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so sincere, so remarkable, that it is embalmed forever in the heart of a sinful world. Its wondrous depth and intensity almost make us forget the crime itself, which nevertheless pursued him into the immensity of eternal night, and was visited upon the third and fourth generation in treason, rebellion, and wars. “Be sure your sin will find you out,” is a natural law as well as a divine decree. It was not only because David added Bathsheba to the catalogue of his wives; it was not only because he coveted, like Ahab, that which was not his own, — but because he violated the most sacred of all laws, and treacherously stained his hands in the blood of an innocent, confiding, and loyal subject, that his soul was filled with shame and anguish. It was this blood-guiltiness which was the burden of his confession and his agonized grief, as an offence not merely against society and all moral laws, but also against his Maker, in whose pure eyes he had committed his crimes of lust, deceit, and murder. “ Against Thee, Thee only, have I sinned, and have done this evil in Thy sight !” What a volume of theological truth blazes from this single expression, so difficult for reason to fathom, that it was against God that the royal penitent felt that he had sinned, even more than against Uriah himself, whose life and property, in a certain sense, belonged to an Oriental king.
"Nor do we charge ourselves,” says Edward Irving,
“with the defence of those backslidings which David more keenly scrutinized and more bitterly lamented than any of his censors, because they were necessary, in a measure, that he might be the full-orbed man to utter every form of spiritual feeling. And if the penitential psalms discover the deepest hell of agony, and if they bow the head which utters them, then let us keep those records of the psalmist's grief and despondency as the most precious of his utterances, and sure to be needed by every man who essayeth to lead a spiritual life; for it is not until a man, however pure, honest, and honorable he may have thought himself, and have been thought by others, discovereth himself to be utterly fallen, defiled, and sinful before God, — not until he can, for expression of utter worthlessness, seek those psalms in which David describes his self-abasement, that he will realize the first beginning of spiritual life in his own soul.”
Should we seek for the cause of David's fall, for that easy descent in the path of rectitude, — may we not find it in that fatal custom of Eastern kings to have more wives than was divinely instituted in the Garden of Eden, — an indulgence which weakened the moral sense and unchained the passions? Polygamy, under any circumstances, is the folly and weakness of kings, as well as the misfortune and curse of nations. It divided and distracted the household of David, and gave rise to incessant intrigues and conspiracies in his palace, which embittered his latter days and even undermined his throne.
We read of no further backslidings which seemed to call forth the divine displeasure, unless it were the census, or numbering of the people, even against the expostulations of Joab. Why this census, in which we can see no harm, should have been followed by so dire a calamity as a pestilence in which seventy thousand persons perished in four days, we cannot see by the light of reason, unless it indicated the purpose of establishing an absolute monarchy for personal aggrandizement, or the extension of unnecessary conquests, and hence an infringement of the theocratic character of the Hebrew coinmonwealth. The conquests of David had thus far been so brilliant, and his kingdom was so prosperous, that had he been a pagan monarch he might have meditated the establishment of a military monarchy, or have laid the foundation of an empire, like Cyrus in after times. From a less beginning than the Jewish commonwealth at the time of David, the Greeks and Romans advanced to sovereignty over both neighboring and distant States. The numbering of the Israelitish nation seemed to indicate a desire for extended empire against the plain indications of the divine will. But whatever was the nature of that sin, it seems to have been one of no ordinary magnitude; and in view of its consequences, David's heart was profoundly touched. “O God!” he cried, in a generous burst of penitence, “I have sinned. But these sheep, what have they done ? Let thine hand be upon me, I pray thee, and upon my father's house!”
If David committed no more sins which we are forced to condemn, and which were not irreconcilable with his piety, he was subject to great trials and misfortunes. The wickedness of his children, especially of his eldest son Amnon, must have nearly broken his heart. Amnon's offence was not only a terrible scan. dal, but cost the life of the heir to the throne. It would be hard to conceive how David's latter days could have been more embittered than by the crime of his eldest son,-a crime he could neither pardon nor punish, and which disgraced his family in the eyes of the nation. As to Absalom, it must have been exceedingly painful and humiliating to the aged and pious king to be a witness of the pride, insolence, extravagance, and folly of his favorite son, who had nothing to commend him to the people but his good looks; and still harder to bear was his rebellion, and his reckless attempt to steal his father's sceptre. What a pathetic sight to see the old warrior driven from his capital, and forced to flee for his life beyond the Jordan! How humiliating to witness also the alienation of his subjects, and their willingness to accept a brainless youth as his successor, after all the glorious victories he had won, and the services he had rendered to the nation ! David's history reveals the sorrows and burdens of all kings and rulers. Outward grandeur and power, after all, are a poor compensation for the incessant cares, vexations, and humiliations which even the most favored monarchs are compelled to accept, — troubles, disappointments, and burdens which oppress both soul and body, and induce fears, suspicions, jealousies, and animosities. Who would envy a Tiberius or a Louis XIV. if he were obliged to carry their load, knowing well what that burden was ?
Then again the kingdom of David was afflicted with a grievous famine, which lasted three years, decimating the people, and giving a check to the national prosperity; and the Philistines, too, whom he thought he had finally subdued, renewed their ancient warfare. But these calamities were not all that the old king had to endure. A new rebellion more dangerous even than that of Absalom broke out under Sheba, a Benjamite, who sounded the trumpet of defiance from the mountains of Ephraim, and who rallied under his standard ten of the tribes. To Amasa, it seems, was intrusted the honor and the task of defending David and the tribe of Judah, to which he belonged, — the king being alienated from Joab for the slaying of Absalom, although it had ended that undutiful son's rebellion.