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his miseries, whose pardon thou now beg. I turn to itself; Absalom may relent; David gest with tears. The changes of worldly may remit: Where then are we that have minds are thankless, since they are neither helped to promote the conspiracy? The dan. wrought out of conscience nor love, but only ger is ours, while this breach may be pieced. by slavish fear of just punishment.
There is no way but to engage Absalom in David could say no more, to testify his some further act, uncapable of forgiveness : sorrow for his heinous sin against God, to besides the throne, let him violate the bed Nathan, than Shimei says of himself to Da- l of his father; unto his treason, let him add vid; whereto may be added the advantage an incest no less unnatural; now shall the of a voluntary confession in this offender, world see that Absalom neither hopes nor which in David was extorted by the reproof cares for the reconciliation of a father. Our of a prophet; yet is David's confession se- quarrel can never have any safe end but riously penitent, Shimei's craftily hypocriti | victory; the hope whereof depends upon cal. Those alterations are justly suspected, the resolution of our followers : they canwhich are shaped according to the times not be resolute, but upon the unpardonable and outward occasions. The true penitentwickedness of their leader; neither can this looks only at God and his sin, and is changed villany be shameful enough, if it be secret. when all other things are themselves. | The closeness of evil argues fear, or mo
Great offences had need of answerable desty; neither of which can beseem him satisfaction. As Shimei was the only man, that would be a successful traitor. Set up of the house of Benjamin, that came forth a tent on the top of the house, and let all and cursed David in his flight, so is he the Israel be witnesses of thy sin, and thy fafirst man (even before those of the house of ther's shame. Ordinary crimes are for vulJoseph, though nearer in situation) that gar offenders ; let Absalom sin eminently, comes to meet David in his return with and do that which may make the world at prayers and gratulations. Notorious offen- once to blush and wonder. ders may not think to sit down with the Who would ever have thought that Ahitask of ordinary services : the retributions thophel had lived at court, at the council. of their obedience must be proportionable table of a David? who would think that to their crimes.
mouth had ever spoken well? Yet had he been no other than as the oracle of God
to the religious court of Israel, even while CONTEMPLATION II. - AHITHOPHEL. he was not wise enough to be good. Policy
and grace are not always lodged under one So soon as David heard of Ahithophel's roof. This man, while he was one of David's hand in that conspiracy, he falls to his deep counsellors, was one of David's fools, prayers : “ O Lord, I pray thee, turn the that said in their hearts, “ There is no God;" counsel of Ahithophel into foolishness." else he could not have hoped to make good The known wisdom of his revolted coun- | an evil with worse, to build the success of sellor made him a dangerous and dreadful treason upon incest. adversary. Great parts misemployed can- Profane hearts do so contrive the plots not but prove most mischievous. When of their wickedness, as if there were no wickedness is armed with wit and power, overruling power to cross their designs, or none but a God can defeat it ; when we are to revenge them. He that sits in heaven matched with a strong and subtle enemy, it | laughs them to scorn, and so far gives way is high time, if ever, to be devout. If the | to their sins, as their sins may prove plagues bounty of God have thought good to furnish unto themselves. his creatures with powers to war against These two sons of David met with pes. himself, his wisdom knows how to turn the tilent counsel : Amnon is advised to incest abuse of those powers to the shame of the with his sister ; Absalom is advised to inowners, and the glory of the giver.
