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William M. (William Mackergo) Taylor.

David, king of Israel: his life and its lessons online

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ings, were afraid to tell him that all was over. But they
need not have been so timid ; for, though exceedingly honor-
able to them, the fear lest the knowledge of the child's death
should thoroughly unman the king, proceeded from ignorance
of his true character. He knew that in the case of an infant,
when death comes, the time for fasting and grieving is over,
and so he arose and washed, and anointed himself, and went
into the house of God and worshiped ; "then he came to his
own house ; and when he required, they set bread before him,
and he did eat." Astonished at his behavior, his servants
asked for an explanation. He gave this noble answer, evi-
dencing at once the strength of his character and the firm-
ness of his faith in the future life : " While the child was yet
alive, I fasted and wept : for I said, Who can tell whether



288 DAVID, KING OF ISRAEL.

God will be gracious to me, that the child may live ? But
now he is dead, wherefore should I fast ? can I bring him
back again ? I shall go to him, but he shall not return to
me." Here was true resignation. Here was strong faith.
Here was a holy and a glorious hope alike for the living
and the dead and in the assurance of future and eternal
reunion before the throne he was comforted.

For when the royal mourner says, " I shall go to him,"
we must not so empty his words of all meaning as to sup-
pose that he refers simply to the grave. What comfort was
there in the mere idea of having his body laid beside the
dust of his infant ? That was not a " going to him " in any
sense that could give the least satisfaction to his afflicted
heart. Hence his language implies far more than that, and
intimates that he had a firm conviction of his child's con-
tinued existence and present happiness ; while at the same
time he cherished for himself the hope of entering in due
season into the enjoyment of similar felicity. David's resig-
nation, therefore, was not a mere stoical submission to the
inevitable, still less was it a stolid insensibility ; but it was
the result of his persuasion of the happiness of his depart-
ed child, and of his humble hope of joining him therein.
Like Paul Gerhardt, the prince of German hymnologists, he
might have sung :

" Oh that I could but watch afar,

And hearken but a while
To that sweet song that hath no jar,

And see his heavenly smile,
As he doth praise the holy God
Who made him pure for that abode ;
In tears of joy full well I know
This burdened heart would overflow !

"And I should say, Stay there, my son,
My wild laments are o'er ;



THE BEREAVEMENT. 289

Oh well for thee that thou hast won :

I call thee back no more !
But come, thou fiery chariot, come,
And bear me swiftly to that home
Where he with many a loved one dwells,
And evermore of gladness tells.

" Then be it as my Father wills,

I will not weep for thee :
Thou livest, joy thy spirit fills,

Pure sunshine thou dost see
The sunshine of eternal rest :
Abide, my son, where thou art blest :
I with our friends will onward fare,
And, when God wills, shall find thee there."

I can not pass from this subject without endeavoring, while
our interest is still fresh in it, to embody its practical teach-
ing in a few particulars. Notice, then, in the first place, that
the illness and death of little children may be intimately
connected with the conduct and spiritual history of the par-
ents. No doubt they belong to a tainted race, and come
into the world with the sentence hanging over them, " Dust
thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return." But, over and
above the evidence which their death furnishes of their con-
nection with Adam, we see from the case before us, that it
may also be in some way or other caused or connected with
the character of their immediate parents. Far be it from
me to say, that whenever infants die, there must have been
some foregoing iniquity in father or mother to cause it, like
as it was in the history before us. It is not for man to as-
sume the prerogative of God, and positively assert in any
case what Nathan, as God's prophet, asserted here. But
still, God's providence is conducted on moral principles, and
the death of infants is one way in which he may either visit
parents with the penal consequences of their sin, or lead
them to thoughtfulness, and quicken their spiritual life. And

