Now there was long war between the house of Saul and the house of David.
1. Before the remarkable change of policy on the part of Abner that led to the termination of the war is recorded, a glimpse is given us of the domestic life of King David (2 Samuel 3:2-5); and whether it be by design or not, there immediately follows (vers. 6-11) a specimen and illustration of the kind of evils to which that mode of life was liable to give rise. Though polygamy was not allowed to David, it certainly was winked at; it was not imputed to him as guilt; it 'was not treated as an act of rebellion against God's law. But, on the other hand, this toleration of polygamy did not and could not prevent the evils to which, from its very nature, it gives rise. There could be no unity in David's family, none of that delightful feeling of oneness, which gives such a charm to the home. In his own breast, that sense of delicacy, that feeling of chastity, which has such a purifying influence in a family, could scarcely flourish. And further, as the absence of delicacy must have been characteristic of David, so was it also of his children; the unbridled passions of some of his sons gave rise to the most dismal tragedies; and left blots on their name that even time could never wash out.
2. It is immediately after this glimpse of David's domestic life that we come upon a sample of the kind of evils to which that mode of life commonly gives rise. Saul, too, had his harem; and it seems to have been a rule of succession in the East, that the harem went with the throne; hence to take possession of the one was regarded as setting up a claim to the other. When, therefore, Ishbosheth heard that Abner had taken one of his father's concubines he seems to have regarded that circumstance as a proof that Abner was setting up a claim to the kingdom for himself. Mistaking the semblance of power for the reality — forgetting that Ishbosheth had but the one, and Abner the other, Ishbosheth denounced the conduct of Abner with great bluntness and rudeness; and gave him such mortal offence that Abner abruptly and peremptorily assured him that he would not strike another blow in his service, but would at once go over to David. The loss of Abner was to Ishbosheth the loss of all. His cause had for some time been a losing one; it was now quite destroyed.
3. The next step in the narrative brings us to Abner's proposal to David, to make a league with him for the undisputed possession of the throne. As a preliminary to any further arrangements, David insisted, first of all, that his wife Michael, the daughter of Saul, should be restored to him. Some have pronounced this a harsh condition, especially considering that Michal was now living as the wife of another person, who appears to have been much attached to her, and most unwilling to surrender her. It is undoubted, however, that Michal was not the wife of Phaltiel, but the wife of David; Phaltiel must have known that she was another man's wife when he received her; and it is misplaced compassion to be sorry for a man when called to surrender what he never had a right to take. It may be asked, however, what could have been David's motive for demanding back Michal, when he had so many wives without her? It might be enough to say in reply that Michal was his wedded wife, and that it would have been disgraceful to David, when he could prevent it, to allow his wife to live in adultery with another. Of all David's wives, Michal, as the daughter of a king like Saul, was the first in worldly rank; David, therefore, wished to recover her; probably also, he thought, that by having her again for his wife there would be a bond of union between the two royal families of the kingdom that might draw the people together, and save the further shedding of blood. Another consideration appears also to have influenced him. In demanding back Michal he makes special mention of the dowry he had given for her — a hundred foreskins of the Philistines. In mentioning this he probably desired to revive among the people the remembrance of his ancient services and exploits against these inveterate enemies of his country and religion. His recent alliance with the Philistines had brought him into suspicion; he wished to remind his people, therefore, of his ancient bearing towards these enemies, and to encourage the expectation of similar deeds of successful warfare.
4. When the preliminaries between Abner and David were settled Abner appears to have exerted himself with real sincerity and zeal in behalf of David. Most probably he was not sorry for the occasion of his breach with Ishbosheth; David's was obviously the rising star; probably tie was watching an opportunity to transfer his allegiance from the one to the other. Abner now became as zealous for David as formerly he had been for Ishbosheth; and in holding communication with the elders of Israel and of Benjamin, and urging them very strongly to submit to David, he did him a service which no other living man could then have rendered. The tender heart of the shepherd king was doubtless inexpressibly grieved at the continuance of the war; he would have welcomed with unbounded delight any honourable arrangement that would have prevented further bloodshed; and when Abner was seen using his great influence with the leaders of the tribes in the cause of peace, he must have appeared to David like a very angel of God. When, therefore, at the most critical moment in these negotiations, the impetuous and vindictive Joab thrust his sword through Abner's heart — when, to the revolting ferocity of the deed itself, and its glaring outrage on the laws of hospitality, he added the crime of placing in jeopardy a most delicate national negotiation, and exasperating those whom it was most desired to conciliate, David's mortification must have been unbounded.
(W. G. Blaikie, M. A.)
I. WARRING INTERESTS.
1. Saul's interests were natural — they were carnal — they were worldly — they were selfish. David's interests, on the contrary, were Of God — they were spiritual — they were under God's sovereign direction — they were Divine. Just such is the distinction between the Church of God and the world. What is the result? Why, just warring, jarring, contending interests; for one is in the interest of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the other in the interest of the devil. Saul's house, the carnal, selfish, worldly multitude are all under the influence of the Prince of Darkness, the prince of the power of the air, who rules in the hearts of the children of disobedience; they are all under the sway of their carnal inclinations and affections, and the men of the world ought not to be offended for being told by us what their own consciences must admit to be the fact. On the contrary, the army of David associates with the beloved soldiers of the cross; they are the ransomed of the Lord; they take this blessed book as their guide; the word of command of the Captain of their salvation is imperative, and they call on high for grace, implicity to regard and obey it. The result is that Satan's interests arc bolstered up by the former, and real Christianity is maintained by the latter.
