And the victory of that day was turned into mourning unto all the people.
(J. Parker, D. D.)
Homiletic Review.In the spiritual kingdom of God there are experiences akin to those recorded in the text; times when, amid victories that send a thrill of joy through heaven and may well excite hallelujahs in the Church below, the "sacramental host" feel like putting on sackcloth and sitting down to "weep between the porch and the altar." Such is the case often in times of revival, when God's spirit is poured out, and sinners are convicted and converted. Although it be an occasion for rejoicing and thanksgiving on the part of God's people, it is equally an occasion for humiliation and weeping. What are some of the reasons for mourning on the part of the Church in the midst of revival scenes?
1. That so few of God's professed friends enter actively into the work. The Spirit's presence in extraordinary power is a day of glorious opportunity, both for the Church and for sinners without. It is God's "set time to favour Zion." He then "waits to be gracious." It is "harvest time." Prayer has power to prevail. Souls are pressing into the kingdom.
2. That so many sinners are passed by and left in their sins, even in the day of special merciful visitation. We have witnessed and laboured in many revivals; seen a whole community shaken as by a "rushing mighty wind," and hundreds convicted and made to cry out, What must we do to be saved? And yet many were unmoved — only looked on and wondered or scoffed. And the Spirit passed by, and they were farther than ever before from salvation!
3. That so many are convicted who are not converted; wounded, but not healed. In times of revival, it is common for many sinners to be deeply interested, and even brought under conviction of sin, who never get farther.
4. That, in all probability, a large proportion of those who are not reached and rescued in a revival will finally perish in their sins! We dare not limit the power of God. But there is a world of fact to bear out the remark. The grace of God is at flood-tide in revival seasons: what hope when the ebb comes?
Then the king arose and sat in the gate.
I. SORROW, HOWEVER POIGNANT, SHOULD NOT HINDER US FROM DUTY, OR PREVENT THE EXPRESSION OF GRATITUDE. Has this unhappy civil war brought only grief to him? Is his son the only one that has perished? Alas! the many mothers in Israel, never to look again on the brave soldier-son! Sorrow, with impartial, unwelcome step, enters palace and cottage. But, however keen and consuming, life's duties still remain to the living. We are not to be absorbed from recognition of these — gratitude among them, thankfulness for sympathy. It may speak in lowly tokens of remembrance, in courteous health-inquiries. Let it be recognised.
II. THE EVIL RESULTANT FROM PARTIALITY IS WRITTEN HERE. To the folly of favouritism not only are liable those in high places. It must be watched against by all who exercise any influence over others. The head of any community, however small, owes a debt of justice to each member of it. In the home, where the father and mother are the uncrowned king and queen, this folly needs especially to be avoided.
III. THE BEAUTY OF A CONTENTED SPIRIT APPEARS IN MEPHIBOSHETH. The crippled prince, not lame in soul as upon his feet — a true unselfish son of Jonathan through all — goes home with words of contentment, and glad, thankful loyalty upon his lips. Goes out of our sight and hearing; goes into the silence of a past which has no further word respecting him to speak to us. Went to the narrowed fortune and duties of his narrow life. Went, we doubt not, quiet and contented, and so on to the end. On with eye fixed on a princedom with no crippling hindrances to service, or to a lot in the eternal Canaan which should be his wholly and for ever. Then, son of Jonathan, "Go thou thy way till the end be; for thou shalt rest, and stand" — never to be removed — "in thy lot at the end of the days." Much might be said of the contentment of that man, as exemplary to us, when we are wronged. Well for us if, with our larger light, we have at all times a spirit as patient and thankful as his! I will be a star of glory, a rose of beauty, in the darkness and desert barrenness of life.
IV. PIOUS FORECASTS, COMELY IN ALL AND ESPECIALLY IN THE AGED, IS SEES IN BARZILLAI. Little do we know of him. But how much we seem to know, so vividly does he live to us in this ancient chronicle. Let Chimham go to the great city, take a place at Court, bear his part in the high places of the national life, this was not for Barzillai. His eyes were not so bright as once, nor his ears so alert. He would abide among his own people. He would die in his nest. He would be buried by the grave of his father and his mother. There, in the hallowed, familiar spot, he would have his dust to rest till the great awakening.
V. In David, victorious over rebellion, and restored to his throne, we have suggestion of HIS GREATER SON COMING BACK TO HIS OWN. Over rebellious hearts, over a rebellious world, Christ is triumphing onward to His universal reign. Not by weapons of war, but by love, he is vanquishing men unto Himself. The rebellious world is His world. The rebels are HIS creatures. He is but coming back to His own. He has the right of Creation to us. He re-enforces it by the winning right of redeeming love. Back to His own! In a sense you are all His. In the full, willing sense — surrendered to Him, be wholly His. Be the usurper dethroned. Be the rightful King acclaimed — obeyed.
(G. T. Coster.)
(C. Bosanquet, M. A.)
The Century Bible.1. David's return to Jerusalem. In his account of what followed, as of what preceded the crisis of the rebellion (chaps. 15., 16.), the historian has east the bulk of his narrative into the form of personal interviews with the king.
2. David's secret overtures to the tribe of Judah. Himself a member of the tribe whose ancient sanctuary had been the locus of the rebellion, David, with his statesman's eye, saw in the new situation a favourable opportunity of binding the southern clans anew to his person. Accordingly, he opens negotiations with Zadok and Abiathar. In thus playing off the South against the North, David was doubtless aware of the risk he ran of increasing the jealousy, already of long standing, between them, but in the circumstances David can scarcely be blamed for seeing in his southern kinsfolk, in the men who, as he says, were his bone and his flesh (ver. 12), the natural support of his dynasty.
(The Century Bible.)
Now therefore why speak ye not a word of bringing the king back?I. MANY HAVE LOST THE COMFORTABLE PRESENCE OF THE LORD JESUS CHRIST. Some have long dwelt in the cold shade of suspended fellowship, and must be anxiously pining after its restoration. Now to such as these, who see no longer the bright and morning star, we say, "Why speak ye not a word of bringing the king back?" If your soul has been nipped with the frosts of a long and dreary winter, if the Sun of Righteousness do but cross the line and manifest his meridian splendour, your summer will return at once. Let the king come, and all his court will follow — all the graces display themselves where the Lord of grace is revealed. Always beware of any instruction or direction which would withdraw you from the cross as the sole and simple ground of your comfort. While your bark is tossed about at sea, it is very likely that she wants a new copper bottom, or the deck requires holy-stoning, or the rigging is out of repair, or the sails want overhauling, or fifty other things may be necessary; but if the wind is blowing great guns, and the vessel is drifting towards those white-crested breakers, the first business of the mariner is to make for the haven at once, to avoid the hurricane. When he is all snug in port, he can attend to hull and rigging: and all the odds and ends besides. So with you, child of God, one thing you must do, and I beseech you do it. Do not be looking. to this, or to that, or to the other out of a thousand things that may be amiss, but steer straight for the cross of Christ, which is the haven for distressed spirits. "Why speak ye not a word of bringing the king back?"
1. Perhaps, you reply, "We speak not a word of this because we are afraid that the king may have forgotten us." Oh, cruel thought concerning so kind a friend! Hear ye his own words, "I am God; I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed."
2. But you say, "How shall I return to him? I feel ashamed to come to him yet again." Recollect that, bad as you are, you are not now worse than when you first came to him. "Why speak ye not a word of bringing the King back?"
