1 Samuel 17:32
And David said to Saul, Let no man's heart fail because of him; your servant will go and fight with this Philistine.…
I don't know whether I am correctly interpreting the picture, but I suspect that everybody in the camp said that somebody else ought to go out and kill this giant. I suppose you must have noticed how all the disagreeable duties of life are somebody else's business. There was the married man — well, of course, he didn't go because he had a wife and children who were dependent upon him. There was the old man in the camp who would have gone if he had been a younger man, and there was the young man who would have gone of only he had had the experience of the older men. I don't suppose there wore many people there who had not dreamed of doing it. I can quite believe that in imagination again and again they had dodged that awful club of Goliath and driven their spear home to his heart. It is astonishing how brave men are in their dreams; how extraordinarily the world would get on if only it were governed by our imaginations rather than by our doings. There they were, some of them no doubt explaining to the others how easily the thing could be done, how they would do it themselves if only they had the time. An ancient picture? No — a picture of today. It doesn't matter what you call your giant. It may be the giant slavery; it may be the giant cruelty, or it may be the great twin giant of your day and of mine — the grant drink and the giant lust. There they are, and how many in the Christian churches imitating the Israelites in the camp? How many of the young men doing it, dreaming of giving their lives to great crusades? God's Kingdom is not going to be helped by your dreams, or by talking of how you would do it if you were somebody else, or had some lesser duties and responsibilities. Better to fight and fail; better to lose life and limb and all things than suffer this daily dishonour, this endless humiliation, and advertisement to all the world that there is not a single soul of faith with enough pluck left to challenge this unequal encounter. What do you think the world thinks when it sees the Church in the position of the camp of Israel? When David talks about the armies of the living God it sounds like irony. Ah! yes, and it sounds like irony today, when you refer to the people in the Churches as being the army of the living God. and then think how thousands upon thousands of us are hiding our diminished heads simply because we are in the presence of these gigantic evils and wrongs of the modern world, waiting for God to send somebody else to do something. "Somebody ought to do something!" Yes, and we are in the happy position here of knowing who ought, to do it. Where was King Saul all the time? Why, it was for this very thing he had been anointed, if he knew it. What is the use of your elect man? The Churches are always talking about the doctrine of election — well, here is his chance, God's elect man. Where is King Saul? Let the biggest man in the host of Israel fight the biggest man in the host of Philistia. Oh! you have seen men like it, and not individuals alone, but battalions like it, men who if you counted beads, Churches who if you counted heads, would make a brave show, God knows; but if you begin to weigh souls it is a very different business. You could not weigh Saul's soul: there was nothing to weigh. Why, if you have got to bribe men into being heroes, and if you have got to buy courage in the open market, it is a poor thing for the King and for the kingdom. But there was another man in the camp who ought to have been doing this work. Samuel very nearly anointed Eliab to be King over Israel simply on account of Eliab's presence, his athletic form. his powerful frame. He seemed just the sort of man for King, and ever since I have no doubt whatever he had been saying to himself, "What the land has missed in lot having me for King!" Well, now is his chance; everything comes to him who knows how to wait. If he lives to be as old as Methuselah he will never have such a chance again. He had it, and he missed it. He preferred be sit at a safe distance from the Philistine and sing, "Let me like a hero fall," or whatever happened to correspond to that flamboyant melody in the history of his own time. He had his chance; he missed it; but I think we ought to do him the justice of saying that if he failed as a hero, he was a tremendous success as a cynical critic. I sometimes think that criticism is the greatest natural gift that we possess, and I have yet to find the man who hides that talent in the earth. Eliab was a critic to the manner born. He could not do deeds, but he always criticised the men who did. Oh, how easy it is in this world to sneer. I wonder if you have ever done it; if you have ever sneered at enthusiasm, if you have ever sneered at simplicity, if you ever sneered at whole-souled faith in God. God pity you if you have. If David had failed I would rather be David the enthusiast than Eliab one critic. And David had not come there to bandy arguments with Eliab or with any of his compatriots, for his young soul was all aflame. Love of his country, love of his faith, love of his God met in the young man's soul, and he passed through the camp with a sweet serene look upon his face, and at test they took him earnestly, seriously, and they led him to Saul and get "them face to face — the real King in the young man with the soul of flame, and the false King, dismayed and sore afraid. "Let no man's heart fail him, I will go." Oh, Saul, Saul, hadst thou no shame in thy heart to let this stripling go instead of thee? "Go and the Lord be with thee" — seeing in this young man one with whom the Lord would verily be, but knowing that the Lord would never be with him again. And you know one of the saddest things in my ministry is occasionally to come across fathers and mothers who are quite willing to give their children to the Christian Church and to the service of Jesus Christ, and who say to the lad or to the lassie, "Go, and the Lord be with thee" — but there is always a sort of catch in the voice, because they know they cannot go, they will never go; know they have grown old and hard in sin, and they have sinned their God out of their life. Oh, if there are any here who are practically saying to their young men and their maidens, "Go where I ought to go but can't; go on the holy service on which I ought to go but can't; go, and the Lord be with thee," I want to turn to them and say, you are giving up too soon. God has His place for you, and the mystic presence may come back to