« السابقةمتابعة »
phet, the piety of a good man, and even the virtues of a saint of the first rank.
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 chronolo1. 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 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
which certain duties are required on certain conditions. To require the emoluments, when 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 ingdom 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.
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 Solomon saw himself called to fill the throne of the greatest kings, and to enter on those exalted duties, of which we have given but an imperfect sketch. How disproportioned did the vocation seem to the age! It is then that we give scope to presumption, which has a plausible appearance, being as yet unmortified by the recollection of past errors. It is then, that a jealousy of not being yet classed by others among great men, prompts a youth to place himself in that high rank. It is then that we regard counsels as so many attacks on the authority we assume to ourselves. It is then that we oppose an untractable disposition as a barrier to the advice of a faithful friend, who would lead us to propriety of conduct. It is then, that our passions hurry us to excess, and become the arbitrators of truth and falsehood, 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.
Who can forbear being delighted with the first object, and who can sufficiently applaud the magnanimity of Solomon? Place yourselves in the situation of this prince. Imagine, for a moment, that you are the arbitrators of your own destiny, and that you hear a voice from the blessed God, saying, "Ask what I shall give thee." How awful would this test prove to most of our hearers! If we may judge of our wishes by our pursuits, what strange replies 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
ther, Lord, raise me to the highest scale of grandeur, and give me to trample under foot. men who shall have the assurance to become my equals, and whom I regard as the worms of earth. How little, for the most part, do we know ourselves in prosperity! How incorrect are our ideas! Great God, do thou determine our lot, and save us from the reproach of making an unhappy choice, by removing the occasion. Solomon was incomparably wiser. Filled with the duties of his august station, and awed by its difficulties, he said, "Lord, give thy servant an understanding heart to judge thy people, that I may discern between good and bad."
But if we applaud the wisdom of Solomon's prayer, how much more should we applaud the goodness and munificence of God's reply? "Because thou hast asked this thing, and hast 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 subject," that it excelled the wisdom of all the children of the east, and all the wisdom of Egypt; that he was wiser than Ethan, than Herman, than Chalcol, and Darda;" that is to say, he was wiser than every man of his own age. Witness the embassies from all the kings of the earth to hear his wisdom. Witness the acclamation of the queen, who came from the remotest kingdom of the earth to hear this prodigy of wisdom. "It was a true report that I heard in mine own land of thy wisdom, and behold, the half was not told me. Thy wisdom 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," 1 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 i. 15. 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 com pany; 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.
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 vas 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
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, acclaination 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 enormnities 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
ruption, the disease which consumes us, the us the grace. To him be honour, and glory, tomb which awaits us, the death which pursues for ever. us, treading on our heels, the sentence already preparing, and the account which God is about to require. Let us distrust ourselves in prosperity: let us never forget what we are; let us have people about us to recall its recollection: let us request our friends constantly to cry in our ears, remember that you are loaded with crimes; that you are but dust and ashes; and in the midst of your grandeur, and your rank, remember that you are poor, frail, wretched, and abject.
THE VOICE OF THE ROD.
MICAH VI. 9.
Hear ye the rod, and who hath appointed it. AWFUL indeed was the complaint which 4. In short, the beguiling charms of pleasure Jeremiah once made to God against Israel: are the first solution of the difficulty proposed, "O Lord, thou hast stricken them, but they and the last instruction we derive from the fall have not grieved; thou hast consumed them, of Solomon. The sacred historian has not over- but they have refused to receive correction: looked this cause of the faults of this prince. they have made their faces harder than a rock," "Solomon_loved many strange women, and Jer. v. 3. Here is a view of the last period they turned away his heart from the Lord," of corruption; for however insuperable the cor1 Kings xi. 1. 3. I am here reminded of the ruption of men may appear, they sin less by enwretched mission of Balaam. Commanded by mity than dissipation. Few are so consummatepowerful princes, allured by magnificent re- ly wicked as to sin solely through the wantonwards, his eyes and heart already devoured the ness of crime. The mind is so constantly atpresents which awaited his services. He as- tached to exterior objects, as to be wholly abcended a mountain, he surveyed the camp of the sorbed by their impression; and here is the Israelites, he invoked by turns the power of ordinary source of all our vice. Have we soine God's Spirit, and the power of the devil. Find-real, or some imaginary advantage? The idea ing that prophecy afforded him no resource, of our superiority engrosses our whole attenhe had recourse to divinations and enchant- tion: and here is the source of our pride. Are ments. Just on the point of giving full effect we in the presence of an object congenial to to his detestable art, he felt himself fettered by our cupidity? The sentiment of pleasure imthe force of truth, and exclaimed, "there is no mediately fills the whole capacity of the soul; enchantment against Jacob, there is no divina- and here is the source of our intemperance: it tion against Israel," Numb. xxxiii. 23. He is the same with every vice. Have you the temporized; yes, he found a way to supersede art of fixing the attention of men, of recalling all the prodigies which God had done and ac- their wandering thoughts: and thereby of recomplished for his people.-This way was the claiming them to duty; you will acknowledge, way of pleasure. It was, that they should no that the beings you had taken for monsters, are more attack the Israelites with open force, but really men, who, as I said, sin less by malice with voluptuous delights; that they should no than dissipation. more send among them wizards and enchanters, but the women of Midian, to allure them to their sacrifices; then this people, before invincible, I will deliver into your hands!!!
