Then Nathan said to David, "You are that man! This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: 'I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you from the hand of Saul.
|A Bold Preacher||2 Samuel 12:7|
|Conviction, Confession, and Forgiveness||W. J. Bull, B. A.||2 Samuel 12:7|
|Convincing Preaching||E. P. Thwing.||2 Samuel 12:7|
|Faithfulness to God and the King||2 Samuel 12:7|
|His Natural Face in a Glass||G. Hanson, M. A.||2 Samuel 12:7|
|Nathan's Message||T. Nolan, M. A.||2 Samuel 12:7|
|No Man Impeccable||J. Styles.||2 Samuel 12:7|
|Pointed Sermons||J. Newton.||2 Samuel 12:7|
|Preaching to the Heart||H. O. Mackey.||2 Samuel 12:7|
|Sin's Selfdiscovery||R. J. Campbell.||2 Samuel 12:7|
|Tenderness of Conscience||J. Armstrong, D. D.||2 Samuel 12:7|
|The Awakening to the Sophistry of Sin||A. Brunton. D. D.||2 Samuel 12:7|
|The Fearless Preacher||Christian Commonwealth||2 Samuel 12:7|
|Awakened and Awed||H. E. Stone.||2 Samuel 12:1-14|
|David's Fall||G. T. Coster.||2 Samuel 12:1-14|
|David's Great Sin, and God's Greater Grace||J. Clifford.||2 Samuel 12:1-14|
|David's Sin and Nathan's Parable||C. S. Robinson, D. D.||2 Samuel 12:1-14|
|Definite Teaching as to Sin||H. O. Mackey.||2 Samuel 12:1-14|
|Nathan as a True Prophet||W. Smith, D. D.||2 Samuel 12:1-14|
|Nathan Reproving David||E. Harper, B. A.||2 Samuel 12:1-14|
|Nathan Sent to David||C. Merry.||2 Samuel 12:1-14|
|Nathan the Parabolist||2 Samuel 12:1-14|
|Nathan's Parable||J. Parker, D,D.||2 Samuel 12:1-14|
|Of Sell-Examination||E. M. Goulburn, D. D.||2 Samuel 12:1-14|
|Preaching to the Conscience||Alexander Smellie.||2 Samuel 12:1-14|
|Reproof by Portrait||Sunday Companion||2 Samuel 12:1-14|
|Reproving Without Offending||H. Brooke, M. A.||2 Samuel 12:1-14|
|The Force of Private Admonition||J. Trapp.||2 Samuel 12:1-14|
|The Parable of Nathan||R. Moss, D. D.||2 Samuel 12:1-14|
|Unconscious Self-Condemnation||G. Wood ||2 Samuel 12:5-7|
|Thou Art the Man!||B. Dale ||2 Samuel 12:7-10|
The proper purpose of reproof is conviction of sin.
This purpose was accomplished by the words of the prophet. They were like a "two-edged sword" (Hebrews 4:12
), the point of which was, "Thou art the man!" "If ever a word from human lips fell with crushing weight and with the illuminating power of a gleam of lightning, it was this" (Krummacher). "His indignation against the rich man of the parable showed that the moral sense was not wholly extinguished. The instant recollection of guilt breaks up the illusion of months" (Stanley). Observe that:
1. One of the most effectual means of convincing a man of sin is by setting it before him as existing in another person. "Thou art the man!" the story of whose crime has stirred thine indignation and called forth the sentence of death from thy lips. Self-interest, passion, and prejudice, that darken a man's view of his own sin, have comparatively little influence upon him when looking at the sin of another. Here the veil is removed; he sees clearly and judges impartially. For this reason (among others) our Lord "spake many things unto them in parables."
2. The force of truth depends upon the particular application which is made of it. "Thou art the man who hast done this!" (LXX.); against thyself thine indignation should be directed; upon thyself the sentence has been pronounced. It is as if hitherto only the back of the offender was seen, when, suddenly turning round, his face appeared, and David beheld himself! "Men often correctly understand a message of God without observing its personal application to them." Hence the preacher, like the prophet of old (1 Kings 14:7; 1 Kings 18:18; 1 Kings 21:19; 2 Kings 5:26; Daniel 5:22; Matthew 14:4), must directly, wisely, and faithfully apply the truth to his hearers. "'Thou art the man!' is or ought to be the conclusion, expressed or unexpressed, of every practical sermon." What is a sword without a point? "Here also is a lesson to hearers. David listened to a sermon from Nathan, which exactly suited his own case, and yet he did not apply it to himself. He turned the edge of it from himself to another. The benefit of sermons depends more upon the hearer than the preacher. The best sermon is that who hear most, but who apply most what they hear to their own hearts."
3. Every man is responsible to God for the sin which he has committed. "Thou art inexcusable, O man" (Romans 2:1), however thou mayest have persuaded thyself to the contrary. Is the man whom thou judgest accountable for his conduct; and art not thou for thine? Is he accountable to thee? How much more art thou to God? No position, however exalted, can release from responsibility to him or exempt from obedience to his commandment; no constitutional tendency, no temptation, expediency, or necessity be an adequate reason for despising it (Ezekiel 18:4; Romans 3:6).
"And self to take or leave is free,
Feeling its own sufficiency:
In spite of science, spite of fate,
The judge within thee, soon or late,
Will blame but thee, O man!
"Say not. 'I would, but could not. He
Should bear the blame who fashioned me.
Call a mere change of motive choice?'
Scorning such pleas, the inner voice
Cries, 'Thine the deed, O man!'"
