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fearsul Israelites shall cut the throats of and still he looks long for Samuel, which these confident Philistines. Doubt and had promised his presence : six days he resolution are not measures of our success: expects, and part of the seventh; yet Saa presumptuous confidence goes commonly muel is not come. The Philistines draw bleeding home, when an humble fear re- near; the Israelites run away; Samuel turns in triumph. Fear drives those Israel. comes not; they must fight; God must be ites which dare show their heads out of supplicated: what should Saul do ? Rathe caves unto Saul, and makes them cling ther than God should want a sacrifice, and unto their new king. How troublesome the people satisfaction, Saul will command were the beginnings of Saul's honour! that which he knew Samuel would, if he Surely, if that man had not exceeded Israel | were present, both command and execute. no less in courage than in stature, he had It is not possible, thinks he, that God now hid himself in a cave, who before should be displeased with a sacrifice: he hid himself in the stuff. But now, though | cannot but be displeased with indevotion. the Israelites ran away from him, yet he | Why do the people run from me, but for ran not away from them. It was not any want of means to make God sure? What doubt of Saul's valour that put his people would Samuel rather wish, than that we to their heels; it was the absence of Sa- should be godly? The act shall be the muel. If the prophet had come up, Israel same; the only difference shall ve in the would never have run away from their person. If Samuel be wanting to us, we king. While they had a Samuel alone, / will not be wanting to God; it is but an they were never well till they had a Saul; holy prevention to be devout unbidden. now they have a Saul, they are as far from Upon this conceit he commands a sacrifice. contentment, because they want a Samuel: | Saul's sins make no great show, yet are unless both joined together, they think they still heinously taken; the impiety of there can be no safety. Where the tempo- them was more hidden and inward from all ral and spiritual state combine not together, eyes but God's. If Saul were among the there can follow nothing but distraction in prophets before, will he now be among the the people. The prophets receive and de- priests? Can there be any devotion in dis. liver the will of God; kings execute it. obedience! O vain man! what can it avail The prophets are directed by God; the thee to sacrifice to God against God? Hypeople are directed by their kings. Where pocrites rest only in formalities; if the outmen do not see God in his ordinances, ward act be done, it sufficeth them, though their hearts cannot but fail them, both in the ground be distrust, the manner unre. their respects to their superiors, and their verence, the carriage presumption. courage in themselves. Piety is the mother | What, then, should Saul have done? of perfect subjection. As all authority is Upon the trust of God and Samuel, he derived from heaven, so it is thence estab- should have staid out the last hour, and lished. Those governors that would com have secretly sacrificed himself and his mand the hearts of men, must show them prayers unto that God which loves obeGod in their faces.
dience above sacrifice, Our faith is most No Israelite can think himself safe with commendable in the last act: it is no praise out a prophet Saul had given them good to hold out until we be hard driven. Then, proof of his fortitude, in his late victory when we are forsaken of means, to live by over the Ammonites; but then proclam is faith in our God, is worthy of a crown. tion was made before the fight, through all God will have no worship of our devising: the country, that every man should come we may only do what he bids us, not bid up after Saul and Samuel. If Samuel had what he commands not. Never did any true not been with Saul, they would rather have piety arise out of the corrupt puddle of ventured the loss of their oxen, than the man's brain : if it flow not from heaven, it hazard of themselves. How much less is odious to heaven. What was it that did should we presume of any safety in our | thus taint the valour of Saul with this spiritual combats, when we have not a weakness, but distrust? He saw some Isprophet to lead us! It is all one, saving raelites go; he thought all would go : he that it savours of more contempt, not to saw the Philistines come; he saw Samuel have God's seers, and not to use them. | came not : his diffidence was guilty of his He can be no true Israelite, that is not misdevotion. There is no sin that hath distressed with the want of a Samuel. not its ground from unbelief; this, as it was
As one that had learned to begin his the first infection of our pure nature, so is rule in obedience, Saul stays seven days in it the true source of all corruption : man Gilgal, according to the prophet's direction; could not sin if he distrusted not.
