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he is as much in danger of straying as themselves. He speaks to them of a God who thinks of them, who is watching over them, who does not despise their poverty, who will avenge their wrongs; but who desires above all that they should be right, who is willing and able to make them right.
And this was the lesson which David was at the same time taking home to his own inmost heart. Through oppression, confusion, lawlessness, he was learning the eternal and essential righteousness of God. He had been taught to despise the brute force of the lion and the bear and the Philistine before; he was now taught to despise all power whatsoever, lodged in men circumcised or uncircumcised, which was maintaining itself against Right. He was set in the throne who judged right. “Hear the right; attend unto my cry!” he could say, with confidence that the prayer would at last be answered. He was sure that though the kings of the earth might gather together, and say, 'let us break these bands of right asunder, and cast away these cords from us,' He that sitteth in the heavens would laugh, the Lord would have them in derision. He had set His righteous king upon the holy hill of Zion and all the nations must do him homage.
The time came when David's faith in the existence of a righteous kingdom, which had its ground in the unseen world, and which might exhibit itself really though not perfectly in this, was to be brought to the severest of all trials. Saul died on the mountains of Gilboa: the Philistines possessed themselves of the cities of Israel. The new mode of government for which the people craved so earnestly had been tried— they had become like the countries round about these countries were now their masters. They had gained
such a king as they had imagined—a leader of their hosts. They had lost law, discipline, and fellowship; now their hosts had perished. Could there come Order out of this chaos? Whence was it to come? From a band of freebooters ? That was to be seen. If the chief of this band thought of setting up a dominion for himself, of making his followers possessors of the lands from which they had been driven out, of putting down his private enemies, of rising by the arms of soldiers and the choice of a faction to be a tyrant, his life would be merely a vulgar tale such as age after age, civilized and barbarous, has to record—a tale that would be merely dull and flat from its frequent repetition, from the utter absence of anything but the lowest purposes and the pettiest plotting in the actor, if we could lose the sad reflection that millions of human beings are interested in events which the onlooker may be disposed to regard with indifference or contempt, and the consolatory recollection that by the crimes of foolish, feeble men, God is bringing forth His wisdom and righteousness into clear light. But if David took this disordered miserable country of his fathers into his hands, not as a prize which he had won, but as a heavy and awful trust that was committed to him, a trust for which he had been prepared in the sheepfolds, which he could only administer while he remembered that the Lord was his Shepherd and that He was the Shepherd of every Israelite and of every man on the earth—then however hopeless seemed the materials with which he had to work, and which he had to mould, he might believe confidently that he should be in his own day the restorer of Israel, and the witness and prophet of the complete restoration of it and of mankind.
This, brethren, was the man after God's own heart, the man
III.] THE MAN AFTER GOD'S OWN HEART. 51 who thoroughly believed in God, as a living and Righteous Being ; who in all changes of fortune clung to that conviction; who could act upon it, live upon it; who could give himself up to God to use him as he pleased; who could be little or great, popular or contemptible, just as God saw fit that he should be; who could walk on in darkness secure of nothing but this, that truth must prevail at last, and that he was sent into the world to live and die that it might prevail; who was certain that the triumph of the God of Heaven would be for the blessing of the most miserable outcasts upon earth. Have we asked ourselves how the Scripture can dare to represent a man with David's many failings, with that eager, passionate temper which evidently belonged to him, with all the manifold temptations which accompany a vehement, sympathetic character, with the great sins which we shall be told of hereafter, as one who could share the counsels and do the will of a Holy Being? Oh! rather let us ask ourselves, whether, with a plausible exterior, a respectable behaviour, an unimpeachable decorum in the sight of men, we can ever win this smile, hear this approving sentence. The words “ Well done good and faithful servant,” are not spoken by the Judge of all now, will not be spoken in the last day, to him who has found in his pilgrimage through this world, no enemies to fight with, no wrongs to be redressed, no right to be maintained. How many of us feel in looking back upon acts which the world has not condemned, which friends have perhaps applauded, " we had no serious purpose there; we merely did what it was seemly and convenient to do; we were not yielding to God's righteous will; we were not inspired by His love." How many of us feel that our bitterest repentances are to be for this, that all things have gone so smoothly with us, be
cause we did not care to make the world better or to be better ourselves. How many of us feel that those who have committed grave, outward transgressions, into which we have not fallen because the motives to them were not present with us or because God's grace kept us hedged round by influences which resisted them, may nevertheless have had hearts which answered more to God's heart, which entered far more into the grief and the joy of His Spirit, than ours ever did. And that such lamentations for the past may not be fruitless, let us ask for the time to come, that we may not be of the class which Christ describes by the mouth of His Apostle, as neither hot nor cold; that He will fill us with a burning zeal in His service; that He will make us indifferent where or among whom our lot is cast, among princes or among outlaws, whether we are respected or scorned; so long as we may but testify to all that He who took upon Him the form of a servant, He who was despised and rejected of men, the true Man after God's own heart, the Son of David and the Son of God, is the present and eternal Shepherd, to whom the weary and wandering may turn for help and guidance now, since he has passed through the valley of the shadow of death for them; from whom they may expect fuller deliverance hereafter, seeing that He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet.
DAVID THE KING.
LINCOLN'S INN, 3RD SUNDAY IN ADVENT.-Dec. 14, 1851.
2 SAMUEL, V. 12. “ And David perceived that the Lord had established him
king over Israel, and that He had exalted His Kingdom for His people Israel's sake.”
This language, some may think, would have been suitable and pious, if an extraordinary, evidently miraculous, event had raised David to the throne of Israel. Such an event might have enabled him to perceive that he was divinely elected to reign; he might have continued to reign with the same comfortable assurance. But he appears to have risen quite as slowly-under the same course of accidents—as other leaders of troops in tolerably quiet conditions of society, to say nothing of those which are utterly anarchical. He belonged to an honourable tribe, he had performed great exploits, he had strong popular sympathy with him, increased by the unfair treatment he had undergone from Saul. He had the command of a body of compact, devoted, even desperate followers. Saul and Jonathan were dead.