Spiritual Incongruities
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 have tried to apprehend the character of David. David was a prophet, but I shall speak most of him as a man; and I desire most to call your attention to him in his actual and his merely human life. This it will be my effort, briefly to sketch, and, as I sketch it, to connect such reflections with the statements as arise naturally out of the incidents. The opening of David's public course glows with sublime ardour, and is full of heroism. He will go forward against presumptuous sell-confidence. He understood where the noblest strength lay, and nobly he used it. He showed, what the whole history of man exhibits — that faith in Divine protection, that devotion to conscience, that intellectual skill, that moral enthusiasm, can trample down resistance, however gigantic. What is muscle at any time against mind? What is passion against belief? What is frenzied anger against deliberative conviction? Reverence and Reason are the true conqueror of the earth. To them belong the victory, and to them belong dominion. David stands out, as a type of this great power. The monster fell dead before his missile, and he, the victor, has left, a record of our learning, to reveal to us, for everlasting ages, what is the potency of the gifted and the inspired mind. He may be placed as the deathless incarnation of what, trust and thought can accomplish against tyranny and force.

1. David was one of those great and original men, whom humanity at rare intervals produces. His mind was of that order which creates the age in which it lives, and that saves or destroys the nation which it rules. His character was that which Time, if it would, is not able to kill; that which History is forced to remember. It is the destiny of transcendent power, whether it be good or whether it be bad, to leave everlasting impression on the affairs of mankind. David was a man of power, various and exalted. Strong in intellect, and wise in experience; strong in will, end commanding in expression; strong in every attribute which compels obedience, he was accomplished also in the qualities that win it. Poetry, music, architecture, he loved with extreme desire; he advanced them with a noble zeal. In some points he resembled Bonaparte. Like Bonaparte, he arose from the people, and sat upon his throne by their will; like Bonaparte, his people adored him, and would endure to the last extremity of human nature for his interest. Like Bonaparte, he was a conqueror. His circumstances were created by the age, and not by himself. He had to meet and to subdue them as best be could. Like Bonaparte, he was a dictator. He had, to be sure, his great and mighty men, for he knew, by the glance of a look, the man who was born to control his associates; and as he knew the man, he selected him. Like Bonaparte, he was a legislator. He gave his people laws, and he established among them a settled and systematic administration. But he had a piety, and a faith, and a devotional sensibility, of which the mighty modern had not a single impulse. There is another modern, to whom David also bears, in some degree, a resemblance — Peter the Great, of Russia. David, as Peter, found only barbarism in the land; but, ere he died, it was exalted and civilised. The great king of Israel, as the great czar of Russia, was the patron of every art, and the friend of every genius who could raise his country into prosperity and dignity. He found his brethren dwelling in tents; he departed from among them living in palaces. He found them scattered tribes; he left them a collected and compacted nation. Under the guidance of his stupendous mind, the land was filled with plenty, the sea was covered with commerce, literature was encouraged, industry was successful, victory waited on arms, and wisdom prevailed in counsel. If we contrast David with Saul, David appears as superior as heaven is to earth. It is superiority, not of an improved succession, but of a new creation. Saul, like David, was exalted from common to kingly life. Saul, like David, was a man of battle, and a man of blood; and here the resemblance closes. To the end, Saul was only the savage warrior, a man of might and daring, a man of prowess and enthusiasm. This agrees fully with his personal qualities, and is in nowise opposed to his original condition. It is all that we might imagine, and our expectations are neither surpassed nor contradicted. Commanding in the qualities which make a man of war, David had, in more signal perfection, those which in a better period would have made a man of peace.