The sacrifice is no sooner ended, than, but discouragements from his father's fear; Samuel is come. And why came he no as rather choosing therefore to avoid all the sooner? He could not be a seer, and not blocks that might lie in the way, than to know how much he was looked for; how leap over them, he departs secretly, without troublesome and dangerous his absence the dismission of his father, or notice of the must needs be: he that could tell Saul that people; only God leads him, and his armour. he should prophesy, could tell him that he | bearer follows him. O admirable faith of would sacrifice; yet he purposely forbears Jonathan, whom neither the steepness of to come, for the trial of him that must be rocks, nor the multitude of enemies, can the champion of God. Samuel durst not dissuade from so unlikely an assault! Is it have done thus, but by direction from his possible, that two men, whereof one was Master. It is the ordinary course of God weaponless, should dare to think of ento prove us by delays, and to drive to exi-countering so many thousands ? O divine gents, that we may show what we are. He power of faith, that in all difficulties and that anointed Saul, might lawfully from God attempts makes a man more than men, control him. There must be discretion, and regards no more armies of men than there may not be partiality, in our censures swarms of fies! There is no restraint to the of the greatest. God makes difference of Lord, saith he, to save with many, or by sins, none of persons. If we make dif- few. It was not so great news that Saul ference of sins according to persons, we are should be amongst the prophets, as that unfaithful both to God and man. Scarce such a word should come from the son of is Saul warm in his kingdom, when he hath Saul. even lost it. Samuel's first words, after the If his father had but so much divinity, inauguration, are of Saul's rejection, and he had not sacrificed. The strength of his the choice and establishment of his succes. God is the ground of his strength in God. sor. It was ever God's purpose to settle The question is not, what Jonathan can do, the kingdom in Judah. He, that took oc- but what God can do, whose power is not casion by the people's sin to raise up Saul | in the means, but in himself. That man's in Benjamin, takes occasion by Saul's sin faith is well underlaid, that upholds itself to establish the crown upon David. In hu- by the omnipotency of God. Thus the man probability the kingdom was fixed upon father of the faithful built his assurance Saul and his more worthy son. In God's upon the power of the Almighty. But decree it did but pass through the hands of many things God can do, which he will not Benjamin to Judah. Besides trouble, how do. How knowest thou, Jonathan, that fickle are these earthly glories! Saul doubt. God will be as forward, as he is able, to less looked upon Jonathan as the inheritor give thee victory? For this, saith he, I have of his crown; and behold, ere his peace- a watch-word from God out of the mouths able possession, he hath lost it from him of the Philistines : “ If they say, Come up, self. Our sins strip us not of our hopes in we will go up: for God hath delivered heaven only, but of our earthly blessings. | them into our hands. If they say, Tarry The way to entail a comfortable prosperity till we come to you, we will stand still." upon our seed after us, is our conscionable Jonathan was too wise to trust unto a obedience to God.
casual presage. There might be some farfetched conjectures of the event from the
word. We will come to you, was a threat CONTEMPLATION VIII. — JONATHAN's of resolution : Come you to us, was a VICTORY AND SAUL'S OATH.
