« PreviousContinue »
it to his successor. If there be any thing that, in our desires of the prosperous condition of our children, takes place of goodness, our hearts are not upright. Here was the father, a king, charging the king his son to keep the statutes of the King of kings; as one that knew greatness could neither exempt from obedience, nor privilege sin; as one that knew the least deviation in the greatest and highest orb is both most sensible, and most dangerous. Neither would he have his son to look for any prosperity, save only from well-doing. That happiness is built upon sand or ice which is raised upon any foundation besides virtue. If Solomon were wise, David was good; and if old Solomon had well remembered the counsel of old David, he had not so foully miscarried.
After the precepts of piety, follow those of justice, distributing in a due recompense, as revenge to Joab and Shimei, so favour to the house of Barzillai. The bloodiness of Joab had lain long upon David's heart: the hideous noise of those treacherous murders, as it had pierced heaven, so it still filled the ears of David; he could abhor the villany though he could not revenge it; what he cannot pay, he will owe, and approve himself at last a faithful debtor: now he will defray it by the hand of Solomon. The slaughter was of Abner and Amasa : David appropriates it; “ Thou knowest what Joab did to me.
The sovereign is smitten in the subject; neither is it other than just, that the arraignment of mean malefactors runs in the style of wrong to the king's crown and dignity: How much more dost thou, O Son of David, take to thyself those insolences which are done to thy poorest subjects, servants, sons, members, here
No Saul can touch a Christian here below, but thou feelest it in heaven, and complainest.
But what shall we think of this ? David was a man of war, Solomon a king of peace; yet David refers this revenge to Solomon. How just it was that he who shed the blood of war in peace, and put the
blood of war upon his girdle that was about his loins, should have his blood shed in peace by a prince of peace! Peace is fittest to rectify the outrages of war: or whether is not this done in type of that divine administration, wherein thou, O Father of heaven, hast committed all judgment unto thine eternal Son? Thou, who couldst immediately either plague or absolve sinners, wilt do neither but by the hand of a mediator.
Solomon learned betimes what his ripeness taught afterwards, “Take away the wicked from the king, and his throne shall be established in righteousness." Cruel Joab and malicious Shimei must be therefore upon the first opportunity removed; the one lay open to present justice, for abetting the conspiracy of Adonijah, neither needs the help of time for a new advantage; the other went under the protection of an oath from David, and therefore must be fetched in upon a new challenge. The hoary head of both must be brought to the grave with blood, else David's head could not be brought to his grave in peace. Due punishment of malefactors is the debt of authority: if that holy king have run into arrearages, yet, as one that hates and fears to break the bank, he gives order to his paymaster, it shall be defrayed, if not by him, yet for him.
Generous natures cannot be unthankful. Barzillai had showed David some kindness in his extremity; and now the good man will have posterity to inherit the thanks. How much more bountiful is the Father of mercies, in the remuneration of our poor unworthy services ! Even successions of generations shall fare the better for one good parent.
The dying words and thoughts of the man after God's own heart did not confine themselves to the straits of these particular charges, but enlarged themselves to the care of God's public service. As good men are best at last, David did never so busily and carefully marshal the affairs of God, as when he was fixed to
the bed of his age and death. Then did he load his son Solomon with the charge of building the house of God; then did he lay before the eyes of his son the model and pattern of that whole sacred work, whereof if Solomon bear the name, yet David no less merits it. He now, gives the platform of the courts and buildings : he gives the gold and silver for that holy use, a hundred thousand talents of gold, a thousand thousand talents of silver, besides brass and iron passing weight: he weighs out those precious metals for their several designments; every future vessel is laid out already in his poise, if not in his form. He excites the princes of Israel to their assistance in so high a work: he takes notice of their bountiful offerings: he numbers up the Levites for the public services, and sets them their tasks. He appoints the singers and other musicians to their stations; the porters to the gates that should be ; and now, when he hath set all things in a desired order and forwardness, he shuts up with a zealous blessing of his Solomon, and his people, and sleeps with his fathers. Oh blessed soul, how quiet a possession hast thou now taken, after so many tumults, of a better crown! Thou that hast prepared all things for the house of thy God, how happily art thou now welcomed to that house of his, not made with hands, eternal in the heavens! Who now shall envy unto good princes the honour of overseeing the businesses of God and his Church, when David was thus punctual in these divine provisions! What fear can be of usurpation, where they have so glorious a precedent ?
