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1 Kings 11:9-13 -

Solomon's Fall.

The dark omen that marred the brightness of Solomon's second vision ( 1 Kings 9:6 ) has come to be fulfilled. He was forewarned of danger and yet has fallen into it. The splendour of royal circumstance remained the same, but how completely has his true glory departed! "How is the gold become dim and the fine gold changed!" The smile of God that rested as glad sunshine on his head, has turned to "anger." The cause of the change is in the secresy of his own soul. The Scripture narrative is silent about the course of his tuner life, the phases of thought and feeling through which he may have passed; so that this sudden note of discord in the midst of the harmony strikes us with something of sad surprise. Enough, however, is said to show that it was a moral change in the man himself. The Lord God of Israel had not changed in His purpose or method; it is Solomon whose "heart is turned from him." How far this was a fatal change, a real apostasy, we know not. We need not attempt to solve the purely speculative question as to whether he ever recovered from his fall; his later writings suggest at least the hope that it was so. Enough for us now to note the facts, to trace the causes, and learn the lessons. Certain broad principles of moral life are here strikingly illustrated.

I. THE TREACHERY OF HUMAN NATURE . Beneath the fairest exterior there may be latent germs of evil that only need outward incentives to develop themselves into disastrous issues. Even the inspirations of the highest wisdom and the raptures of religious emotion may have underlying them tendencies to the grossest forms of folly and the lowest deeps of sin and shame. Solomon was sincere enough in his earlier piety, but too little alive to the slumbering forces of evil that he bore within him. His moral history confirmed the truth of his own proverb: "He that trusteth in his own heart is a fool" ( Proverbs 28:26 ). An Arab tradition says that in the staff on which he leaned there was a worm which was secretly gnawing it asunder. That worm was the hidden corruption of his moral nature. It is a solemn lesson: "Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall." We can look upon no form of wrong doing in others without being reminded that there is something akin to it in ourselves. Concealed in our own bosoms there is that which might possibly develop into similar issues. Our only security lies in the triumph of that gracious Divine power that can thoroughly purge the fountain of the heart, and destroy there the very germs of evil.

II. THE BASE USES TO WHICH THE HIGHEST ADVANTAGES OF LIFE MAY BE PERVERTED BY THE WAYWARD HEART . Solomon's greatness became the occasion and aggravation of his fall. His royal magnificence fostered "the lust of the eye and the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life." His consciousness of power degenerated into tyranny ( 1 Kings 12:4 ; 1 Samuel 8:11 ). The wealth of his emotional nature took the form of illicit love and boundless self indulgence. His studious interest in Nature induced the dream of occult mysterious powers in material things, and the practice of magic arts. His intercourse with men of other nations led to his catching the infection of their idolatries, until at last the rival temples of Moloch, Chemosh, and Ashtaroth, with all their cruel and abominable rites, frowned darkly upon Olivet, over against the glorious house of the Lord on Mount Moriah. So fatally may the noblest personal endowments and the richest advantages of life foster the evil tendencies of the heart when once it has surrendered itself to their control If it be true that "there is a soul of goodness in things evil," it is equally true that nothing is so good but that the spirit of evil may transform it into an instrument of moral injury. The fascinations of outward life are full of danger when that spirit lurks within. The wealth of a man's intellectual resources, the multitude of his possessions, the range of his influence, do but put into his hands the more abundant means of wrong doing when his heart is not loyal to the good and true.

"The fairest things below the sky

Give but a flattering light;

We must suspect some danger nigh,

Where we possess delight."

This idea is not to be carried too far. Life would be intolerable on the principle of universal suspicion and distrust. The great Father of all would have His children use and enjoy freely the good of every kind that falls to their lot. But let them beware lest the spirit of evil, in some form of outward charm, through some secret avenue of soul or sense, should gain an entrance to the citadel of their heart, and "turn it away" from Him.

III. THE CERTAINTY OF DIVINE RETRIBUTIONS . Solomon cannot sin with impunity. His personal defection involves the throne in dishonour and the whole nation in discord and sorrow. He had been forewarned that it should be so, and the threatenings of God are as sure as His promises. What is God's "anger" but just the reverse side of that faithfulness that secures the purposes of His grace? What are His judgments but the severer methods of His holy love? An inexorable Nemesis tracks the path of the transgressor; not a mere blind fate—not a mere impersonal law of moral sequence—but a Divine will and power, pledged to vindicate the cause of eternal righteousness. It may follow him slowly, as with "leaden foot," but sooner or later it overtakes him. "Whatsoever a man soweth," etc. ( Galatians 6:7 , Galatians 6:8 ). And though one only may sow the evil seed, how many, often, are the reapers! "The sins of the fathers are visited on the children," etc. No man can "perish alone in his iniquity." According to the range of his social relations so is the mischief his wrong doing works. When the king falls, how many fall with him! The laws of God

"must work their will,

Whatever human heart may bleed;

And more than they who do the ill

Must suffer for the evil deed."

IV. THE MERCY THAT TEMPERS DIVINE JUDGMENTS . The execution of the sentence is both delayed and modified. Not in Solomon's own reign shall the thing be done; "nor shall the kingdom be wholly torn from his house" ( 1 Kings 11:12 , 1 Kings 11:18 ). This is partly from tender regard for the sacred memory of David his father, and partly, we may believe, in mercy to himself, that space may be given him for repentance (see Psalms 89:30-37 ). We have here a type and example of the general method of God's ways. "In wrath he remembers mercy." Something of gracious forbearance is seen in the severest of His judgments. His chastisements are fatherly. And beneath the darkest providences and the sternest retributions there is the steady flow of a loving kindness that endures throughout all generations, the strength of a covenant that shall never be broken.—W.

HOMILIES BY E. DE PRESSENSE

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