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DAVID UNDER BEREAVEMENT.
THERE is a passage in the life of David, in regard to which most persons have sympathized with him. It is the loss of his child. Bereavement in a world of universal death is so necessarily common, that an event so natural, so simply told, and containing such sweet and simple expressions of faithful submission to the will of God, can hardly fail to touch the heart. It speaks strongly of the existence of affectionate ties, of sad and final partings, and of an earnest looking towards another and future state. And such topics must be to thinking men of the very highest interest. Such men feel that they are on every side too manifestly involved in these contingencies, to escape altogether from the weighty thoughts which they suggest.
David's child was the result of a criminal intercourse; and, as he loved the woman of whom he had become unlawfully possessed, he loved her child also. And although God by the voice of his prophet declared the forgiveness of his sin, yet he visited that sin so far with temporal punishment by the death of his child. During the child's illness, David fasted, retired into privacy, and lay prostrate on the earth: but when he discovered, by the manner of his attendants, that the child was dead, he arose, and washed, and anointed himself, and came into the house of the Lord, and joined in the public worship, and then came to his own house, required that they should set bread before him, and did eat. Such conduct, though evidently justifiable on right principle, was mysterious and strange to his attendants, who, according to custom, seemed to think that the time of sorrow was only now come. But David readily explained the motives by which he was actuated. He wept, and mourned, and humbled himself under the descending rod: but when it fell and smote him, he bowed submissively under the blow; he received the chastening without a murmur: and he thus vindicates to his servants
his return to the active duties of life: “Now he is dead, wherefore should I fast? can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me."
This statement, explaining his feelings, and exculpating his course, suggests several points worthy of thought connected with those afflictive bereavements to which all are in some measure liable.
I. It is of divine appointment, that in this life there are many endearing relations and ties. David loved his child-most men do-fondly; and this affection spreads through all the various ramifications of relationship. It is a natural principle bound up in the heart; and though it may be charged, philosophically, with imperfection, as savouring of partiality to a few, instead of a general benevolence, it is a principle highly necessary to hold up each individual strenuously to the fulfilment of those arduous and continuous duties in a world of sorrow, without which the sick, and weakly, and defective, the aged, and the infirm, would often, notwithstanding all the efforts of a general philanthropy, be left to perish. The mother's fondest affections are often seen to entwine most closely around the puny, sickly, and least engaging child. And this natural affection is increased and strengthened on both sides in all the relations of life, by offices of kindness, by the daily recurring fulfilment of duty, by the near association for years in all the chances and changes of this troublesome world; so that many married persons who first drew together from very imperfect and defective motives, have, by mere juxtaposition and close jostling together amidst cares, turmoil, and perplexity, become deeply and permanently attached, so attached as to be ill prepared for the inevitable separation at the close of life. By far the larger portion of human happiness flows from these near domestic relations. All but a few miserable selfists are alive and open to
their influence. Man feels himself were not easy to forget the liberated not merely a gregarious being, herd- tenant of the Bastile, who, after half a ing with his fellow, but dependent, in century's imprisonment, ran through an endless variety of ways, on mutual the streets of Paris in vain to find a offices of kindness, and mutual acts name, a companion that he could reof forbearance and self-restraint; and member, and then fled, from the agoas the cheerfulness of the social con- nizing conviction that he was alone, to versation arises out of the joint con- solicit, as a superior mercy than liberty, tributions of thought, so domestic a restoration to his solitary dungeon. happiness, the measure of home en- Had he only realized in the lineajoyment, which generally exists, and ments of a grandchild the reminiswhich gives its loveliest smile to the censes of former days, life would have dwellings of the wilderness, arises out smiled again, and liberty would have of the countless and continual contri- been a blessing. butions which relative affection, in all II. But dear as natural relations its various grades, cheerfully bestows. are on many grounds, God in his Take these all away, rob the depend providence often takes them away ant creature of these appliances alto- unexpectedly, suddenly. We are apt gether, leave him to no other allevia- to forget that there is a decree of unition or comfort but that by which a versal death come out against us; selfish internal energy sustains the and that the execution of that decree man's infirmity, and what an unhap- is marked with peculiar uncertainty. py, desolate being he becomes. There The strongest is often taken, and the is something so awfully oppressive in weakest left. There is no departing the sense of a seeming approach in regular succession to another towards this abandonment, that the world, as we reach the appointed rich and aged who have prospered, as limit of life; but old and young, it is called, in life, and lifted up their healthy or weak, are taken according heads in haughty state for many to God's mysterious providence. “The years after bereavement has made Lord strikes” where he will. Such them desolate, are often seen feeling are the liabilities to death by bodily their way back to some poor
