And Samuel died, and all the Israelites were gathered together and lamented him.
1. The self-forgetting life. We want to learn to do good quietly, unostentatiously.
2. Joy in daily tasks.
3. Disinterested virtue. To live a good life in order to be missed, and nothing more, is one thing. But to live it without any such intention is another. Our virtue must be disinterested.
4. The life of service. So we speak of the useful life as the true one. The ideal life is that of consecrated service. Is there anyone living in loneliness who will say: "When I had not a friend in the world, when I came up from come country place and went into a certain church, that man befriended me?"
5. Active religion. "And Samuel died, and all Israel wept for him." We, too, must die. Will men weep for us? Will the world be sorry or will he clap his hands?
Now the name of the man was Nabal, and the name of his wife Abigail.I. NABAL, THE CHURL. What an apt thumbnail sketch is given of the whole race of Nabals in the confidential remark passed between his servant and his wife, "He is such a son of Belial that one cannot speak to him!"
1. He was very great. There are four kinds of greatness; young men, choose the best for your life aim! It is little to be great in possessing; better to be great in doing; better still to conceive and promulgate great thoughts; but best to be great in character.
2. He was a fool, his wife said. He surely must have sat for the full length portrait of the fool in our Lord's parable, who thought his soul could take its ease and be merry because a few big barns were full.
3. He was a man of Belial, his servant said. He seems to have had no compunction for his churlish speeches: no idea of the consequences they might involve. As soon as the words were spoken, they were forgotten; and in the evening of the day on which they were spoken we find him in his house, holding a feast, like the feast of a king, his heart merry with wine, and altogether so stupid that his wife told him nothing less or more till the morning light.
II. DAVID, PRECIPITATE AND PASSIONATE. One of the most characteristic features in David's temper and behaviour through all these weary years was his self-control. But the rampart of self-restraint built by long habit went down, like a neglected sea wall, before the sudden paroxysm of passion which Nabal's insulting words aroused. At this hour David was on the brink of committing a crime which would east a dark shadow on all his after years. In calmer, quieter, holier hours it would have been a grief to him. From this shame, sorrow, and disgrace he was saved by that sweet and noble woman, Abigail.
III. ABIGAIL, THE BEAUTIFUL INTERCESSOR. She was a woman of good understanding and of a beautiful countenance — a fit combination. Her character had written its legend on her face. There are many beautiful women wholly destitute of good understanding; just as birds of rarest plumage are commonly deficient in the power of song. It is remarkable how many Abigails get married to Nabals. God-fearing women, tender and gentle in their sensibilities, high-minded and noble in their ideals, become tied in an indissoluble union with men for whom they can have no true affinity, even if they have not an unconquerable repugnance. To such an one there is but one advice — You must stay where you are. The dissimilarity in taste and temperament does not constitute a sufficient reason for leaving your husband to drift. It may be that some day your opportunity will come, as it came to Abigail. In the meantime do not allow your purer nature to be bespotted or besmeared. Nabal's servants knew the quality of their mistress, and could trust her to act wisely in the emergency which was upon them; so they told her all. She immediately grasped the situation, despatched a small procession of provision bearers, along the way that David must come, and followed them immediately on her ass. She met the avenging warriors by the covert of the mountain, and the interview was as creditable to her woman's wit as to her grace of heart. Frank and noble as he always was, he did not hesitate to acknowledge his deep indebtedness to this lovely woman, and to see in her intercession the gracious arrest of God. What a revelation this is of the ministries with which God seeks to avert us from our evil ways! They are sometimes very subtle and slender, very small and still.
(F. B. Meyer, B. A.)
And David heard in the wilderness that Nabal did shear his sheep.
Shall I then take my bread, and my water.
I. EXCUSE MADE BY NABAL MY POSSESSIONS ARE STRICTLY AND PROPERLY MY OWN, AND I HAVE A RIGHT TO EMPLOY THEM AS I PLEASE. "Shall I take my bread, and my water, and my flesh." This is also an excuse that we still hear daily presented by the covetous and uncharitable. But common as is this excuse, it is not only demonstrably false, but also awfully impious, and strikes directly at the providence, the government, and the sovereignty of the Most High God. No! Your wealth is not your own natural, as well as revealed religion, declares that you are only stewards.