3. I hope the answer to that question is not that you have forgotten Him. Forgotten the man of Gethsemane, crimsoned with his own blood for you? Forgotten Him whose hands were pierced for you, who bore the crown of thorns, and bowed his head, and gave up the ghost for you? Forgotten that faithful lover who ever since he ascended above the stars has never ceased to intercede for you, and such as you? Oh, shame indeed!
II. MANY PROFESSORS DO VERY LITTLE TO BRING CHRIST BACK TO HIS KINGDOM IN THE WORLD.
III. A LARGE CLASS ARE REBELLIOUS SUBJECTS OF THIS KING. "The ox knoweth its owner, and the ass its master's crib," but you do not know, and you have lived all these years without considering. Is it not unjust? Does not conscience tell you that you do wrong to rebel against the God that made you? Christ is your lawful King, and you are a rebel against Him.
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
Proverbs 14:28; Proverbs 16:15.)
I. WHY DID HE NOT IMMEDIATELY GO BACK?
1. Restoration of the king's presence must be sought by rebel subjects.
2. Because he would be king of their hearts, not of the land and city merely. So Christ's sovereignty now must be voluntary. One day it will be obligatory, as was Solomon's. (Philippians 2:10; Revelation 2:27.) Christ will only rule over willing hearts in His kingdom of grace. Many Christians have their own way. Christ does not coerce; but they are slaves to self instead of being Christ's freedmen. Observe the nature of Christ's kingdom in the heart. (Romans 14:17; 1 John 3:9, with Galatians 3:16; Galatians 4:19; Colossians 1:27 (Matthew 2:3 — born king); 1 Corinthians 15:45-50, 24.) Christ waits to be invited as David did. He will not reign at Mahanaim, only at Jerusalem; but He sends messages. David's message to rebellious Judah is really a pardon, and as such moved the hearts of the people. (Ver. 14.)
II. PARDON OF SHIMEI. Abishai was legally right (Exodus 22:28; 1 Samuel 26:9), but was reminding David of that incident in his past life, and thus helping him to remain true to his own generous instincts. (1 Samuel 24:5.) The grand answer. I am King, because I can be a Saviour. (1 Samuel 11:12, 13.) Christ might have been King in right of His election (Psalm 2:6-8), and will be some day; but He willed to reign by right of His cross. (Psalm 72:1, 2, 14.)
IV. BARZILLAI, TYPE OF THE TRULY WEANED SOUL, content to do without temporal blessings and sensible comforts; satisfied with the certainty of the king's favour. Fruitful also, leaving those whom he has led to Christ to carry on his service. Chimham apparently received David's own inheritance. (Jeremiah 41:17; John 17:24; Revelation 3:21; Revelation 22:16; Revelation 2:28.
(R. E. Faulkner.)
There went over a ferry boat to carry over the king's household.
I. My subject, in the first place, impresses me with the fact that when we cross over from this world to the next, THE BOAT WILL HAVE TO COME FROM THE OTHER SIDE. The tribe of Judah, we are informed, sent this ferry boat across to bring David and his household. Blessed be God, there is a boat coming from the other side. Transportation at last for our souls from the other shore. Everything about this Gospel of Mercy from the other shore. Pardon from the other shore. Mercy from the other shore. Pity from the other shore. Ministry of angels from the other shore. Power to work miracles from the other shore. Jesus Christ from the other shore. "This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners." I bless God that. as the boat came from the other shore to take David and his men across, so, when we come to die, the boat of salvation will come from the same direction. God forbid that I should ever trust to anything that starts from this side.
II. When we cross over at the last, THE KING WILL BE ON BOARD THE BOAT. The king was on board the boat, and those women and children, and all the household of the king, knew that every care was taken to have that king pass in safety. When a soul goes to heaven, it does not go alone. The King is on board the boat. Was Paul alone in the last exigency? Hear the shout of the scarred missionary, as he cries out, "I am now ready to be offered up, and the time of my departure is at hand." Was John Wesley alone in the last exigency? No. Hear him say: "Best of all, God is with us." Here is the promise: "When thou passeth through the waters, I will be with thee, and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee." Christ at the sick pillow to take the soul out of the body; Christ to help the soul down the bank into the boat; Christs mid stream; Christ on the other side to help the soul up the beach. Be comforted about your departed friends. Be comforted about your own demise when the time shall come. Tell it to all the people under the sun that no Christian ever dies alone. The King is in the boat.
III. My text suggests that leaving this world for heaven IS ONLY CROSSING A FERRY. Doctor Shaw estimates the average width of the Jordan to be about thirty yards. What, so narrow! Yes. "There went over a ferry-boat to carry over the king's household." Yes, going to heaven is only a short trip. Only a ferry. That accounts for something you have never been able to understand. You never could have supposed that very nervous and timid Christian people could be so perfectly unexcited and placid in the last hour. The fact is, they were clear down on the bank, and they saw there was nothing to be frightened about. Such a short distance — only a ferry! With one ear they heard the funeral psalm in their memory, and with the other they heard the song of heavenly salutation. The willows on this side the Jordan, and the Lebanon cedars on the other, almost interlocked their branches. Only a ferry!
IV. My subject also suggests the fact that when we cross over at the last, WE SHALL FIND A SOLID LANDING. The ferry-boat, as spoken of in my text, means a place to start from, and a place to land. David and his people did not find the eastern shore of the Jordan any more solid than the western shore where he landed, and yet, to a great many, heaven is not a real place. I never heard of any heaven I want to go to except St. John's heaven. I believe I shall hear Mr. Toplady sing vet, and Isaac Watts recite hymns, and Mozart play. "O," you say, "where would you get the organ?" The Lord will provide the organ. I believe I shall yet see David with a harp, and I will ask him to sing one of the Songs of Zion. My heaven is not a fog-bank. My eyes are unto the hills — the everlasting hills. The King's ferry-boat starting from a wharf on this side will go to a solid landing-place on the other side.
V. My subject teaches that when we cross over at the last, WE WILL BE MET AT THE LANDING. When David and his family went over in the ferry-boat spoken of in the text, they landed amid a nation that had come out to greet them. As they stepped from the deck of the boat to the shore, there were thousands of people who gathered around them trying to express a satisfaction that was beyond description. And so you and I will be met at the landing. Our arrival will not be like stepping ashore at Antwerp or Constantinople among a crowd of strangers; it will be among friends — good friends, warm-hearted friends, and all their friends. The poet Southey said he thought he should know Bishop Heber in heaven by the portraits he had seen of him in London; and Dr. Randolph said he thought he should know William Cowper, the poet, in heaven from the pictures he had seen of him in England; but we shall know our departed kindred by the portraits hung in the throne-room of our hearts. On starlight nights you look up — and I suppose it is so with any one who has friends in heaven — and you cannot help but think of those who have gone; and I suppose they look down and cannot but think of us. But they have the advantage of us. We know not just where their world of joy is. They know where we are. O, what a consolation this ought to be to those whose friends have gone away — how it ought to take off the sharp edge of their melancholy. The partings of earth solaced by the reunions of heaven t
(T. De Witt Talmage.)
I. THE KING'S FERRY BOAT CARRIES US ACROSS THE JORDAN OF OUR CONDEMNATION, AND BRINGS US TO THE LAND OF FORGIVENESS. Shimei made his peace with David that day. He had been, in the time of David's great emergency, when he needed soldiers, a base and wicked traitor. So I bring to any poor sinner here the King's ferry boat, on which you may safely ride across the Jordan of your sins to the blessed shore of forgiveness; it is surrender to God and unconditional acceptance of Christ Jesus as your Saviour.
