<< 1 Samuel 16: Saul Charmed by David's Harp >>
23And it came to pass, when the evil spirit from God was upon Saul, that David took an harp, and played with his hand: so Saul was refreshed, and was well, and the evil spirit departed from him. 1 SAMUEL XVI
Who has not felt the power of music ? There is undoubtedly a correspondence between its varied sounds and the affections of of the heart. The soft voice of the mother soothes the infant on the breast. Music speaks a language understood by all, savage and civilized alike : alike in all countries and all climes. The heart speaks by music ; the intellect by words. Hence animals, since they have affections and desires, though far inferior in their nature and their number to those of man, are sensible to music. The sounds of fear scare them ; the sounds of hope and love attract them. The whole animated creation breathe their sorrows in plaintive tones, and their raptures spring forth in joyous song. Each living thing has its own notes to make its understood ; and man commands the whole universe of song because his nature is a miniature universe in itself. He has in his wonderful being an affection corresponding to that in each animal ; hence he can imitate their cries and their songs : he has, besides, affections yearning after virtue, truth, wisdom, purity, peace, and all the sacred and sanctifying desires which attach him to immortal things ; he can express all these therefore in music far surpassing that of all outward creation. He has a nobler nature than theirs, and therefore he can raise a nobler song. And when his purified affections shall pervade and hallow his whole being, and his spiritual body, made perfect by regeneration, shall express in its beautiful forms the holy character the holy character which is the likeness of his Lord, no doubt his speech will be sweetly musical, and the voice, the liquid outpouring of the heart, will be equally adequate to whisper in luscious music its melodious delight, and to take part in the grand hallelujahs of heaven. The music of the heart will find its glowing expression in the music of the voice. And, although to limit the bliss of the blessed ones in heaven to the joys of singing and of prayer, is certainly a most narrow and insufficient conception of their countless and varied delights, to do good must be a deeper source of rapture than to sing about it ; yet, no doubt, the highest achievements of earth can give but a faint idea of the sublime anthems of heaven : —
''There, love divine, that holy flame,
Will all our powers employ ;
To celebrate Jehovah's name.
In sweetest songs of Joy."
Music is in its very nature heavenly. Discord is infernal. Evil itself is a discord in the universe : its genuine utterance are all inharmonious : from the discordant roar of the battle-field, to the hiss-like whisper of secret sin, its whole real sounds are horrid. Harmony is from above, and is only prostituted when it is made to lend itself to cover vice. True, real music is the correspondence in the world of sound of true orderly affection and invites us to realize what is noble and virtuous. Hence the evil spirit fled from Saul when David's harp was heard.
Saul is the type of the external man. He represents man as he is by nature, partly good, partly bad, with many advantages of person : he was graceful, and taller than any others of the children of Israel. He was possessed of rank, dignity,- and command, yet he was not happy. He had become a king, had obtained great renown, and achieved over the enemies of his country decisive victories, but he was not happy. Like all who have not entered upon the struggle with selfishness, which is induced by true religion, he was jealous of the achievements of others. But the decisive trial of his life was the commission to go against Amalek. Samuel the prophet pointed out to him the requirement of heaven that Amalek should be wholly destroyed, Saul only partially performed this duty, leaving the king Agag alive, and destroying only what was vile and refuse of the property of the Amalekites. From that time his throne became insecure, the spirit of the Lord departed from him, and an evil spirit troubled him. This spirit departed when David's music was heard, on which the king was refreshed and was well : but in a short time he relapsed, and again the evil spirit was there. The king sunk from one trouble to another, until at length he fell under the arrows of the Philistines, and lost at the same time both crown and life.
