"Whom shall I bring up for you?" the woman asked. "Bring up Samuel," he replied.
1 Samuel 28:11. (ENDOR.)
I. THE VALUE OF FAITHFUL COUNSEL, to which it is a testimony. The reproofs and warnings which a faithful counsellor gives are not always agreeable. They are often deemed unnecessary, regarded with contempt, and cause him to be accounted an enemy. But they are justified by events; and then their worth is felt, and they are longed for, when perchance it is too late. The sore distress which Saul now suffered would have been averted if he had listened to the counsel of Samuel. He is your best friend who tells you the truth, and seeks your welfare rather than your favour. Give heed to what he says while it may conduce to your profit.
II. THE FOLLY OF FAITHLESS NEGLECT, Of which it is a confession. "How have I hated instruction, and my heart despised reproof; and have not obeyed the voice of my teachers, nor inclined mine ear to them that instructed me!" (Proverbs 5:12, 13). "How many who have despised the advice of a father or a mother, and grieved their parents by oppostion and disobedience, long bitterly to bring them back when they have gone down to the grave, that they may have the benefit of the counsel which they once slighted and scorned! If they could go to the necromancer in the hour of their distress, it would not be, 'Bring me up the companion who cheered me in my gaieties, who was with me at the revel and the dance and the public show;' but, 'Bring me up the father with his gray hairs, who solemnly told me that the way of transgressors was hard; or the mother who with weeping eyes and broken voice admonished me against sinful indulgences.'... And yet, if you neglect the Lord and continue to resist the strivings of his Spirit, so that at length he departs from you as he departed from Saul, what would it avail that the grave could give up its inhabitant - if the parent, the friend, or the minister should return at your bidding?" (H. Melvill).
III. THE WORTHLESSNESS OF PIOUS WISHES in those who persist in transgression. Saul was deeply humbled. His self-will and pride were broken down into pitiable abasement, and he seemed willing to receive and obey the counsel which he had previously slighted. Yet his motive was doubtless the same as in inquiring of the Lord (vers. 1-6); he looked upon Samuel as more merciful than the Lord, relied upon him to effect a change in the Divine purpose (1 Samuel 15:29), and expected his aid at the very moment he was committing a capital offence. He was more blinded and self-deceived than ever. Men often abase themselves deeply in affliction while they remain wholly destitute of the spirit of obedience. "Let no man deceive himself." What value can there be in a religious desire which is combined with the violation of the plainest religious duty?
IV. THE USELESSNESS OF EXTRAORDINARY COMMUNICATIONS, such as have been sometimes desired from the dead. Saul had what to him was the fulfilment of his desire; but he was told only what he already knew or feared, he was not led to repentance and faith, and sank into despair. Is it supposed that benefit would be derived from the reappearance and counsel of the departed? Consider that -
1. The light which might be brought would only be a confirmation of the truth which has been already revealed. If even future events, as, e.g., the time of death, should be declared, the know]edge thereof would probably be useless and injurious. Should death be distant, it would be a strong temptation to sloth and continued sin; should it be very near, whilst it might arouse some to make preparation for it simply from a selfish dread of threatening evil, it would lead others to feel that it was too late to avert the danger, and resign themselves to reckless indulgence or blank despair (see ch. 3).
2. Those who are not improved by existing inducements to faith and obedience would be proof against such as might be thereby presented, and would in most cases be hardened in sin (John 12:10). "If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead" (Luke 16:31).
3. God has given to men the knowledge and inducements which are best adapted to their probationary condition and sufficient forevery practical purpose, and has wisely determined that no more shall be afforded. "He that is unjust," etc. (Revelation 22:11). "As no additional dissuasions from sin and inducements to holiness would be presented, they who, notwithstanding these disclosures, remained impenitent and unbelieving must continue in irreclaimable wickedness." "Say not in thine heart," etc. (Romans 10:6-11). Crave not for "secret things" - the mysterious, the supernatural, the miraculous, the speculative, the impossible. "If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved." - D.
Bring me up Samuel.
1. To make Saul's crime the instrument of his punishment, in the dreadful denunciation of his approaching doom.
2. To show to the heathen world the infinite superiority of the Oracle of the Lord inspiring his prophets over the powers of darkness, and the delusive prognostics of their wretched votaries in their false oracles.
3. To confirm the belief in a future state, by "one who rose from the dead," even under the Mosaical dispensation.Taking the view now represented, we may draw some practical conclusions from it.
1. The soul lives after death. Samuel's appearance showed that his soul still lived, though his body had died at Ramah and had been buried.
2. It is vain to pray to the dead. Scripture gives no encouragement to this practice. This passage, and one in the New Testament, show the utter hopelessness of finding comfort by this means. The word of God reveals the mercy seat; and a prayer hearing God invites the sinner to ask mercy in the name of Jesus. "If any man sin, he has an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous." "He is able be save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them" (Hebrews 7:25).
