Charles Simeon's Devotional Commentaries
THE PRAYER OF JABEZ
1 Chronicles 4:10. And Jabez called on the God of Israel, saying, Oh that you would bless me indeed, and enlarge my coast, and that your hand might be with me, and that you would keep me from evil, that it may not grieve me! And God granted him that which he requested.
REMARKABLE is the honor which God puts upon prayer, and numberless are the instances which are recorded of its efficacy. Jabez is here mentioned in a long catalogue of names; but while the names only of others are recorded, he is particularly noticed: he is even declared to have been more honorable than all his brethren. This distinction indeed might be given him on account of his primogeniture, but it was certainly still more due on account of his piety; like the patriarch Jacob, he "wrestled with God, and prevailed"—
I. The prayer he offered,
1. The subject-matter of it—
In its primary sense it evidently related to temporal blessings. God had promised his people an inheritance in Canaan, but they were not able of themselves to drive out the inhabitants. Jabez therefore, sensible of his insufficiency, prayed to God for help. He begged for the blessing of God upon his own endeavors: he desired to be preserved from the dangers to which his military exploits would expose him; and to have, through the divine interposition, an enlarged inheritance in the promised land. These requests he urged with a significant and earnest plea Almost all Hebrew names had some peculiar signification. Jabez signifies sorrow: the name was given him in remembrance of the unusual sorrows his mother endured in childbirth. And it was in reference to this that he deprecated the evils to which he was exposed; "Keep me," etc. lest I be Jabez in my experience, as well as in my name.
But there is reason to think it had also a spiritual meaning. The earthly Canaan was typical of the heavenly kingdom. The enemies also that were to be driven out, were typical of the enemies with whom the Christian has to contend. Moreover, the assistance, which God rendered to his people, was intended to show us what aid we might expect from him. And what evil will a child of God deprecate so much as sin? Surely nothing is so "grievous" to him as the prevalence of corruption Romans 7:24. Well therefore may Jabez be considered as looking beyond this world, and as imploring a secure possession of his heavenly inheritance.
2. The manner in which it was offered—
It is the sentiment, rather than the expression, that gives excellence to prayer; but in both respects we may admire that before us.
It was humble. He felt his entire dependence upon the power and grace of God. This is intimated not merely in the petitions offered, but in the very manner in which they were offered—"Oh that," etc. Such humility is absolutely necessary to render prayer acceptable. The more we abase ourselves, the more will God exalt us. Let this be remembered in all our addresses at the throne of grace.
It was importunate. He enforced his request with a very earnest plea. Nor, in reference to sin, could any plea be more proper for him. But we may also properly deprecate sin as "grievous" to our souls. Yes, a disposition to do this is both an evidence of our sincerity, and a pledge of the divine acceptance.
It was believing. The title, by which he addressed the Deity, argued his faith in God. It expressed a confidence in God as the hearer of prayer Genesis 32:28. It is in this way that we also should approach the Deity. Without such faith our petitions will have but little effect; but with it, they shall never go forth in vain Mark 11:24.
Prayer possessing such qualities could not fail of success:
II. The success with which it was attended—
We have no detailed account of God's kindness towards him, but we are informed that "God granted him all that he requested," and this speaks loudly to us—
It shows us,
1. That we ought to spread all our wants before God in prayer—
We have seen how comprehensive the prayer of Jabez was. And ours also should include our every want, temporal, spiritual, and eternal. There is nothing so great, but we are at liberty to ask it; nor anything so small, but we must acknowledge our entire dependence on God for it. In fact, there is nothing great or small, either before God, or in reference to ourselves: for, as all things are alike easy to him, who formed the universe by his word, and watches over the very hairs of our heads, so there is nothing, however minute, which may not prove of the utmost possible importance to us, as every part of the inspired volume attests. The direction of God to us is, "In everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God Philippians 4:6."
2. We should urge our petitions with an importunity that will take no denial—
So did Jacob; "I will not let you go, except you bless me Genesis 32:26." And so it should be with us. We have, in fact, a better plea than Jabez was able to offer. We may go in the name of Jesus Christ, and plead all that he has done or suffered for us. We may look to him as our Advocate with the Father, and assure ourselves of the acceptance both of our persons and our prayers through his continued mediation and all-prevailing intercession. The conduct or King Joash should be a warning to us. The Prophet Elisha told him that he should smite the Syrians who had sorely oppressed the whole Jewish people: and he bade him to smite the ground with the arrows which he had in his hand, and thereby to express the desires and expectations which he felt in reference to this great event. The king smote the ground only thrice, when he should have smitten it five or six times; and thus by his own want of zeal he restrained the exertions of Almighty God in his favor 2 Kings 13:29. And thus it is that we act. If we were more earnest in our desires, and more enlarged in our expectations from God, there would be no bounds to the mercy which God would exercise towards us. "We are not straitened in him, but in our own affections." Were we to "open our mouth ever so wide, he would fill it Psalm 81:10." We might ask what we would, and it should be done unto us John 14:13-14.
3. We should ask in faith nothing doubting—
A doubting mind will rob us of all blessings, and make our most urgent prayers of no effect James 1:6-7. We must "believe not only that God is, but that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him Hebrews 11:6." Yes, we must "believe that we do receive in order that we may receive." And "according to our faith it shall be done unto us." In fact, there is a kind of omnipotence in the prayer of faith, and, if I may so speak, God himself cannot, I may surely say, will not, reject it. He speaks as if it had a commanding power Isaiah 45:22. Of course, this idea must not be pressed too far: but we are sure that, as God never did, so he never will, say to any of the seed of Jacob, "Seek you my face in vain."
Is there then any Jabez, any son of sorrow, here? Go to God, the God of Israel, and say, "Oh that you would bless me indeed! Let me be strengthened by you for all my spiritual conflicts. Let my enemies, my indwelling corruptions, be slain before me." And let me be put into full possession of the heavenly Canaan, where I shall rest from my labors, and be forever happy in the bosom of my God." Then, brethren, shall your every request come up with acceptance before God, and return in blessings upon you to the full extent of your necessities.
1 Chronicles 12:32
THE PROPRIETY OF CONSIDERING TIMES AND CIRCUMSTANCES
1 Chronicles 12:32. The children of Issachar were men that had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do.
THE doctrine of expediency is of difficult investigation: but it is highly deserving of our attention; Because the greater part of our conduct in every situation of life depends upon it: and it is no small honor to the tribe of Issachar, that they were distinguished above all the other tribes of Israel in practical acquaintance with this important branch of human knowledge. In the account given of the other tribes who came to David to Hebron, we are merely told, how many they brought with them to place David on the throne of Israel: but in relation to the tribe of Issachar we are informed, that they acted from a dispassionate consideration of David's claims, as compared with those of the house of Saul, and from a full conviction, that, in supporting David, they performed an acceptable service to God himself.
From the character here given of them we shall take occasion to show,
I. That our conduct must often be affected by times and circumstances—
We are in the midst of a world changing every moment, ourselves also changing with the things around us. Hence arises a necessity of attending to times and circumstances in our concerns, of whatever nature they be:—
It is the knowing how to judge of the various occurrences that arise, and how to improve them to the good of the state, that constitutes the great science of politics: and it is to this knowledge, that the expression of "understanding the times" primarily refers See Est. 1:13. A statesman cannot determine what will be fit to be done a year hence, because circumstances may arise which would render all his plans abortive. He may indeed display much wisdom in the exercise of foresight, and in providing for contingencies; but still he must of necessity follow events which he cannot control, and be himself controlled by existing circumstances: and he is the greatest benefactor to the state, who is enabled to judge of them most correctly, and to adapt his measures to them most wisely.
All of us have, as it were, a little world around us, wherein we move; and all experience the same vicissitudes as are found in larger communities. In our families, innumerable things arise from day to day, which require us to vary our line of conduct. Sometimes ease and gaiety may become us, and at other times seriousness and reserve: sometimes a yielding spirit will be proper, and sometimes it will be necessary to be firm. It is no little wisdom to know how to conduct ourselves towards persons of different dispositions and of different habits: but we should labor diligently for the attainment of this wisdom, because the happiness both of ourselves and others most essentially depends upon it.
It is obvious, that a very different deportment becomes us in youth and in age, in prosperity and adversity. Solomon tells us, that "there is to everything a season, and a time to every purpose under Heaven See Ecclesiastes 3:1-8.": To discern all these occasions, and to improve them aright, is the grand line of distinction between the thoughtless and considerate, the fool and the wise Ecclesiastes 2:14. Proverbs 22:3.
But if our conduct must be influenced by them in temporal matters, there is still reason to inquire,
II. How far it may properly be affected by them in the concerns of religion—
That we may attend to times and circumstances, is certain—
This appears both from the example of Christ and his Apostles, and from many plain directions given us in the Scripture. Our blessed Lord at one time was silent before his accusers, ("insomuch that the governor marveled greatly,") and at another time "witnessed a good confession before many witnesses:" at one time he hid himself from his enemies, and at another delivered himself into their hands: at one time delivered his instructions darkly in parables, and at another spoke "plainly and without a parable." In like manner Paul did not deem "all things expedient that were lawful 1 Corinthians 6:12; 1 Corinthians 10:23;" but would sometimes conform to the ceremonial law, and at other times neglect and even oppose it; at one time sanctioning circumcision, and at another withstanding it with all his might: and in his ministry he would set before his audience milk or strong meat, according as he saw occasion. So all the Apostles were to fast indeed, but not while the bridegroom was with them.
Such conduct is also prescribed to us. We are to recommend religion to the uttermost; but "not to set our pearls before swine:" we are to enforce the practice of it in its utmost extent; but not to put new wine into old bottles: we are to "answer a fool at one time according to his folly;" and, at another, "not according to his folly."
But how far we may attend to them, is not easy to determine—
Every distinct case must be determined by the peculiar circumstances that attend it: it will be in vain therefore to descend to particulars. We may however lay down one general rule, which will be of service in determining most of the cases that can occur. The consideration of times and circumstances is never to affect our principles, but only the application of them.
Our principles must be fixed by the unerring standard of God's word. The love of God, and the love of our fellow-creatures, a regard for truth, and honor, and integrity, with all other Christian graces, must be as fixed principles in our minds, from which we are never to swerve on any account. We must not regard life itself in comparison of these. But then the peculiar mode in which these principles are to operate, must be a matter of discretion, arising from the circumstances of the case, And herein is the difference between a novice in religion, and one who has been long walking in the ways of God: the love of the more advanced Christian has "grown in knowledge and in all judgment:" "he discerns" more clearly than others "the things that differ;" and is enabled to combine, what we should always study to unite, "the wisdom of the serpent with the harmlessness of the dove."
It being clear, then, that our conduct may be affected by them, we proceed to show,
III. What there is in the times and circumstances of the present day to affect it—
There is no little resemblance between the times of which our text speaks, and of the times wherein we live Any circumstances that may have occurred, as sudden deaths, etc. might here be brought toward, as motives to exalt Jesus to the throne of Israel.
The elevation to the throne of Israel was typical of the elevation of Christ to an empire over the souls of men—
Christ is the true David, to whom all the tribes of Israel must bow Hosea 3:5. Isaiah 45:23-25. A long series of prophecies have foretold his reign; and have given us reason to expect that that reign shall be universal.
And the circumstances of the present day loudly call upon us to install Jesus in our hearts—
Never since the Apostolic age was there such a zeal for the Bible as at the present day. Princes and Nobles, no less than the ministers of religion themselves, are expatiating on its value, and commending to us the Savior, as therein revealed. When all the tribes then are uniting in this blessed object, shall not we concur to the utmost of our power? True indeed the numbers belonging to Issachar bare no proportion to those of other tribes: they were only two hundred, when the others were thirty, forty, and even a hundred thousand men. But we must observe, that these two hundred were the heads and governors of that tribe; and "all the rest were at their command." So let it be among us: let those who are foremost in rank, in learning, in wealth, lead the way, saying, "Come let us join ourselves to the Lord in a perpetual covenant that shall not be forgotten:" and let all others unite with heart and hand, to seat Jesus on the throne of their hearts, and to glorify him as our Lord and our God.
