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understand more than the ancients," Ps. cxix. dream. We have elsewhere* remarked, that 99, 100.
there are three sorts of dreams. Some are in Here we have an illustrious proof. Solomon, the order of nature; others are in the order of in the early periods of life, formed the correctest providence; and a third class are of an order idea of government which had ever entered the superior to both. mind of the profoundest philosophers, or the I call dreams in the order of nature, those most consummate statesmen. Awed by the which ought merely to be regarded as the irresceptre, he ackr ledged the impotency of his gular flights of imagination, over which the arm to sway it. Of the high privilege granted will has lost, or partially lost, its command. of God, to ask whatever he would, he availed I call dreams in the order of providence, himself solely to ask wisdom. What an ad- those which without deviation from the course mirable choice! How many aged men have we of nature, excite certain instructive ideas, and seen less enlightened than this youth? On the suggest to the mind truths, to which we were other hand, God honoured a petition so wise, not sufficiently attentive while awake. Proviby superadding to the petitioner every other dence sometimes directing our attention to peendowment: he gave to Solomon wisdom, and culiar circumstances in a way purely natural, with wisdom, glory and riches; he elevated him and destitute of all claims to the supernatural, to a scale of grandeur, which no prince ever and much less to the marvellous. did, or ever shall be allowed to equal. It is to Some dreams, however, are of an order suthis petition so judicious, and to this reply so perior to those of nature, and of providence. magnificent, that we shall call your attention, it was by this sort of dreams that God revealed after having bestowed a moment on occasion of his pleasure to the prophets: but this dispensaboth.
tion being altogether divine, and of which the It occurs in the leading words of our text. Scriptures say little, and being impossible for It was a divine communication, in which the the researches of the greatest philosopher to place, the manner, and the subject, claim parti- supply the silence of the Holy Ghost, we shall cular attention.
make no fruitless efforts farther to illustrate 1. The place: it was in Gibeon; not the city the manner of the revelation with which Solofrom which those Gibeonites derived their mon was honoured. name, who, by having recourse to singular arti- 3. A reason very dissimilar supersedes our fice, saved their lives, which they thought them- stopping to illustrate the subject; I would say, selves unable to defend by force, or to preserve it has no need of illustration. God was wishby compassion. That, I would say, the city of ful to put Solomon to the proof, by prompting those Gibeonites, was a considerable place, and him to ask whatsoever he would, and by encalled in the Book of Joshua, a royal city. The gaging to fulfil it. Solomon's reply was worother was situate on the highest mountains of thy of the test. His sole request was for wisJudea, distant, according to Eusebius and St. dom. God honoured this enlightened request; Jerome, about eight miles from Jerusalem. and in granting profound wisdom to his ser
We shall not enter into geographical discus- vant, he superadded riches, and glory, and sions. What claims attention is, a circumstance long life.-It is this enlightened request, and of the place where Solomon was, which natu- this munificent reply, we are now to examine. rally recalls to view one of the weaknesses of We shall examine them jointly, placing, at the this prince. It is remarked at the commence- same time, the harmony of the one with the ment of the chapter, from which we have taken other, in a just and proper view. Four reour text, that the people sacrificed in high marks demand attention in Solomon's request places.” The choice was, probably, not exempt to God, and four in God's reply. from superstition: it is certain, at least, that I. Consider, in Solomon's request, the recolidolaters usually selected the highest mountains lection of past mercies: “Thou hast showed for the exercise of their religious ceremonies. unto thy servant David, my father, great mer. Tacitus assigns as a reason, that in those places, cy:" and mark, in the reply, how pleasing this being nearer the gods, they were the more likely recollection was to God. to be heard. Lucian reasons much in the same II. Consider, in Solomon's request, the asway, and, without a doubt, less to vindicate the pect under which he regarded the regal power. custom than to expose it to contempt. God He considered it solely with a view to the high himself has forbidden it in law.
