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SERMON XV.

Folly illustrated by the Character of Saul.

1 Sam. xiii. 13.

And Samuel said to Saul; Thou hast done

foolishly : thou hast not kept the commandment of the Lord.WHEN the children of Israel

, disfatisfied with their situation under the immediate sovereignty of the Most High, persisted in requiring to be governed, like the neighbouring nations, by aking; Saul, a young man of the tribe of Benjamin, was the person whom God placed upon the throne. We perhaps, had we possessed no ulterior information, might have been disposed to expect that, when the Searcher of hearts cast his eye over the twelve tribes in quest of a man whom he might appoint to be ruler over his people; He would select

one

.

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one conspicuous for piety, and prepared by stedfast faith to meet the trials with which his exaltation would be attended. Yet why fhould we have expected such a choice? Is it the establithed order of Providence that piety should be recompensed by elevation to dignity and power? Are the rulers of the earth, whether in Pagan or in Christian lands, whether God raises them to empire by the settled course of fuccefsion, or by the storms of warfare and revolutions, usually eminent for religion beyond the mass of their subjects? Was it to be presumed that when He gave to his people a king in His anger (a), in His anger at their rebellious rejection of His own regal sway, the individual singled out should be one whose excellence might lull them into forgetfulness of their crime; rather than one who through misconduct flowing from wilful perverseness of character might be the instrument of convincing them of their guilt, and of the worth of the pre-eminent dstinction and peculiar happiness which they had renounced? The thoughts of the Most High are not as our thoughts. He knows by what

governor, (@) Hofea, xii. II,

in any particular nation and at any particular time, His own secret and righteous purposes, whether of mercy or of vengeance, will be most efficaciously promoted. He knew what king was most fitting for the Israelites: and that king he gave to them.

I purpose to lay before you the leading circumstances in the conduct of Saul: and afterwards to deduce, for your edification, fome of the inferences which they suggest.

1, In the early behaviour of Saul, after the period when he is introduced in the Scriptures to our notice, there is much to prepossess us in his favour (x). When he is addressed by Samuel as the person on whom the desire of Israel should speedily be fixed; his reply bears strong indications of modesty. The same modesty is afterwards displayed, when he hides himself among the furniture of the tents from the choice and admiration of the people. When, by the casting of the lots before God, his appointment to the throne has been announced to the assembled tribes of Israel; he unoftentatiously returns to his father's house, and disdains not to occupy himself as heretofore in the superintendence of the (*) 1 Sam. ix, x, xi. ,

flocks

flocks and herds. When the children of Belial, wicked and rebellious men, contemptuously demand; How fall this man fave us? and despise him and offer to him no presents, no testimonies of the respect due to the chief of the nation, the delegate of Heaven: he sustains the infult with

patience: he holds bis peace. When the rest of the people, warmed in their attachment to their new monarch by his victory over the Ammonites, exclaim, Who is he that faid, Shall Saul reign over us? Bring the men, that we may put them to death : he strenuously interposes to save the offenders; and interposes, apparently, from motives of reverence and gratitude to God. There shall mot a man be put to death this day: for to-day the Lord hath wrought salvation in Israel.

The fruit, however, corresponds little with the blossom. The impressions produced by early fymptoms in Saul of moderation and of respect for his sovereign Benefactor are soon to be effaced. The hour of serious trial comes on. A vast

army

of Philistines invades the land. The inhabitants conceal themselves from the

enemy in caves, in thickets, and among the rocks. Saul with difficulty assembles a scanty body of troops almost destitute of weapons of

war.

war.

He has been directed not to march towards the invaders until a solemn sacri. fice unto God shall have been celebrated in the camp by Samuel, who has previously fixed seven days as the period within which he shall arrive(6). For the purpose, as we may conclude, of exercising and putting to proof the faith of Saul, the approach of Samuel is delayed. The seventh day is past; and Samuel appears not. The foldiers of Saul, weary and dispirited, melt away.

What measures shall the king adopt? Shall he listen to the voice of duty, which commands him to wait with patience for the arrival of Samuel to whom it belongs to offer the sacrifice; and in pious confidence to leave the event to God? Or shall he listen to political expediency, which tells him that he has tarried feven days, according to the set time that Samuel appointed (c): that the absence of the

prophet beyond the appointed time will be a sufficient apology, though he should perform the sacrifice himself: and counfels him to perform it immediately, left the forces which yet remain should desert him? Saul, impatient and weak in faith,

(6) See ch. X. 7,8

(c) Ch. xiii. 8.

snatches

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