13



290 DAVID, KING OF ISRAEL.

when such events occur in our own family history, it becomes
us to look well into our own hearts and see if we can dis-
cover what God's design in the dispensation is. It may be
that we have been allowing the things of this world to usurp
too large a portion of our attention, or to intrude into the sa-
cred domain of the heart, where God alone should reign ; and
he takes this plan to arrest us, and compel us to face eter-
nity, with its infinitely momentous things. Perhaps we may
have been permitting ourselves to become enslaved by some
degrading habit, flattering ourselves all the while that there
is no guilt in it, and that when we please we can break away
from it ; and he sends the death-angel for our little one, as
he sent Nathan to David, to stir our consciences into activ-
ity, to 1 show ourselves to us, to awaken us to penitence, and
to bring us back to the paths of purity and of liberty. Or,
yet again, we may be ourselves unconverted, and, as the
surest means of engaging our hearts to heavenly things, God
takes the little one who is the light of our eyes to heaven.
Very touchingly is this view presented in the life of Sandy
Robertson, by Dr. Guthrie, in " Lost and Found." This poor
boy, who had been reclaimed by means of the ragged school,
was lying dying, and was greatly concerned about his god-
less mother. He often implored her to seek the kingdom
of heaven ; and one day telling Dr. Guthrie of a visit paid to
him by the Rev. James Robertson, of Newington, whose con-
versation and prayers he much enjoyed, he said, " ' Oh, how
nice he spoke to my mother ! On going away, he said to her,
' Now, before I go, I will tell you a story. There was a man
that had a flock of sheep, which he wished to remove from
one field to another, and better pasture. There was one
sheep refused to go, and ran hither and thither. The man
did not stop to follow that sheep, to drive and force it through
the gate. No, but he took her lamb and laid it in his bosom,
and carried it in his arms, and the sheep followed her bleat-



THE BEREAVEMENT. 291

ing lamb, and was soon safe and happy in the sweet, rich
pasture.' " So it has often been, and the words of the proph-
et have had a new verification, "A little child shall lead
them." But why need I enlarge here? As with afflictions
of other kinds, the death of infants may have a corrective, a
restorative, or a preventive power on the parents and other
members of the family to which they belong, and so their
sufferings have in them not a little of that vicarious element
which, in a unique and mysterious degree, distinguished the
sufferings and death of Christ. Hence, so far from saying,
when a little one is removed, "Oh, it is only a child," there
are elements about such a dispensation which ought to lead
us to look upon it as peculiarly solemn, carrying in it most
needful discipline and most salutary influence.

But, in the second place, we learn from this touching epi-
sode in David's life, that the surest solace under the afflic-
tion and death of infants is in God. David prayed, and
though the life of the child was not given to his tearful en-
treaties, it would be a mistake to suppose that his supplica-
tion was unanswered. The reply came in the shape of that
strength which enabled him to become at once so calm, and
that faith which helped him to manifest such thorough res-
ignation. It would neither have been good for David him-
self, nor for the people over whom he ruled, if his prayer had
been literally granted. Hence, in that form in which he
presented his petition, it was refused ; but it was good for
him to draw near to God for all that, and when we see him
going up with such composure to the house of God, we learn
that he had not prayed in vain. His tears of weakness had
brought down God's strength. His earnest cry had received
an answer similar to that vouchsafed to the repeated prayer
of Paul : " My grace is sufficient for thee. My strength is
made perfect in weakness." Oh, what should we do in times
of family distress, if we could not lay our case before the



292 DAVID, KING OF ISRAEL.

Lord ? Blessed solace of prayer ! the tumult of the spirit is
hushed by thy soothing influence ; and if we could be cast
where prayer is stifled, and supplication impossible, that
were to our miserable souls the very centre of hell. In all
trials, therefore, and especially in the dark hour of family be-
reavement, let us repair to "the mercy-seat."

Finally, we may learn from David's words here, that we
may cherish the most unwavering assurance of the salvation
of those who die in infancy. Even in the comparative dark-
ness of the Jewish dispensation, the Psalmist had the fullest
persuasion of the eternal welfare of his baby-boy ; and, un-
der the Gospel economy, there are many things revealed
which tend to make the doctrine of infant salvation per-
fectly indubitable. Not to refer to the fact that, as they
have committed no actual transgressions, little children do
not personally deserve condemnation, and may, therefore,
presumably be regarded as included in the provisions of
the covenant of grace, there are certain things which to my
mind place the doctrine to which I refer beyond all ques-
tion.

In the first place, there seems to me a moral impossibility
involved in the very thought of infants being consigned to
perdition. For what are the elements in the punishment of
the lost ? So far as we know, they are these two, memory
and conscience. But in an infant conscience is virtually
non-existent. Moral agency and responsibility have not yet
been developed, and so there can be no such thing to it as
remorse.

