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forbears to come, for the trial of him that must be the champion of God. Samuel durst not have done thus, but by direction from his Master: it is the ordinary course of God, to prove us by delays, and to drive us to exigents, that we may shew what we are. He, that anointed Saul, might lawfully from God control him. There must be discretion, there may not be partiality, in our cen. sures of the greatest. God makes difference of sins; none, of persons: if we make difference of sins according to persons, we are unfaithful both to God and man.
Scarce is Saul warm in his kingdom, when he hath even lost it. Samuel's first words after the inauguration are of Saul's rejection, and the choice and establishment of his successor. It was ever God's purpose, to settle the kingdom in Judah. He, that took occasion by the people's sin to raise up Saul in Benjamin, takes occasion by Saul's sin to establish the crown upon David." In human probability, the kingdom was fixed upon Saul, and his more worthy son; in God's decree, it did but pass through the hands of Benja. min to Judah.' Besides trouble, how fickle are these earthly glories! Saul, doubtless, looked upon Jonathan as the inheritor of his crown; and behold, ere his peaceable possession, he hath lost it from himself. Our sins strip us, not of our hopes in heaven only, but of our earthly blessings. The way to entail a comfortable prosperity. upon our seed after us, is our conscionable obedience unto God.
1 Sam, viii.
• JONATHAN'S VICTORY AND SAUL'S OATH. It is no wonder, if Saul's courage were much cooled with the heavy news of his rejection. After this he stays under the pomegranate tree in Gibeah: he stirs not towards the garrison of the Philistines. As hope is the mother of fortitude, so nothing doth more breed cowardliness than despair. Every thing dismays that heart, which God hath put out of protection.
Worthy Jonathan, which sprung from Saul as some sweet imp grows out of a crabstock, is therefore full of valour, because full of faith. He well knew, that he should have nothing but discou. ragements from his father's fear; as rather choosing therefore, to avoid all the blocks that might lie in the way than to leap over them, he departs secretly without the dismission of his father, or notice of the people : only God leads him, and his armour-bearer follows him. O admirable faith of Jonathan, whom neither the steepness of rocks, nor the multitude of enemies can dissuade from so unlikely an assault! Is it possible, that two men, whereof one was weaponless, should dare to think of encountering so many thousands? O divine power of faith, that in all difficulties and attempts, makes a man more than men, and regards no more armies of men, than swarms of flies! There is no restraint to the Lord, saith he, to save with many, or by few. It was not so great news, that Saul should be amongst the prophets, as that such a word should come from the son of Saul,
If his father had had but so much divinity, he had not sacríficed. The strength of his God, is the ground of his strength in God. The question is not, what Jonathan can do, but what God Lan do ; whose power is not in the means, but in himself. That man's faith is well underlaid, that upholds itself by the omnipotency of God: thus the father of the faithful built his assurance upon the power of the Almighty.
But many things God can do, which he will not do. How knowest thou, Jonathan, that God will be as forward, as he is able, to give thee victory? " For this,” saith he, “ I have a watch-word from God, out of the mouths of the Philistines ; If they say, Come up, we will go up; for God hath delivered them into our hands : If they say, Tarry till we come to you, we will stand still." Jonathan was too wise to trust unto a casual presage. There might be some far-fetched conjectures of the event from the word: We will come to you, was a threat of resolution; Come you to us, was a challenge of fear; or perhaps, Come up to us, was a word of insult, from them that trusted to the inaccessibleness of the place, and multitudes of men. Insult is from pride ; pride argued a fall; but faith hath nothing to do with probabilities, as that which acknowledgeth no argument but demonstration. If there had not been an instinct from God of this assured warrant of success, Jonathan had presumed, instead of believing; and had tempted that God, whom he professed to glorify by his trust. There can be no faith, where there is no promise ; and where there is a promise, there can be no presumption.
