ABIGAIL; Or, The Power of Prudence
James Smith, 1856
"David said to Abigail: Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, who has sent you today to meet me. May you be blessed for your good judgment and for keeping me from bloodshed this day and from avenging myself with my own hands!" 1 Samuel 25:32-33
Saving grace always refines and dignifies the human character. Abigail would no doubt have been a fine character under any circumstances — but never the character she was, but for the grace of God. This raised her above her gender in general, and above herself in particular. She now stands out before us to be admired and imitated as an example of prudence.
Her husband, Nabal, was rich, and his riches were a curse to him, rather than a blessing. They were fuel to his lusts, and served to strengthen his evil propensities. They made him PROUD, and pride . . .
hardened his heart,
closed his eyes to danger, and
brought him into imminent peril.
He was FOOLISH; in this he answered to his name, as his wife said, "Nabal is his name, and folly is with him." How can we account for some names? What parent under ordinary circumstances, would call his child "Nabal," or a fool? Yet his parents did so.
His nature was DOGGISH. He was surly, selfish, and snappish. He possessed a canine disposition. Poor wretch, he must be unhappy with all his wealth — for enjoyment flows from the state of our hearts, rather than from our circumstances.
David was poor — but honest. He was anointed to the kingdom by God — but outlawed by Saul. Circumstances sometimes bring us into strange connections. David was Nabal's neighbor, and a good neighbor to him too. His flock was safe; his property was guarded. But ingratitude will incense the kindest heart, and Nabal's ingratitude filled David with anger. In Nabal's house all was joy, feasting, and revelry. He had just sheared his sheep; three thousand fine fleeces added greatly to his wealth. The work was over; the wool was secured; and all was festivity.
How different was David's lot. He had many mouths — and little food. He thought that wealth and wine would make Nabal generous, at least courteous; but how greatly was he mistaken. He sent his servants with a message — only to receive insults. They return, and tell how violently they were treated. David's blood was heated; passion seizes thoughts; and Nabal is doomed to death. Now all was danger; but drunken Nabal was unconscious of it. The news reached his house; fear and alarm were felt; a master-mind was required; without this, destruction will ride in triumph.
Danger brings out those features of character that were concealed; there was one in the house qualified to take the lead, to avert the stroke, to save the man and his household. That one was the thoughtful, the beautiful, the prudent Abigail.
No doubt but she answered to her name also; "Her father's joy." When the fond parent printed the first kiss on her ruby lips, he said, "Call her Abigail, for she is my joy!" What she was — all prudent daughters are. They make their fathers happy in life's meridian, and cheer their spirits in life's decline. Happy is the father whose daughters, if they have not the name — have the nature of prudent Abigail!
But she was badly matched. How strange to see so good a woman — united to so bad a man. Was it Nabal's wealth which induced Abigail's father to give her to that churl, irrespective of his disposition? It is to be feared that many parents make their children unhappy for life, by proposing or sanctioning unions — simply on the ground of wealth. The principal thing to be sought in order to marriage — after saving grace — is suitability of disposition. The man must have a constant cross who marries a woman who cannot understand him, and has not talent or grace to adapt herself to him.
Nor is a woman in a much better situation. A sensible woman married to an imbecile! A wise woman married to a foolish Nabal! What a miserable connection.
Young people should be careful not to match with unsuitable partners. Remember, the union is for life. Not only so, it is the closest of all unions, and without adaptation — it cannot be happy. There is much domestic misery where it is never suspected, and it generally arises from letting passion or pride form the connection. There should be much thought, and more prayer, before young people pledge themselves to each other — than upon any other subject.
How distressing to see a sober, respectable woman — united to a sottish, drunken husband. Abigail must have had much sorrow — much suffering. She could not look upon her husband, or lean upon him, or respect him, as she ought. She was to be greatly pitied, for in those days, parents gave their daughters to whom they would. Many in our country are only to be blamed, because they could have refused the connection if they would. She and her whole household were placed in the greatest danger by her husband's folly, and only some bold — yet prudent step, could save them.
Abigail was almost the opposite of her husband; she foresaw the danger, and sought to ward it off. She was a good wife, and used all the means in her power to save her husband. She acted promptly, and she acted well. She made her preparations, and went forth to meet David. She sees him coming with his armed men. She alights from her donkey; she falls down before him; she pleads with him; she offers her present to him; and she prevails.
Mark her reverence. See her on her knees; hear her plead! If only the soft, mellow, musical tones of her voice, could fall upon your ears as they did on the ears of David! Her voice makes way for her words. Her words are but wings for her feelings.
They are carried unto David's heart. His sympathies are awakened. It is as if a cool refreshing sea breeze passes over him, and his blood grows cool, his passions subside, his resentment dies, and he is changed into another man. He saw a woman approach him; he heard a woman speak to him; but he looks on that prostrate form now, and could believe it to be an angel. What a strange transition! What a wondrous change! Surely his men must look with wonder at their courageous captain, so speedily conquered by a feeble woman — if they were not as much overcome as he was. He admires her person; he admits her plea; he grants her request; he receives her present; and he pours the warmest blessings of his soul upon her.
Happy is the man who has a prudent wife. Well may Solomon say, "A prudent wife is from the Lord." And again, "The wisdom of the prudent is to understand his way."
Prudence has prevailed. Abigail is happy, for Nabal and all her household are saved from the sword, and she is blessed by the anointed king of Israel. David is happy, and returns to his place praising God, and commending the prudent wife of Nabal.
