Sidebilder
PDF
ePub

him of a shepherd a courtier. The music that he meant only to himself and his sheep brings him before kings.

house and hold, and through tedious years, deserted of every stay but heaven, with no soothing sympathies of quiet life, harassed for ever between famine and the edge of the sword, and kept in savage holds and deserts; and tell us in the annals of men, of one so disappointed, so bereaved and straitened, maintaining not fortitude alone, but sweet composure and a heavenly frame of soul, inditing praise to no avenging deity, and couching songs in no revengeful mood, according with his outcast and unsocial life; but inditing praises to the God of mercy and songs, which soar into the third heavens of the soul; not indeed without the burst of sorrow and the complaint of solitariness, and prophetic warnings to his bloodthirsty foes, but ever closing in sweet preludes of good to come, and desire of present contentment. Find us such a one in the annals of men, and we yield the argument of this controversy. Men there have been driven before the wrath of kings to wander outlaws and exiles, whose musings and actings have been recorded to us in the minstrelsy of our native land. Draw these songs of the exile into comparison with the psalms of David, and know the spirit of the man after God's own beart; the stern defiance of the one, with the tranquil acquiescence of the other ; the deep despair of the one, with the rooted trust of the other; the vindictive imprecations of the one, with the tender regret and forgiveness of the other. Show us an outlaw who never spoiled the country which had forsaken him, nor turned his hand in self-defence or revenge upon his persecutors, who used the vigour of his arm only against the enemies of his country, yea lifted up his arm in behalf of that mother, which had cast her son, crowned with salvation, away from her bosom and held him at a distance from her love, and raised the rest of her family to hunt him to the death ;-in the defence of that thankless unnatural mother country, find us such a repudiated son lifting up his arm, and spending its vigour in smiting and utterly discomfiting her

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

Now David hath leisure to return to Bethlehem. The glory of the court cannot transport him to ambitious vanity; he would rather be his father's

enemies, whose spoils he kept not to enrich himself and his ruth-
less followers, but dispensed to comfort her and her happier
children. Find us among the Themistocles, and Coriolani,
and Cromwells and Napoleons of the earth such a man, and
we will yield the argument of this controversy which we main-
tain for the peerless son of Jesse.

But we fear that not such another man is to be found in the recorded annals of men. Though he rose from the peasantry to fill the throne, and enlarge the borders of his native land; he gave himself neither to ambition nor to glory; though more basely treated than the sons of men, he gave not place to despondency or revenge': though of the highest genius in poetry, he gave it not license to sing his own deeds, nor to depict loose and licentious life, nor to ennoble any worldly sentiment or attachment of the human heart, however virtuous or honourable, but constrained it to sing the praises of God, and the victories of the right hand of the Lord of hosts, and his admirable works which are of old from everlasting. And he hath dressed out religion in such a rich and beautiful garment of divine poesy as beseemeth her majesty, in which, being arrayed, she can stand up before the eyes even of her enemies, in more royal state than any personification of love, or glory, or pleasure, to which highly gifted mortals have devoted their genius.

The force of his character was vast, and the scope of his life was immense. His harp was full stringed, and every angel of joy and of sorrow swept over the cords as he past; but the melody always breathed of heaven, And such oceans of affection lay within his breast, as could not always slumber in their calmness. For the hearts of a hundred men strove and struggled together within the narrow continent of his single heart. And will the scornful men have no sympathy for one so conditioned, but scorn him because he ruled not with constant quietness, the unruly host of divers natures which dwelt within his single soul? of self-command surely

[ocr errors]

shepherd, than Saul's armour-bearer; all the magnificence and state which he saw, could not put his mouth out of the taste of a retired simplicity ; yea rather he loves his hook the better since he

