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and slanderers ? What pretensions can grounds is the New Testament so much more David have to be called the man after God's express in forbidding a malicious spirit, and own heart, who so totally differs from that inculcating the very opposite than the Old ? Being, the peculiar feature of whose charac- Is this difference between them to be ascribed ter is love and mercy? Is it surprising that to any change in the divine mind respecting we should act up to these harsh expressions, social duties? Is it requisite that, like a when they are so often brought before our human code of laws, the bible needs additions notice in the psalms read during public ser- and improvements, as the light of each sucvice? And, since we never hear that David ceeding age suggests them, or according to was reproved or punished for having uttered the talents and virtues of each succeeding lawthem, may we not plead his example to ex-giver? Far otherwise : God, the Author of cuse or even justify the like? Such lan- scripture, is “the same yesterday, to-day, and guage, if suffered to pass unheeded, would for ever," the same benevolent and gracious certainly lead him who uses it directly into Being; and his notions of moral rectitude sin, and ultimately into scepticism and dis- have ever been the same from the creation. belief; and to guard you, therefore, against We must ascribe then the above difference to the guilt and danger of this course, I shall the peculiar circumstances of the nation, for make the seemingly uncharitable wishes oc- whose especial use the Old Testament was curring throughout the above book a special for a time designed-I mean the Jews. Insubject of my discourse; and may it, through dependently of that hardness of heart, in conthe divine blessing, be the means of prevent- sequence of which God, as Christ informs us, ing you from wresting the words of life to was, as it were, constrained to bear with them your own destruction !
in many things, and possibly in an unchaTo this purpose I shall first attempt to ritable spirit among the rest, there were a show that, granting David really expressed multitude of drawbacks to prevent them these unkind feelings, we are hereby by no cherishing the contrary, were it ever so fully
warranted to copy his example ; or forcibly enjoined. These drawbacks were secondly, to prove he never at all expressed peculiar to and inseparable from their civil them; thirdly, shall point out the real mean constitution. They owed their establishment ing of the passages in question ; concluding, to the judgments inflicted upon Egypt by fourthly, with a few short practical obsery- their great lawgiver before their eyes; and ations.
they afterwards extended their power by I. To bear out my first proposition, I may either the subjection or extermination of the remark that the New Testament much more adjoining nations. Surely these circumstan fully dwells on, and more earnestly enforces ces were very far from recommending a mild the duties of forgiveness and forbearance and forgiving disposition. Their laws, morethan the Old. Indeed, on the very first over, had a tendency to discountenance it. glance at each, you will agree with me. They were forbidden any communication Christ and his apostles warn us against the with the surrounding states: the idolater was slightest tendency to malice and revenge: stoned without respect to age or sex; and the they affirm the mere rising of them in the same severe punishment was prescribed for the heart partakes of the nature and guilt of infidelity of a wife, and the irreclaimable dismurder, and insist on the kindliest feelings to obedience of a child. Besides, their frequent persons of every country, sect, and party. intestine disputes and quarrels and the putting The law of Moses, however, which was the to death of individuals by the divine persole rule of David's conduct, is compa- mission or command, would deaden the Jews ratively silent on these branches of religion. in a great measure to social feelings. God It prescribed indeed the love of our neigh- forbid this representation of their government boar, but did not define who that neighbour should tempt us to cavil at the conduct of its was; and accordingly we may conclude, from hcavenly Ruler! far be the impious thought! what our Saviour says on one occasion, that Every proceeding of his springs from and the Jews, were so blind or so perverse as to tends unto the truest love and mercy, though suppose it authorized the hatred of all not the why and wherefore may in some cases be immediately connected with them. It di- hidden from our short-sighted faculties. But rected, at the best, a good action should be I ask, whether, living as he did under this done to others; but as for calling down preparatory, and therefore, in a sense, imGod's blessing on the evil-doer, and praying perfect dispensation, it should appear surfor his forgiveness and amendment, on these prising that David was wanting in what we points—and in these, be it remembered, the should consider a truly Christian temper, esvery essence of love consists—it scarce said pecially when we take into consideration the any thing. Now it may be asked, on what great provocations he received, many of