How much happiness, or how much misery — one person can produce! But of Abigail we feel ready to exclaim, "Many daughters have done virtuously — but you excel them all."
In her prudence, there was humility. We can never expect proud women to be prudent. They look too high. They feel too secure. They carry themselves too loftily. Her humility gave her tact — it made her wise. In her case, wisdom dwelt with prudence. She wisely seized her opportunity, made her preparation, faced the danger, and saved her household from destruction.
She was active — as prudent people always are; as it is written, "The prudent man foresees the evil, and hides himself; the foolish pass on and are punished." Had Abigail been one of our soft, easy, let-things-go women — her family would have been exterminated, and the possessions would have been seized. But she was the opposite of this — wise, thoughtful, benevolent, humble, and active; she was prepared for an emergency, and would have been a crown to any husband.
Her prudence saved . . .
her husband from death,
David from sin, and
her property from destruction.
It was a credit and a comfort to her when she first displayed it, and it raised her to honor and happiness afterwards.
When Nabal was sober, and she told him of his danger — his heart failed him and he became like a stone; and soon after the Lord smote him, and he died indeed. Then David sent to Abigail, sought her hand, and took her to be his wife. Now she has a husband that is worthy of her. Now her prudence is crowned indeed.
Young friends, learn wisdom from Abigail's sufferings. Never consent to marry a churl, or to be the wife of a fool. Once united to one of a doggish nature — your happiness is gone for life. Never marry a man you cannot respect, as well as love; one you cannot look up to, as well as lean upon. Let your husband be your lord — the pillar, the stay, the support of the household. . Let your husband be one whom you can respect, without mortifying yourself; and submit to, without feeling degraded.
Wives, see that you have the prudence of Abigail in your families. If you have married a fool, if you are the wife of a Nabal — make the best of it. You ran into it, knowing that you could not run out of it! Therefore be humble, be winning, be wise. Let no wife lord it over her husband — it is unrighteous, it is unwise, it is unholy. Let love influence, let Scripture rule, let the husband's honor and happiness be sought above everything, except it be the glory of God. There can be no solid or settled happiness in a family — unless every member of it is in its proper place, and keeps that place. A masculine wife, and a feminine husband, renders a household unhappy, and looks ridiculous. Ruling wives, and obeying husbands — are equally out of place! "The husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church."
How important, therefore, that young people act wisely in choosing companions for life. If the wife is a temple of the Holy Spirit, and the husband the temple of Beelzebub — how can there be harmony or happiness? Or, if the husband is a member of Christ, and the wife in union with Satan — how can the end of the marriage union be at peace? It is impossible. Let the law of Christ, then, be written upon the heart of every unmarried professor, "at liberty to marry — but only in the Lord."
My young friends, your prudence will be displayed in imitating one part of Abigail's conduct. David was a type of Christ. Jesus is David's Lord. He is represented in his own Word as coming to punish all doggish, drunken, foolish Nabals — who reject his claims, refuse his authority, and insult his servants. He will soon be here, and then he will say, "But those enemies of mine who did not want me to be king over them — bring them here and kill them in front of me!"
Go then, like this prudent woman, go and meet him. He is now on his throne of grace. That throne is accessible from all places. He receives all comers. He pardons all applicants. Go and bow before him. Bow not only the knee — but the heart. Plead with him. Plead . . .
his own gracious invitations,
his own precious promises,
your imminent danger,
your great need.
Plead as Abigail did, with fervor, with feeling, conscious that you must prevail — or perish. Plead until he pronounces your pardon, imparts his blessing, and bids you to go in peace. If you have no present, and you have nothing fit to offer to him — then make him a present of yourself. Give him your heart to be his temple, and your entire person to be an instrument for his glory.
He will not refuse the offer.
He will receive you graciously.
He will raise you from the dust.
He will win your warmest love.
He will take you into vital union with himself.
He will seat you on his throne, and place you before his face forever!
His Heaven shall be your home.
His presence shall be your delight.
His joy your shall be perpetual feast.
His Father shall be your Father
His God shall be your God.
This will be genuine prudence. This will be true wisdom. But if you go recklessly on, if you allow time to waft you into eternity, before you are reconciled to God, and enjoy peace with him — then you must expect to receive the due reward of your deeds. Then you must experience all the threatenings which God's Word contains, which are directed against such unwise, imprudent characters as you are. Being guilty of Nabal's folly — you must expect to meet Nabal's doom, and share in Nabal's punishment. Yes, with all the fools, drunkards, and doggish sinners, who have lived and died in their sins — you must suffer the vengeance of eternal fire!
What companions for you! What society to spend an eternity in! Yet all such will have their portion in the lake that burns with brimstone and fire! Driven away in their wickedness, they sink under the righteous condemnation of the Most High God, and endure the just curse of the Eternal God, forever and ever!
Reader, will this be your doom? Shall this be your portion? Nothing can make it so — but your own sin. Hell is . . .
the wages of unrighteousness,
the desert of sin,
the necessary result of transgression,
the end of the sinner's chosen course.
Be wise now, therefore, O you who read these lines! Be instructed, you who have hitherto lived carelessly in sin! "Kiss the Son, lest he be angry and you be destroyed in your way, for his wrath can flare up in a moment. Blessed are all who take refuge in him!"