Page images
PDF
EPUB

this kind of grief, that we would wish you to and tender ties. They say moro: Hear the feel it in all its force. Go to the tombs of the dead-hear some of them, who, from the dead; open their coffins; look on their re- abyss of eternal flames, into which they are mains; let each there recognise a husband, plunged for impenitency, exhort you to reor a parent, or children, or brethren; but in- pentance. stead of regarding them as surrounding him 0! terrific preachers, preachers of despair, alive, let him suppose himself as lodged in may your voice break the hearts of those the subterraneous abode with the persons to hearers on which our ministry is destitute of whom he has been closely united. Look at energy and effect.--Hear those dead, they them deliberately, hear what they say: death speak with a voice more eloquent than ours seems to have condemned him to an eternal from the depths of the abyss, from the deep silence; meanwhile they speak; they preach caverns of hell; they cry, Who among us with a voice far more eloquent than ours. shall dwell with devouring fire ? Who among

We have taught you to shed upon their us shall dwell with everlasting, burnings? tombs tears of tenderness: hear the dead, Ye mountains fall on us; ye hills cover us. they preach with a voice more eloquent than It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of ours. Have you forgotten the relations we the living God, when he is angry,' Isa. xxxiii. formed, and the ties that united us? Is it | 14; Luke xxiii. 30; Heb. x. 31. Hear the with games and diversions that you lament father, who suffering in hell for the bad edu. our loss? Is it in the circles of gayety, and in cation given to the family he left on earth. public places, that you commemorate our Hear him by the despair of his condition ; exit?'

by the chains which oppress him; by the We have exhorted you to shed upon their fire which devours him; and by the remorse, tomb tears of duty to yourselves. Hear the the torments, and the anguish which gnaw dead;' they preach with a voice more elo- him, entreat you not to follow him to that quent than ours. They cry, 'Vanity of van- abyss. Hear the impure, the accomplice of ities. All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness your pleasure, who says, that if God bad callthereof is as the flower of the field. The ed you the first, you would have been substiworld passeth away, and the lusts thereof. tuted in his place, and who entreats to let Surely man walketh in a vain shadow,' Ec- your eyes become as fountains of repentant cles. i. 2 ; Isa. xl. 6; 1 John ii. 17; Ps. xxxix. tears. 7. They recall to your mind the afflictions This is the sort of sorrow with which we they have endured, the troubles which as- should be affected for the death of those with sailed their mind, and the deliriums that af- whom it has pleased God to connect us by fected their brain. They recall those objects the bonds of socioty and of nature. May it that you may contemplate in their situation penetrate our hearts; and for ever banish the an image of your own; that you may be ap- sorrow which confounds us with those who prised how imperfectly qualified a man is in have no hope. Let us be compassionate cihis last moments for recollection, and the tizens, faithful friends, tender fathers, loving work of his salvation. They tell you, that all those with whom it has pleased God to they once had the same health, the same unite us, and not regarding this love as a destrength, the same fortune, and the same fect; but let us love our Maker with supreme honours as you; notwithstanding, the tor- affection. Let us be always ready to sacrirent which bore us away, is doing the same fice to him whatever we have most dear on with you.

earth. May a glorious resurrection be the We have exhorted you to shed upon their ultimatum of our requests. May the hope tombs the tears of repentance. Hear the dead; of obtaining it assuage all our sufferings. they preach with an eloquence greater than And may God Almighty, who has educated ours; they say, that sin has brought death us in a religion so admirably adapted to supinto the world; death which separates the port in temptation, give success to our efforts, father from the son, and the son from the and be the crown of our hopes; Amen. Το father, which disunites hearts the most close. whom be honour and glory, henceforth and ly attached, and dissolves the most intimate for ever.

[ocr errors]

ON THE WISDOM OF SOLOMON."