II. EXCUSE OF NABAL: THE SUPPOSED INFERIORITY OF THOSE FOR WHOM HIS ASSISTANCE WAS SOLICITED AND HIS WANT OF RELATIONSHIP TO HIM. "Who is David? and who is the son of Jesse? There be many servants now-a-days that break away every man from his master." This excuse also is still daily presented, when we plead for the distressed. There can be little doubt, that the ignorance of Nabal was only pretended, that he might render his reply more contemptuous, he well knew the valour and reputation of David. Do you add, with Nabal, "Who is David? Who are these poor orphans? What relationship are they to me, that I should assist them?" They have descended from the same patent with you; their origin is your own. In them as well as you, there is a soul endued with wonderful faculties; a soul destined to endless happiness or eternal misery.
III. EXCUSE OF NABAL: HIS UNWILLINGNESS TO ENCOURAGE VICE OR INDOLENCE. "There be many servants now-a-days that break away every man from his master!" This excuse too we often hear when we ask relief for the distressed. "Shall I give?" Yes: because of the instability of all earthly things. Do you still ask with Nabal, "Shall I give?" Yes; consider the day of trouble and bestow your benefaction. "Shall I give?" Yes; if you wish your memory to be cherished by your survivors. "Shall I give?" Yes! for the judgment day is approaching: and then: what unutterable anguish, what agonising horror, shall convulse the heart of him who "shall receive judgment without mercy, because he hath showed no mercy!"
(H. Kollock, D. D.)
I. THE CAUSES OF THIS FALSE SOCIAL STATE.
1. False basis on which medial superiority was held to rest. Throughout Nabal's conduct was built upon the assumption of his own superiority. He was a man of wealth. David was dependent on his own daily efforts. Now observe two things.(1) An apparent inconsistency in David's conduct. One injury from Nabal, and David is striding over the hills to revenge his wrong with naked steel. How came this reverence and irreverence to mix together? We reply. Saul had a claim of authority on David's allegiance: Nabal only one of rank. Between these the Bible makes a vast difference. It says, The powers which be are ordained of God. But upper and lower, as belonging to difference in property are fictitious terms: true, if character corresponds with titular superiority; false, if it does not.(2) This great falsehood respecting superior and inferior, rested on a truth. There had been a superiority in the wealthy class once. In the patriarchal system wealth and rule had gone together. It is a fallacy in which we are perpetually entangled. We expect reverence for that which was once a symbol of what was reverenced, but is reverenced no longer. No. That patriarchal system has passed forever.
2. A false conception respecting Rights. It would be unjust to Nabal to represent this as an act of wilful oppression and conscious injustice. He did what appeared to him fair between man and man. He paid his labourers. Why should he pay anything beyond stipulated wages? Recollect too, there was something to be said for Nabal. This view of the irresponsible right of property was not his invention. It was the view probably entertained by all his class. It had descended to him from his parents. They were prescriptive and admitted rights on which he stood. On the other hand, David and his needy followers were not slow to perceive that they had their rights over that property of Nabal's. In point of fact, David had a right to a share of Nabal's profits. The harvest was in part David's harvest, for without David it never could have been reaped. Here, then, is one of the earliest instances of the Rights of Labour coming into collision with the Rights of Property. Now when it comes to this, Rights against Rights, there is no determination of the question but by overwhelming numbers or blood. We find another cause in circumstances. Want and unjust exclusion precipitated David and his men into this rebellion. It is common enough to lay too much weight on circumstances. Circumstances of outward condition are not the sole efficients in the production of character, but they are efficients which must not be ignored. Favourable condition will not produce excellence: but the want of it often hinders excellence. It is true that vice leads to poverty: all the moralisers tell us that, but it is also true that poverty leads to vice.
II. THE MESSAGE OF THE CHURCH TO THE MAN OF WEALTH. The message of the Church contains those principles of life which, carried out would, and hereafter will, realise the Divine Order of Society.
1. The spiritual dignity of man as man. Recollect David was the poor man, but Abigail, the high-born lady, admits his worth. Worth does not mean what a man is worth — you must find some better definition than that. That is the Church's message be the man of wealth, and a message which it seems has to be learned afresh in every ago. It was new to Nabal. It was new to the men of the ago of Christ. In His day, they were offended in Him, because He was humbly born. "Is not this the carpenter's son?" It is the offence now. They who retain those superstitious ideas of the eternal superiority of rank and wealth, have the first principles of the Gospel yet to learn.
