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David, part 25

The Last Words of David.

2 Samuel 23:1-6.

The last words of David are evidently prophetic. The language bears a striking resemblance to that of Balaam, when he took up his parable, and blessed the children of Israel, whom Balak had brought him to curse. "And he took up his parable, and said, Balaam the son of Beor has said, and the man whose eyes are open has said: he has said, which heard the words of God, and knew the knowledge of the Most High, which saw the vision of the Almighty, falling into a trance, but having his eyes open: I shall see him, but not now: I shall behold him, but not near: there shall come a Star out of Jacob, and a Sceptre shall rise out of Israel, and shall smite the corners of Moab, and destroy all the children of Sheth. And Edom shall be a possession, Seir also shall be a possession for his enemies; and Israel shall do valiantly. Out of Jacob shall come he that shall have dominion, and shall destroy him that remains of the city." The similarity of the language shows that both spoke under an immediate inspiration from the Most High; and this alone is sufficient to convince us that the words of the Psalmist are prophetic as well as those of the Soothsayer. This is indeed obvious from the subject of David's utterance, as well as from his declaration, that the Spirit of the Lord spoke by him. There is one part of his parable which might be understood in reference to him self, where he says, or rather where the Spirit says, "He that rules over men must be just, ruling in the fear of God;" but what follows cannot certainly be considered as applicable to any merely human being. It evidently refers to the Lord, who was about to come into the world; nor is this in any degree inconsistent with those facts which appear to relate to David and his house; for David himself was a representative of the Lord, as was also Solomon, and every other king of Israel and Judah.

Seeing then that David is here speaking from the Spirit of God concerning the glory of the Messiah and of His kingdom, we proceed to consider the import of his inspired enunciations.

To take this prophecy under its most general view, it declares the two universal objects and effects of the Lord's advent, the establishment of a covenant with the faithful, or the bringing of them into a more intimate connection with Himself, and the subjugation and removal of those who had overturned His kingdom in the world.

The Church is meant by the house of David; for the Church is the Lord's house; and the everlasting covenant to be established with it has reference to the conjunction which the Lord's Incarnation was to effect between Himself and His people. By the sons of Belial are to be understood especially the powers of darkness; therefore not wicked men only but evil spirits, by whose influence and machinations the Church of the Lord had been perverted and destroyed. The subjugation of the powers of hell is described by the sons of Belial being thrust away as thorns, and utterly burned with fire. And that this could not be effected by the Lord in His pure unclothed Divinity, but required human nature as a covering and an instrument, is indicated in what is said of the sons of Belial, that they cannot be taken with hands, but that the man that shall touch them must be fenced with iron and the staff of a spear. The humanity of the Lord was a medium of communication between Himself and His children, and an instrumental power by which He opposed the enemies of His Church and kingdom. The Lord was the Word made flesh—clothed with humanity; the Divine truth of which is meant by the iron, and the Divine goodness by the staff of a spear, in accordance with which another part of Scripture speaks of the Lord ruling the nations with a rod of iron, because iron signifies natural truth.

Besides, but in harmony with, this universal sense of the prophecy, there is a particular meaning, which lies concealed in every portion of it. In the 4th verse it is said, "He shall be as the light of the morning, when the sun rises, even a morning without clouds; as the tender grass springing out of the earth by clear shining after rain."

In their general sense these Divine words relate to the Lord at His coming into the world, when, as the Sun of Righteousness, He arose on a benighted world with healing in His wings, and removed the cloud that had rested for ages upon the tabernacle and concealed its inner glories, and rent the veil of types and shadows, and shed the light of truth immediately from Himself; and thus commenced the new day of spiritual enlightenment and of true and living faith. But in the particular sense, they relate to the coming of the Lord, by His Spirit and His Word, to the minds of the penitent, when His light and love are shed abroad in their hearts, when the darkness of ignorance and error is removed, when a new day of truth and goodness dawns on the mind; and the signs of a new life, as the tender grass, are beginning to appear. These are blessings set before us under the figure of the morning without clouds. But they are to be considered as the results of the spiritual dominion and government of the Lord, which are spoken of in the previous verse, where it is said, "He that rules over men must be just, ruling in the fear of God." The Lord, as the Ruler of men, is indeed infinitely just in Himself; but He rules His people in justice, when His justice rules in them as well as over them. For the Lord's government is different in different minds; some He governs by justice, some by judgement, or some by love, and some by fear, some by goodness, some by truth. The Divine government in its origin is the same, it is the government of infinite love by infinite wisdom; but its aspect is changed according to the different and varying states of men. When the Lord is spoken of as ruling in justice, the government of His Divine goodness is especially meant, and it is intended to describe the nature and quality of His dominion in the hearts of men. When the Divine goodness rules, it rules in the fear of God, not the slavish fear of God as an avenger, but the holy fear which is in all true love, a fear to injure and offend the object loved.

