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to the proceedings of human justice, it is with God “ Confess and live;" no sooner can David say, I have sinned," than Nathan infers, “The Lord also hath put away thy sin. He that hides his sins shall not prosper ; but he that confesseth and forsaketh them shall find mercy.
Who would not accuse himself, to be acquitted of God? O God, who would not tell his wickedness to thee that knowest it better than his own heart, that his heart may be eased of that wickedness, which, being not told, kisleth? Since we have sinned, why should we be niggardly of that action wherein we may at once give glory to thee, and relief to our souls ?
David had sworn, in a zeal of justice, that the rich oppressor, for but taking his poor neighbour's lamb, should die the death; God, by Nathan, is more favourable to David, than to take him at his word, “ Thou shalt not die.” O the marvellous power of repentance. Besides adultery, David had shed the blood of innocent Uriah. The strict law was, "Eye for eye, tooth for tooth. He that smiteth with the sword, shall perish with the sword :" yet as if a penitent confession had dispensed with the rigour of justice, now God says, “Thou shalt not die.” David was the voice of the law, awarding death unto sin ; Nathan was the voice of the gospel, awarding life unto the repentance for sin. Whatsoever the sore be, never any soul applied this remedy and died; never any soul escaped death that applied it not.
David himself shall not die for this fact: but his misbegotten child shall die for him. He that said, “ The Lord hath put away thy sin," yet said also, “ The sword shall not depart from thine house."
The same mouth, with one breath, pronounces the sentence both of absolution and death; absolution to the person, death to the issue. Pardon may well stand with temporal afflictions. Where God hath forgiven, though he doth not punish, yet
he may chastise, and that unto blood; neither doth he always forbear correction, where he remits revenge. So long as he smites us not as
an angry judge, we may endure to smart from him as a loving father.
Yet even this rod did David deprecate with tears : how fain would he shake off so easy a load! The child is stricken; the father fasts, and prays, and weeps, and lies all night upon the earth, and abhors the noise of comfort : that child, which was the fruit and monument of his odious adultery, whom he could never have looked upon without recognition of his sin, in whose face he could not but have still read the records of his own shame, is thus mourned for, thus sued for: it is easy to observe that good man over-passionately affected to his children. Who would not have thought, that David might have held himself well appaid, that his soul escaped an eternal death; his body a violent; though God should punish his sin in that child, in whom he sinned: yet even against this cross he bends his prayers, as if nothing had been forgiven him. There is no child that would be scourged, if he might escape for crying; no affliction is for the time other than grievous; neither is therefore yielded unto, without some kind of reluctation. Far yet was it from the heart of David, to make any opposition to the will of God; he sued, he struggled not; there is no impatience in entreaties; he well knew that the threats of temporal evils ran commonly with a secret condition, and therefore might perhaps be avoided by humble importunity: if any means under heaven can avert judgments, it is our prayers.
God could not choose, but like well the boldness of David's faith, who, after the apprehension of so heavy a displeasure, is so far from doubting of the forgiveness of his sin, that he dares become a suitor unto God for his sick child. Sin doth not make us more strange, than faith confident.
But it is not in the power of the strongest faith to preserve us from all afflictions; after all David's prayers and tears, the child must die. The careful servants dare but whisper this sad news; they who had found their master so averse from the motion of comfort in the sickness of the child, feared him incapable of comfort in his death.
Suspicion is quick witted. Every occasion makes us misdoubt that event which we fear. This secresy proclaims that which they were so loth to utter. David perceives his child dead, and now he rises up from the earth whereon he lay, and washes himself, and changeth his apparel, and goes first into God's house to worship, and into his own to eat; now he refuses no comfort, who before would take none. The issue of things doth more fully show the will of God than the prediction; God never did any thing but what he would; he hath sometimes foretold that for trial, which his secret will intended not; he would foretel it, he would not effect it; because he would therefore foretel it, that he might not effect it. His predictions of outward evils are not always absolute, ħis actions are. David well sees, by the event, what the decree of God was concerning his child, which now he could not strive against without a vain impatience. Till we know the determinations of the Almighty, it is free for us to strive in our prayers, to strive with him, not against him; when once know them, it is our duty to sit down in a silent contentation.
6 While the child was yet alive, I fasted and wept; for I said, who can tell whether the Lord will be gracious to me, that the child may live? but now he is dead, wherefore should I fast ? can I bring him back again ?"
The grief, that goes before an evil for remedy, can hardly be too much; but that which follows an evil past remedy, cannot be too little. Even in the saddest accident, death, we may yield something to
nature, nothing to impatience : immoderation of sorrow, for losses past hope of recovery, is more sullen than useful; our stomach may be bewrayed by it, not our wisdom.
AMNON AND TAMAR.
It is not possible that any word of God should fall to the ground. David is not more sure of forgiveness than smart. Three main sins passed him in this business of Uriah, adultery, murder, dissimulation; for all which he receives present payment; for adultery, in the deflowering of his daughter Tamar; for murder, in the killing of his son Amnon ; for dissimulation in the contriving of both; yet all this was but the beginning of evils. Where the father of the family brings sin home to the house, it is not easily swept out. Unlawful lust propagates itself by example. How justly is David scourged by the sin of his sons, whom his act taught to offend.
Maacha was the daughter of a heathenish king; by her had David that beautiful, but unhappy issue, Absalom, and his no less fair sister Tamar. Perhaps, thus late, doth David feel the punishment of that unfit choice. I should not have marvelled, if so holy a man had not found crosses in so unequal a match, either in his person, or at least in his seed.
Beauty, if it be not well disciplined, proves not a friend but a traitor ; three of David's children are undone by it at once. What else was guilty of Amnon's incestuous love, Tamar's ravishment, Absalom's pride? It is a blessing to be fair, yet such a blessing, as, if the soul answer not to the face, may
lead to a curse. How commonly have we seen the foulest soul dwell fairest. It was no fault of Tamar's that she was beautiful; the candle offends not in burning, the foolish fly offends in scorching itself in the flame; yet it is no small misery to become a temptation unto another; and to be made but the occasion of other's ruin. Amnon is love-sick of his sister Tamar, and languishes of that unnatural heat. Whither will not wanton lust carry the inordinate minds of pampered and ungoverned youths ? None but this half sister will please the eyes of the young prince of Israel. Ordinary pleasures will not content those whom the conceit of greatness, youth, and ease, have let loose to their appetite.
Perhaps yet this unkindly flame might in time have gone out alone, had not there been a Jonadab to blow these coals with ill counsel. It were strange, if great princes should want some parasitical followers, that are ready to feed their ill humours.
“Why art thou, the king's son, so lean from day to day?" As if it were unworthy the heir of a king to suffer either law or conscience to stand in the way of his desires : whereas wise princes know well, that their places give them no privilege of sinning, but call them in rather to so much more strictness, as their example may be more prejudicial.
Jonadab was the cousin-german of Amnon. III advice is so much more dangerous, as the interest of the giver is more.
Had he been a true friend, he had bent all the forces of his dissuasion against the wicked motions of that sinful lust; and had showed the prince of Israel how much those lewd desires provoked God, and blemished himself, and had lent his hand to strangle them in their first conception. There cannot be a more worthy improvement of friendship, than in a fervent opposition to the sins of them whom we profess to love. No enemy can be so mortal to great princes, as those officious clients, whose flattery soothes them up in wickedness; these are traitors to