4. A messenger of Heaven is always in readiness to single out the sinner, bring his sin to remembrance, and call him to account. "Thus saith the Lord God of Israel," etc. (ver. 7), "Wherefore hast thou despised the commandment of the Lord, to do evil in his sight?" etc. (ver. 9). Every wrong done to man, yea, every sin, is a factual contempt of his commandment (Psalm 51:4). Whilst the supreme King and Judge observes it, and is long suffering towards the doer of it, he provides many witnesses, holds them in reserve, and sends them with his word at the proper moment to declare all its enormity - its ingratitude (ver. 8), presumption (ver. 9), disloyalty before him, its "intense and brutal selfishness," sensuality, cruelty, and craft. Conscience also awakes to confirm their testimony, with "a thousand several tongues, and every tongue" crying, "Thou art the man!"
5. The less expected the charge preferred against the sinner, the more overwhelming his conviction of guilt. "The further David was from thinking of a reference to himself, the greater the force with which the word must have struck him" (Erdmann). There could be no defence, no extenuation, no answer (Acts 24:25; Matthew 22:12).
6. The condemnation which one man pronounces on another sometimes recoils upon himself with increased severity. "Out of thine own mouth," etc. (Luke 19:22). "Now therefore the sword shall never depart from thine house," etc. "For a single moment the features of the king are charged with the expression of astonishment. He gazes eagerly at the prophet like one at a loss to divine his meaning. But, almost instantly, as if an inward light had burst upon his soul, the expression changes to one of agony and horror. The deeds of the last twelve months glare in all their infamous baseness upon him, and outraged justice, with a hundred guttering swords, seems all impatient to devour him" (Blaikie). "O wicked man, thou shalt surely die!" (Ezekiel 33:8).
7. The conviction of sin is the first step in the way of restoration to righteousness. The sense of sin is the beginning of salvation. "He that humbleth himself," etc. (Luke 14:11; 1 John 1:9). "If we would judge ourselves," etc. (1 Corinthians 11:31, 32). Every man must be revealed to himself in the light of God's righteous judgment here or hereafter (Ecclesiastes 11:9; Ecclesiastes 12:14). - D.
David's conscience seems to have been deranged, to have forgotten its function; and it is with our moral as with our physical being — when any of our natural organs are diseased and suffered to continue in that state, the character of the organic action becomes gradually changed, and a complete departure from healthy action succeeds, and perhaps the reparation of the organ becomes impossible after a time. David is excessive in pronouncing sentence upon the imaginary transgressor. Now, here is an indirect testimony of conscience to the law, that it was good; but here is a solemn lesson. It is one thing to agree with the general correctness of a principle, and it is quite another thing to apply practically that principle to our own life and conversation. Every one is ready to admit that it is a practical duty to relieve distress; and yet, if you compare the numbers of those who act upon the conviction with the multitudes of those who are ready to admit the principle, it is to be feared that a lamentable failing will often be discovered. Or take some of our every-day principles. We are ready enough to admit the uncertainty of life, and the goodness of God, and there are certain principles of practice that follow as directly from the admission as night succeeds to day; and yet bring men to the touchstone of practice, and they will be found as practical deniers of their own principles. No; you find men eager in the pursuit of shadows still. We are ready to admit the goodness and long-suffering of God, that we are dependent for everything upon Him, and yet where is the man that can examine his own conscience without being compelled to admit that his affections have been given to things with which it would be blasphemous to speak of God as having divided allegiance? Therefore, we have, in dealing with ourselves, a mighty enemy to guard against — our tendency to deceive ourselves. The wisest statesman of antiquity has said, "It is the easiest thing possible to deceive oneself." The wish is too often parent of the thought. If, by succeeding to deceive ourselves as to our actual state, we were able to cancel the reality of that state and to remove the fearful consequences that unrepented sin entails upon is, then indeed "the preacher's task were one of wanton cruelty, to disturb the calm repose of the life that now is, if, by suffering it to continue, it could possibly issue in the repose of the life that is to come. But what would be thought of one who would see a fellow-creature moving blindfolded to the brink of a precipice, one step after the arrival at which precipitated his doom? Perceive how the prophet advances. "Thus saith the Lord God of Israel, I anointed thee king over Israel and I delivered thee out of the hand of Saul." The prophet here enumerates the mercies of God which had been vouchsafed to David from his earliest history. It is well, when the Christian habitually enumerates God's mercies, and widen the recollection serves to keep alive the flame of gratitude that ought to burn there. "Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits." But it is a very different state when the conscience is dead, when the memory of past mercies is lost, when it produces no response in the seared heart — when the man of God is constrained, as Nathan is here, to enter into a recapitulation of the mercies of God, and the forgetfulness of him who was sustained by them, and who had so long forgotten them. "Wherefore hast thou despised the commandment of the Lord, to do evil in His sight? thou hast killed Uriah the Hittite with the sword." It would, humanly speaking, have been impossible to have brought the murder home to David; but "God seeth not as man seeth; man judgeth by the outward appearance, but God regardeth the heart." Just as David is here arraigned by God for the murder which he had not with his own hand perpetrated, so are multitudes found guilty before God of that which man can never substantiate or bring home to them. This is the penetrating character of God's Word; it is thus that we are to read it — as entering into our inmost thoughts and conceptions — as high and holy in its requirements. It is in the life and language of Jesus Christ that we see this law reflected. Here the prophet dealt faithfully with the royal transgressor; and there seems to have come a flood of light upon David's slumbering mind. He seems as one awakened from a dream of sin. And now we hear the psalmist humbling himself. "And David said unto Nathan, I have sinned against the Lord." These are blessed words; they are the response that God requires to His expostulation — "Only acknowledge thine iniquity." And simultaneous with the confession is the offer of mercy. "The Lord hath put away thy sin; thou shalt not die." Here we have the law and the Gospel forcibly contrasted. We have the unbending rigour of the law speaking in this wise. The law says, "Thou shalt surely die," and there is no help or escape; but the Gospel says, "Thou shalt not die." How otherwise than in Christ can these statements be reconciled? How can we vindicate the stern requirements of God's holy law, and yet offer to the transgressor of that law unqualified pardon and free acceptance, except in the name of Jesus Christ? This is exactly the Gospel; and would it not be strange, were the Bible of any other source than that whence it came? We have no eye to appreciate the beauty of God, until it is reflected in the face of Jesus Christ; we cannot understand "the voice of the charmer, charm he never so wisely," until the Spirit, whose office is to glorify Jesus, takes of the things of Christ and shows them to our wondering souls. Then there is amazement, then there is gratitude, then there is love, and the heart going forth earnestly to God, in conscious acknowledgement of all that God hath clone for us. Observe, then, what a fund of comfort is opened here to the distressed mourner. He looks to his Bible, and there he finds encouragement to believe that no degree of guilt, however black, can militate against his free acceptance, if he cast himself only on the free mercy of God in Christ. Then the sinner asks, "How is it consistent with the justice of God? How is it consistent with the maintenance in their perfection of the other attributes of God, to extend pardon to the sinner upon his confessing, his sin?" Then the Gospel interposes; then all that Jesus undertook, all that Jesus accomplished, and the value of Jesus' work comes in upon his mind, convinces him that God can be just, even when He is the justifer, and that if he confesses and forsakes his sin, God is not only merciful, but even righteous and just in forgiving his sin, and in cleansing him from all unrighteousness. The very attributes that were before arrayed against the sinner, and clamoured, trumpet-tongued, for his destruction, are now arrayed on the other side, and speak as powerfully for his acceptance and sanctification. There is another feature connected with this. David was a man after God's own heart, and David's sin was calculated from its very nature to throw a greater discredit upon the profession of religion than the sins of those who were not so remarkable for having previously walked with God.
