Relation of Ancestry to Character
1 Samuel 17:58
And Saul said to him, Whose son are you, you young man? And David answered, I am the son of your servant Jesse the Bethlehemite.

I am not surprised that when this shepherd boy (ushered in and introduced by Abner, commander-in-chief) entered the Royal presence with the ghastly trophy, his fingers clutching the hair of Goliath's head, the king looked at him with admiring wonderment, and put the plain, straightforward question of my text, "Whose son art thou, young man?" It was natural that Saul should wish to know something of the antecedents of so brave a youth; doubtless, he wanted all the particulars about his age, the place of his birth, his upbringing, his occupation, and so forth; but he conceived that such signal valour must be hereditary and ancestral; so his first and main inquiry touched the parentage of the juvenile warrior, "Young man, who was your father?" Whatever views we may hold upon the subject of heredity, there cannot be a doubt as to the fact that qualities, moral, intellectual, and physical, are transmitted from father to son. Some families are noted for longevity; others for good looks; others for love of adventure. The aquiline nose runs in the line of the Buonapartes; the large lip in the House of Hapsburg; the bald head in the House of Hanover. In some instances there is a certain expression of countenance traceable to the third or fourth generation. I call on one of you at your lodging, and take up the portrait album on your table; and instantly say, as I point to a photograph there, though I never saw the original, "You don't need to tell me who that is; one can see at a glance that you are a chip of the old block." Mental qualities are transmitted too. In one case it is musical talent that descends; in another, the love of poetry; in a third, the gift of acquiring languages. And what is yet more to the point, moral tendencies, bad, good, and indifferent, are passed on from parent to child. Only last week I heard of a case in which a confirmed slave of alcohol actually said, "My father was a drunkard, and my grandfather was a drunkard before him; I shall be a drunkard too; we belong to a race of drunkards. I may as well accept my fate, it cannot be helped." On the other hand, noble and generous features of character appear sometimes to run in the blood. If there could be anything like a pious momentum coming from a long line of Christian progenitors, some of us ought to be godly indeed. St. Paul was not afraid of being misunderstood by Timothy when he wrote to him, "I thank God when I call to remembrance the unfeigned faith that is in thee, which dwelt first in thy grandmother Lois, and thy mother Eunice." And this suggests the truth, that on the mother's side, perhaps even more than the father's, this law of heredity seems to prevail. When David answered King Saul's question he made no mention of his mother, but there is nothing in that omission; for he quite understood the monarch's object, that he wished to know his family connection Could I be near you in the hour of strong temptation, when you are ready to belie all the holy memories of a pious home, I would whisper in your ear the question — till you would start back with loathing from the vice to which you were going to yield — "Whose son art thou, young man?"

I. My first word is to those of you WHO SAVE SPRUNG FROM A LOWLY PARENTAGE. If there is anything more utterly contemptible than for one who has risen a bit in the world to be ashamed of his humble origin, it is the conduct of him who ridicules his low-born brother. Sometimes we hear it remarked, with a sneer and a curl of the lip, concerning some young man who is doing well, and carrying all before him, "Oh, he has risen from the ranks!" Well, the more honour to him, if it is so; and the more shame upon the silly, contemptible snobbishness that could be guilty of such an utterance. It is in no spirit of cheap Radicalism that I say this. It is not a question either of patrician or plebeian sympathies at all. I will venture to say it is simple common sense. Blue blood, as it is called, is by no means the purest blood. I believe that some of you have far more reason to be proud of your pedigree than could you trace it to Tudor or Plantagenet.

II. My next word is upon the heavy responsibility that rests on you WHO HAVE BEEN BORN IN THE LINE OF A CHRISTIAN PARENTAGE. We shall not talk of rank now, but of character. You come out of a godly nest. Your father was a man of God, your mother a sincere believer. A long line of Christian inheritance is something to rejoice in. When a man can make out a genealogical tree of his own family, and point cub to me, that root, stem, branch, and twig were all holy, I say he has good cause to thank God, and esteem himself as belonging to the peerage of the skies. Well did William Cowper say —

"My boast is not that I deduce my birth

From loins enthroned, the rulers of the earth;

But higher far my proud pretensions rise —

The son of parents passed into the skies."Whose son art thou, young man? It is a frightful aggravation of a man's guilt when his whole life is a contradiction given to his father's counsels and his mother's prayers; when the child of a godly ancestry tramples on all the holy traditions and memories of the past, and determinedly breaks through the moral fences that had been set around him. Such persons generally make an awful rebound. The worst of men are apostates from the purest faith. Tell me what good influence a young man has resisted and defied, and I will give you the gauge of his depravity.

III. I am not afraid to put the question even to those of you WHO HAVE HAD NO SUCH ADVANTAGE. I thank God that I have seen many a clean bird come out of a foul nest. If ever a man might have been supposed to have had bad blood in his veins, it was Hezekiah, who was the son of one of the worst monarchs that ever reigned over Israel. He was cursed with a most polluted parental example. One might have said of that young man that he was born to vice. And yet he turned out a devout and holy man of God. Yes, Divine grace is stronger even than blood. History can supply many an instance, to the praise of Him who ofttimes finds the brightest diamonds in the darkest mines, and the richest pearls in the deepest seas.

IV. I feel that I cannot part with the text without giving it A PURELY SPIRITUAL MEANING, in respect of which there are but two paternities, and one or other of these each of you must own. Would to God that, as I address to you all the question, "Whose sons are ye, young men?" you could with one voice reply, "Behold, now are we the sons of God." "Ye are of your father, the devil," said Christ, with awful plainness of speech, to the unbelieving Jews; and let it never be forgotten that, unless we are the subjects of Divine adoption, we are all "the children of the wicked one." I tell you that, whether you realise it or not, you have, each of you, Royal blood in your veins. Your pedigree traces back to the King of kings. St. Luke goes right up to the fountain head when he finishes his genealogical table thus: "Which was the son of Enos, which was the son of Seth, which was the son of Adam, which was the Son of God." Awake to the glorious fact, and claim your high inheritance! Amen.

(J. T. Davidson.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: And Saul said to him, Whose son art thou, thou young man? And David answered, I am the son of thy servant Jesse the Bethlehemite.

WEB: Saul said to him, "Whose son are you, you young man?" David answered, "I am the son of your servant Jesse the Bethlehemite."

Heredity and Celebrity
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