1 Samuel Chapter Eleven
1 Samuel 11
Jabesh-gilead delivered. (1-11) Saul confirmed in his kingdom. (12-15)
Commentary on 1 Samuel 11:1-11
(Read 1 Samuel 11:1-11)
The first fruit of Saul's government was the rescue of Jabesh-gilead from the Ammonites. To save their lives, men will part with liberty, and even consent to have their eyes put out; is it then no wisdom to part with that sin which is as dear to us as our right eye, rather than to be cast into hell-fire? See the faith and confidence of Saul, and, grounded thereon, his courage and resolution. See also his activity in this business. When the Spirit of the Lord comes upon men, it will make them expert, even without experience. When zeal for the glory of God, and love for the brethren, urge men to earnest efforts, and when God is pleased to help, great effects may speedily be produced.
Commentary on 1 Samuel 11:12-15
(Read 1 Samuel 11:12-15)
They now honoured Saul whom they had despised; and if an enemy be made a friend, that is more to our advantage than to have him slain. The once despised Saviour will at length be acknowledged by all as the Lord's own anointed king. As yet, upon his mercy-seat, he receives the submission of rebels, and even pleads their cause; but shortly, from his righteous tribunal, he will condemn all who persist in opposing him.
── Matthew Henry《Concise Commentary on 1 Samuel》
1 Samuel 11
 Then Nahash the Ammonite came up, and encamped against Jabeshgilead: and all the men of Jabesh said unto Nahash, Make a covenant with us, and we will serve thee.
Then — That is, about that time; for that this happened before, and was the occasion of their desire of a king, may seem from chap. 12:12, although it is possible, that Nahash's preparation, might cause that desire, and that he did not actually come 'till their king was chosen.
Will serve — The occasion of this offer was, that they saw no likelihood of relief from their brethren in Canaan.
 And Nahash the Ammonite answered them, On this condition will I make a covenant with you, that I may thrust out all your right eyes, and lay it for a reproach upon all Israel.
Thrust out, … — Partly for a reproach, as it here follows; and partly, to disable them. He leaves them one eye, that they might be fit to serve in any mean and base office.
 And, behold, Saul came after the herd out of the field; and Saul said, What aileth the people that they weep? And they told him the tidings of the men of Jabesh.
After the herd — For being only anointed king, and not publickly inaugurated, nor having yet had opportunity of doing any thing worthy of his place, he thought fit to forbear all royal state, and to retire to his former private life, which, howsoever despised in this latter ages, was anciently in great esteem. Good magistrates are in pain, if their subjects are in tears.
 And he took a yoke of oxen, and hewed them in pieces, and sent them throughout all the coasts of Israel by the hands of messengers, saying, Whosoever cometh not forth after Saul and after Samuel, so shall it be done unto his oxen. And the fear of the LORD fell on the people, and they came out with one consent.
Sent them — Wisely considering, that the sight of mens eyes does much more affect their hearts, than what they only hear with their ears.
Samuel — Whom he joins with himself, both because he was present with him; and that hereby he might gain the more authority.
Fear — A fear sent upon them by God, that they should not dare to deny their help. The fear of God will make men good subjects, good soldiers, and good friends to their country. They that fear God will make conscience of their duty to all men, particularly to their rulers.
 And when he numbered them in Bezek, the children of Israel were three hundred thousand, and the men of Judah thirty thousand.
Men of Judah — Who are numbered apart to their honour, to shew how readily they, to whom the kingdom was promised, Genesis 49:10, submitted to their king, though of another tribe; and how willing they were to hazard themselves for their brethren although they might have excused themselves from the necessity of defending their own country from their dangerous neighbours the Philistines.
 Then said Samuel to the people, Come, and let us go to Gilgal, and renew the kingdom there.
Then — While the people were together by Jabesh-gilead, wherein Samuel's great prudence and fidelity to Saul is evident. He suspended the confirmation of Saul at first, whilst the generality of the people were disaffected, and now when he had given such eminent proof of his princely virtues, and when the peoples hearts were eagerly set upon him, he takes this as the fittest season for that work.
