Sermon 4. The Call of David

"So David prevailed over the Philistine with a sling and with a stone." 1 Samuel xvii. 50.

{48} THESE words, which are taken from the chapter which you heard read just now in the course of the Service [Note], declare the victory which David, the man after God's own heart, gained over Goliath, who came out of the army of the Philistines to defy the Living God; and they declare the manner of his gaining it. He gained it with a sling and with a stone; that is, by means, which to man might seem weak and hopeless, but which God Almighty blessed and prospered. Let no one think the history of David's calling, and his victory over Goliath, of little importance to himself; it is indeed interesting to read for its own sake; it raises the mind of the Christian to God, shows us His power, and reminds us of the wonderful deliverance with which He visits His Church in every age; but besides all this, this history is useful to us Christians, {49} as setting before us our own calling, and our conflict with the world, the flesh, and the devil; as such I shall now briefly consider it.

David, the son of a man in humble life, and the youngest of his brethren, was chosen by Almighty God to be His special servant,—to be a prophet, a king, a psalmist; he was anointed by Samuel to be all this; and in due time he was brought forward by Almighty God, and as a first act of might, slew the heathen giant Goliath, as described in the text. Now let us apply all this to ourselves.

1. David was the son of a Bethlehemite, one among the families of Israel, with nothing apparently to recommend him to God; the youngest of his brethren, and despised by them. He was sent to feed the sheep; and his father, though doubtless he loved him dearly, yet seems to have thought little of him. For when Samuel came to Jesse at God's command, in order to choose one of his sons from the rest as God might direct him, Jesse did not bring David before him, though he did bring all his other children. Thus David seemed born to live and die among his sheep. His brothers were allowed to engage in occupations which the world thinks higher and more noble. Three of them served as soldiers in the king's army, and in consequence looked down upon David; on his asking about Goliath, one of them said to him in contempt, "With whom hast thou left those few sheep in the wilderness?" Yet God took {50} him from the sheepfolds to make him His servant and His friend. Now this is fulfilled in the case of all Christians. They are by nature poor, and mean, and nothing worth; but God chooses them, and brings them near unto Himself. He looks not at outward things; He chooses and decrees according to His will, and why He chooses these men, and passes over those, we know not. In this country many are chosen, many are not; and why some are chosen, others not, we cannot tell. Some men are born within the bounds of holy Church, and are baptized with her baptism; others are not even baptized at all. Some are born of bad parents, irreligious parents, and have no education, or a bad one. We, on the contrary, my brethren, are born in the Church; we have been baptized by the Church's ministers; and why this is our blessedness, and not the blessedness of others, we cannot tell. Here we differ from David. He was chosen above his brethren, because he was better than they. It is expressly said, that when Samuel was going to choose one of his elder brethren, God said to him, "I have refused him; for the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart;" [1 Sam. xvi. 7.] implying, that David's heart was in a better state than his brother's whom Samuel would have chosen. But this is not our case; we are in nowise better by nature than they whom God does not choose. {51} You will find good and worthy men, benevolent, charitable, upright men, among those who have never been baptized. God hath chosen all of us to salvation, not for our righteousness, but for His great mercies. He has brought us to worship Him in sacred places where His saints have worshipped for many hundred years. He has given us the aid of His ministers, and His Sacraments, and His Holy Scriptures, and the Ancient Creed. To others, Scripture is a sealed book, though they hold it in their hands; but to us it is in good measure an open book, through God's mercy, if we but use our advantages, if we have but spiritual eyes and ears, to read and hear it faithfully. To others, the Sacraments and other rites are but dead ordinances, carnal ceremonies, which profit not, like those of the Jewish Law, outward forms, beggarly elements, as they themselves often confess; but to us, if we have faith, they are full of grace and power. Thus all we have been chosen by God's grace unto salvation, in a special way, in which many others around us have not been chosen, as God passed over David's seven brethren, and chose him.