2. Let us now take another view of the difference which subsists between the house of Saul and the house of David — I mean an experimental view. And what will you say when I declare unto you that there are both the house of Saul and the house of David in your own hearts — that there are both the house of Saul and the house of David inhabiting this body of flesh and blood — that there are all the vile corruptions and carnal inclinations of the house of Saul; but, blessed be God, there are also the especial graces, and the spiritual implantations of the house of David — an old and new nature — a propensity to every evil, as was the case with Saul, but a panting after every good, as was the case with David.
3. Observe, they are so contrary, so opposed to each other, that they are altogether irreconcilable, and it is quite in vain, therefore, to attempt a reconciliation. He that is born after the flesh will persecute him that is born after the Spirit. What fellowship can light have with darkness? What communion can Christ have with Belial? What oneness, or intimacy, can subsist between him who is a believer and him who is an infidel?
II. THE ADVANCING POWER OF THE CONQUERING SIDE. "David waxed stronger and stronger, and the house of Saul waxed weaker and weaker."
1. The first feature of David's prosperity lay in this, that his fame and his prowess were advancing and increasing, and his power extending. So with our glorious Lord, David's antitype; His kingdom is growing and extending, prospering and thriving, His name is exalted, and shall be exalted, and all His household.
2. But what constituted David's waxing stronger and stronger in the most conspicuous point of view, was the accessions which were constantly being made to his kingdom, and all of which were so many instances, not merely of the increase of his own strength, but of the diminution of the kingdom and power of Saul. The very way in which oar glorious David advances. All the accessions that are made to His kingdom are lawful captives delivered from the terrible power of darkness and translated into His own kingdom.
3. The next point is the warring interests between the two houses that occupy our poor nature. Is it in your power honestly to say that within the circle of your experience the house of David is waxing stronger and stronger, and the house of Saul waxing weaker and weaker? I want the graces growing in strength. I want to have faith like Abraham's. I want to give glory to God and believe against apparent impossibilities. I want love to be growing like John's, so that no place will do for me but the bosom of Jesus; I want hope to be victorious, strong and firm, entering within the veil, sure and steadfast. I want humility to lay me at the feet of Christ, and keep axe there. I want the zeal of the house of my beloved Lord to eat me up, and I want the meekness and patience of my Lord to make me quite immoveable to all the provocations of the wicked world through which I am passing. Oh! if the graces of Jesus were thus exercised. If the new man were always thus enthroned. If the new man were always seated uppermost, always thus favoured with supplies of grace from above, how old Adam would groan! How he would be nailed up! How he would be mortified!
II. THE RESULTS OF THE WARFARE. You know how it resulted with David: it resulted in the entire destruction of the house of Saul, in imperishable honours worn by himself and his household, his throne set above all the kingdoms of the earth, and a glorious lasting peace settled and secured. So shall it be with our glorious Christ and His household. All the honours which the covenant of grace provides, which the promises of the word unfold and exhibit, and which the grace of the Spirit can put on and wear, and which must after all return and redound to Jesus' precious name, are claimed and appropriated by the followers of the Lamb, the household of David.
1. Moreover, there is a peculiar circumstance in relation to this warfare and its results — that is that with all this fighting, and skirmishing, and wounding, never one soul is killed or destroyed.
2. The throne of our David must become noted for its fame, and be exalted above all others. It must be so established as to reign over all dominions, and put down every authority that opposes it, for it is written that He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet. Then comes the glorious consummation, eternal peace.
I. There was war. David ascended the throne of Judah, but not to enjoy peace, as he might have presupposed. The descendants of Saul opposed his election, though ratified by heaven; usurped the throne, and maintained personally, or by their representative and chief agent, Abner, unceasing and bitter opposition to his government. Is it not thus with the Christian, after his decided confirmation in the faith? When we are in Christ, or rather Christ is in us, by virtue of our spiritual elevation, then it is that the enmity between our fallen nature and the true will of God betrays itself in vehement activity.
2. The war was long. With David the literal conflict endured but seven years and six months, till the last opponent of his rightful sway was removed. With every spiritual child of God the war must endure from conversion to death, while one fragment of this infected mortality cleaves to another in animation — so thoroughly, so desperately has the opposition of Satan to God's rule preoccupied and possessed our natural being.
3. Further, it is mentioned that "the house of David waxed stronger and stronger." It must be so with the Christian. The condition of the believer is a growing one: he is perfectly born in Christ at once, but his powers and faculties are matured in action, and his progress is decided.
(C. M. Fleury, A. M.)
To translate the kingdom from the house of Saul.
(J. Parker, D. D.)
Now then do it.I. REMIND UNDECIDED PERSONS OF FORMER IMPULSES.
1. The character and frequency of those impulses have varied greatly in different individuals.
2. These impulses have been usual in you at certain times, and these find a parallel in the case of Israel. These Israelites, perhaps, in their hearts sought for David to be king when they saw the joy upon the face of David's men. His troopers often had spoil to share, and they always spake well of their captain, and whenever a David's man was seen anywhere about Judah or Israel, the people said, "Those warriors have a goodly heritage in being under such a noble leader," and they wished they had such a king themselves. I do not doubt but sometimes when you hear Christ preached in all His sweetness, your mouths begin to water after him. "Is he so good, is he so pleasant? Oh, that we knew Him!" And when you see Christians so happy, and especially when you see them in times of trouble so cheerful and joyous under all their trials, I know you have had an inward wish that you knew their secret and could share their peace.
