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do but shadow out those eternal sufferings for you. O love, like thyself, infinite, inof your souls, for your foul and unnatural comprehensible, whereat the angels of headisobedience.
ven stand yet amazed, wherewith thy saints Absalom is dead: who shall report it to are ravished ! “ Turn away thine eyes from: his father ? Surely Joab was not so much me, for they overcome me. O thou that afraid of the fact as of the message. There dwellest in the gardens, the companions are busy spirits that love to carry news, hearken to thy voice ; cause us to hear it;" though thankless, though purposeless : such that we may in our measure answer thy was Ahimaaz, the son of Zadok, who in- | love, and enjoy it for ever. portunately thrust himself into this service. Wise Joab, who well saw how unwelcome tidings must be the burden of the first post, CONTEMPLATION IV. SHEBA'S REBELLION. dissuades him in vain : he knew David too well to employ a friend to that errand. An | It was the doom which God passed upon Ethiopian servant was a fitter bearer of such the man after his own heart, by the mouth a message, than the son of the priest. The of Nathan, that the sword should never deentertainment of the person doth so follow part from his house, for the blood of Uriah: the quality of the news, that David could after that wound healed by remission, yet argue afar off, “ He is a good man, he this scar remains. Absalom is no sooner cometh with good tidings.” O how wel cast down into the pit, than Sheba, the son come deserve those messengers to be, that of Bichri, is up in arms. If David be not bring us the glad tidings of salvation, that plagued, yet he shall be corrected; first by assure us of the foil of all spiritual enemies, the rod of a son, then of a subject. He and tell us of nothing but victories, and had lifted up his hands against a faithful crowns, and kingdoms! If we think not subject; now a faithless dares to lift up his their feet beautiful, our hearts are foul with hand against him. Malice, like some herediinfidelity and secure worldliness.
tary sickness, runs in the blood : Saul and So wise is Ahimaaz grown by Joab's in. Shimei, and Sheba, were all of an house : timation, that though he out-went Cushi that ancient grudge was not yet dead; the in his pace, he suffers Cushi to out-go him fire of the house of Jemini was but raked in his tale, cunningly suppressing that part up, never thoroughly out; and now that, which he knew must be both necessarily which did but smoke in Shimei, flames in delivered, and unpleasingly received. Sheba ; although, even through this chas
As our care is wont to be where our love tisement, it is not hard to discern a type of is, David's first word is not, How fares the that perpetual succession of enmity which host? but, “ How fares the young man should be raised against the true King of Absalom?" Like a wise and faithful mes- | Israel. O son of David, when didst thou senger, Cushi answers by an honest insinu- ever want enemies? How wert thou de. ation, « The enemies of my Lord the king, signed by thine eternal Father, for a sign and all that rise against thee to do thee that should be spoken against ! « How did hurt, be as that young man is ;" implying the Gentiles rage, and the people imagine both what was done, and why David should vain things! The kings of the earth assemapprove it being done. How is the good bled, and the rulers came together against king thunder-struck with that word of his thee.” Yea, how do the subjects of thine own blackamoor; who, as if he were at once be- kingdom daily conspire against thee! Even reaved of all comfort, and cared not to live now, while thou enjoyest peace and glory at but in the name of Absalom, goes, and thy Father's right hand, as soon shalt thou weeps, and cries out, “Omy son Absalom! want friends as enemies upon earth. my son, my son Absalom! would God I No eye of any traitor could espy a just had died for thee! O Absalom, my son, quarrel in the government of David; yet my son!” What is this we hear? that he, Sheba blows the trumpet of rebellion; and whose life Israel valued at ten thousand of while Israel and Judah are striving who theirs, should be exchanged with a traitor's: should have the greatest part in their rethat a good king, whose life was sought, established sovereign, he sticks not to say, should wish to lay it down for the preser.“ We have no part in David, neither have vation of his murderer. The best men have we inheritance in the son of Jesse;" and not wont to be the least passionate. But while he says, “ Every man to his tents, what shall we say to that love of thine, O Israel,” he calls every man to his own : O Saviour, who hast said of us wretched so, in proclaiming a liberty from a just and traitors, not “ Would God I had died for loyal subjection, he invites Israel to the you!" but, I will die, I do die, I have died | bondage of an usurper.
