2 Samuel 5:23
So David inquired of the LORD, who answered, "Do not march straight up, but circle around behind them and attack them in front of the balsam trees.
Sermons
Renewed ConflictB. Dale 2 Samuel 5:22, 23
God's SignalsT. L. Cuyler, D. D.2 Samuel 5:23-25
Signal for AdvanceF. W. Brown.2 Samuel 5:23-25
The Lord Leading; David FollowingSpurgeon, Charles Haddon2 Samuel 5:23-25
The Moment of OpportunityW. L. Mackenzie.2 Samuel 5:23-25
The Sound in the Mulberry TreesSpurgeon, Charles Haddon2 Samuel 5:23-25
The Special Meaning of Common ThingsH. J. Bevis.2 Samuel 5:23-25
Waiting for a SignW. G. Lewis.2 Samuel 5:23-25
The enlargement and establishment of David's kingdom, while a joy to Israel, was a grief to their old and formidable enemies, the Philistines. These came in great numbers into the territory of Israel, hoping to seize David himself (ver. 17), as the shortest way of putting an end to the newly united state. So formidable was the invasion that the king found it desirable to leave his new city and go "down to the hold," the fortress probably of Adullam, with such forces as he could collect; and when the enemy "spread themselves in the Valley of Rephaim," he sought direction and promise of victory from God before attacking them, and received the answer, "Go up," etc. Christians are called to a warfare with powerful enemies, who are the enemies of Christ and his kingdom; and it is their satisfaction that they have received Divine assurance of victory. They have to fight against the world, the flesh, and the devil, as they assail themselves and endanger their salvation, and as they prevail in the world and even invade the Church. They are powerful foes, with many resources at command, and their onset is at times alarming. As the Philistines with David, they may be expected to make specially violent assaults when special prosperity has been attained, but the results are not yet fully established. But it is the joy of Christ's warriors that victory is certain. Each faithful soul shall successfully fight his own way to heaven, and the Church shall gain final and complete success in the battle with evil.

I. HOW THE ASSURANCE OF VICTORY IS IMPARTED. How does God assure us that we shall be successful in the Christian war?

1. By the intuitions of the soul. When we distinctly place before our minds the combatants, we cannot doubt which will ultimately be victorious. It is a conflict between good and evil, truth and error, right and wrong, holiness and sin, God and Satan. Evil is mighty, but good is almighty, because the living, true, and holy God is almighty.

2. By the promises and prophecies of his Word. These assure victory to every faithful soul in his own personal contest (see 1 Corinthians 10:13; Ephesians 6:10-13; James 4:7; Matthew 24:13), and triumph to the Church in the conflict with error and sin in the world, notwithstanding the deep and firm hold they have upon men, their extensive prevalence, their long reign. These assurances abound throughout the Scriptures, culminating in the descriptions of the conflict in the Apocalypse, and of the victories of the great Leader and his forces, and summed up in the triumphant shout of the great voices in heaven: "The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever" (Revelation 11:15).

3. By the mission and work of our Lord Jesus Christ. He came as our "Leader and Commander" (Isaiah 55:4), and, by his personal conflict, endurance, and conquests, not only led the way for his followers, but secured victory for them. "Be of good cheer," he says, "I have overcome the world" (John 16:33; see also Hebrews 2:9, 10, 14-18; 1 Corinthians 15:24, 25).

4. By the victories already won. The gift of the Holy Spirit and his mighty operations in apostolic times and all through the Christian centuries. The victories over the old paganism; the Reformation; the revivals of religion at various periods; the successes of modern missions. Every true hearted Christian has in his own experience not only a pledge of final victory for himself, but an encouragement to seek the salvation of others.