3. These seekings after David were sometimes with the Israelites vivid and strong; and so, too, impulses with undecided people are occasionally very powerful.
4. Nothing has come of all the seekings of your youth and your after days.
II. RECOMMEND DECIDED ACTION. "Ye sought for David in times past to be king over you, now then do it."
1. Note the business on hand — it is that Jesus should be king over you.
2. Next notice that if Christ is to be your king, it must be by your own act and deed. So saith the text concerning king David "Now then do it."
3. And here is the point, if Jesus is to reign the old king must go down. It is of no use trying to have Ishbosheth and David on the throne at the same time. It is impossible to serve sin and to serve Christ. Dream not of believing to-morrow or next year, nor even in half-an-hour's time; but cast your guilty soul on Christ at once. Now then do it.
II. REASON WITH STRONG ARGUMENTS.
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
(H. O. Mackey.)
(Theodore L. Cuyler, D. D.)
Died Abner as a fool dieth?
I. HIS STRANGE SIMPLICITY AND WONDERFUL CREDULITY. I do marvel at Abner — certainly David did — that he, of all men, should have been so easily "gulled," for we know no other word that so exactly conveys the thought of our mind. Abner had been continually by the king's side. He must have known, therefore, that the art of political speaking is to conceal your thoughts, and that nature only gives courtiers' tongues to shroud by language the intentions of the heart. Strange that a man like Abner, who had passed through such a school as two courts, should have so readily believed the message which Joab sent him. Now, is it not marvellous how unsuspicious men are of sin's designs? They are shrewd enough in other things. I have no doubt that many of you are sharp, keen, acute men of business. Your books will testify that you do not make very many bad debts. You can see through a man as quickly as most; yet how strange it is that often those who are shrewdest in other things are most deluded as to the nature of sin's designs! As Homer describes in his Odyssey, there are the sirens on the rocks, who sing so sweetly that, if a Ulysses is to be kept from running his craft right on their rugged brows, the men must lash him to the mast and ply their oars with desperate earnestness, for the music of the sirens makes a deadly calm, and leaves no breath of air to fill the sails and take the vessel from her danger. And so sin seems to sing like an enchantress; and the shrewdest and the cleverest men are irresistibly, almost imperceptibly, drawn toward it; and they who would see through a deception of another sort in a moment seem, like Abner, utterly blinded in this respect, What Satan raves to accomplish is to be revenged on God through God's creatures. Is it likely, then, that such a Joab as this can have any good intent when he says to thee by some sin, "Come, let us talk quietly in the gate?" And yet how willingly a man will turn aside with any sin! "A man is both ruined and saved through faith." I confess that when first I heard that statement I was rather startled. I did not at first see its force, and I said, "Stay! There is a mistake. You mean that a man is saved through faith and is ruined by unbelief." The answer I received was: "That is true; so also is it that a man is either saved or lost by faith. If the faith be in God, through Christ, then that faith saves; but, on the other hand, if it is the faith which a man places in the representations made by Satan and sin, that faith damns him." It was our first parents' faith in the words of the serpent that spread ruin over God's new-made world. And so I doubt not that there are many here concerning whom it may be said, as it was of Abner: "Shall that man die as the fool dieth? So keen in everything else, shall he be credulous enough to be led by so simple a snare as that set by the enemy?" Yet so is it.
II. Now NOTE THE NEXT THING IN HIS FOLLY — HIS UNUSUAL ADVANTAGES. I think David specially thought of these when he burst out into the cry, "Died Abner as a fool died?" You glean this from the 34th verse, "Thy hands were not bound, nor thy feet put into fetters." Abner was a prisoner to nobody but himself. No cord bound those mighty arms of his; no iron fetters were upon his feet; and yet he might us well have been born without hands or feet for all the good they were to him. Hands unused, feet unemployed, he stands still like a fool to be killed. Oh! is it not so with many? I ask you, have not your advantages been unused? Let me ask thee, if thou weft to die and be lost wouldst thou not have to acknowledge that, in this respect, thou hast certainly played the fool, for. thy, hands are not bound nor thy feet in fetters? You are not bound with ignorance. It may be that there are some of you here who know the story of the gospel as well as the preacher. It may be that there are others of you here who could stand on this platform and run through all the main doctrines of the Word. What, and will you, with all this knowledge of the truth, yet die as the fool dieth — with unfettered feet and hands at liberty? I know not your history, but it would be a strange thing if there are not hundreds here who have been armed by holy precept. Your Bible may be at the bottom of your box now, just as it was thrown in three years ago, when you left your home in the country. Not a few of you have been armed by noble examples. Have you not had a holy, noble, heavenly example in her who gave you birth, and who, perhaps, is at this moment before the throne? Then let me ask you, why die as a fool? It your hands be not bound, and you know the difference between right and wrong, if you have been armed by holy precept, and if you have been blessed with a heavenly example, why shall it ever be said of you, "Died Abner as a fool dieth?" As Caesar Borgia lay dying fast he looked up, and, with clenched hands, muttered through his teeth the words, "I have provided for everything throughout life except death." And, doubtless, there are many here who can" take up Caesar Borgia's words as describing their own mad folly. Then, I ask you, if you die without hope, may it not be said as a requiem over you, "Died Abner as a fool dieth?"
