The grace of God to the sinner has often been illustrated, both in preaching and in print, by the story of "the kindness of God" shown by David to Mephibosheth. And viewed in this light the illustration is certainly very beautiful, so far as it goes; for we must never stop at any illustration as though it circumscribed the extent or the fulness of the grace of God as set forth in the gospel.

Not all the types and all the illustrations found in the Old Testament, taken together, can adequately set forth the grace that God has shown to man in Christ Jesus; nor yet that blessed work wrought by Jesus on the cross, and the redemption which He has accomplished, whereby grace can "reign through righteousness unto eternal life."

It is well that this should be borne in mind when preaching from types or illustrations, however precious they may be because of their being such. One would only desire that we might meditate on them more, and value them more as such, and as directing our hearts and minds to Him of whom they speak, and to the exceeding riches of God's grace now revealed, of which we are to know ourselves the objects and subjects.

This, however, suggests another question of much importance, namely, What is the effect produced in the heart, and thus on the whole life and character, by the revelation of this grace of our God? And it is this side of the truth (what I may call the subjective side) which I desire now more especially to consider, and of which we find a beautiful and valuable illustration in Mephibosheth. And when we consider this side of the truth, and of this illustration of it, have we not to own that, while the grace shown to us far surpasses in magnitude, and outshines in glory and blessedness, that of which he was the subject, yet the answer on his part to that grace, the moral effects produced in forming the affections of his heart towards David, and in affecting his whole course and character, make us conscious of the dullness and coldness of our hearts, as having been so little affected by the love of God and of Christ? Hence the little effect produced on our character here, either in separation from the course of this world, or in devotedness to Christ and His interests here, where He is rejected and while He is rejected. We do well to deal honestly and truly with ourselves as to why this should be so - to challenge our own hearts as before God, and not to put the question from us for "a more convenient season." Fork if there be a cause we do well to ascertain what it is, and we need not fear to discover it. There is a sure remedy; and, moreover, we can hide nothing, for the day is coming when the counsels of the heart will all be made manifest. (1 Cor. 4.) We have, indeed, to do with the God of all grace, who knows how to value and commend every desire of the heart after Himself and after Christ,… and with whom there is no faulty or hasty judgment, as we afterwards find with David in respect of Mephibosheth.

On the other hand, no fair appearance, no mere profession, no pious exterior, deceives Him - "All things are naked and open to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do." Nor would the upright heart that really knows His love desire it to be otherwise. It affords great comfort and rest to such that He knows and discerns everything perfectly.

We can understand what a joy it would have been to Mephibosheth, could David have known and rightly appreciated all the desires and motives of his heart instead of judging his case hastily and suspiciously. But we know that such joy could only be because there was true affection for David; there was no duplicity of heart or object, no selfish motives, no trimming his ways to suit circumstances. No, there was singleness of eye and faithfulness of heart, which were not understood by the world-loving, self-seeking Ziba, who with a deceitful heart could make "a fair show in the flesh."

But let us now enquire (for our own profit in its application to ourselves) what it was that so wrought with Mephibosheth to produce such beautiful and blessed fruit. Several things worked together to this end, and the same must work in our case if the same fruit is to be borne. Great and unmerited kindness had been shown to him by David. He belonged to the family of him who had been David's enemy and persecutor - Saul. He was, moreover, poor and helpless, and he felt all this and owned it. He was one of "the poor in spirit" who could be blessed. He had a deep sense of his position and condition, and hence had a deep sense of the grace shown him by David. His heart is moved and won by it. But the manner of the grace shown him must be noticed in connection with this; for it is because the nature and extent of God's grace are not rightly understood that many are defective when it is a question of the proper effect of grace in our own day. He rightly understood the nature of the grace shown to him, and accepted the place assigned him thereby; and this brought him into personal contact with David continually. It was not merely an act of kindness shown to him, but it was the place which this grace gave him, by which his soul was attached to David. Because of the position grace placed him in, he could constantly see and know sufficient of David to grow in attachment to him, while ever remembering where and what he had once been, and hence how great had been the favour that had thus set him so near to David's person, and, so to speak, in his companionship.

In comparing this, however, with the grace of God to us I would again call to mind what I stated at the first, that all that David did and could do but faintly expresses that of which we have been the recipients. Indeed, it is contrast and not comparison we find in some respects. For what love did David ever express to Mephibosheth? None, that we are aware of. Certainly he showed a thousandfold more for his reprobate son Absalom than any expressed to Mephibosheth. True, he was at David's table "as of the king's sons," but no conscious bond of relationship existed; no "spirit of adoption" on the one side, and no foundation of unchanging love on the other.

But again I would say that all this should put us to shame when we compare the effect on the heart, and the answer in the life, of Mephibosheth with that produced in ourselves. And why such a feeble answer to such mighty grace and infinite love? Is it not often because the true distance we were in, and the true moral 'condition that was ours, have not been sufficiently apprehended in the soul? "To whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little." And again, may it not be accounted for in many cases because the nature of the grace and love, and therefore the place of nearness which that love has assigned us, have not been entered into nor accepted by the soul? If accepted we should find ourselves in conscious nearness to Him who suffered and died for us. (David never suffered anything for Mephibosheth!)

True, if we do accept this portion we only reach it through the acceptance of His death in its application to all that ministers to "the old man." If we prefer life here we cannot be in the present enjoyment of "life eternal" - of that circle of blessedness which His death and resurrection have opened up for us even now, and into which the Holy Spirit would conduct our hearts, as sent of the Father for this object:

"Thou lead'st our hearts to that blest place
Where rest 's without alloy."

I do not wish to pursue in detail the account of Mephibosheth in relation to David in the hour of David's rejection and separation from the kingdom. In a very few words the divine record tells us of that which marked a true, devoted heart to David during his absence from his "rightful place." (See 2 Samuel 19:24.) We may well admire it, and covet a corresponding answer in our lives to the fact that our Saviour and Lord is rejected and dishonoured here.

The further brief notice of Mephibosheth when David returns, and his answer to David's hasty decision respecting the inheritance recorded in verse 30, once more speaks in no uncertain way of that unfeigned and disinterested love for David that could surrender all and everything if only he were exalted and honoured, and that he might have his company again to enjoy and delight in.

All this is beautiful to contemplate and happy to meditate on, and it is placed on record in God's word that reader and writer may do so, and profit thereby in its producing exercise of heart as to how far we have been formed and transformed by that love which "passeth knowledge," and by the enjoyed presence and company of our blessed Saviour and Lord - the Father's beloved Son - in whom He has found (and ever finds) His delight. May the language of our hearts be:

"Oh, fix our earnest gaze
So wholly, Lord, on Thee,
That with Thy beauty occupied,
We elsewhere none may see." S. M. A.