In applying to yourselves this subject, we would suggest a caution or two:
1. Guard against yielding to any corrupt bias—
In consulting times and circumstances, you will be in danger of being warped by your interests or passions. But you must watch and pray against them, and beg help from God that you may not be drawn aside by them.
2. Bear in mind that God will judge you in the last day according to what he knows to have been your true motives—
We cannot deceive him: and should be careful not to deceive ourselves.
3. Beg of God to give you the "wisdom that is profitable to direct"—
God has promised to give wisdom, even "sound wisdom and discretion, to all who ask it of him James 1:5. And let none be discouraged, as though a want of education or abilities incapacitated them for the due discharge of their duty; for the heart, and not the head, is the seat of this wisdom; and God has promised, that "the meek he will guide in judgment, the meek he will teach his way."
1 Chronicles 16:7-15
DAVID'S THANKSGIVING AT THE CARRYING UP OF THE ARK
1 Chronicles 16:7-15. Then on that day David delivered first this psalm to thank the Lord into the hand of Asaph and his brethren. Give thanks unto the Lord, call upon his name, make known his deeds among the people. Sing unto him, sing psalms unto him, talk you of all his wondrous works. Glory you in his holy name: let the heart of them rejoice that seek the Lord. Seek the Lord and his strength, seek his face continually. Remember his marvelous works that he has done, his wonders, and the judgments of his mouth; O seed of Israel his servant, you children of Jacob, his chosen ones. He is the Lord our God; his judgments are in all the earth. Be mindful always of his covenant.
IF any one entertain a doubt whether "the ways of religion be ways of pleasantness and peace," he needs only look to the history before us, and his doubts will vanish in an instant. It may be thought indeed, that, because the former attempt of David to carry up the ark was attended with sorrow, the general effect of God's service is not such as has been represented: but it must be remembered, that, on that occasion, though David meant well, he was criminally negligent respecting the mode of carrying his purposes into effect; and that God on that account had frowned upon him 1 Chronicles 14:10-11 with 15:13. But when he was duly observant of God's commands respecting the ark, his soul was filled with unutterable joy, to which he gave vent in the Psalm before us.
This Psalm is taken out of several others. As far as the 21st verse, it occurs in the 105th Psalm; the greater part of the remainder is found in the 96th. It was given by David for the use of the Church, on occasion of carrying up the ark to Jerusalem. In the part which we have just read, we behold religion in its full exercise: we see exhibited in the brightest colors,
I. The general frame of mind that it requires—
We have not now to speak of moral actions, but rather of spiritual affections. We are to contemplate the Christian now in the dispositions of his mind and the exercises of his soul towards God. And here we observe,
1. That God should be the supreme object of his regard—
The worldly man rises no higher than the world: "he minds" and savors nothing but what is earthly and carnal Romans 8:5. Philippians 3:18-19. But the spiritual man "minds the things of the Spirit," and endeavors to set God, as it were, always before him. In the Psalm before us, there was evidently but one object in David's mind. The world, and all that is in it, was forgotten; and God was "all in all." Mark every sentence, or member of a sentence; and this will instantly appear. And should not this be the general frame and habit of our minds? Undoubtedly it should. We need not indeed be always occupied in religious exercises; for there are many other duties to be performed: but we should never for a moment lose the habit of holy and heavenly affections: a sense of God's unbounded love and mercy should be wrought, as it were, into the very constitution and frame of our minds, so that we should no more cease to feel a supreme regard for him, than a worldly man does for the things of this world. In a word, his perfections, his word, and his works, should be ever so present to our mind, as it was to David on this occasion, or to Adam in paradise.
This, whatever it may be called by ungodly men, is truly rational religion—
A supreme delight in God is by many deemed enthusiasm: and the religion that consists in speculation, and theory, and form, is supposed to be exclusively entitled to the appellation of rational. But, if God be so infinitely glorious, that even angels themselves are in comparison of him no more than a glow-worm to the sun, he ought to be proportionably elevated in our hearts: and if the wonders he has wrought for us are beyond the powers of language to express, or of imagination to conceive, we should show our sense of them by thinking of them, and speaking of them, and living continually under a sense of our obligations to him on account of them. Were the Jews required to testify their gratitude in this manner for the mercies given to them? How much more should we labor to express our gratitude for that infinitely greater work of redemption which he has wrought out for us by the blood of his only dear Son!
Again; if Christ our Savior be now in Heaven, should not our affections be there Colossians 3:1-4; and "our conversation be there" also Philippians 3:20. I say, that, provided we be not led to neglect our worldly duties, (which are in no respect incompatible with heavenly affections,) it is not possible to have our minds too much filled with love to God: on the contrary, the total surrender of all our faculties and powers to him is a "reasonable service Romans 12:1."
But we shall see yet more clearly the excellency of religion, if we consider,
II. The particular duties it enjoins—
St. Paul gives us a short summary of duties, very similar to those that are enjoined in the text: "Rejoice evermore; pray without ceasing. In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you 1 Thessalonians. 5:16-18." Thus David exhorts us,
1. To thank the Lord for all his past mercies—
Were this exhortation addressed to the most miserable and the most abandoned of the human race, it would be highly reasonable, since the long-suffering which God has exercised towards him is itself a great salvation 2 Peter 3:15. But it is addressed to "the children of Israel," even "the chosen ones" of the Lord: and who can ever find cause for praise, if they do not? If they fill not the air with their hosannahs, the very "stones will cry out against them." Do but reflect on your unnumbered mercies, especially the gift of God's only dear Son for you, and the gift of salvation by him to you. Surely you should sing to him, yes, be singing his praises from day to day: you should be already anticipating the employment of Heaven, and be singing day and night, "Salvation to God and to the Lamb forever and ever."
2. To pray to him for future blessings—
The ark, as being the symbol of the Deity, was that before which the prayers of the high-priest were to be made, and from whence Jehovah was pleased to communicate his answers. Hence, in our text it is called "his strength." This ark was a type of Christ, "in whom dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily," and who is the fountain from whence all spiritual blessings must flow John 1:16; John 14:13-14 with Ephesians 1:22-23. To him therefore the Psalmist points, when he says, "Seek the Lord and his strength, seek his face continually." There is not any occasion whereon it is not our duty and our privilege to seek him. Nothing should be regarded as too small, nothing too great, to ask at his hands. The command is, "In everything, by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known unto God." And the promise for our encouragement is, "You shall ask what you will, and it shall be done unto you." O that we could go thus to God "continually," as children to their parent! Surely, however "wide we opened our mouths, he would fill them."
3. To glory in him as our God and portion—
In our text, David observes, "He is the Lord our God:" and elsewhere he says, "O Lord, you are my God." This it is which elevates the soul to the highest state of bliss that it can enjoy on earth. The man of this world glories not in wealth, or honor, unless he can call them his. It is the property which we have in them that produces the feelings of joyous exultation. We should therefore strive to the uttermost to ascertain this point, that we are interested in the Savior, and are authorized on good grounds to say, "My Beloved is mine, and I am his." As for all other objects of glorying, we should renounce them all, as incompatible with the Savior's honor; and should determinately say with the Apostle, "God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ."
4. To be always mindful of his covenant—
The covenant here spoken of, is the covenant made with Abraham, and confirmed with an oath unto Isaac verse 16–18. In its literal sense it refers to the land of Canaan as the inheritance of Abraham's descendants: but in its mystical import it refers to all the spiritual seed of Abraham, who are made partakers of an infinitely nobler inheritance in and through the Lord Jesus Christ. Indeed the other was a mere shadow: and this is the substance. This was the covenant made with Christ before the foundation of the world Galatians 3:17 an Hebrews 6:13-14; Hebrews 6:17-18. 2 Timothy 1:2; "a covenant ordered in all things and sure," an everlasting covenant that shall never be annulled. This covenant should be forever in our minds: we should regard it as the one source of all the blessings we enjoy, and our great security for the continuance of them. This it is that will keep the mind firm and stable amidst all the difficulties and temptations that we have to encounter; since the execution and fulfillment of all its provisions depends on the faithfulness of an unchanging God Jeremiah 32:40. Malachi 3:6. We should therefore contemplate this covenant, and trust in it, and plead it before God, and rejoice in an assured hope, that we shall in due time inherit the Kingdom provided for us "before the foundation of the world In treating this subject, care should be taken, as much as possible, to preserve the life and spirit of the text."
To improve this subject, we will add a few words,
1. Of reproof—
How little is there of such religion as this in the midst of us! The generality know nothing of it by actual experience: and many, of whom we may hope that they are "God's chosen ones," scarcely ever rise higher than to a state of mourning for their sins, and of trust in God for his mercy. They are occupied so much about themselves, as almost to forget their God: that is, they do not contemplate as they ought, his unbounded excellencies, or delight themselves in him as their God and portion. O let not any of you rest in a state so unprofitable, and destitute of comfort as this! but seek to attain the full enjoyment of God in this world, as the best preparation for enjoying him in the world to come.
2. Of encouragement—
That which in our text is an exhortation, "Be mindful always of his covenant," is, in the Psalm from whence it is taken, a declaration respecting God, that "He has remembered his covenant forever Psalm 105:8." Yes; he has remembered it, and ever will remember it; nor will he ever suffer one jot or tittle of it to fail. In that covenant he has made ample provision for all our necessities: so that, if we are ready to despond, (as if this elevated state of mind could never be attained, nor these duties ever be performed,) we need only look to that covenant, and all our fears will be dispelled. It is, as has been before observed, "ordered in all things, and sure;" and therefore the weakest shall have grace sufficient for him, and the most timid find security in the arms of an unchanging God.
1 Chronicles 16:43
DAVID'S ATTENTION TO HIS HOUSEHOLD
1 Chronicles 16:43. And David returned to bless his house.
IT is truly delightful to see the operation of religion on the soul of man; how it transforms him from a carnal and selfish creature, into a spiritual and heavenly being, who, like the sun in the firmament, steadily pursues his course, and shines brighter and brighter unto the perfect day. Beautifully was it exemplified by David in the history before us; in illustration of which we shall notice,
I. The work in which he had been engaged—
This was, the bringing up of the ark from the house of Obed-edom to Jerusalem: and,
A glorious work it was—
In itself, it was a work of vast importance. For many years had the ark lain in obscurity at Kirjath-jearim, without any application being made to it for instruction from God. But, when brought up to Jerusalem, it would be accessible at all times; and, in all difficult emergencies, the will of Jehovah might be learned from it. Indeed, the whole account respecting it shows us clearly, in what light it was viewed by the nation at large.
As a typical act, its importance rises still higher in our estimation. It was undoubtedly typical of Christ's ascension into Heaven; for in that view it is spoken of in a great variety of Psalms Psalm 24. 47. 68. 132, and in that view the Psalms relating to it are quoted in the New Testament Compare Psalm 68:18 with Ephesians 4:8. Let other Psalms, from the 96th to 99th, be read as referring to both these events, and they will fully illustrate the importance of the work which David had just completed.
And it had been performed in a manner most acceptable unto God—
In its commencement, it was begun by consulting all the great men in the nation, who were stirred up to concur in it 1 Chronicles 13:1-3; In its progress, nothing was left to human invention, as before; but all was conducted with the strictest attention to God's revealed will. Nor did David commit the service altogether to others: no; he himself attended the procession, and played and sang with all his might; yes, and danced also before the ark with such holy ecstasies, as to subject himself to the scorn and censure of his own wife; who being a stranger to those divine raptures, imputed them, not to pious fervor, but to indecent wantonness. But his joyous exultation was such as the occasion required, and such as, though condemned by Michal, was most pleasing unto God.
Having seen the service to which he had gone forth, we proceed to notice,
II. The work to which he returned—
Though he might be well supposed at the conclusion of his service to need repose, yet he went home only to protract his labors in another way. He returned to bless his house; that is,
1. To obtain blessings for them by his prayers—
He would not confine his religious exercises to public occasions, but went home to stir up in his family those blessed emotions with which his own soul was filled. He was anxious that all his wives, his children, and his servants should be partakers of his joy: and therefore he would unite with them in fervent supplication to the God of all grace, that they might themselves "know the Lord from the least even to the greatest of them," and all experience the blessedness of his salvation.