Words are voluntary. The tongues of the Philistines were as free to say, Tarry, as Come : that God, in whom our very tongues move, over-ruled them so, as now they shall speak that word, wbich shall cut their own throats. They knew no more barm in Come, than Tarry: both were alike safe for the sound, for the sense ; but he, that put a signification of their slaughter in the one, pot in the other, did put that word into their mouth, whereby they might invite their own destruction. The disposition of our words is from the providence of the Almighty. God and our hearts have not always the same meaning in our speeches. In those words which we speak at random or out of affectation, God hath a further drift of his own glory, and perhaps our judgment. If wicked men say, Our tongues are our own, they could not say so, but from him, whom they defy in saying so, and who makes their tongue their executioner.
No sooner doth Jonathan hear this invitation, than he answers it. He, whose hands had learned never to fail his heart, puts himself upon his hands and knees to climb up into this danger, The exploit was not more difficult than the way: the pain of the passage was equal to the peril of the enterprise," that his faith might equally triumph over both. He dot, not say, “ How shall I get up?" much less, “ Which way shall I get down again?" but, as if the ground wer: level and the action dangerless, he puts himself into the yiew of the Philistings. Faith is never so glorious, as when it
bath most opposition, and will not see it: reason looks ever to the means, faith to the end ; and instead of consulting how to effect, resolves what shall be effected. The way to heaven is more steep, inore painful. ( God! how perilous a passage hast thou appointed for thy labouring pilgrims! If difficulties will discourage us, we shall but climb to fall. When we are lifting up our foot to the last step, there are the Philistines of death, of temptations, to grapple with: give us but faith, and turn us loose to the spite either of earth or hell.
Jonathan is now on the top of the hill; and now, as if he had an army at his heels, he flies upon the host of the Philistines. His hands, that might have been weary with climbing, are immediately commanded to fight; and deal as many deaths as blows to the amazed enemy. He needs not walk far for this execution : himself and his armour-bearer, in one half acre's space, have slain twenty Philistines.
It is not long since Jonathan smote their garrison in the hill of Geba: perhaps, from that time, his name and presence carried terror in it; but sure, if the Philistines had not seen and felt more than a man in the face and hands of Jonathan, they had not so easily grovelled in death.
The blows and shrieks cannot but affect the next, who with a ghastly noise ran away from death, and affright their fellows no less than themselves are affrighted. The clamour and fear runs on, like fire in a train, to the very foremost ranks. Every man would fly; and thinks there is so much more cause of flight, for that his cars apprehend all, his eyes nothing. Each man thinks his fellow stands in his way, and therefore instead of turning upon him which was the cause of their fight, they bend their swords upon those whom they imagine to be the hinderers of their flight; and now a miraculous astonishment hath made the Philistines Jonathan's champions and executioners. He follows, and kills those which helped to kill others; and the more he killed, the more they feared and fed, and the more they killed each other in the flight: and that fear itself might prevent Jonathan in killing them, the earth itself trembles under them. Thus doth God at once strike them with his own hand, with Jonathan's, with theirs; and makes them run away from life, while they would fly from an enemy. Where the Almighty purposes destruction to any people, he needs not call in foreign powers; he needs not any lands or weapons, but their own : he can make vast bodies die no other death, than their own weight. We cannot be sure to be friends among ourselves, while God is our enemy.
The Philistines fly fast, but the news of their flight over-runs them even unto Saul's pomegranate tree. The watchmen discern, afar off, a flight and execution. Scarch is made; Jonathan is found missing. Saul will consult with the ark : hypocrites, while they have leisure, will perhaps be holy: for some fits of devotion they cannot be bettered. But when the tumult increased, Saul's piety decreases; it is now no season to talk with a priest; “ Withdraw
ukless Zea cases of imbe pursu
thine hand, Ahiah; the ephod must give place to arms: it is more time to fight than to pray.” What needs he God's guidance, when he sees his way before him? He, that before would needs sacrifice ere he fought, will now in the other extreme fight in a wilful indevotion. Worldly minds regard holy duties no further, than may stand with their own carnal purposes. Very easy occasions shall interrupt them in their religious intentions; like unto children, which, if a bird do but fly in their way, cast their eye from their book.
