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or Nathan the prophet, or Benaiah the son of Jehoiada, and the other worthies; only he invited them not to his feast with the king's sons and servants: sometimes a very omission is an affront and a menace. They well knew, that, since they were not called as guests, they were counted as enemies. Ceremonies of courtesy, though they be in themselves slight and arbitrary, yet the neglect of them, in some cases, may undergo a dangerous construction.
Nathan was the man by whom God had sent that errand of grace to David, concerning Solomon, assuring him both to reign and prosper
: yet now, when Adonijah’s plot was thus on foot, he doth not sit still, and depend upon the issue of God's decree, but he bestirs him in the business, and consults with Bathsheba, how at once to save their lives, and to advance Solomon, and defeat Adonijah: God's predetermination includes the means as well as the end ; the same Providence that had ordained a crown to Solomon, a repulse to Adonijah, preservation to Bathsheba and Nathan, had fore-appointed the wise and industrious endeavours of the prophet to bring about his just and holy purposes. If we would not have God wanting to us, we must not be wanting to ourselves; even when we know what God hath meant to us, we may not be negligent.
The prophets of God did not look for revelation in all their affairs; in some things they were left to the counsel of their own hearts: the policy of Nathan was of use as well as his prophecy: that alone hath turned the stream into the right channel. Nothing could be more wisely contrived than the sending in of Bathsheba to David with so seasonable and forcible an expostulation, and the seconding of hers with his
Though lust were dead in David, yet the respects of his old matrimonial love lived still; the very presence of Bathsheba pleaded strongly, but her speech more: the time was, when his affection ostended in excess towards her, being then another's; he cannot now neglect her, being his own; and if either his age, or the remorse of his old offence should have set him off, yet she knew his oath was sure; “My lord, thou swarest by the Lord thy God unto thine handmaid, saying, Assuredly Solomon thy son shall reign after me, and he shall sit upon my throne;" his word had been firm, but his oath was inviolable; we are engaged if we have promised, but if we have sworn, we are bound.
Neither heaven nor earth have any gyves for that man that can shake off the fetters of an oath ; for he cares not for that God whom he dares invoke to a falsehood; and he that cares not for God will not care for man.
Ere Bathsheba can be over the threshold, Nathan, upon compact, is knocking at the door. God's prophet was never but welcome to the bedchamber of king David ; in a seeming strangeness he falls upon the same suit, upon the same complaint with Bathsheba: honest policies do not misbecome the holiest prophets; she might seem to speak as a woman, as a mother, out of passion; the word of a prophet could not be misdoubted. He therefore, that had formerly brought to David that chiding and bloody message concerning Bathsheba, comes now to David to sue for the life and honour of Bathsheba ; and he that was sent from God to David to bring the news of a gracious promise of favour unto Solomon, comes now to challenge the execution of it from the hands of a father; and he whose place freed him from suspicion of a faction, complains of the insolent demeanour and proclamation of Adonijah ; what he began with an humble obeisance, shutting up in a lowly and loving expostulation, “Is this thing done by my lord the king, and thou hast not showed thy servant who should sit on the throne of my lord the king after him ?” As Nathan was of God's counsel unto David, so was he of David's counsel both to God and the state ; as God
therefore, upon all occasions, told Nathan what he meant to do with David, so had David wont to tell Nathan what he meant to do in his holy and most important civil affairs. There are cases wherein it is not unfit for God's prophets to meddle with matters of state; it is no disparagement to religious princes to impart their counsels unto them who can requite them with the counsels of God.
