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Only let your enemies perceive in you a consistent and exemplary conduct; and then, however they may affect to reproach, they cannot really despise you. We may appeal to them, if there is not one or another, whom they dislike for his religion, and yet cannot look at without a secret awe and terror on their minds, “knowing him to be a just man and an holy." What would they give to exchange condiţions? O that they would yield to their own convictions, drop their opposition against those, whom in their consciences they believe to be right, and cordially join with them in zealous exertions for the cause of God and his truth!
Herod was not merely restrained from violence, by a reverence for the Baptist ; it should seem, that he listened to his instructions, even after his imprisonment. Probably he sent for him, as Felix did for Paul *, “and communed with him.” We conclude, also, that he paid attention to his doctrine; for it is expressly said, that he “ observed him," and, what is stijl more remarkable, that he “heard him gladly. On certain occasions, at least, his affections were much moved: he could not but commend, and be pleased with, the honesty of the preacher, and perhaps would have shewn no resentinenty, if one particular subject had been avoided.
Some may enquire, How can perfons, of such a character as Herod, receive any pleasure from the plain and faithful declarations of God's word ? Posli. bly, the speaker may be admired; his abilities, address, or elocution may excite notice and applause,. even where the principles he maintains, and the practical exhortations he delivers, are not regarded. The novelty, importance, and sublimity of the things chiefly insisted on, may seem for a time to entertain and interest the hearers, who may, therefore, be in
Acts xxiv, 26.
duced to take great pains in frequenting ordinances. This may be the case, where no spiritual affections are exercised, where the grand peculiarities of the Gospel are not understood, and no effectual application made to the conscience. O beware of resting in such a superficial attendance! Think it not enough to distinguish truth from error, or to discover a fervour of zeal for right doctrines: be not satisfied in feeling admiration and delight, while the awful myfteries of redemption are exhibited, and “good tidings of great joy" are announced. If you experience no godly sorrow for fin, no warm attachment to the Sa. viour, no renovation of heart by the Spirit; the fermons which you hear, may afford you entertainment, but will not promote your salvation.
This is indeed a tremendous cafe ; and yet it has frequently occurred. Of fuch auditors the Lord God thus warned the prophet Ezekiel: “Lo, thou art unto them as a very lovely song of one that hath a pleasant voice, and can play well on an instrument: for they hear thy words, but they do them not*." Many of like defcription attended on the Saviour. Multitudes of men and women expressed such delight in listening to his doctrine, that they travelled after him with much weariness and expenfe: yet many of them entirely forsook him ; and some, who had, probably, sung hosanna to his name, soon afterwards cried out with extreme malignity, “Crucify him, crucify him." John the Baptist had other hearers of this fort, besides Herod, who, as our Lord testified,
were willing for a season to rejoice in his light to' At firft, they were so ftruck with his folemn declarations of the Messiah's approach, as to be transported with wonder and joy. But, when he boldly reproved their iniquitous conduct, and called them to the practice of mortification, they basely calumniated his ministry, and exclaimed, “ He hath a devil ft."
Ezek. Xxxiii. 32. * Joha v. 35. I Luke vii. 33.
Hercd, Has an
Herod, however, advanced farther than merely expreffing an admiration of the preacher, he was roused: to action, and attempted a reformation. Convinced of the necessity of a change, “ he did many things, relinquished many of his evil habits, and applied himfelf to the performance of various duties. This appeared promising indeed. But Herodias was still re tained: he would not renounce his connection with that infamous woman; and there he betrayed the unfoundness of his heart. The real convert rests not in such a partial amendment of the life: he will abhor and forsake one fin as well as another, and yield a fincere and uniform regard to every known precept. If, then, under the awakening influence of the word of God, you profefs to be penitents, examine faithfully whether you are new creatures.” universal renovation been produced? Are you determined, by divine grace, to put away all ungodliness? Have
you made no reserve? Do you plead for no exception? Is there not a “ fin, which easily besets you, and to which, from your conftitution or situation, you are most exposed ? Is this, what you are willing to abandon? This is, more than any other, the Herodias, which must be divorced : for, if the favourite passion fill retain its afcendancy, where is your de liverance from the love and power of iniquity?
Perhaps, there is no carnal affection more ensnaring, or more generally fatal, than. Just.. To what horrible ravages has it given rife? Many have been gradually allured by it from one tranfgretion to another, till they have been led into such enormities of conduct, as they once thought themselves incapable of committing. What will not men sacrifice to the gratification of their libidinous desires? They will disregard their intereft, health, and reputation, violate the ftrongest ties and engagements, despise every admonition, oppose their own convictions, and, even while they feel the worth of their immortal souls, obN 6
ftinately plunge into final perdition. What a grievous infatuation is this ! Herod is but one, out of thousands, who will have to lament for ever a fond attachment to a shameless woman. How just is that description of the adulteress: “ She hath cast down many wounded; yea, many strong men have been flain by her. Her houfe is the way to hell, going down to the chambers of death *.”.
Let us mark the event with the king of Galilee. Highly as he reverenced the Baptist, he was at length perfuaded to consent to his death, probably through the importunate entreaties of Herodias. Yet, for a time, he was prevented from proceeding to any a of violence. He feared the people, fally regarded John as a prophet, and might have raised a general sedition, to avenge his murder. What! did he not fear to wound his own conscience, to shed innocent blood, provoke the fierce anger of the Lord, and destroy his precious foul? No: but he dreaded the resentment of a mob. A poor motive indeed! Yet it is well for fociety, that finners are, in any way, restrained from effecting their purpofes.. Frequently, when good principles fail, fome mercenary, worldly confiderations have a strong influence. Thus one evil passion keeps down another; so that none, perhaps, feel themselves at liberty to do all that is in their hearts. Were it otherwise, the utmost confufion would prevail, and, fuch is the hatred of true religion, the Church itself would be soon extirpatedo How wonderful is the government, which is maintained over the human race!
After fome time, however, an occasion offered, for the accomplishment of Herodias's with. In an hour of temptation the carried her point: the compliant king was induced to give up his objections. At a splendid banquet, prepared for the celebration
of his birthday, when the daughter of his queen had danced before him and his nobles with great applause, he declared with an oath, that he would grant her some mark of his favour, whatever she would ask, though it were the half of his dominion *. This was an instance of extreme rathness, and produced the most terrible effects. Alas! what can we ex. pect from entertainments, which are calculated to islame and gratify the passions ? The young wo. man was persuaded by her mother to claim tbe head of John the Baptist, who had excited her resent ment. How strange the proposal! Put a vindi stive mind will give up every conlideration, for the fake of wreaking its vengeance on an enemy.
Herod himself appeared to be struck with horror at the thought of perpetrating the atrocious deed, and yet had not firmness enough to resist. Howeyer his conscience might remonstrate, he determined not to exasperate Herodias by a refufal, and argued absurdly, that, unless he complied, he would be de. fpifed by his nobility for weakness and inconitancy: He consented, therefore, to the requeit, though with visible reluctance, and instantly conimanded the head of the Lord's prophet to be fevered froin the body, and introduced into the company, as an object, probably, of their profane sport and contemptuous ridicule. Yet surely, the condition of the Baptist; expiring by the hand of violence, was more to be envied, than that of Herod, exalted upon a throne of iniquity.
It should seem, the king pretended a regard to veracity in this base transaction: he was unwilling to violate his oath. What vile diffimulation was this ! To avoid the charge of perjury, he committed a murder of peculiar enormity. No declarations, however confirmed by an oath, could have bound him
* Matt. xiv. 6--13. Max. vi. 21--28.