This history is typical of that of a large class of mankind. How many are there on whom life's morning shines fair! They are blest with happy homes, with a goodly share of the advantages of life, beautiful in person, having a wide circle of friends, and the best prospects in life. All things seem to promise a happy future — a successful existence. Yet, like Saul, they sink into moroseness and misfortune; their after years go down in shade, and they die unhappily. How is this ? The divine history before us is intended to open this mystery to us. They will not faithfully destroy Amalek, and especially its king: they will not obey the Lord in fighting against that interior opposition to Him which was represented by that deceitful, corrupt, and treacherous people. The war with Amalek is urged with terrible distinctness in the Divine Word : “The Lord said unto Moses, Write this for a memorial in a book, and rehearse it in the ear of Joshua : for I will utterly put out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven. And Moses built an altar, and called the name of it Jehovah Nissi : for he said, because the Lord hath sworn that the Lord will have war with Amalek from generation to generation.'' — Exod. xvii. 14 — 16. The Amalekites were the first foes of the Israelites when they commenced their journey to Canaan ; they were the most subtle and the most merciless. They were met with in the whole desert of the south and south-east, through which the Israelites had to pass, and were the most dangerous of their foes.
These resolute, constant, vindictive, and subtle enemies are the representatives of corrupt principles in the mind, equally obstinate, persevering, and subtle, which infest the spirit now ; and to teach us that these must be overcome, and how they must be overcome, is the great lesson of the Bible, and the great lesson of life.
In the course of every individual life there are periods of struggle and trial. Duty and inclination are at variance. Religion says. Do right; self-interest urges, Do wrong. Innocence calls us to be pure; sensuality instigates to self-indulgence and pollution. Times come in which life and death, salvation, and everlasting ruin depend upon the result of the struggle. The Lord says, destroy Amalek utterly ; root out all opposition to Divine goodness and truth ; spare no inclination which rises against the divine will, — no imagination which intrudes itself in the place of divine wisdom ; destroy utterly the very purpose of resisting the commands of the Lord. However bitter it may seem, surrender for ever all desire of opposing the order and purity of heaven, especially the very essence of such desire ---its king. If we do this truly, praying ardently to the Lord for help, resting upon His Word, supporting our feeble strength by love and faith, we shall be like Moses when he sat the stone, with his arms supported by Aaron and Hur, and and like him we shall be victorious over Amalek : —
" When Moses stood with arms stretched wide,
Success was found on Israel's side;
But when through weariness they failed.
That moment Amalek prevailed."
If, on the contrary, we make reserves ; if we cannot submit some darling sin, some dear indulgence, some secret lawless delight, to the divine authority, we are like Saul, preserving Agag.
We are entering upon a downward course of secret disobedience, which will result in utter ruin. Our evil may seem to us delicate, as Agag appeared when called for by Samuel, but only one course is open to the true servant of the Lord, — whatever is found to be really an enemy to God and goodness, must be utterly rooted out ; Agag must be hewed in pieces before the Lord. Unless we do this, There is no real progress made in our regeneration. One of the most fertile sources of error in self-knowledge is this : we find we are not guilty of the same kind of sin as we condemn in our neighbour ; we are not drunkards perhaps, we are not misers, we do not defraud any one of money in our dealings, and we conclude that we have nothing particular to blame and to change, although perhaps we may have other sins equally distant from the purity and the love of heaven ; we are quite ready to condemn the vices to which we are not prone, but this darling sin of ours we cannot bear to have touched, — it is an Agag that moves delicately. But in such case we fail in the very testing point ; we are unsound in the essential particular where we should have been faithful ; and because all other persons do the same, the kingdom of darkness is peopled. Each person's reservation of his darling evil was portrayed in divine representation of Saul's preserving Agag. Thousands like Saul are quite willing to offer burnt-offerings and sacrifices but not willing implicitly to obey just where obedience is really wanted, and so they are ruined like Saul. Oh that they would learn the grand lesson given to the mistaken king by Samuel! “Hath the Lord as great delight in burnt-offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord ? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken, than the fat of rams.”
