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artful mother, who flattered herself that this artifice might produce some such effect in the mind of Herod as actually followed. What adds great weight to this conjecture is, that her next dreadful transgression, her singularand sanguinary request to have the head of John the Baptist presented to her, was unquestionably the suggestion of the abandoned Herodias.
The sacred historian expressly informs us, that it was in consequence of being before instructed of her mother, that she made this demand. Nor is this all; there is great reason to believe that it was with the utmost difficulty she was prevailed on to comply with the injunctions that were given her; for the original words προβιβασθεισα υπο της μητρος; which we translate before instructed of her mother, more strictly signifying being wrought upon, instigated, 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 confirmation from the manner in which she
is represented by the evangelist as delivering her answer to Herod.
66 She came straightway 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; and was in haste to execute her commission, lest if any pause had intervened, her heart should relent, her spirits fail her, and she should not have courage to.utter the dreadful demand she had to make.
All this seems to imply great reluctance on her part, and is evidently 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 present instance, we must, though with all possible decency and respect, yet with firmness and with courage, resist the
impious command, and declare it to be our decided resolution “to obey God rather than man."
The next person that claims our notice in this interesting narrative is Herod himself. We have already seen his 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 fear of the consequences if he offered him any further violence, he suffered him to remain unmolested, and even frequently admitted bini to his presence, and held conversations with him. And it is not improbable that after some time his 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 safe ground to stand upon. Every thing
. is unsound and rotten under his feet. He cannot say, “So far will I go in wickedness, and no farther.” The crimes he has already committed may have an unseen connexion 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 first engaged in his guilty intercourse with Herodias, he probably meant to go no further. He meant to content himself with adultery and incest, and had no intention of adding murder to the black catalogue of his crimes. He had no other view but the gratification of a present passion, and did not look forward to the many evils which scarce ever fail to arise from a criminal connexion with a profligate and artful woman. This was the original and fruitful source of all his future crimes, and future misfortunes. He flattered himself that, notwithstanding his marriage with Herodins, he should still be master of his own resolutions and his own actions. But Herodias soon taught him a different lesson. She showed 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 purpose which she was determined to accomplish. It was his 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 he piqued himself probably on the firmness of his resolution. But Herodias was not of a temper to be discouraged by a few 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 might be taken by stratagem and surprise. And to this she had recourse. She saw that her daughter had attractions and accomplishments which might be turned to good account, which might be made to operate most powerfully on such a mind as Herod's.
She, therefore, as we have already seen, planned the project of her dancing before