« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »
hath done this thing shall surely die. And he shall restore the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing, and because he had no pity.”
Here he unconsciously condemned himself, and gave Nathan an opportunity of applying his parable distinctly, in the words of the text.-" Thou art the man !” David was the person who had “taken the poor man's lamb ;" for he had robbed Uriah of his dearest companion, the wife of his bosom. He it was who had “had no pity ;" for he had murdered the husband, whom he was not satisfied with deeply injuring. His guilty conscience now takes the alarm. He finds himself to be, indeed, “the man,” whom the prophet had described ; and, therefore, what at first inflamed his anger, now fills him with shame and self-reproach. The behaviour of Nathan and David on this occasion suggests to us several admonitions for the regulation of our own conduct.
Nathan's task was to convince David of his injustice and guilt :-but in doing this, he avoids the severity of direct reproof, and shuns the invidious office of open accusation. When the object is the reformation and amendment of offenders, they must be gently and calmly convinced that they are wrong, and must be persuaded rather than provoked. To lay open their faults in their proper colours, and to paint them in all their deformity, may expose the admonisher to the imputation of being ill-natured, and
draw upon him the anger and resentment of the person reprimanded, who will naturally feel ill-used and
insulted. Most men are sensible of their own defects in particular instances ; but few can endure to be directly told of them, or listen with temper wbile they are published and detected.
In such cases, frankness of speech and artless plain dealing are seldom successful ;--for it is opening the wound with too painful a roughness, and gives a suspicion that we are desirous rather for tormenting, than for giving ease and promoting the cure.
Nathan attempted to prove the deformity and heinousness of the offence, before he ventured to name the offender. He secures the assistance of David's own reason and judgment, before he has the boldness to attack his passions. The king, therefore, was so entangled in consciousness, that there was no means of escaping. He condemned himself. He could not question the impartiality of the judge, nor could he do otherwise than submit freely to the sentence. To have attacked him openly and at once, would have been to put him immediately upon his guard. He would, perhaps, have burst into anger: and when can an angry person be convinced or persuaded ? All men have a natural hatred of vice; but, at the same time, they have a natural love for themselves. Those tender strings require a soft and delicate touch, which it is the duty of friends and well-wishers to study with attention. The fault must be clearly proved, before we declare to whom it belongs. Bring men to feel and acknowledge that they are to blame ; and then they will condemn themselves.
If David had been charged at once with adultery and murder ;-If he had bluntly been told that the honour and the blood of Uriah cried out for vengeance, he would undoubtedly have been fiercely exasperated, and perhaps have imprisoned, at least, the bold but imprudent censor. The criminal would have been easily induced to silence the accuser. But Nathan accosted him with more prudence and dexterity; and by stating an imaginary case, he prevailed, when the plain truth would not have been heard. David, therefore, listened attentively. He was indignant at the baseness and injustice of the transaction that was recited to him. It appeared to him too barbarous and inhuman to be pardoned. And now was the proper moment of telling him the whole truth : and he bore the discovery, as any man would in such circumstances, with sorrow and shame.
Men are not, at all times, disposed to hear the truth; and, therefore, it becomes necessary to draw them to it, by such representations as will indirectly work upon their reason and their prejudices. For this purpose, parables are of excellent use. Our blessed Saviour who was wisdom itself, generally adopted that method of addressing the obstinate Jews. “Without a parable” he seldom spoke to them :so that, without accusing them openly, he placed before them such circumstances as induced them, by drawing their own inferences, to accuse themselves. Men, in such cases, discover their faults, without the pain of a direct recital ; and though they may
conceal their blushes, they cannot escape from their inward consciousness. To tell our enemies of their faults is seldom of
any service to them or to ourselves ;-—and to reprove our friends too boldly is often the source of bitterness, and, consequently, of hatred. Untimely warmth or injudicious eagerness may sour the passions on both sides, and prevent success.
Mildness and good nature, therefore, ought always to be employed ; so that those whom we venture to advise may be sensible that we love their persons, though we cannot be blind or indifferent to their errors.
Admonition and reproof are entirely ineffectual, unless the way is prepared for them by an opinion of our truth and sincerity. Bitterness and aggravations will raise prejudices against us ; — and to point out to other men their faults, without assisting them in the way of amendment, is vexatious and perplexing. Nathan not only alluded to David's crimes, but he taught him the method of obtaining pardon for them.
But we must not presume to admonish and correct others, unless we are quite certain that we are qualified for the task. We must not venture to criticise them, upon matters of conduct in which we ourselves are deficient. The strongest arguments and the most lively representations lose their force, if they are not supported by our own practice ; for then they can be retorted upon us, to our utter confusion, -and we shall be told that " we are the men” whom we censure. How, indeed, can we have the assu
rance to charge others with a fault, of which our consciences tell us that we ourselves are guilty ? How can we be so absurdly officious, as to offer to pull out a mote from our neighbour's eye,--when we have a blemish as large as a beam, discernible in our own eye?
That principle of self-love which was implanted in us for the best of purposes,—and especially for the purpose of leading us to whatever is good and commendable,—is too frequently perverted, so as to be made a shelter for our faults, instead of an encouragement to our virtues. For though we are conscious of our own imperfections, we beguile ourselves with the persuasion that those imperfections are concealed from the world. We shut our own eyes, and then vainly imagine that nobody sees us. We wish to appear good ; and, as long as we can preserve the appearance, we are seldom very anxious about the reality. This is the grossest and most dangerous delusion into which we can possibly fall.
It is a noble proof of the excellence of honesty and virtue, that the very worst of men cannot forbear expressing an esteem for them, and feeling an indignation when other men transgress them. The very same sins that we excuse in ourselves, excite our abhorrence when we observe them in the conduct of others. We are apt to think then that no punishment is too great for them. This was the case with David. When he was told that a rich man had robbed a poor one of a favourite lamb, he declared that so base an