It is such love and fear of the just God that makes His coming to the mind as the light of the morning, when the sun arises, even a morning without clouds.

The morning is an emblem of peace and serenity of mind, when Divine truth sheds its mild light in the mind, and gives it a sense of that heavenly beauty and harmony which the light of Divine truth discloses. Morning, in Scripture, is peculiarly emblematical of an interior state of spiritual peace—a peace which arises not so much from the absence of outward troubles, as from the tranquillized state of inward feelings. Regeneration begins in tranquillity—like the dawn of day and the infancy of life. It is neither effected at once, nor does it advance in one continued series. It consists of a succession of distinct as well as of continuous states; and each particular state is an image of the whole. The life of the soul progresses in a way correspondently with that of the body. It has its birth, and its alternations of activity and rest, of wakefulness and repose. States also, like times, are formed and measured by particular revolutions. Every state has its morning, its noon, its evening, and its night. And it is by these grateful and beneficent vicissitudes that the powers of the mind are at once refreshed and invigorated, delighted and improved. States and their progressions are likewise produced from a cause analogous to that which produces periods and progressions of time. It is the sun, indeed, which produces the day, and distinguishes the day from the night; and it is the difference of the sun's altitude which makes the times of the day. But it is the revolution of the earth which causes all these changes, the sun shining in perpetual splendour, and making, so far as depends on him, perpetual day. It is the same with the Lord and His moral creation. In God there is no change; no variableness, neither shadow of turning: He is the same yesterday, today, and for ever: His Sun shines with unchanging and impartial light on all the children of men. The absence of that light cannot be produced from its source, any more than darkness can be produced by the sun; it arises solely from its subjects averting themselves from it, and excluding its influence from their hearts and understandings. Moral or spiritual darkness is caused entirely by self coming between the soul and God—by the selfhood of man standing between the Lord and the faculties which He has given for the perception and reception of His light and life. And as spiritual darkness is caused by the interposition of man's corrupt selfhood, agreeably to the declaration of Scripture, "Your sins have separated between you and your God, and your iniquities have hid His face from you;" so every degree of obscurity arises from the activity of the human selfhood. However highly regenerated man may be, his selfhood can never be entirely neutralized, much less abolished. Even the heavens are not clean in the Lord's sight; for as the man is in the angel, the angel is not free from the imperfections of the man.

If, then, the selfhood of man is the ground and cause of all spiritual darkness and obscurity, the degree of obscurity will be such as is.the degree of its activity. When it is in its greatest activity it is night, when in its least activity it is morning; and as it increases in activity, the day advances towards evening and night again. With the regenerate, as with the angels, there is never real darkness; for although they experience a state that may be called night, it is such night as that in which, though the sun is absent, its light remains; and that twilight is but an agreeable obscurity which gives repose and refreshment to the mind, and enables it to enter upon a new day with recruited powers and enlarged capacities, and gives zest to the enjoyments and energy to the duties which belong to it.

The morning of the spiritual state is that which is treated of in the last words of David. And it is said that the Lord shall be as the morning, when the sun rises, a morning without clouds. The Lord is the Sun whose rising gives birth to the- morning; because His rising is His exaltation in the affections of the heart, which gives Him an ascendancy in the mind, and thus gives Him the influence and control over it, which result in the diffusion of light and peace over the whole inward man. The many exhortations to exalt the Lord have all reference to the exalting of Him in the heart. Nor are we to suppose that we can practically exalt Him in any other way. We exalt the Lord practically when we exalt His love and wisdom, His goodness and truth, His justice and judgement, in our understandings and hearts. When His love and wisdom are exalted, the Lord is exalted; when they dwell in us, the Lord dwells in us; for the Divine Being can only dwell in that which is His own, or in what is from Himself. Justice and judgement are the habitation of His throne in the lowly and contrite heart, as well as in the mansions of eternity. These form His habitation in the mind, and in them only can He be exalted.

