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Two whole years hath this sly courtier | rape of Amnon, procures the injustice of smothered his indignation, and feigned | Absalom, in punishing Amnon with mur. kindness, else his invitation of Amnon, in der. That which the father should have special, had been suspected. Even gallant | justly revenged, and did not, the son reAbsalom was a great sheep-master. The venges unjustly. The rape of a sister was bravery and magnificence of a courtier must no less worthy of death, than the murder be built upon the grounds of frugality. Da- of a brother, yea, this latter sin was there. vid himself is bidden to this bloody sheep. fore the less, because that brother was shearing : it was no otherwise meant, but worthy of death, though by another hand; that the father's eyes should be the wit. whereas that sister was guilty of nothing nesses of the tragical execution of one son but modest beauty : yet he that knew this by another ; only David's love kept him rape passed over a whole two years with from that horrible spectacle. He is care. impunity ; dares not trust the mercy of a ful not to be chargeable to that son who father in the pardon of his murder; but for cares not to overcharge his father's stomach three years hides his head in the court of with a feast of blood.
| his grandfather, the king of Geshur. DoubtAmnon hath so quite forgot his sin, that less that heathenish prince gave him a kind he dares go to feast in that house where welcome, for so meritorious a revenge of Tamar was mourning, and suspects not the the dishonour done to his own loins. kindness of him, whom he had deserved | No man can tell how Absalom should of a brother, to make an enemy. Nothing have sped from the hands of his otherwise is more unsafe to be trusted, than the fair over-indulgent father, if he had been apprelooks of a festered heart. Where true cha. hended in the heat of the fact. Even the rity or just satisfaction have not wrought a largest love may be over-strained, and may sound reconciliation, malice doth but lurk give a fall in the breaking: these fearful for the opportunity of an advantage. effects of lenity might perhaps have whetted
It was not for nothing that Absalom de. the severity of David, to shut up these ferred his revenge, which is now so much outrages in blood. Now this displeasure more exquisite, as it is longer protracted. was weakened with age. Time and thonghits What could be more fearful than, when have digested this hard morsel. David's Amnon's heart was merry with wine, to be heart told him, that his hands had a share suddenly stricken with death? as if this in this offence; that Absalom did but give execution had been no less intended to the that stroke which himself had wrongfully suul than to the body. How wickedly so. forborne; that the unrecoverable loss of one ever this was done by Absalom, yet how son would be but wofully relieved with the just was it with God, that he, who in two loss of another; he therefore, that in the years' impunity would find no leisure of re news of the deceased infant could change pentance, should now receive a punishment his clothes, and wash himself, and cheer without possibility of repentance!
up his spirits, with the resolution of, - 1 O God, thou art righteous to reckon for shall go to him, he shall not return to me," those sins which buman partiality or negli comforts brimself concerning Amnon; and gence hath omitted ; and while thou punish- begins to long for Absalom. est sin with sin, to punish sin with death. Those three years' banishment seemed If either David had called Amnon to ac- not so much a punishment to the son, as count for this villany, or Amnon had called to the father. Now David begins to forgive himself, the revenge had not been so des. himself: yet, out of his wisdom, so inclines perate. Happy is the man, that by an to favour, that he conceals it ; and yet so unfeigned repentance acquits his soul from conceals it, that it may be descried by a his known evils, and improves the days of cunning eye. If he had cast out no glances his peace to the prevention of future ven- of affection, there had been no hopes for geance, which, it it be not done, the hand his Absalom; if he had made profession of of Gou shall as surely overtake us in judy | love after so foul an act, there had been no ment, as the hand of Satan hath overtaken safety for others : now, he lets fall so much us in miscarriage unto sin.
secret grace as may both hold up Absalom in the life of his hopes, and not hearten
the presumption of others. CONTEMPLATION VII. — ABSALOM'S RETURN Good eyes see light through the smallest AND CONSPIRACY.