1 Kings iii. 5-14.

(Gibeon, the Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream by night: and God said, Ask what I shall

gide. And Solomon said, Thou hast shorred unto thy servant David, my father, gren! mercy, according as he walked before thee in Iruth, and in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart with thee; and thou hast kept for him this great kindness, that thou hast giren hin a son ta sit on his throne, as it is this day. And nou, O Lord my God, thou hast made thy serrant king instead of David, my father; and I am bul a little child; I know not how to go out and come in. And thy sertanl is in the midst of Iny people which thou hast chusen, a great people, which cannot be numbered nor counted for mullitude. Gire, therefore, thy scrrant on understanding heart, to judge thy people, that I may discern brtuceen good and bad : for who is able to judge this thy so great a people? And the speech pleased the Lord that Solomon had asked this thing. And God said unto him, Because thou hast asked this thing, and has not asked for thyself long life ; neither hasl thou asked riches for thyself; nor hast asked the life of thine enemies, but hori asked for thyself understanding to discern judgment: Behold I hate done according to thy words. Lo, I have given thee a wise and understanding heart, so that there was none like thee before thee, neither afler thee shall any arise like unto thee. 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. And if thou wilt welk in my ways, to keep my statutes and my commandments, as thy father Darid did talk, then will I lengthen thy days. Wo to thee, land, when thy king is a It is to this petition so judicious, and to this child!' In this way has the sage expressed the reply so magnificent, that we shall call your calamities of states conducted by men desti- attention, after having bestowed a moment Lute of experience. But this general maxim i on occasion of both. is not without exceptions.

As we

some- It occurs in the leading words of our text. times see the gayeties of youth in mature age, It was a divine communication, in which the 80 we sometimes perceive in youth the grav- place, the manner, and the subject, claim par. ity of sober years. There are some geniuses, ticular attention. premature, with whom reason anticipates on 1. The place : it was in Gibeon ; not the years; and who, if I may so speak, on leaving city from which those Gibeonites derived their the cradle, discover talents worthy of the name, who, by having recourse to singular throne. A profusion of supernatural endow- artifice, saved their lives, which they thought ments, coming to the aid of nature, exempli- themselves unable to defend by force, or to fies in their character the happy experience preserve by compassion. That, I would say, of the prophet; 'I have more understanding the city of those Gibeonites, was a consider. than all my teachers. I understand more able place, and called in the Book of Joshua, than the ancients,' Ps. cxix. 99, 100.

royal city. The other was situate on the Here we have an illustrious proof. Solo- highest mountains of Judea, distant, accord. mon, in the early periods of life, formed the ing to Eusebius and St. Jerome, about eight correctest idea of government which had ever miles from Jerusalem. entered the mind of the profoundest philoso- We shall not enter into geographical dis. phers, or the most consummate statesmen. cussions. What claims attention is, a cir. Awed by the sceptre, he acknowledged the cumstance of the place where Solomon was, impotency of his arm to sway it. Of the which naturally recalls to view one of the high privilege granted of God, to ask what. weaknesses of this prince. It is remarked ever he would, he availed himself solely to at the commencement of the chapter, from ask wisdom. What an admirable choice! which we have taken our text, that the peoHow many aged men have we seen less en ple sacrificed in high places.' The choice lightened than this youth?. On the other was, probably, not exempt from superstition: band, God honoured a petition so wise, by it is certain, at least, that idolaters usually superadding to the petitioner every other en selected the highest mountains for the exer. dowment? he gave to Solomon wisdomn, and cise of their religious ceremonies. Tacitus with wisdom, glory and riches; he elevated assigns as a reason, that in those places, behim to a scale of grandeur, which no prince ing nearer the gods, they were the more likeover did, or ever shall be allowed to equal. ly to be heard. Lucian reasons much in the