II. THE EFFECT WHICH SUCH ASSURANCE SHOULD HAVE UPON US. "Go up." Engage in the battle with evil; and do so with:

1. Confidence and courage.

2. Resolute zeal and determination.

3. Persistency, notwithstanding all delays, discouragements, and partial failures.

4. Songs of victory. Not only forevery advantage gained, but for the final and complete victory already to faith as good as won. If the hope of victory in other conflicts produces such effects, much more should the absolute certainty which the soldiers of Christ have. An altogether ill effect is that which the Divine assurances produce on some. They say that, as the battle is the Lord's, and he is sure to conquer, their efforts are needless. As relates to a man's own salvation, such a persuasion is fatal; for victory is promised only to the earnest combatant, and the assurance of Divine operation is made a reason why we should "work out our own salvation" (Luke 13:24; 1 Timothy 6:12; Philippians 2:12, 13). And as respects the spread and triumph of the kingdom of Christ, such a feeling indicates ignorance, indifference, indolence, and unfaithfulness, rather than faith in God. It is quite inconsistent with both Scripture and reason, and will deprive those who cherish it of all share in the joy of final victory, even if they are not utterly cast away as "wicked, slothful, and unprofitable" (Matthew 25:26, 30). - G.W.







When thou hearest the sound of a going in the tops of the mulberry trees, that then thou shalt bestir thyself.
What a different world this would be if we believed that God governed it — that He was in it — that He was at work in it — that His footsteps were still on its mountains — that He walked amidst its trees, and rode on the wings of the winds — if we realised His presence, and ascertained and saw in the ordinary things of everyday life the indications of His will. We believe there was a time when God was in the world, but it seems to us now like a forsaken world — like a world without God; for we act as if God had nothing to do in it or with it. What a different Church there would be if we recognised spiritual influences, recognised them in all their variety and modes of manifestation. Divine interpositions do not interfere with human agency. Some men are-always waiting — always looking for signs and wonders, for the sign of the Son of Man in the heavens — looking for outpourings, for baptisms of the Holy Ghost, for Pentecostal seasons. They do not see the meaning of common and ordinary things, they do not avail themselves of the means at their disposal.

I. THE SAME THINGS ARE TO BE DONE DIFFERENTLY AT DIFFERENT TIMES: Men have sometimes to do the same things in different ways — in ways prescribed by Divine intimations. David had to contend with the Philistines. He had beaten them once, but they had come up again in undiminished strength, in battle array. He is to adopt new tactics. He is not to "go up," but to "fetch a compass behind them." In every age the Philistines are coming up against the Israel of God. Our mode of warfare must be regulated by providential intimations.

II. THE PRESENCE OF DIVINE INDICATIONS WILL BE TO US THE REVELATIONS OF THE DIVINE WILL. If a man desires to do the Divine will, he will have a Divine revelation. "If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God." An earnest man — that is, a man in earnest to do the Divine will — is never left in utter ignorance of that will. The difficulty is not so much to find out the will of God, but to reconcile our wills to it, so that we may be Willing to do it.

III. DIVINE INTIMATIONS MAY COME THROUGH ANY CHANNEL GOD PLEASES. We have no ephod, no priest with Urim and Thummin, no response from the oracle, no audible voice like that which fell on the ear of David. To us, however, have been committed the books containing the successive" revelations God has made of His will to men. In all that pertains to the way of salvation, the revelation is clear, distinct, and definite. I hear a little bird singing on the branches of a tree, pouring forth its song with the infinite heavens above and the wide world around, singing in a world where there is winter as well as summer, and I learn a lesson no words of mine can express. There are. Divine intimations still in suggestions and impressions. I am in perplexity. I want to know what to do, or how to do what I have to do. There come sudden suggestions like revelations. How am I to determine their source? If they lead me, in dependence on the strength which God gives, to follow a course involving self-sacrifice, and having a tendency to promote the Divine glory, may I not conclude that they came from God? May not the Father of my spirit speak to me? May not the soul hear His voice? There are Divine intimations in circumstances.

