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THE LIVES OF COURTIERS.
2 Samuel xix. 32–39.
Barzillai was a very aged man, even fourscore years old, and he had provided the king of sustenance while he lay at Mahanaim : for he was a very great man. And the king said unto Barzillai, Come thou over with me, and I will feed thee with me in Jerusalem. And Barzillai said unto the king, how long have Ito live, that I should go up with the king unto Jerusalem ? I am this day fourscore years old : and can I discern between good and evil? can thy sertant taste what I eat, or what I drink ? can I hear any more the voice of singing men and singing women? wherefore then should thy servant be yet a burden unto my lord the king ? Thy servant will go a little way over Jordan with the king : and why should the king recompense it me with such a reward? Let thy servant, I pray thee, turn back again, that I may die in mine own city, and be buried by the grave nf my father, and of my mother : But behold thy servant Chimham, let him go over mith my lord the king, and do to him what shall seem good unto thee. And the king answered, Chimham shall go over with me, and I will do to him that which shall seem good unto thee : and whatsoever thou shalt require of me, that will I do for thee. And all the people went over Jordan : and when the king was come over, the king kissed Barzillai, and blessed him ; and he returned unto his own place.
E propose to examine to day, my brethren,
a for a young man, and how far they agree with a man in the decline of life. It is a prejudice too common in the world, that there are two ways to heaven, one way for young men, and another way for men in years.
Youth is considered as a sort of title to licentiousness, and the most criminal plea
Virtue is usually regarded as proper for those, who cannot practise vice with a good grace. God forbid, such a pernicious maxim should be countenanced in this pulpit! Let us not deceive ourselves, my brethren, the precepts of the moral law are eternal, and fitted to all ages of life. At fifteen, at twenty, at thirty, at forty, at fourscore years of age, what the apostle affirms is true, they that do such things, shall not inherit the kingdom of God, Gal. v. 21. These things are adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like. There is no dispensation in these cases on account of age. At any age they that do such things, shall not inherit the kingdom of God.
It is, however, clear, that circumstances sometimes change the nature of moral actions; that an action is innocent, when done in some circumstances, which ceaseth to be so, when it is done in different circumstances; and, to come to the design mentioned at the beginning of this discourse, it is clear, that business, the world, a court, to a certain degree suit a young man, and that they are unfit for a man in the decline of life.
Each part of this proposition, my brettfren, is contained in the text, as we are going to shew you. Barzillai, by committing his son to king David, and by allowing Chimham to avail himself of the favor of his prince, teacheth us how far business, the world and a court become a young man. Barzillai, by wishing only to retreat into retirement and silence himself, teacheth us how far a court, the world and business become an old man ; or rather, he teacheth us, that they do not become him at all, and that there is a certain time of life, when the wise man takes leave of the world.
1. We suppose, Barzillai was a good man, and that his example sufficiently proves it. Indeed this man is very little known. I recollect only three places in scripture, where he is spoken of. The first is in the seventeenth chapter of the second book of Samuel. There we are told, that Barzillai was of the tribe of Gilead, of the city of Rogelim, ver. 27. and that he was one of those, who brought refreshments to David and his court, when he fled from his barbarous son. This passage tells us how he became so dear to David. The second is our text.. The third is in the fourth book of Kings, where David gives this commission to his son Solo
Shew kindness unto the sons of Barzillai, the Gileadite, and let them be of those that eat at thy table ; for so they came to me when I fled be* cause of Absalom thy brother, chap. ii. 7. This passage gives us reason to conjecture, or rather it proves, that Chimham was the son of Barzillai, for the commission given by David when he was dying, to Solomon, certainly refers to these words of our text. Behold thy servant Chimham, let him go over with my lord the king, and do to him what shall seem good unto thee. Thus, all we know of Barzillai contributes to persuade us, that he was a good man; that his exam
that his example sufficiently proves it ; that as he consented that his son should go into the world, and even into the most pompous and dangerous part of it, he thought it might be innocently done. A good father would not have consented that his son should enter on a course of life criminal in itself. If we have deceived ourselves in our notion of Barzillai, it will not affect the nature of our reflections. Our question is this, How
far does the world, à court, or business become a young man? We shall elucidate this question by the following considerations. 1. A wise man will never choose a court, or high offices, as most and best fitted to procure true peace. He must be a novice in the world indeed, who doth not know the solidity of this maxim. He must have reflected very little on the turbulent condition of courtiers, and of all such as are elevated to any superior rank in the world. He must have paid very little attention to the snares, which are every where set to disturb their tranquillity ; to the envies and jealousies, which are excited against them; to the plots, which are formed against their happiness; to the reverses of fortune, to which they are exposed ; to the treachery of such friends as surround them, and to the endless vicissitudes, which they experience. In general, a man must be indifferent to peace, at least, he must know but little in what it consists, to seek it in pomp and worldly grandeur. I forgive a young man of fifteen or twenty for making such a mistake. At that time of life young men deserve pity; their eyes are too childish not to be dazzled by a false glare; they have not then learnt to know appearances from realities by their own experience, or by the experience of others. They do not then know, that happiness consists in a private condition, a moderate revenue, a few tried friends, à chosen circle, a few relations, business enough to preserve vigor of mind withont fatiguing it, a wisely directed solitude, moderate studies, in a word, in a happy mediocrity. My brethren, independence is the blessing, which deserves first of all to be chosen by us, should God leave to our choice the kind of life, which we ought to follow; or if he did not frequently intend by placing us on earth more to exercise our patience than to consummate our felicity. O delicious independence, O inestimable mediocrity, I prefer you before the most glorious sceptre, the best established throne, the most brilliant crown! What are those eminent posts, of which the greatest part of mankind are so fond ? They are golden chains, splendid punishments, brilliant prisons and dungeons. Happy he, who having received from providence blessings sufficient for his rank, easy with his fortune, far from courts and grandeurs, waits with tranquillity for death; and, while he enjoys the innocent pleasures of life, knows how to make eternity his grand study, and his principal occupation !
2. A wise man will always consider a court, and eminent posts, as dangerous to his salvation. It is in a court, it is in eminent posts, that generally speaking, the most dangerous snares are set for conscience. Here it is, that men usually abandon themselves to their passions, because here it is, that they are gratified with the utmost ease. Here it is, that man is tempted to consider himself as a being of a particular kind, and infinitely superior to those, who crawl among the vulgar. It is here, where each learns to play the tyrant in his turn; and where the courtier indemnifies himself for the slayish mortifications, to which his prince reduces him by enslaving all his dependents. Here it is, that secret intrigues, underhand practices, bloody designs, dark and criminal plots are formed, of which innocence is usually the victim. Here it is, that the most pernicious maxims are in the greatest credit, and the most scandalous examples in the highest reputation. Here it is, that every disposition of mind changes, if not its nature, at least its appearance, by the false coloring, with which all are disguised. Here it is, that every one breathes the venom of flattery, and that every