1 Samuel Chapter Ten
1 Samuel 10
Samuel anoints Saul. (1-8) Saul prophesies. (9-16) Saul chosen king. (17-27)
Commentary on 1 Samuel 10:1-8
(Read 1 Samuel 10:1-8)
The sacred anointing, then used, pointed at the great Messiah, or Anointed One, the King of the church, and High Priest of our profession, who was anointed with the oil of the Spirit, not by measure, but without measure, and above all the priests and princes of the Jewish church. For Saul's further satisfaction, Samuel gives him some signs which should come to pass the same day. The first place he directs him to, was the sepulchre of one of his ancestors; there he must be reminded of his own mortality, and now that he had a crown before him, must think of his grave, in which all his honour would be laid in the dust. From the time of Samuel there appears to have been schools, or places where pious young men were brought up in the knowledge of Divine things. Saul should find himself strongly moved to join with them, and should be turned into another man from what he had been. The Spirit of God changes men, wonderfully transforms them. Saul, by praising God in the communion of saints, became another man, but it may be questioned if he became a new man.
Commentary on 1 Samuel 10:9-16
(Read 1 Samuel 10:9-16)
The signs Samuel had given Saul, came to pass punctually; he found that God had given him another heart, another disposition of mind. Yet let not an outward show of devotion, and a sudden change for the present, be too much relied on; Saul among the prophets was Saul still. His being anointed was kept private. He leaves it to God to carry on his own work by Samuel, and sits still, to see how the matter will fall.
Commentary on 1 Samuel 10:17-27
(Read 1 Samuel 10:17-27)
Samuel tells the people, Ye have this day rejected your God. So little fond was Saul now of that power, which soon after, when he possessed it, he could not think of parting with, that he hid himself. It is good to be conscious of our unworthiness and insufficiency for the services to which we are called; but men should not go into the contrary extreme, by refusing the employments to which the Lord and the church call them. The greater part of the people treated the matter with indifference. Saul modestly went home to his own house, but was attended by a band of men whose hearts God disposed to support his authority. If the heart bend at any time the right way, it is because He has touched it. One touch is enough when it is Divine. Others despised him. Thus differently are men affected to our exalted Redeemer. There is a remnant who submit to him, and follow him wherever he goes; they are those whose hearts God has touched, whom he has made willing. But there are others who despise him, who ask, How shall this man save us? They are offended in him, and they will be punished.
── Matthew Henry《Concise Commentary on 1 Samuel》
1 Samuel 10
 Then Samuel took a vial of oil, and poured it upon his head, and kissed him, and said, Is it not because the LORD hath anointed thee to be captain over his inheritance?
Poured it — Which Is was the usual rite in the designation, as of priests and prophets, so also of kings, whereby was signified the pouring forth of the gifts of God's spirit upon him, to fit him for the administration of his office. These sacred unctions then used, pointed at the great Messiah, or anointed One, the King of the church, and High-priest of our profession, who was anointed with the oil of the spirit without measure, above all the priests and princes of the Jewish church.
Kissed — As a testimony of his sincere friendship and affection to him.
His inheritance — That is, over his own peculiar people. Whereby he admonisheth Saul, that this people were not so much his, as God's; and that he was not to rule them according his own will, but according to the will of God.
 When thou art departed from me to day, then thou shalt find two men by Rachel's sepulchre in the border of Benjamin at Zelzah; and they will say unto thee, The asses which thou wentest to seek are found: and, lo, thy father hath left the care of the asses, and sorroweth for you, saying, What shall I do for my son?
Rachel's sepulchre — In the way to Bethlehem, which city was in Judah; her sepulchre might be either in Judah, or in Benjamin; for the possessions of those two tribes were bordering one upon another. The first place he directs him to was a sepulchre, the sepulchre of one of his ancestors. There he must read a lecture of his own mortality, and now he had a crown in his eye, must think of his grave, in which all his honour would be laid in the dust.
 Then shalt thou go on forward from thence, and thou shalt come to the plain of Tabor, and there shall meet thee three men going up to God to Bethel, one carrying three kids, and another carrying three loaves of bread, and another carrying a bottle of wine:
Plain — Not that at the foot of mount Tabor, which was far from these parts; but another belonging to some other place.
Bethel — Properly so called, which was in Ephraim, where there was a noted high-place, famous for Jacob's vision there, Genesis 28:19, where it is probable they offered sacrifices, in this confused state of things, when the ark was in one place, and the tabernacle in another.
 After that thou shalt come to the hill of God, where is the garrison of the Philistines: and it shall come to pass, when thou art come thither to the city, that thou shalt meet a company of prophets coming down from the high place with a psaltery, and a tabret, and a pipe, and a harp, before them; and they shall prophesy:
Prophets — By prophets he understands persons that wholly devoted themselves to religious studies and exercises. For the term of prophesying is not only given to the most eminent act of it, foretelling things to come; but also to preaching, and to the making or singing of psalms, or songs of praise to God. And they that wholly attended upon these things, are called sons of the prophets, who were commonly combined into companies or colleges, that they might more conveniently assist one another in God's work. This institution God was pleased so far to honour and bless, that sometimes he communicated unto those persons the knowledge of future things.
Psaltery — Such instruments of musick being then used by prophets and other persons, for the excitation of their spirits in God's service.
Prophesy — Either sing God's praises, or speak of the things of God, by a peculiar impulse of his spirit.
 And the Spirit of the LORD will come upon thee, and thou shalt prophesy with them, and shalt be turned into another man.
Will come — Heb. will leap, or rush upon thee.
Another man — That is, thou shalt be suddenly endowed with another spirit, filled with skill of divine things, with courage, and wisdom, and magnanimity; and other qualifications befitting thy dignity.
 And let it be, when these signs are come unto thee, that thou do as occasion serve thee; for God is with thee.
Thou do — Heb. do what they hand findeth to do; that is, as thou shalt have a call and opportunity. He doth not intend that he should take the kingly government upon him, before his call to it was owned by the people, but that he should dispose his mind to a readiness of undertaking any public service when he should be called to his office.
 And thou shalt go down before me to Gilgal; and, behold, I will come down unto thee, to offer burnt offerings, and to sacrifice sacrifices of peace offerings: seven days shalt thou tarry, till I come to thee, and shew thee what thou shalt do.
Till I come — This, though now mentioned and commanded, was not immediately to be performed; as is evident, partly from the whole course of the story, (which shews, that Saul and Samuel, and the people, first met at Mizpeh, verse 17, etc. where Saul was chosen by God, and accepted by the people as king; and afterwards went to Gilgal once before the time here spoken of, chap. 11:14,15,) and partly, by comparing this place with chap. 13:8, etc. where we find Saul charged with the violation of this command, two years after the giving of it. It seems this is given as a standing rule for Saul to observe while Samuel and he lived; that in case of any great future difficulties, as the invasion of enemies, Saul should resort to Gilgal, and call the people thither, and tarry there seven days, which was but a necessary time for gathering the people, and for the coming of Samuel thither. And Gilgal was chosen for this purpose, because that place was famous for the solemn renewing of the covenant between God and Israel, Joshua 4:19-24, and for other eminent instances of God's favour to them, the remembrance whereof was a confirmation of their faith; and because it was a very convenient place for he tribes within and without Jordan to assemble, and consult, and unite their forces together upon such occasions.
 And when they came thither to the hill, behold, a company of prophets met him; and the Spirit of God came upon him, and he prophesied among them.
Prophesied — The accomplishment of the two former signs is supposed, and this only is expressed, because this was more eminent than the former; the other were only transient acts, which passed in private between two or three persons meeting together; but this was a more permanent and notorious sign, done in a more solemn manner, and before many witnesses.
 And it came to pass, when all that knew him beforetime saw that, behold, he prophesied among the prophets, then the people said one to another, What is this that is come unto the son of Kish? Is Saul also among the prophets?
Is Saul — A man never instructed, nor exercised in, nor inclined to these matters.
 And one of the same place answered and said, But who is their father? Therefore it became a proverb, Is Saul also among the prophets?
Who is, … — Who is the father of all these prophets, among whom Saul now is one? Who is it that instructs and inspires them but God? They have it not from their parents, nor from their education, but by inspiration from God, who, when he pleaseth, can inspire Saul, or any other man with the same skill. And therefore wonder not at this matter, but give God the glory of it.
A proverb — Used when any strange, or unexpected thing happened.
 And when he had made an end of prophesying, he came to the high place.
High place — Returning thither with the prophets, to praise God for these wonderful favours, and to beg counsel and help from God in this high business.
 And Saul said unto his uncle, He told us plainly that the asses were found. But of the matter of the kingdom, whereof Samuel spake, he told him not.
Told not — In obedience to Samuel, who obliged him to secrecy: and from an humble modesty.
 And ye have this day rejected your God, who himself saved you out of all your adversities and your tribulations; and ye have said unto him, Nay, but set a king over us. Now therefore present yourselves before the LORD by your tribes, and by your thousands.
Now therefore, … — He puts them upon chusing their king by lot, that all might know God had chosen Saul (for the disposal of the lot is of the Lord) and to prevent all dispute and exception.
 And when Samuel had caused all the tribes of Israel to come near, the tribe of Benjamin was taken.
Benjamin — Which tribe was now preferred before Judah, because the kingdom was freely promised by God to Judah, and was to be given to him in love; but now the kingdom was in a manner forced from God, and given them in anger and therefore conferred upon an obscure tribe.
 Therefore they enquired of the LORD further, if the man should yet come thither. And the LORD answered, Behold, he hath hid himself among the stuff.
Enquired — Either by Urim or Thummim, which was the usual way of enquiry. Or, by Samuel, who by his prayer procured an answer.
Stuff — Among the carriages or baggage of the people there assembled. This he probably did, from a sense of his own unworthiness.
 And Samuel said to all the people, See ye him whom the LORD hath chosen, that there is none like him among all the people? And all the people shouted, and said, God save the king.
None like him — As to the height of his bodily stature, which was in itself, commendable in a king, and some kind of indication of great endowments of mind.
God save the king — Heb. let the king live; that is, long and prosperously. Hereby they accept him for their king, and promise subjection to him. None will be losers in the end by their humility and modesty. Honour, like the shadows, follows them that flee from it, but flees from them that pursue it.
 Then Samuel told the people the manner of the kingdom, and wrote it in a book, and laid it up before the LORD. And Samuel sent all the people away, every man to his house.
Manner of the kingdom — The laws and rules by which the kingly government was to be managed; agreeable to those mentioned Deuteronomy 17:16, etc.
Before the Lord — Before the ark, where it was kept safe from depravation.
 And Saul also went home to Gibeah; and there went with him a band of men, whose hearts God had touched.
Went home — Not being actually inaugurated into his kingdom, he thought fit to retire to his former habitation, and to live privately 'till he had an occasion to shew himself in a more illustrious manner.
Then went — To give him safe and honourable conduct to his house, though not to abide with him there, which did not suit his present circumstance.
 But the children of Belial said, How shall this man save us? And they despised him, and brought him no presents. But he held his peace.
No presents — As subjects in those times used to do to their kings. This was an evidence both of his humility, and the mercifulness of his disposition. So Christ held his peace, in the day of his patience. But there is a day of recompense coming.
── John Wesley《Explanatory Notes on 1 Samuel》
10 Chapter 10
Then Samuel took a vial of oil.
The discipline of a promoted life
Men are not usually taken from the valley of ordinary toil, and instantaneously placed, as by the flight of an angel, upon the cloud-wrapped peak of national greatness. There must be a climbing process; its accomplishment may be tedious, its progress slow, its experiences sorrowful, but such discipline is necessary. And as we climb the rugged path, exhilarating breezes refresh, sweeping prospects gladden; and the soul thrilled by such beauty, achieves fitness for the higher sphere of duty. Summer does not suddenly come around us with its grandeur, touching nature into fragrance, but advances gently through the frozen portals of winter and the uncalculated possibilities of spring. So with the promotions of human life. God descends unknown to the busy multitude, appropriates the Saul, and brings into contact with the spiritual, that under its tuition he may be fitted for kingship. This promoted life was--
I. Unostentatious is its commencement. It might be accepted as an axiom that all great results issue from small beginnings. Throughout this coronation the greatest simplicity prevails. Only two are present--a ruddy youth, an aged man--both in the great temple of nature, with God for witness. Consider the disciplinary nature of this coronation.
1. Its simplicity would appear contradictory. It would seem unlikely that the highest office of life should be introduced in such poor attire.
2. It would appear unauthenticated. There was no human witness besides the two interested parties. They were alone. The only guarantee he had was the reputation of the prophet; and if that failed, he had no refuge, for his own word would not be sufficient to establish anything so unlikely. He would, like Joseph, have been designated the Dreamer. This consideration would impose silence even if disappointed.
