It is He That giveth salvation unto Kings, Who delivereth David His servant from the hurtful sword.
Scarce any that hear this verse rehearsed, but sees that it fits both to this our purpose and time. The time. Here is mention of Kings, of salvation given to Kings, of one a matchless King David in danger and delivered; from the sword, in danger and delivered: all most apposite.
For behold Kings, Kings to whom God hath given salvation; hath given salvation, and doth give salvation, and I pray God He may ever give it, much salvation for many years. Behold our King His servant, whom this day now six years since, I say this very day, God delivered, wonderfully delivered from the hurtful sword. Verily these agree; whilst at once we hear the words of the text, we have as it were a commentary thereof before our eyes.
But for our purpose. This meeting, and this not only honourable but also sacred assembly, what means it, what intends it? What else than to give thanks to God for salvation given to the King? And what else, I pray you, doth this verse sound forth, than thanks also to God for salvation given to David.
For in the preceding verse the Psalmist took his harp, [235/236] tuned the strings, promised a song, a new song in this verse. The sum of this verse (for the next verse is a prayer, neither hath it any song in it) and the argument is giving of thanks, and of thanks for no other benefit (although there were many more, yet for no other benefit) than the King's deliverance. That namely, the Saviour of Kings, to wit God--for this is God's periphrase, 'Who gives salvation to Kings'--that this Saviour of Kings had delivered His servant David from some eminent danger; yet from no other danger than 'the hurtful sword,' that is, the traitor's.
And thus surely doth this verse, and thus then also the people of Israel praised Him for their King's deliverance: 'It is He That giveth salvation unto Kings, Who delivereth David His servant from the hurtful sword.'
And we indeed here to-day sing the very same thing, every way the same, one only word a little changed: 'It is He That gives salvation unto Kings, it is He Who hath delivered' James 'His servant from the perilous sword.' It is He That hath done this, it is He Whom for this delivery all of us have met here to-day to praise in a festival, an assembly, a song.
And this verily is usual with God, and surely no new thing, to give 'salvation to Kings.' This is His ancient goodness; yet of this ancient and no new goodness ever and anon He shews new examples, yea in our age He hath shewn them; nor doth He cease too shew even to this day. For this very thing which to-day we celebrate, although it be new, and surely new it is, yet it is not the last. For since God hath vouchsafed us him, one and again another hath befallen us, wherewith God hath lately blessed us. Twice or thrice hath God given deliverance, twice or thrice hath God delivered him; and (to let pass other, surely those most admirable) He That six years since hath 'delivered him from the hurtful sword,' very lately, this year, this very year, hath delivered him from the perilous gunpowder. Thus yearly He heaps upon us new deliverances. It shall be our duty here to imitate David, and for several new precedents to sing new songs; for several new deliverances, new thanksgivings. So shall He every year heap upon us new deliverance: rehearsing old, He will enrich us with new; nor shall there ever be wanting [236/237] new matter for a song, if a new song be not wanting. If old ones be not forgotten, a new harvest of thanksgiving shall yearly increase unto us.
And thus briefly, touching the scope of this verse. It is an easy task to divide it. It falls asunder of it own accord, and severs into two parts. The one a thesis, the other an hypothesis. The thesis is concerning His care of Kings in general: 'It is He Who gives salvation to Kings.' The hypothesis is touching His care of David in particular: 'It is He Who delivereth David His servant from the hurtful sword.' Or indeed, because we have to do with music, and are to entreat of a song, His general care of Kings is as the cantus, cantus firmis: His particular care of David is as the discantus, or cantus fiiguratis. Yet for David, although God hath diversely delivered him both many ways and many times, notwithstanding he insists on this alone, which is proper both to this season and to us, because 'He delivered him from the perilous sword.'
I. I will first speak of the safety of Kings in general, and also both of the cause of it, and manner of giving it.
II. Next of King David's deliverance.
III. Lastly of our King.
Quæ ego dum sic singula complectar, &c
It is He That giveth salvation unto Kings, &.
I. I promise first to speak of the thesis.
'Who gives salvation,'
'Who gives it to Kings.'
To give salvation: so well it agrees to the Divine nature to shew Himself a deliverer, that God doth challenge that as native, proper, and peculiar to Himself: 'I, even I am the Lord, and besides Me there is no Saviour.' Thus He is a Saviour; save therefore He will.
And indeed God will 'save both man and beast,' so wonderful is His mercy, saith our Prophet. Even thus also the nature of beasts is partaker of this saving power in God; it is He Who gives salvation, even to brute beasts.