cest with his father's concubines ; tbat by O the policy of this Machiavel of Israel, Jonadab, this by Ahithophel : both prevail. no less deep than hell itself! “ Go into thy It is as easy at least to take ill counsel as father's concubines, which he hath left to to give it Proneness to villany in the great keep the house: and when all Israel shall cannot want either projectors to devise, or bear that thou art abhorred of thy father, parasites to execute the most odious sins. the hands of all that are with thee shall be The tent is spread, lest it should not be strong." The first care must be to se. conspicuous enough, on the top of the cure the faction. There can be no safety in house. The act is done in the sight of all siding with a doubtful rehel. If Absalom be Israel. The filthiness of the sin was not a traitor, yet he is a son. Nature may re- , so great as the impudency of the manner. When the prophet Nathan came with that establish David's throne, and determined heavy message of reproof and menace to Solomon to his succession, finds means to David, after his sin with Bathsheba, he cross the plot of Ahithophel by a less procould say from God, “ Behold, I will raise bable advice. Hushai was not sent back up evil against thee, out of thine own house, for nothing. Where God hath, in his secret and will take thy wives before thine eyes, will, decreed any event, he incines the wills and give them to thy neighbour, and he of men to approve that which may promote shall lie with thy wives in the sight of this his own purposes. Neither had Hushai so sun: for thou didst it secretly, but I will deep a head, neither was his counsel so sure do this thing before all Israel, and before as that of Ahithophel; yet his ongue shall this sun.” The counsel of Ahithophel, and refel Abithophel, and divert Absalom. The the lust of Absalom, have fulfilled the judg- pretences were fairer, though the grounds ment of God. O the wisdom of the Al. were unsound : first, to sweeten his oppo. mighty, that can use the worst evils well, sition, he yields the praise of wisdom to his and most justly make the sins of men his adversary in all other counsels, that he may executioners !
have leave to deny it in this ; his very conIt was the sin of Reuben that he defiled tradiction in the present, insinuates a gehis father's bed; yet not in the same height neral allowance. Then he suggests certain of lewdness. What Reuben did in a youth- apparent truths concerning David's valour ful wantonness, Absalom did in a malicious and skill, to give countenance to the infedespite : Reuben sinned with one, Absalom rences of his improbabilities. Lastly, he with ten; Reuben secretly, Absalom in the cunningly feeds the proud humour of Abopen eyes of heaven and earth: yet old salom, in magnifying the power and extent Jacob could say of Reuben, “ Thou shalt of his commands, and ends in the glorious not excel; thy dignity is gone;" while | boasts of his forepromised victory. As it Ahithophel says to Absalom, " Thy dignity is with faces, so with counsel: that is fair shall arise from incest: climb up to thy that pleaseth. He that gives the utterance father's bed, if thou wilt sit in his throne. to words, gives also their speed. Favour, Ahithophel was a politician; Jacob was a both of speech and men, is not ever acprophet: if the one spake from carnal sense, cording to desert, but according to forethe other from divine revelation. Certainly, ordination. The tongue of Hushai, and to sin is not the way to prosper: whatever the heart of Absalom, are guided by a power vain fools promise to themselves, there is above their own: Hushai shall therefore no wisdom, nor understanding, nor counsel, prevail with Absalom, that the treason of against the Lord.
Absalom may not prevail. He that work. After the rebellion is secured for conti eth all in all things, so disposeth of wicked nuance, the next care is, that it may end in men and spirits, that while they do most victory: this also hath the working head of oppose his revealed will, they execute his Ahithophel projected. Wit and experience secret; and while they think most to please, told him, that in these cases of assault, cele- they overthrow themselves. rity uses to bring forth the happiest despatch; When Absalom first met Hushai returned whereas protraction is no small advantage to Jerusalem, he upbraided him pleasantly to the defendant: “Let me (saith he) choose with the scoff of his professed friendship out now twelve thousand men, and I will to David: “Is this thy kindness to thy up, and follow after David this night; and friend?” Sometimes there is more truth in I will come upon him when he is weary and the mouth than in the heart; more in jest weak-handed.” No advice could be more than in earnest. Hushai was a friend ; his pernicious; for, besides the weariness and stay was his kindness: and now he hath unreadiness of David and his army, the spi-done that for which he was left at Jerusa. rits of that worthy leader were daunted, and lem, disappointed Ahithophel, preserved dejected with sorrow, and offered way to David: neither did his kindness to his friend the violence of a sudden assault. The field rest here, but, as one that was justly jea. had been half won, ere any blow stricken. | lous of him with whom he was allowed to Ahithophel could not have been reputed so temporize, he mistrusts the approbation of wise, if he had not learned the due propor- | Absalom; and not daring to put the life of tion betwixt actions and times. He that his master upon such a hazard, he gives observeth every wind, shall never sow; but charge to Zadok and Abiathar of this inhe that observes no wind at all, shall never telligence unto David. We cannot be too reap.
suspicious, when we have to do with those The likeliest devices do not always that are faithless. We cannot be too cu. succeed. The God that had appointed to rious of the safety of good princes.
