Page images

by a humiliating correction, which, The whole benignity of God's at the same time, wondrously works providence towards his people in his deliverance. He is dismissed this instance will only be fully seen from the Philistine host smarting when it is viewed in contrast with under the painful suspicion and the sad and darkening aspect of charge of insincerity in his new Saul's last hours—the close of his professions and associations ; but, melancholy apostacy. Every gaze at the same time, he is most op- into the gloom that envelopes the portunely saved from the sin of fallen monarch's end, serves to lifting his hand against his own peo- show more plainly, after a certain ple, and brought back into the path time, the adverse character of God's of a straightforward and unequi- providence towards one who had in vocal obedience. He returns, feel- heart abandoned the way of righing that it is better to trust in the teousness. At the very moment Lord, than to put any confidence in when God's gracious superintendprinces ; and that though the heart ence is delivering David, involunof a man “ deviseth his way,” and tarily as to himself, from the conponders much on the skilful appli- sequences of his own errors, the cation of human wisdom to his events that occurred to Saul are circumstances, " yet the Lord di- those which seem naturally to draw recteth his steps.'

him onward by inevitable entangleNo wisdom or prudence of this ment to final ruin.

So true, in a wise and prudent man saved him. particular crisis of a sinner's aposDivine benevolence only wrought tacy, is the awful assertion, “He through channels independent of hath compassion on whom he will him, the natural and ready suspi- have compassion, and whom he cions of other men, and thrust him will he hardeneth.” Man, in the forth corrected and humiliated, into natural course of events, indepensafety. The man of God, in the dent of any judicial dealing with abounding of human infirmity, errs, him, hardens his own heart against and errs deeply, but the aspect of God; and then at length the time God's providence is kind and gra- of retribution comes, when the cious both in the punishment of meshes of a retributive entanglethe error and in the bringing back ment shut him up to a final punishthe wanderer to the path of duty. ment. David appearing most improperly Saul had good reason to know as the willing ally of the Philis- from the faithful testimony of tines, must be cast out with con- Samuel that God had rent the tempt even by the unbelievers, kingdom of Israel from him, and whose association he unwisely that such a rejection from the sought; but at the same time he sovereignty implied at least a must be cast back upon the right solemn warning lest it should be course, and learn in the hour of followed by a final rejection from his disgrace another proof of that the divine favour. Yet even at loving-kindness which never fails. that time Saul aggravates the evil “He will keep the feet of his saints. of his case by not asking pity and If his children forsake my law, I pardon for his transgression, but will visit their iniquity with a rod, by compromising the matter with and their sin with scourges ; never- the prophet, for a little outward theless my loving-kindness will I respect to his royal station while it not utterly take from him, nor suf- was continued to him. “I have fer my faithfulness to fail.”

sinned, yet honour me now I pray

[ocr errors]

thee, before the elders of my peo- And such experience will ever be the ple, and before Israel, and turn turning point in a case of backslidagain with me that I may worship ing. To acquiesce in it, to let it rethe Lord thy God.” He is satis- main so, to take no ulterior step fied if the continuance of the pro- adequate to the threatening evil, phet's external attentions to the not to move heaven and earth with regal office shall conceal from the the bitter wailings of despairing multitude the awful character of entreaty, is to put the seal to the his fall.

deed of final separation. God may But observe how evil thickens yet hide himself only that he may around him in his last hours. be sought and ultimately found; Samuel, the faithful adviser, dies. but if he do so hide himself, and David, an honest servant, is totally the endeavour to seek a withdrawalienated from him by his own ing God is abandoned, then the groundless enmity and suspicion: last ray of hope departs. It was and the attachment of Jonathan his at this very time, just after Saul, own son, though it prevails to the in virtue of his regal office, had willing sacrifice of life in a father's put away witchcraft out of the cause, yet had been evidently land, that in the absence of better diminished by his great injustice comfort he said to his servants, to David, When, therefore, the “ Seek me a woman that hath a Philistines gathered themselves to- familiar spirit, that I may go to gether for battle, Saul found him- her, and enquire of her.” Knowself alone, without an adviser. ing the evil, for he had prohibited There is something painfully deso- it, he turned from the throne of late in the heart of him who has grace where anger frowned upon wandered, and who, in the hour of his access, to unjustifiable and uncommencing correction, has to look holy expedients. God's chastening his trials in the face in solitary and was not corrective and remedial. unsustained and unalleviated agony. It was penal. It was retributive. “ When Saul saw the host of the It was hardening. It threw the Philistines, he was afraid, and his unhumbled and prayerless man heart greatly trembled."

aside. And here appears the turning It is not necessary, with a view to point of retributive visitation- the moral influence of the scene, to the crisis at which the adverse as- enter into the question of the real pect of God's providence frowns extent of the witch's power, or the the impenitent king into further reality of the appearance of Samuel. abandonment of the way of righ- We have only to consider here the teousness and peace.

