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of honour. He knew what was due to himself as a soldier and å man of valour. He would not slay Asabel until he had repeatedly warned him against persisting in pursuing him. Have we the same spirit of candour pervading our actions, and our dealings with ourselves and one another? And ere we act decisively do we, with a due regard to our own position as men and Christians, properly and prayerfully examine our motives ? Are we anxious to know that, when we are doing what we believe to be for our advantage, we are not dishonouring God? That when we are doing what is expedient, we are doing what is right? Do we seek invariably to identify our interest with our duty, or are we making duty subservient to will ? Do we deal with our neighbours as we should desire ourselves to be dealt with; or do We ACCUSE others while we EXCUSE ourselves ? Do we remonstrate with our enemy ere we condemn him ? Do we struggle ere we strike? Do we counsel ere we kill ? Let us remember that even in the defence of our religion we have to be guided by a spirit of toleration. Christianity suffers much from the intolerance of its professors. It can be promoted without rancour; and the man who cannot be gained by gentleness, will never be defeated by declamation. In spiritual things, then, as well as temporal, let us always remember to “do to others as we would that they should do to us.”
Although Abner was faithful to the cause he espoused, he saw fit to change sides—and transfer his allegiance to another master. In his case, he was, doubtless, led to this step by insufficient reasons. He was rebuked, you will remember, by Ishbosheth for his presumption in marrying the widow of Saul; and, feeling his pride wounded at this interference with his conduct, he abandoned the defence of the interests of the house of Saul, and enlisted under the opposing banner of the followers of David. The change he thus made was, doubtless, a change for the better; but the grounds on which he made it were wrong. Viewing it, for the present, however, simply as a transference of allegiance from one cause to another, let us direct the enquiry to ourselves and ask;—Have we any disposition to change sides? or have we changed already? Do we find any reasons to be dissatisfied with the master we are serving? and, if so, what are those reasons? Perhaps we find him a hard master. Does the service he imposes on us keep us under too much restraint ? Do we feel our pride mortified at the remonstrances which he makes against our conduct? We, like Abner, must fight on one side or the other: we cannot be neutral. Behold then the hostile standards, and choose under which you will enlist ! First ask yourself under which you have been fighting hitherto. Look at the weapons you have used. Are they stained with the blood of a vanquished conscience, or do they reek with the gore of strangled lusts? Are the weapons of your warfare carnal or spiritual? Are they whetted with the keenness of craving appetites, or dipped in the fulness of Divine love? Are they snatched from the scabbard of self-dependence, or plucked from the sheath of eternal strength? Are they sharpened upon the "burning marl” of the infernal pit, or tempered on the granite breast of the Rock of Ages? Collect the sounds that have mingled in your ears.
Has it been the vaunting cry of human boasting, or the deep-drawn prayer of conscious weakness? Has it been the malevolent yell of hate and scorn, or the mellifluous hallelujah of blessing and of praise? Have your ranks resounded with the cry of “Crucify him! Crucify him!!” or reverberated with the anthem “Glory to God in the highest-peace on earth and good will to men.” Look at the standard you have followed. Is it red with the blood of martyrs, or radiant with the effulgence of the Lamb? Does it glare with the lurid scowl of hell, or coruscate the glories of the perfect day? Have you dragged it through hells of fire and seas of blood, or borne it peaceful from the realms of bliss? Behold the blackened tents of Satan, listen to the savage clamour of his bloody hosts, look at the drooping pinions of the grinning standard dripping with the life-blood of the saints !
