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understand more than the ancients," Ps. cxix. | dream. We have elsewhere* remarked, that 99, 100.
Here we have an illustrious proof. Solomon, in the early periods of life, formed the correctest idea of government which had ever entered the mind of the profoundest philosophers, or the most consummate statesmen. Awed by the sceptre, he acknowledged the impotency of his arm to sway it. Of the high privilege granted of God, to ask whatever he would, he availed himself solely to ask wisdom. What an admirable choice! How many aged men have we seen less enlightened than this youth? On the other hand, God honoured a petition so wise, by superadding to the petitioner every other endowment: he gave to Solomon wisdom, and with wisdom, glory and riches; he elevated him to a scale of grandeur, which no prince ever did, or ever shall be allowed to equal. It is to this petition so judicious, and to this reply so magnificent, that we shall call your attention, after having bestowed a moment on occasion of both.
It occurs in the leading words of our text. It was a divine communication, in which the place, the manner, and the subject, claim particular attention.
1. The place: it was in Gibeon; not the city from which those Gibeonites derived their name, who, by having recourse to singular artifice, saved their lives, which they thought themselves unable to defend by force, or to preserve by compassion. That, I would say, the city of those Gibeonites, was a considerable place, and called in the Book of Joshua, a royal city. The other was situate on the highest mountains of Judea, distant, according to Eusebius and St. Jerome, about eight miles from Jerusalem.
We shall not enter into geographical discussions. What claims attention is, a circumstance of the place where Solomon was, which naturally recalls to view one of the weaknesses of this prince. It is remarked at the commencement of the chapter, from which we have taken our text, that "the people sacrificed in high places." The choice was, probably, not exempt from superstition: it is certain, at least, that idolaters usually selected the highest mountains for the exercise of their religious ceremonies. Tacitus assigns as a reason, that in those places, being nearer the gods, they were the more likely to be heard. Lucian reasons much in the same way, and, without a doubt, less to vindicate the custom than to expose it to contempt. God himself has forbidden it in law.
We have, however, classed this circumstance in Solomon's life among his frailties, rather than his faults. Prevention for high places was much less culpable in the reign of this prince, than in the ages which followed. In those ages, the Israelites violated, by sacrificing on high places, the law which forbade any sacrifice to be offered, except in the temple of Jerusalem; whereas, in the age of which we now speak, the temple did not exist. The people sacrificed on the brazen altar, constructed by the divine command. This altar was then in Gibeon, where it had been escorted with the tabernacle, as we read in the book of Chronicles.
2. The manner in which the revelation to Solomon was made, supplies a second source of reflections. It was, says the historian, in a
there are three sorts of dreams. Some are in the order of nature; others are in the order of providence; and a third class are of an order superior to both.
I call dreams in the order of nature, those which ought merely to be regarded as the irregular flights of imagination, over which the will has lost, or partially lost, its command.
I call dreams in the order of providence, those which without deviation from the course of nature, excite certain instructive ideas, and suggest to the mind truths, to which we were not sufficiently attentive while awake. Providence sometimes directing our attention to peculiar circumstances in a way purely natural, and destitute of all claims to the supernatural, and much less to the marvellous.
Some dreams, however, are of an order superior to those of nature, and of providence. It was by this sort of dreams that God revealed his pleasure to the prophets: but this dispensation being altogether divine, and of which the Scriptures say little, and being impossible for the researches of the greatest philosopher to supply the silence of the Holy Ghost, we shall make no fruitless efforts farther to illustrate the manner of the revelation with which Solomon was honoured.
3. A reason very dissimilar supersedes our stopping to illustrate the subject; I would say, it has no need of illustration. God was wishful to put Solomon to the proof, by prompting him to ask whatsoever he would, and by engaging to fulfil it. Solomon's reply was worthy of the test. His sole request was for wisdom. God honoured this enlightened request; and in granting profound wisdom to his servant, he superadded riches, and glory, and long life.-It is this enlightened request, and this munificent reply, we are now to examine. We shall examine them jointly, placing, at the same time, the harmony of the one with the other, in a just and proper view. Four remarks demand attention in Solomon's request to God, and four in God's reply.
