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Herod Penitent.

Herod Penitent.

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Mark vi. 20.

Mark vi. 20.

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Published by: GLENN DALE PEASE on Jun 16, 2012
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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HEROD PEITET.BY LEOARD WOOLSEY BACOMark vi. 20.The ordinary reader of the ew Testament need not re-proach himself very seriously if lie finds himself at fault indistinguishing among the various Herods that are mentioned inthe book. I have seen a volume of sermons by an eminentPresbyterian preacher, who fails to keep his head quite clearon this point, and connects Herod's being "eaten of worms" inthe twelfth chapter of the Acts, with his remorse of consciencefor w^hat his un-cle did with John the Baptist. This confusionis favored, not only by the identity of name, but by a strongfamily likeness in character, as this comes out not only in theew Testament but in other writers. Take them jointly andseverally, they are perhaps the most detestable family in humanhistory. The bad blood of old Herod the Great tells in everyindividual of his posterity through three misbegotten genera-tions of them. The family history is a record of intrigues, jealousies, incests, adulteries, conspiracies, murders, in amazingcomplication, enough to furnish plots for bloody tragedies toall the world's dramatists to the end of time.The first of the Herods mentioned in the Bible is Herod theGreat, founder of the family, who, at the birth of Christ, wasa hoary old tyrant of nearly threescore years and ten ; " aman," as Jose])hus says, " universally cruel and of ungovern-able temper." He had already murdered two of his sons andthe most beloved of his wives out of suspicion of rivalry forhis throne. It was quite like him to order the execution of the288IIHROD PEITET. 289children in Bethlehem for a similar reason. A little after this,
while the child Jesus is still safe in Ei^ypt, he falls deadly sick,orders another of his sons to be murdered in prison, shuts upthe leading men of the Jewish nation with orders to executethem immediately upon his own death, lest otherwise theremight be a lack of mourners at his funeral ; and at last, whilehis affectionate subjects are contriving how they may poisonhim as they would a mad dog, he dies in horrible agonies, andthat is the last we hear of that Herod.The next one mentioned by the name is this man who is con-nected with tlie ministry of John the Baptist and of Jesus.He began liis career, upon his father's death, by intriguing atthe court of Rome to throw his brother Archelaus out of hisinheritance of the kingdom of Judea ; and afterward distin-guished himself by repudiating his lawful wife, and seducinghis niece and sister-in-law, the wife of his living brother Philipand the daughter of his dead brother Aristobulus. This wasthe man that had a great respect for John the Baptist, andended with murdering him ; and was much interested to seeJesus work a miracle, and concluded with insulting him andsending him to Pilate to be crucified. A few years later, hewent on an intriguing expedition to Rome, again (" that fox,"that he was) to undermine the prosperity of a young Herod, hisown nephew, and the owm brother of his niece, sister-in-law andparamour, Herodias. He fiiiled in this ; and was sent off toLyons in Gaul, with the wretched Herodias, to die in disgrace.And that is the last that we hear of him.It is a third Herod w^ho appears to us in the twelfth chapterof the Acts, stretching forth his hands to vex certain of thechurch, and slaying an apostle Avith the sword. Still at thesame bloody business of the slaughter of the innocent, showingthe same traits of this infernal stock, but not the same Herod.This was the 3'oung man whom his uncle, the murderer of John the Baptist, had been trying to put out, but who put himout instead. He was smitten by God amid the blasphemous19
290 THE SIMPLICITY THAT IS I CHRIST,acclamations of the peoj3le at Ciesarea, " and was eaten of worms and gave up the ghost ; " and that is the last of thename of Herod, in the Scriptures.But this man left one son, a brilliant young man, a favoriteof the emperor Claudius, who is called, in the book of Acts,by his surname, Agrippa, and who succeeded to the familydignities and virtues. To do him justice, he does not seem tohave been quite worthy, in point of atrocious cruelty, of hisfather, and great-uncle, and great-grandfather; but in otherrespects, no Herod of them all could out-Herod him. Thiswas the " King Agrippa " before whom Paul was brought,and who remarked humorously to the apostle, " a little more,and you will be wanting to make a Christian of me." Whenthis man's kingdom was wiped out at the destruction of Jeru-salem, he went back to Rome, and spent the last of his dayswith his incestuous sister and wife Berenice. And (let tlieearth be glad thereof!) this is the last that history has todo with the Herod family; for God, in mercy to mankind,destroyed the last scion of the stock in the volcanic eruptionthat overwhelmed Pompeii.To come back to our Herod of the text — Herod the Second.It is curious and instructive to observe that he is set before ushere in the good points of his character — at least, in the bestpoints that he had. It is in the Holy Gospels that one of thevilest wretches in human history is set before us in a some-what amiable and interesting aspect. He feels a sincererespect for religion. He is not so far gone but that he knowshonesty and faith and self-devotion when he sees them inanother man. And he does not respect these the less, but agreat deal the more, when the just and holy man does notspare his own sins, but denounces them to his face." Abashed he stands.And feels how awful goodness is, and seesVirtue in her shape how lovely."

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