1 Samuel 14:45). This mutability in Saul and changeable nature, in falling from clemency to cruelty, from piety to profanity, from a good governor to become a tyrant, doth show that these virtues were not thoroughly grounded in him, but only superficially infused" (Wallet). Let us regard him as a pattern of a principle which ought always to be exhibited. His generosity toward his enemies was shown -
I. UNDER STRONG PROVOCATION, arising from -
1. The recollection of their past conduct towards himself (1 Samuel 10:27). He could not altogether forget it, and when he was disposed to put it away from his thoughts, he was reminded of it by others. Nothing is more provocative of wrath than brooding over the wrongs that have been received. On the other hand, the surest way to forgive is to forget.
2. The feeling of natural resentment toward them. "Revenge is sweet," say men who are not restrained by Divine wisdom and grace; and they are especially apt to say it when they have the power to avenge themselves, and when they persuade themselves that justice and prudence require that the wrong should not go unpunished. They do require it, doubtless, in some eases; but how large a place does the desire of gratifying personal animosity hold in most instances in which men seek to inflict punishment on others. "Say not, I will do so to him as he hath done to me: I will render to the man according to his work" (Proverbs 24:29; Proverbs 20:22).
3. The urgency of others. Men are only too prone to indulge wrath without such an incitement, but they are often led by it to go beyond their own judgment and feeling, and he who, like Saul, overcomes it gains a double victory. "Thereby he gained another victory -
(1) over himself - he restrains himself in the exercise of a right;
(2) over the anger of those who demanded that justice be executed;
(3) over his former opponents, who now clearly see that which, under the influence of haughty contempt, they had doubted; and
(4) over the whole people, who must have been carried along by him in the path of noble moral conduct, and lifted above themselves to the height on which he stood" (Erdmann).
II. IN A ROYAL MANNER. "There shall not a man be put to death this day."
1. Promptly. If he had waited till the morrow his purpose might have changed. When a generous emotion fills the heart it should be at once translated into word and deed. First thoughts in things moral, unlike first thoughts in things intellectual, are always best. Hesitation and delay dim their brightness and weaken their power.
2. Decisively. Saul spoke like a king. He refused to stain his laurels with blood. And whilst he resolved not to punish his enemies, he declared his determination that none other should punish them. "Where the word of a king is there is power."
3. Completely. "Not a man." Not a single example was to be made, but his clemency was to extend to all. In the same royal manner we may and ought to show mercy. "Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy."
III. FROM A PROPER MOTIVE. "For today the Lord hath wrought salvation in Israel." "Not only signifying that the public rejoicing should not be interrupted, but reminding them of the clemency of God, and urging that since Jehovah had shown such clemency upon that day, that he had overlooked their sins and given them a glorious victory, it was only right that they should follow his example and forgive their neighbours' sins without bloodshed" (Seb. Schmid). Saul showed -
1. Regard for the transcendent excellence of mercy. Nothing is more beautiful or more pleasing to God, and its exercise is necessary that we may obtain mercy (Matthew 6:15). He is "merciful and gracious." "Mercy rejoiceth against judgment." (Proverbs 25:21; Romans 12:19, 20; James 2:13.)
2. Gratitude for the abounding goodness of God. His hand was fully recognised in recent victory and deliverance. His kindness to us should constrain us to be kind to others, and his forgiveness is shown to have been experienced only when it leads us to forgive (Matthew 18:35).
3. Desire for the welfare of men. "The Lord hath wrought salvation in Israel," to whom these "worthless men" belonged. Even such men are objects of his forbearance and benevolence. "He maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good" (Matthew 5:45). He does them good, and thereby seeks to subdue their hostility toward himself (Ezekiel 33:11). We ought to exhibit the same spirit, and by doing so we shall promote the general peace and happiness. "Be ye therefore merciful, even as your Father also is merciful" (Luke 6:36). - D.
1. Samuel's sublime wisdom in making no motion nor mention of this covenant of the kingdom, at Saul's first election, while the people were generally disaffected towards him, because of his mean extract, rustic life, etc., but now when Saul had given them such eminent proofs of his valour and virtue, and when God had honoured him with so glorious a victory, which had made the people place their affections upon him both eagerly and unanimously; then doth Samuel strike while the iron was hot and set in with this fit season.
Come and let us go to Gilgal and renew the kingdom there.