duties on which it obliged him to enter. “Thy We have, however, classed this circumstance servant is in the midst of thy people which in Solomon's life among his frailties, rather than thou hast chosen, a great people, which canhis faults. Prevention for high places was much not be numbered nor counted for multitude. less culpable in the reign of this prince, than in Who is able to judge this thy so great a peothe ages which followed. In those ages, the ple?" And in God's reply, mark the opposite Israelites violated, by sacrificing on high places, seal, with regard to this idea of the supreme the law which forbade any sacrifice to be offered, authority. except in the temple of Jerusalem; whereas, in III. Consider, in Solomon's request, the sen. the age of which we now speak, the temple did timents of his own weakness and the consciousnot exist. The people sacrificed on the brazen ness of his insufficiency: “I am but as a little altar, constructed by the divine command. This child, and know not how to go out, and to altar was then in Gibeon, where it had been come in:” and in God's reply, mark how highescorted with the tabernacle, as we read in the ly he is delighted with humility. book of Chronicles.
IV. In Solomon's request, consider the wis2. The manner in which the revelation to dom of his choice; “Give, therefore, unto thy Solomon was made, supplies a second source of reflections. It was, says the historian, in a !
* Discours Hist. tom. 1. p. 184.
servant an understanding heart to judge thy | arguments: How often has he, for the sake of people:" and in God's reply, mark how Solo- the patriarchs, for the sake of David, heard mon's prayer was heard, and his wisdom prayer in behalf of their children? crowned. Four objects, all worthy of our re- Let these maxims be deeply imprinted on gard.
the heart. Our own interest should be motive I. Consider, in Solomon's request, the recol-sufficient to prompt us to piety. But we lection of mercies. It was the mercies of Da- should also be excited to it by the interest of vid, his father. Solomon made this reference our children. The recollection of our virtues as a motive to obtain the divine mercies and is the best inheritance we can leave them after aids his situation required. He aspired at the death. These virtues afford them claims to blessings which God confers on the children of the divine favours. The good will of Heafaithful fathers. He wished to become the ob- / ven, is, in some sort, entailed on families who ject of that promise in which God stands en- fear the Lord. Happy the fathers, when exgaged to "show mercy to thousands of gene- tended on the bed of death, who can say, rations of those that love him,” Exod. xx. 6. children, I am about to appear before the awful
This is the first object of our discourse. The tribunal, where there is no resource for poor privilege of an illustrious birth, I confess, is mortals, but humility and repentance. Meansometimes extravagantly amplified. This kind while, I bless God, that notwithstanding my of folly is not novel in the present age: it was defects, which I acknowledge with confusion the folly of the Hebrew nation. To most of of face, you will not have cause to blush on the rebukes of their prophets, they opposed pronouncing the name of your father. I have this extraordinary defence: “We are Abra- been faithful to the truth, and have constantly ham's seed; we have Abraham to our father,” walked before God, “in the uprightness of my Matt. iii. 9. What an apology! Does an il-heart." Happy the children who have such a lustrious birth sanction low and grovelling sen- descent; I would prefer it to titles the most timents. Do the virtues of our ancestors ex. distinguished, to riches the most dazzling, and cuse us from being virtuous. And has God to offices the most lucrative. "O God, thou for ever engaged to excuse impious children, hast showed unto thy servant David, my fabecause their parents were pious! You are the ther, great mercy, according as he walked bechildren of Abraham; you have an illustrious fore thee in truth, and in righteousness, and in descent; your ancestors were the models and uprightness of heart!" Here is the recollecglory of their age. Then you are the more tion of past mercies, the recollection of which inexcusable for being the reproach of your age; God approves, and the first object of our disthen you are the faithless depositories of the course. nobility with which you have been intrusted; II. Consider, secondly, in the prayer of Sothen you have degenerated from your former lomon, the aspect under which he contemplated grandeur: then you shall be condemned to sur-the regal power. He viewed it principally render to nature a corrupted blood, which you with regard to the high duties it imposed. received pure from those to whom you owe “Thy servant is in the midst of thy people
