« FöregåendeFortsätt »
vour of his servant, and is denied. Such an | they had not been more beholden to Saul's awfulness hath God placed in sovereignty, sins than their gods, they had never car. that no entreaty, no extremity, can move the ried away the honour of those trophies; hand against it. What metal are those men instead of magnifying the justice of the true made of, that can suggest or resolve, and God, who punished Saul with deserved attempt the violation of majesty? Wicked | death, they magnify the power of the false. men care more for the shame of the world Superstition is extremely injurious to God: than the danger of their souls. Desperate it is no better than theft to ascribe unto the Saul will now supply his armour-bearer ; second causes, triat honour which is due and as a man that bore arms against him. unto the first; but to give God's glory to self, he falls upon bis own sword. What those things which neither act, nor are, it if he had died by the weapon of a Phili | is the highest degree of spiritual robbery. stine ? so did his son Jonathan, and lost no | Saul was none of the best kings ; yet so glory: these conceits of disreputation pre- impatient are his subjects of the indignity vail with carnal hearts above all spiritual offered to his dead corpse, that they will respects. There is no greater murderer than rather leave their own bones amongst the vain-glory. Nothing more argues a heart Philistines, than the carcase of Saul. Such void of grace, than to be transported by a close relation there is betwixt a prince idle popularity into actions prejudicial to and subject, that the dishonour of either is the soul.
inseparable from both. How willing should Evil examples, especially of the great, we be to hazard our bodies or substance for never escape imitation : the armour-bearer the vindication ei her of the person or name of Saul follows his master, and dares do that of a good king, while he lives to the beneto himself which to his king he durst not; | fit of our protection! It is an unjust ingra. as if their own swords had been more fa. titude in those men which can endure the miliar executioners, they yielded unto them disgrace of them under whose shelter they what they grudged to their pursuers. From live; but how unnatural is the villany of the beginning was Saul ever his own ene. | those miscreants that can be content to be my; neither did any hands hurt him but actors in the capital wrongs offered to so. his own: and now his death is suitable to vereign authority! his life ; his own hand pays him the re- It were a wonder, if, after the death of a ward of all his wickedness. The end of prince, there should want some pickthank hypocrites and envious men is commonly to insinuate himself into his successor. An fearful. Now is the blood of God's priests, | Amalekite young man rides post to Ziklag which Saul shed, and of David, which he to find out David, whom even common ru. would have shed, required and requited. mour had notified for the anointed heir to The evil spirit had said, the evening before, the kingdom of Israel, to be the first mes. “ To morrow thou shalt be with me;" and senger of that news, which he thought could now Saul hasteth to make the devil no liar: be no other than acceptable, the death of rather than fail, he gives himself his own Saul; and, that the tidings might be so mittimus. O the woful extremities of a much more meritorious, he adds to the redespairing soul, plunging him ever into a port what he thinks might carry the greatest greater mischief, to avoid the less ! He retribution. In hope of reward or honour, might have been a patient in another's vio- the man is content to belie himself to Dalence, and faultless ; now, while he will vid : it was not the spear, but the sword needs act the Philistine's part upon himself, of Saul, that was the instrument of his he lived and died a murderer: the case is death; neither could this stranger find Saul, deadly, when the prisoner breaks the jail, but dying, since the armour-bearer of Saul and will not stay for his delivery; and though saw him dead ere he offered that violence we may not pass sentence upon such a soul, to himself: the hand of this Amalekite, yet upon the fact we may: the soul may therefore, was not guilty; his tongue was. possibly repent in the parting; the act is | Had not this messenger measured David's heinous, and such as, without repentance, foot by his own last, he had forborne this kills the sou).
