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O my brethren, you who are parents, think often of this. It will not I admit, always happen, that with all our care, our children will turn out well. But if we bestow no care at all, it is almost impossible but that they will turn out ill. See we then to this, that we instruct them betimes in the good and right way. Take we care that they shall—so far as rests with us-early know the Lord. Take we care to put out of their young sight, all things that may offend, or defile. Take we care lest any liberty of ours, any too great freedom in speech or act, prove a snare, and a stone of stumbling to our children.
Above all, let us cultivate in them a respect for conscience. Let us learn them to know the voice, which prompts them to good, and dissuades them from evil, to be the voice of God. Let us not—and I have known some parents so thoughtless, so cruel as to do this—let us not laugh at the scruples of a young mind. Let us not incur the heavy guilt of quenching in any child, the Spirit. No, but let us do all in our power to make them of quick understanding in the fear of the Lord. Let us help if we may, to keep the passage open in their hearts to the Heavenly Visitant, that when He comes, and stands and calls as at other times, they may be at no loss to know Who it is—may say, as did the youthful Prophet, Speak, Lord, for Thy servant heareth !
FOURTH SUNDAY AFTER TRINITY.
1 SAMUEL XVI. 14.
But the Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from
the Lord troubled him.
At this season of the year, both in the lessons for today, and next Sunday, we have set before us the history of Saul: of him who was anointed first king over Israel. It is a history full of interest, full of instruction, full of warning. Saul was a man exposed to great reverses of fortune-one of a family—the least of all the families of Benjamin ; Benjamin, the smallest tribe of Israel : and yet raised, without any seeking it, on his part, to be captain over God's inheritance. In his high place he had little happiness : his people’s praise was given to another : again and again he incurred rebuke and blame from the great prophet who had anointed him king: his mind was torn with bad passions: his enemies, the Philistines prevailed against him, and at last he fell miserably, by his own hand, to avoid being made their captive.
But that which gives the greatest interest to Saul's
history is the moral lesson which it contains of the downward progress of a once highly gifted soul. In Saul we see, what we see also in so many around us, what others perhaps see in ourselves, the evil gradually overcoming the good; the Spirit of God driven out before another spirit which is not of God;—a man, in short, who had great natural qualities to recommend him, great gifts from God, yet soiling those qualities, and throwing away those gifts by his carnal pride and self-will.
It is a lesson to be considered by us all; and it will appear the more clearly as we look nearer at some of the circumstances of Saul's eventful history.
At the first mention of Saul, in 1 Sam ix., we have this description of him-A choice young man and a goodly ; and there was not among the children of Israel a goodlier person than he: from his shoulders upwards he was higher than any of the people.
It would appear from this that Saul had great outward advantages—a choice young man and a goodly; of a tall and commanding stature. Nor was he less gifted in mind. God's Spirit moved in his heart and gave him the power of prophecy. He was naturally, too, of a humble, unambitious temper-for when they came to make him king, he could not be found: he had hid himself, as though he would escape from so high an honour.
After he was king, in the early days of his reign, he gave many proofs of a kingly understanding; and the hearts of the people were conciliated to him. But he soon changed for the worse. His high place seems to have spoiled him-he began to be self-confident, and to fall away from God.
Two instances of this I will recall to you—two occasions on which Saul evidenced a want of trust in God, and an impatience under His restraint, a too great leaning to his own understanding.
The first is that recorded in 1 Sam. xiii. There was war between Saul and the Philistines—the Israelites were over-matched, and followed their king trembling. At Gilgal, where the gathering was appointed, Saul waited seven days, according to the set time that Samuel had commanded. But Samuel came not, and the people were scattered from him. Whereupon Saul took upon himself the priest's office, and offered a burnt offering. No sooner had he done this, when Samuel arrived. Saul sought to excuse himself under the cloke of necessity—he spoke of the timidity of his soldiers; of the approach of the enemy; of the urgency of the occasion : he said as if he were conscious that the act required an apology -conscious that he had done an unlawful thing-1 forced myself therefore, and offered a burnt offering.
But what said Samuel ? did he allow the excuse ? No—he rebuked the king before his people ; and set plainly before him the sin of which he had been guilty.—
Thou hast done foolishly—thou hast not kept the commandment of the Lord thy God: for now would the Lord have established thy kingdom upon Israel for ever.—But now thy kingdom shall not continue : the Lord hath sought Him a man after His own heart, and the Lord hath commanded him to be captain over His people, because thou hast not kept that which the Lord commanded thee.
Here is one instance of Saul's want of trust in
God. He saw only the immediate danger; the threatening host of the Philistines, the falling away of his own men—but He endured not. as seeing Him Who is invisible! He had not the courage, nor the patience which comes of faith. He could not stand still and see the salvation of God!
The other instance is that of his sparing Agag and the best of the spoil (1 Sam. xv.), notwithstanding the message he had received from the Lord to destroy Amalek utterly. Here again Saul shewed a self-willed spirit, and a backwardness to obey. But what makes his conduct the more blameable, is the hypocrisy of his address to Samuel-his pretending to have obeyed, when he had departed so widely from the prophet's injunctionBlessed art thou of the Lord; I have performed the commandment of the Lord. And then, when he was found out, note his specious excuse—The people spured the best of the sheep and of the oxen, to sacrifice unto the Lord thy God!
Well might Samuel, at such words, rend asunder, as he did, with no gentle hand, the flimsy veil with which the king sought to cover his transgression.—Hath the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because thou hast rejected the word of the Lord, He hath also rejected thee from being king.
And now from henceforth we trace a rapid fall in the self-willed King. From now, till his sad and