But how are the principles of justice and judgement to be exalted? By shunning and abhorring whatever is contrary to them. The Lord cannot be exalted by a mere devotional act or by mental excitement. The foundations of His "habitation" must be laid in humility and self-abasement, and the graces which enter into its formation must each rest on self-denial. The idea of exalting God before we have humbled self is vain, and the labour must be fruitless. It is from this practical error that there is so little of the true exaltation of God in the Church and in the lives of its members. Where are the evidences, the fruits of such exaltation? When God is truly exalted in the mind, the virtues which proceed from Him will be prominent in the life—there will be meekness, gentleness, kindness, forbearance, and all those virtues which bespeak an equal if not a greater regard for the feelings and the welfare of others than for our own. These are the true effects of the Lord's exaltation, or of man's true humiliation; for the one cannot exist without the other. It is mocking for the proud or the self-righteous to speak of exalting God. Those who consider themselves better and more righteous than others, have acquired but little knowledge of themselves, and less knowledge of God. This knowledge has the certain effect of making us think lowly of ourselves, and highly of others in comparison; being the very opposite of the practice of the world, where there is an unhappy readiness to offend and to take offence, to injure and to revenge.an injury.

If we can ever hope to experience the dawn of a morning without clouds, we must subdue those evil passions which becloud and agitate the mind, and prevent the truth and love of God from giving light and peace. This is our peculiar duty; for if we deny ourselves of evil, God will implant goodness; for He waits to be gracious, and He must ever wait till the ungracious things of our selfhood are removed by active resistance and obedience.

Until evil is resisted in the inward life, and desisted from in the outward conduct, from a sense of duty to God, no good thing can be implanted even in the inner life. But after this has been effected, there is another important and blessed work to be effected. The good insinuated into the inner man by the Lord during our practical fidelity to Him, is to be brought down into the outer man; the good of the affections and thoughts is to be made the good of the works and words of the outward life and conversation. These are the tender grass springing out of the earth by clear shining after rain. Here we have a beautiful instance of the system of analogy that runs through the whole Word of God. Heaven is emblematical of the spiritual mind, and the earth is emblematical of the natural mind. Truth, like rain, descends from the heaven of the spiritual mind and falls upon the earth of the natural mind, and makes it fruitful. We read of the heaven being shut up, when there is no rain; for the spiritual mind is actually closed by evil, when no heavenly truth can descend to the natural mind below, so that there is spiritual drought and famine. We read again the Divine promise, that if we bring our offering to the Lord, He will open the windows of heaven and pour us out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.

But there is sunshine as well as rain needed to make the earth fruitful. So must there be love as well as truth to make the life fruitful in righteousness. The tender grass grows out of the earth by clear shining after rain. How true is this spiritually. Truth is most necessary and useful for our growth in goodness. But without love truth would be as fruitless as rain without sunshine. It is the clear shining of love after the rain of truth has watered the good ground of an honest heart, that causes growth and fructification in the life.

It is the same in our relation to each other as it is in the mind itself. It is not sufficient that in our exchange with each other we are truthful, we need also to be loving. Truth, precious as it is, existing or dispensed by itself, is cold and unproductive of the good of which it is capable, as a power working under the influence of love. What would the state of childhood be if we gave the young mind truth but gave the young heart no love? Is not the sunshine of love as necessary for the growth of the young life as the rain of truth? So with our friendships. So with our spiritual brotherhood. Truth is one of the essential elements of real usefulness in all the relations of life, but love is the uniting principle. To speak the truth in love is the perfection of teaching and of admonishing. Above all, therefore, the religious teacher must be a man of love as well as of truth. He must be faithful in teaching the truth and enforcing its lessons, but unless he give the clear shining of love after the rain of truth, he will fail to produce the good which should be aimed at as the ultimate result of his sacred office. How beautifully were these two united in the teaching and example of our great Teacher, our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

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