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was the abandoned Herodias. For it was stie whose indignation against John was carried to the greatest length, and in the end effected his ruin. It was she who was contiually importuning and urging Herod to put the Baptist todeath, from which, for a considerable time, his sears restrained him. It was she who, as St. Mark expresses it, ". had a quarrel against John, and would have killed him, but she could not*." The words translated, had a quarrel again/I him, have in the original much greater force and energy, Eneiphen ajJlo. She, as it were, sastened and hung upon John, and was determined not to let go her hold till she had destroyed himf.
We here see a satal proof of the extreme barbarities to which that most diabolical sentiment of revenge will drive the natural tenderness even of a semale mind; what a clofe connection there is between crimes of apparently a very different complexion, and how frepuendy the uncontrolled indulgence of what are called the softer affections, lead ultimately to the most violent excesses of the malignant passions. The voluptuary generally piques himself on his benevolence, his humanity, and gentleness of disposition. His claim even to these virtues is at the best very problematical; because in his pursuit of pleasure, he makes no scruple of sacrisicing the peace, the comfort, the happiness of those for whom he pretends the tenderest affection, to the gratisication of his own selsish desires.— But however he may preserve his good humour, when he meets with no resistance, the moment he is thwarted and oppofed in his flagitious purpofes, he has no hesitation in going any lengths to gain his point, and will sight his way to the object he has in view through the heart of the verybest friend he has in the world. The same thing we see in a still more striking point of view, in the conduct of Herodias. She was at sirst only a bold unprincipled libertine, and might perhaps be admired and celebrated, as many ethers of that discription have been, for her good temper, her sensibility, her generofity to the poor; and with this
* Mark, vi. 19.
t Hesychius explains enephii by elhitai, Jlich class to in hatred cr (sue. Dodsiridge gives still greater force to the expression; but Park
fcurst does net allows.
character she might have gone out of the world, had Bo such person as John arisen to reprove her and her husband for their prossigacy, and to endanger the continuance.of: her guilty commerce. But no sooner does he rebuke them as they deserved, than Herodias shewed that she had other passions to indulge besides those which had hitherto disgraced her character; and that, when she found it necessary to her pleasures, she could be as cruel as she had been licentious; could contrive and accomplish the destruction cjf a great and good man, could seast her eyes with the sight of his mangled head in a charger, could even make her own poor child the instrument of her vengeance, and, as I am inclined to think, a reluSant accomplice in a moil atrocious murder.
Here is a most awsul lesson held out, not only to the semale sex, but to both sexes, to persons of all ages and conditions, to beware of giving way to any one evil propensity in their nature, however it may be disguised us. der popular names, however indulgently it may be treated by the world, however it may be authorized by the general practice of mankind j because they here see that they may not only be led into the grossest extravagancies of that individual passion, but may also be insensibly betrayed into the commission of crimes of the deepest dye, which in their serious moments they always contemplated with tke utmost horror.
Let us now take our leave of this wretched woman, and turn our attention for a moment to her unhappy daughter. Here undoubtedly there is much to blame, but there is also something to pity and to lament. Her youth, her inexperience, her unsortunate situation in a most corrupt court, the vile example that was constantly before her eyes, the influence, the authority, the commands of a profligate mother, these are circumstances that plead powersully for compassion, and tend in some degree to mitigate her guilt. Her sirst sault evidently was that grofs violation of all decorum, and all custom too, in appearing and dancing publicly before Herod and a large number of his friends assembled at a sestive meeting, and perhaps half intoxicated with wine. But it is not probable that a young woman of high rank, and so very tender an age as she seem* to have been, should have voluntarily taken such a step as ihis, or should have been able to subdue at once all the modesty and the timidity of her sex, and acquire courage enough to encounter the eyes and the observations of £tx licentious an assembly. There can be little doubt, that fiie was wrought upon by the persuasions of her artsul mother, who flattered herself that this artisice might produce some such effect in the mind of Herod as actuallyfollowed. What adds great weight to this conjecture isj that her next dreadsul transgression, her singular and san« guinary request to have the head of John the Baptist preftnted to her, was unqestionably the suggestion ©f the abandoned Herodias.
The sacred historian expressly insorms us, that it was in consequence of being before instruSed of her mother that she made this demand. Nor is this all; there Is great reasoa to believe that it was with the utmost dissiculty she was prevailed on to comply with the injunctions that were given her; for the original words probibafiheifa vpo tes metros, which we translate before inJluSed of her mother, more strictly signisy being wrought upon, mstigated, and impelled by her mother; for this is the sense in which that expression is used by the best Greek writers.