I. Consider, in Solomon's request, the recollection of past mercies: "Thou hast showed unto thy servant David, my father, great mercy:" and mark, in the reply, how pleasing this recollection was to God.
II. Consider, in Solomon's request, the aspect under which he regarded the regal power. He considered it solely with a view to the high duties on which it obliged him to enter. "Thy servant is in the midst of thy people which thou hast chosen, a great people, which cannot be numbered nor counted for multitude. Who is able to judge this thy so great a people?" And in God's reply, mark the opposite seal, with regard to this idea of the supreme authority.
III. Consider, in Solomon's request, the sentiments of his own weakness and the consciousness of his insufficiency: "I am but as a little child, and know not how to go out, and to come in:" and in God's reply, mark how highly he is delighted with humility.
IV. In Solomon's request, consider the wisdom of his choice; “Give, therefore, unto thy
* Discours Hist. tom. v. p. 184.
servant an understanding heart to judge thy people:" and in God's reply, mark how Solomon's prayer was heard, and his wisdom crowned. Four objects, all worthy of our regard.
I. Consider, in Solomon's request, the recollection of mercies. It was the mercies of David, his father. Solomon made this reference as a motive to obtain the divine mercies and aids his situation required. He aspired at the blessings which God confers on the children of faithful fathers. He wished to become the object of that promise in which God stands engaged to "show mercy to thousands of generations of those that love him," Exod. xx. 6. This is the first object of our discourse. The privilege of an illustrious birth, I confess, is sometimes extravagantly amplified. This kind of folly is not novel in the present age: it was the folly of the Hebrew nation. To most of the rebukes of their prophets, they opposed this extraordinary defence: "We are Abraham's seed; we have Abraham to our father," Matt. iii. 9. What an apology! Does an illustrious birth sanction low and grovelling sentiments. Do the virtues of our ancestors excuse us from being virtuous? And has God for ever engaged to excuse impious children, because their parents were pious? You are the children of Abraham; you have an illustrious descent; your ancestors were the models and glory of their age. Then you are the more inexcusable for being the reproach of your age; then you are the faithless depositories of the nobility with which you have been intrusted; then you have degenerated from your former grandeur: then you shall be condemned to surrender to nature a corrupted blood, which you received pure from those to whom you owe your birth.
It is true, however, all things being weighed, that, in tracing a descent, it is a singular favour of Heaven to be able to cast one's eyes on a long line of illustrious ancestors. I am not about to offer incense to the idol of distinguished families; the Lord's church has more correct ideas of nobility. To be accounted noble in the sanctuary, we must give proof of virtue, and not of empty titles, which often owe their origin to the vanity, the seditions, and fawning baseness of those who display them with so much pride. To be noble in the language of our Scriptures; and to be impure, avaricious, haughty, and implacable, are different ideas. But charity, but patience, but moderation, but dignity of soul, and a certain elevation of mind, place the possessor above the world and its maxims. These are characteristics of the nobility of God's children.
In this view, it is a high favour of Heaven, in tracing one's descent, to be able to cast the eye on a long line of illustrious ancestors. How often have holy men availed themselves of these motives to induce the Deity, if not to bear with the Israelites in their course of crimes, at least to pardon them after the crimes have been committed? How often have they said, in the supplications they opposed to the wrath of Heaven, "O God, remember Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, thy servants!" How often has God yielded to the strength of these
arguments? How often has he, for the sake of the patriarchs, for the sake of David, heard prayer in behalf of their children?
Let these maxims be deeply imprinted on the heart. Our own interest should be motive sufficient to prompt us to piety. But we should also be excited to it by the interest of our children. The recollection of our virtues is the best inheritance we can leave them after death. These virtues afford them claims to the divine favours. The good will of Heaven, is, in some sort, entailed on families who fear the Lord. Happy the fathers, when extended on the bed of death, who can say, My children, I am about to appear before the awful tribunal, where there is no resource for poor mortals, but humility and repentance. Meanwhile, I bless God, that notwithstanding my defects, which I acknowledge with confusion of face, you will not have cause to blush on pronouncing the name of your father. I have been faithful to the truth, and have constantly walked before God, "in the uprightness of my heart." Happy the children who have such a descent; I would prefer it to titles the most distinguished, to riches the most dazzling, and to offices the most lucrative. "O God, thou hast showed unto thy servant David, my father, great mercy, according as he walked before thee in truth, and in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart!" Here is the recollection of past mercies, the recollection of which God approves, and the first object of our discourse.