• Sawin, placed at the Hague as first minister of same way, and, without a doubt, less to vinthe persecuted Protestants, and often attended by il- dicate the custom than to expose it to conlustrious characters, saw it his duty to apprise them tempt. God himself has forbidden it in law. of the moral sentinents essential for an entrance on We have, however, classed this circunhigh office and extensive authority. The Abbe faury, in his treatise on Eloquence, though hostile to stance in Solomon's life among his frailties, Saurin, allows this fermon on the Wisdom of Solo- rather than his faults. Prevention for high mon, to be one of the best specimens of his eloquence. I places was much less culpable in the reign

of this prince, than in the ages which follow- , the high duties on which it obliged him to ed. In those ages, the Israelites violated, by enter. Thy servant is in the midst of thy sacrificing on high places, the law which for people which thou hast chosen, a great peohade any sacritice to be offered, except in ple, which cannot be numbered nor counted the temple of Jerusalem; whereas, in the fur multitude. Who is able to judge this thy age of wbich we now speak, the temple did so great a people ?' And in God's reply, mark not exist. The people saerificed on the bra- the opposite seal, with regard to this idea of zen altar, constructed by the divine com- the supreme authority. inand. This allar was then in Gideon, where III. Consider, in Solomon's request, the it had been escorted with the tabernacle, as sentiments of his own weakness and the conwe read in the book of Chronicles.

sciousness of his insufficiency: Tam but as 2. The manner in which the revelation to a little child, and know not how to go out, Solomon was made, supplies a second source and to come in: and in God's reply, mark of reflections. It was, says the historian, in low highly he is delighted with humility. a dreain. We have elsewhere* remarked, IV. In Solomon's request, consider the that there are three sorts of dreams. Some wisdom of his choice ; . Give, therefore, unto are in the order of nature; others are in the thy servant an understanding heart to judge order of providence; and a third class are of thy people :' and in God's reply, mark how an order superior to both.

Solomon's prayer was heard, and his wisdom I call dreams in the order of nature, those crowned. Four objects, all worthy of our which ought merely to be regarded as the regard. irregular flights of imagination, over which I. Consider in Solomon's request, the rethe will has lost, or partially lost, its com- collection of mercies. It was the mercies of mand.

David, his father. Solomon made this reter. I call dreams in the order of providence ence as a motive to obtain the divine mercies those which without deviation from the and aids his situation required. He aspired course of nature, excite certain instructive at the blessings which God confers on the ideas, and suggest to the mind truths, to children of faithful fathers. He wished to which we were not sufficiently attentive become the object of that promise in which while awake. Providence sometimes direct. God stands engaged to show mercy to thou. ing our attention to peculiar circumstances sands of generations of those that love him,' in a way purely natural, and destitute of all Exod. xx. 6. claims to the supernatural, and much less to This is the first object of our discourse. the marvellous.

The privilege of an illustrious birth, I conSome dreams, however, are of an order su- fess, is sometimes extravagantly amplified. perior to those of nature, and of providence. This kind of folly is not novel in the present It was by this sort of dreams that God re- age : it was the folly of the Hebrew nation. vealed his pleasure to the prophets: but this To most of the rebukes of their prophets, dispensation being altogether divine, and of they opposed this extraordinary defence : which the Scriptures say little, and being We are Abraham's seed; we have Abraham impossible for the researches of the greatest to our father.' Matt. iii. 9. What an apolophilosopher to supply the silence of the Holy gy! Does an illustrious birth sanction low Ghost, we shall make no fruitless efforts far- and grovelling sentiments: Do the virtues ther to illustrate the manner of the revela- of our ancestors excuse us from being virtution with which Solomon was honoured. ous ? And has God for ever engaged to ex

