John Henry Newman.

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belief—" to judge us, and go out before us, and fight our battles." By
what strange infatuation was it that they sought for a king to ^'fght
their battles,^' when through the whole course of Samuel's government, it
was so evident that God's power alone had subdued their enemies ?
There was one additional aggravation of their sin ; they had really been
promised a king, at some future time undetermined, by Moses himself ;■{■
and hence, indeed, they probably defended their asking for one. But, in
truth, that very circumstance gave to their self-will its distinctive mark
already insisted on, viz. the desire of doing things their own way in-
stead of waiting God's time. The fact that God had promised what
they clamoured for, and merely claimed to choose the time, surely ought
to have satisfied them. But they were headstrong ; and he answered
them according to their wilfulness. He " gave them a king in His
anger." David, indeed, succeeded, but the corruption and degradation
of the people quickly followed his death. The kingdom was divided
into two ; idolatry was introduced ; and at length captivity came upon
them, the loss of their country, and the dispersion, or rather annihilation
of the greater part of the tribes.

In conclusion, I will make one remark by way of applying their
history to ourselves at this day. Certainly we have not, at the present
time, learned the duty of waiting and being still. Great perils, just
now, encompass our branch of the Church : here the question comes
upon us, as a body and as individuals, what ought we to do? Doubt-
less to meet them with all the wisdom and prudence in our power, to
use all allowable means to avert them ; but, after all, is not our main
duty this ; to go on quietly and steadfastly in our old ways, as if noth-
ing was the matter ? " When Daniel knew that the writing was
signed," v.'hich condemned him to the lion's den, if he did what was
his plain duty, he did not look about to see whether he might not law-
fully suspend it for a time, or whether there were not other ways of
serving God not interdicted by the civil power, " but he kneeled upon
his knees three times a day, and prayed, and gave thanks before his
God, as he did aforetime."^ It is a very painful subject, but it is not

* 1 Sam. viii. 3. t Deut. xvii. 11—20. t Dan. vi. 10,



464 WILFULNESS OF ISRAEL. [Serm. II.

right to shut our eyes to the fact, that friends of the Church are far
more disposed to look out for secular and unauthorized ways of defend-
ing her than to proceed quietly in their ordinary duties, and trust to
God to save her. What is the use of these feverish exertions, on all
sides of us, to soothe our enemies, conciliate the suspicious or wavering,
and attach to us men of name and power 1 Rather let our resolve be,
if we are to perish, it shall be at our post of duty. We will be found
in the circle of our sacred services, in prayer and praise, in fasting and
alms-doing, " in quietness and confidence." All the great deliverances
of the Church have been thus gained. Israel stood still, and saw the
Egyptians overwhelmed in the sea. Hezekiah went up unto the house
of the Lord, and prayed to Him who dwelt between the Cherubim, and
Sennacherib's army was destroyed. " Prayer was made without ceas-
ing of the Church unto God for " St. Peter, and the Apostle was dehv-
ered out of prison by an Angel. The course of Providence is not
materially ditferent now. God's arm is not shortened, nay, nor so
restrained that He cannot save without miracles as well as with them.
He can save silently and suddenly, while things seem to go on as usual.
The hearts of all are in His hand, the issues of life and death, the rise
and fall of mighty men, and the distribution of gifts. Why then
should we fear, or cast about for means of defence, who have the
Lord for our God? He may indeed, if it so happen, make us His
instruments. He may put arms into our hands ; but even if He gives
us no tokens what He is meditating, what then ? At length our dehv-
erance will come when we expect it not ; whereas we shall lose our
own hope, and disorder the Church greatly, if we presume to form
plans of our own by way of protecting it. Jeroboam thought he acted
"wisely" when he set up the calves of gold at Dan and Bethel. Our
wisdom is like his, if we venture to relax one jot or tittle of Christ's
perfect law, one article of the Creed, one holy ordinance, one ancient
usage, with the hope of placing ourselves on a more advantageous or
less irksome position. " Our strength is to sit still ;" and till we learn
this far more than we seem at present to understand it, surely the
hopes of the true Israel among us must be low, and with prayers for the
Church's safety they will have to mingle confessions and intercessions
in behalf of those who believe themselves its prudent friends and
effective defenders, and are not.



SERMON III



SAUL.



