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you the records of heaven, on which the number of your days are inscribed, with what breathless
eagerness would you read the writing that told you the day of your death! The impression would never be effaced, and you would instantly begin in earnest to make preparation for that solemn hour. But this is what no earthly power can do. The book of God's decrees is sealed, and hid from mortal vision. But the very uncertainty in which you stand, and to which you foolishly trust, were you wise, would rouse you to instant exertion. “ To-day, if you will hear his voice, harden not your hearts. For there is neither work nor knowledge, nor device in the grave, to which we are hastening.” Amen.
THE HISTORY OF SAUL.
The history of Saul, the first king of Israel, is as instructive as it is interesting. At the beginning of his career everything promised well: the meekness with which he bore his advancement, and the vigour with which he entered on his office, seemed to ensure a prosperous reign. He had been submissive as a son, not disdaining, when directed by his father, to perform the duties of a servant; and we might have augured from this, that he was the more likely to know how to govern; and, indeed, had not he been wanting in fixed religious principle, there is no reason to question, that he would have been eminently high as a monarch. He appears to have possessed qualities both of head and heart, which, under the influence of piety, would have enabled him to sway the sceptre of Israel with honour to himself, and with advantage to the people. But it does not seem that he was ever the subject of a thorough moral change--ever renewed by God's grace, in the spirit of his mind. We are told, indeed, that after his first interview with Samuel, God“ gave
another heart," and that he was turned into another man; but we seem bound to conclude, from the subsequent history, that these expressions do not denote the spiritual renovation of Saul. Indeed though the expressions are emphatic, and mark some great alteration, they are not those by which the conversion of a sinner is ordinarily described in the Bible. There is indeed, considerable similarity between saying, “God gave him another heart," and “God gave him a new heart;" but whilst it is the “new heart,” which is characteristic of the complete change, we cannot necessarily conclude, that “ another heart” must also denote the renewal of our nature. We rather suppose, that when it is said, “God gave Saul another heart" the meaning is, that God endowed him with high courage and nobility of spirit, and filled him with sentiments becoming the station to which he was so suddenly called. There can be no doubt, that a wonderful change was produced in his views, abilities and inclinations, and that the Almighty, who had unexpectedly appointed him to so distinguished an office, qualified him for that distinguished office hy inspiring him with abilities suitable to possessing it. In this sense was Saul turned into another man ; so that, forgetting altogether his former employment, he fixed his mind on the duties of government, and found it expanding in those qualities, which befitted a general and a monarch. have no reason for supposing, that any other change ever passed on Saul, or that he became another man in the sense of being translated from spiritual darkness into spiritual light. In no part of his career does he give indications of genuine religion, though assuming occasionally the appearance of being solicitous for God's honour. The want of fixed religious principle, as we have already said, appears to have been the cause of his grievous misconduct. Had he been stable in godliness, bis obedience would have been uniform, and his throne therefore established.
For awhile Saul acted with equal prudence and courage, so that he won the hearts of his subjects, and overcame their enemies. But when he had held the kingly office between two and three years, his conduct changed, and henceforward, his decline, though gradual, was rapid. In taking the field against the Philistines, his natural impatience led him to transgress God's positive command. He had been directed to wait seven days, till Samuel should arrive and proceed to the offices of religion ; but ere the set time had expired, Saul refused to brook longer delay, and assuming to himself the functions of the priesthood, offered the burnt-offering and the peaceoffering. For this he was reproved by the prophet; but the reproof only produced excuses, which plainly showed that his heart was not right with God; that he was careful of nothing but the externals of religion. And though God wrought a great deliverance on his behalf, so that a multitude of the Philistines was discomfited by a few hundred of Israel, yet Saul learned not to obey, neither was he brought to trust in the Lord as his shield. He is commissioned to destroy Amalek, to “slay both men and women, infant and suckling, oxen and sheep, camel and ass ;” and he undertook with alacrity this expedition against a neighbouring state, for it accorded well with his warlike disposition; and God gave him success, so that he “smote the Amalekites from Havilah until thou comest to Shur, that is over against Egypt.” But his insincerity was manifest, and he did the work of the Lord deceitfully. He spared Agag, the king of Amalek, and the best of the sheep, and of the oxen, and of the fatlings, and of the lambs, and utterly destroyed only that which was refuse and waste. On this occasion it was, that God, speaking after the manner of men, declared that it repented him that he had set up Saul to be king, determining that the kingdom should be transferred to David. And though Saul retained the sovereignty for many
years, ample opportunity being offered to repent and obtain pardon of the Lord, his after history is but one sad record of grievous wickedness and suffering. Samuel came no more to see him, and thus was be deprived of the admonitions and counsel of the prophet; and an evil spirit from the Lord troubled him. God had done great things for Saul, raising him to the throne, and fitting him for the regal office; and Saul had wilfully disobeyed the Lord, and resisted the strivings of his spirit; and therefore, did the Lord at length, leave him to his own devices, withdrawing from him the warnings of his grace, and allowing Satan that dominion over him, which he had not acquired without God's permission.
And what could we expect, but what we find to have happened, -tbat Saul, thus forsaken and abandoned, settled down into a dark and fierce and melancholy man, afraid of himself, and the terror of his subjects ? Haunted by an evil spirit and goaded by his own conscience, he sought relief in music; and the melody which the son of Jesse swept from the harp, soothed, at times, the agitated monarch. Alas! he turned not to the Lord in his distress. Prayer might bave brought peace to his troubled mind; but like the multitude in every age, he strove to divert gloom by worldly contrivances; and soon was he made jealous of the minstrel, by whose skill his melancholy had been partially dispelled. The desire of destroying David became his ruling and ungovernable passion; and with the most inveterate malice did he hunt David from place to place, and though occasionally, when the object of his hatred had manifested a generous forbearance, refusing to avenge himself when bis adversary was actually in his power, something like remorse was felt and exhibited by Saul, and there were passing bursts of better and holier feelings, as though the Lord's Spirit again strove with him and gave bim yet further opportunity to repent; these were but pauses in the storm, and speedily did the evil spirit re-assume its ascendancy; and though at last he gave up the pursuit of David, perhaps more wearied by his ill success than ashamed of his wickedness, yet there were no indications of godly contrition, and, as the close of his life drew near, the history of the monarch became darker and darker.
The Philistines were gathered together against Israel; and Samuel was dead; and the nation lamented him, and buried him in his own city of Ramah. Everything conspired to harass Saul, and to fill him with the gloomiest forebodings. He consulted the Lord, indeed, but the Lord answered him not,“ neither by dreams nor by Urim, nor by prophets." What right had he to expect that the Lord would vouchsafe him a reply, seeing he had despised his admonitions, and slighted his servants, and was now only moved by the peril in which he stood, to the seeking counsel of his Maker? And yet we cannot doubt, that had he sought God with full purpose of heart, with real contrition and unfeigned humiliation, God, even then, would have heard his entreaty, and showed him favour in his hour of tribulation. But that there was no true repentance in Saul, is evidenced by the remainder of his history; and this accounts for what might otherwise seem at variance with the promise of God, which declares that those who seek shall find, and to them that knock it shall be opened. We know not that we have the right to think of any living man, that he lies beyond the reach of pardon; and we doubt not, therefore, that even in this his last extremity, had Saul approached God as a penitent, he would not have been rejected and left in his misery. But Saul's heart was untouched in the midst of all his alarms and disquietudes; he was the same fitful, vehement, and unprincipled man, now that he approached the end of his career, as he had been when sparing Agag or persecuting David. The Lord, therefore was not eatreated for Saul, simply because Saul sought him not;