Renew — That is, confirm our former choice.
 And all the people went to Gilgal; and there they made Saul king before the LORD in Gilgal; and there they sacrificed sacrifices of peace offerings before the LORD; and there Saul and all the men of Israel rejoiced greatly.
Made — They owned and accepted him for their king.
── John Wesley《Explanatory Notes on 1 Samuel》
11 Chapter 11
Then Nahash the Ammonite came up.
The immediate consequences of a national rejection of God
In the opening verses of this chapter we see the result of disobedience. Instead of happiness for Israel; we fear that the invasion of which we now read, is but too prophetic of those awful retributions which Samuel declared should come upon their wilful rejection of the Divine Being. We take these words as illustrative of the consequences of a national rejection of God.
I. That when a nation rejects God it may very naturally expect to be troubled by enemies. There appears to have existed an old land quarrel between these two peoples, which had occasioned the battle just mentioned, and which at this time they strive to revenge and recoverse In the light of this history we gather that--
1. They were enemies of long standing. It was a deep seated hatred that time had almost rendered chronic. It is easy to settle the dispute of yesterday, but when years have passed they make the breach almost impassable. Thus God rendered dark the hops of Israel through enemies of the longest standing and the most dreaded.
2. They were enemies that had been previously defeated. They had been most severely routed by Jephthah. The relatives, friends, and companions of these warriors now threatening Israel with invasion were slain in that conflict. Truly, Israel had need to fear such a foe.
3. These enemies were most opportune in their attack upon Israel.
II. That when a nation rejects God its degradation is certain to follow. Nahash assumes the weakness of the men of Jabesh-Gilead, and their consequent inability to defend themselves from his army. He therefore commences at once to propose the most painful and humiliating condition of peace. A condition indeed which would involve the whole nation in disgrace.
1. These people are about to degrade the noble achievements of their ancestors. And this is a true characteristic of a nation that has rejected God. When they have rejected Him, the next thing to do is to throw away all the sacred memories of the past, and to nullify their meaning.
2. These people are far more careful about their own comfort than the memories of their past history. They would a great deal rather undo the achievements of their ancestors than lose their own eyes.
3. These people were willing to degrade themselves by the breaking of a Divine Law. They wanted to make a covenant with the Ammonites, which bad been strictly forbidden by God. This is just what we might have expected. It is only natural that, after they had dethroned the Divine Being, they should infringe His law.
4. These people are degraded by doubting the bravery of their country. When citizens lose confidence in their defenders it is a sure sign that elements of weakness are mining the society prejudicial to its welfare. May we never lose faith in the heroism of our country!
III. These enemies and this degradation came immediately after the nation had rejected God in proclaiming the new king.
1. As a reminder. To make the Israelites very careful in their revolution, and to give them to feel that although they had got a king, he could not remove them from the touch, nor could he shelter them from the displeasure of God.
