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to act in direct opposition to the clearest commands of God. It was his indispensable duty, therefore, to depart from the promise, and repent of the rashness, from which it proceeded. Probably, the pretext was false. He perpetrated the crime, not to satisfy his conscience, but to preserve his credit among the courtiers, to filence the importunate clamours of his queen, and perhaps with a view of procuring ease to himself, by removing fo troublesome a reprover.
Here we remark the ruinous tendency and progress of fin. The gratification of luft ifiued in murder ; and; we fear, it is no uncommon event. When men abandon themselves to the indulgence of their sensual desires, no bounds will be fufficient to restrain them. They may be hurried from one base action to another, and determined to perfevere, even white they themselves recoil at every fep they take. Let us beware of yielding to those folicitations, which will be encouraged by our compliance to increase their demands upon us, and may produce the most tremendous coniequences. We may be exasperated by the rebukes of a faithful monitor, and induced to adopt some violent measures against him. But, though we should fucceed in that point, still we may not be able to fin without restraint: we may carry about with us an inward tormentor, and, like Pathur, become " Magor-miflabib," a terror to ourselves *.
Herod was freed from John's reproofs, and perfifted in his iniquity; but he could not forget that innocent blood had been shed, and under that convi&tion was rendered miserable. Some time afterward, having heard remarkable accounts of Jesus, he was filled with many perplexing fears, left this should be the very person whom he had beheaded, now restored to life ; as if he expected a retaliation, or some severe punishment t. It should feem, the
Jer. xx. 3, 4. Matt. xiv. 1, 2. Mar. vi. 14--16. Lu. ix. 7--2o.
remembrance of the Baptist haunted him as a continual accuser. How powerful is the voice of conscience ! Amidst all the pomps of a palace, it will speak, and make the king upon his throne tremble. The mind of Herod could not be quieted by all the blandishments of his amorous queen, nor by his own libertine principles. He is generally supposed to have embraced the Sadducean notion of the foul's mortality, and disbelieved a resurrection. But, in the present case, he could not act the infidel : recollecting the violence he had committed, he was troubled by the apprehension of John's returning to life. Let us learn to reverence that monitor, which we feel within us; for, if we attend not to its dictates in due season, it may prove a severe tormentor.
The uneasiness of Herod had no good effect. As he afterwards threatened to destroy Jelus, it is obvious, that he remained an “enemy of all righteousness.' Our Lord despised his menaces, and, in reply calling him a Fox, has justified the conclusion, that the king poffeffed the subtle and voracious difpofition of that wild and detested animal *. It was the fame Herod, before whom the Saviour stood arraigned as a criminal, just before his crucifixion f. He was glad of the opportunity to examine so remarkable a prisoner ; but his motive was no better than a curious desire of seeing fome miracle performed by this worker of wonders. He proposed a variety of questions, to which Jesus returned no answer. Our Lord well knew his cha. racter, what opportunities of information she had neglected, what convictions he had refifted, and therefore refused to afford him any further instructions. This circumstance conveys a folemn admonition. “Behold, now is the accep:ed time; behold, now is the day of salvation 1.” The gracious offers,
# Luke xiii. 31, 320
+ Luke xxiii. 7.-12.
I 2 Cor. vi. 2.
which are yet made, if contemptuoufly rejected, may never be repeated.
Unhappy Herod! Had he been properly affected, even then, with a sense of his condition ; had he posfessed an honest, humble, teachable disposition, that interview with the Saviour would have been a blessing indeed. But, as the case stood, it tended only to aggravate his guilt and condemnation. He treated the Lord Christ with insolent contempt, as if his pretensions to royalty were abfurd in the extreme. He « fet him at nought, and mocked him, and arrayed him in a gorgeous robe, and sent him again to Pilate.” Thole two unrighteous governors, who had been at variance, were reconciled on that occafion, and then, probably, joined their counsels together, in opposition to the Redeemer. It is not uncommon for finners, who are incensed against each other, to lay aside their private quarrels and party distinctions, that they may unite with greater force against the Gospel. O Lord, “ Of a truth against thy holy child Jefus, whom thou hast anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate; with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together *."
At last the judgment of God overtook this proud offender. He suffered such a total defeat in battle from Aretas, king of Arabia, whose daughter he had married and divorced, that the Jews themselves confidered it as the effect of divine vengeance upon him, for the murder of John the Baptist +. He was af. terwards driven from his high station with disgrace, and both he and his adulterous queen died in exile at Lyons in Gaul.
Such was Herod: but now, turning our attention to ourselves, let us enquire,. What is our own character? Will any persons undertake to justify the
& Acts iv. 27.
licentious conduct, which is here exhibit! Sinners, do you not perceive the ruinous tendency of your evil paflions? What fruit have you reaped, or are you likely to receive? Is not the faithfulfervant of Christ, under all his contempt and persecution, more truly honourable and happy than the king of Galilee? And if we look beyond the present scene, how tremendous a prospect opens upon all those, “ that know not God, and that obey not the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ * !” O repent, and turn yourselves from all your transgressions ; lo iniquity shall pot be your ruin + !" « Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the fin of the world 8:” “For God so loved the world, that he gave his onlybegotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life g."
2 Thel, 1. 8. + Ezek. xviii. 30. $ John i. 29. f iii, 16.
Stephen, chosen a deacon-his faith and zeal-confounded
certain disputants--arraigned before the Sanhedrim ---fhone with a miraculous lufire-entered on his defence-incensed the council-Jaw heaven opened commended his soul to Jejus--prayed for his murderers--died buried and lamented.
In different ages the Church of Christ has had to struggle with extreme violence of opposition, This has tended to exhibit the enmity of the human heart against true religion ;, but it has, also, given occasion to the brighteft displays of the power, love, and faithfulness of God in adminiftering support and comfort to his suffering people. In the mean time, the Gospel has received abundant confirmation, while many have cheerfully endured contempt and tortures, and laid down their lives in its defence. May every reader be encouraged to follow the Lamb" through feverest difficulties, and learn from the present example to exercise prudence and meekness, as well as zeal and courage, in his service!
We are now called to contemplate the character of one, who imbibed much of the Saviour's spirit, trod in his steps with fingular firmness, and, after eminent usefulness, obtained, before any others in the Christian Church, the honourable crown of martyrdom. Anongst that illustrious company, who have fought and bled in a glorious manner, for the testimony of Jesus, none thines with greater splendour than Saint Stephen. In his dying behaviour,