Yet even to brute beasts; yet so, that nevertheless the Apostle doubts not to demand and ask, 'Doth God take care for oxen? Doth He not rather say it for our sake?' As [237/238] though His care for them, in respect of that to us, might be esteemed no care at all. Neither is it. For we are His chief care; thence Job speaks unto Him on our behalf, as it were by a peculiar title, 'I have sinned, what shall I do unto Thee, O Thou preserver of men?' He it is Who gives salvation unto men. He is the preserver of men, but especially of Kings, ma£lista diotref_wn basil»wn, as the heathen poet sings not amiss, for they more than all kind of men are God's delight and care; the name qeoful£kton agrees to the King more than others. For 'great deliverance giveth He to the King,' saith the Psalmist. He also saith, 'He is the saving health of His anointed. In whomsoever He shews Himself wonderful, 'He is wonderful in the Kings of the earth,' as he saith, Psalm the seventy-sixth, and twelfth verse. 1. He is surely wonderful in them, in preserving them. 2. In none more. 3. In none so wonderful. Thus by these three steps we ascend to our thesis; 'It is He That giveth salvation unto Kings.'
To Kings I say, in general; for touching Kings, God's servants, I shall discourse more fully when I come to the hypothesis concerning David His servant.
'It is He Who gives salvation unto Kings.' He it is. Therefore let Kings know to Whom they ought to ascribe their deliverance, even to Him. There is no safety for them 'in the strength of a horse,' namely, not in their cavalry; 'not in the legs of man,' namely, not in their infantry; not in 'the ships of Tarshish,' namely, not in their naval forces. 'A horse is a vain thing to save a man.' A ship is a weak vessel, and cannot save. Finally, 'Vain is the help of man,' 'salvation belongeth to the Lord.' His it is; look up thither unto Him. He it is Who tells you from heaven, 'I am your salvation.' Let Kings know this.
Let the people also know whither, when all is done, they ought to lift up their eyes, whom to implore when they would have their King safe; namely, to the Lord to Whom salvation belongs. 'O Lord save the King.' 'Hosanna in the highest.'
Hence let rebels amongst the people know, that God hates those who labour to snatch that salvation from Kings which God gives them; let loyal people know, that they are God's [238/239] friends and God theirs, who desire the salvation of Kings. For God desires the very same thing. 'It is He That gives salvation unto Kings.'
I come nearer. 'Who gives salvation.' What salvation? Surely each kind, whether that of physicians, of a sound and healthful body against diseases; namely, as they are mortal. For, as Daniel's image may teach us, every Kingdom stands upon feet of clay. Kings also are the very same treasures of their people; but yet 'treasures in earthen vessels.' Therefore they need this salvation.
True therefore it is should we mean this, for God gives this also. True indeed, but not proper to this place. For this salvation, as our text tells us, is from the sword, not sickness; rather from malignant manners than malignant humours; from external force, not from internal distemper. I therefore apply myself to that. 'He gives salvation,' He gives this salvation 'to Kings;' to Kings before others.
I now demand the cause, and more near and inwardly search God's will. Why to them before others? Is it because Kings have need of safety, and the donor of safety more than others? Yes verily, because they have; forasmuch as to them, more than others, that malignant one shews himself more malicious; (for thus kat' xoc_n, St. John in his first Epistle often calls that wicked spirit) he it is that destroys Kings, namely, the angel of the bottomless pit, of whom the same John speaks. 'His name in Hebrew is Abaddon; in Greek Apollyon,' that is, a destroyer. A destroyer; a name directly opposite to God's name. His name is Saviour. And the name of His Son, Jesus, a Saviour also--an Angel interpreting it. They give salvation. But he is Abaddon, he is destroyer who chiefly desires this, to snatch away, to take, wholly to overthrow this salvation, all the salvation of all. And mark with me how earnestly he endeavours it.
We said this formerly: God saves even beasts, much more men. And Princes most of all. This Abaddon sets up himself against God, and is only bent to destruction. Yea, rather than not destroy, he is busied in destroying brute beasts; which very thing is evident in the silly swine, which Christ permitting him he carried headlong and choked in [239/240] the sea. Thus he it is who takes away safety even from brute beasts.
But he covets rather to destroy any man, any one man, than whole flocks and herds of cattle, as Job witnesseth. Thus he it is who takes away salvation from men.
But to Kings especially, beside and above other mortals, he is most hatefully malicious; and if any King be eminent in piety, as David, him he chiefly hates. He indeed always mediates on mischief against Kings, he desired to destroy even Ahasuerus, a heathen King, only because he was a King, by his eunuchs. Yea, David also! For how often was he 'thrust at,' yea overthrown that he might perish; and now at the very point of destruction unless God had delivered him, as he speaks of himself, Psalm the hundred and eighteenth, and thirteenth verse. He it must be, in every respect, Who can give salvation to them. It is the other who takes it away.
But why doth that Abaddon so zealously devise to bring destruction upon Kings, to take away their safety? What have they only done? Surely because there is none who can be to him, who can to his kingdom, a more capital enemy than Kings. For it is by their power and authority, that what likes may not be lawful to every one--I will use the words of Scripture--that 'every man may not do (unpunished) whatsoever is right in his own eyes;' which every one both might and did do, when there was no King in Israel. Now for every man to have power to do whatsoever seems right in his own eyes seems right in his own eyes unpunished, this verily that Abaddon earnestly desires it; it must needs please him well, his kingdom may well prosper, if things go thus.
