"Catch me there! No, sir; I never did like sensational preaching."
Just as some people speak nowadays when any special effort is made
to reach the people!
"Great harm will be done," they say.
I wish all these croakers had died out with that generation in
Judea; but we have plenty of their descendants still. I venture to
say you have met with them. Why, my dear friends, there is
excitement in your whisky shops and beer saloons in one night than
in all the churches put together in twelve months. What a stir there
must have been in Palestine under the preaching of John the Baptist,
and of Christ! The whole country reeled and rocked with intense
excitement. Don't be afraid of a little excitement in religious
matters; it won't hurt.
One might hear those old Pharisees and Scribes grumbling about John
being such a sensational preacher. "It won't last." And when Herod
had John the Baptist beheaded, they would say, "Didn't I tell you
Do not let us be in a hurry in passing judgment. John the Baptist
lives to-day more than ever he did; his voice goes ringing through
the world yet. He only preached a few months, but for more than
eighteen hundred years his sermons have been repeated and
multiplied, and the power of his words will never die as long as the
I can imagine that just when John was at the height of his
popularity, as Herod sat in his palace in Jerusalem looking out
towards the valley of the Jordan, he could see great crowds of
people passing day by day. He began to make inquiries as to what it
meant, and the news came to him about this strange and powerful
preacher. Some one, perhaps, reported that John was preaching
treason. He was telling of a king who was at hand, and who was going
to set up his kingdom.
"A king at hand! If Caesar were coming, I should have heard of it.
There is no king but Caesar. I must look into the matter. I will go
down to the Jordan, and hear this man for myself."
So one day, as John stood preaching, with the eyes of the whole
audience upon him, the people being swayed by his eloquence like
tree-tops when the wind passes over them, all at once he lost their
attention. All eyes were suddenly turned in the direction of the
city. One cries:
"Look, look! Herod is coming!"
Soon the whole congregation knows it, and there is great excitement.
"I believe he will stop this preaching," says one.
And if they had in those days some of the compromising weak-kneed
Christians we sometimes meet, they would have said to John:
"Don't talk about a coming King; Herod won't stand it. Talk about
repentance, but any talk about a coming King will be high treason in
the ears of Herod."
I think if any one had dared to give John such counsel, he would
have replied: "I have received my message from heaven; what do I
care for Herod or any one else?"
As he stood thundering away and calling on the people to repent, I
can see Herod, with his guard of soldiers around him, listening
attentively to find anything in the preacher's words that he can lay
hold of. At last John says:
"The King is just at the door. He will set up His kingdom, and will
separate the wheat from the chaff."
I can imagine Herod then saying to himself: "I will have that man's
head off inside of twenty-four hours. I would arrest him here and
now if I dared. I will catch him to-morrow before the crowd
By and by, as Herod listens, some of the people begin to press close
up to the preacher, and to question him. Some soldiers are among
them, and they ask John:
"What shall we do?"
John answers: "Do violence to no man, neither accuse any falsely;
and be content with your wages."
"That is pretty good advice," Herod thinks; "I have had a good deal
of trouble with these men, but if they follow the preacher's advice,
it will make them better soldiers."
Then he hears the publicans ask John, as they come to be baptized:
"What shall we do?"
The answer is: "Exact no more than that which is appointed you."
"Well," says Herod, "that is excellent advice. These publicans are
all the time overtaxing the people. If they would do as the preacher
tells them, the people would be more contented."
Then the preacher addresses himself to the Pharisees and the
Sadducees in the crowd, and cries:
"O generation of vipers! Who hath warned you to flee from the wrath
to come? Bring forth fruits worthy of repentance."
Says Herod within himself: "I like that. I am glad he is giving it
pretty strong to these men. I do not think I will have him arrested
So he goes back to his palace. I can imagine he was