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sensing to thje murder is his fear lest the people of the land, who all believe John to be a prophet, should rife in arms to avenge his death (Z;). But it is evident that Herod has also scruples of conscience which contribute to his reluctance. For - he has long been thoroughly acquainted with the manner of life and the conduct of John. He has been accustomed to frequent attendance on his instructions. He still listens to them at times with gladness; and in many respects regulates his own proceedings in conformity to. the exhortations of the prophet. Sunk in fin, he trembles in the presence of holiness. Enslaved to Satan, he reverences the servant of God. "Let thy imprisonment," he whispers to himself, "let thy unjust imprison"ment satisfy the queen. Thy blood shall "not be upon my head."
The malice of Herodias is unabated. The king, it is true, has not yet consented to her purpose: but she does not despair. She has already proved herself ahle to persuade him to detain John in prison; and she hopes by seizing some favourable opportunity, to obtain a mandate for his execution. A favourable opportunity arrives; and (he does not let it flip. In a moment of riotous festi
(3) Matt. xiv. 5.
vity Herod promises to grant her daughter's request even though it should amount, according to his own figurative expression, to the half of his kingdom. The young woman retires to consult her mother. In her absence behold Herod amusing himself with conjectures concerning the- nature of the recompence which she will prefer. "Will "she demand a jewelled robe? A sumptuous "palace? The revenues of a city? The go"vernment of a province?" He knows not what is passing in the mind of Herodias. He knows not that vanity and pride and avarice and ambition have retired, and have relinquished the whole heart to revenge. His speculations are interrupted by the entrance of her daughter. Mirth and curiosity sparkle in his eyes. She advances straightway "with hafle. All is silent. She requires the head of John the Baptist! She requires that it be produced without delay. She requires that it be delivered to her ia a charger,' that her mother may glut herself with the spectacle. How does Herod receive the demand? Does he aver that no promise, no oath,can bind him to do that which he has no right to do, that which God has forbidden, to commit' murder? Does he reject the claim with abhorrence? Does he punisti
those who urge it? Herod loves the praise of men more than the praise of God. He is exceeding sorry when he hears the request of the daughter of Herodias. But habits of sia have perverted his understanding, clouded his conscience, undermined his stedfastness, enslaved him to false shame. He is perplexed by indistinct scruples, or pretends to be perplexed by scruples, respecting his oath. He apprehends that his nobles will censure him if he departs from his word. He immediately commissions the executioner to behead John in the prison.
Within no long time afterwards, Herod is apprised of the wonderful actions of Jesus Christ; and of the different opinions which men entertain concerning him. His own opinion is speedily formed. He concludes that John the Baptist is restored to life. Whence is this conclusion? Whence, but from the remembrance of his guilt, which haunts him night and day, and menaces him with the sure chastisement of heaven? Overwhelmed with terror and consternation, he concludes that God has undertaken the cause of his servant; that God has raised the murdered prophet from the grave, and has sent him again upon earth armed with the power of working the most stupendous miracles, that he
rnay avenge himself on the wretch who despised his reproof and shed his innocent blood. Jt is 'John, he cries, whom I beheaded. He Is risen from the dead: and therefore might j 'works do shew forth themselves in him! Such are the terrors of a wounded conscience!
II. Let me add some observations, applicable to your own conduct, which are suggested by the history before us.
1. In the first place, allow not yourself to be entrapped into sin by the solicitations and importunities of others, pot even of your friends and your nearest relations, should you be unhappy enough to perceive tempters among them. That you may encounter a tempter in your own family, in your children, in the husband or the wife of your bosom, is not impossible. You will not be urged, it may be presumed, to procure the imprisonment or the murder of another. But were tempters ever at a loss for grounds of temptation? If you are in poverty; may they not impel you to meliorate your condition by depredations on the property of a neighbour: to conceal from she owner that which you have found: or to excite charity by exaggerated representations. of your distress? J\.xe you moving in a higher
sphere? May they not ensnare you into captivity to ambition? May they not mould you into slaves of fashion? May they not transform you into votaries of worldly praise? May they not seduce you into the habit of squandering in dissipation that sacred talent, time, entrusted to your charge; whilenegligent of the glory of God, and practically careless of salvation, you hufry and flutter across the stage of life, until death suddenly shifts the scene, and unveils the judgements of eternity? And whether you occupy a lower or a higher station, may they not encourage you to over-reach an ignorant or a careless man in a contract; to revenge yourself on some person who has offended you, or whom you envy, by spreading a slanderous tale to his disadvantage \ to withhold reparation from those whom you have wronged; to surrender your heart to things temporal ; to live not unto God and Christ, but unto the world and yourself? Stand prepared upon the watchtower. Obey the Lord Omnipotent, not man. Resist the assaults of the devil, whatever be the instruments which he employs. Away with fear, with irresolution, with false fliame. Be strong in the grace of Christ. Fight the good fight of faith. Let no man deceive you with vain "words: follow not a multitude to do