3. There is no oracle of the future but God's. No evil spirit can reveal the destiny of a soul, nor could he be trusted. No light that led astray was ever light from heaven. The father of lies could not he entitled to credit in his disclosures of our future. Departed saints are incapable of doing this. They have not such a function assigned to them in the economy of the spiritual world.
Homilist.I. THIS IS THE CRY OF A SOUL CONSCIOUSLY DESERTED OF GOD. "The Lord answered him not, neither by dreams, nor by Urim, nor by prophets."
1. God does sometimes desert the sinner even in this world. "My Spirit shall not always strive with man." "Ephraim is joined to idols; let him alone."
2. The consciousness of this desertion is the greatest misery. There is no orphanage so bad as the orphanage of a soul — a soul that has lost its God. It lives to sink deeper and deeper forever into ruin.
II. THIS IS THE CRY OF A SOUL PROFOUNDLY CONVINCED OF THE VALUE OF A ONCE NEGLECTED MINISTRY. "See that ye refuse not him that speaketh, for if they escaped not," etc.
III. THIS IS THE CRY OF A SOUL THAT HAD BECOME THE VICTIM OF DELUSIONS. The man's mind under a sense of guilt and Divine desertion had lost its balance; his intellect had been hurled from the throne, and his imagination, under the despotism of a guilty conscience, filled his soul with ghastly phantoms. Men talk of a sound mind in a sound body, but there is no sound mind without a sound conscience — a conscience freed from the sense of guilt, and attuned to the everlasting harmonies of right. Reason in the atmosphere of a guilty conscience is like the eye amidst the shower of pyrotechnic lights, dazzled with false visions. As we build up our houses and our cities out of the rough materials taken from the earth, so the imagination of a mind consciously deserted by God will build up its world of woe out of the corrupt materials of its own heart.
IV. THIS IS THE CRY OF A SOUL PLUNGING INTO THE DEPTHS OF DESPAIR. When despair comes, a hopeless darkness settles over the soul. The course of sin leads to despair. Every sin a man commits he quenches a star in the firmament of hope. The moral of the whole is this — the well-being of humanity consists in loving fellowship with the Eternal Father.
1. Have you never felt that orphanage — when God seems to have gone out from your heavens, and the universe appears a vast, sunless, godless infinite, black as night? The world without a sun! The flower stems bend over filled with icy tears shed for the loss of the sun that gave them all their colours, the bleached leaves hang without a flutter in the still, cold air, or fall rotting in the dark, the cattle of the field, perish for lack of sweet food and soft warmth, and the shivering hearts of men freeze within them — for the sun died last night. A soul without God, in awful solitude, starless, sunless. If you have felt that orphanage, and lived through doubt and despair to believe in God, happy are you. If you have never known it, happy are you also.
1. Saul was without God in his soul — he was alone; what should he do? Do! What could he do? Why could he not be quiet, and stop still? The sun would not forever be on the under size of the world, the night would not last forever. One of the most fruitful errors of mankind is that irrepressible desire to do something; men cannot wait. Pascal said that most of life's evils sprang from "man's being unable to sit still in a room." This restless unquiet is the cause of business depression; men must speculate, "do something;" there was a mania for excessive action.
2. Saul would do something, no matter what! He would seek a witch, and she would raise up Samuel to him. Ill omens crowd his mind, and his heart fell when he heard the mysterious seer from the afterworld add his ghostly word to his own too sad prevision of disaster and ruin on the morrow. He needs no ghost to tell him that, 'tis already too surely known. Oh, power of conscience! A guilty conscience fills the soul with phantoms that are tongued with evil. The torture of a bad conscience is the hell of a soul. Conscience speaks in whispers; but, if unheeded, its whispers echo quickly back and back from the close walls of the dark prison house of the soul, until, gathering strength, they reverberate like sounds of volleying thunder. Small as an earthworm, conscience may swell, until at last it becomes a great stinging serpent.
3. Hope is belief in God; hope is the anchor of the soul, which, tossed on the rolling ocean that is full to bursting, and driven helpless by the wind that is wet with storms, is steady, for deep buried in God's bosom is the anchor, trust in our Father in heaven. The wise ancients said that Hope was the only gift left in Pandora's box; it is the last thing that dies in a man. To lose hope is to lose oneself. By hope are we saved. Be not ashamed to hope; hope the highest things. Such is our Christian duty. A soul losing hope in God is like a traveller going down some mountainside as the broadening sun sets behind him; at his every step his shadow widens, lengthens, blackens, till at last he is shrouded in midnight darkness, and with way lost, tumbles over the crag into ruin. Hope then in God; doubt but hastens peril. Look up, out, of thyself; and learn that the darkness is thine own, that the heavens glow with light. Thou despairest of good, saying that there is no sun? Open thy closed eyes, the darkness is in thine own soul only. Despair is the only atheism; hopelessness is unbelief in God; Hope thou; that is, believe in God; he that believeth not is damned. But hope, which is the presence of God, never dies — never.
(B. J. Snell, M. A.)
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