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SOUTH PLACE CHAPEL SUNDAY EVENING LECTURES.

BY P. W. PERFITT, Ph. D.
THE LIFE AND CAREER OF SOLOMON.

(Continued from p. 128.) DOUBTLESS, however, some allowance must be made for the rudeness of the age, for we have no right to expect from Solomon the same refined feeling and sense of injustice which is displayed by modern men. We must estimate him according to the standard of his own age. In justice we must do so, but unhappily the old disturbing cause again comes into action. He is represented as being the hand of God; his nation is spoken of as being divinely led, and, consequently, in fairness we ought not to make any such allowances. Wliy should we condemn the heathen for their failings, when the Hebrew Monarch was not a whit their superior, and is actually compelled to shelter himself from condemnation beneath the shadow of their wings?

But to return to this wonderful dream at Gibeon : “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, a 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 a people? And the speech pleased the Lord that Solomon “had asked this thing. And God said unto him, Because thou hast asked this "thing, and hast not asked for thyself long life; neither hast asked for riches for thyself, nor hast asked the life of thine enemies; but hast asked thyself " understanding to discern judgment; behold I have done according to thy "worils : lo, I have given thee a wise and an understanding heart; so that there "wàs none like thee before thee, neither after thee shall any 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. And if thou wilt walk in my ways, to keep my statutes and my com"mandments, as thy father David did walk, then I will lengthen thy days. And “ Solomon awoke; and, behold, it was a dream. And he came to Jerusalem, and "stood before the ark of the covenant of the Lord, and offered up burnt offerings, "and offered peace offerings, and made a feast to all his servants."* Such is the "glorious history” that has won for this man so much praise ; and which, even in our own "enlightened age,” is viewed by many learned divines as a priceless frag: ment, which affords the one solitary example of man rising superior to wealth, and power, and luxury; the one redeeming instance of a mere human being loving wisdom above all else, and being prepared to abandon all things for the sake of wisdom. To them it appears that this choice was almost superhuman, and cannot fail to exalt Solomon in the eyes of all men who admire what is noblest and best in human conduct.

But what is all this praise and flattery beyond empty bombast and mere wordmongering, having no sure foundations ? Did he really desire to be wise ? Was he earnestly in love with knowledge? It says: "And Solomon awoke and found "it was a dream.” Were Solomon's dreams of higher value than the dreams of other men ? Are we to praise him for choosing goodness in a dream? And who, in this nineteenth century of work and hope, of trial and agony, can pass off the virtuous resolves of his dreams as fair characteristics of his life ? And what sball be said when the reality opposes the dreaming life, as in the case of Solomon ? There seems to be something too absurd in this narrative, to justity serious discussion. But this was, as we are informed, a real appearance of God-hop cần áný man know that? Were we to hear a voice in the air breathing words into our ears in tones supernatural, we might conclude that it was God who spake, and yet what man in modern times would believe it, or deny the chances that we were

* 1 Kings, iii, 7-15.

mistaken ? If, then, we are likely to be mistaken in our waking moments, what of the sleeping hours? How could any one know the dream was anything above an ordinary dream? It is so obviously impossible, that I forbear all argument upon the point.

But even if we suppose that Solomon asked God for wisdom, it is not to be concluded that in his heart he prized it above all else! The mere asking for it, “in a dream,” could not prove him to be superior to all those, who, like Socrates, laboured through life to attain it. Moreover it was no virtue. For why should he ask for power, who was already so powerful that no Eastern Monarch could equal him in this vaunted advantage ? He did not ask for the gratification of luxurious tastes! be it so, but if the records are to be credited, there was nothing then known in the way of luxury which he could not command. And the latter point, so much boasted by critics, that he did not ask for wealth, is really contemptible, when fairly examined. If the Books of Kings and Chronicles are to be believed, then, as I shall show presently, wealth was a drug to Solomon. According to the accounts there given of the weight of gold and silver belonging to him, he must in riches have vastly surpassed all other of the ruling sovereigns of his time. And when a man has already possession of such surpassing wealth, surely it cannot be treated as a surprising virtue that he does not ask for more. That he asked for what he had not was very natural; but that he did not ask for what he already possessed in abundance should not be so loudly boasted of. Had lie been powerless, and in poverty-stricken circumstances, and then, instead of asking either power or wealth, had asked for wisdom, we could readily join in honouring him for the virtue of his choice; but surely his greatest eulogist, in presence of the facts of his life, would not dare to say that had he been powerless and poor his choice had been the same. Why, then, the unbounded praise and honour ? There is no satisfactory answer to be obtained; for, as this Bible examination shows us, the critics praise or blame by authority.