Of the success of this advice, my brethren, you cannot be ignorant. But why fell not every Balaam by the sword of Israelites! Numb. xxxi. 8. Why were the awful consequences of this counsel restricted to the unhappy culprits, whom the holy hands of Phineas and Eleazar, sacrificed to the wrath of Heaven! David, Solomon, Samson, and you, my brethren; you who may yet preserve, at least, a part of your innocence. Let us arm them against voluptuousness. Let us distrust enchanting pleasure. Let us fear it, not only when it presents its horrors; not only when it discovers the frightful objects which follow in its train, adultery, incest, treason, apostacy, with murder and assassination; but let us fear it, when clothed in the garb of innocence, when authorized by decent freedoms, and assuming the pretext of religious sacrifices. Let us exclude it from every avenue of the heart. Let us restrict our senses. Let us mortify our members which are on the earth. Let us crucify the flesh with the concupiscence. And by the way prescribed in the gospel; the way of retirement, of silence, of austerity, of the cross, and of mortification, let us attain happiness, and immortal bliss. May God grant
But of all the means calculated to produce the recollection so essential to make us wise, adversity is the most effectual. How should a man delight his heart with a foolish grandeur; how should he abandon himself to pride, when all around him speaks his meanness and impotency; when appalled by the sight of a sovereign judge, and burdened by his heavy hand: he has no resource but humility and submission? How should he give up himself to intemperance when afflicted with excruciating pains, and oppressed with the approaches of death? When, therefore, adversity is unavailing; when a people equally resist the terrific warnings of the prophet, and the strokes of God's hand, for whom he speaks; when their corruption is proof against mortality, against the plague, against famine; what resource remains for their conversion? This was, however, the degree of hardness to which the Jews, in Jeremiah's time, had attained. "O Lord, thou hast stricken them, but they have not grieved; thou hast consumed them, but they have refused to receive instruction; they have made their faces harder than a rock."
"O Lord, thou hast stricken them." My brethren, the first part of our prophet's words is now accomplished in our country, and in a very terrific inanner. Some difference the mercy of God does make between us, and those neighbouring nations, among whom the plague
is making so dreadful a progress; but though our horizon is not yet infected, though the breath of our hearers is not yet corrupt, and though our streets present not yet to our view heaps of dead, whose mortal exhalations, threaten the living, and to whose burial, those who survive are scarcely sufficient, we are nevertheless under the hand of God; I would say, under his avenging hand; his hand already uplifted to plunge us into the abyss of national ruin. What else are those plagues which walk in our streets? What is this mortality of our cattle which has now continued so many years? what else is this suspension of credit, this loss of trade, this ruin of so many families, and so many more on the brink of ruin? "O Lord, thou hast stricken them." The first part then is but too awfully accomplished in our country.
