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"Built upon the foundation of the Apostles and Prophets, Jesus Christ himself
being the chief corner-stone."
LESSONS FROM THE LIFE OF DAVID.
BY THE REV. CHARLES VINCE.
1 Sam. xxiv., xxvi. Our attention has been before called to the fact that the first great victory achieved by David was over his own spirit. He kept himself meek and gentle when the shamefully unjust insinuations and charges of his brother presented a strong temptation to be hot in temper and hasty in speech. As we pursue his history, we are glad to find that his first triumph of this noblest kind was not his last. The grace whereby he achieved the first abode with him still, and enabled him to win a yet more glorious victory. In the scenes the two passages indicated above bring before us, we see him restraining wrath and exercising mercy at a time when the inducements to taste “the sweetness of revenge" were many and powerful indeed. His cruel and implacable foe, who had come out with three thousand armed men, determined either to take him prisoner or to hunt him to death, was now entirely in his hands. It was a golden opportunity, and David made a golden use of it, for he refused to avenge himself, and suffered his deadly enemy to depart in peace. Behold the man after God's own heart! Let us draw near and look more closely into this deed of saintly magnanimity, and listen to the benediction which the voice of God pronounces upon it: “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.”
If we would fully appreciate the nobleness of David's conduct, we must glance at the circumstances in which he was placed, and the experiences through which he had recently passed. For three years he had lived the life of a fugitive, and in many ways and places had sought to shelter himself against the unrighteous and pitiless wrath of King Saul. At last he flew to Ramah, where Samuel lived, and there, telling the tale of all his troubles, he received from the aged prophet all the counsel and sympathy and consolation which his circumstances demanded, and for which his heart yearned. In the home and under the protection of Samuel, he found for a brief season a peaceful restingplace, but it was not long before the sleepless hostility of Saul drove him out of that welcome security. Like the mariners, who exclaim, “It is better to put into any port than be destroyed by the storm," David next betook himself to a strange hiding-place. He went out of his own country, amongst the idolatrous Philistines. He went amongst the people whose champion he had slain, whose pride he had humbled, and whose power he had broken; into such a plight the persecutions of Saul had brought him, that he was safer amongst his "natural enemies” than amongst his own people; and it was better for him to cast himself on the generosity of those who had many reasons for being hostile to him, than to brave the anger of the king whom he had faithfully served, and by whom he was hated without a cause. The security David enjoyed amongst the Philistines was short-lived, and he soon had to seek shelter elsewhere. Returning homewards, the weary wanderer took refuge in the cave of Adullam, where he was joined by a number of men, some of whom were of little credit to him, and the government of whom must often have been a great trouble to him. The power which was brought him by the accession of these men, he speedily used in a most praiseworthy manner. It appears that the persecutions of Saul were extended from David to his father and mother, and hence Judæa was no longer a safe land for Jesse and hi household to dwell in ; and one of the first purposes to which Dayi put his newly acquired strength, was that of carrying them beyond th
fugitive warriors, he took them over the mountains to Mizpeh o Moab, and said to the king of Moab, “Let my father and my mother I pray thee, come forth, and be with you till I know what God will de for me." If one were disposed to paint a series of pictures illustrativ of the fact that David was a man after God's own heart, he migh wisely take this scene as one of the subjects of his illustrations. Wa David ever more truly and more fully the man after God's own heart than when he came out of his stronghold, and risked his own libert
parents ? That surely was a deed of filial reverence and love whic went up for a memorial before Him who made this the first command ment with promise, “Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy day may be long in the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee."
The anger of Saul still burned against David as fiercely as ever, an proved its relentless cruelty by consuming an entire city of consecrate men, because one of their number had given bread to David and hi men when he supposed them to be still in the king's service. The onl respite David enjoyed was, when the invasion of the country by foreign foe or some other great exigency made it impossible for Sar to employ his time and his forces in hunting down a solitary adversar Once and again Saul was called from his pursuit of David by som state emergency, but as soon as ever the imperial trouble had passe away, he returned with the fury of a monomaniac to his wonted wor
of worrying the son of Jesse into the grave. At last he went forth with three thousand picked men, and it must have seemed impossible for any earthly power to come for a long season between him and the gratification of his malice. David and his men went for safety into a great cavern which stretched so far into the sides of the mountain that its innermost recesses were dark as midnight, and vast enough to hide a thousand warriors in their gloom. * In this darkness David and his followers concealed themselves; and doubtless they did not venture to break the silence by a single word, and were almost afraid to breathe, lest the slightest noise should betray them ; for if they had been discovered, their position would have been one of utter helplessness, as with his superior forces Saul could have turned their hiding-place into a prison, and easily starved them to death or starved them into surrender. Presently the sultry hour of noontide came, and the king sought a refuge from the oppressive heat, and a place of quiet for that midday repose which the burning sky of Eastern lands makes so necessary. Not “as chance would have it," but as the providence of God ordained it, he went to enjoy his siesta in the mouth of the very carern wherein David and his men were hidden. We can scarcely conceive, much less describe, the breathless interest, the agony of earnestness, with which they watched and witnessed all that was taking place. Looking from the darkness that made them invisible toward the daylight, they could see the king wrap himself in his robes and compose himself to sleep, unconscious of the dread danger that was so close to him. David's men deemed this to be the favourable opportunity for him to free himself from all trouble by a single thrust of his sword, and they vehemently urged him to avail himself of it. But the Lord was with him, and filled his heart with mercy instead of revenge, and held him back from the violence to which so many things impelled him. He heard and heeded the voice Divine, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, saith the Lord. If thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.”
