« PreviousContinue »
of them; and yet God seems to speak in them, and Scripture to confirm them. This is a case which not unfrequently occurs, and it involves a call “ to follow on to know the LORD 4."
Or again, we may be in the practice of reading Scripture carefully, and trying to serve God, and its sense may, as if suddenly, break upon us, in a way it never did before. Some thought may suggest itself to us, which is a key to a great deal in Scripture, or which suggests a great many other thoughts. A new light may be thrown on the precepts of our Lord and His Apostles. We may be able to enter into the manner of life of the early Christians, as recorded in Scripture, which before was hidden from us, and into the simple maxims on which Scripture bases it. We may be led to understand that it is very different from the life which men live now. Now knowledge is a call to action: an insight into the way of perfection is a call to perfection. Once more, it
may so happen that we find ourselves, how or why we cannot tell, much more able to obey God in certain respects than heretofore. Our minds are so strangely constituted, it is impossible to say whether it is from the growth of habit suddenly showing itself, or from an unusual gift of divine grace poured into our hearts, but so it is ; let our temptation be to sloth, or irresolution, or worldly anxiety, or pride, or to other more base and miserable sins, we may suddenly find ourselves possessed of a power of self-command which we had not before. Or again, we may have a resolution grow on us to serve God more strictly in His house and in private than heretofore. This is a call to higher things ; let us beware lest we receive the grace of God in vain. Let us beware of lapsing back; let us avoid temptation. Let us strive by quietness and caution to cherish the feeble flame, and shelter it from the storms of this world. God may be bringing us into a higher world of religious truth; let us work with Him.
To conclude. Nothing is more certain in matter of fact, than that some men do feel themselves called to high duties and works, to which others are not called. Why this is we do not know ;
4 Hogea vi. 3.
whether it be that those who are not called, forfeit the call from having failed in former trials, or have been called and have not followed; or that though God gives baptismal grace to all, yet He really does call some men by His free grace to higher things than others; but so it is; this man sees sights which that man does not see, has a larger faith, a more ardent love, and a more spiritual understanding. No one has any leave to take another's lower standard of holiness for his own. It is nothing to us what others are.
If God calls us to greater renunciation of the world, and exacts a sacrifice of our hopes and fears, this is our gain, this is a mark of His love for us, this is a thing to be rejoiced in. Such thoughts, when properly entertained, have no tendency to puff us up; for if the prospect is noble, yet the risk is more fearful. While we pursue high excellence, we walk among precipices, and a fall is easy. Hence the Apostle says, “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God that worketh in you 5.” Again, the more men aim at high things, the more sensitive perception they have of their own shortcomings; and this again is adapted to humble them especially. We need not fear spiritual pride then, in following Christ's call, if we follow it as men in earnest. Earnestness has no time to conipare itself with the state of other men ; earnestness has too vivid a feeling of its own infirmities to be elated at itself. Earnestness is simply set on doing God's will. It simply says, “Speak, LORD, for Thy servant heareth.” “LORD, what wilt Thou have me to do ?” O that we had more of this spirit! O that we could take that simple view of things, as to feel that the one thing which lies before us is to please God! What gain is it to please the world, to please the great, nay, even to please those whom we love, compared with this ? What gain is it to be applauded, admired, courted, followed, compared with this one aim, of not being disobedient to a heavenly vision? What can this world offer comparable with that insight into spiritual things, that keen faith, that heavenly peace, that high sanctity, that everlasting righteousness, that hope of glory, which they have who in sincerity love and follow our LORD JESUS CHRIST?
5 Pliil. ii, 12, 13.
Let us beg and pray Him day by day to reveal Himself to our souls more fully; to quicken our senses; to give us sight and hearing, taste and touch of the world to come; so to work within us that we may sincerely say, “Thou shalt guide me with Thy counsel, and after that receive me to glory. Whom have I in heaven but Thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire in comparison of Thee: my flesh and my heart faileth ; but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever.”
THE TRIAL OF SAUL.
1 SAMUEL xiii. 9.
“And Saul said, Bring hither a burnt offering to me, and peace offerings.
And he offered the burnt offering."
We are all on our trial. Every one who lives is on his trial, whether he will serve God or not. And we read in Scripture of
many instances of the trials, upon which Almighty God puts us His creatures. In the beginning, Adam, when he was first created, was put upon his trial. He was placed in a beautiful garden, he had everything given him for his pleasure and comfort; he was created innocent and upright, and he had the great gift of the Holy Spirit given him to enable him to please God, and to attain to heaven. One thing alone he was forbidden-to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil ; this was his trial. If he did not eat of the fruit, he was to live; if he did, he was to die. Alas, he did eat of the fruit, and he did die. He was tried and found wanting; he fell ; such was the end of his trial.
Many other trials, besides Adam's, are recorded in Scripture, and that for our warning and instruction; that we may be reminded that we too are on trial, that we may be encouraged by the examples of those who have stood their trial well and not fallen, and may be sobered and put on our guard by the instances of others who have fallen under their trial. Of these latter cases, Saul is one. Saul, of whom we have been reading in the course
of this service', is an instance of a man whom God blessed and proved, as Adam before him, whom He put on his trial, and who, like Adam, was found wanting.
Now the history, I say, of this melancholy and awful fall is contained in the chapter which we have been reading, and from which the text is taken ; and I will now attempt to explain to you its circumstances.
Saul was not born a king, or the son of a great family ; he was a man of humble birth and circumstances, and he was raised by God's free grace to be the ruler and king of His people Israel. Samuel, God's prophet, revealed this to him, anointed him with oil, and after he became king, instructed him in his duty; and, moreover, put him on his trial. Now his trial was this. God's people, the Israelites, over whom Saul was appointed to reign, had been very much oppressed and harassed by their enemies round about; heathen nations, who hated the true God and His worship, rose and fought against them; and of these nations the Philistines were the chief at that time. They overran the country, and brought the Israelites into captivity. They tyrannized over them, and to make sure that they should never be free, they even took away
from them the means of forging weapons to fight with. “There was no smith found through all the land of Israel," says the chapter, “for the Philistines said, lest the Hebrews (i. e. the Israelites) make them swords or spears. But all the Israelites went down to the Philistines to sharpen every man his share, and his coulter, and his ax, and his mattock.” Saul was raised up to throw off this heavy yoke, and to destroy the cruel oppressors of his people. He “chose him three thousand men, and with a third of them Jonathan, his son, smote the garrison of the Philistines which was in Geba."
Upon this, as was naturally to be supposed, these powerful enemies the Philistines became highly incensed, and assembled together a great army to chastise the insurgent people, their subjects as they would call them, who were making head against them. They had “thirty thousand chariots, and six thousand horsemen, and people as the sand which is on the sea-shore in multitude.” On the other hand, Saul on his part, “ blew the trumpet through all the land," and summoned all Israelites
1 Fourth Sunday after Trinity.