piece of the news, and not hoped to adIt was the next day ere the Philistines vantage himself by this falsehood. Now knew how much they were victors; then, he tbinks the tidings of a kingdom cannot finding the dead corpse of Saul and his but please ; none but Saul and Jonathan sons, they begin their triumphs. The stood in David's way: he cannot choose head of king Saul is cut off in lieu of Go. but like to hear of their removal, especially liah's, and now all their idol temples ring since Saul did so tyrannously persecute his of their success. Foolish Philistines ! if innocence. If I shall only report the fact done by another, I shall go away with but | anointed." It is a just supposition, that the recompense of a lucky post; whereas, every man is so great a favourer of himself, if I take upon me the action, I am the man that he will not misreport his own actions, to whom David is beholden for the king. nor say the worst of himself. In matter of dom; he cannot but honour and requite confession, men may, without injury, be me as the author of his deliverance and taken at their words: if he did it, his fact happiness. Worldly minds think no man was capital ; if he did it not, bis lie. It is can be of any other than of their own diet; pity any other recompense should befall and because they find the respects of self. those false fatterers, that can be content love and private profit so strongly prevail. to father a sin to get thanks. Every drop ing with themselves, they cannot conceive of royal blood is sacred ; for a man to say how these should be capable of a repulse that he hath shed it, is mortal. O how from others.
far different spirits from this of David, are How much was this Amalekite mocked those men which suborn the death of prinof his hopes! While he imagined that ces, and celebrate and canonize the murDavid would now triumph and feast in the derers ! “ Into their secret, let not my soul assured expectation of the kingdom, and come ; my glory, be not thou joined to their possession of the crown of Israel, he finds assembly." him rending his clothes, and wringing his hands, and weeping and mourning as if all his comfort had been dead with Saul and CONTEMPLATION VII. — ABNER AND JOAB. Jonathan: and yet perhaps he thought, this sorrow of David is but fashionable, How merciful and seasonable are the prosuch as great heirs make show of in the visions of God! Ziklag was now nothing fatal day they have longed for: these tears but ruins and ashes : David might return will be soon dry; the sight of a crown will to the soil where it stood, to the roofs and soon breed a succession of other passions.walls he could not ; no sooner is he disapBut this error is soon corrected ; for when pointed of that harbour, than God provides David had entertained this bearer with a him cities of Hebron : Saul shall die to give sad fast all the day, he calls him forth in the him elbow-room. Now doth David find evening to execution : “ How, wast thou the comfort that his extremity sought in not afraid," saith he, “ to put forth thy the Lord his God; now are his clouds for hand to destroy the anointed of the Lord ?" | a time passed over, and the sun breaks Doubtless the Amalekite made many fair gloriously forth: David shall reign after his pleas for himself, out of the grounds of his sufferings. So shall we, if we endure to the own report. Alas! Saul was before fallen end, find a crown of righteousness, which upon his own spear; it was but mercy to the Lord, the righteous Judge, shall give kill him that was half dead, that he might us at that day. But though David well die the shorter : besides, his entreaty and knew that his head was long before anointimportunate prayers moved me to hastened, and had heard Saul himself confidently him through those painful gates of death : avouching his succession, yet he will not hall I stricken him as an enemy, I had stir from the heaps of Ziklag, till he has deserved the blow I had given; now Iconsulted with the Lord. It did not conlent hin the hand of a friend; why am I tent him, that he had God's warrant for punished for obeying the voice of a king, the kingdom, but he must have his instrucand for perfecting what himself had begun, tions for the taking possession of it. How and could not finish? And if neither his safe and happy is the man that is resolved own wound, nor mine, had despatched him, to do nothing without God! Neither will the Philistines were at his heels, ready to do generalities of direction be sufficient; even this same act with insultation, which I did particular circumstances must look for a in favour ; and if my hand had not pre word; still is God a pillar of fire and cloud vented him, where had been the crown of to the eye of every Ísraelite : neither may Israel, which I now have here presented to there be any motion or stay but from him; thee? I could have delivered that to king that action cannot but succeed, which proAchish, and have been rewarded with ho. | ceeds upon so sure a warrant. nour: let me not die for an act well meant God sends him to Hebron, a city of to thee, however construed by thee. But Judah ; neither will David go up thither no pretence can make his own tale not alone, but he takes with him all his men, deadly: “ Thy blood be upon thine own with their whole households: they shall take head, for thine own mouth hath testified such part as himself; as they had shared against thee, saying. I have slain the Lord's with him in his misery, so they shall now