which he complains of in the psalms. I al- , and therefore it may be as a general rule
logy in our behalf. To appeal to David's Surely, then, to shelter ourselves under his sentiments and language as a precedent for example, and plead the laws of Moses to ex. ours is not mere presumption, it is folly; for cuse or justify our own revengeful conduct, is that precedent has no existence. David nomost absurd, insomuch so that carrying the where uses them. “I speak as to wise meu: like mode of reasoning and acting into the judge ye” the truth of my assertion from ordinary affairs of life would convict us of a what I am about to say. want of common sense. For who would Now the benevolent spirit that breathes listen to us, if, found guilty of any crime, we through several of the psalms, forms a should demand a reversal of the sentence presumptive evidence in his favour. If there from the case of one who could plead certain be any duties which, next to the worship and circumstances in extenuation of his offence? love of God, he singles out for commend. if, condemned to death for robbery or ation, they are those of kindness and goodmurder, we should argue, because another will to man, and the contrary qualities repeatwho stole a trifle under strong temptation, or edly incur his severest reprobation. To cite shed his neighbour's blood in self-defence, all the passages to the purpose would exhaust escaped with a light penalty, that therefore your patience ; a few only will suffice. No less we ought also to be leniently dealt with ? than six times does he pronounce the meek Brethren, let us subject ourselves to David's the favourites of heaven, with reference both dangers and persecution before we presume to this world and the next. The fifteenth to plead his example. Divine mercy might psalm is intended to point out the qualihave “ rejoiced against judgment,” in con- fications for an entrance into the celestial sideration of the many trials to his temper he Zion. Of these, charitable words and actions underwent; but assuredly"judgment without are stated to form an essential part, since it is mercy” will be ours, whose wrongs are implied therein that not only he who “ backnothing compared with his. Again: should biteth with his tongue,” but in any way any one among us, on being condemned“ doeth evil to or taketh up a reproach under a recent act of parliament, assert his against his neighbour,” shall be excluded innocence, because all earlier aets were silent from his Maker's presence. The whole of on his crime, would not_this defence be Ps. cxxxiii. is taken up in recommending the deemed most frivolous ? I ask you, then, if loveliness and benefit of brotherly affection ; the spirit of meekness and benevolence so and the very first verse plainly shows how strongly marks the gospel of Jesus Christ, transported its author was with the delightful not hinted at here and there, as in the Old theme: “Behold, how good and pleasant it Testament, but enforced in every book, I had is for brethren to dwell together in unity!" almost said in every page; if he, its great Besides, the psalmist declares himself
to be the ornament and subject, would not, like Moses, merciful and forgiving man, whom he so reblunt that spirit by deeds of vengeance, but peatedly commends. In Ps. vii., after encourage it by the conduct exemplified in having besought of God deliverance from his life, his death, his intercession for us ; his enemies, he pronounces the most tremenwhen his kingdom is not, as the Jewish was, dous curses against himself, had he at any established and extended' by carnal weapons, time injured or dealt vengeance on them: “O but by spiritual, by mild persuasion, and self- Lord, my God, if I have done this ; if there denying charity-I ask you, whether, these be iniquity in my hands; if I have rewarded circumstances considered, it is not this gospel evil unto him that was at peace with me (yea, of peace whereby you are mainly to regulate I have delivered him that without cause is your social intercourse?
