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was exposed, and, on the other, the powers with which it was, at any time, endowed; in such comprehensiveness, indeed, that he who seeks to understand the history of the Jews, whether in respect to their freedom or their faith, will always retrace the devotion, the wisdom, and, it must needs be added, the passion, which mark the psalmist, the monarch, and the erring man. No greater bravery, no higher intellect, no deeper piety, than David's were animated in all antiquity. The Christian repeats the longings, the praises, and the prayers that came from him, as he feared, confided, obeyed, inquired, and implored. The scholar finds in his poetry the beacon-fires which shine from the wide and the fervid mind alone; and the child exults in the gallantry which laid Goliath prostrate and spared the cruel Saul when bloodshed was more natural than mercy. One of the happier hours which David knew—happier though in the midst of perils, as it seems, by which the shepherd was beset before he became the king—gave life to the psalm that, more than any other, describes the greatness and the goodness of its author: — “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 righteous paths
For His name's sake.
Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I fear no evil; for Thou art with me;
In the presence of mine enemies;
Thou anointest my head with oil,
My cup runneth over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me, all the days of my life,
And I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.” It is not the author only who is perceived in such a psalm. The crowds which heard it, repeated it, and treasured it for themselves, are beheld upon their knees, with clasped hands and upturned eyes; and though we cannot read their hearts, it does not appear to have been in vain that the Lord vouchsafed to be the shepherd of the flock in Palestine. In the same manner, the intellectual and the physical characteristics of David are seen to be reflected from the people whom he ruled.
This view of David's character may be extended
farther, in more direct illustration of the principle to which this history is devoted; for, in the absence of any other instances as clear, we may return to him, to his rise from a low estate, and to his grandeur of spirit, in seeking after the traces of Jewish liberty. None would presume to doubt that the strong influences he obeyed were those of the religion rather than of the freedom of his country; but without changing our view of the faith he professed in God, or detracting in any degree from the full measure of inspiration he thence derived, it will not be thought a misplaced reflection, that he would not have been what he was under a despotism or amongst a degraded people. Nor is there any contradiction to be raised from the fact that David was a monarch, and therefore able to engross the liberty of his nation, which could itself still be oppressed beneath him. His highest powers appear to have been exerted in the season of his humility and peril ; without which, indeed, he would never have attained to any thing more than a temporal grandeur. It is true that he was a great king; but it was because his people were elevated as well as he he seemed, indeed, to have brought a blessing upon them. The territories of the nation were extended; the old institutions of the desert were partially remodelled” to bear the wider interests dependent upon them, and some new offices” were created to maintain the dignity of the power now supreme; while the conveyance of the ark, “with shouting,” to the new city of Jerusalem appeared to prove that the piety of the king and of his people was still unchangeable. But the evil day succeeded; and David sank, like some of his own psalms, into maledictions and unworthy passions, by which the darker nature of his race is mournfully revealed. The moment of their fall was close to that of their king's, nor could his repentance avail to save them when he was departed. Solomon was the first hereditary monarch, and such royal majesty was bestowed upon him “as had not been on any king before him in Israel.” But after praying for an understanding heart, and building a temple, with an inner shrine, to the worship he was wise enough, at first, to render, he began upon other works, and submitted his heart to contrary desires; fortifying the city for his own strength, and rearing the palace to his own magnificence. Nor was Solomon content with the greater power he obtained or the more lavish pomp in which he lived at home. He sought to extend his dominion over neighbouring nations, and sent his ships, or those of his Phoenician ally, Hiram, to bear his name afar and to bring him back the riches of distant lands. In these pursuits, so managed, apparently, as to endanger faith, justice, and independence, the degradation of the king and of his people was accomplished: sun, moon, and stars, in the very language of Solomon, were darkened, and the clouds returned after the rain. It did not seem that the Jews could cross their boundaries without losing somewhat of the spirit which marked and which became them; nor was it possible that they should serve a monarch whose ambition required their complete submission, without forgetting the God to whom their fathers were kept faithful by the belief that in Him alone resided authority and majesty. Rehoboam succeeded to an inheritance which could have been transmitted only amongst a changed and a sinful nation; and his first words were those of a tyrant: — “My father,” he said, “chastised with whips, but I will chastise with scorpions.” The offspring of despotism like this was such as would have been anywhere conceived and born. Of the twelve Tribes, hitherto closely or feebly united, ten were soon formed into the kingdom of Israel, the other two composing the kingdom of Judah; and the people, whose liberty and whose faith depended upon union, were “scattered upon the hills” from which they could already distinguish the darker doom of conquest and captivity.” It soon became apparent that these calamities were near at hand; yet the memory of times when piety was practised and law was obeyed did not save the Jews from the discord and the wickedness against which they had been forewarned, as well by the mouth of Moses, their most trusted prophet, as in the person of David, their most glorious king. The successive steps through which they were now passing are to be numbered: despotism, disunion, and impiety. That the despotism of Solomon and Rehoboam should have been the first step of the three is another sign that the religion and the prosperity of the Jews were immediately connected with their freedom. One light still burned amongst the unfaithful and the miserable nation. It was that of the Prophets, whose figures alone rise out, like signs and watchmen,” above a dusky multitude of kings, priests, princes, and people. One, like Elijah, confronts the idolatrous monarch, and answers him: – “I have not troubled Israel; but thou, and thy father's house, in that ye have forsaken the commandments of the Lord.” Another, like Jeremiah, appeals to all his
58 As in the case of the priest- seq., XXVIII. 1; and 1 Kings, hood, 1 Chron., Ch. XXIII. Ch. IV.
39 As in those of the royal house- 602 Samuel, WI. 15. hold. 1 Chron., XXVII. 25 et 61 1 Chron., XXIX. 25.