HosEA xiii. II.
I gave thee a king in Jline anger, and took him away in My wrath.

The Israelites seem to have asked for a king from an unthankful
caprice and waywardness. The ill conduct indeed of Samuel's sons
was the occasion of the sin, but " an evil heart of unbelief," to use
Scripture language, was the real cause of it. They had ever been
restless and dissatisfied, asking for flesh when they had manna, fretful
for water, impatient of the wilderness, bent on returning to Egypt,
fearing their enemies, murmuring against Moses. They had miracles
even to satiety ; and then for a change they wished a' king like the
nations. This was the chief reason of their sinful demand. And
further, they were dazzled with the pomp and splendour of the heathen
monarchs around them, and they desired some one to fight their bat-
ties, some visible succour to depend on, instead of having to wait for
an invisible Providence, which came in its own way and time, by little
and little, being dispensed silently, or tardily, or (as they might con-
sider) unsuitably. Their carnal hearts did not love the neighb^'ourhood
of heaven; and, like the inhabitants of Gadara afterwards, they
prayed that Almighty God would depart from their coasts.

Such were some of the feehngs under which they desired a kin^
like the nations; and God at length granted their request. To punish
them, He gave them a king after their own heart, Saul, the son of
Kish, a Benjamite ; of whom the text speaks in these terms, " I crave
them a king in Mine anger, and took him away in My wrath." *

There is in true religion a sameness, and absence of hue and bril-
liancy in the eyes of the natural man ; a plainness, austereness, and
(what he considers) sadness. It is like the heavenly manna, of which
the Israelites complained, insipid and at length wearisome, " like wafers
made with honey." They complained that "their soul was dried
away:" "There is nothing at all," they said, "besides this manna,
Vol. I.~30



466 SAUL. [Serm

before our eyes. . . . We remember the fish, which we did eat in
Egypt freely ; the cucumbers, and the melons, and the leeks, and the
onions, and the garlick."* Such were the dainty meats in which their
soul delighted ; and for the same reason they desired a king. Samuel
had too much of primitive simplicity about him to please them, they
felt they were behind the world, and clamoured to be put on a level
with the heathen.

Saul, the king whom God gave them, had much to recommend him
to minds thus greedy of the dust of the earth. He was brave, daring,
resolute ; gifted too with strength of body as well as of mind, — a cir-
cumstance which seems to have attracted their admiration. He is
described in person as if one of those sons of Anak, before whose giant
forms the spies of the Israelites in the wilderness were as grasshoppers,
— " a choice young man and a goodly, there was not among the chil-
dren of Israel a goodlier person than he ; from his shoulders and up-
ward he was higher than any of the people."! Both his virtues and
his faults were such as became an eastern monarch, and were adapted
to secure the fear and submission of his subjects. Pride, haughtiness,
obstinacy, reserve, jealousy, caprice, — these in their way were not un-
becoming qualities in the king after whom their imaginations roved.
On the other hand, the better parts of his character were of an
excellence sufficient to engage the affection of Samuel himself.

As to Samuel, his conduct is far above human praise. Though in-
juriously treated by his countrymen, who cast him off after he had
served them faithfully till he was " old and grey-headed,":i: and who
resolved on setting over themselves a king against his earnest entrea-
ties ; yet we find no trace of coldness or jealousy in his behaviour
towards Saul. On his first meeting with him he addressed him^in the
words of loyalty, — " On whom is all the desire of Israel 1 is it not on
thee, and on all thy father s house ?" Afterwards, when he anointed
him king, he " kissed him and said, Is it not because the Lord hath
anointed thee to be captain over His inheritance ?" When he an-
nounced him to the people as their king, he said, " See ye him whom
the Lord hath chosen, that there is none like him among all the people."
And, some time after, when Saul had irrecoverably lost God's favour,
we are told, " Samuel came no more to see Saul until the day of his
death, nevertheless Samuel mourned for SauV^ In the next chapter
he is even rebuked for immoderate grief, — " How long wilt thou mourn
for Saul, seeing I have rejected him from reigning over Israel."! Such

* Exod. XVI. Numb. xi. 5. t 1 Sam. ix. 2.— vide 1 Sam. x. 23. t 1 Sam. xii. 2'
II 1 Sam. ix. 20. x. 1. 24. xv. 35. xvi. 1.



