« PreviousContinue »
The Son of man goeth as it is written of him: but woe unto that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed ! it had been good for that man if he had not been born.” (Matt. xxvi. 24.) This is said respecting Judas, and it amounts to a strong argument against Universalism, because, whatever might be the poignancy of Judas' sufferings for this offence, or whatever its duration, even though it extended to a thousand millions of ages, yet if it eventually come to an end, and be succeeded by an eternity of bliss, he will still be the gainer by his existence; and the declaration, that it were good for him to have not been born, will not in that case hold true. The probability against the ultimate salvation of Judas, is confirmed by the fact that Christ calls him “a devil,” (John vi. 70.) also by the fact that he came to his end by self-destruction. " And he east down the pieces of silver in the temple, and departed, and went and hanged himself.” (Matt. xxvii. 5.) Moreover, the rest of the apostles, in solemn supplication, intimated his final fate in very significant language.
66 That he may take part of this ministry and apostleship, from which Judas by transgression fell, that he might go to his own place.” (Acts i. 25.) And in addition to all this, Christ declares him to be lost, and he calls him “the son of perdition.”
6 While I was with them in the world, I kept them in thy name : those that thou gavest me I have kept, and none of them is lost, but the son of perdition ; that the scripture might be fulfilled.” (John xvii. 12.) All these circumstances together, it must be admitted, make out a very strong probability against the ultimate salvation of Judas.
ANSWER. They seem to do so, indeed, my friendly objector, as you have marshalled them. I think, nevertheless, that he may be extricated from that disagreeable predicament without any unfair means. 1st. Be it known, that the declaration about it being good for him not to have been born, was but a common proverbial expression amongst the Jews upon all calamitous occasions. “ And Job spake and said, Let the day perish wherein I was born, and the night in which it was said, There is a man child conceived.” (Job iii. 2, 3.) “Cursed be the day wherein I was born : let not the day wherein my mother bare me be blessed.” (Jer. xx. 14.) “If a man beget
a hundred children, and live many years, so that the days of his years be many, and his soul be not filled with good, and also that he have no burial; I say, that an untimely birth is better than he.” (Eccles. vi. 3.) Dr. Clarke produces several instances from Schoetgen to the same effect. I will give a few of these only. “ Whoever considers these four things, it would have been better for him had he never come into the world ; that which is above, that which is below, that which is before, that which is behind; and whosoever does not attend to the honor of his creator, it were better for him had he never been born.” CHAGIGAH. 6 Whosoever knows the law, and does not do it, it had been better for him had he never come into the world.” SHEMATH RABBA. “ If any man be parsimonious toward the poor, it had been better for him had he never come into the world.” “ If any performs the law for the sake of the law, it were good for that man had he never been created." SAHAR GENES. The words in small capitals are the titles of several Jewish writings. “These examples sufficiently prove (I am quoting Dr. Clarke) that this was a common proverb, and was used with a great variety and latitude of meaning." Christ, however, does not say it were good for Judas NEVER to have been born, but simply, if he had not been born; that is, we may reasonably suppose, if he had not been born that particular person, or at that particular time, or to that particular end of betraying his master. If it were better for him NEVER to have been born, the goodness of his creator is seriously impeached in having conferred an existence which he foresaw would prove an infinite curse to its possessor! That God, who " is good unto all,” was also good unto Judas, those tender mercies which " are over all his works," must also have been over him; but this could by no means have been the case if he was brought into being with the foresight that he should eternally be the loser thereby.
But Christ calls Judas a devil, and this, you think, strengthens the probability against his salvation. Your brain is probably mystified in regard to this particular, by the supposition that by the word devil, is meant an abandoned, fallen spirit of the infernal pit;
but, as I have elsewhere shown, this is an unauthorized definition of the term. You believe in Peter's salvation, and him the Savior calls Satan. (Matt. xvi. 23.) I see not why one devil may not be saved as well as another.
Again, Judas is called the son of perdition, and is said to be Zost. True, his treachery proved the cause of his temporal destruction, or perdition, (for the terms are synonymous) and the circumstances of his death appear to have been very ignominious and painful; this fact would, according to the usages of speech in those days, fully justify the Savior's calling him the son of perdition. As to his being lost, there is no proof that any thing more is meant, than that he was lost to Christ as an apostle; the context clearly favors this inference; the Savior had kept together all whom the Father had given him for disciples, save that one. In this particular sense Judas was lost; to consider him as lost in a moral sense, however, would but be to include him amongst those whom Christ came to seek and to save. And it must be further remembered that nothing is to be so lost, as not to be recovered again “at the last day.” (John vi. 39.)
