Now these are the last words of DAVID. David the
son of Jesse said, the man who was raised up on high, the anointed of the
God of Jacob, and the sweet psalmist of Israel, said, "Although my house is
not right with God; yet he has made with me an everlasting covenant, ordered
in all things, and sure: for this is all my salvation, and all my desire,
although he make it not to grow." 2 Samuel 23:1, 5
If we treasure, with peculiar fondness, the last sayings
of great men, shall we not, with devout interest, contemplate the closing
days of the sweet Singer of Israel--the great Minstrel of the universal
Church--whose hymns have been chanted for three thousand years, gladdening
and consoling and comforting millions of aching hearts--and hear his "last
words" (2 Sam. 23:1), the last cadence of his harp? Let us watch the shadows
gathering over the Hebrew mountains, as this glorious orb in the old
hemisphere hastens to his setting; as a prince in Israel--poet! warrior!
king! saint! all in one--is about to expire.
We can imagine the aged DAVID, like another Jacob, seated
on his death-couch, or, at all events, with death near at hand. The grandeur
of earthly empire is fast waning and fading from his view. The pulse, that
once beat so manly and strong, is quickly ebbing. His harp had long been
laid aside; but, now that he has climbed the hill Beulah and gotten the
first glimpse of the heavenly plains, its melodies must once more be
awakened--his wrinkled hands must again sweep the strings, before he takes
up the nobler minstrelsy of the skies. In notes full of comfort, full of
joy, not unblended with warning and sadness, thus he sings--"Although my
house be not right with God." Yes, he has made an everlasting covenant with
me. His agreement is eternal, final, sealed. He will constantly look after
my safety and success."
Let us, then, open this dying will and testament of "the
man after God's own heart." Let us examine (as he repeats them) clause by
clause, article by article, in good old David's dying confession of faith;
or (to retain our first figure) let us hearken to the successive notes of
this remarkable death-song, as these are carried to our ears. Oh that we may
make the better part of them, at least, our own, when we come to a similar
The first note from the harp of the dying King is a note
of SADNESS. He begins on the minor key--"ALTHOUGH MY HOUSE IS NOT
RIGHT WITH GOD."
His heart is filled with rapturous joy, standing as he is
at the very gate and threshold of glory; but bitter tears will force
themselves to his dimming eye. At that moment a ray of memory darts across
the past; gloomy anticipations, not regarding himself but others, come
looming through the future. With faltering voice he begins his song--"Although
my house is not right with God."
An old commentator makes the quaint remark on this
verse--"There is an 'although' in every man's life and lot." Paul
was the mightiest of preachers, the noblest of spiritual heroes, but he
had his "although;" for "a thorn in the flesh was sent to buffet him."
Jonah was "exceeding glad because of his gourd," but, a vile
insect lurked unseen at its root. Ezekiel soared, as few prophets
did, with bold wing, amid the magnificent visions of Providence and Grace,
but he was brought down to the dust with wings collapsed--for "the desire
of his eyes was taken away with a stroke."
Ah, hide it under a false appearance as we may, this
world is a chequered scene, its joys are mingled joys, and much
appears to be joy which is not. Many a heart and countenance wears a
disguise of gladness, only to conceal its deep sorrow. We cannot always
judge of a man by what he seems. Looking at the sea of life, we see it
studded over with white sails and gay flags and sparkling waves; we forget
its eddying whirlpools and treacherous reefs and brooding storms. How little
do God's ministers know, in looking down from their pulpits, on apparently
bright and sunny faces, gay attire, and undimmed eyes--how many breaking
hearts there are--sorrows, too deep for utterance, with which a stranger
dare not intermeddle!
No, we cannot let all that looks happy, pass for
unmingled joy. It is often the reverse; like the wretched singer on the
street, who passing from door to door, struggles to warble her gleeful
songs. Singing! It is a poor counterfeit of crushing sorrow.
