, it can scarce be said that they have truly prayed at
46 THE outcast's place filled.
all. Inattention, thus indulged, is direct trifling with God : it is
quite a difl^erent thing from the natural weakness and infirmity
which causes even good men's thoughts, against their will, to
wander in their devotions.
Young people who have got into this habit will, almost of
course, behave disrespectfully at Church, another most ordinary
way of trifling with holy things. Might we not truly call it
another lesson in the devil's school ? It is indeed a sight to make
that evil one rejoice, to see how large a proportion of most con-
gregations go on from week to week. Out of mere hghtness and
foolishness of heart, they trifle away that great blessing of being
where Christ is. Many, nay all of them, know that they are
doing wrong ; it is very little pleasure to them ; yet they go on,
from mere bad habit, months and years, without seriously blaming
themselves : every time they go to Church they trifle away some
high and heavenly blessing, ofi'ered there by our Lord to His true
Thus prepared by inattention in private prayer, and irreverence
in God's house, they go abroad among the duties of life ; and
their enemy is still at hand, and knows too well how to come
upon them. He comes to them with bad thoughts ; and they,
not having their hearts chastened by the continual remembrance
of God's presence, open their minds to his impurities, instead of
turning away from them at once. Bad thoughts bring irregular
looks, dangerous liberties, disorderly doings, secret sins : and
with these upon his conscience, the unhappy person goes again
to the house of God, perhaps to His Altar, with far too little fear
and self-reproach. He thinks, perhaps, that he means to amend ;
but when the temptation comes again, it is but too often found
that he has no real principle to contend against it. Again he
falls, and again he comes near to Holy Things ; and except God
deal with him, and open his heart afresh by some of His marvel-
lous providential mercies, what can be expected of him, but that
the Holy Spirit, so continually grieved, should quite withdraw
from him, and leave him to go down to his grave without any
true penitence ; without ever really and sadly considering, how
near he has come to the sin of betraying Christ, while his hand
was with Him on His Table ?
Judas's own sin, we know, had what many would account a
THE outcast's PLACE FILLED. 47
very slight and ordinary beginning. He kept the purse in which
our Lord and His Apostles lodged what little money they had,
and he was tempted to help himself to a little out of it, when he
thought it would not be missed. Are there not very many Chris-
tians who would reckon this a small sin ? hundreds of servants,
who scruple not to help themselves when their master is out of
sight, although their conscience tells them that if he were ip
sight they would be afraid and ashamed to do so ? thousands of
poor people, who make free in many ways with the property of
their richer neighbours, and would rather not be known to do so ?
Why would they rather it were not known ? Because their
hearts tell them it is wrong, and they may be called to account
for it. Yet the same persons not unfrequently go on, with little
fear or remorse, presenting themselves before God in His holy
services, as if He had never said, " Thou shalt not steal."
I am not of course at once comparing them to Judas ; yet
surely they are so far like him, in that they fear not to keep com-
pany with Christ, while yet they are secretly taking a liberty
which they know in their hearts Christ has positively forbidden.
Let them hasten to leave oiF their sin, lest their hearts grow
incurably hard. Let them consider those fearful words, " After
the sop, Satan entered into him." That is, when Judas was not
moved by the gracious warning of our Lord, shewing him that
He knew what mischief he was secretly thinking of, our Lord no
longer hindered the evil one from getting entire possession of
The nearer Christ has called us to Himself, the more dan-
gerous surely are the first beginnings and whispers of sin ; and
the nearer we have ventured to approach, the greater advantage
have we given to Satan, except we tried in earnest to purify our
hearts and desires.
No doubt, St. Matthias himself may have had trembling
thoughts like these, wherewith to keep himself lowly and humble,
when he was called to so great an honour, so high a place in the
Church. And perhaps this was one reason, why the Apostles in
their Ordination Prayer not only begged a blessing on Matthias,
but also made particular mention of Judas and his fall ; and what
is more awful yet, of the place to which Judas was gone; for
" he fell," say they, " that he might go to his own place." What
48 THE outcast's place filled.
must have been the new Apostle's thoughts, when he was thus
put in mind of Judas's place ! How earnestly must he have
prayed in his secret heart, that such place, or a worse, might
never be his own !
I say a worse ; for must it not be worse for those who, besides
Judas's other privileges, have also that which is above all, union
¦vjith Christ by His Holy Spirit, and yet fall away as Judas
did ? That privilege the holy Matthias received within a few
days, when the Holy Ghost came down upon the assembled
Apostles, and he never forfeited it ; he went on glorifying God
as an Apostle, until he was permitted to glorify Him as a martyr.
We in our measure have the same privilege : the Holy Spirit
came down upon us at our Baptism. We, too, are members of
Christ ; but whether our days in His kingdom shall be few or
many ; whether we shall be permitted to keep our place, or
be cast out to make room for those that are holier and better,
who can tell ? Or how can a sinner ever be thankful enough
that it is not yet over with him ; that he has still time, he knows
not how much, to humble and punish himself heartily for his
great imperfection and unworthiness ; to watch and break him-
self of all beginnings of sin; to subdue the flesh to the Spirit in
all things ; to acquaint himself with God in all the ways of His
Church ; to fear always ; and to be more faithful and true in
every part of his calling towards God and man ?
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