« السابقةمتابعة »
lifted at once to a high military command, there would be a peculiar danger, lest his heart being lifted up within him in the sunshine of popularity, he should forget the lessons he had learnt in obscurity. His successes had been so signal, that there was great need of affliction: and we shall see that God furnished these, and took care that there should be trials to sift David, lest he should be exalted above measure.
But to apply this portion of David's experience to the Christian. How often, my brethren, has the Lord suffered the young disciple to achieve spiritual exploits which have surprised himself and others. His enemies vanish before him; his strength and his zeal are the admiration of all, and he is ready to assume to himself every task which would seem to dismay a less trustful and sanguine spirit. He mounts upon eagle's wings; he runs, and is not weary; he is looked upon as a prodigy of religious attainment. Now at such a moment he is apt to make small allowances for the infirmities of others; and is apt to imagine, he alone is left to support God's truth, and to fight his battle. He is very sedulous in his religious duties, and he reaps the corresponding fruitfulness. He waits on God, and he renews his youthful strength; and if it were not for coming trials and coming mortifications, he would esteem himself a giant in the ways of God. Alas! "he mistakes," as it has been finely said, “the virgin honey for his daily food."
Now it might have been so with the stripling David; and therefore God, in mercy, seasons his cup with adversity, and so appoints, that the commencement of his grace was the beginning also of his trouble. No sooner is David hailed with the acclamations of his countrymen, than Saul turned to be his deadly enemy. His popularity brings with it the jealousy and the enmity of him who is monarch in Israel. "And the women," it is said, "answered one another as they played, and said, Saul has slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands. And Saul was very wroth, and the saying displeased him; and he said, They have ascribed unto David ten thousands, and to me they have ascribed but thousands: and what can he have more but the kingdom? And Saul eyed David from that day forward." The proofs of his enmity soon appeared; and on the next day after this diabolical passion had taken possession of the monarch's breast, as David, unspoiled by his elevation, and still anxious to confer pleasure," played with his hand as at other times, Saul cast his javelin; for he said, I will smite David even to the wall with it. And David avoided out of his presence twice."
Now what a contrast we have here, my brethren, between him with whom the Lord was, and him from whom the Lord was departed! The one is in the exercise of social charity, seeking to minister relief and solace, and blending song and hand in the praise of God; the other actuated by a murderous hate, and aiming at the life of the benefactor, whose only fault was his increasing favour with God and man. Still God seems to have possessed David with that majesty of manner which awed the jealous monarch: just as the eye of man has been known to fascinate and tame the maniac or the wild beast: and though Saul hated the son of Jesse, yet he also feared him. The sight of him at last became a torment, and he removed him from him, and made him a captain over a thousand; probably assigning hiir some post where he would be exposed to
continual skirmishing with the enemy.
But Saul's malice only augments Darid's popularity, since it brought him more into contact with his countryinen, as he went in and out before thein in his command. “And David," it is said, “behaved himself wisely in all his ways; and the Lord was with him. Wherefore when Saul saw that he behaved himself very wisely, and he was afraid of him. But all Israel and Judah loved David, because he went out and came in before them." Therefore Saul endeavoured, by interesting David's affection in behalf of his daughter, and promising to give her hand as a reward for victories over the Philistines, to excite David to some feat of daring which might cost him his life. Again, when the time came that she should have been giren to him and she was given to another, he sought to provoke him to some attempt that might be construed into rebellion. When this failed, he offered his younger daughter to David, on condition that he slew one hundred of the Philistines; for he “ thought to make David fall by the hand of the Philistines.” But David having more than accomplished his engagement, and presented the foreskins of two hundred of their enemies whom he had slain in battle, the king was compelled to stand by his compact, and Michal became David's wife.
Thus we see, my brethren, that David's elevation brought with it a host of troubles ; that his life was attempted; that he was placed in trying circumstauces; that he was exposed to the weapons of the Philistines; and, on one occasion, to the treachery of false friends : yet that God suffered his servant to be thus afflicted; he brought him through his trials, and overruled these for his good. He fitted him to reign by teaching him to serve: he refined his spirit, and kept it low, like the weaned child: he kept under the mischief that might be in David's heart by the pressure of outward anxieties ; he does it by withholding that unmixed prosperity which is never good to human interest: he taught him to cease from created things, and to seek his shelter and delight in God. Had there been no obstruction to David's happiness ; had all things smiled on him; and, in addition to the favour of his countrymen and the friendship of Jonathan, and the love of Michal, had he enjoyed the countenance and favour of the king, where would have been the exercise of faith? and how many and overwhelming would have been the temptations to which his virtue would have been exposed! And therefore it was in love that the Lord suffered him to be harassed and disappointed, and taught him that this was not his rest, for it was polluted.