Singing! The tones are joyous; but little does the passer-by know of
the long tale of woe, the widow's agony, the orphan's tears, the desolate
hearth, which is muffled and disguised under that apparent "glee." Pass from
pew to pew in our churches, or from door to door in our streets, and how few
bosoms indeed would be found in which there is not an "although."
"I am strong and vigorous," says one; "I have health of
body and activity of mind, but, I am doomed to chill poverty!" "I
have wealth," says another; "my cup is full, kind fortune has smiled upon
me; but, I am condemned to drag about with me a suffering frame; my
golden treasures are often a mockery to me, for I cannot enjoy them!" "I
have both health and wealth," says another; "but, yonder grave has plundered
me of what wealth and health never can purchase back. Mine is the saddest of
all 'althoughs;' mine the bitterest 'crook' in the lot; wealth may
come back again; health may again smile upon me; but my children! my
children! These treasured barks in the sea of life that have gone down, no
power can raise them up again, or bring them to my side!"
Reader! is this not a true picture? We know it is. Be
assured it would not be well were it otherwise. Were all bright and sunny
and joyous, you would be apt to "settle on your lees." "The wicked have
no changes," says the Psalmist, "therefore they fear not God." If
the bark were not tossed, the mariners would be asleep. If the thunder were
not sent, the air would remain unpurified. If the earthly lamp were not put
out, you would never lift your eye to Heaven. These "althoughs" are
like the rustling among the leaves, which you have seen causing the timid
bird to hop upwards, and still upwards, from branch to branch, and from
bough to bough, until, attaining the top of the tree, it wings its flight
away to a securer shelter!
Let us proceed to the second clause in the dying
confession of David. He passes now from the plaintive minor key, to happier
notes and a happier theme. "YET"--although my house is not right with God--"Yet."
We may pause for a moment over that little word. It bears
its own message of comfort. It tells us that there are always solaces
in our trials. The "althoughs" of life are generally qualified by
some "yet." There is something to balance our griefs--some
counterpart comfort, so that we can say with the Psalmist, in an earlier
period of his life, "In the multitude of my sorrows within me, your
comforts delight my soul." Listen to his testimony in one of the sorest
and saddest experiences of his life. He was never more sad--an
outcast from his throne--wandering beyond Jordan amid the bitter memories of
departed glory. "Deep calls unto deep at the noise of your
waterfalls--all your waves and your billows are gone over me. YET! the Lord
will command his loving-kindness in the day-time, and in the night his song
shall be with me, and my prayer unto the God of my life." "I will sing of
MERCY and JUDGMENT," says he, in another psalm.
Oh, how many can utter the same in the midst of their
trials! Mark the order. He sings of Judgment, but MERCY comes
first. Our mercies are always greatest. The "yets"
outbalance and overbalance the "althoughs." The prophet
Habakkuk mourns over the "fig-tree without blossom," vines withered and
"fruitless." But amid pining herds and famished flocks, and fields blackened
with dearth and pestilence, "YET," he adds, "will I glory in the
Lord and rejoice in the God of my salvation."
And is it not so with all God's true people? Tried
believer! are there no yets in your night-song?--no mitigating
circumstances in your affliction?--no "tempering of the wind to the shorn
lamb?"--no "staying of God's rough wind in the day of His east wind?" The
bitter cup has its sweet drops--the dark night has its clustering stars of
consolation and solace--the "Valley of Baca" has its wells of joy--the warm
and green and sunny spots in the wilderness, outnumber the dreary.
But David now passes from these introductory notes, to a
full and very glorious burst of gospel triumph.
We have been speaking hitherto of the "yets"--as
contrasting earthly sorrows with earthly solaces; but here
is the greatest of all consolations--a sinner turning to the
overwhelming contemplation of a great Savior. Having touched one
tuneless and broken string, he proceeds from the others to extract a sweet
melody. "Yet he has made with me an everlasting covenant, ordered in all
things, and sure--for this is all my salvation and all my desire."