This supposition receives no small consirmation from the manner in which she is represented by the evangelist as delivering her answer to Herod. "She came strightway with haste unto the king;" she betrayed on her return the utmost emotion and agitation of mind. She had worked herself up to a resolution of obeying her mother %. arid was in haste to execute her commission, lest if any pause had intervened her heart should relent, her spirits sail her, and she should not have courage to utter the dreadsul demand she had to make*
All this seems to imply great reluctance on her part, and^ evidently is a considerable alleviation of her crime; yet does by no means exempt her from all guilt. For although obedience to parents is a very sacred duty, yet there is another duty superior to it, that which we owe to our Maker. And whenever even a parent would incite us to any thing • plainly repugnant to his laws, as was the case in the prefent instance, we must, though with all possible decency and respect, yet with sirmness and with courage, relist the impious command, and declare it to be our desided resolution "to obey God rather than man."
The next person that claims our notice in this interefl.ing narrative is Herod himself. We have already seen bis inconsistent and undecided conduct respecting John.— He had in a. moment of exasperation thrown him into prison; but from a respect to his character, and sear of the consequences if he offered him any further violence, lie suffered him to remain unmolested, and even frequently admitted him to his presence, and held conversations with him. And it is not improbable that after some timeHs resentment might have subsided, and he might have released his prisoner. But when once a man has involved himself deeply in guilt, he has no sase ground to stand upon. Every thing is unsound and rotten under his seet— He cannot say, "so sar will I go in wickedness, and no sarther." The crimes he has already committed may have an unseen connection with others, of which he has not the slightest suspicion; and he may be hurried, when he least intends it, into enormities, of which he once thought himself utterly incapable. This was the case in the present instance. When Herod sirst engaged in his guilty intercourse with Herodias, he probably meant to go no surther. He meant to content himself with adultery and' incest, and had no intentions of adding murder to the black catalogue of his crimes. He had no other view but the gratisication of a present passion, and did not look forward to the many evils which scarce ever sad to arise from a criminal connection with a prossigate and artsul woman. . This was the original and fruitsul source of all' his suture crimes and suture misfortunes. He flattered himself that, notwithstanding/ his marriage with Herodias, he should still be master of his own resolutions and his own actions. But Herodias soon taught him a different lesson. She shewed that she understood him much better than he did himself. She convinced him that his destiny was in her hands; that she held the secret wire that governed all his motions; and that she could, by one means or other, bend his mind to any purpofe which she was determined to accomplish. It was Us intention to save' John the Baptist. It was her intention to destroy him, and she did it. He had indeed the courage to resist her repeated solicitations that he would put John to death. And piqued himself probably on the sirmness of his resolution. But Herodias was not of a temper to be discouraged by a sew denials or repulses. She knew that there were other more effectual ways of carrying her point. If the king could not be compelled to surrender by assault, he mights be taken by stratagem and surprize. And to this she had recourse. She saw that her daughter had attractions and acomplishments which might be turned to good account, which might be made to opperate most powersully on such a mind as Herod's.
She therefore, as we have already seen, planned the project of her dancing before him on the sestival of his birth-day, in the hope that in the unguarded moments of convivial mirth, he might be betrayed into some concession, some act of indulgence towards this savorite daughter, from which he could not easily recede. The plan succeeded even probably beyond her expectations. The monarch was caught in the snare that was laid for him.— He made a rash promise to Salome, and consirmed that promise by an oath, that he would give her whatsoever she would alt. And when, to his insinite astonishment an J grief, she demanded the lise of a man whom he wished to save, instead of retreating by the only way he had lest, that of retracting a promise which it was madness to make, and the extremity of wickedness to perform, he was induced by a salse point of honor (as worthless men frequently are) to commit anattocious murder rather than violate a rash oath,anoathwhichcould never make thatright which was before intrinsically wrong, which could never bind him to any thing in itself unlawsul, much less to the most unlawsul of all things, the destruction of an innocent and virtuous man.
1 have entered thus minutely into the detail of this remarkable transaction, because, as I have before remarked, wery line of it is replete with the most important instuction; as indeed is the case with every part of the sacred history in the Gofpel, and the Acts, which teach sull .as much by the sacts they relate as by the precepts they