That a lewd conspirator should breathe of reasons of state, which, if they were pri treason, it is no wonder : but is it not won. | vate persons, could not be easily put viver. der and shame, that, upon every mutinous It is no small wisdom to engage a new reblast, Israel should turn traitor to God's conciled friend, that he may be confirmed anointed? It was their late expostulation by his own act; therefore is Amasa comwith David, why their brethren, the men of manded to levy the forces of Judah. Joab, Judah, should have stolen him from them. after many great merits and achievements, Now might David more justly expostulate, lies rusting in neglect: he, that was so en. why a rebel of their brethren should have tire with David, as to be of his counsel for stolen them from him. As nothing is more Uriah's blood, and so firm to David, as to unstable than the multitude, so nothing is lead all his battles against the house of Saul, inore subject to distates than sovereignty; the Ammonites, the Aramites, Absalom, is tor, as weak minds seek pleasure in change, now cashiered, and must yield his place so every light conceit of irritation seems to a stranger, late an enemy. Who know's sufficient colour of change: such the false not that this son of Zeruiah had shed the dispositions of the vulgar are! Love cannot blood of war in peace? But if the blood be security enough for princes without the of Absalom had not been louder than the awfulness of power. What hold can there blood of Abner, I fear this change had not be of popularity, when the same hands that been. Now Joab smarteth for a loyal dis. even now fought for David to be all theirs, obedience. How slippery are the stations now fight against him, under the son of of earthly lionours, and subject to conti. Bichri, as none of theirs ? As bees, when nual mutability! Happy are they who are they are once up in a swarm, are ready to in favour with him, in whom there is no light upon every bough, so the Israelites, shadow of change! being stirred by the late commotion of Ab. Where men are commonly most ambisalom, are apt to follow every Sheba. Ittious to please with their first employments. is unsafe for any state, that the multitude Amasa slackens his pace. The least delay should once know the way to an insurrec. in matters of rebellion is perilous, may be tion : the least track in this kind is easily irrecoverable. The sons of Zeruiah are made a path. Yet, if Israel rebel, Judah not sullen: Abishai is sent, Joab goes un. continues faithful ; neither shall the son of sent, to the pursuit of Sheba. Amasa was David ever be left destitute of some true in their way, whom no quarrel but their subjects in the worst of apostasies. He, envy had made of a brother an enemy that could command all hearts, will ever be Had the heart of Amasa been privy to any followed by some: God had rather glorify cause of grudge, he had suspected the kiss himself by a remnant.
of Joab; now his innocent eyes look to Great commanders must have active the lips, not to the hand of his secret enethoughts : David is not so taken up with my; the lips were smooth: “Art thou in the embroiled affairs of his state, as not to health, my brother?” The band was bloods, intend domestic justice. His ten concu. | which smote him under the fifth rib; that bines, which were shamelessly defiled by unhappy hand knew well this way unto his incestuous son, are condemned to death, which with one wound hath let out ward and widowhood. Had not that con. the souls of two great captains, Abner and stupration been partly violent, their punish- Amasa : both they were smitten by Joab, ment had not been so easy; had it not both under the fifth rib, both under a prealso been partly voluntarily, they had not tence of friendship. There is no enmity been so much punished: but how much so dangerous as that which comes masked soever the act did partake of either force with love. Open hostility calls us to o!ır or will, justly are they sequestered from guard ; but there is no fence against a David's bed. Absalom was not more un. trusted treachery. We need not be bidden natural in his rebellion than in his lust: to avoid an enemy; but who would run if now David should have returned to his away from a friend? Thus spiritually deals own bed, he had seconded the incest. How the world with our souls : it kisses us and much more worthy of separation are they, staby us at once; if it did not embrace us who have stained the marriage-bed with | with one hand, it could not murder us with their wilful sin !
