The People's Bible by Joseph Parker
But king Solomon loved many strange women, together with the daughter of Pharaoh, women of the Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Zidonians, and Hittites;1Kings 11:1-13
1. But king Solomon loved many strange women, together with the daughter of Pharaoh, women of the Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Sidonians, and Hittites;
2. Of the nations concerning which the Lord said unto the children of Israel, Ye shall not go in to them, neither shall they come in unto you: for surely they will turn away your heart after their gods: Solomon clave unto these in love.
3. And he had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines: and his wives turned away his heart.
4. For it came to pass, when Solomon was old, that his wives turned away his heart after other gods: and his heart was not perfect with the Lord his God, as was the heart of David his father.
5. For Solomon went after Ashtoreth the goddess of the Zidonians, and after Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites.
6. And Solomon did evil in the sight of the Lord, and went not fully after the Lord, as did David his father.
7. Then did Solomon build an high place for Chemosh, the abomination of Moab, in the hill that is before Jerusalem, and for Molech, the abomination of the children of Ammon.
8. And likewise did he for all his strange wives, which burnt incense and sacrificed unto their gods.
9. ¶ And the Lord was angry with Solomon, because his heart was turned from the Lord God of Israel, which had appeared unto him twice.
10. And had commanded him concerning this thing, that he should not go after other gods: but he kept not that which the Lord commanded.
11. Wherefore the Lord said unto Solomon, Forasmuch as this is done of thee, and thou hast not kept my covenant and my statutes, which I have commanded thee, I will surely rend the kingdom from thee, and will give it to thy servant.
12. Notwithstanding in thy days I will not do it for David thy father's sake: but I will rend it out of the hand of thy son.
13. Howbeit I will not rend away all the kingdom; but will give one tribe to thy son for David my servant's sake, and for Jerusalem's sake which I have chosen.
IN looking at the fact that "king Solomon loved many strange women," the emphasis must be laid to a considerable extent upon the word "strange." It was not the polygamy that was condemned in the Old Testament, but in this instance there was more than polygamy, there was an outgoing after foreign political alliances, which might be turned destructively against the theocratic idea which God had never allowed to fall into abeyance in Israel. The Zidonians and the Hittites, who are particularly mentioned as amongst the women whom Solomon loved, belonged to the old Canaanitish race, and in following after them Solomon was distinctly violating one of the solemn compacts under which the kingdom was held. The notices which are repeatedly given of Solomon's accumulation of silver and gold, his multiplication of horses and his multiplication of wives, remind us of the law which was distinctly laid down in Deuteronomy 17:16-17 :—"But he shall not multiply horses to himself, nor cause the people to return to Egypt, to the end that he should multiply horses: forasmuch as the Lord hath said unto you, Ye shall henceforth return no more that way. Neither shall he multiply wives to himself, that his heart turn not away: neither shall he greatly multiply to himself silver and gold."
It is not impossible that Solomon gave licence to what may be called his religious imagination when he brought together within his view all the various gods represented by the nationalities which are named. He seems to have entered into that state of mind which can complacently contemplate all forms of faith and worship, and regard each with an amount of toleration which really signifies the abandonment of his own original faith, or such a modification of it as to deplete it of all active value. We know that there is a subtle temptation operating in this direction in all our minds. Sitting at our ease in some palace of our own building, we look around and muse contemplatively, wondering at the variety of gods which the world presents, and gradually coming to think that perhaps the multiplication of gods, is after all a kind of necessity of the human heart; we think that one faith ought to be tolerated as well as another; we consider that temperament, and climate, and antecedents of all kinds, such as methods of bringing-up and general culture, all tell in the formation of the religious instinct, and that the gratification of that instinct by a multiplicity of gods is after all not so harmful as it might under some circumstances appear to be. Thus we muse ourselves out of our original faith, which was so strong and valiant, and which at one time could show no toleration towards unbelief, or misbelief, or perverted belief of any kind. After all there is a kind of melancholy sequence in what we find in the history of Solomon. He had much gold and silver: he was the greatest of the kings of the earth; he had a thousand and four hundred chariots, and twelve thousand horsemen; he made silver to be in Jerusalem as stones, and cedars made he to be as the sycamore trees that are in the vale, for abundance; he had horses brought out of Egypt, and linen yarn; a chariot came up and went out of Egypt for six hundred shekels of silver, and an horse for an hundred and fifty: and so for all the kings of the Hittites, and for the kings of Syria, aid they bring them out by their means; with kings for vassals, with armies at his disposal, with many strange women in his harem, with all things flourishing round about him, who can wonder that Solomon began to look upon all forms of worship as probably having something in them more or less worthy of complacency, and came in some way to add even these to the riches of his boundless kingdom?
