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Confiderations on the circumstances of
St. John's Death.
Sect.VIII. VITE have now accompanied St.
V Yohn through the several stages of his life. We have rejoiced with his parents and kinsfolk at his birth, and fpent some time in contemplation with him in the defarts; we have stood by him, as a preacher and a baptift, at the river Jordan, and have been made acquainted with the repeated testimonies born by him, at different times, to the Messiahship of Jesus; we have heard him, like another Elijah, reproving another Ahab, and have visited him in prifon, where the glory of his great Master, and the salvation of those committed to his care, still continued to be the objects of his attention. It remains only, that we behold him paying that debt to nature, from which the greatest of them that are born of women are
not exempted. And here our acquaint-Se&t.VIIL. ance with him must end, till we meet m him in the kingdom of God. Thus do fcenes of real life pass swiftly away, and, when looked back upon, appear like those which are described within the compass of a small volume like this. In the course of a few years, the child, at whose birth we made merry, is become a man; he fickens, and dies, and we mourn at his funeral. Some gleams of success and prosperity, perhaps, brighten and adorn certain parts of his life, as the sun gilds the edges of a dark cloud, or imprints upon it the still more beautiful colours of the rainbow. But while we gaze, the sun sets, the colours fade, the bow vanishes, and “ the place “ thereof knoweth it no more.”
Of prophets, as well as of kings, it may be observed, that there is generally but a short interval between their imprisonment and their death; the enmity which occasioned one, seldom leaving them, till it have accomplished the other. And “ more bitter even than death it“ self is the woman whose heart is
Se&.VIII.“ snares and nets, and her hands bandsa."
H erod had thrown John into prison ; but this would not satisfy Herodias. Even there she heard him still preaching upon the old text, and reproaching her with her crimes. “ She had a quar“ rel against him ; EVÉL XEV OTW, the faf“ tened upon him, and would have kill“ ed him, but,” for some time, the “ could not b.” For though Herod had not religion enough to produce in him the fear of God, he had policy enough to produce the fear of the Jews, among whom Yohn's reputation, as a prophet, ran very high. Herodias, however, in her heart, had determined to effect her purpose by procuring, sooner or later, the execution of him whom she falsely deemed her enemy. As if sin could not be committed with impunity, while
John was living to hear of it; as if his blood would not cry louder than his voice had done ; or the head of the prophet could enter the palace, without reproving the adultery of the tetrarch. But an imperious luft, in the height of
a Eccles. vii. 26. • Mark vi, 19, &c.
it's dareer, can brook no obstruction ; Se&. VIII. and were it possible, as well as necessary, the world itself would be blown lup: to make way for it. H:03; St Sin being onceitrefolved on in the heart, an opportunity of committing it is seldom long wanting; and the mind is upon the watch, to embrace the very first that offers. " " When a convenient “ day was come, that Herod's birth day Isa fhould be képt, he made a great sup“per to his lords, high captains, and 16 chief estates of Galilee." It is certainly no fin in a prince' to keep his birth day, or to make a great fupper upon it. But how much it behoveth a man, at such times of rejoicing, to be upon his guard, left unawares he be induced ito sacrifice truth and conscience to mirth and gaiety, the melancholy catastrophe of this banquet may serve to thew.us; since neither Herod, nor any of his guests imagined, when they sate down to table 'on that fatal evening, how horribly their great fupper would i conclude. But so it happened, that, before the night was out,' à deed was done, which displayed to all fucceeding
SCA.VIII. generations the malice and cruelty of m H erodias, with the weaknefs and wicked
ness of Herod; teaching us, at the same time, that the greatest of prophets and the best of men are not more secure from violence, than from natural death, but rather more exposed to it than the rest of mankind, if with fidelity and fortitude they execute the truft' committed to them. i .
HERODIAS, by her lawful husband Philip, had a daughter named Salome, who condefcended to grace the festivity by dancing before the company, lin. a manner which "pleased Heród, and “ them that fat with him.” A pious prelate of our church, in his contem-plations on this occurrence, observes, that “ dancing, in itself, as it is a sét, « regular, harmonious, graceful: motion “ of the body, cannot be unlawful, any “ more than walking, or running." We may add, that it hath in all agesi and nations been one way, and that a natural one, of expressing an uncoinmon degree of joy and gladness ; on which account it was adopted into the number of religious, ceremonies formerly en