2. As a prognostication. That notwithstanding their rejoicing at the public recognition of the new king, the future history of the nation could not be altogether smooth and glad. It was the calm before the tempest, and the invasion by the Ammonites was the first peal of thunder announcing the nearing storm. Lessons--
The relic of Jabesh-Gilead
Primitive though the state of society was in those days in Israel, we are hardly prepared to find Saul following the herd in the field after his election as king of Israel. We are compelled to conclude that the opposition to him was far from contemptible in number and in influence, and that he found it expedient in the meantime to make no demonstration of royalty, but continue his old way of life. Human life was of so little value in those Eastern countries, and the crime of destroying it was so little thought of, that if Saul had in any way provoked hostility, he would have been almost certain to fall by some assassin’s hand. It was therefore wise of him to continue for a time his old way of living, and wait for some opportunity which should arise providentially, to vindicate his title to the sceptre of Israel. Apparently he bad not to wait long--according to Josephus, only a month. The opportunity arose in a somewhat out-of-the-way part of the country, where disturbance had been brewing previous to his election (1 Samuel 12:12). Very probably the Ammonites had never forgotten the humiliation inflicted on them by Jepthah, when he smote them “from Aroer, even till thou come to Minnith, even twenty cities, and till thou come to the plain of the vineyards, with a very great slaughter.” Naturally the Ammonites would be desirous both to avenge these defeats and to regain their cities, or at least to get other cities in lieu of what they had lost. The history of the Israelites in time of danger commonly presents one or other of two extremes: either pusillanimous submission, or daring defiance to the hostile power. In this case it was pusillanimous submission, as indeed it commonly was when the people followed the motions of their own hearts, and were not electrified into opposition by some great hero, full of faith in God. But it was not mere cowardice they displayed in offering to become the servants of the Ammonites; there was impiety in it likewise. For of their relation to God they made no account whateverse By covenant with their fathers, ratified from generation to generation, they were God’s servants, and they had no right voluntarily to transfer to another master the allegiance which was due to God alone. And it was not a case of necessity. Instead of humbling themselves before God and confessing the sins that had brought them into trouble, they put God altogether aside, and basely offered to become the servants of the Ammonites. How often do men virtually say to the devil, “Make a covenant with us, and we will serve thee”! Men and women, with strong proclivities to sin, may for a time resist, but they get tired of the battle; they long for an easier life, and they say in their hearts, “We will resist no longer; we will become your servants.” They are willing to make peace with the Ammonites, because they are wearied of fighting. “Anything for a quiet life!” They surrender to the enemy, they are willing to serve sin, because they will not surrender the ease and the pleasures of sin. But sin is a bad master; his wages are terrible to think of. The terms which Nahash offered to the men of Jabesh-Gilead combined insult to injury. “On this condition will I make a covenant with thee: that I, may thrust out all your right eyes, and lay it for a reproach unto all Israel.” “The tender mercies of the wicked are cruel.” But Nahash was comparatively merciful. He was willing to let the men of Jabesh off with the loss of one eye only. But as if to compensate for this forbearance, be declared that he would regard the transaction as a reproach upon all Israel. “All the people lifted up their voices and wept.” It was just the way in which their forefathers had acted at the Red Sea; and again, it was the way in which they spent that night in the wilderness after the spies brought back their report of the land. But, as in the two earlier cases, there was a man of faith to roll back the wave of panic. As we are thinking how well Saul has acted on this occasion, we perceive that an old friend has come on the scene who helps us materially to understand the situation. Yes, he is all the better of Samuel’s guidance and prayers. The good old prophet has no jealousy of the man who took his place at the bead of the nation. But knowing well the fickleness of the people, he is anxious to turn the occasion to account for confirming their feelings and their sins. Seeing how the king has acknowledged God as the Author of the victory, he desires to strike while the iron is hot. “Come,” he says, “let us go to Gilgal, and renew the kingdom there.” (W. G. Blaikie, D. D.)
1. It is often true in life that circumstances drive us to make approaches which are not congenial. Men are driven by stress of health or poverty, or some form of perplexity not easily to be named in words, to offer to nut themselves into relations with people whom under other circumstances they would never treat with. Such facts in life we are bound to recognise. And it would betoken a poor quality of nature on our part to associate with such recognitions too severe a moral condemnation. Our common proverb is to the effect that “adversity has strange bedfellows.” The men of Jabesh-Gilead, therefore, must be regarded as persons who are under oppressive circumstances, and who are willing to make the best of conditions which are very galling and humiliating.
2. No language is too severe to condemn the barbarous cruelty of Nahash; at the same time he only shows what we might be under circumstances of equal temptation and pressure. When we see how man can treat man, we are enabled to reason upwards, and to see how possible it is for man to treat God profanely and blasphemously. When man loves God he loves his neighbour also; but when man ceases to love his neighbour, and then passes from mere displeasure to positive and cruel hatred, it is easy for him to carry the spirit of hostility further and to include in its base action even all that is heavenly and Divine. The moment we can treat a man unjustly and cruelly we have disqualified ourselves for true prayer and real communion with Heaven. Let there be no mistake about this matter. We cannot give up our philanthropy and retain our Christianity.
