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ACTS 1:18.

Covington, GA., Dec.10, 1869.

DEAR BROTHER BEEBE: - A brother in Arkansas requests my views through the SIGNS on Acts 1:18, “Now this man purchased a field with the reward of iniquity, and falling headlong, he burst asunder in the midst, and all his bowels gushed out.”

Within the period of time which elapsed from the ascension of the Lord Jesus to glory, to the day of Pentecost, Peter stood up in the midst of the disciples, and in connection with other statements, spoke the words of the text in relation to Judas the traitor. His statement, unquestionably, is correct respecting Judas, yet it appears rather difficult to make it harmonize with what Matthew says concerning him. While Peter declares that Judas purchased the field with the money he had received from the Jews to betray Christ, calling it the reward of iniquity, Matthew declares that when Judas saw that Jesus was condemned, he repented himself, and brought the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, and acknowledged he had sinned in betraying the innocent blood. They would not receive it, and he cast it down in the temple, and went and hanged himself. The chief priests then took the money, and after taking counsel together, they bought the potter’s field with the money, to bury strangers in. The statements agree as to the appropriation of the money to buy the field, but Peter says Judas bought it, and Matthew says the chief priests bought it. According to Peter’s account the field was called Aceldame, or field of blood, by reason of Judas’ death in that field in such a tragical manner; the fearful end of such notorious characters. According to Matthew’s account the field received its bloody name because the priests bought it with the price of blood. While we are obliged to receive both accounts as authentic, I am led to the conclusion that the explanation is to be found in some unknown series of facts, of which we have but two fragmentary narratives. If all the facts were known to us, or even on record, I have no doubt there would be a full explanation of apparent discrepancies, and a perfect reconciliation of the statements of Peter and Matthew.

Cavilers, skeptics and infidels have labored long and hard to overthrow the testimony of the scriptures by seizing upon the supposed discrepancies of language, and the seeming incongruities of expressions, sometimes found in the bible. In reading the scriptures, the general points, principles and facts which underlie the testimony of biblical truth, should be kept in mind, and remembered by every bible reader. And what he cannot understand, or comprehend, he should not condemn, or disbelieve, like a man I once was in company with when traveling, who remarked that he did not believe anything he could not comprehend. In that respect he exposed his ignorance and foolishness, for neither he or any other person can comprehend the mystery of his own personal existence.

The fulfillment of scripture prophecy relative to Judas in his betrayal of Christ for thirty pieces of silver, the estimated value that was put upon him by those wicked men, clearly confirms the great truth of God’s predestination, or determinate purpose concerning wicked men and devils with as positive certainty as his determinate counsel and foreknowledge concerning the sufferings and death of the Lord Jesus, and his resurrection and ascension to glory, and the calling by grace of the predestinated heirs of promise, and their final deliverance and glorification. The malignant acts of ungodly men are held in a state of subordination to the absolute government of Jehovah to subserve the determinate purpose concerning his church and people. God’s omnipotence is an invulnerable defense from all that earth and hell can do against the Lord, and against his anointed ones. To consider the fulfillment of the scriptures in reference to Judas, compare John 13:18, latter clause of the verse, with Psa. 41:9; also Acts 1:20, with Psa. 69:20, and Psa. 109:8.

I am not prepared to say that Peter and the disciples were authorized by the Holy One to cast lots to supply the vacancy, as they supposed, by the death of Judas. They were not yet endued with power from on high. I presume they meant right, and believed they had the scriptures to sustain them in their course, but it is very possible {in fact with me there is no doubt} they erred in their judgment, as God had chosen Paul who afterwards was made manifest as an apostle. Judas was counted, or numbered with the apostles, and Peter says, “had obtained part of this ministry.” Jesus says, however, to his disciples, “Have not I chosen you twelve and one of you is a devil?” John 6:70. This scripture, with other testimony, warrants me to believe that the “part” he obtained was only in reference to his being numbered, or recognized with the disciples as an apparent, but not true, follower of Christ. He possessed the faculty to conceal his motives from the disciples, though not from the scrutinizing eye of the blessed Redeemer. He is called the “son of perdition,” {John 17:12,} and his final end sustains this view. Whatever view the disciples may have had of Judas heretofore, they were now satisfied of his real character. The mask, which had concealed his dark purpose, was now removed, and he had gone to “his own place.” Satan entered into him in relation to his betrayal of Christ, and like the swine which the devils entered, drove him headlong to destruction. Perdition means utter ruin, or destruction; for as we follow our text, he purchased a field with the money so wickedly obtained, and falling headlong in the midst of the field, or possession obtained by the price of blood, he perished in a miserable manner. Or if we follow Matthew’s account, remorse of conscience seized hold of him, after he saw Jesus was condemned, and he went and hanged himself. Whatever discrepancy may seem to exist in the two statements as to the circumstances of his death, this scriptural point is reached – his utter ruin, or destruction, and in this particular the fulfillment of prophecy.