II. GOD CARRIES HIS PEOPLE ACROSS THE RIVER OF THEIR NEEDS. God's Word assures us that the Lord is not unmindful of the necessities of our human lives. Christ says: "Your Heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things." The man who trusts God is a great deal better taken care of than he who proposes to neglect God and look out for number one. We shall never reach the limit of God's infinite grace and mercy by our most exaggerated dreams of good. Does not Paul assure us that God will supply all our need "according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus?" The one ferry boat that is sure to float you across the river of life's need is a genuine, wholehearted Christianity.
III. THE KING'S FERRY BOAT ACROSS THE RIVER OF TROUBLE AND SORROW. How abundant are the promises of God that those who join His household shall be ferried safely across all the sorrows and troubles of life!
IV. We may see also in this figure OUR KING'S FERRY BOAT ACROSS THE RIVER OF DEATH. God does not leave his saints to die alone. Two days before Mr. Moody's death there was placed in his room, unknown to him, a stenographer, who took every word that fell from the good man's lips. And in the last moments he said: "Earth recedes. Heaven opens before me. You say this is death. There is nothing awful here; it is sweet, this place. Do not call me back. God is calling me, I must go. There is no valley here, it is all beautiful, beautiful." So Moody found, as millions of God's people have found before, that the King's ferry boat is roomy and splendid, and safe in carrying the King's household across the Jordan of death to the shores of that beautiful country "which eager hearts expect." The ferry boat will not be lonely in crossing any of these streams, for Christ is Captain, and there are no rules that keep us from speaking to him while he is on duty. We may hold sweet communion with him all the way. On the ferry boats which ply between Liverpool and the Cheshire side of the Mersey is the notice: "Passengers are requested not to speak to the captain or steersman while crossing the river."
(L. A. Banks, D. D.)
And Shimei the son of Gera fell down before the king.
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
For do not I know that I am this day king over Israel.
I. KNOW THE GREAT MAN BY HIS GOODNESS. Know real power, not by its tyranny', but by its kindness. David was given to this kind of expression of his greatness. Once he cut off Saul's skirt and spared the fool; he could have cut off Saul's head. It is better not to use all your power. Always have a great reserve of strength. Never deal your deadliest blow until you are wholly driven to it. You will win more victories by forgiveness than by vengeance, by retaliation, by so-called self-defence.
II. Apply this to the matter of PERSONAL CHARACTER and the defence of personal reputation. Some men are always defending themselves. They had better let it alone. Some little natures are always taking revenge. They will say, "Mark: he shall account for this; I have made a note before his name in my diary; he shall hear of this some other day." Oh, shame! That is not the spirit of Christ, the spirit of kingship, the spirit of divinest royalty; that is littleness, yea the veriest meanness.
III. Apply this to PRETENDED RULERS. In proportion as a man is only a pretended ruler in anything, in business, in the Church, in Parliament, anywhere — in proportion as. he is only a pretence he will be full of vengeance. Cut off their heads! is his policy: make short work of them: we must have a spirited policy; there must be no dillydallying here. Foolish talk; foolish heart! We are not to judge things. by stones that are thrown, by dust that is poured upon the wind, by the shouting and crying of poor natures: we must remember that God's eternity moves slowly but surely, and all his mills grind exceedingly small. "Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves": do not take yourselves into your own keeping, "but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written" — written in nature, written in every star, written in history, written in life — "Vengeance is mine." Vengeance can only belong to one court. All other vengeance is minor, trivial, partial, unjust.
II. Apply this to THE CHRISTIAN ARGUMENT. How slow it is sometimes to human seeming; how indifferent almost to its own issue! It looks calmly upon all the little fray of words, and says, For do not I know that I can save men, bless men, help men, as no other power or force upon earth can do? Why should I follow all these people that are trying to pull my letters to pieces? Why should I take vengeance upon them? The Christian argument often takes no notice of the metaphysical strife, the angry contest, the loud dispute; it does not come down to avenge itself; it says, I am the most beneficent power in human thought, I can therefore afford to wait, and be quiet, and be calm, and not a single life will I take if I can possibly help it.
V. See how wondrously all this FITS THE CHARACTER OF CHRIST. In Christ there is nothing vindictive, nothing clamorous, nothing precipitant. When the people would take him by force and make him king he vanished out of their sight. This was the difficulty he had to contend with in his life — refusing so long to declare himself. This might do for a refrain to the music of Christ's words — Do not I know that I am the Saviour of the world? Do not I know that I am this day King? Haste thee, smite thine enemies, crush all opposition, shine out of the heavens, out-dazzle the glory of summer noonday, and by that ineffable blaze declare thyself to be King! He says, No; that is not the way; that would be foolish, precipitant, impetuous, irrational: we must move with the currents of life: I have not come to institute a reformation, but to work out a regeneration. Why do the heathen rage? Because they are "the heathen." Why do the people imagine a vain thing? Because they are "the people," without regulation, discipline, lofty control, spiritual inspiration. Why is the Lord quiet upon His throne? Because He is upon it, and it is His. In one of two ways Jesus Christ is to be King over us all: He is to be King either with our consent, or against it. Choose ye this day. Or you must know that He is the King of kings and Lord of lords; and if you will not accept the sovereignty of His love you must accept the sovereignty of His fear. Now is the accepted time, now is the day of salvation.
(J. Parker, D. D.)
Mephibosheth the son of Saul came down to meet the king.
(A. Whyte, D. D.)
"The virtues were invited once
To banquet with the Lord of All:
They came — the great ones rather grim,
And not so pleasant as the small.
They talked and chatted o'er the meal,
They even laughed with temp'rate glee;
And each one knew the other well,
And all were good as good could be.
Benevolence and Gratitude
Alone of all seemed strangers yet;
They stared when they were introduced
On earth they never once had met."Dean Milman says that the writings both of Tacitus and Dante are full of remorse. And it is, as I believe, in our own remorse that we shall find the true key to Mephibosheth's heart. When a government goes out of power, when a church is under a cloud, when religion has lost her silver slippers, and when she walks in the shadow of the street, and when any friend has lost his silver slippers — then we discover Mephibosheth in ourselves, and hate both him and ourselves like hell. And commentators have taken sides over the case of Mephibosheth very much as they have found that contemptible creature skulking in themselves, and have had bitter remorse on account of him. "I am full of self-love, fear to confess Thee, or to hazard myself, or my estate, or my peace... My perplexity continues as to whether I shall move now or not, stay or return, hold by Lauderdale, or make use of the Bishop. I went to Sir George Mushet's funeral, where I was looked at, as I thought, like a speckled bird... Die Dom. — I find great averseness in myself to suffering. I am afraid to lose life or estate. Shall I forbear to hear that honest minister, James Urquhart, for a time, seeing the stone is like to fall on me if I do so?" And then our modern Mephibosheth has the grace to add in his diary, like the book of judgment: "A grain of sound faith would easily answer all these questions: — I have before me Mr. Rutherford's letter desiring me to deny myself." And though you will not easily believe it; the author of that letter himself has enough of Jonathan's crippled and disinherited son still in himself to give a tang, and more than a tang, of remorse to some of his best letters. "Oh, if I were free of myself! Myself is another devil, and as evil as the prince of devils. Myself! Myself! Every man blames the devil for his sins, but the house and heart devil of every man is himself. I think I shall die still but minting and aiming to be a Christian man!" This, then, is the prize for finding out that enigma of motive, Mephobosheth's hidden heart. This is the first prize, to receive of God the inward eye to discover Mephibosheth in our ourselves.