The first consequence of Saul's want of obedience was, that he lost the spirit of the Lord, and an evil spirit took its place. And this opens to our consideration the important truth, presented to us, indeed, both by revelation and experience, that we are in daily connection with the spirit-world, as well as with the with the world of nature. Revelation familiarizes us with this great truth in all its pages. Angels are then regarded as ministering spirits to men from the cradle to the grave. Our Saviour says of little children, “Their angels do always behold the face of my Father, who is heaven;'' and of the good poor man: “The beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom." “The angel of the Lord encampeth round them that fear him, delivereth them." — Psalm xxxv. 7. “He shall give his angels charge concerning thee, to keep thee in all thy ways." — Psalm xci. 11. While the reverse of this is clearly brought before us in the history we are considering. The Spirit of the Lord departed, and the evil spirit came. What an important and interesting fact is thus intimated, and pressed upon us! We stand between the powers of heaven and hell. We are companions of one or the other in proportion as we incline to good or evil, to vice or virtue. Angels woo us to heaven ; fiends entice us downwards. Could we see these spiritual companions as they really are, surely we could not hesitate for a moment as to our choice and course. We should cling to our angelic friends and helpers ; we should shrink from the impure monsters who have ruined themselves, and would fain ruin us. This doctrine of spiritual association is not only taught by the Scriptures, it is suggested and confirmed by reason and experience. All thoughts must come from minds ; they are not wafted about like independent atoms in the air. Yet how often are suggestions received by us, both good and bad, which are not the results of previous thought, which come upon us unexpectedly. They strike us, we say. A good man is ever being struck with something better, wiser, and holier ; a bad man has opened to him deeper depths of guilt and sin, greater ingenuities of mischief, more awful mysteries of iniquity. The good ascend, assisted by angelic guardian friends up the higher degrees of wisdom and goodness, the ladder which leads to heaven ; the wicked sink degrees of vice and impurity, changing the one evil spirit of of their early disobedience to the seven others more wicked than he, which make their last state worse than their first.
Oh, that this truth were known and felt! Did we fully rest convinced that we were indeed the companions of angels or devils, as we are the followers of virtue or vice, what an importance would be given to our every act. The triumphant villain, who exults over his successful crime, would probably feel little pleasure with his victory could he perceive the demons who are raising their jeers of malignant pleasure over him, — could he see them, as he one day will, glad that the tares they sowed in his mind were fondly valued as his own, instead of being recognised and rejected at once as the work of his bitter foes. A large portion of the circumstances, not only of individual, but of general human life would be much better understood if the companionship of man with spirits were more fully known and admitted. Strange epidemics set in upon mankind, and multitudes are affected with extraordinary manias, from which at other times they would shudder. They dance wildly, like the Jumpers in Wales, they contort themselves strangely ; they shriek out unknown tongues like the Irvingites and Mormons, they rush and tremble; and all who come within their sphere are strongly affected to do the same extravagant things. They lash themselves perhaps till blood comes, like the Dominicans in the middle ages. The common sense of mankind stands aghast ; but could we see their spiritual associates we should behold some demoniac crew urging them to these absurd and frantic excesses. After a time the mania ceases and peace ensues. The storm subsides the spirit-atmosphere is stilled, and all is well.
The explanation of all this is that some portions of mankind have brought themselves into such a state that a certain class of evil spirits could more fully operate into them than usual, and these frenzied outbursts have been the result. Some wild hell has been opened to them, and the awful delusions that prevail there have rushed out and affected mankind in a similar manner, who, for want of a knowledge of the spirit-world, have taken these blasts from hell for airs from heaven. The tumult has continued until, from the same voice which hushed the stormy waters of Galilee, the fiat goes forth, “Peace, be still; with authority He commandeth the unclean spirits, and they obey Him." — Mark i. 27. He only half understands the influences which act upon man, who regards only his body-side. The influences which affect him most potently, come to him through his spirit. So is it with the world. Its great soul is the spirit-world ; all its great movement are from thence, and when it is greatly wrong, it is because the spirit-world has become crowded with corruptions from degenerate multitudes pouring into it from fallen churches, and to change the current of wrong, it is needful that judgment should be effected there ; that the spirit-world should be cleared, and He who sits upon the throne should say, '' Behold, I make all things new." — Rev. xxi. 5. Then the world, freed from its incubus, leaps forth on a new career of liberty, light, benevolence, virtue, science, improvement of every kind, and a new church begins. Hence the Scriptures always precede the account of a new dispensation upon earth, by a description of judgment in the spiritual sphere of things. “Now is the judgment of this world, said the Lord : now shall the prince of this world be cast out" — John xii. 31. Again, '' I beheld Satan like lightning fall from heaven. Behold, I give you power to tread upon serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, nothing shall by any means hurt you.” “Notwithstanding in this rejoice not that the spirits are subject unto you ; but rather rejoice because your names are written in heaven."