Let us mark each successive note in this rich anthem. The
theme of it is, "the Everlasting Covenant."
He speaks, first, of THE AUTHOR OF THE COVENANT. "HE
"He," my father's God, the God of Abraham, and Isaac,
and Jacob--the God who found me among the sheep-cotes in Bethlehem--(happy
days! when the pastoral staff was my mimic scepter, the pastoral reed my
simple harp, and the starry skies my temple and palace roof;)--"He,"
"the Lord my Shepherd," has made a "covenant" with me! It was He who
nerved my arm for battle, and tuned my lips for song--led me to the green
pastures of grace, and who has brought me now to the gates of glory!
Never let us forget that it is God, the Eternal Father,
who is the Author of our covenant mercies. That it was He, who from the
depths of a past eternity, planned that covenant. "Yes, I have loved you
with an everlasting love," (Jer. 31:3). "GOD so loved the world."
When the TEMPLE of fallen humanity lay prostrate in the dust, it was He who
resolved on the work of reconstruction--"Behold, I lay in Zion for a
foundation, a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner-stone, a sure
foundation," (Isa. 28:16). When the VESSEL of our eternal destinies was
wrecked and stranded--it was a tide flowing from the sea of His own infinite
love which set it once more floating on the waters. He might have left us to
perish. He might have put a vial of woe into every angel's hand to pour down
vengeance on an apostate race--or He might have commissioned His Eternal Son
to cast the earth into "the wine-press of His wrath." He might have "awoke"
the sword of Justice from its scabbard to be bathed in the blood of the
guilty! BUT "God sent NOT his Son into the world to CONDEMN the world,
but that the world through him might be SAVED."
Let us listen to another note in this covenant
song--another article in this covenant deed. The departing monarch's
PERSONAL INTEREST in it next engages our thoughts. "With me." "He has
made with me."
Blessed assurance! Vain would all its wondrous immunities
and privileges have been, unless David, in opening the charter deed, had
seen his own name in living letters there.
There is nothing that will impart true joy to the soul,
but a believing, personal appropriation of the blessings of salvation. It is
not enough for the sick man to know of a physician--he must make personal
application to him for a remedy. It is not sufficient for the faint and
thirsty traveler to reach a fountain, or to hear the murmur of the limpid
stream, he must partake of it to be refreshed. The brazen serpent was within
sight of the thousands of Israel as they rolled in the desert sand, gasping
in agony--a look saved them--but unless they looked, they
perished! The city of refuge was open to the man-slayer--if he fled
there he was safe; but if he lingered even one footstep without, the avenger
would cut him down! Seek to lay hold, each individually, of the blessings of
the gospel covenant, and to be able to say with the appropriating faith of
the great apostle, "He loved ME, and gave himself for ME;" or, with
the Church in the Canticles, "My Beloved is MINE, and I am HIS,"
And what is there to hinder us from making every blessing
of the covenant our own? Not God, for "He has justified!" not Christ, for
"He has died!" We cannot say with the king of Nineveh, "Who can tell if
God will turn?" He will turn. He HAS turned. To each individual
sinner He declares, "I have no pleasure in the death of him that dies." He
seems to take each of us by the hand, leading us to the patriarch's dying
pillow, and saying, in the words He puts into the mouth of Isaiah, "I
will make an everlasting covenant with YOU, even the sure mercies of DAVID!"
Are we ready to reply, "Come and let us join ourselves to the Lord in
an everlasting covenant that shall not be forgotten?"
But this suggests the next strain in the dying man's
song. It is the PERPETUITY of the covenant--an "everlasting
Everlasting! What a contrast was that word to the
whole former experience of the dying king! He had known of human covenants,
and how little worth they were. His past history and life was a
fitful and changeful one--a tangled web of vicissitude--a long April
day--showers and sunshine.
