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THE EQUITY OF CHRIST’S GOVERNMENT
2 Samuel 23:1-4. Now these be the last words of David. David the son of Jesse said, and the man who was raised up on high, the anointed of the God of Jacob, and the sweet Psalmist of Israel, said, The Spirit of the Lord spake by me, and his word was in my tongue. The God of Israel said, the Rock of Israel spake to me, He that ruleth over men must be just, ruling in the fear of God. And he shall be as the light of the morning, when the sun riseth, even a morning without clouds; as the tender grass springing out of the earth by clear shining after rain.
THESE words are generally understood as descriptive of the duty of civil governors, and of the happiness of any people who live under a government that is thus administered. But they have doubtless a further reference, even to Christ himself, whose character they designate in the most appropriate terms. The very energetic manner in which the prophecy before us is introduced, and the strong profession which the writer makes of his immediate inspiration from God, leave no doubt upon the mind, but that something more must be intended in this passage than a mere direction to earthly magistrates. A very small alteration in the Translation will exhibit it in its true light [Note: The passage might more properly be translated thus: David the son of Jesse saith, and the man, &c. saith, The Spirit of the Lord speaketh by me, and his word is in my tongue; the God of Israel saith, the Rock of Israel speaketh to me, The Just One ruleth over men; he ruleth in the fear of God: as the light of the morning A SUN shall rise, even a morning without clouds, when the tender grass springeth out of the earth, &c.]. Christ is frequently spoken of in Scripture as the Just One [Note: Acts 3:14; Acts 7:52; Acts 22:14.], in contradistinction to all others; and as the Sun that enlightens the whole spiritual world [Note: John 8:12.]. The Prophet Malachi, probably having an eye to the very passage before us, combines the two ideas, and foretells the advent of Christ, as “the Sun of Righteousness [Note: Malachi 4:2.].” In this view of the words, we shall be led to consider,
The nature of Christ’s government—
[In the sacred oracles, a peculiar stress is laid on the equity of that dominion which Christ exercises over his chosen people [Note: Isaiah 9:7; Isaiah 11:2-5. “in the fear of the Lord.”]. And who that has submitted to his government, must not confirm the truth that is so much insisted on? Behold his laws; is there one which does not tend to the happiness of his creatures? They are all comprehended in one word, Love; love to God, and love to man: and can any thing be conceived more excellent in itself, or more beneficial to man, than such a law? Well does the Apostle say of it, that it is “holy and just and good [Note: Romans 7:12.].” Behold his administration; is there any one point in which a righteous governor can excel, that is not found, in its most perfect measure, in him? He relieves the needy, succours the weak, protects the oppressed, and executes judgment without any respect of persons: and though none merit any thing at his hands, he dispenses rewards and punishments in as exact proportion to the conduct of men, as if he weighed their merits in a balance. Who ever sought him diligently, without gaining admission to his presence? Who ever implored a blessing at his hands and was rejected? Who ever did much or suffered much for him, without ample testimonies of his approbation? On the other hand, who ever drew back from him, or violated his holy laws, without “receiving in himself that recommence which was meet?” Whatever inequalities may appear in his government (as when virtue is oppressed, and vice is triumphant) he removes them all, by vouchsafing to the sufferer the consolations of his Spirit, and the prospects of his glory. Thus truly may he be said to “rule in the fear of God!”]
If prosperity and happiness result from a righteous administration of civil governments, much more are they the portion of Christ’s subjects. This is beautifully illustrated in the words before us; wherein his government is further delineated in,
The blessed effects of it on all his faithful subjects—
[The sun rising in the unclouded hemisphere, cheers and exhilarates all who behold it: and, when it shines on the earth that has been refreshed with gentle showers, it causes the grass, and every herb, to spring forth almost visibly before our eyes. And is it not thus with all who submit themselves to Christ? do not new prospects open to them, and, with their more enlarged views, are they not revived with proportionable consolations? are they not gladdened with the light of his countenance? are they not sometimes almost overwhelmed with the brightness of his glory, so as to be transported with joy unspeakable? Yes; to them there is an unclouded sky, except as far as sin prevails: if they were as perfectly obedient to the will of Christ as the saints in heaven are, they would possess a very heaven upon earth. If they have any intermission of their joy, it is not owing to any strictness in his laws, or any defect in his administration, but to their own indwelling lusts and corruptions.
