All Sensation

"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

world lasts.

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

just yet."

So he goes back to his palace. I can imagine he was