3. Then the suggestion of promotion was interrogative. “Is it not because the Lord hath anointed thee to be captain over his inheritance?” (1 Samuel 10:1). Thus we can easily imagine how this coronation scene would test the character, try the patience, exercise the thought, and discipline the soul of this incipient king. This promoted life was--
II. Confirmatory in its progress. Moral discipline does not retain its darkness. Night clears away, and in the bright shining of morning, fear is dispelled and hope realised. So with Saul, he has passed the midnight of preparation, and now departing from the prophet, his claim to kingship will be vindicated by foretold events. Confirmed:--
1. By the restoration of lost property. The most trivial incidents may prove confirmatory to the reality of Divine promotion. A shining star authenticates the power of God as much as the solar system. So the finding of asses on our homeward journey may stamp our elevation with truth, as much as the mightiest catastrophe of history. Here also is seen the beneficence and considerateness of the Divine plan. In that the missions of life are attested by measures adapted to condition and want. Saul had been in search of the asses; their restoration was used as the Divine indenture. Saul had to pass the sepulchre of Rachel on his way home. Why? Was it not to solemnise him in his transition to kingship? To remind him of his future destiny? The journey of life is full of tombs, to hush the mirth of the traveller by the reflections of another world. Here we see the wisdom of the Divine plan in that he makes the monitors of life confirm its elevation. He was confirmed:--
2. By the manifestation of hospitality. These people were no doubt going to worship, to sacrifice to God; and, being prompted by the Divine Spirit, paid homage to their unknown but future king. Men often unconsciously outstrip themselves. In ministering to the necessities of a man they sometimes minister to a king. This scene in connection with Rachel’s tomb shows the contrasts of life; that, while death is near, there is sufficient to keep in life and comfort; that while there are tombs on our life road there is also a sanctuary. The former representing the power of evil, the latter the power of good. Past both the promoted one must walk, that, filled with sadness at the grave, joy may come with stronger impulse at the sanctuary. Lastly, he was confirmed:--
3. By the sympathetic power of prophecy. “And thou shalt prophesy with them” (1 Samuel 10:6). The young king was now to meet a band of students from the college of the prophets. This is a typal of all life; it is full of the educational, and that educational is spiritual in its nature. This company of prophets had instruments of music. So a minister’s life, like a peal of bells, should give forth the choicest music at the lightest touch. Who ought to carry the harp, the tabrets of life, if a teacher of the highest music, the divinest harmony, does not?
III. Preparatory in its issue. Saul seems now to have reached the level of prophetic character; from henceforth he is fit for the regal. He is prepared:--
1. By the impartation of a new nature. “God gave him another heart” (1 Samuel 10:9). What does this mean, but that Saul was converted? Are we told that it was a mere external fitness; an intellectual foresight, or heroic courage, necessary for his office? Was it merely the creation of a taste for the new sphere of duty? If so, it should have said that God gave him another inclination. No! God gave him another heart, swept of the past, filled with the seeds of a larger manhood.
2. By the baptism of the Holy Spirit. “And the Spirit of God came upon him” (1 Samuel 10:10). Surely no king commenced his rule with greater blessing or deeper fitness. But we shall yet have to witness the tempestuous sunset of this great life. If kings now were selected by God, and qualified by his Spirit, what a glory would enshrine our national constitution! Lessons:--
Saul anointed by Samuel
There is a remarkable minuteness of detail in this and other narratives in Samuel, suggesting the authenticity of the narrative, and the authorship of one who was personally connected with the transactions. Everything was planned to impress on Saul that his elevation to the royal dignity was not to be viewed by him as a mere piece of good fortune. Both Saul and the people must see the hand of God very plainly in Saul’s elevation, and the king must enter on his duties with a profound sense of the supernatural influences through which he had been elevated, and his obligation to rule the people in the fear, and according to the will, of God. To be thus anointed by God’s recognised servant, was to receive the approval of God Himself. Saul now became God’s messiah--the Lord’s anointed. For the term messiah, as applied to Christ, belongs to His kingly office. Though the priests likewise were anointed, the title derived from that act was not appropriated by them, but by the kings. It was counted a high and solemn dignity, making the king’s person sacred, in the eyes of every God-fearing man. Yet this was not an indelible character; it might be forfeited by unfaithfulness and transgression. The only Messiah, the only Anointed One, who was incapable of being set aside, was He whom the kings of Israel typified. It is evident that Saul was surprised at the acts of Samuel. It was reasonable that Saul should be supplied with tangible proofs that in anointing him as king Samuel had complied with the will of God. These tangible proofs Samuel proceeded to give. We must try, first, to form some idea of Saul’s state of mind in the midst of these strange events. The thought of being king of Israel must have set his whole being vibrating with high emotion. He was like a cloud surcharged with electricity; he was in that state of nervous excitement which craves a physical outlet, whether in singing, or shouting, or leaping,--anything to relieve the brain and nervous system, which seem to tremble and struggle under the extraordinary pressure. But mingling with these, there must have been another, and perhaps deeper, emotion at work in Saul’s bosom. He had been brought into near contact with the Supernatural. The thought of the Infinite Power that ordains and governs all had been stirred very vividly within him. The three tokens of Divine ordination met with in succession at Rachel’s tomb, in the plain of Tabor, and in the neighbourhood of Gibeah, must have impressed him very profoundly. Probably he had never had any very distinct impression of the great Supernatural Being before. It is always a solemn thing to feel in the presence of God, and to remember that He is searching us. At such times the sense of our guilt, feebleness, dependence, usually comes to us, full and strong. Must it not have been so with Saul? The whole susceptibilities of Saul were in a state of high excitement; the sense of the Divine presence was on him, and for the moment a desire, to render to God some acknowledgment of all the mercy which had come upon him. When therefore he met the company of prophets coming down the hill, he was impelled by the surge of his feelings to join their company and take part in their song. But it was an employment very different from what had hitherto been his custom. That utter worldliness of mind which we have referred to us his natural disposition would have made him scorn any such employment in his ordinary mood as utterly alien to his feelings. Too often we see that worldly-minded men not only have no relish for spiritual exercises, but feel bitterly and scornfully towards those who affect them. The reason is not far to seek. They know that religious men count them guilty of sin, of great sin, in so neglecting the service of God. To be condemned, whether openly or not, galls their pride, and sets them to disparage those who have so low an opinion of them. It is not said that Saul had felt bitterly towards religious men previous to this time. But whether he did so or not, he appears to have kept aloof from them quite as much as if he had. And now in his own city he appears among the prophets, as if sharing their inspiration, and joining with them openly in the praises of God. It is so strange a sight that every one is astonished. “Saul among the prophets!” people exclaim, “Shall wonders ever cease?” And yet Saul was not in his right place among the prophets. Saul was like the stony ground seed in the parable of the sower. He had no depth of root. His enthusiasm on this occasion was the result of forces which did not work at the heart of his nature. It was the result of the new and most remarkable situation in which he found himself, not of any new principle of life, any principle that would involve a radical change. Ordination to the ministry, or to any other spiritual office, solemnises one at first, even though one may not, be truly converted, and nerves one with strength and resolution to throw off many an evil habit. But the solemn impression wanes with time, and the carnal nature asserts its claims. How earnest and how particular men ought ever to be in examining themselves whether their serious impressions are the effect of a true change of nature, or whether they are not mere temporary experiences, the casual result of external circumstances. Alas, Saul was like the young man also in the particular that made all the rest of little effect--“One thing thou lackest.” (W. G. Blaikie, D. D.)
The appointment, of Saul
A sovereign Lord has already determined the destination of the crown. The royalty is to light on the head of Saul. Forthwith a wakeful Providence works onward to this end. Let us mark its mysterious movements. See in this transaction God’s absolute sovereignty. See also how its end is reached by the confluence of two providential currents. An ordinary incident of rural life summons Saul from his home--his wanderings lead him to the neighbourhood of Samuel’s dwelling--his servant knows this--Saul consents to an interview. This is one stream. The other meets it. Samuel is forewarned. It was a fair morning this to a hopeful day. By this series of events, most powerful provision was made for attaching the newly-appointed monarch to the service of God. His selection was manifestly the result of a heavenly grace, which reposed on no ground but its own sovereign will. And the manner in which the way to it had been smoothed was well fitted to impress him with the nearness, penetrating knowledge, and controlling power of God. But this great lesson is not yet finished. Signs from heaven are granted. Saul’s excitement grows with the occurrence of each new incident. And thus, no doubt, his mind was prepared for that mysterious operation of the Spirit by which he joined the company of prophets in their ardent utterances of sacred truth. His heart was not renewed. But inspiration is different from regeneration. And if a Balaam’s worldly heart were made a consecrated vehicle of truth, why might not, Saul’s? Elevated conceptions and ardent enthusiasm of feeling on sacred subjects may dwell in the neighbourhood of an icy heart, that has never returned in love the smile of a forgiving God. Most direful anomaly! Our maimed and dislocated nature has lost the power of interior transmission. Sunlight may glare on the understanding, while chilly darkness nestles in the heart. But Saul’s true character was not discerned. The first step has now been taken. But the appointment must be made public. How rich was this opening period in manifestations of an overruling Providence! The new and strong emotions, the strange salutes and offerings of passing travellers, and the sacred welcome of a company of prophets--the disposing of the lot to make it fall on him--the divine disclosure of his hiding place--all these made up a crowded region of miraculous interposition in which God treasured up mighty impulses to mould and guide his future life. He is placed in the centre of scenes most touching, solemn, and memorable. In this small spot lie powers enough to move a lifetime. These basement facts, like those of the national history, are fruitful of mighty and lasting impulses. The vessel is launched, the anchor is weighed, the breeze has filled her sails. If she founder at sea, we shall know where the blame lies. (P. Richardson, B. A.)
1. The lines of Providence are convergent and divergent. They come from different points of the compass towards one centre, and radiate outwards from unity into diversity. The chief events of four thousand years of human history all tended to one grand consummation, and when God became incarnate realised their end. From that event the lines of Providence have been diverging ever since, and are designed to embrace in their benignant influences the wide world and the various races of men. The Old Testament history all coiled into Jesus of Nazareth; the New Testament history unrolls from him. Chronology is all comprised in Before Christ and After Christ. This arrangement is common to the providence of God. One series of events conspires to develop another. The same Providence is seen in many periods of Hebrew history, and in none more strikingly than in the influences which brought Saul and Samuel together, and the issues that resulted from a monarchy in Israel. The outward circumstance was striking, but the diversified providences had been divinely arranged to further it. Infallible wisdom had guided these two men, and in their meeting prepared for kingly rule in Israel. In the appearance of Saul at the time appointed, Samuel had full testimony to the word of God. The event proved the prediction and strengthened his faith in God. Every new evidence works conviction in the believer, and does much to conform his mind to God. But there was another person to be convinced of the Divine arrangement--Saul. The evidence was vouchsafed in a manner fitted to impress, and so cumulative and varied as to work conviction. Samuel’s conduct towards him, and the circumstances that transpired on his way home, after he left the prophet, were unmistakable signs that God was preparing some dignity for him among his people. These three signs were designed to warrant his faith in the announcement, to encourage his hope, and to prepare him to conform to the arrangement of God for the government of His people, and to certain special directions given by Samuel with reference to his coronation.
2. Whom God calls to any service He will make fit for it. If He advance to another station, He will give another heart to those who sincerely desire to serve Him with their power. Just as of old God endowed Bezaleel and Aholiab with skill to design, and build, and carve the work of the tabernacle of the wilderness, so did he endow Saul with the qualities of a kingly mind. These were apart from the moral qualities that relate to the right service of God. The latter are not so much endowments attached to a man, as the necessary fruits of a thorough conversion and a new heart. Saul had the one, but he had not the other. He had another heart, but, not a new heart. He gave evidence of possessing the gifts of kingship, but none of the grace of holy living. While he could henceforth command armies and practice diplomacy, he cared not for keeping a conscience void of offence toward God and man. His heart was not right with God. It is not enough to have natural endowments, or learned attainments of skill or wisdom. What are the wit of Voltaire, the poetry of Byron, the science of Halley, the philosophy of Hobbes, the command of Napoleon, the statesmanship of Pitt, the eloquence of Sheridan, the taste of Beckford, the learning of Michaelis, the common sense of Franklin, the mechanical skill of Stephenson, the business talents of a Rothschild, if you have not the grace of God to transform your heart and to make you holy? Gifts may make you illustrious, and useful, and powerful among men, but they do not make you fit for the fellowship of God, or prepare you for the holiness of heaven. They are of value. Sanctified by grace, the highest gifts have their place and their usefulness in the Church, Saul had striking evidences presented to his mind of the prospect which Samuel opened up to his hope. The clear fulfilment of all that had been foretold must have convinced him that he was designed for dignity. He weighed it well, was persuaded of it, and waited for its accomplishment.
3. The manner of the kingdom was written in a book for his study and observance (1 Samuel 10:25). This was their constitution--the covenant between monarch and subjects. The rights of the king were specified therein, and so were the rights of the people. The government of Israel was to be no absolute monarchy, nor was it to be a democracy. This was also the case when David was made king of Israel (2 Samuel 5:3), and when Joash was proclaimed in Judah, after the despotic usurpation of Athaliah (2 Kings 11:17). It was as sinful in the one to break the covenant as in the other. In the word of God there is a clear recognition of the rights of the ruled as well as of the ruler. No man is at liberty to tyrannise over another. The model people of the ancient world had rules for kings such as no constitution has ever yet continued. The engagement between God, king, and people, was laid up before the Lord, to be kept under his eye, and to be a witness against monarch and subject should they break their engagements. It is a solemn thought that all our engagements are laid up before the Lord. They are held in all their integrity by him, and be never fails to fulfil his part. Once entered into by us, we become bound, and are responsible, and must render an account for the manner in which we bays kept them. Your signature to a bill, given by impulse, cannot be nullified before a court of law, it is binding, and you can be distrained for payment. In like manner all solemn resolutions and spiritual pledges are binding, and are laid up before the Lord. Under these mutual obligations Samuel sent king and people to their several homes.
4. That was a happy day in Israel. Samuel had reason to be glad, and king and people had abundant cause for joy. The monarchy had been established. God had smiled on the first royal act of Saul. The nation had united in a public service of gratitude. On a theatre so full of historic interest, they all rejoiced greatly. Their difficulties now seemed ended, and their hearts flowed over in exuberant joy. If they abode in the love and obedience of God, joy would possess their souls. (R. Steel.)