For then it will seem right to the eyes of Micah to make, and set up, an idol for himself in his private house. And what is lawful for Micah, why not for another also? Thus, look, how many families, so many new prodigious idols. And that is indeed a miserable Church where this is suffered.
It will also seem right to the Danites to rob, to steal, not only to break through the walls of Micah's house, but also as Laish, even to pillage and spoil whole cities, to destroy all, not save a man. Then ravishings of women, and whoredoms not to be named, will seem right in the eyes of the men of [240/241] Gibeah. Lamentable indeed is the face of that kingdom where there is such work. That these and such like things may be done, this surely he wills earnestly, and that Abaddon would purchase this at a high rate. But that these and such things as these may not be done, Kings doubtless are his hinderers. Wherefore he labours by all means to take them away, to take their safety from them, and in this he is wholly employed.
First, and before all things, he desires anarchy. If that may not be, then would he incontinently destroy Kings one after another. That so kingdoms might shake 'as a reed in the water,' which usually happens in often change of Kings, never enjoying a settled rest. Whereby, Being always under one new King or another, they can never get strength against evil manners and wicked men. We have already seen for what reason: it will be worth our labour to know, by what means also that Abaddon seeks to destroy Kings. And this is plain from the same chapter, in the ninth of the Apocalypse. For there he hath his emissaries, 'locusts ascending out of the smoke of the pit,' whose king he is, and those also, as well as their king Abaddon, are sworn enemies to Kings. He suborns these for this attempt. But who are these locusts? A kind of creatures who have a man's face, women's hair, but lion's teeth, and their tails the stings of scorpions. No other surely, if Fathers which interpret this place are to be heard, than those very same which our Prophet David twice in this Psalm calls, 'strange children,' whom St. John afterward perceived to be locusts. These did David call 'strange children' long before. For that kind of people was neither unknown to David, neither yet are they unknown to us. Even our age brings forth 'strange children.' Strange indeed. A kind of men which style themselves ----- Of the society of Jesu. But Jesus, as is aforesaid, is a Saviour. Wherefore these also, if from Him they ought to minister salvation. But is not this a strange thing, a monster-like, that these who from Jesus a Saviour have made a name for themselves are accounted most wicked, even the ambassadors of Abbadon, traitors to Kings, the over-throw of kingdoms in what state soever they get footing? [241/242] Are not these verily 'strange children,' who under a strange Jesu by name every where attempt practices most estranged from the nature of Jesus; namely, destructions, treasons, seditions? And that you may know that these also of ours are of the same lineage with those of David. Their marks are every way alike: Filii alieni, saith David, mentiti sunt mihi. Even the same thing which he saith twice in this Psalm: 'Their mouth speaketh a lie, their right hand of iniquity.' And are not these of ours just like them? Only except what David calls lying, that they call equivocation. A diverse title, no different things. For 'their right hand' is equally wicked. Because , where they engage their hand for faithful dealing, or lay their hand on those sacred Evangels to win belief by religious oaths, 'their right hand' is wicked and deceitful in both; both ways, both mouth and right hand is estranged from their mind, their mind estranged from God, at least from the true God; for from an equivocal god, that is, 'the god of this world,' it is not perchance estranged. And now he employs the helps and assistance of these, whether if you please to call them 'locusts,' or 'strange children,' to whet these perilous swords, to mingle poisons, to give fire to powder-plots. To whom their king Abaddon gives in strict charge, these being his chieftains, that which formerly the King of Syria commanded his captains: 'Fight neither with small nor great, save only against the King.' But destroy him with sword, with fire, with poynado [i.e. dagger], with poison, with powder; despatch him what way soever.
-------- Rege incolumi mens omnibus una,
Amisso rupere fidem.
(as the poet [Virgil] very elegantly) I conclude. Though One there be Who would give salvation, there is another who would take it away; though One there be Who would stretch forth a gracious shield, there is another who brandisheth a 'perilous sword.' Though there be true-born children which desire their safety, there are 'strange children' which wish their ruin. Though there be a Jesus Who can save, there is Abaddon who would destroy. Though there be Christ Who would favour them, there is an Antichrist--neither is he only called Antichrist because he is an adversary to Christ the [242/243] Lord, but also because he is an enemy to the anointed of the Lord--I say there is an Antichrist, who would be mischievous and quickly destroy them, either with 'the perilous sword' or else a powder-plot.
You have now already seen both why and how that Abaddon would destroy Kings. Next, you shall briefly hear both wherefore and by what means God would give them salvation. First wherefore, wherefore doth God give salvation to Kings? Namely, because they are His vicegerents upon earth; because they are in God's place, because they represent His person; because they are His 'ministers,' His chief ministers. Whereby is shewn that there is a kind of necessity for God to save those, namely, because they are His ambassadors. Surely those that are Kings' legates into foreign countries, those who are viceroys and presidents in provinces here at home, it hath always been accounted part of princely wisdom by all means to protect them, to vindicate them from contempt. For the honour of an ambassador is his honour that sends him, and the viceroy's dishonour redounds upon the King. Even our Prophet David, when those were reproachfully handled whom he sent instead of himself to rejoice with King Hanun, he judged himself to be violated in them. The disgrace, as though it had been proper to himself, he severely revenged. Thus it is with supreme King, too Whom our Kings are viceroys; His own honour, except Kings be safe and inviolate. Even for His own honour cannot stand safe and inviolate. Even for His own honour He will preserve them safe. For 'by Him they reign,' by Him they 'are ordained.' By Him they are what they are. All come to this point, that it belongs to Him, in some sort behoves Him, that whom He makes, them He should also favour; and whom He favours, that they may not be wronged; He is also their revenger if they be violated. This is one reason why He should give salvation unto them.