which thou hast chosen; who is able to judge It is true, however, all things being weighed, this thy so great a people, which cannot be that, in tracing a descent, it is a singular fa- numbered?" The answer of God is a corresvoor of Heaven to be able to cast one's eyes pondent seal to this idea of supreme authority. on a long line of illustrious ancestors. I am And what we here say of the regal power, we not about to offer incense to the idol of distin- apply to every other office of trust and dignity. guished families; the Lord's church has more A man of integrity must not view then with correct ideas of nobility. To be accounted no. regard to the emoluments they produce, but ble in the sanctuary, we must give proof of with regard to the duties they impose. virtue, and not of empty titles, which often What is the end proposed by society on eleowe their origin to the vanity, the seditions, vating certain men to high stations? Is it to and fawning baseness of those who display augment their pride? Is it to usher them into them with so much pride. To be noble in the a style of life the most extravagant? Is it to language of our Scriptures; and to be impure, aggrandize their families by the ruin of the avaricious, haughty, and implacable, are dif- widow and the orphan? Is it to adore them as ferent ideas. But charity, but patience, but idols? Is it to become their slaves Potentates moderation, but dignity of soul, and a certain and magistrates of the earth, ask those subelevation of mind, place the possessor above jects to whom you are indebted for the high the world and its maxims. These are charac-scale of elevation you enjoy._Ask, Why those teristics of the nobility of God's children. dignities were conferred? They will say, it
In this view, it is a high favour of Heaven, was to intrust you with their safety and repose; in tracing one's descent, to be able to cast the it was to procure fathers and protectors; it was eye on a long line of illustrious ancestors. How to find peace and prosperity under the shadow often have holy men availed themselves of of your tribunals. To induce you to enter on these motives to induce the Deity, if not to bear those arduous duties, they have accompanied with the Israelites in their course of crimes, at them with those inviting appendages which least to pardon them after the crimes have soothe the cares, and alleviate the weights of been committed? How often have they said, office. They have conferred titles; they have in the supplications they opposed to the wrath sworn obedience, and ensured revenue. Enof Heaven, “O God, remember Abraham, trance then on a high duty is to make a conand Isaac, and Jacob, thy servants!” How tract with the people, over whom you proceed often has God yielded to the strength of these I 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, 2. The extent of the duties imposed on Sois an abominable usurpation; it is a usurpation lomon, was the second object of his diffidence. of honour, of homage, and of revenue. I speak “Who is able to judge this thy so great a peoliterally, and without even a shadow of exag- ple?” Adequately to judge a great nation, a geration: a magistrate who deviates from the man must regard himself as no more his own, duties of his office, after having received the but wholly devoted to the people. Adequately emolument, ought to come under the penal to judge a great nation, a man must have a statutes, as those who take away their neigh- consummate knowledge of human nature, of bours' goods. These statutes require restitu- civil society, of the laws of nature, and of the tion. Before restitution, he is liable to this peculiar laws of the provinces over which he anathema, “Wo to him that increaseth that presides. Adequately to judge a nation, he which is not his own, and to him that ladeth must have his house and his heart ever open to himself with thick clay; for the stone shall the solicitations of those over whom he is excry out of the wall, and the beam out of the alted. Adequately to judge a people, he must timber shall answer'it,” Hab. ii. 6. 11. Before recollect, that a small sum of money, that a restitution, he is unworthy of the Lord's table, foot of land, is as much to a poor man as a and included in the curse we denounce against city, a province, and a kingdom, are to a thieves, whom we repel from the holy Eucha- prince. Adequately to judge a people, he must rist. Before restitution, he is unable to die in habituate himself to the disgust excited by peace, and he is included in the list of those listening to a man who is quite full of his subwho shall not inherit the kingdom of God.” ject, and who imagines that the person ad
But into what strange reflections do these dressed, ought to be equally impressed with its considerations involve us. What awful ideas importance. Adequately to judge a people, do they excite in our minds? And what alarm- a man must be exempt from vice: nothing is ing consequences do they draw on certain more calculated to prejudice the mind against kings- Ye Moseses; ye Elijahs; ye John Bap- the purity of his decisions, than to see him tists; faithful servants of the living God, and captivated by some predominant passion. Ade celebrated in every age of the church for your quately to judge a people, he must be destifortitude, your courage, and your zeal; you, tute of personal respect; he must neither yield who know not how to temporize, nor to trem- to the entreaties of those who know the way ble; no, neither before Pharaoh, nor before to his heart, nor be intimidated by the high Ahab, nor before Herod, nor before Herodias, tone of others, who threaten to hold up as why are you not in this pulpit? Why do you martyrs, the persons they obstinately defend. not to-day supply our place, to communicate Adequately to judge a people, a man must exto the subject all the energy of which it is sus- pand, if I may so speak, all the powers of his ceptible: "Be wise, ye kings; be instructed, soul, that he may be equal to the dignity of
0 ye judges of the earth,” Ps. ii. 10.
