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creation, Solomon had by infusion, both fully, both from one fountain. If Adam called all creatures by their names, Solomon spake from the cedars of Lebanon, to the moss that springs out of the wall ; and besides these vegetables, there was no beast, nor fowl, nor fish, nor creeping thing, that escaped his discourse. Both fell
, both fell by one means; as Adam, so might Solomon have said, “ The woman deceived me.” is true, indeed, that Adam fell as all, Solomon as one, yet so as that this one is the pattern of the frailty of all. If knowledge could have given an immunity from sin, both had stood. Affections are those feet of the soul, on which it either stands or falls; “Solomon loved many outlandish women.” I wonder not if the wise king miscarried ; every word hath bane enough for a man. Women, many women, outlandish, idolatrous, and those not only had, but doted on ; sex, multitude, nation, condition, all conspired to the ruin of a Solomon.
If one woman undid all mankind, what marvel is it, if many women undid one? yet, had those many been the daughters of Israel, they had tempted him only to lust, not to misdevotion ; now they were of those nations, whereof the Lord had said to the children of Israel, “Go not ye in to them, nor let them come in to you, for surely they will turn your hearts after their gods.” To them did Solomon join in love; who can marvel, if they disjoined his heart from God ? Satan hath found this bait to take so well, that he never changed it since he crept into Paradise. How many have we known, whose heads have been broken with their own rib !
In the first world, the sons of God saw the daughters of men, and took them wives of all they liked ; they multiplied not children, but iniquities. Balaam knew well, if the dames of Moab could make the Israelites wanton, they should soon make them idolaters. All lies open, where the covenant is not both made with the eye and kept. It was the charge of God to the kings of Israel
before they were, that they should not multiply wives. Solomon hath gone beyond the stakes of the law, and now is ready to lose himself amongst a thousand bedfellows. Whoso lays the reins on the neck of his carnal appetite, cannot promise where he will rest. O Solomon, where was thy wisdom, while thine affections run away with thee into so wild a voluptuousness? What boots it thee to discourse of all things, whilst thou misknowest thyself? The perfections of speculation do not argue the inward powers of selfgovernment: the eye may be clear, while the hand is palsied. It is not so much to be heeded, how the soul is informed, as how it is disciplined; the light of knowledge doth well, but the due order of the affections doth better. Never any mere man, since the first, knew so much as Solomon; many that have known less, have had more command of themselves. A competent estate, well husbanded, is better than a vast patrimony neglected.
There can be no safety to that soul, where is not a strait curb upon our desires. If our lusts be not held under as slaves, they will rule as tyrants. Nothing can prevent the extremity of our miscarriage, but early and strong denials of our concupiscence: had Solomon done thus, delicacy and lawless greatness had not led him into these bogs of intemperance.
The ways of youth are steep and slippery, wherein as it is easy to fall, so it is commonly relieved with pity ; but the wanton inordinations of age are not more unseasonable than odious; yet, behold, Solomon's younger years were studious and innocent, his overhastened age was licentious and misgoverned ; "For, when Solomon was old, his wives turned away his heart after other gods.” If any age can secure us from the danger of a spiritual fall, it is our last. And if
any man's old age might secure him, it was Solomon's, the beloved of God, the oracle, the miracle of wisdom: who would have looked but that the blossoms of so hopeful a spring should have yielded a goodly and pleasant fruit in the autumn of age ? Yet behold, even Solomon's old age vicious! There is no time wherein we can be safe, while we carry this body of sin about us. Youth is impetuous, mid age stubborn, old age weak, all dangerous : say not now, "The fury of my youthful flashes is over, I shall henceforth find my heart calm and impregnable ;" while thou seest old Solomon doting upon
his concubines, yea, upon their idolatry.
It is no presuming upon time, or means, or strength. How many have begun and proceeded well, who yet have shamed themselves in their last stage! If God uphold us not, we cannot stand ; if God uphold us, we cannot fall. When we are at the strongest, it is the best to be weak in ourselves; and when at our weakest, strong in him, in whom we can do all things.
I cannot yet think so hard of Solomon, that he would project his person to Ashtaroth the goddess of the Sidonians, or Milcom the idol of the Ammonites, or Chemosh the abomination of Moab. He that knew all things from the shrub to the cedar, could not be ignorant that these statues were but stocks, or stones, or metals, and the powers resembled by them devils. It is not like he could be so insensate to adore such deities; but so far was the uxorious king blinded with affection, that he gave not passage only to the idolatry of his heathenish wives, but furtherance.
So did he dote upon their persons, that he humoured them in their sins: their act is therefore his, because his eyes winked at it; his hand advanced it. He that built a temple to the living God, for himself and Israel, in Sion, built a temple to Chemosh in the Mount of Scandal, for his mistresses of Moab, in the very face of God's house. No hill about Jerusalem was free from a chapel of devils ; each of his dames had their puppets, their altars, their incense: because Solomon feeds them in their superstition, he draws the sin home to himself, and is branded for what he should have forbidden. Even our very permission appropriates crimes to us. We need no more guiltiness of any sin, than our willing toleration.
Who can but yearn, and fear, to see the woful wreck of so rich and goodly a vessel ? O Solomon, wert not thou he whose younger years God honoured with a message and style of love? to whom God twice appeared, and, in a gracious vision, renewed the covenant of his favour? whom he singled out from all the generation of men, to be the founder of that glorious temple which was no less clearly the type of heaven, than thou wert of Christ the Son of the everliving God? Wert not thou that deep sea of wisdom, which God ordained to send forth rivers and fountains of all divine and human knowledge to all nations, to all
ages ? Wert not thou one of those select secretaries, whose hand it pleased the Almighty to employ in three pieces of the divine monuments of sacred scriptures? Which of us dares ever hope to aspire unto thy graces? which of us can promise to secure ourselves from thy ruins? 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 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,