That wood which a single iron could not rive, is soon splitted with a double wedge; the seasonable importunity of Bathsheba and Nathan, thus seconding each other, hath so wrought upon David, that now his love to Adonijah gives place to indignation, nature to a holy fidelity: and now he renews his ancient oath to Bathsheba with a passionate solemnity: “As the Lord liveth, who hath redeemed my soul out of all adversity, even as I sware unto thee by the Lord God of Israel
, saying, Assuredly Solomon thy son shall reign after me, and he shall sit upon my throne in my stead: so will I certainly do this day.” In the decay of David's body I find not his intellectual powers any whit impaired: as one therefore that from his bed could, with a perfect, if weak hand, steer the government of Israel, he gives wise and full directions for the inauguration of Solomon: Zadok the priest, and Nathan the prophet, and Benaiah the captain, receive his grave and princely charge for the carriage of that so weighty a business. They are commanded to take with them the royal guard, to set Solomon upon his father's mule, to carry him down in state to Gihon, to anoint him with the holy oil of the tabernacle, to sound the trumpets, and proclaim him in the streets, to bring him back with triumph and magnificence to the court, and to set him in the royal throne with all the due ceremonies of coronation.
How pleasing was this command to them, who, in Solomon's glory saw their own safety! Benaiah applauds it, and not fearing a father's envy, in David's presence wishes Solomon's throne exalted above his; the people are ravished with the joy of so hopeful a succession, and break the earth, and fill the heaven with the noise of their music and shouting.
Solomon's guests had now at last better cheer than Adonijah's, whose feast, as all wicked men's, ended in horror: no sooner are their bellies full of meat, than their ears are full of the sound of those trumpets which at once proclaim Solomon's triumph, and their confusion: ever after the meal is ended comes the reckoning. God could as easily have prevented this jollity, as marred it; but he willingly suffers vain men to please themselves for a time in the conceited success of their own projects, that afterwards their disappointment may be so much the more grievous. No doubt, at this feast there was many a health drunken to Adonijah, many a confident boast of their prospering design, many a scorn of the despised action of Solomon ; and now, for their last dish, is served up astonishment, and fearful expectation of a just revenge. Jonathan, the son of Abiathar the priest, brings the news of Solomon's solemn and joyful enthronization; now all hearts are cold, all faces pale, and every man hath but life enough to run away. How suddenly is this braving troop dispersed ! Adonijah, their new prince, flies to the horns of the altar, as distrusting all hopes of life, save the sanctity of the place, and the mercy of his rival.
So doth the wise and just God befool proud and insolent sinners, in those secret plots wherein they hope to undermine the true Son of David, the prince of peace: he suffers them to lay their heads together, and to feast themselves in a jocund security, and promise of success; at last, when they are at the height of their joys and hopes, he confounds all their devices, and lays them open to the scorn of the world, and to the anguish of their own guilty hearts.
CONTEMPLATION II. DAVID'S END, AND SOLOMON'S BEGINNING. It well became Solomon to begin his reign in peace. Adonijah receives pardon upon his good behaviour, and finds the throne of Solomon as safe as the altar. David lives to see a wise son warm in his seat; and now he, that had yielded to succession, yields to nature. Many good counsels had David given his heir ; sums them
up in his end. Dying words are wont to be weightiest. The soul, when it is entering into glory, breathes nothing but divine. “I go way of all the earth.” How well is that princely heart content to subscribe to the conditions of human mortality; as one that knew sovereignty doth not reach to the affairs of nature! Though a king, he neither expects nor desires an immunity from dissolution, making no account to go in any other than the common track, to the universal home of mankind, the house of age. Whither should earth but to earth? And why should we grudge to do that which all do? “Be thou strong, therefore, and show thyself a man. Even when his spirit was going out, he puts spirit into his son. Age puts life into youth, and the dying animates the vigorous. He had well found, that strength was requisite to government, that he had need to be no less than a man, that should rule over
If greatness should never receive any opposition, yet those worlds of cares and businesses that attend the chair of state are able to overlay any mean powers. A weak man may obey, none but the strong can govern. Graceless courage were but the whetstone of tyranny: "Take heed therefore to the charge of the Lord thy God, to walk in his ways and to keep his statutes.” The best legacy that David bequeaths to his heir, is the care of piety; himself had found the sweetness of a good conscience, and now he commends