This brief review of David's circumstances will suffice to show that there were many things to enkindle his resentment and make forbearance toward Saul a most difficult virtue. Think of what he had lost, and what he had suffered! He was young and brave and richly gifted, and eminently fitted for the highest duties and purest joys of social bife ; but for three years he had been hunted like a wild beast, as if he were a curse to the earth, utterly unfit for the haunts of men, and Worthy only of being a target for Saul's archers to shoot at. Sometimes he had been doomed to dreary solitude, and at other times he Who would have graced the highest and holiest circles in the land, had to make himself the bosom-companion of demoralized debtors and dis
*." The wilderness of Engedi is everywhere of limestone formation, and has its kurlace broken into conical hills and ridges, from two hundred to four hundred feet in Deight. On all sides the country is full of caverns, which serve as lurking places for mutlaws at the present day. Some of these can easily give shelter to 1500 men."
contented outlaws, many of whom mistook the proper object of their indignation, and were angry with society instead of condemning themselves. He was endowed by nature, and set apart by Providence, for great service to the state ; and after a season of useful disciplinary obscurity and lowly labour, he came forth to publicity and fame. Life opened out gloriously before him, and he had the fairest prospect of attaining to true greatness by serving his generation according to the will of God. Suddenly his sky was completely overcast, and the cup of sweet hope was dashed from his lips; and he who possessed unsurpassed powers for helping his country was doomed to hide himself amongst its enemies, or make himself the leader of its outcasts. What had brought all this to pass ? No court of justice had passed sentence upon him. No council of the nation had consigned him to banishment. The people had not cast him off. The Lord God had not forsaken him. All this loss and sorrow and evil had come upon him through the unprovoked anger of one man's heart, and now that man lay helpless at his feet. Verily the devil stood on high vantage ground that day when he tempted David not to forgive his enemy, but to slay him in his sleep!
It was not only what Saul's death would deliver David from, but also what it would introduce him to. The consecrating oil had been poured upon his head, and one of the greatest of God's prophets had baile him as future king of Israel; and if Saul were out of the way, the chief, if not the last barrier between him and the throne would be gone It would be no light thing to exchange the caves of the mountains fo the palaces of Jewry, and the life of a hunted outlaw for the life of : king revered and obeyed, and surrounded with all that power could procure or wealth could purchase. According to man's code of morals it would have been neither murder nor manslaughter, nor any othe crime, to put Saul to death, for he had declared war against David, an had come out against him with vastly superior forces. If David ha slain him, and thus have cleared his own way to the kingdom, ho many would have praised the deed! The voices that persuaded him t do it were many and mighty, some of them must have sounded lik angel-voices, and it was almost a miracle of grace that the one voice conscience was strong enough to outcry them all.
The tempter is never so likely to succeed as when he transforms hin self into an angel of light, and makes the real sin look so much like virtue that it is difficult to discern the deception. This he did David's case, speaking through David's men, and trying to convince hi that the opportunity to avenge himself was a boon which Heaven h: sent him in fulfilment of a promise the Lord had made to him. “A the men of David said to him, Behold the day of which the Lord said un thee, Behold I will deliver thine enemy into thine hand, that thou maye do to him as it shall seem good to thee.” How strangely things coi bined together to make the worse appear the better course! T promise and the providence of God both seemed on the side of insta and complete vengeance! But David was versed in the law of Go and in one of the earlier books of his incomplete but precious, priceless Bible, he had read these commandments: “ Thou shalt not avenge nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself: I AM THE LORD.”* He knew that man must shape his course by the precepts of God, and must never violate any Divine law with the notion that thereby he can bring about the fulfilment of Divine promises and purposes. Man's duty is always the same, to believe the promises, to obey the commandments, and to leave the fulfilment of the promises to Him who has made them.
David's generous forbearance touched the heart of Saul, disarmed him of his rage, melted him into tears, and constrained him to become a suppliant at the feet of the man for whose blood he had been thirsting. In Saul's profuse professions of good-will, David placed the confidence they deserved-none at all. David would be merciful, but that was no reason why he should be foolish, and forego all prudence ; so, when Saul went away to his palace, he betook himself to his stronghold again. The generous mood of the king was as brief as the sunshine of a wintry afternoon, and he soon suffered his wrath to drive him into renewed hostilities. A second time he fell into David's hands, and was allowed to escape unhurt. This second display of magnanimity on David's part was a greater triumph of saintly principle than the first. All the former reasons in favour of avenging himself still existed, and in greater force, because of the additional sufferings he had endured ; and now there was to be added another reason of almost irresistible power. He had cast his pearl before swine which bad turned again to rend him. His kindness had been shamefully abused, and evil had been returned for his good. The king's life which he had nobly spared was consecrated afresh to the work of securing his destruction. To spare it a second time was for David to sharpen the sword by which he himself would be slain ; and that surely would be charity degenerating into fanaticism. More than ever the tempter that spoke in favour of revenge looked and spoke like an angel of Light; but the God whom David desired to obey gave his servant strength equal to his day, and once more, though the forces in favour of evil were a great host, the victory was on the side of godlike forbearance and forgiveness. This lesson the history teaches most plainly and powerfully, that when the saint is watchful and prayerful, and enjoys the Divine succour which watchfulness and prayer cannot fail to secure, there is no temptation too strong for him to resist, and there 18 no difficulty in the practice of holiness too great for him to surmount. He can do all things through the Lord who strengtheneth him.
It is evident that David's faith in God was one of the great roots out of which all these fruits of forbearance and patience and compassion grew. He was confident that God would in His own way and in His own time fulfil the promises which had been made, and therefore, instead of taking the matter into his own hands, he could rest in the Lord and wait patiently for Him. What a contrast between his con
* Ley. xix. 18.