Again : memory has nothing of guilt in an infant's life
to recall, and so it seems to me to be utterly impossible to
connect retribution of any sort in the Other world with
those who have been taken from the present in the stage
of infancy.

But, in the second place, there are positive indications



THE BEREAVEMENT. -293

that infants are included in the work of Christ. I grant at
once that there is no one passage which in so many words
makes the assertion that all who die in infancy are eternally
saved ; but then we may not wonder at the absence of such
a declaration, since it would have been liable to great abuse;
and we do not need to regret that we have it not, because
there are many passages which very clearly imply it. Thus
Jesus said of infants, " Of such is the kingdom of heaven."
This does not mean only, as some would have us to believe,
that the kingdom of heaven consists of persons resembling
little children. The word translated " of such " has evident-
ly a definite reference to children themselves, and has else-
where been employed in that way by the Saviour himself.
Thus, when he says, " The hour cometh, and now is, when
the true worshipers shall worship the Father in spirit and
in truth : for the Father seeketh such to worship him," he
clearly means, the Father seeketh these to worship him. I
might quote others to the like effect, but that will suffice to
show that the phrase " Of such is the kingdom of heaven,"
is equivalent to "Of these is the kingdom of heaven." This
view of the matter is confirmed by the fact that the Saviour
gives these words as a reason for his taking up little chil-
dren into his arms; for if the ground of his procedure were
simply that the adult subjects of the kingdom of heaven are
child-like, the same sort of reason might have led him to
take up lambs in his arms and to bless them ; inasmuch as
the adult members of his kingdom should resemble lambs
in some respects just as really as they should resemble chil-
dren in others. Some, however, would interpret the words
on which I am now commenting by these others, uttered by
Jesus on another occasion : " Verily I say unto you, whoso-
ever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he
shall not enter therein ;" as if that expression implied " with
a child-like disposition ;" but that is not the construction of



294 DAVID, KING OF ISRAEL.

the words. Let the ellipsis be supplied, and then it will be
seen that even this expression bears out our view, for it
reads thus : " Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of
heaven as a little child receives it ;" and this confirms our
interpretation of the other passage. But some may allege
that the phrase " the kingdom of heaven " does not refer to
future glory, but to Christ's kingdom upon earth ; and to
these we reply : True, it does refer to Christ's kingdom upon
earth, but it does so only because that is a province of the
one great kingdom which, having Him as its head, stretches
into eternity. That it refers to the kingdom on earth, is our
warrant for receiving little children into the Church below ;
and that it refers to the kingdom in heaven for the king-
doms are but one is the ground of our hope in the salva-
tion of little children eternally.

Then, passing from the domain of argument, we may af-
firm that the whole tone and spirit of the Gospel favors the
idea of infant salvation. The Saviour was peculiarly tender
to the little ones. It was foretold regarding him that he
should carry the lambs in his bosom ; and the infinite suffi-
ciency of his grand atonement would seem to me shorn of
half of its glory, if it were not available for little children.
Let us, therefore, take to ourselves, without let or abate-
ment of any sort, the rich consolation which this doctrine
affords. Let the bereaved parents among us dry our tears.
As the good Archbishop Leighton has it, " Our children have
but gone an hour or two sooner to bed, as children used
to do, and we are undressing to follow, and the more we
put off the love of this present world, and all things superflu-
ous beforehand, we shall have the less to do when we lie
down."

Let us consider to whom they have gone. They have
been taken to the arms of Jesus, and to the bright glory of
the heavenly state. Nothing now can mar their felicity, or



THE BEREAVEMENT. 295

dim the lustre of their joy, or damp the ardor of their song ;
and could they speak to us from their abode of bliss, they
would say to us, " Weep not for us, but weep for yourselves,
that you are not here to share our happiness."