chink. The wit of Joab hath soon discerned
David's reserved affection, and knows how One act of injustice draws on another : to serve him in that which he would and the injustice of David, in not punishing the would not accomplish; and now devises now
to bring into the light that birth of desire, | love, it emboldens him in evil, and draws whereof he knew David was both big and on others. ashamed. A woman of Tekoah (that sex Absalom's house is made his prison : justly hath been ever held more apt for wiles) is is he confined to the place which he had suborned to personate a mourner, and to stained with blood. Two years doth he live say that by way of parable, which in plain in Jerusalem without the happiness of his terms would have sounded too harshly; | father's sight: it was enough for David and and now, while she lamentably lays forth him to see the smoke of each other's chimthe loss and danger of her son, she shows neys. In the meantime, how impatient is David his own; and, while she moves com- | Absalom of this absence! He sends for passion to her pretended issue, she wins Joab, the solicitor of his return: so hard a David to a pity of himself, and a favourable hand doth wise and holy David carry over sentence for Absalom. We love ourselves his reduced son, that his friendly intercessor better than others, but we see others bet. Joab dares not visit him. ter than ourselves : whoso would perfectly He that afterwards kindled that seditious know his own case, let him view it in an- fire over all Israel, sets fire now on the field other's person.
of Joab: whom love cannot draw to him, Parables sped well with David: one drew fear and anger shall. Continued displeasure him to repent of his own sin, another to | hath made Absalom desperate. Five years remit Absalom's punishment: and now, as are passed since he saw the face of his faglad to hear this plea, and willing to be ther, and now he is no less weary of his life persuaded unto that which, if he durst, he than of this delay: “ Wherefore am I come would have sought for, he gratifies Joab down from Geshur? It had been better for with the grant of that suit, which Joab more me to have been there still. Now, theregratified him in suing for: “ Go, bring again fore, let me see the king's face; and if there the young man Absalom.”
be any iniquity in me, let him kill me." How glad is Joab that he hath lighted | Either banishment or death seemed as toupon one act, for which the sun, both set- lerable to him, as the debarring of his father's ting and rising, should shine upon him! and sight. now he speeds to Geshur, to fetch back What a torment shall it be to the wicked, Absalom to Jerusalem. He may bring the to be shut out for ever from the presence long-banished prince to the city, but to the of a God, without all possible hopes of recourt he may not bring him : " Let him covery! This was but a father of the flesh, turn to his own house, and let him not see by whom, if Absalom lived at first, yet in my face."
him he lived not; yea, not without him The good king hath so smarted with only, but against him, that son found he mercy, that now he is resolved upon au- could live. God is the Father of spirits, sterity, and will relent but by degrees : it in whom we so live, that without him can is enough for Absalom that he lives, and be no life, no being : to be ever excluded may now breathe in his native air; David's from Him in whom we live and are, what face is no object for the eyes of murderers. can it be but an eternal dying, an eternal What a darling this son was to his father perishing ? If in thy presence, O God, be appears in that, after an unnatural and bar- the fulness of joy, in thine absence must barous rebellion, passionate David wishes needs be the fulness of horror and torment: to have changed lives with him ; yet now, “ Hide not thy face from us, O Lord, but while his bowels yearned, his brow frowned: show us the light of thy countenance, that the face may not be seen where the heart we may live and praise thee." is set.
Even the fire of Joab's field warmed the The best of God's saints may be blinded heart of David, while it gave him proof of with affection ; but when they shall once | the heat of Absalom's filial affection. As see their errors, they are careful to correct a man, therefore, inwardly weary of so long them. Wherefore serves the power of grace, displeasure, at last he receives Absalom to but to subdue the insolencies of nature? his sight, to his favour, and seals his parIt is the wisdom of parents, as to hide their don with a kiss. Natural parents know not hearts from their best children, so to hide how to retain an everlasting anger towards their countenances from the ungracious: the fruit of their loins : how much less shall fleshly respects may not abate their rigour the God of mercies be unreconcileably disto the ill-deserving. For the child to see pleased with his own, and suffer his wrath all his father's love, it is enough to make to burn like fire that cannot be quenched! him wanton, and of wanton, wicked. For “ He will not always chide, neither will he a wicked child 9 see any of his father's keep his anger for ever; his wrath endureth
but a moment; in his favour is life: weep- lips with a kiss. All men, all matters, are ing may endure for a night, but joy cometh soothed, saving the state and government; in the morning."