neg- derangement, infection, accident; lected relation, that they may have and such the actual working of maninear them at least some being, in fest and occult causes, that it may
be whose attentions they might imagine well said, “In the midst of life we are the natural and genial warmth of in death; of whom may we seek for blood-relationship, something more succour but of thee, O Lord!” How than the cold and decent attentions often is the blow threatened! How of menial-purchased or interested often mercifully spared! How often civility. How thankful, then, should it comes severely and unexpectedly we be, as the days of our pilgrimage on the dearest object of regard! Exincrease, for the continuance of life perience in our own circle and in the to those we are bound to love. What neighbourhood around us, should an astounding message it was to Job teach us an entire implicit dependrespecting his children: “The young ence for our own life, and that of our men are all dead, and I only am left relatives, on the wisdom and mercy to tell thee.” How it burst all the of our gracious preserver. Our combonds of affection at once, and left forts are wholly in his hands, and in him to little more than the “misera- a matter in which he most peculiarly ble comfort” of his speculative and displays his sovereignty. argumentative friends. If, as we go But be the event of death in any forward, our shifting tent still holds case ever so mysterious and distresswithin its range a little band stimu- ing, it is not, it cannot be, a capricious lated to offices of duty and kindness, act. It flows in every instance from by the spring and How of natural infinite wisdom, holiness, and love. affection, it is one of the brightest It is the wise behest of an infallible gleams of our evening sky, and one of moral governor, who “doeth all things the strongest calls for gratitude. It well.” Sometimes death enters into
our circle as a punishment. So died ered, will show, that, though the dethe children of Eli; so died the child cree of death is gone out against us, of David; so perished the thousands and must, in many instances, be felt of the Assyrian host; and such was very severely; yet that the mode of the awful visitation on a stubborn and executing that decree is wonderfully rebellious people, when the midnight overruled for good: and even where cry arose in Egypt," when there was no alleviating circumstances are dinot a house where there was not one rectly traceable to short-sighted mordead.” For God had smitten all the tals, there is mercy-intended mercy firstborn in the land from the palace in the severest lesson which death to the prison. Alas! as every family reads to us of the sovereign and awful wept over the heir and the pride of authority of the eternal God. Few the house, how they must have been severer lessons were ever learned on conscious of the power of Him who the right of God, as a judge, to the killeth, and maketh alive; who lifteth forfeit life of a sinner, than the call on up, and bringeth low!
Abraham to offer up in sacrifice his Sometimes death comes for correc- only and beloved son. He was not tion and instruction in righteousness. to wail in prostration upon the earth, Such, probably, was the unexpected like David, the contingent ravage of death of Rachel in childbed, to wean disease, but he was to be the active the patriarch more entirely from this agent who must strike the blow. He life, and to give to it still more of the must not wait till the exhaustion of pilgrim character. Such was the re- fierce disease would make the fondest moval of Job's children; that while relative desire the coming event, but God vindicated his own ways, even he must himself stop at once the full before the accuser of the brethren, tide of life, and plunge the beloved he might teach his faithful servant child into an unseen eternity. Yet more deeply in the ways of his provi- after all that dark cloud broke in dence, and lead him to exercise a showers of blessing over the believing fuller and more implicit faith. and submissive parent, and on all the knoweth the way that I take; and family of the faithful. when I am tried I shall come forth as What a wide-spread scene of sorgold.” Such was the fatal illness of row death makes. There are a few Lazarus. This sickness is not unto resolute followers of business or pleadeath, but for the glory of God, that sure who know little of its oppressive the Son of God may be glorified power till it smites themselves. They thereby. Such was the trying and push on through life's busy scenes extraordinary bereavement of Ezekiel. without looking into the chambers of “ Son of man, behold, I take away sorrow and disease. They have no the desire of thine eyes with a stroke, familiarity with the sad preliminaries yet neither shalt thou mourn nor of death. Pleasure or profit has made weep, neither shall thy tears run them callous and indifferent to the down. So I spake unto the people sorrows of their kind, and the only in the morning, and in the evening palliation of that hardness is, that my wife died."