But if Saul serve not God in one kind, he will serve him in another: if he honour him not by attending on the ark, he will honour him by a yow. His negligence in the one, is recompensed with his zeal in the other. All Israel is adjured not to eat any food until the evening. Hypocrisy is ever masked with a blind and thankless zeal. To wait upon the ark and consult with God's priest in all cases of importance, was a direct commandment of God : to eat no food in the pursuit of their enemies, was not commanded. Saul leaves that which he was bidden, and does that which he was not required. To eat no food all day was more difficult, than to attend an hour upon the ark: the voluntary services of hypocrites are many times more painful, than the duties enjoined by God,
In what awe did all Israel stand of the oath even of Saul! It was not their own vow, but Saul's for them; yet coming into the wood, where they saw the honey dropping, and found the meat as ready as their appetite, they dare not touch that sustenance, and will rather endure famine and fainting, than an indiscreet curse. Doubtless, God had brought those bees thither on purpose to try the constancy of Israel. Israel could not but think (that which Jonathan said that the vow was unadvised and injurious; yet they will rather die than violate it. How sacred should we hold the obligation of our own vows in things just and expedient, when the bond of another's rash vow is thus indissoluble!
There was a double mischief followed upon Saul's oath, an abatement of the victory, and eating with the blood; for, on the one side, the people were so faint, that they were more likely to die than kill; they could neither run nor strike in this emptiness ; neither hands nor feet can do their office, when the stomach is neglected : on the other, an unmeet forbearance causes a ravenous repast; hunger knorys neither choice, nor order, nor measure. The one of these was a wrong to Israel, the other was a wrong done by Israel to God; Saul's zeal was guilty of both. A rash yow is seldom ever free from inconvenience: the heart, that hath unnecessarily entangled itself, draws mischief either upon itself or others.
Jonathan was ignorant of his father's adjuration. He knew no reason, why he should not refresh himself in so profitable a service, with a little taste of honey upon his spear. Full well had he de. served this unsought dainty ; and now, behold his honey is turned into gall: if it were sweet in the mouth, it was bitter in the soul;
if the eyes of his body were enlightened, the light of God's countenance was clouded by this act. After he heard of the oath, he pleads justly against it; the loss of so fair an opportunity of revenge, and the trouble of Israel ; yet neither his reasons against the oath, nor his ignorance of the oath, can excuse him from a sin of ignorance in violating that, which first he knew not, and then knew unreasonable.
Now Saul's leisure would serve him to ask counsel of God. As before Saul, would not inquire, so now God will not answer. Well might Saul have found sins enough of his own, whereto to impute this silence. He hath grace enough to know that God was offended, and to guess at the cause of his offence: sooner will a hypocrite find out another man's sin than his own.
And now he swears more rashly to punish with death, the breach of that which he had sworn rashly. The lots were cast, and Saul prays for the decision; Jonathan is taken: even the prayers of wicked men are sometimes heard, although in justice, not in mercy. Saul himself was punished not a little, in the fall of this lot upon Jonathan. Surely Saul sinned more in making this vow, than Jonathan in breaking it unwittingly; and now the father smarts for the rashness of his double vow, by the unjust sentence of death upon so worthy a son..
God had never singled out Jonathan by his lot, if he had not been displeased with his act. Vows rashly made may not be rashly broken. If the thing we have vowed be not evil in itself, or in the effect, we cannot violate it without evil. Ignorance cannot acquit, if it can abate our sin. It is like, if Jonathan had heard his father's adjuration, he had not transgressed: his absence at the time of that oath cannot excuse him from displeasure. What shall become of those, which may know the charge of their heavenly Father, and will not? which do know his charge, and will not keep it? Affectátion of ignorance, and willing disobedience, is desperate.
Death was too hard a censure for such an unknown offence. The cruel piety of Saul will revenge the breach of his own charge, so as he would be loth God should avenge on himself the breach of his divine command. If Jonathan had not found better friends than his father, so noble a victory had been recompensed with death, He, that saved Israel from the Philistines, is saved by Israel from the hand of his father. Saul hath sworn Jonathan's death; the people contrarily swear his preservation. His kingdom was not yet so absolute, that he could run away with so unmerciful a justice. Their oath that savoured of disobedience, prevailed against his oath that savoured too strong of cruelty. Neither doubt I, but Saul was secretly not displeased with this loving resistance. So long as his heart was not false to his oath, he could not be sorry that Jonathan should live.
1 Sam. riz.