I should deem it an abuse of the liberty allowed me in this pulpit, were I to say, without restriction, that the second is likewise accomplished; "but they have not grieved." The solemnity of the day; the proclamation of our fast; the whole of these provinces prostrated today at the feet of the Most High; so many voices crying to Heaven, "O thou sword of the Lord, intoxicated with blood, return into thy scabbard;" all would convict me of declamation, if I should say, "O Lord thou hast stricken them, but they have not grieved."
sentiments of terror and awe: this is the second disposition of a fast. If we examine their origin and cause, we shall be softened with sentiments of sorrow and repentance: this is the third disposition of a fast. If we, lastly, discover the remedies and resources, we shall be animated with the sentiments of genuine conversion: this is the fourth disposition of a fast. It is by reflections of this kind that I would close these solemn duties, and make, if I may so speak, the applications of those energetic words addressed to us by the servants of God on this day.
I. "Hear ye the rod:" feel the strokes with which you are already struck. There is one disposition of the mind which may be confounded with that we would wish to inspire. The sensation of these calamities may be so strong as to unnerve the understanding, and overspread the mind with a total gloom and dejection. The soul of which we speak, feasts on its grief, and is wholly absorbed in the causes of its anguish. The privation of a good once enjoyed, renders it perfectly indifferent as to the blessings which still remain. The strokes which God has inflicted, appear to it the greatest of all calamities. Neither the beauties of nature, nor the pleasures of conversation, nor the motives of piety, have charms adequate to extinguish, nor even assuage anguish which corrodes and consumes the soul. Hence those torrents of tears; hence those deep and frequent sighs; hence those loud and bitter complaints; hence those unqualified augurs of disaster and ruin. To feel afflictions in this way, is a weakness of mind which disqualifies us for supporting the slightest reverses of life. It is an ingratitude which obstructs our acknowledging the favours of that God, who, "in the midst of wrath, remembers mercy," and who never so far afflicts his creature, as to deprive him of reviving hope.
But, my brethren, have we then no part in this reproach? Do we feel as we ought, the calamities that God hath sent? Come to-day, Christians; come and learn of our prophet to hearken to the voice of God. What voice? the voice strong and mighty; the voice which lighteneth with flames of fire; the loud voice of his judgments. "Hear ye the rod, and him who hath appointed it."
My brethren, on the hearing of this voice, The insensibility we wish to prevent, is a vice what sort of requests shall we make? Shall we directly opposed to that we have just decried. not say, as the ancient people, "Let not the It is the insensibility of the man of pleasure. Lord speak to us lest we die?" No, let us not He must enjoy life; but nothing is more strikadopt this language.-O great God, the con- ingly calculated to correct his notions, and detempt we have made of thy staff, when thy range the system of present pleasure, than this clemency caused us to repose in green pastures, idea: the sovereign of the universe is irritated renders essential the rod of thy correction. Now against us: his sword is suspended over our is the crisis to suffer, or to perish. Strike, strike, heads: his avenging arm is making awful havoc Lord, provided we may be converted and saved. around us: thousands have already fallen beSpeak with thy lightning; speak with thy thun-neath his strokes on our right, and ten thousand der; speak with thy flaming bolts; but teach us on our left, Ps. xci. 7. We banish these ideas: to hear thy voice. "Speak, Lord, for thy ser- but this being difficult to do, we repose behind vants hear." And you, my brethren, "Hear intrenchments which they cannot penetrate; ye the rod, and him who hath appointed it." and by augmenting the confusion of the pasAmen. sions, we endeavour to divert our attention from the calamities of the public.
This, in substance, is,
I. To feel the strokes of God's hand:
The insensibility we wish to prevent, is a phiconnex-losophical apathy. We brave adversity. We fortify ourselves with a stoical firmness. We account it wise, superior wisdom to be unmoved by the greatest catastrophes. We enshroud the mind in an ill-named virtue; and we pique ourselves on the vain glory of being unn unmoved, though the universe were dissolved.
III. To examine their origin and causes. IV. To discover their resources and remedies. This is to comply with the exhortation of Micah; this is to shelter ourselves from the charge of Jeremiah; this is especially to comply with the design of this solemnity. If we feel the strokes of God's hand, we shall shake off a certain state of indolence in which many of us are found, and be clothed with the sentiments of humiliation: this is the first duty of the day. If we trace the consequences and connexion of our calamities, we shall be inspired with the
The insensibility we wish to prevent is that which arises from a stupid ignorance. Some men are naturally more difficult to be moved than the brutes destitute of reason. They are resolved to remain where they are, until extricated by an exterior cause; and these are the very men who resist that cause. They shut