3. A reason very dissimilar supersedes our cuse impious children, because their parents stopping to illustrate the subject; I would were pious? You are the children of Abrasay, it has no need of illustration. God was ham; you have an illustrious descent; your wishful to put Solomon to the proof, by ancestors were the models and glory of their prompting him to ask whatsoever he would, age. Then you are the more inexcusable and by engaging to fulfil it. Solomon's re- for being the reproach of your age; then ply was worthy of the test. His sole request you are the faithless depositories of the nowas for wisdom. God honoured this enligh. bility with which you have been intrusted ; tened request; and in granting profound then you have degenerated from your former wisdom to his servant, he superadded riches, grandeur: then you shall be condemned to and glory, and long life.--It is this enlighten- surrender to nature a corrupted blood, which ed request, and this munificent reply, we are you received pure from those to whom you dow to examine. We shall examine them owe your birth. jointly, placing, at the same time, the harmo. It is true, however, all things being weighny of the one with the other, in a just and ed, that, in tracing a descent, it is a singular proper view. Four remarks demand atten- favour of Heaven to be able to cast one's tion in Solomon's request to God, and four eyes on a long line of illustrious ancestors. in God's reply,

I am not about to offer incense to the idol of 1. Consider, in Solomon's request, the re- distinguished families; the Lord's church collection of past mercies : “Thiu hast show- has more correct ideas of nobility. To be ed unto thy servant David, my ather, great accounted noble in the sanctuary, we must mercy :' and mark, in the reply, how pleas- give proof of virtue, and not of empty titles, ing this recollection was to God.

which often owe their origin to the vanity, II. Consider, in Solomon's request, the as the seditions, and fawning baseness of those pect under which he regarded the regal pow. who display them with so much pride. To er. He considered it solely with a view to be noble in the language of our Scriptures ;

and to be impure, avaricious, haughty, and *Discours Hist, tom. v. p. 181.

implacable, are different ideas. But charity, but patience, but moderation, but dignity of them as idols? Is it to become their slaves? soul, and a certain elevation of mind, place Potentates and magistrates of the earth, aak the possessor above the world and its max. those subjects to whoin you are indebted for ims. These are characteristics of the nobili- the high scale of elevation you enjoy. Ask, ty of God's children.

Why those dignities were conferred? They In this view, it is a high favour of Heaven, will say, it was to intrust you with their safein tracing one's descent, to be able to cast ty and repose ; it was to procure fathers and the eye on a long line of illustrious ancestors. protectors; it was to find peace and prospe How often have holy men availed themselves rity under the shadow of your tribunals. To of these motives to induce the Deity, if not induce you to enter on those arduous duties, to bear with the Israelites in their course of they have accompanied them with those in crimes, at least to pardon them after the viting appendages which soothe the cares. crimes have been committed ? How often and alleviate the weights of office. They have they said, in the supplications they op- i have conferred titles; they have sworn obeposed to the wrath of Heaven, O God, re- dience, and ensured revenue Entrance then member Abrahan, and Isaac, and Jacob, thy on a high duty is to make a contract with the servants!' How often has God yielded to the people, over whom you proceed to exercise strength of these arguments? How often has it; it is to make a compact, by which certain he, for the sake of the patriarchs, for the sake duties are required on certain conditions. To of David, heard prayer in behalf of their require the emoluments, when the conditions children.