II. Consider, secondly, in the prayer of Solomon, the aspect under which he contemplated the regal power. He viewed it principally with regard to the high duties imposed. "Thy servant is in the midst of thy people which thou hast chosen; who is able to judge this thy so great a people, which cannot be numbered?" The answer of God is a correspondent seal to this idea of supreme authority. And what we here say of the regal power, we apply to every other office of trust and dignity. A man of integrity must not view them with regard to the emoluments they produce, but with regard to the duties they impose.
What is the end proposed by society on elevating certain men to high stations? Is it to augment their pride? Is it to usher them into a style of life the most extravagant? Is it to aggrandize their families by the ruin of the widow and the orphan? Is it to adore them as idols? Is it to become their slaves? Potentates and magistrates of the earth, ask those subjects to whom you are indebted for the high scale of elevation you enjoy. Ask, Why those dignities were conferred? They will say, it was to intrust you with their safety and repose; it was to procure fathers and protectors; it was to find peace and prosperity under the shadow of your tribunals. To induce you to enter on those arduous duties, they have accompanied them with those inviting appendages which soothe the cares, and alleviate the weights of office. They have conferred titles; they have sworn obedience, and ensured revenue. trance then on a high duty is to make a contract with the people, over whom you proceed to exercise it; it is to make a compact, by
which certain duties are required on certain | phet, the piety of a good man, and even the conditions. To require the emoluments, when virtues of a saint of the first rank. the conditions of the engagements are violated, is an abominable usurpation; it is a usurpation of honour, of homage, and of revenue. I speak literally, and without even a shadow of exaggeration: a magistrate who deviates from the duties of his office, after having received the emolument, ought to come under the penal statutes, as those who take away their neighbours' goods. These statutes require restitution. Before restitution, he is liable to this anathema, "Wo to him that increaseth that which is not his own, and to him that ladeth himself with thick clay; for the stone shall cry out of the wall, and the beam out of the timber shall answer it," Hab. ii. 6. 11. Before restitution, he is unworthy of the Lord's table, and included in the curse we denounce against thieves, whom we repel from the holy Eucharist. Before restitution, he is unable to die in peace, and he is included in the list of those "who shall not inherit the kingdom of God." But into what strange reflections do these considerations involve us? What awful ideas do they excite in our minds? And what alarming consequences do they draw on certain kings?-Ye Moseses; ye Elijahs; ye John Baptists; faithful servants of the living God, and celebrated in every age of the church for your fortitude, your courage, and your zeal; you, who know not how to temporize, nor to tremble; no, neither before Pharaoh, nor before Ahab, nor before Herod, nor before Herodias, why are you not in this pulpit? Why do you not to-day supply our place, to communicate to the subject all the energy of which it is susceptible? "Be wise, O ye kings; be instructed, ye judges of the earth," Ps. ii. 10.
III. We have remarked, thirdly, in the prayer of Solomon, the sentiments of his own weakness; and in God's reply, the high regard testified towards humility. The character of the king whom Solomon succeeded, the arduous nature of the duties to which he was called, and the insufficiency of his age, were to him three considerations of humility.