3. Saul was engaged in his usual pursuits. The King of Israel was actually discharging offices with the herd in the field, attending to the wants of his cattle, and otherwise going about his business soberly and quietly. No intimation of unusual circumstances seems to have reached him. How unconscious we sometimes are of the circumstances which are nearest to us--unconscious, that is to say, of their real import and deepest meaning! When we think all is proceeding as usual we may be within touch of some occurrence that will determine all the remaining actions of our life The commonplace and the marvellous often lie closely together. The picture, then, is that of a great man attending to simple daily duties, and it will be a sad day for any people who imagine that simple daily duties are not worthy of the dignity even of the greatest man. Society has a right to expect great things from great men. No greater tribute could be paid to Saul than that; threatened and despairing men should appeal to him in the time of their agony. The men who shouted, “God save the king,” did not pay Saul so fine a tribute as the men who came to him in their extremity and asked for his sympathy and assistance. No sooner had Saul heard the condition proposed by the King of Ammon than he burned with anger. We can best describe a certain quality of anger by tracing it to the direct action of the Spirit of God. Truly, there is a holy indignation. The sublime enthusiasm of Saul kindled the faith of the people. A modern commentary, referring to this passage, has the following illustrative remarks:--“It was owing to some influence of a similar nature that, with scanty numbers, ill-armed, and ill-trained, the Swiss won for their land centuries of freedom on memorable fields like Laupen and Morat, though the proudest chivalry of Europe was arrayed against them. It was the same spirit which impelled the peace-loving traders of the marshes of Holland to rise as one man, and to drive out forever from their loved strip of Fenland the hitherto invincible armies of Spain. No oppressor, though backed by the wealth and power of an empire, has over been able to resist the smallest people in whose heart has burned the flame of the Divine fire of the fear of the Lord “All these circumstances would be of little or no concern to us if they did not point to a great spiritual reality. Tremendous foes besiege us on every side. What is our defence in such time of assault? It is the fear of the Lord, the Spirit of God, the Divine energy. God delights in humbling the boastful and vainglorious “He that exalteth himself shall be abased.” Presumption is always self-defeating; it is so in business, in war, in statesmanship, and in every act and department of rational life.
4. Notice that this was not entered upon without preparation. There was no rush or haste in the matter. Sometimes we proceed most swiftly when we seem to advance most slowly. There should be a time for gathering strength together, measuring the situation in all its dimensions, consulting Divine decrees, and putting the soul into right relations with God. After such preparation everything will go rapidly. Every stroke will be a victory.
5. A fit ending to a tragical process Gilgal was a sanctuary. After great doings on the field of battle we must return to the house of prayer, we must, indeed, return to the place where we began. We should enter upon no conflict until after we have been in the sanctuary, and having completed the conflict we should return to the altar. Enter upon nothing that cannot be sanctified at holy places and by holy names. There is nothing too insignificant to be associated with the most solemn acts of worship; or if we are conscious of such insignificance, we should not undertake the affairs which admit of its application. Learn the useful lesson that Saul did not thrust himself into prominence, and that even after he was appointed king of Israel he went about his usual avocations until there was something worthy of kingliness to be publicly done. Let us be rebuked in so far as we have supposed that we were released from duty until some great and critical occasion arose. Having obtained our literary prize, let us go home and take up the business of life in a quiet way. Do not think that anything which nature or society requires at us is below our dignity because we have achieved this or that popular success. (J. Parker, D. D.)
His anger was greatly kindled.
My subject is Divine indignation--its advantage, its characteristics, and its limitation.