in his prosperity: neither doth he take ad- | combats no man knows the better of the vantage of their late mutiny, which was yet cause: both sides perish, to show how little fresh and green, to cashier those unthank God liked either the offer or the accepta. ful and ungracious followers; but pardon. | tion of such a trial; but when both did their ing their secret rebellions, he makes them best, God punisheth the wrong part with partakers of his good success. Thus doth discomfiture. our heavenly leader, whom David prefi- O the misery of civil dissension! Israel gured, take us to reign with him, who have and Judah were brethren; one carried the suffered with him. Passing by our manifold name of the father, the other of the son. infirmities, as if they had not been, he re Judah was but a branch of Israel ; Israel moveth us from the land of our banishment, was the root of Judah: yet Israel and Judah and the ashes of our forlorn Ziklag, to the must fight, and kill each other, only upon Hebron of our peace and glory: the expec. the quarrel of an ill leader's ambition. The tation of this day must, as it did with Da speed of Asahel was not greater than his vid's soldiers, digest all our sorrows. courage. It was a mind fit for one of Da
Never any calling of God was so con. vid's worthies, to strike at the head, to spicuous, as not to find some opposites. match himself with the best. He was both What Israelite did not know David ap- swift and strong; but “ the race is not to pointed by God to the succession of the the swift, nor the battle to the strong.” If kingdom? Even the Amalekite could carry he had gone never so slowly, he might have the crown to him as the true owner : yet overtaken death: now he runs to fetch it. there wants not an Abner to resist him, So little lust had Abner to shed the blood and the title of an Ishbosheth to colour his of a son of Zeruiah, that he twice advises resistance. If any of Saul's house could him to retreat from pursuing his own peril. have made challenge to the crown, it should Asahel's cause was so much better as have been Mephibosheth, the son of Jona- | Abner's success. Many a one miscarries than, who, it seems, had too much of his in the rash prosecution of a good quarrel, father's blood to be a competitor with Da- | when the abettors of the worst part go a. vid : the question is not, who may claim way with victory. Heat of zeal sometimes, the most right, but who may best serve the in the indiscreet pursuit of a just adversary, faction : neither was Ishbosheth any other proves mortal to the agent, prejudicial to than Abner's stale. Saul could not have a the service. fitter courtier : whether in the imitation of Abner, while he kills, yet lie flies; and his master's envy, or the ambition of ruling runs away from his own death, while he under a borrowed name, he strongly op- inflicts it upon another. David's followers posed David. There are those who strive had the better of the field and day. The against their own hearts, to make a side sun, as unwilling to see any more Israelitish with whom conscience is oppressed by af- blood shed by brethren, hath withdrawn fection. An ill quarrel, once undertaken, himself: and now both parties, having got shall be maintained, although with blood : the advantage of a hill under them, have now, not so much the blood of Saul, as the safe convenience of parley. Abner begins, engagement of Abner, makes the war. The and persuades Joab to surcease the fight: sons of Zeruiah stand fast to David. It is “ Shall the sword devour for ever? Knowmuch how a man placeth his first interest : est thou not, that it will be bitterness in if Abner had been in Joab's room, when the end ? How long shall it be ere thou Saul's displeasure drove David from the bid the people return from following their court, or Joab in Abner's, these actions, brethren ?” It was his fault that the sword these events, had been changed with the devoured at all; and why was not the bepersons : it was the only happiness of Joab ginning of a civil war bitterness? why did that he fell on the better side.