Here we behold a bright example, which it behooves us all to follow. Family prayer is, alas! too often neglected, or at best but coldly performed, by many, who profess a high regard for public ordinances: but the true child of Abraham will "command his house and children after him to fear the Lord Genesis 18:19," and will say with Joshua, "Whatever others may do, I and my house will serve the Lord Joshua 24:15." If we have family wants, and family mercies, we should unite our prayers and our praises with our families, that God may be acknowledged as the one source from whence all good either has issued, or can be hoped for: and though we can easily imagine circumstances wherein such domestic services are impracticable, yet we cannot imagine any real piety to exist where such duties are willfully neglected.
2. To render himself a blessing to them by his conduct—
It was promised to Abraham that he should not only be blessed himself, but be a blessing also to others: and this promise is in fact made to all the believing seed of Abraham. To make others happy was no small part of David's ambition. Hence he went to his house determined to contribute as far as possible to the edification and comfort of all connected with him. He would instruct the ignorant; and teach, not by precept only, but by example also. His determination was to "walk before his house in a perfect way Psalm 101:2.": He would not be proud, or imperious, or passionate, or fretful; but would regulate all his tempers and dispositions by the golden rule of doing as he would be done unto: and "the law of kindness would be ever in his lips."
How different is this from the conduct of many, who from the public ordinances, in which they profess to take delight, go down to their houses to make them wretched and miserable, rather than to bless them! O let the professors of religion look well to this: for, as a consistent Christian is a blessing wherever he goes, so an inconsistent Christian is a curse, and a stumbling-block to all around him.
Learn then from hence,
1. How highly we are privileged—
The ark, even the Lord Jesus Christ himself, is present in the midst of us. To him we may have access; and of him we may inquire continually: and every blessing which was typically derived from the symbol of his presence, shall be really and spiritually obtained by all who seek him. If then David and the whole kingdom of Israel felt such exalted joy in the possession of that which was mere shadow, let us not be unmindful of our privilege in possessing the substance.
2. In what way we should improve our privileges—
Let us not only rejoice in them ourselves, but endeavor to communicate the benefit of them to others. Let all who see us, be the better for us; and all who stand in any relation to us be constrained to say, that "God is with us of a truth."
1 Chronicles 17:24
GOD'S RELATION TO HIS PEOPLE
1 Chronicles 17:24. The Lord of hosts is the God of Israel, even a God to Israel.
A SENSE of God's kindness to us will invariably inspire us with a zeal for his glory. The more deeply we feel our obligations to him, the more ready we shall be to speak good of his name, and the more desirous that he should be honored by every child of man. It was David's happy lot to be eminently favored of his God. He had been taken from the sheep-folds, to feed God's people Israel; and he had received a promise from God, that the kingdom should be perpetuated in his family to very distant generations. Overcome, as it were, with the contemplation of these stupendous mercies, he adores his God with the profoundest gratitude: "O Lord, there is none like you, neither is there any God besides you, according to all that we have heard with our ears verse 16–20." Then, looking for the establishment of God's blessed word in relation to himself and his descendants, he prays that God himself may be glorified by means of it: "Let it even be established, that your name may be magnified forever, saying, The Lord of hosts is the God of Israel, even a God to Israel;" that is, "I have found you a God to me: and I desire that you may be known to Israel, and acknowledged by Israel, under that endearing character, to the latest generations."
Let us, for the illustrating of these words, consider,
I. The relation which God bears to his people—
He is here called "The God of Israel." But there seems, at first sight, to be nothing very peculiar in that, since he is "the God of the whole earth Isaiah 54:5," yes, and of all his creatures, whether in Heaven or Hell; all being alike subject to him, and all equally under his control. The title here given to him must evidently import something of a more restricted nature, something that more immediately connects him with Israel as his peculiar charge. Its real signification is,
1. That he has chosen them out from among the world, which lies in wickedness—
This he did, when he called Abraham out of Ur of the Chaldees. Abraham was an idolater, in the midst of an idolatrous family and nation. And God, of his own sovereign will and pleasure, chose him, and called him out from his family and nation, and "separated him for himself Psalm 4:3." And it is precisely thus that he calls all his people, whether those who were Abraham's lineal descendants, or those who are heirs of Abraham's faith. What was said to Israel in the wilderness, may be said to God's Israel to the very end of time: "You are a holy people unto the Lord your God: the Lord your God has chosen you to be a special people unto himself, above all people that are upon the face of the earth Deuteronomy 7:6." Nor, in one instance more than another, can any reason for this choice be assigned, but simply God's sovereign will and pleasure Deuteronomy 7:7-8. In every instance, he is found of them that sought him not, and made known to them that inquired not after him Romans 10:20."
2. That he has given himself to them in a peculiar way—
He gave himself to Abraham and the nation of Israel, as their God, in a more especial manner; so that he watched over them, and revealed himself to them, and exerted himself for them in a way that he never had done for any other people. The same he does for his chosen people at this time, only in a less visible manner. He takes them under his special protection: he orders everything for them: and he makes himself known to them, as their Father and their Friend.
3. That he avows that relation to them before the whole universe—
This he did to Abraham and Isaac and Jacob, calling himself their God: and when he would afterwards make himself known to their posterity in Egypt, he particularly commanded Moses to say to them, "The Lord God of your fathers, the God of Abraham and of Isaac and of Jacob, has sent me unto you. This is my name forever, and this is my memorial unto all generations Exodus 3:15." And though the names of his people be not, nor can be, severally mentioned, he is as much their God, as ever he was Abraham's God. Wherever there are any persons who have been called out from the world to "seek after a better country, that is, an heavenly, he is not ashamed to be called their God Hebrews 11:16."
But let us inquire more distinctly,
II. What, under that relation, we may expect at his hands—
"The God of Israel, is a God to Israel:" and whatever a God can do, that he will do for them. Hence, then, they may assuredly expect from him,
1. The care of his providence—
See what he did for Israel of old. They needed a deliverer from their bondage: and he delivered them with a mighty hand, and a stretched-out arm. They needed guidance through the wilderness: and he himself went before them in the pillar and the cloud. They needed food: and he gave them bread from Heaven to eat, and water from the stony rock for their refreshment. And will he not provide for us also whatever we stand in need of? "Is his ear heavy, that it cannot hear? or is his hand now shortened, that it cannot save?" No: he is the same gracious God as ever, and has pledged himself, that "they who seek his face, shall want no manner of thing that is good Psalm 34:10."
2. The communications of his grace—
Without these, it were to little purpose that he were called our God: for it would be impossible for us ever to behold his face in peace. "Without him we can do nothing." We should still continue slaves to sin and Satan; and perish forever among the enemies of God. But we need not fear. "He will give us both grace and glory Psalm 84:11." As our necessities increase, "he will give us more grace James 4:6;" and however great our trials may be, he engages that "his grace shall be sufficient for us 2 Corinthians 12:9." Yes, so effectual shall be his communications, that, "through him strengthening us, we shall be able to do all things Philippians 4:13."
3. The manifestations of his love—
Who that would approve himself as a father, would withhold from his child the tokens of his love? And will God, when he promises to be "a God unto us," be so unmindful of us, as never to lift up the light of his countenance upon us? No: He will give us "a Spirit of adoption, whereby we may cry, Abba, Father Romans 8:15." He will give us also "the witness of the Spirit, as the earnest of our future inheritance Romans 8:16." And to such a degree will he "shed abroad his love in our hearts Romans 8:5," as to fill us with "a joy that is unspeakable and glorified 1 Peter 1:8."
4. The possession of his glory—
This is particularly declared by our Lord himself, as inseparably connected with the relation we are now considering. When a doubt was entertained, whether there was ever to be a resurrection of the body, our Lord referred to the very name of God, as "the God of Abraham and of Isaac and of Jacob," as a demonstration of the point in question. For, if he was their God, he was the God of their whole persons, of their bodies as well as of their souls: and if their bodies should not be raised again, he would cease to be their God, as far as their bodies were concerned. But that relation should never cease: and, consequently, their bodies must be raised from the dead, in order that they might participate in the promised bliss Matthew 22:31-32. No doubt, therefore, he will exalt to glory all his chosen people: for can he be a God to any in Hell? There he will be only an avenging Judge. It is in Heaven alone that he can execute all that that relation imports: we maybe sure, therefore, that, as he is the God of his people, so "he will be their portion, and the lot of their inheritance" for evermore.
While, however, we contemplate our privileges in consequence of God's relation to us, we must bear in mind,
III. What, under that relation, he is entitled to expect from us
Beyond a doubt, if he considers himself as bound to us, we also are bound to him: and if he is our God, we must be his people. The one is comprehended in the other: and, wherever one is mentioned, the other, if not absolutely mentioned, is always implied. Just before the text it is said, "Your people Israel did you make your own people forever; and you, Lord, became their God verse 22." In the Epistle to the Hebrews, not only is the mutual relation specified, but it is stated precisely in our text; "I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people Hebrews 8:10." This, then, may God expect from us:
1. That we "be a people to him"—
We are not to be satisfied with calling ourselves his: we must be really his. A servant considers himself, his time, his talents, his all, as at the disposal of his master: and from day to day he inquires how they can be improved for him. He never, for a moment, considers it sufficient to compliment his master with the name of master: but he waits upon him to receive his orders; and he departs from him only to execute them. Thus, then, we must "be a people to" the Lord. We must inquire what we can do for him. We must diligently learn what is the duty which he has appointed us to perform; and we must strenuously set ourselves to the performance of it.
2. That we give ourselves to him, as he has given himself to us—
We must do it freely, and cheerfully. There was no constraint on God's part in giving himself to us: he did it of his own mind and will. Thus must we surrender up ourselves to him. We must not wait until we are beset with the terrors of Hell, and then give ourselves to him by compulsion. We should rather, from a view of his excellency, and from a sense of the unspeakable privilege of serving him, desire to be numbered among his favored people Isaiah 64:9. We must do it also wholly and unreservedly. Jehovah is not our God in part; doing some things for us, and not others: there is nothing that he has not done; for he has given his only dear Son to die for us: nor is there anything he will not do; for "having given up his own Son for us, we may be assured he will much more do for us everything else that we can need Romans 8:32." On no consideration, therefore, should we withhold anything from him. "Our whole body, soul, and spirit, should be sanctified to him 1 Thessalonians. 5:23." Nothing should be accounted too much to do or suffer for him: if the sacrifice even of life itself should be called for, it should be freely made; and we should rejoice that we are counted worthy to render him so honorable a service. We must also do it unchangeably and for ever. God never repents of what he has done for us Romans 11:29; he tells us that he will not forsake his people, "because it has pleased him to make us his people 1 Samuel 12:22;" but that, "having loved us, he will love us to the end John 13:1." And so should it be with us: "after having once put our hands to the plough, we should never look back again Luke 9:62." We should "never faint or be weary in well-doing Galatians 6:9." We should give our ear to be bored in his service; and never relinquish it, until we are called to serve him in a better world Exodus 21:6.
This, I say, is what God may justly expect from us: and I conceive there is not a person upon earth so stupid and brutish, as not to see and acknowledge that it is "a reasonable service Romans 12:1." If our expectations from God are greater than those of others, our services also should be greater. The services of others are no rule for us. The question that will be put to us will be, "What did you more than others?"
Let me, then, conclude with two proposals:
1. That we, at this very hour, accept Jehovah as our God—
He offers himself to us under this endearing character. He calls on every child of man to "lay hold on his covenant;" and in that very covenant he makes over himself to us as our God Jeremiah 11:2-4. Let us from this moment renounce all other gods, and say, "You, O God, shall be my God forever and ever Psalm 48:14." In accepting him, however, let us accept him for all the ends for which he gives himself to us. It is not to save us only that he gives himself to us, but to "be a God unto us;" to be the one source of all our joy; the one object of all our love; the one end of our very being. Let us then, open our hearts to receive him under this character. If there be any other that is more worthy of this place in our regards, or that can better fulfill the office committed to him, then will I consent that you shall take him for your God in preference to Jehovah: but if Jehovah alone can answer all the necessities of your souls, then, I say, accept him now as your God, and avouch him to be so in the presence of the whole universe Deuteronomy 26:17-18.