challenge of fear; or, perhaps, Come up
to us, was a word of insultation from them It is no wonder if Saul's courage was that trusted to the inaccessibleness of the much cooled with the heavy news of his place, and multitudes of men. Insultarejection. After this he stays under the tion is from pride; pride argued a fall : but pomegranate-tree in Gibeah: he stirs not faith hath nothing to do with probabilities, towards the garrison of the Philistines. As as that which acknowledgeth no argument hope is the mother of fortitude, so nothing but demonstration. If there had not been doth more breed cowardliness than despair. an instinct from God of this assured warrant Every thing dismays that heart which God of success, Jonathan had presumed instead nath put out of protection. Worthy Jona- of believing, and had tempted that God than, which sprung from Saul, as some whom he professed to glorify by his trust. sweet imp grows out of a crab-stock, is There can be no faith where there is no therefore full of valour, because full of faith. promise ; and where there is a promise, He well knew, that he should have nothing there can be no presumption. Words are
voluntary; the tongues of the Philistines | Jonathan smote their garrison in the bill of were as free to say, Tarry, as Come. That Geba: perhaps from that time his name God, in whorn our very tongues move, and presence carried terror in it; but sure, overruled them so, as now they shall speak if the Philistines had not seen and felt more that word which will cut their own throats. than a man in the face and hands of JonaThey knew no more harm in Come, than than, they had not so easily grovelled in Tarry; both were alike safe for the sound, death. The blows and shrieks cannot but for the sense: but he that put a significa- affect the next, who, with a ghastly noise, tion of their slaughter in the one, not in run away from death, and affright their the other. did put that word into their fellows no less than themselves are affrightmouths, whereby they might invite their ed. The clamour and fear run on, like own destruction. The disposition of our fire in a train, to the very foremost ranks : words is from the providence of the Al- every man would fly, and thinks there is mighty. God and our hearts have not al- so much more cause of flight, for that his ways the same meaning in our speeches. ears apprehend all, his eyes nothing. Each In those words which we speak at random, man thinks his fellow stands in his way: or out of affectation, God hath a further | and therefore, instead of turning upon him drift of his own glory, and perhaps our which was the cause of their flight, they judgment. If wicked men say, Our tongues bend their swords upon those whom they are our own, they could not say so but imagine to be the hinderers of their flight: from Him whom they defy in saying so, and now a miraculous astonishment hath and who makes their tongue their execu made the Philistines Jonathan's champions
and executioners. He follows and kills No sooner doth Jonathan hear this in- those which helped to kill others; and the vitation, than he answers it. He, whose more he killed, the more they feared and hands had learned never to fail his heart, fed, and the more they killed each other puts himself upon his hands and knees to in the flight: and, that fear itself might climb up into this danger: the exploit was prevent Jonathan in killing them, the earth not more difficult than the way; the pain itself trembles under them. Thus doti. of the passage was equal to the peril of God at once strike them with his own the enterprise, that his faith might equally hand, with Jonathan's, with theirs, and triumph over both. He doth not say, How makes them run away from life, while they shall I get up? much less, Which way would fly from an enemy. Where the Al. shall I get down again ? But, as if the mighty purposes destruction to any people, ground were level, and the action danger- he needs not call in foreign powers; he less, he puts himself into the view of the needs not any hands or weapons but their Philistines. Faith is never so glorious, as own; he can make vast bodies die by no when it hath most opposition, and will not other death than their own weight. We see it. Reason looks ever to the means, cannot be sure to be friends among cur. faith to the end ; and, instead of consult selves, while God is our enemy ing how to effect, resolves what shall be ef- | The Philistines fly fast, but the news of fected. The way to heaven is more steep, their fight overruns them, even unto Saul's more painful. O God, how perilous a pas- pomegranate-tree. The watchmen discern sage hast thou appointed for thy labouring afar off a flight and execution. Search is pilgrims! If difficulties will discourage us, made; Jonathan is found missing : Saul will we shall but climb to fall. When we are consult with the ark. Hypocrites, while lifting up our foot to the last step, there they have leisure, will perhaps be holy; are the Philistines of death, of temptations, | for some fits of devotion they cannot be to grapple with. Give us but faith, and | bettered. But when the tumult increased, turn us loose to the spite either of earth or Saul's piety decreases. It is now no seahell.
son to talk with a priest: withdraw thine Jonathan is now on the top of the hill; hand, Ahaiah; the ephod must give place and now, as if he had an army at his heels, to arms; it is more time to fight, than he flies upon the host of the Philistines : to pray: what needs hie God's guidance, his hands, that might have been weary with when he sees his way before him? He, climbing, are immediately commanded to that before would needs sacrifice ere he fight, and deal as many death-blows to the fought, will now, in the other extreme, amazed enemy. He needs not walk far for fight in a wilful indevotion. Worldly minds this execution; himself and his armour-regard holy duties no further than may bearer, in one half acre's space, have slain stand with their own carnal purposes: very twenty Philistines. It is not long since easy occasions shall interrupt them in their
religious intentions ; like unto children, I spear : full well had he deserved this un. which, if a bird do but fly in their way, cast sought dainty. And now, behold, his their eye from their book.