We may be quite certain that all processes of this kind come to one of two ends: either outward pomp conquers religious conviction, or religious conviction sanctifies worldly pomp, taking out of it all harmfulness, and turning it to necessary conveniences and uses. In the case of Solomon, worldly pomp seems, for a time at least, to have dominated his mind. The idea seems to have occurred to him, why not be magnificent in "gods" as well as in horses and in chariots? A man who had everything that heart could wish, might surely, so he reasoned, permit himself to add any number of gods to his pantheon, and, in indulging this imagination, he might even suppose that so strong was he in his own faith that he could control all these gods, and make them merely decorative of great central verities. Again we see how easy it is having broken one of the commandments to break the whole. Turning to the law as written in Deuteronomy, we find it very distinctly stated: "Neither shalt thou make marriages with them; thy daughter thou shalt not give unto his son, nor his daughter shalt thou take unto thy son. For they will turn away thy son from following me, that they may serve other gods: so will the anger of the Lord be kindled against you, and destroy thee suddenly" (vii. 3, 4); and again in the same book we read, "neither shall he multiply wives to himself, that his heart turn not away." Having broken these laws, Solomon proceeded to displace other ordinances in Israel. Beware the beginning of error; he that offends in one point is guilty of all; not necessarily in the matter of detailed infraction, as if he had voluntarily destroyed the commandments one by one, but in the spirit of destruction he is guilty of all. We break all the commandments when we break the spirit of the law. If we suppose that the universe is a mere affair of commandments, or literal ordinances, and that they are to be counted one by one and dealt with in their singularity, it will be no wonder if we come to reckon ourselves virtuous "upon the whole," or as "in the main" not worthy of condemnation: we shall establish the principle of majorities in estimating our moral standing, saying, that having kept nine out of ten of the commandments we ought to be regarded as nine-tenths good. That is not the conception of the universe which is formed in the Bible, or the conception on which Jesus Christ proceeded in revealing the kingdom of heaven. The law is either kept or broken by the spirit. It is not a law that is kept, or a law that is broken, but the law that is offended and dishonoured. The law is essentially a whole, though it may come to us in enumerated details for the sake of meeting our capacity and our moral decrepitude.
We read that when Solomon was "old" all this terrible collapse took place. By the word "old" we are not to understand merely age in years; the word rather points to the advance of life, and indicates something that was done at the end rather than at the beginning of the man's existence. We have already raised the inquiry whether all the buds which made Solomon's young character so beautiful would ever come to maturity and fruition. We wondered whether the bad element or the good in him would at last predominate. Now we come to a very melancholy reply to this inquiry. Experience, which ought to be so much security against temptation, actually became a kind of open door through which all manner of strange views and imaginations entered and took possession of Solomon's mind. Or did the man grow weak as he grew old? Or is the word "old" put in partly to excuse the spiritual decay? Is there a subtle intention to imply that if Solomon had not become infirm with years he never would have yielded to the temptation of his idolatrous wives? Does the word "old" so change the tenor of the text that it may be read thus: Solomon having lost his early mental vigour, or having become weary with the vain experiences of life, or having seen an end to all things under the sun, little cared what happened to him; this decay, therefore, must not be traced to any voluntary action on his own part, but must be rather regarded as an excuse for what would seem to be a shameful apostasy? We cannot consent to have the text read thus; otherwise it might appear at least to give us licence to follow in the same lines. No. We must insist upon it that as a man grows old he should grow wise; that as he advances in years he should consolidate in faith; and at the end should have become master of himself and of his circumstances, and worthily represent the spiritual education under which God has caused him to pass.
