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his answer to the proposal was equally remarkable for gratitude and for humility:—“Thou hast shewed,” says he, “unto thy servant David my father great mercy, according as he walked before thee in truth, and in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart, with thee; and thou hast kept for him this great kindness, that thou hast given him a son to sit on his throne, as it is this day. And now,
And now, O Lord my God, thou hast made thy servant king, instead of David my
father : and I am but a little child. I know not how to go out, or come in. And thy servant is in the midst of thy people which thou hast chosen, great people that cannot be numbered nor counted for multitude. Give, therefore, thy servant an understanding heart, to judge thy people, that I may discern between good and bad : for who is able to judge this thy so great people.”
This wise and rational request was highly pleasing to God; as it shewed a right disposition of mind, especially in a person who was to fill so high a station as Solomon did, and who was marked out for so important a purpose. A promise, therefore, was made to him, not only that his request should be granted, but that the divine bounty would ensure to him other blessings.—“Because thou hast asked this thing, and hast not asked for thyself long life, neither hast asked riches for thyself, nor hast asked the life of thine enemies, but hast asked for thyself understanding to discern judgment,-behold I have done according to thy words. Lo, I have given thee a wise and understanding heart; so that there was none like thee before thee, neither after thee shall any one arise like unto thee. And I have also given thee that which thou hast not asked,both riches and honour; so that there shall not be any among the kings like unto thee, all thy days.”
We learn, from this, that the Almighty accepts the prayers of men, when they are uttered in a devout spirit, and relate to proper objects. We also learn from it, that he delights in his people, to do them good ; and that if they earnestly “seek his kingdom and his righteousness, he will add unto them all other things that, in the view of his wisdom, are instrumental to their happiness. We are further assured, that, if we make a prudent and religious use of our understanding, and of all the faculties with which he has gifted us, in order to guide us in our pursuit of happiness, he will favourably regard us. through the divine bounty, that Solomon was raised to an eminence above all other kings of his time; but his own qualifications for that great distinction deserve to be noticed. Though young, he did not suffer himself to be captivated by the allurements of what is falsely called pleasure ; for he knew that no pleasure could be real, but such as reason and sober reflection would warrant. Though placed on a throne, and surrounded with regal pomp, he remembered on whom he was dependent; and neither flattery nor ambition could beguile him, becaụse he was intent only upon those great ends for which he was exalted.
He did not think of wearing away his prime of life in splendid luxury, or of gaining renown by wars and bloodshed. His power was exerted for the protection of his subjects; and he devoted his wisdom to the execution of justice. He appears to have been, at that time, all that a monarch ought to be ; because he endeavoured to regulate his actions and principles according to the laws of God. He was good, and, therefore, became great. His greatness, indeed, continued no longer than while he was uncontaminated with vice :—for when he became a slave to his
passions, and when temptations grew too strong for his frailty, his splendid acquirements that “abounded like a flood,” (Eccles. xxi. 13,) and his vast understanding, now debased and corrupted, served only to aggravate his guilt. The apostasy of this wise king in his old age,-his departure from that piety and virtue which had been the ornament of his youth, affords the strongest instance of weakness and depravity that we meet with in the records of mankind. It ought to extinguish every spark of pride and arrogance,—to subdue the self-complacency that adheres to men in prosperity,- and to teach them this important lesson,—that there can be no happiness, where there is no religion, and that we ruin all our best interests, when we forsake the law of God.
The wisdom of this prayer of Solomon's is, in all its circumstances, so conspicuous, that it suggests to us a number of inferences; but of these, I shall take notice of such only as have the greatest tendency to
regulate our practice, and, therefore, deserve our imitation.
The main point of our endeavour, if we would give to our actions such energy as recommends them to God's acceptance, must be, to inform and enlighten our minds in the best manner we can. He has been pleased to create us free agents, and not only to give us liberty and power of acting, but to incite us to it by a promise of future rewards and by the dread of future punishments, according to the use we make of the abilities which he has granted us. But before we attempt to discharge our duty, we must know what that duty is. It is true, we may know it, and yet may not perform it; but it is impossible to perform it acceptably, unless we previously understand it. Knowledge is requisite, for the guidance of our conduct; but it is action alone that can procure for us the blessing of God.
It is only by discerning good from evil, that we can discover the mode of conforming to bis will, or that we can be directed in choosing what we ought to do, and what we ought to avoid. He requires of us our reasonable service,—that is, such a service as our understandings properly informed must acknowledge to be fit and just. What diligence, then, should we not employ, to gain a sufficient light in matters in which we are so deeply interested !-what caution, to preserve ourselves from ignorance and delusion! We have faculties superior to those of all other creatures that are within our knowledge; and if we do not exercise these faculties properly, we so far defeat the end of our creation, and degrade ourselves to the level of brutes : for to brutes only does it belong to give the chief attention to appetite, and to place the highest pleasure in satisfying the necessities of nature. In doing so, they act in their appropriate sphere, and preserve that animal existence which they have received. The case of God's rational creatures is different. Their thoughts and endeavours must not be entirely absorbed in such gro
groveling employments. They were designed for other ends ; they are adapted and invited to nobler pursuits ; they are required to persevere in the study and practice of every thing that is just and religious, that they may partake of immortal happiness hereafter. The principle, therefore, by which they are guided, is very different from blind instinct. They have thought, and understanding, and judgment, by which they are required to discern good from evil; and, regulating their practice according to that discernment, they are finally accountable to God, for the use of those noble faculties.
The moral differences between good and evil are, it is true, so obvious, and so easily discernible, that nothing but the most heedless indolence,-nothing but a total neglect of thought,-can keep mankind from the knowledge of them. To us, in particular, who enjoy the blessed light of the Gospel, the rule of duty and the method of obedience are so intelligibly and so clearly laid down, that no shadow of difficulty