Samuel said to all the people, "Do you see the one the LORD has chosen? There is no one like him among all the people." And all the people shouted, "Long live the king!"
1 Samuel 10:24. (MIZPAH)Vive le roi), which was to be so often repeated in subsequent ages (2 Samuel 16:16; 2 Kings 1:19; 11:12). The nations of the earth have since undergone vast and varied changes. Great empires have arisen and disappeared. The theocratic kingdom of Israel, in its outward form, has long ago passed away; and the kingdom of Christ, in which its spiritual idea has been realised, has grown up amidst the kingdoms of the world. But the old acclamation is still often heard at the accession of a monarch, and in it Christians as well as others may and ought to join. The acclamation is expressive of -
I. CHEERFUL RECOGNITION OF HIS DIGNITY.
1. As appointed by Divine providence. The invisible and eternal Ruler of the universe is the Source of all law and order, and is everworking in the world for the purpose of bringing out of the evil and confusion that prevail a state of things in which "righteousness, peace, and joy" shall abound. And in connection with and subserviency to this design he has ordained civil government (Daniel 4:32; John 19:11). "The powers that be are ordained of God" (Romans 13:1), i.e. human government generally is appointed by him, although no judgment is expressed by the apostle concerning the Divine right of any one form of government or particular office beyond others. When a ruler is directly chosen by the people he is still a "minister of God."
2. As representing the supreme authority and power of "the Most High, who ruleth in the kingdom of men." There is in every government an element which is Divine; a reflection, however dim and distorted, of that Divine power which is above all. But that government is most Divine which is the fairest exhibition of wisdom and truth, righteousness and justice, mercy and loving kindness;" "for in these things I delight, saith the Lord" (Jeremiah 9:24). "By me (wisdom) kings reign and princes decree justice" (Proverbs 18:15). Reverence for God should be expressed in giving honour to those who, in their high office, represent God, and "to whom honour is due." "Fear God. Honour the king. Submit yourselves to every ordinance of men for the Lord's sake, whether it be to the king as supreme," etc. (1 Peter 2:13, 14) - supreme, i.e., not in all things, but in those over which he has legitimate authority. In a theocracy, where the laws of God were identical with those of the state, the sphere over which that authority extended was larger than that which properly belongs to any existing government.
3. As ministering to human good. Even the absolute rule of a Caesar or a Czar is unspeakably better than anarchy. "He is a minister of God to thee for good" (Romans 13:4). He exists for the good of the community; and although the good which he is able to effect and ought to aim at is necessarily limited, he "does not bear the sword in vain." He bears it for the protection of the good against the bad. And under his sway, when he uses his power aright, his subjects are able to "lead a peaceable and quiet life, in all godliness and gravity."
II. FERVENT DESIRE FOR HIS WELFARE. "May the king prosper" ('Targum').
1. The preservation of his life, which is of great importance to the well being of the nation, and is often exposed to imminent danger from the exalted position he occupies.
2. The possession of strength and wisdom, justice and the fear of God (2 Samuel 23:3). Adequate sympathy is not always felt with "kings and those who are in authority" in their arduous duties and extraordinary difficulties.
3. The prosperity of his reign. The desire thus felt should be expressed in prayer to the supreme Ruler and the Given of every good and perfect gift (1 Timothy 2:1, 2). "We (Christians) do intercede for all our emperors without ceasing, that their lives may be prolonged, their government secured to them, their families preserved in safety, their armies brave, their senates faithful to them, the people virtuous, and the whole empire at peace, and for whatever, as man or Caesar, an emperor would wish" (Tertullian, 'Apology,' ch. 30.).
III. LOYAL DEVOTION TO HIS GOVERNMENT.
2. Strenuous opposition to its enemies.
3. Faithful endeavour to promote its efficiency and prosperity. This is plainly our duty as citizens; and whilst, under the protection afforded us, we also seek as Christians in various ways to extend the kingdom of Christ, we thereby make the work of good government easier, and secure the wisest and most just and honourable men for its accomplishment. So far from being contrary to each other, the Christian religion and civil government are mutually helpful, and each has its part under Divine providence, the one more and the other less directly, in bringing about the time when "the people shall be all righteous."
"When all men's good (shall)
There is none like him among the people.