Notice various suggestive expressions in the course of this narrative. For example, in Deuteronomy 17:4 we read, "His wives turned away his heart"; and again, "his heart was not perfect with the Lord his God "; in Deuteronomy 17:6 we read, he "went not fully after the Lord"; and in Deuteronomy 17:9 we find the expression, "his heart was turned from the Lord God of Israel." Observe that the action always takes place in the heart. His heart was "turned away," "not perfect," and again his "heart was turned." Read these words over and over again, because they are melancholy words and have a distinct application to all ages. Who can follow the heart in all its deceitful turnings, and understand all that it has given up in its own secret recesses of the faith which once found there a sanctuary? Outwardly there may be no sign of surrender or decay. The same church may be attended, the same books read, the same characters reverenced, and to all appearances the same life may be lived. But "as a man thinketh in his heart, so is he." What has taken place in that chamber of imagery? How are its walls painted with idols? What festivals to unholy deities are kept up in that banqueting-chamber? "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked." "My, son, keep thine heart; for out of it are the issues of life." A decay of love generally precedes a decay of faith. Once let love be banished from the heart, and it will be easy to displace conviction from the mind. Hence the call which is continually addressed to Christians to be vigilant, and to be sober; to be on the outlook for their adversary who goeth about as a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour; to gird up the loins of their minds; to put on the whole armour of God, and to watch wakefully, because they know not at what hour the strong man may come to spoil the home of the soul.
O thou who hast made the heart so complex, and hast opened a thousand ways into its innermost places, and hast set us in a great sphere of trial and discipline and temptation, do thou enable us so to watch that we may see the enemy whilst yet he is a great way off, and give us that keen sensitiveness to all sin which instantly realises its remotest approach, and resents the proposed incoming of the enemy. Take not thy Holy Spirit from us! Give us the tender delicacy which knows all that the enemy means to do with us; and above all give us that firm reliance upon thyself which will enable us to answer the enemy with indignation, and with all the passion of consecrated and eternal love.
Notice the divine action as it is outlined in this matter. "And the Lord was angry" (1Kings 11:9). "I will surely rend the kingdom from thee" (1Kings 11:11). God could not look upon sin with the least degree of allowance. God is angry with the wicked every day. God is not an uninterested spectator of the action of kings, churches, and families; his eye is constantly not only upon the universe as a whole, but upon everything in it which bears his name and which ought to represent his purity. He burns like a furnace against all iniquity; but is he not like a furnace seven times heated when the iniquity is found in high places, when it is clothed with the purple of the throne, and when it wields the resources of a kingdom? God is angry with every man who departs from the faith; but is not his anger kindled to intolerable fury when the departure is found in one who has ministered at his altar, or who has publicly avowed the name and honour of Jesus Christ? Where much has been given much has been required. The city set on a hill cannot avail itself of the excuses which might at least momentarily be tolerated in the case of a city buried in the valley. Here the lesson comes to all priests, kings, statesmen, ministers, teachers, journalists, heads of houses, and leaders of public sentiment. Nor is God's anger to be regarded as a mere expression of sentiment; it leads to the tearing-down of authority, and to the replacing of the kingdom in other hands. A man will feel his influence departing from him; churches will be impoverished; institutions that were once vigorous, and that answered the hunger of the age with abundant hospitality, will feel that their resources are being contracted, their vigour is being dried up; nor may it at once appear why these things are so; for a time even mystery may gather around them, but at length it will be made manifest that all this decay of influence, and all this contraction of activity and usefulness, must be traced to what has happened in the hearts of men who once made themselves felt for good in wide social circles. When public influence wanes, inquire whether it be not because the heart is not perfect with God. When the right hand forgets its cunning, and the tongue cleaves to the roof of the mouth, and there is no more skill in the faculties of the mind, fall down in penitential submission, and see whether it be not because the heart does not go fully after God, but has given up part of its love to deities whose very names are hateful to heaven.
