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Aunt. To all the parts of Palestine, or the Holy Land, inhabited by Jews, whom their master called the lost sheep of the house of Israel, Our Lord still : continued to preach in Galilee. A few weeks after, king Herod made a splendid entertainment for the nobility on his birth-day, in the very castle where John was prisoner. The king was so pleased with the dancing of a young lady, daughter of his illegal wife Herodias, as to promise to grant her any thing she asked, even to the half of his kingdom, confirming it with an oath.
- George. She had it in her power to be the richest lady in the kingdom.
Aunt. But she consulted with her mother, whose malice and revenge overcame every other consideration, and, horrid to relate! she requested the head of John Baptist to be brought in a charger,
Maria. And could this young lady ask for it?
Aunt. Yes, she was unfeeling enough to make this request before the whole company.
George. But what said the king ?
Aunt. The king never expected such a demand, and was exceedingly sorry : but recovering himself, out of a pretended respect for his oath and the nobility present, he sent, and caused John to be beheaded ; and the executioner brought the head of this holy man, and presented it to the young lady.
Maria. Surely she turned away with horror!
Aunt. No; she took it herself, and delivered it to her mother.
Lucy. I hope, aunt, she was the first lady, and
that she will be the last, that ever will be the bearer of such a dish.
Aunt. I do not recollect a similar instance, either in sacred or profane history; but it shews us, my dear children, the awful depravity of the human heart. When John's disciples heard of the fate of their worthy teacher, they came to pay the last respect to his memory, and were allowed to take his body, and bury it.
Maria. I should think the king could never be happy afterwards.
Aunt. There is no peace to the wicked. Some time after this, Herod, hearing of the fame of Jesus, bis wicked conscience suggested that it was John, whom he had beheaded, risen from the dead'; and most likely he thought that he would avenge his blood. Thus are the wicked constantly tormented with fears and perplexities.
Lucy. Pray, aunt, don't look at your watch; this is but a gloomy subject to leave off with.
Aunt. But it may sometimes be profitable to reflect on these things. Put this question to yourselves, Who hath made me to differ? Go over the story again with this in view, and then, I hope, your hearts will be filled with thankfulness to God for his goodness to you. Compare your education, and the examples set before you, with those of that lady; and then adore God for his goodness in placing you out of the reach of such temptations.
Aunt. OUR Lord, hearing of the murder of John, from his disciples who buried him, and knowing the subtilty and cruelty of Herod, ordered his disciples to prepare a vessel, and cross the sea of Galilee with him, that they might retire into a desert near Bethsaida.
George. Were the apostles returned from their several journies ?
Aunt. They were, and accompanied our Lord, who, seeing the people follow in great multitudes, went on shore with his apostles, teaching the people, and healing their sick. The disciples intreated our Lord to send them away, that they might get some food before night,
Maria. This was a very seasonable request.
Aunt. Our Lord seemed to approve of the hint, but said, They need not depart; give ye them to eat. The disciples answered, . We have but five loaves and two fishes.
Lucy. I suppose they had provided this for themselves.
Aunt. Your conjecture may be right: in that case, the Lord tried their love to their fellow creatures, and their faith in him for a fresh supply. And Jesus commanded the multitude to sit down on the grass : he then took the loaves and the fishes, and, looking up to heaven, blessed them, and brake, and gave them to his disciples, and the disciples to the multitude: and they did all eat and were filled.
Our Lord then ordered the fragments to be gathered up, and they filled twelve baskets.
Maria. They lost nothing by freely giving to the poor.
Aunt. I never knew any that did; for he that scattereth (to the necessities of his fellow-creatures) shall increase. But we are likewise taught another useful lesson by our Lord's command respecting the fragments ; that the most ample fortune will afford no excuse for extravagance or waste: on the contrary, frugality must be considered as a duty incumbent on those who are blessed with the greatest affluence; since He who is the sovereign Lord of universal nature, and possessed of inexhaustible resources, was yet pleased to say to his disciples, Gather up the fragments, that nothing be lost.
George. How many persons were tlíus fed?
Aunt. Five thousand men, besides women and children. The people were so astonished at the miracle, that they said, This is of a truth that prophet that should come into the world. And Jesus, perceiving that they would come and take him by force, to make him a king, immediately constrained his disciples (who probably would have been too ready to join the people in it) to take shipping, and go before him to the other side of the lake, whilst he himself dismissed the multitudes; after which, he retired to a mountain to pray, where he continued till midnight. During this time, the disciples met with a contrary wind, and the ship was tossed with the waves.
Lucy. They must wish for their Lord and Master
to be with them, having, by experience, known him to be able to quell the raging of the sea.
Aunt. Their distress could not be hidden froin their divine Master, who, by his omniscience, as God, saw their difficulties, and, in the fourth watch of the night, came to them, walking on the waves as on solid ground.
1 Lucy. What is meant by the fourth watch of the night?
Aunt. The ancients divided the night into four watches; the first beginning at sịx o'clock in the evening, the second at nine, the third at twelve, and the fourth at three o'clock in the morning. The disciples when they saw Jesus were afraid, supposing they had seen a spirit, and cried out with terror ; but he soon calmed their fears by assuring them that it was he himself. Upon which, Peter desired, if he were the Lord, that he would bid him come to him on the water: and he said, Come. And Peter went out of the ship, and walked on the water to go to Jesus: but, when the waves and billows tossed, he was afraid, and, beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me. Immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith! wherefore didst thou doubt? As soon as they entered the vessel, the wind subsided; and the apostles, being more impressed with this than any other of our Lord's preceding miracles, caine with one accord, and worshipped him, declaring of a truth that he was the Son of God; nor did Jesus decline this honour which they rendered to him."
George. At what place did they land?