« ÎnapoiContinuați »
which certain duties are required on certain phet, the piety of a good man, and even the
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 wly 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, O ye kings; be instructed, soul, that he may be equal to the dignity of 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 the 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 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 bis 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 lhe 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, ihe 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.
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 highIV. 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 iii. 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 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 frorn 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 half 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. | 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 gifts 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 com vours 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 prince, who men have formed notions of I know not what reigned from the river even to the land of the grace, 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, acclaination 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 enorinities 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
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. Amen. us, treading on our heels, the sentence already preparing, and the account which God is about to require. Let us distrust ourselves in pros
SERMON XCII. perity: let us never forget what we are; let us have people about us to recall its recollection: THE VOICE OF THE ROD. let us request our friends constantly to cry in
Preached Nov. 20, 1720. our ears, remember that you are loaded with crimes; that you are but dust and ashes; and
Micah vi. 9. in the midst of your grandeur, and your rank, remember that you are poor, frail, wretched,
ye the rod, and who hath appointed it. and abject.
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 criine. 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 enchant But of all the means calculated to produce ers, but the women of Midian, to allure them the recollection so essential to make us wise, to their sacrifices; then this people, before in- adversity is the most effectual. How should vincible, I will deliver into your hands!!! a man delight his heart with a foolish gran
of the success of this advice, my brethren, deur; how should he abandon himself to pride, you cannot be ignorant. But why fell not when all around him speaks his meanness and every Balaam by the sword of Israelites! impotency; when appalled by the sight of a Numb. xxxi. 8. Why were the awful conse- sovereign judge, and burdened by his heavy quences of this counsel restricted to the un- hand: he has no resource but humility and happy culprits, whoin the holy hands of Phi- submission? How should he give up himself neas and Eleazar, sacrificed to the wrath of to intemperance when afflicted with excruciHeaven! David, Solomon, Samson, and you, ating pains, and oppressed with the approaches my brethren; you who may yet preserve, at of death? When, therefore, adversity is unleast, a part of your innocence. Let us arm availing; when a people equally resist the terthem against voluptuousness. Let us distrust rific warnings of the prophet, and the strokes enchanting pleasure. Let us fear it, not only of God's hand, for whom he speaks; when their when it presents its horrors; not only when it corruption is proof against mortality, against discovers the frightful objects which follow in the plague, against famine; what resource reits train, adultery, incest, treason, apostacy, mains for their conversion? This was, howwith murder and assassination; but let us fear ever, the degree of hardness to which the Jews, it, when clothed in the garb of innocence, when in Jeremiah's time, had attained. “O Lord, authorized by decent freedoms, and assuming thou hast stricken them, but they have not the pretext of religious sacrifices. Let us ex- grieved; thou hast consumed them, but they clude it from every avenue of the heart. Let have refused to receive instruction; they have us restrict our senses. Let us mortify our made their faces harder than a rock." members which are on the earth. Let us “O Lord, thou hast stricken them.” My crucify the flesh with the concupiscence. And brethren, the first part of our prophet's words by the way prescribed in the gospel; the way is now accomplished in our country, and in a of retirement, of silence, of austerity, of the very terrific inanner. Some difference the cross, and of 'mortification, let us attain hap- mercy of God does make between us, and those piness, and immortal bliss. May God grant | neighbouring nations, among whom the plague
is making so dreadful a progress; but though sentiments of terror and awe: this is the second our horizon is not yet infected, though the disposition of a fast. If we examine their origin breath of our hearers is not yet corrupt, and and cause, we shall be softened with sentiments though our streets present not yet to our view of sorrow and repentance: this is the third disheaps of dead, whose mortal exhalations, position of a fast. If we, lastly, discover the threaten the living, and to whose burial, those remedies and resources, we shall be animated who survive are scarcely sufficient, we are with the sentiments of genuine conversion: this nevertheless under the hand of God; I would is the fourth disposition of a fast. It is by resay, under his avenging hand; his hand already flections of this kind that I would close these uplifted to plunge us into the abyss of national solemn duties, and make, if I may so speak, the ruin. What else are those plagues which applications of those energetic words addressed walk in our streets? What is this mortality to us by the servants of God on this day. of our cattle which has now continued so many I. “Hear ye the rod:” feel the strokes with years? what else is this suspension of credit, which you are already struck. There is one this loss of trade, this ruin of so many families, disposition of the mind which may be conand so many more on the brink of ruin? “O founded with that we would wish to inspire. Lord, thou hast stricken them.” The first part | The sensation of these calamities may be so then is but too awfully accomplished in our strong as to unnerve the understanding, and country.
overspread the mind with a total gloom and deI should deem it an abuse of the liberty al- jection. The soul of which we speak, feasts on lowed me in this pulpit, were I to say, without its grief, and is wholly absorbed in the causes restriction, that the second is likewise accom- of its anguish. The privation of a good once plished; “but they have not grieved.” The enjoyed, renders it perfectly indifferent as to the solemnity of the day; the proclamation of our blessings which still remain. The strokes which fast; the whole of these provinces prostrated to- God has inflicted, appear to it the greatest of day at the feet of the Most High; so many voices all calamities. Neither the beauties of nature, crying to Heaven, “O thou sword of the Lord, nor the pleasures of conversation, nor the mointoxicated with blood, return into thy scab- tives of piety, have charms adequate lo extinbard;" all would convict me of declamation, if guish, nor even assuage anguish which corrodes I should say, “O Lord thou hast stricken them, and consumes the soul. Hence those torrents but they have not grieved."
of tears; hence those deep and frequent sighs; But, my brethren, have we then no part in hence those loud and bitter complaints; hence this reproach? Do we feel as we ought, the those unqualified augurs of disaster and ruin. calamities that God hath sent? Come to-day, To feel afflictions in this way, is a weakness of Christians; come and learn of our prophet to mind which disqualifies us for supporting the hearken to the voice of God. What voice the slightest reverses of life. It is an ingratitude voice strong and mighty; the voice which light- which obstructs our acknowledging the favours eneth with flames of fire; the loud voice of his of that God, who, “in the midst of wrath, rejudgments. “ Hear ye the rod, and him who members mercy,” and who never so far afflicts hath appointed it.”
his creature, as to deprive him of reviving hope. 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.-0 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 This, in substance, is,
the calamities of the public. I. To feel the strokes of God's hand:
The insensibility we wish to prevent, is a phiII. To trace their consequences and conner- losophical apathy. We brave adversity. We ions:
fortify ourselves with a stoical firmness. We III. To examine their origin and causes. account it wise, superior wisdom to be unmoved
IV. To discover their resources and remedies. by the greatest catastrophes. We enshroud the This is to comply with the exhortation of Mi- mind in an ill-named virtue; and we pique ourcah; this is to shelter ourselves from the charge selves on the vain glory of being unmoved, of Jeremiah; this is especially to comply with though the universe were dissolved. the design of this solemnity. If we feel the The insensibility we wish to prevent is that strokes of God's hand, we shall shake off a cer- which arises from a stupid ignorance. Some tain state of indolence in which many of us are men are naturally more difficult to be moved found, and be clothed with the sentiments of than the brutes destitute of reason. They are humiliation: this is the first duty of the day. If resolved to remain where they are, until extriwe trace the consequences and connexion of cated by an exterior cause; and these are the our calamities, we shall be inspired with the very men who resist that cause. They shut