"^•^ SAUL. 46^

sorrow speaks favourably for Saul as well as for Samuel ; it is not
only the grief of a loyal subject and a zealous prophet, but, moreover,
of an attached friend ; and, indeed, instances are recorded, in the first
years of his reign, of forbearance, generosity, and neglect of self,
which sufficiently account for the feelings with which Samuel regarded
him. David, under very different circumstances, seems to have felt
for him a similar affection.

The higher points of his character are brought out in instances such
as the following :— The first announcement of his elevation came upon
him suddenly; but apparently without unsettling him. He kept it
secret, leaving it to Samuel, who had made it to him, to publish it.
" Saul said unto his uncle. He" (that is, Samuel) " told us plainly that
the asses were found ; but of the matter of the kingdom, whereof
Samuel spake, he told him not:' Nay, it would even seem, he was
averse to the dignity intended for him ; for when the divine lot fell
upon him, he hid himself, and was not discovered by the people with-
out recourse to divine assistance. The appointment was at first un-
popular : " the children of Belial said, how shall this man save us ?
They despised him, and brought him no presents ; but he held his
peace:' Soon the Ammonites invaded the country beyond Jordan,
with the avowed intention of subjugating it. They sent to Saul for
relief almost in despair ; and the panic spread in the interior as well as
among those whose country was immediately threatened. The sacred
writer proceeds ; ^^ 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. And the Spirit of God came
upon Saul, and his anger was kindled greatly." His order for an imme-
diate gathering throughout Israel was obeyed with the alacrity with
which the multitude serve the strong-minded in times of danger. A
decisive victory over the enemy followed : then the popular cry became,
" Who is he that said. Shall Saul reign over us ? bring the men, that
we may put them to death. And Saul said. There shall not a man he
put to death this day; for to-day the Lord hath wrought salvation in
Israel."*

Thus personally qualified, Saul was moreover a prosperous king
He had been appointed to subdue the enemies of Israel, and success
attended his arms. At the end of the fourteenth chapter we read, " So
Saul took the kingdom over Israel, and fought against all his enemies
on every side, against Moab, and against the children of Ammon, and
against Edom, and against the kings of Zobah, and against the Philis-

* 1 Sam. X. B.



468 SAUL. [Serm.

tines, and whithersoever he turned himself, he vexed them. And he
gathered an host, and smote the Amalekites, and deUvered Israel out of
the hands of them that spoiled them."

Such was Saul's character and success ; his character faulty, yet not
without promise, his success in arms as great as his carnal subjects
could have desired. Yet in spite of Samuel's private liking for him,
and in spite of the good fortune which actually attended him, we find
that from the beginning the Prophet's voice is raised both against peo-
ple and king in warnings and rebukes, which are omens of his destined
destruction ; according to the text, "I gave them a king in Mine anger,
and took him away in My wrath." At the very time that Saul was
publicly received as king, Samuel protested, " Ye have this day re-
jected your God, who Himself saved you out of all your adversities and
your tribulations."* In a subsequent assembly of the people, in which he
testified his uprightness, he says, " Is it not wheat-harvest to-day ? I
will call unto the Lord, and he shall send thunder and rain, that ye may
perceive and see that your wickedness is great, in asking you a king."
Again, "if ye shall still do wickedly, ye shall be consumed, both ye
and your king."! And after this, on the first instance of disobedience,
and at first sight no very heinous sin, the sentence of rejection is
passed upon him : " Thy kingdom shall not continue ; the Lord hath
sought Him a man after His own heart.":}:

Here then a question may be raised : — why was Saul thus marked
for vengence from the beginning? Why these presages of misfortune,
which from the first hung over him, gathered, fell in storm and tem-
pest, and at length overwhelmed him? Is his character so essentially
faulty that it must be thus distinguished for reprobation above all the
anointed kings after him T Why, while David is called a man after
God's own heart, should Saul be put aside as worthless 1

This question leads us to a deeper inspection of his character. Now,
we know, the first duty of every man is the fear of God, — a reverence
for His word, a love towards Him, a desire to obey Him ; and, besides,
it was peculiarly incumbent on the king of Israel, as God's vicegerent,
by virtue of his office, to promote His glory, whom his subjects had
rejected.

