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i SAM. xiii. 14.
THE LORD HATH SOUGHT HIM A MAN AFTER HIS OWN HEART, AND THE LORD HATH COMMANDED HIM TO BE CAPTAIN OVER HIS PEOPLE.
HERE is no need to inform you, that the perfon fpoken of in these words is DAVID king of Ifrael. The appellation of THE MAN AFTER GOD'S OWN HEART, is a well-known distinction, which having ne
* This fermon was originally written and preached before the university of Cambridge, in the year 1761, in answer to a profane and licentious pamphlet, which had its day of celebrity and applause among a certain clafs of readers; but is now, as it deserved to be, and as is the ufual fate of fuch productions, entirely forgot. Those parts of the fermon, therefore, which had a more immediate reference to that publication, are now omitted; and the whole is rendered lefs polemical and more practical, and of course, it is hoped, more generally useful.
ver been expressly bestowed on any other, has, by long usage, been appropriated folely to him*. The reafon of his being fo diftinguished, is generally prefumed to be the excellence of his moral conduct: because a God, who is of purer cyes than to behold iniquity, can never be fupposed to delight in it; which it is thought must be the cafe, if the man after his own heart was in any degree an immoral man. On the strength of this fuppofition, some mif taken friends of Religion, in order to vindicate God's choice, have thought it neceffary to prove David's private character perfectly unexceptionable; and fome inveterate enemies of Religion, in order to ftigmatize that choice, have taken no less pains to make him appear compleatly deteftable. But both the one and the other seem to me to have mistaken the cafe, and mifapplied their labour. It was not, I conceive, for the unblemished fanctity of his life, but for reasons of a very different nature, that king David was distinguished by the honourable title affigned to him in the text.
It is, I believe, univerfally allowed, that the chief defign of God in feparating the Jewish
* Yet appellations of nearly the fame import have bee pplied: others. See below, p. 102, 3, 4, &C.
nation from the rest of mankind, was to perpetuate the knowledge of himself by means of this peculiar people, and to preserve the worship of the one true God amidst an idolatrous world. This was the grand foundation of the whole Jewish polity; the main purport of their laws; the principle of all God's dealings towards them. Whoever, therefore, exerted himself vigorously and effectually in promoting this great end of the Jewish theocracy, might, with the stricteft propriety, be called a man after God's own heart; because he acted in conformity to the main purpose of God's heart: he did the very thing that God wanted to have done; he forwarded the grand design that he had in view. Now this was precisely the character of David, the diftinguishing excellence of his life. He was a fincere and hearty lover of his country, a zealous obferver of its laws, in opposition to all idolatry, from which he ever kept himself and his people at the utmost distance *. It was not, therefore, on account of his private virtues, but his public conduct; not for a spotlefs purity of manners,
*See Le Clerc on Acts xiii. 22; Patrick on 1 Kings xv. 3.5. H 3 but
but for his abhorrence of idolatry, and his ftrict adherence to the civil and religious * laws of his country, that David was honoured with the name of the man after God's own heart +. If any Christian writers have suppofed that this title was the mark of moral perfection, and in confequence of that have exalted David's character into a standard of virtue, they have, with a very good meaning perhaps, done a very injudicious thing. The explanation here given feems most agreeable to the language of the Scriptures, to the general tenour of David's conduct, to the na
* One remarkable inftance of David's fcrupulous obferv. ance of the law, in punctually complying with the prohibition given in Deut. xvii. 16, against the use of cavalry in war, fee in Bishop SHERLOCK on Prophecy, Diff. 4. p. 370-375 And perhaps his invariable obedience to this important law, "which was to be a standing trial of prince and people, whether "they had trust and confidence in God their deliverer," might contribute not a little towards procuring him this fo much en vied distinction.
+ It is certain, that Abraham was called THE FRIEND OF GOD, (a distinction no lefs remarkable than king David's) for the reasons here affigned; for his adhering to the belief and worship of the one true God, in oppofition to the idolatrous nations amongst whom he lived. See Clarke's fermons, vol. ii. Difc. 38. p. 50. Dublin edition, 1751, and Le Clerc on Gen, vi. g.
ture of the Jewish dispensation, and the intentions of its Divine Author.
To what has been urged in favour of this interpretation, by a very eminent writer*, may be added; that though David is in this fingle paffage called a man after God's own heart; yet it is afterwards only faid of Him, in common with several other Kings, that he "did "that which was right in the eyes of the "Lord +;" which expreffion feems intended to convey, and indeed naturally does convey, the fame meaning as the other. For it will not be easy to point out a difference betwixt acting" according to any one's heart," and doing that which " is right in his eyes. By determining therefore the fignification of this phrase, we shall arrive at the true value of that made ufe of in the text. Now the expreflion of " doing that which is right in "the eyes of the Lord," is conftantly and uniformly applied to thofe, who were eminent not fo much for their virtues in a private, as their zeal in a regal, capacity; for their averfion to idolatry, and fcrupulous obfervance of the law.
* See Divine Legation of Mofes, vol. iii. b. 4. f. 6. p. 854. 3d edit.
+ Kings xv. 5.