you again, thank God, if only you, like these younger ones, will place yourself at His disposal and surrender yourself in faith to do His will. But, see, Saul has nothing to give to this young man of faith, he has nothing to give him of courage, and all that he can think to give him at the moment is the harness teat he used to wear. It is no use to Saul now. What use is a helmet, or a sword, or a spear, if there is not a soul behind them? None! He cannot wield that sword in God's war. But David has not proved them. He is going to retain all the simplicities of his youth, all the simple arts and crafts of which he has the skill, and he is going out to serve God with the weapons that he knows how to use. Everything now depends on one fact, that David believes in God. "The Lord is at my right hand, I shall not be moved." Oh! I tell you we have not yet exhausted or begun to exhaust the power that there is for the man who simply makes that a real faith, and not a mere written creed! But there is more in this subject of Saul's armour than appears upon the surface, and I want to say a word or two to those who are older There are some people who are so anxious, as it seems to me, to clothe their young people with ideas that are too old for them — to send them forth with religious experiences that are not their own. I want to plead with you — leave us the simplicities of our faith, for those are the things that tell and count. Leave them the sincerities and realities of their faith, will you? Leave them their slings and their stones for a little while; they will do much more with them than with all the armoury that you may give them out of the sixteenth or out of the seventeenth centuries. There are some parents that have been known to me who, in the presence of the great modern giant of doubt, have most earnestly desired to clothe their children with the old-fashioned weapons, and give them, I won't say Paul's armour, but Saul's armour, and let them talk somebody else's second-hand theology. We do not want old heads on young shoulders. We want the young Christian who has got his own experience of God. I know perfectly well, of course, that they talk things which you grave philosophers in the pews cannot agree with. But it doesn't matter. They hit the mark with the stone from their sling. Oh! don't you know the world today is simply dying for lack of reality — the man who will dare to be real, dare to be absolutely sincere and simple in his Christian faith. You remember that incident in Carlyle's history of Frederick the Great where, when Frederick is growing to be a young man, a very learned university professor is get to instruct him in the theological creed that he ought to bold. The professor dosed the budding Nero with creeds and catechism until at last the poor young fellow's mind was so confused that he knew practically nothing, whereupon Carlyle says this to the professor, "Teach the young man either nothing at all, or else something that he will know to be beyond a doubt when he comes to think of it." Now, it is the things that are beyond a doubt that you cannot prove perhaps in your logical fashion, but they are established beyond a doubt, that we want our young people especially to hold by. I don't mind how simple your faith in Jesus is, but I want it sincere, real, earnest, and when you go out to do battle that will be the stone from your sling which will bring your antagonist to the dust. I have stopped at the most exciting moment, the critical moment when David is advancing on the Philistine with a slave and a shepherd's bag, and five smooth stones. And oh! how the giant girded at him, nay, he cursed him by his gods. If, when you get home tonight, you will read the Book of Judges, you will find there this fact stated, that there were seven hundred men of the tribe of Benjamin who could sling a stone left-handed to a hair's breadth, It was not for nothing that David belonged to the tribe of Benjamin, and he was there to prove that there was one man of the tribe who had not forgotten the ancient tribal craft. At any rate, he ran to meet him. There was the whirl of a shepherd's sling, the low, hurtling note of the moving stone; neither his eye nor his hand had failed him. Where are now thy boasts, oh Philistine, and where are now thy fears, oh Israel! So David prevailed over the Philistine with a sling and a stone. "And," say some of you here tonight, "and that was the end." Oh, no, no; that was the beginning. Listen. "Then the men of Israel and Judah rose up and shouted and pursued the Philistine." I seem to have heard that shout all the world over. All the people who ought to have done the thing and didn't, all begin to shout at once and to pursue the Philistine. Eliab found that, his pressing business engagements would keep Saul began to betray his spirit and betray a furious eagerness for the fray The elder men said that perhaps after all they were young enough; the younger men said they would risk their lack of experience; the married men said well, perhaps their wives and children would be kept, and everybody who had been playing the coward was now resolved to play the man. You remember that it was the habit of Falstaff always to lie down on the battlefield when the battle was on, and when it was over he would carry back to the camp a body who had been slain, and boast his prowess. There are lots of Falstaffs in the world, people who are always fighting the causes that have been won already by somebody else. There are triumphant supporters today of causes in England which nobody challenges, which are as secure as secure can be, but they have no heart for any fight that is not already, won. Ah, yes, I know very well that it lends itself to a little gentle irony, but I am here tonight to plead for men of soul, and men of faith. I do not believe much in the pluck of any man who has not got David's faith. That is the secret, and it is to you young men especially that I am appealing. Here we are, you and I, in this London, and you know that God wants men. There is a Son of David, who I think is in this building tonight, nay. I know he is, and he is saying to you all, "Be of good cheer I have overcome the world The giant sin lies stricken. Come up, come up against him, for you are well able to overcome." What are you going to do — still stay, craven, panic-stricken, in the safety of the camp, or are you coming out to the holy warp
(Silvester Horne, M. A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And David said to Saul, Let no man's heart fail because of him; thy servant will go and fight with this Philistine.