2. The second truth expressed by Abigail was the Law of Sacrifice. She did not heal the grievance with smooth words. Starving men are not to be pacified by professions of good will. She brought her two hundred loaves, and her two skins of wine, her five sheep ready dressed, etc. A princely provision! Now this the Church proclaims as part of its special message to the rich. The Self-sacrifice of the Redeemer was to be the living principle and law of the self-devotion of His people. To the spirit of the Cross alone we look as the remedy for social evils.
3. The last part of the Church's message to the man of wealth touches the matter of rightful influence. Very remarkable is the demeanour of David towards Nabal, as contrasted with his demeanour towards Abigail. In the one case, defiance, and a haughty self-assertion of equality — in the other, deference, respect, and the most eloquent benediction. It was not therefore against the wealthy class, but against individuals of the class, that the wrath of these men burned. See then, the folly and the falsehood of the sentimental regret that there is no longer any reverence felt towards superiors. There is reverence to superiors, if only it can be shown that they are superiors. The fiercest revolt against false authority is only a step towards submission to rightful authority. Emancipation from false lords only sets the heart free to honour true ones.
(F. W. Robertson, M. A.)
For he is such a son of Belial, that a man cannot speak to him.Milton tells us, "is its own place, and it can make a heaven of hell, and a hell of heaven," and Abigail, denied the love of her husband, won the love and respect of the servants, and was a shelter in the time of storm to them. "Nabal," says Dr. Whyte, "died of a strange disease, indebtedness to his wife." He could not brook the thought that he owed his life to the good sense of his wife and to the forbearance of David; it was wormwood and gall, and it poisoned him, and he died of a heart frozen by his own wickedness. Have there not been times when our bad temper has ruled, and we have forgotten to be either just or generous? Nabal died of a frozen heart, but he has had a resurrection in many a life. Boorishness and churlishness were not buried in Nabal's grave. "Temper," says Bishop Watson, "is nine-tenths of religion." "Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus," pleads the Apostle. It is the Christ mind that is the great thing, not simply doing the right thing, but doing it in the right spirit. Nabal was a rich man, but he never was a gentleman; you could not make a gentleman out of such stuff as constituted Nabal's nature. Have you met him — this loud-voiced, blatant, well-dressed, overfed churl. A quaint old Methodist used to say, "Never judge a man by the size of his house. A very small rabbit may live in a very big hole." "Behaviour," says Emerson, "is the finest of the fine arts. Manners are the garments of the spirit, the eternal clothing of the being." Even religion turns sour with some men, and that which should spell light, brightness, and cheerfulness spells instead sourness, unrighteousness, and exclusiveness. You remember how Robert Falconer's grandmother hid away his fiddle, fearful lest the lad should be tempted by it into worldly things, never dreaming that God melts the heart of some by touching the bow of a fiddle with His own figures, as He speaks to others by the voice of some great preacher. He has many ways of fulfilling Himself. How this churlishness destroys the best in life, and robs it of sweetness. The prodigal came home, and his reception would have been perfect but for the one thing, and that was his brother's churlishness. "Sir," said Dr. Johnson, "a man has no more right to say an uncivil thing than to act one; no more right to say a rude thing to another than to knock him down." Epictetus has left us a great lesson in his famous saying, "If a man is unhappy, remember that his unhappiness is his own fault; for God hath made all men to be happy."
The soul of my Lord shall be bound in the bundle of life.
1. This is the beginning of human history. There is but one life in the world, and that life pours itself out and becomes the life of man. And man's life is like the life of God, and it is, in its measure, the life of God. This life is very realistically described as being breathed out from the lips of the Almighty into the muscles of man.
2. Now this is something that gives us not only a very exalted idea of God, but a very exalted idea of man. I do not know of anything that needs to be more impressed upon us today than the dignity of human nature — let me change the word — the divinity of human nature. Nothing can exalt a man above the greatness of his nature, the greatness that is his because his life is a Divine life, his life is in the bundle of life with God. Let us remember this, that whatever happens, we are made of God's will, that God wanted us to be made, that He wanted us to be here. There is something we can do that nobody else could do, and that God's wealth in the world is the wealth of men and women who can meet Him, answering love with love, answering with wisdom and confidence and obedience.