2. That we now consecrate ourselves to him as his people—
This, as you have seen, must accompany the former: nor is there any man so blind, as not to see that the two are, and must be, inseparably connected. Let us, then, at this hour, "join ourselves to the Lord in a perpetual covenant, that shall not be forgotten Jeremiah 50:5." Unite with me now, my Brethren, in a solemn surrender of ourselves to God.
O Lord, our God, your we are by every tie. To you we owe our very being, for you have created us To you we owe our well-being, for you have upheld us every moment, and supplied us with all things needful for us. Above all, to you we owe our hopes of happiness in a better world; for you have redeemed us by the blood of your only dear Son. "We are not our own; we are bought with a price: and are therefore bound in every view to glorify you with our bodies and our spirits, which are your 1 Corinthians 6:19-20." We acknowledge with shame that "other lords besides you have had dominion over us: but by you will we henceforth make mention of your name, even of your only Isaiah 26:13." Behold, O Lord, we now dedicate to you all that we are, and all that we have. We know it to be our duty: we believe it to be our privilege: we are assured that it is our highest honor and happiness. Make us sincere in this, we pray you: and "keep it forever in the imagination of the thoughts of our hearts 1 Chronicles 29:18." Oh, let us never go back from you, nor ever alienate from you any portion of those regards which are due to you alone. Let the measure of our expectations from you be the measure of our dedication to you: and, as we hope that you will be fully and forever ours, so enable us to be fully and forever your!
Beloved Brethren, do you truly add to this your hearty "Amen At the Lord's table, we all do what is here done. "Here we offer and present unto you, O Lord, ourselves, our souls and bodies, to be a reasonable, holy, and lively sacrifice unto you."?" The Lord grant you may! and may what we have now done be accepted of our God, and be forever ratified in Heaven! Amen, and Amen!
1 Chronicles 22:9-10
SOLOMON A TYPE OF CHRIST
1 Chronicles 22:9-10. Behold, a son shall be born to you, who shall be a man of rest; and I will give him rest from all his enemies round about: for his name shall be Solomon, and I will give peace and quietness unto Israel in his days. He shall build an house for my name; and he shall be my son, and I will be his father; and I will establish the throne of his kingdom over Israel forever.
IF God have any great work to do, he will raise up fit instruments for himself, and qualify them for executing his will. Nor will he make use of such persons only as, of their own minds, covet the employment, but oftentimes such as are either averse to it, or unconcerned about it. Has he ordained to bring his people out of Egypt, or to gather to himself a people from the Gentile world? He raises up a Moses, or converts a Paul, that, as his agents, they may accomplish his gracious purpose. Thus when David was solicitous to build an house for God, and had made great preparations for it, God forbade him to carry into effect his designs; and conferred that honor on Solomon, his son. While we adore this exercise of his sovereign will, we are led to contemplate a mystery veiled under this dispensation, and to trace the resemblance which was by this means produced between Solomon, and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Though the words of the text in their literal sense relate to Solomon, yet they have undoubtedly a further reference to Christ; of whom Solomon was a type,
I. In his dearness to God—
Solomon was eminently favored of the divine Being—
He was a subject of prophecy before he was born; and was called "Jedidiah," by Gods special appointment, in token of the peculiar love which God bore towards him 2 Samuel 12:24-25. His mental endowments were such as never had before been possessed by fallen man. His knowledge of natural philosophy was wonderfully extensive 1 Kings 3:12 an 4:29–34; and his qualifications for administering the affairs of his kingdom were so perfect, as to be the envy, and admiration, of all who knew him 1 Kings 3:16-28. He was honored with repeated visions of the Almighty, and with most signal evidences of divine acceptance 1 Kings 9:2. Throughout his life did God regard him as a beloved child; nor were the judgments inflicted on him toward the close of life for his awful declensions, to be considered in any other light than as paternal chastisements: for though we are not expressly told that he ever was recovered from his lewdness and idolatries, we cannot but hope that he became a real penitent, and died, as once he had lived, "beloved of the Lord It is most probable that the book of Ecclesiastes was written in consequence of his restoration to the divine favor."
But Jesus was, infinitely beyond all others, the beloved of the Father—
Jesus had been a subject of prophecy, not for a few years merely, but from the foundation of the world. The name, Emmanuel, was given him many hundred years before he became incarnate; and He was called Jesus, by the angel, before his conception in the womb Isaiah 7:14. Matthew 1:21. Thrice, by an audible voice from Heaven did God proclaim him his "beloved Son, in whom he was well pleased." As for the endowments of his mind, he not only had the spirit of wisdom and understanding resting upon him Isaiah 11:1-3, but all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge hid in him Colossians 2:3, so that "he spoke as never man spoke." So perfectly was he qualified for every part of his regal office, that "Righteousness was the very belt of his loins," with which he was always girt for the discharge of his duty Isaiah 11:5. And it is worthy of particular notice, that the very words of the text, which confessedly point out Solomon as a son of God, are quoted, by an inspired Apostle, as referring to Christ, and as declaring his superiority to all both in Heaven and earth Comp. 1 Chronicles 17:13 with Hebrews 1:5. While therefore, with the Apostle, we consider Solomon as a type of Christ, we learn to entertain the most exalted thoughts of Christ, as "the brightness of his Father's glory."
We may observe a further resemblance of Solomon to Jesus,
II. In the office assigned him—
It was to Solomon that God assigned the honor of building an house for his name—
David had shed much blood in the course of the many wars in which he had been engaged; and, though he had done this both by the direction and assistance of God himself, yet it unfitted him in God's estimation, for building the temple. But Solomon, whose very name imported Peace, and who was to have rest on every side, was more fit to represent "the Prince of Peace," and more at leisure to execute so great a work. Him therefore did God prefer: nor could any man prove himself more worthy of the employment. He entered on his work with zeal and piety; and, having finished the noblest edifice that ever the world beheld, and supplied it with most costly furniture in every part, he consecrated it in a solemn and public manner to Jehovah.
But there is a far more glorious house which Christ alone erects—
The temple of Solomon was only a shadow of another temple, the Church of God, in which God dwells, not by any visible symbol of his presence, but by his quickening, comforting, and sanctifying Spirit. Of this temple we ourselves are, as it were, the stones, hewn out by the Lord himself; fitted by him for the place we are designed to occupy; and so disposed by him, that "all the building fitly framed together may grow unto a holy temple in the Lord Ephesians 2:21." Moreover, Christ is declared, both by Prophets and Apostles, to be the founder and finisher of his house Zechariah 4:9; Zechariah 6:12-13 with Hebrews 3:3; Hebrews 3:6. And how infinitely does it exceed, both in beauty and magnificence, the structure by which it was typified! That was composed, like other buildings, of earthly and perishable materials; this is composed of lively stones, built upon a living Foundation-stone, and cemented, in every part, by the Spirit of the living God 1 Peter 2:4-5; That was enriched with gold and silver; but this with all the gifts and graces of the Spirit, yes, with the "unsearchable riches of Christ" himself.
Perhaps in nothing was Solomon a more glorious type of Christ than,
III. In the peacefulness and perpetuity of his kingdom—
Very remarkable were the peace and prosperity of Solomon's reign—
God had either put down all his enemies, or disposed their hearts to peace and amity; so that, until Solomon had departed from the Lord, and thereby provoked his displeasure, his kingdom enjoyed uninterrupted tranquility. And though, for his transgressions, the ten tribes were rent from his immediate successor, and ever afterwards continued separate, yet the kingdom of Judah was transmitted to his posterity, and preserved in his family, as long as the kingly government itself existed.
This however was a very faint image of what exists in the kingdom of Christ—
It is true, that the Church has never yet enjoyed much outward peace: for though it has often been free from those bloody persecutions, with which it has at some times been harassed, yet it has never ceased for one moment to be an object of reproach, and abhorrence, amidst an ungodly world. Still, however, may we justly speak of the peacefulness of Christ's kingdom, since all his subjects have peace with God, and in their own consciences, even a peace that passes all understanding Isaiah 54:13. Psalm 72:7. And there is a time coming, when the enmity of the carnal heart shall be slain; and all mankind, brought into one blessed family, shall live in harmony with each other, "the wolf lying down with the lamb, and the lion eating straw with the ox; there shall be none to hurt, or destroy, in all God's holy mountain Psalm 72:10-11. Isaiah 11:6-9." Of this kingdom too there shall be no end: for though the present mode of administering it shall be changed 1 Corinthians 15:28, (there being no more occasion for a Mediator, when all the saints shall be glorified,) yet shall he, who now sits upon the throne of David, reign over Israel forever and ever Luke 1:32-33. Isaiah 9:7.
1. How great and glorious a person must Christ be!
We justly admire Solomon on account of the singular honor which God put upon him: but what were the endowments of his mind, what the grandeur of his works, or what the stability of his kingdom, when compared with the excellencies of the King of Zion? Surely they were but as darkness that renders Emmanuel's light more visible. Let us then fix our eyes on our adorable Savior; and learn from the faint glimmering of the brightest star, to admire the infinitely brighter glories of the Sun of Righteousness.
2. How happy are the subjects of the Redeemer's kingdom!
The Queen of Sheba, filled with wonder at what she saw and heard in the court of Solomon, exclaimed, "Happy are your men, happy are these your servants, who stand continually before you, and hear your wisdom 1 Kings 10:8." But how incomparably happier must they be, who stand in the presence of Jesus, and hear his voice; and not only behold, but participate, his glory! Believer, know your privileges, and learn to estimate them aright. And let all earthly glory be despised by you as not worth a thought, in comparison of that which you already possess, and shall possess, when all the kingdoms of this world have vanished away.
3. How inexcusable are they who neglect the Savior!
Our Lord warned his hearers, that the Queen of the South would rise up in judgment against them, and condemn them, because she went from the very ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; whereas they, when they had One greater than Solomon in the midst of them, despised and rejected him Matthew 12:42. And will she not in a still greater degree condemn us, who, even while we profess ourselves the followers of Christ, show no love to his person, no admiration of his glory, no zeal for his honor? Shall not we perish under a most aggravated load of guilt, when, under the meridian light of the Gospel, we prefer darkness to light, and the service of sin to the service of our Lord? May God the Spirit come down to convince us of our sin, and effectually subdue us to the obedience of faith!
1 Chronicles 22:19
SEEKING AFTER GOD
1 Chronicles 22:19. Now set your heart and your soul to seek the Lord your God.
THERE are many subjects, which, while in themselves they are plain and simple, derive much importance from the occasions on which they arise, or the circumstances with which they are attended. The duty of "seeking after God" is inculcated in the Holy Scriptures, times without number: and the insisting upon it, though interesting and necessary in its place, may seem to promise little that is new, or beyond the bounds of common pastoral instruction. But, if the occasion on which these words were uttered be taken into our consideration, they will be found to possess a very peculiar interest. Let us, then, notice,
I. The occasion on which this injunction was given—
David was now at an advanced period of life; and was deeply concerned to improve his power and influence, for the honor of God and the welfare of his people. Time was when both he and all his people were in a very different condition from that which they enjoyed at this time; he being persecuted and driven by Saul, "as a partridge upon the mountains;" and they being overrun and conquered by the Philistine armies 1 Samuel 31:7. But now the whole kingdom being consolidated and enlarged, and all their enemies being subdued, he was desirous of building a temple to the Lord. That honor, however, having been denied to him, and transferred to his son, he in this chapter exhorts his son to prosecute the work with becoming zeal; and, because his son was yet "young and tender," he urges all the princes of the realm to aid him to the utmost of their power. He mentions what preparations he had made for the work, having amassed in gold and silver, at the lowest computation, eighteen millions of our money, besides materials of wood and stone and brass and iron to an immense extent; and at the same time having engaged the most skillful artificers in every department; so that nothing remained, but that they should commence the work the very instant that his son should succeed to the throne Cite verse 1–5, 14–16; But, as they could not hope for the divine blessing unless they should consecrate themselves in the first instance to God, he entreats them now, without delay, to "set their heart and their soul to seek the Lord their God."