(A. Whyte, D. D.)
And Barzillai the Gileadite came down from Rogelim, and went over Jordan with the king.1. One feature in the Bible is that it represents members of every class of society, as not only belonging to, but actually working in God's Church. The great gathering of the people of God, which the Bible brings to notice, numbers kings, counsellors, captains, and honourable men, without distinction, as forming a part in God's great Church on earth. The jewels of God, when made up to form His crown, are of every hue and colour; not only the diamond reflecting the varied lustre of the saintly character, which dwelling apart from the world, realises itself as a denizen of heaven; but there also is the purple amethyst of earthly royalty; the pale sapphire of female loveliness; and the emerald, which borrows from the earth its hues, reminding us of the works of the creation of God.
2. Barzillai of Rogelim is one of a class of which many are mentioned in the Bible — great and rich men who served the Lord. Boaz, Caius, Joseph of Arimathea, and Barnabas are his companions. Boundless wealth and magnificence, mark at once his circumstance; unlimited hospitality is the leading feature of his conduct; loyalty, whose keen edge is only whetted by the adversity of the king whom he serves, marks his principles. He was one who had been used to feast under the song "of the singing men and singing women;" ease, courtesy, and independence marked his manner; and the marble which contained the dust of his fathers marked at the same time the last. earthly aim of Barzillai. There are some to whom the aristocracy of the tomb has a nobler lustre than the aristocracy of life; there are some who count it a higher honour that their dust should slumber with the dust of their ancestors than that they in life should repose in the palace of kings. It is among the leading features of those who are truly great in this world. Now these are the features of a great man, and suggest many lessons to the great among ourselves:
(1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6) 3. One duty of the great, rich man which we learn from the case of Barzillai is that of wide, enlarged hospitality. Means are a talent given to improve. But men frequently mistake the tenure of their wealth. The most minute description of the last day in the Bible is based on the claims of hospitality. It is a duty, and in exercising it a man fulfils one great rule and law of Christianity, exercises a distinct talent which God has given him, and fulfils one of those modes of employing his talents which God has left him. 4. Barzillai suggests another lesson: He entertained a king — in adversity. A persecuted outcast, king went by, and he threw his gates open to receive him. Those who are great in wealth and power too often seek the credit of those whose worldly position will cast honour on themselves by having them under their roof. The Christian and religious man of wealth and power is he who rather receives those whom the world frowns upon under his roof; and loves to lend his wealth to buy a share in the return of those on whom God's chastening hand is laid, than refuse the shelter which may bring discredit in the eyes of the world. Barzillai seems to have acted as he did without a conscious desire of worldly honour or human praise. It is not this office or that which makes a man great, it is the way in which a man occupies any office. 5. Barzillai desired burial with his father and mother. The punishment of kings of Israel was that they should not be buried by their fathers, and the first aim of Abraham was not the purchase of a dwelling-place but "the purchase of a burial place." The burial of our Blessed Lord stands as a prominent feature in the acts of His saving Life and Death, though it was where "no man had yet lain." His Sacred Body opened a new vault for the human race, and led the way to a new cave of Machpelah, beneath whose consecrated escutcheons all the Church desire burial. The burial "in sure and certain hope of a resurrection to eternal life." The burial under the motto, "Resurgam," and the escutcheon of the wing which bears the soul to heaven. So the associations of the grave became ennobled and sanctified. There the felled trees lie. There lies the record of the character with the finish which it had received at death; the penitent, the patient, the innocent, or the heavily-minded. Let those who stand in high places like him aim at an integrity and a stainless association with the past, and they Will do well. It is not the pomp of the funeral or the magnificence of the eulogy which sheds the lustre on the departed: but the epitaph of their tomb. (E. Monro.)
(2) (3) (4) (5) (6) 3. One duty of the great, rich man which we learn from the case of Barzillai is that of wide, enlarged hospitality. Means are a talent given to improve. But men frequently mistake the tenure of their wealth. The most minute description of the last day in the Bible is based on the claims of hospitality. It is a duty, and in exercising it a man fulfils one great rule and law of Christianity, exercises a distinct talent which God has given him, and fulfils one of those modes of employing his talents which God has left him. 4. Barzillai suggests another lesson: He entertained a king — in adversity. A persecuted outcast, king went by, and he threw his gates open to receive him. Those who are great in wealth and power too often seek the credit of those whose worldly position will cast honour on themselves by having them under their roof. The Christian and religious man of wealth and power is he who rather receives those whom the world frowns upon under his roof; and loves to lend his wealth to buy a share in the return of those on whom God's chastening hand is laid, than refuse the shelter which may bring discredit in the eyes of the world. Barzillai seems to have acted as he did without a conscious desire of worldly honour or human praise. It is not this office or that which makes a man great, it is the way in which a man occupies any office. 5. Barzillai desired burial with his father and mother. The punishment of kings of Israel was that they should not be buried by their fathers, and the first aim of Abraham was not the purchase of a dwelling-place but "the purchase of a burial place." The burial of our Blessed Lord stands as a prominent feature in the acts of His saving Life and Death, though it was where "no man had yet lain." His Sacred Body opened a new vault for the human race, and led the way to a new cave of Machpelah, beneath whose consecrated escutcheons all the Church desire burial. The burial "in sure and certain hope of a resurrection to eternal life." The burial under the motto, "Resurgam," and the escutcheon of the wing which bears the soul to heaven. So the associations of the grave became ennobled and sanctified. There the felled trees lie. There lies the record of the character with the finish which it had received at death; the penitent, the patient, the innocent, or the heavily-minded. Let those who stand in high places like him aim at an integrity and a stainless association with the past, and they Will do well. It is not the pomp of the funeral or the magnificence of the eulogy which sheds the lustre on the departed: but the epitaph of their tomb. (E. Monro.)
(3) (4) (5) (6) 3. One duty of the great, rich man which we learn from the case of Barzillai is that of wide, enlarged hospitality. Means are a talent given to improve. But men frequently mistake the tenure of their wealth. The most minute description of the last day in the Bible is based on the claims of hospitality. It is a duty, and in exercising it a man fulfils one great rule and law of Christianity, exercises a distinct talent which God has given him, and fulfils one of those modes of employing his talents which God has left him. 4. Barzillai suggests another lesson: He entertained a king — in adversity. A persecuted outcast, king went by, and he threw his gates open to receive him. Those who are great in wealth and power too often seek the credit of those whose worldly position will cast honour on themselves by having them under their roof. The Christian and religious man of wealth and power is he who rather receives those whom the world frowns upon under his roof; and loves to lend his wealth to buy a share in the return of those on whom God's chastening hand is laid, than refuse the shelter which may bring discredit in the eyes of the world. Barzillai seems to have acted as he did without a conscious desire of worldly honour or human praise. It is not this office or that which makes a man great, it is the way in which a man occupies any office. 5. Barzillai desired burial with his father and mother. The punishment of kings of Israel was that they should not be buried by their fathers, and the first aim of Abraham was not the purchase of a dwelling-place but "the purchase of a burial place." The burial of our Blessed Lord stands as a prominent feature in the acts of His saving Life and Death, though it was where "no man had yet lain." His Sacred Body opened a new vault for the human race, and led the way to a new cave of Machpelah, beneath whose consecrated escutcheons all the Church desire burial. The burial "in sure and certain hope of a resurrection to eternal life." The burial under the motto, "Resurgam," and the escutcheon of the wing which bears the soul to heaven. So the associations of the grave became ennobled and sanctified. There the felled trees lie. There lies the record of the character with the finish which it had received at death; the penitent, the patient, the innocent, or the heavily-minded. Let those who stand in high places like him aim at an integrity and a stainless association with the past, and they Will do well. It is not the pomp of the funeral or the magnificence of the eulogy which sheds the lustre on the departed: but the epitaph of their tomb. (E. Monro.)