Now is Solomon the second time crowned king of Israel, and now in his own right, as formerly in his father's, sits peaceably upon the throne of the Lord: his awe and power come on faster than his years. Envy and ambition, where it is once kindled may sooner be hid in the ashes than quite put out. Adonijah yet hangs after his old hopes, he remembers how sweet he found the name of a king; and now hath laid a new plot for the setting up of his cracked title: he would make the bed a step to the throne; his old complices are sure enough; his part would gather much strength if he might enjoy Abishag, the relict of his father, to wife. If it were not the Jewish fashion, as is pretended, that a king's widow should marry none but a king; yet certainly the power both of the alliance and friendship of a queen, must needs not a little advance his purpose. The crafty rival dare not either move the suit to Solomon, or effect the marriage without him ; but would cunningly undermine the son by the suit of that mother whose suit had undermined him. The weaker vessels are commonly used in the most dangerous suggestions of evil.
Bathsheba was so wise a woman, that some of her counsels are canonized for divine; yet she saw not the depth of this drift of Adonijah; therefore she both entertains the suit, and moves it. But whatever were the intent of the suitor, could she choose but see the unlawfulness of so incestuous a match ? It is not long since she saw her late husband David abominating the bed of those his concubines that had been touched by his son Absalom; and can she hold it lawful, that his son Adonijah should climb up to the bed of his father's wife? Sometimes even the best eyes are dim, and discern not those things which are obvious to weaker sights; or whether did not Bathsheba well see the foulness of the suit; and yet in compassion to Adonijah's late repulse, wherein she was the chief agent, and in desire to make him amends for the loss of the kingdom, she yields even thus to gratify him. It is an injurious weakness to be drawn upon any by respects, to the furtherance of faulty suits of unlawful actions.
No sooner doth Bathsheba come in place, than Solomon her son rises from his chair of state, and meets her, and bows to her, and sets her on his right hand, as not so remembering himself to be a king, that he should forget he was a son.
No outward dignity can take away the rights and obligations of nature. Had Bathsheba been as mean as Solomon was mighty, she had carried away this honour from a gracious son: yet, for all these due compliments, Bathsheba goes away with a denial: reverence she shall have, she shall not have a condescent.
In the acts of magistracy, all regards of natural relations must give way. That which she propounded as a small request, is now, after a general and confused engagement, rejected as unreasonable. It were pity we should be heard in all our suits. Bathsheba makes a petition against herself, and knows it not: her safety and life depend upon Solomon's reign, yet she unwittingly moves for the advancement of Adonijah.
Solomon was too dutiful to check his mother, and too wise to yield to her. In unfit supplications, we are most heard when we are repelled. Thus doth our God many times answer our prayers with merciful denials; and most blesseth us in crossing our desires.
Wise Solomon doth not find himself perplexed with the scruple of his promise ; he that hath said, “Ask on, for I will not say thee nay,” can now swear, “God do so to me, and more also, if Adonijah hath not spoken this word against his own life." His promise was according to his supposition; his supposition was of no other than of a suit, honest, reasonable, expedient; now he holds himself free from that grant, wherein there was at once both sin and danger. No man can be entangled with general words, against his own just and honest intentions.
The policies of wicked men befool them at last; this intercession hath undone Adonijah, and, instead of the throne, bastens his grave. The sword of_Benaiah puts an end to that dangerous rivalry. Joab and Abiathar still held champerty with Adonijah ; their hand was both in the claim of his kingdom, and in the suit of Abishag. There are crimes where