« Saul in- way in which a particular course of quired of the Lord,” not in sîn- voluntary procedure is overruled to cere penitence, but that in a crisis accomplish a particular result. of distress he would gladly fly to Saul gives this as the reason of his any means of help and escape. conduct. “I am sore distressed; The utter want of a true devotion for the Philistines make war against is evident enough by the result. me, and God is departed from me, The Lord answered him not, nei- and answereth me no more. And ther by dreams, nor by Urim, nor this wretched admission of his reaby prophets."

sons for such a humiliating inconNow, to ask counsel or comfort of sistency is not followed out on the God in a time of trial, and to feel that part of the speaker in the vision, it is not given, is most distressing. whoever it may be, with wholesome

and strenuous advice to seek the feasting on the fatted calf, and the Lord ere it be too late, but by a warm unleavened bread. further and more overwhelming How it reminds one of the “comcommunication : " Wherefore dost fortable breakfast,” detailed with thou ask of me, seeing the Lord is such scrupulous accuracy, "pardeparted from thee, and is become taken of” by some notorious crimi. thine enemy;" and this is accom- nal at the foot of his scaffold ! panied by the prophetic announce- The soul that has fallen from God ment of his death on the morrow. can look calmly into a dark eternity

While the gratuitous interference --dark with a forfeited and perished of Providence is bringing David birthright-and can turn from it back from his wanderings, how to the low gratification of a mess of every succeeding step of Saul's ex

pottage; can indulge the lower perience goes to complete his alien- appetites of an all but disorganised ation! The awful announcement frame at the moment of impending of the enmity of God breaks his dissolution. Oh how debased is lofty spirit, but does not soften his that rational and immortal being, heart. In his distress he had who, disregarding all the corrective fasted through the day and the dispensations of God's providence, night; and now his natural firm- remains, in defiance of them all, a ness failed him, and the ponderous persevering rebel against his mercy frame of the gigantic warrior “fell and truth, and finds refuge from all along upon the earth.” He the last lingering warnings of his was sore afraid. For a time he

gracious Spirit in the lowest and refused to be comforted; but it is most sensual gifts that yet remain sad to see how the apostate mind to him. can be gradually assimilated to The contrast in these two cases, its melancholy circumstances. A and in God's treatment of them, is short time only sees this poor crea- surely very striking and instructive. ture abandoned by God, and thus Both these men had erred; but the manifestly abandoning him, sitting errors of David were yet not absodown in the cave of unholy super- lutely inconsistent with the exstition, to share with his few ob- istence of essential piety in the scure and nameless servants and heart. The faults of Saul were the proscribed practiser with fami- those of a permanently irreligious liar spirits, the feast which she mind. The course of David, with had prepared for him. A bitter all its deviations, was a sincere and incurable woe had rent his struggle onwards toward God and spirit. A doom most melancholy holiness. That of Saul was a both for this world and that to rapidly increasing retirement from come hung directly over him. all that he had ever known or felt Another sunset would close his in better days. And we trace as strange and wayward career. He distinctly the line of treatment by had been told without reserve the infinite wisdom towards both. true character of his case; but Truly God is good to Israel, every additional step in the devel- even to such as are of a clean opement had only hastened on the heart," while “if I regard iniquity final evil—the persevering impeni- in my heart the Lord will not hear tence—the penal visitation. Yet me. God's own faithful servant there sits the unhappy subject of a may

fall into error ; yet

mercy doom so imminent and so awful, shall compass him about." His own way shall reprove, humble, and “ statutes that are not good," and correct him, till at length he walks entangling providences invest the with greater circumspection ; and way of a voluntary rebellion, and the blessed result of all his vicissi- he who will fall shall fall beaten tudes, is a deeper and more sub- down not more by his own strong stantial holiness, a more thorough and dominant passions, than by the and universally influential humility, whelming tide of God's angry and a louder and warmer song of judgments. Upon the wicked

he praise.