1. The character of the king to whom he succeeded. "Thou hast showed unto thy servant David, my father, great mercy, according as he walked before thee in truth, and in righteousness, and in the uprightness of his heart; and thou hast given him a son to sit upon his throne. How dangerous to succeed an illustrious prince! The brilliant actions of a predecessor, are so many sentences against the faults of his successor. The people never fail to make certain oblique contrasts between the past and the present. They recollect the virtues they have attested, the happiness they have enjoyed, the prosperity with which they have been loaded, and the distinguished qualifications of the prince, whom death has recently snatched away. And if the idea of having had an illustrious predecessor is, on all occasions, a subject of serious consideration for him who has to follow, never had a prince a juster cause to be awed than Solomon. He succeeded a man who was the model of kings, in whose person was united the wisdom of a statesman, the valour of a soldier, the experience of a marshal, the illumination of a pro
2. The extent of the duties imposed on Solomon, was the second object of his diffidence. "Who is able to judge this thy so great a people?" Adequately to judge a great nation, a man must regard himself as no more his own, but wholly devoted to the people. Adequately to judge a great nation, a man must have a consummate knowledge of human nature, of civil society, of the laws of nature, and of the peculiar laws of the provinces over which he presides. Adequately to judge a nation, he must have his house and his heart ever open to the solicitations of those over whom he is exalted. Adequately to judge a people, he must recollect, that a small sum of money, that a foot of land, is as much to a poor man as a city, a province, and a kingdom, are to a prince. Adequately to judge a people, he must habituate himself to the disgust excited by listening to a man who is quite full of his subject, and who imagines that the person addressed, ought to be equally impressed with its importance. Adequately to judge a people, a man must be exempt from vice: nothing is more calculated to prejudice the mind against the purity of his decisions, than to see him captivated by some predominant passion. Ade quately to judge a people, he must be destitute of personal respect; he must neither yield to the entreaties of those who know the way to his heart, nor be intimidated by the high tone of others, who threaten to hold up as martyrs, the persons they obstinately defend. Adequately to judge a people, a man must expand, if I may so speak, all the powers of his soul, that he may be equal to the dignity of his duty, and avoid all distraction, which, on engrossing the capacity of the mind, obstruct its perception of the main object. And "who is sufficient for these things?" who is able to judge this thy so great a people? 2 Cor. ii. 16.
3. The snares of youth form a third object of Solomon's fear, and a third cause of his diffidence. "I am but a little child; I know not how to go out and come in." Some chronologists are of opinion, that Solomon, when he uttered these words, "I am but a little child," was only twelve years of age, which to us seems insupportable; for besides its not being proved by the event, as we shall explain, it ought to be placed in the first year of this prince's reign: and the style in which David addressed him on his investiture with the reins of government, sufficiently proves, that he spake not to a child. He calls him wise, and to this wisdom he confides the punishment of Joab and of Shimei.
Neither do we think that we can attach to these words, "I am but a little child," with better grace, a sense purely metaphorical, as implying nothing more than Solomon's acknowledgment of the infancy of his understanding. The opinion most probable, in our apprehension, (and we omit the detail of the reasons by which we are convinced of it) is, that of those who think that Solomon calls himself a little child, much in the same sense as the term is applied to Benjamin, to Joshua, and to the sons of Eli.
It was, therefore, I would suppose, at the
age of twenty or of twenty-six years, that So- | ther, Lord, raise me to the highest scale of lomon saw himself called to fill the throne of grandeur, and give me to trample under foot. the greatest kings, and to enter on those ex- men who shall have the assurance to become alted duties, of which we have given but an my equals, and whom I regard as the worms of imperfect sketch. How disproportioned did earth. How little, for the most part, do we the vocation seem to the age! It is then that know ourselves in prosperity! How incorrect we give scope to presumption, which has a are our ideas! Great God, do thou determine plausible appearance, being as yet unmortified our lot, and save us from the reproach of makby the recollection of past errors. It is then, ing an unhappy choice, by removing the occathat a jealousy of not being yet classed by sion. Solomon was incomparably wiser. Fillothers among great men, prompts a youth to ed with the duties of his august station, and place himself in that high rank. It is then awed by its difficulties, he said, "Lord, give that we regard counsels as so many attacks on thy servant an understanding heart to judge the authority we assume to ourselves. It is thy people, that I may discern between good then that we oppose an untractable disposition and bad." as a barrier to the advice of a faithful friend, But if we applaud the wisdom of Solomon's who would lead us to propriety of conduct. It prayer, how much more should we applaud is then, that our passions hurry us to excess, the goodness and munificence of God's reply? and become the arbitrators of truth and false-"Because thou hast asked this thing, and hast hood, of equity and injustice.
Presumptuous youths, who make the assurance with which you aspire at the first offices of state, the principal ground of success, how can I better impress you with this head of my discourse, than by affirming, that the higher notions you entertain of your own sufficiency, the lower you sink at the bar of equity and reason. The more you account yourselves qualified to govern, the less you are capable of doing it. The sentiment Solomon entertained of his own weakness, was the most distinguished of his royal virtues. The profound humility with which he asked God to supply his inability, was the best disposition for obtaining the divine support.
