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of his being a prophet, as well as a king a after God's own heart; he speaks of the piety of David with admiration, and though he censures many of the transactions of his life, yet, in his way, apologizes for them, by ascribing them to a fatality to which human nature itself is liable; the being alternatively subject to the force of passion and the influence of grace. I will not pretend to answer for Mr. Bayle's real sentiments on this head; his remarks on David's history show that he had no high opinion of his virtue, though his censures have little foundation of real fact to support them. But still they are not made in that offensive outrageous manner that another historian uses; he o apologizes for himself in the very blame he throws on David; he allows that some excuse arises from the circumstances of the times, and the imperfection of their knowledge in comparison of ours; and had more sense and good-breeding than to represent David as the most profligate hypocrite, and then to revile the whole Christian world for their impudence and impiety, in thinking honourably of him as a prophet, and a man after God's own heart.
The inquiry into David's character I am willing should be strict and impartial; and allow that if it be in the main good, “a scrutiny d into it will be so far from sullying his fame, that it will reflect a superior lustre after such examination;' and if it be, in the great lines of it, a bad and an infamous one, every
a David, roi des Juifs, a été un des plus grands hommes du monde, quand même on ne le considéreroit pas comme un roi prophète, qui étoit selon le cæur de Dieu..... La piété de David est si éclatante dans ses Pseaumes, et dans plusieurs de ses actions, qu'on ne la sauroit assez admirer.
b See note 1, p. 967, in the article of David. c See note D.
sensible person will be glad to be undeceived; at the same time that it will give a good man pain to be forced to entertain a bad opinion of one whom he before thought to be a man of virtue and piety, and a favourite of Providence; and it is the last office of life that I would be engaged in, to lessen the real merit of the living, or ransack my invention to asperse the memories of the dead. Faults every man hath. Charity will cover many, and equity requires that we should admit the real alleviations of others; and that, in doubtful cases, we should always incline to the more favourable side, and never condemn, as direct intended wickedness, what is capable of a fairer and more humane interpretation.
The history of David, in many of the transactions of his life, is very short, and extremely imperfect. Facts are oftentimes but barely mentioned, without the causes of them, or circumstances attending them; in all which cases it must be difficult to pass the proper judgment on them; and here, I think, the historian should equally refrain from much encomium and invective.
Allowances also should be made for the different circumstances of times and nations, their particular constitutions and forms of government, the usual conduct of princes and kingdoms to each other in times of peace and war, or the laws of nations, as then authorized by the general consent or practice, the nature of their treaties and compacts with each other, and other things of like kind; which, when considered and applied to particular transactions, will give a very different view of them from what they will appear in, if we judge of them only by the state of things in our own times, in which almost all nations have their peculiar establishments, their governments fixed upon
certain fundamental laws, and the rights of each defined and limited by special and mutual treaties. The want of attending to which must necessarily lead men into very great mistakes, and hath occasioned many injurious reflections on the conduct and character of David.
The perpetual wars between the Hebrews and the neighbouring nations, the Ammonites, Moabites, Edomites, Amalekites, Philistines, and others, who reciprocally invaded one another, may seem strange to those who are ignorant of the circumstances of those people. But it should be considered, that they were mortal enemies to the Jewish nation, had all in their turns exercised the most cruel tyranny over them, were perpetually endeavouring to harass and enslave them, and never quiet whilst they had power to molest and invade them. This perpetually kept up the jealousy and hatred of the Hebrews towards them, made them greedily seize on every opportunity to retaliate their cruelties, often put them to the necessity, for selfdefence, of exercising great severities towards them, that by getting rid of their implacable enemies, they might enjoy their possessions without fear and molestation. Nor doth there appear the least trace of any solemn treaties of peace between them, but, living in a kind of state of nature with each other, they made no scruple to execute their revenge whenever they had opportunity and power. This was quite a different situation of things from what is now to be seen in these parts of the world; where solemn leagues and treaties tie up the hands of states and governments, and cannot be violated without the most criminal breach of the public faith and honour; a crime that, as to any thing that appears to the contrary, can never be charged on David in any one of the wars that he made, even in those in which he was the aggressor, in which he engaged to retaliate former injuries, to prevent the hostile invasion of his enemies, and to secure to his subjects the blessings of continued prosperity and peace.
The considerations I have offered in the following sheets, in vindication of David's conduct in this respect, I must leave to the judgment and candour of the world. I have offered nothing but what I think I can support. I have made no forced criticisms contrary to the nature and genius of the original language. Impartial men will candidly consider circumstances and times, and be governed, not by reproachful invectives, which prove nothing but the bad heart and ill-nature of those who use them, but by the appearances of truth, and the probability of things.
The writings of the Old Testament are the only genuine books from which we can form our sentiments of David's character and conduct. In reporting the actions of his life, there appears the most perfect impartiality, as they have recounted his crimes, and been very sparing in the encomiums they have given him. Let these be examined with freedom. Not the most rigid severity, if fair and honest, in such examination, can displease me. But let not little, undisciplined, unfledged, ignorant sciolists enter into these matters, which are really above them; who, by pretending to criticise and explain and alter the sense of ancient passages, do but betray their own vanity and folly; and who, though they throw the charge of bigotry upon others for not renouncing all the venerable principles of revelation, are themselves the weakest and most credulous bigots, they know not why nor wherefore, to all the absurdities of the most irrational infidelity. The objections of sober' men deserve cona circumstance the age och to be a
sideration, and no decency towards them can be too great in the answers that are given to them; and let the actions of David be fairly scrutinized, as they are recorded by the biblical writers, and allowances be made, as in equity they ought to be made, for the times and circumstances, the manners and customs, private and public, of the age he lived in; and I am in hopes he will yet appear to such to be a great and good man; and that though we are not to suppose that the height of purity is intended, yet that the Christian world, without being ashamed of it, or afraid of the charge of impiety to the Majesty of Heaven, will continue to regard and honour him, in the genuine sense of the expression, as THE MAN AFTER GOD's OWN HEART.