he call forth the people to skirmish, and Both the commanders under David and invite them to death? Had Abner been Ishbosheth were equally cruel : both are so on the winning hand, this motion had been inured to blood, that they make but a sport thank-worthy. It was a noble disposition of killing. Custom makes sin so familiar, in a victor, to call for a cessation of arms; that the horror of it is to some turned into whereas necessity wrings this suit from the pleasure « Come, let the young men over-mastered. There cannot be a greater play before us." Abner is the challenger, praise to a valiant and wise commander, and speeds thereafter; for though, in the than a propension to all just terms of peace; matches of duel, both sides miscarried, yet, for war, as it is sometimes necessary, so it in the following conflict, Abner and his men is always evil; and if fighting have any are beaten. By the success of those single other end proposed besides peace, it proves
murder. Abner slıall find himself no less furthering a false claim, taken off his hand, orercume by Joab in clemency, than power: I know not wherein he could be blamed, he says not, I will not so easily leave the except for not doing it sooner; but now to advantage of my victory; since the dice of withdraw his professed allegiance, upon a war run on my side, I will follow the chance private revenge, was to take a lewd leave of my good success: thou shouldest have of an ill action. If Ishbosheth were his considered of this before thy provocation; lawful prince, no injury could warrant a it is now too late to move unto forbearance. revolt. Even betwixt private persons, a But, as a man that meant to approve him- return of wrongs is both uncharitable and self equally free from cowardice in the be- unjust, however this go current for the comginning of the conflict, and from cruelty in mon justice of the world : how much more the end, he professeth bis forwardness to should we learn, from a supreme hand, to entertain any pretence of sheathing up the take hard measures with thanks! It had swords of Israel; and swears to Abner, been Abner's duty to have given his king that if it had not been for his proud irrita- a peaceable and humble satisfaction, and tion, the people had in the morning before not to fly out in a snuff: “ If the spirit of ceased from that bloody pursuit of their the ruler rise up against thee, leave not thy brethren. As it becomes public persons to place; for yielding pacifieth great offences." be lovers of peace, so they must show it Now, bis impatient falling, although to the upon all good occasions ; letting pass no right side, makes him no better than trai. opportunity of making spare of blood. torously honest.
Ishbosheth was, it seems, a man of no So soon as Abner hath entertained a ro great spirits ; for being no less than forty solution of his rebellion, he persuades the years old when his father went into his last elders of Israel to accompany him in the field against the Philistines, he was content change; and whence doth he fetch his main to stay at home. Abner hath put ambition motive, but from the oracle of God? “ The into him, and hath easily raised him to the Lord hath spoken of David, saying, By the head of a faction, against the anointed prince hand of my servant David will I save my of God's people. If this usurped crown of people Israel out of the hand of the PhilisSaul's son had any worth or glory in it, he tines, and out of the hand of all their enecannot but acknowledge to owe it all unto mies." Abner knew this full well before, Abner; yet how forward is unthankful Ish yet then was well content to smother a bosheth to receive a false suggestion against known truth for his own turn; and now, his chief abettor! " Wherefore hast thou that the publication of it may serve for his gone into my father's concubine ?" He that advantage, he wins the heart of Israel, by made no conscience of an unjust claim to showing God's charter for him whom he the crown, and a maintenance of it with had so long opposed. Hypocrites make use blood, yet seems scrupulous of a less sin, of God for their own purposes, and care that carried in it the colour of a disgrace: only to make divine authority a colour for the touch of her, who had been honoured their own designs. No man ever heard by his father's bed, seemed an intolerable Abner godly till now; neither had be been presumption, and such as could not be se. so at this time, if he had not intended a vered from his own dishonour. Self-love revengeful departure from Ishbosheth. No. sometimes borrows the face of honest zeal. | thing is more odious, than to make religion Those who, out of true grounds, dislike a stalking-horse to policy. sins, do hate them all indifferently, ac- l Who can but glorify God in his justice, cording to their heinousness; hypocrites when he sees the bitter end of this treaare partial in their detestation, bewraying | cherous dissimulation ? David may, upon ever most bitterness against those offences, considerations of state, entertain his new which may most prejudice their persons guest with a feast; and well might he seem and reputations.