This subject, however, we cannot now pursue. Yet it is full of interest and importance. The world has its times when the spirit of the Lord departs from it, or, rather, is excluded from it, and evil spirits trouble it, as they troubled Saul. The evil spirit is said to be sent from God, when the spirit of the Lord departed. And it may, at first sight, seem strange that the evil spirit, as well as the good, should come from the Divine Being. But we must remember that He is the Governor of the universe. All things are under His control, either by ordination or by permission. All good He ordains and provides. Evil He only permits, and so arranges that the least possible evil and misery takes place. Among the arrangements of His Providence, it is one, that when a man himself chooses evil, spirits who are in that same evil are permitted to associate with him. In this way, by their suggestions, which he can reject if he pleases, he can see the vile character of the principles which he has adopted, and shun them. He is also in less danger of mixing good and evil together, and thus sinking into the worst possible state of guilt, than if he had good angels only for his constant associates. Hence, in the same way as the Lord said to the evil spirit who had been cast out of the man among the tombs, and entreated to go into the swine, “Go,'' giving them permission to do that which they desired, so in the present instance, the evil spirit is said to be from God, because from mercy the Lord permits such spirits to come to those who cannot bear the presence of the good. Let us now, however, return to the unhappy king.
When he felt his soul disturbed by this unwonted influence, advisers counselled him to obtain one who could play well upon the harp, and while the music fell softly on his soul, a change of state would be induced, the evil spirit would depart, and the king would recover (ver. 16). In this, they were guided, no doubt, by the Divine Wisdom. Perhaps, also, some lingering remains of the knowledge of correspondences disposed the parties to acquiesce in this dictate from heaven. For to play upon the harp, was precisely what was wanted to dispel the moody discontent of the King, according to the science of correspondences. Saul had come into his sad condition from sympathy with Amalek, and having spared its king, Agag. Amalek sprang indirectly from Abraham, being a grandson of Isaac through the marriage of a son of Esau, Eliphaz, with a concubine, Timna (Gen. xxxvi. 12). He represents, therefore, those who have an utter aversion to the work of regeneration, or a progressive preparation for heaven, founded upon false and gloomy ideas of faith. They picture to themselves a religion full of melancholy, gloom, and painful sacrifice. They think of God, not as a Divine Father, Saviour, and Friend, but as a Monarch infinitely powerful, and unalterably rigid. Theirs is the religion of fear, terror, and dislike. They suppose they must submit to it some time, but they will defer it as long as they can. Such are they who are spiritually under the Amalekitish influence, and whom Saul sparing Agag symbolised.
Some years ago, in conversation with a friend, himself a Calvinist, a miserable-looking man passed us, clothed in rags. My friend remarked, “There goes a true Antinomian, an old miscreant who has killed his wife, ruined his children, thrown away by drunkenness and beastliness all his chances in life, and made himself the poor creature you see. But he says it is not his fault. If God wants him to turn, He must turn him, he can't turn himself. He is what God made him, and when God wants him otherwise, He must make him that." Such is an Amalekite, with an aversion of all that is good, fostered by a perversion of a few truths, and a hatred of all the rest.
Poor infatuated men! they are far from being what God made them. He made them with so much of heaven in them, that He can say over the little ones, as He did in the days of His flesh, '' Of such is the kingdom of God." “It is not the will of your Father, who is in heaven, that one of these little ones should perish.'' He has given to every man the germ of an angelic state, to combat his fallen nature. He has given His angels charge over every child. He has given His Word, and His Church upon earth, with all its varied forms, to suit every state under which humanity exists. His truth comes to every man, in some form or other, and if man will improve the little he understands, by using it to purify his heart and life, more and higher truth will be given him. Nothing is wanting on God's part ; He is Love itself, only let man be true, and strive to be good, and power will be given him, and he will walk the courts of heaven. *' Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God."
When any one is forgetful of these things, and sinks into melancholy, despair, and abhorrence of religion, the divine method of cure is indicated by David's playing upon the harp.
