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Considerations on the life and death of St. John the Baptist online

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cleanfing lepers, making the deaf t
hear, and raifmg the dead to life again ;
yet, becaufe the truths, which I deliver,
are contrary to their interefts, their
pleafures, their pride, their prejudices,
which they are determined not to quit,
even for the kingdom of heaven; many,
I fay, will reject what they cannot but
acknowledge the counfel of God,
and put away the word of falvation from
them. Let a man only fupprefs his in-
ordinate deiires of things temporal, and
he will be difpofed to hear what I mall
tell him of things eternal. Let him
ceafe to love the world, and he will
ceafe to have any objection to the Gof-
pel. Let but his heart be open to con-
viclion, and when the evidence hath
been once fairly laid before him, he
will never again alk the queflion, " Art
" thou he that mould come, or do we
" look for another ?"


1 34 Confederations on fbe Life, and Tleatb


Confiderations on the drcumftanccs of
St. JohnV Death.

Sett. VIII. .TT 7 E have now accompanied St.
V V John through the feveral flages
of his life. We have rejoiced with his
parents an4 kinsfolk at his birth, and
fpent fome time in contemplation with
him in the defarts ; we have flood by
him, as a preacher and a baptift, at the
river Jordan, and have been made ac-
quainted with the repeated teftimonies
born by him, at different times, to the
Meffiahfhip of Jefus ; we have heard
him, like another Elijah, reproving an-
other Ahab, and have vifited him in
prifon, where the glory of his great
Matter, and the falvation of thofe com-
mitted to his care, ftill continued to be
the objects of his attention. It remains
only, that we behold him paying that
debt to nature, from which the greater!:

of them that are born of women are

vST * ,


cf St. JOHN the BAPTIST. 135

not exempted. And here our acquaint- Sea.vilf.
ance with him muft end, till we meet
him in the kingdom of God. Thus do
fcenes of real life pafs fwiftly away,
and, when looked back upon, appear
like thole which are defcribed within
the compafs of a fmall volume like this.
In the courfe of a few years, the child,
at whofe birth we made merry, is be-
come a man ; he fickens, and dies, and
we mourn at his funeral. Some gleams
of fuccefs and profperity, perhaps,
brighten and adorn certain parts of his
life, as the fun gilds the edges of a dark
cloud, or imprints upon it the ftill more
beautiful colours of the rainbow. But
while we gaze, the fun fets, the colours
fade, the bow vanimes, and " the place
" thereof knoweth it no more."

OF prophets, as well as of kings, it
may be obferved, that there is generally
but a fhort interval between their im-
prifonment and their death ; the enmity
which occafioned one, feldom leaving
them, till it have accomplished the other.

And " more bitter even than death it-


" felf is the woman whofe heart is

" fnares

1^6 Confederations on the Life and Death

Seft.viir." fnares and nets, and her hands bands V*
Herod had thrown John into prifon ;
but this would not fatisfy Herodias.
Even there fhe heard him ftill preach-
ing upon the old text, and reproaching
her with her crimes* " She had a quar-
" rel againft him ; evecee" CUJT&, Jbe faf-
" tened upon him, and would have kill-
" ed him, but," for fome time, fhe
" 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 Johns reputation, as a prophet,
ran very high. Herodias, however, in
her heart, had determined to effecl her
purpofe by procuring, fooner or later,
the execution of him whom fhe falfely
deemed her enemy. As if fin 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

* Ecclef. vii. 26.
k Mark vi. 19, &-c.


of St. JOHN /^BAPTIST. 137

it's, career, can brook no obftruction j Sca.vm.
and were it poffible, as well as necef-
fary, the world itfelf would be blown
up to make way for it.

SIN being once refolved on in the
heart, an opportunity of committing it is
feldom long wanting ; and the mind is
upon the watch, to embrace the very
firft that offers. " When a convenient
" day was come, that Herod's birth day
' mould be kept, he made a great fup-
" per to his lords, high captains, and
" chief eftates of Galilee." It is cer-
tainly no lin in a prince to keep his
birth day, or to make a great fupper
upon it. But how much it behoveth a
man, at fuch times of rejoicing, to be
upon his guard, left unawares he be in-
duced to facrifice truth and confcience
to mirth and gaiety, the melancholy ca-
taflrophe of this banquet may ferve to
fhew us ; fince neither Herod, nor any
of his guefts imagined, when they fate
down to table on that fatal evening,
how horribly their great fupper would
conclude. But fo it happened, that,
before the night was out, a deed was
done, which difplayed to all fucceeding

S gene-

Confideratwnt on the Life and Death

s e a. Viir. generations the malice and cruelty of
*^s^ Herodias, with the weaknefs and wicked-
flefs of Herod; teaching us, at the fame
time, that the greateft of prophets and
the beft of men are not more fecure
from violence, than from natural death,
but rather more expofed to it than the
reft of mankind, if with fidelity arid
fortitude they execute the truft com-
mitted to them.

HE ROD i AS, by her lawful huffeand
Philip, had a daughter named Salome,
who eondefcended to grace the feftivity
by dancing before the company, in a
manner which " pleafed Herod, and
" them that fat with him." A piotf3
prelate of our church, in his conteih-
plations on this occurrence, obferves,
that " dancing, in itfelf, as it is a fet,
" regular, harmonious, graceful motion
(t of the body, cannot be unlawful, any
" more than walking, or running." We
may add, that it hath in all aged and
nations been one way, and that a fc^
tural one, of expreffing an uncomm&h
degree of joy and gladneis ; on whifeh
account it was adopted into the nuriibttr
of religious ceremonies formerly en-

qf S(. JOHN the BAPTIST. 139

jolted to be obferved by the people ofSea.vm.
God. But for a young lady to appear, ^"V^
as a dancer, before JJerod and his " lords,
" high captains, and chief eftates of
& jQalilee," probably, when they were
well warmed with wine, became only
the daughter of an Herodias, educated
fry her own mother.

