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1 CHRON. xxix. 27, 28.- Thirty and three years reigned he
in Jerusalem : and he died in a good old age, full of days,
riches and honour.Such is the account the sacred historian gives, of the decease of David, one of the greatest and best of kings. In like terms also, will history record the mournful providence we this day deplore.—THIRTY AND GEORGE THE SECOND, AND HE DIED IN A GOOD OLD AGE, FULL OF DAYS, RICHES AND HONOUR.
But it is not in the cold language of an historian that I car relate, nor is it, méthinks, with the indifference of distant times that you can hear, an event of such importance. He is no more !- What heart but feels a sound so sad and solemn! The Prince who long governed us with wisdom, equity, and moderation; who guarded our liberties with a jealous and watchful eye; who sought our happiness with a tender and zealous concern ; who fought our battles, enlarged our borders, healed our divisions, and by the blessing of God on his counsels and arms, made us a great and prosperous people: the Prince who so reigned over us, as few had ever done before him; and extended his conquests farther than any of them could boast, not into distant lands only, but into the hearts of his enemies at home: What shall I say? This great and good Prince, the father of his country, the friend of mankind, and the favourite of Providence, is no more. Such reflections surely, would be too painful to a grateful and considerate mind, were it not relieved by the bright and pleasing prospects we enjoy, in his illustrious offspring and successor. Nevertheless even these, though they revive our spirits, cannot make us forget our sorrows; or discharge us from the debt we owe to the providence of God, and to his memory, on the present solemn occasion.
Soon to forget him is hardly possible: and to refrain from such public expressions of grief as these, is not only indecent
in itself; but argues a degree of levity, highly unbecoming a good man and a Christian. When Moses the servant of the Lord died, the children of Israel wept for him, in the plains of Moab, thirty days a: and so very affecting was the public lamentation for good Josiah the king, that when any extraordinary mourning happened, even for some hundreds of
years terwards, it was said to be like that of Hadadrimmon, in the valley of Megiddon b. We are not indeed under that extraordinary providence, which was the peculiar privilege of the Jews; yet our liberties, both civil and religious, do under God, so much depend on the will of our superiors, that it would be great stupidity, were we not duly affected with the mortality of princes, and were we not ready to offer the grateful tribute of our tears, in this public way, to the memories of those who have ruled long and well over us. The Protestant Dissenters have, I am sure, the highest reason to express such a temper on the present occasion : and if they have any sense of religion on their minds, and any remembrance—any feeling of the sufferings which their pious ancestors endured under former reigns, they will want no motive to excite them to it. It is, my brethren, the voice of God to the whole land: and the man of wisdom will hear it. May we be the men of wisdom, who hear the voice, who understand it, and who are made better by it! That this may be the happy case with us, I shall attempt some general improvement of the history before us.
I. I shall give you the character of David, with a short account of his happy and prosperous reign, and the circumstances attending his death. These things I shall
II. Apply to the present occasion: and then,
I. We begin with the character of this great and excellent Prince, and the circumstances of his reign and death, as they are recorded in the text,
Of all the kings of Israel, the name of David makes the brightest figure in the Jewish history. His natural endowments, his religious character, and his princely virtues, were all truly admirable. On each of these I might particularly enlarge. I might speak of his person, which the historian tells us was fair and comely; of his genius, which was bright and enterprising; of his natural disposition, which was humane, generous, and condescending; and of his exalted piety, wherein he excelled most others, and of which his writings furnish us a lively and convincing proof. I might speak of the extraordinary and supernatural gifts bestowed on him, which have rendered his name so famous in the church of God; and of a circumstance, which, though it entered not into his real character, yet was the highest honour conferred on him; I mean, that the Son of God himself condescended to be called the Son of David a. But I forbear. It is in the character of a Prince we are now to view him: and we shall find him possessed of all those royal virtues, which eminently qualified him to reign over a free, a numerous, and a powerful people.
a Deut. xxxiv. 8.
b Zech. xii. 11.