And have not we a temple to build; a temple that shall be "exceeding magnificent," not only "of fame and glory throughout all countries," but comprehending within its walls every nation upon earth?: And are not glorious preparations made, such as never since the establishment of Christ's kingdom in the world were seen before? Societies without number are on foot among every body of Christians, for the diffusion of light and knowledge, both among Jews and Gentiles, in every quarter of the globe: Who sees not how greatly the face of things is altered, even within a very few years, in the Christian world? Religion, instead of being frowned upon to the extent it once was, is honored; and, instead of being driven into a corner, is spread over the face of Christendom, with a rapidity which but a few years ago could not have been anticipated. And, as "Tyrians and Zidonians" contributed to David "their cedars and their workmen," so now, Hindus and Heathens are co-operating with us in the good work; and, to change the metaphor, "the fields are already white unto the harvest." "Now," then, is the time for all to "seek the Lord." As far as our personal interests are concerned, this duty is equally seasonable at all times: but for the interests of God's Church the present season is peculiarly propitious; because an union of all Israel, both of "princes" and of people, is in progress; and by such combined efforts we may hope to advance this great and blessed work.
With a special view to these things, we proceed to notice,
II. The injunction itself—
Two things are here pointed out:
1. What is to be the great object of our life—
We must "seek the Lord our God." We must seek his favor; for without that we can do nothing, to any good purpose. But let us seek it in his appointed way, by faith in his dear Son: "Christ is the only way to the Father, nor can any come acceptably to God, but by him, and through him John 14:6."
We must seek his direction also, without which we are sure to err. The Israelites in the wilderness did not need the guidance of the pillar and the cloud more than we. Let us, therefore, watch its motions; and beg of God that we may have at all times that promise fulfilled to us, "The meek he will guide in judgment, the meek he will teach his way Psalm 25:9. See also Isaiah 30:21."
His glory, too, we must seek. We must on no account be acting with a view to our own honor or interest, but simply and entirely to the honor of our God. And this principle we must carry into the minutest actions of our lives: "Whether we eat or drink, or whatever we do, we must do all to the glory of God 1 Corinthians 10:31."
In a word, we must seek in all things His final approbation. To be applauded of men will be of little avail to us, if in the last judgment we be condemned by our God. We must proceed in the way of duty, whatever man may either say or do: and to obtain the plaudit of our God, "Well done, good and faithful servant!" must satisfy us, whatever we may sacrifice for his sake, or whatever we may suffer.
2. In what way we are to prosecute it—
We are not to engage in the Lord's work with a stupid indifference; but to embark in it, even as David did, with "our whole heart and our whole soul." It is thus that God interests himself for his people Jeremiah 32:41; and shall we do less for him, than he for us? The work which we have to do is "our very life Deuteronomy 11:18; Deuteronomy 32:46-47;" and on the manner of prosecuting it depends our whole success. We must "set our heart and our soul to it Deuteronomy 4:29;" and, like Joshua, determine, that, though all other people should dissent from us, "we will serve the Lord": In this we may learn even from the wicked. They, many of them at least, have "their heart fully set in them to do evil," and they do it "with both hands earnestly Ecclesiastes 8:11 and Mic. 7:3;" and we, also, must "with full purpose of heart cleave unto the Lord Acts 11:23," and "be steadfast and immovable, and always abounding in the work he has assigned us 1 Corinthians 15:58."
1. Avail yourselves of the opportunities afforded you for public usefulness—
Truly, these are days in which it is an inestimable privilege to live. The facilities afforded for the exercise of piety and benevolence are altogether unprecedented. The poorest, as well as the rich, may contribute to the building of God's spiritual temple, and by their prayers may prevail to an unknown extent. And our encouragement is great. There is already a dawn of a very glorious day; and we see the drops that precede an abundant shower. Spread then your sails, now that the wind is favorable: and in whatever department of God's work you are employed, set your heart to it, and "do it with all your might."
2. Begin with a surrender of your whole souls to God—
All acceptable service to God must begin within our own bosoms. If our religion begin not at home, we shall be only like the builders of Noah's ark, who prepared for others a deliverance of which themselves did not partake. The Macedonians were commended by Paul especially for this, that while they exercised benevolence towards others with unrivaled zeal, "they first gave their own selves to the Lord 2 Corinthians 8:3-5." This is what we also must do: and this we shall do, if our hearts be right with God: we shall, each for himself, and all in concert, determine to "go and seek speedily the Lord of hosts:" and, when we exhort others to that good work, we shall, "every one of us, be forward to say, I will go also Zechariah 8:20-22."
1 Chronicles 28:9
DAVID'S ADVICE TO SOLOMON
1 Chronicles 28:9. And you, Solomon my son, know you the God of your father, and serve him with a perfect heart and with a willing mind: for the Lord searches all hearts, and understands all the imaginations of the thoughts: if you seek him, he will be found of you; but if you forsake him, he will cast you off forever.
WHATEVER may have been their own conduct through life, it is the wish of most men in a dying hour, that their children should walk in the ways of probity and honor. But men of piety have higher views: they wish their children not merely to pass through this world with credit, but to obtain happiness beyond the grave. The advice of David in the words before us, is precisely such as every religious parent would wish to give to his surviving family. Let us observe,
I. The advice here given—
The occasion was most solemn. David had desired to build a temple for the Lord, but was forbidden; and was directed to devolve that office on his son Solomon. All the princes and great men of the nation were convened to assist at the solemnity: and in the presence of them all did David direct his son,
1. Whom to seek—
The terms here used have doubtless a peculiar force, David does not say to his son, "Know you the God of Israel;" but "Know you the God of your father;" by which expression he evidently called the attention of Solomon to the character of Jehovah as exemplified in all his dealings towards him: it is as though he had said, "Know you that sovereign God, who chose me above all to rule his people Israel: Know that almighty God who, in all my dangers from Saul or other enemies, has preserved me to the present hour: Know that merciful God who forgave me all my great transgressions in the matter of Uriah: and that faithful God who has fulfilled to me all his great and precious promises, in raising up you to sit on my throne, and to build a temple to the Lord".
"Know" this God: study his character as displayed in all his conduct towards me: acquaint yourself with him in the most intimate and endearing manner: and seek him as your friend, your portion, your eternal great reward! But remember that it is in Christ only that this character of God can be fully seen: Seek then to know God as reconciled to you in the Son of his love; and let "this God be your God forever and ever."
2. How to serve him—
Integrity of heart is indispensable in all who would serve their God aright. Absolute perfection is not to be expected by fallen man: but that measure of perfection which consists in a total freedom from all deceit, not only may, but must, be attained. To be "Israelites indeed," we must be "without deceit." There must be no lust, which we desire to retain; no duty, from which we draw back; no sacrifice which we are averse to make: the will of God, even his whole will, without any limitation or exception, must be that to which we aim to be conformed: And in our labors to fulfill our duty, we must not be constrained by slavish fear, but by filial love. We must feel the service of our God to be perfect freedom; and find all our delight in it, like the angels, who "do his will, hearkening to the voice of his word": As we are to love our God, so also are we to serve him, "with all our heart, and mind, and soul, and strength."
The importance of this charge is strongly marked in,
II. The considerations with which it is enforced—
Two arguments are here used to impress the more deeply on Solomon's mind the foregoing exhortation. They are briefly these;
1. That God is privy to our inmost thoughts—
If God could judge only by the outward appearance, we might with less danger be inattentive to our hearts: but the heart of man is as visible to him as the sacrifices when flayed and divided asunder were to the priests of old Hebrews 4:13. Not the thoughts only, but "the imaginations of the thoughts," the very first risings of them before they are formed into a distinct apprehension of the mind, are all seen and marked by Him, so as to ascertain with precision their nature and quality; and to make them infallible grounds of condemnation or acquittal in the day of judgment. Not actions only, but "the spirits of men are weighed by him," so as to discern how much there is of good or evil in every inclination, affection, appetite, and motion of the soul.
What a reason is this for attending to the frame of our minds in the service of our God! That, and that only which is according to his word, will be accepted by him: whatever there is of formality, or hypocrisy, or of any evil principle, will all be separated as chaff from the wheat, to be consumed in the fire, when the wheat is treasured up in his garner. Alas! how little that is truly good, will be found even in the best of men! Consider this, all you who would find acceptance with God; and endeavor to approve yourselves to Him, "who searches the heart, and tries the reins."
2. That he will deal with us according as we conduct ourselves towards him—
It is grievous that men should explain away the plainest declarations of God, in order to accommodate them to human systems. There is nothing clearer in all the inspired volume, than that "God will be found of them that seek him, and cast off those who forsake him." We appeal to the experience of all who are in the slightest degree acquainted with vital godliness. "Did God ever say to any man, Seek my face in vain?": On the other hand, Who ever turned back from him, without suffering loss in his soul? Who has not found that the Spirit of God may be grieved and provoked to withdraw his gracious communications? Most assuredly he will not always strive with man, but will give us up to our own hearts' lusts, if we willfully harbor those dispositions or affections which are hateful in his sight. Moreover, in the eternal world, he will recompense every man exactly according to his works; adjudging to his diligent servants a reward proportioned to their diligence in improving their talents, and to the disobedient servants a punishment proportioned to their guilt.
Who can reflect on this, and not feel the force of the advice given in our text? Our happiness both in time and in eternity depends on our present diligence and fidelity. Let us therefore implore help from God, that we may so devote ourselves to him now, as to be approved by him in the day of judgment.
1. To parents—
You see in David, what should be your chief desire in behalf of your children. We say not that you should be indifferent about their worldly advancement; for that also is important in its place: but your great concern should be to have them truly pious and devoted to God. Labor then, by every possible means, to attain this point. Call them to you, and address them each by name with all tenderness and fidelity; remembering that you yourselves must answer unto God for the influence with which he has invested you for their good; and that, if they perish through your neglect, their blood will be required at your hands.
2. To those who are coming forth into life—
Such advice as that which is given in our text, you are ready to judge premature, or at least to think you have good reason for delaying your attention to it. But are you young, and moving in an elevated sphere, and engaging in concerns of vast importance? So was Solomon: yet were these no reasons for David to withhold the advice, or with Solomon to reject it. Remember, it is for eternity, and not for time only, that you should live; and, if you disregard the admonitions of your parents, they who now so long for your welfare, will be swift witnesses against you at the day of judgment.
3. To all who are here present—
It is not unfitting a minister of Christ to regard his flock with parental solicitude, or to address them in the language of our text. Let me then address each of you, as it were, in the presence of the whole collective body, and urge you to seek after God with your whole hearts. Rest not in a formal routine of duties, or in a partial conformity to his revealed will: but see that your "hearts are right with him;" and never rest until you have "the witness of his Spirit," and "the testimony of your own conscience, that in simplicity and godly sincerity you have your conversation in the world." Such a state of mind is most desirable for every one of us; and it is the best preparative, no less for the duties of this life, than for the enjoyments of the life to come.
1 Chronicles 29:2
DAVID'S PREPARATION FOR THE TEMPLE
1 Chronicles 29:2. Now I have prepared with all my might for the house of my God.
THERE is no end to the benefits which we may derive from Scripture history. What if our situation and circumstances be different from those which are there adverted to? the advantage to be received from the relation of them is not a whit the less: on the contrary, it often happens, that the voice of God in them is on that very account the more powerful. Take, for instance, the example before us. David, of his own mind, desired to build a temple for the Lord: and he was forbidden to do it: yet "with all his might he prepared for it;" though it was never to be done until he should be removed to a better world. It may be said, and with truth, that we are not, nor are at all likely to be, in circumstances like his: yet will his example be found of very peculiar use, while I set before you,
I. The zeal he manifested for the building of a material temple to the Lord—
Though forbidden to execute his wishes, he was not forbidden to prepare for the execution of them by his son and successor on the throne of Israel. He, therefore, availed himself of the wealth and influence which God had given him, himself to contribute, out of his own personal property, above eighteen millions of our money; and to promote a similar liberality among his subjects, who contributed above thirty millions. The amount of both together was fifty millions of pounds. Now, it may be asked, On what principle did he proceed? And why should he so strip both himself and his people of their possessions, for the purpose of raising a structure to the Lord? I answer, he did it,
1. To honor God—
David had built for himself a noble palace: and he could not endure to live in a house of cedar himself, while the ark, which was the symbol of the divine presence, "dwelt between curtains." True, no earthly house could be a fit habitation for Him who fills Heaven and earth: but still it was more seemly that there should be for God a fixed abode: and by making it "exceeding magnificent," it would become an object of admiration to all the surrounding nations. It would also fill with reverence all his own people; and thus be the means of honoring God among them, and of exalting in their esteem its Divine Inhabitant. And was not this an object worthy to be promoted, whatever might be the trouble, or whatever the expense?