honey is turned into gall : if it were sweet But if Saul serve not God in one kind, in the mouth, it was bitter in the soul; if he will serve him in another; if he honour the eyes of his body were enlightened, the him not by attending on the ark, he will light of God's countenance was clouded by honour him by a vow: his negligence in this act. After he heard of the oath, he the one is recompensed with his zeal in the pleads justly against it, the loss of so fair other. All Israel is adjured not to eat any an opportunity of revenge, and the trouble food until the evening. Hypocrisy is ever of Israel; yet neither his reasons against masked with a blind and thankless zeal. the oath, nor his ignorance of the oath,
To wait upon the ark, and to consult with can excuse him froin a sin of ignorance in God's priest, in all cases of importance, violating that which first he knew not, and was a direct commandment of God; to eat then knew unreasonable. Now, Saul's lerno food in the pursuit of their enemies, sure would serve him to ask counsel of was not commanded: Saul leaves that God : as before Saul would not inquire, so which he was bidden, and does that which now God will not answer. Well might he was not required. To eat no food all Saul have found sins enough of his own, day was more difficult than to attend an whereto to impute this silence. He hath hour upon the ark : the voluntary services grace enough to know that God was offendof hypocrites are many times more painful ed, and to guess at the cause of his offence. than the duties enjoined by God.
Sooner will a hypocrite find out another In what awe did all Israel stand of the man's sin than his own; and now he swears oath, even of Saul! It was not their own more rasbiy to punish with death the breach vow, but Saul's for them; yet, coming in- of that which he had sworn rashly. The to the wood, where they saw the honey | lots were cast, and Saul prays for the deci. dropping, and found the meat as ready as sion: Jonathan is taken. Even the prayers their appetite, they dare not touch that of wicked men are sometimes heard, alsustenance, and will rather endure famine though in justice, not in mercy. Saul himand fainting, than an indiscreet curse. self was punished not a little in the fall of Doubtless, God had brought those bees this lot upon Jonathan. Surely Saul sinned thither, on purpose to try the constancy of more in making this vow, than Jonathan Israel. Israel could not but think that in breaking it unwittingly; and now the which Jonathan said, that the vow was un- father smarts for the rashness of his double advised and injurious; yet they will rather vow, by the unjust sentence of death upon die than violate it. How sacred should we so worthy a son. God had never singled hold the obligation of our own vows, in | out Jonathan by his lot, if he had not been things just and expedient, when the bond displeased with his act. Vows rashly made, of another's rash vow is thus indissoluble! may not be rashly broken. If the thing we
There was a double mischief followed have vowed be not evil in itself, or in the upon Saul's oath-an abatement of the effect, we cannot violate it without evil. victory, and eating with the blood : for, on Ignorance cannot acquit, if it can abate our the one side, the people were so faint, that sin. It is like, if Jonathan had heard his they were more likely to die than kill; they father's adjuration, he had not transgressed; could neither run nor strike in this empti. his absence at the time of that oath can. ness; neither hands nor feet can do their not excuse him from displeasure. What office, when the stomach is neglected. On shall become of those, which may know the other, an unmeet forbearance causes the charge of their heavenly Father, and a ravenous repast. Hunger knows neither will not ? which do know his charge, and choice, nor order, nor measure: the one will not keep it? Affectation of ignorance, of these was a wrong to Israel: the other and willing disobedience, are desperate. was a wrong done by Israel to God; Saul's Death was too hard a censure for such zeal was guilty of both. A rash vow is an unknown offence. The cruel piety of seldom ever free from inconvenience. The Saul will revenge the breach of his own heart that hath unnecessarily entangled it. charge, so as he would be loath God should self, draws mischief either upon itself or avenge on himself the breach of his divine others.