3. It is very easy to see what comes out of this. There comes out of it on the one side God's great delight in us. "The Lord's portion is His people." As long as God is rich, we are rich, as long as God is happy we can be happy if we want to be. As long as God is wise we are wise if we want to be. We are in the bundle with Him. You are bound up in the bundle of life, whatever happens to you happens to Him, and if you choose to have it so, whatever happens to Him, according to the measure of your day, will happen to you. And God likes this trust, this confidence. The more we trust Him the more He is delighted in us. God depends upon us. We are in the bundle of life, and when we drop out of the bundle of life and leave God alone — well, did you ever have a child go out of your house and leave you? That is a little bit of the feeling that God has when we get out of the bundle of life, when we seek after pleasures which he has forbidden, when there is anything in our business that He does not approve. It is so ordained that while we are in the bundle of life with God we are free perfectly. We are not compelled to be there. You can get out of the bundle of life any time you want to. We find a great deal going on in the world that does not seem to be consistent with the bundle of God. How can there be all this misery if London is in the bundle with God? But all London is not in the bundle with God. It ought to be, it can be, but it has slipped away. Yet it is pretty plain that a good many of us have got outside the bundle of God. How does God regard it? How do you regard it? I would like to ask what would happen to God if you get out of the bundle. What would happen if your boy, whom you love a hundred times more than you love Him, got out of your bundle? From the first of Genesis we find how man slipped out of God's bundle. One day they came to Christ and found fault with Him because they said He ate and drank with publicans and sinners, and He turned and said, "You do just the same." "Oh, no," they said, "we never do such a thing." "Do you not? You have a hundred sheep and lose one — what do you do?" "I go after it to bring it back." "Why do you do that? Why do you not send someone else after it? Because it is my sheep." "Precisely. That publican, he is not 'a' publican; he is 'My' publican, 'My' sinner, 'My' boy." God is trying to get you back into the bundle. Every man who is unhappy, every man who does not love Christ and confess Him has dropped out of the bundle. Christ is trying to get him back into the bundle.
(A. Mckenzie, D. D.)
1. Does it not, for one thing, imply, very specially, safety? They are safe who are bound in God's bundle of life. It is a great word in the Bible sense — safety — greater than we shall ever comprehend here. God's desire is to save men from themselves, from their sins, from their spiritual foes.
2. Another thought implied in the phrase, the bundle of life, is that of preciousness. So, in the bundle of life, we have to consider not man's but God's estimate of values. The neediest are, in a sense, the dearest. Look at the publicans of old as compared with the self-righteous Pharisees.
3. But one thing more also is suggested by the bundle, viz., that it will not always be a bundle. After all, the bundle is but a temporary arrangement. Only for the time being, when a household would be removing, would the valuables be packed up in a bundle, with little regard to arrangement and order. But in the new home the bundle would be opened, and each article put carefully in a place of its own. And so with God's opening and rearranging of the bundle of life. The words of Abigail, in connection with David, seem to refer to the present life, to David's safety here from the foes that were assailing him. I am aware that the Jews, nowadays are in the habit of using the phrase in reference to the life beyond. But is it not more in harmony with the idea of a bundle to apply the phrase to the present life? It is here, not hereafter, that things are not as they should be, not as we would wish them to be; it is here that there is the medley and confusion of a bundle. The best and the worst are often in strange positions, and juxtapositions, in this world. And look, too, how those dear to us often get separated, far and wide in life. But the time will come when there shall be separation no more, "and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain; for the former things are passed away." May that be our prayer and trust for us all, that, when all is over, so far as this world is concerned, it will not be for us a being slung out as out of the middle of a sling, but only the opening of the bundle, and the rearrangement and final settlement in the eternal home. But remember, too, that while here, just as the contents of the good wife's bundle, though mixed together for the time being, would still be precious, and still safe, amid all the temporary disorder, so, even here, where things are oft inexplicably mixed, and many things are hard to understand, and harder still to bear, they are nevertheless safe and precious, now and evermore, in His sight, who are bound in God's bundle of life.
(J. S. Maver, M. A.)
Blessed be thou, which hast kept me this day from coming to shed blood.
