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so did Herod; and as cheaply and easily as the man in my illustration, so he seemed to do it, and so he seemed to get off with it. Verily, the pathway of faith, my beloved friends, is a strange one to flesh and blood. We had need to know, before we begin it, what lies ahead. And is it not kind of our Master to turn round upon us as He turned round upon all intending disciples, at the first, and virtually to say, “ Now, understand what My service means. It may not mean honour: it may rather mean the very reverse. It means trouble, and spiritual persecution, and hardship, and trial, when no small tempest lies upon you, and neither sun, nor moon, nor stars for many days appear"? He says to us, just as He said then, “Foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man hath not where to lay His head ;” and, “If any man be a disciple of Mine, let him be prepared,” first and last, and all the time, "to deny himself, aud take up his cross daily, and follow Me." " He killed James the brother of John with the sword.”. Exit James. .
Poor James ! you pitifully say. That is the last of him. Is it? No. Your life may be at the beginning and end just as coldly noticed, but remember, that behind this cold print, and behind this seemingly cold noticing of the Biblical narrator, there is a fire glowing, a fire of love, a fire of power, a fire of honour and of glory. Herod, that was a poor stroke, though you thought it was a big one, when you killed James the brother of John with the sword. Herod seems to win, and James seems to show that it is better for a man to keep clear of a faithful allegiance to the Lord Jesus Christ. It ofttimes has brought men into the shipwreck of all earthly fortune, and at last, the last of all disasters, death itself. But be not misled.
They never fail who die in this great cause ;
Young men, I say unto you, come to Jesus Christ, although it may mean, before the day is quite done, what it meant for James, the Lord's brother. Who was it who. said not long ago that he would strongly advise all young men in the very flower of their eariy youth to espouse some unpopular but righteous cause? Such always from age to age is the cause of Christ Jesus—unpopular, if you be faithful to it, but righteous; I hope that we have all espoused it, come what may.
" And because he saw it pleased the Jews, he proceeded further to take Peter also. And when he had apprehended him, he put him in prison, and delivered him to four quaternions of soldiers to keep him; intending after Easter to bring him forth to the people. Peter therefore was kept in prison : but prayer was made without ceasing of the Church unto God for him.” What a strange world it is ! Actually, my friends, you live in a world animated with this spirit, a world that was then and still is pleased to see, not bull-baiting or bear-baiting,
for sometimes it gets so superficially civilized that it is shocked at the running of animal blood, and says, “Let that be removed. We are too refined now for such savagery; but the world never yet got to the pitch of refinement at which it did not like to see a Christian tortured and baited. Such is the world you live in. The man, perhaps, who sits next to you has no better sport, if the bad spirit that is in him could only just get development and chance for free play. Because it pleased the Jews, Herod would kill as many as they liked—“butchered to make a Jewish holiday”—mark you, not a Roman holiday, but a Jewish one; butchered people—to please religious people-to please the Jews. Therefore, let scaffolds be erected, and fetch forward the Apostles, “ Because he saw it pleased the Jews.” Herod was a very
There is no saying one good word in his favour; but Herod wore his head above his shoulders, and he saw and knew what was what, and he did this thing because it was the correct card to play. It suited him, and it fitted the Jews. Never forget that; and let us continually ask ourselves, and continually before God ask Him to search us and know us, and try our hearts, and see if there be any of this bigoted, malignant spirit in us, and lead us away from this wickedness into the ways that are everlasting.
" When he had apprehended him, he put him in prison, and delivered him to four quaternions of soldiers to keep him, intending after Easter to bring him forth to the people.” He did not just switch off Peter's head, as the walking-stick does the poppies', but he meant to do it; and the intention is to make the scene stand out, as though Herod's purpose were as good as done. We have to stand
over this narrative, and ask, in: the name of reason and common sense, in the name of all that is wonderful, how it:: is that the Church of Jesus Christ has survived to this : hour in the month of December, 1890. How, in: all the world, is it now here? Remember what it has come. through. Remember how often Herod and Herod's successors have risen and said, “This religion is to be : blotted out,” and have meant it; and have seemed to get full-swing at it, and, mirabile dictu, the Church is here, and Herod safely shut down beneath the stage, “ till God, in judgment, calls him forth to meet his final doom.” The. Church up, and Herod down; the scaffold swaying the future; the bush burning tamen consumebatur -. burning, but not consumed. Wonder of wonders! it is '. going on to-day. Let the Church collectively fade away, as in a dissolving view, that the individual member, the individual soul, may come out the brighter. You and I, my friends, are just in the thick of it all. There is not a. true believer in Jesus Christ here who is not a marked man; a price is set upon your head. It would give vast pleasure to the under world if the god of this world could pull you. away from Christ—if he could blot out of your heart that thing that he hates, more than he hates anything else—the faith and fear of the crucified Nazarene. Hell from beneath . would be moved with an unholy joy, if you spiritually could be killed dead. Yes, that is the world in which we live, and move, and have our being; and if to-day we are alive, spiritually-if to-day we are alive unto God through faith in Jesus Christ—if to-day we are breaking with old Herod if to-day we are resisting the world—if to-day we are crucify. ing the flesh with its affections and lusts, all these are signs that, like Peter, we bear a charmed life, and that the Lord
of hosts Himself must have been a wall of fire round about us, and the glory in the midst of us. For our death is “intended,” like Peter's; the death of the Church and of the individual. That is the spirit of the age; that is the spirit of the time. From age to age the world kills us, either with persecution or in some other way.
- There are two ways," says the old proverb, “ of killing a dog : Break his back with a stick, or choke him with butter.” There are two ways of killing the Church, and either the ove or the other is perpetually tried—sometimes both. They either kill us in this old, red-handed, open, out-and-out fashion, and clear us off; or else take the other method, the seductive, the way less painful to the flesh, but, I had almost said, the more dangerous to the life of the Church.
Still the Church survives. Still the individual draws the breath of everlasting life in faith, and prayer, and praising, and preaching. “Sire," said one at a Continental Courta crafty wicked man too, but he uttered a true word— “Sire," said he, to his monarch, when fresh persecutions were intended, “ the Church is an anvil which has worn out many a hammer." That is true, and that is destined to become increasingly true. And if you wish an old proverb to represent the same thing as regards the individual, you have it in the proverb, “ Threatened folk live long." Peter was well threatened, but he survived. spiritual foes threaten your spiritual life and mine. They threaten this only golden, this only precious thing within us—the faith and fear of Jesus Christ; and I trust that the old proverb will be proved in every one of us. tainly shall if we be faithful.
Ah! yes, it is well meant. Notice these four quaternions of soldiers to keep Peter. The night was divided into four