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cannot charge any earthly thing with the Beth-shemesh was a city of priests and blame of their suffering, they will cast it | Levites. Kirjath-jearim a city of Judah, on heaven. That a man pleads himself | where we hear but of one Levite, Abinaguilty of his own wrong, is no common dab; yet this city was more zealous for work of God's Spirit. Beth-shemesh bor-| God, more reverent and conscionable in dered too near upon the Philistines. If the entertainment of the ark, than the these men thought the very presence of other. We heard of the taking down of the ark hurtful, why do they send to their the ark by the Beth-shemites, when it neighbours of Kirjath-jearim, that they came miraculously to them: we do not might make themselves miserable? Where hear of any man sanctified for the atten. there is a misconceit of God, it is no mar. dance of it, as was done in this second vel if there be a defect of charity. How lodging of the ark. Grace is not tied either cunningly do they send their message to to number or means. It is in spiritual their neighbours ! They do not say, the matters, as in an estate ; small helps with ark of God is come to us of its own ac- good thrift enrich us, when great patrimocord; lest the men of Kirjath-jearim should nies lose themselves in the neglect. Shi. reply, It is come to you ; let it stay with loh was wont to be the place which was you. They say only, the Philistines have honoured with the presence of the ark. brought it.' They tell of the presence of Ever since the wickedness of Eli's sons, that the ark; they do not tell of the success, lest was forlorn and desolate, and now Kirjaththe example of their judgment should have jearim succeeds into this privilege. It did discouraged the forwardness of their relief. not stand with the royal liberty of God, And, after all, the offer was plausible ; no, not under the law, to tie himself unto “ Come ye down, and take it up to you ;" places and persons. Unworthiness was ever as if the honour had been too great for a sufficient cause of exchange. It was not themselves; as if their modesty had been yet his time to stir from the Jews, yet he such, that they would not forestall and en removed from one province to another. gross happiness from the rest of Israel. Less reason have we to think, that so God
It is no boot to teach nature how to tell will reside amongst us, that none of our her own tale; smart and danger will make provocations can drive him from us. a man witty. He is rarely constant, that Israel, which had found the misery of will not dissemble for ease. It is good God's absence, is now resolved into tears to be suspicious of the evasions of those of contrition and thankfulness upon his which would put off misery. Those of return. There is no mention of their laBeth-shemesh were not more crafty than menting after the Lord while he was gone ; these of Kirjath-jearim (which was the but when he was returned, and settled in ground of their boldness) faithful. So Kirjath-jearim, the mercies of God draw many thousand Beth-shemites could not more tears from his children, than his judgbe dead, and no part of the rumour fly to ments do from his enemies. There is no them. They heard how thick not only better sign of good nature or grace, than the Philistines, but the bordering Israelites, to be won to repentance with kindness. fell down dead before the ark; yet they Not to think of God, except we be beaten durst adventure to come, and fetch it, even into it, is servile. Because God was come from amongst the carcases of their bre. | again to Israel, therefore Israel is returned thren. They had been formerly acquaint- to God: if God had not come first, they ed with the ark; they knew it was holy, had never come. If he, that came to them, it could not be changeable ; and therefore had not made them come to him, they had they well conceived this slaughter to arise been ever parted. They were cloyed with from the unholiness of men, not from the God, while he was perpetually resident rigour of God, and thereupon can seek with them: now that his absence had made comfort in that which others found dead- him dainty, they cleave to him fervently ly. God's children cannot, by any means, and penitently in his return. This was it be discouraged from their honour and love that God meant in his departure, a better to his ordinances. If they see thousands welcome at his coming back. struck down to hell by the sceptre of God's I heard no news of Samuel, all this while kingdom, yet they will kiss it upon their the ark was gone. Now when the ark is knees; and if their Saviour be a rock of returned and placed in Kirjath-jearim, I offence, and the occasion of the fall of mil- hear him treat with the people. It is not lions in Israel, they can feed temperately like he was silent in this sad desertion of of that whereof others have surfeited to God; but now he takes full advantage of death.