And Nathan said to David, Thou art the man.
Mr. Moody somewhere tells the story of a little child who had fallen into the gutter, but would not submit quietly to be washed, till his mother, finding persuasion useless, caught up the rebellious boy in her arms and turned him before a looking-glass. So here the righteous prophet brings the guilty king before the mirror of a lustrous parable; in a moment the blackness of the royal transgressor's misdeeds was seen, and he cried out, with full conviction of his sin — "Unclean! Unclean! wash me, O God, and I shall be innocent from the great transgression!" Nathan by his parable brings David the offender unawares before David the judge. The solemn subject suggested by these words is the blinding of self. Here was a man who was deeply incensed at an abstract story of injustice, with which he personally, as he thought, had no concern, but apparently insensible to the gravity of the crimes, far more abominable, which he himself had perpetrated, How is it that we have such open ears and quick eyes and sharp tongues for the misdeeds of others, while we are so blind and gentle to our own? Why are we such severe judges on our very own crimes seen on others? Let us try to answer these questions OH the lines of the Old Testament episode.
I. IT CANNOT BE SAID THAT CONSCIENCE IS DEAD. For no sooner does David hear a story of oppression than his conscience rises majestically in con-detonation of the rich man's execrable tyranny. The conscience was quick and powerful; otherwise it could not have asserted itself so immediately and majestically. Conscience cannot die. There are certain moral truths which shine by their own light and need not that any should bear witness to them. These moral axioms require no proof: they abide for ever in the constitution of man. Just as mathematical axioms, such as "Things which are equal to the same are equal to one another," are accepted by all men as fundamental and final: so there are moral axioms, such as "Honesty is right," or "Truth is right," which require no laboured demonstration, but by their own intrinsic excellence command acceptance at once and by all. These moral intuitions cannot perish. They are a part of man's being. A man may mistake the application or resist the force of these moral certainties, but he never can deny their reality. In this fact lies the hope of the world's salvation. There is in every soul a sense of right and wrong. Prove to any one that he is a sinner, reach the conscience, and redemption is already begun. From this fact, those engaged in Christian work may gather great confidence. Every witness for Christ has a friend in the court of man's nature. A man may be so engrossed with the pursuit of what is merely pleasant or profitable that he may not hear at all, or hear but in a dim and confused way, the warnings and entreaties of the inner monitor, just as a member of the family circle, busy at some book or task, may be so preoccupied with his own thoughts and employment, that he hears and yet does not hear the conversation of those around him, and answers the questions even that may be addressed directly to him in that provokingly dreamy and abstracted manner, characteristic of absent-mindedness. So we hear, even though we may only vaguely heed, the voice of conscience. A man may even encase his conscience in a mailed coat of deliberate and hardened villany, but conscience is still there, a living, breathing immortal entity. At any moment a word, a glance of the eye, a pressure of the hand, may be an arrow to penetrate some joint of the harness. There are many ways of reaching the conscience, as there are many ways of touching the heart. It may be only a brief story, like Nathan's parable, or a single verse, or a child's sermon; but any one is sword enough to pierce the quick sense of right and wrong. Take comfort, then, my fellow-labourer, from this thought that in every man conscience lives, moves, and has its being; and that however closely confined it may be in the dungeon of ignorance or depravity, a word of God can shake the prison as with an earthquake, and wring from the sturdiest keeper's soul the cry, "What must I do to be saved?"
