(Concluded from page 358.)
Absalom is proclaimed king. David, who in truth is the king of Israel, and those whose hearts Absalom has not stolen, take their flight from Jerusalem. Then in a short time, in the midst of the conflict between the forces of Absalom, and the king of Israel, Absalom is slain. What now will the poor dupes of the usurper do I “All Israel fled every one to his tent.” – 2 Samuel xviii. 17. Let us follow them to their tents, and inquire how their affairs stand now.
Well brethren, how are matters now? What are your prospects? Ah! we have observed lying vanities, and have forsaken our own mercies, and mercy hath forsaken us. We have sown to the wind, and in truth, as you see, we have reaped the whirlwind. He, whom we in our mad rebellion made king over us, is no more, Absalom is dead. While he was yet alive did he fulfill his promises and settle any suit or controversy among the brethren! Ah no! All remains in dire confusion; no trouble has been alleviated, but our afflictions have multiplied. The troubles of our heart are enlarged, all is hopeless now; sorrows encompass us, and endless distresses we see. Where now is he that allured us after him; that led us away captive by his lying promises! No help can he afford us, Absalom is dead. To whom shall we go, to whom shall we turn? Unto him from whom we have basely revolted? How could a rebel lift up his face in the presence of the king? Were King David to ask, On which side wert thou in the recent troubles in Israel? Wert thou lately in insurrection against my throne? how I should sink down in utter fear and shame before his grieved majesty! What apology could I offer for my conduct! As it was with these wretched Israelites in their tents, so the children of God, in their estrangement from Christ their King, through the subtilties of antichrist, are eventually brought into sore straits. The settlement of all difficulties, the determination of all things pertaining to the house of God, the doctrine, the government that alone yields peace and blessedness to the believer, and to the churches of God, proceeds from the throne of Christ our King. His gospel, the perfect law of liberty, is the only law of the kingdom. Anything else is alien, is an invasion, insurrection, treason. Let it wear what mask it may, and though attired as an angel of light, it is Absalom. Beware of Absalom, 0 child of God. “Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God. Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving. Pray for the peace of Jerusalem. Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints, and for me, [saith the apostle Paul] that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in bonds: that therein I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.” To pour out our hearts at the mercy-seat of our gracious God, this is our safe retreat. He will succor us, he will defend us, he will instruct us, he will preserve us from all evil, that we may walk to his everlasting praise. Though unbelief, Satan and antichrist whisper base and cruel insinuations against Jesus our King, the time shall come when these enemies of the church shall be found liars unto us, and we shall tread upon their high places. What was the termination of this insurrection against the throne of David? It ended very blessedly. Here surely we have an illustration of that proverb, “Better is the end of a thing than the beginning thereof.” – Eccles. vii. 8. King David did not send his officers through the land to apprehend and punish with death those lately in arms against his throne; but the first step to win back their allegiance was his own act. “Then the king arose, and sat in the gate. And they told unto all the people, saying, Behold, the king doth sit in the gate. And all the people came before the king: for Israel had fled every man to his tent.” – 2 Samuel xix. 8. This act of the king was well understood by the tribes of the Lord. It denoted that he, their king and judge, was willing to receive his people, to accept their confession of allegiance. It signified that he was their kind and righteous king, to hear all their suits, and causes, and to render judgment unto all Israel. “Behold, the king doth sit in the gate.” This was the utter refutation of Absalom’s scandalous lies. What else but antichrist would dare intercept our approaches to Jesus, and poison our minds with its pestilential breath, saying, He will not hear thee, there is no judgment and relief for thee; Christ will not hear thee? This did Absalom in the type. Absalom thou art unbelief, thou art antichrist, thou art the very devil, O Absalom, thou liar and thief. Precious Jesus, thou hast said, “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.” – John vi. 37. Christ our Redeemer and King surpasses all the types and shadows, for in his infinite understanding he knows our downsitting and our uprising, and understands our thoughts afar off. When we have turned aside from him he well knows our oppressions, and our low estate when refuge fails us, and no man cares for our soul. Though in our discomfiture we have fled every man to his tent, though far off from God and the Lamb we feel to be, he knows our disconsolation and shame. “He shall deliver the needy when he crieth; the poor also, and him that hath no helper. He shall spare the poor and needy, and shall save the souls of the needy. He shall redeem their soul from deceit and violence: and. precious shall their blood be in his sight.” As we pursue the narrative of the reconciliation of the tribes of Israel to the sceptre of David, we shall see very blessedly illustrated the work of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of God’s elect. Jesus has told us, “The Comforter which is the Holy Ghost whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance whatsoever I have said unto you.” Those Israelites who have fled every man to his tent, have stirred up within them remembrances of former times, “All the people were at strife throughout all the tribes of Israel, saying, The king saved us out of the hand of our enemies, and he delivered us out of the hand of the Philistines; and now he is fled out of the land for Absalom. And Absalom, whom we anointed over us, is dead in battle.”
