1 Samuel 7:15-17
And Samuel judged Israel all the days of his life.…
Samuel is a splendid model of sanctified authority. Even as Mount Gideon towers in rugged, regal grandeur above that broad tableland on which the fortunes of the Jewish monarchy were afterwards unrolled, so his strong pure character towers in magnificent sublimity above the fickle, selfish age in which he lived. He was the highest type of a ruler. There are two kinds of authority, that which is sustained by force of arms, and that which is held by force of character. Samuel had the latter; the former is hard to get and hard to keep. It is the possession of tyrants. We have had in these later days a striking illustration of these two kinds of power in the Czar of Russia and the late ex-Emperor of Brazil. A certain writer in commenting on the life of the former says: "No one in the world is so grand a monarch, and yet no one in the world today is more wretched. He knows that the spirit of Nihilism is abroad throughout his vast domains, he fears to see in every face the look of an assassin. Turn now to the other picture, Dom Pedro, for many years the loved and trusted emperor of the Brazilian people, the friend of the oppressed, the emancipator of the slave, the patron of the arts and sciences, who was willing when his people had become, through his own generous influence and training, ripe for a republican form of government, to abdicate his throne and to go uncomplainingly into exile. His was an authority resulting from character. He held a throne within a throne which could not be touched or overthrown by the vicissitudes of a progressing civilisation. The influence of the last of the Brazilian emperors, like the influence of the last of Israel's judges, will be felt throughout successive, generations. The authoritative power of a strong, continuous character is a fact familiar to us all. Samuel ruled by virtue of what he was in himself, and he was what he was because of his early training and continuous growth in character. I would like to say a few words about this continuity of righteousness. As a rule the men and women who have the strongest influence in the world today are those whose moral characters have been built up from their youth time. I do not wish to say anything that shall discourage those who have emerged from the wild excessses of youth into a manhood comparatively strong and influential. I think of men like Augustine, and John Bunyan, and John Newton, and John Gough, who, having emerged from the fiery furnace of dissipation, went about among their fellow men and, despite the awful scars upon their characters and the smell of fire upon their garments, wielded a mighty influence for good and exercised a moral authority in the world which might have been impossible had they, like Timothy and St. Anthony and Edward the Sixth of England, led lives of unbroken righteousness. And yet these men may be regarded as exceptions to the general law of influence. The wild oats theory is all wrong, the assertion that you must be a profligate and a prodigal before you can be a prince among men is devil's gospel. I have no doubt that the devil over-reaches himself and cheats himself, but in any transaction between you and him he is longer-headed than you are. If you give him a mortgage on your life in the early days, he will be pretty sure to get out of you double the face of your note before he gets through with you. Many a reformed man, many a converted man, is obliged to lament today, as Job did, because "the iniquities of his youth" possess him. The sin is forgiven, but the disabled body, the weakened will, the impaired influence, the thought of those who have been led astray by his example, must abide with him. Chaucer, "the bright herald of English song," a man of surpassing abilities, failed to be the power that he might have been because of his early sins. He cried out repeatedly On his deathbed: "Woe is me that I cannot recall and annul these things; but, alas! they are continued from man to man and I cannot do what I desire." I had a letter from one of these unfortunates only a few days ago. He has for many years been yielding to temptation. Again and again he has striven to break away from the thraldom of his past life, but as yet in vain. He says: "I have been on a disastrous downhill slide for the past few weeks; nothing wrong other than dissipation, which ought to be a criminal offence, particularly for me. Sinning and trying to repent seems to be my lot. Why cannot I be saved?" The difference between a character that has grown up into a matured strength from early goodness and purity and that which results from some sudden and violent conversion after years of weakening excesses is like the difference between the stalactite and the icicle: they look much alike, they are formed by the same forces of nature; but the one is many years forming, and the other grows in a night-time. Keep the icicle under right conditions of temperature and it remains, like the stalactite, solid and beautiful; but change those conditions, put the two together under the burning heat of the sun, and the creation of a night time will molt away, while the deposit of many years will be strong and solid still. The prince among men who is the greatest moral power in the world today, the man who can do the most in moderating and guiding the passions of his fellow men, who is best able to help the weak and encourage the faint, and who impresses his character upon the age in which he lives, is the man who, like Samuel, can look back through middle age and youth and childhood upon a life which has been clean and true.
(C. A. Dickinson.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And Samuel judged Israel all the days of his life.