II. BUT LET US GO A LITTLE DEEPER AND ASK, HOW IS IT THAT THOUGH DAVID'S CONSCIENCE WAS IN ITSELF LIVING AND VIGOROUS, IT WAS ACTUALLY SO LONG IN MOVING AGAINST HIMSELF? In endeavouring to answer this question, we must remember that conscience is not an independent faculty. Its judgments are founded on the representations of the mind. The intellect furnishes the premises on which the moral faculty rests its conclusions. If the premises are wrong, the inferences must be erroneous, even though they are in themselves correctly drawn. To be a little more specific, conscience never undertakes to tell me what is honest in a particular case; my own intellect tells me that: but conscience, as soon as the intellect decides what is honest, authoritatively declares that the honest course is right and ought to be pursued. Conscience never says any more. than this, that "honesty, or purity, or veracity is right;" it is for the intellect to state what is honest, or pure, or truthful. Consequently, if the information furnished to the conscience by the intellect is defective, or exaggerated, or distorted, or wholly mistaken, the judgment of conscience will be proportionately in error. The moral axioms are in themselves infallibly correct, but they may be wrongly applied, just as the axioms of mathematics, while infallibly correct in themselves, may be wrongly applied. I turn my intellect to consider certain actions, and I carry, suppose, the assurance to my conscience that these are honest add those dishonest. Immediately conscience, acting on the information of the intellect, asserts that the former are right and the latter wrong. But if the intellect is mistaken, conscience must be correspondingly mistaken. Conscience is like an eye, which is round and good m itself, but which is compelled to look on men and things through the window of the understanding. If the intervening glass is not pure and spotless, if it is coloured or discoloured, the external world will, to my eye, be tinged or blurred accordingly; or if this pane is marred by a knot, that one by a bubble, that other by an abnormal curve, all by some defect, then my view will be distorted, nature will be twisted out of shape, in accordance with the character of the medium. Yet the fault is not in my organ of vision or in the outside world, but in the interposing panes of glass. Herein lies the possibility of two consciences, equally good and true in themselves, giving totally opposite, or widely diverse, decisions on the very same data. An easy conscience, therefore, is not always a safe guide. A man may fight even against God with a perfectly clear conscience: a man may go to hell with a perfectly clear conscience. There is a story told by John Foster in one of his essays of a wicked and traitorous naval captain, who, unable to coax or coerce his sailors into a vile surrender to the foe, concealed a large loadstone at a little distance from the needle. The sailors, unaware of the cruel trick played' upon them, steered their vessel faithfully by the compass, but to their degradation and destruction, for their misplaced confidence carried them directly into a hostile port and the enemy's pitiless hands. Yet all the while these misguided mariners thought that all was well because they were steering by the compass. And, indeed, the needle was right in itself, tremblingly sensitive, ready to point in the proper direction if it had not been tampered with, if it had not been turned aside from its true bearing by an influence that the hapless crew wot not of. Just so many a one is going to ruin, shaping his course, as he thinks, by conscience; but it is a conscience directed, or rather misdirected, by a darkened mind, an evil heart, a sinful will. Thus, many a man, who has not yet had his heart changed, manages to say to himself, "Peace, peace," when there is no peace. Certainly all should believe in Christ; but does not he believe in Christ? So he keeps interpreting or misinterpreting matters to his conscience; so conscience is soothed; so the sinner, often a respectable, well-clad, high-toned, pure-minded sinner, is lost. It is thus possible for us to keep saying, "Peace, peace," until by mere reiteration we come to believe our assertion. It is proverbial that a man may tell a lie so often that he comes at last to believe his own falsehood; and a soul may be at ease in Zion, the conscience reposing on a specious and comfortable falsehood or half truth, which frequent repetition clothes with an air of authority. What reason, then, in view of the awful possibility of being self-deceived, we have for scrutinising and re-scrutinising our outward conduct, and as for the inner man humbly and earnestly we should cry to God each for himself: "O Lord, teach me Thy way. Lead in a plain path, for I know nothing as I ought to know. Search me, O God, and know my heart, try me and know my thoughts: and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting."
III. BUT STILL THE QUESTION RECURS, HOW IS IT POSSIBLE FOR A MAN LIKE DAVID TO BE GUILTY, LIKE DAVID, OF MOST ABOMINABLE CRIMES, AND YET SOOTHE HIS CONSCIENCE INTO QUIETNESS? We can understand a man misinterpreting actions that are not palpably and notoriously evil, where there may be room for mistake and misapprehension, and so furnishing his conscience with misleading information. But how is it possible for one, like David, to perpetrate the enormities of which he was guilty and yet remain easy in his mind? How could he by any chance so misreport the facts of such a glaring case to the impartial tribunal within? Here we enter on one of the most solemn subjects that could be considered, the blinding influence of the love of self. Love is notoriously blind: and self-love — the most subtle, ineradicable of all loves — is the blindest of all, so that even if our hands, like David's, be steeped in blood, we have still some excuse to offer for ourselves. It is this love of self that makes us very conscious of the changes that take place in our neighbour's appearance, but slow to note our own. We see the pallor of disease, the wrinkles of care, or the whitening of old age, far more readily in others than in ourselves. Loathsome diseases are far more bearable in ourselves than in others. What would be tedious and offensive in others is perfectly tolerable in ourselves. So in spiritual things, we can behold the motelike splinter in our neighbour's eye, but the weaver's beam in our own we may not discern. I knew two men, occupying good social positions, who were unhappily addicted to drink, They lived in the same town, and their families were very intimate. Each of them was blessed with an excellent wife. Again and again have I heard each of these men in turn, when he happened to be sober and his neighbour was indulging in a bout of drinking, railing at the drunken husband over the way, and pitying the splendid woman who had the misfortune-to be tied to such a soil all this in tones of unquestioned sincerity. What is the explanation of this? In judging ourselves we have the love of self on our side as a special pleader. David may have said to himself: "I was very idle, and Bathsheba was very beautiful. I was specially tempted." Or he may have flattered himself with the thought: " After all, I did not kill Uriah. I did indeed order him to be put in a place of danger, but some one had to stand in the forefront of the battle, and why not he as well as another? Moreover, is not Uriah a Hittite? Is he not one of a race that we are authorised to exterminate?" Or he may have soothed his conscience with the notion that if he had done wrong to Uriah it was for no merely selfish purpose, but in order as far as possible to recompense Bathsheba for the injury inflicted on her. Possibly by some such arguments, at all events by some subtle reasonings and excuses, dictated by the love of self and the pride of life, he succeeded in veiling the filthiness of his conduct from the clear eye of the moral faculty. What a commentary is all this on the blindness of man to his personal guilt! Here was one, who had been wont to live in close and happy fellowship with God, and vet yielded to and lived in flagrant sin for a long time, without apparently being conscious of its vileness. Ah, beloved, do we not stand sorely in need of some one who will tell us the truth about ourselves? Is Christ our enemy because He tells us the truth? There is in reality in every one of us the seeds of thoroughgoing depravity. If we say that we have not the principle of sin we simply deceive ourselves. The principle of sin may take divers forms, varying according to men's training, opportunities, hereditary tendencies, peculiar temptations, associates, and such like; but, whatever form it takes, the principle is there. What varied manifestations there are of matter in nature. There it is in the clouds, in the rushing wind, in the gas lighter than air, in the flowing river and the restless ocean, in the green field and the snow-capped mountain, in the pebble from the brook and the rock dug from the quarry. Analyse these multitudinous forms, and you will find all alike in essence; there is one elementary substance throughout all this manifoldness.
