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the true counsellor from whom he had severed himself, and when the deceiver produces some lying semblance of the departed prophet, his imagination quickly invests it with reality. He feels that the presence of the reprover and friend is there. “And he fell straightway all along on the earth and was sore afraid because of the words of Samuel, and there was no strength in him.”
A strange preparation for the fight on the coming day, when “ The men of Israel fled from before the Philistines, and fell down slain in Mount Gilboa. And the Philistines followed hard upon Saul and upon his sons. And the Philistines slew Jonathan, and Abinadab, and Melchishua, Saul's sons. And the battle went sore against Saul, and the archers hit him, and he was sore wounded of the archers. Then said Saul unto his armour-bearer, Draw thy sword and thrust me through therewith, lest these uncircumcised come and thrust me through and abuse me. But his armourbearer would not, for he was sore afraid. Therefore Saul took a sword and fell upon it. And when his armourbearer saw that Saul was dead, he fell likewise upon his sword and died with him. So Saul died, and his three sons, and his armour-bearer, and all his men, that same day together. And when the men of Israel that were on the other side of the valley, and they that were on the other side Jordan, saw that the men of Israel fled, and that Saul and his sons were dead, they forsook the cities and fled, and the Philistines came and dwelt in them. And the Philistines put Saul's armour in the house of Ashtaroth, and they fastened his body to the wall of Bethshan.”— 2 Samuel, xxxi. This was the end of Saul and of his kingdom.
He who was to be the restorer of this kingdom, sang of Saul and Jonathan on the day when he heard of their
fall. “They were lovely and pleasant in their lives, and in their death they were not divided.” Was this an idle flattery by one who knew it to be false, of a man whom flattery could please no longer ? I believe it was nothing of the kind. David spoke what he felt at that moment, and he would not have wished to recall the words afterwards. He had known a loveliness and pleasantness in the life of Saul, which all its after discords could not make him forget. He had known a real man under the name. A false man had borne it too. The one was dead; the other was still alive in his memory and heart. Other questions, agitating, perplexing, almost maddening, he could leave to Him who only could resolve them. There were symbols of reconciliation in the deaths of Saul and Jonathan. The father and son who had been often so unnaturally separated, were united at last. David was privileged to think of them together, to let the tenderness of the one efface the hard treatment of the other; to feel that God had meant them to be one in heart and act, though the evil and dark spirit to which Saul had yielded himself tore them asunder.
Brethren I believe it is not dangerous but safe, not a homage to falsehood but to truth, in our judgement of those who are departed, to follow David's example. We may dwell upon bright and hallowed moments of lives that have been darkened by many shadows, polluted by many sins; those moments may be welcomed as revelations to us of that which God intended His creatures to be; we may feel that there has been a loveliness in them which God gave them, and which their own evil could not take away. We may think of this loveliness as if it expressed the inner purpose of their existence; the rest may be for us as though it were not. As nature, with her old mosses and her new spring foliage, hides the ruins which man has made,
and gives to the fallen tower and broken cloister a beauty scarcely less than that which belonged to them in their prime, so human love may be at work too, softening and concealing, and busy with her hand in healing the rents which have been made in God's nobler temple, the habitation of His own Spirit. If it were lawful in the old time to cover with love and hope a multitude of transgressions, it cannot be less lawful now that the earth is overshadowed with a mercy that blotteth out iniquity and transgression and sin; when the blood of sprinkling has a mightier voice than that which cries for vengeance; when the atoning sacrifice reveals heigths and lengths and depths and breadths of love in which we must rejoice to be lost.
But oh! brethren, if this be a lesson which it is lawful to take up and apply to our friends and brethren, it should come in another form, with another force, to ourselves. There has been some moment, some one fleeting moment, in the life of every man, even the most thoughtless, when he has had dreams of better things, when he has heard the voices of the prophets coming with their harp and their tabret down the hill, when he has joined their company and has caught their strains. There may have been a time when it has been said of him, “ What! is he too among the prophets? Has he found that life is real, and that it is not to go out in miserable efforts for self-advancement or in more miserable self-indulgence, that it is to be consecrated to the service of God and man?” That hour, that moment was the hour, the moment of thy life, friend and brother. To that, God would raise and assimilate the whole of it. Oh! do not let the sluggish, turbid current of your ordinary days seem to you that which truly represents to you what you are, what you are able to be. No, the time when you
made the holiest resolutions, when you struggled most with the powers of evil, when you said it should not be your master, when Love conquered you and freed you from other chains that you might wear her chains, that, that was the true index to the Divine purpose concerning you; that tells you what the Spirit of God is every hour working in you that you may be. You may not be able to revive the feeling which you had then, but He who gave you the feeling, He is with you, is striving with you, that you may will and do of His good pleasure. Only do not strive with Him that He may leave you to yourself and to the power of evil.
But if you should hare engaged in that mad struggle, and been to your own ruin a conqueror in it, if you should have succeeded in quenching that voice of Love which you once heard speaking in your heart, and now you can hear nothing but hoarse and dissonant voices of evil omen-oh! ret be sure that the Spirit of God does not desert the work of His own hands, that He is still hovering about the habitation in which He desires to dwell. And if, when you meet with old friends from whom you have been long estranged, there should come back something of the youthful impulse, some of those heart-yearnings and songs of hope which you poured forth then, though mixed with turbulence and confusion, and hardly to be distinguished from the rarings of madness, yet the question may be asked again, «Is he too among the prophets?" and it is a God will answer that question as it was not answered before, if you desire not the power of the prophets, but their obedience, not that you may speak inspired words, but that you may have the humble and contrite heart which He does not despise.
DAVID THE SHEPHERD AND THE OUTLAW.
LINCOLN'S INN, 2ND SUNDAY IN ADVENT.—DEC. 7, 1851.
PSALM LXXVIII. 71–72. He chose David also His servant, and took him away from
the sheep-folds; as he was following the ewes great with young ones, He took him, that he might feed Jacob His people, and Israel His inheritance.
OBJECTORS to the history of the Old Testament have dwelt much upon the title, “the man after God's own heart," which is given so continually to David. "Is he not,” they have said, “ directly charged with adultery and murder, murder of a very base kind and for the basest purpose ? Are there not passages in his life recorded without condemnation which are indefensible upon any moral principles which we acknowledge? Do not some of his worst acts belong to his later years, when one would have expected to see his passions subdued, his higher qualities matured and perfected ? Is this the man whom a righteous God would declare to be the object of His especial complacency? What must we think of the book which teaches us to believe that he was thus regarded ? What impressions must it leave upon us of the divine character, what possible help can it afford us in forming our own ?"