All music, as we have before observed, corresponds to the harmonies of the soul. The music of wind instruments, as flowing directly from the performer, corresponds to the play of the affections and their delights. This music is the sweetest, the most energetic. Who that has listened to the tender warbling of the flute, and has not felt its sweet discourse awakening the very soul of harmony within? Or, if manly and great emotions need to be called forth, what is there so potent as the trumpet? These go to the heart direct. And, when, Divine Wisdom is describing those appeals to man which are intended to touch his affections, the prophet is described as one playing on an instrument, as in the prophecy of Ezekiel, “And, lo, thou art unto them as a very lovely song of one that hath a pleasant voice, and can play well on an instrument ; for they hear thy words, but they do them not.'' — xxxiii. 32. The Lord decribes the states of those he addressed in a similar manner, “Whereunto shall I liken the men of this generation? and to what are they like ? They are like children sitting in the market place, calling one to another and saying. We have piped unto you, ye have not danced; we have mourned unto you, and ye have not wept." — Luke vii. 31, 32. Divine Mercy is ever piping unto us, giving us the sweetest invitations to happiness and to heaven. But it is often true now as it was then, we have not danced. We are dull, and cold, and heedless. Divine Mercy mourns at our inattention, but we ourselves are unconcerned ; we have not wept. Oh ! if we knew our true interests, the bare possibility of being excluded from heaven would induce tears of bitterest agony ; while the welcome invitations of Divine Love would make us indeed dance with delight. Let us, my beloved hearers, listen with joy to the heavenly messages here, and at last, it will be our exulting portion to hear, as John did, a voice from heaven, as of a trumpet, saying to us, “Come up hither."
The harp is a stringed instrument, and being played with fingers, its music expresses more of the precision of the intellect, than of the fulness of the heart. The understanding, animated by the love of truth, is like the golden frame of the harp, the spiritual truths of religion are its strings, and praise to the Lord and hope and joy for man, are its music. From this representative character of the harp, it comes to be so often mentioned in the Psalms, and we are called upon so frequently to praise the Lord upon the harp: “Then will I go unto the altar of God, unto God my exceeding joy : yea, upon the harp will I praise thee, God, my God."— Psalm xliii. 3, 4. “God, my heart is fixed ; I will sing and give praise, even with my glory. Awake, psaltery and harp : I myself will awake early." — Psalm cviii. 1, 2. “Sing unto the Lord with the harp; with the harp, and the voice of a psalm." — Psalm xcviii. 5. In the seventy-first Psalm, the stringed instruments as representatives of the truths of heaven in the mind, are mentioned. “I will praise thee with the psaltery, even thy truth, my God : unto thee will I sing with the harp, thou holy one of Israel." The psaltery was a kind of harp, and yet it is described as “Thy truth, my God." And when we regard the soul well-furnished with heavenly truths, a soul tuned to praise as a holy harp, sometimes swept by angel-fingers, and filling the mind with joy and gladness, we shall see that all may praise the Holy One upon the harp.
In the eternal world, where all the principles and states of the inhabitants are expressed by the objects around them, and what is seen is the outbirth and index of what is not seen, the music of the angels fell upon the rapt ear of the prophet-apostle John, as the voice of great thunder, and the voice of harpers harping with their harps (Rev. xiv. 2). And when he observed the heavenly minstrels nearer, he says, “I saw as it were a sea of glass mingled with fire, and them that had gotten the victory over the beast, and over his image, and over his mark, and over the number of his name, stand on the sea of glass, having the harps of God." — Rev. xv. 2. The sea of glass expresses the transparent clearness of their knowledge, the fire the holy glow of their love, while the harps of God are expressive of their glorious intellects tuned to praise. Each victorious saint has a harp of God. He has fought the good fight, and obtained the victory over evil and falsehood within and without ; the beast and his image, the mark and the number ; and now with all the truths of heaven acquired, and seen, and felt, the soul pours out its joys in praise. They have the harps of God. There is no music produced which is not the outbirth of inward feeling. The harp is of God. The spirit of God flows through the angelic soul which is already an inward harp, and produces a harp for the hand. It is the harp of God. It will pour forth celestial music, and that music is the genuine utterance of the joys within. It is the harp of God. We may regard the grand truths of religion as the