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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. xvii. 28, 29–49, 50. "The LORD SEETH NOT AS MAN SEETH." For this fact uncounted multitudes will have reason to rejoice and give thanks for evermore. If the Lord had seen as men saw, I avid might have been left to spend his long life and to fritter away his great powers in keeping a handful of sheep in the wilderness. When, at the bidding of Samuel, the sons of Jesse were called to the sacrifice, no one thought of sending for David. When the young men were made to pass before the prophet, that he might find amongst them the chosen of the Lord, neither the brothers nor the father of David proposed that he also should be examined. It seems to have been a settled conviction with them all that the youngest of the household could not be the future king of Israel. Not even when ten of his family had been tried and rejected did Jesse volunteer the information that he had yet another son. If there had been a conspiracy to frustrate the Divine purpose in relation to David, his relatives could scarcely have kept him out of sight more persistently or brought him forward more sluggishly and reluctantly. When, a few months later, the war-trumpet sounded throughout the land, and the service of all the brave and strong was needed to resist the invading enemy who had encamped almost beneath the shadow of the mountains that were round about Jerusalem, Jesse sent three of his sons to follow Saul to the battle, but David was not with them. As if no one dreamed of making him a soldier, he was still kept to his obscure labours in the sheep-fold, and the highest service to which he was called by the voice of man in that season of danger and alarm, was the lowly one of carrying corn and cheeses to
his brothers, who were counted able to do something for Israel's delive ance. These men were slow to see the seeds of future greatness an godliness which the Lord beheld, and they looked not for succour in th direction whence He had ordained it to come. Praise belongs to Hi for carrying out His own purpose, despite the want of discernment an sympathy ou the part of men. If His thoughts had not prevailed ove men's thoughts, the Jewish nation would have lost one of its greate: kings, and the Bible one of its most thrilling and instructive historie: The sweet singer of Israel could not have been mute and inglorious, bu probably he would have given to mankind little beside quiet pastor strains, and his Psalms could not have had the wide range and wondrou variety which they owe to his chequered experience, and by which the are so eminently fitted to be the book of praise and prayer for th Church of God in all generations.
The Divine wisdom in the choice of David was soon proved when th time of trial came, and he had an opportunity of showing the rege spirit the grace of God had given to him. When he entered into th battle-field to begin his soldier life, he first showed his power in th mastery of himself, and then went on to what was in many respects al inferior triumph-the conquest of Goliath. He bore the revilings of hi own brother with meekness, and then, in the same calm and godly mood he faced the dread foe of his country. It was given to him to achiev two great victories in the same place and on the same day. The second triumph is by far the more famous, but we must not suffer its splendou to hide from us the true glory of the first. The man who kills a gian will always be more talked of than the man who, against the force o strong temptations, controls his own temper; but it is none the less trw that—"He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty ; and he tha: ruleth his spirit than he that taketh a city.”
I. David's victory over himself. He found the Jewish army headed by a faint-hearted king, and chiefly made up of soldiers who had beer suddenly emptied of all courage. Infectious fear had spread throug! their ranks with greater swiftness and power than a pestilence, and has destroyed both their self-reliance and their faith in God. As soon as the boastful Philistine showed himself in the valley which lay between th two encampments, all the men of Israel flew from him in sore dismay This was perplexing as well as painful to David, for it did not at al agree with his ideas of godliness or manliness that the hosts of the Lord should turn their backs upon the enemy. He sought to know the matte: thoroughly, and was specially anxious to have repeated to him wha honours would be given to the man who should roll away the reproach of Israel by the defeat of that bold blasphemer. “Apd Eliab, his eldes brother, heard when he spoke to the men; and Eliab's anger wa kindled against David, and he said, Why camest thou down hither ? anc with whom hast thou left those few sheep in the wilderness ? I know thy pride and the haughtiness of thine heart, for thou art come dowi that thou mightest see the battle.” It is not difficult to conjecture the
cause of Eliab's ill-will and unjust upbraidings. He had not forgiven David for the distinction that God had granted, and the cruel spirit of envy had turned him from a brother into a foe. Was not Eliab rejected and David accepted, and how could the eldest son endure to see the youngest preferred before him ļ Like Cain, Eliab became implacable, and doubtless hated in his brother the very excellencies for which his God had put such high honour upon him. True, it was Eliab's own brother that was to have the kingdom, but what of that? Nothing would satisfy his envious heart excepting his own possession of the promised greatness. This fiendish passion of envy, so common in human nature, can not only destroy the joy of a brother in a brother's welfare, but would also, if it could get into a mother's heart, be hellish enough to make her miserable at the thought of the prosperity of her own first-born boy. What a foul thing that must be which gets the elements of its own perdition from a sight of the paradise God gives to others, and which would be wretched and woe-begone in heaven itself if it met with any one having stronger wings, a higher place, or a greater joy-cup than its own!