III. Now note, next, that HIS VERY POSITION MADE THE FOLLY OF HIS DEATH THE GREATER. Oh, Abner, if you had refused to speak to Joab outside the city gates and insisted on entering them first, even Joab would not have dared to violate the sanctity of that citadel. Thou wouldst have been safe. I may be mistaken, but I think I am not. As far as my own feelings are concerned, the nearer a person is to safety when he dies the sadder is his death. It is sad enough for the sailor to go down in mid-Atlantic, when there are only the winds to howl his requiem, and when no eye looks down upon his struggles but that of the seagull whirling round and round upon the wings of the hurricane. It is sad enough to sink down with only the shriek of the sea-bird in your ear; but, I think, it is sadder far to go down just outside the harbour's mouth, with a thousand eyes upon you and a thousand hands ready to help if they can. Sad enough for the traveller in the desert, parched with thirst and pinched with hunger, to lay him down in the burning dust to die, with only the vulture hovering over him in air which quivers with intensity of heat. But when we read some time back of one being literally starved to death in the great metropolis, when there were wealth all round, food in abundance and a thousand persons ready to vie with each other as to who should go to his rescue first, it seemed to me the climax of horror to die in the midst of plenty. "Died Abner as a fool dieth" — credulous, with advantages unused, and on the very threshold of safety? God save us from such folly. Shall yonder Abner, who has been the child of prayer for thirty years, die a fool's death? Said a godly mother to a son who used to worship in this place, and is at the present time at the other end of the world, "Ah, my boy, if ever you get into perdition, it will be over ten thousand mother's prayers that she places in front of you as barriers." It may be that there are some here who, though most deeply sunk in sin, yet know full well that there is no night nor morning but the cry goes up to heaven, "Lord, save my boy!" And shall Abner, the child of so many prayers, die the fool's death?
(A. G. Brown.)
Thy hands were not bound, nor thy feet. put into fetters.I. WHAT THERE IS IN THE TEXT EXPRESSIVE OF AFFLICTIVE SCENES.
1. Let us observe, that the text contains the speech, which was made at the grave of a very respectable person.
2. The next thing observable in the text, is the manner of describing a death, that was brought about by the most execrable villany.
3. The text concludes with assuring us, that the concern for such a death, of such a person, was deep and universal.
II. WHAT USEFUL LESSONS SUCH A SCENE OF AFFLICTION HATH A MORE PECULIAR TENDENCY TO INCULCATE UPON US.
1. It should more deeply convince us, that sin is the worst and greatest of all evils.
2. This scene of affliction may lead us to reflect on the vanity, which attends human life, even in its most prosperous state. Let Ira, on this occasion, thankfully acknowledge our obligations to Divine Providence, for the continuance of our lives and comforts.
(B. Fawcett, M. A.)
Whatsoever the king did pleased all the people.I. First, then, wherever it is the case that whatsoever the king doeth pleases all the people, THIS IS THE OUTFLOW OF LOVE; and as it is the case with our King, that whatsoever He does pleases all His people, we can truly say that this is the outflow of our love to Him.
1. True love banishes suspicion. No dark suspicions come across the soul that is once enamoured of the Lord Jesus Christ.
2. It also inspires implicit confidence. We are willing to let His will be like the apocalyptic book, sealed with seven seals if necessary, and we unhesitatingly say, "Let His will be done."
3. Love also suggests unquestioning reverence.
4. It creates sympathetic feeling. When our nature gets to be like His nature — oh, what a blessed consummation that is! — when our wishes and His wishes travel the same road, though not with equal footsteps; when that which He aims at is that which we aim at after our poor fashion; when we can say that it is more delight to us that He should be delighted than that we should be delighted ourselves, and that it is a greater honour to us to see Him honoured than it would be to be honoured ourselves; when we sink ourselves in Him, even as two divided streams at last dissolve into one — as I have seen a tiny silver brook come clown to Father Thames, and pour its whole self into him, so as to be no longer anything but part of the great river — so, when our soul yields itself up in perfect love to Christ, to think His thoughts, and live and move in Him so that it is no longer we who live but Christ Who liveth in us; oh, then it is that whatsoever the King doeth pleaseth all His people! When the believer comes to be what He should be in the fulness of his love, his will is lost in the will of Christ, his very life is hidden away with Christ in God, and then he realises how true it is that whatsoever the King doeth pleaseth all His people.
II. The love that manifests itself thus IS THE CONSEQUENCE OF KNOWLEDGE. Human love is blind; but the love which is wrought in us by the Spirit of God is as full of eyes as are the great wheels of Divine Providence. There is the best of reasons why everything that Jesus does should please all His people, because everything He does is right, and we shall feel this in proportion as we combine knowledge with love, or our love is based on knowledge.
1. We know the character of Christ.
2. We know something of His designs, and we know that He designs the glory of the Father through the salvation of those the Father gave him.
3. We know something of His modes of operation. We have learned that it is His habit often to disguise Himself; His way is in the sea, and His path in the great waters, and His footsteps are not known except to those who are familiar with Him.
