The Lives of Courtiers
2 Samuel 19:31-41
And Barzillai the Gileadite came down from Rogelim, and went over Jordan with the king, to conduct him over Jordan.…

We suppose Barzillai was a good man, and that his example sufficiently proves it.


1. A wise man will never choose a court, or high offices, as most and best fitted to procure true peace.

2. A wise man will always consider a court, and eminent posts, as dangerous to his salvation. It is in a court, it is in eminent posts, that, generally speaking, the most dangerous snares are set for conscience.

3. A wise man will never enter a court or accept of an eminent post, without fixed resolutions to surmount the temptations, with which they are accompanied, and without using proper measures to succeed in his design.

4. The evils, which embitter the lives of courtiers, and of all who are elevated to eminent posts, and (what may seem a paradox), the hazard of being damned among human grandeurs, ought not to discourage those from occupying the highest offices, who are capable of doing great good to society and the church, It is a tempting of God to expose one's self to danger when no good will come of it. it is rash, it is tempting God to expose ourselves to difficulties, which cannot possibly be surmounted. His refusal proceeds from three causes.

1. The insensibility of old age is the first cause of the refusal of Barzillai. This insensibility may proceed either from a principle of wisdom.

(1) a man, who hath experienced the vanity of human grandeur; a man, who hath often asked himself what good comes of this pomp and pleasure? Such a man does not entertain a very high idea of the privilege of living with the great, of eating at their tables, and of participating their pleasures. Such pleasures are approved by reason, ripened by age, and such pleasures are satisfactory at all times, and in all stages of life.

(2) But there is also a constitutional insensibility. The senses, which transmit pleasures to us, become blunt, and pleasures are blunted with them.

2. The disgraces of old age are a second reason of the refusal of Barzillai. Why should thy servant be a burden to my lord the king? Certainly, an old man ought to be treated with the greatest respect and caution. Whatever idea Barzillai formed of the equity and benevolence of David, he did justice to himself. He well knew, that a man of eighty would be a burden to this good king. A man at this time of life too strikingly exhibits human infirmities to give pleasure in circles of company, where such mortifying ideas are either quite forgotten, or slightly remembered.

3. In fine, Barzillai revolved in his mind the nearness of old age to death. This was the principal cause of his refusal. Was ever principle better founded? How little is necessary to overset and break the frame of a man of this age? What is necessary? A vapour! a puff of wind!

III. But if the principle of this good old man be well founded, the consequence derived from it is better founded, that is, that WORLDLY AFFAIRS DO NOT SUIT A MAN DRAWING NEAR THE END OF HIS LIFE; that when death is so near, a man should be wholly employed in preparing for it. Everything engages Barzillai to avoid disconcerting himself in his last moments, and to devote the few that remain to seriousness.

1. The long time he had lived. If the account, which God requires every man to give at death, be terrible to all men, it should seem particularly so to old men. An old man is responsible for all the periods of his life, all the circumstances he has been in, and all the connections he hath formed.

2. The continued cares, which exercised the mind of Barzillai, were second spring of his action. How necessary is it to make up, by retirement and recollection in the last stages of life, what has been wanting in the days of former hurry, and which are now no more! I recollect a saying of a captain of whom historians have taken more cars to record the wisdom than the name. It is said that the saying struck the Emperor Charles V. and confirmed him in his design of abdicating his crown, and retiring to a convent. The captain required the Emperor to discharge him from service. Charles asked the reason. The prudent soldier replied, Because there ought to be a pause between the hurry of life and the day of death.

3. In fine, if Barzillai seemed to anticipate his dying clay by continually meditating on the subject, it was because the meditation, full of horror to most men, was full of charms to this good old man.

(J. Saurin.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: And Barzillai the Gileadite came down from Rogelim, and went over Jordan with the king, to conduct him over Jordan.

WEB: Barzillai the Gileadite came down from Rogelim; and he went over the Jordan with the king, to conduct him over the Jordan.

Old Barzillai
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