the other: only God deliver us from the Amasa was one of the witnesses and danger of our trust, and we shall be safe. abettors of Absalomn's filthiness; yet is he, Joab is gone, and leaves Amasa wallowout of policy, received to favour and employ-ing in blood. That spectacle cannot but ment, while the concubines suffer. Great stay all passengers : the death of great permen yield many times to those things, out sons draws ever many eyes. Each man says, hift47 “ Is not this my lord Amasa ?" Wherefore have we known female hearts in the breasts be cast do we go to fight, while our general lies in of men, and, contrarily, manly powers in enezes the dust? What a sad presage is this of our the weaker vessels ! It is injurious to meamath own miscarriage! The wit of Joab's fol. sure the act by the person, and not rather se towers hath therefore soon both removed to esteem the person for the act. of the Amasa out of the way, and covered him, She, with no less prudence than courage, od not regarding so much the loss, as the eye-challengeth Joab for the violence of his as
che sore of Israel. Thus wicked politics care sault, and lays to him that law, which he phase not so much for the commission of vil. I could not be an Israelite and disavow - the
lany, as for the notice. Smothered evils | law of the God of peace, whose charge it are as not done: if oppressions, if murder, / was, that, when they should come near to
if treasons, may be hid from view, the ob. a city to fight against it, they should offer ricks dured heart of the offender complains not of it peace : and if this tender inust be made remorse.
to foreigners, how much more to brethren? Bloody Joab, with what face, with what So as they must inquire of Abel ere they heart, canst thou pursue a traitor to thy battered it. War is the extreme act of vin. king, while thou thyself art so foul a traitor dictive justice; weither doth God ever to thy friend, to thy cousin-german, and, approve it for any other than a desperate in so unseasonable a slaughter, to thy so. remedy; and, if it hath any other end than vereign, whose cause thou professest to | peace, it turns into public murder. It is revenge? If Amasa were now, in an act of therefore an inhuman cruelty to shed blood, loyalty, justly, on God's part, paid for the where we have not proffered fair conditions arrearages of his late rebellion; yet that it of peace, the refusal whereof is justly pushould be done by thy hand, then and nished with the sword of revenge. thus, it was flagitiously cruel: yet behold, Joab was a man of blood; yet, when the Joab runs away securely with the fact, wise woman of Abel charged him with gohasting to plague that, in another, whereof ing about to destroy a mother in Israel, and himself was no less guilty. So vast are swallowing up the inheritance of the Lord, the gorges of some consciences, that they with what vehemence doth he deprecate can swallow the greatest crimes, and find that challenge! • God forbid, God forbid no strain in the passage.
it me, that I should devour or destroy it." It is possible for a man to be faithful | Although that city, with the rest, had ento some one person, and perfidious to all gaged itself in Sheba's sedition, yet how others. I do not find Joab other than firm zealously doth Joab remove from himself and loyal to David, in the midst of all his the suspicion of an intended vastation ! private falsehoods, whose just quarrel he How fearful shall their answer be, who, pursues against Sheba, through all the tribes upon the quarrel of their own ambition, of Israel. None of all the strong forts of have not spared to waste whole tribes of revolted Israel can hide the rebel from the the Israel of God! It was not the fashion zeal of his revenge. The city of Abel lends of David's captains to assault any city pre harbour to that conspirator, whom all Israel they summoned it: here they did. There would, and cannot protect. Joab casts up be some things that in the very fact carry a mound against it, and having environed it their own conviction; so did Abel in the with a siege, begins to work upon the wall ; entertaining and abetting a known conspiand now, after long chase, is in hand to dig | rator: Joab challenges them for the offence, out that vermin, which had earthed himself and requires no other satisfaction than the in this borough of Bethmaachah. Had not head of Sheba. This matron had not de. the city been strong and populous, Sheba served the name of wise and faithful in had not cast himself for succour within those Israel, if she had not both apprehended the walls; yet of all the inhabitants, I see not justice of the condition, and commended it any one man move for the preservation of to her citizens, whom she had easily per. their whole body: only a woman undertakes suaded to spare their own heads in not to treat with Joab for their safety. Those sparing a traitor's. It had been pity those men, whose spirits were great enough to walls should have stood, if they had been maintain a traitor against a mighty king, too high to throw a traitor's head over. scorn not to give way to the wisdom of a Spiritually the case is ours : every man's matron : there is no reason that sex should breast is as a city inclosed; every sin is as disparage, where the virtue and merit are a traitor that lurks within those walls: God no less than masculine. Surely the soul calls to us for Sheba's head; neither hath acknowledgeth no sex, neither is varied he any quarrel to our person, but for o'ir according to the outward frame. How oft | sin. If we love the head of our traitor
above the life of our soul, we shall justly I hath not been a provocation from men; perish in the vengeance. We cannot be therefore, when he sees the plague, he inmore willing to part with our sin, than our quires for the sin. Never man smarted merciful God is to withdraw his judgments. causelessly from the hand of divine justice.