his duty, and avoid all distraction, which, on III. We have remarked, thirdly, in the engrossing the capacity of the mind, obstruct prayer of Solomon, the sentiments of his own its perception of the main object. And “who weakness; and in God's reply, the high regard is sufficient for these things?” who is able to testified towards humility. The character of judge this thy so great a people? 2 Cor. ii. 16.' the king whom Solomon succeeded, the ar- 3. The snares of youth form a third object duous nature of the duties to which he was of Solomon's fear, and a third cause of his difcalled, and the insufficiency of his age, were fidence. “I am but a little child; I know not to him three considerations of humility. how to go out and come in.” Some chronolo
1. The character of the king to whom he gists are of opinion, that Solomon, when he succeeded. “Thou hast showed unto thy ser- uttered these words, “ I am but a little child," vant David, my father, great mercy, according was only twelve years of age, which to us as he walked before thee in truth, and in right seems insupportable; for besides its not being eousness, and in the uprightness of his heart; proved by the event, as we shall explain, it and thou hast given him a son to sit upon his ought to be placed in the first year of this throne. How dangerous to succeed an illus- prince's reign: and the style in which David trious prince! The brilliant actions of a prede- addressed him on his investiture with the reins cessor, are so many sentences against the faults of government, sufficiently proves, that he of his successor. The people never fail to spake not to a child. He calls him wise, and make certain oblique contrasts between the to this wisdom he confides the punishment of past and the present. They recollect the vir- Joab and of Shimei. tues they have attested, the happiness they Neither do we think that we can attach to have enjoyed, the prosperity with which they these words, “I am but a little child," with have been loaded, and ihe distinguished quali- better grace, a sense purely metaphorical, as fications of the prince, whom death has recent- implying nothing more than Solomon's acly snatched away. And if the idea of having knowledgment of the infancy of his underhad an illustrious predecessor is, on all occa- standing. The opinion most probable, in our sions, a subject of serious consideration for him apprehension, (and we omit the detail of the who has to follow, never had a prince a juster reasons by which we are convinced of it) is, cause to be awed than Solomon. He succeed that of those who think that Solomon calls himed a man who was the model of kings, in self a little child, much in the same sense as whose person was united the wisdom of a the term is applied to Benjamin, to Joshua, statesman, the valour of a soldier, the expe- and to the sons of Eli. rience of a marshal, the illumination of a pro- 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
not asked for thyself long life, neither hast Presumptuous youths, who make the assu- thou asked riches for thyself
, nor hast asked rance with which you aspire at the first offices | the life of thine enemies. But hast asked unof state, the principal ground of success, how derstanding to discern judgment. Behold, I can I better impress you with this head of my have done according to thy word. Lo, I have discourse, than by affirming, that the higher given thee a wise and an understanding heart; notions you entertain of your own sufficiency, and I have also given thee that which thou the lower you sink at the bar of equity and hast not asked, both riches and honour, so that
The more you account yourselves there shall not be any among the kings like qualified to govern, the less you are capable of unto thee all thy days." doing it. The sentiment Solomon entertained How amply was this promise fulfilled, and of his own weakness, was the most distinguish- how did its accomplishment correspond with ed of his royal virtues. The profound humility the munificence of him by whom it was made! with which he asked God to supply his ina- By virtue of this promise, I“ have given thee bility, was the best disposition for obtaining an understanding heart,” we see Solomon carthe divine support.
