John Henry Newman.

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had formerly denounced, to foresee the issue of the approaching battle.
God meets him even in the cave of satanic delusions, — but as an An-
tagonist. The reprobate king receives, by the mouth of dead Samuel,
who had once anointed him, the news that he is to be " taken away in
God's wrath," — that the Lord would deliver Israel, with him, into the
hands of the Philistines, and that on the morrow he and his sons should
be numbered with the dead-t

The next day "the battle went sore against him, the archers hit
him ; and he was sore wounded of the archers.":}: " Anguish came
upon him, "II and he feared to fall into the hands of the uncircumcised.
He desired his armour-bearer to draw his swerd and thrust him through
therewith. On his refusing, he fell upon his own sword, and so came
to his end.

Unbelief and wilfulness are the wretched characteristics of Saul's his-
tory, — an ear deaf to the plainest commands, a heart hardened against
the most gracious influences. Do not suppose, my brethren, because I
speak thus strongly, I consider Saul's state of mind to be something
very unusual. God forbid it should exist in its full misery any where
among us ! but surely there is not any one soul here present but what
may trace in itself the elements of sins like his. Let us only reflect
on our hardness of heart when attending religious ordinances, and we^-

* 1 Sam. xxii.l6. t 1 Sam. ixviii. 19. t 1 Sam. xxxi. 3, fl 2 Sam. i. 9.

III.] SAUL. 473

shall understand something of Saul's condition when he prophesied.
We may be conscious to ourselves of the truth of things sacred as en-
tirely as if we saw them ; we may have no misgivings about the presence
of God in Church, or about the grace of the Sacraments, and yet we
often feel in as ordinary and as unconcerned a mood as if we were al-
together unbelievers. Again, let us reflect on our callousness after
mercies received, or after suflering. We are often in worse case even
than this ; for to realize the unseen world in our imagination, and feel
as if we saw it, may not always be in our power. But what shall be
said to wilful transgression of God's commandments, such as most of us,
I fear, must recollect in ourselves, even as children, when our hearts
were most tender, when we least doubted about religion, were least per-
plexed in matters of duty, and had all the while a full consciousness of
what we were doing ■? What, again, shall be said to those, perhaps not
few in number, who sin with the purpose beforehand of repenting after-
wards ?

What makes our insensibility still more alarming is, that it follows
the grant of the highest privileges. Saul was hardened after the Spirit
of God had come on him ; ours is a sin after Baptism. There is some-
thing awful in this, if we understood it ; as if that peculiar hardness of
heart which we experience, in spite of whatever excellences of charac-
ter we may otherwise possess, like Saul, — in spite of the benevolence ,^
or fairness, or candour, or consideration, which are the virtues of this
age, — was the characteristic of a soul transgressing after it had " tasted
the powers of the world to come," and an earnest of the second death.
May this thought, through God's mercy, rouse us to a deeper serious-
ness than we have at present, while Christ still continues to intercede
for us, and grants us time for repentance !



Samuel xvi. 18.

Behold, I have seen a son of Jesse the Bcth-lehemite, that is cunning in playing, and
a mighty valiant man, and a man of war, and prudent in matters, and a comely
person, and the Lord is with him.

Such is the account given to Saul, of David, in man)' respects the most
favoured of the ancient Saints. David is to be accounted the most
favoured, first as being the principal type of Christ, next as being the
author of great part of^'the book of Psalms, which have been used as
the Church's form of devotion ever since his time. Besides, he was a
chief instrument of God's providence, both in repressing idolatry and
in preparing for the Gospel ; and he prophesied in an especial manner
of that Saviour whom he prefigured and preceded. Moreover, he was
the chosen king of Israel, a man after God's own heart, and blessed,
not only in himself, but in his seed after him. And, further, to the his-
tory of his life a greater share is given of the inspired pages than to
that of any other of God's favoured servants. Lastly, he displays in
his personal character that very temper of mind in which his nation, or
rather human nature itself, is especially deficient. Pride and unbelief
disgrace the history of the chosen people ; the deliberate love of this
world, which was the sin of Balaam, and the presumptuous wilfulness
which is exhibited in Saul. But David is conspicuous for an affec-
tionate, a thankful, a loyal heart towards his God and Defender, a zeal
which was as fervent and as docile as Saul was sullen, and as keen-
sighted and as pure as Balaam was selfish and double-minded. Such
was the son of Jesse the Beth-lehemite ; he stands midway between
Abraham and his predicted seed, Judah and the Shiloh, receiving and
transmitting the promises ; a figure of the Christ, and an inspired
Prophet, living in the Church even to the end of time, in his office, his
history, and his sacred writings.


