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God meant, and David knew it, herein to proportion the difference of time to the violence of the plague; neither should any fewer perish by so few days' pestilence, than by so many years' famine. The wealthiest might avoid the dearth, the swiftest might run away from the sword; no man could
promise himself safety from that pestilence. In likelihood, God's angel would rather strike the most guilty: however therefore David might well look to be inwrapped in the common destruction, yet he rather chooseth to fall into that mercy which he had abused, and to suffer from that justice which he had provoked; “Let us now fall into the hands of the Lord.”
Humble confessions and devout penance cannot always avert temporal judgments: God's angel is abroad, and, within that short compass of time, sweeps away seventy thousand Israelites. David was proud of the number of his subjects ; now they are abated, that he may see cause of humiliation in the matter of his glory. In what we have offended, we commonly smart. These thousands of Israel were not so innocent, that they should only perish for David's sin : their sins were the motives both of this sin and punishment; besides the respect of David's offence, they die for themselves.
It was no ordinary pestilence that was thus suddenly and universally mortal. Common eyes saw the botch and the marks ; saw not the angel: David's clearer sight hath espied him, after that killing peragration through the tribes of Israel, shaking his sword over Jerusalem, and hovering over mount Sion; and now he, who doubtless had spent those three dismal days in the saddest contrition, humbly casts himself down at the feet of the avenger, and lays himself ready-for the fatal stroke of justice: it was more terror that God intended in the visible shape of his angel, and deeper humiliation ; and what he meant, he wrought. Never soul could be
more dejected, more anguished with the sense of a judgment, in the bitterness whereof he cries out, “ Behold, I have sinned, yea, I have done wickedly; but these sheep, What have they done? Let thine hand, I pray thee, be against me, and against my father's house." The better any man is, the more sensible he is of his own wretchedness. Many of those sheep were wolves to David. What had they done? They had done that which was the occasion of David's sin, and the cause of their own punishment: but that gracious penitent knew his own sin, he knew not theirs; and therefore can say, I have sinned, What have they done?” It is safe accusing, where we may be boldest, and are best acquainted, ourselves.
O the admirable charity of David, that would have engrossed the plague to himself and his house, from the rest of Israel, and sues to interpose himself betwixt his people and the vengeance : he that had put himself upon the paws of the bear and lion, for the rescue of his sheep, will now cast himself upon the sword of the angel, for the preservation of Israel. There was hope in those conflicts; in this yieldance there could be nothing but death. Thus didst thou, O Son of David, the true and great shepherd of thy church, offer thyself to death for them who had their hands in thy blood; who both procured thy death, and deserved their own. Here he offered himself, that had sinned, for those whom he professed to have not done evil; thou that didst no sin vouchsafedst to offer thyself for us that were all sin : he offered and escaped, thou offeredst and diedst; and by thy death we live, and are freed from everlasting destruction.
But, o Father of all mercies, how little pleasure dost thou take in the blood of sinners! It was thine own pity that inhibited the destroyer. Ere David could see the angel, thou hadst restrained him; “ It is sufficient, hold now thy hand.” If thy compassion
did not both withhold and abridge thy judgments, what place were there for us out of hell?
How easy and just had it been for God, to have made the shutting up of that third evening red with blood ! His goodness repents of the slaughter, and calls for that sacrifice wherewith he will be appeased. An altar must be built in the threshing-floor of Araunah the Jebusite : lo, in that very hill, where the angel held the sword of Abraham from killing his son, doth God now hold the sword of the angel from killing his people! Upon this very ground shall the temple after stand; here shall be the holy altar, which shall send up the acceptable oblations of God's people in succeeding generations.
O God, what was the threshing-floor of a Jebusite to thee above all other soils? What virtue, what merit was in this earth? As in places, so in persons, it is not to be heeded what they are, but what thou wilt ; that is worthiest which thou pleasest to accept.
Rich and bountiful Araunah is ready to meet David in so holy a motion, and munificently offers his Sion for the place, his oxen for the sacrifice, his carts and ploughs, and other utensils of his husbandry, for the wood. Two frank hearts are well met; David would buy, Araunah would give: the Jebusite would not sell, David will not take. Since it was for God, and to David, Araunah is loth to bargain; since it was for God, David wisheth to pay dear: “I will not offer burnt-offerings to the Lord my God, of that which doth cost me nothing. Heroical spirits do well become eminent persons. He, that knew it was better to "give than to receive, would not receive, but give; there can be no devotion in a niggardly heart; as unto dainty palates, so to the godly soul, that tastes sweetest, that costs most: nothing is dear enough for the Creator of all things. It is a heartless piety of those baseminded Christians, that care only to serve God good-cheap.
David had not so carefully husbanded his years, as to maintain a vigorous age; he was therefore, what through wars, what with sorrows, what with sickness, decrepit betimes. By that time he was seventy years old, his natural heat was so wasted, that his clothes could not warm him; How
many known of more strength, at more age ! The holiest soul dwells not in an impregnable fort; if the revenging angel spared David, yet age and death will not spare
neither his new altar, nor his costly sacrifice can be of force against decay of nature: nothing but death can prevent the weaknesses of age.
None can blame a people, if, when they have a good king, they are desirous to hold him.David's servants and subjects have commended unto his bed a fair young virgin ; not for the heat of lust, but of life, that, by this means, they might make an outward supply of fuel for that vital fire which was well near extinguished with age.
As it is in the market, or the stage, so it is in our life; one goes in, another comes out: when David was withering, Adonijah was in his blossom ; that son, as he was next to Absalom, both in the beauty of his body, and the time of his birth, so was he too like him in practice; he also, taking advantage of
his father's infirmity, will be carving himself of the kingdom of Israel ; that he might no whit vary from his pattern, he gets him also chariots and horsemen, and fifty men to run before him. These two, Absalom and Adonijah, were the darlings of their father ; their father had not displeased them from their childhood, therefore they both displeased him in his age : those children had need to be very gracious, that are not marred with pampering. It is more than God owes us, if we receive comfort in those children whom we have over-loved ; the indulgence of parents at last pays them home in crosses.
It is true that Adonijah was David's eldest son now remaining, and therefore might seem to challenge the justest title to the crown; but the kingdom of Israel, in so late an erection, had not yet known the right of succession. God himself, that had ordained the government, was as yet the immediate elector: he fetched Saul from among the stuff, and David from the sheepfold, and had now appointed Solomon from the ferule to the sceptre.
And if Adonijah, which is unlike, had not known this, yet it had been his part to have taken his father with him in this claim of his succession; and not so to prevent a brother, that he should shoulder out a father, and not so violently to pre-occupate the throne, that he should rather be a rebel" than a heir.
As Absalom, so Adonijah, wants not furtherers in this usurpation, whether spiritual or temporal ; Joab the general, and Abiathar the priest, give both counsel and aid to so unseasonable a challenge ; these two had been firm to David in all his troubles, in all insurrections; yet now, finding him fastened to the bed of age and death, they show themselves thus slippery in the loose. Outward happiness and friendship are not known till our last act. In the impotency of either our revenge or recompense, it