In this lurid sentence the prophet of God condemned the guilty king out of his own month. It was no mild utterance, this, but one charged with moral passion and righteous anger. The circumstances called for the word, too. The wretched man upon the throne now saw, and for the first time, what ms sin really was. It was guilt calculated upon and persisted in, guilt covered up even in David's own mind by sophistry and self-excuse. Now comes the moment of revelation, when the true state of things is declared to David's consciousness just as it had long ago been declared unconsciously, though he never dared to face the truth. Imagine the scene that is hinted at in this chapter rather than described. David sits upon the throne in the day of his splendour, surrounded by his mighty men, and the plain-garbed figure of the prophet of God appears on the scene. He is made welcome — why should it not be so? This victorious king is the chosen of the Lord. What message can Nathan have to bring but a message of good? The court is hushed to listen. The wisdom and righteousness of David respond eagerly to the demand of the prophet. Thus and such the rich man has done. Thus and such vengeance is called for, retribution to be awarded. What saith the king? "And David's anger was greatly kindled against the man." The court is silent, waiting for the prophet to speak. One sentence it is which issues from his lips, how terrible only David knew. though the awe-stricken listeners must have felt, too, something of the impact of the tremendous utterance, "Thou art the man." Self-deception is never very difficult. Men are curiously averse to calling things by the right name. There is no kind of hypocrisy so subtle and so dangerous as the hypocrisy which is hypocrite to itself and will not acknowledge its own presence. We can cheat ourselves as David did. that because the world knows nothing and because there is a euphemistic word to describe a foul thing, that therefore God is deceived too. He is not, and heaven is not. The world of truth interpenetrates this, the world of glory is not a handbreadth off. You cannot hide from the eternal right. As Arthur Hugh Clough hath it in one of his most familiar lines, "Listen before I die, one word. In old times you called me pleasure; my name is guilt." What a dark name, what a foul name, what an unpronounceable shuddering word you would have to apply if you were honest, some of you, to the things you have done! God, you see, applies the right word — "Thou art the man." In God's economy, in God's moral world, the meaning of punishment is that the soul is compelled to see itself as it is, and to acknowledge the eternal justice. Come it soon or come it late, God's verdict upon sin is written large in the experience of the sinner. I was reading recently in one of Maurice Maeterlinck's books, I think the last, a paragraph something to this effect. I do not quote, I only paraphrase — If a man hath done a guilty deed, if a man hath been betrayed by himself, dragged down by evil propensity, and hath the courage and the faith to rise again, the day comes, the moment is his when he can say, It was not I that did it. Of course you see the paradox of the mystic. Yes, but it was a truth stated in paradox. A man may so rise above the habitual level of his own character that deeds are forgotten. It is not so much the deeds that matter, it is the climate of the soul, it is the moral atmosphere in which you live that is telling out the truth. A man's real fall often antedates by long the fall that the world can see and judge him by. But, look you, if a man has risen so far by virtue of his penitence that he reaches the heart of God; so exalting himself, by true humility that he is no longer capable of that old sin, it is, as it were, blotted out of the book of remembrance. To such a man I would be entitled to say in the name of the Lord of Hosts, "Thou art not the man," the man that was, but another, redeemed, purified, made holy by the Spirit of God. There are some people who are morbid in their retrospection and their view of their own moral delinquencies. Remorse is not repentance. Morbidness is by no means humility. There is another way and a higher. It is impossible for you to contend with God. Once you have realised that there is no longer need for you to remain in the prison-house. If any man is hopeless concerning the past I call him to a deeper as well as a higher life. An old mediaeval mystic once wrote, "In every man there is a godly will which never consented to sin nor ever shall." You know what that signifies. It tells you that the deepest self in every man is Christ. What? Yes, I mean it. Until conscience is dead Christ is not gone from the soul of any man but that Christ you may be crucifying.
The king was confounded! So sharp, so sudden, so altogether unexpected was the charge, he could not resist it. Like a well-appointed shaft flying from a practised archer it transfixed his heart.
I. THE FORCE OF A DIRECT APPEAL TO THE CONSCIENCE. General allusions to human guilt, coupled though they may be with fervent exhortations to repentance, fail to produce conviction and compliance. Ordinary arguments, though derived from the Word of God, and based on the love of God, are ineffectual to melt and subdue. All the ordinary strivings of the Spirit are resisted and repelled.
II. MAN'S WEAKNESS WITH CONCEALED SIN IN HIS HEART. Of all the men of his age, up to this time, David was certainly, intellectually and spiritually considered, the strongest. Righteousness is man's strength, and the fear of God his courage. What wild and foolish fears affright the guilty one, who has covered his sin, who has hidden, as he thinks, from all mortal gaze every trace of the deed he has wrought, the exposure of which is his shame, but in whose heart, nevertheless, the horrid fact lies festering and pulsating! The weakest point in a wicked man's heart, after all, is his own conscience — that principle within that sits in judgment on all his doings, and pronounces which are right and which are wrong. And in a great wrong conscience will cry out with a loud voice.