Some remarks on his early life, and on his character, as therein dis-
played, may profitably engage our attention at the present time.

When Saul was finally rejected for not destoying the Amalekites,
Samuel was bid go to Bethlehem, and anoint, as future king of Israel,
one of the sons of Jesse, who should be pointed out to him when he
was come there. Samuel accordingly went thither and made a sacri-
fice ; when, at his command, Jesse's seven sons were brought by their
father, one by one, before the Prophet ; but none of them proved to be
the choice of Almighty God. David was the youngest and out of the
way, and it seemed to Jesse as unlikely that God's choice should fall
upon him, as it appeared to Joseph's brethren and to his father, that he
and his mother and brethren should, as his dreams foretold, bow down
before him. On Samuel's inquiring, Jesse said, " There remaineth yet
the youngest, and, behold, he keepeth the sheep." On Samuel's bid-
ding, he was sent for. " Now he was ruddy," the sacred historian pro-
ceeds, "and withal of a beautiful countenance, and goodly to look to:
And the Lord said, Arise, anoint him, for this is he." After Samuel
had anointed him, " the Spirit of the Lord came upon David from
that day forward." It is added, " But the Spirit of the Lord departed
from Saul."

David's anointing was followed by no other immediate mark of
God's favour. He was tried by being sent back again, in spite of the
promise, to the care of his sheep, till an unexpected occasion introduced
him to Saul's court. The withdrawing of the Spirit of the Lord from
Saul was followed by frequent attacks from an evil spirit, as a judgment
upon him. His mind was depressed, and a " trouble," as it is called,
came upon him, with symptoms very like those which we now refer to
derangement. His servants thought that music, such perhaps as was
used in the schools of the Prophets, might soothe and restore him ; and
David was recommended by one of them for that purpose, in the words
of the text : " Behold, I have seen a son of Jesse the Beth-lehemite,
that is cunning in playing, and a mighty valiant man, and a man of
Avar, and prudent in matters, and a comely person, and the Lord is with

David came in the power of that sacred influence whom Saul had
grieved and rejected. The Spirit which inspired his tongue guided his
hand also, and his sacred songs became a medicine to Saul's diseased
mind. " When the evil spirit from God was upon Saul, .... David
took an harp, and played with his hand ; so Said was refreshed, and was
well, and the evil spirit departed from him." Thus he is first intro-
duced to us in that character in which he still has praise in the Church,


as " the anointed of the God of Jacob, and the sweet psalmist of
Israel. '*

Saul ".loved David greatly, and he became his armour-bearer;" but
the first trial of his humility and patience was not over, while many
other trials were in store. After a while he was a second time sent
back to his sheep ; and though there was war with the Philistines, and
his three eldest brethren were in the army with Saul, and he had already
essayed his strength in defending his father's flocks from wild beasts,
and was a " mighty valiant man," yet he contentedly stayed at home
as a private person, keeping his promise of greatness to himself, till his
father bade him go to his brethren to take them a present from him, and
report how they fared. An accident, as it appeared to the world, brought
him forward. On his arrival at the army, he heard the challenge of the
Philistine champion, Goliath of Gath. I need not relate how he was
divinely urged to engage the giant, how he killed him, and how he was
in consequence again raised to Saul's favour ; who, with an infirmity
not inconsistent with the deranged state of his mind, seems to have
altogether forgotten him.

From this time began David's public life ; but not yet the fulfilment
of the promise made to him by Samuel. He had a second and severer
trial of patience to endure for many years ; the trial of " being still"
and doing nothing before God's time, though he had (apparently) the
means in his hands of accomplishing the promise for himself It was
to this trial that Jeroboam afterwards showed himself unequal. He too
was promised a kingdom, but he was tempted to seize upon it in his own
way, and so forfeited God's protection.

