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Independently of this author, of whom we hardly know either the true name, the religion, the country, or the age, every body will allow that there is a good deal of wisdom required to play the fool properly. Madness is no sin, it is a disease of the mind, or rather of the brain. David, it is to be observed, during his pretended madness said nothing criminal, He did a few apparent acts of a person insane. Why might he not be allowed to free himself from imminent danger by this prudent dissimilation ? To treat of this
question fully and accurately it would be necessary to go to the bottom of the subject, and examine the grounds and principles of the obligations men are under to speak and act sincerely to one another. It might not be improper to investigate this matter by enquiring, wliether in this reciprocal engagement there be any difference between deceiving by words known and agreed on between mankind, and misleading by actions the natural signs of the sentiments of our hearts. Particularly it should be examined, whether there be no cases, in which this kind of contract is in a sort suspended, and whether David were not in one of these cases, in which he was not obliged so to act as to convey to king Achish his true and real sentiments. But as I know, sir, you have examined this subject in the case of Samuel, I will confine myself to two arguments, supported by a few facts relative to the conduct attributed to David, in order to justify him.
First, His life was in danger, and will not a man give al} that he hath for his life? Have we not a right to do every thing except sin to avoid death? Blame, and welcome, the cruel policy of Dionysius of Sicily, (2) who sometimes spread a report that he was sick, and sometimes that he had been assassinated by his soldiers, with a design to discover by the unguarded conversation of his subjects how they stood affected to his government, that he might have a pretence for prescribing such as were ill affected to his despotism. Censure, if you please, the king of Ithaca, and the astrcnomer Meton (3) for pretending to have lost their senses, the first for the sake of continuing with his dear Penelope, and the last to avoid accompanying the Athenians in an expedition against Sicily. Pity, if you will, the two monks, Simeon and Thomas, (4) wlio affected to play the fool lest
the (2) Polyænus Stratag. 1. v. cap. 2. S. 15, 16.
(3) Ælian viriar. historiar. lib. xiii. cap. 12.. grius. Hist. Eccles. lib. iv. cap. 34.,
the extrao:dinary holiness of their lives should not be perceived. I freely give up these tyrants and hypocrites to the most severe criticism, and I am inclined to be of the opinion of Cicero, (5) who calls the finesse of Ulysses, non honestum consilium, a disingenious conduct. Form, if you think proper, the same opinion of the stratagem of the fainous St. Ephraim, (6) who, understanding that he was chosen bishop, and that they were going to force him to be ordained, ran into a public place, walked irregularly, let fall his robe, went eating along the streets, and did so many actions of this kind that every body thought he had lost his senses. He watched his opportunity, fled and concealed himself, and continued to do thus till they had nominated another bishop. I will not pretend to say, whether this proceeded from his contempt of vain glory, as Sozomen(7) pretends, or from his of retirement, for he was ησυχιας εις αγαν εραστης. part, I make no scruple to say of this artifice, as well as of the trickhe played Appollinaris, (8) non honestum consilium, But you sir, who are such a good citizen, will you concondemn the wise Solon (9) for counterfeiting distraction in order to divert his fellow citizens of Athens from their resolation to abandon Salamin his country to the inhabitants of Megara? You, sir, who are no enemy to prudence, will
you disapprove the opinion given of Lucius Junius Brutus, (10)
Brutus erat stulti sapiens imitator.
He affected to be stupid, lest he should become suspected by Tarquin the proud, who had put to death his father and his eldest brother for the sake of seizing their great wealth. It should seem, that on supposition David acted a part when he was in danger of his life in a place where he had fled for refuge, it would be a sufficient justification of his character to say, that he thought he might inocently make use of such a stratagem.
2. If the danger of losing his life be not sufficient, let it be observed further, that the deception was directed to the Philistines, with whom the Israelites were then at war, This
(5) Cic. de officiis. lib. iii. cap. 26. (6) Sozomen Hist. eccl. lib. iii. cap. 16.
(7) Soz. ibid. (8) Greg. de Nyssen Paneg. de S. Ephr. (9) Diogenes Lært. lib. i. in Solone, (10) Dion. Halicarn Antiquitat. Roman. lib. iv.