| the professed contrition of Israel, to deal with them effectually, for their perfect con. I have not now the grace of fearlessness, version unto God. It is great wisdom, in when they were reconciled to God. Boldspiritual matters, to take occasion by the ness and fear are commonly misplaced in forelock, and to strike while the iron is the best hearts: when we should tremble, hot. We may beat long enough at the door, | we are confident; and when we should be but till God have opened, it is no going assured, we tremble. Why should Israel in; and, when he hath opened, it is no de- have feared, since they had made their laying to enter. The trial of sincerity is peace with the God of hosts ? Nothing the abandoning of our wonted sins. This should affright those which are upright Samuel urgeth : “ If ye be come again unto with God. The peace which Israel had the Lord with all your heart, put away the made with God was true, but tender. They strange gods from among you, and Ashta- durst not trust their own innocency, so roth." In vain had it been to profess re- much as the prayers of Samuel : “ Cease pentance, whilst they continued in idolatry. not to cry to the Lord our God for us." In God will never acknowledge any convert temporal things, nothing hinders but we that stays in a known sin. Graces and vir may fare better for other men's faith than tues are so linked together, that he which for our own. It is no small happiness to hath one, hath all. The partial conversion be interested in them which are favourites of men unto God is but hateful hypocrisy. in the court of heaven. One faithful man, How happily effectual is a word spoken in in these occasions, is more worth than season! Samuel's exhortation wrought upon millions of the wavering and uncertain. the hearts of Israel, and fetched water out! A good heart is easily won to devotion. of their eyes, suits and confessions and Samuel cries, and sacrificeth to God: he Vows out of their lips, and their false gods had done so, though they had entreated his out of their hands; yet it was not merely silence, yea, his forbearance. While he is remorse, but fear also, that moved Israel to offering, the Philistines fight with Israel, this humble submission.
and God fights with the Philistines : “ The The Philistines stood over them still, and Lord thundered with a great thunder that threatened them with new assaults; the day, upon the Philistines, and scattered memory of their late slaughter and spoil them.” Samuel fought more upon bis was yet fresh in their minds; sorrow for knees, than all Israel besides. The voice the evils past, and fear of the future, fetched of God answered the voice of Samuel, and them down upon their knees. It is not speaks confusion and death to the Philismore necessary for men to be cheered with tines. How were the proud Philistines hopes, than to be awed with dangers. dead with fear ere they died, to hear the Where God intends the humiliation of his fearful thunder-claps of an angry God servants, there shall not want means of against them! to see that heaven itself their dejection. It was happy for Israel that fought against them! He that slew them they had an enemy. Is it possible that the secretly, in the revenges of his ark, now Philistines, after those deadly plagues which kills them with open horror in the fields. they had sustained from the God of Israel, If presumption did not make wicked men should think of invading Israel? Those that mad, they would never lift their hand were so mated with the presence of the ark, against the Almighty : what are they in his that they never thought themselves safe till hands, when he is disposed to vengeance it was out of sight, do they now dare to thrust themselves upon the new revenge of the ark? It slew them while they thought CONTEMPLATION IV. THE MEETING ON to honour it; and do they think to escape
SAUL AND SAMUEL. whilst they resist it? It slew them in their own coasts; and do they come to it to seek | SAMUEL began his acquaintance with God death? Yet, behold, no sooner do the Phi- | early, and continued it long. He began it listines hear that the Israelites are gathered in his long coats, and continued to his grey to Mizpeh, but the princes of the Philis- hairs. He judged Israel all the days of his tines gather themselves against them. No | life. God doth not use to put off his old warnings will serve obdurate hearts: wick- servants; their age endeareth them to him ed men are even ambitious of destruction. the more: if we be not unfaithful to him, Judgments need not go to find them out; he cannot be unconstant to us. At last, they run to meet their bane.