HEROP, quite overcome and thrown
off his guard by Salome 's performance,
: makes her a foolim promife - y and, as if
that was not enough, confirms it witfi
a rafh oath ; " Whatfoever thou malt
<f ailv of me, I will give it thee, to
/' the half of my kingdom." A very
handibme recompence, one would think,
for a dance ! But it will appear pre-
fently, that the king had not offered
enough. Half his kingdom would not
4o. Something was required more va-
luable than the whole of it, had it ex-
tended from Judea, quite round the
: globe. Nothing would fatisfy, but his
honour, his confcience, his foul - t the
price which fin never fails to aik ! The
glorious golden opportunity of revenge
was not to be loft. Herodias is confulted
82 by

140 Confideratlons on the Life and Death

Sea. viii. by her daughter, and lo, the foft, ten-
der, delicate Salome reenters, all athirft
for blood " Give me in a charger
" the head of John the Baptiftj" of
a prophet -, of a perfon whom thou
knowefl to be innocent, holy, up-
right. Make me this facrifice, and I
am content. With fuch eagernefs and
fagacity does " the adulterefs hunt for
" the precious life ! "

BAD as Herod was, the petition of
Salome at firft mocked him. " The king
"was forry." He thought of John's
character, the atrocioufnefs of the mur-
der, and the opinion which the world
would entertain of the murderer. But
the tide, which had ebbed, .foon flowed
again, and obliterated, in a moment,
what had been written on the fand,
during it's receis. The love of Herodias,
the addreis of Salome, the feflivity of the
feafon, aod the prefence of the " lords
" and high captains," who had been
witnerTes of the promife, and might
poffibJy approve the propofal ; all thefe
circumflances on the fide of the temp-
tation prevailed. And perhaps, Herod,
aipon recoil edien, might think that the


of St. JOHN the BAPTIST- 141

fuppofed obligation of his oath would Seft.vill.
afford him a better excufe than he fhould
ever be mailer of again, for complying
with the importunity of Herodias, and
taking off a monitor troublefome to them
both. " For his oath's fake, and for
their fakes which fat with him, he
** would not reject her." Thus, if any-
extraordinary wickednefs is to be tranf-
acted, religion muft be made a cover
for it. As if wrong became right, when
acted in the name of God ; and it were
more acceptable in his fight, to maffacre
a prophet, than to repent of a rafh oath
made to a foolifh girl, at a drunken en-

TH E Baptift's fate being thus de-
termined, " immediately the king fent
" an executioner, and commanded his
" head to be brought : and he went
" and beheaded him in the prifon."
This deed of darknefs muft have been
done in the feafon proper for it, the
middle of the night, and St. John was
probably awakened, to receive his fen-
tence, out of that fleep, which truth
and innocence can fecure to their pof-
feffor, in any fituation. The generality


14? Coqfiderations on the Life a

of manjiind have reafon enough to de-
jPWfrte a fudden death, left it
furprize them in. one of their many
guarded hours. But to St.Jetin no hour
e fuch. He had finished the wprfe
k Go4 had given him to do. He
kept the faith, and preferved a >n-
fcien.ce ypj4 of offence.
hje duty, and waited daily and

ipa.y b^ fure, for his departure. Jie
now, therefore, .ca)led off from his
ftation with honour, to quit the well
fought field for the palace of the Great
King ; to refrefh himfelf, after the duft,
and toil, and heat of the day, by bath-
ing in the fountain of life and immor-
tajjty$ to exchange his blood-ftained
armour for a robe of glory, and to have
his temporary labours rewarded with
eter-naj reft - t to fo down with Abraham,
and jjaacj and Jacob, in the kingdom
of God ; and, as the Friend of the Bride-
groom, to enter into the joy of his
Lore}. From the 4arknefs and confine-
ment of a prifon he paifed to the liberty
and light of heaven ; an4 while malice
was gratified with a fight of his head,
and his body was carried by a few friends


of Sf. JOHN the BAPTIST. 143

in filence to the grave, his immortal Sea.vm.
fpirit repaired to a court, where no
Herod defires to have his brother's wife;
where no Herodias thirfts after the blood
of a prophet ; where he who hath la-
boured, with fincerity and diligence, in
the work of reformation, is fure to be
well received - y where holinefs, zeal ,
and conftancy " are crowned and re-
" ceive palms from the Son of God,
" whom they confefled in the world V

So finks the day-ftar in the ocean bed,
And, yet anon uprears bis drooping head.
And tricks bis beams ; and witb new fpangled or 6
Flames in tbe forehead of tbe morning Jky
He bears tbe unexpreffive nuptial fong
In tbe bleft kingdoms meek of joy and love.
There entertain bim all tbe faints above,
In folemn troops, and fweet focieties,
'J'bat Jtng, and Jinging in tbeir glory move,
And wipe tbe tears for ever from bis eyes.


* 2 Efdr. ii. 45 47.

II 3fiJ



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Online LibraryGeorge HorneConsiderations on the life and death of St. John the Baptist → online text (page 7 of 7)