1 Samuel 15:5, 6. (THE WILDERNESS OF JUDAS.)Genesis 25:2; Numbers 10:29; Judges 1:16) like the Amalekites, but they were unlike the latter in character and conduct. Many of them were incorporated with Israel; others, whilst standing in friendly relationship to them, lived in close contact with "the sinners the Amalekites." They may be regarded as representing those who are "not far from the kingdom of God," but imperil their salvation by evil companionship. In this message (sent by Saul, perhaps, according to the direction of Samuel) we notice -
I. THE PERIL OF UNGODLY ASSOCIATION. It is not every association with irreligious persons indeed that is to be deprecated (1 Corinthians 5:10), but only such as is unnecessary, voluntary, very intimate, and formed with a view to personal convenience, profit, or pleasure rather than to their improvement (Genesis 13:12). This -
1. Destroys the good which is possessed.
3. Involves in the doom which is predicted - certain, terrible, and imminent. The ban has been pronounced (1 Corinthians 16:22; 2 Thessalonians 1:9), and it will ere long be executed. "A companion of fools shall be destroyed" (Proverbs 13:20).
II. THE OPPORTUNITY OF EFFECTUAL ESCAPE, which -
1. Is afforded by the mercy of God, of which the message spoken by man is the expression.
2. Shows the value which he sets upon even the least measure of kindness and piety. "Ye showed kindness," etc. (ver. 6). Moral goodness, like moral evil (ver. 2), tends to perpetuate itself. God honours it by the blessing which he causes to follow in its track, he desires its preservation and perfection, and hence he says, "Destroy it not" (Isaiah 65:8).
3. Offers a certain, great, and immediate benefit. "Come out from among them and be separate, saith the Lord, and I will receive you" (2 Corinthians 6:14-18).
III. THE NECESSITY OF IMMEDIATE SEPARATION.
1. This requires decision, self-denial, sacrifice, and effort.
2. Nothing else can avail (Ephesians 5:11).
3. And every moment's delay increases danger. Escape for thy life; look not behind thee, neither stay thou in all the plain (Genesis 19:17). "Be wise today, 'tis madness to defer." - D.
Samuel came no more to see Saul until the day of his death.
1. Few — very few, avoid falling into the error of mistaking what are symptoms of possible good in the future for tokens of real good at the present time, and from at least occasionally thinking that their deliberately formed opinion of the entire character was after all incorrect, and that the persons in whom these good qualities are so clearly observable cannot be wicked at all. These, of course, will think and speak of the "redeeming qualities," not as redeeming qualities, but as the main features of the character, and try to persuade themselves that it is for the sake of these they continue intimacies which their consciences tell them require in some way to be defended.
2. Besides this proneness to self-deceit, which in greater or less force lurks in the best of us, there are two other causes which expose us to the danger of being injured by the "redeeming qualities" of godless men. One is the fact that there are undoubtedly blemishes in the characters of very good men.
3. The other source of danger is this. The very best of men are known to entertain an affection for bad men. From this it is argued that the men are not bad. Samuel had an affection for Saul. Saul had many "redeeming qualities" — qualities calculated to make him exceedingly popular. Nor was this all. He had a good deal about him to be liked, and Samuel did like him. A good man, then, may have an affection for a bad man, without being at all mistaken as to his character; nay, even after he had been, as in the case before us, the very persons who had himself pronounced the Divine condemnation. We must not, then, be led astray as to the real characters of those whom we should otherwise feel bound to regard as dangerous by the mere fact that they have awakened an affection in those whom we justly reverence. Had we known no more than "that there was a King of Israel named Saul," and that the holy Samuel mourned exceeding for him on his losing the kingdom, we should, I think, have taken for granted that Saul was a good man, and yet you see we should have been wrong.
4. This discontinuance of personal intercourse with Saul shows us also the limits of a good man's companionship with a bad man. So long as there is any reasonable hope of his "redeeming qualities" becoming so developed as to constitute the main features, instead of the exceptional points of his character — so long as the influence imperceptibly exercised by early companionship seems likely to be instrumental in bringing about this change, just so long familiar intercourse with one whose grave faults we perceive may be continued without breach of duty towards God: but so soon as that time has gone by — so soon as these hopes seem unreasonable, then, although the regard still linger, the familiar acquaintance must be abandoned. Every case will, of course, have its peculiarities calling for especial consideration. But still there are certain classes of cases in which we may reasonably suppose that our associating with bad men will be unlikely to benefit them, in which the probabilities are so much against it that we had better not make the attempt, in which we had better not so much look to the possibility of our improving another as to that of his injuring us, in which the foremost thought in our minds should be, "Evil communications corrupt good manners." Generally speaking, a good and a bad man cannot be much together without either being, however little or imperceptibly, changed by the other. Nor should it be forgotten that the companionship of a good man may be a positive injury to a bad man. He may deceive himself into the belief that his faults are not so great or dangerous as they really are, by the reflection that a good man and a sensible man would not like him if he were not in the main good also. Universally, on persons of about our own age and our own social position, who are obviously and ostentatiously opposing themselves to the precepts of the Gospel, our constant companionship is not likely to produce a good effect, except we be more than ordinarily religious and firm ourselves. Of all the instances you ever knew in which a woman entertained that wildest of notions that she would be able, after marriage, to reform the man over whom her influence was powerless before it — of all such instances — and there are numbers of them, how many are the successes you can recall? In how many do you know the result to have been intense and irremediable misery? No, there are those whose age or weight of character enables them without danger or misrepresentation to attempt the reformation of the wicked by being, to some extent, in their society. There are those who, perhaps, to both these qualifications have superadded the incentive of personal liking. Samuel was one of this sort, yet even to him the time came when ha, the old man, the good man, the minister of God, the man with a strong, affection towards Saul, felt it his duty to "see him no more."
(J. C. Coghlan, D. D.)
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