of the engagements are violated, is an aboLet these maxims be deeply imprinted on minable usurpation; it is a usurpation of bothe heart. Our own interest should be mo- nour, of homage, and of revenue. I speak litive sufficient to prompt us to piety. But terally, and without even a shadow of exagwe should also be excited o it by the interest geration : a magistrate who deviates from the of our children. The recollection of our vir duties of his office, after having receired the tues is the best inheritance we can leave emolument, ought to come under the penal them after death. These virtues afford them statutes, as those who take away their neighclaims to the divine favours. The good will bours' goods. These statutes require restituof Heaven, is, in son e sort, entailed on fami- tion. Before restitution, be is liable to this lies who fear the Lord. Happy the fathers, anathema, 'Wo to him that increaseth that when extended on the bed of death, who can which is not his own, and to him that ladeth say, ' My children, I am about to appear be himself with thick clay; for the stone sbal! fore the awful tribunal, where there is no re-cry out of the wall, and the beam out of the source for poor mortals, but humility and re- timber shall answer it,' Hab. i. 6. 11. Before pentance. Meanwhile, I bless God, that not restitution, he is unworthy of the Lord's tawithstanding my defects, which I acknowl. ble, and included in the curse we denounce edge with confusion of face, you will not have against thieves, whom we repel from the boly cause to blush on pronouncing the name of Eucharist. Before restitution, he is unable your father. I have been faithful to the truth, to die in peace, and he is included in the list and have constanily walked before God, ' in of those who shall not inherit the kingdom the uprightness of my heart.' Happy the of God.' children who have such a descent; I would But into what strange reflections do these prefer it to titles the most distinguished, to considerations involve us? What awful ideas riches the most dazzling, and to offices the do they excite in our minds? And what most lucrative. “O God, thou hast showed alarming consequences do they draw on cerunto thy servant David, my father, great tain kings ?-Ye Moseses; ye Elijahs; Fe mercy, according as he walked before thee John Baptists; faithful servants of the living in truth, and in righteousness, and in upright. God, and celebrated in every age of the ness of heart! Here is the recollection of church for your fortitude, your courage, and past mercies, the recollection of which God your zeal; vou, who know not how to tempo approves, and the first object of our discourse. rize, nor to tremble; no, neither before Pha

II. Consider, secondly, in the prayer of raoh, nor before Ahab, nor before Herod, nor Solonnon, the aspect under which he contem- before Herodias, why are you not in this przlplated the regal power. He viewed it prin pit? Why do you not to-day supply our place, cipally with regard to the high duties it im- to communicate to the subject all the energy posed. Thy servant is in the midst of thy of which it is susceptible? 'Be wise, 0 ye people which thou hast chosen ; who is able kings; be instructed, ye judges of the earth, to judge this thy so great a people, which Ps. ii. 10. cannot be numbered? The answer of God JII. We have remarked, thirdly, in the is a correspondent seal to this idea of su- prayer of Solomon, the sentiments of his own preme authority. And what we here say of weakness; and in God's reply, the high rethe regal power, we apply to every other of- gard testified towards humility. The characfice of trust and dignity. A man of integrity ter of the king whom Solomon succeeded, the must not view them with regard to the emo- arduous nature of the duties to which he was luments they produce, but with regard to the called, and the insufficiency of his age, were duties they impose.

to him three considerations of humility. What is the end proposed by society on el. 1. The character of the king to whom he cvating certain men to high stations? Is it succeeded. “Thou hast showed unto thy serto augment their pride ? Is it to usher them vant David, my father, great mercy, accordinto a style of life the most extravagant? Is ing as he walked before thee in truth, and in it to aggrandize their families by the ruin of righteousness, and in the uprightness of bis the widow and the orphan? Is it to adore heart; and thou hast given him a son to sit

no

upon his throne. How dangerous to succeed plain, it ought to be placed in the first year an illustrious prince! The brilliant actions of this prince's reign: and the style in which of a predecessor, are so many sentences David addressed him on his investiture with against the faults of his successor. The peo- the reins of government, sufficiently proves, ple never fail to make certain oblique con- that he spake not to a child. He calls him trasts between the past and the present. They 20!se, and to this wisdom he confides the punrecollect the virtues they have attested, the ishment of Joab and of Shimei. happiness they have enjoyed, the prosperity Neither do we think that we can attach to with which they have been loaded, and the these words, “I am but a little child,' with distinguished qualifications of the prince, better grace, a sense purely metaphorical, as whom death has recently snatched away implying nothing more than Solomon's ac. And if the idea of having had an illustrious knowledgment of the infancy of his underpredecessor is on all occasions a subject of standing. Tbe opinion most probable in our serious consideration for him who has to fol- apprehension (and we omit the detail of the low, never had prince a juster cause to be reasons by which we are convinced of it) is, awed than Solomon. He succeeded a man that of those who think that Solomon calls who was the model of kings, in whose person himself a little child, much in the same sense was united the wisdom of a statesman, the as the term is applied to Benjamin, to Joshua, valour of a soldier, the experience of a mar- and to the sons of Eli. shal, the illumination of a prophet, the piety It was, therefore, I would suppose, at the of a good man, and even the virtues of a saint age of twenty or of twenty-six years, that of the first rank.

