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[100] But Saul sent to the prophet, and called him to consult with him about the war and the public affairs; so he commanded him to stay there for him, and to prepare sacrifices, for he would come to him within seven days, that they might offer sacrifices on the seventh day, and might then join battle with their enemies. So he waited 1 as the prophet sent to him to do; yet did not he, however, observe the command that was given him, but when he saw that the prophet tarried longer than he expected, and that he was deserted by the soldiers, he took the sacrifices and offered them; and when he heard that Samuel was come, he went out to meet him. But the prophet said he had not done well in disobeying the injunctions he had sent to him, and had not staid till his coming, which being appointed according to the will of God, he had prevented him in offering up those prayers and those sacrifices that he should have made for the multitude, and that he therefore had performed Divine offices in an ill manner, and had been rash in performing them. Hereupon Saul made an apology for himself, and said that he had waited as many days as Samuel had appointed him; that he had been so quick in offering his sacrifices, upon account of the necessity he was in, and because his soldiers were departing from him, out of their fear of the enemy's camp at Michmash, the report being gone abroad that they were coming down upon him of Gilgal. To which Samuel replied, "Nay, certainly, if thou hadst been a righteous man, 2 and hadst not disobeyed me, nor slighted the commands which God suggested to me concerning the present state of affairs, and hadst not acted more hastily than the present circumstances required, thou wouldst have been permitted to reign a long time, and thy posterity after thee." So Samuel, being grieved at what happened, returned home; but Saul came to the city Gibeah, with his son Jonathan, having only six hundred men with him; and of these the greater part had no weapons, because of the scarcity of iron in that country, as well as of those that could make such weapons; for, as we showed a little before, the Philistines had not suffered them to have such iron or such workmen. Now the Philistines divided their army into three companies, and took as many roads, and laid waste the country of the Hebrews, while king Saul and his son Jonathan saw what was done, but were not able to defend the land, having no more than six hundred men with them. But as he, and his son, and Abiah the high priest, who was of the posterity of Eli the high priest, were sitting upon a pretty high hill, and seeing the land laid waste, they were mightily disturbed at it. Now Saul's son agreed with his armor-bearer, that they would go privately to the enemy's camp, and make a tumult and a disturbance among them. And when the armor-bearer had readily promised to follow him whithersoever he should lead him, though he should be obliged to die in the attempt, Jonathan made use of the young man's assistance, and descended from the hill, and went to their enemies. Now the enemy's camp was upon a precipice which had three tops, that ended in a small but sharp and long extremity, while there was a rock that surrounded them, like lines made to prevent the attacks of an enemy. There it so happened, that the out-guards of the camp were neglected, because of the security that here arose from the situation of the place, and because they thought it altogether impossible, not only to ascend up to the camp on that quarter, but so much as to come near it. As soon, therefore, as they came to the camp, Jonathan encouraged his armor-bearer, and said to him, "Let us attack our enemies; and if, when they see us, they bid us come up to them, take that for a signal of victory; but if they say nothing, as not intending to invite us to come up, let us return back again." So when they were approaching to the enemy's camp, just after break of day, and the Philistines saw them, they said one to another, "The Hebrews come out of their dens and caves:" and they said to Jonathan and to his armor-bearer, "Come on, ascend up to us, that we may inflict a just punishment upon you, for your rash attempt upon us." So Saul's son accepted of that invitation, as what signified to him victory, and he immediately came out of the place whence they were seen by their enemies: so he changed his place, and came to the rock, which had none to guard it, because of its own strength; from thence they crept up with great labor and difficulty, and so far overcame by force the nature of the place, till they were able to fight with their enemies. So they fell upon them as they were asleep, and slew about twenty of them, and thereby filled them with disorder and surprise, insomuch that some of them threw away their entire armor and fled; but the greatest part, not knowing one another, because they were of different nations, suspected one another to be enemies, (for they did not imagine there were only two of the Hebrews that came up,) and so they fought one against another; and some of them died in the battle, and some, as they were flying away, were thrown down from the rock headlong.

1 Saul seems to have staid till near the time of the evening sacrifice, on the seventh day, which Samuel the prophet of God had appointed him, but not till the end of that day, as he ought to have done; and Samuel appears, by delaying to come to the full time of the evening sacrifice on that seventh day, to have tried him (who seems to have been already for some time declining from his strict and bounden subordination to God and his prophet; to have taken life-guards for himself and his son, which was entirely a new thing in Israel, and savored of a distrust of God's providence; and to have affected more than he ought that independent authority which the pagan kings took to themselves); Samuel, I say, seems to have here tried Saul whether he would stay till the priest came, who alone could lawfully offer the sacrifices, nor would boldly and profanely usurp the priest's office, which he venturing upon, was justly rejected for his profaneness. See Apost. Constit. B. II. ch. 27. And, indeed, since Saul had accepted kingly power, which naturally becomes ungovernable and tyrannical, as God foretold, and the experience of all ages has shown, the Divine settlement by Moses had soon been laid aside under the kings, had not God, by keeping strictly to his laws, and severely executing the threatenings therein contained, restrained Saul and other kings in some degree of obedience to himself; nor was even this severity sufficient to restrain most of the future kings of Israel and Judah from the grossest idolatry and impiety. Of the advantage of which strictness, in the observing Divine laws, and inflicting their threatened penalties, see Antiq. B. VI. ch. 12. sect. 7; and Against Apion, B. II. sect. 30, where Josephus speaks of that matter; though it must be noted that it seems, at least in three instances, that good men did not always immediately approve of such Divine severity. There seems to be one instance, 1 Samuel 6:19, 20; another, 1 Samuel 15:11; and a third, 2 Samuel 6:8, 9; Antiq. B. VI. ch. 7. sect. 2; though they all at last acquiesced in the Divine conduct, as knowing that God is wiser than men.

2 By this answer of Samuel, and that from a Divine commission, which is fuller in l Samuel 13:14, and by that parallel note in the Apostolical Constitutions just now quoted, concerning the great wickedness of Saul in venturing, even under a seeming necessity of affairs, to usurp the priest's office, and offer sacrifice without the priest, we are in some degree able to answer that question, which I have ever thought a very hard one, viz. Whether, if there were a city or country of lay Christians without any clergymen, it were lawful for the laity alone to baptize, or celebrate the eucharist, etc., or indeed whether they alone could ordain themselves either bishops, priests, or deacons, for the due performance of such sacerdotal ministrations; or whether they ought not rather, till they procure clergymen to come among them, to confine themselves within those bounds of piety and Christianity which belong alone to the laity; such particularly as are recommended in the first book of the Apostolical Constitutions, which peculiarly concern the laity, and are intimated in Clement's undoubted epistle, sect. 40. To which latter opinion I incline.

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