The Death of the Great
2 Samuel 1:19-20
The beauty of Israel is slain on your high places: how are the mighty fallen!…

1. How is the mighty fallen! — fallen under the superior power of death! — Death, the king of terrors, the conqueror of conquerors; whom riches cannot bribe, nor power resist; whom goodness cannot soften, nor dignity and loyalty deter, or awe to a reverential distance. Death intrudes into palaces as well as cottages; and arrests the monarch as well as the slave. How astonishing and lamentable is the stupidity of mankind! Can the natural or the moral world exhibit another phenomenon so shocking and unaccountable? Death sweeps off thousands of our fellow-subjects every year. Our neighbours, like leaves in autumn, drop into the grave, in a thick succession; and our attendance upon funerals is almost as frequent and formal as our visits of friendship or complaisance. Yet how few realise the thought that they must die! Pilgrims and strangers imagine themselves everlasting residents; and make this transitory life their all, as if earth was to be their eternal home; as if eternity was but a fairy land, and heaven and hell but majestic chimeras.

2. Since the mighty is fallen, how vain are all things beneath the sun! Vanity of vanities; all is vanity! How unworthy the hopes, how inferior to the desires, how unequal to the duration of human nature! "Who then art thou, who settest thine affections on things below? Dost thou value thyself on thy birth? Dost thou value thyself on thy riches? Dost thou value thyself on thy power? Dost thou glory in thy constancy, humanity, affection to thy friend; justice, veracity, popularity, universal love?" If even kings cannot extract perfect happiness from things below; if the gross, unsubstantial, and fleeting enjoyments of life are in their own nature incapable of affording pure, solid, and lasting felicity, must we not all despair of it? Yet such a happiness we desire; such we need; nay, such we must have; or our very existence will become our curse, and all our powers of enjoyment but capacities of pain. And where shall we seek for it? where, but in the supreme Good? But though crowns, and thrones, and kings, though stars, and suns, and worlds, sink into promiscuous ruin, there is one gift of Heaven to mankind which shall survive; which shall flourish and reign for ever; a gift little esteemed or solicited, and which makes no brilliant figure in mortal eyes; I mean religion. Religion! Thou brightest ornament of human natural Thou fairest image of the Divine! Thou sacred spark of celestial fire, which now glimmers with but a feeble lustre; but will shine bright in the night of affliction; will irradiate the thick gloom of death, and blaze out into immortality in its native element! This will be an unfailing source of happiness, through the revolutions of eternal ages. These majestic trifles are not the tests of real worth, nor the badges of Heaven's favourites: it is religion that marks out the happy man; that distinguishes the heir of an unfading crown; who, when the dubious conflict of life is over, shall inherit all things, and sit in triumph for ever with the King of kings, and Lord of lords.

(S. Davies, A. M.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: The beauty of Israel is slain upon thy high places: how are the mighty fallen!

WEB: "Your glory, Israel, is slain on your high places! How the mighty have fallen!

David's Lamentation Over Saul and Jonathan
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