to deserve a welcome, that undertakes to It is as dangerous as unjust for princes bring all Israel to the league and homage to give both their ears and their heart to of David; but God never meant to use so misgrounded rumours of their innocent fol- unworthy means for so good a work. Joab lowers. This wrong hath stripped Ishbo- returns from pursuing a troop, and finding sheth of the kingdom. Abner, in the mean- Abner dismissed in peace, and expectation time, cannot be excused from a treacherous of a beneficial return, follows him; and, inconstancy: if Saul's son had no true title whether out of envy at a new rival of lioto the crown, why did he maintain it ? if nour, or out of the revenge of Asaliel, he he had, why did he forsake the cause and repays him both dissimulation and death. person. Had Abner, out of remorse for God doth most justly by Joab, that which
CONTEMPLATION I. -UZZAH, AND THE
Joab did for bimself most unjustly. I know | carried that sacred burden. God's businot, setting the quarrel aside, whether we nesses must be done after his own forms, can worthily blame Abner for the death of which if we do, with the best intentions, Asahel, who would needs, after fair warn- alter, we presume. ings, run himself upon Abner's spear; yet It is long since Israel saw so fair a day this fact shall procure his payment for the as this, wherein they went, in this holy worse. Now is İshbosheth's wrong revenged triumph, to fetch the ark of God. Now by an enemy. We may not always measure their warlike trumpets are turned into harps the justice of God's proceedings by present and timbrels; and their hands, instead of occasions : he needs not make us acquaint-wielding the sword and spear, strike upon ed, or ask us leave, when he will call for those musical strings, whereby they might the arrearages of forgotten sins.
express the joy of their hearts: here was no noise but of mirth, no motion but pleasant. O happy Israel, that had a God to rejoice
in! that had this occasion of rejoicing in their BOOK XV.
God, and a heart that embraced this occasion! There is nothing but this wherein we
may not joy immoderately, unseasonably ; ARK REMOVED.
this spiritual joy can never be either out of
time, or out of measure : “ Let him that The house of Saul is quiet, the Philis. rejoiceth, rejoice in the Lord." But now, tines beaten : victory cannot end better than when the Israelites were in the midst of in devotion. David is no sooner settled in this angel-like jollity, their hearts lifted up, bis house at Jerusalem, that he fetcheth their hands playing, their feet moving, their God to be his guest there: the thousands tongues singing and shouting, God sees good of Israel go now, in a holy march, to bring to strike them into a sudden damp by the up the ark of God to the place of his rest. death of Uzzah. They are scarce set into
The tumults of war afforded no opportu- the tune, when God mars their music by a nity of this service: only peace is a friend fearful judgment, and changes their mirth to religion ; neither is peace ever our friend, into astonishment and confusion. There but when it is a servant of piety. The use could not be a more excellent work than of war is not more pernicious to the body, this they were about ; there could not be than the abuse of peace is to the soul. Alas! more cheerful hearts in the performing of the riot, bred of our long ease, rather drives it; yet will the most holy God rather dash the ark of God from us; so the still seden- all this solemn service, than endure an act tary life is subject to diseases, and standing of presumption or infidelity. Abinadab had waters putrefy. It may be just with God been the faithful host of God's ark for the to take away the blessing, which we do so space of twenty years : even in the midst much abuse, and to scour off our rust with of the terrors of Israel, who were justly af. bloody war.
frighted with the vengeance inflicted upon The ark of God had now many years Bethshemesh, did he give harbour unto it; rested in the obscure lodge of Abinadab, yet even the son of Abinadab is stricken without the honour of a tabernacle. David dead, in the first departing of that blessed will not endure himself glorious, and the guest. The sanctity of the parent cannot ark of God contemptible: his first care is bear out the sin of his son. The Holy to provide a fit room for God, in the head One of Israel will be sanctified in all that of the tribes, in his own city. The chief come near him : he will be served like care of good princes must be the advance- | himself. ment of religion : what should the deputies What, then, was the sin of Uzzah? what of God rather do, than honour him whom was the capital crime for which he so fear. they represent! It was no good that Israel | fully perished? That the ark of God was could learn of Philistines; those pagans bad committed to the cart, it was not his device sent the ark back in a new cait; the Is only, but the common act of many; that raelites saw that God blessed that conduct, it was not carried ou the shoulders of the and now they practise it at home: but that Levites, was no less the fault of Ahio, and which God will take from Philistines, he will the rest of their brethren. Only Uzzal is not brook from Israel : aliens from God are stricken : the rest sinned in negligence; he no fit patterns for children. Divine insti. in presumption : the ark of God shakes tution had made this a carriage for the Le- with the agitation of that carriage; he puts sites, not for oxen; neither should those forth his hand to hold it steady. Huinan sons of Abinadab hare driven the cart, but judgment would have found herein nothing