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DISCOURSE III.

THE CHARACTER OF BARZILLAI.

2 SAMUEL xix. 34-37. And Barzillai said unto the

king, How long have I to live, that I should go up

with the king unto Jerusalem ? I am this day fourscore years old; and can I discern

between good and evil? can thy servant taste what I eat or what I drink ? can I hear any more the voice of singing-men and singing-wonen? wherefore then should thy servant be yet a burden unto my lord the

king ?

Thy servant will go a little way over Jordan with the

king: and why should the king recompense it me with

such a reward ? Lel thy servant, I pray thee, turn back again, that I

may die in mine own city, and be buried by the grave of my father and of my mother : but behold thy servant Chimham; let him go over with my lord the king ; and do to him what shall seem good unto thee.

ADVERSITY is the test of friendship. The attentions paid us in the season of prosperity, the smile of welcome, the voice of flattery, and the offers of service, so general in such circumstances, may, in the day of our calamity, be succeeded by neglect, reproach, and indignity. It is the man who shows his regard for us when the world is frowning on us, and who, amidst

cruel persecution, cleaves to us more closely than ever, that we honour as a true friend ; and as to him we form the resolution, that, if ever it is in our power, we will show the deep sense we entertain of his worth.

Such a friend to David was Barzillai. When his crown and his life were sought by his own son, —when the people whom he had done so much to serve rushed, with a few exceptions, into rebellion against him,when every tribute of respect paid to David was likely to be made known to Absalom, and to bring down the vengeance on them which he had sworn against the adherents of his father, he met his rightful sovereign with such refreshments as the time permitted him to prepare, and with the kindest wishes for his safe and happy return to his palace and throne. This fidelity and generosity made a strong impression on the mind of David, and it was not forgotten amidst the exultation of success.

When this venerable man presented himself to his sovereign to express his complacency in his safety, and his wishes for his future establishment and prosperity, David urged him to accompany him to Jerusalem, and to share with him in all the goodness which the Lord had provided for him. Such a tried friend he felt that he could not too highly value; and he who sympathized with him in his misfortunes was in his estimation best entitled to participate in the blessings to which God' was restoring him. Ingratitude has been often charged on kings; and too often has the worthless favourite engrossed the attentions and been loaded with the honours which were due to those whose counsels and whose bravery had established them on their thrones ; but this was not the vice of David; and if it be said of him that he remembered injuries, it is as true of him, that he never forgot a kindness. An offer so tempting to a worldly mind, Barzillai declined in a manner respectful but firm, and assigns such reasons for it as

are most honourable to his good sense and to his piety. It may be useful to consider the excellent spirit manifested in the reply of this good old man, and the example which it holds forth to all who, like him, have come to the last stage of life.

Barzillai lived under the strong and operative impression of his nearness to death. Many are the warnings of death which the aged receive. Of the multitudes with whom they have mingled in the journey of life few now remain ; and the decay of their faculties, both bodily and mental, indicates that they shall soon pass away from the land of the living. Yet it is wonderful with what eagerness many of the old cling to the idea that they have some years to live, and how gratified they are with every compliment from others which strengthens that idea. They call up to their thoughts the instances of extreme age which the curious have recorded, and are ready to flatter themselves that they shall be equally distinguished. Little as life has to recommend it at such periods, none prize it so much as the aged; and even when they do admit they have not long to live, it is sometimes spoken in mere thoughtlessness, or, if it is the dictate of conviction, it is with evident reluctance that it is acknowledged. And many of the old are there who readily own that death is near, whose impressions of this have not the least influence on their

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temper and conduct. They see the winter's storms gathering, but prepare no shelter.

How different was the case with Barzillai! To him the idea of death was familiar, and it had in it nothing un. pleasant. He saw it to be near, and he had no wish that it had been at a distance; he felt that he was now taking his last journey, and that little remained for him now but to die; yet how calm was his mind! Let it not be said that this composure was the mere apathy of blunted feeling; for it appears, from a part of this beautiful narrative, that his sensibility of heart was strong and tender. It arose from his faith in that Redeemer, who was in the fulness of time to abolish death ; from his confidence in the virtue of that sacrifice, which he was to offer to secure his deliverance from the second death; and from the testimony of conscience, that in godly sincerity and active goodness he had maintained his conversation in the world. Neither let it be said that this is attributing a superiority to the terrors of death to ancient believers greater than was possible under that dispensation ; for in this language his friend and sovereign David antici. pates death and his safety in it: “ Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me."

2. In Barzillai we see resignation and contentment under the infirmities of age. Some are careful to conceal these infirmities, employ every device they can think of for this purpose, and are irritated by the language or conduct by which others indicate that

* Psalms, xxiii. 4.

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these are known to them. Nothing appears more ridiculous to the young, the healthy, and the gay, than the attempts of the old to make them believe that they are as nimble or vigorous as ever; the infirmities which in other circumstances would excite compassion, in this case produce only ridicule and contempt. Such infirmities are like to the rotten trunk hid under ivy, or the potsherd covered with silver dross.

Others talk of their infirmities, but it is in the language of fretfulness. Their friends who are with them they abuse for want of sympathy, and threaten with the neglect and the unkindness which they shall meet with when they come to the days of darkness. Visitors have to listen to their minute and peevish details of their pains and languors; and if their attention happens at any time to flag, or if they do not testify their sympathy in such strong terms as were anticipated, the harshest reflections are expressed, and the wish is repeated, with a violence which shows that whatever hath become feeble, their evil temper hath not, “ that they were taken from a scene where there was none to pity them.”

How opposite was the conduct of Barzillai! He states to the king the failure of his bodily senses, and his utter inability to relish what gave so much satisi faction to others. He does this not in the tone of murmur or complaint, but of mild and cheerful acquiescence. He had no wish to be considered by David and his courtiers as in aught different from what he was. He remembered with gratitude the many years in which he had enjoyed with exquisite relish the beauty, the fragrance, and the melodies of nature,

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