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cannot but think, David cannot avenge that in me, which he acteth himself.
Honour is pretended to poor Uriah, death is meant. This
one of the worthies of David ; their courage sought glory in the difficultest exploits. That reputation had never been purchased without attempts of equal danger. Had not the leader and followers of Uriah been more treacherous than his enemies were strong, he had come off with victory. Now, he was not the first or last that perished by his friends. David hath forgotten, that himself was in like sort betrayed in his master's intention, upon the dowry of the Philistines' foreskins. I fear to ask, who ever noted so foul a plot in David's rejected predecessor? Uriah must be the messenger of his own death, Joab must be a traitor to his friend, the host of God must shamefully turn their backs upon the Ammonites, all that Israelitish blood must be shed, that murder must be seconded with dissimulation; and all this to hide one adultery ! O God, thou hadst never suffered so dear a favourite of thine to fall so fearfully, if thou hadst not meant to make him a universal example to mankind, of not presuming, of not despairing. How can we presume of not sinning, or despair for sinning, when we find so great a saint thus fallen, thus risen!
NATHAN AND DAVID.
YEt Bathsheba mourned for the death of that husband, whom she had been drawn to dishonour. How could she bestow tears enough upon that funeral, whereof her sin was the cause? If she had
but a suspicion of the plot of his death, the fountains of her eyes could not yield water enough to wash off her husband's blood; her sin was more worthy of sorrow than her loss. If this grief had been right placed, the hope of hiding her shame, and the ambition to be a queen, had not so soon mitigated it; neither had she upon any terms, been drawn into the bed of her husband's murderer. Every gleam of earthly comfort can dry up the tears of worldly sorrow. Bathsheba hath soon lost her grief at the court; the remembrance of a husband is buried in the jollity and state of a princess. David securely enjoys his ill-purchased love, and is content to exchange the conscience of his sin, for the sense of his pleasure. But the just and holy God will not put it up so; he that hates sin so much the more, as the offender is more dear to him, will let David feel the bruise of his fall. If God's best children have been sometimes suffered to sleep in a sin, at last he hath awakened them in a fright.
David was a prophet of God, and yet he hath not only stepped into those foul sins, but sojourns with them. If any profession or state of life could have privileged from sin, the angels had not sinned in heaven, nor man in paradise. Nathan the prophet is sent to the prophet David, for reproof, for conviction: had it been any other man's case, none could have been more quick sighted than the princely prophet; in his own he is so blind, that God is fain to Iend him others' eyes. Even the physician himself, when he is sick, sends for the counsel of those whom his health did mutually aid with advice. Let no man think himself too good to learn ; teachers themselves may be taught that, in their own particular, which, in a generality, they have often taught others; it is not only ignorance that is to be removed, but misaffection.
Who can prescribe a just period to the best man's repentance ? About ten months are passed
since David's sin ; in all which time I find no news of any serious compunction; it could not be but some glances of remorse must needs have passed through his soul long ere this; but a due and solemn contrition was not heard of till Nathan's message, and, perhaps, had been further adjourned, if that monitor had been longer deferred. Alas, what long and dead sleeps may the holiest soul take in fearful sins ! Were it not for thy mercy, O God, the best of us should end our spiritual lethargy in sleep of death.
It might have pleased God as easily to have sent Nathan to check David in his first purpose of sinning; so had his eyes been restrained, Bathsheba honest, Uriah alive with honour : now the wisdom of the Almighty knew how to win more glory by the permission of so foul an evil, than by the prevention; yea, he knew how, by the permission of one sin, to prevent millions. How many thousands had sinned, in a vain presumption on their own strength, if David had not thus offended! how many thousands had despaired, in the conscience of their own weaknesses, if these horrible sins had not received forgiveness! It is happy for all times, that we have so holy a sinner, so sinful a penitent; it matters not how bitter the pill is, but how well wrapped; so cunningly hath Nathan conveyed this dose, that it begins to work ere it be tasted. There is no one thing wherein is more use of wisdom, than the due contriving of a reprehension, which in a discreet delivery, helps the disease; in an unwise, destroys nature.
Had not Nathan been used to the possession of David's ear, this complaint had been suspected. It well beseems a king to take information by a prophet. While wise Nathan was querulously discoursing of the cruel rich man, that had forcibly taken away the only lamb of his poor neighbour, how willingly doth David listen to the story, and how sharply,
even above law, doth he censure the fact ! the Lord liveth, the man that hath done this thing shall surely die." Full little did he think that he had pronounced sentence against himself; it had not been so heavy, if he had known on whom it should have lighted. We have open ears and quick tongues to the vices of others; how severe justicers we can be to our very own crimes in others' persons? how flattering parasites to another's crime in ourselves ! The life of doctrine is in application. Nathan might have been long enough in his narration, in his invective, ere David would have been touched with his own guiltiness; but now that the prophet brings the word home to his bosom, he cannot but be affected. We may take pleasure to hear men speak in the clouds, we never take profit till we find a propriety in the exhortation or reproof. There was not more cunning in the parable, than courage in the application ; “ Thou art the man.” If David be a king, he may not look not to hear of his faults; God's messages may be no other than impartial. It is a treacherous flattery in divine errands, to regard greatness. If prophets must be mannerly in the form, yet in the matter of reproof resolute : the words are not their own; they are but the heralds of the King of heaven, “ Thus saith the Lord God of Israel.”
How thunder-stricken do we think David did now stand ! how did the change of his colour betray the confusion in his soul, while his conscience said the same within, which the prophet sounded in his ear! And now, lest aught should be wanting to his humiliation, all God's former favours shall be laid before his eyes, by way of exprobation. He is worthy to be upbraided with mercies, that hath abused mercies unto wantonness. While we do well, God gives and says nothing: when we do ill, he lays his benefits in our dish, and casts them in our teeth, that our shame may be so much the more by how
much our obligations have been greater. The blessings of God, in our unworthy carriage, prove but the aggravations of sin, and additions to judg
I see all God's children falling into sin, some of them lying in sin, none of them maintaining their sin : David cannot have the heart, or the face, to stand out against the message of God; but now, as a man confounded and condemned in himself, he cries out in the bitterness of a wounded soul, “I have sinned against the Lord." It was a short word, but passionate; and such as came from the bottom of a contrite heart. The greatest griefs are not most verbal. Saul confessed his sin more largely, less effectually. God cares not for phrases, but for affections. The first piece of our amends to God for sinning is the acknowledgment of sin, he can do little that, in a just offence, cannot accuse himself. If we cannot be so good as we would, it is reason we should do God so much right, as to say how evil we are. And why was not this done sooner? It is strange to see how easily sin gets into the heart, how hardly it gets out of the mouth; is it because sin, like unto Satan, where it hath got possession, is desirous to hold it, and knows that it is fully ejected by a free confession? or because, in a guiltiness of deformity, it hides itself in the breast where it is once entertained, and hates the light? or, because the tongue is so fee'd with self-love, that it is loth to be drawn unto any verdict against the heart or hands? or is it out of an idle misprision of shame, which, while it should be placed in offending, is misplaced in disclosing of our offence?
However, sure I am, that God hath need even of racks to draw out confessions, and scarce in death itself are we wrought to a discovery of our
There is no one thing wherein our folly shows itself more than in these hurtful concealments. Contrary