III. OF THE LOVE OF GOD IN THE EXPOSURE OF GUILT OPENING UP TO THE GUILTY THE POSSIBILITY OF FORGIVENESS. NOW, what will God do with him? Will He inflict an instantaneous vengeance, and execute him as a criminal? He deserves it; it is the legal award of his crime. No, not the God of Love; not if it can be avoided; not if God can make a way to avoid it. He makes such a way. "The Lord is gracious, and full of compassion, slow to anger, and of great mercy. He will not always chide, nor will He keep His anger for ever." So sang the psalmist hereafter, and well could he verify his song. "The Lord hath put away thy sin, thou shalt not die," are the first words of mercy to revive hope in David's stricken heart. Not in wrath, but in love, sent the Lord His prophet unto David. The text is a sharp arrow, but it is tipped with honey, not with poison, It is a healing, not a killing dart. Its message is painful, but it is a message of mercy. Was it not Divine love that thus hung as a dense cloud charged with electric fire, threatening to smite him? Let us learn, then, that the judgments of God as well as His mercies embody and exhibit His love. Let us learn in it God's disciplinary and chastising dealings with ourselves. And in Christ we have the fullest revelation of His love. Beginning with the forgiveness of sins to the perfecting of our manhood in Christ — let us remember there is forgiveness with Him.
()I. THAT NO MAN IS PLACED BEYOND THE DANGER CF PERPETRATING THE MOST ATROCIOUS CRIMES — crimes which are equally offensive to God, injurious to society, and destructive to the criminal. This observation is strikingly confirmed in the instance of David, the king of Israel. There was no advantage on the side of virtue and religion which he did not possess. What ought to operate as a preventive of wickedness, which did not distinguish this man at the very moment when he consented to become the most guilty of his species?
1. Shall rank, wealth, and glory be pleaded as a security against the perpetration of evil? David possessed them all. How extensive was his range of lawful gratification! In the figurative language of the prophet, "he had exceeding many flocks and herds." The occupiers of thrones have too frequently been as notorious for their vices as conspicuous for their stations. Blessings tainted by depravity are curses in disguise.
2. Genius of the highest order, learning of the most useful kind, taste exquisitely refined, and capable of the purest satisfactions — will not these preserve the character, at least, from the foulest blots of iniquity? No; dead and living illustrations prove the contrary.
3. May we not confidently hope that the sobriety of mature age, no longer subject to the fervours of youthful passion, will present an effectual barrier against the inroads of crime? The time had long passed away when it was said of David that "he was a youth, and ruddy."
4. But surely long habits of the strictest virtue, founded on principles of genuine and long cultivated piety, will place an individual on a pinnacle too high for temptation to reach. This good man, even when grown old in religion, was guilty of deeds which many habitual sinners, though prompted by youthful passion and unrestrained by the fear of God, would still have abhorred, But, indeed, when once we allow ourselves to go wrong we can neither know nor guess the consequences. That sin, indeed, with which David began is peculiarly ensnaring and pernicious. The lower degrees of immodesty lead on imperceptibly to the most unlawful familiarities. These entangle in a variety of difficulties that ensure at last the commission of the vilest and cruellest acts imaginable. And to specify no more particulars, mere indolent omissions of religious duties, public or private, leave our sentiments of piety to languish till we become utterly unmindful of our eternal interest, and perhaps at last profane scoffers.
II. THAT MANY OF US, WHO LEAST SUSPECT OURSELVES, ARE CHARGEABLE WITH SIMILAR OFFENCES OR TENDENCIES TO THOSE OFFENCES WHICH WE MOST SEVERELY CONDEMN IN OTHERS. We lift up our voice, End justly, against the perjured, the ungenerous, the insulting adulterer; the wretch, who robs his neighbour, perhaps his friend, by one fatal act, of his dearest treasure, and his peace of mind; but have we pondered well the saying of him who declares, "Whoso looketh upon a woman to lust after her, hath committed adultery already in his own heart?" The will, before God, is the deed. Do we regard with exemplary strictness the law of equity? If we do not grossly defraud, do we not go beyond our brother, and take advantage of his ignorance or weakness? In order to shorten human life, it is not necessary to employ the pistol and the dagger. Servants may be easily brought to an untimely grave by stinting them with respect to their necessary food, clothes, lodging, or fuel; or by a repetition of tasks unnecessarily burdensome. The pleadings in this case might be greatly extended, and the mask torn off from many whose criminality is perhaps still hidden from themselves.
