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the case, that we shudder, and are ready to sink, at the thought of being discovered by our fellow-creatures, but are easy enough under the consciousness that God knows and watches our secret faults ? so easy that we do nothing towards amending them. so, it is clear we are so far like Saul as to fear the opinions of men more than the unerring judgment of God: and were a temptation like his to come upon us, what hope could we have of standing?
May Almighty God, who knows our hearts, enable us all, without delay, to amend what is wrong in our dependence on other men's opinions : may He keep alive in our minds such a thought of His fearful presence, as may render us, in comparison, indifferent what our fellow-mortals say and think of us : may the Last great Day be ever uppermost in our hopes and fears, that we may never be afraid or ashamed to do right for God's sake.
For them that honour Him, He will honour ; and they that despise Him shall be lightly esteemed.”
THE MAN AFTER GOD'S OWN HEART.
1 SAMUEL xvii. 37.
“ David said moreover, The LORD that delivered me out of the paw of the Lion and out of the paw of the Bear, He shall deliver me from the hand of this Philistine."
David, as we all know, is called in Holy Scripture by one of the highest titles that can be given to the children of men. He is called, The man after God's own heart. When Samuel, in God's name, gave Saul the first notice of his being to be rejected from the king's place and state, it was told him also, The LORD hath sought Him out a man after His own heart, and the LORD hath appointed him to be ruler over His people.
This naturally sets us upon considering what there was particularly pleasing to Almighty God in the character of His servant David, that he should be counted worthy of so high a title ; a title, which one might imagine the very Angels might covet.
Now one obvious way of making out what it was in holy David, which is thus providentially recommended to our special imitation, is to see what it was in Saul which forfeited God's favour, and caused him to be rejected. And it would appear as if the Lessons of our Church for the Sundays at this time of year were selected with a view to this very purpose, namely, To help us to understand and imitate David, first, by comparison with his opposite, Saul, and afterwards by setting forth his own character as he shewed it in the fight with Goliah.
First, then, as to Saul's sin, the particular sin which caused God first to cast him off, and make mention of David in his stead; it was taking on himself to offer sacrifice, without waiting for Samuel to come, whose office it was to do And why? because he was afraid the people would else be afraid to stay with him ;
would come upon
him and find him alone. It was just the same kind of wrong temper, as caused him afterwards to disobey the command given him, that he should utterly destroy the Amalekites. He spared the best of the spoil and the chief of the prisoners, contrary to God's known command, because he saw it would be unpopular to destroy them. According to his own confession, he transgressed the commandment of the Lord, and Samuel's word, because he feared the people, and obeyed their voice. In a word, he would not go on simply trusting in God, but mixed his own miserable human devices and policies with the plain commands of the Most High; nay, and set aside God's Word, because himself and the people could not see the reasonableness of it.
This was Saul's sin ; and in reproving him for it, God gave him to understand that he had forfeited the kingdom by it; forfeited it to a neighbour of his, who was better than he, better no doubt in that very respect more particularly, wherein Saul had so sadly failed. This would lead us to expect in David a character full of that good thing, which is most opposite to Saul's sin; to his cowardly, worldly, unbelieving policy. We should expect to find him particularly eminent for single-hearted trust in the God of Israel ; obeying His commands at once when he knew them, without looking after reasons, or calculating what might come of it; without waiting to see if the people approved it or no.
As Saul blemished all his services by thinking always of himself, his own praise, profit, and consequence, so we should expect to find in David something particularly disinterested : a generous forgetfulness of himself, a mind taken up entirely with his God.
This is what we should expect in the man after God's own heart, judging by the faults for which his predecessor Saul was rejected. And such in fact we find David, as his history comes out before us, and more especially in the account of his combat with Goliah, which forms the Lesson for this Sunday in the afternoon. There is in it, throughout, what may be called the perfection of the youthful character; a single-hearted way of going about every thing, when once he was certain that the cause of God required it of him. There is a combination of courage and modesty in God's service; a zeal to do, if possible, some great thing for Him, without any disposition to value himself on it when done. He does his. duty, and claims no reward, and goes on serving his master Saul as loyally and faithfully ever afterwards, as if he had not laid him under any particular obligation. In a word, he seems entirely to forget himself, and to be carried on, as by a breath from Heaven, towards every thing that is right and noble.
This is quite plain to every one who reads or hears the chapter with ever so little attention. But two or three remarks may be made, which will serve perhaps to bring out the character of this great and holy Soldier of God a little more fully than all might otherwise consider it.
First, it is well to remember héré, as in every other part of the early history of David, that before this time he had been chosen out by special message from God, and anointed to be King, and knew himself to be so. He knew himself to be marked out from the beginning for the highest place; yet never on any occasion does he show the least disposition to press into it. He seems indeed conscious that God was especially with him; without some inward call of that kind, it might have been presumption in him to stand forward as he did; but he takes nothing upon himself, seeks not, that we find, any kind of honour or reward, asks Saul's leave to go, and takes his directions as far as he can, and dutifully and affectionately obeys and serves him, for all his ingratitude, for many years after.
One can judge the better of David's singleness of heart, by comparing him with others, mentioned in Scripture as having had prophecies made to them, that they should one day come to reign. Jeroboam was told that he should reign over ten tribes ; and he seized the first opportunity to tempt the discontented Israelites to rebellion. Hazael was told that he should be king of Syria in his master's place, and he presently committed murder and treason at once ; he destroyed his master, to come the sooner to the crown. These examples show how strong the temptation
to David, to raise himself by putting down Saul, had he been selfish like ordinary men. He might have said, as weak and wicked people in such circumstances often do, “I am but forwarding what is decreed; I am about a sacred work, accomplishing God's own purpose : I know God means me to be King, and Saul to be put down; how then can I be wrong in setting about God's work ?” Thus. David might have reasoned, had he been selfish and worldly; and on the world's rules it would seem hard to answer such reasonings : but David knew nothing of the world's rules; he went by the rule of Faith. He knew that God has no need of the sinful man, and that He can accomplish His purpose a thousand ways, without any help from our feeble and unworthy devices: therefore He left God's promise to itself, and only looked after his own duty.
Observe what his argument was, when Saul would have persuaded him that he was too weak to fight the Philistine. He had recourse at once, not to the promise of the Kingdom, but to God's past preservation of him, and to his certainty that he was undertaking God's own cause. • Thy servant,” he said, “ kept his father's sheep, and there came a lion and a bear, and took a lamb out of the flock; and I went after him, and smote him, and delivered it out of his mouth; and he (that is, the lion) rose up against me, and I took him by the beard, and smote him, and slew him. Thy servant slew both the lion and the bear; and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be as one of them, seeing he hath defied the armies of the living God.”
This is what we should call, in familiar language, a plain, straightforward, manly way of taking things. "God," he argues, " has delivered me once out of one great danger, which I met in the way of my duty: will He not deliver me this time also ? more especially seeing that it is His own cause, the cause of His people. Tell me not of the difference between us, that I am but a youth, and he a man of war from his youth : that the staff of his spear is like a weaver's beam, and that his spear's head weighs six hundred shekels of iron, while I have only a sling and five smooth stones out of a brook : tell me not of such things as these ; the Name of the LORD OF Hosts, the God of Israel, is more on our side than all such things can be against us; in that I go forth, and in that I am sure I shall prevail.” This was