mine enemy); let the enemy persecute my soul I trust I have satisfactorily proved that, and take it; yea, let him tread down my life granting David did express the unkind feel- upon the earth, and lay mine honour in the ings imputed to him, they admitted some ex. dust." I may observe, in passing, that cuse, on account of the dispensation under David here declares hé had absolutely rewhich he lived, and the provocations he returned good for evil: for more on this feature ceived. The former of these pleas, however, of his conduct, presently. To the same effect none of us can urge, and very few the latter; he speaks in Ps. xxxv. To this I would di
rect your particular attention, being one of dom from the Philistines, pursued him from those against which the objection, whose un place to place, drove him into banishment, soundness I am now exposing, is often raised. and took every opportunity of destroying After the verses at which offence is taken, him, in violation of repeated promises of straight follows a style of speaking most security. But how different was David's strikingly contrasted with their seeming drift. conduct! Twice he spared his enemy when in How generously does David tell us he be his hands, and he could have safely cut him haved towards his ungrateful persecutors! off; nay, he mourned over him at his death, What grief did the thought of the ruin im- composed an elegy in honour of him, and pending over their heads occasion him ! slew the Amalekite, who had presumed to What care does he take to recommend his stretch forth his hand to destroy the Lord's intercessions for them at the bar of heaven by anointed. special religious exercises! “They rewarded Again : when obliged to send an army me evil for good, to the spoiling of my soul. against Absalom, who had stirred up the But as for me, when they were sick my whole nation in rebellion, and aimed at David's clothing was sackcloth : I humbled myself crown and life, the tender-hearted father with tasting; and my prayer returned into charges his captains to spare his ungrateful mine own bosom. I behaved myself as son, and on hearing of his death is so overthough he had been my friend or brother. I whelmed with grief as to declare he would bowed down heavily as one that mourneth gladly have suffered in his stead.
16 And for his mother.” Is it likely, I ask, that David, the king was much moved, and went to the who here and in several other places not chamber over the gate, and wept; and, as he only recommends benevolence, but assures us went, thus he said: 0, my son Absalom! my he practised it in all its branches, could be son, my son Absalom! would God I had capable of offering up the most malicious died for thee. O, Absalom! my son, my execrations? Would any, save a downright son!” hypocrite (which David unquestionably was, Take one instance more : during David's if the charge against him remains disproved), retirement from Jerusalem, Shimei, a kinsbe found in the same breath extolling love man of Saul, was rude enough to insult over with the utmost rapture, and calling down his sovereign's fallen fortunes, accused him of hot burning coals on the heads of his fellow- murdering Saul's family, vented curses at creatures ? Should we not rather presume him, even cast at him stones and dirt. This
since charity hopeth all things) that the treatment he bore with the utmost resignaformer character alone is David's, that the tion; and, ascribing it to the hand of God, latter is imputed to him by some mistake? and looking for redress to him alone, forbad
Presumption, however, amounts to cer- the attendants to punish the reviler, whom tainty on further investigation. If David eventually he freely pardoned. really possessed a malevolent disposition, we We find then David, under every variety shall detect it in full action during his song of fortune, proof against the fairest temptaand chequered life. We shall find him tions to revenge. The inference is plain, from bursting into pettishness at the slightest the conclusion we should draw from a simiaffront or injury, or returning grosser treat- lar case in common life ; for, if I shewed a ment with personal violence or instant death. forgiving temper in my public conduct, this But do facts confirm this supposition ? Far would be the clearest proof of my private otherwise. Single out the graces which most prayers and wishes being consistent with it distinguish him, and without a moment's Ml. It remains therefore, thirdly, that I hesitation you will fix on meekness and for- point out the real meaning of those passages bearance. Save in the murder of Uriah, which give less favourable views respecting when, hurried on to it by an unruly passion, David's character. he was almost, so to say, beside himself, and Now the greater number of them may be for which he paid most dearly, no hasty set in a charitable light by the alteration word (at least scripture is so far silent) ever or omission of one little word. Take these escaped his lips*, no malicious action was ever expressions, for instance, in Ps. xxxv. committed by himself or at his suggestion and cxl., “Let hot burning coals fall upon Nay, he kept his temper under probably the them : let them be cast into the fire, into severest provocations that ever fell to the lot deep pits, that they rise not up again; let of man. The jealous Saal, so far from protect them be confounded and put to shame that ing and rewarding the saviour of his king- seek after my soul: let them be turned back * There seems but one exception-his passionate
and brought to confusion that devise my hurt.” purpose against Nabal, which he did not
carry into In these and many other places, of which part execution (1 Sam. xxv.).
