« PreviousContinue »
phet's reward; and he that receiveth a righteous man in the name of a righteous man shall receive a righteous man's reward."
Again, Ruth followed Naomi to the ordinances of God. Go and do ye likewise. In what way prayer, and hearing, and sacraments, may work under God to the production of faith and charity, we may not know, and need not inquire; but, “ Ask,” it is written, “and it shall be given you ?;" and again,“ Ye have not, because ye ask nots ;” and, “Faith cometh by hearing“;" and the body and blood of Christ are verily and indeed taken by the faithful in the Lord's supper'; for “the cup of blessing which we bless,” says St. Paul, “is it not the communion of the blood of Christ ? the bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christo ?” God has tied the end to means of his own choice; and that is, and ought to be reckoned, quite enough for us. If ye will be with Him then in the using of the means, He will be with you to give effect to them; your part is to continue sted fastly, like the early Church, “in the Apostles' doctrine, and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers?.” And so long as you do this, you cannot fail to grow in grace, and in the know
, ledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
1 Matt. x. 41. 4 Rom. x. 17.
2 Ibid. vii. 7.
7 Acts ii. 42.
SAUL AND AGAG.
1 SAMUEL Xv. 9.
“But Saul and the people spared Agag, and the best of the sheep,
and of the oxen, and of the fatlings, and the lambs, and all that was good, and would not utterly destroy them: but every thing that was vile and refuse, that they destroyed utterly."
We have in this chapter a history eminently profitable, if rightly understood, “for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, and for instruction in righteousness'.” But, though there are no great difficulties in it, it is not, I think, always understood so thoroughly as is desirable. The characters of the principal actors in it are sometimes much mistaken. The wickedness of Saul is extenuated, and the holiness of Samuel underrated; and some have been at a loss to reconcile parts of the narrative with their notions of the goodness of Almighty God. A very little consideration of the particulars may suffice to clear up these points; but a little may be necessary.
At all events, those who do not want to have the history explained, may find their advantage in a practical application of it; and I shall therefore take the whole transaction for the subject of my present discourse.
I. The history relates God's commission to Saul respecting Amalek, Saul's disobedience and subsequent ill-behaviour, and God's rejection of him on that account from being king; and it concludes with Samuel's slaying Agag, whom Saul, in contradiction to the Divine command, had spared.
“ Samuel said unto Saul, The Lord sent me to anoint thee to be king over his people, over Israel : now therefore hearken thou unto the voice of the words of the Lord. Thus saith the Lord of hosts, I remember that which Amalek did to Israel, how he laid wait for him in the way, when he came up from Egypt. Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass.”
Here a question has been asked, which I shall answer before I proceed. How could it consist with Divine goodness utterly to destroy a whole nation at once, not excepting even infants and sucklings, or saving so much as their goods and cattle? This nation was a nation of incorrigible and hardened sinners. And if it may consist, as none will deny, with the goodness of God to destroy one sinner, why not to destroy a million ? Amalek, however, had been treated with great forbearance.
We have it upon record that they were worthy of destruction, and that their doom had accordingly been pronounced four hundred years before, when they laid wait for Israel as they came up from Egypt. But as the Lord said of Nineveh, “Should I not spare that great city wherein are more than sixscore thousand persons that cannot discern between their right hand and their left hand; and also much cattle + ?” so had He dealt, in his clemency, with Amalek during the whole of that long period. Four hundred years He waited; but now the measure of their crimes was full. The time was come when either
1 Sam. xv. 1-3.
3 Exod. xvii. 14.
Jonah iv, 11.
the honour of God's government must be sacrificed, or the rebels punished. And, if so, why not by the sword, as well as by pestilence, or famine, or any other instrument? Doubtless God's methods are sure to be the best in every case. But, in the case before us, it is easy to see at least one wise reason for ordering the matter thus. When an offender is past correction, he is destroyed for a warning to others. This use God made of Amalek. The solemn execution of them by the sword, upon the express command of the great Judge of all men, could hardly fail to strike Israel with awe and great dread of sin; and their being forbidden to convert the spoil to their own use, would forcibly illustrate the polluting nature of sin, and teach them how completely separated from all connexion with it God's people ought to be. As to the slaying of the infants and sucklings, might it not have been in reality a great mercy ? Had they survived their parents, how could they have subsisted? Had their parents been spared for their sakes, would they not have been educated in the same wicked principles which had brought down destruction upon them? At all events, we must remember that all are born in sin, and owe a death to Divine justice on that account; as saith the Apostle, “Death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam's transgression •;" that is, over infants, who, being incapable of distinguishing between right and wrong, have it not in their power to sin, as Adam did, in deliberate contradiction to a known law. The whole human race are born under condemnation. Death is the wages of that corruption which is born with them; and God may surely resume his own gift of life when and how He pleases. For ourselves this part of the history may teach us, and doubtless is meant to teach us, that there is no safety in following a multitude to do evil. Though hand join in hand, the wicked shall not be unpunished 6.” For “our God is a Rom. v. 14.
6 Prov. xi. 21.
consuming fire ?;" and mercy in Him is a perfection, not a weakness. The forbearance of God is great, and the goodness of God is infinite; but unless it bring us to repentance, which nothing but our own wilful obstinacy can prevent, we must expect to find, by dreadful experience, that vengeance also is the Lord's.
But to proceed. It is to be observed with respect to Saul, that his commission is most explicit. It cannot possibly be misunderstood :-“Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have 8.” For though God's commands are oftentimes disagreeable to flesh and blood, yet he that runs may read them. “The
· testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple'.” He who only wants to know what is the Lord's will, that he may go and do it, will rarely indeed mistake. The difficulty is, not to explain God's orders, but to explain them away. So it was in the case before us. And, further than this, the Divine command was delivered to Saul in a manner very impressive and affecting, and likely to awaken his attention. “The Lord sent me,” saith the prophet,“ to anoint thee to be king over his people, over Israel : now therefore hearken thou unto the voice of the words of the Lord ?.” He reminds him of his obligations to God, and of his responsibility as leader of God's people; for men's advancement does not discharge them from service, but obliges them to greater services; and God's favours are not to be considered as remunerations of their goodness, but as acts of mere grace on his part, which should engage them to be zealously affected always towards his good cause. If Saul had been honest, and had duly considered these things, the history would have been shorter: he would have obeyed, and there would have been an end. But through his default it fell out otherwise.
He gathered the people together, indeed, and smote the Amalekites from Havilah unto Shur, which was the whole extent of their country; and so far outwardly all is well. But what follows shows there was
1 Heb. xii. 29.
1 Sam. xv. 3. 2 1 Sam. xv. 1.