his decayed age met with ill partners; his The Philistines come up, and the Israel- sons for deputies, and Saul for a king. ites fear ; they that had not the wit to fear, The wickedness of his sons gave the ocwhilst they were not friends with God, casion of a change. Perhaps Israel had never thought of a king, if Samuel's sons i people ; as yet, kings were not: after that had not been unlike their father. Who can kings were settled, to desire the government promise himself holy children, when the of judges had been a much more seditious loins of a Samuel, and the education in the inconstancy. God hath not appointed, to temple, yielded monsters? It is not likely every time and place, such forms which are that good Samuel was faulty in that in- simply best in themselves, but those which dulgence, for which his own mouth had are best to them unto whom they are apdenounced God's judgn:ent against Eli: yet pointed; which we may neither alter till he this holy man succeeds Eli in his cross, as begin, nor recall when he hath altered. well as his place, though not in his sin, This business seemed personally to con. and is afflicted with a wicked succession. cern Samuel ; yet he so deals in it, not as a God will let us find, that grace is by gift, party, not as a judge in his own case, but not by inheritance.
as a prophet of God, as a friend of his I fear Samuel was too partial to nature opposite. He prays to God for advice; he in the surrogation of his sons: I do not foretells the state and courses of their future hear of God's allowance to this act; if this king. Wilful men are blind to all dangers ; had been God's choice, as well as his, it are deaf to all good counsels. Israel must had been like to have received more bless-have a king, though they pay never so dear ing. Now all Israel had cause to rue, that for their longing. The vain affectation of these were the sons of Samuel : for now conformity to other nations overcomes all the question was not of their virtues, but discouragements. There is no readier way of their blood; not of their worthiness, but to error, than to make others' examples their birth. Even the best heart may be the rule of our desires or actions. If every blinded with affection. Who can marvel man have not grounds of his own, whereon at these errors of parents' love, when he, to stand, there can be no stability in his rethat so holily judged Israel all his life, mis- solutions or proceedings. judged of his own sons!
Since, then, they choose to have a king, It was God's ancient purpose to raise up God himself will choose and appoint the a king to his people. How doth he take king which they shall have. The kingdom occasion to perform it, but by the unruly shall begin in Benjamin, which was to endesires of Israel: even as we say of hu- dure in Judah. It was no probability or man proceedings, that ill manners beget reason this first king should prove well, good laws. That monarchy is the best because he was abortive: their humour of form of government, there is no question : | innovation deserved to be punished with good things may be ill desired; so was this their own choice. Kish, the father of Saul, of Israel. If an itching desire of alteration was mighty in estate ; Saul was mighty in had not possessed them, why did they not person, overlooking the rest of the people rather sue for a reformation of their go- in stature, no less than he should do in vernors, than for a change of government ? dignity. The senses of the Israelites could Were Samuel's sons so desperately evil, not but be well pleased for the time, howthat there was no possibility of amendment? | soever their hearts were afterwards. When or, if they were past hope, were there not men are carried with outward shows, it is a some others to have succeeded the justice sign that God means them a delusion. of Samuel, no less than these did his per-| How far God fetches his purposes about! son? What needed Samuel to be thrust | The asses of Kish, Saul's father, are strayed out of place? What needed the ancient away: what is that to the news of a kingform of administration to be altered ? He, dom? God lays these small accidents for that raised them up judges, would have the ground of greater designs. The asses found time to raise them up kings. Their must be lost; none but Saul must go with curious and inconstant newfangledness will his father's servant to seek them: Samuel not abide to stay it, but with an heady im- shall meet them in the search ; Saul shall portunity labours to over-hasten the pace be premonished of his ensuing royalty. of God. Where there is a settled course Little can we, by the beginning of any of good government, howsoever blemished action, guess at God's intention in the conwith some weaknesses, it is not safe to be clusion. over-forward to a change, though it should Obedience was a fit entrance into sove. be to the better. He, by whom kings reignty. The service was homely for the reign, says, they have cast him away, that son of a great man; yet he refuseth not to ne should not reign over them, because go, as a fellow to his father's servant, upon they desire a king to reign over them. so mean a search. The disobedient and Judges were his own institution to his scornful are good for nothing; they are neither fit to be subjects nor governors. I to his ministers under the gospel. St Paul's Kish was a great man in his country, yet suit is both universal and everlasting: “I he disdained not to send his son Saul upon beseech you, brethren, know them that a thrifty errand; neither doth Saul plead labour amongst you." his disparagement for a refusal. Pride and / The chief praise is to be able to give wantonness have marred our times. Great good advice; the next is, to take it. Saul parents count it a disreputation to employ is easily induced to condescend. He, whose their sons in courses of frugality; and their curiosity led him voluntarily at last to the pampered children think it a shame to do witch of Endor, is now led at first, by good any thing, and so bear themselves as those counsel, to the man of God: neither is his that hold it the only glory to be either idle care in going, less commendable than his or wicked.
