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foul a quarrel, besides the hazard of their own lives, than confess the error of their jealous misconstruction.
It is one of the mad principles of wickedness, that it is a weakness to relent, and rather to die than yield. Even ill causes, once undertaken, must be upheld, although with blood ; whereas the gracious heart, finding his own mistaking, doth not only remit of an ungrounded displeasure, but studies to be revenged of itself, and to give satisfaction to the offended.
The mercenary Syrians are drawn to venture their lives for a fee; twenty thousand of them are hired into the field against Israel. Fond Pagans, that know not the value of a man; their blood cost them nothing, and they care not to sell it good-cheap! How can we think those men have souls, that esteem a little white earth above themselves ? that never inquire into the justice of the quarrel, but the rate of the pay? that can rifle for drachms of silver in the bowels of their own flesh, and either kill or die for a day's wages ?
Joab, the wise general of Israel, soon finds where the strength of the battle lay, and so marshals his troops, that the choice of his men shall encounter the van-guard of the Syrians. His brother Abishai leads the rest against the children of Ammon, with this covenant of mutual assistance, “If the Syrians be too strong for me, then thou shalt help ne; but if the children of Ammon be too strong for thee, then will I come and help thee." It is a happy thing, when the captains of God's people join together as brethren, and lend their hand to the aid of each other against the common adversary. Concord in defence, or assault, is the way to victory; as, contrarily, the division of the leaders is the overthrow of the army.
Set aside some particular actions, Joab was worthy captain, both for wisdom and valour. Who
could either exhort or resolve better than he ? of good courage, and let us play the men, for our people, and for the cities of our God; and the Lord do that which seemeth him good !" It is not either private glory or profit that whets his fortitude, but the respect to the cause of God and his people. That soldier can never answer it to God, that strikes not more as a justiciar, than as an enemy; neither doth he content himself with his own courage, but he animates others. The tongue of a commander fights more than his hand. It is enough for private men to exercise what life and limbs they have: a good leader must out of his own abundance put life and spirits into all others : if a lion lead sheep into the field, there is hope of victory. Lastly, when he hath done his best, he resolves to depend upon God for the issue, not trusting to his sword, or his bow, but to the providence of the Almighty, for success, as a man religiously awful, and awfully confident, while there should be no want in their own endeavours. He knew well that the race was not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, therefore he looks up above the hills, whence cometh his salvation. All valour is cowardice to that which is built upon religion.
I marvel not to see Joab victorous, while he is thus godly. The Syrians flee before him like flocks of sheep, the Ammonites follow them : the two sons of Zeruiah have nothing to do but to pursue and execute. The throats of the Ammonites are cut, for cutting the beards and coats of the Israelitish messengers: neither doth this revenge end in the field: Rabbah, the royal city of Ammon, is strongly beleaguered by Joab; the city of Waters (after weil near a year's siege) yieldeth, the rest can no longer hold out. Now Joab, as one that desireth more to approve himself a loyal and a careful subject, than a happy general, sends to his master David, that he should come personally, and encamp against the city, and take it; “lest (saith he) I take it, and it be
called after my name.” O noble and imitable fidelity of a dutiful servant, that prefers his lord to himself, and is so far from stealing honour from his master's deserts, that he willingly remits of his own to add unto his! The war was not his, he was only employed by his sovereign: the same person that was wronged in the ambassadors, revengeth by his soldiers. The praise of the act shall, like fountain water, return to the sea, whence it originally came. To seek a man's own glory is not glory. Alas, how many are there, who being sent to sue for God, woo for themselves. O God, it is a fearful thing to rob thee of that which is dearest to thee, glory; which as thou wilt not give to any creature, so much less wilt thou endure that any creature should filch it from thee, and give it to himself! Have thou the honour of all our actions who givest a being to our actions and us, and in both hast most justly regarded thine own praise.
DAVID WITH BATHSHEBA AND URIAH.
With what unwillingness, with what fear, do I still look upon the miscarriage of the man after God's own heart! O holy prophet, who can promise himself always to stand, when he sees thee fallen, and maimed with the fall? Who can assure himself of an immunity from the foulest sins, when he sees thee offending so heinously, so bloodily? Let profane eyes behold thee contentedly, as a pattern, as an excuse of sinning; I shall never look upon thee but through tears, as a woeful spectacle of human infirmity.
While Joab and all Israel were busy in the war against Ammon, in the siege of Rabbah, Satan finds time to lay siege to the secure heart of David. Who ever found David thus tempted, thus foiled in the days of his busy wars? Now only do I see the king of Israel rising from his bed in the evening : the time was, when he rose up in the morning to his early devotions, when he brake his nightly rest with public cares, with the business of the state; all that while he was innocent, he was holy : but now that he wallows in the bed of idleness, he is fit to invite temptation. The industrious man hath no leisure to sin. The idle hath neither leisure nor power to avoid sin. Exercise is not more wholesome for the body, than for the soul, the remission whereof breeds matter of disease in both. The water that hath been heated soonest freezeth. The most active spirit soonest tireth with slacking. The earth stands still, and is all dregs: the heavens ever move, and are pure. We have no reason to complain of the assiduity of work; the toil of action is answered by the benefit ; if we did less, we should suffer more.
Satan, like an idle companion, if he finds us busy, flies back, and sees it no time to entertain vain purposes with us: we cannot please him better than by casting away our work, to hold chat with him ; we cannot yield so far and be guiltless.
Even David's eyes have no sooner the sleep rubbed out of them, than they rove to wanton prospects: he walks upon his roof, and sees Bathsheba washing herself, inquires after her, sends for her, solicits her to uncleanness. The same spirit, that shut
his eyes in unseasonable sleep, opens them upon an enticing object; while sin hath such a solicitor, it cannot want either means or opportunity. I cannot think Bathsheba could be so immodest as to wash herself openly, especially from her natural uncleanness. Lust is quicksighted. David hath espied her, where she could espy no beholder. His
eyes recoil upon his heart, and have smitten him with sinful desire.
There can be no safety to that soul, where the senses are let loose. He can never keep his covenant with God, that makes not a covenant with his eyes. It is an idle presumption to think the outward man may be free, while the inward is safe. He is more than a man whose heart is not led by his eyes; he is no regenerate man, whose eyes are not restrained by his heart.
O Bathsheba, how wert thou washed from thine uncleanness, when thou yieldest to go into an adulterous bed! never wert thou so foul, as now when thou wert new washed. The worst of nature is cleanliness to the best of sin. Thou hadst been clean, if thou hadst not washed; yet for thee, I know how to plead infirmity of sex, and the importunity of a king: but what shall I say for thee, o thou royal prophet, and prophetical king of Israel? Where shall I find ought to extenuate that crime, for which God himself hath noted thee? Did not thy holy profession teach thee to abhor such a sin more than death? Was not thy justice wont to punish this sin with no less than death? Did not thy very calling call thee to a protection and preservation of justice, of chastity in thy subjects ? Didst thou want store of wives of thine own ? Wert thou restrained from taking more? Was there no beauty in Israel, but in a subject's marriage bed ? Wert thou overcome by the vehement solicitations of an adultress? Wert thou not the tempter, the prosecutor of this uncleanness? I should accuse thee deeply, if thou hadst not accused thyself; nothing wanted to greaten thy sin, or our wonder and fear. O God, whither do we go, if thou stay us not? Who ever, amongst the millions of thy servants, could find himself furnished with stronger preservatives against sin? Against whom could such a sin find less pretence of prevailing ? O keep thou