But Solomon deserves no great credit for his desire, even had he desired it in his waking moments, and witli his whole heart—at least, no credit above that which is due to other men who have not only “desired wisdom," but who have given their lives to achieve it. And when Dr. Kitto laboured in his article upon this point to establish the superiority of Solomon, saying, that he was the glorious exception, in desiriug wisdom above power and wealth, he uttered that which is not merely false to history, but is also an insult to the memory of thousands. When we run our eyes over the biographies of poor scholars, who have lived in misery and laboured after wisdom in pain-men whose names are recorded in the history of all countries, we feel, that, in order to overpraise Solomon, the brave band of Jieroes, stretching from ages before Socrates down to the times of poor Keats, have been calumniated. These men sought after wisdom in defiance of loss, difficulty, and threatened death. How many of them wrought on in little chambers, trying to discover the secrets of nature by a patient exhaustion of all the processes they could conceive of, in order to render the oversight of truth impossible! Our sciences are nothing less than monuments sacred to the memory of that brave band who loved light rather than darkness, who loved truth above wealth, and who bartered away all the ordinary and dearly-prized happinesses of life in order to win, from out of the unknown, new truths wherewith to endow and bless mankind. Did Solomon ever exhibit anything of the spirit of patience and self-sacrifice exhibited by these workers ? Is not his whole life of sensuality, a proof that he would never have paid the price for wisdom that these men paid ? And is not that the only fair test of the value a man places upon it? He desired wisdom. So do thousands, and if it could be obtained by praying Heaven to grant it, then Heaven would be beseiged with petitions. This were an easy method, and all would be sup plied. Many desire wisdom, but desire to have it without either labour or pain, and when they find that patience, perseverance, personal sacrifice, and continued labour are absolute conditions, preliminary to the search, which do not even ensure success, they grow faint, lose heart, and fall back into the world to tread the old paths as men who loved wisdom a little-loved it in theory, but not with such

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hearty love as prompts to great sacrifices in order to win the prize. But the men who pay the price are worthy of all the honour we can bestow, and certainly we cannot consent to the injustice of defrauding these men of their due, in order to honour Solomon because he wished for wisdom, but never paid any price for its possession.

But entirely independent of the question of how far Solomon deserves to be praised for desiring wisdom, there is another equally important, and which is generally answered quite as falsely as that we have discussed. It is the questio Was he a wise man? We are told that his wisdom "excelled the wisdom of all the “children of the East Countries, and all the wisdom of Egypt. For he was wiser " than all men

and his fame was in all the nations round about "* This is repeated in various forms, and it is stated that "there came of all people to “ hear the wisdom of Solomon, from all kings of the earth, which had heard of his “wisdomn.” The “all kings” must be understood in a modified sense, either as meaning many, or all the writer knew of, and his catalogue was not a long one. One illustration is given in order to exhibit the marvellous wisdom of this man. Two women came before him, each claiming to be the mother of a child which they had brought with them. There had been two children, but one died, and now both claimed the living one. How could the right be determined, seeing that there was no evidence to be called which could assist Solomon in his decision ? He hit upon the following plan : "And the king said, Bring me a sword. And

they brought a sword before the king. And the king said, Divide the living “child in two, and give half to the one, and half to the other. Then spake the

woman whose the living child was unto the king, for her bowels yearned upon “ her son, and she said, O my lord, give her the living child, and in no wise slay “it. But the other said, Let it be neither mine nor thine, but divide it. Then “the King answered and said, Give her the living child, and in no wise slay it: "she is the mother thereof."it. The author of the narrative appends the statement that all Israel heard of the judgment with which the king had judged, and feared him, for they saw that the wisdom of God was in him to do judgment. Probably they believed this acuteness in appealing to the laws of affection to be unexampled, but curiously enough, all nations have some similar tale to tell. The Romans related a story of the Emperor Claudius, that when a woman was before him who refused to recognise her own son, he ordered her to marry him, which naturally brought her to her senses, and made her confess the truth. Adam Clarke quotes the case of Ariopharnes, King of Thrace, who was appointed to judge between three young men who claimed to be sons of the deceased king of the Cimmerians, and of course desired to have the crown. He ordered them to shoot three arrows into the body of the dead king; two agreed, but the third wouid not mutilate the body of his parent.

This, as Dr. Clarke recognises, was an appeal similar to that in the case of Solomon; but, as I conceive, it indicated in some senses a deeper wisdom. It was

I an appeal to the affections which were not so powerful in relation to a son and his dead father, as in that of a mother and her living child. But probably it was less perfect as a test to be widely applied; for who is there unconscious of the fact of millions being to be found who would not hesitate a moment about doing as they were commanded. Thus, as the real sons would do so, the test of sonship becomes useless.

(To be continued.)

* 1 Kings, iv. 30.31.

+ Ibid. iii. 24-27.