God gave him another heart.
But not a better heart. He found himself suddenly fitted for the new place to which Providence had summoned him. In this there was nothing magical or extraordinary. It is indeed said that God gave him another heart, but we are not to understand the words as indicating a Divine operation independent of outward means and natural influences, or at all distinguishable, in the consciousness of its subject, from the effects of external circumstances. It is not more true that the man makes the place than that the place makes the man. Both, indeed, are most pregnant and concerning truths. Saul, transplanted into a new station, brought into new relations to life and society, felt the simultaneous upspringing within him of sentiments and purposes suited to his position, and became conscious of capabilities which had before lain dormant, and might have always remained so, but for this transformation of his outward state. Made a king, he became kingly. His soul expanded to the horizon of his new dignity and office. But, alas! there was no spiritual element in his change, and, therefore, it yielded no happy fruit for him, or to the church of God. It was but the direction of the same earthly mind to larger objects, stander schemes, a wider range. We may properly take occasion from this case, to discriminate between certain other changes to which the spirit of man is subject, and that great spiritual change which alone affects him savingly, planting in him the germ of holiness and immortal felicity; or to point out the difference between another heart and a new heart.
1. And, first, I will direct your attention to the nature and effects of spurious religious excitement. There is excitement almost necessarily in the serious and earnest contemplation of religious truth. Its revelations are fitted to stir the spirit of man deeply; the interests to which it pertains are too momentous to be contemplated without emotion. The nature of men is sympathetic. Hence feeling is contagious, and not only so, but excitement, where it exists already, rises, by the reacting influence of those who come within its sphere and imbibe its infection. But excitement is bounded by limits fixed in the constitution of our nature; and when these are reached a revulsion takes place, which issues either in stagnation or in a new excitement of a different description. And when these opposite emotions are produced by religious causes they are thought to indicate a work of the Spirit and involve conversion. It is quite remarkable, how little the moral and truly spiritual nature of man may have to do with such a process, how little of anything else there may be in it beside imagination and nervous sensibility. And yet, on the strength of it, a man often accounts himself a new man; and, whether he be right in that judgment or not, not infrequently, he thereupon becomes and permanently remains another man. His life henceforward assumes a new bent. He adopts new opinions, he talks a new language, he affects new associates, he frequents new walks, he lends himself to the promotion of new interests. And yet he is not new man. Only his outward life has taken a new impress, as Saul’s did, in which the same worldly spirit finds a concealment and disguise.
2. There is another very different transformation to which men are subject, which yet is at no greater value; and tends to no better results--that which is brought about by the slow operation of time and the gradual alteration of outward circumstances. The lesson of life is a sobering lesson. The fire of youth burns out as the period of youth expires. Every day some leaf fails from the flower he is seeking to grasp. Continually the stern hand of irresistible Providence shuts up some avenue that allures his steps. But the worst disappointment is that which waits upon success--the bitter pain of finding a thing, when it is gotten, not worth the pains of getting. Sometimes there is but a change of follies and vices, the substitution of a calmer and more private form of sensuality or dissipation for another of a more boisterous and public character; but the impress of sin and worldliness remains, and is too visible to allow the supposition of any moral improvement. The result of time upon human character is very various, yet it seldom fails in one way or another to be evident and marked, and among persons whose course is not an abandoned one, is generally distinguished by a nearer approximation to the apparent effects of religion; and thus few men live on over the meridian of life without coming to have another heart, one which, in many instances, it may not be very difficult for themselves or others to mistake for a new and a better heart. What I said may be wanting in either of these, is a spiritual element, and as the absence of this fatally vitiates these cases, and every other ease where it appears, so its presence in either of them, or in any other change which the soul of man may undergo, declares the work to be of God, and furnishes a true mark of meetness for life eternal. Let us then look a little at this as it stands contradistinguished from all alterations, whose seat is either the imagination or the outward deportment, whose affinity to religion is limited to a certain accidental coincidence or similarity in some particulars, and whose religious phases are confined to the inferior and superficial portion of human nature.
Getting another heart
He had come home from college, the minister’s son. He had been a wild, harum-scarum kind of boy before he went. Many a sore heart did the minister get as the boisterous exploits of his wayward son oozed out to him from all parts of the parish. But at length he has gone to college and has come home now at the end of winter. The parish has heard of his shooting ahead of his fellows in the college classes, and they were all proud of their minister’s boy. He is in the study along with his old father, but he is not receiving this time the usual parental little lecture. He is opening a tiny little case, while his father’s eyes are dancing with gladness. It is the gold medal for the best student of the year, and, as the looks of the father and son meet in tenderness, the once careless lad whispers in his father’s ear what brings a sob from the minister, but not a sob of sorrow: “I have got something else than the gold medal this winter. I thought I would best tell it now. I have also got the new heart.” There had been a revival that winter in the city, and many of the students had been converted, and among them the gold medallist of the year, our minister’s brilliant boy. (John Robertson.)
The spirit of God came upon him, and he prophesied among them.
Saul among the prophets
Suppose, now, you had come to school, thinking only of being the child of a cottager, and of earning your bread by hard labour all your days, and one upon whose word you could firmly rely came in and told you you were to be king over a mighty nation--with what feelings would you leave the school that day? Would not your thoughts and expectations be as entirely changed as if you were another child? And if, as you were leaving, you were able to speak, as it were, with a new tongue, and were endued with all wisdom and all knowledge, should we not be all ready to say you were another child? Thus was it with Saul. God gave him many gifts, but I hear not that He gave him grace--He gave him also another heart, but I read not that He gave him a heart renewed after the image of Him that created him. “And when they came thither to the hill, behold, a company of prophets met him; and the Spirit of God came upon him, and he prophesied among them.” There is something particularly solemn in this verse, and calculated to lead to great searchings of heart. Many passages of Scripture seem to point out that some poor sinners will have no idea of their mistake till they appear at the very bar of their God. Those of whom you read in Matthew 25:41-46, had no suspicion of their danger, and would fain, even then, have justified themselves: but of all the awfully self-deceived, those are the most so, who even think they have done much for Christ, and come to claim a reward, and find that neither they nor their works are acknowledged by Him. Those are not a few, but “many;” they had prophesied--cast out devils--done many wonderful things--but had never experienced that only saving wonder the being born again. Beware, there is something infectious in the outside of religion; even the love of imitation may lead to this, or a desire to keep in favour with a godly family; and I have known some conclude, of course such an one must be good, because he lives among such good people. Alas! alas! the secret tolling day shall disclose a different tale, and the Sauls and the Balaams shall stand forth in their true colours, to receive the due reward of their deeds (Helen Plumptre.)
Is Saul also among the prophets?
A Saul among the prophets
So they said in the wild irregular season of his obscure youth, before his accession to the throne, when the Spirit of the Lord, that bloweth where it listeth, suddenly arrested the young Saul, in the midst of his dissolute companions; they repeated their scornful outcry in after years, as recorded in 1 Samuel 19:24, when the spirit of repentance again seized the royal backslider, and brought him stripped and abased to the earth before Samuel at Naloth. The saying rightly interpreted may suggest some useful practical instruction.
I. What is meant by being “among the prophets?” By “the company of prophets” in 1 Samuel 19:5, or “a company of scribes,” says the Targum, are meant the scholars of the prophets, who were at that period the only accredited teachers of religion. Mr. Harmer thinks the following custom among the Mohammedans illustrates this passage: “When the children have gone through the Koran their relations borrow a fine house and furniture and carry them about the town in procession, with the book in their hand, the rest of their companions following, and all sorts of music of the country going before.” Eastern customs have little varied; they seem to abide immutable, and identical, as their sunny climes, and very probably, the procession of the school of the prophets in the context was on a similar occasion.” “Is Saul also among the prophets?”--that is, is he turned psalm singer and a supplicant? Is the rough, riotous herdsman of Benjamin become a companion of prophets and an utterer of the solemn things of God? Are we to have no more merry songs together, nor the light dance and jocund festival? Saul, our old fellow reveller, become quaint and grim as a Levite? “What is this that is come unto the son of Kish? Is Saul also among the prophets?” That this is the general meaning of prophesying in this place; see also the sense in which the word is used in reference to the priests of Baal, 1 Kings 18:29 : “And it came to pass, when midday was put, and they prophesied until the time of the evening sacrifice”--they prophesied, that is, were importunate in prayer to their God. Thus the phrase, “Saul among the prophets,” is equivalent to what the angels, in a holier and more charitable spirit, said of the Saul of Tarsus, when the Lord changed his heart, brought him to his knees, and they described his conversion to the truth by the terms, “Behold he prayeth.” A similar astonishment seized them who had known the apostle for a blasphemer and persecutor, and when they heard that he preached the faith which he once destroyed they too might have said, “Is Saul also amongst the prophets,” that is, among the praying people, the people of God? There was in Saul, at different times, the development of a different man, according as “the law in his members,” or “the law in his mind,” obtained the mastery. Saul “did run well, but suffered something to hinder him.” He began his reign in the Spirit, he ended it in the flesh. As a king he was weighed in the balances and found wanting; as a man, Mercy might have interposed and turned the scale. It is no unwarrantable stretch of Scriptural charity to imagine it possible that other tongues than those of living men might have talked of the departed Saul, as again “among the prophets.” I am not ashamed to think so of the man, whom the, inspired psalmist eulogised in his sepulchre. Only if it were so, his story illustrates the apostle’s case of those “who are saved with difficulty pulling them out of the fire.”
II. To the penitent sinner and returning backslider.
1. To the penitent sinner. Imagine his repentance genuine. The difference is so marked that his old companions scarcely recognise their former hail fellow, and insinuate at once a charge of hypocrisy and a sneer of contempt, whether or no in the scornful cry, “Is Saul also among the prophets?” “Is so-and-so among the saints?” “Have they caught him with their psalm singing?” or, “Is he playing upon them with his guile?” The penitent hears this; it is meant he should hear it, they take care of that; and his first feeling is, “This is a penalty for my former association with them; ‘Be sure your sin will find you out;’ it has found me out, even since I left it.” “The way of transgressors is hard,” even after they abandon it. It is but natural that Satan should grumble at the loss of a servant, and his children only echo their father’s sentiment. “They think it strange (and so it is) that ye run not with them to the same excess of riot, speaking evil of you.” But you meet these people day after day. If you are a workman, you meet them at your work; if one of a higher class of the community, you meet them in business or society; and they repeat their scornful insinuations. They don’t and they won’t believe you to be sincere, for they are strangers to what has taken place within you, distinctly enough to your convictions, but a mystery to them. They hate you, as Ahab hated Micaiah, because the sacred contrast of your life, always, however, unconsciously, prophesies evil things concerning them, and they would visit, as the world always did, their anger at the prediction on the head of the prophet, and you will be called upon to bear many a heavy version of the contemptuous proverb, “Is Saul also among the prophets?”
2. But, further, let us suppose you have failed in maintaining your ground; that you did run well, but suffered something to hinder you; that you had followed your Saviour, like the youthful John, up to the very moment of His seizure for the crucifixion, but there your heart failed you, and like him you turned and “fled away naked,” leaving behind you all your better convictions and determinations. You have done this, and you have since lived a backslider; and may we ask, “Is it well with thee?” Are you happy in your apostasy? (J. B. Owen, M. A.)
One act does not make a saint
Saul was not a saint because he did once prophesy, nor is every one a believer that talks of faith. (T. Adams.)
The snow today covered all the ground, and the black soil looked fair and white. It is thus with some men under transient reformations; they look as holy, and as heavenly, and as pure as though they were saints; but when the sun of trial arises, and a little heat of temptation cometh upon them, how soon do they reveal their true blackness, and all their surface goodliness melteth away! (C. H. Spurgeon.)
He told him not.
An inquisitive man and how to treat him
Saul has now reached his home, and is determined to conceal the history of the past few days from the knowledge of others. If the Prophet’s communications were to become generally known they would render Saul’s position most uncomfortable. Many would discredit them; some would envy his promotion; while others might devise measures to take his life, or prevent the realisation of his hope.
I. This man’s inquisitiveness. Human biography is so interesting that, touched by its spell, men instinctively stand to inquire.
1. The Interrogator. “Saul’s uncle.” People frequently presume upon their relationship to ask any questions they think proper. And their kinship is made a plea for unwelcome intrusions, or impudent interferences, totally incompatible with manly etiquette.
2. The inquiries made. Some relatives are always inquiring into the arrangements of other families. We can hardly move out of our doors but someone must ask, either us or our neighbours, whither we went.
3. The sources of his expected information. “And Saul’s uncle said unto him and to his servant” (1 Samuel 10:14). The uncle no doubt thought that if he could not obtain the required information from Saul, that he would have little difficulty in getting it from the servant. Servants are not always the most trustworthy persons, and especially with news at all exciting, or of family interest.
II. The manner in which it was treated. Some men have not sufficient power of character to contend with inquisitive people; and the artful inquirer, without raising the slightest suspicion, gains all the information required. It requires some little art to deal successfully with such folk; and of this Saul was happily possessed.
1. Saul’s reply was truthful. “He told us plainly that the asses were found” (1 Samuel 10:16). We can never be justified in telling lies, not even to silence inquisitive men. Saul recognised this fact; and while speaking the truth, withheld part of the tidings.
2. Saul’s reply was discreet. “But of the matter of the kingdom whereof Samuel spake, he told him not.”
3. Saul’s reply was modest. If such promotion had come to most young men, they would have hurried to their friends, and in a fit of excitement have communicated the whole story. But not so with Saul, he kept it in his own heart until God should read it to an assembled nation.