rying the art of civil government to the bighIV. We are come at length to the last, and est perfection it can ever attain. Witness the to the great object of the history before us. profound prudence by which he discerned the Here we must show you, on the one hand, our real from the pretended mother, when he said hero preferring the requisite talents, to pomp, with divine promptitude, “Bring me a sword. splendour, riches, and all that is grateful to Divide the living child into two parts, and kings; and from the vast source opened by give half to the one, and half to the other," i Heaven, deriving but wisdom and understand Kings iij. 24, 25. Witness the profound peace ing. We must show, on the other hand, that he procured for his subjects, and which made God, honouring a prayer so enlightened, ac- the sacred historian say, that “ Judah and corded to Solomon the wisdom and under- Israel dwell safely, every man under his vine, standing he had asked, and with these, riches, and under his fig-tree,” iv. 25. Witness the glory, and long life.
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 sutliciently 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 ownage. 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 heard in mine own land of thy wisdom, and would it be! Our privilege would become our behold, the balf was not told me. Thy wisruin, and we should have the awful ingenuity dom and prosperity exceedeth the fame which to find misery in the very bosom of happiness. I heard. Happy are these thy men, happy are Who would say, Lord, give me wisdom and these thy servants, which stand continually understanding; Lord, help me worthily to dis- before thee, and that hear thy wisdom,” í charge the duties of the station with which I Kings x. 6—8. am intrusted? This is the utmost of all my And in virtue of this other promise, “I have requests; and to this alone I would wish thy given thee glory and riches;” we see Solomon munificence to be confined. On the contrary, raise superb edifices, form powerful alliances, biassed by the circumstance of situation, and and sway the sceptre over every prince, from swayed by some predominant passion, one the river even unto the land of the Philistines, would say, Lord, augment my heaps of gold and that is, from the Euphrates to the eastern silver, and in proportion as my riches shall in- branch of the Nile, which separates Palestine crease, diminish the desire of expenditure: ano- ! from Egypt, and making gold as plentiful in
Jerusalem as stones, 2 Chron. ix. 26; 1 Chron. I he fell by burying his talents. Go, and see i. 15.