Hushai fears not to descry the secrets of strivest for the highest room of wisdom, to Absalom's counsel: to betray a traitor, is no run into the grossest extremity of folly ! other than a commendable work. Zadok Wordly wisdom is no protection from shame and Abiathar are fast within the gates of and ruin. How easily may a man, though Jerusalem ; their sons lay purposely abroad naturally wise, be made weary of life. A in the fields :Athis message, that concerned little pain, a little shame, a little loss, a no less than the life of David, and the whole small affront, can soon rob a man of all kingdom of Israel, must be trusted with a comfort, and cause his own hands to rob maid. Sometimes it pleaseth the wisdom him of himself. If there be not higher re. of God, wt hath the variety of heaven and spects than the world can yield, to main. earth before him, to single out weak instru- tain us in being, it should be a miracle it ments for great services; and they shall serve indignation did not kill more than disease. his turn, as well as the best. No counsellor Now, that God, by whose appointment we of state could have made this despatch more live here, for his most wise and holy pureffectual: Jonathan and Ahimaaz are sent, poses, hath found means to make life sweet, descried, pursued, preserved. The fidelity | and death terrible. of a maid instructed them in their message, What a mixture do we find here of wisthe subtilty of a woman saved their lives. dom and madness! Ahithophel will needs At the well of Rogel they received their hang himself; there is madness : he will message ; in the well of Bahurim was their yet set his house in order; there is an act life saved: the sudden wit of a woman hath of wisdom. And could it be possible that choked the mouth of her well with dried he, who was so wise as to set his house in corn, that it might not bewray the messen order, should be so mad as to hang himself? gers : and now David hears safely of his that he should be careful to order his house, danger, and prevents it; and thuugh weary who regarded not to order his impotent with travel, and laden with sorrow, he must passions ? that he should care for his house, spend the night in his remove. God's pro who cared not for either body or soul ? mises of his deliverance, and the confirma | How vain it is for a man to be wise, if he tion of his kingdom, may not make him be not wise in God! How preposterous neglect the means of his safety. If he be are the cares of idle worldlings, that prefer faithful, we may not be careless, since our all other things to themselves, and, while diligence and care are appointed for the they look at what they have in their coffers, factors of that divine Providence. The forget what they have in their breasts ! acts of God must abate nothing of ours; rather must we labour, by doing that which he requireth, to further that which he CONTEMPLATION III. --THE DEATH OF decreeth.
ABSALOM. There are those that have great wits for the public; none for themselves. Such was The same God that raised enmity to Ahithophel, who, while he had power to David from his own loins, procured him govern a state, could not tell how to rule favour from foreigners; strangers shall rehis own passions : never till now do we lieve him, whom his own son persecutes : find his counsel baulked; neither was it now here is not a loss, but an exchange of love. rejected as ill, only Hushai's was allowed Had Absalom been a son of Ammon, and for better : he can live no longer now, that Shobi a son of David, David had found no he is beaten at his own weapon; this alone cause of complaint. If God takes with one is cause enough to saddle his ass, and to go hand, he gives with another; while that dihome, and put the halter about his own vine bounty serves us in good meat, though neck. Pride causes men both to misinter. not in our own dishes, we have good reason pret disgraces, and to overrate them. Now to be thankful. No sooner is David come is David's prayer heard : " Ahithophel's to Mahanaim, than Barzillai, Machir, and counsel is turned into foolishness." Des. Shobi, refresh him with provisions. Who perate Ahithophel! what if thou be not the ever saw any child of God left utterly des. wisest man of all Israel? even those that titute? Whosoever be the messenger of our have not attained to the highest pitch of aid, we know whence he comes : heaven wisdom have found contentment in a me shall want power, and earth means, before diocrity: what if thy counsel were des any of the household of faith shall want pised ? a wise man knows to live happily, maintenance. in spite of an unjust contempt : what mad. He, that formerly was forced to employ ness is this, to revenge another man's re- | his arms for his defence against a tyrannous putation upon thyself! and, while thou | father-in-law, must now buckle them on