of my text forms one, the whole force of the
crestina les in the word " let;” so that, if it word rendered here bell properly signifying te stit out or exchanged for another word, the grave. 156 naning of the sentence is completely. Bat, though the barsbaess of several pas2 'Erld. That word is “shall,” the corres. sages may be explained away by either bading term in the Hebrew, the original regarding David as a prophei
, foretelling language of the Old Testament, which im. therein the destruction of God's enemies and pies merely a thing “ will," instead of a of his own, or by ascribing them to others,
with it may" take place, the signification some, to make iben speak charitably and of the former expression "let.” The paseages consistently, must be dealt with differently, just cited, together with several similar ones In these, the form of imprecation is, beyond in which we read “let,” may therefore be question, used; and the Almigbty is called translated : “They shall fall away like water en by name to inflict vengeance on the that runneth apace; and, when they shoot psalmist's adversaries. Take the beginning out their arrows, they shall be rooied out : of my test as a specimen : "Break their they shall consume away like a snail ; teeth,' God, in their mouths: smite the they shall not see the sun.” How, then, did jawbones of the lions, O Lord;” and a few David speak bat as a prophet ? as oné in- , besides. “Destroy thou them, o God: let spired to foresee that the ill-treatment of them fall by their own counsels: cast them Shimei, Absalom, and others towards him, out in the multitude of their transgressions ; would rebound with tenfold force upon them for they have rebelled against thee: cast selves? A view of near events would surely forth thy lightnings, and scatter them: shoot be vouchsafed to him, by whom the more out thine arrows, and destroy them: lift distant were described ages before they came up thyself, thou Judge of the earth : render a to pass. Moreover, St. Peter actually applies reward to the proud." Now in these and certain verses in Psa. .xix. and cix. to the such like places we can by no means suppose death of Jp'as Iscariot, and to the vacancy that David called on God to punish any in the apo wlic office it occasioned; which merely as his enemies; for this would be to the inconsiderate would interpret as most leave bim as much disgraced as ever. We horrid curses denounced by David on some must view him in a fairer light, as the repreof his own acquaintances: "For it is written sentative of a very true believer, as having in the book of Psalms, Let his habitation be God's glory and the church's welfare most desolate, and let no mau dwell therein; and at heart. And what wonder that this zealous his bishopric let another take.” Even with saint, viewing the multitudes of disbelieving, out this explanation, we might be certain the ungodly men countenanced and encouraged objectionable language in the latter psalm by Saul's influence and example, should could not have been that of the son of Jesse beseech God to punish them for their profit; uttered in his individual capacity, since, in and, should this course fail, to snatch them the midst of these imprecations, he thus away in order to prevent them corrupting awfully calls down the curse of God on others? What wonder he should intreat him those who vented curses against others : to depress the mighty and confound the pre“ His delight was in cursing; and it shall dent, that they might hence learn humility, happen unto him: he loved not blessing; resignation, and self-distrust; yea, to afflict therefore shall it be far from him : he clothed and destroy their bodies, that their souls himself with cursing like as with a raiment; might be saved in the day of the Lord ? Thus and it shall come into his bowels like water, shall the wicked and the righteous be suitably and like oil into his bones.” Those impre- affected; the former, in the words of the Recations, therefore, it has been plausibly ar- velation, being “affrighted” at the judgments gued, are not the imprecations of David inflicted upon others, “ shall give glory to the against his enemies, but of his enemies God of heaven;" the latter, in the language against him; and are probably the revilings of the psalm that contains the text, “i shall of Shimci 'in the day of his distress, rejoice when he seeth the vengeance of the though in a secondary sense applicable to Almighty” executed : " he shall wash his the traitor Judas. However, whoever ut- footsteps in the blood of the ungodly, tered them, they are obviously not those of whom, through divine assistance, he hath David; and I'veed only add under this vanquished, “ so that a man shall say, verily head, that the strong expressions in Ps. Iv., there is a reward for the righteous; doubt“Let death seize upon them; and let less there is a God which judgeth the earth." them go down quick into hell,” are merely IV. By way of practical conclusion, I a prediction of Alitophel's untimely fate for may, in the first place, caution all who hear leaguing with Absalom against his sovereign; me, but more especially those endued with and even these admit of a milder sense, the but a moderate share of learning or under