I. Mark the advantage of a good, wholesome indignation. The situation was a critical one. Only a month before, as the LXX give the date, Saul had been anointed king. But it is a weak, disjointed realm of which he is made the head--weak because attacked from without, doubly weak because disunited within. Give Saul a few years of peace, and he will have a chance to produce a different state of affairs, instead of that God sends the young king and young kingdom through a very baptism of fire and blood. And Israel heard, and the people lifted up their voice and wept--wept in impotent helplessness, wept in pity for their brothers, wept in pity for themselves, because in their own opinion they can do nothing. You may have seen, in an occasional fit of repentance, a man who has sold himself body and soul to drunkenness. You may have heard the maudlin sobs in which he humbles himself because he has been such a ten-times fool as to suffer this enemy to encamp within the frontier lines of his life. And you may have seen him slip back to his vice with the tears of shame not quite dry on his cheeks. The man is not the stronger for those tears; he is the weaker. That was like the state of Israel. There never will be help in such tears while the world lasts. Jabesh-Gilead could weep for itself; even the empty eye sockets which Nahash meant to leave them would still be of use for that. Jabesh-Gilead wants something harder than tears; God’s cause wants more than melancholy shakings of the head. God and Israel want a man with a man’s heart within him and a man’s hand on a sword hilt; and so the Spirit of the Lord came upon Saul when he heard those tidings and his anger was kindled greatly. We want something more of that indignation--eager, hot, fiery--which will burn out evil in the hearts and lives of men. Both in the Church and in the market the world needs men who have the courage of their convictions, and who dare act on them. Of such as will shake their heads sagely over the rottenness of this old world we have enough and to spare. Of an idle and ignorant tolerance we have over much. There are some things in human life which should never receive quarter--selfishness, cowardice, and all lying. Give up lamenting for one half hour, and do something to rid the earth of these, something to cleanse your own life of these, and you will not go back to the weeping, having found the better way. The Saga of our pagan ancestors imagined human life as a great tree whose roots were set deep in the earth while the branches towered up to heaven. But a great snake gnawed at the trunk continually, and would, so ran the tale, bring it to the ground one day. There is that great three-headed snake, which is gnawing still at the trunk of our social and national life, and its three heads are faithlessness, lust, and drunkenness. It is time that vain regrets were done with, that weak and mean excuses for these things were put away, and that the Church, believing in her Divine Head, awoke to her part as a company of those who are banded together to do battle to the death against those things which rot the heart out of life. Who will go forth unto the war with us against these? The effort is useless without a spark of God’s own righteous indignation in the hearts of men.
II. Mark the characteristics of this indignation. “Human anger resents the hurt, Divine anger resents the wrong.” Can you make the distinction, for it is a weighty one? It was the foul wrong meditated against Israel and through Israel against Jehovah, which passed like fire into Saul’s blood Divine anger hates sin because it is sin. There is many a man who repents of his sin after it has been found out. Here one who regrets his drunken habits after they have cost him his situation. So long as they only threatened to cost him his soul he heeded not. There one who sorrows over her shattered reputation after it is published to the world. So long as only God knew it did not greatly matter. It is a cruel and bitter mistake, that of hating sin’s results instead of loathing sin itself. It came to pass that Jesus was led up to Pilate to be tried for His life, and there He was scourged and condemned. And when all this was so fully under way that no human power could stop it, Judas went up to the temple, and, scattering his blood money before the priests, went out into the darkness and hanged himself. All earth and hell might have laughed to scorn the man’s folly. Was his sin made any greater because the crucifixion resulted from it? Was that traitor kiss made any blacker because it led to the darkness of Joseph’s tomb? No. We need to see sin as God in heaven sees it, and that was one reason why the Cross was set up on Calvary, that we might know how sin appears in the eyes of Him who made us.
2. Another characteristic of this Divine indignation I would have you notice: It is not selfish; it is for God’s glory. Mark this in Saul’s action. A month or so before, when he was crowned king, certain men would not have him as their ruler. And now, when he comes back victor, his supporters urge him to bring out these men and to slay them without ruth. But with kingly self-command Saul refuses. His sword is to be drawn against the enemies of God, not against the foes of his own fame. His indignation is hot against Ammon, for Ammon is Jehovah’s foe. His indignation is nil against these men, for they are only his private enemies. Human indignation is often selfish; Divine anger is fired at any indignity done to God’s glory. Cannot one see the distinction in our Lord’s own life? When His enemies railed at Him as a man gluttonous and a wine bibber, He held His peace, or only uttered words of solemn warning Against their wilful closing of their eyes to the light. But when He saw the temple courts choked with the tables of the money changers, and the pavements defiled by the sellers of pigeons and lambs, He took a lash of knotted cords and bound it round His hand and drove them out. And when He saw the Pharisee taking the very kitchen spices of the widow, but hold himself free, He spoke words which fell like molten metal on these men. It is easy to see when we are hurt, easier to resent it. That is very human. It is Divine when a man sees his brother made in the image of God outraged, and keep all his indignation tot the cause of God. Suspect your auger when there is self-interest in it; trust it when it burns hot for justice to your brother.
