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John's Failure.

John's Failure.

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Published by: GLENN DALE PEASE on Apr 08, 2014
Copyright:Traditional Copyright: All rights reserved


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JOH'S FAILURE. BY REV. A. L. STOE, D. D., AD HE SET AD BEHEADED JOH I THE PRISO. — Matt. xiv. 10. WHE the angel Gabriel announced to the aged Zach- arias that his old age should be no longer childless, the announcement carried with it this assurance concern- ing the unborn babe, "Thou shalt have joy and gladness, and many shall rejoice at his birth, for he shall be great in the sight of the Lord." And when that more illustrious prophet heralded by the son of Zacharias had commenced his public work, he bore his witness to the dignity of his messenger and forerunner, — "Verily, I say unto you, Among them that are born of women, there hath not arisen a greater than John the Baptist." But how brief was the earthly career of that greatness ! How suddenly it paused ! In what obscurity it went down and went out ! It seemed to end, too, in failure, — a failure all the more disastrous and reproachful (perhaps in our eyes) because it would appear to have been met off the track of the preacher's legitimate calling, and might so easily, with a little care and prudence, have been avoided. " See what comes," we say, "of his interference with the morals 168 John's failure. of sovereignty and power. He was not court chaplain. He was not the keeper of the conscience of Herod. He was not sent to regulate the domestic relations of the Tetrarch. He had one message to deliver, one cry to lift up. He Avas a herald running before the coming of Zion's King to proclaim, " Eepent, for the kingdom of heaven is
at hand," "prepare ye the way of the Lord." If he had confined himself to that, kept within his sphere, preached that doctrine of repentance and wrath to come, and the near advent of one mightier than ho, he might have escaped the prison and the axe. "Possibly." And what effect had his rash and obtrusive protest upon those im- plicated in the evil? It kindled a revengeful and remorse- less hate in a woman's heart. It drew into sympathy and fellowship with her in a new crime the heart of her daughter. It led the guilty Herod, not to repentance and reformation, but to a deeper and more tragic guilt. It must have held up the name of the chief magistrate to obloquy and odium, and brought a scandal upon the ruler of the people. It set the example of disrespect to digni- ties, and tended to insubordination in the subject. It ended in the silencing of a voice to whose stirring words thousands had listened, and the sacrifice of a life that mi«"ht yet have gathered unnumbered trophies of its ear- nestness and fidelity. "Yes, all that." He had a field of labor. It was broad and unoccupied. o man disputed his precedence in it. His sway there was without a rival. There was no narrowness in its limits to make him feel shut in and straitened. Up and down the Jordan valley, across the length and the breadth of the Judean wilder- 169 ness, he could range at his pleasure. He was bishop there of all the desert, and he was fitted for his place. He was at home in the desert life. His lungs played freely in its congenial air. He had taken upon him, in body and soul, the rude, stern, grand type of its nurture. He coveted no purple robe. The locust of grassy valleys w^as to him instead of fowl and fatling, and the wild honey was sweet to his taste. He could dispense with the home, the city, and social life. ight in the wild was his pavilion, and the stars above the river his companions. Brave, bold, rugged, strong, and young, he was the man
for this missionary work. He had gained a hearing too. He spoke not to the echoes of the Moab mountains. Jerusalem and all the region round about had heard of him and gone out to him. He had touched the popular heart. He struck, and every chord vibrated. And it was not mere curiosity or sentimental interest that he excited. He roused the conscience. He alarmed the fears. He won his hearers. They forsook their sins. They came to his feet broken-hearted penitents, and were baptized of him in Jordan unto a new life. There was no flao-oino- of this power over them. He was in the full-tide of this popular movement on the crest of the wave. And if this field had suddenly become barren, and yielded no longer any harvest, he might still have pushed forward in the van of that conquering kingdom, uttering to new people and tribes the word, " It is at hand," and pointing over his shoulder to the shadow of one whose shoes' latchet he was not worthy to unloose. All this opening for a life of usefulness, this splendid 15 170 JOH'S FAILUKE. harvest which he had begun to reap, he staked and lost on one adventurous throw. He must needs intermeddle with matters of state. He must go up from the Jordan to Jerusalem to rebuke wickedness in high places. He must beard the lion in his den, adulterous Herod in the very insolence of secure crime and unlorded power. In this he failed, by this one step he lost all. Was it a mis- take and an error? Did he lose all? Was the life of John in this turn of it and sacrifice of it a faihu'e? That is my question. We cannot so conclude because he died early and by a death of violence. Then are the death of youthful patriots who fall in victorious battle a mistake and a failure. Then were the death of martyrs at the stake and in the amphitheatre a waste of generous

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