What an astonishing effect too does the light of his countenance produce with respect to fruitfulness in good works! let the soul, watered with showers of divine grace, and softened with the tears of penitence and contrition, once feel the genial influence of his rays, and there will be an instantaneous change in its whole state: “it will revive as the corn, and grow as the vine; and the scent thereof will be as the wine of Lebanon [Note: Hosea 14:7.].” Every holy affection will be called forth into exercise; and every fruit of righteousness abound to the glory of God.
Such are the effects which the Psalmist elsewhere ascribes to Christ’s government [Note: Psalms 72:2-7.]; and such, in all ages, have invariably resulted from it [Note: Acts 2:41-47.].]
How earnestly should we desire the universal establishment of Christ’s kingdom!
[Little do men consider the import of that petition, “Thy kingdom come.” In uttering this prayer, we desire that our whole souls, and the souls of all mankind, may be subjected to Christ. And truly this event would restore the golden age of paradise. Ungodly men indeed would persuade us, that an unlimited submission to Christ would be an occasion of melancholy, and a source of misery. But if once they were to experience the effects of his government upon their own souls, they would learn, that obedience to him is the truest happiness of man. Let us then take upon us his light and easy yoke, as the only, and the certain means of finding rest unto our souls.]
What madness is it to continue in rebellion against Christ!
[It is not at our option whether Christ shall be our ruler or not; for “God has set him upon his holy hill of Zion,” and in due season, will “put all his enemies under his feet.” If we will not bow before the sceptre of his grace, he will “break us in pieces with a rod of iron.” Shall we then provoke him to wrath, when we have so much to dread from his displeasure? No: rather let the truth which is here with such awful solemnity announced, be with all holy reverence received: yea, let us “kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and we perish from the way [Note: Psalms 2:1-12.].” Thus shall we now enjoy the felicity of his chosen; and, in the day when all his enemies shall be slain before him, we shall be made partners of his throne for evermore.]
THE COVENANT OF GRACE
2 Samuel 23:5. Although my house be not so with God; yet he hath made with me an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things, and sure: for this is all my salvation, and all my desire.
IN all the trials and troubles of life, religion alone can afford us any effectual support. To this the saints in all ages have fled for refuge, and in this they have found all the consolation they could desire. The latter days of David were a continual scene of domestic sorrows. The defilement of Tamar by her brother Amnon, the murder of Amnon by his brother Absalom, the rebellion and untimely death of Absalom, and the conspiracy and consequent destruction of Adonijah, all embittered his life: and God had foretold, that such afflictions should await him, as a punishment for the horrible sins he had committed in the matter of Uriah. David however was not without his consolations. Though he could not have the happiness of seeing his house walking in the ways of God, yet he had good reason to believe that God had accepted him; and in the view of the covenant which God had made with him, he could not but rejoice. We do not apprehend that this covenant related exclusively to the succession of his posterity upon the throne of Israel, or even to the advent of the Messiah from his loins: it can be no other than that covenant which God made with his own Son, and with us in him; for no other covenant corresponds with the description here given of it, nor could David speak of any other as all his salvation and all his desire. That covenant relates to the salvation of a ruined world by the blood and righteousness of the Lord Jesus.
The representation which David here gives us of it will lead us to shew,
The excellence of this covenant—
This is set forth in a striking view in the words before us. We notice,
[Long before man had fallen, God, who foresaw his fall, devised a plan for his recovery: and in this plan his co-equal, co-eternal Son concurred: “The council of peace was between them both,” says the Prophet [Note: Zechariah 6:13.]. To this St. Paul alludes, when he says, that he was “in hope of eternal life, which God had promised before the world began [Note: Titus 1:2.].” To whom could that promise be made, but unto the Lord Jesus Christ, as the Representative of his Church and people? Some divines have called this the covenant of Redemption, as contra-distinguished from the covenant of Grace; the one being made with Christ only, and the other with man. But this appears not founded in Scripture. There is one covenant only; and that was made with Christ personally, and with him as the federal Head and Representative of his elect people: as made with him personally, it promised him a seed, if he would lay down his life for them [Note: Isaiah 53:10-11.]; and as made with him federally, it promised salvation to all who should believe in him, and become members of his mystical body [Note: Galatians 3:16-17.].