It was a special and they are very ignorant what those awful lesson, both to the prophet and
But these are few into his people, on the sovereignty of deed—the few who have wrapped God in the punishment of sin: and themselves up in an impenetrable desperately trying as a dispensation selfishness. But all the rest of manso sudden and so peculiar must have kind are intimately mixed up with the been to Ezekiel, He who appointed it universal sorrow. Death enters both was able to pour into his servant's the palace and the cottage. It is lacerated heart the consolations of felt in every grade of life. Natural sustaining and healing grace. And, affection knows nothing of caste. generally speaking, the visitation of The refinement of real sorrow,
the death is, in one way or other, temper- silent endurance of bitter grief, the ed with mercy. There is some aspect fond attentions of the bedside, and of the trial, which, if rightly consid- the burst of agony at parting, are
realized with equal force, indepen- a fond and solacing attention-still dently of wealth, rank, or education. the thought abides in all its power, It may be said with equal truth of the and it would be unnatural not to shepherd or the sovereign, “His life is admit it in all its power for it bound up in the lad's life.” What need speaks with a force intended to be then is there throughout the family impressive, “He shall not return." of man of enlightened and implicit Nor is it well to look away altogether trust in God's mercy. If one sharp from this distressing fact. An event blast may
shake off all the blossoms of so universal-felt, as it must be, at our comfort, and lay them in the dust, it some time or other, by every oneis immensely important that we should must be of the nature of a profitable commit them prayerfully to divine dispensation towards man, must be keeping, and hold them in child-like intended, by the way in which it dependence on divine compassion. forces attention to another scene, to
İll. And how keen is the feeling which the dead are removed, to draw of that irretrievable separation which the soul away from too keen and ardeath accomplishes. "Can I bring dent attention to visible things. “An him back again?” all experience as- object on which my affections were serts the impossibility of that return. fixed, is gone-is seen no more“ Like a mist on the mountain,
wherever he is, here he is not-and Like a wave on the river,
here he will not be again. If I can see Like a bubble on the fountain, him again, then I must seek him elseHe is gone-and for ever.”
where. He shall not return. I canEven in the case of an infant this is not bring him back again-no, I felt. The sovereign felt it amidst the must go to him! cares of empire. How much more IV. And mark in this case, the moral keenly, then, will that fatal irremedi- certainty upon David's mind as to the able separation tell upon the heart place to which his child was gone. after years of affectionate association, With all his errors—and they were when a kind parent goes to his long many—he was a sincere servant of home, when a faithful partner of our God, with a well-founded hope of joys and sorrows looks the last look future happiness. It is impossible to of fondness, when a father or a wid- read his meditational and devotional owed mother lays an only son in the compositions, and not be assured of grave. It is a harrowing thought, this. He knew where he was going. “He shall not return to me.” Duty “ Thou wilt show me the path of life. often separates in this world the dear- In thy presence there is fulness of est friends. At the royal mandate, or joy, and at thy right hand there are in search of wealth, a son hastens pleasures for evermore.” David evi, alone to the other side of the world, dently believed that the infant spirit to spend the best portion of life an of his child was gone to that glorious alien from family and friends. But inheritance. Blessed assurance-it there is the alleviation ever recurring.
agony of parting; By and by he will return. The genius The eternal safety of infants removed of science has shortened the distance by death cannot be doubted. David of our antipodes, has diminished the had no doubt as to his child; and earth's diameter. A letter will speed- why should any one?