Further, to this I also add another.
Good desires His people's safety, He desires all our safety; for the benefit of salvation the more general it is, the more heavenly it is. The Lord said to Jonas, Is it meet that thou shouldest desire the preservation of the gourd? 'And should not I spare Nineveh, that great city, wherein are a [243/244] hundred and twenty thousand persons which cannot discern between their right hand and their left?' Now He gives salvation to Kings, thereby to derive it to the people, fitly to them, that by them it may extend to all. For thence it is that He not only calls the magistrates gods--'I have called you gods'--but also saviours. For so it is in the book of Judges, as often as mention is made of the supreme magistrate. God, saith he, hath raised up a Saviour for them, Othniel, Gideon, Jephthah, and others. Therefore they save many thousands. Finally, it is most agreeable, fit, and a thing well beseeming God, to save the saviours of so many thousands; that is, to give salvation to them in whose safety our safety, yea all our safety, is placed. That place of St. Paul is remarkable: 'Let prayers,' saith he, 'be made for all men.' But this is boundless, it is too long to run through all. Will you therefore confine it in brief? Let them be made 'for Kings.' Because if for them, for all. If it be well with them, it will be well with all. In which place the Apostle pleads powerfully. Mark his gradations. 'For Kings,' saith he, that they may be safe: thence it is, that whilst they are safe, the peace is safe; in a safe peace there is a knowledge of God; from the knowledge of God an honest and godly life; from a godly and honest life comes the safety of the whole world. Do you not see that the safety of Kings, and prayers for it, is laid as the very corner-stone to all men's safety?
But why seek I for these examples abroad, seeing we have them growing at home here in our Psalm, and surely far more abundantly? In this verse are thanks to be given for the deliverance of Kings; in the next verse are prayers to be made. Why, I pray you? Namely, the twelfth verse, that so it might go well with 'our sons,' 'our daughters;' the thirteenth verse, that so it might be well with 'our store-houses,' our 'flocks;' the fourteenth verse, that so all might go well with our 'oxen;' that there be no 'breaking in nor going out,' or 'complaining in our streets.' None of these shall be, we shall have all these safe, if the King be safe. By account indeed there are eight which the Fathers from the words of the Psalm, 'Blessed are the people who are in such a case,' have called them the eight felicities of [244/245] this life, the eight earthly beatitudes--all depending upon the safety of Kings. Nor only these eight, but also--which last remains and is worth all, 'Blessed are the people whose God is the Lord'--this also, that God may be our Lord, that is, that our religion may be safe, doth certainly very much depend on the Prince. For surely he that reads of six Kings of Judah successively in the books of Kings, or the five Emperors successively in the ecclesiastical history; or he that here at home hath seen amongst us four Princes successively by turn altering religion, and as the Kings so the people also changing religion; will discern that it is of great consequence that salvation be given to Solomon, lest when he is dead Jeroboam 'make Israel to sin.' Therefore that He may give salvation to the people, He 'gives salvation unto Kings;' both for His own honour's sake, and even for all our sakes He gives salvation to Kings. Why He should give salvation I have already made known. How he gives it, that yet remains. I haste unto it.
First, by sending His word that He may save them; but if that be a small thing, by stretching forth His hands also, that He may set them in safety.
First, by the word of salvation. For, lest any should overthrow that salvation which God hath given, He hath provided in a triple charge, wherewith as with a triple trench He hath fortified the safety of Kings.
1. 'Touch not Mine anointed;' whereby He secures them from violent hands.
2. 'Curse not the ruler of thy people;' whereby He secures them from the poison of the tongue.
3. 'Curse not the King, no not in thy thought:' whereby He secures them against the bold and boundless thoughts of the soul itself.
And if they be safe enough from these three, all would be well; the safety of Kings would be abundantly provided for. Thus God provides by His triple saving word, that their safety may not come in danger.
But if these are not enough, and often they are not enough, but this triple bulwark being cast down, 'strange children' dare sit in counsel and mutter ill words, nay verily even lift up their hands against God's anointed; yet then, as it is in the [245/246] seventh verse, 'He will send His hand from heaven,' He will send His hand from heaven and will deliver them from the midst of danger. This truly and indeed He will do, by opposing Himself both against their counsels and against them.
Against their counsels, partly by detecting them whilst yet they are scarcely ripened; partly by scattering them, even then when they are digested, finished; even then, when all is in a readiness.
