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"Built upon the foundation of the Apostles and Prophets, Jesus Christ himself
being the chief corner-stone."
LESSONS FROM THE LIFE OF DAVID.
BY THE REV. CHARLES VINCE.
No. IV.—NABAL THE CHURL.—1 Sam. xxv. DAVID never made a wiser choice, and he never said a truer thing, than when he exclaimed, “Let us fall now into the hands of the Lord ; for His mercies are great: and let me not fall into the hands of man." The wisdom and the truth of this were illustrated and confirmed by more than one incident in David's life. Moreover, the illustration and the proof sometimes came from David's conduct as well as from David's experience. As the deeds of others often made him feel, so his purposes and actions must have occasionally made others feel how much better it was to be cast upon the mercies of God, than upon the generosity or forbearance of men. The chapter that tells us of David's collision with Nabal, furnishes us with a twofold confirmation of the truth of David's assertion and the wisdom of his decision. David, in a season of feebleness, sought to rest himself upon Nabal's gratitude, and he found that he was trusting in the staff of a broken reed which pierced him. In his necessity he made an appeal to Nabal's generosity, and he found it was as bad as trying to quench his thirst with the waters of Marah. On the other hand, Nabal's ingratitude and unkindness met with no charity at first on the part of David. While Nabal was utterly destitute of brotherly-kindness, David failed for a time in the love which is not easily provoked, but suffereth long and endureth all things. Because Nabal was insolent as well as thankless, David was carried away by a revengeful spirit, and gathered up all his strength to punish the insult and wrong with instant death. As David saw his men returning from Nabal empty-handed, and bearing on their lips the cruel answer of the churl; and as Nabal saw David coming with armed men bent on taking vengeance,-might not each of them appropriately cry out, “Let me not fall into the hand of man”? As we mark the selfish spirit of the wealthy man, and the unforgiving spirit of the wronged man, are we not constrained to exclaim with
fresh fervour, “ Whether it be for the relief of our necessities, or for the patient endurance with, and pardon of, our transgressions, let us fall now into the hand of the Lord, for His mercies are great” ?
The brief account which is given of Nabal's ancestry and prosperity and domestic circumstances, would prepare us for a very different description of his character. Everything around him was calculated to make him a happy, thankful, sweet-tempered, and kind-hearted man. He had good blood in his veins ; and by the memories of his noble and godly ancestor, he ought to have been restrained from all that was mean and graceless. He was a descendant of Caleb, the man who had stood firm in his faith and obedience at a time when, with one other exception, all the people fell away from their confidence in God and their consecration to His service. He inherited the fruit of the industry and piety of those who had gone before him, and was unquestionably richer in worldly goods, because he succeeded to men who had been devout and diligent, and whom the Lord God of Israel had blessed in their labours. The inspired historian alludes to his ancestry as if that increased the guilt of his character. “He was of the house of Caleb ;” but he was a bad branch growing out of a good stock, for “ he was churlish and evil in his doings." Alas! he was neither the first nor the last of those who have come into possession of many of the temporal results of their fathers' piety, but have shame fully repudiated the godliness which brought the golden harvest. They have stood on high vantage ground because they were the sons of parents passed into the skies, and yet they have scorned and spurned the very religion to which alone their social elevation was owing. Men are often heard to speak of the “good family” to which they belong, as if that justified pride and exclusiveness. The Bible puts it in a different way, and makes the nobleness of a man's ancestry one more reason why he should serve the Lord and cleave to Him with full purpose of heart. The prophet Jeremiah went with words of sharp rebuke and heavy condemnation to one who was proving himself a degenerate son of a godly sire. “Did not thy father eat and drink and do judgment and justice, and then it was well with him ? He judged the cause of the poor and needy; then it was well with him: was not this to know me ? saith the Lord. But thine eyes and thine heart are not but for thy covetousness and for oppression and for violence, to do it.”