Now, my beloved brethren, it is thus that God deals with all his children, to whom it is his good pleasure eventually to give the kingdom. No sooner do they become his beloved ones by covenant, than the yoke of the oppressor is broken upon their shoulders: then God begins that preparatory process, which is to school them for their future inheritance. He keeps them in the chartered way of obedience by hedging up their path on either side He designs further, by suffering them to encounter difficulties, to exhibit their own weakness, and teach them to lean on strength not their own. He suffers trouble to arise, that they may be driven into closer communion with himself. He causes them at once to prove his faithfulness, and to learn obedience by what they suffered.
Now it is appointed, my brethren, that through much tribulation we should all enter the kingdom of God; that the road to heaven should be rough; that we should find this world a wilderness. Believe it, my beloved, all the saints of God have found it so. Not one of that radiant throng that stand before the throne of God in light, with palms in their hands, praising God, but have been refined by affliction; for “whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.” The appointment is not an arbitrary one; but it is designed in tender love. The Christian will find no heaven in this wilderness world ; nor shall he ever be suffered to set up his tents as one that is at ease in Zion on this side eternity.
Perhaps there are some persons here before me, who consider their own cases peculiar; who are in affliction, and who say, “ Surely none was ever so distressed as I am;" and who, when they compare their apparent griefs with the apparent lot of others, are almost tempted to murmur at the contrast. My beloved, if such persons could examine the secrets of another's breast, if they knew their neighbour's griefs and anxieties as well as their own, they might find that the balance is in their own favour; that there is a grief as well as a joy in the breast of every sincere child of God, with which a stranger doth not intermeddle. But they whom God loves will be made to feel themselves, and to confess themselves pilgrims here, that they may desire a better country, that is a heavenly. But even without this insight into the general appointment, which provides that thorns and thistles should spring up in our road, the child of God may surely recognize in his own case the benefit he derives from trials and afflictions, and will admit, that without these, his evil passions would have gained ground, and his graces never would have been ripened.
But to consider, shortly, David's conduct. If he had borne himself dutifully and meekly at home, and bravely in the field of battle, he demeaned himself with equal excellence in the distinguished duties to which he had been so suddenly called: no impropriety of speech or conduct betrayed allusion to his recently acquired honours; unlike a novice, he was not lifted up with pride, so as to fall into the condemnation of the devil. It was a proof of God's grace in David's heart, that he was able to bear all the honours that flowed in upon him of a sudden, without being lifted up above measure. They that fly so fast," observes Matthew Henry,“ had need of good heads and good hearts. It is harder to know how to abound, than how to be abased.” But “ David," it is said, “went out whithersoever Saul sent him, and behaved himself wisely: and Saul set him over the men of war, and he was accepted in the sight of all the people, and also in the sight of Saul's servants." A striking proof this of David's blameless and honest conduct, that he delighted not only those whom he commanded, and the people in general, but even had a good word from the royal courtiers, who were, of all others, inost likely to have envied his success, and therefore to have spoken disparagingly of him. And then, again, we read that he was reinoved by Saul's jealousy to another station; “ but David behaved himself wisely, and all Israel and Judah loved David.” Why? Because the Lord was with him, and his profiting appeared unto all men. Had David been abandoned to himself, or had he quenched the Spirit by a careless and disobedient walk, he had been like Saul, of whom we read that at first he shunned the royal dignity, and concealed himself to avoid it; but afterwards he was so carnalized and corrupted by royalty, that he was willing to secure its continuance at the price of all imaginable sacrifices. But of David's holy and consistent
walk with God, we are abundantly assured; and we may discover it in erery variety of his circumspect and decorous conduct. We see in David no impatience under disappointment, no fretfulness under unjust treatment, no disrespectful carriage towards his king, even when he was an aggrieved and persecuted man. By his victory over Goliath he had, according to the tenor of the royal promise, won the king's daughter for his bride, and might have claimed her hand as his rightful reward. But when Saul drew back from his engagement, David said nothing, and when the'promise was repeated with a view to seduce him into danger, we adınire the modest dignity of his reply: “And David said unto Saul, Who am I? and what is my life, or ny father's fainily in Israel, that I should be son-in-law to the king ?” Nay, when he was again betrothed to his affianced bride, and the grossest indignity was put upon him in the eyes of all the court, and all the people; yet David refained himself, and repressed the feeling that must have been stirring in his bosom, he committed himself to Him that judgeth righteously: he knew who hau said, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay.” He spoke no evil of dignities. He had once smitten the Goliath who had defied the armies of the living God; but he hid his own wrongs in the recesses of his own bosom. He was a pattern of humility and meekness, like our divine Master, of whom he was the type: and his example may furnish us with an instructive lesson in any circumstances of injustice that may be done us, or of slight that may be put upon us. David was neither servile in adversity, nor audacious in prosperity, nor disposed to stand upon his personal rights, as if a privilege was never to be abandoned for the sake of peace. His charity was of that divine character that “ suffereth long, and is kind ;” that “envieth not;" that “ vaunteth nut itself, is not puffed up, doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil." He trusted in God, my brethren, and he had his reward: he was meek, and it was given to him to inherit the earth. May we all learn to admire and to imitate David's conduct in this respect, that we may be approved of by David's Lord. And when we are tempted to return injustice, and to retaliate wrongs, may we remember there is more dignity in patient endurance, than in angry resentment; that “ better is he that ruleth his spirit, than he that taketh a city." “ But if when we do well and suffer for it, we take it patiently, this is acceptable unto God; for even hereunto were ye called ; because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example that we should follow his steps ; who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth; who when he was reviled, reviled not again ; when he suffered he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously."