2. To bring down a blessing upon his whole land—
Greatly would it facilitate the access of all the people to their God, especially when they should come up annually, at the three appointed seasons, to worship there. And much would they see that would afford them abundant edification. Indeed, the candlesticks and lavers that were used in the tabernacle were multiplied ten-fold in the temple: and the accommodations for the worshipers would be enlarged, perhaps an hundred-fold. While, therefore, the very sight or that magnificent structure would fill them with reverential awe, they would derive exceeding great comfort and encouragement from the increased facilities of social worship. And, beyond a doubt, in proportion as they delighted in drawing near to God, God would delight in drawing near to them; and in proportion as they sought him, he would be found of them, and pour out his benefits upon them.
And could a monarch improve his wealth and influence better than in such a work? No, surely: no labor, however great, nor any sacrifice, however costly, would be ill bestowed in the advancement of so blessed and desirable an end. Millions of gold and silver were well appropriated to a cause like this.
But greater far is,
II. The zeal that becomes us in raising a spiritual temple in his name—
In reference to this work, no prohibition is issued to any living soul; but, on the contrary, a commandment is given to all. And infinitely more does it deserve our utmost exertions: we all are called to aid in raising this nobler edifice—
Yes, a nobler edifice it is indeed!
Its foundation is more solid. The material temple, doubtless, was built on a foundation well fitted for its support. But Jesus Christ is, "the foundation laid in Zion:" on him must we raise the edifice Isaiah 28:16; or rather "on the foundation of the Prophets and Apostles, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner-stone Ephesians 2:20."
Its materials are more precious. Doubtless of timber and stone there was the most careful selection that could be made. But our temple consists of "living stones 1 Peter 2:4-5," every one of them penetrated by the Spirit of God, and animated with the very life that is in Christ Jesus Galatians 2:20. Colossians 3:3-4.
Its architect is more honorable. Bezaliel and Aholiab are immortalized by their unrivaled skill. But of the Temple in which our assistance is required, it must be said, "Its Builder and Maker is God Hebrews 11:10." There is not a stone belonging to it which has not been hewn out of the quarry by God himself, and formed and fashioned by Him who built the universe: so true is that declaration of the Apostle, "We are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works Ephesians 2:10."
Far nobler sacrifices, too, are offered in it. All the cattle upon a thousand hills were not worthy to be compared with the sacrifice of a broken and contrite spirit. "With every such offering God is well pleased:" and the temple itself is infinitely more raised in his esteem, on account of the offerings presented there Isaiah 66:1-2. Not one is ever inflamed with his heavenly fire, but the odors of it ascend up before him with acceptance, and are "well pleasing to him through Jesus Christ Psalm 51:17."
The manifestations of God in it are also more bright. True, in the material temple, God so filled it, that the priests could no longer stop to minister there 1 Kings 8:10-11. But in his spiritual temple he dwells, not by a bright cloud, the symbol of his presence, but by his own immediate presence; making it "his habitation through the Spirit Ephesians 2:22," and displaying to the view of every faithful worshiper "all the glory of the Godhead in the face of Jesus Christ 2 Corinthians 3:18.
The whole economy of it, also, is more lasting. The material temple has been so entirely destroyed, that not even its site can now be accurately ascertained. But the spiritual Temple shall endure forever, as we are told by the beloved Apostle: "I heard a great voice out of Heaven, saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and he will be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away Revelation 21:3-4." The Romans utterly subverted the one: but not all the power and policy of Hell shall ever prevail against the other.
What zeal, then, can be too great, in promoting such a work as this?
Did David "prepare with all his might for the house which he was forbidden to construct?" Surely we should spare no labor and no cost in advancing the work to which we are called. We should devote to it both our persons and our property, our persons doubtless in the first instance 2 Corinthians 8:5; for without that sacrifice, all the wealth of kingdoms would be a vain and empty, yes, a hateful and detestable offering Isaiah 66:3. Romans 12:1; but with that, we must present also our gold and our silver, to the utmost extent of our power verse 13, 14. It cannot be that men should go forth to preach the Gospel to Jews and Gentiles, all over the world, at their own cost: nor can the Holy Scriptures be translated into all languages, and be dispersed over all countries, without great and liberal contributions. But if David and his subjects gave so richly of their substance to raise a temple of wood and stone, and even adored God for giving them the inclination and ability to contribute 2 Corinthians 8:3-4. If there were only 12,5001. raised, as for the London Society, it would occupy the space of 4000 years! How little do we, for the souls of God's Ancient People, in comparison of David!, much more should we be willing to give all that we can spare—I had almost said, all that we possess, for the advancing of God's kingdom over the face of the whole earth.
Shall it be thought that our present contributions are large? Suppose them to be fifty thousand a year; there will be a lapse of a thousand years before we have collected what David and his servants gave, before so mach as a single stone was laid.
Shall it be said, as it often is, in reference to the Millennium, "It will not take place in our day?" Be it so, if you please: yet learn from David, that that consideration, even if it were certain, should not induce you in the least degree to relax your exertions. You should still "prepare for it with all your might," and help it forward to the utmost of your power.
If any one say, "I can do nothing towards that great work;" let him know, that he has at least one Temple to prepare, even his own soul, which must, before it can be happy, become "a Temple of the living God 1 Corinthians 3:16; 1 Corinthians 6:19;" that you must prepare, by penitence and faith, to be the habitation of Almighty God 2 Corinthians 6:16. But take care that "Christ be the foundation on winch you build; for there neither is, nor can be, any other 1 Corinthians 3:11." Take care, also, what your superstructure is: "If it be hay, straw, stubble, it will be burnt up. It must be of gold, and silver, and precious stones," in order to be approved of the Lord 1 Corinthians 3:12-15. Take care, also, not to retain in your bosom any evil disposition. God could not endure that his temple of old should be defiled; much less will he suffer with impunity any lusts to be harbored in the soul of man: "If any man defile the Temple of God, him shall God destroy: for the Temple of God is holy: which Temple you are John 2:13-17. 1 Corinthians 3:17." I call on every one of you, then, to be "workers together with God" in this sacred cause 2 Corinthians 6:1; and, "whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might Ecclesiastes 9:10."
1 Chronicles 29:15
SAINTS STRANGERS ON EARTH
1 Chronicles 29:15. We are strangers before you, and sojourners, as were all our fathers: our days on the earth are as a shadow, and there is none abiding.
THE more truly pious we are, the more shall we be clothed with humility. On no occasion had David evinced more exalted piety, than in his preparations for the building and furnishing the temple, which he was not permitted in his lifetime to erect. "He had prepared for it with all his might," "because he had set his affection to the house of his God verse 2, 3." He contributed to the amount of about eighteen millions of money: and his people also showed a similar liberality, according to their power. And what reflections did these efforts generate in his mind? Was he filled with self-delight? or did he assume any merit to himself? No: he gave to God the glory of all that had been done, acknowledging that the power to do it was the effect of his bounty, and the disposition to do it the fruit of his grace. A more sublime ascription of praise will scarcely be found in all the Book of God, than that which he uttered on this occasion. He bore in mind, that, as his continuance here was but of short duration, it became him to exert himself with all possible zeal, while any opportunity to serve God remained. The expressions which he made use of in my test will lead me to show you,
I. The state of man as it is here represented—
Man is but "a stranger and sojourner" upon earth—
This world is not our home. If we are saints indeed, we have been born from above: we are children of a heavenly Father: we are of "the family of which Christ is the head," and the glorified saints and angels are the members: and Heaven itself is the inheritance to which we are begotten 1 Peter 1:3-4. This world is but a wilderness, through which we are passing to our Father's house. We are mere pilgrims here. The people among whom we sojourn are governed by different laws, and speak a different language, and are strangers to us, even as we are to them. Our communion with them is such as necessity alone requires. Wherever we are, we are only like travelers in an inn. Our stay is of uncertain duration. If our accommodations be good, we are thankful for them; but not much elated, because we regard them as merely momentary, and have our minds intent on far higher joys to come. On the other hand, if our accommodations be of a less comfortable nature, we feel no great disappointment. We consider that as incident to our state as travelers; and are consoled with the thought, that in due season we shall reach our home, where there is fullness of joy for evermore.
This has been the state of all the saints, from the beginning: the patriarchs "confessed it to be theirs;" and gloried in the thought that they were "seeking a better country," which they should inhabit forever Hebrews 11:13-14.
This representation is confirmed by actual experience—
"Our days on earth are but as a shadow, and there is none abiding." Behold the shadow of a cloud passing over the fields; how rapidly does it proceed! and how speedily does it vanish, not leaving the slightest trace of it behind! Thus generations pass away, and "the places where they have lived know them no more." "No one has found here any continuing city." The antediluvians lived for eight or nine hundred years; yet they died at last. How short, then, is our continuance, now that the term of life is reduced to seventy or eighty years! Let the oldest of us look back: our life seems to have been but "a mere span:" it has "declined as a shadow Psalm 102:11;" it has come to an end, "as a tale that is told Psalm 90:9;" it has been "as a vapor, that appears for a moment, and then vanishes away James 4:14." Thus it has been with all, however great, or however good. The kings of the earth, that have made all the world to stand in awe of them, have passed away; yes, and their very empires have vanished with them. Where are now the Assyrian, Babylonish, Persian, Grecian, and Roman empires? They have been swallowed up, as it were, and lost; together with the monarchs by whom they were established. In like manner, "the Prophets and Apostles, where are they?" they filled but an appointed time, and then were taken to their eternal rest. But, in truth, the very place where we are assembled gives us a convincing evidence, that, whether by choice or not, the same character pertains to every one of us; we are but pilgrims upon earth, hastening every moment to our destined home.
Let us, then, mark,
II. The conduct which the consideration of that state is calculated to inspire—
Frequently is the consideration of that state urged upon us, as a motive to that habit of mind which the state itself demands. "I beseech you, then, as strangers and pilgrims 1 Peter 2:11,"
1. Be moderate in your regards for earthly things—
A man intent on reaching his destined home, would not think of making a place his rest, because of its beautiful prospects or its comfortable accommodations. He would be pleased with them, and thankful for them as refreshments by the way; but he would not think of resting in them as his portion. So must we look beyond these transient things, and rest in nothing short of our destined home. To this effect is the counsel of the Apostle Paul: "This I say, Brethren, the time is short: it remains, that both they that have wives be as though they had none; and they that weep, as though they wept not; and they that rejoice, as though they rejoiced not; and they that buy, as though they possessed not; and they that use this world, as not abusing it: for the fashion of this world passes away 1 Corinthians 7:29-30." "Let your moderation, then, be known unto all men:" and "set your affections on things above, and not on things on the earth."
2. Be diligent in the prosecution of your journey heaven-ward—
You have no time to lose. Whether your stay in this wilderness be more or less protracted, you will find every hour short enough for the making of such a progress as will ensure a happy termination of your labors. You are not merely in a journey; but in a race, which requires the most strenuous and unremitted exertions. Whatever advance you may have made, you are to "forget what is behind, and to press forward to that which is before, that so you may attain the prize of your high calling." And never are you to be weary of well-doing; for "then only will you reap, if you faint not."
3. Avail yourselves of the aids which God has provided for you by the way—
To his people in the wilderness, God gave a daily supply of manna from the clouds, and of water from the rock that followed them. And similar provision has he made for us also, in our way to the promised land: and, in the strength of it, we may prosecute our journey without fear. If we are "strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might," what may we not undertake, with a full assurance of success? We need not draw back from any labor; for "the grace of Christ shall surely be sufficient for us:" nor need we fear any enemy; for we shall be "more than conquerors, through Him that loved us."
