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lump a spark of feeling responsive to the touching truth; that spark shall fall upon the magazine of pent-up virtues, and of holy aspirations, long enslaved and crippled, and they shall together kindle to a blaze of true devotion to the Lord, a blaze of aspiration to the Lamb that was slain, a blaze that shall ascend each morning with the opening light, and at nightfall with the evening mists, from the household altar, as well as from the shrine of your own devoted heart.
Let him that hath an ear to hear listen now, then, to the overtures of Christ. Let the rich and poor all listen to the invitation—let the backslider hear the outcry, to return—let the captive down in the horrible pit hearken to the voice of the Deliverer—let the slave in the prison-house of sin stretch forth his fettered limbs and feel the liberty wherewith Christ can make him free. Let all "seek the Lord while He may be found, and call upon Him while He is near. Let the wicked man forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts, and let him return unto the Lord, and He shall have mercy upon him, and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon.”
Fools and their Follies.
In addressing you on this title I propose to adopt a few remarks prepared for another purpose, which may not be inappropriate; they are founded on part of a verse in the 3rd chaper of 2nd book of Samuel.
Abner, son of Ner, was the cousin of Saul, and the commander-in-chief of his army. After the death of Saul, Abner's experience and character for ability and decision enabled him to maintain the political interests of his family for seven years ; and while David reigned in Hebron over Judah, Ishbosheth, a surviving son of Saul, was, by Abner's influence, made king over the ten tribes, and reigned in Mahanaim, beyond Jordan. A sort of desultory warfare arose between the two rival kings, in which the advantage appears to have been always upon the side of David. In an engagement fought at Gibeon, the forces of Ishbosheth were beaten. Abner, their general, fled for his life, but was closely pursued by Asahel, the brother of Joab and Abishai. Abner, dreading a blood-feud with Joab, entreated Asahel, but in vain, to desist from the pursuit; and finding that his life was in danger, he at length ran his pursuer through the body. (Refer to 2 Saml., ii., 3 to 32.) This deed, according to the law of honour which still prevails in the East, put what is called a strife of blood between Joab and Abner.
At the risk of being deemed tedious, we take the liberty of briefly adverting to these blood-feuds, with a view to their more complete understanding.
Revenge for bloodshed was regarded among the Jews, not only as a right, but even as a duty, which devolved upon the nearest relative of the murdered person.
The Mosaical law expressly forbids the acceptance of a ransom for the forfeited life of the murderer, although it might be saved by his seeking an asylum at the altar of the Tabernacle, in case the homicide was accidentally committed. (See Num. xxxv., 31; Ex. xxi., 13; 1 Kings, i., 60—ii., 28.) If, however, after Judaism had been fully developed, no other sanctuary had been tolerated but that of the Temple of Jerusalem, the chances of escape of such an homicide from the hands of the avenger, ere he reached the gates of the Temple, must have become less in proportion to the distance from Jerusalem of the spot where the murder was committed. Six cities of refuge were therefore appointed for the temporary safety of the murderer, in various parts of the kingdom, the roads to which were kept in good order to facilitate his escape. (Deut. xix., 3.) Thither the avenger did not dare to follow him, and he lived in safety until it had been ascertained whether or no the murder had been accidental. If it were accidental, he was obliged to remain in the city all his lifetime, or until the death of the high priest; if it were wilful, he was delivered up to the Goel, or avenger of blood, from whom not even the altar could protect him.
These blood-feuds were much dreaded by all, even by the bravest men; and it was on this account that Abner hesitated so long before killing Asahel when he pursued him. As Asahel, however, was deaf to his remonstrances, Abner, as we have seen, dispatched him.
As time went on, Abner, probably rendered arrogant and proud by the conviction that he was the only remaining prop of the house of Saul, took into his own household a woman who had formerly been a concubine of Saul. This act, from the ideas connected with the widows of a deceased king (which obliged them to live in seclusion and single), was not only a great impropriety, but was open to the suspicion of a political design, which Abner may very possibly have entertained. A mild rebuke from Ish bosheth, however, enraged him so much, that he immediately declared his intention thenceforward to devote himself to the interests of David. Accordingly, after explaining his views to the elders of the tribes which still adhered to the house of Saul, he repaired to Hebron with authority to make certain overtures to David on their behalf. He was received with great attention and respect; and David even thought it prudent to promise that he should still retain the chief command of the armies when the desired union of the two kingdoms took place. Joab, David's general, happened to be absent at the time, but he returned to Hebron just as Abner had left it. He speedily understood what had passed, and his fear of the superior influence which such a man as Abner might establish with David, quickened the remembrance of the vengeance which his brother's blood required at his hands. Unknown to the king, though avowedly in his name, he sent a message after Abner to call him back; and, as he returned, Joab met him at the gate, and leading him aside, as if to confer privately with him, suddenly thrust his sword into his body. Joab's privilege as a blood avenger must, to a great extent, have justified his treacherous act in the opinion of the people; and that, together with his influence with the army, screened him from punishment. The lamentations of David, the public mourning which he ordered, and the funeral honours which were paid to the remains of Abner (the king himself following the bier as chief mourner), exonerated him, in public opinion, from having been privy to this assassination. David lamented over Abner as a boldier. He had been a brave and warlike leader; and, though usually opposed to David and to his interests, he could not but deplore his somewhat unworthy and bloody murder; and, rather from regret at the untimely end of a brave man than from any self-interested motives of policy or design, did he bewail his decease. “And the king lamented over Abner, and said, 'Died Abner as a fool dieth ? Thy hands were not bound, nor thy feet put into fetters: as a man falleth before wicked men, so fellest thou. Know ye not that there is a prince and a great man fallen this day in Israel ? And I am this day weak, though anointed king; and these men, the sons of Zeruiah, be too hard for me : the Lord shall reward the doer of evil according to his wickedness."
In briefly descanting upon the words just read, we propose to derive one or two lessons from the history of Abner as it has just been hastily sketched, and then to seek to apply the question contained in the list to the various exigencies of our state,
It may not be unprofitable, with this view, to single out a few of the leading points in Abner's military character and career, and endeavour to contrast with them, some of the probable incidents in our own spiritual experience.
The history of Abner at once shews us, that, as a soldier, he was diligent in what he undertook, and prompt and fearless in the execution of his plans. Do we, in this respect, imitate him as soldiers of the cross? There are few attributes, to the practice of which the inspired page more emphatically gives its sanction, than diligence. It promises rewards to the faithful and assiduous, and threatens punishment to the inactive and supine“Work while it is called to-day; for the night cometh when no man can work." “Be diligent in business, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord." 6. Be instant in season and out of season, redeeming the time." “ Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, where thou goest.” Such are the injunctions to activity with which the Bible abounds. Let us then watchfully observe the motions of the great enemy, as we toil diligently in the vineyard of the Lord; and firmly entrenched against his efforts to assail us and to cripple our efforts behind the shield of faith, that when our Master calls us home, we may be found ready for the summons; and, bowing to the stroke of
“not as fools, but as wise," we may have the testimony of an approving conscience, and an approving God. “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith; henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness which the Lord, the righteous Judge, shall give me at that day.” “Well done, good and faithful servant, thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things : enter thou into the joy of thy Lord."
We notice again that Abner was actuated by high principles
the last enemy,