shall rain snares;” and even those But when a man, in the sleep of visitations which wear

on their his moral nature, has really taken front the aspect of expostulatory his stand against God and his own and inviting mercy, shall only be sanctification, when the real state bitter elements in the portion of of the soul is resistance and rejec- their cup, aggravating their sortion of proffered mercy, then, rich row, confirming their rebellion, and as is the grace of the atonement completing their meetness for that for sin, so that where sin hath outer darkness where holiness, and abounded there doth grace much peace, and love, never come. more abound; yet the aspect of

LATIMER. God's providence becomes severe ;




MY DEAR FRIEND,-Your kind heavenly. And after conversion, letter created a mingled emo- the Almighty carries on the blessed tion of joy and sorrow. The trials work by his wise dispensations, till you have lately undergone in the the wills of his people are entirely loss of earthly friends, I doubt not, swallowed up in his own!

Is it through grace, have been greatly not our daily petition ? happy, sanctified to you.

“ The Lord indeed, were it our daily practice ! gave and the Lord hath taken

Thy will be done on earth, as it away ; blessed be the name of the is in heaven.” Oh! what a Lord.” This is the language of mercy when the Lord, in covenant faith ; but, ah ! how difficult, at love, will not suffer us to wander the trying moment, to resolve our from him; but, like a tender parent, whole will into the sovereign and watches our wayward steps, and righteous Will of God! This is gently applies the chastisement to truly a work far too great for fallen, bring us back again into the paths rebellious man to perform without

of peace.

David calls it, “a loving the almighty energy of the Divine correction,”-and St. Paul, in the Spirit. The conversion of a sinner 12th chap. to the Hebrews, declares principally consists in subjugating -“ that whom the Lord loveth he the stubborn will, and giving it a chasteneth, and scourgeth every new bias to that which is holy and son whom he receiveth."

peace of

There cannot be a more awful in the unavoidable hurries of a busy state than that of a man's living in life. wilful sin, and yet feeling no com- But, ah! my dear friend, how punction of conscience—no fear of apt are things temporal to shut out God-no dread of future punish- the thoughts of things that are ment! Let him alone,” is a eternal. Temporal things press most tremendous sentence and so much upon the senses, as too devoutly to be dreaded. It is the often to captivate the affections very seal of eternal perdition. My even of pious persons before they are constant prayer is—that the Lord aware. On this account it is, that would not suffer me to rest satis- the Almighty takes away the idol fied with any but the “

and causes the gourd to wither. God,” that solid and substantial How privileged is the true believer, peace which flows from faith and to be always under the guidance love in Jesus Christ. “ Being and protection of infinite wisdom justified by faith, we have peace and redeeming love. Our heavenly with God.'' “ Great peace have Father, as Burkitt expresses it, they which love thy law.” There “ would rather see his children is, as my dear friend well knows, bleed than burn,” for this reason such a thing as a false peace- he purgeth the living branches in

crying peace, peace, where there his vineyard, that they may bring is no peace.

Awful delusion! Is forth more fruit. it not a bed on which thousands The Lord brings his people into rest, till roused by the everlasting the furnace for many reasons : To burning? It is a dreadful lethargy purify them, to wean their affecof soul, which the Lord in righte- tions from the world, to show them ous judgment, suffers to take place the vanity of earthly pleasures and in backsliding professors; and if not pursuits, to increase their faith in rescued out of it by sovereign grace, eternal realities, to enable them to perdition must inevitably ensue. taste the sweetness of the promises, Oh, then what need we have to lay to manifest his power in their our foundation upon a Rock—the weakness, to prove the strength of Rock of Ages—the adorable Jesus ; their hope in him, and to shew to and to build upon it gold, silver, an unbelieving world the power and precious stones, if we wish to and consolations of true religion, have rejoicing in the day of trial. in supporting the soul under the The mere stubble of outward pro- greatest sufferings, and making his fession will avail nothing, if the people even more than conquerors sterling grace of love be wanting. over all their afflictions, through True religion is an inward work, him that loved them and gave him“ the kingdom of God is within,” self for them. We gain, also, a -a “ kingdom of righteousness, deeper insight into our own hearts, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.” and obtain a more experimental The strongest actings of grace are knowledge of the love of Christ, invisible to mortal eyes, and known and the sweet influences of his only to him who maintains them in Spirit. Under this view David the soul. When the apostle com- might well say : “it is good for mands us to


without ceas- me that I have been afflicted.' ing,” no doubt he means the “He hath done all things well.” constant exercise of mental prayer

Yours very affectionately, and praise, which prevents no busi

T. S. B. READE. ness, and may be carried on even Leeds, 27th August, 1810.

« PreviousContinue »