I. THE FIRST WAS HIS DUTIFULNESS AS A SON AND THE CONSEQUENT REGARD IN WHICH HIS FATHER HELD HIM. In these respects, he really stands before the young as an example and a model. The Spirit of God, who has recorded the perversity of Eli's sons, and the unworthiness of Samuel's sons, has brought into notice the immediate and ready obedience of the son of Kish (1 Samuel 9:3, 4). We are not surprised to find, as another part of this interesting history, the regard which Saul's father entertained for him, as evinced in the incident, recorded 1 Samuel 10:2, that when Saul and his servant were departed from Samuel, and had reached Rachel's sepulchre, in the border of Benjamin, at Zelzah, two men met them, who having announced that the lost property was found, added (and with what naturalness and simplicity does the addition fall upon our ears), "Lo, thy father hath left the care of the asses, and sorroweth for you, saying, What shall I do for my son?" The loss of his property was considerable; but the loss of his son was a far greater privations. "A wise son maketh a glad father;" and now that the father missed the son who had often made him glad, he could not help exclaiming, in his deep solicitude, "What shall I do?" Saul occupied at home a place of important interest in his parent's view, and now that his place was vacant the blank was painful. It is painful to see children outliving the esteem of their own parents. We cannot read the varied references which Scripture makes to the parental relationship, and not feel that the test which Saul applied in ascertaining the course of duty is one which God often and urgently demands that we should employ. "The joy of a father," or "the heaviness of a mother," are considerations of vast moment with God; and are, therefore, matters which cannot safely be trifled with by children, even of elder growth. "Will this rob my father of rest; will this add to my mother's sorrow?" — let this be the question before you take your course, and shape your plan and purpose.
II. BESIDES THE PARTICULAR POINT WHICH WE HAVE REVIEWED THERE WAS IN SAUL'S CHARACTER A LARGE AMOUNT OF RIGHT-MINDEDNESS UNDER CIRCUMSTANCES WHICH MIGHT HAVE PROVED A STRONG TEMPTATION TO MANIFESTATIONS OF AN OPPOSITE KIND. Sometimes we see, among our fellow creatures, great excellences overborne by great and lamentable defects. We hear it said of a young man, "Yes, he is a good son; but when you have said that, you have said all. He is so conceited, so upstart, so perverse towards all but his own immediate friends, that you lose many a time the recollection of his excellence in the personal inconvenience which you suffer from the other features of his conduct." No such thoughts as these, however, are suggested by the narrative of Saul.
1. There would appear to have existed, in his case, what might have been a considerable temptation to personal vanity; and yet, in the earlier portion of the narrative, there cannot be traced the slightest approach to it in his demeanour. To be vain on the ground of personal charms is to act a senseless part, for these imply no merit, and promise no long duration. The winger of age must be contemplated, as well as the spring tide of youth and the summer of manhood and womanhood. Besides, it is the mind that gives value to the man: and what is the casket if it be empty? However beautiful its exterior, it disappoints if there be no gem within.
2. If Saul's appearance did not lift him up, neither does he at first seem to have been rendered vain nor to have been unduly elated by his new circumstances. There is nothing more difficult to bear than a change from a lower position to one which is several grades above it. There are some beautiful instances, indeed, in which men have stood the trial well, and have carried into an elevated sphere all the humility and simplicity which marked them in the ordinary walks of life. But these are rather the exceptions than the rule. With many a man the very day of his transition to a higher path in outward condition has been the period from which is to be dated his pitiful absurdness — his perfect uselessness — his moral fall.
3. He manifested the same right mindedness in bearing without restraint conduct which was intended to irritate him, and which was very much calculated to produce that effect. "The men of Belial said, How shall this man save us? And they despised him, and brought him no presents" (chap. 1 Samuel 10:27). And how did Saul act? With what significance the sacred writer adds, "But he held his peace." Now it was much to be so quiet where human nature — as we, perhaps, know from experience — is very apt to be excited. But the secret of this silence is to be found in that characteristic which we have just been considering. If he had attached an overweening importance to himself, you would have seen a very different course of conduct. But it was the absence of this which saved him. Such are the representations afforded by Scripture of the character of Saul at the time at which he was called to the throne. And from all we have said, what might not have been hoped for in regard to the future? Yet our hopes are destined to be disappointed. Be all that Saul was when he set out in life, but secure the same endowments of character from a higher source than mere nature. Seek them from God, as the result of His Spirit's teaching — His Spirit's operation in the heart. This will be the great security against that disappointment which arises from such a deterioration of character as a little later we have before us in the history of Saul.
(J. A. Miller.)
And all the people shouted, and said, God save the King.