this man endowed with talents superior to all It would be easy to extend these reflections, the world. Go, and see him enslaved by seven but were I to confine myself to this alone, I hundred wives, and prostituted to three hunshould fear being charged with having evaded dred concubines. Go, see him prostrated bethe most difficult part of the subject to dwell fore the idol of the Sidonians, and before the on that which is sufficiently plain. The ex- abomination of the Ammonites; and by the traordinary condescension which God evinced awful abyss into which he was plunged by the towards Solomon; the divine gists with which neglect of his talents, learn to improve yours he was endowed, the answer to his prayer, with sanctifying fear. “I have given thee an understanding heart," Our second solution of the difficulty proposed, collectively involve a difficulty of the most se- and the second caution we would derive from rious kind. How shall we reconcile the fa- the fall of Solomon, is the danger of bad comvours with the events? How could a man so pany; and a caution rendered the more essenwise commit those faults, and perpetrate those tial by the inattention of the age. A contagicrimes, which stained his lustre at the close of ous disease which extends its ravages at a thoulife? How could he follow the haughty license sand miles, excites in our mind terror and of oriental princes, who displayed a haram alarm. We use the greatest precaution against crowded with concubines? How, in abandon- the danger. We guard the avenues of the state, ing his heart to sensual pleasure, could he and lay vessels on their arrival in port under abandon his faith and his religion And after the strictest quarantine: we do not suffer ourhaving the baseness to offer incense to their selves to be approached by any suspected perbeauty, could he also offer incense to their son. But the contagion of bad company gives idols. I meet this question with the greater us not the smallest alarm. We respire without pleasure, as the solution we shall give will de fear an air the most impure and fatal to the monstrate, first, the difficulties of superior en- soul. We form connexions, enter into engagedowments; secondly, the danger of bad company; ments, and contract marriages with profane, thirdly, the peril of human grandeur; and fourth- sceptical, and worldly people, and regard all ly, the poison of voluptuousness; four important those as declaimers and enthusiasts who declare, lessons by which this discourse shall close. that “evil communications corrupt good man
First, the responsibility attendant on superior ners.” But see,-see indeed, by the sad extalents. Can we suppose that God, on the in-perience of Solomon, whether we are declaimvestiture of Solomon with superior endow- ers and enthusiasts when we talk in this way. ments, exempted him from the law which re- See into what a wretched situation we are quires men of the humblest talents to improve plunged by contracting marriages with persons them? What is implied in these words, “I whose religion is idolatrous, and whose morals have given thee understanding?” Do they are corrupt. Nothing is more contagious than mean, I take solely on myself the work of thy bad example. The sight, the presence, the salvation, that thou mayest live without re- voice, the breath of the wicked is infected and straint in negligence and pleasure! Brave the fatal. strongest temptations; I will obstruct thy fall- The danger of human grandeur is a new soing? Open thy heart to the most seductive ob- lution of the difficulty proposed, and a third jects; I will interpose my buckler for thy pre- caution we derive from the fall of Solomon. servation and defence?
Mankind, for the most part, have a brain too On this subject, my brethren, some minis- weak to bear a high scale of elevation. Dazters have need of a total reform in their creed, zled at once with the rays of surrounding lustre, and to abjure a system of theology, if I may so they can no longer support the sight. You dare to speak, inconceivably absurd. Some are astonished that Solomon, this prinee, who men have formed notions of I know not what reigned from the river even to the land of the graco, which takes wholly on itself the work Philistines; this prince, who made gold in his of our salvation, which suffers us to sleep as kingdom as plentiful as stones; this prince, much as we choose in the arms of concupis- who was surrounded with flatterers and courcence and pleasure, and which redoubles its tezans; this prince, who heard nothing but aids in proportion as the sinner redoubles re- eulogy, acclamation and applause, you are assistance. Undeceive yourselves. God never tonished that he should be thus intoxicated yet bestowed a talent without requiring its with the high endowments God had granted cultivation. The higher are our endowments, him for the discharge of duty; and that he the greater are our responsibilities. The greater should so far forget himself as to fall into the efforts grace makes to save us, the more should enormities just described. Seek in your own we labour at our salvation. The more it heart, and in your life, the true solution of this watches for our good, the more we are called difficulty. We are blinded by the smallest to the exercise of vigilance. You-you who prosperity, and our head is turned by the least surpass your neighbour, in knowledge, tremble; elevation of rank. A name, a title, added to an account will be required of that superior our dignity; an acre of land added to our estate, light. You, you who have more of genius an augmentation of equipage, a little informathan the most of men, tremble; an account tion added to our knowledge, a wing to our will be required of that genius. You,—you mansion, or an inch to our stature, and here is who have most advanced in the grace of sancti- more than enough to give us high notions of fication, tremble; an account will be required our own consequence, to make us assume a of that grace. Do you call this truth in ques- decisive tone, and wish to be considered as tion? Go, go see it exemplified in the person oracles: here is more than enough to make us of Solomon. Go, and see the abyss into which I forget our ignorance, our weakness, our cor