And verily, for to detect their counsel He saith in another place, that He 'hath ordained a lantern for His anointed.' 'A lantern' surely, that is, faithful counsel; and those that are His ministers, they being the lamps of Kings, whom it concerns thoroughly to know their inmost designs; but when the King's lamp is too dim, then God's lightning gives light. For so it is in the sixth verse; when the light of the lamp sufficeth not, by Him, misso a se de cælo fulgure, is the whole plot discovered. The King's lantern I say, as when Mordecai brought the accusation against the traitorous eunuchs; as when Elisha revealed the plot concerning Aram's lying in wait for the King of Israel.
But it was fulgur Dei, when, as Solomon saith, 'A bird of the air shall carry the voice,' namely, when by some strange means and by no human assistance things are brought to light. When 'their own tongues shall make them fall,' as it is Psalm the sixty-fourth, and eighth verse. That is, when by their own whisperings, their own writings, they betray themselves. That all that see it may be astonished; who see it to be the hand of God, and that 'Thou Lord, hast done it.' And doubtless He is wonderful in the Kings of the earth, but in no one thing more than in sending this His lightning, whereby the most secret counsels of traitors are often revealed.
Yet suppose it to be so; grant that nothing be suspected, not a word spoken, every thing concealed till all be in readiness, and now the treason brought to the very last cast; yet, even then He will scatter them notwithstanding, and as it is in the fifth verse, 'He will touch the mountains and they shall smoke, every one. Absalom now having usurped a kingdom grew as big as a mountain. God will but touch [246/247] Absalom, He will smite His brain with madness that he might reject that very counsel which was most conducing to his design. Thus in a moment God scattered them all. Adonijah also swelled into a mountain. God will but touch Adonijah, He will smite his heart with a causeless fear, that then, when he was almost fully enthroned, he durst neither go on forward nor stir; thus they all vanish into smoke. 'All of them are become,' even when all was as sure as bird in hand, 'as a bowing wall and tottering fence;' they either fall with their own accord, or with the least enforcing are cast down; they are touched, turn into smoke, and vanish.
And thus God sets up himself against their conspiracies, and shews that He will assert the salvation of Kings. Moreover, He undertakes this very thing against the traitors themselves, by making ready the strings of His bow against the face of them, as it is Psalm the twenty-first; and as it is here, the sixth verse, by consuming them with His 'arrows.' That men seeing their most unhappy ends, might tremble at their accursed deeds. Moses hath rightly comprised the whole matter, then when Korah first of all withstood him. Hereby, saith he, shall ye know that magistrates are from God, that God takes care for their safety: 'If these men die the common death of all men, or if they be visited after the visitation of all men, then ye may make a doubt whether it be He 'but if God do a new thing; and bring all of them forth, every one to punishment, all of them to fearful ends; if Divine justice follow them at the heels and suffer them not to be carried to their graves in peace, morte vel maturâ vel siccâ, hereby shall ye plainly know that it is the Lord Himself, 'Who gives salvation unto Kings,' because the hand of the Lord is gone forth against them. And verily so it is; for what is become of those who boldly essayed to cast down that triple bulwark of which I lately spake? What is become of Sheba, who durst lift up his hand and sound a trumpet against David? 'His head is thrown down from the wall.' And what become of Shimei, who durst open his mouth and curse the anointed of the Lord? 'His hoar head went down to the grave with blood.' What also became of the eunuchs who only thought in their minds how they might lay hands [247/248] on the King? 'They were both hanged on a tree.' And what should I say more? The time would fail me to speak of Baanah and Rechab, of Absalom and Ahithophel, of Adonijah and Joab, of Zimri and Jejozabad; and all the rest, all who have sought the destruction of their Kings, they have all perished and are gone to their grave by some shameful death. All these cry out as it were with one voice, From our example let no mortal men dare to take that salvation from Kings which God hath given unto them. David called God 'the horn of his salvation;' he said truly. For by pouring out oil from the horn, out of the lowest and hollow part of it, God anointed him. And with the same horn, the end of it being sharpened, God scattered his enemies and brake them all in pieces. Thus with one end He anointed him King, with the other He gave him deliverance. Thus is God indeed a 'horn of salvation' to His anointed.
But I may not keep you too long in the thesis; ye have seen, I suppose, already both why it should be just with God to give salvation unto Kings. 1. Because there is a wicked one who would destroy them. 2. Kings are in God's place. 3. God's honour is concerned in saving them. 4. In their safety the safety of many nations consists. You have also seen how God brings this to pass, by his word, and by His work. 1. He reveals it by His lightning. 2. He touches them, and turns their counsels into smoke. 3. The contrivers themselves, He shoots them through with His arrows. And thus He works salvation for Kings in the middle of the earth.