2. The history of David leaves one impression on the mind deeply and plainly; and that, is. that moral principle does not always correspond with devotional sensibility. I do not say that devotional sensibility is not a fine element in moral action; nay, I hold that,, without it, the highest beauty is wanting to character and to virtue. But still, devotional sensibility may be found in many persons, who are weak in right principles, and unstable in right purposes. How fervently could David pray, but bow feebly did David practise! Yet David was not really insincere. It is well and wisely written — "The heart is deceitful above all things; who can know it?" Much and strange contradiction there is in life, but less of positive hypocrisy than is imagined. David is a type of many kings and many men. The example, in this character which Scripture gives us, is ever and ever repeated in history; and it is as often corroborated in daily life. And, in our own experience, how changeful and uncertain are our characters? In an hour we passionately resolve, and in another as recklessly break our resolution. Instability and inconsistency there are in this, but sincerity there is in it also. The real philosophy of the matter is that the religious element, like the other elements of our nature, must be good or bad, as it is directed. By the religious clement I mean, in this connection, the faculty which connects us with the invisible and eternal world; and this, directed by ignorance and passion, may do, without remorse, deeds that have no name, but, influenced by knowledge and by benignity, raises a man, not simply to be a little lower than the angels, but to be their equal and their companion. But the merely devotional man is not necessarily a virtuous man; nay, he is not necessarily a benevolent man; he may fail in rectitude, or he may fail in humanity. Of this principle, the whole history of the Church gives sufficient evidence; for many a devout man has been dishonest, and many a devout man has been cruel. I do not join in the common cry which stigmatizes all such as hypocrites. I do not believe that the failings of those on whom the world charged inconsistency always sprang from deceit: I simply believe that they were men of partial development, and that, in the exaggerated expression of some faculties, others were disproportionately, and thence injuriously, weakened. Wickedness there is abundantly in the world, and so far there is, in the world, a universal subject and cause of grief. But, when sin unites with noble gifts, it is exceedingly sinful. Let me offer a few words — a few words on that, blood-guiltiness, for which some men, through David, assault the Bible. We are to judge David as we judge other men, by his times and by his circumstances. His age was one of rudeness and it was one of blood. It was a period when men got readily into conflict, and when conflict was associated with little that was forbearing or magnanimous. The barbarian instincts to contention were those which then were the most developed. Prowess was the great test of excellence. Might was the principle of right. The military hero was "the highest style of man." Shall we make that David's sin, which was David's fate? Was he not a warrior by the necessity of events, rather than by any personal contrivance? What else could his life have been, but that of warfare? By what means could he have avoided being, throughout his course, a warrior? David's career was splendid and successful. Was he happy? Was he even moderately happy? When David sat upon the throne of Israel did he never recall, in melancholy vision, the green pastures and the still waters, where his breast, was calm, and where his step was free. David was not a happy man. Despondency settled on his soul, and calamities, treading fast upon each other, haunted all his latter days. He is an example that no grandeur, no prosperity, no impunity from station, no glory of command, no flattery of obedience, can strip sin of its hatefulness or rob it of its sting; that God's eye is on the monarch as thy, beggar; that, in the depth of millions, their transgression can find them out; and that, in the stern truth of God's own sentence, it can shriek within their conscience the terrible rebuke of Divine condemnation. David, too, is an evidence, if evidence were wanted, that grandeur is a poor shelter against grief. When shame fell upon David's house, when hatred placed one child in deadly feud against another, the glare of royalty was a small matter in the sadness of nature. What was kingship to the English Charles, when, after arraignment before his own people, he clasped his children for the last time to his bosom, before his going to the block? What was kingship to the French Louis when he felt he must leave his helpless wife and orphans to the mercies of the mad avengers, who began in his own blood the retaliation for centuries of suffering, which was only to be accomplished in a wilderness of death? What was kingship to David when his own flesh were his enemies? I have spoken of David as I proposed, as one within the circle of our imperfect humanity, and I have spoken of him in the spirit of humanity. In this spirit I view in him an incarnation of its capacities, and an example of its weakness. In this spirit I cannot think of him otherwise than in solemn reverence and solemn sorrow. With this solemn sorrow and solemn reverence, I contemplate his mighty mind; with reverence I see its grandeur; with sorrow I behold its fall from that grandeur, to wilder itself in madness, or to lose itself in folly. I learn how strength may work for wretchedness, how privileges may turn to penalties. Looking upon David comprehensively, in his greatness, in his abasement, in his repentance, in his guilt, in his aspiration, in his affliction, I am reminded of his own words, suggested doubtless by his own experience — "Verily, every man at his best estate is altogether vanity!"

(Henry Giles.).

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."

Relation of Ancestry to Character
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