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lows; we trace the progress of evil, and view the sinner in his downward course, with the marks of a condemned and reprobate nature thickening upon him; the fearful plague-spots of the soul, warning the unwary from approach ; but we cannot follow throughout all that fatal progress the cleavings of the spiritual nature to its kindred dust. We cannot track the malignant agencies which were ever busy about the soul to stifle its native reachings onward to futurity, and to make present gratification suffice for its large desires—to lull it asleep on the lap of pleasure, and then leave it, berest of that mysterious strength which had been before imparted, defenceless and alone, to grapple with its now too powerful foes. Oh! how many a harsh judgment would be suspended, how many a word of censure would be retracted, were the eye permitted to gaze upon the fearful workings of the human heart-to behold its fierce and frequent conflicts, “the flesh lusting against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh,” to mark the first small glimmerings of that fire of remorse, which, unless quenched by the blood of sprinkling on this side eternity, will burn on with augmented force for ever, encircling the writhing spirit with a wreath of never-dying flame-to see the vexed, unquiet soul, finding no rest in the dry and sterile professions of earth; entering into a reckless alliance with the spirit of gloom and discontent, of pride and obduracy, of rebellion, and stubbornness, and iniquity! Oh! if there be “joy in heaven” when one of the wilful human family melts in repentance, surely there may be something more than poetry in the assertion that “angels weep” over those things for which man has many a condemnatory verdict,
but few tears! Where is the believer that has escaped “ the pollution that is in the world,” who will not give his individual testimony to the scripture truth, that “if the Lord had not been on his side,” the deep and miry waves of sin, which drown men in destruction and perdition would have even overwhelmed his own soul? Where is the man who, knowing the plague of his own heart, does not see in every sin committed, that which his own nature would have been capable of, had the restraining grace of God been withheld from him? Where is the Christian who does not behold in the deformed portraiture of every open sinner the representation of what he himself might have become, had not God with every temptation made a way of escape for him? It does not come within the limits of our reason to reconcile two points so apparently adverse as the prescience of God with the free agency of man ; but it does belong to a being conscious that he is “tied and bound with the chain of his sins,” to asscribe his deliverance to the hand that sets the captive free-it does belong to him who is saved from the present and future penalties of a corrupt nature, and “kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation,” to attribute all the glory of that salvation to God. The teaching of the Holy Spirit is seen in nothing so much as in the humiliation of soul which it produces, leading it to ascribe every achievement of virtue and obedience to Him“ from whom alone all good works do proceed,” and causing it to burst into thankfulness on every fresh escape from danger, giving glory to Him who alone hath wrought that great deliverance.
Such was the mind of David, when arrested in his
ruthless enterprise against the house of Nabal. Never does “the man after God's own heart” give clearer evidence of bis spiritual adoption and sonship, than when at the head of his armed and vengeful followers he stood self-convicted and repentant at the expostulation of a feeble woman, and burst forth into thankful praise to that God whose over-ruling providence had sent this messenger of mercy to save his soul from sin. There is no hesitation as to the line of conduct which he ought to pursue-no debate as to whether it were safe to stay his men now that their minds were bent on spoil and violence: one glance at the Great First cause, saved a world of bewildering sophisms. The Lord hath withholden thee,” said the pious Abigail, “from coming to shed blood, and from avenging thyself with thine own hand,” and the lips of David responded, “ blessed be the Lord God of Israel, which sent thee this day to meet me.”
It is not the seemingly accidental combination of circumstances on which the mind of the believer rests, when he finds himself suddenly checked in any course on which he had unwarily entered ; it is neither to the strength or weakness, wisdom or folly of the instruments employed to turn him from his purpose, on which he looks; but to the unseen hand that builds a barrier before him, and fences his way, so that he cannot pass on to his hurt. The wild and trackless elements; the mute irrational creation ; the friends or enemies of God may be the means employed to do him this service, and he sees the hand of God alike in all : but sweet indeed it is, when on the point of falling into one of the many pit-falls of the wilderness, we find that the arm which has been sent in mercy to uphold the sliding footstep is that of a NOVEMBER, 1839.
believing brother or sister. Then, as in the language of David, after having ascribed praise to God the Preserver, we can turn a grateful look on the human instrument, and say, “Blessed be thy advice, and blessed be thou !”
We leave the humble and repentant David on his return to “ sojourn in Mesech, and to dwell in the tents of Kedar,” (1 Sam. xxv. i.)—to bear perchance with the scoffs and jeers of the ungodly among his followers, or to still the tumult of those who, when he “ was for peace, made ready for battle"-while we follow Abigail on her homeward way, after having been dismissed with the fraternal benediction, 6. Go up in peace to thine house; see, I have bearkened to thy voice, and accepted thy person.”
There are few perhaps who have not felt the response which the aspect of external nature gives back to the beart, whether in joy or grief, in gladness or depression; so that the same scene shall be made to speak a totally different language to the soul, when viewed under different states of feeling. As Abigail and her attendants retraced their road to Maon, divested of the anxieties and fears which had attended their onset, how perfectly in unison with the joyful yet chastened sense of that great deliverance must have been the bright yet calm decline of that eventful day. Before them were the wooded heights of Hachilah, bathed in the purple of evening, and towering majestically above all the plains of Maon, so lately the lurking-place of him from whom they had just parted; the scene of his last interview with the generous and devoted Jonathan, and of his memorable deliverance from the hand of Saul. (1 Samuel xxiii. 19, 26, 27.) If Abigail's companions were
like-minded with herself, (and from the circumstance of their being so entirely at her disposal it seems probable they were,) it would not have been in silence that they pursued their peaceful way through the solitary places of the wilderness. Their late wonderful preservation from danger-the trials and vicissitudes of David, who now, since the death of the holy Samuel, dared no more to linger even in the wilds and fastnesses of his native soil, but was become an exile in the lands of the heathen-the prophecies which had gone before concerning him, and the seeming improbability of their present fulfilment ; -pity for his misfortunes-admiration of his generosity, and gratitude for his forbearance; these, and such like themes, would occupy the minds of the little party who had so courageously stood in the breach to effect the rescue of their companions. It was night when they reached Maon, and there, what a spectacle presented itself to the eyes of Abigail ! Her husband was “ very drunken”-s0 utterly degraded below the level of reason, that she could not even communicate to him the joyful news of his own deliverance from a bloody and violent death. If ever the sight of another's sin could lawfully move to anger, the present state of him whose mean and despicable conduct had been the cause of so much alarm and danger to the well-disposed among his household, might have excited this feeling; and such it would have assuredly produced in the natural mind. But the heart of Abigail was disciplined by divine wisdom, and filled with that charity which " beareth all things.” She did not break in upon the intemperate mirth of that unholy feast with keen reproaches or resentful expostulations. She “kept