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humility shall refuse an epitaph, and choose to hide himself under the bare earth, God himself shall engrave his name upon the pillar of eternity.
There now lies Absalom in the pit, under a thousand grave-stones, in every of which is written his everlasting reproach. Well might this heap overlive that pillar; for when that ceased to be a pillar, it began to be a heap; neither will it cease to be a monument of Absalom's shame, while there are stones to be found upon carth. Even at this day, very Pagans and pilgrims that pass that way, cast each man a stone unto that heap, and are wont to say in a solemn execration, Cursed be the parricide Absalom, and cursed be all unjust persecutors of their parents, for ever. Fasten your eyes upon this woeful spectacle, O all ye rebellious and ungracious children, which rise up against the loins and thighs from which ye fell; and know that it is the least part of your punishment, that your carcases rot in the earth, and your name in ignominy ; these do but shadow out those eternal sufferings of your souls, for your foul and unnatural disobedience.
Absalom is dead; who shall report it to his father? Surely Joab was not so much afraid of the fact, as of the message. There are busy spirits that love to carry news, though thankless, though purposeless; such was Ahimaaz the son of Zadok, who importunately thrust himself into this service: wise Joab, who well saw how unwelcome tidings must be the burden of the first post, dissuades him in vain : he knew David too well, to employ a friend to that errand. An Ethiopian servant was a fitter bearer of such a message than the son of the priest. The entertainment of the person doth so follow the quality of the news, that David could argue afar off, “ He is a good man, he cometh with good tidings.' O how welcome deserve those messengers to be, that bring us the glad tidings of salvation, that assure us of the foil of all spiritual enemies, and tell us of nothing but victories and
crowns, and kingdoms! If we think not their feet beautiful, our hearts are foul with infidelity, and secure worldliness.
So wise is Ahimaaz grown by Joab's intimation, that, though he outwent Cushi in his pace, he suffered Cushi to outgo him in his tale, cunningly suppressing that part which he knew must be both necessarily delivered, and unpleasingly received.
As our care is wont to be where our love is, David's first word is not, how fares the host, but “ How fares the young man Absalom?" Like a wise and faithful messenger, Cushi answers by an honest insinuation, “ The enemies of my lord the king, and all that rise against thee to do thee hurt, be as that young man is,” implying both what was done, and why David should approve it being done. How is the good king thunder-struck with that word of his blackmoor! who, as if he were at once bereaved of all comfort, and cared not to live, but in the name of Absalom, goes and weeps, and cries out, “O
my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom; would God I had died for thee! ó Absalom, my son, my son !” What is this we hear ? that he, whose life Israel valued at ten thousand of theirs, should be exchanged with a traitor's : that a good king, whose life was sought, should wish to lay it down for the preservation of his murderer. The best men have not wont to be the least passionate. But what shall we say to that love of thine, O Saviour, who hast said of us wretched traitors, not, 6 Would God I had died for you;" but I will die, I do die, I have died for you. O love like thyself infinite, incomprehensible, whereat the angels of heaven stand yet amazed, wherewith thy saints are ravished !
from me, for they overcome O thou that dwellest in the gardens, the companions hearken to thy voice; cause us to hear it;" that we may in our measure answer thy love, and enjoy it for ever.
It was the doom which God passed upon the man after his own heart, by the mouth of Nathan, that the sword should never depart from his house, for the blood of Uriah : after that wound healed by remission, yet this scar remains. Absalom is no sooner cast down into the pit, than Sheba, the son of Bichri, is up in arms: if David be not plagued, yet he shall be corrected ; first by the rod of a son, then of a subject. He had lift up his hand against a faithful subject; now a faithless dares to lift up his hand against him. Malice, like some hereditary sickness, runs in the blood; Saul, and Shimei, and Sheba, were all of a house ; that ancient grudge was not yet dead: the fire of the house of Jemini was but raked up, never thoroughly out; and now that, which did but smoke in Shimei, flames in Sheba ; although even through this chastisement, it is not hard to discern a type of that perpetual succession of enmity, which should be raised against the true king of Israel. O son of David, when didst thou ever want enemies? How wert thou designed by thine eternal father, for a sign that should be spoken against!“ How did the Gentiles rage, and the people imagine vain things ! The kings of the earth assembled, and the rulers came together against thee." Yea, how do the subjects of thine own kingdom daily conspire against thee! Even now, while thou enjoyest peace, and glory at thy father's right hand, as soon shalt thou want friends as enemies upon earth.
No eye of any traitor could espy a just quarrel in the government of David ; yet Sheba blows the trumpet of rebellion; and, while Israel and Judah are striving who should have the greatest part in their re-established sovereign, he sticks not to say, “ We have no part in David, neither have we inheritance in the son of Jesse;" and while he
Every man to his tents, O Israel,” he calls every man to his own; so, in proclaiming a liberty from a just and loyal subjection, he invites Israel to the bondage of an usurper.
That a lewd conspirator should breathe treason, it is no wonder; but is it not wonder and shame, that, upon every mutinous blast, Israel should turn traitor to God's anointed? It was their late expostulation with David, why their brethren, the men of Judah, should have stolen him from them: now might David more justly expostulate, why a rebel of their brethren should have stolen them from him. As nothing is more unstable than the multitude, so nothing is more subject to distates than sovereignty ; for as weak minds seek pleasure in change, so every light conceit of irritation seems sufficient colour of change : such as the false dispositions of the vulgar are: love cannot be security enough for princes, without the awfulness of power: what hold can there be of popularity, when the same hands, that even now fought for David to be all theirs, now fight against him, under the son of Bichri, as none of theirs ? As bees, when they are once up in a swarm, are ready to light upon every bough; so the Israelites, being stirred by the late commotion of Absalom, are apt to follow every Sheba. It is unsafe for any state, that the multitude should once know the way to an insurrection; the least track in this kind is easily made a path. Yet, if Israel rebel, Judah continues faithful; neither shall the son of David ever be left destitute of some true subjects in the worst of apostasies. He that could command all hearts, will ever be followed
by some : God had rather glorify himself by a remnant,
Great commanders must have active thoughts : David is not so taken up with the embroiled affairs of his state, as not to intend domestic justice. His ten concubines, which were shamelessly defiled by his incestuous son, are condemned to ward and widowhood. Had not that constupration been partly violent, their punishment had not been so easy; had it not also been partly voluntary, they had not been so inuch punished : but how much soever the act did partake of either force, or will, justly are they sequestered from David's bed : Absalom was not more un· natural in his rebellion than in his lust: if now David should have returned to his own bed, he had seconded the incest. How much more worthy of separation are they, who have stained the marriage-bed with their wilful sin !
Amasa was one of the witnesses and abettors of Absalom's filthiness ; yet is he, out of policy, received to favour and employment, while the concubines suffer. Great men yield many times to those things, out of reasons of state, which, if they were private persons, could not be easily put over. It is no small wisdom to engage a new reconciled friend, that he
may be confirmed by his own act: therefore is Amasa commanded to levy the forces of Judah. Joab, after many great merits and achievements, lies rusting in neglect: he that was so entire with David, as to be of his counsel for Uriah's blood, and so firm to David, as to lead all his battles against the house of Saul, the Ammonites, the Aramites, Absalom, is now cashiered, and must yield his place to a stranger, late an enemy. Who knows not that this son of Zeruiah had shed the blood of war in peace? But if the blood of Absalom had not been louder than the blood of Abner, I fear this change had not been. Now Joab smarteth for a loyal disobedience. How slippery are the stations of earthly honours,