command. If Jonathan had not found Jonathan was ignorant of his father's ad- better friends than his father, so noble a juration ; he knew no reason why he should victory had been recompensed with death. not refresh himself, in so profitable a ser- | He, that saved Israel from the Philistines, vice, with a little taste of honey upon his is saved by Israel from the hand of his
father. Saul hath sworn Jonathan's death ; | last, one sin, which perhaps we make no the people, contrarily, swear his preserva- account of, shall pay for all. tion : his kingdom was not so absolute, The paganish idolatries of the Amalekites that he could run away with so unmerciful could not but be greater sins to God, than a justice ; their oath, that savoured of dis- their hard measure to Israel; yet God sets obedience, prevailed against his oath, that this upon the file, while the rest are not savoured too strong of cruelty. Neither recorded : their superstitions might be of doubt I but Saul was secretly not displeased ignorance ; this sin was of malice. Maliwith this loving resistance; so long as his | cious wickednesses, of all others, as they heart was not false to his oath, he could not are in greatest opposition to the goodness be sorry that Jonathan should live.
and mercy of God, shall be sure of the pay. ment of greatest vengeance. The detestation of God may be measured by his revenge:
“ Slay both man and woman, both infant BOOK XIII.
and suckling, both ox and sheep, camel
and ass :" not themselves only, but every CONTEMPLATION 1. — SAUL AND AGAG. thing that drew life, either from them, or
for their use, must die. When the God of God holds it no derogation from his mercy mercy speaks such bloody words, the pro. to bear a quarrel long, where he hates. vocation must needs be vehement. Sins He, whose anger to the vessels of wrath | of infirmity do but mutter; spiteful sins cry is everlasting, even in temporal judgment loud for judgment in the ears of God. Prerevengeth late. The sins of his own child. | pensed malice, in courts of human justice, ren are no sooner done, and repented of, aggravates the murder, and sharpens the than forgotten ; but the malicious sins of sentence of death. his enemies stick fast in an infinite displea. What, then, was this sin of Amalek, that sure. “ I remember what Amalek did to is called unto this late reckoning? what, Israel, how they laid wait for them by the but their envious and unprovoked onsets way, as they came up from Egypt.” Alas, upon the back of Israel : this was it that Lord! (might Amalek say) they were our God took so to heart, as that he not only forefathers; we never knew their faces, no, remembers it now by Samuel, but he bids nor their names; the fact was so far from | Israel ever to remember it, by Moses : our consent, that it is almost past the “Remember how Amalek met thee by the memory of our histories. It is not in the way, and smote the hindmost of you, all power of time to raze out any of the arrear that were feeble behind thee, when thou ages of God. We may lay up wrath for wast faint and weary.” Besides this, did our posterity. Happy is that child whose | Amalek meet Israel in a pitched battle progenitors are in heaven; he is left an openly, in Rephidim; for that God paid inheritor of blessing, together with estate : them in the present. The hand of Moses, whereas wicked ancestors lose the thank lifted up on the hill, slew them in the valof a rich patrimony, by the curse that at- | ley. He therefore repeats not that quartends it. He that thinks, because punish. rel; but the cowardly and cruel attempts ment is deferred, that God hath forgiven upon an impotent enemy, stick still in the or forgot his offence, is unacquainted with stomach of the Almighty. Oppression and justice, and knows not that time makes no wrong, upon even terms, are not so heinous difference in eternity.
unto God, as those that are upon manifest The Amalekites were wicked idolaters, disadvantage : in the one, there is a hazard and therefore could not want many pre- of return; in the other, there is ever a sent sins, which deserved their extirpation. tyrannous insultation. God takes still the That God, which had taken notice of all weaker part, and will be sure therefore to their offences, picks out this one noted sin plague them which seek to put injuries on of their forefathers for revenge : amongst the unable to resist. all their indignities, this shall bear the name This sin of Amalek slept all the time of of their judgment; as in legal proceedings the judges : those governors were only fou with malefactors, one indictment found rescue and defence; now, so soon as Israel gives the style of their condemnation. In hath a king, and that king is settled in peace, the lives of those which are notoriously God gives charge to call them to account: wicked, God cannot look beside a sin ; | it was that which God had both threatened yet when he draws to an execution, he and sworn, and now he chooses out a fit fastens his sentence upon one evil, as prin- season for the execution. As we use to cipal, others as accessories, so as, at the say of winter, the judgments of God do