IV. THE PRESENCE OR ABSENCE OF DIVINE INTIMATIONS MAKE THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE SAME OBJECTS TO DIFFERENT MEN. The mulberry trees were seen by the whole army, but the difference between David and his soldiers was the difference between a revelation and no revelation. They merely heard a sound, the wind moving the tops of the trees; there was nothing strange, nothing unusual in this, but David had received an intimation as to the special meaning of this sound. They heard only the movement caused by the wind, but David recognised the presence of the Lord, who was going before them to smite the host of the Philistines. So with Saul of Tarsus. The men who were with him on his way to Damascus saw only the brightness of the light that shone round about him, but Saul saw Christ. They heard only a sound, but he heard a voice. Be thankful for revelations in spiritual matters. You must yourself be spiritual to understand spiritual revelations. "The natural man receiveth not the things of the spirit of God, for they are foolishness unto him."

(H. J. Bevis.)

Our victory was not sufficient to establish the security of the newly-founded city; — the enemy returned and threatened a renewed attack. The devout king has not lost faith in God, and again inquires of the Lord. Before dismissing the history, it will be well for us to profit by the example of the godly monarch, and to adopt the rule of his life as the rule of our own. That no enterprises shall be commenced — no plans or projects carried into execution — no movements made — without first consulting the will of God: seeking His approval, and placing ourselves under His guidance. "Commit thy way unto the Lord, trust also in Him, and He shall bring it to pass."

I. THE SIGN VOUCHSAFED. The motives by which David was influenced in seeking a sign were laudable in the highest degree. He sought information as to the best means of encountering his enemies. Perhaps we may be disposed to think that a mode of communication with heaven, which secured so distinct a declaration of God's will, was far superior to any means which we possess of obtaining a knowledge of the path of duty. But herein we err for each successive dispensation of God's dealing with man has been in advance of that which preceded it. And yet how often like Gideon we would lay the fleece upon the ground and ask that it may be both wet and dry; — we want to stand with Moses in the cleft of the rock while the Lord of Glory passes by and audibly proclaims His mercy; — with Elijah, on the solitudes of Horeb, we would have mighty winds and the terrors of earthquake and fire mingled with the still small voice; — with David, we could wish that the mysterious movement on the tops of the mulberry trees should remove our doubts and tell in bodily image, or visible sign, or audible voice, that God is with us. It will be profitable for us to inquire what advantages we possess under the teaching of the Holy Spirit, which are comparable with these Divine communications made to the ancient Church. "For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom" (1 Corinthians 1:22) They exalted the material above the spiritual. A morbid love of the wonderful as it appealed to their senses, so occupied them, that the wonder-words of Christ found no room within them. It was not evidence that they sought, but the gratification of mere idle curiosity. They were wrong at heart — and there can be no surer path to the perversion of the intellect in relation to sacred truth. The Bible deals very extensively with this tendency of men to amalgamate the spiritual and the material. In such instances as the teraphim, — which were the objects of so much solicitude on the part of Rachel, — and those kings of Judah who destroyed the idols, but did not cut down the high places and the groves, — we have indications of the cleaving of the human heart to a bodily image, — and the fear of men to commit themselves entirely to the spiritual and the unseen. The Church of God is now under the special direction of the Holy Spirit.

1. Special manifestations God makes by means of His written Word. No logic can argue away the force of impressions made upon the mind by the words of Divine truth. Only he who has experienced the surprise caused by the unexpected adaptation to his circumstances of the "word in season" can appreciate the moral power of such occurrences as these. They lift up the depressed, — strengthen the weak, — confirm those who were wavering in the path of duty, — and strengthen the foundations of trust in God and His mercy. It is no cabalistic use of Scripture of which we speak, but a calm, deliberate, faithful employment of one of the Divinely-appointed ends of the Word. Revelation is given to us to be our guide, — our light, — our food, — and to serve countless offices of mercy in our lives.

