To the chief Musician, A Psalm of David. Hold not thy peace, O God of my praise;
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 hundred and ninth, which contains at large the sentence of the everlasting Judge on such wickedness as his, that kind of wickedness which is properly called apostacy, when such as have been brought unusually near to God fall away from Him, and their fall, by a most just judgment, brings a curse proportionate to their first blessing.
I. Two circumstances of the punishment of such as Judas are expressed in the text: "Let his days be few, and let another take his office," or bishopric. 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.
II. These very circumstances are means in God's hand to lessen the quantity of mischief which is done by those who fall from Him. Christ so ordained 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.
III. The Scriptures appear to signify that this dispensation concerning Judas was a kind of type or pattern of God's dealings with the whole Jewish people when they proved unfaithful. 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. 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 Christian pastors to expect should they after all prove unclean and unworthy? 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 upon us.
Plain Sermons by Contributors to "Tracts for the Times" vol. vi., p. 41.
The Psalmist's words declared the utter overthrow of the house of Judas, but the continuation of the office which he held. His house was to be desolate, but not so his apostolical throne. Such was the prophetic intimation of the Spirit of God; and in obedience thereto, the eleven disciples proceeded to the election of a successor to the lost Apostle. "The lot fell upon Matthias, and he was numbered with the eleven Apostles." There is a fearful light, as it were, around the apostleship of Matthias. We cannot think of him without recalling him who went before. Surely, we imagine, he must have gone about the work of an apostle with a fear and a trembling which even Peter never knew.
I. Consider how far the case of Matthias is our own, and how far therefore his feelings should be ours also. (1) The whole Christian Church stands to the Jewish race as Matthias to Iscariot. The Israelites were the first called to be God's special servants; to them was the commission given to keep alive the remembrance of His name, to make His praise to be glorious. They betrayed the trust; they adhered not to His worship; they gave His honour to another; they stoned His prophets; they rejected His Son. And then went forth the decree, "Let their days be few, and let another take their office." There is a voice from the past to the present, from the old Israel to the new, which bids us not to be high-minded, but fear, as those who fill a traitor's place. (2) Not only is the Christian Church the successor of the repudiated Jewish Church, but the whole race of man is the successor upon trial to the fallen armies of the sky. Before us now is placed the choice which ages ago was given to Satan and his legions: the choice whether in sincerity and truth we will be the servants of the Son of God.
II. From what has been advanced we learn in a most striking manner: (1) the sureness with which God's will is accomplished sooner or later; (2) the wonderful uniformity of the test to which God has subjected all His creatures. The test is simply loyalty to the only-begotten Son.
Bishop Woodford, Occasional Sermons, vol. i., p. 67.
References: Psalm 109:8.—J. Keble, Sermons for Saints' Days, pp. 154-165. Psalm 109—J. Hammond, Expositor, 1st series, vol. ii., p. 325. Psalm 110:1.—J. Budgen, Parochial Sermons, vol. i., p. 58; Preacher's Monthly, vol. v., p. 269; J. Irons, Thursday Penny Pulpit, vol. ix., p. 129.
For the mouth of the wicked and the mouth of the deceitful are opened against me: they have spoken against me with a lying tongue.
They compassed me about also with words of hatred; and fought against me without a cause.
For my love they are my adversaries: but I give myself unto prayer.
And they have rewarded me evil for good, and hatred for my love.
Set thou a wicked man over him: and let Satan stand at his right hand.
When he shall be judged, let him be condemned: and let his prayer become sin.
Let his days be few; and let another take his office.
Let his children be fatherless, and his wife a widow.
Let his children be continually vagabonds, and beg: let them seek their bread also out of their desolate places.
Let the extortioner catch all that he hath; and let the strangers spoil his labour.
Let there be none to extend mercy unto him: neither let there be any to favour his fatherless children.
Let his posterity be cut off; and in the generation following let their name be blotted out.
Let the iniquity of his fathers be remembered with the LORD; and let not the sin of his mother be blotted out.
Let them be before the LORD continually, that he may cut off the memory of them from the earth.
Because that he remembered not to shew mercy, but persecuted the poor and needy man, that he might even slay the broken in heart.
As he loved cursing, so let it come unto him: as he delighted not in blessing, so let it be far from him.
As he clothed himself with cursing like as with his garment, so let it come into his bowels like water, and like oil into his bones.
Let it be unto him as the garment which covereth him, and for a girdle wherewith he is girded continually.
Let this be the reward of mine adversaries from the LORD, and of them that speak evil against my soul.
But do thou for me, O GOD the Lord, for thy name's sake: because thy mercy is good, deliver thou me.
For I am poor and needy, and my heart is wounded within me.
I am gone like the shadow when it declineth: I am tossed up and down as the locust.
My knees are weak through fasting; and my flesh faileth of fatness.
I became also a reproach unto them: when they looked upon me they shaked their heads.
Help me, O LORD my God: O save me according to thy mercy:
That they may know that this is thy hand; that thou, LORD, hast done it.
Let them curse, but bless thou: when they arise, let them be ashamed; but let thy servant rejoice.
Let mine adversaries be clothed with shame, and let them cover themselves with their own confusion, as with a mantle.
I will greatly praise the LORD with my mouth; yea, I will praise him among the multitude.
For he shall stand at the right hand of the poor, to save him from those that condemn his soul.