III. Mark the limitation of this indignation. I mean that it will not, that it cannot make up the whole of religion. It needs more than hate of wrong to do that; it needs the love of right. Religion is to love God even more than to hate the devil; and the latter is most valuable when it is a means of leading to the former. I have spoken already of how woefully Saul fell away from this position in which he here stands. He fought for God against Ammon when fighting against Ammon did him no hurt. He fought against God in hunting down David, when David’s life seemed to threaten his throne. His indignation burned hot where his self-interest was not involved; but it went out with a hiss when that can came into play. It is only the fine flame of love--love to right and truth and fair play, love to Jesus Christ--which will bear a man through life scathless, and at last present him faultless at Christ’s appearing. Do not be content till you have gained that. For indignation melts in the fierce flame of passion, and hatred of wrong vanishes when wrong ministers to one’s own wishes. (A. C. Welch, B. D.)
It is pleasant to record of Lord Byron (amidst so much of an opposite character), that in his boyhood at Harrow, finding a new scholar, suffering, like himself, from lameness, he said, “Let me know if any fellow bullies you, and I’ll thrash him if I can!” The boy, who became a clergyman in afterlife, never forgot this piece of chivalry.
And he took a yoke of oxen.
Rallying to the King’s standard
Everything seems to point to this as the time when a decisive blow may be struck. If we are only equal to the situation, we may do something effectual in our time for the spread of the kingdom of God. I daresay you remember that scene in Scott’s ‘Lady of the Lake,’ where Roderick Dhu gathers the clan to war by sending through the land the cross dipped in blood. Wherever the symbol went there was a general uprising, and Norman left his new-made bride and took hold of the consecrated symbol, and rushed forth to rouse the land, and all the minor duties were absorbed in the one great and one all-absorbing duty to the cross. Oh, would that this spirit possessed all the clansmen of Jesus, and when He sends His Cross through the land let us not remain among our joys or sorrows or minor duties, but let us rally to His side and strike for victory. And into this missionary crusade we may enter with every assurance of success. (Hugh Brown.)
Caesar might never have conquered Britain if his standard bearer had not aroused the soldiers by leaping into the water and rushing for the shore and many a splendid possibility is lost for lack of enthusiasm to lead off. We seem afraid of it; we put off our boots and dabble about the edge of it, but catch us tripping and taking a header! (Weekly Pulpit.)
There shall not a man be put to death this day.
A magnanimous king
Louis XII of France is known in history as a most magnanimous prince towards his enemies. On his accession he caused a list of these to be drawn up, and marked against each name a black cross. This was looked upon by them that they were singled out for punishment, and they accordingly fled. When Louis heard of it, he had them called into his presence and assured them that they had no cause for alarm, since the reason why he had placed the cross against their names was to keep him in mind of the Cross that brings pardon to all. Among those who sought his pardon at this time were the magistrates of Orleans, who had subjected him to such indignities while he was detained as a prisoner in their city. Their deputation he dismissed courteously with the generous reply that “it did not, become the King of France to resent the injuries of the Duke of Orleans.” Of a like spirit was Lord Nelson, who penned in his cabin on the morning of the battle of Trafalgar: “May humanity after victory be the predominant feature in the British fleet.” (Charles Deal.)
The best way to conquer an enemy
Henry IV of France was wont to say that he was able to conquer all his enemies, by treating them with such clemency and kindness when they were in his power that they were changed into loyal subjects.