I. THAT TRANSCENDENT GREATNESS OF THIS SIN-PREVENTING MERCY IS DEMONSTRABLE FROM THESE FOUR FOLLOWING CONSIDERATIONS.
1. Of these in their order: and first, we are to take an estimate of the greatness of this mercy, from the condition it finds the sinner in, when God is pleased to vouchsafe it to him. It finds him in the direct way to death and destruction; and, which is worse, wholly unable to help himself. For he is actually under the power of a temptation and the sway of an impetuous lust; both hurrying him on to satisfy the cravings of it by some wicked action. It is a maxim in the philosophy of some, that whatsoever is once in actual motion, will move forever, if it be not hindered. So a man, being under the drift of any passion, will still follow the impulse of it till something interpose, and by a stronger impulse turn him another way: but in this case we can find no principle within him strong enough to counteract that principle, and to relieve him. For if it be any, it must be either, first, the judgment of his reason; or secondly, the free choice of his will. But from the first of these there can be no help for him in his present condition. For while a man is engaged in any sinful purpose, through the prevalence of any passion, during the continuance of that passion he fully approves of whatsoever he is carried on to do in the strength of it; and judges it, under his present circumstances, the best and most rational course that he can take. (Jonah 4:9; Acts 26:9). But to go no further than the text! do we not think, that while David's heart was full of his revengeful design, it had blinded and perverted his reason so far, that it struck in wholly with his passion, and told him, that the purpose he was going to execute was just, magnanimous, and most becoming such a person, and so dealt with, as he was?
2. Thing proposed; which was to show, What is the fountain or impulsive cause of this prevention of sin? It is perfectly free grace.
3. Demonstration or proof of the greatness of this preventing mercy, taken from the hazard a man runs, if the commission of sin be not prevented, whether ever it will come to be pardoned. In order to the clearing of which, I shall lay down these two considerations.(1) That if sin be not thus prevented, it will certainly be committed; and the reason is, because on the sinner's part there will be always a strong inclination to sin; so that if other things concur, and providence cuts not off the opportunity, the act of sin must needs follow. For an active principle, seconded with the opportunities of action, will infallibly exert itself.(2) The other consideration is, that in every sin deliberately committed, there are, generally speaking, many more degrees of probability, that that sin will never come to be pardoned, than that it will.And this shall be made to appear upon these three following accounts.(1) Because every commission of sin introduces into the soul a certain degree of hardness, and an aptness to continue in that sin.(2) A second reason is, because every commission of sin imprints upon the soul a further disposition and proneness to sin: as the second, third, and fourth degrees of heat are more easily introduced than the first. Everyone is both a preparative and a step to the next. Drinking both quenches the present thirst, and provokes it for the future.(3) The third and grand reason is, because the only thing that can entitle the sinner to pardon, which is repentance, is not in the sinner's power.
4. The greatness of this preventing mercy is eminently proved from those advantages accruing to the soul from the prevention of sin, above what can be had from the bare pardon of it. And that in these two great respects ." Of the clearness of a man's condition.Of the satisfaction of his mind. And(1) For the clearness of his condition. If innocence be preferable to repentance, and to be clean be more desirable than to be cleansed; then surely prevention of sin ought to have the preference of its pardon.(2) The satisfaction of a man's mind. There is that true joy, that solid and substantial comfort conveyed to the heart by preventing grace, which pardoning grace, at the best, very seldom, and, for the most part, never gives. For since all joy passes into the heart through the understanding, the object of it must be known by one, before it can affect the other. Now when grace keeps a man so within his bounds, that sin is prevented, he certainly knows it to be so; and so rejoices upon the firm, infallible ground of sense and assurance. But on the other side, though grace may have reversed the condemning sentence, and sealed the sinner's pardon before God, yet it may have left no transcript of that pardon in the sinner's breast. The pardoned person must not think to stand upon the same vantage ground with the innocent. It is enough that they are both equally safe; but it cannot be thought, that without a rare privilege, both can be equally cheerful.
II. ITS APPLICATION.
1. This may inform and convince us, how vastly greater a pleasure is consequent upon the forbearance of sin, than can possibly accompany the commission of it; and how much higher a satisfaction is to be found from a conquered, than from a conquering passion. Do we think, that David could have found half that pleasure in the execution of his revenge, that be expresses here upon the disappointment, of it?
2. We have here a sure unfailing criterion, by which every man may discover and find out the gracious or ungracious disposition of his own heart. The temper of every man is to be judged of from the thing he most esteems; and the object of his esteem may be measured by the prime object of his thanks.
3. We learn from hence the great reasonableness of, not only a contented, but also a thankful acquiescence in any condition, and under the crossest and severest passages of Providence which can possibly befall us: since there is none of all these but may be the instrument of preventing grace in the hands of a merciful God, to keep us from those courses which would otherwise assuredly end in our confusion. But to make the assertion more particular, and thereby more convincing, let us take an account of it with reference to the three greatest and deservedly most valued enjoyments of this life: — Health, reputation and wealth. He who ties a madman's hands, or takes away his sword, loves his person, while he disarms his frenzy. And whether by health or sickness, honour or disgrace, wealth or poverty, life or death, mercy is still contriving, acting, and carrying on the spiritual good of all those who love God and are loved by him.