I. HOW GOD IS TO BE ACKNOWLEDGED AS THE FOUNTAIN OF LIFE AND OF AUTHORITY. In this first prayer for royalty, there is the acknowledgment of God as the fountain of life and authority. This grand truth of religion is not forgotten in the original tongue of this verse, which expresses the people's wish, "Let the King live!" The same truth is implied in the form of words now usual, "God save the King!" Of such authority how often is the Almighty declared to be the author and the defender; and Jesus Christ Himself, the first-begotten of the dead, is declared to be the Prince of the kings of the earth. Let none of us forget that, because of such truth, the Coronation, at which the outward symbols of dominion are entrusted to the monarch, is a distinctively religious service; far more so than anything else. Thus it was in those old times to which our text refers, so it has been ever since; and so it is still throughout Christian countries, even throughout heathen countries, with a few exceptions, all down through the ages.
II. PRAYER FOR THE KING: — The Almighty is to be acknowledged: the King is to be prayed for; why and how? In the light especially of his high position and of his vast responsibility. While for rulers in general we are to intercede, for our own King there are many special causes for so doing with sacred enthusiasm. On the occasion of our text, the people shouted with ardour unrestrained. In some ways, perhaps, our civilisation is more subdued, and sometimes, perhaps, restrains too much the utterance of natural affection. Although in the present instance so far chastened, let not our loyal feelings be too much repressed. Let them not be shut up as in an icehouse, but rather be expanded with something of that summer heat, which we love and long for. Finally, in our loyalty thus honouring the King, we shall in piety be fearing God who hath given us this command.
(G. G. Gillan, D. D.)
I. THE KING IS THE REPRESENTATIVE AND EMBODIMENT OF CERTAIN PERSONAL AND IMPORTANT PRINCIPLES AND AMONG THESE WE RECKON FIRST IN THE PERSON OF THE KING THE MAJESTY AND DIGNITY OF LAW. He is the fountain of a nation's law, the supreme embodiment of its liberty and privileges based on law. In looking back over our chequered history we see the fierce nature of the conflict which has raged round this conception of the regal office. Our King does not reign as a despot in defiance of his people's rights, but as the living embodiment of all that they most venerate and cling to. As children we were accustomed to read history with an eye to the stirring events of the battlefields, and the struggles of kings and people in all the moving incidents of the public tragedies which surround a nation's growth, and as we get older we shall find that these struggles lose none of their interest. They gain in importance, as the conflict of liberty with oppression, of order with disorder, now on this side, now on that. We mark in them the gradual evolution of a clearer idea of what is meant by a monarch, in his supreme character as the guardian and fountain of law; we see the diminution by slow degrees of the idea, of personal irresponsible power, and the quenching of the lust of greed and oppression, and the emerging of the figure of dignity and religion, under which a nation venerates the figure of her liberty. Have we learned yet all the beauty and grandeur which lie expressed in that sacred name — law? When the old Greeks looked out on this magnificent universe in which all things perform their ordered functions, they called the world by a name which signified order, as if that were the main end pervading characteristic which was stamped upon its Divine mechanism. The reign of law, of perfect, unswerving law, excited their veneration and awe; and it was magnificent, it was Divine. And so we are accustomed still in most intimate and hidden ways to trace the action of the Holy Spirit in the regions of order and discipline within the soul. The Spirit of God which once moved upon the face of the waters when order emerged from chaos still rules over the hearts and lives of those who give themselves up to His gentle guidance. While we honour this great principle of law and order in the person of our King, whom we crown and consecrate, let us see to it that we honour every manifestation of it in our own lives. It is a sorry thing to contend for the liberty of the subject, sad maintain the long conflict for the integrity of our laws, if at the same time we are living the life of slaves, in a voluntary subjection to the tyranny of evil. The struggles of the nation for freedom and for liberty are paralleled in the life of many a man today, with a very diverse issue of the conflict. The supremacy of law, within the circle of his own life, is the inherent birthright of every man. We are born free, but the issue of life's struggle too often leaves us slaves. Let us at least venerate the fount of law, as those who know the blessings of law in our inmost selves. It is a turbulent kingdom which God has called upon you to rule. There are fierce passions which were designed to serve under your kingship, which are only too ready to rise in rebellion and oust the ruler from his throne. Not many hundred yards from this cathedral there once existed that strange region known as Alsatia, with which the pen of the novelist and the brilliant pages of Macaulay have made us familiar, that region in which the king's writ did not run, the abode of criminal disorder and vice. So many a man has elevated his besetting sins into an Alsatia, an abode of privileged misdeeds, where the will gives no order, and the law of God makes no appeal. I appeal for a larger and more whole-hearted veneration for law and order within the kingdom of our own lives. Let us have no Alsatias, no privileged sins, no times, no places, or moods which are outside the beneficent rule of law. Let us bring into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.