2. Conscience is another of the means of Divine communication with men. A faculty which rightly employed brings us very near to God. All its worth, however, is to be determined by the measure of its subordination to the truth of God. A conscientious man is not a man who is infallibly right, but one who acts faithfully in accordance with his views of that which is right. Those views may be utterly distorted by a false belief, or completely enfeebled by reason of ignorance. While, then, on the one hand we may not undervalue the great importance of this vicegerent of God in man, on the other hand let us not be led astray by, the pernicious belief — so popular in the present day — that conscientiousness is all that God requires of man. It is subjection to Divine truth that is the demand of the Eternal, and where this is found all the powers of the soul are brought into harmony with each other. "I must have a good conscience," said William Wilberforce. A necessity which every true Christian will value as above all earthly acquisitions. It is not indispensable to my happiness that I become rich or powerful. — much that is the object of human ambition I could surrender and feel little loss, — but a conscience void of offence is essential to my existence. A happy man is he, who knows the power of the blood of sprinkling to cleanse this mighty agency from all defilement. The astronomer should not be so solicitous to preserve his bright, clear lenses from dust, — nor the telegraphist so anxious to guard his delicate machinery from injury, as a godly man to enshrine his conscience securely from even the minutest disturbing influence. A little grit on the bearings of the locomotive will disturb the progress and safety of the hundreds of tons weight, which otherwise would be borne swiftly in the desired direction. Little causes often disturb the peace and arrest the progress of the godly. It is worthy of all the care a Christian can bestow on any object; — the cultivation of a tender conscience. A friend, the last to forsake us and the most valuable in the hour of need, — or a foe the hardest to propitiate and the most relentless in his assaults — deserves much consideration. In determining the path to be pursued, a conscience under the influence of Divine teaching will impart counsels quite as distinct as those which David gathered from "the sound of a going in the top of the mulberry trees."

3. But our Divine Lord and Master has indicated to us and promised us a source of instruction even more complete than that afforded by the Word of God or conscience, — it is the Holy Spirit. "He shall guide you into all truth."

II. THE VIGILANCE ENJOINED. Perhaps like the zephyr which, oft at eventide without previous warning, seems to rise out of the thick serried ranks of ripening corn, and then taps their curled heads in its onward but gentle course, till the whole field bows gracefully, as if paying homage to the sweet breeze. Or, as when the lake, embosomed amidst the Alpine mountains, suddenly changes its glassy surface and ripple after ripple rises and spreads, — but none can tell of the wind that has ruffled its breast, whence it cometh, or whither it goeth. Thus unexpected opportunities steal over us, and say, "Bestir thyself." Whensoever the feeling of desire to draw near to God thus takes possession of the heart, — away to thy secret chamber and fan the flame till the soul is all aglow. To defer the exercise may be — probably will be — to confiscate a blessing. At what time soever an open door presents itself for usefulness to man, or for bringing glory to God — enter in, — pass on, — and do the thing to which the finger of God points, and reap the blessing He bestows. When some spiritual Philistine is in thy grasp, thou shouldest smite six or seven times: for a feeble opposition to evil only provokes its more severe hostility. No command was more frequently uttered by the Saviour than this, — "Watch." In every well-managed ship the men in the forepart are those of keenest vision and most experience; night and day they pace the deck, one face always looking ahead, the other abaft. All around we need to keep our guard — lest coming good be missed, and coming evil takes us unawares.

III. THE PROMISE GIVEN. "Then shall the Lord go out before thee." In like manner He went before Israel in their wanderings through the desert. He gave them not only the assurance of His protection, but the blessing also of His guidance. They had but to follow the movements of the pillar of cloud, and the waste, howling wilderness yielded them a security greater than that of thick-walled cities. Each night saw the fiery defence lighted up which shot its friendly rays round all the tents of Jacob, — but only intensified the darkness beyond the sacred enclosure. Many a feeble heart became strong by a glance at the symbol of the Divine presence. This was the explanation of their surprising victories over superior armies, and of their defeat and expulsion of the Canaanitish kings.