()We should have naturally thought that every word of Nathan's parable would have stabbed David to the heart, would have cut him to the quick, covered him with the deepest shame, and melted him into a repentant state. And vet David's conscience smote him not as the touching tale was told; he saw nothing, he felt nothing, bearing on himself or his own case. He had no thought that the arrow was meant for him, or that he was designed to read out, by the light of the parable, his own great guilt to his own blackened heart Nathan had with his own hands to tear off the veil, beneath which it was thought David would have caught the dark features of his own transgression; and it was not till he plainly said, "Thou art the man," that the sinner felt his sin, and was convinced that the messenger of God was sent to condemn him for his own evil ways. Now, doubtless, as we have read this passage of God's Word, we have often wondered at David's blindness, his want of perception, his strange dulness and slowness of mind, which prevented him catching at once the meaning of what was said; but the truth is, what seems strange in another, is all the while common among ourselves; the same thing continually goes on. Blind and unobserving as regards our faults, too ready to dismiss any shameful doings from our minds, we are slow to apply warnings or reproaches to ourselves. We see easily, and with quick eyes, how such a sentence strikes our neighbour, how our neigh-hour's faults are hit, our neighbour's sins condemned. Messages sent from God often come to us without effect, do not even graze the conscience, pass by unnoticed and unapplied; and it needs often home-thrusts of the sharpest, plainest kind, to convince us that we are spoken to by God at all. How much there is of warning, of reproof, of condemnation, mercifully uttered in our ears, mercifully addressed to us especially. These warnings are often very strong, very decided, very plain; and yet we do not fit the cap to the head; they seem to us to be meant, for others, to be meant for the world at large, or at any rate not to be particularly meant for us. Thus the proud hear the proud condemned by prophets whom God has sent, condemned by apostles whose mouths breathe forth words of the Holy Ghost, condemned by Christ Himself, condemned fearlessly in such awful terms as this, "that God resisteth the proud;" and vet they get used to all these sayings about pride; they do not stop and weigh them, and take them home to their own hearts, and see themselves condemned. So the covetous hear of covetousness condemned at every turn, stamped as idolatry, blackened with terrible denunciations, and vet the covetous go on saving money, grudging to give it, making excuses for not giving it, slaving and toiling for it, without any strong self-condemnation, without any quick perception that they are in a perilous state. So the lovers of pleasure get used to the threatenings hurled against those that love pleasure more than God, without stopping to hear their own individual reproof. We do not see how the Spirit of God, how the Lord Jesus in His love pleads with us individually, sets before us our own falls, our own pride, our own covetousness, or our own lusts, our own worldliness, our own swearing and drinking. Yet God deals with us one by one. He speaks to each; to each He sends His messengers and message. If, then, we are dull of heart, slow to hear what is for our own ears, we are, in neglecting and failing to apply reproofs and condemnations, neglecting mercies, loving-kindnesses, forgiveness, the longings of the Father for our salvation, the pardon purchased by His Son. Often is there a voice which says, "Thou art the man," and even their we hear it not. One comes in choken with the cares of the world, and a passage of God's Word describes his state, shows his sin, reveals his peril, and yet he goes forth unmoved, untouched, caring still about worldly things; another comes in fond of money, and the love of money is denounced in many fearful texts, and yet he seems not to hear the inspired writer say to him, "Thou art the man." Another comes in to offer lip-service, to lounge away an hour drowsily in his seat, and Scripture straightway speaks stern words concerning those who draw near with their lips while their heart is far away, or who behave irreverently in God's House; yet he too fails to think that he is the one pointed at in the text. Another comes in given to drink, or given to oaths, and he hears the Scripture awfully pronounce the guilt of those who do such things without fear or dread, or awe. The least that we can do is to pray for a more tender, quick-eared conscience, that the heaviness and drowsiness of the heart may give way to a readier, more open mind, a mind more keenly intent to hear what the Lord doth say, whether through things done in the world, or through His written Word, or through the example of others, or through the counsels of His ministers, or through the movements of grace within our hearts, those inward calls, those inward warnings that rise up within us, when no speech nor language is to be heard.
()David is no longer the ingenuous youth on whose cheek glows the blush of modesty; he is the hardened voluptuary, blind to his own failings, careless of the welfare of his subjects, engrossed by selfishness. The prophet of God was come unto him no longer to bless, but to rebuke. While the accents of justice thus rushed to his lip, did no hidden pang tell him of his own unworthiness? He Himself hath guided, the sword that laid Uriah in the dust. This was the enormous transgression which even now hung, unconfessed and unrepented, upon the soul of David. He sinks not beneath its weight. He seems scarcely to feel the pressure. His countenance glows not with the blush of shame, but with the indignation of virtue. On his lips is the language of proud and conscious worth. The sacred Scriptures have not informed us by what artifices David had concealed this wickedness from himself, or so palliated it as to prevent in such a remarkable degree the power of conscience from exerting its authority. The experience of ordinary life may, in part, unfold the mystery. When we find men unconscious of their own defects, detecting these very faults in another, and censuring them with unsparing severity; when we find the vainest eager to deride the foibles of vanity; when we hear the ambitions declaim against the folly of ambition; when we hear the miser loud to censure an avarice less conspicuous than his own, it is obvious that these men have either hid from themselves the knowledge of their own transgressions, or have, by some sophistry, explained their sinfulness away. The king of Israel's ignorance of his own crime may then, in one view, have been wilful. When a subject is disagreeable, we naturally avoid it. The spendthrift feels at times the presage of approaching ruin; but be flies from the thought while he may, and opens not his eyes till ruin is inevitable. Self-disapprobation being painful, the same infirmity makes us wish to escape it — makes us to indulge the dangerous palliative of biding our sin even from ourselves. What avails it that the means of information are in our power, if we obstinately refuse to employ them? Bright and varied, to the attentive gaze, are the charms of external nature; but he who shuts his eyes against the light, cannot distinguish even deformity and loveliness. Strong are the attractions of music to them who court their power, but to him who stops his ear against their melody, the voice of the charmer can never reach. David may at times have had transient glances of his crime, but if he expelled them by the cares of empire, or drowned them amidst the riot of gaiety, their impression would become ever fainter and fainter. Had not the voice of rebuke or the stroke of adversity reached him, he might have lost all knowledge of his own character for