Now this covenant is “everlasting;” it has existed from the beginning, and shall exist to all eternity. No human being ever has been saved but by virtue of it; nor shall any child of man ever be admitted into heaven, but agreeably to its provisions. We say not that no person ever has been, or shall be, saved without a distinct acquaintance with it: for we believe that many heathens who never heard of it, and millions of children who have been incapable of understanding any thing about it, have been saved; but not a single soul has ever been accepted of God the Father, but as redeemed by the blood of his only-begotten Son. And perhaps we may say, that this circumstance gives to the glorified saints an advantage over angels themselves: for angels, though confirmed, we trust, in their happiness by the power of God, do not hold that happiness by so sure a tenure as the saints hold theirs: they cannot boast of holding it by the promise and oath of Jehovah; they cannot shew a covenant securing to them the everlasting possession of their inheritance, and that covenant confirmed and ratified with the blood of God’s only dear Son: but we can refer to such a covenant, as the sure ground of all our expectations, and as the pledge that nothing shall ever separate us from the enjoyment of our God [Note: 2 Corinthians 1:20.].]
[It may truly be said to be “ordered in all things.” There is not any thing that can conduce to our happiness either in this world or the next, that is not comprehended in it. Every thing is prepared for us both in a way of providence and of grace. All our comforts, and all our trials, are therein adjusted for our good. All earthly things are secured to us, as far as they are necessary [Note: Matthew 6:33.]; and even afflictions themselves are promised, as the appointed means of fitting us for the realms of bliss [Note: Jeremiah 30:11.]. Whatever grace we stand in need of, it shall be given at such times, and in such a measure, as shall most display the glory of God. It is true that God requires of us many things, as repentance, faith, and holiness; but it is equally true that he promises all these things to us: he has “exalted his own Son to give us repentance [Note: Acts 5:31.];” he also gives us to believe in Christ [Note: Philippians 1:29.]; and he promises that he will, by the influence of his Spirit, cause us to walk in his statutes, and to keep his judgments and do them [Note: Ezekiel 36:25-27.]. We cannot place ourselves in any situation wherein God has not given us promises, “exceeding great and precious promises,” suited to our necessities, and commensurate with our wants: nor is so small a thing as the falling of a hair of our head left to chance; it is all ordered by unerring wisdom: and though there may be some events which, separately and distinctly considered, may be regarded as evil, yet, collectively taken in all their bearings, they shall “all work together for our eternal good [Note: Romans 8:28.].”]
[It is “sure” to every one who trusts in it. In this it differs widely from the covenant of works which was made with man in innocence: for that depending on the fidelity of the creature, was violated, and annulled: whereas this, depending altogether on the fidelity of God, who undertakes to work in us all that he requires of us, and who engages not only not to depart from us, but not to suffer us to depart from him [Note: Jeremiah 32:40.], shall never fail in any one particular: “The mountains may depart and the hills be removed, but the covenant of my peace shall not be removed, saith the Lord that hath mercy on us [Note: Isaiah 54:9-10.].” True it is that, as under the Jewish dispensation many were not steadfast in that covenant, which was a mixed, and national covenant, so many who profess religion do really “make shipwreck of the faith [Note: 1 Timothy 1:19.]:” but they have never truly embraced the covenant of which we are speaking: they have embraced it only in a partial way, looking for its blessings without duly considering its obligations: they have been more intent on salvation from punishment, than salvation from sin. “Had they been really of us,” says the Apostle, “they would no doubt have continued with us [Note: 1 John 2:19.].” “The foundation of God standeth sure: the Lord knoweth them that are his. But let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity [Note: 2 Timothy 2:19. Καὶ should here be translated but. Compare 1Co 12:5; 1Co 16:12 and 2Ti 3:11 in the Greek.].” This being our indispensable duty, God promises and engages, “that sin shall not have dominion over us, because we are not under the law, but under grace [Note: Romans 6:14.]:” and we know that “He is faithful who hath called us, who also will do it [Note: 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24. Mark the connexion of these two verses.]:” and this very circumstance of its being an article in God’s covenant, a blessing to be gratuitously conferred by him, and freely received by us, this, I say, it is, which makes “the promise sure to all the seed [Note: Romans 4:16.].”]
