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more remote, now is all that old venom laid before him, which his malice had long since spit at God's anointed. “ Thou knowest all the wickedness whereto thine heart is privy, that thou didst to David my father.”
Had this old tally been stricken off, yet could not Shimei have pleaded aught for his life; for had he said, Let not my lord the king be thus mortally displeased for so small an offence; who ever died for passing over Kidron? what man is the worse for my harmless journey? it had soon been returned, If the act be small, yet the circumstances are deadly ; the commands of sovereign authority make the slightest duties weighty; if the journey be harmless, yet not the disobedience; it is not for subjects to poise the prince's charge in the scales of their weak constructions, but they must suppose it ever to be of such importance as is pretended by the commander. Besides the precept, here was a mutual adjuration ; Shimei swore not to go ; Solomon swore his death if he went; the one oath must be revenged, the other must be kept; if Shimei were false in offending, Solomon will be just in punishing. Now therefore, that which Abishai, the son of Zeruiah, wished to have done in the greenness of the wound, and was repelled, after long festering, Benaiah is commanded to do. The stones that Shimei threw at David struck not so deep as Benaiah's sword; the tongue that cursed the Lord's anointed hath paid the head to boot. Vengeance against rebels may sleep, it cannot die ; a sure, if late judgment attends those that dare lift up either the hand or tongue against the sacred persons of God's vicegerents. How much less will the God of heaven suffer unrevenged the insolences and blasphemies against his own divine majesty! It is a fearful word, he should not be just, if he should hold these guiltless.
CONTEMPLATION IV. SOLOMON'S CHOICE, WITH HIS JUDGMENT UPON THE TWO
HARLOTS. AFTER SO many messages and proofs of grace, Solomon begins doubtfully, both for his match and for his devotion. If Pharaoh's daughter were not a proselyte, his early choice was besides unwarrantable, dangerous. The high places not only stood, but were frequented, both by the people and king : I do not find David climbing up those mishallowed hills, in an affection of the variety of altars ; Solomon doth so, and yet loves the Lord, and is loved of God again. Such is the mercy of our God, that he will not suffer our wellmeant weaknesses to bereave us of his favours : he rather pities than plagues us for the infirmities of upright hearts.
Gibeon was well worthy to be the chief, yea the only high place; there was the hallowed altar of God; there was the tabernacle, though, as then, severed from the ark; thither did young Solomon go up; and, as desiring to begin his reign with God, there he offers no less than a thousand sacrifices.
Solomon worships God by day; God appears to Solomon by night. Well may we look to enjoy God, when we have served him ; the night cannot but be happy whose day hath been holy.
It was no unusual course with God, to reveal himself unto his servants by dreams; so did he here to Solomon, who saw more with his eyes shut, than ever they could see open, even Him that was invisible. The good king ħad offered unto God a thousand burnt sacrifices, and now God offereth him his option, “Ask what I shall give thee.” He, whose the beasts are on a thousand mountains, graciously accepts the small return of his own. It stands not with the munificence of a bountiful God to be indebted to his creature ; we cannot give him aught unrecompensed; there is no way wherein we can be so liberal to ourselves, as by giving to the possessor of all things. And art thou still, o God, less free unto us, thy meaner servants, under the Gospel? Hast thou not said, “Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father, in my name, it shall be given you ?" Only give us grace not to be wanting unto thee, and we know thou canst not suffer any thing to be wanting unto us.
The night follows the temper of the day; and the heart so useth to sleep, as it wakes. Had not the thoughts of Solomon been intent upon wisdom by day, he had not made it his suit in his dream : there needs no leisure of deliberation ; the heart was so forestalled with the love and admiration of wisdom, that, not abiding the least motion of a competition, it fastens on that grace it had longed for; “Give unto thy servant an understanding heart to judge thy people. Had not Solomon been wise before, he had not known the worth of wisdom, he had not preferred it in his desires. The dunghill cocks of the world cannot know the price of this pearl ; those that have it, know that all other excellences are but trash and rubbish unto it. Solomon was a great king, and saw that he had power enough ; but withal he found that royalty, without wisdom, was no other than eminent dishonour: there is no trade of life whereto there belongs not a peculiar wisdom, without which there is nothing but a tedious unprofitableness; much more to the highest and busiest vocation, the regiment of men. As God hath no reason to give his best favours unasked, so hath he no will to withhold them where they are asked.
He that in his cradle had the title of “beloved of God,” is now beloved more in the throne for the love and desire of wisdom; this soul could never have borne this fruit alone ; Solomon could not so much as have dreamed of wisdom, if God had not put it unto him: and now God takes the suit so well, as if he were beholden to his creature for wishing the best
to itself; and because Solomon hath asked what he should, he shall now receive both what he asked, and what he asked not; riches and honour shall be given him into the match. So doth God love a good choice, that he recompenses it with overgiving. "Could we but first seek the kingdom of God and his righteousness, all these earthly things should be superadded to us. Had Solomon made wealth his boon, he had failed both of riches and wisdom; now he asks the best, and speeds of all. They are in a fair way of happiness that can pray well. It was no discomfort to Solomon, that he awaked and found it a dream; for he knew this dream was divine and oracular; and he already found, in his first waking, the real performance of what was promised him sleeping : such illumination did he sensibly find in all the rooms of his heart, as if God had now given him a new soul. No marvel if Solomon, now returning from the tabernacle to the ark, testified his joy and thankfulness by burnt-offerings, and peace-offerings, and public feastings; the heart that hath found in itself the lively testimonies of God's presence and favour, cannot contain itself from outward expressions.
God likes not to have his gifts lie dead where he hath conferred them ; Israel shall soon witness that they have a king enlightened from heaven, in whom wisdom did not stay for heirs, did not admit of any parallel in his predecessors ; the all-wise God will find occasions to draw forth those graces to use and light which he hath bestowed on man. Two harlots come before young Solomon with a difficult plea ; it is not like the prince's ear was the first that heard this complaint ; there was a subordinate course of justice, for the determination of these meaner inciences: the hardness of this decision brought the 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 ofttimes 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 :