Yet the action of the Almighty is compassionate as well as angry, for in Deuteronomy 17:12 we read, "Notwithstanding in thy days I will not do it for David thy father's sake: but I will rend it out of the hand of thy son." Even here the past plays a restraining part in the present, and even here the future is shown to be a controlling agency when rightly apprehended. Men should be careful what they do, even on account of their sons who may yet not be born unto them. What is done today may affect the remotest ages of time. How difficult it is for God to give up any whom he has loved; "My lovingkindness will I not utterly take from him, nor suffer my faithfulness to fail;" "I have chosen Jerusalem, that my name might be there; and have chosen David to be over my people Israel." Even whilst in possession of many mercies we may be living under a cloud of judgment. He is a selfish man, and utterly beyond the pale of reasoning, who disregards that cloud simply because it has not to burst upon his own head, but will dissolve in destructive storms upon the heads of those who have to succeed him. Great is the mystery of providence, because great is the mystery of the unity of the human race. The son might well wonder why judgment should be reserved for him, when he himself was not an active agent in the sin which was judged and punished. But to reason so would be to reason imperfectly and unwisely. If that reasoning is to be adopted it must be carried out to all its consequences, and then we shall certainly be deprived of blessing as much as of judgment: of all the hospitality and beauty of summer as certainly as of all the barrenness and dreariness of winter. The way of the Lord is equal in this matter We are members one of another. Nowhere in the Christian law is it said that men are unrelated, and that the law of sequence is suspended. Our whole life is part of a process which cannot be reckoned either as to its beginning or its ending.
"Then did Solomon build an high place for Chemosh." Even the Solomon we have known in connection with the building of the temple! Chemosh was the supreme deity of the Moabites, followed by great numbers in western Asia. The high place that Solomon built was in the hill that is before Jerusalem, which has been identified with Olivet. Even the holiest ground is no longer sacred when once the heart has gone astray. Solomon could have turned the temple itself into a sanctuary of Ashtoreth, or the dwelling-place of Milcom, the abomination of the Ammonites. This indeed would appear to be wonderful, but it is smaller than many of the wonders that happen within our own experience. Many men are shocked by what they term the profanation of the visible sanctuary who are not shocked by the profanation of the sanctuary of their own hearts. We must break in strongly upon all such superstition. Whilst not excusing what is known as the profanation of times and places, we must put things in their right relations, and not mistake the vital for the temporary, or the temporary for the vital. It is a sad thing to hear unholy words spoken in consecrated places, but it is an infinitely sadder thing for the heart to be going astray silently and secretly after forbidden pleasures. It is the heart that wanders. When once that wandering takes place, no locality is sacred, no name is sanctified, no time is redeemed from common uses: the whole life has gone down in quantity, in purity, and in value.
Almighty God, destroy in us whatever would prevent our receiving thy truth and acting upon thine instructions, and lead us into a spirit of obedience, and inspire us with all the loyalty of unquestioning and unreserved love. We have opinions and theories of our own: thereby do we prove ourselves only half divine—we assert them in angry controversy and contend for them with much fury, not knowing that we know nothing, that our ancestry is of yesterday, and that to-morrow we are gone. Help us to recognise our own littleness and poverty, and to look away unto the great God and the everlasting wealth, that we may be made great in divine grandeur and rich with the riches of Christ.
We bless thee for thy word, which is so true to our own history, which wrote our lives before we breathed, which anticipates all the courses of our life and indicates the issue of all things. It is great reading, it is a sweet gospel, it is a wondrous drama; behold, everything is in thy book; open our eyes that we may see wondrous things out of thy law, and open our understandings that we may understand the Scriptures, and especially do thou open our hearts that we may receive thy truth as seed cast into good ground, and may it there abide until it bring forth manifold fruit to the glory and honour of thy name.
We know not what we are: we see occasional flashes of light, and mistake them for abiding glory; we see glimpses of things, but their true proportions and distances we do not recognise nor understand. We see clouds and mistake them for rocks: we cannot tell what is under us; what is above us we do not know: what is round about us is a perpetual challenge and an eternal mystery, and what is in our hearts, behold! Who can sound the depth thereof? We know therefore that we must come unto thee for wisdom, that in thy book alone is our true and final guidance. Help us to renounce ourselves and to put ourselves in the school of Jesus Christ and to learn of him who is meek and lowly in heart Let thy blessing come to us as we now severally need. Where there is obduracy of heart, do thou break it with thine hammer: where there are many tears that blind the vision so that it cannot see thyself or the kindness of thy purpose, dry the tears away out of the eye that is consumed thereby, so that the soul may see the Lord and recognise with gladness the way he is taking in our life. Lift the burden from the shoulders that are weary; speak comfortably to those who are besieged by many temptations; give a lesson of wisdom and sobriety to those who are of flippant heart and non-understanding mind; call to those who are afar off that they may come nigh; and satisfy thy hungry ones and thy poor with bread and with riches from heaven.