(W. G. Lewis.)

I. "WHEN," OR THE DIVINE INTIMATION. "When thou hearest the sound of a going in the tops of the mulberry-trees."

1. They were to wait for God's leading.

2. They were promised an intimation of God's leading. The trees were to be moved at the top. They could only be reached' from above. It was to be God's signal. The whole scene is quite within the scope of imagination. They are concealed in the thicket. They are waiting for the sign. What different tempers! What need of patience! How slowly dragged the minutes. Zeal longed to break from concealment and dash upon the foe. Unbelief wondered if the leaves would ever stir at all. Fear imagined they might be discovered by the enemy before the intimation of God's presence was given. Presumption thought a favourable opportunity had come, and that it was a mistake not to seize it. Faith counselled patience continually, while Hope cheered them with bright songs — until at last the promised token was given, the trees whispered musically of the Divine presence, and bursting from their ambush they swept as a torrent on the foe. God is giving constantly intimations of His presence. We are looking for a revival. Have we any token of the Lord's will in the matter? The Divine breath of the Spirit already seems stirring the leaves. The sense of quivering expectancy which one finds abroad. The unity of desire for a more abundant outpouring of the Holy Spirit. The increased spirit of prayer which has been manifested.

II. "THEN!" OR HUMAN ACTIVITY. "Then shalt thou bestir thyself."

1. God expects man to do his part. There is always a human element in these movements. God uses instrumentalities, not because He is obliged to, but because He desires and chooses to do so. He would teach us the need of effort.

2. God expects man to do his part at the right moment. "When... then." When God gives the signal, when the trees sway in the heavenly gale — strike then — that is the moment of destiny.

"There is a tide in the affairs of men,

Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;

Omitted, all the voyage of their life

Is bound in shallows, and in miseries.

On such a full sea are we now afloat;

And we must take the current when it serves,

Or lose our ventures."

3. God expects man to do his part with utmost vigour. "Then bestir thyself." This effort must be whole hearted and heavy handed. Because God promised His help they were not to stint their labour. To the fullest of their powers they were to exert themselves,

3. "FOR" OR THE ASSURED VICTORY. "For then shall the Lord go out before thee to smite the Philistines." The certain result is victory. This must be the result, for all the conditions necessary to secure it are fulfilled. God is leading, man is working: natural conclusion — victory. It must comet

(W. L. Mackenzie.)

I. A PRIME NECESSITY PROMISED. "Then shall the Lord go out before thee." This was a necessity to David, for he had long ago learned that all his dependence must be upon God. It is also a necessity to us. What we want just now especially is for the Lord to go before us in our contemplated mission. In what way?

1. The Holy Spirit must go before us to prepare the minds of the people. When our Lord came into the world, the world was prepared for His coming. There had been certain things done, all over the globe, that made the time of His coming the best time at which He could come. But it has also been noticed by our missionaries, especially in the South Sea islands, that before they arrived there, certain changes had taken place, and certain movements in the minds of the people, that made the missionaries feel that they had come just in the nick of time. God had gone before them in providence and in grace, making ready a people prepared for the Word. You cannot tell how much the conversion of sinners is due to antecedent action on the part of God before the saving moment came. There is a fire, and you say that the fire was made when the match was struck, and applied to the wood. Well, that is true; but long before that moment, he who split the wood and he who made the match had something to do with preparing the fire, had they not? Where had been your fire if the wood had not been dried, and ready for the kindling, and deftly laid in its place? And where had been your light if it had not been for the phosphorus, and all else that was used to make the match? So does the Lord prepare for the fire of holy service. God is at work in London as well as elsewhere. God is at work in providence, and with tender touches here and there He is making men thoughtful, constraining them to feel, in a word, making them ready before the time of the preaching comes.