“ That he might go to his own place,” and that place, oh, sapient reader, you are pleased to think, was the infernal regions! Extremely modest it was, I must needs say, for the eleven apostles to tell the almighty Jehovah, that the deep abodes of hell was the appropriate place for one of his intelligent offspring, and a former companion of theirs! If they had been certified that God had created that place for Judas, and him for it, they might have called it his own place” with some propriety; but in the absence of such assurance, it were a stretch of presumption amounting to blasphemy. It must be evident to the candid reader, that the passage in our version needs a transposition, which will transfer the applicability of the words in question from Judas to Mathias, who succeeded him in the apostleship, “ that he might go to his own place, from which Judas by transgression fell."
It may well be doubted if Judas died by his own act; the original represents him as having strangled himself. There are other modes of strangling besides hanging; and a man may strangle himself otherwise than by a voluntary act; Judas may have suffocated with excessive grief, for his grief was excessive. The account of his hanging does not consist with that which Peter gives of his death" and falling headlong he bust asunder in the midst, and all his bowels gushed out.” (Acts i. 18.) The law of gravitation behooves to be subverted, before a person suspended by the neck can fall headlong! Dr. Lightfoot, however, jumps over the philosophical difficulty in the case, by supposing that the devil may have snatched Judas from the gallows and dashed him to the ground. Ah, it is easy accounting for the greatest marvels where the devil is concerned. On the whole, there is really nothing in the case of Judas which, on close examination, amounts to an argument against universal salvation; nor is there any thing which is not susceptible of an easy explication in agreement with the fact of his eventual redemption.
Verily, verily, I say unto thee, except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (John iii. 3.) “ Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived : neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind; nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.” (1 Cor. vi. 9, 10.) It would really seem, in this last passage, that the great apostle had the universalist heresy in his eye, and that he penned this language with the express intention of guarding the church to whom he wrote against it. “ Be not deceived;" let none persuade you that the good and the bad, with faith and without it, the man of prayer and the blasphemer, are all to attain at last to celestial blessedness; no, no, I tell you that the righteous only shall inherit the kingdom of God.
I have had several previous occasions to observe, in this work, that the phrases, “ kingdom of God,” and “ kingdom of heaven," are not to be confounded with the world of celestial bliss; they are never so used in the scriptures. I have given some proofs of this; take a few more. " And when he was demanded of the Pharisees when the kingdom of God should come, he answered them, and said, The kingdom of God cometh not with observation. Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you." (Luke xvii. 20, 21.) “ For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink ; but righteousness and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.” (Rom. xiv. 17.) “But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites ! for ye shut up the kingdom of
heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in.” (Matt. xxiii. 13.) These are but a specimen of very many proofs, that by the kingdom of God, and of heaven, is meant, the gospel institution in the world ; when it was about to be ushered in, men were told that the kingdom of heaven was at hand, &c. Now, it has long been the prevalent error with christians, in regard to this subject, that they have confounded this kingdom with that of celestial glory beyond the grave. Nicodernus was a Jew; his habits, and modes of thinking, his prejudices, were all Jewish; he was told that in order to become a subject of the gospel institution, he “must be born again,” must undergo a moral renovation, must cease to act, and think, and worship as a Jew, and begin anew to graduate in the science of religion at the feet of Christ. An individual who has had his birth and education, and spent a considerable part of his life in a despotic country, must needs be born again ere he can appreciate the blessings of a free government. A person in a savage state is not prepared to be ushered at once into civilized life; he must first be prepared for the transition by an education of his mind, sentiments, and habits. So it is in regard to religion ; ere we can appreciate the blessings of the gospel kingdom, we must obtain a mastery over our evil passions and appetites ; we must cultivate and cherish those dispositions and tempers which will assimilate us to Jesus Christ; we must cease to do evil and learn to do well. Paul saith truly, that no murderer, fornicator, or the like, can inherit the kingdom of God; this truth was new to such as had been converted to the belief in Christ, from the various heathen superstitions ; they had been accustomed to regard many vices as not only consistent with religion, but as actual virtues. I need not inform my intelligent readers that the very worship of most of the pagan deities was often associated with acts of a most vicious and repulsive nature. In reading the apostolic epistles, we find they had much trouble to indoctrinate the early converts into the knowledge of that pure and elevated system of faith and morals, which constituted the religion of Christ, the kingdom of God, or of heaven, into which nothing that is unclean, or unholy, can enter; which is as chaste “as a bride adorned for her hus band." We may easily comprehend, then, (without supposing a caution against universalism to be intended,) why Paul warned