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THE TWỌ PLACES,
BY REV. JOHN B. DYKES, M.A., Mus. D.,
(Vicar of S. Oswald's, Durham.)
ACTS I. 25.
It was a sad and solemn occasion on which these words were uttered. The apostolic company was met together for the purpose of selecting a man to fill the vacancy caused by the untimely death of one of its own number.
Occasions of this kind have always something mournful about them, when Death has made his first inroad into some little society banded together for the advancement of one great and common object. True, such gatherings are sometimes brightened by the encouraging memories of the virtues and good example of the departed; and, amid regrets for their own loss, the survivors are not unfrequently nerved to a more zealous ånd hopeful prosecution of their work by thoughts of him who is gone.
But here there were no such cheering reflections to gild the gloom. Here was the little Christian company prayerful and expectant, but anxious; their Divine Leader removed from them, the Holy Ghost not yet come; commissioned to revolutionize the world: and one of themselves had proved a deserter, a traitor, an apostate. One in whom they had trusted so fully as to make him their treasurer, their almoner, had basely deceived them, and by his fearful impiety and his awful and notorious death, had brought the whole sacred cause, as it would seem, into imminent peril.
It was his place they had now to fill. There could, then, be no pleasing reflections connected either with his own life, or death, or present condition, to shed one ray of comfort or hope on his memory
1. What about his life?
His past history is here briefly referred to by S. Peter in the words, “ Judas, which was guide < to them that took JESUS." Mark you, not "guide to them” who loved and followed JESUS (as an Apostle should have been), but “guide to
“them ” who hated, and captured, and slew Him.
2. What about His death?
His death is briefly related by S. Peter in these words : “ 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.”
3. And what about his present state ?
This is solemnly hinted at in the words of my text_" That he might go to his own place.” What place ? Ah, brethren, may you and I never go there!
But I wish to draw your attention for a few moments to these words, as they are very striking. The Apostles, you remember, are praying to be guided aright in making choice between two men, “ Joseph, surnamed Justus, and Matthias.” The words of their prayer are to this effect, “Thou, “ Lord, which knowest the hearts of all men, “shew whether of these two Thou hast chosen, “that he may take the place of this ministry " and apostleship, from which Judas fell away to "go to his own place.”
Our own Bible version does not quite give the full force of the original here. It speaks of Matthias “taking part of the ministry and
apostleship from which Judas fell.” The word "part” should be "place.” And what I want you to observe is this, that mention is here made of two places “the place of ministry and " apostleship,” which God had chosen for Judas, which was God's place ; and the mysterious and unmentioned place which Judas chose for himself, and which is here called “ his own place.” He deserted one to go into the other. He made his choice: by that he must abide.
Had he remained faithfully in God's place -in the post assigned him by CHRIST—what would have been the end of his ministry ? His “faithfulness in a few things” would have resulted in his being “ruler over many things." He was elected to one of the twelve apostolic thrones, to a place of regal dignity, of exalted happiness, of unutterable glory and majesty in the world to come. But he failed in his trust, he took his own way, and went to “his own “place.” “Good were it for that man if he had never been born !"
Now let us think how it was, that one living so close to CHRIST, in daily personal intercourse with Him, fell away so woefully and irretrievably. Very little is told us of his personal history. We are startled, all at once, by finding how cheap he holds his Divine Lord. He has set his heart upon a certain field, he must have it, even although he has to betray his Master to get the money. He obtains his money, and buys the coveted field. And how much joy does it bring him ? He goes down to claim it as his own, and there, in an agony of frenzied remorse, he hangs himself, leaving his field defiled with the mangled and mutilated corpse of its impious
But this betrayal of his Lord was simply the determining crisis of his life. This final act of unfaithfulness was but the natural result of a long habit of unfaithfulness. He seems to have been throughout a self-seeking man. He liked the thought of the future throne and kingdom, but he did not like the preliminary probation. He found by degrees that his “ place of ministry “and apostleship ” assigned him by CHRIST involved the “loss of all things.” He had not bargained for that. Even the little earnings and savings of the Twelve, the very alms and offerings given to them by the faithful, he found were to be devoted, not to their own use but to