2. And then the Holy Spirit must go before us to prepare the preacher. Preachers may think themselves thoroughly prepared for their work; but the smallest thing may put them out, — some little disarrangement of their dress, something in the pulpit not quite right, or somebody dropping an umbrella in the aisle, or some one person in the congregation wire does not seem in the least impressed. Oh, shame upon us that we, who have such a message to deliver, should be affected by such very little things! Yet preachers are so affected, and often they cannot help it.

II. A CONSEQUENT ACTION COMMANDED: "Then thou shalt bestir thyself: for then shall the Lord go out before thee."

1. God could do without us if he chose to do so; but God is pleased not to do without us. What a mercy it is that God deigns to use us!

2. When will some of. our brethren learn the fact that God's working is not a reason for our sitting still? It is not written, "The Lord will go before thee, and then thou shalt rest," or, "The Lord shall go before thee, and then thou shalt sit still, and be grateful." No, no; "Then thou shalt bestir thyself." Our forefathers, of the olden time, who went everywhere preaching the Word, the Calvinists of France who, in the Desert and wherever they went, hazarded their lives unto the death, the Huguenots, who could bravely do and dare and die for Christ, were, to a man, believers in these principles, which are supposed by some to send men to sleep. The most energetic Christianity that ever was upon the face of the earth has been just this form of Christianity; and therefore it cannot possibly be that the doctrine rightly Used will encourage idleness or sloth. How can it? If you yourself were told to-night, "Proceed on such an errand, and your God will go with you," would that be a reason why you should not go? If you were bidden to fight a battle, and you were told, "God will be with you in the battle," would the fact that God would be with you, and would win the victory, be a reason why you should not fight? You must be made of strange material if that were to be the result of the promise of victory and the assurance of the Divine presence. Nothing makes men labour so energetically as the expectation of success; and the certainty of succeeding, because God is with them, nerves their arm, and makes them do what otherwise would be impossible.

III. A HOPEFUL SIGN AFFORDED. Whether these were mulberry trees or balsams, I do not know; it is very difficult to discover what trees they were. It does not matter much, but David was to get round to the back of the Philistines instead of attacking them in front, and he was to lie quietly in ambush till he heard a rustling in the tops of the trees when there was no wind, as though they were trodden by the feet of angels, and God's host was hurrying to the fray. Perhaps this sign, whilst it was intended to encourage David and his people, was meant to intimidate the Philistines. They would say one to another, "What is that noise? What is that rustling? There is a sound of something travelling along the tops of yonder trees. There is not a breath of wind, but you can hear the leaves moving. Listen to the rustling; something strange is happening." The Philistines were most superstitious, and would be ready very speedily to take to their heels. However, whatever it was to them, to David it was to be the signal for attacking them. Christians should always be smiting the Philistines of sin; but there are certain times that call us to unusual action. And what are they?

1. To me they are when we see earnestness among God's people.

2. Again, it is a hopeful sign, when God gives us useful preachers. Oh, what a blessing a true gospel minister is! There was no better proof of the Reformation having begun than when Luther began to speak out against the abominations of Rome, and Zwingle lifted up his voice, and Farel proclaimed the old faith, and Calvin came forth to declare the truth of God, and Beza and multitudes of others gave their testimony. These were the birds that sang because the sun was rising and when God gives us useful preachers, they are among the signs that he is coming near us to bless the people.

3. Well, when the preachers are there, with a praying people at their back, then, when you see crowds come together to hear the Word, do you not think that there is the sound of a going in the tops of the mulberry trees? "That is right, Mr. Spurgeon," says one; "stir them up." I did not say "them." I said, and my text says, "Then thou shalt bestir thyself." It is all very well to say, "I like to see an earnest church." So do I; but it is better to have every member zealously seeking the souls of others, for that is the way to have an earnest church, and that is the way the blessing comes. David, you must bestir yourself; then the soldiers who are with you will catch the fire from their leader, and they will bestir themselves.

