Page images

As Herod ceased, and even before he ceased, loud cries of exultation broke from those who, as the Tetrarch had spoken, had gathered round him. “Herod," said some, "is the Christ we need." “All things show Herod to be the true Messiah,” said others; “many times have we been deceived, but now we are sure.” “ Israel redeemed from captivity will show us who is the Christ.” “Do not all proofs and signs point to Herod ?“ If we may not believe in him, where shall we look ? for the time is now come, and will soon be past.” “The people make their own Messiah; let them join themselves heartily to Herod, and by him they will save themselves.” These and a thousand exclamations like them, in a confused murmur filled the air.

When it had subsided, and others, and among them Onias, had declared their faith and their purposes, and by their ardour had helped still more to stir the passions and kindle the zeal of all who were present, and by their arguments had added to the confidence they were disposed to place in Herod, the company separated.

But many times have the same persons again assembled, that they might make yet more perfect the schemes they have taken in hand, and learn by information derived from those who dwell in different and distant parts of the land, the true state of the Jewish mind in those regions. When all had thus been done in which it was necessary that we should bear a part, we took our leave of Herod, and departed from Machærus.

Such, my mother, have been my fortunes at Machærus, and thus do I stand towards Herod. In no long time, if I take upon myself the charge Herod would impose, will it be my office to visit Rome. Farewell.

[ocr errors]

When I look back over the long period of time that has intervened, to the scenes witnessed by me at Machærus, and to my intercourse with the Tetrarch, I can feel no surprise that I gave myself to the extent I did into his hands. As I recall the image of Herod, there was very much in his countenance, his demeanour, his form, his voice, the manner of his speech, to affect the mind of any one coming within the charmed circle of his influence, especially of a young man who is easily wrought upon by whatever partakes of the mysterious. That was the secret of Herod's power.

It was difficult, I should rather say impossible, to penetrate him. He ever assumed a new face, and one day appeared a different person, both in the aspect of his form and the state of his mind and the features of his character, from what he was another; so that when it seemed as if some progress had been made to-day towards comprehending him, it was found to-morrow to have led to no results that possessed any value.

value. And in respect of that strange fascination corresponding to what is ascribed to the more formidable serpents, by which he drew those whom he desired into his control, and compelled them to do his will against their own, and yet freely, it can only be said that no other person of whom I have ever heard, either through history or otherwise, or have ever known, can be compared with him. There was by no means the greatness of soul in him which, notwithstanding his atrocities, must be allowed to have distinguished his father. But there was often the semblance of it, which it was not easy to distinguish from the reality. Subtlety and a mind fertile in expedients were qualities that particularly marked him. But above all others, that of which I have already spoken — the serpent power - was eminently his. I in my youth knew not what it was that held me. I only knew that there was an attraction in the man, which however in some things and for some reasons I would willingly resist it, ever obtained the mastery and prevailed.







TRUST, my mother, that my letter from Machærus by

the worthy hands of our neighbour the goldsmith, has been safely received. It was not until nearly the last day of our tarrying there that, among the crowds coming and going, my eye caught his familiar countenance, which instantly returned with smiles and friendly greetings my signs of recognition. His affairs have greatly prospered, he assured me as we conversed at Machærus, inasmuch as out of many applicants he has been chosen by Herod to work in gold and ivory a gigantic cup as a gift to Tiberius, and a vase of scarcely less size or value for Sejanus, both which labours he has undertaken, and trusts by the manner in which he shall perform them to transmit his name with honour to posterity. He will cover them with histories commemorating the principal events in the life of each of the great personages for whom they are designed. Truly he is an eminent artist; but this appointment of his is not, as his vanity would persuade him, the great event of the times. There are some greater. Nevertheless the little worker in gold and ivory is an honest man, if vain, and I doubt not that, as he promised to do, he has borne my letter safely, and himself placed it in your hands. .

Upon arriving again at the house of Onias, we were received, as you will believe, with joy by the solitary Judith — solitary I say — for though there are, as I have already —

- represented, many members of our wide-spread family beneath her roof and under her care, yet are there none to


whom she can turn for that full companionship which she shares with her father, and now, though in less degree, with myself. But though we relieved her solitude by our presence, I fear we brought little else to comfort her; for it was evident that all the news we imparted of the purposes of Herod and of our partnership in them was anything rather than agreeable to her. She could not, nor did she essay to disguise her grief.

“No profiting, my father, I fear me,” she said, come to Israel by such an instrument. Herod is not he who should reign over Israel. It is another head we need. Aims he at anything save his own exaltation ? The people are every day looking for their king, and Herod, building upon this fond expectation, would offer them himself! What better would he be for Israel than his father ? Could we think of Herod the Great as the Christ?”

“ He, my daughter, enslaved us to Rome, great as he was; Antipas delivers and redeems us.”

“ And suppose, my father, we were redeemed and delivered, and sat beneath an independent prince, I see not how we should be the gainers. How much differs Herod from Tiberius? With the power I fear he would show the cruelty and the lust of Tiberius. Such should not be the Messiah of Israel. It is a prophet, mighty in word and in deed, a teacher of righteousness, a reformer of our manners, whom we want, not less, surely, than a king."

“ These, Judith, are the notions sown in thy brain by thy Samaritan mother (now in Abraham's bosom) and thy Samaritan nurse, a people — save that God, as in them, hath appeared in a few — cursed and reprobate. Reject they not the prophets, and through them the counsels of God? How should they judge worthily of the Saviour of Israel ?”

“ Yet they believe in Moses, and Moses hath spoken of the Christ.”

6 Moses, my child, knew and spoke but in part; they who have come later have declared more fully the purposes of God. Why have the latter prophets come, but to add somewhat to what was known before? And by them we know that Messiah shall be the King and Prince as well as Prophet. Teacher he shall be — but Prince and Ruler also.”

“If so, my father, how shall Herod fulfil the hope of Israel ? He may be King and Prince, but how shall he be Prophet and Instructor ?

“ David, my daughter, was a sinner — but he was a prophet also. Solomon, the wisest of men, was not the best; and Moses in his anger slew the Egyptian and hid him in the sand. Herod is not without spot; but God may pour into him what of his own wisdom he will, and when he hath delivered Israel by the power of his arm, he may

, also purge and cleanse the soul by the healing medicine of his truth. God shall shine so through him that he shall be no longer himself, but shall be called Immanuel. In the works he shall do, and the words he shall speak, he shall be God with us." “Oh! far rather, my father, would I that even John

God, we may believe, will, when he speaks, speak through a holy mouth. John is holy and wise. The people revere him.”'

“ Be not, my child, so easy to be led astray by thy fancies, or the false pretences of cunning men. Thou knowest how many since the time of Archelaus have brought slaughter, robberies, rebellion, and misery upon our land through their own wicked ambition. John may prove but another of these. If from God, he seems to have no power but such as may be sufficient, by and by, to inflame the multitude with some mad expectation of dominion, which after a few attempts to gain it will end in confusion and blood. Whom God shall clothe with his authority, him will he strengthen with his arm, and the signs of his power shall be manifest. These are seen already in Herod, and only in him. And throughout the length and breadth of the land are there those among the

were he.

« PreviousContinue »