"John Baptist's head in a charger."

How solemnly in the word of God is the world exposed, and its true character set forth! Not with all the revolting details of a newspaper, which defile the mind, but in all its terrible principles. Such an exposure is before us in the story of King Herod and John the Baptist.

In a man of great worldly position the principles of the world come out more fully, because he has scope for carrying them out, being able to act so largely according to his own will without restraint of others. In this incident are clearly exhibited "the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life." (1 John 2:16.) And the manifestation is the more striking because of being in one who had heard John gladly, and had done many things. (Mark 6:26.) Yet, whatever his reformation may have been, he was under the power of a sinful connection, and when John reproved him on account of this, he cast him into prison. However he might delight in hearing John, he would brook no interference in this matter. Indeed, so enraged was he that he would have killed him, only that he feared the people by whom John was accounted a prophet. It is probable that, when the heat of his anger died down, he fostered no such intention. Yet he detained him in prison, and this doubtless in consideration of his guilty partner, who retained her anger against John. This then is the starting point of the narrative. There is a guilty intimacy, carried on in spite of the faithful reproof of the messenger of God, and, under the influence of that intimacy, an acting weakly and wrongly in persecuting the reprover, though unwilling to carry the persecution so far as death. Now we shall see how Satan takes advantage of all this to work through the lusts of the poor victim he ensnares, and thus to carry out his own foul intention. The flesh ever seeks gratification. Satan ever seeks to frustrate the purpose, and overthrow the testimony of God. To this end he works through the flesh, ensnaring and leading men to an end which they had no thought of reaching.

It was Herod's birthday, a day which naturally fastens a man's thoughts upon himself and gives desire for self-gratification. Herod "made a supper to his lords, high captains, and chief estates of Galilee." It was a royal entertainment of which he himself was the centre. What could the flesh desire more? It was gratified to the full. And now the eyes were also gratified by the exhibition before them of the beauty of Herodias' daughter, the grace of her movements, the elegance of her dancing; she pleased Herod, and them that sat with him. What a circle of delight! Then Herod must be equal to the occasion. If all this is for his gratification he must not act meanly, he must act as a king. So he swore to her, saying, "Whatsoever thou shalt ask of me, I will give it thee, unto the half of my kingdom." Here is the pride of life; the assumption of power to give sovereignly whatever is asked.

For a moment we may pause to consider the precious contrast to all this in the life and ways of the Lord Jesus. Though Lord of all He took the place of a subject, obedient, dependent man upon earth. Instead of making Himself the centre of earth's ministry He came to minister, finding the scope of that ministry in man's need, and the rule of it in His Father's will. Satan displayed before Him all the glory of the world only to be indignantly rejected. His poor disciples besought Him, "Master, we would that Thou shouldest do for us whatsoever we shall desire. … Grant unto us that we may sit, one on Thy right hand, and the other on Thy left hand, in Thy glory." How affecting was His reply after questioning them, "Ye shall indeed drink of the cup that I drink of; and with the baptism that I am baptized withal shall ye be baptized: but to sit on my right hand and on my left hand is not mine to give; but it shall be given to them for whom it is prepared." (Mark 10:35-40.) He assumes no power to give in the kingdom which He will take obediently to His Father's will, but in grace He will associate those whom He loves with Himself in His path of suffering and rejection.

Let us now note the character of the one who had pleased Herod to the extent of gaining such a promise confirmed by an oath. It is fair to assume that such pleasure was produced by her beauty, and the gracefulness of her movements. Who could have thought that behind al; this was a heart taking positive delight in corruption and violence! Oh, world! world! here is the character of those who seduce thee by their charms!

The immoral mother, with a heart thirsting for revenge upon God's servant, was the instigator, but evidently the daughter entered eagerly into the plan. Matthew informs us that all was designed beforehand, and that the daughter was instructed of her mother. Yet it would appear that she again referred it to Herodias (see Mark's account) on receiving the king's promise, and the plan was confirmed. Then with, haste she went to the king and said, "I will that thou give me by-and-by in a charger the head of John the Baptist." What but a heart perfectly accustomed to wickedness could have led her with haste to express before the king and his assembled guests the desire to have in her own hands the severed head of God's honoured servant? In a dish would she have it, as if to make manifest that it was alone the food that would appease their hunger for revenge.

The king was sorry. He had been ensnared and brought to a point which he had not thought to reach. Even yet there was an opportunity to escape, for that which was asked belonged not to him. On the contrary he was placed in authority to do justice and judgment, and he should protect the life of the guiltless. But he had already committed himself to a course of injustice by imprisoning John, and retaining him in prison, and the issue was decided by his pride. Before all his noble guests he had sworn to give, and rather than forfeit his assumed place of sovereign power he would give that which belonged to God.

Such then is the exposure of the world and its principles in one of its chiefs. It is the place where man makes himself an object and a centre, seeking his pleasure, gratifying his lust, and exalting himself in pride; the place where seductions abound which have natural beauty and gracefulness, but are inwardly full of corruption and violence, deceit and blood; the place where Satan acts by these means to carry out his vile purpose to obliterate so far as he can every trace of divine testimony.

From it all the Lord retires into a desert place, and this shows the character of the path of those who follow Him. Our separation from the world has been rendered more definite by the crucifixion of the Son of God, and the coming to us of the Holy Spirit in testimony for Christ against the world. We have nothing in common with it; our place is morally outside it all.

Are we then losers? Nay, but infinite gainers. We are placed in company with our blessed Lord from whom we have both food and power. The two following incidents in Matthew 14 show this in principle. The Lord feeds the poor with bread. Peter is sustained in divine power outside all that is human. And how perfect a contrast is this to the world! There, as we have seen, is lust and its miserable gratification. Here, in company with Christ, is divine satisfaction; as He said, "He that cometh to me shall never hunger, and he that believeth on me shall never thirst." (John 6:35.) He brings to us in His own Person as the Bread of Life the full and complete expression of all that God is in love and grace, and as we feed on Him we are not only supported in our circumstances, but we are also brought into the circle of divine joy and eternal delight.

Again, the world assumes power which belongs not to it, and in wielding it is unconsciously under the awful power of Satan, contravening the ways and testimony of God. As our souls are placed in company with the Son of the living God, we are in divine power against all the power of the enemy, and are thus in testimony for God and His precious truth.

Never was the world more seductive than at the present time, and never greater the manifestation of its hatred of the truth and its adherents. May our spirits be guarded from its withering atmosphere by being kept in His company, where are both food and power, satisfaction and rest! J. R.