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

he will not be held deficient, who endured Saul's javelin to be so often launched at him, while the people without were willing to hail him king ; who endured all bodily hardships and taunts of his enemies when revenge was in his hand, and ruled his desperate band like a company of saints, and restrained them from their country's injury. But that he should not be able o enact all characters without a fault, the simple shepherd, the conquering hero, and the romantic lover ; the perfect friend, the innocent outlaw, and the royal monarch; the poet, the prophet, and the regenerator of the church ; and withal the man, the man of vast soul, who played not these parts by turns, but was the original of them all, and wholly present in them all; oh! that he should have fulfilled this high priesthood of humanity, this universal ministry of manhood without an error, were more than human. With the defence of his backslidings, which he hath himself more keenly scrutinized, more clearly discerned against and more bitterly lamented than any of his censors, we do not charge ourselves ; but if, when of these acts he became convinced, he be found less true to God, and to righteousness; indisposed to repentance and sorrow and anguish ; exculpatory of himself; stouthearted in his courses, a formalist in his penitence, or in any way less worthy of a spiritual man in those than in the rest of his infinite moods, then, verily strike him from the canon, and let his psalms become monkish legends, or what you please. But if these penitential psalms discover the soul's deepest hell of agony, and lay bare the iron ribs of misery, whereon the very heart dissolveth, and if they, expressing the same in words, which melt the soul that conceiveth, and bow the head tbat uttereth them, then, we say, let us keep these records of the psalmist's grief and despondency, as the most precious of his utterances, and sure to be needed in the case of every man who essayeth to live a spiritual life, &c.

[ocr errors]

saw the court; and now his brethren serve Saul in his stead. Forty days together had the Philistines and Israelites faced each other, nothing but a valley was betwixt them. Both stand upon defence and advantage; if they had not meant to fight, they had never drawn so near; and if they had been eager to fight, a valley could not have parted them. David hath now lain long enough close amongst his flock in the field of Bethlehem; God sees a time to send him to the pitched field of Israel. Good old Jesse, that was doubtless joyful to think that he had afforded three sons to the wars of his king, is no less careful of their welfare and provision; and who, amongst all the rest of his seven sons, shall be picked out for this service, but his youngest son David, whose former and almost worn out acquaintance in the court and employment under Saul, seemed to fit him best for this employment. Early in the morning is David upon his way; yet not so early as to leave his flock unprovided. If his father's commands dismiss him, yet will he stay till he have trusted his sheep with a careful keeper. Ere David's speed can bring him to the valley of Elah, both the armies are on foot ready to join. He takes not this excuse to stay without, as a man daunted with the horrors of war; but leaving his present with his servant, he thrusts himself into the thickest of the host, and salutes his brethren which were now thinking of nothing but killing or dying, when the proud champion of the Philistines comes stalking forth before all the troops, and renews his insolent challenge against Israel. David sees the man and hears his defi

ance, and looks about him to see what answer would be given; and when he espies nothing but pale faces and backs turned; he wonders, not so much that one man should dare all Israel, as that all Israel should run from one man. Even when they fly from Goliath, they talk of the reward that should be given to that encounter and victory which they dare not undertake ; so those which have not grace to believe, yet can say,

6. There is glory laid

up

for the faithful.” Ever since his anointing was David possessed with God's spirit, and thereby filled both with courage and wisdom : the more strange doth it seem to him, that all Israel should be thus dastardly; ready to undertake the quarrel, because no man else dare do it. His eyes sparkled with holy anger, and his heart rose up to his mouth when he heard this proud challenger; “ Who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should revile the host of the living God ?” It was for his brethren's sake, that David came thither; and yet

his

very journey is cast upon him by them, for a reproach ;

Wherefore camest thou down hither ?and when their bitterness can meet with nothing else to shame him, his sheep are cast in his teeth: “ Is it for thee, an idle proud boy, to be meddling with our martial matters? Doth not yonder champion look as if he were a fit match for thee? What makest thou of thyself, or what dost thou think of us? I wis it were fitter for thee to be looking to thy sheep than looking to Goliath : the wilderness would become thee better than the field; wherein art thou equal to any man thou seest, but in arro

[ocr errors]
« ForrigeFortsett »