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Oil the Character of Herod Antipasi
Mark, vi. 16.
When Herod beard thereof, he said; It is John 'whom I beheaded: he is risen from the dead.
AT the" time of which the Evangelist is speaking, the fame of . Jesus Christ had diffused itself over the land of Judea'. Multitudes had seen the wonderful works which lie had performed; Those who had not seen them had heard of them. The sick whom he had healed, the blind, the deaf; and the dumb whom he had restored; filled every part of the country with their gratitude and praises. "But who is he," demanded the people, " by whom these signs and wonders T3 "artf "arc wrought?" This question was variously answered. Some affirmed our Lord to be the promised Saviour. Others conceived that he was one of the ancient prophets returned to life. Others imagined that' he was a messenger of God like unto the prophets of old. But all men plainly discerned that he exercised powers out of the common course of nature; and that he must have been sent' upon earth for some very interesting purpose. Accounts of these singular events soon reached the palace of Herod Antipas (a); and came so frequently repeated, and so strongly confirmed, that it was impossible not to credit them. The king, however, concluded that the Jews were led astray by erroneous conjectures respecting Jesus Christ; and felt assured that he was himself able to pronounce who this extraordinary person was. // is John, said he, whom I beheaded. He is sifenfrom the dead.
Herod, in defiance of the Mosaic law;, had contracted a marriage with Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip. John the Baptist, whom God had ordained to be a preacher of righteousness, and had commissioned to call
(a) He was son to that Herod who is memorable for the Daughter of Bethlehem; and successor to part of his dominions.
every man to repentance, was upright and resolute in the discharge of his duty ; and would 'not suffer even his king to commit so flagrant a sin without rebuking him to his face. John could not but foreknow the dangers, to which he exposed himself by his plain-dealing. But he disregarded them. He was solicitous to be faithful to God: and feeling that solicitude, he felt no other. The event was such as he had reason to expect. Herodias set her heart upon vengeance. She persuaded Herod immediately to throw John into prison; and exerted all her influence to procure an order for his death. For sometime her machinations Were fruitless.* The king would not comply. He feared fobn, knowing that he was.a jufl and holy man: and even yet would listen gladly to his preaching, and would do many things which he desired. But he still detained the iran of God in prison. The artifices of that abandoned woman at length prevailed. She found a convenient time. Her daughter pleased Herod by dancing before him on his birth-day: and the king having inadvertently promised with an oath that he would bestow on the young woman whatever recompence she should ask, she desired, in consequence of having been prompted by T 4 her her mother, that the head of John the Bap* tist might be delivered to her in a charger. The king, though shocked at the iniquity andscandalouscruelty of the request, was ashamed, after his public declarations, to refuse it. He issued orders to the executioner. The righteous man was put to death. And the daughter of Herodias carried his head, bleeding as it was, to her mother.
Such is the summary of this transaction, I proceed to comment with due particularity on its prominent features: and purpose afterwards to lay before you some observations, which may assist you in applying the history to your own improvement.
I. Contemplate in the conduct of Herod and of his queen the natural progress of depravity. Look primarily to Herodias. She in the first place married the brother of her former husband, and while that husband was alive. Qf so flagrant a nature was this crime, that if we had heard nothing farther, even charity itself, which hopeth all things, could not have persuaded itself that she had sinned through ignorance. And the remainder of her history precludes all palliation of her guilt. She is informed that a great prophet, John the Baptist, has presented fented himself before Herod; and has charged him, as he values the mercy of God, to put her away. What effect has this intelligence? Does she humble herself before her Maker? Does she bewail her sin in bitterness of soul \ Does she instantly separate herself from Herod? From that moment she is determined on the destruction of the prophet j and continues with Herod as before.
What in the mean time is the conduct of Herod? He despises the warning of John, and refuses to dissolve his unhallowed marriage. He yields to the malignant importunities of Herodias, seizes the holy man who has reproved him, and shuts him up in prison. Yet hardened as he is, he has not arrived at that point in the scale of depravity to which his guilty partner has attained. She hesitates at no crime; she is lost to all feeling, past all compunction. Her heart is seared, as St. Paul expresses himself, with a red-hot iron. But Herod has still some misgivings of conscience left. There are yet some crimes on which he is afraid to venture. Though he has imprisoned John, and well knows that he has imprisoned the prophet for speaking the truth and adhering to the path of duty; he shrinks from the idea of killing him. One of the reasons which deters him from consenting