But I proceed to notice, in conclusion, David's consolations. They were divinely appointed, my brethren, to counteract the disquietude and trials which had occurred to him upon his elevation.
In the first place, God was with David. Now this fact is thrice repeated in the chapter from which I have read. The God who had been David's portion and his song in the tents of Bethlehem, who had delivered him from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, and from Goliath's sword and spear, continued to direct and to support him in the moments of his official dignity; and in the assurance of the divine favour, and the full communion with God, David found a support and solace in every trial. What though Saul hated him, and became his enemy continually, and sought to kill him; yet God was “ the strength of his heart, and his portion for ever." He knew that he had a nighty enemy; but the Lord was mightier still: and the consciousness of the eye that watched over him, and the hand that guarded him, whispered to him sweet peace. The very extremes to which he was at times reduced, and the narrowness of his steps, served to establish David's confidence in his God. He could say, “ By this I know that thou favourest me, because my enemy doth not triumph over me." And even though his heart was cast down and overwhelmed, he could argue with himself, “ Why art thou cast down, O my soul ? and why art thou disquieted within me? Hope thou in God : for I shall yet praise hiin who is the health of my countenance, and my God.”
My beloved, are we exposed to animosity and persecution at any time, by reason of our allegiance to heaven ? And do we fear that the spiritual enemy is as a ramping and a roaring lion, continually seeking to devour us? Let us look upon the parallel case of David; and if our trials resemble his, O so indeed may our consolations. If Saul was David's enemy, yet the Lord was his friend; and though bad men and devils may be arrayed in opposition, yet if David's “ God be for us, who can be against us ?" If “the Lord is our light and our shield, whom shall we fear ?" If “ the Lord is our strength, of whom shall wo be afraid ?”
But observe; David was blessed moreover with human sympathy and support • and the very same place which held his deadliest enemy, furnished him with a matchless friend. Language contains no such exquisite episode as the mutual ove of Jonathan and David ; and we may search in vain through all the legends of history, and all the fictions of poetry, for a friendship so pure and disinterested as knit the soul of Jonathan to the son of Jesse. “ Saul and Jonathan were lovely, and very pleasant in their lives, and in their deaths they were not divided. I am distressed for thee, my brother Jonathan: very pleasant hast thou been unto ine: thy lore was wonderful; passing the love of women. Who does not love to admire and weep for Jonathan? David won the throne of Israel ; it was a greater glory to Jonathan to be willing to resign it. We yield our homage to the youthful victor, as he stands, flushed with conquest, in the presence of the king ; but it is a higher sentiment which draws our hearts to him who, at such a moment, forgot himself in his admiration of another, and who sees only an argument for love and friendsnip in the deed that eclipsed his humbler fame, and interposed a mighty barrier between him and his hereditary rights. If history furnishes but one David, it affords also but one Jonathan. Such a character as his almost redeems our species. And we are called to admire the divine consideration which provided David with such a friend, who more than counterbalanced the enmity of the father by the affection of the son. But, then, while you admire this picture of human friendship, you are not to forget the lesson that it conveys to ourselves. If David, my brethren, was a type of Christ Jesus, so too was Jonathan. And when we read of him divesting himself of the robe, and giving it to David; and these two making a covenant together, we cannot surely overlook that greater love, which not only dresses the belierer in the dress of his Lord, but also clothed Immanuel with the weeds of our poor, degraded, suffering humanity. And we shall confess, if we are in