Illusive Presages
1 Samuel 10:26, 27
And Saul also went home to Gibeah; and there went with him a band of men, whose hearts God had touched.…

A mild, clear morning may be followed by a stormy day. A prince may begin to reign with gentleness who afterwards becomes proud, ruthless, impatient, even harsh and bloodthirsty. There are few instances of this in history so pathetic as the case of Saul, who began his reign with every indication of a magnanimous character, yet was soon deteriorated by the possession of power, and made himself and all around him most unhappy. In him we see how good impulses may be overcome by evil passion, and what fair promise may come to nought. In order to catch the lessons of warning and admonition which come from the tragic story of Saul, it is necessary to do full justice to the bright beginning of his career.

I. HIS RELIGIOUS SENSIBILITY. We know that his prophesying left little trace behind; but that Saul was quickly susceptible of religious impressions is plain enough, and this in his early days must have awakened fond hopes regarding him in the breasts of those who were zealous for the Lord of hosts.

II. HIS ATTRACTION FOR THE FERVENT SPIRITS OF THE NATION. We are told, with a sort of naivete, how his height impressed the people at large, and was pointed to even by Samuel. So the Greeks gloried in the huge Ajax, and in the towering form of Achilles. It is not said or implied, however, that Saul himself showed any pride in the admiration which his grand appearance won. The significant thing is, that he drew after him "a band of men whose hearts God had touched." They saw in his eye, or supposed they saw, the fire of a kindred enthusiasm. Here was one, they thought, worthy to be king of a holy nation. So they formed a bodyguard round him as the Lord's anointed. Their mistake is not at all an isolated one. Ardent young men often fail in discernment of character, and attach themselves to questionable leaders. Let no one count it enough that some good people think well of him, and assume his warmth of spirit as sufficient evidence of his being "born again." A man is what be is in the enduring habits and controlling principles of his character and life. Value the good opinion of the wise, if they have opportunity to see the unexcited tenor of your conduct; but do not count it a sure mark of grace that you have at some time felt a glow of religious ardour, and that others in the same mood have hailed you as brother, or even leader, in the Church of God. After all the attraction exerted by Saul over the fervent spirits of his time, he hardened his own heart, and the Lord departed from him.

III. HIS PATIENCE AND MAGNANIMITY. There were exceptions to the general approval with which Saul was raised to the throne. Some held aloof, and scoffed at the confidence which was placed so rashly in the tall Benjamite. They disliked him all the more that the devout rallied about him; for they themselves were "sons of Belial," men whose hearts the Lord had not touched. It was a serious risk for the young king to have a disloyal faction, treating his authority with open contempt. Yet Saul bore it quietly. He "held his peace." Nor was this a mere politic delay till he should be strong enough to crush the malcontents, for there is no mention of his ever having called these sons of Belial to account. Surely this was a fine point of character - to bear obstruction so patiently, and be content to earn public confidence by his kingly bearing and exploits. It was a virtue beyond the expectations, and even the wishes, of his people. Who that saw that young king could have imagined that he who was so patient would grow so restless as he did; and he who was so magnanimous would become almost insane with envy, and chase his own son-in-law among the hills of Judaea, thirsting for his blood? So hard is it for a man to be known! Virtue may leap to the front, and show itself on some auspicious day; but vice lurks in the rear, and may prove the stronger. When its day comes it will take the mastery, and then the fair promise of youth is succeeded by a wilful, selfish, ignoble manhood. You meet a man with bloated face and reckless bearing, a companion of fools, half a rogue and half a sot. Yet, could you have seen him twenty years ago, you would have looked on a healthy, happy, kindly boy, the hope of his father's house, the pride of his mother's heart. But there was a weak point in him, and strong drink found it out. So it has come to this degradation. Virtue is laughed at; self-respect is gone; the boy is sunk and lost in this gross and shameless man. Or you see one who is hard and mercenary, inexorable to those who fall into his power, indifferent to the works of genius and to the efforts of philanthropy, occupied always with his own moneyed interest. Yet, could you have seen him thirty years ago, you would have looked on a young man who loved art, or letters, or religion, and seemed likely to develop into a cultured and useful citizen. But in an evil hour the passion of worldly acquisition seized him; or, rather, that which had long been dormant and unperceived began to rule over him, as his opportunities for acquisition widened, and so his bright beginning has resulted in this sordid and ignoble character. Human deterioration, the disappointment of youthful presages of goodness - it is a painful subject, but one which moral teachers may not neglect. It is difficult to stop the evil process once it has begun; and the beginning may be so quiet, so little suspected! It is difficult to know one's self, or any one else, and to say whether it be only a good impulse one has in his youth, or a rooted principle. Some men certainly turn out much better than they promised, but some turn out much worse. Let us watch and pray. - F.

Parallel Verses
KJV: And Saul also went home to Gibeah; and there went with him a band of men, whose hearts God had touched.

WEB: Saul also went to his house to Gibeah; and there went with him the army, whose hearts God had touched.

Helpers and Hinderers
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