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We fall, O God, we fall to the lowest hell, if thou prevent us not, if thou sustain us not ! “ Uphold thou me, according to thy word, that I may live, and let me not be ashamed of my hope. Order my steps in thy word, and let not any iniquity have dominion over me.
." All our weakness is in ourselves, all our strength is in thee. O God, be thou strong in our weakness, that our weak knees may be ever steady in thy strength.
But in the midst of the horror of this spectacle, able to affright all the sons of men, behold some glimpse of comfort. Was it of Solomon that David his father prophesied; “ Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down, for the Lord upholdeth him with his hand ?” If sensible grace, yet final mercy was not taken from that beloved of God; in the hardest of this winter, the sap was gone down to the root, though it showed not in the branches. Even whilst Solomon removed, that word stood fast, " He shall be my Son, and I will be his Father.' He that foresaw his sin, threatened and limited his correction. “ If he break my statutes, and keep not my commandments, then will I visit his transgression with a rod, and his iniquity with stripes ; nevertheless, my loving-kindness will I not utterly take from him, nor suffer my faithfulness to fail; my covenant will I not break, nor alter the thing that is gone out of my mouth.” Behold, the favour of God doth not depend upon Solomon's obedience! If Solomon shall suffer his faithfulness to fail towards his God, God will not requite him with the failing of his faithfulness to Solomon; if Solomon break his covenant with God, God will not break his covenant with the father of Solomon, with the son of David: he shall smart, he shall not perish. O gracious word of the God of all mercies, able to give strength to the languishing, comfort to the despairing, to the dying, life! Whatsoever we are, thou wilt be still thyself, O Holy One of Israel, true to
thy covenant, constant to thy decree; the sins of thy chosen can neither frustrate thy counsel, nor outstrip thy mercies.
Now I see Solomon, of a wanton lover, a grave preacher of mortification; I see him quenching those inordinate flames with the tears of his repentance. Methinks I hear him sighing deeply, betwixt every word of that his solemn penance which he would needs enjoin himself before all the world. “I have applied my heart to know the wickedness of folly, even the foolishness of madness, and I find more bitter than death the woman whose heart is as nets and snares, and her hands as bands: whoso pleaseth God shall be delivered from her, but the sinner shall be taken by her.”
Solomon was taken as a sinner, delivered as a penitent. His soul escaped as a bird out of the snare of the fowlers; the snare was broken, and he delivered. It is good for us that he was both taken, and delivered ; taken that we might not presume: and, that we might not despair, delivered. He sinned, that we might not sin; he recovered, that we might not sink under our sin.
But, О the justice of God, inseparable from his mercy! Solomon's sin shall not escape the rod of men: rather than so wise an offender shall want enemies, God shall raise up three adversaries unto Solomon ; Hadad the Edomite, Rezon the king of Aran, Jeroboam, the son of Nebat ; whereof two were foreign, one domestical. Nothing but love and peace sounded in the name of Solomon, nothing else was found in his reign, while he held in good terms with his God; but, when once he fell foul with his Maker, all things began to be troubled. There are whips laid up against the time of Solomon's foreseen offence, which are now brought forth for his correction. pose was Hadad, the son of the king of Edom, hid in a corner of Egypt, from the sword of David and Joab, that he might be reserved for a scourge to the exor
bitant son of David. God would have us make account that our peace ends with our innocence. The same sin, that sets debate betwixt God and us, arms the creatures against us; it were pity we should be at any quiet, while we are fallen out with the God
Who would not but have looked that seven hundred wives, and three hundred concubines, should have furnished Solomon's palace with choice of heirs, and have peopled Israel with royal issue? and now, behold, Solomon hath by all these but one son, and him by an Ammonitess. Many a poor man hath a houseful of children by one wife, while this great king hath but one son by many houseful of wives. Fertility is not from the means, but from the author: it was for Solomon that David sung
Lo, children are an heritage of the Lord, and the fruit of the womb is his reward !” How oft doth God deny this heritage of heirs, where he gives the largest heritage of lands, and gives most of these living possessions, where he gives least of the dead, that his blessings may be acknowledged free unto both, entailed upon neither!
As the greatest persons cannot give themselves children, so the wisest cannot give their children wisdom. Was it not of Rehoboam that Solomon said, “ I hated all my labour which I had taken under the sun, because I should leave it to the man that should be after me; and who knoweth whether he shall be a wise man or a fool ? yet shall he rule over all my labour, wherein I have laboured, and showed myself wise under the sun!” All Israel found that Solomon's wit was not propagated; many a fool hath had a wiser son than this wisest father; amongst many sons it is no news to find some one defective ; Solomon hath but one son, and he no miracle of wisdom. God gives purposely so eminent an instance, to teach men to look up to heaven, both for heirs and graces.
Solomon was both the king of Israel, and the father of Rehoboam, when he was scarce out of his childhood : Rehoboam enters into the kingdom at a ripe age; yet Solomon was the man, and Rehoboam the child. Age is no just measure of wisdom; there are beardless sages, and grey-headed children ; not the ancient are wise, but the wise is ancient. Israel wanted not for thousands that were wiser than Rehoboam; yet because they knew him to be the son of Solomon, no man makes questions of his government; in the case of succession into kingdoms we may not look into the qualities of the person, but into the right. So secure is Solomon of the people's fidelity to David's seed, that he follows not his father's example, in setting his son by him in his own throne; here was no danger of a rivality to enforce it, no eminency
in the son to merit it: it sufficeth him to know that no bond can be surer than the natural allegiance of subjects. I do not find that the following kings stood upon the confirmation of their people; but, as those that knew the way to their throne, ascended their steps without aid. As yet the sovereignty of David's house was green, and unsettled ; Israel
therefore doth not now come to attend Rehoboam, but Rehoboam goes up to meet Israel: they come not to his Jerusalem, but he goes to their Shechem: 66 To Shechem were all Israel come to make him king.” If loyalty drew them together, why not rather to Jerusalem? There the majesty of his father's temple, the magnificence of his palace, the very stones in those walls, besides the strength of his guard, had pleaded strongly for their subjection. Shechem had been many ways fatal, was every way incommodious. It is an infinite help or disadvantage that arises from circumstances: the very place puts Israel in mind of a rebellion; there Abimelech had raised up his treacherous usurpation over, and against his brethren; there Gaol against Abimelech; there was Joseph sold by his brethren; as if the very soil had been stained with perfidiousness. The time is no less ill chosen; Rehoboam had ill counsel ere he bewrayed it; for had he speedily called up Israel, before Jeroboam could have been sent for out of Egypt, he had found the way clear; a little delay may lose a great deal of opportunity; what shall we say of both, but that misery is led in by infatuation.
Had not Israel been somewhat predisposed to a mutiny, they had never sent into Egypt for such a spokesman as Jeroboam, a fugitive, a traitor to Solomon : long had that crafty conspirator lurked in a foreign court. The alliances of princes are not ever necessary bonds of friendship : the brother-in-law of Solomon harbours this snake in his bosom, and gives that heat, which is repaid with a sting to the posterity of so near an ally; and now Solomon's death calls him back to his native soil. That Israel would entertain a rebel, it was an ill sign : worse yet, that they would countenance him; worst of all, that they would employ him. Nothing doth more bewray evil intentions, than the choice of vicious agents. Those that mean well, will not hazard