standing, to treat the books of scripture with hereafter. Thus may you accommodate the reverence and respect, not to be too hasty predictions and denunciations of the inspired in passing censure upon passages which prophet to the effusions of private prayer and perhaps they do not understand, or to lay the solemnities of public worship ; thus pray that as an objection to the scriptures which may with the spirit, and pray with the understandbe entirely owing to their own mistakes. For ing also, and make the seemingly most objecinstance, the psalms may have seemed at tionable passages conduce to the edification first sight to contain many exceptionable and salvation of yourselves and others. phrases; and you may have wondered that so But, lastly, has any one among you wilfully many run in the form of imprecations, so misunderstood those passages? Has he unimuch at variance with the spirit of the formly prayed against his enemies, wished gospel, and with their general drift and them every evil, rejoiced in their discomfiture, tenor. But, when duly explained and set in and in defence of this unchristian conduct a proper light, has not the objection vanished? pleaded that of David? Let him, through has not what was obscure been rendered clear, God's blessing, be convinced and converted and what contradictory consistent? From by this vindication of the man after God's this
, beware of charging any blemish on the own heart from the charges which ignorance, seriptures when the fault must be in your own prejudice, and infidelity would bring against eye-sight, or the wrong light you regard them him. If David has been hitherto his pattern in: rather, in subservience to the enlighten- and prompter to malevolence, let him henceing grace of the Holy Spirit, apply for the forth excite him to every branch of charity, satisfying your doubts to some pious student lest David rise up in judgment against him, or learned minister of God's word : he will and condemn him who has sinned under the doubtless tell you that many passages, which peculiar advantages of having the gospel of you complain you can neither understand peace for his rule and the Prince of peace for nor profit by, contain a spiritual sense, which his example. Let him imbibe the spirit of you may lawfully put upon them, though at that petition in our comprehensive litany, in the present day it would be decidedly wrong which, were David present at its recital, le to deal so with the literal; and that these, so would doubtless cordially join : “ From understood, you may make the subjects envy, hatred, and malice, and all_unchaof your private study and the guides of your ritableness, good Lord, deliver us." Let him daily praetice almost equally with the con- copy the pattern of One far greater than fessedly plain and practical portions of that David, beseeching pardon for his murderers word.
with his expiring breath: “Father, forgive And this remark applies to the case before them; for they know not what they do." Let us : though it would be gross presumption to him ever repay blessings for curses, benefits foretell, in the words of David, the destruc- for wrongs, as he would himself bé blessed tion of the wicked, or to denounce God's and benefited by heaven, and escape the senjudgment on them, yet you may allowably tence reserved in the councils eternity make them bear on your own times and cir- against the unforgiving and unrelenting cumstances. For instance, are there any servant*. departing from the truth as it is in Jesus, and do you fear being vanquished by their * It may be added to the argument of this sermon arguments or entangled by their devices ? that we are never to forget that the words penned by Pray to God that he would arm you with was he, the divine Spirit, that spake by the mouth
David were really prompted by the Holy Ghost. It the sword of the Spirit, even the word of of David ; so that the curses we may find in a book truth ; that he would put into your mouth of scripture are not to be taken as the malevolent many a powerful text of scripture to baffle imprecations of one man upon another, but as the all carnal reasonings and human artifices. awful doom pronounced by the Judge of the earth
upon his rebellious enemies. ---ED. Are there any of your friends, relatives, or neighbours, indifferent about the one thing needful, without a thought beyond the grave? Beseech him that by some temporal affliction he may awaken them to a sense of their everlasting interests. Is your own heart the most dangerous because the most deceitful of your enemies, chaining your affections down to earth by the enchantments of pleasure or the cares of business? Earnestly entreat him that by some timely corrections here he may preserve you from endless woes