Those around us should have no questions about our loyalty as His soldiers. Paul told Timothy to endure hardness. Enduring hardness means we should not allow ourselves to become easily discouraged. It means we are prepared for conflict at all times of the day: in the wee hours of the morning or late in the night. It means we should not back down from the threats of the enemy. It means we will not allow the casualties around us to make us quit. A good soldier does not think about quitting!
His focus is to represent the Lord Jesus well in the conflict and to make sure He wins. Distractions could result in being hit by a fiery dart of the wicked one. Distractions could make us the target of a spiritual assassin. Distractions could cause us to turn our backs and become vulnerable to satanic attacks.
Our number one priority as soldiers is to please the Lord! God is most pleased with us when we follow our orders, we are diligent at our post, we are vigilant as watchmen, we are loyal to our cause, we fight to win, and we are steadfast at all times. Being a good soldier requires effort. We must realize that we are not called to be part time soldiers.
After this he went out, slew Goliath, bestrode his dead body, and cut of his head with the giant's own sword. This was a signal proof of a brave and undaunted spirit, thus to face and contend with a man, the terror of whose voice and aspect had made all Israel afraid: After David had thus slain and beheaded the champion of the Philistines, he was promoted by King Saul, to be general of his forces, or as the scriptures express it he was set over the men of war. In that station he behaved very gallantly, and grew so fast into re putation, that he was esteem'd and extol'd above his royal master; he dis tinguish'd himself by repeated victories over the Philistines, and perform'd such glorious exploits, that the women publickly sang his praises, saying, Saul hath slain his thousands, but David his ten thousands.
When Saul be came envious of David 's increasing popularity, and sought to kill him; he devis'd this expedient to execute his purpose. When the Amalakites, with a considerable army, had burnt Ziklag, and carried away the women and children captives, he with a band consisting only of men, pursu'd after them, gave them a total defeat, and recover'd the prisoners and the spoil out of their hands.
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From all these, and sundry other passages of sacred writ, it appears, that David was naturally a man of undaunted courage; he was not afraid of plunging into the thickest fight; he was not intimidated by the most war like appearance, or the haughtiest speeches, but chearfully and eagerly assaulted the bravest adversary: He never discover'd a timorous disposition, but remain'd unruffled and unaw'd, amidst the most dreadful scenes of slaughter. Now every good soldier ought to resemble David in this, for 'tis a shame for a soldier to be a coward.
Those who are distitute of courage, do great injury in the day of battle, to the army, to which they belong, disheartning others by their scandalous example. A soldier's breast should glow with martial fire; his soul should be daring and fearless. David 's heart as before observ'd was like the heart of a lion; and when he rush'd to attack the foe, it was fill'd with inexpressible ardor.
This ardor of the heart can only be well understood by men of courage, who know it by experience. There is a certain enthusiasm which animates brave minds, when they are in battle, which 'tis impossible by words minutely to dis cribe; without something of this in his disposition, I think a man should not devote himself to a military life; yet if he has, he should endeavour to acquire it by prayer to God, and meditation on the bold and glorious exploits of others.
Saul informed the Ziphites, It had been told him, that David dealt very subtilly. David was the most celebrated general of his age, for his skill in military affairs; he knew full well how to exercise the bow and the shield, and to handle the sword and the spear; he knew when to advance, attack and pursue, and when to avoid a battle or make a retreat; he knew how to maintain his ground, and post his troops to the best advantage.
The Scriptures relate, that when David went out, whithersoever Saul sent him, he behaved so wisely, that the King, on the account of his skill, set him over the men of war, and he was accep ted in the sight of all the people, and also in the sight of Saul's servants, 1 Sam. The sacred historian informs us, that he was prudent in matters, i. And when he was a general, he discovered his skill in military affairs and characters, by chusing the best men to serve under him, who observed the strictest disci pline, and were most expert in war.