David's victory over Goliath so endeared him too Saul, that he would
not let him go back to his father's house. Jonathan too, Saul's son, at
once felt for him a warm affection, which deepened into a firm friend-
ship. " Saul set him over the men of war, and he was accepted in the
sight of all the people, and also in the sight of Saul's servants."! Thi»
prosperous fortune, however, did not long continue. As Saul passed
through the cities from his victory over his enemies, the women of Israel
came out to meet him, singing and dancing, and they said, " Saul hath
slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands." Immediately the
jealous king was " very wroth, and the saying displeased him ;" his sul-
lenness returned ; he feared David as a rival ; and " eyed him from that
day and forward." On the morrow, as David was playing before him, as
at other times, Saul threw his javelin at him. After this, Saul displaced
him from his situation at his court, and sent him to the war, hoping sa

* 2 Sam. xiiii. 1. +1 Sam. xviii. 5.


to rid himself of him by his faUing in battle ; but by God's blessing
David returned victorious.

In a second war with the Philistines, David was successful as before ;
and Saul, overcome with gloomy and malevolent passions, again cast at
him with his javelin, as he played before him, with the hope of killing

This repeated attempt on his life drove David from Saul's court ; and
for some years after, that is, till Saul's death, he was a Avanderer upon
the earth, persecuted in that country which was afterwards to be his
own kingdom. Here, as in his victory over Goliath, Almighty God
purposed to shoAv us, that it was His hand which set David on the throne
of Israel. David conquered his enemy by a sling and stone, in order,
as he said at the time, that all ... . might know " that the Lord
saveth not with sword and spear ; for the battle is the Lord's."* Now
again, but in a different way. His guiding providence was displayed.
As David slew Goliath without arms, so now he refrained himself and
used them not, though he possessed them. Like Abraham he traversed
the land of promise " as a strange land,"t waiting for God's good time.
Nay, far more exactly, even than to Abraham, was it given to David
to act and suffer that life of faith which the Apostle describes, and by
which " the elders obtained a good report." By faith he wandered about
" being destitute, afflicted, evil-entreated, in deserts, and in mountains,
and in dens, and in caves of the earth." On the other hand, through
the same faith, he " subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained
promises, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the

On escaping from Saul, he first went to Samuel to ask his advice.
With him he dwelt some time. Driven thence by Saul, he went to
Bethlehem, his father's city, then to Ahimelech the high-priest, at Nob.
Thence he fled, still through fear of Saul, to Achish, the Philistine king
of Gath ; and finding his life in danger there, he escaped to Adullam,
where he was joined by his kindred, and put himself at the head of an
irregular band of men, such as, in the unsettled state of the country,
might be usefully and lawfully employed against the remnant of the
heathen. After this he was driven to Hareth, to Keilah which he res-
cued from the Philistines, to the wilderness of Ziph among the moun-
tains, to the wilderness of Maon, to the strong-holds of Engedi, to the
wilderness of Paran. After a time he again betook himself to Achish,
king of Gath, who gave him a cityj; and there it was that the news was
brought him of the death of Saul in battle, which was the occasion of

» 1 Sam. ,xvii. 47. t Heb. xi. 9.


his elevation first to the throne of Judah, afterwards to that of all Israel,
according to the promise of God made to him by Samuel.

It need not be denied that, during these years of wandering, we find
in David's conduct instances of infirmity and inconsistency, and some
things which, without being clearly wrong, are yet strange and startling
in so favoured a servant of God. With these we are not concerned,
except so far as a lesson may be gained from them for themselves. We
are not at all concerned with them as regards our estimate of David's
character. That character is ascertained and sealed by the plain word
of Scripture, by the praise of Almighty God, and is no subject for our
criticism ; and if we find in it traits which we cannot fully reconcile
with the approbation divinely given to him, we must take it in faith to
be what it is said to be, and wait for the future revelations of Him who
" overcomes when He is judged." Therefore I dismiss these matters
now, when I am engaged in exhibiting the eminent obedience and mani-
fold virtues of David. On the whole, his situation, during these j-ears
of trial, was certainly that of a witness for Almighty God, one who does
good and suffers for it, nay, suffers on rather than rid himself from suf-
fering by any unlawful act.