Come and let us go to Gilgal and renew the kingdom there.
The renewing of the kingdom!
“Gilgal!” The word means a wheel, a revolution. And is not the great circumference of the year, measured as it is by a few hundred days in the poor chronicle of our lives, but by hundreds of millions of miles in the celestial spaces--is it not just rounding up into longer light, and beginning its benevolent motion for us afresh? We hear, too, of “the renewing of a kingdom”; and those words impress us at once with some idea, though it may be an indistinct one, of a renewal nearer home, that we are to solemnize; more important to us than the sweep of an unconscious planet, than the changes of empire past or to come, or any of the outward distinctions of the world. The shadows of the future gathered over Samuel’s serene brow and his religious spirit; and he replied in the words that I have read: “Come, and let us go to Gilgal, and renew the kingdom there.” That had been a hallowed place from the time that the Hebrew tribes entered the land. It had been consecrated by religion and good success. There was the proper spot to repeat their vows, to remember their obligations. It was aloof from public clamour and the highways of ordinary life. There, where the Almighty bad “rolled away the reproach” of His people, in the time when He alone was acknowledged as their sovereign, should they repeat their allegiance to the new monarch whom they had chosen. There, in the face of that dread majesty, soberly and apart, and not in the stir of a sudden triumph, and not among the scenes of everyday passions, they should “renew the kingdom.” Let the engagements that are made with a man’s self be now established. Let the hopes of a Christian soul receive an increasing lustre. Let the pledges you owe to the powers of heaven be cheerfully brought.
I. We may observe, in the first place, that we are now “renewing the kingdom” of our earthly days. The year is renewed for us. The light is a little earlier in the eastern sky, and lingers a little upon its farewell in the west as if nature was unwilling to bring two of its greatest dreads upon man at once--at least in their fullest degree--the darkness gives way as the cold increases. A new account is opening with Time, that rigorous master. But bow, you may ask, can we make any compact with him? He calls all seasons and places and lives his own. His dominion is absolute. He accepts no conditions from us. Without asking whether or not we are ready to confirm his authority, he will lead us through his inevitable changes, he will bring us down to his universal level of dust. And yet, when we confront him, with God to help, and in the holy places of our nature, we feel that we are possessed of a dominion more enduring than his own; that we have thoughts which are independent of him, and hopes beyond his reach. We can oblige him to serve our best interests, which we are apparently but the subjects of his despotic rule. We are apt to consider him as a tyrant, the enemy of human liberty and enjoyment, inaccessible to pity, and producing but what he means to desolate. His symbol is the falling sands of an hourglass. His crown is an eternal baldness. His sceptre is a scythe for all the green growths of mortality. But we are thus paralysing our proper strength, and undervaluing our real importance in the comparison with him. What has Time to do with any of the conclusions of the reason, or any of the fruits of the Spirit; with the very thought of duty, or the recompenses of its award? The soul, in its purest exercises, soars far above him; and in its farthest abstractions cannot see that he exists. But call him a real king; and invest him with all the majesty that timid fancies have conceived. Even then we may meet him upon grounds of mutual respect. We may call a convention with him at Gilgal. We may stipulate concerning some of the powers of his government. We may say to him with firmness, and so that he shall be influenced by what we say--Sire, we are your children, in truth; we are your subjects, beyond the subjection that any earthly monarch receives or claims. Our limbs are at your disposal, and our furrowing cheeks, and the locks of our heads. Our treasure is yours, to consume or to divide. Our blood is yours, to chill in the veins of our age, or to shed by calamitous appointments. We offer you no resistance. But for all this you must perform something on your part. You must bestow upon us opportunity. You must yield to us supplies. The means of knowledge and improvement you must not, only leave unviolated, but increased. You must observe the just limits of your sway. The rights of conscience and of the whole mind you must scrupulously respect. You must lay no tyranny upon our honest wills. You shall not blight our hearts, through fear of you, with any of the strokes of that despotism to which we have surrendered our persons. So will we, on this new year’s day, stand in our Gilgal, and “renew the kingdom“ with you there.
