Sidor som bilder
PDF
ePub

matter, through all the benches of inferior judicature, to the tribunal of Solomon. The very Israelitish harlots were not so unnatural, as some now-a-days that counterfeit honesty; these strive for the fruit of their womb, ours to put them off; one son is yet alive, two mothers contend for him. The children were alike for features, for age; the mothers were alike for reputation ; here can be no evidence from others' eyes. Whether's now is the living child, and whether's is the dead? Had Solomon gone about to wring forth the truth by tortures, he had perhaps plagued the innocent, and added pain to the misery of her loss; the weaker had been guilty, and the more able to bear had carried away both the child and the victory. The countenance of either of the mothers bewrayed an equality of passion; sorrow possessed the one for the son she had lost, and the other for the son she was in danger to lose; both were equally peremptory and importunate in their claim. It is in vain to think that the true part can be discerned by the vehemence of their challenge ; falsehood is oft-times more clamorous than truth; no witnesses can be produced; they two dwelt apart under one roof; and if some neighbours have seen the children at their birth, and circumcision, yet how little difference, how much change is there in the favour of infants ! How doth death alter more confirmed lines !

The impossibility of proof makes the guilty more confident, more impudent; the true mother pleads that her child was taken away at midnight by the other; but in her sleep; she saw it not, she felt it not; and if all her senses could have witnessed it, yet here was but the affirmation of the one, against the denial of the other, which, in persons alike credible, do but counterpoise. What is there now to lead the judge, since there is nothing either in the act, or circumstances, or persons, or plea, or evidence, that might sway the sentence? Solomon

well saw, that, when all outward proofs failed, there was an inward affection, which, if it could be fetched out, would certainly betray the true mother; he knew sorrow might more easily be dissembled than natural love: both sorrowed for their own, both could not love one as theirs. To draw forth then this true proof of motherhood, Solomon calls for a sword. Doubtless some of the wiser hearers smiled upon each other, and thought in themselves, What will the young king cut these knotty causes in pieces ? will he divide justice with edge tools? will he smite at hazard before conviction? The actions of wise princes are riddles to vulgar construction ; neither is it for the shallow capacities of the multitude to fathom the deep projects of sovereign authority : that sword which had served for execution, shall now serve for trial ; “Divide ye the living child in twain: and give the one half to the one, and the other half to the other:" Oh divine oracle of justice, commanding that which it would not have done, that it might find out that which could not be discovered ! Neither God nor his deputies may be so taken at their words, as if they always intented their commands for action, and not sometimes for probation.

This sword hath already pierced the-breast of the true mother, and divided her heart with fear and grief, at so killing a sentence; there needs no other rack to discover nature; and now she thinks, Woe is me that came for justice, and am answered with cruelty ; “Divide ye the living child!" Alas, what hath that poor infant offended, that it survives and is sued for? How much less miserable had I been, that my child had been smothered in my sleep, than mangled before mine eyes! If a dead carcass could have satisfied me, I needed not to have complained; what a woeful condition am I fallen into, who am accused to have been the death of my supposed child already, and now shall be the death of my own ? If there were no loss of my child, yet how can I endure this torment of mine own

bowels ? how can I live to see this part of myself sprawling under that bloody sword? And while she thinks thus, she sues to that suspected mercy of her just judge, “O my lord, give her the living child, and slay him not :” as thinking, if he live, he shall but change a mother; if he die, his mother loseth a son: while he lives, it shall be my comfort that I have a son, though I may not call him so; dying, he perisheth to both; it is better he should live to a wrong mother, than to neither. Contrarily, her envious competitor, as holding herself well satisfied that her neighbour should be as childless as herself, can say, “Let it be neither mine nor thine, but divide it.” Well might Solomon and every hearer conclude, that either she was no mother, or a monster, that could be content with the murder of her child, and that if she could have been the true mother, and yet have desired the blood of her infant, she had been as worthy to have been stript of her child for so foul unnaturalness, as the other had been worthy to enjoy him for her honest compassion. Not more justly than wisely therefore doth Solomon trace the true mother by the footsteps of love, and pity; and adjudgeth the child to those bowels that had yearned at his danger.

Even in morality it is thus also; truth as it is one, so it loves entireness; falsehood, division. Satan, that hath no right to the heart, would be content with a piece of it; God, that made it all, will have either the whole or none. The erroneous church strives with the true, for the living child of saving doctrine ; each claims it for her own: heresy, conscious of her own injustice, could be content to go away with a leg, or an arm of sound principles, as hoping to make up the rest with her own mixtures: truth cannot abide to part with a joint, and will rather endure to lose all by violence, than a piece through a willing connivancy.

CONTEMPLATION V.

THE TEMPLE.

It is a weak and injurious censure that taxeth Solomon's slackness in founding the house of God; great bodies must have but slow motions : he was wise that said, The matters must be all prepared without, ere we build within ; and if David have laid ready a great part of the metals and timber, yet many a tree must be felled and squared, many a stone hewn and polished, ere this foundation could be laid: neither could those large cedars be cut, sawn, seasoned in one year;

four years are soon gone in so vast a preparation. David had not been so intire a friend to Hiram, if Hiram had not been a friend to God; Solomon's wisdom hath taught him to make use of so good a neighbour, of a father's friend; he knew that the Tyrians' skill was not given them for nothing; not Jews only but Gentiles must have their hand in building the temple of God; only Jews meddled with the tabernacle, but the temple is not built without the aid of Gentiles; they, together with us, make up the church of God.

Even Pagans have their arts from heaven; how justly may we improve their graces to the service of the God of heaven! If there be a Tyrian that can work more curiously in gold, in silver, in brass, in iron, in purple and blue silk, than an Israelite, why should he not be employed about the temple? Their heathenism is their own, their skill is their maker's; many a one works for the church of God, that yet hath no part in it.

Solomon raises a tribute for the work, not of money but of men: thirty thousand Israelites are levied for the service; yet not continuedly, but with intermission: their labour is more generous, and less

pressing: it is enough if they keep their courses one month in Lebanon, and two at home; so as ever ten thousand work, while twenty thousand breathe. So favourable is God to his creatures, that he requires us not to be over-toiled in the works of his own service. Due respirations are requisite in the holiest acts. The main stress of the work lies upon proselytes; whose both number and pains were herein more than the natives: a hundred and fifty thousand of them are employed in bearing burthens, in hewing stones : besides their three thousand, three hundred overseers. Now were the despised Gibeonites of good use, and in vain doth Israel wish that the zeal of Saul had not robbed them of so serviceable drudges.

There is no man so mean but may be some way useful to the house of God. Those that cannot work in gold, and silver, and silk, yet may cut and hew; and those that can do neither yet may carry burdens. Even the services that are more homely, are not less necessary. Who can dishearten himself in the conscience of his own insufficiency, when he sees God can as well serve himself of his labour, as of his skill?

The temple is framed in Lebanon, and set upon Sion: neither hammer nor axe was heard in that holy structure; there was nothing but noise in Lebanon, nothing in Sion but silence and peace. Whatever tumults are abroad, it is fit there should be all quietness and sweet concord in the church. O God, that the axes of schism, or the hammers of furious contentions, should be heard within thy sanctuary ! Thine house is not built with blows, with blows it is beaten down. Oh knit the hearts of thy servants together in the unity of the spirit and the bond of peace, that we may mind, and speak the same things ; that thou, who art the God of peace, mayst take pleasure to dwell under the quiet roof of our hearts !

Now is the foundation laid, and the walls rising,

« FöregåendeFortsätt »