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on the subject of his adulterous intercourse with Herodias, not with a view of implicitly following his advice; but, like many others, who hope to receive some sanction for their own pre-determined conduct. The holy Baptist, whose sense of duty knew "no respect of persons," and was paramount to all other considerations, said, with manly boldness, "It is not lawful for thee to have thy brother's wife," and took this oppor tunity of "reproving him for all the evils he had done." What was the consequence? Instead of rousing him to a sense of duty, or kindling in his bosom the spark of repentance, it provoked his resentment;-it conjured up the spirit of vindictive malice, also, in the heart of this abandoned woman, and instantly consigned John to the walls of a dungeon. How long he remained there, it would be difficult to ascertain, with precision, nor is it at all necessary for us to know. But, in the minds of the guilty, it should seem, that revenge seldom sleeps, and never dies. After an uncertain interval of time, He.. rod's birth-day, we read, was celebrated with great pomp, and a sumptuous entertainment was given on the occasion "to his lords, high captains, and chief estates of Galilee."
Here, we find, that, among other amusements,
the daughter of Herodias, by that husband whom she had deserted, danced before the king; and so delighted him, that, in the mad, intoxicating joy of the banquet, he said to her," Ask of me whatsoever thou wilt, and I will give it thee unto the half of my kingdom." The girl, prompted by her wicked and vindictive mother, said, "I will that thou give me, by and by," (or rather, immediately)" in a charger, the head of John the Baptist." After some hypocritical expres sions of sorrow, and some contemptible scruples about a wanton and lawless oath, it is impossible to read, even now, without feelings of horror, that an executioner was instantly dispatched, who murdered the holy man in his prison, brought his bleeding head and presented it, at this abominable feast, to the dancing girl; "who gaverit," says the evangelist, "to her mother."
But, not to dwell on this strange scene of festive enjoyment, mixed up as it was, and polluted with wanton cruelty, blood-guiltiness, and revenge; let us reflect for a moment on the state of human society, and the laws and governments of kingdoms, that could permit such deeds to be perpetrated with impunity. This Herod was nothing more than a petty tyrant, under the form of a tetrarch, or governor of a
Roman province, appointed by the emperor, and liable to be removed at pleasure. The period when this happened, was the most enlight ened that can be fixed on in the history of an cient Europe; the power of the Romans, as well as their literature, had then attained its meridian glory; and, next to the Greeks, they were the most civilised nation throughout the heathen world. Notwithstanding all this, the laws afforded little or no protection against the wanton violence, and unjust encroachments of men in power; and, for the liberty, property, and lives of the great body of the people, there was no security.
Without travelling out of the authentic records of the holy Evangelists, or beyond the limits of Judea, it may be useful to call to our recollection a few additional facts, which will abundantly serve to confirm these observations. That ferocious tyrant, Herod the Great, father of the tetrarch, dreading the fulfilment of an ancient prophecy, in a sense that awakened his watchful jealousy of power, "sent forth, and slew all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof, from two years old and under," without incurring any punishment from the laws, or any disgrace from his imperial
When the proto-martyr, Stephen, addressing his countrymen, gave utterance to the glorious vision, with which he was favored, in consequence of "being full of the Holy Ghost," a set of furious Jews, among whom were elders and scribes, as well as common people, rushed on him with one accord, "cast him out of the city," and, with lawless violence, stoned him to death. When the venerable Paul appeared before the chief priests, and all their council, to plead his cause, he had scarcely said, in the opening of his address, "Men and bre thren, I have lived in all good conscience before God until this day;" before the high-priest, Ananias, commanded them that stood by him "to smite him on the mouth." Lastly, when the Saviour of the world was brought before Pilate, after having been previously buffeted and spit on, scourged with rods, and crowned with thorns, that base, pusillanimous judge, merely to gratify the clamor of an infuriated rabble, sentenced the holy Jesus to the cruel death of crucifixion, though "he found no fault in him." Against these enormous outrages, there appears to have been no law that was operative, or efficient, no judicial punishment, and no prac ticable means of redress.
Let us contrast this wretched state of things with the many blessings, and superior advantages, which, under divine Providence, we now enjoy, and let us not only be contented, but, in a religious sense, let us be truly grateful. Let us be ever ready, also, to ascribe these great and glorious effects principally to their natural and legitimate cause ;-not altogether to the growing wisdom of experience, and the unassisted efforts of reason;—but to "the love of God, that has been shed abroad in our hearts;" to the gradual influence of the Gospel of Christ operating by its holy sanctions, its duties, and its precepts, with slow, but resistless energy on the minds of men ;-to that pure and combined spirit of justice, mercy, and benevolence, which has, by degrees, infused itself into our laws, and all our institutions for the public good; and which will still spread, it may be hoped, with increased effect, in proportion as the holy Gospel shall be better practised, and better understood.
To conclude,-may we all, laboring with fidelity, zeal, and perseverance, in our respective vocations, endeavour to promote this desirable end. Looking to the life and character of the venerable Baptist, which have formed the subject of our present meditations, let us pray