1 Samuel 11:14-15
Then said Samuel to the people, Come, and let us go to Gilgal, and renew the kingdom there.…
! — "Gilgal!" The word means a wheel, a revolution. And is not the great circumference of the year, measured as it is by a few hundred days in the poor chronicle of our lives, but by hundreds of millions of miles in the celestial spaces — is it not just rounding up into longer light, and beginning its benevolent motion for us afresh? We hear, too, of "the renewing of a kingdom"; and those words impress us at once with some idea, though it may be an indistinct one, of a renewal nearer home, that we are to solemnize; more important to us than the sweep of an unconscious planet, than the changes of empire past or to come, or any of the outward distinctions of the world. The shadows of the future gathered over Samuel's serene brow and his religious spirit; and he replied in the words that I have read: "Come, and let us go to Gilgal, and renew the kingdom there." That had been a hallowed place from the time that the Hebrew tribes entered the land. It had been consecrated by religion and good success. There was the proper spot to repeat their vows, to remember their obligations. It was aloof from public clamour and the highways of ordinary life. There, where the Almighty bad "rolled away the reproach" of His people, in the time when He alone was acknowledged as their sovereign, should they repeat their allegiance to the new monarch whom they had chosen. There, in the face of that dread majesty, soberly and apart, and not in the stir of a sudden triumph, and not among the scenes of everyday passions, they should "renew the kingdom." Let the engagements that are made with a man's self be now established. Let the hopes of a Christian soul receive an increasing lustre. Let the pledges you owe to the powers of heaven be cheerfully brought.
I. We may observe, in the first place, THAT WE ARE NOW "RENEWING THE KINGDOM" OF OUR EARTHLY DAYS. The year is renewed for us. The light is a little earlier in the eastern sky, and lingers a little upon its farewell in the west. as if nature was unwilling to bring two of its greatest dreads upon man at once — at least in their fullest degree — the darkness gives way as the cold increases. A new account is opening with Time, that rigorous master. But bow, you may ask, can we make any compact with him? He calls all seasons and places and lives his own. His dominion is absolute. He accepts no conditions from us. Without asking whether or not we are ready to confirm his authority, he will lead us through his inevitable changes, he will bring us down to his universal level of dust. And yet, when we confront him, with God to help, and in the holy places of our nature, we feel that we are possessed of a dominion more enduring than his own; that we have thoughts which are independent of him, and hopes beyond his reach. We can oblige him to serve our best interests, which we are apparently but the subjects of his despotic rule. We are apt to consider him as a tyrant, the enemy of human liberty and enjoyment, inaccessible to pity, and producing but what he means to desolate. His symbol is the falling sands of an hourglass. His crown is an eternal baldness. His sceptre is a scythe for all the green growths of mortality. But we are thus paralysing our proper strength, and undervaluing our real importance in the comparison with him. What has Time to do with any of the conclusions of the reason, or any of the fruits of the Spirit; with the very thought of duty, or the recompenses of its award? The soul, in its purest exercises, soars far above him; and in its farthest abstractions cannot see that he exists. But call him a real king; and invest him with all the majesty that timid fancies have conceived. Even then we may meet him upon grounds of mutual respect. We may call a convention with him at Gilgal. We may stipulate concerning some of the powers of his government. We may say to him with firmness, and so that he shall be influenced by what we say — Sire, we are your children, in truth; we are your subjects, beyond the subjection that any earthly monarch receives or claims. Our limbs are at your disposal, and our furrowing cheeks, and the locks of our heads. Our treasure is yours, to consume or to divide. Our blood is yours, to chill in the veins of our age, or to shed by calamitous appointments. We offer you no resistance. But for all this you must perform something on your part. You must bestow upon us opportunity. You must yield to us supplies. The means of knowledge and improvement you must not, only leave unviolated, but increased. You must observe the just limits of your sway. The rights of conscience and of the whole mind you must scrupulously respect. You must lay no tyranny upon our honest wills. You shall not blight our hearts, through fear of you, with any of the strokes of that despotism to which we have surrendered our persons. So will we, on this new year's day, stand in our Gilgal, and "renew the kingdom" with you there.
II. I now ask you to turn away from Time, and from every dominion of an outward sort, AND CONSIDER THE EMPIRE THAT IS WITHIN US. Here we have to deal, indeed, with ourselves only. But that does not exclude the danger of being deceived, and oppressed, and defrauded. Evil temptations will arise, and unwise counsellors. Despotism will be attempted. Anarchy will be afoot. There will be rebellion. Licentious principles will spurn at the wholesome restraints of law. Ignorance will mistake, and presumption will be daring. Let us, in this respect above all others, "renew the kingdom" today. If the same prophet whom I have imagined speaking before, should again take up his parable, he would say: —
1. Now "renew" your good resolutions. What an uncertain kingdom is that of our purposes! We determine and fall short. We attempt in a feeble way, and fail, as every thing that is feeble must. Some tell us that we can do nothing if we try; and others tell us that we can gain nothing if we succeed. Fablers! We depend as much at least on the struggles that we make as on the destiny that is ordained. To aspire is better than the contented fool's best portion. To work towards an approved end is infinitely richer than any counted and measured success.
2. "Renew" your affections. Balance them, and let none of them act the absolute king. Purify them from their soils. Brush away the rust and the dust that have gathered upon them from vulgar uses or a base inaction. Send them forth with a clearer light and a more blessed efficacy. Bring into a beautiful order the dispositions that bind you to your kindred, to your house, to your friendships, to your country, and to your kind.
3. "Renew" the course of your meditations upon the subjects that concern your most intimate welfare. You may find something faltering and unsettled in them. Establish the principles of your judgment. Bring your conclusions into a harmony. Set up within you a Divine and submissive order, that shall be after the pattern of that eternal one, in the circles of which you dwell.
4. "Renew" your faith. Is not that a kingdom of itself? Is there any thing to be compared to its undecaying dominion? It stands nobly apart from the world's turmoil, the world's command, the world's destruction. You can receive no such strength as flows from that. It is all unsettled in your thoughts. You have allowed momentary interests to intercept its everlasting light. You bays allowed a shallow and sluggish scepticism to affront its all-embracing principles. Renew the kingdom of the immortal in the breasts that will soon cease to beat. Renew it, though in the absence of what you desire. Renew it, though in the face of discouragements. Renew it, in its simplicity, in its sovereign beauty, in its reasonableness, in its might. He who came to confirm the best truth with which such a faith is connected, when he ate "the last supper" with His disciples, said, "I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father's kingdom," We perceive that He was speaking, not of a kingdom that was subject to time; not of one that was to be established in His own heart, for nothing there needed confirming; but of that state of peace and glory which is preparing beyond this world's troubles, by the faithful deeds of man, and the abundant love of his Maker. Let every believer anticipate it. Let him labour towards it. Let him make himself a believer indeed.
(N. E. Frothingham.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Then said Samuel to the people, Come, and let us go to Gilgal, and renew the kingdom there.