And so it is, and so it ever shall be, with the ways and
works of man. He builds his Babel towers; and in a few centuries, the bleak
winds, as they sweep over the deserted ruins, ask in bitter derision, "Where
are they?" He rears his hundred-gate cities. Their name has perished. They
have become the wild beast's lair; or the sea-waves howl over their
But it is different with God's works, and with this "work
of all works."' Amid the changes of a changing world, that covenant remains,
"an everlasting covenant."
It is FROM everlasting! Wing your flight back to
the ages of eternity when it originated. How blessed to think that, then,
God the everlasting Father loved you! Christ the everlasting Son had your
name written on His breastplate! God the Holy Spirit was waiting to utter
over the moral chaos, "Let there be light!"
And if it be from everlasting, it is TO
everlasting. Earth's future, like the past, is full of uncertainty. Look, in
these our times, at many of the poor covenants of earth--unstable as water,
they cannot endure--delusive ropes of sand!--nations alternately becoming
friend and foe--the ally turning the aggressor, and the aggressor the ally,
proud ambition trampling in the dust the sacredness of international
compacts. But here is the covenant of the everlasting God. It is a golden
chain, stretching in unbroken links from the eternity that is past, to the
eternity that is to come!
Reader! if you are a saint of God--if you can say with
David "He has made with ME"--what a security is yours! Your
title-deeds are from everlasting. "Predestinated unto the adoption of
children"--"heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ"--you can utter the
unanswerable challenge, "Who shall separate me from His love?"
And observe, just in passing, an incidental clause in the
dying patriarch's confession regarding this covenant--that he was already
in possession of it.
"He HAS made!" Not that he was standing then
at the gate of heaven, about to have that charter put by angels into his
hand, and his name for the first time engraved in it. It was a
compact in which he was already personally concerned in. He had rested on it
during many a weary and forlorn hour in his bypast pilgrimage. "O Lord,
you ARE my God," had often made "the wilderness and solitary place
glad." It was not some far-distant shelter where he had to flee when the
storm overtook him. He was there already. He had long sat under the shadow
of this "great Rock in a weary land!"
Christian! think of your present safety and
security. If you have closed with God's offers of mercy in Jesus, you are
even now within the bonds of this everlasting covenant. You can
now look up to Him with a child's confidence and trust, and utter the
endearing name--"My Father!"
But, to hasten to the remaining words of the dying
minstrel regarding this covenant; observe next, "It is
Which of the works of God are not pervaded by a beautiful
order? Think of the succession of day and night. Think of the revolution of
the seasons. Think of the stars as they walk in their majestic courses--one
great law of harmony "binding the sweet influences of the Pleiades, and
guiding Arcturus with his sons," (Job 38:31, 32). Look upwards; amid the
magnificence of night, to that crowded concave--worlds piled on worlds--and
yet see the calm grandeur of that stately march--not a discordant note there
to mar the harmony, though wheeling at an inconceivable velocity in their
intricate and mysterious orbits!
These heavenly sentinels all keep their appointed
watchtowers. These Levites in the upper skies, light their altar-fires "at
the time of the evening incense," and quench them again, when the sun, who
is appointed to rule the day, walks forth from his chamber. "These wait
all upon you," (Ps. 104:27). "They continue this day according to
your ordinances, for all are your servants," (Ps. 119:91).
The same wondrous order obtains in the covenant of
Grace. We see every attribute of God constellating in beauteous harmony
around the cross of Jesus--Mercy, Truth, Holiness, Justice, casting a
reflected glory on the central throne, and each throwing a luster on the
other. The claims of the law have been fully met. It is not a salvation
founded on some shadowy, indefinite trust in God's mercy; but it is a
salvation based upon everlasting righteousness. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit
have combined to make every stone in the covenant building secure. God
points us to the everlasting mountains, the great barriers of creation,
nature's mightiest types of immutability--and says, "Though the mountains be
shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be
shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed," says the Lord, who has
compassion on you. Isaiah 54:10
Again, it is ordered "in all things."