IV. We are come at length to the last, and to the great object of the history before us. Here we must show you, on the one hand, our hero preferring the requisite talents, to pomp, splendour, riches, and all that is grateful to kings; and from the vast source opened by Heaven, deriving but wisdom and understanding. We must show, on the other hand, that God, honouring a prayer so enlightened, accorded to Solomon the wisdom and understanding he had asked, and with these, riches, glory, and long life.
not asked for thyself long life, neither hast thou asked riches for thyself, nor hast asked the life of thine enemies. But hast asked understanding to discern judgment. Behold, I have done according to thy word. Lo, I have given thee a wise and an understanding heart; and I have also given thee that which thou hast not asked, both riches and honour, so that there shall not be any among the kings like unto thee all thy days."
How amply was this promise fulfilled, and how did its accomplishment correspond with the munificence of him by whom it was made! By virtue of this promise, I "have given thee an understanding heart," we see Solomon carrying the art of civil government to the highest perfection it can ever attain. Witness the profound prudence by which he discerned the real from the pretended mother, when he said with divine promptitude, "Bring me a sword. Divide the living child into two parts, and give half to the one, and half to the other," 1 Kings iii. 24, 25. Witness the profound peace he procured for his subjects, and which made the sacred historian say, that "Judah and Israel dwell safely, every man under his vine, and under his fig-tree," iv. 25. Witness the eulogium of the sacred writings on this subWho can forbear being delighted with the ject," that it excelled the wisdom of all the first object, and who can sufficiently applaud children of the east, and all the wisdom of the magnanimity of Solomon? Place your Egypt; that he was wiser than Ethan, than selves in the situation of this prince. Ima- Herman, than Chalcol, and Darda;" that is to gine, for a moment, that you are the arbitrators say, he was wiser than every man of his own age. of your own destiny, and that you hear a voice Witness the embassies from all the kings of the from the blessed God, saying, "Ask what I earth to hear his wisdom. Witness the acclashall give thee." How awful would this test mation of the queen, who came from the reprove to most of our hearers! If we may judge motest kingdom of the earth to hear this proof our wishes by our pursuits, what strange re-digy of wisdom. "It was a true report that I plies should we make to God! What a choice would it be! Our privilege would become our ruin, and we should have the awful ingenuity to find misery in the very bosom of happiness. Who would say, Lord, give me wisdom and understanding; Lord, help me worthily to discharge the duties of the station with which I am intrusted? This is the utmost of all my requests; and to this alone I would wish thy munificence to be confined. On the contrary, biassed by the circumstance of situation, and swayed by some predominant passion, one would say, Lord, augment my heaps of gold and silver, and in proportion as my riches shall increase, diminish the desire of expenditure: anoVOL. II.-44
heard in mine own land of thy wisdom, and behold, the half was not told me. Thy wis dom and prosperity exceedeth the fame which I heard. Happy are these thy men, happy are these thy servants, which stand continually before thee, and that hear thy wisdom," i Kings x. 6-8.
And in virtue of this other promise, “I have given thee glory and riches;" we see Solomon raise superb edifices, form powerful alliances, and sway the sceptre over every prince, from the river even unto the land of the Philistines, that is, from the Euphrates to the eastern branch of the Nile, which separates Palestine from Egypt, and making gold as plentiful in
Jerusalem as stones, 2 Chron. ix. 26; 1 Chron. | he fell by burying his talents. Go, and see
It would be easy to extend these reflections, but were I to confine myself to this alone, I should fear being charged with having evaded the most difficult part of the subject to dwell on that which is sufficiently plain. The extraordinary condescension which God evinced towards Solomon; the divine gifts with which he was endowed, the answer to his prayer, "I have given thee an understanding heart," collectively involve a difficulty of the most serious kind. How shall we reconcile the favours with the events? How could a man so wise commit those faults, and perpetrate those crimes, which stained his lustre at the close of life? How could he follow the haughty license of oriental princes, who displayed a haram crowded with concubines? How, in abandoning his heart to sensual pleasure, could he abandon his faith and his religion? And after having the baseness to offer incense to their beauty, could he also offer incense to their idols? I meet this question with the greater pleasure, as the solution we shall give will demonstrate, first, the difficulties of superior endowments; secondly, the danger of bad company; thirdly, the peril of human grandeur; and fourthly, the poison of voluptuousness; four important lessons by which this discourse shall close.