When once we view this covenant aright we shall see immediately,
The regard which it deserves—
We should not regard it merely as an object of curious research, or even of grateful admiration; but should make it,
The ground of all our hopes—
[Every other method of acceptance should be renounced; and this should be deliberately and cordially embraced [Note: 2 Timothy 1:9. The two members of this sentence may be greatly enlarged.] — — — We should contemplate every offer of mercy, every communication of grace, every mean of salvation as originating in the eternal counsels of Heaven: every thing should be traced up to the love of God the Father, and to the plans arranged by the sacred Three, for the magnifying of the divine perfections in the salvation of man — — — Even the atonement itself must be considered as deriving all its efficacy from this covenant: for, if God the Father had not consented to accept his Son as a surety for us, and to regard his death as an atonement for our sin, however honourable to Christ his mediation for us might be, it would not have been available for our salvation. We should get such a distinct view of this covenant as David had; of its duration, (from everlasting to everlasting;) its fulness, its certainty; and then should say of it as he did, “This is all my salvation;” except in this, I have no more hope than the fallen angels: but through the provision which this has made for me, I scarcely envy the angels who never fell: for “I know in whom I have believed, that He is able to keep that which I have committed to him [Note: 2 Timothy 4:8.]:” and “I am confident that he who hath begun a good work in me will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ [Note: 2 Timothy 1:12.].”]
The source of all our joys—
[Whatever comforts we may possess in this world, we should derive our chief happiness from this: this should be “all our desire,” or, as the word imports, all our delight — — — To this also we should have recourse in every season of affliction. David betook himself to it under all his domestic troubles, and in the near prospect of eternity. “His house, alas! was not so with God,” as he could wish. And how many are there who have great trials in their families! some from their unkindness, and others from their removal by death [Note: This may be amplified so as to apply to many cases which may greatly interest the feelings of an audience.] — — — Let every one that is so circumstanced learn from David where to flee for comfort: let him contemplate the riches of divine grace as exhibited in the covenant, and the blessedness of having an interest in it, and he will soon forget his sorrows, and have a heart overflowing with the most exalted joy — — — If, in addition to other troubles, we are lying upon the bed of death, we may well, like David, seek comfort in this covenant, and make “the last words of David [Note: ver. 1.]” our last words also. What can so effectually remove the sting of death, as to behold a covenant-God in Christ Jesus, engaged to “keep him unto the end,” and to receive him to an everlasting enjoyment of his presence and glory? — — — Study then the wonders of this covenant, that they may be familiar to your minds in a time of health; and so shall they fill you with unutterable peace and joy, when every other refuge shall fail, and your soul be summoned into the presence of its God.]
DAVID’S DESIRE FOR THE WATER OF THE WELL OF BETHLEHEM
2 Samuel 23:15-17. And David longed, and said, Oh that one would give me drink of the water of the well of Bethlehem, which is by the gate! And the three mighty men brake through the host of the Philistines, and drew water out of the well of Beth-lehem, that was by the gate, and took it, and brought if to David: nevertheless he would not drink thereof, but poured it out unto the Lord. And he said, Be it far from me, O Lord, that I should do this: is not this the blood of the men that went in jeopardy of their lives? therefore he would not drink it.
THE best of men are liable to err: but in this they differ widely from the ungodly, that they are glad, as soon as they find out their error, to have it rectified. David inconsiderately expressed a wish for some water out of the well of Bethlehem; but when he saw what his inconsiderateness had occasioned, and especially what might have arisen from it, he was grieved at himself for what he had done, and rejected with abhorrence the gratification which he had before desired.
This anecdote respecting him may appear unworthy of a distinct consideration: but it is in reality very instructive. Let us consider,
This wish of David’s—
To view it aright, we must notice it,
As foolishly indulged—
[That water was not necessary to him; for his army was not at all reduced to straits for want of water: and by the circumstance of its being in the possession of his enemies, it was unattainable, unless his enemies should be first subdued. To wish for it therefore merely to gratify his appetite, was foolish; and to express that wish to others was wrong. But in him we see a picture of human nature in general: all are wishing for something which they do not possess, though it be neither necessary to their welfare, nor easy to be attained. “Ye desire and have not,” is the account given of men by the voice of inspiration [Note: James 4:2. See the Greek.]; and it characterizes all from early childhood, till age or infirmity has cured the disease — — — This tendency of our minds is decidedly sinful, inasmuch as it argues discontent with the lot assigned us by Providence, and too high an estimation of the things of time and sense [Note: Numbers 11:4-5.]. God, and heavenly things, may be desired with the utmost intenseness of our souls [Note: Psalms 42:1-2; Psalms 63:1.]: but earthly things, whatever they may be, are no further to be desired than as God may be enjoyed in them, or glorified by them [Note: Psalms 73:25.]: and, as David in this wish had respect to nothing but mere personal gratification, he so far acted in a way unworthy of his high character.]