the censure of that is no less deep, than Absalom is now as great as fair : beauty the applause of all others: “ There is none and greatness make him proud; pride works deputed of the king to hear thee." What his ruin: great spirits will not rest content insinuations could be more powerful ? No with a moderate prosperity. Ere two years music can be so sweet to the ears of the be run out, Absalom runs out into a des- unstable multitude, as to near well of themperate plot of rebellion: none but his own selves, ill of their governors. Absalom father was above him in Israel ; none was needs not to wish himself upon the bench; so likely, in human expectation, to succeed every man says, O what a courteous prince his father. If his ambition could but have is Absalom! what a just and careful ruler contained itself for a few years, as David would Absalom be! how happy were we, if was now near his period, dutiful carriage we might be judged by Absalom! Those might have procured that by succession, qualities, which are wont single to grace which now he sought by force. An aspi- others, have conspired to meet in Absalom: ring mind is ever impatient, and holds time goodliness of person, magnificence of state, itself an enemy, if it thrust itself importu- gracious affability, unwearied diligence, hunately betwixt the hopes and fruition. Am mility in greatness, feeling pity, love of jusbition is never but in travail, and can find tice, care of the commonwealth! The world no intermission of painful throes, till she hath not so complete a prince as Absalom! have brought forth her abortive desires. Thus the hearts of the people are not won, How happy were we, if our affection could but stolen, by a close traitor, from their be so eager of spiritual and heavenly pro lawfully anointed sovereign. Over-fair shows motions! O that my soul could find itself are a just argument of unsoundness; no so restless, till it feel the weight of that natural face hath so clear a white and red crown of glory!
as the painted. Nothing wants now but a Outward pomp, and unwonted shows of cloak of religion, to perfect the treachery of magnificence, are wont much to affect the that ungracious son, who carried peace in light minds of the vulgar. Absalom, there his name, war in his heart: and how easily is fore, to the incomparable comeliness of his that put on! Absalom hath a holy vow to be person, adds the unusual state of a more paid in Hebron: the devout man had made than princely equipage. His chariots rat it long since, while he was exiled in Syria, tle, and his horses trample proudly in the and now he hastes to perform it: “ If the streets ; fifty footmen run before their glit. Lord shall bring me back again to Jerusatering master; Jerusalem rings of their glo lem, then I will serve the Lord." Wicked rious prince, and is ready to adore these | hypocrites care not to play with God, that continual triumphs of peace. Excess and they may mock men. The more deformed novelty of expensive bravery and ostenta- any act is, the fairer vizard it still seeketh, tion in public persons, gives just cause to | How glad is the good old king, that he suspect either vanity, or a plot. True- | is blessed with so godly a son, whom he hearted David can misdoubt nothing in him, | dismisseth laden with his causeless blessto whom he had both given life, and for- ings! What trust is there in flesh and given this. Love construed all this as meant blood, when David is not safe from his own to the honour of a father's court, to the loins ? The conspiracy is now fully formed : expression of joy and thankfulness for his there lacked nothing but this gilding of piety reconcilement. The eyes and tongues of to win favour and value in all eyes; and men are thus taken up; now hath Absalom now it is a wonder, that but two hundred laid snares for their hearts also : “ He rises honest citizens go up with Absalom from early, and stands beside the way of the Jerusalem : the true-hearted lie most open gate." Ambition is no niggard of her pains; to credulity: how easy is it to beguile harmseldom ever is good meaning so industrious. | less intentions ! The name of David's son The more he shined in beauty and royal carries them against the father of Absalom ; attendance, so much more glory it was to and now these simple Israelites are unwitneglect himself, and to prefer the care of tingly made loyal rebels. Their hearts are justice to his own case. Neither is Absa- free from a plot, and they mean nothing lom more painful than plausible : his ear but fidelity in the attendance of a traitor. is open to all plaintiffs, all petitioners; there How many thousands are thus ignorantly is no cause which he flatters not : “ See misled into the train of error! Their simthy matters are good and right :" his hand plicity is as worthy of pity, as their misfatters every comer with a salutation, his guidance of indignation. Those that will suffer themselves to be carried with sem. , master, to take the utmost advantages cé blances of truth and faithfulness, must needs our afflictions. He that suffers had ned be as far from safety as innocence.
to be double armed, both against pain and censure.
Every word of Shimei was a slander. He
that took Saul's spear from his head, and BOOK XVI.