Solomon saw himself called to fill the throne 2. The extent of the duties imposed on So- of the greatest kings, and to enter on those lomon, was the second object of his diffi- exalted duties of which we have given but an dence. Who is able to judge this thy so imperfect sketch. How disproportioned did great a people ? Adequately to judge a great the vocation seem to the age! It is then that nation, a man must regard himself as we give scope to presumption, which has a more his own, but wholly devoted to the peo- plausible appearance, being as yet unmortifiple. Adequately to judge a great nation, a ed by the recollection of past errors. It is man must have a consummate knowledge of then, that a jealousy of not being yet classed human nature, of civil society, of the laws of by others among great men, prompts a youth nature, and of the peculiar laws of the pro- to place himself in that high rank. It is then vinces over which he presides. Adequately that we regard counsels as so inany attacks to judge a nation, he must heve his house and on the authority we assume to ourselves. It his heart ever open to the solicitations of is then that we oppose an untractable disposithose over whom he is exalted. Adequately tion as a barrier to the advice of a faithful to judge a people, he must recollect, that a friend, who would lead us to propriety of small sum of money, that a foot of land, is as conduct. It is then, that our passions hurry much to a poor man as a city, a province, and us to excess, and become the arbitrators of a kingdom, are to a prince. Adequately to truth and falsehood, of equity and injustice. judge a people, he must habituate himself to Presumptuous youths, who make the assuthe disgust excited by listening to a man who rance with which you aspire at the first offi is quite full of his subject, and who imagines ces of state, the principal ground of success, that the person addressed, ought to be equal. how can I better impress you with this head ly impressed with its importance. Adequate. of my discourse, than by affirming, that the ly to judge a people, a man must be exempt higher notions you entertain of your own from vice : nothing is more calculated to pre sufficiency, the lower you sink at the bar of judice the mind against the purity of his de- oquity and reason. The more you account cisions, than to see him captivated by some yourselves qualified to govern, the less you predominant passion. Adequately to judge are capable of doing it. The sentiment Soloà people, he must be destitute of personal re- mon entertained of his own weakness, was specto; he must neither yield to the entreaties the most distinguished of his royal virtues. of those who know the way to his heart, nor The profound lumility with which he asked be intimidated by the high tone of others, God to supply his inability, was the best diswho threaten to hold up as martyrs, the per- position for obtaining the divine support. sons they obstinately defend. Adequately to IV. We are come at length to the last, judge a people, a man must expand, if I may and to the great object of the history before so speak, all the powers of his soul, that he us. Here we must show you, on the one may be equal to the dignity of his duty, and hand, our hero preferring the requisite talents, avoid all distraction, which on engrossing to pomp, splendour, riches, and all that is the capacity of the mind, obstruct its percep- grateful to kings; and from the vast source tion of the main object. And who is cutti- opened by Heaven, deriving but wisdom and cient for these things?' who is able to judge understanding. We must show, on the other this thy so great a people? 2 Cor. ii. 16. hand, that God, honouring a prayer so en

3. The snares of youth form a third object lightened, accorded to Solomon the wisdom of Solomon's fear, and a third cause of his and understanding he had asked, and with diffidence. "I am but a little child; I know these, riches. glory, and long life. not how to go out and come in.' Some chro- Who can forbear being delighted with the pologists are of opinion, that Solomon, when first object, and who can sufficiently applaud be uttered these words, “I am but a little the magnanimity of Solomon? Psace yourchild,' was only twelve years of age, which selves in the situation of this prince. "Imato us seems insupportable ; for besides its not gine, for a moment, that you are the arbitrabeing proved by the event, as we shall ex- tors of your own destiny, and that you hear a

« PreviousContinue »