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THE CHARACTER AND PRAYER OF
Judges xv, 18.
And he was sore athirst, and called on the Lord, and said,
Thou hast given this great deliverance into the hand of thy servant: and now shall I die for thirst, and fall into the hand of the uncircumcised?
BEFORE I enter upon the practical uses of the Text, and the story, with which it is connected, it will be proper to make some remarks on the character and history of the Person who is the subject of both. This is Samson, whose short history is full of wonderful events.
Israel had sinned against the Lord, as was usual in the days of the Judges, and they were delivered into the hand of the Philistines forty years. But the Lord, who chastened his people, gave them not over to destruction. He raised up Judges, from time to time, who delivered them, and among these was Samson; of whom, before his birth, it was declared, that he should begin to deliver Israel out of the hands of the Philistines. God had endowed him with a strength of body prodigiously above the common lot of humanity, and led him by his Holy Spirit to great actions for the deliverance of his
country. But the people, besotted with idolatry, and sunk in ignorance and unbelief, had no heart to follow the standard of Samson, whose single prowess was of great service to check the domineering Philistines; but it was not to be expected that one man alone could do that which the whole nation ought to have joined in accomplishing.
In judging of this extraordinary character we ought to keep our eye on those times, and on that particular dispensation. He performed many wonderful exploits ; and he shed much blood; but he had an express commission from the Lord of heaven and earth. His very birth was miraculous; and he knew, that the end of his existence, in this life, was to be a scourge to the Philistines, to uphold the honour of the God of Israel, and to disgrace Dagon the Philistine idol; and also, by acts of valour, which proceeded from faith in his God, and were done in obedience to his command, to glorify the Lord, and give lectures of instruction to an unbelieving and idolatrous people. These were as much the duties of Samson, as it was St. Paul's duty to preach the Gospel of Christ to the Gentiles: Let us not hear then of his cruelties or barbarities. The revenge which he breathed, even if we allow some mixtures of human evil in it, was do a holy revenge in the cause of the Lord; and it was a great sign of the very low state of godliness in the land, that not a single soul seems to have been stirred up to follow his example. Far, however, be it from me to undertake to vindicate his immoralities. The same holy Scripture, which evidently commends his acts of valour, as proceeding from faith and piety, condemns his transgressions by distinctly showing their bitter consequences. Sin has a sting; and for wicked men to encourage themselves in any vicious indulgence, because the servants of the Lord have, at times, fallen into it, is one of the worst symptoms of a corrupt heart. It implies great impenitence and obduracy.
Consider only how this man smarted for his crimes ; disgraced, bound, blinded, cruelly insulted by his enemies, and cut off in the midst of his days. Is this an encouragement for men to sin ? Does any one now hear me, who, by a course of libidinous and unlawful indulgences, has wasted his fortune, and rendered his character infamous, or whose body is: decaying and sinking into the grave from the same causes? Can such a person possibly derive consolation from reflecting, that Samson, in the worst part of his disposition, resembled him. That Samson was lascivious and was betrayed and ruined by a harlot? But it ought to be remembered that christian motives, doctrines, rules, and the example of Christ, are known, or ought to be known, by us, which Samson could not be acquainted with. Though he knew enough to condemn his folly, yet I apprehend there is not a person in this congregation who, in sinning as Samson did, does not pro‘voke the Lord far more, by sinning against that superior light with which we are so highly favoured. To have the opportunity of reading; of hearing the word of God expounded; to have every sort of encouragement and instruction in the path of duty, --these are our privileges, and I tremble to think what a dreadful account many of us will have to give at the great day, for our neglect of these means of improvement.
But, perhaps you are hardly aware of the disadvantages under which Samson laboured on account of the time in which he lived. It was the darkest portion of that dark dispensation. The land was full of idols: There was no regular course of instruction : It may be doubted, whether he ever heard during his whole life a good exposition of the law of Moses; and even whether he could read at all. It was a season of general ignorance; and heathenish connexions and customs had almost blotted out the knowledge of the true God and his worship. These things ought to be considered by those who feel disposed to encourage themselves in sin because of Samson's transgressions. Whatever he was, he doubtless repented, humbled himself before God, and was saved by faith in the Redeemer; and it will be the wisdom of men to attend to this part of his character for their own benefit. And, as all Scripture is given by inspiration, and is profitable for doctrine, reproof, and instruction in righteousness; and as Samson is, in the New Testament*, expressly enumerated among the Lord's people, who did great and marvellous things by faith, I could not prevail with myself to omit the review of this Saint, to please the over nice taste of persons more delicate than intelligent in the sacred Scriptures. No; let the word of God have its honour; it is that by which Christ is exalted, and sinners saved, amidst the endless cavils of profane or ignorant men. In the transaction of the Chaptert before us, the * Heb. xi. 32.
men of Judah, with the base cowardice of unbelief, deliver up Samson bound into the hand of the Philistines. He is bound with two new cords, and the Philistines, seeing him their prisoner, shout against him. But when God's enemies triumph, then is the time for him to appear for the honour of his name. The Spirit of the Lord came mightily upon his champion, and the cords that were upon his arms became as flax that was burnt with fire; and then it was that with a jaw bone of an ass he slew a thousand men. The hero, now seeing the rest dispersed, seems to have given way to the dictates of vain glory; _" with the jaw bone of an ass, heaps upon heaps, with the jaw bone of an ass have I slain a thousand men. And when he casts it out of his hand, he gives a name to the place, which signifies the casting away of the jaw bone. This seems a farther proof, that pride now swelled his heart.
It was common for holy men to give names to places, in thankful remembrance of the Lord's deliverances. In the history of Jacob this was remarkably the case. But in this passage there is not a word concerning the Lord : Samson seems to be thinking only of himself. God, who is jealous of his own glory, knows how to make his servants feel their dependance upon him. It follows in the Text, “ He was sore'athirst, and called on the Lord, and said, Thou hast given this great deliverance into the hand of thy servant: and now shall I die for thirst, and fall into the hand of the uncircumcised?” Finding himself quite spent and overpowered; and sensible that if the remainder of his enemies should return upon him, he must fall into their hands, he