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ticular nation and at any particular time, His own secret and righteous purposes, whether of mercy or of vengeance, will be most efficaciously, promoted. He knew what king was most fitting for the Israelites: and that king he gave to them. ,"

I purpose to lay before you the leading circumstances in the conduct of Saul: and afterwards to deduce, for your edification, some of the inferences which they fuggest.

L In the early behaviour of Saul,'after the period when he is introduced in the Scriptures to our notice, there is much to prepossess us in his favour. When he is addressed by Samuel as the person' ori whom the desire of Israel should speedily be fixed; his reply bears strong indications of modesty. The fame modesty is afterwards displayed, when he hides -himself among the furniture of the tents from the choice and admiration of the people. When, by the casting of the lots before God, his appointment to the throne has been announced to the assembled tribes of Israel; he unostentatiously returns to his father's house, and disdains not to occupy himself as heretofore in the superintendence of the .-...,. ".. flocks

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flocks and herds. When the children os Belial, wicked and rebellious men, contemptuously demand; Hoiv Jhall this man save us t and despise him and offer to him no presents, no testimonies of the respect due to the delegate of Heaven: he sustains the insult with patience ; he holds his peace. When the rest of the people, warmed in their attachment to their new monarch by his victory over the Ammonites, exclaim, Who is he that said, Shall Saul reign over us? Bring the men, that we may put them to death: he strenuously interposes to save the offenders; and interposes, apparently, from motives of reverence and gratitude to God. There Jhall not a man be put to death this day: for to-day the Lord hath wrought salvation in .srael.

The fruit, however, corresponds little with the blossom. The impressions produced by early symptoms of moderation and of respect fpr his sovereign Benefactor are soon to be effaced. The hour of serious trial comes on. A vast army of Philistines invades the land. The inhabitants conceal themselves from the enemy in caves, in thickets, and among the rocks. Saul with difficulty assembles a scanty body of troops almost destitute of weapons of war. He


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has been directed not to march towards the invaders until a solemn sacrifice onto God shall have been celebrated in the camp by Samuel, who has previously fixed seven days as the period within which he shall arrive {b). For the purpose, as we may conclude, of exercising and putting to proof the faith of Saul, the approach of Samuel is delayed. The seventh day it past; and Samuel appears not. The soldiers of Saul, weary and dispirited, melt away. What measure {hall the king adopt? Shall he listen to the voice of duty, which commands him to wait with patience for the arrival of Samuel, to whom it belongs to offer the sacrifice; and ia pious confidence to leave the event to God? Or ihall he listen to political expediency, which tells him that he has tarried feveu days, according to the set time that Samuel appointed {c): that the absence of the prophet beyond the appointed time will be a sufficient apology, though he mould perform the sacrifice himself: and counsels him to perform it immediately, lest the forces which yet remain mould desert him? Saul, impatient and weak in faith,

(i) See ch. x. 7, 8. (c) Ch. ziii. 8.

snatches snatches at the seeming advantage of the moment: and shrinks not from purchasing it at the price of disobedience. He calls for burnt-offerings and peace-offerings. Scarcely has he made an end of offering the burnt-offering, when Samuel arrives. Saul endeavours partly to extenuate, partly to vindicate his conduct ; pleads the critical emergency ; and talks of having reluctantly forced himself to undertake the sacrifice. The prophet at once cuts off all excuses by a declaration, to the truth of which the understanding and the conscience of the king bear witness: Thou hajl done foolijljly: thou hajl not kept the commandment of the Lord thy God, which he commanded thec. And he proceeds to inform the disobedient monarch, that had he been faithful under this trial of humility, his kingdom should have been for ever established by the Most High: but that now the Lord has sought out a man after his own heart, and ordained him to be captain over his people, because thou, O Saul, hajl not kept that which the Lord commanded thee. Thou haft done . Jbolijhly: thou hajl not kept the commandment of the Lord thy God. .... ...

In the next memorahle circumstance in the conduct of Saul, the folly of sir*x ifi


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exemplified by an instance of extreme rashness and violence. God, by a miraculous interposition of his power overthrows before Jonathan the host of the Philistines. Saul, breathing vengeance against them, and apprehensive that, if the Israelites shall pause to take the smallest refreshment, an additional number may escape, Jlraitly charges the people with an oath, Cursed be the man that eateth any food until evening; that J may be avenged on mine enemies. What are the consequences of this adjuration? In the first place the Israelites are distressed with extreme faintness through want of sustenance: and the slaughter of the Philistines proves far less extensive than it might have been had their pursuers been allowed to refresh themselves, although in the most hasty manner, with the honey, which they found in great abundance in a wood through which they pasted. Iri the next place, Saul'brings a curse upon, the head of his own son. Jonathan, not having been present when his father boundi all the people by oath to abstain during the whole of the day from' food j eats a small quantity of honey in the wood. The duty of habitual circumspection and the exceed".. ing jinfulnefs offtn, are not seldom IndiVol. II. X cated

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