4. Saul’s reply was short. He did not betray himself by a multitude of words; he did not by some unthinking sentence excite the suspicion of his uncle; but briefly told him about the asses. Here Saul displayed his common sense.
1. Never tell people all they wish to know.
2. Do not abuse the sanctity of family relationships by petty intrusions.
3. That discretion is the only safety of a promoted life. (Joseph S. Exell, M. A.)
Reticence, not indifference
Saul preserves a remarkable reticence on all that has transpired. He first meets his uncle, who enquires how and whither he has fared.
1. Saul gives him half an answer. He tells him about the asses, but says nothing of the anointing, or of the great spiritual change that had passed upon hiself.
1. It is a lesson, first of all, in the inaccessibility of human soul to soul. How little way Saul’s uncle saw into the depths of his real consciousness. He was talking about asses, but he was thinking about sovereignty. How much we are hidden from one another! Each man’s heart is a walled enclosure. I am an unscaleable fortress, an insoluble enigma to you until I choose to disclose myself, and you to me. This mutual inaccessibility is sometimes almost maddening. The desire to cross the threshold of another’s consciousness and see life from his standpoint is, at times, a passion. There are occasions when we are tormented by the wish to know how another feels, or how we look in that other’s eyes. But we might as well wish to exchange souls with an inhabitant of Mars or Jupiter. Nothing in the universe is more impossible than such a transition, such a transfer. How solemn a thing is individuality! “The heart knoweth its own bitterness, and a stranger intermeddleth not with its joys.” Responsibility is measured by idiosyncrasy. The kingship was Saul’s own secret. The weight of his destiny presses upon his own heart alone. In the meantime he cannot even tell it to another, though a kinsman. Yes, it is a solemn thing that, do what we will, we cannot step in between another and his destiny. Some would give worlds even to bear the hell that is another’s for that other; but there is the inexorable law, the impassable gulf between one consciousness and another. I do not know anything in life harder to bear than that impatience of helplessness which we feel in the presence of another’s sorrow or pain. We can look on at Gethsemane, but we cannot lighten the struggle. “Every man shall bear his own burden.” And we feel only less impatience at this same limitation with reference to the happiness of others. We cannot cross the boundary of their Paradise any more than of their Golgotha. If, then, none can tamper with my individuality, and it is my grand instrument of service in the world, let me see to it that that individuality be of the noblest, a power to lift men up, an attraction to draw them to the highest.
2. But Saul’s silence on this occasion affords also a lesson in prudential reserve. It was impolitic that it should be too freely canvassed. There are times when it is the mark of a Divine wisdom to hold our tongues, even upon matters of supreme moment. Silence is sometimes the duty as well as the policy of a leader. Even truth has been injured rather than furthered by its premature and inopportune disclosure. It is not every man’s duty to tell to the first man he meets all he knows and all he thinks. It is not always wise for the political leader to show his hand. The religious teacher has to judge when it is expedient to lift the veil from some larger outlook, when the fitting moment has come for replacing the old by the new. Christ would not reveal to the unfit. You cannot enlighten the world by flashes. The light must dawn, and shine more and more unto the perfect day. The time must be chosen for letting in the first ray. The development of truth may be hindered by precipitancy. “There is a time to speak and a time to be silent.” Saul was wise to say nothing in the meantime about the kingdom, and thus gave one evidence at least of his fitness to become a king. The man who is to rule must be capable of reticence and reserve; able to manage his tongue. Self-mastery is the grand secret of lordship over others, and in nothing is that self-mastery more shown than in the conduct of the lips.
3. Again, this incident suggests a caution against mistaking reticence for indifference. The fact that a man is silent upon a subject may mean that he is indifferent to it, but it does not necessarily mean it. Indeed, the reverse is more true. Men are often reserved in proportion to the depth and intensity of their emotions. We have a fine illustration of this in Shakespeare’s “King Lear,” in the reticence of Cordelia’s love for her father--a love which, because it was so deep, could not find tongue--while the unnatural daughters of the poor old king were voluble in their protestations of devotion. “Unhappy that I am, I cannot heave my heart into my throat.” And yet how divine was her love! It does not follow that because a man does not speak, therefore he does not feel. Saul said nothing of the matter of the kingdom, but what else was absorbing his thoughts, think you, all the while? We do not prate of our deepest love to every passer-by. The things that are most sacred are often most secret with us. We do not speak of them, because words are so poor and weak. “The action of the soul,” says Emerson, “is oftener in that which is felt and left unsaid than in that which is said in any conversation.” . . . “The soul carries its choicest treasures with a kind of fastidious delicacy. The history which lies inside of the soul is a history which will never be read until it is read from God’s book. The very soul of the soul has never been spoken or printed. It is inarticulate.” There is a profound reluctance in many persons, which should excite a respect as profound, to talk about their religious experience. It is wickedly unjust to interpret this reluctance as showing indifference to religion. No person has a right to ask me to unbosom myself to any miscellaneous crowd. If he presumes to do so, I show my sense of his indelicacy by retreating within the innermost keep of the castle of my own personality, and letting down drawbridge and portcullis in the face of my persecutor. Zeal for God is a noble principle, but the world is not going to be saved by bad manners. Abraham Lincoln did not generally pass for a religious man. “His religion was too far in,” it has been said, “too deep down, for many words.” Talk may be religious without being about religion. One of the most religious things you can do is to talk sensibly on all subjects. The Apostle Paul was neither by nature nor by calling reticent on religious subjects, and yet even he kept his deepest spiritual experiences to himself. There are not always state reasons for silence on matters of the kingdom. And “for every idle word that men shall speak they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment.”
4. Again, let this incident put us on our guard, not only against our misreading of our neighbours’ spiritual condition, but in our mutual judgments in general. To anyone listening to Saul’s conversation, for the moment, how frivolous he would have seemed. But he was not that! The kingdom was uppermost in Paul’s mind, though his speech was of other things. We wrong men in reading them from the surface only. There were those who read the divinest of all human natures superficially, and how egregiously were they mistaken! Here was a heart, the heart of the Son of Man, the depth of whose love, the passion of whose pity, was infinite. Here was a life, the very fundamental notes of which were enthusiasm and sacrifice. And yet His ignorant critics, unable to distinguish between the accidental and the essential, said, “Behold a gluttonous man and a wine bibber!” It was for the ears of the inner circle that He reserved the story of His agony and His passion, His certainty of martyrdom, His forebodings of the Cross, and His fixed resolution, notwithstanding, to go on unfalteringly to the tragic end. But the world which did not hear these things, and for whose ears they were not fit, misinterpreted His superficial gaiety of manner, and winsomeness of disposition, as indicating a want of moral earnestness. Who of us may not be misjudged after that? (J. Halsey.)
The piety and the modesty of Saul in his introduction to royal dignity, etc
1. His piety appeareth (1 Samuel 10:13) no sooner were his prophetic raptures over, but he resorts to the synagogue or place of Divine worship, with his fellow prophets, both to praise God for His Divine call to such an high advancement, and to pray unto Him for His protection and direction therein, etc.
2. His modesty in his taciturnity and reservedness towards his uncle, who being there present, and observing this unexpected alteration in his nephew, made him the more inquisitive about his journey, suspecting something extraordinary had happened to him that had caused this strange change. Saul answers his uncle that Samuel told him the asses were found, but not a word of his finding a kingdom (1 Samuel 10:14-16). Josephus renders two very good reasons of Saul’s silence in this business.
Keeping a secret
When Lord Wellington was commander of an army in India, a certain rich man offered him a hundred thousand pounds for some secret information on a very important question. Wellington looked thoughtful for a few minutes, as if he was weighing the temptation. But, he was not. He was only considering the best way to answer his tempter. At length he said: “It appears that you can keep a secret, sir?” “Certainly,” said the man, feeling sure that he had gained his point. “So can I!” rejoined Wellington. “Good morning, sir!” And the man went away with a crestfallen air. Thus Wellington was proof against, corruption. He rejected a bribe of £100,000.
And Samuel called the people together unto the Lord to Mizpeh.
The public recognition of incipient kingship
Long enough had Saul been in the Divine studio, and fashioned by heavenly forces, his nature comes forth in power to enter upon life’s duty, and also to grapple with its difficulties. In this recognition of incipient kingship we have--
I. A rejection of the Divine. The last embers of the old Jewish Theocracy are smouldering into extinction. The rejection of the Divine King:--
1. It was public. “And Samuel called the people together unto the Lord to Mizpeh” (1 Samuel 10:17).
2. This rejection was ungrateful. “And ye have this day rejected your God, who Himself saved you out of all your adversities and your tribulations” (1 Samuel 10:19). Like the planets nearest the sun, filled with light, and cheered with heat; so these Israelites had been fixed in the moral heavens near to the Infinite Being, who had thrown upon them the light of His finite mind, and given to them the sympathy of His loving heart; and thus blessed they now openly reject His future help! What ingratitude for a nation who had so frequently been delivered from imminent peril, from national ruin, and even from slavery, thus to deny Him who had been its refuge!
3. This rejection was wilful. “And ye have this day rejected your God” (1 Samuel 10:19). It was not a mere frantic impulse that had taken possession of the national heart; nor had the petty orations of a renegade politician aroused the people to a temporary revolution. It was a matter of fixed purpose.
4. This rejection was reprehensible. “Ye have this day rejected your God.”
5. This rejection was tolerated. “Now therefore present yourselves before the Lord by your tribes, and by your thousands” (1 Samuel 10:19). The Divine Being frequently permits nations to have their own way, to pursue their own plans; and thus throwing themselves out of the chart of Providence, they are soon loosed on the wild ocean, until they are wrecked upon the predicted reefs.
II. A coronation of the human.
1. The method according to which Saul was chosen. “And when Samuel had caused all the tribes of Israel to come near, the tribe of Benjamin was taken” (1 Samuel 10:20-21).
2. Saul’s modesty is worthy of observation. “And the Lord answered, Behold, he hath hid himself among the stuff” (1 Samuel 10:22). This shows the effectiveness of the Divine discipline through which Saul had passed, and proves that he was the fit man for the office of kingship, Few men would run from kingship. Its pageantry would suit their pride too well; its sceptre would meet their ambition, and its flattery would feed their weakness. But Saul looked more at its responsibility than at its emolument. Some men, when called to posts of authority, exhibit a mock modesty, and hide themselves behind the stuff of life, but they take care to get where there are plenty of holes through which they may be seen, lest their compeers should stop in the search. Saul’s was genuine modesty, and modesty never loses anything by being real, for it is in such request that men pray for its discovery (1 Samuel 10:22).
3. Saul’s reception by the people.
4. The sacredness of national history (1 Samuel 10:25).
5. The conduct of Samuel in this crisis.
Saul chosen king
When first the desire to have a king came to a height with the people, they had the grace to go to Samuel, and endeavour to arrange the matter through him. But it was a good thing that they came to Samuel at all. They were not prepared to carry out their wishes by lawless violence; they were not desirous to make use of the usual Oriental methods of revolution--massacre and riot. Samuel convenes the heads of the various tribes to a meeting, which was not to be counted a rough political convention, but a solemn religious gathering in the very presence of the Lord. But before the lot was actually cast, Samuel addressed to the assembly one of those stern, terrible exposures of the spirit that had led to the transaction. How could the people, we may well ask, get over this? How could they prefer an earthly king to a heavenly?
1. Perhaps we may wonder less at the behaviour of the Israelites on this occasion if we bear in mind how often the same offence is committed, and with how little thought and consideration, at the present day. To begin with, take the case--and it is a very common one--of those who have been dedicated to God in baptism, but who cast their baptismal covenant to the winds. The time comes when the provisional dedication to the Lord should be followed up by an actual and hearty consecration of themselves. Failing that, what can be said of them but that they reject God as their King? Then there are those who reject God in a more outrageous form. There are those who plunge boldly into the stream of sin, or into the stream of worldly enjoyment, determined to lead a life of pleasure, let the consequences be what they may. As to religion, it is nothing to them, except a subject of ridicule on the part of those who affect it. Morality--well, if it fall within the fashion of the world, it must be respected; otherwise let it go to the winds. God, heaven, hell--they are mere bugbears to frighten the timid and superstitious. Not only is God rejected, but He is defied. But there is still another class against whom the charge of rejecting God may be made. Not, indeed, in the same sense or to the same degree, but with one element of guilt which does not attach to the others, inasmuch as they have known what it is to have God for their King. I advert to certain Christian men and women who in their early days were marked by much earnestness of spirit, but having risen in the world, have fallen back from their first attainments, and have more or less accepted the world’s law. What glamour has passed over their souls to obliterate the surpassing glory of Jesus Christ, the image of the invisible God? What evil spell has robbed the Cross of its holy influence, and made them so indifferent to the Son of God, who loved them and gave Himself for them?
2. But let us come back to the election. No doubt Saul had anticipated this consummation. He bad had too many supernatural evidences to the same effect to have any lingering doubt what would be the result of the lot. Gregory Nazianzen actually fled to the wilderness after his ordination, and Ambrose, Bishop of Milan, in the civil office which he held, tried to turn the people from their choice even by acts of cruelty and severity, after they had called on him to become their bishop. But, besides the natural shrinking of Saul from so responsible an office, we may believe that he was not unmoved by the solemn representation of Samuel that in their determination to have a human king the people had been guilty of rejecting God. This may have been the first time that that view of the matter seriously impressed itself on his mind. Even though his mind was not a spiritual mind, there was something frightful in the very idea of a man stepping, so to speak, into God’s place. No wonder, then, he hid himself!