As rashly countenanced—
[Three of his most distinguished warriors determined, if possible, to gratify his desire; and, of their own accord, without any order from him, cut their way through the Philistine army, drew the water, and brought it to him. This was rash and presumptuous in the extreme. Had they been moved to it by God, as David was to go against Goliath with a sling and a stone, or as Jonathan was to climb up a rock, and, unsupported by any one but his armour-bearer, to attack a Philistine garrison, they would have acted right; because in executing the divine will they might expect the divine protection: but to go on such an errand without any command either from God or man, was to expose themselves unnecessarily to the utmost peril, and in reality to tempt God. Doubtless a contempt of danger is a great virtue in a soldier; but it may be unduly exercised: and we are persuaded that, before men put their lives in jeopardy, they should inquire, whether the occasion be sufficiently important to demand it, or, at least, whether they be called to it in the way of duty.]
As piously suppressed—
[When the water was brought to him, he refused to drink of it; and, with a mixture of shame and gratitude, poured it out as a drink-offering unto the Lord. To him it appeared, that the drinking of it would be like drinking the blood of his most faithful servants: and therefore, much as he had desired it before, he would on no account gratify his appetite at such an expense. This argued true love to those who had served him at so great a risk, and genuine piety towards God, whose merciful kindness he thus gratefully acknowledged. But how little of such self-denial is there in the world! how few, when a desired gratification is within their reach, will abstain from the indulgence of it, from the consideration of the evils which may accrue to the object that administers to their delight! — — — If however we condemn David for cherishing such a wish, we cannot but applaud the forbearance he exercised in reference to it, when it was obtained.]
Let us now contemplate,
The lessons to be learned from it—
How strong a principle is love!
[Love dictated the measure which these soldiers took: whilst therefore we disapprove the act, we must admire the principle from which it proceeded. It is a principle “strong as death;” nor can “many waters quench it.” It is a principle also by which, not soldiers only, but persons in every situation and relation of life should be actuated: and how happy would it be for the world, if it operated universally in its full extent! How happy if, in our social and domestic circles, the only contest was, who should shew most love, and exert himself in the most self-denying way for the good of others! This is the spirit which God himself approves [Note: Hebrews 10:24.]; and the Lord grant it may increase and abound amongst us more and more [Note: 1 Thessalonians 3:12.]!]
How should we delight to exercise love towards our Lord Jesus Christ in particular!
[He is “the Captain of our salvation,” and “of all the hosts of Israel:” and he has opened to us access to the waters of life, “of which whosoever drinketh shall never thirst [Note: John 4:10; John 4:13-14.].” Moreover, to effect this, he has not merely jeoparded his life, but actually laid down his life: knowing assuredly all the sufferings he must endure in order to procure these blessings for us, he voluntarily undertook our cause, and never drew back, till he could say, “It is finished.” Is He not then worthy to be loved by us? Yea, should there be any bounds to our love to him? Should we not be “willing to be bound, or even to die, for his sake?” Surely, whatever dangers we may be encompassed with, we should say, “None of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto me,” so that I may but fulfil his will, and promote his glory.]
With what grief and indignation should we mortify every sinful desire!
[When once we see what sin has done, we shall see what it merits at our hands. It was to counteract the effects of sin, that Jesus shed his blood. Shall we then indulge sin of any kind? However gratifying it may be to our feelings, should we not say, like David in our text, “Is not this the blood of God’s only dear Son, even of my best Friend, who laid down his life for me? I will not drink it; I will sacrifice my every lust unto the Lord.” Ah, Brethren! look at sin in this view: and if it be dear to you as a right eye, or apparently as necessary as a right hand, do not hesitate one moment to cast it from you with abhorrence; humbling yourselves for having ever conceived a desire after it, and adoring your God that it has not long since involved you in everlasting death and misery.]
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Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 23". Simeon's Horae Homileticae. https://studylight.org/
the Fourth Week after Epiphany