We wept when we remembered Zion. (Psalm cxxxvii. I.) “Jerusalem remembered in the days of her affliction, and of her miseries, all her pleasant things that she had in the days of old.” – Lam. i. 7. The psalmist also saith, “The enemy hath persecuted my soul; he hath smitten my life down to the ground: he hath made me to dwell in darkness, as those that have been long dead. Therefore is my spirit overwhelmed within me: my heart within me is desolate. I remember the (lays of old; I meditate on all thy works; I muse on the work of thy hands. I stretch forth my hands unto thee: my soul thirsteth after thee, as a thirsty land.” Read also, dear brethren, the seventy-seventh Psalm, so expressive of the condition of God’s people in their desolations. If you, dear child of God, have been in a backsliding state, if through thine unbelieving thoughts, or from the pernicious influence of false principles, thy familiar intercourse with the King has been interfered, ah, then thou knowest the heart-sickening consequences of chasing delusive shadows. O, there is nothing like our God, nothing can compare with the spiritual worship of the true worshipers of the everlasting God, and that worship is in spirit and in truth. All worship that is contrary to the doctrine of the gospel, is a dismal mockery, and never yielded to any soul peace and joy before the Lord, and should any dear child of God be entangled in errors, he will be brought into sore straits, and in due time, like these Israelites of whom I am writing, we shall be found hiding ourselves within our tents, trembling and ashamed, and covering ourselves with reproaches. But our God will never give us up to utter despair. We remember. The Comforter brings to our remembrance the days that are past, wherein he was our defense. We recount former mercies; we remember how kind our God was to us in our perplexities. O how these memories melt the heart; till we sigh and weep over our wanderings from our gracious King and Redeemer. As one out in the wild, howling wilderness, our bleating voice is heard, “I have gone astray like a lost sheep: seek thy servant, for I do not forget thy commandments.” Ah, beloved of God, what does any religion amount to where there is the absence of spiritual communion with God! The communion of the Holy Ghost. Suppose that one esteems himself competent to understand and contend for every principle of the doctrine of Christ, what of it all if one is a stranger to communion with the Holy One of Israel? O give to my soul that life divine, with all its attendant moans and desires and fervent cries, and peace and joy, that are inseparable to the experience of eternal life while in this tabernacle. Let me live with thee, and walk with thee; hold me with thy hand and talk with me by the way, O my God. Those trembling and repentant Israelites within their tents remembered the valiant acts of David, and the deliverances from their enemies that had been their heritage under his gracious and triumphant reign. O, how they must have reproached themselves for their rebellious behavior. “Then King David sent unto the elders of Judah, saying, Ye are my brethren; ye are my bones and my flesh: wherefore are ye the last to bring back the king.” What a wondrous and touching message was this from a king, to defeated rebels; Deeper than this type is the relationship and oneness of Christ and the church. The nearest impress of the glorious revelation that Christ and his people are one, is the marriage union of the husband and wife. But even this among creatures, as it is founded and has its subsistance in a mortal life, is dissolved and ends in the death of either the husband or wife. (Romans vii. 2, 3.) But Christ and the church are in indissolvable, indestructable union, subsisting in life eternal, and this life is in the Son of God. And as Adam, who is the figure of him that was to come, said of Eve, “This is now bone of my bone, and flesh of my flesh.” So the chosen in Christ Jesus are members of his body, of his flesh and of his bones. “For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church.” O, when afar off, estranged by our waywardness and subtle temptations, and our sweet intercourse with the King is suspended, then our confusion is ever before us. But the message of the King enters our tents, saying, “Ye are my brethren, ye are my bones and my flesh.” Is this not too good to be true? Would it not seem more fit, after such ungrateful conduct, that Jesus should nevermore mention any relationship subsisting between us? O, if he were not God he would be ashamed to call us brethren, so vile is our behavior. But our King is God and man, the Incarnate Son of God. He rests in his love, and changeth not, therefore we are not consumed. Grace is poured into his lips, and his kind words enter into our hearts. He quells our rebellion against his sceptre, and his messages of love chase from our tents our fears and misgivings, and cast to the ground the cruel insinuations of Absalom. This message from the King tells to the sinful ones his love. “Ye are my bones and my flesh.” No man yet hateth his own flesh, but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church.” Thus he will deal with these subdued and repentant rebels, even as a man would deal with his bones and his flesh, tenderly, compassionately. O, the precious promises of the Lord to his wayward people! How they melt us in loving subjection at the feet of Jesus, when the Holy Spirit remembers them to our souls. Thy word hath quickened me.
“Thou on my head in early youth didst smile,
And, though rebellious and perverse meanwhile,
Thou hast not left me, oft as I left thee,
On to the close, O Lord, abide with me.”
“And David bowed the heart of all Judah, even as the heart of one man: so that they sent this word unto the king, Return thou, and all thy servants.” O, the love that has conquered us, that has healed our backslidings! Thou hast loved us freely, and we are forever thine, O Lord, our gracious King and Redeemer. For a time other lords may have dominion over us, but our service to all such is bondage. No real relief and enlargement from the difficulties that attend the lives of the children of God can any power vouchsafe to us. Only Christ Jesus our Lord, only the truth ministered to our soul by the Holy Spirit, can afford us spiritual health and peace. Only in affectionate submission to the government of Christ our King, can happiness, peace and prosperity, be found in the churches. Every word of our Savior, every precept of the gospel, is precious, and when by the Holy Spirit our hearts are bowed before our King in affectionate obedience, how blessed is our lot. Consider the following Scripture as an illustration of the blessedness of yielding ourselves unto God as those that are alive from the dead: “Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed.” How long could troubles, emulations and strifes exist among dear brethren when this royal law is fulfilled? O, thou chiefest among ten thousand, come and reign over us, and bow our hearts to thy sceptre. Have we suits and controversies, and causes that vex us, let us away to the throne of Zion’s King, and pour out our hearts before him. He will be a refuge for us. Let us wait for his law, and may mercy and grace be given us to walk in his paths. Beware lest Absalom turn thee away.
FRED. W. KEENE.
North Berwick, Maine.
Signs Of The Times
Volume 66., No. 13
JULY 1, 1898.