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inclination to over-rule and conquer it. And so it was; for the Jewish historian tells us, 'twas jealousy of power-his darling object-of which he feared they would one day or other dispossess him :-sufficient inducement to transport a man of such a temper into the bloodiest excesses.
Thus far this one fatal and extravagant passion accounts for the dark side of Herod's character. This governing principle being first laid open-all his other bad actions follow in course, like so many symptomatick complaints from the same distemper.
Let us see if this was not the case even of his virtues too.
At first sight, it seems a mystery--how a man so black as Herod has been thus far described,
-should be able to support himself in the favour and friendship of so wise and penetrating a body of men as the Roman senate, of whom he held his power! To counterbalance the weight of so bad and detested a character, and be able to bear it up as Herod did, one would think he must have been master of some great secret, worth inquiring after.--He was
But that secret was no other than what appears on this reverse of his character. He was a person of great address ;-popular in his outward behaviour. He was generous, prince-like in his entertainments and expenses. The world was then as corrupt, at least, as now,-and Herod understood it ;-knew at what price it was to be bought-and what qualities would bid the highest for its good word and approbation.
And, in truth, he judged this matter so well, thai, notwithstanding the general odium and prepossession which arose against so hateful a character,
-in spite of all the impressions from so many repeated complaints of his cruelties and oppresions, -he yet steinmed the torrent ;-and, by the specious display of these popular virtues, bore himself up against it all his life ;—so that, at length, when he was summoned to Rome to answer for his crimes, -Josephus tells us--that by the mere magnificence of his expenses, and the apparent generosity of his behaviour, he entirely confuted the whole charge ; -and so ingratiated himself with the Roman senate, and won the heart of Augustus (as he had that of Anthony before) that he ever after had his favour and kindness :-which I cannot mention without adding, that it is an eternal stain upon the character and memory of Augustus, that he sold his countenance and protection to so bad a man, for so mean and base a consideration.
From this point of view, if we look back upon Herod, his best qualities will shrink into little room ; and how glittering soever in appearance, when brought to this balance, are found wanting. And, in truth, if we would not willingly be deceived in the value of any virtue or set of virtues in so complex a character,-we must call them to this very account; examine whom they serve, what passion and wiat principle they have for their master. When this is understood, the whole clew is unraya elled at once, and the character of Herod, as complicated as it is given us. in history, when thus analysed, is summed up in three words. That he
was a man of unbounded ambition, who stuck at
nothing to gratify it ;'>So that not only his vices were ministerial to his ruling passion, but his yir
tues too (if they deserve the name) were drawn ing and listed into the same service.
Thus much for the character of Herod ;—the critical review of which has many obvious uses, to which I
may trust you, having time but to mention that particular one which first led me into this examination ;-namely, That all objections against the evangelist's account of this day's slaughter of the Bethlehemitish infants,- from the incredibility of so horrid an account,-are silenced by this account of the man ; since, in this, he acted but like himself, and just so as you would expect in the same circumstances, from every man of so ambitious a headand so bad a heart.-Consider, what havock ambition has made !-how often the saine tragedy has been acted upon larger theatres, where not only the innocence of childhood,mor the grey hairs of the aged, have found no protection,—but whole countries, without distinction, have been put to the sword ! or, what is as cruel, have been driven forth to nakedness and famine, to make way for new ones, under the guidance of this passion. For a specimen of this, reflect upon the story related by Plutarch ; when, by the order of the Roman senate, seventy populous cities were unawares sacked and destroyed, at one prefixed hour, by P. Æmilius ; by whom one hundred and fifty thousand unhappy people were driven in one day into captivity,—to be sold to the highest bidder,-to end their days in cruel labour and anguish ! As astonishing as the account before us is, it vanishes into nothing from such views, since it is plain, from all history, that there is no wickedness too great for so unbounded a cause, and that the most horrid accounts in histoa ry are, as I said above, but too probable effects of it.
May God of his mercy defend mankind from future experiments of this kind and grant we may make a proper use of them, for the sake of Jesus Christ! Amen.
JOB'S ACCOUNT OF THE SHORTNESS AND
TROUBLES OF LIFE CONSIDERED.
JOB XIV. 1, 2.
Man that is born of a woman, is of few days, and full of trouble :
He cometh forth like a flower, and is cut down : he fleeth also. as a shadow, and continueth not.
THERE is something in this reflection of holy Job's, upon the shortness of life and instability of human affairs, so beautiful and truly sublime, that one might challenge the writings of the most celebrated orators of antiquity to produce a specimen of eloquence so noble and thoroughly affecting. Whether this effect be owing in some measure to the pathetick nature of the subject reflected on ; or to the eastern manner of expression, in a style more exalted and suitable to so great a subject; or, which is the more likely account, because they are properly the words of that Being who first inspired man with language, and taught his mouth to utter ; who opened the lips of the dumb, and made the tongue of the infant eloquent ;-to which of these we are to refer the beauty and sublimity of this, as well as that of numberless other passages in holy writ, may not seem now material ; but surely, without these helps never man was better qualified to make just and noble reflections upon the shortness of life and instability of human affairs, than Job was, who had him,