Every intelligent person, devoid of prejudice, and unbiased by outside influences, looks upon a traitor with supreme contempt, and as utterly unworthy of confidence. It is believed a traitor is never devoted in heart to holy and just principles, and when he may appear to be devoted to those principles, it is for the sake of worldly gain, or emolument, and he is ever ready to betray those principles, when the offer of money, or a bribe, is presented to him. Money is his god, or idol, which he worships, at whose shrine he ever bows in supreme adulation. In the use of money there is power, which under the direction of sordid principles, is productive of the most direful and basest consequences. Under the name of the christian religion, as well as in other things, is this seen and felt to an alarming extent in nearly every sense of the word, in our day. Covetousness is idolatry.

There is something further to be understood in the case of Judas, than the mere literal transaction. His character presents a vivid illustration of the man of sin, that wicked, the son of perdition, spoken of by Paul in Second Thess., chapter 2. Many strong and expressive figures and metaphors are used by the inspired writers in the description of the son of perdition. He is compared to a beast which “shall ascend out of the bottomless pit and go into perdition.” Rev. 17:8. His ascension from the bottomless pit in his manifestation on the earth, is after the working of Satan, with all power, and signs, and lying wonders, and with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish, &c. Isaiah, in his prophecy, depicts in vivid colors, this notable character, and his irrecoverable downfall. “For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the Most High. Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit.” Isa. 14:13-15. The preceding and subsequent verses of the same paragraph are highly expressive, with some bitter irony. Paul’s testimony accords with the prophet’s in his description of the same character. He says, “Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God.” II Thes. 2:4. This desperate character, the very embodiment of wickedness, works in them that perish. God’s judgment upon them is pronounced in the following language. “And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion that they should believe a lie, that they might all be damned, who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.”

It is believed that the largest portion of what passes for benevolence and christian charity, is covetousness in disguise. Under the pretence of great sympathy for the poor, Judas could say, “Why was not this ointment sold for three hundred pence and given to the poor? This he said not that he cared for the poor, but because he was a thief, and had the bag, and bare what was put therein.” John 12:5,6. Under the pretense of evangelizing the world, and ameliorating the condition of the poor and distressed, millions of dollars have been expended and wasted to the enriching of vile men of covetous principles, or squandered by them to gratify their lusts. This is so apparent that it seems almost every day pastime. This is visible in all grades of society, and among almost all classes of men. My soul sickens at the recital of such abominations, and I forbear to enter into minute particulars.

Paul, in enumerating the many perils he endured for Christ’s sake, spake of “perils among false brethren.” II Cor. 11:26. Judas appeared so much like a disciple that the disciples never suspicioned him. When he betrayed Christ he could say, “Hail, Master, and kissed him.” Matt. 26:49. Under the greatest pretension of humility, love and fellowship has the confidence of the dear saints on earth been betrayed by wolves in sheep’s clothing. Those vile men with the reward of iniquity in their hands, or in their possession, have gone to their own place, and utterly perished in their own corruptions. Perhaps remorse of conscience may seize upon them in some cases, like Judas, and end their days in a similar manner.

The writer of this article, about thirty years since, passed through a sore temptation in relation to himself as compared with Judas. He was induced to believe he was a Judas, and that there was no mercy for him. The burning embers of an interminable fire raged in his bosom for many months, until it was the pleasure of God to rebuke the arch-fiend of darkness, and remove the temptation from him. He had long believed his prayer was sin, and that it was blasphemy to address God, but now he could pray and sing praises to his God. Yours in fellowship,

Joseph L. Purington.