Nabal had what many would deem a far more substantial reason for personal goodness, than his belonging to the house of Caleb. The wealth which had come down to him had evidently been increased by the Divine blessing on his own endeavours, and he stood forth conspicuous above all his neighbours for the splendour and luxury with which he could, and did, surround himself. « The man was very great," but his prosperity hardened his heart and filled his spirit with haughti. ness. It seemed as if the more he got the more he would spend upon himself, and the less he would be moved to generous sympathy for those who were in woe or want. Apart from experience, we should deem it impossible that with expanding resources men could get into a more contracted liberality. And yet how many have associated a diminished liberality with doubled or trebled incomes; yea, have given less cheerfully when their power to give was fourfold greater than it had been aforetime. The widow who had less than a pauper's purse, and more than a princely generosity, might, apart from the grace of God, have become comparatively close-handed if she had passed into easy circumstances. Changes scarcely less striking have taken place, for we have seen prosperous men display a lack of generosity, the prediction of which, in the days of their poverty, would have extorted the indignant question, “Is thy servant a dog that he should do this thing ?” For the pride and selfishness which prosperity has such power to produce in human hearts, there is one effective preventive or curea constant and grateful remembrance of the fact that to God and His goodness all is owing. Nebuchadnezzer looked at the city of palaces in which he reigned, and he cried out, “Is not this great Babylon which I have built?” Then sprang up the pride for which he was so severely punished. Jacob marshalled his flocks and herds and household, and 80 had all his wealth in sight at one time; but instead of saying, " See what I have gained,” he said in spirit, “ Behold what God has given me.” Then, instead of making him hardhearted and highminded, his prosperity melted him into tenderness and humbled him to the dust, where he cried, “I am not worthy of the least of all Thy mercies.” The arrogance of spirit and coarseness of speech, and niggardliness of heart which Nabal displayed, were unmistakable proofs that in his prosperity 'he had forgotten the God to whom he was indebted for it. Hence that which should have made his lowliness to grow and blossom like a lily of the valley, did only serve to make his poisonous pride flourish as the deadly nightshade, and that which should have filled him with grateful love to God and generous love to men, only helped to increase his selfindulgence and his self-idolatry.
There was another reason why better things might have been reasonably expected of Nabal. God had given him a true help-meet-a woman --who, if he had yielded to her influence,would have done much to lift him out of his roughness and wickedness into refinement and godliness. " She was a woman of good understanding and of a beautiful countenance.” The companionship of such an one ought to have had some humanizing influence upon Nabal, and have saved him at least from the lower depths of folly and brutishness into which he sank. This is one of the marvels of human nature, that some rough and selfish men can live on year after year in fellowship with gentle and self-denying women, and yet be no more impressed and improved by them, than the dead heart of Absalom was moved by the tears and wailings of his disconsolate father. You may see a man living for years with a meek, patient, long-suffering wife, whose love for him nothing can quench, whose devotion to him nothing can impair, and all the while he sinks deeper and deeper into his selfishness and sottishness. There is many a Nabal whose churlishness and godlessness are all the more guilty in the sight of heaven
because of the saintliness of the woman to whom in God's good providence he has been wedded. If such men die impenitent and unpardoned, surely for them condemnation will be heavy and perdition will be deep!
