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the same test, that you may see how far they accord with the divine command, and how far they differ from it. God will not judge as we judge: no; he will judge righteous judgments, and will reject with abhorrence many of the services on which we place a very undue reliance. To be accepted of him, your faith must be simple, and your obedience unreserved. Abraham's conduct is the pattern which you must follow. Go, Abraham, and offer up your son, your only son, Isaac.” Here was no disputing against the divine command, nor any doubt in executing it, though he had three whole days to ruminate upon it. No: he knew, that if Isaac should be reduced to ashes upon the altar, God could raise him up again; and would do it, rather than suffer his promise to fail. To the execution of God's command he therefore set himself without delay. And do ye also act with like promptitude and zeal, and "be strong in faith, giving glory to God." This will prove wisdom in the issue; and will prove as conducive to your own happiness, as to the honour of that God whom you love and serve.]
JONATHAN'S VICTORY OVER THE PHILISTINES.
1 Sam. xiv. 6. And Jonathan said to the young man that bare his armour, Come, and let us go over unto the garrison of these uncircumcised: it may be that the Lord will work for us: for there is no restraint to the Lord to save by many or by few.
SO frequent are the wonders recorded in the Scripture, that we scarcely notice them; yet so great are they, that it is rather owing to our inattention, than to any real exercise of faith, that we do not reject them as altogether incredible and fabulous. This account of Jonathan is inferior to few, either in the strangeness of his feats, or the magnitude of their results. That we may have a clear view of the matter, we shall shew,
I. The state to which the Israelites were reducedThe consequences of their choice began now plainly to appear
[They had desired a king, and had persisted in their request, notwithstanding all the expostulations of Samuel; and God had complied with their request. But Saul had not possessed the throne of Israel two years, before his kingdom
was overcome by the Philistines, and brought into a state of the basest servitude. The Philistines would not so much as suffer the Israelites to have a smith of their own, lest he should make arms for them: so determined were they to keep the Israelites in the lowest state of subjection. Yet whilst they were in this state, Saul was imprudent enough to smite a garrison of the Philistines, and thereby to give his enemies a plea for utterly destroying the whole nation. Accordingly the Philistines called all their forces together, "thirty thousand chariots, six thousand horsemen, and foot soldiers as the sands on the sea-shore for number;" whilst Saul had but six hundred men, and not a single sword to be found amongst them all. To make their situation still more deplorable, Saul presumed to invade the priestly office, and to offer sacrifices to God without waiting the full time for Samuel that he had been expressly enjoined to wait; and thus he provoked God to take away from him the kingdom, and to transfer it to a person who should prove more worthy of it. Thus speedily was the nation reduced to ruin under that government which they had been so anxious to obtain.]
And such consequences may justly be apprehended by all who are bent upon their own wishes, in opposition to the mind and will of God
[There is the same self-will in all of us: we do not like that God should choose for us: we think that we can contrive better for ourselves than he has done. If we feel any evil in existing circumstances, we do not so much consider how we may obtain his favour, as how we may ward off the effects of his displeasure. But inordinate desire of any kind will bring its own punishment along with it: and we shall all find at last, that our truest happiness consists, not in the accomplishment of our own will, or the gratification of our own desires, but in the favour and protection of Almighty God — — Perhaps there is not a man to be found, who must not after mature reflection acknowledge, that, if God had suffered him in some particular instance to attain his own wishes, or execute his own desires, he would have rendered himself the most miserable of the human race -]
But, if we see God's hand in their punishment, much more do we in their deliverance. Let us therefore consider,
II. The means by which their deliverance was effected
When nothing but utter destruction could be expeeted, God was pleased to interpose for them. He
stirred up the minds of Jonathan and his armourbearer to go and attack a garrison, that, humanly speaking, was invincible even by a considerable force; and that too even in open day. They climbed up the rock in the very sight of their enemies, slew about twenty of them on the spot, spread terror through the whole camp of the Philistines, gave an opportunity for Saul and his adherents to pursue the fugitives, and would have utterly destroyed the whole Philistine army, if the rashness of Saul had not deprived his men of that refreshment which their exhausted strength required.
Wonderful was this victory, and most instructive in contemplating it we cannot but SEE,
1. That God can work by the weakest means
[Nothing can be conceived more inadequate to the occasion than the means that were here used But God delights to magnify his own strength in his people's weakness, and to interpose for their deliverance in their greatest straits. It is for this very purpose that he often waits, till we are reduced to the lowest extremity. It was for that end that he reduced the hosts of Gideon from two and thirty thousand to three hundred; that the glory of their victory might be all his own. Whatever straits then or difficulties we may be in, we should consider that God is all-sufficient; and that "the things which are impossible to man, are possible with him."]