3. Three incidents are recorded towards the end of the chapter as throwing light on the great event of the day.
Saul chosen, king
The Jewish people lived under several different forms of government. At first they were under the primitive patriarchal form. After this came the theocratic government of the wilderness. This merged into the government by judges and became at times little better than anarchy. Then came the kingdom under Saul, David, and Solomon, followed by the divided monarchy under Rehoboam and Jeroboam and their successors. After this came the exile, and, after the restoration, a government with limited powers under control first of Persia, then of Greece, Egypt, and Syria, and finally, after a period of independence under the Maccabees, under the Roman government. Each of these forms of government gave some form or colour to the theology of the nation, but none so deeply and permanently affected it as the monarchy. Figures borrowed from it were prominent in the preaching of Christ and of the apostles; and the Christian Church looks and prays for the coming of the kingdom of which this was a type.
I. We are interested in noticing the proposed kingdom as it affected Samuel. The step was a great disappointment to him and also a personal insult. Much of his life work seemed to him wasted unless the form of government under which he had brought the land to prosperity continued. Many a faithful minister well past “the dead line of fifty,” but with heart full of the Spirit of Christ, has the same mingling of righteous and personal sorrow when the congregation, “to please the young people,” begin suggesting that a younger man could do better the work of the church. There was another personal sorrow to Samuel in the choice. The people in their demand for a king had told him in the bluntest possible manner of the unfitness of his own sons to be their leaders, and he was forced to acknowledge publicly the sad truth which his aching heart was reluctant to admit even to himself (1 Samuel 8:5).
II. We are much instructed by the fact that God did not immediately desert the people after their wrong choice. Good men sometimes feel constrained thus to act; but if God had withheld help from all religious and political enterprises which fell below absolute righteousness, the world would have been in perdition long ago. A Christian is sometimes at a loss to know how far his cooperation with what seems to him the best policy possible to succeed, but which still falls below his ideal, makes him responsible for the defects of the policy or system. There are many excellent people who fail to cooperate with others for the reason that their plans seem in part a concession to evil that for the present cannot be cured. The question whether a Christian may hold stock in a railroad, on the whole righteously managed but with some wrong features of administration; the question whether a Christian may visit the World’s Fair if it open on Sunday; the question whether a Christian may patronise a hotel having a bar--these and many others sometimes puzzle good people. Paul was able to discriminate carefully and to determine whether eating meats offered to idols would involve a seeming endorsement of idolatry. In like manner must we discriminate between systems fundamentally evil and systems in which, though having features that are wrong, the evil is incidental. Perhaps there is not in the Old Testament an incident more clearly illustrative of God’s attitude towards such systems than is afforded by this lesson.
III. We are interested in the light which this lesson throws upon the better nature of Saul. Well may the words of Samuel have made the young leader tremble for his own future in the position which he must occupy. In this day young men are called out as never before into responsible positions. Because of this fact they are coming to expect it and perhaps to seek it. This is natural, but usually not necessary. The right man is not likely to be so hidden in the stuff but that he can be found for the place which God has anointed him to fill. The man with his back to the sunrise, when the king was to be chosen, first saw it as it lit up the western hill tops. The best way for the young man who feels himself fitted for a higher place than he now occupies is to make himself so conspicuously useful where he is that when the people begin searching among the stuff they will find him head and shoulders above his companions. The hiding of good men grows increasingly difficult. The member of the House of Commons who sneered at an opponent, “You blacked my father’s boots!” received an answer that well may have been given with honest pride: “Yes, and did it well.” Far from disqualifying him, the humble work may have added important qualifications for the higher service. Now, Saul is warmhearted and dignified and sincere. No wonder the people admire him, for the words of Samuel are true and there is none like him whom the Lord hath chosen among all the people.
IV. It is interesting to notice in the closing verses an illustration of the familiar truth that a good thing wrongly obtained does not satisfy. The people have had their own way, and God has helped them to secure just what they had been demanding. When they saw him, they shouted their approval of his selection. But “the children of Belial,” or the worthless ones who undoubtedly had been foremost in demanding a king, despised him. It is ever so. No man more heartily condemns sin than the sinner who commits it. At the last all sin bites like a serpent. But before this the stolen fruit is found less sweet than the sinner anticipated, and the self-loathing because of it makes it bitter to our taste. The lesson that most forcibly recurs to us is that which appears again and again in our study of the history of the Jewish people--God’s faithfulness even to the unfaithful, His changelessness even to those who were constantly changing and so often for the worse, His goodness even to the undeserving. He is kind to the unthankful. (William E. Barton.)
Saul chosen king
The interest of the scene at Mizpeh concenters in the representative of the old regime and the new, the venerable judge and the young king. In the example of each we may find instruction.
I. The conduct of Samuel at Mizpeh sets before us the wisdom of timely concession. The change was inevitable. No personal influence could prevent or long hinder it. The wisdom of Samuel in his mediation between the old system and the new is now apparent. Of such men as Samuel, Dean Stanley has said, they “are the silent healers who bind up the wounds of their age in spite of itself; they are the good physicians who knit together the dislocated bones of a disjointed time; they are the reconcilers who turn the hearts of the children to the fathers, or of the fathers to the children.”
II. The example of Samuel further illustrates the nobility of self-renunciation. He was called to depose himself and to invest another with his authority. How the story of his own life came up before him as he pondered the change! Yet above all these natural feelings Samuel rose victorious. Chagrin, if he felt it, was quickly overcome. Personal humiliation was lost in the desire to save Israel from the full consequences of her sin. A noble freedom from jealousy, like that of John the Baptist when he looked upon his successor, and like that of Paul in view of his rivals at Philippi, but the like of which the world has not often see, now marked his course. Hitherto he had been a wise ruler, a sagacious and righteous judge, but not more famous than other judges. By self-renunciation he now became great.
III. The career of Samuel suggests to us the strength which comes from conscious obedience to the will of God. It was known to him that, in yielding to the people and anointing a king, he was doing God’s will. His obedient spirit led him to look upon the change in its relation to God’s purposes, and not as affecting his own interests. The cause which had failed was God’s cause. In taking sides with God in this matter, he was assured that he was not suffering final defeat. To find one’s self wholly opposed to prevailing currents of thought and feeling is to become helpless and despondent, except as the soul rests upon the clear revelation of the will of God. Such a revelation had come to Samuel. Obedience is a lofty virtue. The best fruit to be gathered from the study of the life of Samuel is this: that constant and consistent obedience to the will of God is an unfailing source of strength and stability. Laying aside all thought of the long darkening tragedy of Saul’s later life, we may study the scene at Mizpeh as it presents him to us. We note:
1. His humility.
2. His self-control.
The young manhood of King Saul wins our hearts. But its brightness and beauty was of short duration. The sun arose in unveiled splendour, but long ere midday was lost in gathering, darkening clouds. (Monday Club Sermons.)
Saul chosen king
We shall best bring out the significance of this lesson, as part of the great revolution which established monarchy in Israel, by considering separately the respective parts in it of God, Samuel, and Saul.
1. One great purpose shaping the details of the story is to make clear and emphatic that Saul was chosen by God. Now this fact that God chose Saul is full of instruction, when taken in conjunction with two things--Israel’s sin in desiring a king, and Saul’s swift decadence and ultimate fall. But God permitted this sinful wish to have its way. Is that difficult to understand? Is it not in accord with His constant dealings? If we will not walk in His ways, He often leaves us to our own. He grants us the things that we whimper for, though our crying shows that we have shaken off His rule, and lets experience teach us the lessons of our folly. Wishes are often best cured by being fulfilled. Saul soon proved unworthy. The man chosen by God was a failure. Was, then, the choice a mistake? No. What he was chosen to do, he did. He saved Israel “out of the hand of the Philistines.” God chooses men for tasks, and is ready to fit them for their work, but He does not magically preserve them from the temptation of their positions, unless they keep themselves in touch with Him; and if they reject His help, and are made worse by their exaltation, it is not God who has erred in His choice, but men who have fallen beneath their vocation by their own sin.
2. Samuel’s part in the transaction is clearly marked. Only a man of ripened wisdom, and, still more necessary, of manifest disinterestedness, could have presided over so far-reaching a change. But a heart that keeps near to God is fitted for delicate duties, and a leader who evidently has no personal ends can sway men almost as he will. Well is it for nations and churches when the representatives of the old order are willing to pour the anointing oil on the young head of the embodiment of the new, and to give the stalwart warrior the benediction of a kiss from aged lips.
3. Saul’s part in this incident brings into view chiefly two points, both of them excellences. The lesson for all, especially for the young, is, do the small duties of today, and be sure that doing them is the best preparation for wider spheres, and that when you are ready for these, they will be accessible to you. The reward of work is more work. Little tasks may be great if done from great motives; and, if we fill the corner where we are with light, we shall sooner or later be set on a candlestick high enough for the light that is in us. Simplicity and modesty marked the young Saul. He feels himself unworthy of the great destiny dimly marked out for him (1 Samuel 10:21). Such a temper becomes untried youth, though its opposite is often a characteristic of early life. It usually takes a good many hard knocks to beat youthful self-conceit out of a man. It is time enough to boast when we are putting off the armour, and law of us have much inclination to do so then. But when we are putting it on, and have made no proof of our prowess, the less we brag or think of ourselves the better. It will do us no harm to remember the wise saying of a Cambridge don, “Gentlemen, none of us, not even the youngest, is infallible.” (A. Maclaren, D. D.)
He hath hid himself amongst the stuff.
When Auxentius, the Arian Bishop of Milan, had expired, there was much excitement among the Christians in that City. Both Catholics and Arians had assembled in the principal church for the purpose of electing a new bishop, and each party was eager that some priest who held the same views as itself should be appointed to the vacant see. When the words of the governor had ceased to reverberate through the lofty arches of the church, the clear voice of a little child broke the silence which succeeded, repeating the words “Ambrose Bishop--Ambrose Bishop.” At once the cry was caught up by that vast assemblage. In vain did Ambrose protest that he was only a Catechumen, that he had not even been baptised; in vain did he urge that the sacred office of a bishop was one utterly foreign to his previous thoughts and studies (for he had been educated as a lawyer); the people would take no denial; and so, at last, he fled from their presence, in order to escape consecration to the Bishopric of Milan. This is no solitary instance. We read in the history of the Christian Church of many similar shrinkings from responsibility on the part of those who were elected to high office in that church; of many who, when called to assume the care of some diocese, or even the sacred office of the priesthood, endeavoured, like Saul the Benjamite, to go and hide themselves among the stuff. Now what was the cause of this strange behaviour: what was the cause of that flight of S. Ambrose, when elected to the Bishopric of Milan? Was it not a sort of nervous fear: was it not what may be called shamefacedness, or as it is better rendered in the revised version of the New Testament “shamefastness”? We can see countless instances of its disastrous effects in the Christian Church of the present day. But let us not be too ready to condemn our timid brethren. S. Ambrose became a mighty pillar of the Church: Saul, for many years, made an excellent king, and proved himself a courageous warrior after he had been drawn forth from his inglorious retreat. It is a hard thing to lead a holy life in a world given to unrighteousness. Our Lord told His disciples that the world would hate them and persecute them, just as it had hated and persecuted Him. It is the public declaration of our loyalty to Christ which forms the difficulty with most of us. And so this shamefastness leads men to live two lives--one in the Church and one in the family circle: another in the office or in the club. If we investigate the causes of this lack of helpers, what do we find? We find hundreds of young men and women attending our churches: many of them regular communicants--all at least making some outward profession of Christianity--all at least hoping to be saved through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. You implore them to labour in some one of those many fields which lie fallow for want of a sower, and they respond but too frequently with that parrot cry that “charity begins at home.” They are asked to join some society, to teach in some Sunday School; the call of God comes to them in a hundred different ways to come forth boldly and testify in His name; but, alas, when they are thus summoned, they flee like Saul the son of Kish, and hide themselves among the stuff and baggage of such excuses as they can drag together to conceal their lack of courage. We read day after day in the public journals, that, as each regiment embarks for service at the seat of war, not a man is found wanting when the muster roll is called--none of the soldiers of our Queen are evading the call of duty--none are hiding themselves among the stuff. And shall we, the soldiers of Christ, suffer such a reproach to be cast at us, shall we suffer it to be said that our Christianity is pure selfishness, that all we care for is to save our souls; and that we care not to come forward and make public avowal, to take up this or that public duty which Christ calls upon us to perform for the love which we profess to bear Him? (Patrick Wilson.)
Among the stuff
For the fulfilment of high offices in Church and State men need the fellowship of those whose experience will impart a new impulse to life as well as a new education.
1. Men hide themselves among feeling arising from a sense of unworthiness. Such a sentiment must be cherished, but not elevated above the call of God. We have a large number of good people who withhold their persons and their influence from the Church of Christ, because they are unfit. Poor stuff! Come to your own coronation, God is calling. Your first fitness is obedience to the call. Be ruled by a sense of the greatness of the Saviour.
2. Men hide themselves among their good intentions. Intentions are good when they are followed by actions, but they are bad when they are mere substitutes. Some lives are made up of intentions, and, like castles in the air, they are blown down by the rough winds of circumstances. Many would be rich without work, wise without learning, and famous without a passport. Very many people sincerely hope to become serious and religious some day.
3. Men hide themselves among their doubts and unbeliefs. Those who set themselves up as harmonisers of the Divine method and fail are not a few. No vessel anchors in fogs on the Banks of Newfoundland, but every one drives through. To live in doubt is to anchor in a fog. Every one knows something of the perplexities of belief. The unrest of the soul calls for the rest of faith; but, he who rests in the unrest of doubt is condemned already.