II. The thesis now finished, I descend to the hypothesis. 'It is He Who hath delivered David His servant,' &c. But I begin with this. God 'is the Saviour of all men, but especially those that believe.' It is St. Paul's saying. Let me add, He is the Saviour of all Kings, but especially of those that believe. For there is like reason in both. Thus I infer it. If Divine Providence rest upon Kings, Kings indefinitely, Kings in general, what shall it do upon Kings who also themselves believe, and are the rulers of them that believe? If God be wonderful in the Kings of the earth, what is He in Kings who are both sons and 'nursing fathers' of the Church? If in Ahasuerus a heathen, what is He in David, a religious [248/249] and pious Prince. For, as the son of Sirach spake wisely of him, 'Even as fat is parted from the flesh of the sacrifice, so is David from the Kings of the earth;' that look what Kings are amongst men, such us David amongst Kings: what will God therefore do for him? What will He do for them that are to him faithful as David in all his house? For surely what you may find severally in other Kings are here in David conjoined; namely, a King and a servant of God. Wherefore, both because he is a King 'He will give salvation unto him,' and because he is His servant 'He will deliver him from the perilous sword.' That he is a King, he hath that in common with other Kings of the heathen; for whom that God should thus provide, there is no cause but only this, because they are Kings. That he is God's servant, this is peculiar to him above others.
And God will surely save all His servants, of whatsoever, even of the meanest, conditions; but Kings that are His servants, above others, both because as Kings by Him they reign, and because as servants they are governed by Him. 'O Lord save the King:' this is his prayer, Psalm the twentieth, and ninth verse. 'O God save Thy servant:' this is his prayer, Psalm the eighty-sixth, and second verse. This is one petition, and yet not one. One in David; not one in all, for all are not servants. Yes, verily, all are His servants, all the Kings of the earth. And so it is indeed; all are, for all although unwitting, although unwilling, yet all do His will. All are; but, which is for our purpose, all do not so acknowledge themselves, all carry themselves like servants. Nebuchadnezzar was His servant. For so God spake by Jeremiah: 'Behold, I have given all these lands to Nebuchadnezzar My servant;' yet notwithstanding he did not acknowledge this. He acknowledged not either himself to be a servant, or Him his Lord. For he said as much to the three children: 'Let us see who is that God Which will deliver you out of my hands?' Neither indeed did Pharaoh acknowledge it. 'Who is the Lord? I know not the Lord, neither will I let Israel go.' Our David did not so (no surely) but he acknowledged himself a servant. Hear him speak for himself: 'Behold, O Lord, how that I am Thy servant; I am Thy servant, and the son of Thy handmaid.' Neither is he [249/250] this in word and speech alone, but also in deed and in truth; not, as they, doing it neither wittingly nor willingly, but of set purpose, doing all His will. Being so careful in the Lord's business, that he would not 'climb up into his bed,' would not 'suffer his eyes to sleep,' until he had found out a place for the ark of the Lord; and in bringing it back, being girt with a linen ephod, he so behaved himself amongst the servants of God, so I say, that he seemed to his wife to be too much a servant. But he could never be humbled enough before his Lord, never careful enough to do His will. David was a servant indeed, humble as a servant, faithful as a servant, a servant 'after His own heart.' Fitly therefore, and to the purpose is it said in this verse, 'His servant David.' Therefore God speaks so of him His servant: 'My hand shall hold him fast, and My arm shall strengthen him; the enemy shall not be able to do him violence, the son of wickedness shall not hurt him.' That is, in one word, 'I will deliver him.'
And what He said in His word, He fulfilled in deed: therefore God often delivered him, both from many--I do not say dangers; that word is too large for our present purpose--weapons (I do say, which is more apposite) from sharp arrows drawn and shot at him to destroy him. He delivered him from Goliath's spear; He delivered him from the javelin of Saul; and, which is proper to this place, He also delivered him from the sword.
From the sword, yet not from any man's at all in common and promiscuously, but as it is in the verse, 'from the malignant sword.' And is there indeed a 'malignant sword?' Do I say a 'malignant' one? Perhaps there is an evil one, perhaps a wicked one; but to call it a 'malignant sword,' that is too violent an expression. Indeed the sword is in no fault, there is no malignancy in the iron; all the malevolency is in him, and is diffused through his mind, at whose side it hangs. For in any other sense there is no 'malignant sword.'
Who therefore, I pray you, is that malignant one? Truly it is not he, who openly and in flat terms is mischievous or malevolent. Who under a smooth forehead hath a festered [250/251] mind; under a painted face, a rotten heart. Who, as Solomon skilfully describes him, speaks fair, but 'there are seven abominations in his heart.' Finally, he is that malignant one, and his sword, inasmuch as he is malignant, is malignant, that is, it is like its master.
Those locusts which I lately mentioned, are the malignant ones; they have a woman's face, but behind, a scorpion's tail. Whom I lately called 'strange children,' they are those malignant ones; whose mouth is vain; but for their sword's point, that is not vain as we see, neither wounds it in vain, but gives a home, and more than that, a malignant wound.