2. That a hope of his aid should encourage our
[Two things encouraged Jonathan; the one, "There is no restraint to the Lord to save, whether by many or by few;" and the other, "It may be that the Lord will work for us.' And what greater encouragement can we want? for, "if God be for us, who can be against us?" When therefore we are tempted, from a view of our own weakness, to say, "There is no hope," we should call to mind "the great and precious promises" which God has given to us in his word, and the wonderful deliverances he has vouchsafed to his people in every age. In dependence upon him we should go forth, fearing nothing. Being "strong in the Lord and in the power of his might," we should gird on our armour, or even go forth with a sling and a stone against every enemy, not doubting but that, like Goliath of old, he shall ere long fall before us.]
a Deut. xxxii. 36. b Judg. vii. 2-8. c Ps. xxvii. 1—3.
3. That faith in him will ensure to us the victory
["Who ever trusted in him and was confounded?" See what wonders have been wrought by faith in former ages; and shall it have less efficacy now? Will it not still, as formerly, bring Omnipotence to our aid? Only have "faith as a grain of mustard-seed," and all mountains shall melt before you. Whilst faith is in exercise, we need not be afraid of viewing the obstacles that are in our way. Be it so, the enemy is entrenched on an almost inaccessible rock, and we cannot even get to him but in such a way as must expose us to instant death: be it so, that we have no one on our side, except perhaps a single companion as helpless as ourselves: be it so, that our enemy is not only prepared for our reception, but laughing to scorn our feeble attempts against him: it matters nothing; the victory is ours, if we go forth in faith; and not only "shall the devil flee from us, if we resist him thus in faith," but all his hosts also shall be put to flight, and "Satan himself shall be bruised under our feet shortly."
Let those then who are ready to give way to desponding fears remember on what a "Mighty One their help is laid," and let them "be strong in faith, giving glory to God."]
d Heb. xi. 32-35.
f Ps. lxxxix. 19.
e Rom. xvi. 20.
8 Rom. iv. 20.
MOURNING FOR THE SINS OF OTHERS.
1 Sam. xv. 11. And it grieved Samuel; and he cried unto the Lord all night.
NEVER can we be weary of contemplating the scripture history; so diversified are its incidents, and so instructive the examples it sets before us. The whole life of Samuel, from his first dedication to . God by his mother to the very hour of his death, was one uniform course of piety. That particular part of it which I propose at present to consider, is his conduct in reference to Saul, when God declared his purpose to rend the kingdom from him, and to transfer it to another who should shew himself more worthy of it: we are told, "it grieved Samuel: and he cried unto the Lord all night."
In discoursing on these words, we shall notice,
I. The pious grief of Samuel
Respecting this we shall distinctly consider,
1. The grounds of it
[Saul had disobeyed the commandment of the Lord, in sparing Agag the king of the Amalekites, together with all the best of the spoil, when he had been strictly enjoined to destroy every thing, "man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass."
This, at first sight, might appear a venial fault, inasmuch as he had leaned to the side of mercy, and had acted in conformity with the wishes of his people; and had even consulted, as he thought, the honour of God, to whom he intended to offer all the best of the cattle in sacrifice.
But he had received a specific commission, which it was his duty to execute. He was not left at liberty to act according to circumstances: his path was marked out, and should have been rigidly adhered to.
It does not appear that he stopped short of his purpose, because he thought that the command itself was too severe: for, in the first instance, he set himself to execute it fully: but, if he had felt some reluctance on account of its severity, he had no alternative left him: it was his duty simply to obey. When Abraham was called to come out from his country and from his kindred, he obeyed, though he knew not which way he was to direct his steps. And, when he was enjoined to offer up upon an altar his own son Isaac, he hesitated not to do it; notwithstanding he knew that on the life of Isaac, to whose lineal descendants all the promises were made, the coming even of the Messiah himself essentially depended. Had he judged it right to listen to carnal reasonings of any kind, or to put his own feelings in competition with his duty, he might have easily found enough to satisfy his own mind. But he knew what was the duty of a creature: and he obeyed it without reserve. And so should Saul have done. We will take for granted that all his excuses were true; (though we doubt much whether covetousness was not the true source of his conduct:) still they were of no real weight and his listening to them was nothing less than an act of rebellion against God.
And was not this a sufficient ground for grief? Yes: and Samuel did well in that he was grieved with it.
Doubtless Samuel was also grieved on account of the judgment which Saul had brought on himself and on his family, by this act of disobedience. He pitied the man who had subjected himself so grievously to the divine displeasure: and pitied his children also, who were involved both in his guilt and punishment. When he himself, indeed, had been dispossessed