Regard us in our individual life, in our family circumstances, in our commercial engagements. Sanctify unto us all bereavements, all the severe visitations of thy rod, and grant that we may be awakened out of our insensibility and be enabled to see that thou art working out a great scheme in life, and may we accept thy working and lovingly trust all thy purpose.
Wash us in the sacred blood, for our sins are many and black. Withhold not the precious stream from our hearts, for nothing else can make us clean. We confess our sin, we are humbled by it and ashamed of it—now let thy mercy magnify itself in the hour of reproach and accusation, so that we may see that thou dost mean well by us and that thy sword is not lifted to destroy. Amen.
And the LORD stirred up an adversary unto Solomon, Hadad the Edomite: he was of the king's seed in Edom.Divine Impulses
THERE was a time when Joab was captain of the whole host of Israel. He, under David and along with the king, had wrought great desolation in the land of Edom. For six months Joab had been using his cruel sword in that country. The end of it was that not a man was left in Edom, not a male could be found within all the limits of the land. That was the bloody purpose of the cruel soldier, and he carried it out with but too complete effect. The king of Edom had a little boy whose name was Hadad, and this little boy ran away in company with some of his father's servants. They took charge of the little exile, and they and he landed in Egypt and sought the protection of Pharaoh. Like to like—the royal Pharaoh took to the royal Hadad; was fond of the boy, and gave him a place in his own house and amongst his own sons. Growing years brought growing favour, and at length Hadad married the sister of Tahpenes, queen of Egypt. A happy ending. A son was born unto Hadad and Genubath, lived in Pharaoh's house, and enjoyed all the privileges of royal offspring.
But one day, to the infinite surprise of Pharaoh, Hadad said to him, "I want to go back to Edom." "Back to Edom?" said the king, "hast thou lacked anything since thou hast been in Egypt?" Hadad said, "Nothing: howbeit, let me go, in any wise." Pharaoh, like a just and honourable man, went back through the years of his recollection, to find out if he could discover what reason Hadad could have for leaving a hospitable country, a land that had been an asylum to him in the time of his distress and orphanage and helplessness. Hadad soon relieved the king's mind upon all these points: he said, "I have lacked nothing: bread and water, venison and wine, patronage and security—all things have I had in this land of Egypt that heart could desire; howbeit, let me go, in any wise."
Is this an old story that has in it no modern pith or music, or is it our own life anticipated and set in strange lights? Does it require but very little and hardly any skilful handling to put it into relation that we shall ourselves recognise as having a very distinct and instructive bearing upon the development of our own life? Does it not throw some light upon the unexplained restlessness which now and again comes over the spirit of perhaps the quietest man? What is that tugs at the heart and that says, "Come this way?" We are not sitting upon barren rocks, nor are we ploughing inhospitable and unresponding sand: we are in paradise: we have but to touch the ground and it blooms with flowers or teems with luscious fruit. And yet that same invisible hand keeps tugging at the heart, that same weird voice sustains its appeal in the reluctant, wonderstruck and unwilling ear—"Leave the gilded roof, leave the marble floor, leave the loaded table, leave the streams of ruddy or foaming wine; come away, come away." What is it that will not let us alone? I said, "I will die in my nest," and lo, it was torn to pieces. I said, "Now I will find a place on which I can build tabernacles, whereupon I can rest," and lo, in the morning when I came to dig my foundations, I found that I had mistaken bog for rock, and there was no foundation to be dug. "This is all," I have said—"it is more than enough: no longer shall I know the plague of discontent, or feel the urgency of an importunate voice, luring and persuading me almost up to the point of compulsion in this or that direction. My address is fixed, my home is settled, you will always find me here," and lo, in three days men seek for me and I cannot be found, I have been already three days at sea—how is this?