2. Observe, too, God chose him, whose occupation was that of a shepherd; for He chooses not the great men of the world. He passes by the rich and noble; He chooses "the poor, rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which He hath promised to them that love Him," [James ii. 5.] as St. James says. David was a shepherd. {52} The Angel appeared to the shepherds as they kept watch over their sheep at night. The most solitary, the most unlearned, God hears, God looks upon, God visits, God blesses, God brings to glory, if he is but "rich in faith." Many of you are not great in this world, my brethren, many of you are poor; but the greatest king upon earth, even Solomon in all his glory, might well exchange places with you, if you are God's children; for then you are greater than the greatest of kings. Our Saviour said, that even the lilies of the field were more gloriously arrayed than Solomon; for the lily is a living thing, the work of God; and all the glories of a king, his purple robe, and his jewelled crown, all this is but the dead work of man; and the lowest and humblest work of God is far better and more glorious than the highest work of man. But if this be true, even of God's lower works, what shall be said of His higher? If even the lilies of the field, which are cut down and cast into the oven, are more glorious than this world's greatest glory, what shall be said of God's nobler works in the soul of man? what shall be said of the dispensation of the Spirit which "exceeds in glory?" of that new creation of the soul, whereby He makes us His children, who by birth were children of Adam, and slaves of the devil, gives us a new and heavenly nature, implants His Holy Spirit within us, and washes away all our sins? This is the portion of the Christian, high or low; and all glories {53} of this world fade away before it; king and subject, man of war and keeper of sheep, are all on a level in the kingdom of Christ; for they one and all receive those far exceeding and eternal blessings, which make this world's distinctions, though they remain distinctions just as before, yet so little, so unimportant, in comparison of the "glory that excelleth," that it is not worth while thinking about them. One person is a king and rules, another is a subject and obeys; but if both are Christians, both have in common a gift so great, that in the sight of it, the difference between ruling and obeying is as nothing. All Christians are kings in God's sight; they are kings in His unseen kingdom, in His spiritual world, in the Communion of Saints. They seem like other men, but they have crowns on their heads, and glorious robes around them, and Angels to wait on them, though our bodily eyes see it not. Such are all Christians, high and low; all Christians who remain in that state in which Holy Baptism placed them. Baptism placed you in this blessed state. God did not wait till you should do some good thing before He blessed you. No! He knew you could do no good thing of yourselves. So He came to you first; He loved you before you loved Him; He gave you a work which He first made you able to do. He placed you in a new and heavenly state, in which, while you remain, you are safe. He said not to you, "Obey Me, and I will give you a kingdom;" but "Lo {54} I give you a kingdom freely and first of all; now obey Me henceforth, for you can, and you shall remain in it;" not "Obey Me, and I will then give you the Holy Spirit as a reward;" but "I give you that great gift in order that you may obey Me." He first gives, and then commands; He tells us to obey Him, not to gain His favour, but in order not to lose it. We are by nature diseased and helpless. We cannot please Him; we cannot move hand or foot; He says not to us, "Get well first, and I will receive you;" but He begins a cure in us, and receives us, and then says, "Take care not to go back; take care of yourselves; beware of a relapse; keep out of danger." Such then is your state, my brethren, unless you have fallen from Christ. If you are living in His faith and fear, you are kings—kings in God's unseen and spiritual kingdom; and that, though like David, you are but keeping sheep, or driving cattle, or, again, working with your hands, or serving in a family, or at any other lowly labour. God seeth not as man seeth, He hath chosen you.