ever. But the king of Israel's ignorance of his own crime may also have been in a great measure involuntary. The prejudices which various situations inspire, and the sophistry with which passion argues, have incredible power in perverting our views of good and evil. Even the most candid cannot view in precisely the same light, the same action committed by himself and by another man. A thousand little selfish considerations bind him. The very emotion which roused him against the oppressor whose history Nathan had told, if permitted to operate fairly, would have guarded himself from committing an act of cruelty yet more atrocious. But when self-interest mingled its enchantment we see how totally his perceptions were changed. The situation which he filled in life was one of those which are the most peculiarly trying, unfavourable to disinterested and impartial views of conduct. Exalted so far above his brethren, he seems at times to consider them as made only for his pleasure, and to estimate actions only by their tendency to promote it. If he applied his standard only to the case of Uriah, he would find in it little to regret. In the particular case of David, too, the pleadings of passion would exert all their artifice to blind the conscience and judgment. For the first guilty act he would plead, as every succeeding voluptuary has pleaded, the natural force of passion, unmindful that the passions were given to be the handmaids, not the tyrants of reason and conscience. For every succeeding step in his guilty progress he had something like the plea of necessity to urge. But now, by the sophistry of passion, the circumstances of the case were entirely changed. What would otherwise have been seen to be the foulest murder was now an act of self-defence; what would otherwise have been seen to be the meanest treachery was now interpreted as considerate and merciful tenderness — softening the blow which it was forced to inflict; and, since the victim must fall, kindly allowing him to die a soldier's death. What would otherwise have been seen to be base ingratitude was now interpreted as an unavoidable though painful effort to screen the fame and the life of a helpless confiding woman. Uriah must fall, or Bathsheba must die. The choice is too clear for hesitation, and David almost imagines he does a wise and a generous deed when, to screen the guilty, lie devotes the unsuspecting to sure and speedy destruction. By whichever of these delusions David had permitted himself to be blinded, its power seems to have been strongly fixed in his mind. His danger was dreadful. If God had not interposed in mercy, what was to rouse him from his fatal dream? Would not the sleep of death have found him unconverted, and horror inexpressible attended his awakening? Nathan with skilful and happy art raised first the better feelings of David into action, and then tore the veil of self-delusion at once asunder; taxing him loudly with his guilt, upbraiding him with those mercies of heaven which he abused, and denouncing against him the judgments of the Lord. Let me recommend to your most attentive performance the duty of self-examination, not merely when you are called to join in the solemn festivals of religion, but at regular and frequent periods. Examine, with keen and prejudiced suspicion, every excuse that is offered for acknowledged defects. Think nothing trivial that misleads from duty. Who can tell where the labyrinth of sin shall end?
()Pulpit power comes of holy boldness. In 1670, Bourdaloue, "the founder of genuine pulpit eloquence in France," preached before his sovereign. Having described a sinner of the first magnitude, lie turned to Louis XIV. and in a voice of thunder cried, "Thou art the man!" The effect on all was electrical. After the sermon the preacher went and fell at the feet of the king, saying: "Sire, behold one of the most devoted of your servants. Punish him not because that in the pulpit he owns no other master than the King of kings."A great admirer of Bramwell once invited a scholarly German friend to accompany him to hear ,.the fervent Methodist. At the close of the service, anxious to know the impression produced, he said: "Well, Mr. Troubner, how do you like him? Do you think he wanders too much from the subject?" "Ah! yes," said the German, wiping his moistened eyes, "be do wander most delightfully from the subject to the heart." Exposition needs personal application, the mind enlightened must advance to the heart moved.
Christian Commonwealth.was a type. He has had many a successor. John Knox at the Court of Queen Mary, Bossuet preaching before the "Grand Monarque" of France, Savonarola thundering from his Florentine pub at the vices of "Lorengo the Magnificent" and the nobles, Martin Luther defying, in the name of righteousness, the conclave of princes and cardinals at Worms, Hugh Latimer preaching at Westminster in the days of fearful peril to the faithful, Peter exclaiming, "We must fear God rather than man!"
()Bishop Latimer, having one day preached before King Henry VIII. a sermon which displeased his Majesty, he was ordered to preach again on the next Sabbath, and to make an apology for the offence lie had given. After reading his text, the bishop then began his sermon: "Hugh Latimer, dost thou know before whom thou art this day to speak? To the high and mighty monarch, the king's most excellent majesty, who can take away thy life if thou offendest; therefore, take heed that thou speakest not a word that may displease; but then consider, well, Hugh, dost thou not know from whence thou comest; upon whose message thou art sent? Even by the great and mighty God, who is all-present, and who beholdeth all thy ways and who is able to cast thy soul into hell! Therefore, take care that thou deliverest thy message faithfully." He then proceeded with the same sermon he had preached the preceding Sunday, but with considerably more energy. The sermon ended, the court were full of expectation to know what would be the fate of this honest and plain-dealing bishop; After dinner, the king called for Latimer, and, with a stern countenance, asked him how he dared to be so bold as to preach in such a manner. He, falling on his knees, replied that his duty to his God and his prince had enforced him thereto, and that he had merely discharged his duty and his conscience in what he had spoken. Upon which the king, rising from his seat, and taking the good man by the hand, embraced him, saying, "Blessed be God I have so honest a servant."Many sermons, ingenious of their kind, may be compared to a letter put into the post-office without a direction. It is addressed to nobody, it is owned by nobody, and if a hundred people were to read it, not one of them would think himself concerned in the contents. Such a sermon, whatever excellencies it may have, lacks the chief requisite of a sermon. It is like a sword which has a polished blade, a jewelled hilt, and a gorgeous scabbard, but yet will not cut, and, therefore, as to all real use, is no sword. The truth, properly presented, has an edge; it pierces to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit; it is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.
()A parishioner of Whately said to the Archbishop that he did not believe that the occupant of the pulpit had a right to make those in the pew uncomfortable. Whately agreed, but added, "Whether the sermon is to be altered or the man's life depends on whether the doctrine is right or wrong." Said Robert Morris to Dr. Rush, "I like that preaching best which drives a man into the corner of his pew and makes him think the devil is after him."
Links2 Samuel 12:7 NIV
2 Samuel 12:7 NLT
2 Samuel 12:7 ESV
2 Samuel 12:7 NASB
2 Samuel 12:7 KJV
2 Samuel 12:7 Bible Apps
2 Samuel 12:7 Parallel
2 Samuel 12:7 Biblia Paralela
2 Samuel 12:7 Chinese Bible
2 Samuel 12:7 French Bible
2 Samuel 12:7 German Bible
2 Samuel 12:7 Commentaries