I. WE SHOULD LIKE YOU TO EXAMINE THIS WITH REFERENCE TO THOSE WHO REMAIN UNCONVERTED, NOW, we believe it to be witnessed by the experience of all ages, that the mischief of a sinful act lies as much' in the increased facility which it gives to future like acts as in the exact penalties which it entails on the perpetrator. The yielding to a temptation will occasion comparatively only slight injury, if after yielding once the man were as well equipped as ever for resistance; but the fearful thing is, that the first yielding just makes way for a second, and a second for a third, and a third for a fourth, it being impossible to commit sin without deadening in a degree the remonstrances of conscience, or at least without rendering oneself less sensitive to the appeal. You must be wonderfully unobservant of the testimony of your own experience, as well as ignorant of that given by the history of men, if you do not know that familiarity with sin will rapidly destroy all repugnance to its commission, and that as ye go on complying with an imperious desire there will be ever an augmenting facility of compliance. There is a very accurate correspondence between our physical constitution and our moral: the great pain in a surgical operation is at first, when the knife is near the surface; the sensitiveness decreases as the instrument descends: thus also with moral sensitiveness; we shrink from the first contact with any form of evil, but if once we overcome our repugnance the almost certainty is that we shall soon cordially embrace it; and if every act of wickedness smooth the way for its repetition, you must see at once of what worth is that preventing grace of God by which a man is withheld from yielding to some potent temptation. If, then, when plied, like David, with a mighty temptation, soliciting to an act, which, if performed, must sear and deaden his moral sensibilities, if preventing grace be mercifully vouchsafed, strengthening him to resist, there will be no Divine interference in his behalf which shall more powerfully constrain him to burst into the exclamation — "Blessed be the Lord God of Israel"? Indeed, I know what you may say. "The unconverted man may live to be converted; if he do, then preventing grace deprives him of a present pleasure, the guiltiness of which would be ultimately forgiven, and thus the injuriousness destroyed. Is this a benefit?" we will not go at length into the hundred answers which might be fairly given to this question. You cannot commit a sin, without introducing into the soul a certain degree of hardness, and an aptness to continue in that sin. This truth is finely expressed by an old writer, when he says, "Every act of sin strangely transforms and works over the soul to its own likeness, sin in this being to the soul like fire to combustible matter; it assimilates, before it destroys it. One visit is enough to begin an acquaintance, and this point is gained by it, that when the visitor comes again, he is no more a stranger." You go upon the supposition, that one year will be just as suitable for repentance as another — a supposition which, even if it involve not a long line of falsehoods, marks forgetfulness of the fact, that repentance is God's gift, and not man's achievement; and though it be a glorious truth, that God hath promised forgiveness to everyone who repents, it is equally a truth, and that too of the most solemn import, that God hath not promised to give everyone at every time grace to repent. Observe the diminished probability of any attempt after salvation, whilst every moral feeling grows more and more torpid. Remember that forasmuch as sin provokes and grieves the Holy Spirit, the very acts which make a sinner more need repentance make him more in danger of never obtaining it. And can you deny that of all the gifts which God pours down on an unconverted man there is none which can exceed preventing grace in its worth?