Let us consider from what they have been taken. They
have been removed from earth, with its pains and privations,
its sufferings and sorrows. Looking back upon our own
checkered histories, could we contemplate without a feeling
of grief the idea of our children passing through such trials
as those which have met us in the world ? Would we wish
that their hearts should be wrung as ours have been by the
harshness of an unfeeling world, or by the ingratitude of
those whom they had served. Nay, in view of the pang of
our bereavement, would we wish that a similar sorrow should
be theirs ? Yet does not their continuance in the world in-
volve in it the endurance of all these things ? and ought it
not, therefore, to be a matter of thankfulness that they have
reached heaven without having tasted the full bitterness of
this world's woes ? Above all, can we contemplate the spir-
itual dangers with which the world is environed, and not feel
grateful that our departed little ones are now eternally safe
from them ? Let us think of the temptations that have beset
us, and of the dreadful battles which we have had with them ;
and how near we were to being conquered by them, and then
let us say if in this view we can feel otherwise than glad that
they have gained the victory without the perils and hard-
ships of the fight. Perhaps, had they been exposed to these
dangers, they would have fallen before them ; perhaps, had
they lived, they would have grown up only to fill our hearts
with sadness, and to bring our heads with sorrow to the
grave ; but all this is now impossible, for they are safe with
Jesus. It is hard to part with our children, but the death of
our little ones is not the heaviest calamity that could befall
us. A living cross is heavier than a dead one. And the



296 DAVID, KING OF ISRAEL.

sadness of David's soul over this little one was as nothing,
in comparison with the agony that rent his heart when Ab-
salom chased him from his palace, and went down into a
hopeless tomb.

Let us consider, again, for what our little ones have been
taken. Perhaps we have been wandering away from Christ,
and he has taken this way to bring us back. Perhaps we
have never known him, and he has taken this way of intro-
ducing himself to us, coming to us as he did to his followers
of old, over the very waves of our trouble, and saying to us,
" It is I, be not afraid." Perhaps some other member of
our family was to be led through this affliction to the Lord,
and thus one little one was taken from us for a season, that
both might abide with us forever in the heavenly land. And
if this should be so, can we, dare we repine ?

Let us consider, finally, how this bereavement over which
we mourn will appear to us when we come to die ourselves.
I have seen mothers and fathers not a few at that solemn
hour, but never one have I heard expressing anxiety for the
little children who had gone before them. The great con-
cern, then, was for those they were leaving behind. The
Lord thus is afflicting us now, that our sorrow may be miti-
gated at the last. Let us think of these things, and then the
bereavement of our little ones will seem to be, as it in reali-
ty is, a token of love, and not of anger.

" Oh, not in cruelty, not in wrath,

The reaper came that day ;
'Twas an angel visited the green earth
And took the flowers away."

But the appropriation to ourselves of all these consolations
implies that we are ourselves journeying heavenward. Da-
vid says, " I shall go to him !" Bereaved parents, are you
advancing toward heaven ? If you are not, then none of



THE BEREAVEMENT. 297

these comforts are yours. Your little ones shall indeed be
saved, but you yourselves shall never be reunited to them.
A great gulf shall be eternally fixed between you and the
home which they have entered. Must this be so ? You re-
member how you felt when you laid them in the tomb, and
how, for the time, you were stirred up to think of God and
Christ ; but these emotions are gone now, and you are worse
than ever, yea, living in folly and sin. Let the memory of
your departed little ones this night stir you into religious
earnestness.

Years ago, when I was leaving my Liverpool home to ful-
fill an engagement in the city of Glasgow, the last sight on
which my eye rested was that of my little daughter at the
window in her grandmother's arms. As the carriage drove
me away, she waved her hand in fond and laughing glee, and
many a time during my railway ride the pleasant vision came
up before my memory, and filled my heart with joy. I nev-
er saw her again ! The next morning a telegram stunned
me with the tidings of her death; and now that earthly
glimpse of her has been idealized and glorified, and it seems
to me as if God had set her in the window of heaven to
beckon me upward to my eternal home. I would not give
that memory for all the gold of earth. I would not part
with the inspiration that it stirs within me for all that the
world could bestow. But, my bereaved friends, is it not
true of you also, that God has made heaven more attract-
ive to you by reason of the presence of your little ones
in it ? Will you not yield yourselves to the influence of
this celestial magnetism ? See how their angel hands are
beckoning you upward ; hark how the very song they used
to sing with infant voice comes floating down into your
ears:

" Come to this happy land,
Come, come away !"