strings of this spiritual harp. We look around upon the glories of creation on earth and in heaven, and we see Love and Wisdom reflected everywhere. This world of ours !What a scene it is of beauty and of blessing. The grand and glassy ocean, which, like a boundless mirror, images the deep blue sky, the glowing sun, the silvery moon, and the ever-moving panorama of cloud and star ; the green carpetted earth, the infinitely varied lovelinesses of the flowers, bedecking with living gems the land on every side ; the flowering bushes, the stately trees with every shade of foliage, waving their majestic heads in luxury of life, and ever rising higher to the light ; while over all, the magnificent arch which covers in this palace of our God, in the still cerulean hue of day, and the brilliant blaze of golden grandeur in the night ; ever suggesting infinitudes of solemn majesty, order, mercy, and peace, constitute a whole, opening out the heart to adoration, love, and praise. But this world, this system of stars, and worlds, is but the spangled robing of an inner and a higher. It is but the nursery of the universe, where our heavenly Father schools his children, though furnished with objects to train us for the higher life, they all are plainly made. We are on the bark of the universe, and from our rough covering can only faintly guess the glories which are within. We live on the threshold of the king's palace, though the ornaments here are beautiful, what are they to the state apartments of the King of kings ? All the glories of this universe, heightened ten thousand times, will fail to give us an adequate idea of the inner chambers of our Father's house.
" For if the outwards of our God
Be so immensely grand;
What is His own divine abode,
Where waiting angels stand ?"
But if we can only faintly conceive and sketch the riches of our Creator's beneficence, we can appreciate enough to place the first string on our harp, and summon every power of the soul to praise and adore Him for His goodness. Let this be the first note of music, " Oh that men would praise the Lord for his goodness, and for His wonderful works to the children of men." — Psalm cvii. 8.
But, while we adore the Lord as our Creator, we cannot but remember that our creation would have largely failed in its grand object, — the formation of an ever-increasing heaven from the human race, had it not been for our redemption. Better for us had we never been born, than to be born unredeemed bond-slaves of internals. When, therefore, we had sunk where no finite hand could savingly reach us, our Father became our Redeemer. He saw that there was no man, and wondered that there was no intercessor ; therefore His arm brought salvation unto Him; and His righteousness, it sustained Him. ---Isa, lix. 16. In His love and in His pity He redeemed us. Shall we not therefore put a string to our spirit's harp to celebrate redemption ? Can any strain be too high to raise, to celebrate the Infinite Mercy, which bowed the heavens, and came down and brought God in Christ to reconcile the world to Himself, to live, to die, and to rise again, that we might be rescued and be happy.
" O for a seraph's golden lyre,
With chords of light and tones of fire,
To sing Jehovah's love ;
To tell redemption's wondrous plan.
How God descended down to man.
That man might rise above.”
And, shall our harp not have another string to tell the mercies of our Regenerator ? Can we look back to the events of our individual lives, and not desire to bless the mercy which has watched over our every hour? Have not goodness and mercy followed us every day ? Have we not been saved when we were reckless, spared when we were guilty, encouraged when we were despairing, cheered when we were languishing, strengthened when we were weak, enlightened when we were dark, comforted when we were sad, and blessed with ten thousand mercies, and shall not our harp have a string to record all this ? Oh yes, every moment has had its mercy, and shall have its praise. We have been blessed in our health and our strength, in our powers of body, and in our faculties of mind; we have been blessed in our opportunities of improvement, and in the struggles of temptation ; we have been blessed in the Word, and in the power to perceive its strength, its salvation, and its beauty; we have been blessed in our victories past, and confiding in His help in all our life to come, and in our death our harp shall still tremble with His praise, —
" Bless, bless His name.”
We might go on with fresh strings to our harp, with fresh truths to celebrate the mercies of our Lord. The Psalmist mentions an instrument of ten strings (Psalm cxliv. 9) ; and possibly when the ten commandments are represented as the holy laws of love, and when we gratefully revere them, and keep them in the spirit and in the letter, they will form for us such an instrument from which the spirit's music may ascend, and be welcomed by Him who “upholdeth all that fall, and raiseth up all those that be bowed down” (Psalm cxlv. 14).