4. Men hide themselves among worldly cares and anxieties. The motto of many is, “Business must be attended to.” Certainly, and religion must be attended to likewise.
5. Men hide themselves among the pleasures of life. The pleasure seeker is everywhere, and is catered for most extensively, but it is poor stuff. (T. Davies.)
We should not shrink from the path of duty
Joan of Arc is a striking example of strong resolve and lofty purpose conquering a naturally timid disposition. When convinced that she was called of God to deliver France from English rule, the timid village maiden became a leader in battlefields and sieges, and unawed by the presence of the highest personages in the land. The conviction of her mission made her strong.
There is none like him among the people.
The choice young man and goodly
There are two forms in which the man who is steering his vessel over the perilous ocean may ascertain the course which he should keep, and receive admonition of the dangers which he should avoid. There may be the well-known sea mark, reared near the treacherous rocks, speaking its language of caution, and yet at the same time affording its tranquilising assurance, that so long as that caution is followed, there will be safety. But there is another beacon which the sailor sometimes discovers, whose warnings are conveyed in a still more emphatic form. It is not the lighthouse which the hand of science, directed by kindness, has reared--it is not the buoy that floats over the treacherous sand; but it is the shattered vessel which has come too near the point of danger--its timbers breaking, its stores floating, its passengers lost. Now, what these two forms of admonition are to those who “go down upon the deep and do business in the great waters,” the precepts of God’s holy word on the one hand, and its historic warnings on the other, are to those who are voyaging over life’s ocean to the haven of eternity. The language of God’s precepts is kindly admonitory: these say enough to keep us right; but we are apt to get so used to their teachings, as that they lose their power--used to them, as the sailor is to the beacon on the rock, or to the buoy floating over the sand. We want something more. We want something that shall tell upon our security and heedlessness more vividly, and with more realised impression; and we have it, we find it in the historic warnings of God’s word--in wrecks--the wreck of peace--the wreck of character--the wreck of comfort--the wreck of hope--in the cases of those who have trifled with the voice of Divine precepts, and have refused the blessings of heavenly direction. Such is the spectacle which is presented to us in the history before us--it is a wreck, and one of no ordinarily distressing character. But among the spectators of a vessel driven on the rocks, and dashed to pieces by the violence of the surge, none would be so much moved as those to whom it might have occurred to see that very barque when it was launched. To spectators who could recur to past hopes thus excited, the effect of beholding the wreck would be additionally distressing; the contrast between what had been, and what was then before the eye would be telling in the extreme. And this enhancement of melancholy interest undoubtedly attaches to our present theme. Nothing could be more auspicious, nothing more attractive, than the commencement of that career which terminates in a moral wreck. There were actual manifestations of conduct on his part which looked like promise of the brightest future. We particularise two.
I. The first was his dutifulness as a son and the consequent regard in which his father held him. In these respects, he really stands before the young as an example and a model. The Spirit of God, who has recorded the perversity of Eli’s sons, and the unworthiness of Samuel’s sons, has brought into notice the immediate and ready obedience of the son of Kish (1 Samuel 9:3-4). We are not surprised to find, as another part of this interesting history, the regard which Saul’s father entertained for him, as evinced in the incident, recorded 1 Samuel 10:2, that when Saul and his servant were departed from Samuel, and had reached Rachel’s sepulchre, in the border of Benjamin, at Zelzah, two men met them, who having announced that the lost property was found, added (and with what naturalness and simplicity does the addition fall upon our ears), “Lo, thy father hath left the care of the asses, and sorroweth for you, saying, What shall I do for my son?” The loss of his property was considerable; but the loss of his son was a far greater privations. “A wise son maketh a glad father;” and now that the father missed the son who had often made him glad, he could not help exclaiming, in his deep solicitude, “What shall I do?” Saul occupied at home a place of important interest in his parent’s view, and now that his place was vacant the blank was painful. It is painful to see children outliving the esteem of their own parents. We cannot read the varied references which Scripture makes to the parental relationship, and not feel that the test which Saul applied in ascertaining the course of duty is one which God often and urgently demands that we should employ. “The joy of a father,” or “the heaviness of a mother,” are considerations of vast moment with God; and are, therefore, matters which cannot safely be trifled with by children, even of elder growth. “Will this rob my father of rest; will this add to my mother’s sorrow?”--let this be the question before you take your course, and shape your plan and purpose.
II. Besides the particular point which we have reviewed there was in Saul’s character a large amount of right-mindedness under circumstances which might have proved a strong temptation to manifestations of an opposite kind. Sometimes we see, among our fellow creatures, great excellences overborne by great and lamentable defects. We hear it said of a young man, “Yes, he is a good son; but when you have said that, you have said all. He is so conceited, so upstart, so perverse towards all but his own immediate friends, that you lose many a time the recollection of his excellence in the personal inconvenience which you suffer from the other features of his conduct.” No such thoughts as these, however, are suggested by the narrative of Saul.
1. There would appear to have existed, in his case, what might have been a considerable temptation to personal vanity; and yet, in the earlier portion of the narrative, there cannot be traced the slightest approach to it in his demeanour. To be vain on the ground of personal charms is to act a senseless part, for these imply no merit, and promise no long duration. The winger of age must be contemplated, as well as the spring tide of youth and the summer of manhood and womanhood. Besides, it is the mind that gives value to the man: and what is the casket if it be empty? However beautiful its exterior, it disappoints if there be no gem within.
2. If Saul’s appearance did not lift him up, neither does he at first seem to have been rendered vain nor to have been unduly elated by his new circumstances. There is nothing more difficult to bear than a change from a lower position to one which is several grades above it. There are some beautiful instances, indeed, in which men have stood the trial well, and have carried into an elevated sphere all the humility and simplicity which marked them in the ordinary walks of life. But these are rather the exceptions than the rule. With many a man the very day of his transition to a higher path in outward condition has been the period from which is to be dated his pitiful absurdness--his perfect uselessness--his moral fall.
3. He manifested the same right mindedness in bearing without restraint conduct which was intended to irritate him, and which was very much calculated to produce that effect. “The men of Belial said, How shall this man save us? And they despised him, and brought him no presents” (chap. 10:27). And how did Saul act? With what significance the sacred writer adds, “But he held his peace.” Now it was much to be so quiet where human nature--as we, perhaps, know from experience--is very apt to be excited. But the secret of this silence is to be found in that characteristic which we have just been considering. If he had attached an overweening importance to himself, you would have seen a very different course of conduct. But it was the absence of this which saved him. Such are the representations afforded by Scripture of the character of Saul at the time at which he was called to the throne. And from all we have said, what might not have been hoped for in regard to the future? Yet our hopes are destined to be disappointed. Be all that Saul was when he set out in life, but secure the same endowments of character from a higher source than mere nature. Seek them from God, as the result of His Spirit’s teaching--His Spirit’s operation in the heart. This will be the great security against that disappointment which arises from such a deterioration of character as a little later we have before us in the history of Saul. (J. A. Miller.)
A royal mien
James I of England was joyfully acclaimed king on Elizabeth’s death, and began his royal procession from Scotland to his new capital in great state. The nation, was bitterly disappointed, however, to find him mean looking and ungainly, whilst his manner was common, uncouth, and utterly wanting in personal dignity. So weak and cowardly was he that the eight of a drawn sword made him shudder. A severer contrast between King James I and Saul it would be hard to conceive, and the different impressions produced upon their people were quite in keeping with the diverse characters of the two men.
And all the people shouted, and said, God save the King.
God save the king
!--Our text tells of the first time, in Scripture, that this great shout of loyalty was raised. Illustrating this old cry briefly from the circumstances noted in Samuel, and applying if, to cur own time, we may observe:--
I. How God is to be acknowledged as the fountain of life and of authority. In this first prayer for royalty, there is the acknowledgment of God as the fountain of life and authority. This grand truth of religion is not forgotten in the original tongue of this verse, which expresses the people’s wish, “Let the King live!” The same truth is implied in the form of words now usual, “God save the King!” Of such authority how often is the Almighty declared to be the author and the defender; and Jesus Christ Himself, the first-begotten of the dead, is declared to be the Prince of the kings of the earth. Let none of us forget that, because of such truth, the Coronation, at which the outward symbols of dominion are entrusted to the monarch, is a distinctively religious service; far more so than anything else. Thus it was in those old times to which our text refers, so it has been ever since; and so it is still throughout Christian countries, even throughout heathen countries, with a few exceptions, all down through the ages.
II. Prayer for the King:--The Almighty is to be acknowledged: the King is to be prayed for; why and how? In the light especially of his high position and of his vast responsibility. While for rulers in general we are to intercede, for our own King there are many special causes for so doing with sacred enthusiasm. On the occasion of our text, the people shouted with ardour unrestrained. In some ways, perhaps, our civilisation is more subdued, and sometimes, perhaps, restrains too much the utterance of natural affection. Although in the present instance so far chastened, let not our loyal feelings be too much repressed. Let them not be shut up as in an icehouse, but rather be expanded with something of that summer heat, which we love and long for. Finally, in our loyalty thus honouring the King, we shall in piety be fearing God who hath given us this command. (G. G. Gillan, D. D.)
It does not need a great deal of historical acumen to see that the Coronation of King Edward VII of England will stand out even in our remarkable national history as an event of peculiar and pathetic importance. We have been accused by a friendly, if somewhat cynical, critic of applying to ourselves as a nation all the promises of favour and the dignity of responsibility which God bestowed on His chosen people, the Jews, in the days of their faithfulness and trial It would be strange if we had reaped no benefit from our national study of and veneration for the Bible. What then does the person of the King represent to us, clothed with all the insignia and majesty of supreme glory.
I. The King is the representative and embodiment of certain personal and important principles and among these we reckon first in the person of the King the majesty and dignity of law. He is the fountain of a nation’s law, the supreme embodiment of its liberty and privileges based on law. In looking back over our chequered history we see the fierce nature of the conflict which has raged round this conception of the regal office. Our King does not reign as a despot in defiance of his people’s rights, but as the living embodiment of all that they most venerate and cling to. As children we were accustomed to read history with an eye to the stirring events of the battlefields, and the struggles of kings and people in all the moving incidents of the public tragedies which surround a nation’s growth, and as we get older we shall find that these struggles lose none of their interest. They gain in importance, as the conflict of liberty with oppression, of order with disorder, now on this side, now on that. We mark in them the gradual evolution of a clearer idea of what is meant by a monarch, in his supreme character as the guardian and fountain of law; we see the diminution by slow degrees of the idea, of personal irresponsible power, and the quenching of the lust of greed and oppression, and the emerging of the figure of dignity and religion, under which a nation venerates the figure of her liberty. Have we learned yet all the beauty and grandeur which lie expressed in that sacred name--law? When the old Greeks looked out on this magnificent universe in which all things perform their ordered functions, they called the world by a name which signified order, as if that were the main end pervading characteristic which was stamped upon its Divine mechanism. The reign of law, of perfect, unswerving law, excited their veneration and awe; and it was magnificent, it was Divine. And so we are accustomed still in most intimate and hidden ways to trace the action of the Holy Spirit in the regions of order and discipline within the soul. The Spirit of God which once moved upon the face of the waters when order emerged from chaos still rules over the hearts and lives of those who give themselves up to His gentle guidance. While we honour this great principle of law and order in the person of our King, whom we crown and consecrate, let us see to it that we honour every manifestation of it in our own lives. It is a sorry thing to contend for the liberty of the subject, sad maintain the long conflict for the integrity of our laws, if at the same time we are living the life of slaves, in a voluntary subjection to the tyranny of evil. The struggles of the nation for freedom and for liberty are paralleled in the life of many a man today, with a very diverse issue of the conflict. The supremacy of law, within the circle of his own life, is the inherent birthright of every man. We are born free, but the issue of life’s struggle too often leaves us slaves. Let us at least venerate the fount of law, as those who know the blessings of law in our inmost selves. It is a turbulent kingdom which God has called upon you to rule. There are fierce passions which were designed to serve under your kingship, which are only too ready to rise in rebellion and oust the ruler from his throne. Not many hundred yards from this cathedral there once existed that strange region known as Alsatia, with which the pen of the novelist and the brilliant pages of Macaulay have made us familiar, that region in which the king’s writ did not run, the abode of criminal disorder and vice. So many a man has elevated his besetting sins into an Alsatia, an abode of privileged misdeeds, where the will gives no order, and the law of God makes no appeal. I appeal for a larger and more whole-hearted veneration for law and order within the kingdom of our own lives. Let us have no Alsatias, no privileged sins, no times, no places, or moods which are outside the beneficent rule of law. Let us bring into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.