IV. A SURE RESULT FOLLOWING. The result was all that David could have expected, and more. Obedient action secured it. David simply "did so, as the Lord had commanded him." You do not hear much more about the Philistines after this. That final stroke had crushed them down. But David did so, not merely thought about it. He probably thought; but he also "did so." He came to the practical point. If I habitually look after others, and speak individually to them about their souls, and if I bring the gospel before them, either in a printed form or viva voce, if I keep on testifying of Christ to everybody who will give me a hearing, I shall have conversions as surely as I am a living man; it cannot be otherwise. If you continue looking to God to go before you, and follow after Him with that part of the work which He has put into your hands, and which is a great privilege to be engaged in, you shall not labour in vain, nor spend your strength for nought. "Paul planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase."

( C. H. Spurgeon.)

I. THAT THE CAUSE OF GOD HATH NOT MADE UNOPPOSED PROGRESS IN THE WORLD. Here we have a pattern and parable of the conflict. The powers of darkness may change their name and front, but their antipathy remains undiminished to this hour. The Christian, like the Hebrew Church, is militant in its character, needs ever to be on the alert, and fully equipped to repulse attacks made upon the city of God, and make aggressions upon the city of Satan. The Philistines are upon us.

II. THAT GOD ALWAYS HAS MORE FORCES ON HIS SIDE AND AT HIS COMMAND THAN APPEAR VISIBLE TO HUMAN SIGHT. The flowing tide of Divine energy is with the Church of God, and "if God be for us who can be against?"

III. THAT GOD EXPECTS THE CO-OPERATION OF HUMAN AGENCY WITH HIS UNSEEN FORCES IN THE VICTORIES AND PROGRESS OF HIS KINGDOM. Those who are in close and conscious touch with God will hear sounds unheard by the ears of the world, and will feel that more is with them than all who can be against them. Conclusion:

1. Enlist under the banner of the cross.

2. Equip for the battle of the Lord.

3. Look for the signal to advance.

4. March in the strength of God.

5. Continue to the end. then the palm of victory and the fadeless crown.

(F. W. Brown.)

Let us learn from David to take no steps without God. The last time you moved, or went into another business, or changed your situation in life, you asked God's help, and then did it, and you were blessed in the doing of it. You have been up to this time a successful man, you have always sought God, but do not think that the stream of providence necessarily runs in a continuous current; remember, you may to-morrow without seeking God's advice venture upon a step which you will regret but once, and that will he until you die. There are certain signs which ought to be indications to us of certain' duties. I shall use the verse in this way. First, there are certain special duties, which are not duties to everybody, but only to some people. If we wish to know whether we are to perform these duties, we must seek signs concerning them, and not go and rush into a duty to which we are not called, unless we get a sign, even as David got the rustling among the mulberry leaves. And then I should use it, in the second place, thus. There are certain duties which are common to all of us; but when we see some signs of God's Holy Spirit being in motion, or some other signs, these are seasons when we ought to be more than ever active, and more then ever earnest in the service of our Master.

I. First, then, in regard to SPECIAL DUTIES. I shall confine myself to one. The office of the ministry is a special duty. I believe the office of the ministry, though not like that of the priesthood, as to any particular sanctity, or any particular power that we possess, is yet like the priesthood in this — that no man ought to take it to himself, save he that is called thereunto, as was Aaron.

II. But now I come to something more practical to many of you; you do not profess to be called to preach; THERE ARE CERTAIN DUTIES BELONGING TO ALL CHRISTIANS WHICH ARE TO BE SPECIALLY PRACTISED AT SPECIAL SEASONS.

1. Concerning the Christian church at large. The whole of the Christian church should be very prayerful, always seeking the unction of the Holy One to rest upon their hearts, that the kingdom of Christ may come and that His will be done on earth even as it is in heaven; but there are times when God seems to favour Zion, when there are great movements made in the church, when revivals are commenced, when men are raised up whom God blesses; that ought to be to you like "a sound of going in the tops of the mulberry trees."