will to go. For, as a man that had been Neither doth Saul go fashionably to catechized not to go unto God emptywork, but does this service heartily and handed, he asks, “ What shall we bring painfully, as a man that desires rather to | unto the man? what have we?" The case effect the command, than please the com- is well altered in our times. Every man mander. He passed from Ephraim to the thinks, what may I keep back? There is land of Shalisha, from Shalisha to Salim, no gain so sweet, as of a robbed altar; yet from Salim to Jemini, whence his house God's charge is no less under the gospel : came, from Jemini to Zuph; not so much “ Let him that is taught, make his teacher as staying with any of his kindred so long partaker of all.” As this faithful care of as to victual himself. He, that was after-Saul was a just presage of success, more ward an ill king, approved himself a good than he looked for, or could expect; so the son. As there is diversity of relations and sacrilegious unthankfulness of many, bodes offices, so there is of dispositions: those that ruin to their soul and estate, which which are excellent in some, attain not to they could not have grace to fear. a mediocrity in others. It is no arguing He that knew the prophet's abode, from private virtues to public; from dex- | knew also the honour of his place; he terity in one station, to the rest. A several could not but know that Samuel was a mixt grace belongs to the particular carriage of person, the judge of Israel and the seer: every place whereto we are called, which, yet both Saul and his servant purpose to if we want, the place may well want us present him with the fourth part of a shekel,
There was more praise of his obedience to the value of about our fivepence. They in ceasing to seek, than in seeking. He had learned, that thankfulness was not to takes care, lest his father should take for be measured of good men, by the weight, him, that, whilst he should seem officious but by the will of the retributor. How in the less, he might not neglect the great- much more will God accept the small of. est. A blind obedience, in some cases, ferings of his weak servants, when he sees doth well; but it doth far better, when it them proceed from great love! is led with the eyes of discretion ; other | The very maids of the city can give di. wise, we may more offend in pleasing, than rection to the prophet: they had listened in disobeying.
after the holy affairs; they had heard of Great is the benefit of a wise and religious the sacrifice, and could tell of the necessity attendant; such a one puts us into those of Samuel's presence. Those that live duties and actions which are most expe- within the sunshine of religion, cannot but dient, and least thought of. If Saul had be somewhat coloured with those beams. not had a discreet servant, he had returned Where there is practice and example of but as wise as he came; now he is drawn piety in the better sort, there will be a re. in to consult with the man of God, and Alection of it upon the meanest. It is no hears more than he hoped for. Saul was small benefit to live in religious and holy now a sufficient journey from his father's places. We shall be much to blame, if ail house; yet his religious servant, in this goodness fall beside us. Yea, so skilful remoteness, takes knowledge of the place were these damsels in the fashions of their where the prophet dwells: and how honour- public sacrifices, that they could instruct ably doth he mention him to his master! Saul and his servant unasked, how the “ Behold, in this city is a man of God, and people would not eat, till Samuel came to he is an honourable man; all that he saith bless the sacrifice. This meeting was not cometh to pass.” God's prophets are public more a sacrifice, than it was a feast. These persons; as their function, so their notice two agree well. We have never so inuch concerns every man. There is no reason cause to rejoice in feasting, as when we God should abate any of the respect due have duly served our God. The sacrifice was a feast to God, the other to men. The i think to do our own wills, we do his. Our body may eat and drink with contentment, own intentions we may know; God's purwhen the soul hath been first fed, and hath poses we know not: we must go the way first feasted the Maker of both: “ Go, eat that we are called, let him lead us to what thy bread with joy, and drink thy drink end he pleaseth. It is our duty to resign with a merry heart; for God now accept ourselves and our