Eliab might have had fraternal feeling enough to be sorry if any great calamity had befallen David, but his love was not strong enough for the harder task of rejoicing over the bright prospects opened up to his brother by the promises of God. To weep with them that weep requires less true sympathy than to rejoice with them that rejoice. It is often far easier to our fallen natures to be sincerely sorry over the adversity of our neighbours, than to be sincerely and exultingly thankful for the growing greatness of our friends and kinsfolk. Pity for those whom failure has thrust below us can find room in our hearts, when they are too little to contain joy concerning those whom success has lifted above us. We have known Christian men, and ministers too, who, if you were in trouble, would be sure to come with kind words and generous gifts ; but, if you were greatly prospered, they would be equally certain to show more or less of a cantankerous spirit, and find out something to say in disparagement of your prosperity. When Moses lay a helpless babe in the ark of bulrushes, how patiently Miriam waited and watched by the river side ! How promptly she did the work assigned to her, and how ingeniously, with the art that conceals art, she suggested that she should be sent to fetch a nurse of the Hebrew women! Nothing in her manner to awaken suspicion as she ran off to bring back to Pharaoh's daughter the babe's own mother! The sisterly love and anxiety of Miriam toward her imperilled brother made her wise and skilful beyond her years, and bright and beautiful as a ministering spirit. But when, in after years, God had put great honour upon him, and foolish people were jealous of him because of his power and pre-eminence, Miriam also was carried away and spoke against him, and the Lord smote her with a foul leprosy, a fit symbol of the envy which had broken out upon her soul to defile and disfigure it. When, in the last judgment, Envy is placed at the bar of God, what an indictment will be laid against the Evil Spirit ! The insulting anger of Eliab-the cruelty of Joseph's brethren—the murderous wrath of Cain-and the greatest share in the greatest crime in the worldwill be charged upon him, To cast the demon passion out of our bosoms before that final condemnation is one purpose of Jesus, and with all our hearts we should pray for his complete and speedy victory.
The taunts and insinuations of Eliab must have cut David to the quick. He had come to ask after his brethren's welfare, and make contributions to it, and this was the reward he received for all his kindness. Moved by tender patriotism and piety, he was anxious about the safety of his fatherland and the glory of his God, but his evil-hearted brother put it down to self-conceit and vanity, and denounced as an instigation of the wicked one that which David knew to be an inspiration from heaven. If the undeserved rebuke had been administered in private, it would have been hard to bear; but Eliab was base enough to be a public slanderer, and sought, by his foul aspersions, to do irreparable damage to David's reputation amongst those who saw him that day for the first time, and would be too ready to think that there must be good grounds for these charges of pride and arrogance, seeing they were made by his own brother. “Why camest thou down hither ?” Eliab asked with insinuating emphasis, which clearly implied that the avowed purpose of inquiring after and promoting the welfare of his brethren was, on David's part, a mere pretence, and that he was wearing a mask of brotherly kindness in order to hide his own self-seeking and presumption. “With whom hast thou left those few sheep in the wilderness ?” was the second evilsuggesting question, “It was not much we cared to confide to you, and even that little you have neglected. I know the pride and the haughtiness of your heart. You may deceive these strangers with your pretended zeal and piety, but you cannot impose upon me." Eliab spoke to David, but, doubtless, it was the listening people he desired to impress with his slanderous talk. He would fain persuade them that David was utterly unfit for that great work for which he was about to offer himself; and, if the cruel and false words had wrought their intended effect, the people would have certainly refused to commit their cause to the championship of an upstart stripling, against whom even his own brother bore such strong testimony. It would be difficult to imagine a speech which, being of the same length, should breathe more envy and malignity, suggest more falsehood, and be capable of doing more mischief! The temptation must have been strong to answer it with words of burning indignation, and only a man of much meekness and of great self-control could have replied to it as David did. Who likes to be accused of vile motives which he knows have no place in his heart, and who can hear his very virtues denounced as being nothing but hideous vices which he tries to hide beneath pious airs and canting pretensions? And what must it be when the calumny comes from a brother, and the sufferer, pointing to his reputation, pierced with the sharp and poisonous tongue of slander, has to exclaim, with grief too great for tears : “ These are the wounds which I have received in the house of my friends.” It was a cross of this kind David had to carry, and he bore it as if there had been given to him some prophetic foresight of the perfect example of Him who endured such contradiction of sinners against Himself, and who, when He was reviled, reviled not again.
The restraint which David put upon his temper under this great provocation was the most godly thing he could have done, and therefore it was the most expedient. Could he have devised a better method of disproving his brother's assertions? If his spirit had flamed forth in angry rejoinder, and if he had publicly branded his brother with the bad names he deserved to bear, the people would probably have found in that so much evidence in support of Eliab's insinuations. But the gentle spirit and the soft answer turning away wrath must have shown them how much he had been misrepresented. If one be accused of being a great sinner, there is no method of refuting the charge equal to that of manifesting the spirit and maintaining the character of a true saint. “By their fruits ye shall know them.” “Men do not gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles.”
Having regard to the great work before him, how important it was that David should keep his temper! Could the second victory have been achieved if he had failed in the first conflict ? The combat with Goliath demanded an undimmed eye, a steady arm, and a calm heart; and, if he had given way to stormy passion for only a brief season, there would, probably, have been a lingering feverishness and nervousness utterly unfitting him for the dread struggle on which the fate of two armies and of two nations was depending. His strong faith in God might not have sufficed to give him the necessary quiet and steadiness if he had first suffered fierce anger to disturb his spirit and fill his body with trembling. That which was right amidst the temptations of one hour was the best preparation for the arduous labours of tbe next hour. All other things being equal, he who is most triumphant over temptation and most faithful to duty to-day, will be the strongest for work and warfare to-morrow. Let God be praised for giving to his servant David the sweet charity which suffereth long and is not easily provoked! Happy they who will not let their souls be easily enkindled by other people's unrighteous anger, but who cultivate a spirit in which insulting words and provoking deeds fall like fire-brands into the quenching sea!
II. David's victory over Goliath. History records many instances in which cruelty and tyranny and persecution have thoroughly outwitted themselves and frustrated their own purposes. Charity must not rejoice in iniquity, but it may exult in the defeat of iniquity, and especially when iniquity plays the part of a scorpion and stings itself, when, like Haman, it unwittingly prepares a gallows for its own execution. The defeat of the Philistines in the downfall of their great champion is a most striking illustration of this kind of selfdestruction. A few years before the birth of David, the subjugation of Israel by their old enemies was most complete, and the conquerors used their power in such a manner as to make it very unlikely that the crushed people could ever rise again. All the nation was disarmed, and