Homilist.Barzillai's words to the king of Israel remind us of the influence that age produces upon men.
I. A MELLOWNESS OF HEART. There is a feeling soft and subdued running through the words of this patriarchal Gideonite. In the gradual passage from maturity to helplessness, the harshest characters sometimes have a period in which they are gentle and placid as young children. One who saw the Duke of Wellington in his last years, describes him as very gentle in his aspect and demeanour.
II. AN INDISPOSITION TO EXERTION. "How long have I to live, that I should go up with the king unto Jerusalem? I am this day fourscore years old." It seems benevolently arranged that, as the limbs get feeble and incapable of action, the inclination to exertion decreases too.
III. A LACK OF INTEREST IN THE WORLD. To an old man the world is a plum that has lost its bloom, an orange that has been sucked till the peel is dry. The pageantries of court and the dazzle of fashionable life are to the old man but as the worthless gilt that spangles the dress of an actor. When old age comes over the millionaire, how shapes the world to him?
IV. AN INCAPACITY FOR EARTHLY ENJOYMENTS. "Can thy servant taste what I eat or what I drink?" He could not relish either the banquets or the concerts of the court. The choicest delicacies of the table would fall upon his appetite, the most transporting strains of music would fall dead upon his ear: "The desire has failed, and the daughters of music are brought low." Years not only steal away our strength, but our relish for earthly pleasures.
V. AN INTEREST IN THE DEAD. "Let thy servant, I pray thee, turn back again," etc. Here is the filial instinct glowing in the breast of an old man. CONCLUSION.
1. Here is a rebuke to worldliness. What if you amass a princely fortune? Whilst it will not make you happy, either in the morning of your youth or the zenith of your noon, it will be utterly worthless to you if you live to old age.
2. Here, is, too, an argument for religion. Form an alliance with those eternal principles that will make your spirits young and strong amidst the infirmities of age. Prepare for the future!
I. We have A MAN WHO KNOWS THAT HE IS OLD, BUT WHO IS NOT DISTRESSED BY THE THOUGHT OF IT. He has no reticence, no shame, and, so far as we can see, he has no regret. He numbers up his weaknesses, indeed, but it is much in the way a soldier counts the scars he has brought from his battlefields. This is the hoary head which is so beautiful when it is found in the way of righteousness. We should aim at this even from youth. But how are we to prepare for this? First, surely, by taking God with us early in the journey of life. God is willing to receive a man whenever he turns to Him; but the later he turns, the more shall be his regrets. Next, by providing beforehand the compensations which God is willing to give for everything that may be taken away by the changes of life. If the eye is to become dim, we may be preparing an inner vision more open and clear for Divine and eternal realities; if the ear is to be dulled to earthly music, and hard of access to the voice of friends, we can ask that friend to say to it, "Ephphatha, Be opened!" who will enter our solitude with his words — "To old age I am He, to hoar hairs I will carry you;" if the feet and hands become powerless for their accustomed work, we may exercise ourselves in the faith and hope which make the feet more than youthful and change the hands to wings, so that we shall mount up like eagles, and run and not be weary, and walk and not faint. Someone has said that it would be a melancholy world without children, and an inhuman world without the aged; and the world is never better than when these two can meet and give and receive gladness. We have a natural reluctance to the feeling that we are growing old; we put it away, and when something at last forces it upon us, it is like the rush of an armed man from an ambush, or the flake of the first snow to tell us that the long summer days are gone, and that winter is at hand. And yet, as you may have seen, it is the transition which is the most painful. When the first days of brown October show us the fresh green leaves of summer, now sere and yellow, dropping from the boughs under the wind that wails through the thin woods, we cannot help a feeling of sadness creeping over the heart. But when winter has come it has its own enjoyments; there is the long, quiet evening, the cheerful gleam of the hearth, the closer bosom of the family and of friendship, the pleasant memories of summer, and the hopes of its return — these give to winter its gladness, and even its glow. If we are in this transition, or nearing it, we should seek to realise it, and to rise above it by looking forward. Every time of life to a true man is only a transition to something better.
II. We have A MAN WHO IS RICH, BUT WHO IS SATISFIED WITH HIS NATURAL POSITION. No doubt, the remark will readily be made by some, "It is easy for a rich man to be satisfied; let us have his wealth, and we shall blame ourselves if we ask for anything more." But if you look round on the world, you will perceive that it is at the stage of prosperity that the dissatisfaction of many men begins. It is quite true that the Bible forbids no man to seek the improvement of his worldly circumstances, or to use that improvement in a wise and generous way. It has no malediction an wealth itself, and no canonising of poverty. When our Saviour bade the young man sell all he had, and give to the poor, it was a test of character, not a condition of discipleship. But there are two things against which a man who has risen to wealth should carefully watch — becoming the slave of sensual gratification: "What more can I eat and drink?" or "How can I shine in the social circle?" In the midst of empty ambitions, and vain contests for pre-eminence, our wisdom is to prefer the position which agrees with what is deepest in our nature, and which is most helpful to our spiritual life.
III. We have A MAN OF LONG EXPERIENCE, WHO HAS KEPT UP HIS LOVE OF SIMPLE PLEASURES. We can infer this from the tone in which he speaks. In these times of tumult and change, we think with envy of the quiet, primitive days, when men grew up in their place with leisure for spreading out their thoughts like branches, and sending down their affections like roots. We have no wish to depreciate that kind of life which occupies itself with the activities of the world, which presses into the highways of cities, and the throng of business, and which has its pleasure in breasting and battling with the great waves of public movement in social and intellectual and political progress. There are faculties in man's nature which find their proper exercise in this; the world could not advance or even live without it, and the calm recesses, which seem shut out from the great sea of life, would stagnate if they were not stirred by its tides. But we should take care that the whirl of public life does not unfit us for enjoying private life.
