« AnteriorContinuar »
bigh duties it imposed. “ Thy servant is in the midst of thy people which thou hast chosen ; who is able to judge this thy so great a people, which cannot be numbered ?" The answer of God is a correspondent seal to this idea of supreme authority. And what we here say of the regal power, we apply to every other office of trust and dignity. A man of integrity must not view them with regard to the emoluments they produce, but with regard to the duties they impose.
What is the end proposed by society on elevating certain men to high stations? Is it to augment their pride ? Is it to usher them into a style of life the most extravagant? Is it to flatter their
and ambition? Is it to aggrandise their families by the ruin of the widow and the orphan? Is it to adore them as idols? Is it to become their slaves ? Potentates and magistrates of the earth, ask those subjects, to whom you are indebted for the high scale of elevation you enjoy. Ask, Why those dignities were conferred ? They will say, it was to entrust you with their safety and repose ; it was to procure fathers and protectors; it was to find peace and prosperity under the shadow of your
tribunals. To induce you to enter on those awful duties, they have accompanied them with those inviting appendages which sooth the cares, and alleviate the weights of office. They have conferred titles; they have sworn obedience; and ensured reve
Entrance then on a high duty is to make a contract with the people, over whom you proceed to exercise it : it is to make a compact, by which certain duties arə required on certain conditions. To require the emoluments, when the conditions of the engagements are violated, is an abominable usurpation: it is an usurpation of honour, of homage, and of revenue. I speak literally, and without 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 neighbour's goods. These statutes require restitution. Before restitution, he is liable to this anathema, “Woe to bim that increaseth that which is not his own, and to him that ladeth himself with thick clay: for the stone shall cry out of the wall, and the beam out of the timber shall answer it.” Hab. ii. 6. 11. Before restitution he is unworthy of the Lord's table; and included in the curse we denounce against thieves, whom we repel from the holy eucharist. Before restitution, he is unable to die in peace, and he is included in the list of those “who shall not inherit the kingdom of God.”
But into what strange reflections do these considerations involve us ? What awful ideas do they excite in our minds? And what alarming consequences do they draw on certain kings ?-Ye Moseses ; ye Elijahs ; ye John Baptists ; faithful servants of the living God, and celebrated in every age of the church for your fortitude, your courage, and your zeal ; you, who knew not how to temporise, 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.” Psa. ï. 10.
III. We have remarked, thirdly, in the Solomon, the sentiments of his own weakness; and in God's reply, the high regard testified towards humility. The character of the king whom Solomon succeeded, the arduous nature of the duties to which he was called, and the insufficiency of his age, were to him three considerations of humility.
1. The character of the king to whom he succeeded. “ Thou hast showed unto thy servant David, my father, great mercy, according as he walked before thee in truth, and in righteousness, and in the uprightness of his heart ; and thou hast given him a son to sit upon his throne.” How dangerous to succeed an illustrious prince! The distinguished actions of a predecessor, are so many sentences against the faults of his successor. The people never fail to make certain oblique contracts between the past and the present. They recollect the virtues they have attested, the happiness they have enjoyed, the
prosperity with which they have been loaded, and the distinguished qualifications of the prince, whom death has recently snatched away.
And if the idea of having had an illustrious predecessor is on all occasions a subject of serious consideration for him who bas to follow, never had 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
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 humility. “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 people over whom he has to preside. Adequately to judge a nation, be- 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.—Adequately 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 awe, and a third cause of his humility. “I am but a little child, I know not how to go out and come in.". Some chronologists are of opinion that Solomon, when he uttered these words, “I am but a little child,” was only twelve years of age, which to us seems insupportable : for besides its not being proved by the event, as we shall explain, it ought to be placed in the first year of this prince's reign : and the style in which David addressed him on his investiture with the reins of government sufficiently proves, that he spake not to a child. He calls him wise, and to this wisdom he confides the punishment of Joab, and of Shemei.
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 acknowledgement 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.