4. We know something of our Lord's rights, and therefore we can never venture to interfere with His actions.
III. THIS IS THE SECRET OF REST: "Whatsoever the king did pleased all the people." To know that the King has done it, and to see His Divine hand in anything, is more than half the battle which ends in sweet content. When you have seen God's hand, then say, "I would not have it otherwise than it is." I know several persons who are always in trouble and unhappy because there is a dispute between them and God. I remember one to whom I solemnly spoke, years ago, and not long after he passed away. I went to see his dying child, the only one he had left, and he said to me, "Do not talk to my daughter about death, do not mention it to her." "Well, then," I said, "if I may not mention death, I will not go upstairs." The father said to me, "God could not take that child away." He had lost several before, and he said that, if his daughter died, he should call God a tyrant, and I know not what. At last I stood before him, and I said, "You are making for yourself a rod that is much heavier than God Himself lays upon you. I fear that you will yourself die if you act in this way." As he could not be brought to reason, and kicked and rebelled against God's dealings with him, I was not surprised to learn that, soon after his child died, he himself also died. It does not do to quarrel with God; let the potsherds of the earth strive with other potsherds if they will, but woe to. him who contendeth with his Maker! Instead of that, bow before him, not only because you must, but because you delight to acknowledge him as your Lord.
IV. "Lastly, THIS WILL BE A LESSON IN OBEDIENCE.
1. Whatever service the King requires of you will please you.
2. Oftentimes, we are permitted to work hard, and yet to meet with great discouragement. It was a pretty remark I read, the other day, of a Christian man who said, "I used to have many disappointments, until I changed one letter of the word, and chopped it into two, so that instead of 'disappointments,' I read it 'His appointments.'" That was a wonderful change, for "disappointments" break your heart, but "His appointments" you accept right cheerily.
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
Know are not that there is a prince and a great man fallen this day in Israel?
"Howe'er it be, it seems to me
'Tis only noble to be good;
Kind hearts are more than coronets,
And simple faith than Norman blood."No amount of material wealth, no portion of worldly grandeur, no height of intellectual superiority can invest the soul of a bad man with one spark of true dignity and glory. Miss salvation, and I care not what you are — I care not what wealth you have — I care not whom you call father; — miss salvation, and you are in a wretchedly low estate. But be saved — be born again — have faith in God — love to Christ, and you are at once elevated. You are rich, noble, highborn, because God-born. You have a patent of nobility from the skies. You belong to the moral aristocracy of the universe. You are a member of God's House of Lords.
I. ACHIEVE GREATNESS. It is possible for you each to attain a position of usefulness and honour, such as at present you do not dream of reaching. Do not suppose that all the great and good men have sprung from the ranks of the leisured aristocracy. As a rule the foremost men in all branches have risen from the industrial classes. AEsop was a slave. Homer a beggar. Demosthenes was the son of a curler. Virgil was the son of a baker. Socrates was a statuary. Raffaelle was the son of a peasant. Luther the son of a miner. The Scotch poet, Ferguson, the son of a humble labourer. Burns was a farm rustic. Ben Jonson was a bricklayer. Blackstone was the son of a draper. Butler was the son of a farmer. Stephenson was a collier. Faraday a bookbinder. Arkwright a barber. Davy a druggist. Milton a schoolmaster. Caxton, Willis, Horace Greely, Dickens, Douglas Jerrold and Benjamin Franklin were all printers. Morrison, the great Chinese scholar and missionary, was a bootmaker. Carlyle was the son of a stonemason. Benjamin Disraeli, who became a peer of the realm, and made his Queen an Empress, was a solicitor's clerk. Such lives remind you that energy, perseverance, and integrity in the use of your God-given abilities may place you in the foremost rank of those who are benefactors of your race. Up! Up! select the calling which is congenial to your taste, which is honourable before men, and approved of God, and then be resolute, undaunted, persevering! If now and again defeated, remember that, though cast down, you are not utterly destroyed. There is, however, a nobler greatness yet — a greatness of the soul — a greatness that springs from relationship to and frequent communion with the King of kings; a greatness which is displayed in growing conformity to the likeness of Christ and increasing usefulness in His vineyard; a greatness much more to be desired than a mighty intellect, social grandeur, or worldly fame.
II. RETAIN GREATNESS, It is often easier to rise than to keep the place procured. Many a time an army has stormed and carried a citadel which it was powerless to hold. So not infrequently men have stepped up to vantage ground from which by some lamentable moral declination, or culpable negligence, they have most ingloriously slipped. We have read of many men who have risen to a position of honour and influence, from which sunny altitude they have fallen for ever, like a. bright exhalation in the evening." You think of Saul the son of Kish, chosen of God, anointed by Samuel, and made the first king of Israel; and you remember how he disobeyed the Lord, was defeated in battle, craved death at the hand of a fellow-man, and then, by his own deed, terminated his career. You think of Wolsey, the son of a butcher, rising to be Cardinal and Lord-Chancellor, then stripped of his dignities and arrested for treason. Hear his words, as our great dramatic poet has given them: —
"Farewell, a long farewell to all my greatness!