Not a need, believer, you can have, but what is supplied
here. Christ is your Prophet, Priest, and King; God is your Father;
the Holy Spirit is your Sanctifier, Guide, Comforter; the blessings of the
covenant--justification, adoption, sanctification, peace in life, support in
perplexity, triumph in death, grace here, glory hereafter--all the events of
your life--its incidents, its accidents, its vicissitudes--are the
ordered "all things" of this well-ordered covenant. God--"the God of all
grace"--promises to give you all "all-sufficiency in all things." "No
good thing will he withhold from those who walk uprightly," (Ps. 84:11).
The next note in the dying song is, that this covenant is
What is sure or abiding under the sun? Our health?
The strong frame may in a moment be bowed, and the death pallor mount to the
cheek of manhood. Our wealth? It may breed its own worm, and take
wings and flee away. Our friends? A word--a look--may estrange
some--the grave, in the case of others, may have put its impressive mockery
on the dream of earth's immortality. Our homes? The summons comes to
strike our tent, and leave behind us the smouldering hearths of a hallowed
past--so that "the place that once knew us, knows us no more."
But here is one thing sure. Here is a
covenant which has the pillars of immutability to rest upon. Casting your
anchor within the veil, you will outride the storm; the golden chain of
covenant grace links you to the throne of God! That covenant is as sure as
everlasting truth and power and righteousness can make it. The blood of
Jesus purchased it, and the intercession of Jesus secures it. Mark, it is
not "I have made with Him"--(that would be a poor security;
how the brittle reed would bend to every storm!)--but it is "HE has made
with ME." The saint's watchword and guarantee is this--"Nevertheless, I
am continually with you." "YOU have held me by my right hand," (Ps.
"This," he adds, as the closing note of his song--"this
is all my salvation."
He needed no more. He had sung a short while before, in
that beautiful 72d Psalm, of the glories of the Messiah's kingdom. He had
seen with the eye of faith that kingdom extending from pole to pole, and
from shore to shore. He had heard with prophetic ear, the gospel strain
chanted "from sea to sea, and from the river to the ends of the earth." He
seems to have felt at the time, as if with these glowing anticipations he
could put aside his harp forever--that such would be a befitting close to a
minstrel life--"Amen, and amen," he said; "the prayers of David, the son of
Jesse, are ended."
But no! As he is now really drawing near the end of his
pilgrimage, the spirit of the old man "revives." He had sweetly sung of
Christ as the Savior of a WORLD. But he is now himself about to pass through
the swellings of Jordan--he must again take down that harp to sing of Him as
his own Redeemer. "He is all MY salvation!" Oh, what a word for a
dying man and a dying hour! Christ "all in all." He had no other trust. He
needed no other.
Reader, it is on a dying couch, be assured, you will be
led most deeply to experience the preciousness of an undivided trust in the
Savior. All other cobweb confidences shall then be swept away. It has been
the significant, triumphant utterance of a thousand death-beds, "Neither
is there salvation in any other." Surely if any man could have felt
otherwise, it was David. True, he had great sins; presumptuous sins; but he
had great and manifold graces also--manifold subjects for glorying in, to
which many at least would have been inclined to cleave. As a King, he had
served faithfully his day and generation. He had raised the covenant nation
and people to a high pitch of prosperity. He had the materials collected for
a majestic Sanctuary for his God. He had prepared for unborn millions the
noblest of liturgies. But, see his last deed! He hangs his harp on the cross
of Calvary, saying of a Savior "whom, having not seen," he "loved"--"He
is all my salvation!"
"Other refuge I have none,
Hangs my helpless soul on You!"
Once more; he adds, "He is all my DESIRE," (or "my
delight," as that word may mean.) In comparison with this, (his
covenant God,) all earthly objects had lost their attractions. The stars
that helped to light up the Valley of Tears, were now dimming before a
Brighter Sun; the false glitter of the world, and the magnificence of
empire, were fading before the rays of heavenly glory. He could say, with a
meaning his own words never had before--"Whom have I in heaven but You?
and there is none upon earth that I desire besides You."