Now Saul " lacked this one thing." His character indeed is obscure,
and we must be cautious while considering it ; still, as Scripture is
given us for our instruction it is surely right to make the most of what
we find there, and to form our judgment by such lights as we possess.
It would appear then, that Saul was never under the abiding influence

* 1 Sam. X. 19. t 1 Sam. xii. 17. 25. t Ibid. xiii. 14.



Ill] SAUL. 469

of religion, or, in Scripture language " the fear of God," however he
might be at times moved and softened. Some men are inconsistent in
their conduct, as Samson ; or as Eli, in a different way ; and yet may
have lived by faith, though ^ weak faith. Others have have sudden
falls, as David had. Others are corrupted by prosperity, as Solomon.
But as to Saul, there is no proof that he had any deep-seated religious
principle at all ; rather it is to be feared that his history is a lesson to
us, that the "heart of unbehef" may exist in the very sight of God,
may rule a man in spite of many natural advantages of character, in
the midst of much that is virtuous, amiable, and commendable.

Saul, it would seem, was naturally brave, active, generous and pa-
tient ; and what nature made him, such he remained, that is, without
miprovement : with virtues which had no value, because they required
no effort, and implied the influence of no principle. On the other hand,
when we look for evidence of his faith, that is, his practical sense of
things unseen, we discover instead a deadness to all considerations not
connected with the present world. It is his habit to treat prophet and
priest with a coldness, to say the least, which seems to argue some
great internal defect. It would not be inconsistent with the Scripture
account of him, even should the real fact be, that (with some
general notions concerning the being and providence of God) he doubted
of the divinity of the Dispensation, of which he was an instrument.
The circumstance which first introduces him to the inspired history is
not in his favour. While in search of his father's asses, which were
lost, he came to the city where Samuel was; and though Samuel was
now an old man, and from childhood known as the especial minister and
prophet of the God of Israel, Saul seems to have considered him as a
mere diviner, such as might be found among the heathen, who, for " the
fourth part of a sheckel of silver," would tell him his way.

The narrative goes on to mention, that after his leaving Samuel,
" God gave him another heart," and on meeting a company of pro-
phets, " the Spirit of God came upon him, and he prophesied among
them." Upon this, ♦' all that knew him beforetime" said, " What is
this that is come unto the son of Kish : is Saul also among the pro-
phets ? . . . therefore it became a proverb." From this narrative we
gather, that his carelessness and coldness in religious matters were so
notorious, that, in the eyes of his acquaintance, there was a certain
strangeness and incongruity which at once struck the mind, in associ-
ating him with a school of the prophets.

Nor have we any reason to believe, from the after history, that the
divine gift, then first imparted, left any religious effect upon his mind.
At a later period of his^life we find him suddenly brought under the



470 SAUL. [Serm.

same sacred influence on his entering the school where Samuel taught ;
but, instead of softening him, its effect upon his outward conduct did
but testify the fruitlessness of divine grace when acting upon a will
obstinately set upon evil. *

The immediate occasion of his rejection was his failing under a spe-
cific trial of his obedience, set before him at the very time he was an-
ointed. He had collected with difficulty an army against the Philis-
tines : while waiting for Samuel to offer the sacrifice, his people be-
came dispirited, and began to fall off* and return home. Here he wcis
doubtless exposed to the temptation of taking unlawful measures to put
a stop to their defection. But when we consider that the act to which
he was persuaded was no less than that of his offering sacrifice, he be-
ing neither priest nor prophet, nor having any commission thus to in-
terfere with the Mosaic ritual, it is plain " his ybrcin^ himself" to do
so (as he tenderly described his sin) was a direct profaneness, — a pro-
faneness which implied that he was careless about forms, which in this
world will ever be essential to things supernatural, and thought it mat-
tered little whether he acted in God's way or in his own.

After this, he seems to have separated himself from Samuel, whom
he found unwilling to become his instrument, and to have had recourse
to the priesthood instead. Ahijah or Ahimeleck (as he is afterwards
called,) the high priest, followed his camp ; and the ark too, in spite of
the warning conveyed by the disasters which attended the presumptu-
ous use of it in the time of Eli. " And Saul said unto Ahijah, Bring
hither the ark of God ;" while it was brought, a tumult which was
heard in the camp of the Philistines, increased. On this interruption
Saul irreverently put the ark aside, and went out to the battle.