... I have ventured
Like little wanton boys that swim on bladders
This many summers, in a sea of glory;
But far beyond my depth, my high-blown pride
At length broke under me, and now has left me,
Weary and old with service, to the mercy
Of a rude stream, that must for ever hide me."Look at Thomas Cromwell, the son of a blacksmith at Putney, rising to be Earl of Essex and Lord High Chamberlain, yet arrested for treason, committed to the Tower for seven weeks, and then conducted to the scaffold and beheaded. Look at Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex, becoming the special favourite of Queen Elizabeth, falling into disgrace and imprudence which led to his being arraigned for trial at Westminster, conveyed to the Tower, and a week afterwards. beheaded. In each of these cases we may use the text, and say, "A great man has fallen." But theirs was a fall into shame, loss, sorrow, and irretrievable ruin. Theirs was a moral fall, a fall in social esteem, a fall in national honour. If we have realised any of our fond hopes, achieved any of our cherished plans, let us not be unduly elated or incautious. Let not the man who girdeth himself with the robes of official dignity boast himself as he who putteth them off. There is a legitimate fear that all who have risen, or are rising, will do well to foster. There is a holy fear of falling which the noblest, the purest, and the most perfect cannot afford to disdain. It is that which is recommended by the inspired writers in the words, "Happy is the man that feareth always, but he that hardeneth his heart shall fall into mischief." "Let us, therefore, fear, lest a promise being left us of entering into his rest any of you should seem to come short of it." Happy is the man who perseveres to the end, and is faithful unto death.
III. THE GREAT DIE.
(J. H. Hitchens, D. D.)
1. Our first lesson has reference to the dealings of God's Providence, and is one of encouragement. We are not sufficiently accustomed to recognize the hand of Providence in the ordinary arrangements of Society, and are too prone to think and act as though we regarded the affairs of nations as lying, if not beyond the range of Divine power, at least beyond the pale of Divine sympathy and interest. Yet to an observant and pious mind, there can be few studies more. interesting than to trace the indications of the presence of God amid all the affairs of men, and to educe that testimony which all history bears to his good. ness, his wisdom, and his power. How manifest does this appear in the history of the Jewish people. God designed them to occupy a special position and to do an important work, and all his dispensations towards them were designed to discipline and prepare them for that work. And it is scarcely too much to infer from the eminence to which our country has been raised, and the influence which she wields, that there is a special mission entrusted to her — that it is from her, directly or indirectly, that the instrumentality is to go forth by which the universal conquests of the cross are to be achieved, and that all God's dispensations towards her have been designed to fit her for this glorious enterprize. Again and again has God raised up the men suited for the peculiar crisis through which she has been called to pass — an Alfred, a Cromwell, a William of Orange, and: a Wellington — men, each of whom was fitted for his times and for his work. But we have partially profited by the lesson thus conveyed, if our only sentiment be one of gratitude for the past. All the experience of Divine goodness in the past is calculated to awaken our hope and give us strong confidence for the future. Surely we are warranted, nay, we are bound to trust in Him who has thus abundantly blessed us in past times, and to cherish the assurance that, as in the past, so in the future He will raise men eminently qualified for any periods of peculiar peril and difficulty which may await the church and the world. It teaches us that this world is not abandoned to the sport of conflicting elements and agencies, to be the mere plaything of chance, or the creature of a blind and irresistible destiny, but that there is a God who watches over its course, controls all the influences by which it is affected, draws good out of that which might seem to be only evil, overrules the counsels of its potentates and princes, and makes everything tend to the furtherance of His own glory and the promotion of human happiness.
2. Our second lesson is one of anticipation and hope. There is no brighter feature in the prophetic predictions relative to the coming Millennium of Messiah's reign, than that in which it is represented as a period of universal peace. But how is this great change to be affected? Rationalism will not do it. Philanthropy wilt not do it. Art cannot do it. Commerce will not do it. But the great work to which none of these influences is equal, the Gospel of Christ will accomplish. That Gospel is destined to achieve universal power, and one glorious result of its victory will be to bind men of all countries, climes and colours, in one holy chain .of friendship and love, which nothing shall be able to disturb or dissolve.
3. Our third lesson is one of example.There are three great Qualities which the Christian soldier should aim to copy.
1. And first, vigilance. Thou art in the presence of a foe who is ever wakeful and ever active — who will not fail to improve every opportunity which thy negligence, ignorance, or slumber may present, to secure the victory and accomplish thy destruction — who never sounds a trumpet of truce, but to deceive the unwary soul, and to lure it on to its eternal ruin.
2. A second conspicuous and notable quality is determination to conquer. In the carnal warfare, every precaution may prove unavailing, every effort useless — the resources of genius and the daring of valour may be called into requisition in vain, and after man has done all, he may find that the race is not always to the swift nor the battle to the strong. But it cannot be so in the spiritual struggles. Here victory is promised to thee by One whose word cannot be false, and whose power cannot prove insufficient to accomplish the great designs of His love. Thine, then, must be the holy resolve to conquer in this war — thy course must be ever onward — up-ward — heavenward — continually winning fresh laurels and rearing new trophies — overcoming every varied form of temptation and sin, until the last enemy be vanquished, and the weapons of warfare exchanged for the meeds of victory.
3. Unbending loyalty. Christian! let this loyalty be thine. Be thou true and faithful and devoted to that God to whose service thou hast consecrated thyself.