repented to have but cut the lap of the
garment, is reproached as a man of blood CONTEMPLATION 1. —SHIMEI CURSING. The man after God's own heart is branded
for a man of Belial. He, that was sent for With a heavy heart and a covered head, out of the fields to be anointed, is taxed for and a weeping eye and bare feet, is David an usurper. If David's hands were stained gone away from Jerusalem ; never did he with blood, yet not of Saul's house; it was with more joy come up to this city, than his servant, not his master, that bled by now he left it with sorrow: how could he him; yet is the blood of the Lord's anoin:do otherwise, whom the insurrection of ed cast in David's teeth, by the spite of a his own son drove out from his house, false tongue. Did we not see David, after from his throne, from the ark of God? And all the proofs of his humble loyalty, shed. now, when the depth of this grief deserved ding the blood of that Amalekite, who did nothing but compassion, the foul mouth but say he shed Saul's? Did we not hear of Shimei entertains David with curses! - him lament passionately for the death of so There is no small cruelty in the picking out ill a master, chiding the mountains of Gil. of a time for mischief; that word would boa on which he fell; and angrily wishing, scarce gall at one season, which at another that no dew might fall where that blood killeth. The same shaft flying with the was poured out; and charging the daugh. wind pierces deep, which against it can hard ters of Israel to weep over Saul, who had ly find strength to stick upright. The valour clothed them in scarlet ? Did we not hear and justice of children condemn it for in- and see him inquiring for any remainder or juriously cowardly, to strike their adversary the house of Saul, that he might show him when he is once down. It is the murder the kindness of God? Did we not see of the tongue to insult upon those whom him honouring lame Mephibosheth with a God hath humbled, and to draw blood of princely seat at his own table? Did we that back which is yet blue from the hand not see him revenging the blood of his rival of the Almighty. If Shimei had not pre- Ishbosheth, upon the heads of Rechab and sumed upon David's dejection, he durst not | Baanalı? What could any living man have have been thus bold; now he, that perhaps done more to wipe off these bloody asperdurst not have looked at one of these wor-sions? Yet is not a Shimei ashamed to thies single, defies them all at once, and doth charge innocent David with all the blood both cast and speak stones against David of the house of Saul. and all his army. The malice of base spi. | How is it likely this clamorous wretch rits sometimes carries them further than the had secretly traduced the name of David, courage of the valiant.
all the time of his government, that dares In all the time of David's prosperity, we thus accuse him to his face, before all the heard no news of Shimei : his silence and mighty men of Israel, who were witnesses colourable obedience made him pass for a of the contrary? The greater the person good subject; yet all that while was his / is, the more open do his actions lie to misheart unsound and traitorous. Peace and interpretation and censure. Every tongue good success hide many a false heart, likeas speaks partially, according to the interest the snow-drift covers a heap of dung, which he hath in the cause, or the patient. It is once melting away, descries the rottenness not possible that eminent persons should that lay within. Honour and welfare are but be free from imputations: innocence can no flattering glasses of men's affections. Ad. more protect them than power. versity will not deceive us, but will make a If the patience of David can digest this true report, as of our own powers, so of the indignity, his train cannot; their fingers disposition of others.
could not but itch to return iron for stones, He that smiled on David in his throne, If Shimei rail on David, Abishai rails on curseth him in his fight. If there be any Shimei; Shimei is of Saul's family, Abishaj quarrels, any exceptions to be taken against of David's; each speaks for his own. Abi, á man, let him look to have them laid in shai most justly bends his tongue against his dish when he fares the hardest. This Shimei, as Shimei against David most un. practice have wicked men learned of their justly. Had Shimei been any other than
Atents a dog, he had never so rudely barked at a can therefore suffer, because we have suf.
is harmless passenger; neither could he de- | fered, we have profited by our affliction. KA3 233 serve less than the loss of that head which A weak heart faints with every addition of
had uttered such blasphemies against God's succeeding trouble; the strong recollects e: 1215 anointed. The zeal of Abishai doth but itself, and is grown so skilful, that it bears fuck plead for justice, and is checked: “What off one mischief with another. cut p. have I to do with you, ye sons of Zeruiah?" It is not either the unnatural insurrection 25 101 David said not so much to his reviler, as to of Absalom, nor the unjust curses of Shi.
in his abettor: he well saw that a revenge was mei, that can put David quite out of heart: e, in just, but not seasonable: he found the pre“ It may be that the Lord will look on mine uges sent a fit time time to suffer wrongs, not to affliction, and will requite good for his curs. and right them: he therefore gives way rathering, this day." So well was David acquainta's meekly to his own humiliation, than to the ed with the proceedings of God, that he te, mi punishment of another. There are seasons knew cherishing was ever wont to follow Le Lid wherein lawful motions are not fit to be stripes; after vehement evacuation, corby the cherished : anger doth not become a mour dials; after a dark night, the clear light of se lo ner; one passion at once is enough for the the morning. Hope, therefore, doth not hit soul. Unadvised zeal may be more preju only uphold, but cheer up his heart, in the i dicial than a cold remissness.
midst of his sorrow. If we can look benie! What if the Lord, for the correction of yond the cloud of our affliction, and see
his servant, had said unto Shimei, Curse the sunshine of comfort on the other side