And is it so? Are there such about David, who covertly wish him evil? Cannot so good a King, so faithful a servant of God, cannot he however, escape those malignant ones? Surely he might, and so he did. David had such, whom David did not satisfy. David had also his malignant ones, and they their swords; and by them and their swords he was in greatest peril. The King as yet met with no Doeg, and men of Keilah: now the King met with Shimei and Sheba. He had to deal with his companions, his guide, and Ahithophel 'his familiar friend.' He had to do with 'Absalom his son, his son' Absalom. He met with others, and those no few; for in many Psalms you may hear him complaining of the worst (for they are not the best) sort of men. Yea even in this our Psalm twice he complains of some natives indeed by birth, but in affection foreigners, that is, painted subjects, in whose mouth there is no truth, nor trust in their right hand. David had such as these; even he that is like David, if any be like him, yet such as these he shall have. And from these, namely, once at the eighth verse; nor there once alone, but again also at the eleventh, that is, again and again he prays to be delivered. For he knew how perilous this sword was, that surely the enemy's sword in respect of it was full of courtesy. For this sword was no sword of war, nor of Goliath, nor of the Philistines, who openly invade, which because he saw he might avoid. This sword is the traitor's sword; Joab is a sword, even this sword, who friendly saluted Abner, kindly embraced Amasa; yet thrust both of them into the belly, and that in such sort, namely so perilously, that he needed not to give them a second wound; for [251/252] with that alone both their bowels gushed out upon the earth. Joab is a sword, a perilous sword; the fault is in him.
Now, that all may know how good God is to David, God delivered him from this sword, him I say; for some there are, yea some Kings, whom He delivers not; there are some Kings whom He destroys, whom this 'perilous sword' destroys; namely, over whom God doth not stretch forth His helmet of salvation. He destroyed Ishbosheth, who 'lay on his bed at noon.' He destroyed Elah, as he was 'drinking himself drunk in his steward's house.' He destroyed Joash, affrighted with the people's uproar. He destroyed Gedaliah, fearlessly feasting with Ishmael his malicious murderer. This sword destroyed all these; that is, God delivered them not. But God delivered David, delivered him (whoever that malignant one was) from his sword. And because God delivered him, he sung this verse to God, as it were his canticum, swt»rion. And thus much for the hypothesis, that is, concerning David.
III. I now come to ourselves.
For as God formerly delivered His servant David, so lately He delivered His servant James; He delivered both, and both from the sword, both from the 'perilous sword;' so that this verse may truly be applied to them both, that it may be rightly sung, both on this day this year, and on this day for every year.
For now the first year is past since on this day, this very day, 'strange children' lay in wait for him; 'strange children dissembled with him.' They enticed him home to their house, they entertained him with all seeming courtesy, moreover they promised some secret thing--vanities and lies all. And so at last, he that was not guilty of wickedness himself and therefore suspecting no evil, him they brought whither they desired, namely, to a place in the very inmost room in the house where that 'perilous sword' was. There they set upon him, against the law of hospitality, their guest; nay against a far greater law, for subjects assaulted their King; his retinue was included, the doors bolted: thus they set upon him alone, unarmed, void of all defence and assistance. For then were 'strange children' present, who brought forth that sword; true born children, who might interpose their buckler, [252/253] and if need were, their body too, these were absent, all gone away. What could here be expected but a certain death? Surely my mind trembles to remember how near that sword was brandished, that he even felt its cold iron edge both applied, and more than that, dashed against that sacred breast. What, I say, but certain death, the sword being brandished so near unto him? Even then God freed and delivered him, God Who gives salvation unto Kings, to Kings His servants; even then God freed and delivered him, the King His servant, in the midst of danger, in the very jaws of death; from the midst of danger, from the very jaws of death He saved and delivered him.
First, by striking that armed man with fear who was ready instructed and appointed to act this great wickedness, so that he neither durst nor could essay any thing. Moreover He changed the mind of that armed man so suddenly, that he who was appointed to do it held back his hand who appointed him thereto, when he would have acted this wickedness. Further yet, by giving present courage, both power and strength sufficient to the King, ad feralem illam pallæstram, 'that the enemy was not able to do him violence, that the son of wickedness could not hurt him.' Lastly, by leading those the right way after a marvellous manner through unknown passages, that knew not the place, unacquainted with the way, and by guiding those men who being summoned by the King's outcry hasted on each side towards his relief--men, for this so happy and faithful service, worthy eternal memory; finally, by freeing him both from this first and also from that other sword of the other brother, yet more malignant than the perilous one; and so freeing him that 'their sword went through their own heart,' and 'their mischievousness was turned on their on pate.' Thus the King is saved, salvation given from heaven to any, as if God had sent His hand from heaven to any, as if God had sent His hand from heaven and brought him help, at once delivering him, and at once overthrowing those perilous cut-throats and killing them with their own 'perilous sword.' Surely this is no human assistance, not from man. 'It is the Lord's doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes,' in all men's eyes; and it is wonderful [253/254] in our ears, in all men's ears; and for this cause, no posterity, no future age, shall pass it in silence.