13*



298 DAVID, KING OF ISRAEL.

Oh, do not resist the appeal, but give yourselves henceforth
unreservedly to Jesus, and make this your prayer :

" Lord God the Spirit ! purify

tyty thoughts, bind fast my life to thee ;
So shall I meet my babes on high,
Though they may not return to me."*

* I can not forbear referring here to a work on this subject, which is
a perfect treasure-house of consolation to those who have suffered from
this domestic sorrow. It is out of sight the best book of the kind which
I have ever seen. The title is "Words of Comfort for Parents bereaved
of Little Children." Edited by William Logan : New York, Carter
Brothers.



XVII.

THE REVOLT OF ABSALOM.
2 SAMUEL xiii., 1-16 ; xiv.

WITH the birth of Bath-sheba's second son, a gleam of
gladness seems to have shone in upon David's house.
The prophet Nathan intimated that the child was an object
of God's peculiar affection, and in the names which the king
bestowed upon him we may see some indications of return-
ing happiness, for he called him Solomon, the peaceful, and
Jedidiah, the beloved of the Lord. But the dark cloud of
retribution still hovered over the palace, and ere long there
flashed from it such lightning bolts of judgment as humbled
the monarch in the dust, and tended to bring his gray hairs
with sorrow to the grave. The particulars are detailed with
painful minuteness in the chapters which now lie before us ;
but, without entering upon them all, it will be enough that we
indicate the more important of them, and draw from them
the lessons for the teaching of which the harrowing history
has been here preserved.

The physical beauty which distinguished the sons of Jesse
seems in David's family to have specially descended to his
children by Maacah, the daughter of Talmai, the heathen
King of Geshur ; for it is recorded of Absalom that " in all Is-
rael there was none so much to be praised for his beauty;
from the sole of his foot even to the crown of his head there
was no blemish in him ;" and of his sister Tamar it is said
that she was fair to look upon. Unfortunately for her, this
personal attractiveness made her the object of an unholy
passion on the part of her half-brother Amnon, who, having



300 DAVID, KING OF ISRAEL.

accomplished his purpose, aided by the diabolical assistance
of an unprincipled man, who seems to have been permanent-
ly connected with the court, turned her away dishonored from
his door. Just then, with ashes on her head, and her gar-
ments rent, and crying bitterly, she was met by her brother
Absalom, who, discovering the reason of her sorrow, counsel-
ed her to silence, and took her to his own home, where she
remained desolate. Of course a scandal of this sort was sure
to be talked about, and tidings of it came at length to Da-
vid's ear. He was very wroth ; but that was not all. His
heart must have been deeply distressed by the knowledge of
his son's great wickedness, while yet the consciousness of his
own similar iniquity kept him from publicly punishing him
for his crime. The penalty of this transgression, according
to the Mosaic law, was death ; yet, if that were by him to be
insisted on in the case of his son, where would he be him-
self? So, weak from the consciousness of his own trespass,
he was constrained to take no notice of this revolting crime,
though we may be sure that he must have keenly felt the an-
guish of soul which every right-hearted parent experiences
in seeing the wrong-doing of his children.

The inaction of David, however, only stirred up Absalom
the more resolutely to seek revenge ; for, since her father
took no notice of such a deed, it devolved on him, as the full
brother of Tamar, to espouse her cause. Nor need we won-
der that he should have been indignant at the treatment to
which she had been subjected. We should have thought less
of him if he had continued to be as friendly with Amnon as
before. But though Oriental custom may be pleaded in ex-
tenuation of his after-conduct, to which we have a parallel
in that of Simeon and Levi, in circumstances very similar
to those before us, yet he had no right, under the Mosaic in-
stitute, to take the law into his own hands, still less to exe-
cute it in so cunning and revengeful a spirit as that which he



THE REVOLT OF ABSALOM. 301

evinced. It seems that he had a sheep-farm at Baal-hazor,
and at the end of two years he invited all the king's sons to
the great festival of the sheep-shearing. He wished David
also to be present, but the monarch declined. And when he
desired that Amnon should be permitted to go, the king at



Online LibraryWilliam M. (William Mackergo) TaylorDavid, king of Israel: his life and its lessons → online text (page 23 of 36)