II. The King, once more is the representative to us of our national traditions. The history of the nation hangs round it like a necklace, studded with glorious jewels, which represent the traditions which have been worked out of its long and chequered careers. There are memories of struggles at home and abroad, of some of which we are ashamed, of most of which we are proud. We remember how, in the very place where we are standing, the expiring struggle of heathenism, the advancing powers of Christianity, the bitterness of religious and civil strife have all left their mark on history. Nelson and Wellington lie buried in our crypt, to remind us of the European struggle which made such an impression on our national sentiment and showed England the great destiny she was called upon to fulfil. And we thank God that while seldom free from some form of war in some part of our vast Empire, God has mercifully shielded us from the horrors of war in our own island. The battle of Sedgemoor, in Somerset, fought in the rebellion of Monmouth in the days of James II, is generally regarded as the last serious battle fought in our own land; for which we may, indeed, thank God, when we see what war means--as, for instance, to the sunny plains of France in the awful struggle of 1870, or in South Africa in the horrors and destruction of the war now happily and gloriously concluded. Through long centuries of struggle, of blessings received and warnings given, we do feel that there has emerged a great; tradition which we are pledged to maintain, and of which our crowned king is the personal representative. We do not as a nation care much for glory; it is an evanescent and intoxicating sentiment which is foreign to our character. We seem, on the contrary, to be almost cynically indifferent to the hostile criticism of our national actions, which we are at the same time powerless to avert. But, thank God, there has emerged as the permanent tradition of our race, and as the prevailing symbolism of our national flag, the sense of duty. However we fail in its practical application, however imperfect may be our realisation of our responsibilities, still it is something to feel that it is the great tradition of our race, that England expects that, every man should do his duty, and that greed and injustice, where and if they exist, exist only in defiance of our most cherished national traditions. Every man is better for a tradition in his life. The novelist has traced for us with merciless accuracy the career of a man who fell from bad to worse, largely because he had no tradition in his life; who never could remember the time when he was not indolent and self-pleasing; who had no battlefields of struggle, no records of victory to help him with the strength of a tradition, or the memories of outlived sorrow. And so he fell, as one who is alone when he falls, and who has nothing to keep him up, or anything of which he should say, “God forbid that I should be false to my better self, or betray my nobler past.” Under the name of principle we all of us recognise with an instinctive homage a tradition, which it is only honourable for a man to maintain. A temptation to a degraded sensuality loses half its malignity when it comes to a man, not as an isolated experience in a multiform career, but as a blow aimed at a cherished principle of life and a uniform course of action. It is an immense strength for a man to be able to say to the enticer, “I never have yielded to that kind of temptation yet, and I am not going to begin now.” It is an immense support to a life of integrity, to be able to meet the specious appeal to a supposed profit in dishonesty by an honest repudiation which can say, “I have never done a dishonest action yet, nor told a lie, and it would be contrary to all my principles to do so.” One of the greatest national treasures is the glorious tradition which is the heritage of our race, and therefore once more, as the depositary of that tradition, and as the upholder of its integrity, we say of him whose coronation we acclaim today, “God save the King.”
III. But we must not forget that human nature being what it is, and our English nation being what it is, there has gathered round the best tradition of our loyalty a depth of personal feeling for the person of the sovereign. Not officially only, but personally, out of respect and affection for the reigning monarch; where that has not been made impossible, we have loved to say, “God save the King.” We, none of us, are likely to forget the great personal devotion which all classes of English men and English women displayed towards our late Queen. Her throne, if any, was reared up in the hearts of her people. Nor is this a merely sentimental affection. In crowning our King, we crown the majesty of law, we crown the greatness of our tradition, and the glory of our race, but we also crown one, who has mounted the steps of the throne, straight from the shaping tenderness of the loving hand of God. And, therefore, with all our hearts we say, “God save the King.” (W. C. E. Newbolt, M. A.)
And wrote it in a book.
Value or a written constitution
A written revelation is an incomparable blessing. Is not the cry of subjects everywhere for a constitution, something written, the fights and duties of sovereign and subject in black and white? The Bible is to us like a written constitution; we can take it home, we can consult it when we please, quote from it, appeal to it God graciously binds Himself by it. Of all the modern heresies, none is more contrary to human experience than the rejection of a written word, and the proposed substitution of human conscience and the moral sentiments as our guide. (N. Adams.)
And there went with him a band of men, whose hearts God had
But the children of Belial said, How shall this man save us.
Public opinion in reference to the new King
I. The sympathy of Saul’s friends. There are times in the life of man when the sympathy of a friend is of priceless value. At critical junctures of our history, in times of sorrow or in seasons of joy, it is most acceptable.
1. This sympathy was human. “There went with him a band of men.” Potent as are spiritual influences to sustain us in duty, is it not welcome to feel the pressure of the hand, to hear the love which speaks in the quivering voice, and to see the eye of compassion looking upon us?
2. This sympathy was collective. “A band of men.”
3. This sympathy was practical. “They went with him.”
4. This sympathy was fervent. “Whose hearts.” They did not merely follow Saul as a bodyguard of soldiers, who were to be paid for their work. There was some deep power within that bound them to the new King; and therefore we cannot wonder at their sympathy taking a practical form.
5. This sympathy was divinely called forth. “Whose hearts God had touched.” Yes! all hearts are in the Divine hand, and when we are placed by Providence in circumstances of trial, it can influence the most potent so that they become our friends.
II. That antipathy of Saul’s enemies. “But the children of Belial said, How shall this man save us? And they despised him, and brought him no presents.”
1. This antipathy was envious. “This man save us.” They thought themselves far more worthy for the position of king than Saul; they considered his social rank beneath theirs, and his valour far inferior to their chivalry. Envy always makes men blind.
2. This antipathy was sarcastic. “This man.”
3. This antipathy was presumptuous. Why should they place themselves in opposition to such a potent and even holy authority.
4. The antipathy was unconcealed.
III. The suggestive conduct of Saul in reference to the hatred of his enemies. “But he held his peace.”
1. His conduct was dignified.
2. His conduct was discreet.
3. His conduct was magnanimous.
1. The considerateness of Divine Providence in giving us the aid of our companions in the trying circumstances of life.
2. That the efforts of national opinion are often misdirected.
3. That envy is often the secret of much political opposition.
4. That silence is the best method of treating such contemptible opposition. (Joseph S. Exell, M. A.)
Helpers and Hinderers
In one of his most perilous experiences, in the midst of a wild and savage mob, John Wesley was attended by four devoted followers, three men and a woman, who were fully prepared to die with their teacher and friend if God so willed. At the critical moment the leader of the mob turned to Mr. Wesley and said, “Sir, I will spend my life for you. Follow me, and none shall hurt a hair of your head.” With two companions this man conducted the preacher to a place of safety. So, in our lowlier and commonplace walks of life and duty, we shall find both hinderers and helpers.
A God-touched band
Another king whose circumstances illustrated by Saul’s--one Jesus. Look at Him. Israel refused. Why? Is not this the carpenter? etc. God touched the hearts of a few. He went forth and seeing Matthew said, “Follow me!” Peter, James and John. So now I ask you to look at:--
I. Christ’s kingly office.
1. Foundation upon which His kingship rests. We are not referring to His Divine kingship solely. As God He is the King immortal, invisible, etc. But we are viewing Him as deity enshrined in humanity seated upon a throne. And the question naturally arises, what claim has He to be so seated? It rests upon His atoning work. Some crowns are now worn by earthly monarchs which have been won for them by the blood of others, but Christ’s crown has been won by His own blood.
2. His kingdom, twofold; heaven where angels worship, earth where believers love and serve.
3. His government, righteous, holy in self, acts, benevolent. Merciful both in grace and providence. Even dark providence is mercy.
4. His conquests. The world to be converted.
II. His followers. Many have the badge but not real. Text reminds us of:--
1. Their former state. Their position is one of sympathetic affection, and contrasts with their former state which was like that of those who derided, disliked.
2. The change. One of affection. How accomplished? God touched them--Must be Divine power!
3. A “band” has one view, one feeling, one purpose.
III. Learn from this subject:--
1. The fearful consequences to those who reject Christ. Elizabeth’s frown killed Sir Christopher Herren. What will it be to bear the lack of approval from Christ.
2. How to recruit Christ’s band. Seek to convert the young. The Sabbath School is the place. There the ranks must be filled up. (G. Rigby.)
Hearts touched of God
Saul went home to Gibeah, but not alone, for “there went with him a band of men, whose hearts God had touched.” Perhaps this Divine touch involved much more than some of us may have supposed. The heart, in Holy Scripture, frequently means the whole spiritual nature, including the understanding, the affections, the conscience, and the will. Their understanding was touched, enabling them to discern their own duty and the true interest of Israel. Their affections were touched, powerfully attracting them to “him whom the Lord had appointed to be captain of their inheritance,” and inspiring them with due respect and confidence Their conscience was touched, compelling them to acknowledge the Divine hand in the whole matter, and their own obligation to acquiesce in the appointment of the Most High, and to sustain with all their force the man who had been set over them. Their will was touched, re-enforcing with Divine grace their purpose practically to carry out the resolution they had formed; so that, whatever others might do, they would adhere to the king, and go with him to Gibeah, ready to protect his person, support his prerogatives, avenge all insults offered to him, and serve him in any emergency that might arise, in any capacity that might be required. True, there was much in Saul to attract. All this had its effect in winning their love and confidence; yet there was also a manifest supernatural power working within them. And still, by His Holy Spirit, through His gospel, His sacraments, and His providences, God graciously touches the hearts of men. Without this Divine agency, none would ever be saved. True, there are means and ministries employed, but these without God were fruitless and inefficient. This Divine touch--what is its nature? and what are its effects?
1. It is the touch of a light that illumines. Here begins all true conversion. It may be as the morning dawn, shining more and more unto the perfect day; or as the lightning flash, smiting the sinner blind till some Ananias comes to open his eyes; but in either case, it is God that toucheth the heart with the living light of His grace.
2. It is the touch of an owner that claims. As a man lays his hand upon his lost or stolen property, saying, “This is mine;” so God lays His hand upon the human heart, alienated from Him by sin, and demands it as His own. It has been captured and kept from Him, but He will not relinquish His claim.
3. It is the touch of a weapon that wounds. The heart is in rebellion, and must be conquered. The two-edged sword of the Spirit must pierce and cleave it, before it can be cleansed and cured.
4. It is the touch of a hammer that breaks. Edward the First was called “the Hammer of the Scots.” God saith, by His prophet--“Is not my word a hammer, that breaketh the flinty rock in pieces?” What is that flinty rock, but the obdurate heart of His people, hardened through the deceitfulness of sin, harder than adamant, or the nether millstone? Oh! the flinty heart, that cannot feel, and will not relent! What hope can we have of its improvement? God has graciously smitten the stone, and turned it to flesh; and now He binds up the broken heart, and heals the contrite spirit.
5. It is the touch of a fire that dissolves. “God maketh my heart soft,” saith Job, “and the Almighty troubleth me.” How dreary is the Northern world in winter, the fountains frozen up, and the mountains wrapped in their robes of snow! But when the vernal sun shines forth in his strength, the fetters of ice are dissolved, the streams released flow through the valleys, and all nature puts on its gay and festive attire. Still greater is the change wrought in the heart by the Sun of righteousness. A rough and shapeless lump of gold is cast into the furnace, and soon it becomes a beautiful ornament, fit for the brow of a king. So the touch of God can melt the hardest heart, and change it into a crown jewel for the King of kings.
6. It is the touch of a key that opens. Was it not the Lord that “opened the heart of Lydia to receive the things spoken of Paul?” The heart is closed against Him by sin and selfishness.
7. It is the touch of a spirit that quickens. “And you hath He quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins.” And dead in trespasses and sins are we all, till touched by the quickening Spirit of God. The affections are dead, the conscience is dead, and the will is dead; and none but He who breathed into the first human form the breath of life, can make man once more “a living soul”--“alive to God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
8. It is the touch of a Healer that restores.
9. It is the touch of a Fountain that cleanses.
10. It is the touch of a magnet that attracts. God is love, and the heart He touches must gravitate towards Him. When Elijah passed Elisha ploughing in the field, and threw his mantle over the ploughman’s shoulders, the latter instantly left his oxen standing in the furrow, and hastened after the prophet, and never left him till a chariot of fire took him up from his side to heaven. So the touch of the Divine Galilean drew the fisherman from his nets and boats, the publican from the receipt of custom, etc. (J. Cross, D. D)
A Godly band of men
Accommodating this statement, without perverting it, we are naturally led to describe the subjects of Christ under a two-fold aspect.
I. Their personal character. They are men whose hearts God has touched.
1. An internal change has passed upon them Their heart has been touched. This is an observation which strikes at the root of a very common and destructive error. Born and educated amid all the decencies of a civilised and Christian community, many amongst us are insensibly moulded into the mere form and fashion of the age. This is particularly the case with the young. If the young, therefore, are to be ranked among the people of the living God, they must follow the Lord heartily.
2. The author of this internal change is God--their hearts are touched by Him. This statement also corrects another very serious mistake in regard to the production of a religions character. If there are multitudes that place religion in outward forms, while it springs from an inward change, so there are not a few who trust to human power for its production, and not to the power of God. It is the besetting sin of fallen man, and especially of the young who have not yet proved by failure the utter weakness of man to magnify their ability, and depreciate the agency of the Holy Spirit. They imagine they have power at any given point of their sinful career, to arrest their progress, repent, believe, and be saved.
3. The influence of this internal change is to make the subjects of Christ cherish warm affection, and practice dutiful obedience towards their King. It was because the hearts of this band were touched by God, that they encircled Saul as their monarch Divinely chosen. And mingling religion with loyalty, gave their conscience to God, and their sword to their sovereign. In a similar manner, every heart renewed by the Holy Ghost loves, and honours, and obeys the King of Zion.
II. Passing from the consideration of their personal character, let us next consider the subjects of Christ in their associated condition. They are a band. This suggests three ideas--union, mutual affection, and joint cooperation.
1. They are united. A life of solitary seclusion is enjoined by no part of revelation. Monks and hermits were the produce of an ignorant and barbarous age. In opposition to this selfish and seclusive spirit there is something uniting and comprehensive about the spirit of the Gospel. The sacred writers delight to represent the followers of Jesus under the figurative emblems of a flock of sheep--of a family--of an army; all of which representations embody the idea of numbers, and of numbers united by the strongest and closest ties.