3. Next, observe God chose David by means of the Prophet Samuel. He did not think it enough to choose him silently, but He called him by a voice. And, in like manner, when God calls us, He does so openly; He sent His minister, the Prophet Samuel, to David, and He sends His ministers to us. He said to Samuel, "Fill thy horn with oil, and go, and I will send thee to Jesse the Bethlehemite; for I have provided Me a {55} king among his sons. God was looking out for a king, and sent Samuel to David. And so, in like manner, God is looking out now for kings to fill thrones in His Son's eternal kingdom, and to sit at His right hand and His left; and He sends His ministers to those whom He hath from eternity chosen. He does not say to them, "Fill thy horn with oil," but "Fill thy font with water;" for as He chose David by pouring oil upon his head, so does He choose us by Baptism. So far, then, God chooses now as He did then, by an outward sign. Samuel was told to do then, what Christ's ministers are told to do now. The one chose David by means of oil, and the other choose Christians by means of water. In this, however, there is a difference. Samuel could choose but one. He was not allowed to choose more than one; him, namely, whom God pointed out; but now Christ's ministers (blessed be His name!) may choose and baptize all whom they meet with; there is no restriction, no narrowness; they need not wait to be told whom to choose. Christ says, "Compel them to come in." Again, the Prophet says, "Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters." Now every one by nature thirsteth; every soul born into the world is in a spiritual sickness, in a wasting fever of mind; he has no rest, no ease, no peace, no true happiness. Till he is made partaker of Christ he is hopeless and miserable. Christ then, in His mercy, having died for all, gives His ministers leave to apply {56} His saving death to all whom they can find. Not one or two, but thousands upon thousands are gifted with His high blessings. "Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed" David "in the midst of his brethren." And so Christ's ministers take water, and baptize; yet not merely one out of a family, but all; for God's mercies are poured as wide as the sun's light in the heavens, they enlighten all they fall upon.

4. When Samuel had anointed David, observe what followed. "Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the midst of his brethren; and the Spirit of the Lord came upon David from that day forward." And so, also, when Christ's ministers baptize, the Spirit of the Lord comes upon the child baptized henceforth; nay, dwells in him, for the Christian's gift is far greater even than David's. God's Spirit did but come upon David, and visit him from time to time; but He vouchsafes to dwell within the Christian, so as to make his heart and body His temple. Now what was there in the oil, which Samuel used, to produce so great an effect? nothing at all. Oil has no power in itself; but God gave it a power. In like manner the Prophet Elisha told Naaman the Syrian to bathe in Jordan, and so he was healed of his leprosy. Naaman said, What is Jordan more than other rivers? how can Jordan heal? It could not heal, except that God's power made it heal. Did not our Saviour feed five thousand persons with a few loaves and fishes? how could that be? by His {57} power. How could water become wine? by His power. And so now, that same Divine power, which made water wine, multiplied the bread, gave water power to heal an incurable disease, and made oil the means of gifting David with the Holy Spirit, that power now also makes the water of Baptism a means of grace and glory. The water is like other water; we see no difference by the eye; we use it, we throw it away; but God is with it. God is with it, as with the oil which Samuel took with him. Water is something more than water in its effects in the hand of Christ's Minister, with the words of grace; it does, what by nature it cannot do; it is heavenly water, not earthly.

5. Further, I would have you observe this. Though David received the gift of God's Holy Spirit, yet nothing came of it all at once. He still seemed like any other man. He went back to the sheep. Then Saul sent for him to play to him on the harp; and then he went back to the sheep again. Except that he had strength given him to kill a lion and a bear which came against his flock, he did no great thing. The Spirit of the Lord had come upon him, yet it did not at once make him a prophet or a king. All was to come in good time, not at once. So it is with Christian Baptism. Nothing shows, for some time, that the Spirit of God is come into, and dwells in the child baptized; it looks like any other child, it is pained, it frets, is weak, is wayward, like any other child; for {58} "the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh at the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart." And "He who seeth the heart," seeth in the child the presence of the Spirit, "the mind of the Spirit" "which maketh intercession for the Saints." God the Holy Ghost leads on the heirs of grace marvellously. You recollect when our Saviour was baptized, "immediately the Spirit of God led Him into the wilderness." What happened one way in our Saviour's course, happens in ours also. Sooner or later that work of God is manifested, which was at first secret. David went up to see his brothers, who were in the battle; he had no idea that he was going to fight the giant Goliath; and so it is now, children are baptized before they know what is to happen to them. They sport and play as if there was no sorrow in the world, and no high destinies upon themselves; they are heirs of the kingdom without knowing it; but God is with those whom He has chosen, and in His own time and way He fashions His Saints for His everlasting kingdom: in His own perfect and adorable counsels He brings them forward to fight with Goliath.