IV. We have A MAN WHO IS ATTACHED TO THE PAST, BUT WHO DOES NOT DISTRUST THE FUTURE. There was evidently a great change coming over the land of Israel at this time. The old patriarchal ways were losing their hold. The capital was growing, and men and gold and silver flowing into it. New views were prevailing which looked on the past as antiquated, and pressed forward, often recklessly, into unknown futures. The young men of revolution who gathered round Absalom were a sign of it, and after the splendour of Solomon's reign it came out more distinctly under his successor. In the parting of Barzillai and David we seem to have the two tendencies, the recoil of the old, the advance of the new. We are in the midst of one of these transitions now, when many are fearing, and some predicting, only evil. The quiet old life of our country is retiring evermore into the background, and the towns with their rush of life, their battles of thought and action, their impulses for good and evil are in the front. We cannot help regretting it, and wishing to retain as much as we can of what was good. When we think of the old life of Scotland among its hills and cottage homes, of its men and women so intelligent and God-fearing, so independent in spirit, yet so kindly and courteous, it is hard to believe that its departure can be a blessing. The land can scarcely anywhere rear a nobler people than those who, on a Sabbath morning, gathered like streams from the valleys to the house of God, to sing the psalms which had been the strength of their fathers when they were outcasts among the mountains. There is another view of the time which may make us still more anxious. Insurrections of self-will and lawlessness are breaking out which threaten all things human and Divine. Men are setting their mouths against the heavens, and laying bitter and persistent siege to the citadels in which faith has felt itself secure for ages. These things sadden and startle us when we think of the future. The world looks like a ship descending the rapids, and some surge of the stream may dash and shatter it. on the black reefs of atheism and anarchy which shoot their heads above the foam.
(J. Ker, D. D.)
I. HIS SENSE OF THE NEARNESS OF DEATH. "How long have I to live?... I am this day fourscore years old." To him the thought of death seemed to be neither unfamiliar nor unpleasant. Christian men and women who are advanced ill years should seek to copy Barzillai's example, accustoming themselves to the thought and approach of death.
II. HIS CONTENTMENT UNDER THE INFIRMITIES OF AGE. "Can I discern between good and evil? Can thy servant taste what I eat or what I drink?" He had no wish for court-life, for he was no longer fit to enjoy it. His powers were waning; he was no longer able to find enjoyment in that which ministered pleasure to others. Resignation marks his words. Some aged people are fretful over their infirmities. Peevishness is a common characteristic of advanced life. Others endeavour to conceal the ravages of time, and eagerly mingle in the pleasures of youth. With one foot in the grave, they wish to appear and be considered as young as possible. Both courses are alike unbecoming in those who are in "the sere and yellow leaf."
III. HIS UNWORLDLINESS. "Why should the king recompense it me with such a reward?" David's proposal would have been greedily grasped at by many. Notwithstanding its attractiveness Barzillai courteously declined it. How beautiful to see at a time of life, when men, as a rule, cling more closely to worldly things, such an un-regretful renunciation of worldly honour and prosperity!
IV. HIS UNSELFISHNESS. "Behold thy servant Chimham; let him go over with my lord the king; and do to him what shall seem good to thee." Barzillai was not unwilling that another should enjoy the benefits of which he felt he was unable to avail himself. Too often aged people, no longer able to "enjoy life," frown upon those younger than themselves, who do enjoy it. Forgetful that they themselves were once young, they seek to crush the harmless desires and damp the seasonable enjoyments of youth.
V. HIS FILIAL AFFECTION. "Let thy servant, I pray thee, turn back again, that I may die in mine own city, and be buried by the grave of my father and of my mother." Even at his great age, the memory of his parents was fresh and tender. It is pleasant to remember that the good that Barzillai was thus privileged to do to his earthly sovereign was not "interred with his bones," but "lived after him." David graciously granted the old man's request, and Chimham not only was taken as his father's substitute to eat at the royal table, but in addition obtained a portion of David's patrimonial possession near Bethlehem (Jeremiah 41:17). "The memory of the just is blessed."
(Thomas S. Dickson, M. A.)
1. He was "a very great man." The expression seems to imply that he was both rich and influential. Dwelling among the hills of Gilead, his only occupation, and main way of becoming rich, must have been as a farmer. Barzillai's ancestors had probably received a valuable and extensive allotment, and had been strong enough and courageous enough to keep it for themselves. Consequently, when their flocks and herds multiplied, they were not restrained within narrow dimensions, but could spread over the mountains round about.
2. His generosity was equal to his wealth. The catalogue of the articles which he and another friend of David's brought him in his extremity (2 Samuel 17:28, 29) is instructive from its minuteness and its length. Like all men liberal in heart, he devised liberal' things.
3. His loyalty was not less thorough than his generosity. When he heard of the king's troubles, he seems never to have hesitated one instant us to throwing in his lot with him. It mattered not that the king was in great trouble, and apparently in a desperate case. Barzillai was no sunshine courtier, willing to enjoy the good things of the court in days of prosperity, but ready in darker days to run off and leave his friends in the midst of danger. He was one of those true men that are ready to risk their all in the cause of loyalty when persuaded that it is the cause of truth and right. Risk? Can you frighten a man like this by telling him of the rink be runs by supporting David in the hour of adversity? Why, he is ready not only to risk all, but to lose all, if necessary, in a cause which appears so obvious to be Divine, all the more because he sees so well what a blessing David has been to the country. Why, he has actually made the kingdom. He has given unity and stability to all the internal arrangements of the kingdom. And is not a country happy that has such citizens, men who place their personal interest far below the public weal, and are ready to make any sacrifice, of person or of property, when the highest interests of their country are concerned?
4. Barzillai was evidently a man of attractive personal qualities. The king was so attracted by him that he wished him to come with him to Jerusalem, and promised to sustain him at court.
5. Barzillai was not dazzled even by the highest offers of the king, because he felt that the proposal was unsuitable for his years. He was already eighty, and every day was adding to his burden, and bringing him sensibly nearer the grave. David had made the offer as a compliment to Barzillai, although it might also be a favour to himself, and as a compliment the aged Gileadite was entitled to view it. In Barzillai's choice, we see the predominance of a sanctified common sense, alive to the proprieties of things, and able to see how the enjoyment most suitable to an advanced period of life might best be had. It was not by aping youth or grasping pleasures for which the relish had gone. There are few more jarring notes in English history than the last days of Queen Elizabeth. As life was passing away, a historian of England says, "she clung to it with a fierce tenacity. She hunted, she danced, she jested with her young favourites, she coquetted, and frolicked, and scolded at sixty-seven as she had done at thirty." "The Queen," wrote a courtier, "a few months before her death was never so gallant these many years, nor so set upon jollity." She persisted, in spite of opposition, in her gorgeous progresses from country house to country house. She clung to business as of old, and rated in her usual fashion one "who minded not, to giving up some matter of account." And then a strange melancholy settled on her. Her mind gave way, and food and rest became alike distasteful. Clever woman, yet very foolish in not discerning how vain it was to attempt to carry the brisk habits of youth into old age, and most profoundly foolish in not having taken pains to provide for old age the enjoyments appropriate to itself l How differently it has fared with those who have been wise in time and made the best provision for old age! "I have waited for Thy salvation, O my God," says the dying Jacob, relieved and happy to think that the object for which he had waited had come at last. "I am now ready to be offered," says St. Paul, "and the time of my departure is at hand."
6. Holding such views of old age, it was quite natural and suitable for Barzillai to ask for his son Chimham what he respectfully declined for himself. For his declinature was not a rude rejection of an honour deemed essentially false and vain. The narrative is so short that not a word is added as to how it fared with Chimham when he came to Jerusalem. Only one thing is known of him; it is said that, after the destruction of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzer, when Jonathan conducted to Egypt a remnant of Jews that he had saved from the murderous hand of Ishmael, "they departed and dwelt in the habitation of Chimham, which is by Bethlehem, to go into Egypt." We infer that David bestowed on Chimham some part of his paternal inheritance at Bethlehem. The meeting with Barzillai and the finding of a new son in Chimham must have been looked on by David with highly pleasant feelings. In every sense of the term, ha had lost a son in Absalom; he seems now to find one in Chimham. We dare not say that the one was compensation for the other. Such a blank as the death of Absalom left in the heart of David could never be filled up from any earthly source whatever. Blanks of that nature can be filled only when God gives a larger measure of His own presence and His own love.