Wisdom bas been generally first mentioned, as not only the bright ornament, but the necessary accomplishment of a great king. Herein David excelled: for, as the Scriptures tell us, he was wise, according to the wisdom of an angel of God, to know all things that are in the earth b. The manner he behaved himself in the house of Saul, his conduct when he ascended the throne, the measures he pursued amidst the various vicissitudes of his reign, and the precautions he took just before his death, respecting the settlement of his crown, all shew him to have been possessed of an uncommon share of sagacity and prudence. But, however superior his abilities for government were, he did not trust to his own understanding; but as he sought direction of God in all his affairs, so he paid a due regard to the counsels of those whose experience and influence gave them access to his throne. His wisdom, thus supported by the advice of his nobles, was accompanied with that firmness, resolution, and vigour, which contributed greatly to the success of his measures. What he resolved with deliberation, he executed with spirit.
But there were other virtues, by which these his natural talents for government were mightily improved and adorned a Mark xii. 35.
6 2 Sam. xiv. 20.
virtues to which the courts of princes are often strangers. The principles of truth and justice were firmly established in his heart, and added daily strength and security to his throne, while his wisdom reflected a bright lustre upon it. He executed judgment and justice among all his people a. Nor was the administration of it confined within his own borders; but distributed with an impartial hand into the countries all around him. His faith with neighbouring princes was always held sacred and inviolable; for he was superior to the little arts of perfidy, fraud, and dissimulation : and whenever he saw it necessary to carry the sword into any of their borders, it was in defence of a just and righteous cause. So that the maxim he laid down at the close of his life, for the instruction of Solomon, was that by which he always regulated his own practice.—He that ruleth over men must be just, ruling in the fear of God b.
Nor was his justice so severe and unrelenting, as not to admit of the exercise of tenderness and moderation : for though the safety of his people, and the honour of his government, made it necessary that he should inflict exemplary punishment upon some; yet there were others, who shared the happy and unexpected fruits of his clemency and forbearance. It was a most daring affront that Shimei the Benjamite offered to his person, when by an unnatural rebellion he was obliged, for a while, to retire from his court at Jerusalem. He went along on the hill's side over against him, and cursed as he went, and threw stones at him, and cast dust c. But David, instead of executing that vengeance upon this insolent rebel, which he most righteously deserved, and to which he was urged by the pressing instances of his servants, makes this warm reply to the jealousy they very naturally expressed for his honour--a reply which shews him to have been a stranger to every cruel and revengeful sentiment—What have I to do with you, ye sons of Zeruiah, that ye should this day be adversaries unto me? Shall there any man be put to death this day in Israel? For do not I know, that I am this day king over Israel d ?
Nay more than this, his lenity exceeded: for, not satisfying himself with those expressions of moderation only, which prudence and policy dictate, he nobly triumphed in the most diffusive acts of kindness and generosity. His breast glowed with love to good men; his heart felt the miseries of the distressed; and his enemies themselves were the sharers of his beneficence. How generous was his treatment of Saul, when a fair opportunity offered of revenging the injuries which that cruel prince had done him! The Lord forbid, says he, that I should stretch forth mine hand against the Lord's anointed a. A generosity, which produced an effect as glorious, as it was itself singular: for it gave him a victory which his sword could never have obtained—a victory over the obdurate heart of a most unrelenting enemy. Saul lift up his voice and wept, saying, Thou art more righteous than 1: for thou hast rewarded me good, whereas I have rewarded thee evil. And thou hast shewed this day, how that thou hast dealt well with me: forasmuch as when the Lord had delivered me into thine hand, thou killedst me not b. Yea so exact was his honour, that instead of exulting over the tyrant, when Providence had laid him in the dust, and thereby: made way for him to the crown, he most severely resented the levity of him, who with a pleasant air brought him the tidings of his death c: and he very liberally rewarded the humanity of those valiant men, who rescued the remains of their deceased king out of the hands of the Philistines d. To which I 'must add, that ever after forgetting the unkindness of Saúl, he behaved with the utmost tenderness towards his family.
a 1 Chron. xviii. 14. c 2 Sam. xvi. 13.
6 2 Sam. xxiii. 3. d 2 Sam. xix. 22.
The same temper which disposed him thus to act towards his enemies, appeared likewise in all those bowels of compassion he felt for the distressed. How patiently did he listen to the petition of the widow of Tekoah! and with what emotion of soul did he assure her that he would give charge concerning her complaint e? Not to say how his wrath kindled at the prophet Nathan's striking representation of the man who had eruelly oppressed his poor neighbour f.
a 1 Sam. xxiv. 6.
bi Sam. xxiv. 16–18.