4. Keep your eye fixed on Heaven, as your home—
What would ever divert your steps, or retard them for an instant, if you contemplated, as you ought, the blessedness that awaits you at the close of your journey? To be in your Father's house, in the very mansion prepared for you; yes, and in the very bosom of that Savior, who went, as your forerunner, to prepare it—to have all your trials forever terminated, and all your dangers for ever past, and all your labors forever closed; and to have nothing but an eternity of bliss, such as no words can express, no imagination can conceive—what joy will you feel in the retrospect, what exultation in the prospect, and, above all, what recollections as arising from the stupendous mystery of redemption, whereby the whole has been accomplished for you! Set before you this prize; and then tell me, whether you will ever need anything to carry you forward in your heavenly course. Truly, the contemplation of that glory will swallow up everything else, even as the stars of Heaven are eclipsed by the meridian sun. Joys will be no joys, and sorrows no sorrows—I mean, not worth being so accounted—if only you keep Heaven in your view: for neither the comforts "nor the sufferings of this present life are worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed in us Romans 8:18." Moses Hebrews 11:24-26, and Paul Acts 20:24, and all the saints Hebrews 11:35, yes, and even the Lord Jesus Christ himself Hebrews 12:2, were animated by this thought: and, if it fully possess your mind, you can never faint, nor ever come short of the rest that remains for you 2 Peter 1:10-11.
1 Chronicles 29:17
UPRIGHTNESS OF HEART REQUIRED
1 Chronicles 29:17. I know also, my God, that you try the heart, and have pleasure in uprightness.
THE true way to form a correct estimate of our actions is, to consider the principles from which they flow: for it is very possible that an act, which may be highly esteemed among men, may be an utter "abomination in the sight of God Luke 16:15," on account of the motives by which we have been actuated in the performance of it. Jehu obeyed an express command of God in destroying the house of Ahab; and was even rewarded by God for it; while yet he was also punished for it, because, in what he did, he was impelled only by his own pride and vanity, instead of consulting, as he should have done, the glory of his God Compare 2 Kings 10:30 with Hosea 1:4. "Man looks only on the outward appearance; but God looks at the heart 1 Samuel 16:7." The efforts which David made in preparing for the erection of the Temple were amazing: yet, if they had proceeded from a desire of man's applause, they would have been of no value before God. But David sought only to glorify his God: and for his integrity, in this respect, he could appeal, yes, and did appeal, to the heart-searching God: "I know, my God, that you try the heart, and have pleasure in uprightness:" and I can affirm, as in your presence, that "in the uprightness of my heart I have willingly offered all these things The text, with the clause following it."
From this striking and confident declaration, I shall take occasion to show,
I. What is here affirmed of God—
Two things are here asserted respecting God:
1. His knowledge of the human heart—
"The eyes of the Lord are in every place, beholding the evil and the good Proverbs 15:3." Nor is it a mere cursory view which he takes of the things that are passing in the world: he inspects them all: he marks the most hidden actions of mankind: he observes with accuracy the principles from which they flow. Not so much as a thought escapes his notice; no, nor the most fleeting "imagination of a thought Genesis 6:5. 1 Chronicles 28:9." "He searches the heart, and tries the reins Psalm 7:9," in order that not the slightest motion of the soul may escape him. He so "ponders the ways of men Proverbs 21:2," that not a turn in them is unobserved; and so "weighs their spirits Proverbs 16:2," as infallibly to ascertain the precise measure of every principle contained in them. In natural productions, this is done with a considerable degree of accuracy by chemists: but no chemist can subject the heart of man to this process: that is the work of God alone Revelation 2:23; but it is a work which he is executing every day, and every hour, over the face of the whole earth: and in his book of remembrance he records the result of his observations on every child of man Psalm 56:8. In truth, if he did not thus search the heart, he would not be able to judge the world. But, seeing that "all things are naked and opened before him, and that he is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart Hebrews 4:12," and that the darkest recesses of it are to him as clear as the light of day Psalm 139:11-12, we may, without hesitation, say with Job, "I know that no thought can be withheld from you. Job 42:2."
2. His love of uprightness—
He requires truth in the inward parts Psalm 51:6; and whatever is contrary to it, he utterly abhors. "He made man upright" in the first instance Ecclesiastes 7:29, and pronounced his work to be "very good Genesis 1:26; Genesis 1:31." In his works of grace he seeks to restore to man that uprightness: and never will he look with delight on any child of man, until that change is wrought. By uprightness, however, we are not to understand sinless perfection: for, if none but those who have attained that were objects of his love, there would not be found one upon the face of the whole earth; seeing that "there is no man that lives, and sins not 1 Kings 8:46." But, in desire and purpose, we must be perfect. There must be in us no allowed sin. "Our heart must be right with God Psalm 78:37." He will not endure "a divided heart Hosea 10:2." There must be in us a simplicity of aim and intention: no leaning to self; no corrupt bias; no undue mixture of carnal motives or principles: we must be "without deceit in our spirit Psalm 32:2," if we would approve ourselves to him. Where a person of this character is, God views him with pleasure Proverbs 15:8-9, and listens to him with delight Proverbs 11:20. The testimony borne to Nathanael is a clear evidence of this. No human eye saw him "under the fig-tree;" nor could any person, who had seen him, have ventured to pronounce upon his character in such decided terms. But God had searched his heart, and "found it perfect before him 2 Kings 20:3." That his delight in such characters might be fully known, he has recorded it in his word; and, for the encouragement of all future generations, has borne witness to Nathanael, saying, "Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit John 1:47."
Know, then, that "God has pleasure in uprightness." He has pleasure in it as a conformity to his Law, a correspondence with his own image, the very end and consummation of all his works.
Such being the mind of Almighty God, let us consider,
II. What effect the knowledge of it should produce upon us—
No subject whatever has a wider scope, or needs more to be seen in all its diversified bearings, than that before us. The consideration of God's omniscience, and of his exclusive approbation of what is holy, should operate forcibly on every child of man. It should operate to make us,
1. Humble in our review of our past lives—
Who among us could stand, if God were to enter into judgment with us? Who, if God should "lay judgment to the line and righteousness to the plummet," would be found to have been upright before him? Let us take even the best day of our whole lives, and try ourselves by the holy Law of God; or rather, not by the Law as it is in itself, but as it has been known and understood by us? Let us take even our own standard of duty to God and man, and say whether we have fulfilled—whether we have even striven to fulfill it? whether we have labored as men in earnest, to get our views of duty rectified and enlarged, in order that we might not, through ignorance, come short of it in anything? Let us think whether we can appeal to the omniscient and heart-searching God, that we have studied his blessed word in order to learn his will, and cried to him for grace to enable us for the performance of it? In short, let us see, whether for one day or hour we have been truly upright before God, so as to have not a wish of our hearts comparable to that of pleasing, serving, glorifying him? If, then, we cannot stand this test even for the best day of our whole lives, what must have been our state taken in the aggregate, from the first moment of our existence to the present hour? Tell me whether it is possible for us to abase ourselves too much? Job, with all his perfection, "abhorred himself in dust and ashes Job 42:6;" tell me, then, what should be the posture of our souls before God? Truly, there should not be a day or an hour, throughout all our future lives, wherein we should not "put our hands on our mouths, and our mouths in the dust, crying, Unclean, Unclean Leviticus 13:49. Lamentations 3:29."
2. Earnest in our desires to be found in Christ—
Where should such guilty creatures flee, but to the Savior? to Him who has expiated our guilt, and wrought out a righteousness wherein we may stand accepted before God? To think of procuring remission of our sins by any obedience of our own, were madness. Satan himself might attempt it as reasonably as we. O! with what joy should we hear of the provision made for us in the Gospel!—of an incarnate God! of a sacrifice for sin! of a sacrifice commensurate with the necessities of a ruined world! of a free access to the Father through that sacrifice! of acceptance with Him, simply through faith in it as a atoning sacrifice for our sins! of everything being treasured up in Christ for us Colossians 1:19, so that it may be secured against a possibility of being lost Colossians 3:3, and may "be received at all times, out of his fullness," through the exercise of faith and prayer John 1:16. Let us but see in what light we stand before God, as viewed in ourselves, and we shall most cordially unite with the Apostle Paul, in "desiring to be found in Christ, not having our own righteousness, which is of the Law, but the righteousness which is of God by faith in Christ Philippians 3:9."
3. Watchful against the assaults of our great adversary—
Even in Paradise, while yet our first parents retained their integrity, did Satan prevail to beguile them, What, then, will he not do with us, if we be not constantly on our guard against him? He can assume "the appearance of an angel of light 2 Corinthians 11:14;" how, then, can we hope to stand against his wiles, if Almighty God do not interpose to preserve us? It is not necessary for his purpose, that he should draw us into gross sin: he effects our destruction no less certainly, if he only "beguile us from the simplicity that is in Christ 2 Corinthians 11:3." If he succeed only so far as to keep us from being upright before God, he needs no more to ruin us forever. Beloved Brethren, reflect on this, and cry mightily to God to arm you against him on every side Ephesians 6:11; that, whether he assume the violence of a lion 1 Peter 5:8, or the subtlety of a serpent Revelation 12:9, he may never be able to prevail against you.
4. Faithful in examining every motion of our hearts—
If Satan were less active, we should still be in continual danger, from the deceitfulness and depravity of our own hearts. We are ever ready to "put evil for good, and darkness for light Isaiah 5:20." Self-love is so predominant in the best of us, that we rarely can discern, and never without the most careful observation, the true motives by which we are actuated. We give ourselves credit for a purity, which we but rarely attain: and hence, in ten thousand instances, we deceive our own souls James 1:26. But we cannot deceive God. When he searches our heart and tries our reins, we cannot impose on him. The least obliquity of mind or principle is as obvious to him, as the greatest and most open enormity. We should therefore carefully examine ourselves as to the motives and principles from which we act; yes, and should beg of God, also, to "search and try us, and to see if there be any wicked way in us, and to lead us in the way everlasting Psalm 139:23-24."
5. Constant in prayer for more abundant grace—
It is by the grace of Christ alone that we can do anything that is good John 15:5. Without that, we should be "carried captive by the devil at his will." But it is not by grace once received, that we are to stand: we must have daily supplies of grace: and in seasons of temptation we must have a greater measure of grace imparted to us, according to the augmented measure of our necessities. But this can only be brought in by prayer. Paul, under the buffetings of Satan, cried earnestly to the Lord Jesus Christ for support and support. Yet he did not at first succeed. Therefore he renewed his supplications again and again; until at last the Lord Jesus Christ answered him, "My grace is sufficient for you;" and assured him, that "Jehovah's strength should be made perfect in his weakness 2 Corinthians 12:9." This enabled the Apostle to "glory in his infirmities;" and to acquiesce cheerfully in the trial, from a confidence that "the power of Christ should rest upon him." So should we also, under a sense of our constant liability to fall, commit ourselves entirely to God; crying with eager and constant importunity, "Hold you me up, and I shall be safe Psalm 199:117."
6. Careful in our endeavors to approve ourselves to God—
To God we should act, and not to man. Through a sweet consciousness that he was doing this, David could rejoice in his own uprightness: as Paul also did, when he said, "Our rejoicing is this, the testimony of our conscience, that in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom, but by the grace of God, we have had our conversation in the world 2 Corinthians 1:12." Our wisdom is, to "set the Lord always before us Psalm 16:8," and to walk as in his immediate presence. We know what an influence the eye of a fellow-creature has over us, in things which are cognizable to him: and if we could realize the idea of God's presence, and see inscribed on every place, "You, God, see us Genesis 16:13," we should walk far more circumspectly than we do, particularly in our private fellowship with God. Endeavor, then, to "stand perfect and complete in all the will of God Colossians 4:12;" rest in no attainment short of that. "Let all deceit be put away from you." Determine, through grace, that God himself shall discern no allowed evil within you: so shall you "walk holily and unblamably before God," and be kept "sincere and without offence until the day of Christ Philippians 1:10."
1 Chronicles 29:17-18
LIBERALITY IN GOD'S SERVICE COMMENDED
1 Chronicles 29:17-18. Now have I seen with joy your people, which are present here, to offer willingly unto you. O Lord God of Abraham, Isaac, and of Israel, our fathers, keep this forever in the imagination of the thoughts of the heart of your people, and prepare their heart unto you.