But this also seemed 'a small thing' to God, unless afterward often, and indeed very lately, He had delivered him--for yet it is not a year ago--from a like, yea from a greater, from a far great danger, not of the sword, but of the perilous powder; an act so horrid, so black, so foul, so accursed, that it is to be cursed with all execrations, that it almost exceeds our belief who yet ourselves have seen it. Later ages sure enough, I think, will scarcely credit it, that ever there were in a man's shape such locusts from the nethermost hell who should devise so hellish practices. Such as was the magnitude of the danger such shall be the measure of our thanksgiving. And verily that late powder-plot might make us forget this day's deliverance. But far be it from us, for as I said at first, new deliverances are so to be celebrated that old ones are also to be renewed. We shall sing Him His song for that in due season. Now it is enough to mention it.
I will no longer offend your patience, I will finish the remainder in few words.
Therefore as they then sung this song for their King, so do we now for ours. For salvation is not like salvation as is theirs and ours. Nor verily is there any where an example whence we may take a pattern to ourselves, what it behoves us now to do, so fit for us to imitate, as the manner and method of this Psalm, nor (do I far digress) of this place in the Psalm which we have now in hand. David doth two things, which the Hebrews especially do elegantly express; he mixes tehilla and tephilla; that is, petitions with thanksgivings, prayers with a song. As soon as he had sung his hymn, instantly, with one and the same breath, he said his prayers. For in the foregoing verse he brought forth his song, he tuned his strings, takes his lute, sings thus as ye have heard; 'It is He Who gives salvation to Kings; it is He Who hath delivered David His servant from the perilous sword.' And behold immediately, namely in the following verse, he lays his lute out of his hand, he falls down on his knees, betakes himself to his prayers, and there dictates a prayer for himself and for us in these words: 'Save me, and deliver me from the hand of strange children; whose mouth talketh of vanity, and their [254/255] right hand is a right hand of iniquity.' This was the best way for himself and for his people, whilst he mixed these: and let us imitate his example. And first, as the ground of our duty requires, let us praise this preserver of Kings, the deliverer of His servant our King. Let us praise Him with a new song, in singing with stringed instruments, with pipes, with wind instruments; with the best and choicest that our breath, voice, mind, hand either hath or can get. For even the best we have is due to this favour, is due to God for this. Yea, all we have, even the best things are less than this favour, less than He deserves for this. But yet let us essay the best we can, to sing something. And herein let 'all that is within us,' all our 'bones' confess unto Thee, O Lord, that salvation is Thine, that Thou givest it, that Thou givest it unto Kings, that Thou givest it to our King; and in Him, to us all, even to three kingdoms in one; to one in three. And now, what can we 'say more unto Thee?' For Thou, Lord, knowest Thy servants, though we express our minds unworthily; yet inwardly in our minds and inmost thoughts we are eternally bound unto Thee, for this the King's salvation.
But yet, because to have once delivered him, it is not enough, nor twice, or thrice, nor seven times, for as long as he lives so long is there this danger from those perilous ones, because all 'strange children' are not in a strange land. Some there are in ours, even with us; in regard all the sons of Belial are not yet dead, at least their father Belial is not dead, but yet is alive, yet he devises his mischievous plots no less than any time since David till this day. No less? Yea certainly, and more, 'because He hath but a short time.' Let us also after the manner of our Psalm, lest we stay too long in the song, hang up our lutes a while, and lay them aside for a season; yea let us also kneel down and adjoin our prayers, yea let us also after his example make public prayers; no other than he himself doth make here and in other Psalms. Here, 'Save him;' yea 'deliver him from strange children;' from 'their mouth,' 'right hand,' their 'perilous sword.' O Lord, I beseech Thee send now prosperity.' 'O God, send forth Thy strength; [255/256] establish this good work that Thou hast wrought for us.' 'Shew Thy marvellous loving-kindness.' 'Shew great deliverance to Thy King.' Præcipe omnimodam salutem Jacobo. It is Thou Who hast given salvation, it is Thou Who hast delivered; be Thou always 'the same' that Thou art. Always deliver, always save him, always continue these blessings unto us.
But for those that remain--for I much fear that yet some remain--'strange children,' what else pray we than as Cushi did for David also, when he was then in like sort delivered from the sword of a son, both his own and a strange one, Absalom: 'The enemies of my Lord the King and all that rise against him to do him hurt, let them be' as those brothers, brothers in inquity, mischievous brothers. 'So let all thine enemies perish (the enemies of Thine anointed) O Lord. But those that love Thee (that love him) be as the sun when he goeth forth in his might.' That thereby as we, so may our seed enjoy, who under the prosperous success of his reign have possessed, those eight earthly beatitudes in this Psalm, the eight felicities of this life; yea, that ninth also, worth all the rest, of pure religion; I pray God we may long and many years enjoy the same under him in safety, in health, in long life, (which this four years we have done) yearly paying our vows on this day for this day's sake, for the salvation given on this day; always interlacing this verse in the beginning, in the midst, in the end: 'It is He Who gives salvation unto Kings, it is He Who hath delivered' James 'His servant from the perilous sword.' To Him be honour, praise, glory, thanksgiving, for ever and ever. Amen.