2. The subjects of Christ cherish towards each other mutual affection. The Church of Christ is united, and united by love.
3. The subjects of Christ cooperate together. Kings long ago, knew how to levy soldiers, train armies, subordinate immense masses of human being to military discipline, and bring them forward, in regular order, upon one point, for the sake of conquest. With the exception of the mad attempt of united Christendom to wrest from the Turks the holy sepulchre, we read of no combined enterprise, on the part of the Church, during hundreds of years, for the advancement of religion. Bible Societies and Missionary Institutions, combining simplicity of plan with nobleness of effort, are the inventions of a period comparatively late. Here, every one does a little, and all their efforts bear upon some great undertaking. (Gavin Struthers.)
With what glowing prospects does this new-crowned king begin his reign; chosen by God Himself; gifted with a splendid physical presence; filled with the spirit of God; accepted and supported by all the people, and especially surrounded by such a noble bodyguard.
I. God, in touching the hearts of these men, filled them:
1. With reverence for the cause of which he was representative.
2. With devotion to him as that representative.
3. With a commendable zeal in service to that cause.
4. With wisdom and ability as counsellors.
5. With personal unselfishness in their service.
II. Every chosen servant of God needs today as a bodyguard, “a band of men whose hearts God has touched.”
1. With the seal of pardon and acceptance.
2. With a sanctified zeal in God’s service.
3. With a burning desire for the salvation of souls.
4. With a mighty faith in God as to the results of the work. (Homiletic Review.)
God touching human hearts
It is interesting to observe that, although the people were so bent on having a king, they still were willing to have God decide who their king should be. They had not “waited patiently for the Lord,” content with the administration of their national affairs which He had instituted until He should see fit to order a change; yet they did not wish to break wholly away from His control. They desired their king to be chosen by Him and kept under His guidance. They did not dare take their new departure without the counsel and benediction of Samuel, “the man of God.” As a people, although faulty, they were still the sincere people of God, adhering still to the purpose which an earlier generation avowed to Joshua. “We will serve Jehovah,” although so far from perfection of fidelity in that service. From that inauguration scene “Saul went home to Gibeah”--went, no doubt, to serious and earnest thought and deliberation--and (how beautifully it is added!) “there went with him a band of men whose hearts God had touched.” There is infinite poetry in that expression, in that thought--God touching a man, the invisible, spiritual God touching the hearts of men. The contact of material bodies, which that word primarily signifies, is a very simple and a very familiar fact. But in living bodies it suggests much more than that primary fact. It is connected with vivid sensation. To touch is to feel--to be touched is to be made to feel. And then with what facility do our minds pass from feeling as bodily sensation to feeling as mental emotion! The effect of a blow upon our flesh is expressed by the same word as the effect of a sorrow or a disappointment upon our souls; we feel it, it touches us. We are in no danger of misunderstanding the word touch when applied to God. When the afflicted patriarch of Uz exclaims, “Have pity upon me, have pity upon me, O ye my friends, for the hand of God hath touched me” (Job 19:21), no one gets the idea of bodily form or members as belonging to God--members which could be brought into contact with the bodies of men. It is only a vivid mode of expressing Job’s devout belief that all which he suffered was sent on him by God. “He toucheth the hills and they smoke” (Psalms 104:32), is the Psalmist’s poetic utterance of his sentiment that the sublimest volcanic phenomena are easy products of almighty Divine agency. It is the parallel, in thought as in form, of the other phrase, “He looketh on the earth, and it trembleth.” When we read of our divine-human High Priest that He can be “touched with the feeling of our infirmities” (Hebrews 4:15), we readily understand Him to be capable of quick sympathy, feeling with us whatever painfully affects us. There were some disloyal, some “sons of Belial”--wild, reckless, unprincipled men--who did not hesitate to manifest their contempt for the new monarch. Over against these in the Scripture picture we see “a band of men whose hearts God had touched,” whose behaviour showed that they were acting under a Divine influence--that their minds were decisively affected by Divine power. What was the behaviour which showed this? It is very simply related in the context. They “went with him.” Were you ever in circumstances in which simply to go with you was the kindest, and the bravest thing that any friend could do for you, including and pledging every other kind and generous and courageous thing which there might yet be occasion to do? Did you ever stand among an angry crowd tossing your name about with ribald scoffs and glaring on you with ferocious faces? Have you known the comfort in such a situation of having honourable citizens and reputable ladies come quietly to your side and show themselves determined to stand with you, and to take with you whatever insults or whatever injuries might come? How came they to have this generous disposition and this loyal spirit? They were “a band of men whose hearts God had touched.” Does this dependence on God for such good influence remove from men all responsibility for the state of their minds? To affirm this or to think this would imply an utter misapprehension of the character of that Divine influence and its relations to human activity, human responsibility and human character. The influence which He exerted in touching their hearts to make them feel and act rightly cannot have been inconsistent with such righteous exercise of His judgment upon their conduct, and upon the state of mind which their conduct made manifest. The relation of Divine influence upon men to men’s voluntary action, and to their character, and to God’s just judgment of them, is one of the most difficult problems of theology. The different attempted solutions of it have had much to do with the classifications of theologians under the names of great theological leaders, as of Calvin and Arminius, or into parties, as Old School and New School, for example. How human character can be determined by Divine influence, and still be character, retaining all the elements of responsibility, no one has yet so explained as to satisfy all other equally candid and clear-minded persons. For myself, I propose to be content without such explanation until, by God’s mercy, I may stand on a higher point of view, and may look with a more clarified vision than I expect to have in this world. We can never justify or excuse our wrong conduct or our disobedient or unlovely or unholy dispositions by ascribing them to God’s withholding from us the influence which would have begotten right dispositions. The “sons of Belial” who scoffed at Saul and turned away contemptuously from him were wicked men in so doing. Saul could not help blaming them; you cannot; God cannot. Are any of you painfully sensible of failure to be and to do what God reasonably demands of you? It certainly is not best for you simply to lash yourselves up to frantic endeavour or hasty resolution to do better. You will not do better without an influence from God moving and helping you thereto. Seek that influence in simple, frequent, persistent prayer. Every influence of which any of you are conscious, impelling you in any direction which you know to be right, to any service of usefulness which you honestly regard as work for God,--be assured that that influence is Divine. That is God touching your heart. Turn not away. (H. A. Nelson, D. D.)
Unity in Christian labour
The idea that I gather from the incident is, that, not alone, but with those whom God sent, Saul now undertook, and afterwards discharged, the momentous duties of his high office. And without pressing the analogy too far, I think this fact supplies several lessons suited to our present circumstances. The position of the ministry is one, than which, even that of the monarch, is not more important. The subject then that I shall notice, as suggested by our text, is Unity in Christian labour. And concerning it we observe:--
I. It is a desirable thing. We feel its desirability when we remember:--
1. That it secures Church concord. By Church concord, I mean that genuine kindredness of sympathy, that oneness of heart, that binds every individual of the Church, and of all Churches, very closely to each other; that will lead all to feel that they are members of one body. For concord in the Church there must be no rigidness of thought, no monotony of feeling, but a blending of the varied sympathies, mingling of the thoughts, and a harmony of the hearts of all.
2. It secures Church attraction. As all men, with but a few pitiable exceptions, love true music, are attracted to it, and spell bound by it, so the harmony of Christians will attract and over-awe the world.
3. It will secure Church power. Bind together threads, condense steam, focalise light, and you give even to these things an unimagined strength. Unite souls, weld together hearts, and who will dare defy their power? Concerning unity in Christian labour, I notice:--
II. It as a practicable thing. Such a unity as has been described is then desirable but can it be obtained? There are three things requisite to this unity, and the mere statement of them will show practicability.
1. Are we agreed in aim? It is only when one purpose directs the sinewy efforts of all the crew, that their united endeavours rescue from peril the storm tossed ship; at is only when every heart is fired with the same desire, that victory crowns the struggles of an united army And so with us With one aim ruling we shall be one.
2. But are we agreed as to the means by which this end is to be obtained? It is said, that the Emperor Constantine, in one of his campaigns, saw in the heavens the sign of a cross, and under it the words, “By this conquer,” and that henceforth that was his motto. Have we been to Calvary, and seen there the cross and Him that hung on it. Pointing to it, is our watchword. “By this conquer?”
3. Are we agreed as to the spirit in which we will work? Is it our earnest vow in God’s strength, never to exalt ourselves, never to use His work as a ladder to reach our own purposes, never to labour for God, as many do, in a spirit more fitting the service of Satan? Can we say “The love of Christ constraineth us?” The question, how can we obtain them, leads me to notice, concerning this unity of Christian labour:--
III. it is a Divine thing. “Whose heart God had touched.” God’s influence on the heart alone can produce that unity of which we have been speaking. I observe:--
1. That an entire change of heart is necessary to this unity. Self-seeking in the world, bigotry, and sectarianism, which are but other forms of self-seeking, in the Church; these are the too prevalent spirit among men. As long as there is sin reigning in our hearts they cannot be united. Robertson has strikingly said, “A dreadful loneliness is the result of sinning; the heart severed from God, feels severed from all other hearts; goes alone as if it had neither part nor lot with other men; itself a shadow among shadows.” To get unity then there must be a thorough purification, a radical change Instead of injuring men, delighting in sin, idolising self, and serving Satan, we must bless men, rejoice in holiness, crucify self, and love God.
2. That this change is accomplished by the touch of God. Three of the ways in which God touches our hearts, are like the ways in which we generally touch each other, but He has also other ways possessed by Him alone. He touches the heart by a look. As when “Peter went out and wept bitterly,” and Hagar uttered her dread conviction, “Thou God seest me.” He touches the heart by acts of kindness In the gifts of His Providence; and far above all in the life and death of His only begotten Son. He touches our heart by His word. The word of warning counsel, promise, and welcome. So we can touch each other by looks, actions, and words But God has avenues to the heart that are unknown to us, for His hands are upon secret springs of our nature. He touches us by the direct influence of His Spirit. (U. R. Thomas.)
“The Egyptians, in their hieroglyphics, expressed the unprofitableness of a solitary man by a single millstone, which, being alone, grindeth no meal, though with its fellows it would be exceedingly profitable for that purpose.” Let this serve as a symbol to those unsociable Christians who endeavour to walk alone, and refuse to enter into the fellowship of the saints. They are comparatively useless. The Lord hath made us dependent upon each other for usefulness. Our attainments are not put to their right use till they supply the deficiencies of others: this is one aide of our necessity for fellowship--we need to associate with the weak, that we may find a sphere in which to trade with our talents, by helping them. On the other hand, our infirmities and deficiencies are means to draw us into association with stronger brethren, from whom we may receive help. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Advantages of unity
To separate ourselves from our brethren is to lose power. Half-dead brands heaped close will kindle one another, and flame will sparkle beneath the film of white ashes on their edges. Fling them apart, and they go out. Rake them together, and they glow. Let us try not to be little, feeble tapers, stuck in separate sockets, and each twinkling struggling rays over some inch or so of space; but draw near to our brethren, and be workers together. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)
The holy band
The ancient Thebans had in their armies a band of men that were called “the holy band,” consisting of such from the various regiments and battalions as were joined together in a bond of love, and were sworn to live and die together in the service of their country. These men were reckoned of great value. They were esteemed the strength of the army, and in time of special danger or alarm were looked to as the nation’s hope. (W. Denton.)
But the children of Belial said.
The sons of Belial
The word Belial is found but once in the New Testament (2 Corinthians 6:15). In the Hebrew of the Old Testament it is found twenty-seven times. It is several times translated wicked (Deuteronomy 15:9; Job 34:18; Psalms 101:3; Nehemiah 1:11; Nehemiah 1:15). It is also rendered ungodly (Proverbs 16:17; Proverbs 19:28). It is twice rendered ungodly men (2 Samuel 22:5; Psalms 18:4). In Psalms 12:8, it is rendered evil, and in Proverbs 6:12, naughty. In all other places it is simply transferred from the original to the common version; and so we read of a man of Belial, men of Belial, a son of Belial, the sons of Belial, and children of Belial. As a designation of character the word always points to the vile--those who draw iniquity with a cart rope. Indeed, the word Belial itself seems to mean worthlessness, nothingness, or destruction. That vile men are worthless, and can at last be put to no good purpose, but to be burned, is argued at length in Ezekiel 15:1-8. See Proverbs 10:20; Matthew 25:30; Romans 3:12; Romans 3:16. A man of Belial is one who destroys much good, but he restores nothing; scatters much wretchedness, but makes no one happy, and is dead while he lives, because he lives to himself. He is a vain, naughty, worthless, wretched being. The Anakims are an extinct race; but the sons of Belial live on, and are many. This is strange, for but few of them live out half their days. Their vices are very wasting. But still they are numerous. David speaks of floods of them in his time. Where wicked laws prevail and wicked men are in power, they are spawned by the thousand. When Ahab and Jezebel have sway the dogs will be licking up the blood of innocent men. (W. L. Plumer, D. D.)
The importance of self-command in a leader
Said Napoleon concerning his success as a military leader: “My extreme youth when I took command of the army of Italy made it necessary for me to evince great reserve of manner, and the utmost severity of morals. This was indispensable to enable me to sustain authority over men so greatly superior in age and experience. I pursued a line of conduct in the highest degree irreproachable and exemplary. In spotless morality I was a Cato, and must have appeared such to all. I was a philosopher and a sage. My supremacy could be retained only by proving myself a better man than any other in the army. Had I yielded to human weaknesses, I should have lost my power.”
──《The Biblical Illustrator》