We, also, shall come, some day, to see the false and
fascinating joys of earth in their true light--like the bubble on the
stream, dancing its little moment on the surface, and then vanishing
forever! Ah! how cheerless will old age be, if it know no better than
earthly delights, with which to fill the aching void of the jaded spirit;
how helpless, if it find the world's scaffolding removed, and no higher and
nobler prop in its place to bear the sweep of the storm! Take God as "the
strength of your heart," that He may be "your portion forever"--yours in a
living hour, that He may be yours in a dying hour. "He is all my
delight!" Nothing else--nothing less, can satisfy the
cravings of an immortal spirit. All other happiness is a mimic happiness--a
wretched counterfeit of the true--a base alloy, on which Satan may have
stamped the currency of heaven--but it is "of the earth, earthy," and
upon it Death will put an extinguisher forever!
We could almost have wished that the strains of the sweet
Singer of Israel had ended here--that his had been a glorious, unclouded
"SUNSET." But this "bird of Paradise" mounting upwards, and singing so
joyously as he nears the golden eaves of heaven--utters, just as he is
almost lost from our sight, one other wailing note. We dare
not pass it unnoticed, for it is an instructive one, full of solemn
monition. He repeats his opening sentence--"Although he makes it not to
grow." It was a sentence the departing monarch must have uttered through
His happiness would have been complete could he have left
the world with the joyous thought, "God is my covenant God--my salvation--my
delight--my desire. I am soon to bask in His presence; and, what augments
these glorious prospects, is the assurance that I am not alone--that 'my
house,' my family, are also 'so with God'-- I can bid earth farewell,
knowing that my harp will be swept by the hand of my children's children,
that they will rejoice to follow their father's steps, and share in his
incorruptible crown. THIS God shall be their God forever and ever."
But, alas! they are far different thoughts which, for a
moment, choke the utterance of the dying king. That covenant, in their case,
is "not to grow." It is (so far as earth is concerned) a sad
farewell; for more than one of these his own children have embittered his
life. They are to dishonor his name, desecrate his grave, and forsake his
And worse than all is the self-interrogation, Why
all this? Ah! conscience could not fail to recall his own sin, as the sad
and humiliating cause of family degeneracy. The words of Nathan, planted a
thorn in that dying pillow. He was himself guiltily responsible for his
house being "aliens to the" (spiritual) "commonwealth of Israel,
and strangers to the covenant of promise." Reader, see to it, that you
do not embitter your death-bed with the agonizing reflection, that by your
own sins, or by the force of evil example, you bequeath a heritage of woe to
those that come after you, and with anguish like that of David your gray
hairs "go down with sorrow to the grave."
On this we shall not dwell. Let us not mar those notes of
joy by dwelling on this closing dirge of sorrow. Let us rather contemplate a
house that "IS so with God." Let us rather picture the beautiful spectacle
of a whole family, linked in the indissoluble bonds of the one "everlasting
covenant," treading the same pilgrim pathway, and anticipating the same
pilgrim rest--a father and mother bending their knees in prayer for their
little ones--themselves living a life of high-toned consistency--their
children rising up and calling them blessed--in affliction resigned; in
provocation meek; in sickness sympathizing; and the epitaph on the family
gravestone, written by man and ratified by God--"These all died in
faith." "Of such is the kingdom of heaven."
Are we prepared to lie down on our death-beds, and to
exult, as David did, in hopes full of immortality? Can we omit the only note
of sorrow in his song, and make the words of the dying warrior our own? Can
we sing it in life amid all its changes? Can we sing it in affliction, amid
all its tears? Can we sing it as we walk through the valley of death-shade?
Can we take it with us, as our passport at the golden gates?--"HE has
made with me an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things, and sure--for
this is all my salvation, and all my desire!"