Turn to the tents of Zion, glistening in the noontide radiance of the Sun of Righteousness: gaze on the faces of the embattled throng teeming with Deity: watch them as they shake aloft their glittering spears and unfurl the banner of the cross : catch the cadence of their ceaseless song—“Now unto him that hath loved us and washed us from our sins in his blood, to him
be glory and dominion for ever and ever.” And urged on by the appealing blood of martyrs crying from beneath the altar, let us join that glittering throng, follow that spotleşs banner, lean upon that bright mount beneath whịch they are encamped, and exult that “we are not come to the mount that might be touched and that burneth with fire, nor unto blackness and darkness and tempest, and the sound of a trumpet, and the voice of words; but we are come unto Mount Zion, and unto the city of the living God-the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels,--to the general assembly and Church of the first-born, whose names are written in heaven to God the judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect --- to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant,--and to the blood of sprinkling which speaketh better things than the blood of Abel.” But let us remember that this must be done at once, or the victory will be won without us. Do not let us think we can fight on both sides, or maintain neutral ground. “He that is not with me is against me.” God will take no lukewarm service at our hands. “I would ye were either hot or cold, and because ye are neither hot nor cold I will spue thee out of my mouth.” By serving Satan we may enjoy for a time a seeming licence in sin --we may dash wildly on when undisturbed but in our fan. cied freedom we are only getting entangled more and more, and sinking into a deeper bondage ; for, just as the steed, unguided by the charioteer, entraps his feet in the tangled harness, and stumbles and falls in his precipitate course, so we, with the reins of impunity thrown upon the neck of our sins, and unchecked by guiding grace, shall become more and more immeshed, until our giddy “steps take hold on hell," and "when we fall, we fall like Lucifer-never to rise again.”
We must, however, dismiss this general consideration of Abner's history, or rather improvement of the events of his life, and come more immediately to our text; merely remarking that it is plain from the life of Abner, and the distinguishing traits of his character, that in a military point of view he neither lived nor died “as a fool dieth.”
I. The experience of the past and the records of history shew that it is very possible for men who are wise, as the world counts wisdom, to die the death of fools.
Many men, whose eloquence has astonished senates, whose researches have extended the operations of science, or widened the influence of art— whose poesy has charmed the fancy, and whose works have enriched the world of letters, have denied the very existence of a God. These men have gloried to proclaim creation the mere effect of chance, and man the pure result of accident; they have pressed philosophy and wit into the service to prove that the sun which rules the day, the moon that rules the night, the countless stars, the everlasting hills, the blushing flowers, the whispering trees, the gushing fruit, the purling streams, the dimpling lakes, the surging sea, leaped unbidden into being; and it is only when these false philosophers——these wise men—have died the death of fools, that they realize the truth of what they once despised. · The fool has said in his heart, there is no God.” We would not be misunderstood as desiring to depreciate the refinements of learning, but only to plead its consecration to high ends, and its subserviency to inscrutable and unerring truth. Revelation, though beyond the reach, is not inconsistent with philosophy; and when philosophy, acknowledging the limited range of her sphere, brings her feebler light to aid the lamp of revelation, it is then she seems most emphatically to vindicate her honour; and, dipping her pencil into the pure but neglected urn of truth, to write before besotted nations, in letters of imperishable light, the independency and immortality of man.
Has flowed from lips wet with Castilian dews." II. We remark, secondly, that the death of a fool presupposes a life of folly, and a life of folly ensures a death of shame.
From what has been before observed, it appears that a man may lead a brilliant life, and win and deserve the applause of the world, and yet die like a fool. It seems then that a brilliant course is not always a course of wisdom.' Wisdom of a nature suited to the right regulation and adjustment of worldly affairs, may indeed exist in the mind of one who is in reality a fool. And this shews how wide is the difference between worldly and heavenly wisdom. It is a life of folly to consume the midnight oil in chasing the phantasies of poetry, or in unravelling the abstruse web of science, to the exclusion of the higher and more sacred lore of Heaven, however much the intellect may gain by such a process. It is with peculiar beauty that one of our poets contrasts the life of a brilliant atheist of the past century, with that of a poor but pious peasant at her daily toil.
“ O happy peasant! O unhappy bard !
His the mere tinsel-her's the bright reward;
She-safe in the simplicity of her's." If there be any one who is wise in his own conceits let him become a fool so he may win Christ. “God can make the weak things of the world to confound the mighty, and the foolish things to confound the wise ; yea, and things that are not, to bring to nought things that are." Let no one who is engaged in teaching men the way of life, be discouraged by the sneers of the world. Ye who are toiling in the Sabbath school, and pointing the steps of destitute youth along the road to heaven, never suffer yourselves to be laughed out of the diligent prosecution of your work ; for recollect that it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching and of teaching to save them who believed ; and, pointing to these encouraging assurances, let us turn to our revilers whilst we cry, “ Where is the scribe? Where is the wise? Where is the disputer of this world ? Hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world ?”
III. We are living like fools when we habitually cherish blind and stubborn prejudices.