We read concerning the men that came to David, that they were among the mighty men, helpers of the war; they were armed with bows, and could use both the right hand, and the left, in hurling stones, and shooting arrows out of a bow, 1 Chron. DAVID was well versed in the stratagems of war; knew how to thwart and disconcert the schemes of the enemy, and kept his spies to inspect their conduct, and give him intelligence of their proceedings. Thus he sent Hushai to watch the motions of the rebels, and battle the measures urged by Ahitophel; which he accordingly did, and privately sent messen gers to acquaint his royal master of it.
David secretly came on the back of the Philistines, and by the suddenness of his attack, gave them a total defeat, pursued after them, and took all their baggage and spoil, 2 Sam. He was wary, and upon his guard, against the contrivances of his foes, and always eluded, or frustrated their designs, 2 Sam. He was well acquainted with caves, lurking places, and inaccessible retreats, where he frequently concealed himself, and from which he often attack'd the enemy to great advantage, and surprized them on a sudden, 1 Sam.
He was acquainted with the art of fortification; for he took the city of Jebus, repaired the fortress Millo, and built round about, from Millo and inward: He understood the method of defending a Place, scalling a high wall, or taking a strong hold by assault, 2 Sam. Thus, then, David was not only a brave, but a skillful hero; he was well acquainted with military affairs; and so should every good soldier be.
I don't pretend to delineate precisely, the particulars of knowledge in the art of war; which ought to be studied and attained, by one who would make a figure in that profession; this is out of my province: I only assert, that these particulars, be they what they will, should be familiar to a good officer or soldier; for without the knowledge of them, their characters would be very incompleat. David chose skillful men for his commanders; he studied the art of war himself, and had his officers teach the children of Judah the use of the bow, 2 Sam.
Modern officers should be emulous to imitate the royal monarch in this; instructing the men committed to their care, and their men should readily submit to their instructions.
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Thirdly, David was a regular and obedient soldier; he obey'd command, and follow'd the direction of his superiors, without the least hesitation; and to the great peril of his life, the sacred historian informs us, That David went out whithersoever Saul sent him; and when the King signified his desire to have him go on a scouting party, and procure him an hundred foreskins of an hundred Philistines: The thing pleased David, he imme diately went out, and instead of an hundred foreskins, he obtained double that number.
Thus every soldier should, with the utmost readiness, obey the will and direction of his superiors. If soldiers desert their post, fly from their colours, or refuse to obey command, defeat and loss of victory must needs ensue: 'Tis their indispensible duty to submit to their leaders, without murmuring or mutiny: Stubbornness in soldiers, wears a dark and threat ning aspect, with regard to the success of any warlike enterprize.
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I wou'd therefore strongly urge it upon them, to propose the obedience of the jewish king for a model of their conduct. David's breast was animated with a fervent love to his country; he was deeply concerned for its honour; and more especially as the true church of God, as pure and undefil'd religion, existed in it.
When Goliath of Gath, had challenged his countrymen, and they were afraid to engage with him; David was concern'd at the reproach of Israel, indignation was enkindled in his bosom, against his cowardly brethren; his heart burnt to fight the Philistine, and roll away the reproach from Israel. When he beheld the giant, striding with haughty steps, before the jewish armies, and heard him defying the bravest of them, and challenging them to single combat, his soul was all on fire to meet him. He cried out with the utmost ardour, Who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God?
And he ran to meet the Philistine, and quickly put an end to his proud and confident boasting. When the Israelites were routed by the Philistines, and Saul and Jonathan were slain on mount Gilboa, David lamented over them, saying, The beauty of Israel is slain upon the high places; how are the mighty fallen! When he lived amongst the Philistines he could not forget his dear Country, but fought valiantly against her enemies.
Israel always lay near his heart, and he was ready to plunge himself in the greatest dan gers for her defence: Tho' his Country sometimes treated him with base in gratitude, yet they could not destroy his natural affection, or abate the ardour of his publick spirit: He was a distinguish'd patriot, and preferred the welfare of his nation, to his own life; of this you may behold a most strik ing demonstration, 1 Chron. Let thine hand, I pray thee, O lord my God, be on me and my fa ther's house; but not on thy people that they should be plagued. David loved the church, as well as the state; he pray'd earnestly, and fought bravely in her behalf.
