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It is, I believe, universally allowed, that the chief design in God, in separating the Jewish nation from the rest of mankind, was to perpetuate the knowledge of himself by means of this peculiar people, and to preserve the worship of the one true God amidst an idolatrous world. This was the grand foundation of the whole Jewish polity; the main purport of their laws; the principle of all God's dealings towards them. Whoever, therefore, exerted himself vigorously and effectually in promoting this great end of the Jewish theocracy, might, with the strictest propriety, be called a man after God's own heart; because he acted in conformity to the main purpose of God's heart: he did the very thing that God wanted to have done; he forwarded the grand design that he had in view. Now this was precisely the character of David, the distinguishing excellence of his life. He was a sincere and hearty lover of his country, a zealous observer of its laws, in opposition to all idolatry, from which he · eyer kept himself and his people at the ut
most distance.* It was not, therefore, on account of his private virtues, but his public conduct; not for a spotless purity of manners, but for his abhorrence of idolatry, and his strict adherence to the civil and religious † laws of his country, that David was honoured with the name of the man after God's own heart. If any Christian writers have supposed that this title was the mark of moral perfection, and in consequence of that have exalted David's character into a standard of virtue, they have, with a very good meaning perhaps, done a very inju. * See Le Clerc on Acts xiii. 22. Patrick on 1 Kings xv. 3, 5.
+ One remarkable instance of David's scrupulous observance of the law, in punctually complying with the prohibition given in Deut. xvii. 16. against the use of cavalry in war, see in Bishop SHERLOCK on Prophecy, Diss. 4. p. 370—375. And perhaps his invariable obedience to this important law, 6 which was to be a standing trial of prince and people, “ whether they had trust and confidence in God their deliverer,” might contribute not a little towards procuring him this so much envied distinction.
I It is certain that Abraham was called THE FRIEND OF GOD, (a distinction no less remarkable than king David's) for the reasons here assigned; for his adhering to the belief and worship of the one true God, in opposition to the idolatrous nations amongst whom he lived. See Clarke's Sermons, vol. ii. Disc. 38. p. 50. Dublin edition, 1751, and Le Clerc on Gen. vi. 9.
dicious thing. The explanation here given seems most agreeable to the language of the Scriptures, to the general tenour of David's conduct, to the nature of the Jewish dispensation, and the intentions of its Divine Author.
To what has been urged in favour of this interpretation, by a very eminent writer, * may be added, that though David is in this single passage called a man after God's own heart; yet it is afterwards only said of him in common with several other kings, that he“ did that which was right in the eyes “ of the Lord t;" which expression seems intended to convey, and indeed naturally does convey, the same meaning as the other. For it will not be easy to point out a difference betwixt acting 66 according to any 66 one's heart," and doing that which is right in his eyes.” By determining therefore the signification of this phrase, we shall arrive at the true value of that made use of in the text. Now the expression of “doing that which is right in the eyes of “the Lord,” is constantly and uniformly applied to those, who were eminent not so much for their virtues in a private, as their zeal in a regal capacity; for their aversion to idolatry, and scrupulous observance of the law. Thus when it is said of Asa*, that he did that which was “good " and right in the eyes of the Lord,” the reason assigned for it is, “ because he took “ away the altars of the strange gods, and “ the high places, and brake down the im“ ages, and cut down the groves; and 66 commanded Judah to seek the Lord God “ of their fathers, and to do the law and 66 the commandment.” Not a word of his moral character, though from his doing that which was not only right but good, one might naturally have expected it. Again, when we are told that Solomon's heart was not perfect with the Lord his God; that he went not fully after the Lord as did David his father; the proof alleged is, that his wives turned away his heart after other gods.†. Whence it evidently appears, that the perfection of David's heart consisted
• See Divine Legation of Moses, vol. iii. b. 4. s. 6. p. 354. 3d edit.
f 1 Kings xv. 5.
principally in his inviolable attachment to the worship of the true God, from which he never deviated or turned aside, “either to the right hand or to the left."
If this explanation be, as it appears to be, conformable to truth and Scripture, the following very useful consequences do naturally and immediately flow from it.
I. That, in order to vindicate God's choice of “ a man after his own heart,” or the truth of the Scriptures in relating it, there is no necessity to prove his moral conduct faultless, or to obviate all the accusations which have been brought against him; because this choice having proceeded on other principles, his private conduct is foreign to the question. *
* It has been observed, that David's moral character seems to be pronounced faultless, (1 Kings xv. 5.) except in the matter of Uriah. We reply, that the Scripture in this (as in many other places) must necessarily be understood to speak only in general ; intimating, that king David's conduct was, in the main, good and right; and though he might be guilty of other faults, yet none of them were so gross and enormous, so directly repugnant to the express commands of God, as this; and therefore not so necessary to be pointed out, and particularly distinguished. Whoever is well acquainted with the Scripture phraseology must allow, that it not only admits, but perpetually requires, such restrictions as this. See Matt. y. 48. and Clarke's Sermons, vol. ii. p. 404. and vol. v. p. 61. Dublin edition, 8vo. 1751.