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miracles of Jesus, his first impression was, It is John; he is risen from the dead. Yet this conviction had led to no effective repentance. Herod had feared John, knowing that he was a just man, and an holy, and observed him ; and when he heard him, he did many things, and heard him gladly. He heard John gladly: but he heard without obeying: what he heard, made no change in his mode of life. He did many things; but he did not the one thing which it was his first duty to have done; he did not “cease to do evil :” he did not put away Herodias. Therefore his sin remained. Nay, its heinousness was much increased by the conviction which he had felt, and the warning which he had received. No divine grace rested on him : and “ the latter end of that man became worse than the first.”
This case is far more common than might be supposed. Multitudes have the sort of belief in Christ, which Herod had in the authority of John. They do many things which they would not do, if Christianity were not established in the land : perhaps they have no doubt of its truth : perhaps they hear the preacher gladly. But the heart still remains unsubdued; unsubdued, though not unconvinced: no effectual faith attaches them to Christ: no surrender is made of the soul to God : they are not brought to “cleanse their hands," or “purify their hearts” from sin. And what is the end ? When any temptation closely presses, and the matter comes to a decided trial, then it is evident that Satan is still holding possession ; still reigning dominant. Or even, if the commission
of heinous wickedness, as in the case of Herod, does not render this plainly manifest in the sight of man, the heart is known to God, and he sees that whatever stings may pierce and pain the conscience, the will is still alienated from him. Either death comes upon them, and finds them uncon. verted, and therefore unprepared; or their sins, like those of Herod, increase in heinousness, and
before them unto judgment.” Therefore, “if iniquity be in thine hand, put it far away” from thee ; and “let not wickedness dwell in thy tabernacles :" ? whilst that is allowed a lodgement, there must be a separation between thee and God.
21. And when a convenient day was come, that Herod on his birthday made a supper to his lords, high captains, and chief estates of Galilee ;
22. And when the daughter of the said Herodias came in und danced, and pleased Herod and them that sat with hin, the king suid unto the damsel, Ask of me whatsoever thou wilt, and I will give it thee.
23. And he sware unto her, Whatsoever thou shalt ask of me, I will give it to thee, unto the half of my kingdom.
24. And she went forth, and said unto her mother, What shall I ask? And she said, The head of John the Baptist
25. And she came in straightway with haste unto the king, and asked, saying, I will that thou give me by and by in a charger, the head of John the Baptist.
26. And the king was exceeding sorry; yet for his oaths sake, and for their sakes which sat with him, he would tal reject her.
27. And immediately the king sent an executioner, are commanded his head to be brought : and he went and beheaded him in the prison,
2 Job xi. 14.
28. And brought his head in a charger, and gave it to the damsel: and the damsel gave it to her mother.
29. And when his disciples heard of it, they came and took
ир his corpse, and laid it in a tomb.
This act appears as the completion of Herod's wickedness, the finishing stroke to his bad character. And the history acquaints us with one point on which it turned. For his oath's sake, and for the sake of those that sat at meat with him, he would not reject the demand, but consented to a deed at which his conscience revolted, and which made him exceeding sorry. A wavering undecided heart is always swayed by the fear of man. He dared
“How can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?” It would have been the first step towards a new life ; but a step which he had not the faith or the grace to take.
And very many are prevented, through a similar fear of man, from entering upon a course of obedience or repentance. They are kept short of that complete surrender of themselves, which is required by the words, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart.” They are kept short of that earnest endeavour after heaven, which is seeking first the kingdom of God.” They are kept short of that decided line, that determined walking with God, to which all the promises of Scripture are confined. They “halt between two opinions,” and try to “serve God and Mammon.” It is a course which may not end as Herod's ended : but it must equally end in “everlasting destruction
from the presence of the Lord.” For it is written, “ Whosoever shall be ashamed of me, and of my words, in this adulterous and sinful generation ; of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”
30. And the apostles gathered themselves together unto Jesus, and told him all things, both what they had done, and what they had taught.
31. And he said unto them, Come ye yourselves apart into a desert place, and rest awhile: for there were many coming and going, and they had no leisure, so much as to eat.
32. And they departed into a desert place by ship privately.
33. And the people saw them departing, and many knew him, and ran afoot thither out of all cities, and out went them, and came together unto him.
34. And Jesus, when he came out, saw much people, and was moved with compassion toward them, because they were as sheep not having a shepherd: and he began to teach them many things.
Yet there were those in Judea, whose business it was to lead and tend the flock.
So remarkably were the words of Ezekiel verified: “Thus saith the Lord God unto the shepherds : The diseased have ye not strengthened
, neither have ye healed that which was sick, neither have ye bound up that which was broken, neither have ye brought again that which was driven away, neither have ve sought that which was lost : but forc ith cruelty have ye ruled them. the field, when they were scattered. My sheep wandered through all the mountains, and upon every high hill : yea my flock was scattered upon all the face of the earth, and none did search or seek after them.
ettered because is no shepame meat
“Therefore thus saith the Lord God, Behold I, even I, will both search my sheep, and seek them out. And I will set up one shepherd over them, and he shall feed them, even my servant David : he shall feed them, and he shall be their shepherd.” 2
Yes, “ he shall feed his flock like a shepherd : he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young."3 For he is “the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.”
Only let it be seen, that we answer the description of his flock. “ They hear his voice, and he knows them, and they follow him.” 4
? Ezek. xxxiv. 4, &c.
Is. xl. 11.
* John x. 11, 27.