is a second argument to justify the conduct of David. When was it ever unlawful to use stratagems in war? Did not God himself order the Israelites to lie in ambush, and to flee before the inhabitants of Abi in order to draw them from the city? Is there any less evil in affecting cowardice than there is in pretending to be deprived of reason? Where is the general, who would not be glad to take cities at the same price as Callicratidas of Cyrene (11) took the fort of Magnesia by introducing four soldiers who pretended to be sick? You have observed, sir, in Buchanan's excellent history of ScotJand, (12) the manner in which king Duncan defeated the army of Swen king of Norway, who was besieging him in Perth. He sent the besiegers a great quantity of wine and beer in which some herbs of noxious qualities had been infused, and while this sophoric was taking effect, he went into the camp, and put the whole army to the sword except the prince of Norway and ten soldiers, who had suspected the present made them by the enemy, and had not tasted the beverage.' The herb is supposed to be the solanum, or strychnos of Pliny, (13) the right-shade, which in a certain quantity stupifies, in a greater quantity distracts, and if more than two drachms causes death. For these two reasons, then, I conclude that my first proposition is sufficiently clear. I said, if David had counterfeited madness, and played the fool, he would not have committed any sin, first because his life was in danger, and secondly because the Philistines were aç war with his country,
II. If any continue obstinately to maintain, that the dissimulation of David was criminal, and opposite to sincerity and good faith, I have another string to my bow to defend this illustrious refugee. I affirm, that David did not play the fool and act a part, but that, being seized with extreme fear at hearing the conversation of the ministers of state in the court of king Achish, he fell under a real absence of mind, and behaved in a few instances like a man disordered in his senses. Sebastian Schmidt, (14) a celebrated Lutheran
(11) Polyænus Stratag. lib. ii. cap. 27. 9. 1.. (12) Buchanani Hist. Scotica.--Rem. This tale is not credited by some historians, and indeed it appears highly improbable in itself. Mr. Guthrie calls it an infamous and improbable Story ----Hist. of Scot.
(13) Plin. Hist. Nat. lib. xxi. cap. 31.--Salmas. ad. Solin. p. 2086. (14) D. Sebast, Schmidius in
Vol. I. p. 234.
divine, proposed as a kind of problem, whether providence might not permit David to be terrified into a momentary delirium in order to effect his deliverance. Mr. John Christian Ortlob, a learned man of Leipsic, (15) published a dissertation in 1706 on the delirium of David before Achish, in which he shews, that the whole of the sacred text in Samuel naturally leads us to judge that David was so struck with the fear of sudden death that for a few moments his understand ing was absent. As this thesis is little known in this country, and as it is curious in itself, you will not be displeased, sir, if I give you here a sketch of what he says.
1. Mr. Ortlob shews, that dissiinulation was impracticable in David's condition. Either he affected to play the fool the moment he was seized by the servants of the king, or only while he was in the presence
of Achish. The text is contrary to the first, for it expressly assures us that this madness of David was in consequence of the conversation, that passed between Achish and his officers in the presence of David. The second supposition is not at all likely, for it would have been very imprudent for him to begin to act his part in the presence of Achish, his officers would have discovered the artifice, and would have informed their master, beside it is inconceivable that David should continue from his being first taken to that moment as mule as a fish in order to conceal a design, which required a state of mind more tranquil than that of David could be in a danger so imminent,
2. Next, Mr. Ortlob proceeds to prove that David had a true and natural alienation of mind,
The first proof is, his fear of danger. David, says the twelfth verse,
the words in his heart, and was sore afraid of Achish the king of Gath. The terror that seized his soul affected the organs of his body, and disconcerted the fibres of his brain. There are many examples of persons affected in like manner with sudden fear. Our learned author relates the case of a girl of ten years of age, (16) who was so terrified with thunder and lightning in a furious tempest, that she was seized with violent convulsions in her left arm and her left leg. Though she did not lose her senses, yet she was constrained to flee on the other foot along the wainscot of the chamber, and the company could not stop her.
(15) Davidis delirium coram Achis. Lipsiæ, 1706. 4. pag. 24. (16) Ephemer. Med. Phys. Germ. Academiæ curiosorum. An. 8. Obsery. 71.
The next proof is taken from the expressions of the inspired writer, which simply and literally explained signify a real madness.
David changed his behaviour. It is in the Hebrew his taste, that is his reason, for reason is in man, what taste is in regard to aliments.
And he became mad. The Hebrew verb halah, in the conjugation hithpael, as it is here, always signifies in scripture real, and not feigned madness, and there is nothing in the text, which obliges us to depart from a sense, that perfectly agrees with the simplicity of the history. The French and English versions render it, he feigned himself mad: but they are wrong, for the original says nothing about feigning.
He scrabbled on the doors of the gate. Cornelius a Lapide thinks, he wrote the letter tau to form the figure of the
Rabbi Schabtai, in a German book entitled Esriin vearba, (17) was better informed, and he says David wrote on the gates of the palace, the king owes me a hundred thousand gilders, and his kingdom, fifty thousand. Mr. Ortlob, learned as he is, does not know so much as the Rabbi and the Jesuit. He contents himself with observing, that David, all taken up with his delirium, and having no instrument in his hand to write, scratched the gate with his fingers, like people in a malignant fever. He observes also, that the indecent manner in which David let his spittle fall down upon his beard is a natural and usual consequence of a delirium. .
His third proof is taken from the connection of the whole history, which supposes and indicates real madness. David changed his behaviour; the sacred author explains first in what this change consisted, it was in becoming mad in the presence of the king and his officers; and he adds two actions of madness, the one scratching and writing on the gates with his fingers, and the other drivelling on his beard.
The last proof our author takes from the consequences. Achish gives David his life and liberty, as a man beneath his resentment. He was angry with those who brought a madman to him. David on his side escaped the danger, recovered his spirits and became himself. There is no reason to question whether he observed the precept given by himself in the thirty-fourth psalm, which he composed as well
(17) Printed in 1703,