(W. G. Blaikie, D. D.)
I. I REMIND YOU THAT LOYALTY IS PART OF RELIGION, AND MUST SPRING FROM A PRINCIPLE OF OBEDIENCE TO GOD, WHO IS THE SOVEREIGN RULER OF ALL WORLDS.
II. Again, SUCH A LOYAL SPIRIT AS THAT WHICH ANIMATED BARZILLAI, WILL LEAD TO A CHEERFUL DEVOTION OF OUR SUBSTANCE, SO FAR AS IT MAY BE NEEDED, FOR THE USUAL PURPOSES OF GOVERNMENT, OR THE OCCASIONAL EXIGENCIES OF THE STATE. The good old man hastened of his own accord to bring his ample supply to David and his people in their extraordinary reverses. And let us cheerfully contribute to the maintenance of good government, by rendering those imposts which the wisdom of the legislature has arranged.
III. AND LET OUR TRUE LOYAL FEELING FIND ITS EXPRESSION IN FERVENT PRAYER TO HIM WHO SITS ENTHRONED ABOVE — "the King of kings and Lord of lords." "I exhort," saith the apostle, "that prayers be made for kings and all that are in authority: that we may lead a quiet and peacable life in all godliness and honesty."
IV. In conclusion, CULTIVATE, ABOVE ALL, THAT PIOUS SPIRIT WHICH BARZILLAI MANIFESTED IN HIS THOUGHTFULNESS OF DEATH; HIS DISREGARD OF WORLDLY GREATNESS; AND HIS ANXIETY TO HAVE REPOSE IN HIS LATTER DAYS TO PREPARE FOR HEAVEN.
(A. Bumstead, B. A.)
I. Our question is this, HOW FAR DOES THE WORLD, A COURT, OR BUSINESS BECOME A YOUNG MAN?
1. A wise man will never choose a court, or high offices, as most and best fitted to procure true peace.
2. A wise man will always consider a court, and eminent posts, as dangerous to his salvation. It is in a court, it is in eminent posts, that, generally speaking, the most dangerous snares are set for conscience.
3. A wise man will never enter a court or accept of an eminent post, without fixed resolutions to surmount the temptations, with which they are accompanied, and without using proper measures to succeed in his design.
4. The evils, which embitter the lives of courtiers, and of all who are elevated to eminent posts, and (what may seem a paradox), the hazard of being damned among human grandeurs, ought not to discourage those from occupying the highest offices, who are capable of doing great good to society and the church, It is a tempting of God to expose one's self to danger when no good will come of it. it is rash, it is tempting God to expose ourselves to difficulties, which cannot possibly be surmounted. His refusal proceeds from three causes.
1. The insensibility of old age is the first cause of the refusal of Barzillai. This insensibility may proceed either from a principle of wisdom.(1) a man, who hath experienced the vanity of human grandeur; a man, who hath often asked himself what good comes of this pomp and pleasure? Such a man does not entertain a very high idea of the privilege of living with the great, of eating at their tables, and of participating their pleasures. Such pleasures are approved by reason, ripened by age, and such pleasures are satisfactory at all times, and in all stages of life.(2) But there is also a constitutional insensibility. The senses, which transmit pleasures to us, become blunt, and pleasures are blunted with them.
2. The disgraces of old age are a second reason of the refusal of Barzillai. Why should thy servant be a burden to my lord the king? Certainly, an old man ought to be treated with the greatest respect and caution. Whatever idea Barzillai formed of the equity and benevolence of David, he did justice to himself. He well knew, that a man of eighty would be a burden to this good king. A man at this time of life too strikingly exhibits human infirmities to give pleasure in circles of company, where such mortifying ideas are either quite forgotten, or slightly remembered.
3. In fine, Barzillai revolved in his mind the nearness of old age to death. This was the principal cause of his refusal. Was ever principle better founded? How little is necessary to overset and break the frame of a man of this age? What is necessary? A vapour! a puff of wind!
III. But if the principle of this good old man be well founded, the consequence derived from it is better founded, that is, that WORLDLY AFFAIRS DO NOT SUIT A MAN DRAWING NEAR THE END OF HIS LIFE; that when death is so near, a man should be wholly employed in preparing for it. Everything engages Barzillai to avoid disconcerting himself in his last moments, and to devote the few that remain to seriousness.
1. The long time he had lived. If the account, which God requires every man to give at death, be terrible to all men, it should seem particularly so to old men. An old man is responsible for all the periods of his life, all the circumstances he has been in, and all the connections he hath formed.
2. The continued cares, which exercised the mind of Barzillai, were second spring of his action. How necessary is it to make up, by retirement and recollection in the last stages of life, what has been wanting in the days of former hurry, and which are now no more! I recollect a saying of a captain of whom historians have taken more cars to record the wisdom than the name. It is said that the saying struck the Emperor Charles V. and confirmed him in his design of abdicating his crown, and retiring to a convent. The captain required the Emperor to discharge him from service. Charles asked the reason. The prudent soldier replied, Because there ought to be a pause between the hurry of life and the day of death.
3. In fine, if Barzillai seemed to anticipate his dying clay by continually meditating on the subject, it was because the meditation, full of horror to most men, was full of charms to this good old man.
How long have I to live, that I should go up with the King unto Jerusalem?I. A SERIOUS CONSIDERATION OF APPROACHING DEATH IS PECULIARLY PROPER FOR AGED PERSONS. Barzillai, in his reply to David, seems to have the near approach of death chiefly in view. And surely such a view was exceedingly proper and becoming for a person of his age, though he seemed possessed of much strength and vigour. But some circumstances make it peculiarly proper that the aged should make these thoughts familiar and habitual to them.
1. The speedy period of their lives is more certain than that of others. There is a probability that they who are in the prime or morning of their days may continue many years; but there is no probability that the aged should.
2. The infirmities which are peculiar to, or most frequent in old age, make the consideration of death highly proper.
3. The remembrance of the many relations, friends, and acquaintance whom they have survived, should excite this disposition in them.
II. THE PROSPECT OF A SPEEDY REMOVAL OUT OR THIS WORLD, SHOULD WEAN OUR AFFECTIONS FROM IT.
1. The prospect of death should make the aged dead to the honours and pleasures of this world.
2. The prospect of death should lead them to get free from the cares of the world, as far as they lawfully can.(1) Their capacity for business is generally weakened. This is Barzillai's reasoning in the verse after the text; "Can I discern between good and evil?"(2) If their capacities continue ever so good, they bare more important concerns to mind, and but a little time for them. The one thing needful, the great business relating to their souls and eternity is sufficient to engage all the time which they can spare from that needful rest which old age requires.(3) The more cares you have upon your hands the more will your dying thoughts be disturbed, and your last Work be interrupted.(4) By various worldly cares the soul will be less disposed and qualified for the heavenly world. The immoderate love of the world is utterly inconsistent with the love of the Father; and such a love of it as may be regular and allowable in the prime or middle of life, may be immoderate and unjustifiable in old age.