against an unnatural son : now, therefore, I easily may the fickle multitude be trans. he musters his men and ordains his comported to the wrong side! What they manders, and marshals his troops; and since wanted in abettors, is supplied in the cause. their loyal importunity will not allow the Unnatural ambition draws the sword of hazard of his person, he at once encourages Absalom ; David's, a ne essary and just them by his eye, and restrains them with defence. They, that in simplicity of heart his tongue: “Deal gently with the young followed Absalom, cannot in malice of heart man Absalom for my sake." How unrea- 1 persecute the father of Absalom. With sonably favourable are the wars of a father! what courage could any Israelite draw his O holy David, what means this ill-placed sword against a David ? or, on the other love, this unjust mercy? Deal gently with side, who can want courage to fight for a a traitor! but of all traitors with a son of righteous sovereign and father, against the all sons with an Absalom, the graceless dar- conspiracy of a wicked son? The God of ling of so good a father! and all this for my hosts, with whom it is all one to save with sake, whose crown, whose blood, he hunts many or with few, takes part with justice, after! For whose sake should Absalom be and lets Israel feel what it is to bear arms pursued, if he must be forborne for thine ? for a traitorous usurper. The sword deHe was still courteous to thy followers, af-vours twenty thousand of them, and the fable to suitors, plausible to all Israel; only wood devours more than the sword : it to thee he is cruel. Wherefore are those must needs be a very universal rebellion, arms, if the cause of the quarrel must be a wherein so many perished. What virtue motive of mercy? Yet thou sayest, “ Deal or merits can assure the hearts of the vul. gently with the young man Absalom for my gar, when so gracious a prince finds so many sake.” Even in the holiest parents, nature revolters ? Let no man look to prosper by may be guilty of an injurious tenderness, of rebellion : the very thickets, and stakes, a bloody indulgence.
and pits, and wild beasts of the wood, shall Or, whether shall we not rather think conspire to the punishment of traitors. this was done in type of that unmeasurable Amongst the rest, see how a fatal oak hath mercy of the true King and Redeemer of singled out the ringleader of this hateful Israel, who prayed for his persecutors, for insurrection, and will at once serve for his his murderers ? and even while they were hangman and gallows, by one of those at once scorning and killing him, could say, spreading arms snatching him away to “Father, forgive them, for they know not speedy execution. Absalom was comely, what they do ?" If we be sons, we are un. and he knew it well enough: his hair was gracious, we are rebellious; yet still is ourno small piece of his beauty, nor matter of heavenly Father compassionately regardful his pride; it was his wont to cut it once a of us. David was not sure of his success : year, not for that it was too long, but too there was great inequality in the number; heavy; his heart would have borne it lon. Absalom's forces were more than doubleger, if his neck had not complained : and to his : it might have come to the contrary now the justice of God hath plaited a halter issue, that David should have been forced of those locks. Those tresses had formerly to say, “ Deal gently with the father of hanged loosely dishevelled on his shoulders : Absalom;" but in a supposition of that vic- now he hangs by them : he had wont to tory, which only the goodness of his cause weigh his hair, and was proud to find it so bade him hope for, he saith, “ Deal' gently heavy; now his hair poiseth the weight of with the young man Absalom.” As for us, his body, and makes his burden his torment. we are never but under mercy: our God It is no marvel if his own hair turned trai. needs no advantages to sweep us from the tor to him who durst rise up against his earth any moment; yet he continues that father. That part, which is misused by man life. and those powers to us, whereby we to sin, is commonly employed by God to provoke him, and bids his angels deal kind- revenge: the revenge that it worketh for ly with us, and bear us in their arms, while God, makes amends for the offence whereto we lift up our hands, and bend our tongues it is drawn against God. The very beast against heaven. O mercy past the compre- whereon Absalom sat, as weary to bear so hension of all tinite spirits, and only to be unnatural a burden, resigns over his load conceived by him whose it is never more to the tree of justice : there hangs Absalom resembled by any earthly affection, than by between heaven and earth, as one that was this of his deputy and type! “ Deal gently hated and abandoned both of earth and with the young man Absalom for my sake." | heaven; as if God meant to prescribe this
The battle is joined. David's followers punishment for traitors : Absalom, Ahithoare but a handful to Absalom's. How phel, and Judas, die all one death : so let
them perish, that dare lift up their hand stoned. Justly was he lift up to the oak, against God's anointed!