II. I now ask you to turn away from Time, and from every dominion of an outward sort, and consider the empire that is within us. Here we have to deal, indeed, with ourselves only. But that does not exclude the danger of being deceived, and oppressed, and defrauded. Evil temptations will arise, and unwise counsellors. Despotism will be attempted. Anarchy will be afoot. There will be rebellion. Licentious principles will spurn at the wholesome restraints of law. Ignorance will mistake, and presumption will be daring. Let us, in this respect above all others, “renew the kingdom” today. If the same prophet whom I have imagined speaking before, should again take up his parable, he would say:--
1. Now “renew” your good resolutions. What an uncertain kingdom is that of our purposes! We determine and fall short. We attempt in a feeble way, and fail, as every thing that is feeble must. Some tell us that we can do nothing if we try; and others tell us that we can gain nothing if we succeed. Fablers! We depend as much at least on the struggles that we make as on the destiny that is ordained. To aspire is better than the contented fool’s best portion. To work towards an approved end is infinitely richer than any counted and measured success.
2. “Renew” your affections. Balance them, and let none of them act the absolute king. Purify them from their soils. Brush away the rust and the dust that have gathered upon them from vulgar uses or a base inaction. Send them forth with a clearer light and a more blessed efficacy. Bring into a beautiful order the dispositions that bind you to your kindred, to your house, to your friendships, to your country, and to your kind.
3. “Renew” the course of your meditations upon the subjects that concern your most intimate welfare. You may find something faltering and unsettled in them. Establish the principles of your judgment. Bring your conclusions into a harmony. Set up within you a Divine and submissive order, that shall be after the pattern of that eternal one, in the circles of which you dwell.
4. “Renew” your faith. Is not that a kingdom of itself? Is there any thing to be compared to its undecaying dominion? It stands nobly apart from the world’s turmoil, the world’s command, the world’s destruction. You can receive no such strength as flows from that. It is all unsettled in your thoughts. You have allowed momentary interests to intercept its everlasting light. You bays allowed a shallow and sluggish scepticism to affront its all-embracing principles. Renew the kingdom of the immortal in the breasts that will soon cease to beat. Renew it, though in the absence of what you desire. Renew it, though in the face of discouragements. Renew it, in its simplicity, in its sovereign beauty, in its reasonableness, in its might. He who came to confirm the best truth with which such a faith is connected, when he ate “the last supper” with His disciples, said, “I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom,” We perceive that He was speaking, not of a kingdom that was subject to time; not of one that was to be established in His own heart, for nothing there needed confirming; but of that state of peace and glory which is preparing beyond this world’s troubles, by the faithful deeds of man, and the abundant love of his Maker. Let every believer anticipate it. Let him labour towards it. Let him make himself a believer indeed. (N. E. Frothingham.)
The oath of fidelity that Israel universally swears to the new King, where note
1.Samuel’s sublime wisdom in making no motion nor mention of this covenant of the kingdom, at Saul’s first election, while the people were generally disaffected towards him, because of his mean extract, rustic life, etc., but now when Saul had given them such eminent proofs of his valour and virtue, and when God had honoured him with so glorious a victory, which had made the people place their affections upon him both eagerly and unanimously; then doth Samuel strike while the iron was hot and set in with this fit season.
2. Samuel calls a general assembly from Jabesh to Gilgal, which was in their way home to most of them, but more especially because it was a place famous for many public conventions there kept, and particularly for the covenant renewed by Joshua, between God and the people, when God rolled away reproach from Israel in their circumcision, therefore was the place called Gilgal, which signifies rolling, etc. (Joshua 5:8.)
3. Here, he said, the people made Saul king, whereas it was the Lord’s immediate act to constitute him king, chap. 8, 9, and 10:1, and the people only accepted of that election the Lord had made for them, recognising the first Act by a renewed universal consent. All now personally swearing allegiance to him to prevent any future factions and insurrections, etc.
4. The ceremonies of Saul’s inauguration before the Lord, and His prophet Samuel, some suppose to be these.
──《The Biblical Illustrator》