Now then let us consider what was, as far as we can understand, his
especial grace, what is his gift ; as faith was Abraham's distinguishing
virtue, meekness the excellence of Moses, self-mastery the gift espe-
cially conspicuous in Joseph.

This question may best be answered by considering the purpose for
which he was raised up. When Saul was disobedient, Samuel said to
him, " Thy kingdom shall not continue : the Lord hath sought Him
a man after His ovm heart, and the Lord hath commanded him to be
captain over His people, because thou hast not kept that which the
Lord commanded thee."* The office to which first Saul and then
David were called, was different from that with which other favoured
men before them had been entrusted. From the time of Moses, when
Israel became a nation, God had been the king of Israel, and His chosen
servants, not delegates, but mere organs of His will. Moses did not
direct the Israelites by his own wisdom, but he spake to them, as God
spake from the pillar of the cloud. Joshua, again, was merely a sword
in the hand of God. Samuel was but His minister and interpreter.
God acted, the Israelites "stood still and saw" His miracles, then fol-
lowed. But, when they had rejected Him from being king over them,
then their chief ruler was no longer a mere organ of His power and
Avill, but had a certain authority entrusted to him, more or less inde-

* 1 Sara. xiii. 14.


pendent of supernatural direction ; and acted, not so much from God,
as for God, and in the place of God. David, when taken from the
sheepfolds "to feed Jacob His people and Israel His inheritance,"
" fed them," in the words of the Psalm, " with a faithful and true
heart ; and ruled them prudently with all his power."* From this ac-
count of his office, it is obvious that his very first duty was that of
fidelity to Ahnighty God in the trust committed to him. He had power
put into his hands, in a sense which neither Moses had it, nor Samuel.
He was charged with a certain office, which he was bound to adminis-
ter according to his ability, so as best to promote the interests of Him
who appointed him. Saul had neglected his Master's honour ; but
David, in this an eminent type of Christ, "came to do God's will" as
a viceroy in Israel, and, as being tried and found faithful, he is espe-
cially called "a man after God's own heart."

David's peculiar excellence then is that of fidelity to the trust com-
mitted to him ; a firm uncompromising single-hearted devotion to the
cause of his God, and a burning zeal for His honour.

This characteristic virtue is especially illustrated in the early years
of his life which have engaged our attention. He was tried therein and
found faithful ; before he was put in power, it was proved whether he
could obey. Till he came to the throne, he was like Moses or Samuel,
an instrument in God's hands, bid do what was told him and nothing
more ; — having borne this trial of obedience well, in which Saul had
failed, then at length he was intrusted with a sort of discretionary power,
to use in his Master's service.

Observe how David was tried, and what various high qualities of
mind he displayed in the course of the trial. First, the promise of great-
ness was given him and Samuel anointed him. Still he stayed in the
sheep-folds ; and though called away by Saul for a time, yet returned
contentedly when Saul released him from attendance. How difficult
it is for such as know they have gifts suitable to the Church's need to
refrain themselves, till God makes a way for their use ! and the trial
would be the more severe in David's case, in proportion to the ardour
and energy of his mind ; yet he fainted not under it. Afterwards for
seven years, as the time appears to be, he withstood the strong tempta-
tion, ever before his eyes, of acting without God's guidance, when he
had the means of doing so. Though skilful in arms, popular with his
countrymen, successful against the enemy, the king's son-in-law, and
on the other hand grievously injured by Saul, who not only continually
sought his life, but even suggested to him a traitor's conduct by ac-

* Ps. Ixxviii. 71—73.


cusing him of treason, and whose hfe was several times in his hands
yet he kept his honour pure and unimpeachable. He feared God and
honoured the king ; and this at a time of life especially exposed to the
temptations of ambition.

There is a resemblance between the early history of David and that
of Joseph. Both distinguished for piety in youth, the youngest and
the despised of their respective brethren, they are raised, after a long
trial, to a high station, as ministers of God's Providence. Joseph was
tempted to a degrading adultery ; David was tempted by ambition.
Both were tempted to be traitors to their masters and benefactors. Jo-
seph's trial was brief; but his conduct under it evidenced settled habits
of virtue which he could call to his aid at a moment's notice. A long
imprisoment followed, the consequence of his obedience, and borne with
meekness and patience ; but it was no part of his temptation, because,
when once incurred, release was out of his power. David's trial, on
the other hand, lasted for years, and grew stronger as time went on.
His master too, far from " putting all that he had into his hand,"*
sought his life. Continual opportunity of avenging himself incited his
passions ; self-defence, and the divine promise, were specious arguments
to seduce his reason. Yet he mastered his heart, — he was " still ;" —
he kept his hands clean and his lips guileless, — he was loyal through-
out, — and in due time inherited the promise.