2. The same truth holds good of any particular congregation. One Sabbath-day the minister preached with great unction; God clothed him with power, he seemed like John the Baptist in the wilderness, crying, "Repent ye, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." He spake with all the earnestness of a man who was about to die; he so spake that the people trembled, a visible thrill passed through the audience. Men and women rose up from the sermon, saying, "Surely, God was in this place, and we have felt His presence." What ought a Christian man to say, as he retires from the house of God? He should say, "I have heard this day the sound of the leaves of the mulberry trees." I saw the people earnest; I marked the minister speaking mightily, God having touched his lips with a live coal from off the altar. I saw the tear in every eye; I saw the deep, wrapt attention, of many who were careless. There were some young people there who looked as though they had been impressed; their countenances seemed to show that there was a work doing. Now, what should I do? The first thing I will do is, I will bestir myself. But how shall I do it? Why, I will go home this day, and I will wrestle in prayer more earnestly than I have been wont to do that God will bless the minister and multiply the church. The same I might say of any time of general sickness, or any time of plague or cholera, or sudden death. There are times when the cholera is raging through our streets; the people are all trembling, they are afraid to die; mark, that is the "sound of a going in the tops of the mulberry trees." It is the business of you and me to bestir ourselves, when people are by any means led to serious thought, "Now," said the Puritans, during the great plague of London, when the hireling parish priests had fled from their churches — "now is our time to preach." And all through that terrible time, when the carts, filled with the dead, went through the streets overgrown with grass, these strong-minded Puritans occupied the pulpits, and boldly preached the word of God. That is what we should do whenever we see a time more favourable than another for telling sinners of the wrath to come. Let us seize it, just as the merchant looks out for every turn of the market, for every rise and every fall; just as the farmer looks out for a good season for sowing or planting or mowing. Let us look out for the best times for seeking to do good. Let us plough deep while sluggards sleep, and let us labour as much as possible in the best season, to make hay while the sun is shining, and serve our God when we hear the "sound of a going in the tops of the mulberry trees."

3. Keep the same idea in view in regard to every individual you meet with.

4. I must expressly make an appeal to you in regard to your own children. The tender plant, if it be of God, it is sure to grow; but let me take care to be the instrument of fostering it, and let; me take my boy aside, and say unto him," Well, my son, have you learnt something of the evil of sin? "And if he says yes, and I find he has a little hope and faith, though it may be rather a superficial work let me not despise it, but let me remember, I was once grace in the blade, and though grace in the ear now, I would never have been grace in the ear if I had not been grace in the blade. I must not despise the blade, because they are not ears; I must not kill the lambs, because they are not sheep; for where would my sheep come from, if I killed all the lambs? I must not despise the weakest of the saints, for where should I get the advanced saints from, if I put weak ones out of the covenant, and tell them they are not the children of God? Christian, in regard to yourself there is a great truth here. Be sure you have the sail up. Do not miss the gale, for want of preparation for it.

( C. H. Spurgeon.)

God signals to His people to take certain steps at certain times. Then it is their duty to bestir themselves. When the Deluge was about to descend upon a guilty world, Noah was commanded to bestir himself and prepare an ark for the saving of his household. When the fire-shower was coming upon Sodom, Lot was laid hold of by God's angels and urged to escape for his life. When the children of Israel were in peril of being overwhelmed by the Egyptians, God signalled to them the order to advance, and by a majestic pillar of cloud led them through the parted sea. All sacred history is studded with illustrations of this truth. Martin Luther, discovering the "open secret" in the convent Bible at Erfurth, and hammering, his theses on the church door of Wittemburg; the young Wesleys, awakened at Oxford and sent out to awaken slumbering Britain, were simply God's agents bestirring themselves at the Divine signal.

(T. L. Cuyler, D. D.)

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