It is time to pass on to the particular circumstances which brought out so fully the worst features in Nabal's character, and which aroused so fearfully the resentment of David. Nabal had enough and to spare, while David was in temporary poverty. David was in danger of perishing for lack of a little of that of which Nabal had such an abundance, and therefore the appeal for relief was sent. David seem to have known the kind of man he had to deal with, for he blendet prudence with his boldness in begging, and pressed his suit on tha day on which above all others it was most likely to be successful Amongst different nations there are different seasons which ar specially sacred to hospitality and to generosity. With us in Englan Christmas has become such a season. Hearts that are flinty at othe times are touched into a little feeling then, and fruits of kindness an goodwill are gathered from branches that are somewhat barren all th vear beside. There are some men whom you would not care to as for charity at any other season, to whom you would venture to mak an appeal if you met them just as Christmas bells were ringing Amongst the Jews, and other Eastern peoples, the time of sheep shearing was commonly the season of special liberality; hence, whe “ David heard in the wilderness that Nabal did shear his sheep,” h sent out ten young men to greet him, to express good wishes on hi behalf, and to humbly plead for a share of the bounty which it wa thought Nabal would be sure to bestow on such an occasion. Besid the force of good old customs, there was another reason why on tha particular day David's solicitation was seasonable. It was partly ol the ground that his men had been guardians of the flocks that Davis rested his appeal, and there could not be a better time for that appea than the season when the flocks were counted and the fleeces were gathered. In order to move Nabal, the messengers were charged to make mention of the timeliness of their visit :-“ Thus shall ye say to him that liveth in prosperity, Let the young men find favour in thin eyes, for we come in a good day.”
Many have thought that the prudence and policy of David's conduc were more obvious than its dignity. Did he not in some measur demean himself, they ask, by setting forth so fully the services he has rendered ? It is not usual to do a man a good turn, and then to go and tell him all about it and ask for some grateful recognition of it. Befor we blame David for being undignified, let us try and realize his position and his temptations. He must have been in great straits, or he would never have sent in such a way to a man like Nabal. Hunger is a sharp thorn, and impels many a man to do what is far easier for well-fed people to blame than for him to avoid. We are often angry with some of the poor for being mean-spirited, and lacking in frankness and straightforwardness. Instead of spending our breath in censuring
them, it would sometimes be much better to spend it in thanksgiving that we have not known the special temptations of poverty, and have been placed by a benignant Providence in circumstances wherein it is a comparatively easy thing to maintain our dignity and independence.
There are people whom you cannot fully know until you ask them for something. While no direct appeal is made to their supposed benevolence, their real character is masked; but the moment you press them to be generous, despite all their efforts to wear it still, the covering drops off, and they stand forth in all their native unsightliness. To what a revelation of Nabal's heart the prayer of David led! How thoroughly the churl disclosed himself, and showed that by the hands of sin the last lingering trace of the image of God's love had been swept from his soul! And yet he tried to cloak his selfishness and justifs his meanness by blackening David's character. “Who is | David ? Who is the son of Jesse ? There be many servants now-a
days that break away every man from his master ; shall I then take my bread and my water, and my flesh that I have killed for my shearers, and give it unto men whom I know not whence they be?” Nabal could not say it was the wrong day for charity, so he said this was a wrong case. Such people are never destitute of reasons for not giving, and are not ashamed to try and cover their niggardliness with excuses so flimsy that even the sight of a bat would be strong enough to pierce them. To spare their purse they can always find some flaw in the “case," or failing that, some fault in the applicants who represent the "case," or something unseasonable in the time of making the application. There never yet was an appeal to human kindness which Nabal would not have had some reason for resisting. If he had been placed in circumstances like Abraham, and angels had come to partake of his hospitality, he would probably have cried out, “ Give my bread and flesh to people with wings! What next, I wonder!”
The provocation to David must have been great, and so we are more grieved than surprised that at once his soul was all on fire with wrath; and he took a solemn oath to destroy Nabal and his men too before the next morning should dawn. David forgot how much God had done for Nabal; what ingratitude God had received at Nabal's hand; and yet how patiently God had borne with him for many years, and how lavishly God had blessed him despite all his guiltiness. We might have expected that instead of fostering human vengeance, David would have striven to imitate Divine longsuffering ; but the wisest men are not always wise, and the best men are not always consistent. “Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth, take heed lest he fall.” David's lapse was not long lasting; for before he could carry out his angry purpose, his spirit was calmed and his footsteps were checked, and he put his cause into infinitely better keeping than his own. Blessed by God with preventing grace, he acted according to the counsel of his qwn song :-“Fret not thyself because of evil doers. Rest in the Lord and wait patiently for Him."
The history shows, what is very credible and not at all surprising, ..