It will be observed, that there was no professed or intentional irreve-
rence in Saul's conduct ; he was still on the whole the same he had
ever been. He outwardly respected the Mosaic ritual, — about this
time he built his first altar to the Lord,* and in a certain sense seemed
to acknowledge God's authority. But nothing shows he considered
there was any vast distinction between Israel and the nations around
them. He was indifferent, and cared for none of these things. The
chosen people desired a king like the nations, and such a one they re-
ceived.

After this he was commanded to " go and smite the sinners, the Ama-
lekites, and utterly destroy them and their cattle." This was a judg-
ment on them which God had long decreed, though He had delayed it ;
and He now made Saul the minister of His vengeance. But Saul per-

* 1 Sam. xiv. 35.



III.] SAUL. 471

formed it so far only as fell in with his own inclination and purposes.
He smote, indeed, the Amalekites, and " destroyed all the people with
the edge of the sword," — this exploit had its glory ; the best of the
flocks and herds he spared, and why 1 to sacrifice therewith to the
Lord. But since God had expressly told him to destroy them, what
was this but to imply, that Divine intimations had nothing to do with
such matters ? what was it but to consider that the established religion
was but a useful institution, or a splendid pageant suitable to the digni-
ty of monarchy, but resting on no unseen supernatural sanction 1 Cer-
tainly he in no sense acted in the fear of God, with the wish to please
Him, and the conviction that he was in His sight. One might con-
sider it mere pride and wilfulness in him, acting in his own way because
it was his own, (which doubtless it was in great measure,) except that
he appears to have had an eye to the feelings and opinions of men as to
his conduct, though not to God's judgment. He "feared the people
and obeyed their voice." Again, he spared Agag, the king of the
Amalekites. Doubtless he considered Agag as " his brother," as Ahab
afterwards called Ben-hadad, Agag was a king, and Saul observed to-
wards him that courtesy and clemency which earthly monarchs observe
one towards another, and rightly, when no divine command comes in
the way. But the God of Israel required a king after His own heart,
jealous of idolatry ; the people had desired a king like the nations
around them.

It is remarkable, moreover, that, while he spared Agag, he attempted
to exterminate the Gibeonites with the sword, who were tolerated in
Israel by virtue of an oath taken in their favour by Joshua and " the
princes of the congregation." This he did "m his zeal to the children
of Israel and Judah."*

From the time of his disobedience in the matter of Amalek, Samuel
came no more to see Saul, whose season of probation was over. The
evil spirit exerted a more visible influence upon him ; and God sent
Samuel to anoint David privately, as the future king of Israel. I need
not trace further the course of moral degradation which is exemplified
in Saul's subsequent history. Mere natural virtue wears away, when
men neglect to deepen it into religious principle. Saul appears in his
youth to be unassuming and forbearing ; in advanced life he is not only
proud and gloomy, (as he ever was in a degree,) but cruel, resentful,
and hard-hearted, which he was not in his youth. His injurious treat-
ment of David is a long history ; but his conduct to Ahimelech, the high-
priest, admits of being mentioned here. Ahimelech assisted David in

* Josh. ix. 2. 2 Sam. xxi. 1—5.



4TO SAUL. [Srms.

his escape. Saul resolved on the death of Ahimelech and all his father's
house.* On his guards refusing to execute his command, Doeg, a man
of Edom, one of the nations Saul was raised up to withstand, undertook
the atrocious deed. On that da}^ eighty-five priests were slain. After-
wards Nob, the city of the priests, was smitten with the edge of the
sword, and all destroyed, •' men and women, children and sucklings,
and oxen, and asses, and sheep." That is, Saul executed more com-
plete vengeance on the descendants of Levi, the sacred tribe, than on
the sinners, the Amalekites, who laid wait for Israel in the way, on their
going up from Egypt.

Last of all, he finishes his bad history by an open act of apostacy
from the God of Israel. His last act is like his first, but more signifi-
cant. He began, as we saw, by consulting Samuel as a diviner ; this
showed the direction of his mind. It steadily persevered in its evil
way, — and he ends by consulting a professed sorceress at Endor. The
Philistines had assembled their hosts ; Saul's heart trembled greatly —
he had no advisers or comforters ; — Samuel was dead, — the priests he
had himself slain with the sword. He hoped, by magic rites, which he



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