The consideration that true religion might suffer, if the Isra elites were defeated, made him exert himself with redoubled vigour, against the enemies of both. A Heathen could say, Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori; it is pleasant and honourable to die for our country; but how much greater reason has a christian to say so: Our children are dear to us, our wives are dear to us, so are our Parents, our kinsmen, our friends and Acquaintance: But especially the church of Christ, and the privileges of our most holy religion; but our country contains within it all these objects of endearment, therefore every good soldier, every real christian, should be ready to lay down his life for his COUNTRY.
DAVID was a loyal soldier, and true to his king. In the wilderness of Ziph, where Saul had designs upon his life, he came to his tent whilst he was asleep, and took away his spear only, when he might as easily have taken away his life. This, as well as his expressions to Abishai, and his other officers, shew'd how much he reverenced the Lord's anointed. When Abishai said unto him, in the wilderness of Ziph, God hath delivered thine enemy into thine hand: Now, therefore, let me smite him, I pray thee, with the spear: He replied, Destroy him not, for who can stretch forth his hand against the Lord's anointed, and be guiltless?
Immediately af ter, when Saul awoke out of his Sleep, he called him, his Lord and his King, and acknowledged himself his subject and servant, saying, Where fore doth my Lord thus pursue after his servant? In the Cave of Engeddi, when David's men advis'd him to slay Saul, he said unto them, the Lord forbid that I should do this thing unto my master, the Lord's anointed; peruse also his address to Saul, 1 Sam.
After Saul was slain on mount Gilboa, David discovered his loyalty to him, by commanding the messenger to be executed, who declared he had put him to death; and by composing that pathetic elegy, wherein he bewails the fall of his royal master, in the most plaintiff and melancholly strains. Now a good soldier like David, should be loyal to his King, and ready to spend the last drop of blood in his cause. If the jewish Hero was so strongly attached to a cruel and oppressive monarch, who thirsted for his blood, and treated him with the basest ingratitude; surely you, my brethren, who have the honour of serving the best of Kings, are under superior obligations, to promote the glory of his arms, with all your abilities, and fight for his dominions, which have been most unjustly invaded: So gracious a sovereign as his present Majesty, has the strongest claim to the love and affections of every true Bri ton: And all who enjoy the benefits of his royal favour, should be ready to support his measures with their lives and estates.
But, Sixthly. Thus did David train up his men to the greatest order, and he set them a very good example himself; as I hinted at before; for when his army was in great want of Provision, instead of detaching an armed body to seize Nabal's flocks, he sent him the kindest Message, desiring a little refreshment for himself and his small band: David sent out ten men says the sacred historian and he said unto the young men, get ye up to Carmel and go to Nabal, and greet him in my name, and thus shall ye say to him that liveth in prosperity, peace be both to thee and thine house, and peace unto all that thou hast, and now I have heard that thou hast shear ers; now thy shepherds that were with us, we hurt them not, neither was there aught missing unto them, all the while they were in Carmel: Ask thy young men, and they will shew thee; wherefore let the young men find favour in thine eyes; give I pray thee, whatsoever cometh to thy hand, unto thy servant and thy son David.
Thus gently did David and his men deal with the people amongst whom they resided; and every good soldier should imitate their example. To seize violently upon the property of others, without leave or consent; to insult, strike and abuse the innocent; to rush into an house, with an armed mob, and take away the substance of the poor and helpless; to trample upon the laws and liberties of the Nation, and defraud the honest man of his due: All this is contrary, extreamly contrary, to the genius of the gos pel, and the dictates of reason and humanity, and is the very reverse of that prudent conduct of the jewish monarch, which I have just now described.
David was an hardy, watchful and active soldier. The schemes which he had concerted, he immediately put into execution; witness his pursuit of the Amalikites, who had taken, burnt and plundered Ziklag, and carried away its inhabitants prisoners; amongst whom were David 's wives: He came upon them by forced marches, overtook them before they were aware of it, put them totally to the rout, and recovered his wives, the rest of the captives, and the spoil, out of their hands. The activity of David, his expedition, and dispatch in the execution of his de signs, should excite gentlemen of the military character, to vigorous mea sures; the advantages that will redound from them, will be unspeakably great.