Let us call to mind some of the circumstances of his stedfastness re-
corded in the history.

He was about twenty-three years old when he slew the Philistine ;
yet, when placed over Saul's men of war, in the first transport of his
victory, we are told he "behaved himself wisely."! When fortune
turned, and Saul became jealous of him, still " David behaved himself
wisely in all his ways, and the Lord was with him." How like is this
to Joseph under different circumstances ! " Wherefore, when Saul saw
that he behaved himself very wisely he was afraid of him ; and all
Israel and Judah loved David." Again, "And David behaved himself
more wisely than all the servants of Saul, so that his name was much set
by." Here in shifting fortunes is evidence of that staid, composed
frame of mind in his youth, which he himself describes in the one hun-
dred and thirty-first Psalm. " My heart is not haughty, nor mine eyes

lofty Surely I have behaved and quieted myself, as a child

that is weaned of his mother."

The same modest deportment marks -his subsequent conduct. He
consistently seeks counsel of God. When he fled from Saul he went

* Genesis xxxix. 4, 1 1 Sam. xviii. 5—30,


to Samuel ; afterwards we find him following the directions of the
prophet Gad, and afterwards of Abiathar the high priest.* Here his
character is in full contrast to the character of Saul.

Further, consider his behaviour towards Saul, when he had him in his
power ; it displays a most striking and admirable union of simple faith
and unblemished loyalty.

Saul, while in pursuit of him, went into a cave in Engedi. David
surprised him there, and his companions advised to seize him, if not to
take his life. They said, " Behold the day of which the Lord said unto
thee. "I David, in order to show Saul how entirely his hfe had been in
his power, arose and cut off a part of his robe privately. After he had
done it, his " heart smote him " even for this slight freedom, as if it were
a disrespect offered towards his king and father. " He said unto his
men. The Lord forbid that I should do this thing unto my master, the
Lord's anointed, to, stretch forth mine hand against him, seeing he is the
anointed of the Lord." When Saul left the cave, David followed him
and cried, "My Lord the king. And when Saul looked behind him,
David stooped with his face to the earth, and bowed himself." He
hoped that he could now convince Saul of his integrity " Wherefore
hearest thou men's words," he asked, " saying, Behold, David seeketh
thy hurt ? Behold, this day thine eyes have seen how that the Lord
had delivered thee to-day into mine hand in the cave : and some bade
me kill thee .... Moreover, my father, see, yea see the skirt of thy
robe in my hand : for in that I cut off the skirt of thy robe, and killed
thee not, know thou and see, that there is neither evil nor transgression
in mine hand, and I have not sinned against thee : yet thou huntest my
soul to take it. The Lord judge between me and thee, and the Lord

avenge me of thee ; but mine hand shall not be upon thee

After whom is the king of Israel come out ? after whom dost thou pur-
sue ? after a dead dog, after a flea. The Lord therefore judge ....
and see, and plead my cause, and deUver me out of thine hand." Saul
was for the time overcome ; he said, " Is this thy voice, my Son David ?
and Saul lifted up his voice and wept." And he said, " Thou art more
righteous than I ; for thou hast rewarded me good, whereas I have re-
warded thee evil." He added, " And now, behold, I know well that
thou shalt surely be king." At another time David surprised Saul in
the midst of his camp, and his companion would have killed him ; but
he said, " Destroy him not, for who can stretch forth his hand against
the Lord's anointed and be guiltless ?"j Then, as he stood over him, he
meditated sorrowfully on his master's future fortunes, while he himself

* Ibid. xxii. 5. 20. xsiii. 6. 1 1 Sam. xiiv. 4. 1 1 Sam. xxvi. 9.

Vol. I.— 31


refrained from interfering \yith God's purposes. " Surely the Lord shall

Online LibraryJohn Henry NewmanParochial sermons (Volume 1) → online text (page 53 of 76)