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DEFENCE OF DAVID.
PSALM xix. 10.
His delight was in cursing, und it shall happen unto him. He
loved not blessing, therefore it shall be far from him.
The history of the royal Psalmist abounds with circumstances which awaken our curiosity, and which, if properly understood and seriously contemplated, have a direct tendency to strengthen our faith, and to improve our hearts. That Providence which in a most extraordinary manner presided over the measures and interests of David, is equally visible in his prosperity and his adversity, in the re compense of his virtues and the punishment of his faults. He had been taken from feeding the young lambs, and by the appointment of that Being who penetrates into the deepest recesses of the human soul, and foresees the remost consequences of human action, he governed the Jewish people at a time, when, from the recent institution of royalty, sagacity, firmness, and integrity were essentially necessary
in the character of him who wielded the sceptre; and though in the earlier
of mankind, wealth often consisted in the extent of land and the number of cattle—though Elisha, before he assumed the prophetic office, was a man of opulence, because he possessed twelve yoke of oxen—and though at later times and in another country, a Roman hero passed from the plough to the consulate, and a Roman sage employed his labour in the practice and his talents in the science of agriculture—the disproportion in the case of David between his former and his subsequent condition is far greater; and from the singularity as well as the magnitude of the change, strikes our imaginations more forcibly, forthe shepherd became a king. The Deity, you know, is represented as saying of him," with my holy oil have I anointed him ;” and although this ceremony, with imperfect or even erroneous notions of its original use and typical import, has been transferred to Christian potentates, who, by the legal and ordinary rights of consanguinity, have ascended the throne of their parents or their near kindred; yet it well becomes me to remark, that among the Jews unction was employed only when a new form of government was introduced, as when Saul was made the first king-or when the order of succession was changed, as when David was raised to the royal dignity after Saul had forfeited his title to it—or, as when Jehu was anointed by Elisha to rule over Israel, or Hazael was anointed by Elijah to govern Syria—or when Jehoahaz, the son of Josiah, was anointed to be the monarch of Judah, to the exclusion of an elder brother. Again, you read in the 2d Psalm, “the Lord hath said to me, Thou art my son, this day have I begotten thee;" and in verse 19, “I make him my first born." In order to understand the peculiar and full meaning of these words, you must be reminded, that in the Old Testament kings and magistrates are sometimes styled Gods, and Sons of the Most High, and the phrase, as applied to David, has more than a common degree of propriety, because under the Jewish polity God himself was king, and therefore by advancing David to the throne, he plenarily conferred upon him the privileges of primogeniture. David was distinguished too by a well known title, under which no other man, however virtuous—no other king, however illustrious, is described to us, for he is called a man after God's own heart; and as this designation has afforded matter for contemptuous cavil to the enemies of revealed religion, and is not always justly appreciated by the sincerest believers, it may be of use for me to tell you, that it relates to him, not in his private, but in his public capacity, and was bestowed upon him in consequence of the ardour with which he opposed the corruptions of idolatry, and the steadiness with which he endeavoured to establish the worship of the one true God.
* April 1813.
It is apparent then, that David has been represented to us as a person, who, in a very eminent degree, was favoured by the Almighty; and from this fact, hypothetically admitted by some, and honestly admitted by others, various inferences have been drawn, on account of the numerous and emphatical curses, which we read in the 109th Psalm. How, says the infidel, can David deserve to be called a man after God's own heart, if, at the very moment in which he professes to write under the inspiration of God, he conceived and uttered such horrible imprecations? Weighed in the scale of impartial justice, and stripped of the glare which has been thrown around his name by the servility of historical flatterers, the cunning of ainbitious priests, and the prejudices of a credulous posterity, the piety of David is only a contemptible mixture of fanaticism and hypocrisy. As a fanatic he deceived himself, and became reconciled to his own gross and numerous crimes. As a hypocrite he endeavoured to deceive others; and under the mask of extraordinary devotion he wished to conceal his libertinism, pride, and cruelty from the view of a timorous, short-sighted, and illiterate multitude. Such is the reasoning and such is the asperity of the speculative scoffer. But what is the sophistry of the unblushing and unforgiving reprobrate? It is this—why should I who am only one of the many-I who set up no pretensions to superior sanctity-I who have received no signal deliverances from the hand of the Almighty-why should I be condemned for calling down the vengeance of heaven upon mine enemies—for impeding or repining at their success-for exulting in their misfortunes—for recounting, proclaiming, and exaggerating their faults, when the history of David supplied me with a precedent, which, if pleaded by a man of my condition, would amount nearly to a justification? If from the scoffer and the reprobate we should turn to the humble and pious Christian, he doubtless would state the perplexity of his understanding and the perturbation of his spirits, in more temperate and becoming terms. To what testimony from history, or to what rules in criticism, must I have recourse, in order to find out such an explanation of these maledictions, as shall reconcile them to the acknowledged virtues of a sovereign, upon whom encomiums so many and so just are bestowed in Holy Writ? To the infidel I would say, that when the words, upon which he expatiates with so much triumphant scorn, are accurately explained, they will afford no ground for his objections. I would check the confidence of the swearer by telling him, that in David's real conduct there is no prečedent at all to be found for his own odious habit, and that, if even there were, it would not answer the purpose of justification, because such curses whether employed by David or any other man, must be offensive in the sight of God. To the embarrassed but docile Christian I would offer instruction and consolation by assuring him, that such parts of the Psalm as were actually spoken by David in his own person, are quite consistent with his better qualities; and that the other parts, by which serious readers have been distressed, because they misconceived them, are indications of malevolence and presumption, not in David himself, but in one of his most criminal and implacable foes. I would say to all the three persons whom I have been mentioning, that in other parts of Scripture are related of David other transactions, in which all of them may disco ver very striking and very proper subjects for ap