4. Our last lesson is one of warning as to the vanity of human glory. "Vanity of vanities — all is vanity." And so must it be with you. Whatever your course, in its extent or in its character — be it long protracted, or speedily closed — be it brightened with continual joys, or darkened with successive griefs — the end of all must be in death. This sentence is universal — from this issue there is no escape — and you, who are striving most earnestly after the things of the present world, must know that you cannot retain them, for the day comes when you must die.
(J. G. Rogers, B. A.)
I am this day weak, though anointed king.
I. SOME DISAPPOINTMENT IS SURE TO FOLLOW UPON THE ATTAINMENT OF OUR HOPES AND TO INTERMINGLE WITH OUR JOYS. Men struggle for riches all life long, and when they have gained them, oft have no power of enjoyment left. The argosy of food is just coming into port, but somehow is caught by the tide, driven behind the pier, and wrecked on the rugged rocks outside. The topmost step of the throne is reached, the sceptre grasped, the crown placed on the head, when the thorn is felt pressing into the tender brow and the paean of joy is toned by the minor note of sorrow. This is not the invariable experience, but general. One might say that the exceptions establish the rule.
II. THESE BALANCINGS IN LIFE ARE INTENDED BY THE AUTHOR OF ALL LIFE. God has not promised that ease shall always follow on effort, nor full peace come immediately a victory is won. It is of the Divine appointment that those who have wealth, powers, or high position shall often have also strong jealousies, bitter annoyances, severe domestic troubles, great losses, unfulfilled expectations, and harsh regrets over unrealized ideas. That man of genteel manners and calm exterior has a very Vesuvius in his breast. You see not the throes that disturb his soul. So poverty and weakness, sickness and solitude, as well as strength and riches, have their balancings. Power can grow out of privation, and strength out of suffering, while ennui may be the offspring of pleasurable ease and satiety of constant satisfaction. All happiness has its alloy and all sorrow its surcease. This is by Divine arrangement. These thoughts should teach us —
1. To find all our joy and strength in God.
2. To be thankful for any balancings that may develop being and life.
3. To see to it that we so live that no painful counterbalancing may follow upon this life in the future; to be careful lest the very greatness of the glory and richness of the reward should only make us feel how meagre was our earth-life and unpardonable our spiritual coldness.
4. That we should never let despondency seize us, remembering these balancings in life.
5. Many are weak and know it not. They are anointed heirs of God, kings and priests, but through sin they are weak every day. David knew what he had lost when Abner was taken; but many so live that they ignore the loss they suffer by their wilful ignorance of Christ, through whom alone any can be really strong and kingly in spirit.
I. WE HAY BE ANOINTED, AND YET WEAK. Every believer is an anointed king. He was really anointed in the covenant of election before the world was. When Jesus Christ was set up from everlasting, His people were really set up in Him. Every child of God also was actually anointed when Jesus Christ ascended up on high, and led captivity captive and received gifts for men. But in our souls, our anointing time comes in that hour when, being called by grace and washed from sin, we begin to reign over sin, self, the world, death, and hell, by virtue of our union with Christ. Every believer is a king to-day. And yet it is quite possible that he may be groaning out, "I am weak;" for weakness and Divine Anointing may stand together. God's children are often very weak in faith: they stagger at the promise through unbelief. It is not always in their power to "set to their seal that God is true." Christians have ebbs of faith as well as floods; they have winters as well as summers; they have times of drought, and years of famine. The weakness of a Christian's faith may also affect all his other graces. It must do so; for when faith is strong, every other grace is strong; when that is weak, all things else decline. It may be to-day that your hope has become very dim; you are in bondage through fear of death, and see not the mansions in the skies. You have forgotten that you are in Christ, and now you no more look for His appearing. Your hope declines, and all your comfort dies.
1. Let me remark that David at this special time felt his weakness, more particularly because he was in a new position. He has come into a new place — nations are at his feet — men bow before him; it is a new position, and he says, "I am this day weak, though anointed king." Whenever you make a change in life; whenever God calls you to another set of duties, you will surely find out what perhaps you do not now believe — that you are weak, though anointed king.
2. Here, too, David had come into new temptation. The arrows had been shot at him before, from one direction alone, now the storm caeses on one side, and begins on the other. If men knew that the storm would always ,come to one side of the house they would repair and strengthen it, and then they would not fear the blast; but if on a sudden it whirled round and took the other corner, how would they be prepared for that? Where there is the honey of royalty, there will surely be the wasps of temptations. High places and God's praise do seldom well agree; a full cup is not easily carried without spilling, and he that stands on a pinnacle needs a clear head and much grace.
3. And then further, David had now come into new duties. It was his duty to have taken Joab and have made him suffer the full penalty of the law for having killed Abner. A king must defend the oppressed and avenge the murdered, but David fails to perform the new duty, for he feels that he is too weak.
II. IT WAS BUT LITTLE WONDERFUL THAT DAVID'S KINGDOM WAS WEAK, FOR IT WAS BUT NEWLY GAINED; and. it is but little marvel if we also are very weak in the beginning of our spiritual life. When a king has had time to set himself down upon his throne, and to sweep away before him this party and that, either by politics or by the power of the sword, and so to put down every rival, then his throne becomes confirmed. Young Christian, it is no wonder that you are weak, when the good work has only lately begun with you. See the lambs in the fold: it is well that they have been shorn in good weather, for what would become of the shorn lamb in the untempered wind? Shall we suppose that the young sapling shall stand as firmly as the oak with its gnarled roots and its hoary branches, which have been twisted together by many a storm? What! Shall a babe fight a battle? Shall a new-born infant go forth to war? Do you wonder because the new creature is weak? Wonder rather at its power, than at its weakness.