I. We may observe, in the first place, THAT WE ARE NOW "RENEWING THE KINGDOM" OF OUR EARTHLY DAYS. The year is renewed for us. The light is a little earlier in the eastern sky, and lingers a little upon its farewell in the west. as if nature was unwilling to bring two of its greatest dreads upon man at once — at least in their fullest degree — the darkness gives way as the cold increases. A new account is opening with Time, that rigorous master. But bow, you may ask, can we make any compact with him? He calls all seasons and places and lives his own. His dominion is absolute. He accepts no conditions from us. Without asking whether or not we are ready to confirm his authority, he will lead us through his inevitable changes, he will bring us down to his universal level of dust. And yet, when we confront him, with God to help, and in the holy places of our nature, we feel that we are possessed of a dominion more enduring than his own; that we have thoughts which are independent of him, and hopes beyond his reach. We can oblige him to serve our best interests, which we are apparently but the subjects of his despotic rule. We are apt to consider him as a tyrant, the enemy of human liberty and enjoyment, inaccessible to pity, and producing but what he means to desolate. His symbol is the falling sands of an hourglass. His crown is an eternal baldness. His sceptre is a scythe for all the green growths of mortality. But we are thus paralysing our proper strength, and undervaluing our real importance in the comparison with him. What has Time to do with any of the conclusions of the reason, or any of the fruits of the Spirit; with the very thought of duty, or the recompenses of its award? The soul, in its purest exercises, soars far above him; and in its farthest abstractions cannot see that he exists. But call him a real king; and invest him with all the majesty that timid fancies have conceived. Even then we may meet him upon grounds of mutual respect. We may call a convention with him at Gilgal. We may stipulate concerning some of the powers of his government. We may say to him with firmness, and so that he shall be influenced by what we say — Sire, we are your children, in truth; we are your subjects, beyond the subjection that any earthly monarch receives or claims. Our limbs are at your disposal, and our furrowing cheeks, and the locks of our heads. Our treasure is yours, to consume or to divide. Our blood is yours, to chill in the veins of our age, or to shed by calamitous appointments. We offer you no resistance. But for all this you must perform something on your part. You must bestow upon us opportunity. You must yield to us supplies. The means of knowledge and improvement you must not, only leave unviolated, but increased. You must observe the just limits of your sway. The rights of conscience and of the whole mind you must scrupulously respect. You must lay no tyranny upon our honest wills. You shall not blight our hearts, through fear of you, with any of the strokes of that despotism to which we have surrendered our persons. So will we, on this new year's day, stand in our Gilgal, and "renew the kingdom" with you there.
II. I now ask you to turn away from Time, and from every dominion of an outward sort, AND CONSIDER THE EMPIRE THAT IS WITHIN US. Here we have to deal, indeed, with ourselves only. But that does not exclude the danger of being deceived, and oppressed, and defrauded. Evil temptations will arise, and unwise counsellors. Despotism will be attempted. Anarchy will be afoot. There will be rebellion. Licentious principles will spurn at the wholesome restraints of law. Ignorance will mistake, and presumption will be daring. Let us, in this respect above all others, "renew the kingdom" today. If the same prophet whom I have imagined speaking before, should again take up his parable, he would say: —
1. Now "renew" your good resolutions. What an uncertain kingdom is that of our purposes! We determine and fall short. We attempt in a feeble way, and fail, as every thing that is feeble must. Some tell us that we can do nothing if we try; and others tell us that we can gain nothing if we succeed. Fablers! We depend as much at least on the struggles that we make as on the destiny that is ordained. To aspire is better than the contented fool's best portion. To work towards an approved end is infinitely richer than any counted and measured success.
2. "Renew" your affections. Balance them, and let none of them act the absolute king. Purify them from their soils. Brush away the rust and the dust that have gathered upon them from vulgar uses or a base inaction. Send them forth with a clearer light and a more blessed efficacy. Bring into a beautiful order the dispositions that bind you to your kindred, to your house, to your friendships, to your country, and to your kind.
3. "Renew" the course of your meditations upon the subjects that concern your most intimate welfare. You may find something faltering and unsettled in them. Establish the principles of your judgment. Bring your conclusions into a harmony. Set up within you a Divine and submissive order, that shall be after the pattern of that eternal one, in the circles of which you dwell.
4. "Renew" your faith. Is not that a kingdom of itself? Is there any thing to be compared to its undecaying dominion? It stands nobly apart from the world's turmoil, the world's command, the world's destruction. You can receive no such strength as flows from that. It is all unsettled in your thoughts. You have allowed momentary interests to intercept its everlasting light. You bays allowed a shallow and sluggish scepticism to affront its all-embracing principles. Renew the kingdom of the immortal in the breasts that will soon cease to beat. Renew it, though in the absence of what you desire. Renew it, though in the face of discouragements. Renew it, in its simplicity, in its sovereign beauty, in its reasonableness, in its might. He who came to confirm the best truth with which such a faith is connected, when he ate "the last supper" with His disciples, said, "I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father's kingdom," We perceive that He was speaking, not of a kingdom that was subject to time; not of one that was to be established in His own heart, for nothing there needed confirming; but of that state of peace and glory which is preparing beyond this world's troubles, by the faithful deeds of man, and the abundant love of his Maker. Let every believer anticipate it. Let him labour towards it. Let him make himself a believer indeed.
(N. E. Frothingham.)
2. Samuel calls a general assembly from Jabesh to Gilgal, which was in their way home to most of them, but more especially because it was a place famous for many public conventions there kept, and particularly for the covenant renewed by Joshua, between God and the people, when God rolled away reproach from Israel in their circumcision, therefore was the place called Gilgal, which signifies rolling, etc. (Joshua 5:8.)
3. Here, he said, the people made Saul king, whereas it was the Lord's immediate act to constitute him king, chap. 1 Samuel 8; 9, and 1 Samuel 10:1, and the people only accepted of that election the Lord had made for them, recognising the first Act by a renewed universal consent. All now personally swearing allegiance to him to prevent any future factions and insurrections, etc.
4. The ceremonies of Saul's inauguration before the Lord, and His prophet Samuel, some suppose to be these.
(1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6) (7) (C. Ness.).
(2) (3) (4) (5) (6) (7) (C. Ness.).
(3) (4) (5) (6) (7) (C. Ness.).
(7) (C. Ness.).
(7) (C. Ness.).
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