Now is Joab returned with success, and that, when we suffer, we could ask what hopes, by Sheba's head, to pay the price of we have done, and could guide our repentAmasa's blood; David hates the murder, ance to the root of our evils ! entertains the man, defers the revenge ; ! That God, whose counsels are secret, Joab had made himself so great, so neces- even where his actions are open, will not sary, that David may neither miss nor pu be close to his prophet, to his priest: withnish him. Policy led the king to connive out inquiry, we shall know nothing ; upon at that which his heart abhorred. I dare inquiry, nothing shall be concealed from us, not commend that wisdom which holds the that is fit for us to know. hands of princes from doing justice. Great Who can choose but wonder at once, men have ever held it a point of worldly both at David's slackness in consulting with state, not always to pay where they have God, and God's speed in answering so been conscious to a debt of either favour or slow a demand? He, that so well knew the punishment; but to make time their ser- way to God's oracle, suffers Israel to be vant for both. Solomon shall once defray three years pinched with famine, ere he the arrearages of his father. In the mean asks why they suffer. Even the best hearts time, Joab commands and prospers, and may be overtaken with dulness in holy David is fain to smile on that face, whereon duties; but the marvellous mercy of he hath, in his secret destination, written God, that takes not the advantage of our characters of death.
weaknesses ! David's question is not more slow, than his answer is speedy: “ It is for
Saul, and for his bloody house, because he CONTEMPLATION V. —THE GIBEONITES slew the Gibeonites." Israel was full of REVENGED.
sins, besides those of Saul's house ; Saul's
house was full of sins, besides those of Tue reign of David was most troublesome blood : much blood was shed by them, betowards the shutting up, wherein both war sides that of the Gibeonites; yet the justice and famine conspire to afflict him : almost of God singles out this one sin of violence forty years had he sat in the throne of Is-offered to the Gibeonites, contrary to the rael with competency, if not abundance, league made by Joshua, some four hundred of all things; now at last are his people years before, for the occasion of this late visited with a long dearth. We are not at vengeance. Where the causes of offence first sensible of common evils : three years' are infinite, it is just with God to pitch upon drought and scarcity are gone over, ere some; it is merciful not to punish for all: David consults with God, concerning the well near forty years are past betwixt the occasion of the judgment; now he found it commission of the sin, and the reckoning high time to seek the face of the Lord. for it. It is a vain hope that is raised from The continuance of an affliction sends us the delay of judgment: no time can be any to God, and calls upon us to ask for a prejudice to the Ancient of days: when reckoning; whereas, like men stricken in we have forgotten our sins, when the world their sleep, a sudden blow cannot make us hath forgotten us, he sues us afresh for our to find ourselves, but rather astonisheth arrearages. The slaughter of the Gibeonites than teacheth us.
was the sin, not of the present, but rather David was himself a prophet of God; of the former generation; and now posteritv yet had not the Lord, all this while, ac pays for their forefathers. Even we men quainted him with the grounds of his pro- hold it not unjust to sue the heirs and exe. ceedings against Israel ; this secret was hid cutors of our debitors : eternal payments from him, till he consulted with the Urim: God uses only to require of the persons, ordinary means shall reveal that to him temporary ofttimes of succession. which no vision had descried ; and if God As Saul was higher by the head and will have prophets to have recourse unto shoulders than the rest of Israel, both in the priests for the notice of his will, how stature and dignity, so were his sins more much more must the people ? Even those conspicuous than those of the vulgar. The that are inwardest with God must have the eminence of the person makes the offence use of the ephod.