I am this day fourscore years old.I. LENGTH OF DAYS IS A SCRIPTURAL BLESSING. It was eminently such under the Hebrew theocracy, where earthly allotments were the perpetual types of spiritual favour. As death was a penalty, so the shortening of human life was counted as a marked expression of the Divine displeasure, as where the Psalmist exclaims: "He brought down my strength in my journey, and shortened my days. But I said, O my God, take me not away in the midst of mine age. For when Thou art angry all our days are gone." But alway, and through all generations, has the hoary head been counted a crown of glory to the righteous. Old age is not to be associated, as a matter of course, with decrepitude or the decays of nature. It has its own appropriate beauty, as well as youth. Undeniably the aged are entitled to our liveliest sympathies and our most sedulous attentions. They have reached the border land. They stand hovering between two worlds, and must shortly vanish and be no more seen. They are going from us, and we in our turn may require the kindness and attention which we bestow. But there are trials incident to old age, and which no power of human sympathy can avert or permanently relieve.
1. Infirmity of body is one. The vigours of life are failing. The fibre of a constitution which withstood all the assaults of threescore years, and promised well for a longer continuance, suddenly gives way.
2. Another trial of the aged is the altered aspect of society, the absence of contemporaries and companions, and the deepening loneliness of life. To outlive their generation, even by a little, is to walk a solitary path.
3. I will mention but one other trial to which the aged are exposed — that, namely, which lies in the tendency to depression and the decay of natural spirits.
II. THE CONSOLATIONS WHICH ATTEND AND COMFORT THE AGED BELIEVER.
1. As a rule, and as a blessedness often attained, the last days of the Christian are his best days, and the end better than the beginning.
2. And, again, the aged saint finds comfort in looking back, and holding in review the way over which he has passed. The retrospection of seventy or eighty years presents God continually in forms and ministries of providential care which are only estimated fully, at the end.
3. Finally, the past revelation of God's mercy and goodness is the best pledge of eternal glory.
(W. F. Morgan, D. D.)
Let thy servant, I pray thee, turn back again, that I may die in mine own city.
Homiletic Review.In our last great trial, in our conflict with the king of terrors, what a consolation to feel that our friends are about us, that we are at home.
1. How much earthly friends may help us in the hour of death.
2. The limitation of this help.
3. The Christian's consolation that wherever death may overtake him he will die in the midst of friends. His Elder Brother will be there, and God, his father, and he will be encompassed with a host of heavenly witnesses, friends in Jesus Christ. Through death we will go from our earthly home to our heavenly home.
And the words of the men of Judah were fiercer than the words of the men of Israel.
I. THE HISTORY OF RELIGIOUS DISSENSION IS A LONG AND A SAD ONE. There is a monotonous iteration about it which makes one almost despair of human nature, did we not know that freedom of the will, liberty of opinion, and individuality ill all its waywardness, are signs, however perverted they may be, of man's pre-eminence in creation as made in the image and likeness of God, Who wills and no man lets Him, Who moves unfettered by necessity, and untrammelled by restraint. It is easy enough to arrange, in order, and in beauty artificial flowers, with all their semblance of life and brilliancy of colour. The real flowers bend their heads, and snap and fall and hang down; but they have this virtue, that they are alive, they are fragrant, they are tinged with that living colour which no art can give. Puppets offer no resistance; they stand where they are placed; they are absolutely at the disposal of the hand which orders them. But puppets cannot think, cannot resist, cannot organise movement, or march to victory. No, in spite of its waywardness, its readiness to yield to temptation, its pettiness of jealousy, its infirmity of purpose, we would not part with our freedom of the will. There is no struggle which appears to men so much as a struggle for liberty. We all of us passionately cry out, Persuade me if you can, but you shall never drive me. We will yield to arguments, but not to force. You cannot drive a man with a stick, nor convince him by violence. Men must have arguments, and not blows, because man is free. It is a sad spectacle to be forced to regard in Holy Scripture that which at first sight seems to be the utter failure of the purpose of God, through the pettiness and infirmity of human nature. Guard, I beseech you, against the controversial spirit. It has been well said by the late Bishop Morley that the temper which prefers to denounce sin rather than faithfully and Weekly endeavours to increase holiness in oneself and others; which rather likes railing at want of discipline, than sets itself in gentleness and prayer to bring about the restoration of it, is nearly connected with the feebleness of moral fibre. Certainly a great deal of personal self-indulgence is apt to hide itself (even from its own eyes) under the cloak of a burning and railing zeal for discipline, and personal weakness to find a kind of factitious strength in the complaints of the unholiness of others. Guard against the controversial spirit. It more than anything else serves to damage the sensitiveness of the soul. Look at that poor woman of Samaria, in the Gospel, bow nearly she lost the supreme opportunity of her life. Jesus meets her in her sensual, unspiritual condition; He brushes past her unmannerly roughness, her churlish discourtesy, and He speaks to her with that home-thrust of love on which her salvation depended — "Go, call thy husband, anal come hither." You notice how she avoided it. Like the cuttle-fish which tries to escape from its antagonist by the inky stream which it leaves behind it, she tries to get away in the obscuring flood of controversy. "Sir," she said, "I perceive that thou art a prophet." Controversy is a dangerous exercise, and, like one of the big guns which our modern military science has produced, may sometimes crumble to pieces the fort from which it is fired if unprepared for the weight of its discharge, and damage those who use it.
II. But while we deplore — as deplore we must — the divisions of Israel and Judah, the divisions which rend the seamless robe of Christ, we must not forget, at the same time, that as God can use the fierceness and the passions of men, so He can OVERRULE FOR GOOD "OUR UNHAPPY DIVISIONS." Nay, we may go further and say that, bad as they are, divisions are not all bad; and sad as it is, disunion is no ground for despair. "Peace with honour," if you like, but a disastrous war is better than an unworthy peace. The presence of controversy, and even the sad spectacle of division, does bear witness to the intense importance of Truth. Is it worth while, the sceptic asks with a sneer, to convulse the Church for a dipththong? "Yes," we answer, emphatically, "Yes," if it means that it is to be an open question whether the Church believes our Blessed Lord to be of the same substance of the Father, or only of like substance. Can anything be more trivial, says the superficial observer, than the addition of one short clause to the Creed, as a cause of separation between Eastern and Western Christendom? Not at all, if it bears witness to the fact that no addition must be made to the Creed of Christendom without the sanction and consent of the whole Church. The great importance of truth must come before everything else. There are words of our Blessed Lord which are a strange comment on the angelic song which blazed across the Heaven on the first Christmas Eve: "Glory to God in the highest," sang the angels, "and on earth peace, goodwill towards men." And shepherds heard it on the peaceful upland in all the pastoral simplicity of idyllic calm. But, as our Blessed Lord sat on the Mount of Olives, where the sun was setting blood-red behind doomed Jerusalem, where the air was full of judgment and of gloom, within three days of Good Friday, He said: "Ye shall be betrayed both by parents, and brethren, and kinsfolk, and friends, and some of you will they cause to be put to death, and ye shall be hated of all men for My Name's sake, but he that shall endure unto the end shall be saved." It is possible that we shall often find principles inconvenient things.
II. CONTROVERSY IS A BLINDING, MADDENING THING. Yet even dissension has its uses. It is better than apathy, and it witnesses to the eternal force of truth. But, nevertheless, he who would use the weapons of controversy aright, whether in attack or defence, must look to it that he wears the right equipment, or he will find himself injured by the very force of the weapons which he was trying to wield.
(W. E. E. Newbolt, M. A.)