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 hour!

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 has made."

"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," (Cant. 2:16).

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 covenant."

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 dismantled bulwarks!

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 ordered"--"ORDERED."

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 "sure."

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. 73:23).

"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 tears.

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 God.

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!"

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