who had lift up himself against his father The honest soldier sees Absalom hanging and sovereign ; justly is he pierced with in the oak, and dares not touch him ; his darts, who had pierced his father's heart hands were held with the charge of David: | with so many sorrows; justly is he man. “ Beware that none touch the young mangled, who hath dismembered and divided Absalom." Joab, upon that intelligence, all Israel ; justly is he stoned, who not only sees him, and smites him, with no less than cursed, but pursued his own parent. three darts. What the soldier forebore in I Now Joab sounds the retreat, and calls obedience, the captain doth in zeal; not off his eager troops from execution, how. fearing to prefer his sovereign's safety to his ever he knew what his rebellious country. command, and more tendering the life of a | men had deserved in following an Absalom king, and the peace of his country, than the Wise commanders know how to put a dif, weak affection of a father. I dare not sit ference betwixt the heads of a faction and judge betwixt bis zeal and that obedience; the misguided multitude; and can pity the betwixt the captain and the soldier: the one | one, while they take revenge on the other. was a good subject, the other a good patriot; So did Absalom esteem himself, that he the one loved the king, the other loved Da- thought it would be a wrong to the world vid, and out of love disobeyed; the one to want the memorial of so goodly a person. meant as well as the other sped. As if God God had denied him sons; how just it was meant to fulfil the charge of his anointed, that he should want a son, who had robbed without any blame of his subjects, it pleased his father of a son, who would have robbed him to execute that immediate revenge upon himself of a father, his father of a kingdom! the rebel, which would have despatched It had been pity so poisonous a plant should him without hand or dart : only the mule have been fruitful : his pride shall supply and the oak conspired to this execution ; | nature; he rears up a stately pillar in the but that death would have required more king's dale, and calls it by his own name, leisure, than it was safe for Israel to give, that he might live in dead stones, who could and still life would give hope of rescue: to not survive in living issue ; and now behold cut off all fears, Joab lends the oak three this curious pile ends in a rude heap, which darts to help forward so needful a work of speaks no language but the shame of that justice. Aîl Israel did not afford so firm a carcass which it covers. Hear this, ye glofriend to Absalom as Joab had been: who rious fools, that care not to perpetuate any but Joab had suborned the witty widow of memory of yourselves to the world, but of Tekoah to sue for the recalling of Absalom ill-deserving greatness; the best of this affrom his three years exile ? who but he fectation is vanity; the worst, infamy and diswent to fetch him from Geshur to Jerusa honour; whereas the memorial of the just lem? who but he went to fetch him from shall be blessed : and if his humility shall his house at Jerusalem, whereto he had refuse an epitaph, and choose to hide himbeen two years confined, to the face, to the self under the bare earth, God himself shall lips of David ? Yet now he, that was his engrave his name upon the pillar of eternity. solicitor for the king's favour, is his execu There now lies Absalom in the pit, under tioner against the king's charge. With ho. a thousand grave-stones, in every of which nest hearts, all respects, either of blood or is written his everlasting reproach. Well friendship, cease in the case of treason: might this heap overlive that pillar ; for well hath Joab forgotten himself to be a when that ceased to be a pillar, it began to friend to him, who had forgotten himself to be a heap; neither will it cease to be a monube a son. Even, civilly, the king is our ment of Absalom's shame, while there are common father, our country our common stones to be found upon earth. Even at mother ; nature hath no private relations, this day, very pagans and pilgrims that pass which should not gladly give place to these: | that way, cast each man a stone into that he is neither father, nor son, nor brother, heap, and are wont to say in a solemn exenor friend, that conspires against the com- cration, Cursed be the parricide Absalom, mon parent. Well doth he, who spake and cursed be all unjust persecutors of their parables for his master's son, now speak parents, for ever. Fasten your eyes upon darts to his king's enemy, and pierces that this woful spectacle, O all ye rebellious and heart which was false to so great a father. ungracious children, which rise up against Those darts are seconded by Joab's follow the loins and thighs from which ye fell; and ers; each man tries his weapon upon so fair know, that it is the least part of your pua mark. One death is not enough for Ab- nishment, that your carcasses rot in the salom; he is at once hanged, shot, mangled, earth, and your name in ignominy : these