"Wherefore didst thou call me?" said the little priest-boy to the old priest of Israel; and the old priest said, "My child, this is a delusion: I did not call thee: go and lie down again." "Wherefore didst thou call me?" a second time the question is asked. "My child, I did not call thee—what is the matter with thee, what ails thy mind? Go and lie down again and sleep till the morning, dear one." "Thou didst call me—wherefore?" Then Eli perceived that the Lord had spoken to the child. At last. The religious thought is always the last that occurs to pachydermous insensate brains. O that we were wise, that we were more morally sensitive, that we answered the divine touch more easily and kindly! But we have a knocking, and another knocking, and a third appeal, and then we perceive that this is the Lord's doing. If our minds were in the right mood and temper, the very first idea that would occur to us under extraordinary circumstances would be, Perhaps God is in this.
Take another instance. A surly brother—a younger brother, and this colloquy ensues. "With whom hast thou left those few sheep in the wilderness? I know the pride and naughtiness of thine heart. For to see the fight art thou come down." And David answered and said, "What have I now done? Is there not a cause—an unexplained mysterious cause?" David himself did not know the reason of his being there, in full, but he was wise enough to know that there are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in any man's philosophy. He always had one side of his life open heavenward. The daily factors that busied themselves in making up his daily life he knew full well—their name, weight, velocity, power of action, relativity, "but," said he, "there is more in life than all this." More than the boy that takes down my shutters in the morning, and the man who keeps my books, and writes my letters: more than debtors and creditors, and customers and clients and appellants of every name—all this I know, but there is something more. The wise man keeps himself open in the direction of that something more. Call it divinity, call it providence, call it mystery, call it fate, call it the immeasurable and the impalpable, or the unknowable, or the inscrutable—what you may—there it is, and until you have got into right relation with that, your life is a mere muddle, a more or less successful trick, but not a planet, centred, poised, immovable. You cannot escape the religious element in life; you may shut your eyes, you may close your ears, you may learn the language of earth and the worse language of the pit, and you may exclude all outward religious ministries and appeals, but now and again there is a shaking in the life, a whisper in the ear, a strange quiver in the air, a face at the window, a quantity you cannot name.
Then again, this incident shows us how impossible it is, sometimes, to give reasons for our action. Persons say to the Hadads who come round them, "Why do you leave Egypt?" and Hadad says, "I do not know." O foolish man, are you going back to Edom, the memory of cruelty, shame and agony, without knowing why you are going back?" And poor Hadad can only answer, "Yes." And to the men who can give a reason for everything, Hadad's answer is a reply of insanity. Oh, happy is the man who has never to leave the paved pathway, who knows nothing of the pains of inspiration, the pangs of a high calling, the surprises of a divine election! Yet not so happy, measured by the higher and larger scale; if he misses much pain, he misses much high delight; if he is commonplace on the one side, he is commonplace all through. Is it not better sometimes to be mad with inspiration, though afterwards there be collapse and suffering, than never to feel the divine afflatus, and never to respond to the call of God? Hadad, you must have some reason for going from Egypt—what is it? If you do not give us some reason, we will give you one. You have been behaving badly—do not conceal it—you are going away because of some concealed crime—don't you try to make a good thing out of a bad one; if you do not find reasons, we will find them for you. Poor Hadad can only say, "I cannot tell why I am going—but I must go."
In the fourteenth verse of the chapter in which the narrative is recorded the whole secret is given. The Lord had stirred up the heart of Hadad against wicked Solomon. It was a divine stirring, it was an impulse from heaven, it was the sound of a rushing mighty wind from the skies, a song without words, a ministry without articulation, a movement of the soul. Have you ever been in that case in any degree? I have, and persons have said to me, "Surely you can give us some reasons for going?" I have said, "Really, I cannot." "Well, but a sensible man always bases his conduct upon reason. Think of it and tell us what your reasons are, and they will relieve our minds, for our anxiety is very painful," and I have only had to say, "I cannot tell you anything more about it, but I must go."