II. But let us now examine THE CAUSE FOR THANKFULNESS WHICH PREVENTING GRACE FURNISHES TO THE CONVERTED. We have already allowed, that in the ease of David there was a certainty that the sin, if committed, would have been pardoned; and we must equally confess, that those who are justified through faith in Christ Jesus are sure of finding their every offence forgiven at the last. It becomes, then, a question, though no great labour will be required for its answer, in what degree and in what respects a prevented sin has the advantage over a pardoned sin — why, that is, David, secure of forgiveness, had he gratified his passion, was bound to utter praises for having been withheld from the gratification. Now, whatever the likelihood, on a mere human calculation, that a man who feels himself safe for eternity will be careless of his practice, there is nothing more certain than that Scriptural belief in our own election will cause us to spurn the thought of continuing in sin that grace may abound. We do not deny that there may be equal safety, so far as the eternal state is concerned, whether the sin be committed and then pardoned, or whether it be prevented, so that forgiveness is not needed. But it is not possible that, there should be equal assurance of safety; it is not possible that the Christian yielding to a temptation should have that, clear proof of his calling which he had when enabled by grace to overcome that, temptation. The proof, the only real proof, lies in the growing holiness; and undoubtedly, whenever evil gains the upper hand, there is so palpable an interruption to the sanctification of our nature, that there must be a suspension of the proofs of election; for there must, you should observe, be necessarily this great difference between preventing grace and pardoning grace — we may be quite sure of the application of the one in our own case, but not of the other. If I have been restrained from the commission of a sin to which I was tempted, I possess a proof not to be withstood, that I have been the subject of God's preventing grace; but if I yield to the temptation and commit the sin, I cannot, pretend to an equally strong proof that I have been the subject of God's pardoning grace. We thus argue, and the argument we think, will be responded to by the feeling of every true Christian, that pardon is not to be compared with prevention, on the simple principle, that a sin if committed, will, though pardoned, impair our evidence of justification, whereas, if prevented, it will rather enlarge and strengthen that evidence. Oh! we think quite wrongly, if we think that sin ever goes unpunished to the people of God. And then, again, there is such a thing as the temporal punishment of a sin, as well as the eternal, and though the eternal be remitted, the temporal may be exacted. It is certain that faith in Christ does not put away from us the temporal consequences of sin, although it undoubtedly does the eternal. Conversion, for instance, will not repair the broken constitution of the debauchee; he must endure through the years of his godliness diseases of which he sowed the seeds in the years of his dissoluteness, it is the same in other particulars. If serenity of mind and repose of condition be in any degree precious — if the clear ministerings of God's favour be preferable to the tokens and actings of his anger — if, for such may often be the fact, the paying through long years the penalties of sin, in the tossings of a disturbed mind, the unkindnesses of friends, the bankruptcy of circumstances, the ingratitude of children, the wastings of sickness — if these be less to be chosen than the spending those years in comparative calmness, surrounded by the bounties of mercy, in the full expectation and in the rich foretaste of joys laid up at God's right hand, then, though pardon be a great, an unspeakably great privilege, prevention vastly outdoes it in magnitude. Such are the applications which we would make of the truths which appear involved in the narrative of David's being intercepted by Abigail. We have only, in conclusion, to exhort earnestly all classes among you, that they never think lightly of sin, as though under any circumstances whatsoever it might be committed with impunity.
(H. Melvill, D. D.)
I. The first important practical instruction suggested is, THAT THE PREVENTION OF SIN IS A GREAT BLESSING. Let us attend to the state of the sinner's mind, at the time when he is arrested in his guilty career, when sin is prevented. The state of the sinner's mind at that time is one which, but for experience and observation, we would have declared to be utterly impossible in a reasonable being. It is a state which, we would have said, could be the result of nothing short of madness. What is the state of the mind, at the period when the sinner is prevented from executing his purpose? Why, the man is resolved to violate the Divine law; the rebel has his weapon in his hand, and is just about to hurl it at the Most High. The mind, at the period when the sinner is prevented from executing the guilty act that he is resolved on, is in actual determined rebellion against God. This was the case with the Jews in Egypt, when, in opposition to Jeremiah's expostulation, they distinctly avowed their determination in these remarkable words, "As for the words which thou hast spoken to us in the name of the Lord, we will not hearken unto them, but we will certainly do whatsoever thing goeth forth from out of our own mouth." I believe this state of mind is not often avowed; but it does not follow; on that account, that it is not often felt. But the truth that the prevention of sin is a great blessing will become still more apparent, if, turning from the state of the sinner's mind at the time sin is prevented, we allow our. selves to rest on the consequence, either direct, or necessary, or ultimate and probable, which would have resulted from the sin, if it had not been prevented. In medicine it is an axiom, that prevention is better than cure, and surely in morals it is also one, that innocence is better than reformation. There is, indeed, no such thing an absolute innocence in this world of guilt and misery; but so much as there is of preventive sin, so much is there of comparative innocence. God often does bring good out of evil; but God, with all his omnipotence (I speak it with reverence) cannot strip sin of its ruinous circumstances. Were that possible it would go to counteract all the purposes of His moral government. The prevention of a sin may produce consequences that may materially affect the individual during the whole of his life. This may suffice for the illustration of the first principle, that the prevention of sin is a great blessing.