Vigour and dispatch in the execution, are sometimes essentially necessary to render a project successful. For with the jeopardy of their lives they brought it. What a standing reproach is this conduct of the King of Israel, to those Persons who sacrifice the INTERESTS OF A NATION to their luxury, effeminacy and ease: He that devotes himself to a military life, should learn to endure hardness, to mortify his appetites, and deny him self, when the interests of his country call him, to it; otherwise he will prove but a very indifferent soldier.
A handful of hardy Macedonians, under the command of Alexander the Great, could subdue a united king dom of effeminate Persians: And this will always be the case; tender, delicate and pamper'd constitutions, unused to labour and fatigue, can never stand before the hardy and robust.
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David was also watchful, he observ'd all the motions of the enemy, he maintain'd a constant guard, and thought it a crime worthy of death, for a soldier to sleep when he was set to keep watch. Thus, when Abner and all the guards of king Saul slept about him, David said unto Abner, wherefore hast thou not kept thy Lord the king; ye are worthy to die, because ye have not kept your master, the Lord's anointed. He manifested an extraordinary spirit of vigilance, in repeatedly escaping the hands of Saul, and avoiding the designs of his son Absolom; compare 1 Sam.
Now every good soldier must tread in David 's steps; be watchful, and always upon his guard against the enemy; he should be exceeding cautious not to be surprized and taken unawares. David was a compassionate and humane soldier; he was averse to cruelty and revenge; as such, he treated his enemies with a great deal of generosity and a forgiving temper: This we have partly seen from his conduct to Saul; he forgave Shimel, tho' he cursed him most bitterly, and cast stones and dirt at him, in the day of his trouble; he kindly received and entertained Abner, his rival's general; and after Joab had basely murdered him, he with tears, lamented his death, and attended upon his Funeral.
David 's conduct to the rebels, who had joined with his son Absolom against him, manifested a gracious and merciful disposition: And herein, so far as he acted consistent with Christianity, I would propose him, my brethren, as a pattern for your imitation. I would not have you be of a cruel and revengful disposition; but if you have an opportunity, I hope you will treat your enemies with tenderness and compassion.
I have observed in reading history, that the bravest men have generally been remarkable for their humanity, and generous disposition towards their enemies; and you are in particular bound to exercise such a temper, as you are Christians and enjoy the glorious light of the gospel, which is a system of the most sublime, disinterested and extensive benevolence. David was not at all intimidated by these haugh ty words, but boldly answered the Giant, Thou comest to 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, the God of the armies of Israel, whom thou hast defy'd: This day will the Lord deliver thee into mine hand, and I will smite thee, and take thine head from thee, and I will give the carcasses of the host of the Phi listines this day unto the fowls of the air, and to the wild beasts of the earth; that all the earth may know there is a God in Israel; and all this assembly shall know, that the Lord saveth not with sword and spear; for the battle is the Lord's, and he will give you into our hands: Some trusted in chariots, and some in horses, but David remembered the name of the Lord his God, Psalm xx.
He ascribed all his courage, success and skill, in military affairs, to God: By thee says he I have run thro' a troop, and by my God, have I leaped over a wall; it is God that girdeth me with strength, and maketh my way perfect, he maketh my feet like Hinds feet, and setteth me upon my high places, he teaches my hands to war, so that a bow of steel is broken by my arm, Psa. He disclaims all dependance on human power, in the xxxiii. Psalm, 16 and 17 Verses; there is no king saved by the multitude of an host, an horse is a vain thing for safety; neither shall he deliver any by his great strength.
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Sensible of his dependance upon God, he always prayed for the divine blessing before he engaged: This was his supplication, Thou art my king, O God! Through thee will we push down our enemies, through thy name will we tread them under, that rise up against us. For I will not trust in my bow, neither shall my sword save me; give us help from trouble, for vain is the help of man.
Thro' God we shall do valiantly; for he it is that shall tread down our enemies, Psalm xlvi. When Ahitophel, that eminent statesman, had gone over to Absalom, he cried out, O Lord, I pray thee, turn the counsel of Ahitophel into foolishness.