ways to the dispositior eth thy works." The sacrifice was before of God, and patiently and thankfully to consecrated, when it was offered to God; wait the issue of his decrees. The same but it was not consecrated to them, till God, that fore-showed Saul lo Samuel, Samuel blessed it: his blessing made that now points to him: “See, this is the man," meat holy to the guests, which was for- and commands the prophet to anoint him merly hallowed to God. All creatures governor over Israel. He, that told of Saul were made good, and took holiness from before he came, knew before he came into him which gave them their being. Our the world, what a man, what a king, he sin brought that curse upon them, which, would be ; yet he chooseth him out and unless our prayers remove it, cleaves to enjoins his inunction. It is one of the them still, so as we receive them not with. | greatest praises of God's wisdom, that he out a curse. We are not our own friends, can turn the evil of men to his own glory. except our prayers help to take that away Advancement is not ever a sign of love, which our sin hath brought, that so to the either to the man or to the place. It had clean all may be clean. It is an unmannerly been better for Saul, that his head had been godlessness to take God's creatures withi ever dry. Some God raiseth up in judgout the leave of their Maker; and well may ment, that they may fall the more uneasily; God withhold his blessing from them which there are no men so miserable as those that have not the grace to ask it.
are great and evil. Those guests, which were so religious 1. It seems that Samuel bore no great port that they would not eat their sacrifice un- in his outside, for that Saul, not discerning blessed, might have blessed it themselves. | him either by his habit or attendants, comes Every man might pray, though every man to him, and asks him for the seer : yet was might not sacrifice; yet would they not Samuel as yet the judge of Israel ; the subeither eat, or bless, while they looked for stitution of his sons had not displaced himthe presence of a prophet. Every Christian self. There is an affable familiarity that bemay sanctify his own meat; but, where cometh greatness. It is not good for eminent those are present that are peculiarly sanc persons to stand always upon the height of tified to God, this service is fittest for them. their state; but so to behave themselves, that It is commendable to teach children the as their sociable carriage may not breed conpractice of thanksgiving, but the best is tempt, so their over-bighness may not breed ever most meet to bless our tables, and a servile fearfulness in their people. those especially whose office it is to offer How kindly doth Samuel entertain and our prayers to God,
invite Saul: yet it was he only that should Little did Saul think, that his coming and receive wrong by the future royalty of Saul! his errand were so noted of God, as that it Who would not have looked, that aged was fore-signified unto the prophet; and Samuel should have emulated rather the now, behold, Samuel is told a day before, glory of his young rival, and have looked of the man, the time, and the place of his churlishly upon the man that should rob meeting. The eye of God's providence is him of his authority? Yet now, as if he no less over all our actions, all our motions. | came on purpose to gratify him, he bids We cannot go any whither without him ; him to the feast, he honours him with the he tells all our steps. Since it pleaseth chief seat, he reserves a select morsel for God, therefore, to take notice of us, much him, he tells him ingenuously the news of more should we take notice of him, and his ensuing sovereignty : “ On whom is set walk with him, in whom we move. Saul the desire of all Israel? is it not upon thee, came, besides his expectation, to the pro and thy father's house?" Wise and holy phet: he had no thought of any such pur men, as they are not ambitious of their own pose, till his servant made this sudden mo- burden, so they are not unwilling to be tion unto him of visiting Samuel ; and yet eased, when God pleaseth to discharge God says to his prophet, “ I will send thee them ; neither can they envy those whom a man out of the land of Benjamin.” The God lifteth above their heads. They make overruling hand of the Almighty works us an idol of honour, that are troubled with insensibly, and all our affairs, to his own their own freedom, or grudge at the prosecret determinations ; so aș, while we motion of others.