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THE CHARACTER AND FAITH OF
i Samuel, xxx. 6.
But David encouraged himself in the Lord his God.
The children of God may be sorely assaulted and distressed-greatly distressed--from within and without. So holy David appears to have been in the passage before us. But then they are not without hope; they are not driven at random from wave to wave of misery. The helm of divine faith is not lost. They have a cheerful hope, which sweetens the bitterest cup, and renders their situation, when most calamitous, infinitely better than that of the ungodly when most prosperous. David, and men like David, “encourage themselves in the Lord their God,” in all seasons of distress. This is a rock too strong for the proudest and most boisterous waves of hell or Satan, or of adversity to shake. How desirable that we all knew it, and were all “founded upon
it*.” The most godly are so far from being exempt from afflictions, that they are often exposed to the
* Matth. vii, 25.
severest. And so little suited is prosperity to the spiritual growth of the soul, that even, in very faith
, fulness to his covenant, the Lord is constrained to afflict his dearest servants, to prevent their ruining themselves. But the godly have the Lord for their God. He is their God in covenant. All shall work together for their good, and all shall end well at last. How light does this thought make present afflictions ! But how heavy are they to the ungodly. They cannot look up to God with comfort. Their prospects beyond the grave will not bear a steady contemplation. Whereas the afflicted soul, who knows the Lord, and can in affliction say, shalt guide me with thy counsel, and afterward receive me to glory;" such a soul may repose in a storm, and triumph in the severest shocks of adversity.
We will endeavour then, in some measure, to lay open
to you, the spirit of the “man who was raised up on high; the anointed and the sweet Psalmist of Israel.” And that we may do this with the more effect, it will be proper to advert to the very
different situations in which, according to Scripturehistory, we find this servant of God was placed. How wonderfully was he supported and encouraged amidst a sea of afflictions! Surely it must be worth while to examine the principles and motives of such a character as this. Both the godly and the ungodly may derive profit from the inquiry. And it is my earnest prayer, that the Holy Ghost may apply the instructive subject to all sorts of persons.
If there be one man's story and character, in the Old Testament, more useful than any other, for our study and meditation, I should take it to be that of David, king of Israel. He went through the extremes both of prosperity and of adversity. . Scarcely any man had experienced more of both. The exercises of his mind and conscience were also strong, various, animated, and very distinct. You see them painted throughout the book of Psalms. We live in the dregs of time, when religious affections are very much despised. But all the religious feelings to which, by God's help, we would lead you, are, in their substance set forth in the Psalms. Not any state of mind is there, in which a man can be, but some one or other of them will afford him matter and language to exercise his soul in a suitable manner. Holy men, in every age have found the Psalms the richest repository of Christian wisdom and piety. And, it is to be feared, that in reading them at Church, many, who call themselves Christians, carelessly repeat, Sunday after Sunday, those very thoughts and feelings which they despise as enthusiastic in those who fear God.
Great was this man, in every light almost that you can conceive. As a Musician, a Poet, a Patriot, a King, his character was extraordinary. We admire the heroes and celebrated names of whom we read in history. Why is not David so admired ? His heroism was scarcely ever equalled. I will tell you: Men hate godliness; and therefore this circumstance in the character of David makes his story to be little regarded. Again, some poets, of ancient and modern times, are admitted as prodigies of genius. Men of taste are enraptured with their beauties. Why are David's Psalms regarded so little in that light? Surely their beauties, as compositions, are wonderful. But there is too much of God in them to suit the taste of carnal minds. Hence they are despised by those who highly relish the classic writers.
Indeed the supreme excellency of David lies in his acquaintance with Jehovah, and the Covenant of his Grace. For it is not any sort of view of God that will avail to the conversion of the heart. A tolerably moralized Pharisee may say, when he is in affliction, he comforts himself in God; because he is honest and has done his duty. But David's spirit is different: and so is that of every Saint. So far from thinking he has done his duty, so far from drawing his comfort from that source, he views himself always as a miserable sinner. Indeed, compared with others, he is righteous ; for high is his character drawn by the Holy Ghost, i Kings, xv. 5, which I beseech you to attend to; because, I fear, many have imagined this man to have been only a Saint of a lower order. “ David did that which was right in the eyes of the Lord, and turned not aside from any thing that he commanded him, all the days of his life, save only in the matter of Uriah.” What a character is this! But observe, what is here said respects the general tenour of his conduct and practice; in which he excelled, perhaps, all the holy men that ever lived.
Yet all this affords no matter of boasting. His excellencies were not his own; they were the work of the Holy Spirit of God. His nature still was sinful ; and he felt it so : He says, “Behold, I was shapen in wickedness, and in sin did my mother conceive me.” His atrocious crime in the affair of Uriah, in which for once he was permitted to fall, he traces to this source of innate depravity. If he was an humble man before this, as doubtless he was, after his recovery, through grace, his humility
, would receive a prodigious increase. If you think that when David " encouraged himself in the Lord his God,” his encouragement arose from a view of his own goodness and uprightness, as that which should move God to be his God, you are exceedingly deceived.
Learn, from his own words, the true source of his comforts, amidst a life of much trouble and extreme vexation. He shall speak for himself; and,
. oh! that Christians in general were acquainted with the same foundation for true consolation. “ Although my house be not so with God; yet he hath made with me an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things, and sure: for this is all my salvation, and all
my desire *.”. What, though his house and family, and even the inward affairs of his own soul, often caused him much disquietude, and were sometimes enough to drive him almost into desperation; yet God had made with him an everlasting covenant. God was his God in a way of covenant in
. Jesus, the promised seed, of whom David was a type; and it was on the righteousness, blood, and intercession of this Jesus that he grounded his confidence. Through him he was everlastingly saved : All his sins were pardoned: his person was accepted : his adoption among the children of God, and his reception into heavenly glory were ensured.
2 Sam. xxiii. 5.