6. And now, let us inquire who is our Goliath? who is it we have to contend with? The answer is plain; the devil is our Goliath: we have to fight Satan, who is far more fearful and powerful than ten thousand giants, and who would to a certainty destroy us were not God with us; but praised be His Name, He is {59} with us. "Greater is He that is with us, than he that is in the world." David was first anointed with God's Holy Spirit, and then, after a while, brought forward to fight Goliath. We too are first baptized, and then brought forward to fight the devil. We are not brought to fight him at once; for some years we are almost without a fight, when we are infants. By degrees our work comes upon us; as children we have to fight with him a little; as time goes on, the fight opens; and at length we have our great enemy marching against us with sword and spear, as Goliath came against David. And when this war has once begun, it lasts through life.

7. What then ought you to do, my brethren, when thus assailed? How must you behave when the devil comes against you? he has many ways of attack; sometimes he comes openly, sometimes craftily, sometimes he tempts you, sometimes he frightens you, but whether he comes in a pleasing or a frightful form, be sure, if you saw him himself with your eyes, he would always be hateful, monstrous, and abominable. Therefore he keeps himself out of sight. But be sure he is all this; and, as believing it, take the whole armour of God, that you may be able to stand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Quit you like men, be strong. Be like David, very courageous to do God's will. Think what would have happened had David played the coward, and refused to obey God's inward voice stirring him up to fight {60} Goliath. He would have lost his calling, he would have been tried, and have failed. The Prophet's oil would have profited him nothing, or rather would have increased his condemnation. The Spirit of God would have departed from him as He departed from Saul, who also had been anointed. So, also, our privileges will but increase our future punishment, unless we use them. He is truly and really born of God in whom the Divine seed takes root; others are regenerated to their condemnation. Despise not the gift that is in you: despise not the blessing which by God's free grace you have, and others have not. There is nothing to boast in, that you are God's people; rather the thought is an anxious one; you have much more to answer for.

When, then, Satan comes against you, recollect you are already dedicated, made over, to God; you are God's property, you have no part with Satan and his works, you are servants to another, you are espoused to Christ. When Satan comes against you, fear not, waver not; but pray to God, and He will help you. Say to Satan with David, "Thou comest against me with a sword, and with a spear, and with a shield; but I come to thee in the name of the Lord of Hosts." Thou comest to me with temptation; thou wouldest allure me with the pleasures of sin for a season; thou wouldest kill me, nay, thou wouldest make me kill myself with sinful thoughts, words, and deeds; thou wouldest make me a self-murderer, tempting me by evil companions, and {61} light conversation, and pleasant sights, and strong stirrings of heart; thou wouldest make me profane the Lord's day by riot; thou wouldest keep me from Church; thou wouldest make my thoughts rove when they should not; thou wouldest tempt me to drink, and to curse, and to swear, and to jest, and to lie, and to steal: but I know thee; thou art Satan, and I come unto thee in the name of the Living God, in the Name of Jesus Christ my Saviour. That is a powerful name, which can put to flight many foes: Jesus is a name at which devils tremble. To speak it, is to scare away many a bad thought. I come against thee in His All-powerful, All-conquering Name. David came on with a staff; my staff is the Cross—the Holy Cross on which Christ suffered, in which I glory, which is my salvation. David chose five smooth stones out of the brook, and with them he smote the giant. We, too, have armour, not of this world, but of God; weapons which the world despises, but which are powerful in God. David took not sword, spear, or shield; but he slew Goliath with a sling and a stone. Our weapons are as simple, as powerful. The Lord's Prayer is one such weapon; when we are tempted to sin, let us turn away, kneel down seriously and solemnly, and say to God that prayer which the Lord taught us. The Creed is another weapon, equally powerful, through God's grace, equally contemptible in the eyes of the world. One or two holy texts, such as our Saviour used when He was tempted {62} by the devil, is another weapon for our need. The Sacrament of the Lord's Supper is another such, and greater; holy, mysterious, life-giving, but equally simple. What is so simple as a little bread and a little wine? but, in the hands of the Spirit of God, it is the power of God unto salvation. God grant us grace to use the arms which He gives us; not to neglect them, not to take arms of our own! God grant us to use His arms, and to conquer!

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Fifth Sunday after Trinity.
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Newman Reader — Works of John Henry Newman
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