It was a divine stirring. And we often do things in the face of reason. Hadad not only had no reason for going, but he had many reasons for staying, and the action of Hadad, viewed from a strictly human and social point of view, was the action of a madman. It is marvellous how God snubs and rebukes our reason that we are so proud of. We say, "It stands to reason," and God turns our reason upside down. We say, "We must be reasonable," and God does all the greatest actions of the world along a plane that reason never traversed. Why, everything in life seems to contradict reason. Tell me that this earth on which I stand is round—it contradicts my reason. Tell me the earth on which I stand goes round—Goes round? If it went round we should fall off. Tell me that this earth is hung upon nothing—go and tell that in a lunatic asylum, but do not tell it to men whose heads are strong and clear. The whole universe is a mockery of what we call reason. We must enlarge the term; it is not reason that must be despised, but rightly defined, and reason rightly defined has two wings,—hope, faith—now loose her and let her go, and she seeks the gate of the sun. You have ill-used your reason, you have starved the angel, you have shut her up within iron cages and bars, and have drawn your rod across those iron staves and mocked the poor prisoner. Only give your reason fair play, right enlargement, just application, and you will find that reason is the earthly name, and faith the heavenly.
This narrative suggests the inquiry, How am I to know when I am stirred by divine impulses? Some say, "I know that I do feel the stirring, and I want to go and march and to fight, and to conquer—how am I to know when the impulse is divine, and when it is a mere motion of my own will?" I will tell you—yet not I, but the story itself will answer. When the impulse moves you in the direction of loss, pain, and sacrifice, the probability is that the impulse is divine. Now where is your stirring? Gone. I thought it would go. I have frightened many birds in the same way, and they have flown from the trees on which they had alighted, in chaffering crowds. I will repeat. When the impulse leads you in the direction of self-sacrifice, self-mortification, pain and loss, as it did in the case of Hadad, the probability is that the impulse is divine; but if the impulse moves you in the direction of a fuller cup, a weightier table, a softer bed, a more velvety footing, the probability is that the impulse is not an inspiration of God, but a suggestion of the lower powers. Moses is called—to what? To hardship and difficulty, and much pain, and long provocation in the wilderness. Before him Abraham is called—to what? To a pilgrimage that has a beginning only that he can ascertain: what the explanation and conclusion of it will be he knoweth not: the impulse was divine. Peter was called: "Follow me:" to what? To leave the ship, to leave the nets, to leave friends and kindred, to leave usual avocations and enjoyments, and the call was from God. If we were called to more influential positions, the very first notion that would occur to us would be that the call was a good one. If we were called to a humbler position, and to meaner surroundings, to hardships and pains and difficulties, the devil would say, "Do you suppose God is going to call any man in a direction like that? Nothing of the sort. Stop where you are."
We hear what we want to hear, in the ear. The young woman says, "I feel as if I ought to do it." Do what? You are going to marry a man because he is clever, rich, fine, high, gay, and you a Christian girl? It is no call of God. Resist the devil and he will flee from thee. The young man says, "I feel as if this might be a providential opening." Let me hear what it is and I will tell you at once. "Call to a good position in the city, ten times my present income, position of influence and respectability." What is it to do? "Well, that is—that is the difficulty." Well, I say, what is it to do? "Why, I hardly like to tell you what it is to do." Then don't go; don't go. "But it is ten times the income." Are you sure of that? What is ten times the income? and will not the gold so-called turn to dross as you put it in your purse? Is it not blood money? "Well, if you like to put it in that way—I do not know—perhaps it may be." I do put it in that way: is it not to live on human misery, on broken hearts? "Well, if you like to put it in that sort of way, why, I dare say it would admit of being so stated." I do state it so: an honest pound a week, an honourable crust, a few odd things in the garret you have paid for, and every one of which will make a place to kneel at for your evening prayer—that, rather than all the riches of Egypt, if you have to forswear one honourable oath, revoke one solemn testimony, or insult one sacred memory.
Then I hear a dear old father-friend: now, what says he? Listen. "Howbeit, let me go, in any wise." Where to, dear father? "To the other country." What other country? "I have a desire to depart." What, to leave the old house at home, with all your children and grandchildren, and the garden, and the library, and the church—you have not a desire to depart, have you? "Yes. O that I had wings like a dove, for then I would flee away and be at rest. My Lord calls me, I must meet him in the promised land." Ay, God sends that homesickness over the heart when he wants to take us up. We begin to say, "I am much obliged to you for all your kindness; you have bestowed favours and honours upon me. God bless you, but—I want to go, to go home, to be at rest; I want to see God's heaven—let me go.
It is a divine stirring: it is the beginning of immortality.