LONDON: PUBLISHED BY M. PATTIE, 31, PATERNOSTER Row, AND GEORGE

GLAISHER, 470, New OXFORD STREET,
Printed by W. Ostell, Hart-street, Bloomsbury,

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CIIARITABLE INSTITUTIONS. The charitable institutious of London number above five hundred, and they enjoy an annual income which falls but little short of two willions a-year. Are they equal in value to their costs? Do they produce an cquivalent measure of good? They certainly do not, and, speaking practically of their nature and work, it inust be confessed they are either gigantic frauds, strange mistakes, or gross impertinences. Either they deliberately delude or defraud their victims, rich and poor—they who give and they who receive. Recent revelations have rendered it clear that, too commonly, their boards in various senses are sinks of iniquity, and models of bad administration. Not that the directors pocket the proceeds of benevolence; for such a degree of wrong they are unsuited, but they squander them—waste them in paying an useless staff of officials, and too readily allow those officials to plunder the funds without bringing the criminals to punishment when detected, “lest, peradventure, the “ institution should suffer through the failure of public confidence;'or, more especially, because they will not run the risk of revealing to the world their own incompetency.

There is no calling, in modern times, which has a greater tendency to impair the delicate sense of truth than is that of acting as apaid collector for one of those institutions, Whoever undertakes to do it successfully must proceed systematically upon the path of misrepresentation. Not uttering distinct falsehoods, but abstaining from telling the whole truth. He must bolster up the cause of charity, by lending himself to flatter the prejudices, to extenuate the weaknesses, or to smile approvingly at the coarseness of those from whom he has to wring “ the arrears of their annual sub. “scription.” If they be pious persons, it is with an air of sanctity he must address them; if they be men of the world, then it is as a man of the clubs he must approach them. Are they mill-owners or retired city men ? then the speech is framed upon the practical model; are they men seeking to obtain a name for being charitable ? then he dwells upon the fact that, our printed “ list of subscribers is read by the most important persons in England." The collector is always careful to find out “what kind of a man” he is about to visit. If he be a Tory, and the collector a Whig, he is at least careful to avoid political subjects. It is in the widest possible sense he reads the Vol. V. NEW SERIES, VOL. I.

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saying of Paul about being "all things to all men; " and he is the most successful in collecting who conforms to the rule of stifling his own feelings and convictions "in order to promote the cause of the charity.”

Many who read the printed appeals so widely distributed, and placed as advertisements in the newspapers, are led to imagine, not only that the purestminded, most generous, and self-sacrificing men are associated with the

particular institution under notice, but also that the world cannot need much more for its reformation than the success of that particular charity. They are little aware of the care and business-tact with which the appeal was drawn up, or of the amusing reasons assigned for correcting the early draft into its present shape. The money-value of every sentence was duly estimated before being issued. As a bear licks her cubs into shape, so those appeals are gradually moulded into form. And, when ready, the great pride of their concoctors is that “they are sure to take." There is quite as much finesse displayed in preparing the charity circular, as in drawing up the address of a candidate to The electors of Drinklum; and the earnest desire to outdo the rival candidate is hidden with equal skilfulness, although it is felt with as great intensity. These appeals are never above one-half true-seldom so much. And still, in the main, they were good and well-intentioned men who approved of sending them out. The secretary is supposed " to know best,” and thus the matter is allowed to be settled. But it is not so. Lying, even although done in the robes of virgin purity, is none the less "lying"; and while a lie cannot last, or be permanently successful, the liar must be damaged.

One painful feature of the system is its necessary tendency to deprave the officials, who, without intending it, are converted into practised hypocrites. There is a marvellous difference in their bearing towards the man who comes to pay his subscription, and the poor starveling who solicits aid. To the former they are toadies; but tyrants to the latter. Granted that there are noble exceptions--very many such; but their existence is to be attributed to an inherent goodness in the men, which the evils of the system could not subdue. The rule of conduct is as stated; which would not be so, were the men made up of kindness and Christian love, as the circulars lead the readers to imagine. But it is not wise to condemn them too severely. They also are victims of the system ; for many a man who, when his connection with a charitable society was first established, had a heart as full of tenderness as that of the best, has become so accustomed to scenes of suffering that he treats them as mere ordinary matters, and is thoroughly incapacitated for manifesting those sympathies which the sick, or the poverty-stricken, stand so much in need of. Thus it is, that real charitable feeling is scarcely to be found the “charity office;” and such being the case, it is impossible to believe the system can be productive of the blessings desired by the subscribers.

As a rule, these institutions are great impediments to the progress of true principles of social life, while they only serve as poor apologies for charity. If a cry be heard about some particular form of distress, then, immediately, a knot of persons get together to draw up a touching appeal, and found a new charity. Some of them are busy men, some dullards; to these are added a few who wish to become important; and lastly, some honesthearted good-meaning men—the latter, always in the minority—have joined solely because of their desire to remove the evil; but unhappily go the wrong way to work. They scheme a most elaborate charity-engine, from whence all sorts of blessings are to be poured forth. This machine, however, will not work by itself, so the “ busy man” is appointed to act as secretary-at a

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