Then the king said to his servants, "Do you not realize that a great prince has fallen today in Israel?
2 Samuel 3:38. - (HEBRON.)epitaph of such a man. Reflect:
1. How uncertain is the continuance of human life! This familiar but little heeded truth is set forth in an impressive manner by such an event, teaching that no station is exempt from the approach of death, no safeguards effectual against it. "Death is come up into our windows, and is entered into our palaces" (Jeremiah 9:24).
2. How unstable is the foundation of earthly greatness! It is built upon the sand, and in a moment crumbles into dust. Goodness alone (the essence of true greatness) endures and goes with the soul into "everlasting habitations."
3. How deplorable is the less of superior excellence! The world is made poorer by its removal.
4. How dreadful is the prevalence of diabolical wickedness! One assassination begets another. And at times there is abroad in society a spirit of lawlessness, recklessness, and ungodliness, which is full of peril, and calls for the earnest efforts and prayers of good men that it may be overcome.
5. How mysterious are the ways of Divne Providence, in permitting the innocent to perish, the godless to succeed, the guilty to be spared!
7. How profitable is the remembrance of a noble minded man! "Know ye not," etc.? "He being dead, yet speaketh." - 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.
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.)
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.)
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