RELIGION, in whoever it is seen, is exceeding beautiful; and all its exercises and operations deserve our most attentive regard. But when it shines forth in persons of high station, or is exhibited in the united efforts of a multitude, it excites our highest admiration. Who can behold the three thousand converts on the day of Pentecost, "all of one heart and one soul," all living together in the devoutest fellowship with God and each other Acts 2:41-47, and dividing with each other their possessions, that, being supported out of one common stock Acts 4:32-34, they might be entirely freed from all care about the things of this world; who can behold this, I say, and not admire "the exceeding grace of God in them?" In the chapter before us we have a powerful monarch at the head of all the chief men in his kingdom, devoting their property to God, for the purpose of erecting a stately edifice to his honor. The prayer which David offered on the occasion, in the hearing of them all, expressed, doubtless, their sentiments as well as his own, and shows that they were actuated, not by warm affections only, but by a just and heavenly principle: for, while they were performing a most exalted act of piety towards God, they were not elated with pride, but filled with gratitude to him for enabling and inclining them to render him this service.
In discoursing on the words which we have just read, we shall consider them,
I. In reference to the history before us—
David had purposed to build a house unto the Lord: but his intention, though approved and applauded by his God, was not suffered to be carried into execution, "because he had been a man of war, and had shed much blood." Nevertheless he made great preparations for it, in order that he might at least testify the sincerity of his wishes, and facilitate the accomplishment of them in God's appointed time. The princes and people heartily concurred with him in this good work; and thereby filled his soul with joy and gratitude. We may notice in the text,
1. The grounds of his joy—
His subjects manifested on this occasion an extraordinary zeal for God's honor, and liberality in his service. Had they been disposed to excuse themselves from engaging in this expensive work, they might have urged many specious reasons for declining it. They might have said, 'God has not required this at our hands; why then should we do it? His "ark has abode within curtains" for five hundred years; why then should it not continue to do so? Must not any building which we can raise, be altogether unworthy of his notice? Have we not other, and more imperious, calls for our money? Have we not many poor, whom we might relieve; and many ignorant, for whom we might provide instruction? Besides, have not our families a claim upon us, that we should not so prodigally lavish the wealth by which we are enabled to provide for them?' But no such objections were made. A desire to glorify God swallowed up every selfish and worldly consideration; and the people vied with each other in contributing to the utmost of their power, insomuch that above thirty millions in gold and silver were dedicated by them to this service.
And was not this a proper ground of joy to the pious monarch? It was at least a presumptive proof that their souls were penetrated with true religion. Some indeed might have been influenced by baser motives; but the greater part were doubtless animated by love to God: for they had been long amassing riches for this particular end: and, if their principle had not been good, it would scarcely have operated so uniformly and to such an extent. What then could afford a more just occasion of joy than such a sight, whether to a prince among his subjects, or a minister among his people, or a parent among his children? Every one in whom true piety exists, must of necessity rejoice in beholding such a testimony of piety in others. But the people's conduct was also a pledge that the grand design should in due time be completed. David had set his heart on having the work accomplished, though it was not to be performed by him, or even during his life. Large as his own donations had been, they would not have been sufficient without the aid of others: and if his own example had not been followed while he was present to exert his influence, he could have but little hope that any attention would be paid to it after his death. But no room for such fears was left. The people's zeal and liberality ensured success: and nothing remained, but that the plan which God himself had given him for every part of the work, should be executed by Solomon his son. Well might he rejoice in such a prospect. Well might he exult in the thought, that in this amazing undertaking he had not labored in vain or run in vain.
2. The expressions of his love—
Good impressions, especially when our temporal interests are likely to be affected by them, are very apt to languish and decay. As the gratitude of the Israelites, promising as it appeared at the first moment when their enemies were overwhelmed in the sea, vanished within the space of a few days, so the zeal and liberality which are called forth on some particular occasions are too often found to yield after a time to the suggestions of prudence and economy. None but God can "put a good desire into the heart 2 Corinthians 8:16;" nor can any but God preserve it there. Under a full conviction of this truth, David entreated God to "keep these good dispositions in the hearts of his people," and to "prepare more fully and entirely their hearts unto him." The accumulation of words which he uses on this occasion suggests, that, if there be not a living principle of piety in the heart, the actings of it will be of short continuance; if there be no spring or fountain, the channel will soon cease to flow.
Now this devout application to God on their behalf was the strongest possible expression of his love towards them: for what other thing could tend so much either to their present or eternal felicity as a continuance of these liberal and devout affections? It conduced exceedingly to their present happiness. From the joy which they manifested on the occasion, it might be supposed rather that they had unexpectedly acquired some large property. This would have been a more common and natural source of joy. But they felt happiness in parting with their wealth: they found it "more blessed to give than to receive:" they experienced a more refined and elevated pleasure than the largest acquisitions could possibly have conveyed 2 Corinthians 8:9. And, instead of thinking that they conferred any obligation upon God by these sacrifices, they felt themselves indebted to him, in exact proportion to the cheerfulness and liberality with which they were enabled to offer to him verse 14. Moreover it tended also to their eternal happiness. Their gifts could not purchase Heaven, it is true; nor could their liberality merit anything at God's hands: but God has been graciously pleased to say, that even "a cup of cold water, if given to him, or for his sake, in a becoming manner, shall in no wise lose its reward:" nay, he would consider himself as "unrighteous, if he were to forget our works and labors of love which we have shown towards his name Hebrews 6:10." Without arrogating any merit to ourselves therefore, we may say, that "the fruits of generosity shall abound to our account Philippians 4:17;" that "what we lay out for the Lord shall be repaid us again Proverbs 19:17;" and that in being ready to distribute our wealth in his service, we "lay up in store for ourselves a good foundation against the time to come, that we may lay hold on eternal life 1 Timothy 6:18-19."
On these accounts David prayed that these holy dispositions might be kept alive in their hearts; and in this prayer he expressed in the most effectual manner his love towards them. If he had flattered them, he might have gratified their pride; but in praying for them he consulted their best interests.
Having noticed the words in reference to the history before us, we shall consider them,
II. In reference to that which is typically represented by it If this were the subject of n Sermon for Charity or Sunday Schools, the words following the text, "And give unto Solomon my son a perfect heart," should form a part of the text. Then the second head might be treated in reference to, First, The Christian Church; and Secondly, The souls of men. Under the former of these the propriety of supporting Missions might be stated; and under the latter, (see 1 Corinthians 6:19, and 1 Peter 2:4-5.) the importance of having the soul built up as an habitation for God. The necessity of postponing all other considerations to this may be shown from hence, that if David disposed of his wealth so liberally for the constructing of an edifice of stone for God, much more should we disregard the acquiring of wealth in comparison of making our souls a temple for him. A particular address might then be made to the children, to show them, that the ultimate end of the charity was to put them in the way of obtaining a perfect heart, and that they should concur in this design to the utmost of their power.—
The material temple was a type of the Christian Church, even of that temple which is "built on the foundation of the Apostles and Prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner-stone."
This temple we are now called upon to build—
God has of late years stirred up an almost unprecedented zeal to erect this temple in heathen lands. Every denomination of Christians has stood forth on this occasion. The Moravians, with unrivaled perseverance, led the way. Independents and Baptists, Methodists and Presbyterians, have followed, according to their respective abilities. The Church of England has long had two Societies engaged in this glorious cause That for promoting Christian Knowledge; and that for propagating the Gospel in Foreign Parts; and of late a third has arisen, whose attention is principally directed to Africa and the East Here an account may be given of what has been done by them. None of these interfere with each other: there is room for all; and there is need of all. It might be thought better perhaps if all were combined in one: but, considering what human nature is, we cannot expect that all should so perfectly coalesce, as to prosecute their plans with sufficient unanimity: and it is certain that far greater efforts are likely to be made, when all can exert themselves in a way congenial with their own sentiments, than if they were called upon to support a plan which they did not wholly approve.
That such a spirit should be so generally diffused, must surely be a matter of rejoicing to every one that has the interests of religion at heart. And we trust that, in reference to this assembly, we may adopt the words of the text, "Now have I seen with joy your people which are present here to offer willingly unto you."
Let us then imitate the example now set before us:
1. Let us offer willingly—
Difficulties and objections are very apt to arise in the mind, especially when we want a plea for withholding or limiting our contributions. But what objection can be urged, which would not have had incomparably greater force on the foregoing occasion? Indeed the reasons that should animate us to exertion, are ten-fold stronger than any which David could have urged in support of his measure. God might have been known and worshiped, even though that costly edifice had not been reared: but how shall he be known among the heathen, if none be sent to instruct them? How could he have been known by us when in our heathen state, if none had pitied our ignorance, and labored for our relief? Since then "we have freely received, should we not freely give?" Though we have too much ignorance at home, yet all have some means of instruction: and there are none so far from God, but that the sound of the Gospel may reach their ears, and convert their souls. But this is not the case with the heathens. If we send them not the light of divine truth, they must abide in darkness and the shadow of death. Let us therefore discard from our minds every thought, except that of zeal for God and compassion for our fellow-creatures. And "let us give not grudgingly, or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver."
2. Let us offer bountifully—
If we had been asked, what would be proper for David to give towards the building of the temple, we should probably have thought ten thousand pounds a large sum: we should scarcely have judged it reasonable to require of him so large a subscription as an hundred thousand pounds: yet he not only gave as much as that, but ten times as much; yes, a hundred times as much; yes, almost two hundred times as much. Independent of the immense treasures dedicated as spoils taken from his enemies, he gave, out of his own purse, gold and silver to the amount of above eighteen millions of money. And what was it that prompted him to such astonishing liberality? He himself tells us in the preceding context; "I have prepared with all my might …. because I have set my affection to the house of my God verse 2, 3,." Let the same principle operate in us: let us set our affection to the work of Christ, and the salvation of our fellow-creatures, and then our ability alone will determine the measure of our contributions. Instead of waiting for arguments to overcome a parsimonious and reluctant spirit, we shall be "willing of our own selves to give, not only according to our ability, but even beyond our proper ability; and with much entreaty we shall urge and compel, as it were, the acceptance of our gifts" for the furthering of this blessed cause 2 Corinthians 8:3-4. The rich will give largely out of their abundance; and the poor will be casting in their not less acceptable mite; and all will unite in adoring God for the opportunity afforded them to show their love to him.
3. Let us give in due order—
There is an offering which God requires, previous to his acceptance of any other: it is this; "My son, give me your heart Proverbs 23:26." Here then we must put to you the question which David put to his subjects on that glorious occasion; "Who among you is willing to consecrate his service this day unto the Lord verse 5."
Who will consecrate himself to God as a Christian? It would be a blessed day indeed, if you were all as unanimous in this, as that assembly were in devoting their treasures unto God. Could we but see you offering to him your hearts, we need not add a word respecting your property; for you would feel that it is not possible to dispose of that in any other way so happily for yourselves, so beneficially for the world, or so honorably to God. Give then, I say, like the Macedonians; of whom Paul says, that "out of their deep poverty they abounded unto the riches of liberality:" but, like them, "give first your own selves unto the Lord 2 Corinthians 8:2; 2 Corinthians 8:5. See also 1 Peter 2:4-5." Then you will know, that all which you have is his; and make no account of your property, but as it may be subservient to his glory verse 14, 16.
Permit me to ask further, Who will consecrate himself to God as a Missionary? It is in vain that materials are collected for a building, if there be none found to construct the edifice. And alas! here is the difficulty, here the want! Of those who are destined to the service of their God, how few are found willing to sacrifice their earthly prospects, and their carnal ease! When God calls them to an arduous and self-denying service, how do they, like Moses, multiply their excuses, when they are actuated only by a fear of the cross! God has been for many years saying to us of the Established Church, "Who will go for us?" but there have been few Isaiahs found to answer, "Here am I, send me Isaiah 6:8." O that there were less reason for that complaint, "All men seek their own, not the things which are Jesus Christ's Philippians 2:21." If we even knew that the fruits of our labors would not appear to any great extent in our day, it were no reason for declining the service to which we are called. David sowed, that others might reap: our blessed Lord did the same: I pray God there may be some found among us inclined and qualified to follow their examples.
If there be any, whether in the ministry or out of it, who desire to be the Lord's, we pray that "our Covenant-God would keep this in the imagination of the thoughts of their hearts forever." And if the raising of God's spiritual temple among the heathen be an object worthy of our regard, let us now vie with each other in our endeavors to promote it, and show our sense of its importance by the cheerfulness and extent of our donations.