Such is the correspondence of David's harp. David himself is the type of the spiritual man, and in the highest sense of the Lord, of the divine king of Israel. We wish now, however, not to distract your attention, and confine ourselves therefore to the application of the passage to man. Saul is the representative of the natural man, disturbed by evil influences under the operation of evil spirits to whom he has laid himself open. David represents the spiritual man, with his grateful and cultivated intellect. Saul is troubled with discontent, with distaste for the things of heaven, with ill-humour, with melancholy, with gloom at the present, and with a fearful looking forward to judgment. But David is brought forward: his better man is brought to view; he has his harp with him; he touches its various strings ; it speaks of gratitude to the Lord as our Father, our Saviour, and Friend ; the sweet notes swell with adoration, love, praise, and hope, and as the music rises, the discontent and gloom give way, and Saul is refreshed and is well.
To teach this lesson, it was, that in the time of types and shadows with the Jewish nation, this event took place, and was recorded in the Word of God.
Are we not all occasionally like Saul, my beloved hearers ? Do we not all at times hesitate to sacrifice some principle which, like Agag the Amalekite, is an enemy to our true progress, and watches our weak moments to betray us ? Oh, let us be faithful! Whatever the Word, our Samuel in these days, says destroy, let us fearlessly extirpate. But if from our weakness, and our wickedness, we have compelled our good angels to depart, and the evil ones have come ; if we are in trouble and dismay, fretful in ourselves, and discontented with all around us, let us be sure and call for David and his harp. Let our spiritual, our better nature, be brought forward ; let the strings of the harp each be touched, and the music of the soul be heard ; let our blessings be numbered with grateful hearts, — and rest assured the evil spirit will depart, and we shall be refreshed, and be well.
Sometimes we are discontented and churlish because some cherished plan of worldly success has failed, — some object upon which we had fixed our hearts has not fully realized our expectations, and the evil spirit, troubles us. But let David's harp be heard. Let the earthly blessings even we enjoy be enumerated. Let us be reminded of what we receive daily and hourly ; of our health, whereas disease is possible at every point, from the head to the heel ; of our food, and our clothes, of our domestic comfort ; of our possession of sound faculties, bodily and mental ; of our having the blessings and privileges of two worlds — the natural and the spiritual ; and if this string sound out in proper fulness, our discontent will disappear like a mote in the sunbeam, and we shall be refreshed and be well.
But, some one has been unkind, baa spoken a harsh word, or treated us ill ; and we resent, and think we do well to be angry. Let the string of redemption be touched. What had become of man, if God had not been forgiving ? Let it speak of Him who forgave His murderers ; of Him who was reviled, but who reviled not again ; who was led like a lamb to the slaughter ; and as a sheep before its shearers is dumb, so He opened not His mouth. And from His life and from His cross let us learn to be patient, gentle, and forgiving. As God in Christ forgave us, let us forgive each other. Thus may we be led to realize those gracious words of His : “Love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again ; and your reward shall be great ; and ye shall be the children of the Highest : for he is kind to the unthankful and to the evil." — Luke vi. 35. He is kind to us, who have been so often forgetful of Him. Let us be kind to each other. Surely, while this sweet music is heard, the evil spirit will depart, and we shall be refreshed and be well.
We are impatient, perhaps, at our spiritual progress. We thought we had been more advanced than we are. We thought our trials have been long enough. We scarcely know what to make of ourselves. We find much which we thought we had finally discarded had only slumbered. We doubt much of our states, and are unhappy. Amalekites, which we thought were all subdued and expelled, have crossed our path again, and we find we have not been as faithful as we thought, and we are melancholy. Let the harp be struck again, and we shall hear its blessed notes. “The Lord is my shepherd : I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures. He leadeth me beside the still waters : He restoreth my soul : He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for His name's sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil ; for thou art with me ; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.'' Ah no, we will neither complain, nor fear. The divine care has been sufficient for us thus far, and will surely be on safeguard onwards. We know not our precise position in this regenerate life, nor is it good for us to know. It is enough that the Lord invites us to cast our care upon Him. He has brought us through a thousand dangers, and He will not leave us now. He is too good to forsake us, too wise not to know what is best for us, and too powerful to be overcome. We will banish every fear, confide in the merciful care of our God and Saviour, and do well the duty of to-day, ever mindful that sufficient for the day is the evil thereof. We will praise the Divine Goodness for all mercies past, and trust Him for every state to come. In all the changing scenes of life and death, one harp shall still tremble with His praise who brought us from darkness to His marvelous light, and we are assured will make us victorious at last. Thus shall our harp resound, like the golden harps of heaven, with —
" Strains that hope and love impart,
Strains that chase away our fear,
Strains that elevate the heart"
Thus will the evil spirit assuredly depart, and we shall be re-freshed, and be well.
