There are two sides to the character of Samson. The one phase of his life, if followed into the particulars, would administer to the grotesque and the mirthful; but there is a phase of his character fraught with lessons of solemn and eternal import. To these graver lessons, we devote our morning sermon. . . .
This giant was no doubt the hero of the playground, and nothing could stand before his exhibitions of youthful prowess. At eighteen years of age he was betrothed to the daughter of a Philistine. Going down toward Timnath, a lion came out upon him, and, although this young giant was weaponless, he seized the monster by the long mane and shook him as a hungry hound shakes a March hare, and made his bones crack, and left him by the wayside bleeding under the smiting of his fist and the grinding heft of his heel.
There he stands, looming up above other men, a mountain of flesh, his arms bunched with muscle that can lift the gate of a city, taking an attitude defiant of everything. His hair had never been cut, and it rolled down in seven great plaits over his shoulders, adding to his bulk, fierceness, and terror. The Philistines want to conquer him, and therefore they must find out where the secret of his strength lies.
There is a dissolute woman living in the valley of Sorek by the name of Delilah. They appoint her the agent in the case. The Philistines are secreted in the same building, and then Delilah goes to work and coaxes Samson to tell what is the secret of his strength. “Well,” he says, “if you should take seven green withes such as they fasten wild beasts with and put them around me I should be perfectly powerless.” So she binds him with the seven green withes. Then she claps her hands and says: “They come—the Philistines!” and he walks out as though they were no impediment. . . .
But after awhile she persuades him to tell the truth. He says: “If you should take a razor or shears and cut off this long hair, I should be powerless and in the hands of my enemies.” Samson sleeps, and that she may not wake him up during the process of shearing, help is called in. … The shears or razor accomplishes what green withes and new ropes and house-loom could not do. Suddenly she claps her hands, and says: “The Philistines be upon thee, Samson!” He rouses up with a struggle, but his strength is all gone. He is in the hands of his enemies.
I hear the groan of the giant as they take his eyes out, and then I see him staggering on in his blindness, feeling his way as he goes on toward Gaza. The prison door is open, and the giant is thrust in. He sits down and puts his hands on the mill-crank, which, with exhausting horizontal motion, goes day after day, week after week, month after month—work, work, work! The consternation of the world in captivity, his locks shorn, his eyes punctured, grinding corn in Gaza!
First of all, behold in this giant of the text that physical power is not always an index of moral power. He was a huge man—the lion found it out, and the three thousand men whom he slew found it out; yet he was the subject of petty revenges and out-gianted by low passion. . . .
But how often it is that men with physical strength do not serve Christ! They are like a ship full manned and full rigged, capable of vast tonnage, able to endure all stress of weather, yet swinging idly at the docks, when these men ought to be crossing and recrossing the great ocean of human suffering and sin with God’s supplies of mercy. . . .
It is a most shameful fact that much of the business of the Church and of the world must be done by those comparatively invalid. Richard Baxter, by reason of his diseases, all his days sitting in the door of the tomb, yet writing more than a hundred volumes, and sending out an influence for God that will endure as long as the “Saints’ Everlasting Rest.” Edward Payson, never knowing a well day, yet how he preached, and how he wrote, helping thousands of dying souls like himself to swim in a sea of glory! And Robert M’Cheyne, a walking skeleton, yet you know what he did in Dundee, and how he shook Scotland with zeal for God. Philip Doddridge, advised by his friends, because of his illness, not to enter the ministry, yet you know what he did for the “rise and progress of religion” in the Church and in the world. . . .
Oh, how often it is that men with great physical endurance are not as great in moral and spiritual stature! While there are achievements for those who are bent all their days with sickness—achievements of patience, achievements of Christian endurance—I call upon men of health to-day, men of muscle, men of nerve, men of physical power, to devote themselves to the Lord. Giants in body, you ought to be giants in soul. . . .
Oh, men of stout physical health, men of great mental stature, men of high social position, men of great power of any sort, I want you to understand your power, and I want you to know that that power devoted to God will be a crown on earth, to you typical of a crown in heaven; but misguided, bedraggled in sin, administrative of evil, God will thunder against you with His condemnation in the day when millionaire and pauper, master and slave, king and subject, shall stand side by side in the judgment, and money-bags, and judicial ermine, and royal robe shall be riven with the lightnings.