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A RETROSPECTIVE VIEW OF THE CHARACTER OF KING
DAVID, THE MAN AFTER GOD'S OWN HEART.
We have now gone entirely through the history of king David, which affords great delight and instruction: he certainly was one of the best men that ever lived upon earth, and none of the boasted heroes * of antiquity are worthy to stand in any degree of competition with him, either for courage or virtues; and yet we often hear among those who call themselves learned and polite, the character of this king vilified in the most opprobrious terms, because he is styled in Scripture, the man after God's own heart, though he was guilty of great viola. tions of the moral law; it is therefore necessary to ex. plain, how we are to understand this expression,
A short time after Saul was made king, he broke through the conditions on which he had been raised to sit on the throne of the LORD over Israel, and arrogated to himself the supreme power, instead of acting as God's vicegerent, and for this cause, the prophet Samuel was sent to tell him, that he was rejected as captain of the Lord's inheritance, and that his kingdom should not descend to his posterity, for the LORD had sought him a man after his own heart ; that is, one who would never forget that he received his authority from the Lord, and was bound to govern agreeably to God's commands. David when a humble shepherd, was remarkable for his piety and amiable disposition, and he justified the preference which was given to him at that time.
We are told, that immediately after he was anointed * See in Dr. Delany's Life of David, a parallel between th's. king and the heroes of profane history.
captain of the Lord's inheritance, and had the promise of the kingdom given to him, the Spirit of the LORD cane on him, and we read of his performing many acts that required supernatural assistance: all the successes which the Israelites had against the Philistines during the remainder of Saul's reign, were under David; from which Saul was led to suspect, that he would also supersede him in the throne; till at last his jealousy was so inveterate, that he resolved, if possible, to destroy him : David, however, was protected by an Almighty arm, for (notwithstanding it must be acknowledged that he committed many errors, which shew that he was subject to human imperfection) he preserved the highest reverence for God, and zeal for the honour of religion, and on this account was delivered from the most imminent dangers by the interposition of DIVINE PROVIDENCE, being still in the general tenor of his conduct, a man after Gov's own heart. When he gave way to the im. petuosity of passion, he was always unfortunate, but adversity had its proper effect on his mind; he prayed for pardon, and the Spirit of the Lord again assisted him: at length, after a variety of trials, he was anointed king over all Israel ; at which time he entered into a covenant, that he would consider the people as sheep commit. ted to his care by the LORD, would provide for their safety and rule them with tenderness; and, as captain of the Lord's inheritance, would help them to subdue their enemies: we may also collect from many of his Psalms, that the Lord had made a covenant with David, and assured him by his holy Spirit that if he continued faithful to the trust reposed in him, he could establish his kingdom for ever ; and that if his posterity were obedient to the Lord, they should reign after him, in regular succession, till a prince should be born of David's race, that should rule over all the kingdoms of the earth. David 1
understood this promise as relating ultimately to the Messiah, and, though many years were to pass away before our Saviour appeared on earth, he acknowledg. ed him to be his LORD, which proves that he had perfect faith in God.
As soon as David was settled on the throne, his great study was to shew forth the Glory of God, and to pro· mote the prosperity of Israel; for these purposes, he established public worship, restored the law of Moses, and made most excellent regulations in the government. He subdued all the idolatrous nations that professed enmity to the LORD JEHOVAH, and always imputed his success to God. During the whole of his reign, David governed his people with the utmost clemency and justice, and was beloved and honoured by them to the end of his life; and his history abounds with instances of his
generosity, benevolence, mildness, and magnanimity. In respect to Uriah, David certainly was a great offender against the moral law, and by that law his life was forfeited; however, in consideration of his exemplary penitence and his general fidelity, it pleased God to pardon him; but that no one might be encouraged to suppose such wicked actions were excusable, David was condemned to suffer such afflictions as should deter others from committing the same crimes, and we may judge, from the consolations he received by the Holy Spirit, that his behaviour under these chastisements was such as became the man after God's own heart. As soon as the end for which the punishment was inflicted on him was answered he was oncé more restored to peace, and admitted to the holy Tabernacle: where he poured forth his soul in thankful acknowledgments of the goodness of the LORD, and promises of future obedience.
When David found his latter end approaching, he made known to his people that Solomon was appointed
to succeed him in the throne, caused him to be anointed in his life time, acquainted him with the covenant of the LORD, and exhorted him to observe the conditions of it.
Whilst we are endeavouring to obtain & just idea of the character of David, we must not omit to mention his collection of Psalms, a treasury of Divine instruction, of inestimable value, which, as long as the world lasts, must be held in the highest estimation by pious persons; for these divine hymns are so adapted to the common occasions of life, that every one, from the highest monarch to the meanest slave, may appropriate them to his use: they teach us not only how God must be worshipped, but furnish us also with the means of doing it in the most acceptable manner: the afflicted may pray, the sinner express contrition, and the happy rejoice before the LORD, in the very words of David; national calamities may be deplored, and national mercies acknowledged by these divine compositions: the harmonious concert may be sanctified by such heavenly strains, and the artless notes of the humblest christian, dignified by the poetry of the sweet singer of Israel. Many of the Psalms begin with prayer or praise, and end with assurances to the humble and penitent, that the LORD will preserve aud protect all those who trust in Him. In such passages, we may clearly discern the marks of Divine inspiration; and they were certainly dictated by the Holy Spirit, for the consolation, not only of David, but of every one else who will avail himself of this Divine bounty; and even the curses which David, in the character of king of Israel, denounced against the idolatrous nations may serve as admonitions to us, since they point out the crimes for which those sinners were destroyed : let us then examine our hearts by them, and if we find in them any inclination to commit such sins VOL. III.
as are therein deprecated, let us make haste to repent, lest the LORD cast us out also for rebellion against him: but we must be careful not to apply these curses to such as have injured us, for no christian can be in the same situation David was when he penned them; and besides, we have an express command, to love our enemies; to bless, and curse not.
From David's history we may learn, that a man after God's own heart, is one who makes the Divine will the general rule of his life ; who has a fervent zeal for the honour of God, and a benevolent regard to the happiness of mankind; who is patient in adversity, humble in prosperity; who examines his own heart, to see if there is any way of wickedness in him; acknowledges his sins with shame and repentance, and avoids the repetition of them; who aspires after that perfection of goodness, which human nature in its present state cannot attain to: and who trusts to the infinite mercy of God for pardon, esteeming the divine favour as the highest blessing he can enjoy, and longing to be ad. mitted to those blissful regions, where, freed from his present passions and temptations, he may render more acceptable service to the greatest and best of Beings.
The Lord vindicated his own honour by shewing displeasure against David for his crimes, and caused the history of this king to be written in the scriptures for the edification of the world; if we turn it into ridicule, we despise the admonitions of the LORD; and if we harden ourselves in sin, instead of amending our lives by David's example, and reproach God for calling him the man after his own heart, we blaspheme his Holy Name; therefore let us never join in such profane conversation, as it will prove that we are neither well grounded in religion, nor acquainted with sacred history, and that we want to find pretences for continuing in wickedness.