First, the responsibility attendant on superior talents. Can we suppose that God, on the investiture of Solomon with superior endowments, exempted him from the law which requires men of the humblest talents to improve them? What is implied in these words, "I have given thee understanding?" Do they mean, I take solely on myself the work of thy salvation, that thou mayest live without restraint in negligence and pleasure? Brave the strongest temptations; I will obstruct thy falling? Open thy heart to the most seductive objects; I will interpose my buckler for thy preservation and defence?
On this subject, my brethren, some ministers have need of a total reform in their creed, and to abjure a system of theology, if I may so dare to speak, inconceivably absurd. Some men have formed notions of I know not what grace, which takes wholly on itself the work of our salvation, which suffers us to sleep as much as we choose in the arms of concupiscence and pleasure, and which redoubles its aids in proportion as the sinner redoubles resistance. Undeceive yourselves. God never yet bestowed a talent without requiring its cultivation. The higher are our endowments, the greater are our responsibilities. The greater efforts grace makes to save us, the more should we labour at our salvation. The more it watches for our good, the more we are called to the exercise of vigilance. You-you who surpass your neighbour, in knowledge, tremble; an account will be required of that superior light. You,-you who have more of genius than the most of men, tremble; an account will be required of that genius. You, you who have most advanced in the grace of sanctification, tremble; an account will be required of that grace. Do you call this truth in question? Go,-go see it exemplified in the person of Solomon. Go, and see the abyss into which
this man endowed with talents superior to all the world. Go, and see him enslaved by seven hundred wives, and prostituted to three hundred concubines. Go, see him prostrated before the idol of the Sidonians, and before the abomination of the Ammonites; and by the awful abyss into which he was plunged by the neglect of his talents, learn to improve yours with sanctifying fear.
Our second solution of the difficulty proposed, and the second caution we would derive from the fall of Solomon, is the danger of bad company; and a caution rendered the more essential by the inattention of the age. A contagious disease which extends its ravages at a thousand miles, excites in our mind terror and alarm. We use the greatest precaution against the danger. We guard the avenues of the state, and lay vessels on their arrival in port under the strictest quarantine: we do not suffer ourselves to be approached by any suspected person. But the contagion of bad company gives us not the smallest alarm. We respire without fear an air the most impure and fatal to the soul. We form connexions, enter into engagements, and contract marriages with profane, sceptical, and worldly people, and regard all those as declaimers and enthusiasts who declare, that "evil communications corrupt good manners." But see, see indeed, by the sad experience of Solomon, whether we are declaimers and enthusiasts when we talk in this way. See into what a wretched situation we are plunged by contracting marriages with persons whose religion is idolatrous, and whose morals are corrupt. Nothing is more contagious than bad example. The sight, the presence, the voice, the breath of the wicked is infected and fatal.
The danger of human grandeur is a new solution of the difficulty proposed, and a third caution we derive from the fall of Solomon. Mankind, for the most part, have a brain too weak to bear a high scale of elevation. Dazzled at once with the rays of surrounding lustre, they can no longer support the sight. You are astonished that Solomon, this prince, who reigned from the river even to the land of the Philistines; this prince, who made gold in his kingdom as plentiful as stones; this prince, who was surrounded with flatterers and courtezans; this prince, who heard nothing but eulogy, acclamation and applause, you are astonished that he should be thus intoxicated with the high endowments God had granted him for the discharge of duty, and that he should so far forget himself as to fall into the enormities just described. Seek in your own heart, and in your life, the true solution of this difficulty. We are blinded by the smallest prosperity, and our head is turned by the least elevation of rank. A name, a title, added to our dignity; an acre of land added to our estate, an augmentation of equipage, a little information added to our knowledge, a wing to our mansion, or an inch to our stature, and here is more than enough to give us high notions of our own consequence, to make us assume a decisive tone, and wish to be considered as oracles: here is more than enough to make us forget our ignorance, our weakness, our cor