II. THE KING, ONCE MORE IS THE REPRESENTATIVE TO US OF OUR NATIONAL TRADITIONS. The history of the nation hangs round it like a necklace, studded with glorious jewels, which represent the traditions which have been worked out of its long and chequered careers. There are memories of struggles at home and abroad, of some of which we are ashamed, of most of which we are proud. We remember how, in the very place where we are standing, the expiring struggle of heathenism, the advancing powers of Christianity, the bitterness of religious and civil strife have all left their mark on history. Nelson and Wellington lie buried in our crypt, to remind us of the European struggle which made such an impression on our national sentiment and showed England the great destiny she was called upon to fulfil. And we thank God that while seldom free from some form of war in some part of our vast Empire, God has mercifully shielded us from the horrors of war in our own island. The battle of Sedgemoor, in Somerset, fought in the rebellion of Monmouth in the days of James II, is generally regarded as the last serious battle fought in our own land; for which we may, indeed, thank God, when we see what war means — as, for instance, to the sunny plains of France in the awful struggle of 1870, or in South Africa in the horrors and destruction of the war now happily and gloriously concluded. Through long centuries of struggle, of blessings received and warnings given, we do feel that there has emerged a great; tradition which we are pledged to maintain, and of which our crowned king is the personal representative. We do not as a nation care much for glory; it is an evanescent and intoxicating sentiment which is foreign to our character. We seem, on the contrary, to be almost cynically indifferent to the hostile criticism of our national actions, which we are at the same time powerless to avert. But, thank God, there has emerged as the permanent tradition of our race, and as the prevailing symbolism of our national flag, the sense of duty. However we fail in its practical application, however imperfect may be our realisation of our responsibilities, still it is something to feel that it is the great tradition of our race, that England expects that, every man should do his duty, and that greed and injustice, where and if they exist, exist only in defiance of our most cherished national traditions. Every man is better for a tradition in his life. The novelist has traced for us with merciless accuracy the career of a man who fell from bad to worse, largely because he had no tradition in his life; who never could remember the time when he was not indolent and self-pleasing; who had no battlefields of struggle, no records of victory to help him with the strength of a tradition, or the memories of outlived sorrow. And so he fell, as one who is alone when he falls, and who has nothing to keep him up, or anything of which he should say, "God forbid that I should be false to my better self, or betray my nobler past." Under the name of principle we all of us recognise with an instinctive homage a tradition, which it is only honourable for a man to maintain. A temptation to a degraded sensuality loses half its malignity when it comes to a man, not as an isolated experience in a multiform career, but as a blow aimed at a cherished principle of life and a uniform course of action. It is an immense strength for a man to be able to say to the enticer, "I never have yielded to that kind of temptation yet, and I am not going to begin now." It is an immense support to a life of integrity, to be able to meet the specious appeal to a supposed profit in dishonesty by an honest repudiation which can say, "I have never done a dishonest action yet, nor told a lie, and it would be contrary to all my principles to do so." One of the greatest national treasures is the glorious tradition which is the heritage of our race, and therefore once more, as the depositary of that tradition, and as the upholder of its integrity, we say of him whose coronation we acclaim today, "God save the King."
III. BUT WE MUST NOT FORGET THAT HUMAN NATURE BEING WHAT IT IS, AND OUR ENGLISH NATION BEING WHAT IT IS, THERE HAS GATHERED ROUND THE BEST TRADITION OF OUR LOYALTY A DEPTH OF PERSONAL FEELING FOR THE PERSON OF THE SOVEREIGN. Not officially only, but personally, out of respect and affection for the reigning monarch; where that has not been made impossible, we have loved to say, "God save the King." We, none of us, are likely to forget the great personal devotion which all classes of English men and English women displayed towards our late Queen. Her throne, if any, was reared up in the hearts of her people. Nor is this a merely sentimental affection. In crowning our King, we crown the majesty of law, we crown the greatness of our tradition, and the glory of our race, but we also crown one, who has mounted the steps of the throne, straight from the shaping tenderness of the loving hand of God. And, therefore, with all our hearts we say, "God save the King."
(W. C. E. Newbolt, M. A.)
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