II. THAT GOD IS THE AUTHOR OF THIS BLESSING AND THAT HIS SOVEREIGN KINDNESS SHOULD BE GRATEFULLY ACKNOWLEDGED BY ALL ON WHOM IT HAS BEEN CONFERRED. The first thought that occurred to David's mind was, what blessing he had received in the prevention of this sin; and the second was, that he had received it from God; and the third is, to Him be all glory. God is the author of the prevention of sin, in two ways; it is by the arrangement of His providence, that those events take place by which sin is prevented; and it is by the influence of His Spirit, that these events are rendered effectual for the purposes they are intended to serve. To be delivered from sin, is far more than to be delivered from excruciating pain, from fatal disease, or even from death itself. It is, indeed, a manifestation of sovereign kindness, to arrest the individual in his mad career. These remarks throw a new light on human life. They make some of apparently the most unimportant events of our life become the most important, and render some of the most disastrous events the greatest blessings that ever could have befallen us. When a man is prevented from committing sin — and who has not often been prevented from committing sin? — the hand of God is always about him, and in mercy about him. You were in danger, it may be, of yielding to those youthful lusts which war against the soul, and God prevented your sin by chastening you, and making you say, Surely the hand of God was there in mercy. Such sovereign kindness demands grateful acknowledgment, and not only shows us, that many of the dispensations of Providence have a benignant character, which wear a very different aspect to our minds, but that much that we think unimportant, has indeed an awful solemnity in it.
III. THAT IN CONFERRING THE BLESSING OF THE PREVENTION OF SIN, GOD USUALLY EMPLOYS THE INSTRUMENTALITY OF HUMAN AGENTS, WHO ARE ALSO ENTITLED TO THE GRATITUDE OF THOSE WHO, THROUGH THEIR MEANS, ARE PREVENTED FROM COMMITTING SIN. David, primarily, and principally, gave thanks to God, but not to God alone. He pours a benediction on the head of Abigail, the instrument of Divine agency, who, by her wise persuasives, had prevented him from carrying into execution his awful purposes, and plunging himself in guilt, it might be in ruin. God is always the author of the prevention of sin. But God ordinarily makes use of sundry means, and operates in a great variety of ways. Sometimes he employs no human agency, and, so far as we can perceive, no created agency. There are cases when the sinner, resolutely bent on violating the law of God, is just about to put, forth his hand to commit the sinful deed, when it is withdrawn by an influence he cannot understand. In other cases, God makes use of human agency, but acting quite unconsciously so far as the prevention of sin is concerned. But more frequently God makes use of the conscious agency of man for the purpose of preventing sin. He did so in the present case. This is God's most ordinary method. It is very often by the wise advice of Christian parents, or ministers, or friends, that men are prevented from committing sin on which they had resolved; and in every case where means are used to prevent sin, and where these are effectually used, a heavy debt of gratitude is contracted to the human instrument as well as to the Divine agent. Look what a striking demonstration we have of the madness that is in the heart of man, in that, while we can scarcely meet with one who is not grateful to the physician for what he does to ward off disease from his frame, means cannot be used, in very many cases at least, to prevent, men from sinning, without being resented as injuries and insults! This must, not prevent us from following our course. Even though in but a few instances we meet with that grateful acknowledgment David made to Abigail, this is more than recompense for the number that disappoint, us; and we know, that if we act from a principle of genuine love to God and man, we will in nowise lose our reward.
(John Brown, D. D.)
And blessed be thy advice.
Christian World Pulpit.I. IT IS WELL TO BE READY TO TAKE ADVICE. The older we grow the more ready most of us are to be advised regarding our plans and purposes. We know better the wisdom of being so. It is generally the young who scorn advice. They are apt to think they know everything that needs to be known.
II. IT IS IMPORTANT TO GO TO THE BEST SOURCES FOR ADVICE. If you were in doubt as to your way in London, the best plan would be to ask a policeman. He is generally an authority on such a matter, and would be sure to give you correct and civil instructions. When people are in ill-health they go to the doctor for medical advice, and in any legal difficulty they naturally apply to the lawyer. It is worse than useless to get advice from the incompetent, that may only land you in deeper difficulty, or more hopeless trouble. "With the well advised is Wisdom," says Solomon. It would have been a good thing for his son Rehoboam had he paid attention to that. How much it means to have a good adviser to go to, and especially in the earlier years of life! Everyone thinks with pity of any young girl left motherless, who grows up without that counsel and guidance and sympathy so much needed in her young life, and which none so well as a mother can give. And now, if not then, we can heartily use David's words, and say, "Blessed be thy advice."
III. ABOVE ALL, IN SPIRITUAL THINGS, WE NEED ADVICE. We can't devise and scheme and succeed there all by ourselves. It is often said in the story of David's life, that he "inquired of the Lord."
(Christian World Pulpit.).