Called to a ily reach the loved object, and rational existence, and gifted with an hasten his return. But here it is not immortal soul, but removed out of a
That short sentence rings an world of sin and temptation, before awful knell over the heart—“Can I they can be guilty of disobedience, it bring him back again?” Memory is impossible to doubt fairly that their may retrace beloved features, and re- eternal safety is secure. The removal count proofs of disposition and fea- itself is the proof of their election. It tures of character; interesting scenes is a special mercy,
that spares them may arise with peculiar vividness be- the trials of the wilderness, the hufore the mind, and affection may lin- miliation and griefs, that would be ger over the grave, and lavish oyer it otherwise inevitable, and places them
early and at once in that unchanging revealed God was gradually working state, where “ the angels do always in him a mighty change-a loyalty of behold the face of their heavenly heart, that kept him right on almost Father.” It is, perhaps, one of the all great points, and through Divine most cheering thoughts, amidst the mercy brought him at last to a peacemany sorrowful and gloomy hours of ful death-bed, on which he felt the our pilgrimage—that, though the promised salvation to be all his desire, curse of death is on the world for But, in this instance, David has sinned sin, and though the awful results of grievously, and had remained, most that curse are seen in an endless probably some months, in a state of variety of ways, both in present pu- heart-alienation from the sincere denishment, and in the moral certainty, votional service of his God. It was that multitudes of men are bankrupt not till after Bathsheba's child was for the great eternal accounts; yet born, that the prophet was sent to that God is pleased to take away one
David. Most probably he was all half of mankind before they reach that time in a state of backsliding ; years of personal responsibility. The observant, perhaps, of the outward millions of adults who are sanctified duties of religion, but either in a state and saved, through the belief of the of spiritual torpor, or miserably unthe truth, are an absolute majority on comfortable under the consciousness the side of holiness and happiness. of unrepented and persevering transWe must believe that many “ go into gression. His want of readiness to everlasting fire,” that many “ wake to perceive the force of the prophet's everlasting shame and contempt;" of parable, would imply that gross sin many whom we know, and have had
much deadened his spiritual known, we cannot but stand in doubt. perceptions. There is no deterioraOn many cases, that it would be cri
tion more rapid than the deadening minal in us to decide, and that it is influence of an indulged sin on a well for us that we are not to decide, fallen believer. David says, elsethere cannot but hang a shade of where, "If I regard iniquity in my mystery-we cannot say where they heart, the Lord will not hear me :" are gone. Then there is a peculiar and the only alternative, therefore, glow around the infant's dying pillow, which suggests itself in such a case, and, trying as it is to see the little instead of the right one, is to cease to sufferer in the strong grasp of death, pray, and not to mock either God or it is cheering to know, that no doubt self with the insult of a pretence, overhangs the dispensation, that the Perhaps, like many another man angel of death frowns not, that the caught in the toils of God's provicontingencies of a life of temptation dence, he had been without a fixed are not in that case seen necessary,
and steady act of prayer for many but that the child has been just months! The half-conscious sigh of called forward to an immortal exist- a germinating repentance might have ence, received the incalculable bless- occasionally heaved his bosom, even ing of a rational and moral nature, by the couch of Bathsheba; but he and then been speedily set apart for a had shunned, because he was not yet world where sin cannot come. The prepared for the acknowledgement of sickness and death of the child are cor- his transgression. He had not yet rective visitations to the parents-they felt its guilt. He was a stranger to are everlasting security to his offspring. contrition.
V. But one of the most interesting How rich then were the aboundings features in the whole case is David's of mercy to him! How full the tenpeaceful consciousness of future hap- derness and the pity of omnipotent piness himself—the possession of a holiness to a fallen creature! How good hope. He had been the believ- fitted is the aspect of such dealings to ing servant of the true God from his win the sinner, if he rightly considers youth. His trust in God was a marked them, back to holiness and to God! feature of his character. In the midst Before God sent the correcting afflicof much imperfection, that trust in a tion, he sent his servant Nathan on a