All experience teaches that there will be times of mourning and depression for all. Sorrow is induced from outward and from inward causes. Night follows day in the spiritual as well as in the natural world. Sometimes darkness is induced from outward afflictions, loss of health, loss of dear relatives, loss of property, and occasionally all coming thickly upon the heels of each other ; for sorrows, as well as joys, go in groups. These are not themselves temptations, but sometimes they are the occasions of very bitter temptations indeed. Discontent will set in upon the soul ; a feeling that we are hardly dealt with, will deepen within us ; and the gloom will thicken upon us even to despair. And in such nights, how blessed is it to have the spirit furnished with a harp, —a harp of God to cheer us! When we hear the divine counsel, “Come, my people, enter thou into thy chambers and shut thy door about thee ; hide thyself as it were for a little moment, until the indignation be overpast'' (Is. xxvi. 20) ; how salutary is it in our loneliness to have a spiritual harp to cheer us, and to sing those songs of comfort which have been given to cheer us in our spiritual gloom. “Thy statutes have been my songs in the house of my pilgrimage. I have remembered thy name, Lord, in the night, and have kept thy law." — Psalm cxix. 54, 55. To be furnished then with a spiritual harp, — to bring out its varied tones of gratitude and praise, — to utter from our depths of loneliness and sorrow, faith in our God, our Saviour, and our Father, love still fondly clinging to Him, and to His divine law ; a conviction that all His ways are right, and in due time we shall see and acknowledge their surpassing rectitude ; a remembrance of past mercies, and a Job-like trust that at last our deliverer will appear and turn our mourning into joy : these and a thousand other topics will cheer our dark night, and help us to look forward to a coming morning, in which sorrow and sighing will flee away. Make, then, my beloved hearers, for each of you, a heavenly harp. String it with divine truths. Have it ready for tones of praise and adoration. Delight in acknowledging with thankfulness the blessings you daily receive. '' Sing unto the Lord with the harp; with the harp, and the voice of a psalm. With trumpets and sound of comet make a joyful noise before the Lord, the King.” Sweet is the music of the soul when thus honouring and adoring the Giver of every blessing. But still sweeter are its times of sorrow : the spirit needs it then. When fainting from fear, we exclaim, “Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful unto me ; for my soul trusteth in thee : yea, in the shadow of thy wings will I make my refuge, until these calamities be overpast. I will cry unto God most high ; unto God that performeth all things for me.” And if we do this, we shall find, though weeping endureth for a night, joy cometh in the morning. Our anguish will pass away, and in the morning of a new state the beams of the sun of heaven will cleave through the gloom, and the murky shades will disappear. Then can we take a joyful note once more, and sing, “Awake up, my glory, awake psaltery and harp ; I myself will awake early. I will praise Thee, O Lord, among the people ; I will sing unto thee among the nations. For thy mercy is great unto the heavens, and thy Truth unto the clouds.''
Thus shall we have the spirit's music in joy and in sorrow. And the time will come, when the shades of death will gather around us, and nature's voice be altogether hushed. But when our ears no longer are sensible to the tones of earth, they will be all the more opened to the music of heaven. How delighted shall we be to catch its delicious sounds, and to join our harp to theirs, while welcoming us to join their blessed company they take as the burden of their hymn, —
" Soldier of Christ, thy laurels wear,
Thou hast the victory won;
Angelic blessings thou shalt share,
Thy earthly work is done.
Come, Join the burst of holy Joy,
Which through the heavens wall ring ;
O grave, where is thy victory!
O death, where is thy sting!"
Author: JONATHAN BAYLEY --From The Divine Word Opened (1887)