III. DAVID WAS WEAK ONLY IN THE FLESH, and that the Christian truly is only weak there. Why was David weak? "Because," said he, "the sons of Zeruiah are too hard for me. I cannot subdue them; I cannot keep them under; I cannot manage any kingdom whilst such turbulent spirits as these interfere and intermeddle with everything."
IV. IT IS WHERE THE FLESH IS STRONG THAT WE ARE WEAK. Why was not David strong? Why, because of the sons of Zeruiah, yet these sons of Zeruiah were his greatest strength. What could he have done without Joab and Abishai — Joab the man who smote the garrison of Jebus, and Abishai who slew three hundred men in single-handed fight. What could he do without these? These were David's mighty men, those who always led the van, and with a tremendous shout dashed among the Philistines, and scattered the uncircumcised. So it is with us. Whatever is our strength in the flesh is sure to be our weakness in the spirit. Remember that your sons of Zeruiah will be hard to manage. I believe the strength of God, s ministers generally lies in the points where they are the weakest, and their weakness usually lies in their strength. That is to say, natural strength will be toned down by a spiritual weakness, and a natural weakness will be exalted and be made the vehicle and channel for spiritual strength. It has often been so. The very physical appearance of Paul, his personal presence which was said to be weak and contemptible, becomes to him the subject of glorying. He glories in his infirmity, for it is the means of giving honour to God. "This is strange logic," says one. It is; God's logic is strange. Gideon fears the Midianites because of the slender number of his soldiers, but the Lord says, "the people are yet too many for me." The king of Judah on another occasion hires for himself with so many hundred thousand talents a number of mercenary troops from the king of Israel. "Now," says he, "I shall win the battle"; but before the battle begins the prophet bids him send these men back. God can do better without means than he can with means that are audacious enough to think themselves necessary. The Lord will always throw the sword away from his hand when that sword begins to boast itself. Assyria is his axe to cut down the cedars, but if you set down any good thing you have ever done to yourself, God will bring you down.
V. OUR WEAKNESS SHALL NOT PREVENT OUR REIGNING BY-AND-BY. David's kingdom did not shake, even when his heart failed him; and it would have stood just as fast if he had knocked away Joab and Abishai, who seemed to be the props that supported it. It was David's business to believe that come what may God's purpose must stand, and God will do all His pleasure. It is just the same with you, Christian, to-day. However weak you may be, and whatever means may have failed you, remember God hath said it — you shall be saved; He has promised that you shall be glorified with Christ; and so you must be, come fair, come foul.
(C . H. Spurgeon.)
I. MUCH OF OUR WEAKNESS ARISES FROM WANT OF FAITH IN THE LOVINGKINDNESS OF GOD. Now, many of us think that unless we have money and health and friends, God does not trouble about us. And this want of faith in His love and care makes us weak in every step of life. Instead of being cheerful, we are full of anxiety, and instead of being joyous as a lark we mope like a chained dog that has no dinner.
1. Let us have sincere faith in God.
2. Hold on to faith in another world. Let no man wrest that faith from you.
3. Hold on to this faith, and it will make you strong to bear burdens, to resist temptations, to endure sufferings, and to die in peace.
II. Another thing that weakens us is WHEN WE PERMIT OURSELVES TO BE SOURED IN TEMPER BECAUSE OF DEFEAT OR OPPOSITION IN LIFE. We ought to feel ashamed of ourselves when we complain of our surroundings. Be cheerful in heart, trusting God. Don't be soured by the so-called "evils" of life; but sing joyfully as you go along.
III. Another cause of our weakness is that WHILE SOME OF US PUT OFF THE DEVIL'S REGIMENTALS, WE OMIT TO PUT ON CHRISTIAN ARMOUR. The Lord Jesus tells of a man who cleansed his house. He turned out the big devils and made his house beautiful. After awhile, one Of the devils returned, and seeing the house garnished but empty — not filled with angels in place of the devils — he entered and brought with him ten Other devils worse than himself. It is so, alas I with many professors. They turn out the big, ugly devils, but they forget to take in the angels. If your heart be empty of a great and powerful love for God and mankind, sin will enter in, and show itself very soon in your life.
Christian Weekly.If an electric car stands motionless on the tracks, it is nothing against the power of electricity. If an invalid has no appetite, and cannot go out of doors at night, it is no argument against things good to eat and the joy of starlit air. If a man does not know a flower by name. nor a poem by heart, it is no indictment of the beauty of a rose or the charm of some poem. If we bear the name of Christ, but give no other sign of Him, if we go through the forms of godliness but live powerless lives, it is a thousand reproaches to us. To be powerless when Christ has all power, and we can have all we want, is an arraignment to which we can make no answer that is not self-incriminating.
(A. F. Kirkpatrick, M. A.)
"In the corrupted currents of this world,
Offence's gilded hand may shove by justice,
And oft 'tis seen, the wicked prize itself
Buys out the law: but 'tis not so above;
There is no shuffling, there the action lies
In his true nature; and we ourselves compell'd,
Even to the teeth and forehead of our faults,
To give in evidence."
(Alex. Whyte, D. D.).