more remarkable to the eyes both of God Justly it is presupposed by David, that and men. there was never judgment from God, where Neither Saul nor Israel were faultless :D
other kinds; yet God fixes the eye of his he pray unto God, and treat with the Gj. revenge upon the massacre of the Gibeon. beonites : “ What shall I do for you, and ites. Every sin hath a tongue, but that of wherewith shall I make the atonement, that blood overcries and drowns the rest. He, ye may bless the inheritance of the Lord?” who is mercy itself, ahhors cruelty in his In vain should David, though a prophet, creature above all other inordinateness: that bless Israel, if the Gibeonites did not bless holy soul, which was heavy pressed with them. Injuries done us on earth, give us the weight of a heinous adultery, yet cries power in heaven: the oppressor is in no out, “ Deliver me from blood, o God, the man's mercy, but his whom he hath tram. God of my salvation, and my tongue shall pled upon. joyfully sing of thy righteousness."
Little did the Gibeonites think that God If God would take account of blood, he had so taken to heart their wrongs, that for might have entered the action upon the their sakes all Israel should suffer. Even blood of Uriah spilt by David; or, if he when we think not of it, is the righteous would rather insist in Saul's house, upon Judge avenging our unrighteous vexations. the blood of Abimelech the priest, and four- Our hard measures cannot be hid from him; score and five persons that did wear a linen his returns are hid from us. It is sufficient ephod: but it pleased the wisdom and jus- for us, that God can be no more neglective tice of the Almighty rather to call for the than ignorant of our sufferings. It is now blood of the Gibeonites, though drudges of in the power of these despised Hivites to Israel, and a remnant of Amorites. Why make their own terms with Israel ; neither this? There was a perjury attending upon silver nor gold will savour with them towards this slaughter: it was an ancient oath, | their satisfaction : nothing can expiate the wherein the princes of the congregation had blood of their fathers, but the blood of seven bound themselves, upon Joshua's league, | sons of their deceased persecutor. Here to the Gibeonites, that they would suffer was no other than a just retaliation : Saul them to live an oath extorted by fraud, had punished in them the offence of their but solemn, by no less name than the Lord predecessors; they will now revenge Saul's God of Israel. Saul will now, thus late, sin in his children. The measure we mete either not acknowledge it, or not keep it ; unto others, is, with much equity, remeaout of his zeal, therefore, to the children of sured unto ourselves. Every death would Israel and Judah, he roots out some of the not content them of Saul's sons, but a cursed Gibeonites, whether in a zeal of revenge and ignominious hanging on the tree; neiof their first imposture, or in a zeal of en-ther would that death content them, unless larging the possessions of Israel, or in a zeal their own hands might be the execution. of executing God's charge upon the brood ers; neither would any place serve for the of Canaanites : he that spared Agag, whom execution but Gibeah, the court of Saul; he should have smitten, smites the Gibeon-neither would they do any of this for the ites, whom he should have spared. Zeal and wrecking of their own fury, but for the apgood intention is no excuse, much less a peasing of God's wrath : “ We will hang warrant for evil : God holds it a high in them up unto the Lord in Gibeah of Saul." dignity, that his name should be sworn by, David might not refuse the condition: and violated. Length of time cannot dis- he must deliver, they must execute. He pense with our oaths, with our vows: the chooses out seven of the sons and grand. vows and oaths of others may bind us; how children of Saul. That house had raised much more our own ?
long an unjust persecution against David ; There was a famine in Israel : à natural now God pays it upon another's score. man would have ascribed it unto the drought, David's love and oath to Jonathan preserve and that drought, perhaps, to some constel- lame Mephibosheth: how much more shall lations : David knows to look higher, and the Father of all mercies do good unto the sees a divine hand scourging Israel for some children of the faithful, for the covenant great offence, and overruling those second made with their parents ? causes to his most just executions. Even The five sons of Adriel the Meholathite, the most quick-sighted worldling is purblind David's ancient rival in his first love, which to spiritual objects; and the weakest eyes were born to him by Merab, Saul's daughof the regenerate pierce the heavens, and ter, and brought up by her barren sister Miespy God in all earthly occurrences. chal, the wife of David, are yielded up to
So well was David acquainted with God's death. Merab was, after a promise of marproceedings, that he knew the removal of riage to David, unjustly given away by Saul the judgment must begin at the satisfaction to Adriel: Michal seems to abet the match, of the wronged. At once, therefore, doth in breeding the children. Now, in one act,