1 KINGS xi.4.
Who could have predicted that this would come to pass? And yet it is often so, for it is still true that
NO AMOUNT OF KNOWLEDGE WILL SAVE FROM BACKSLIDING THOSE WHO REFUSE TO LISTEN TO GOD.
We learn from verse 10 that God had taken pains to save Solomon from idolatry, (see 1 Kings vi.12, and xi.6). But what good is it for even God to try to save a man who will have his own way? And yet one would have thought that a man who knew what Solomon knew, would have not bowed down to gods of wood and stone! It is not always at our weakest place we fail! It is well for us to be aware of this. Who would have expected Moses to fail in his temper, or Elijah in his courage? Solomon must have hated himself when he bowed before these graven images, and must have looked with loathing on those filthy idols before whom he was prostrate, and yet he went on in his evil way. How the priests who offered the idolatrous sacrifices would rejoice in their illustrious pervert! Will any of us ever give the foes of God cause for exultation? Do not tell me that you are too well instructed! Are you wiser than Solomon? "Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom. Let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth Me." -- Jer. ix, 23-24. You are safe only as you are willing to be led by the word of God.
WHAT IS THE BIBLE TO YOU?
Is it a lamp to your feet? Not merely a lantern to keep you out of the mire, but a treasure like that miner's lamp; a light by which he is not only guided, but able to walk in the shadow of death. All around him is the gas that would slay him, and yet by that lamp he walks to the place of safety! This is what the Bible must be to you, or it is nothing.
Mind you, it is not enough for you to know the Bible. We have heard drunken men quote it with correctness, but it had not saved them from the demon which haunted them. It is an instructive thought that the man who wrote some of the Bible, who is spoken of in the pulpit as "The Wise Man," the author of the Book of Proverbs, was led away into sin and eternal disgrace. In fact, it matters not what we know, if we are not led of the Spirit we shall come to grief. The more deeply a ship is laden, if she gets aground, the more likely she is to become a wreck. It takes the wisest of men to make the fool Solomon became. Perhaps the most serious aspect of this story is, that it was not while the king was young, but when grey-headed, that he wandered from God, and this leads me to say that
THE WORST CASES OF BACKSLIDING ARE AMONG THOSE WHO ARE NO LONGER YOUNG.
We should not have been surprised if Solomon had been led away by youthful passion or indiscretion, but we are shocked to find that it was when he ought to have been venerable that he became vicious -- "When Solomon was old." We should have expected history would have told us of the power he exerted over the people; how the nation saw in his silver locks the crown of glory he had spoken of in his book. It would have seemed natural to have read of great gatherings of the people of different nations, listening to his wondrously wise words. Instead of this, the news spread far and wide that the wise king had stooped to folly of the worst degree.
My brothers! what sort of old men shall we make? If we are allowed to remain among our fellows, shall we live the life that shall make men thank God for our length of days, or will they wish we had died in our youthful prime? There are men whose youth was like the mountain stream, which cheered everything it touched. Born among the mountains, and wedding other brooks and streamlets, uniting them in a river, clear and lovely, along whose banks children loved to play. But later on, as it became broad and deep, taking in pollution and garbage, until the clear and joyous river is changed into a great sewer, filling the air with noxious smells, and defiling the face of nature with its liquid blackness. Such is life to some men -- Solomon was one, perhaps the worst.
One is ready to ask -- Can this be the man to whom God spake in large promise? Is this he whose prayer brought into the temple the manifested presence of the Almighty? Can it be possible that this hoary idolater had been the favourite of Jehovah? Alas! it is only too true. More than once we have known men whose prayers could bring heaven to earth, and lift earth to heaven, but who have lived too long, and ere they fell into a dishonoured grave, brought shame to the cross of Jesus, and gave the enemies of God food for laughter. Let those among us who are no longer young, see to it that we are not among those who fall more deeply into sin than it is possible for young disciples to do.
What should we think if Westminster Abbey became a gin-palace? If all around its gates lewd men and dishonoured women stood and cracked their filthy jokes; if from its lovely choir the drunkard's song was heard? Verily, you say, "It is nigh to blasphemy to imagine such a thing. We had rather that it had been burned to ashes when the fire of London destroyed St. Paul's. Would that it had reached far enough West to destroy the ancient pile rather than it should be so polluted!" Aye, aye, you are right, and yet to see a man who, in his youth was a Christian, but in his old age has become an apostate, is a more sorrowful sight still. Alas! that it should be so common.
How did it come about? What scheme of hell led to this? What combination of men and fiends accomplished this tragedy? It was love -- affection, infatuation, for that which ought not to have been loved, "King Solomon loved many strange women, besides the daughter of Pharaoh," as the margin puts it. And this leads me to say that
A MAN'S FEMALE FRIENDS FRAME HIS FORTUNES.
Solomon began wrong; he allowed his affection to fasten itself on a stranger -- an Egyptian. It is a question worth considering, whether we preachers say enough to the people on this question of matrimony. A man's marriage is sure to tell on his history. He can never be the same again he was before. He may wed one who shall help him to be good, whose voice shall be like church bells calling him to prayer. Or he may fasten himself to one, who, like Jezebel, shall stir up her husband to deeds of shame and cruelty. Sometimes we have felt, when we have seen some marriages, that it would have been a fitting thing if a hearse had been among the carriages, for there lay DEAD HOPE on its way to a grave from which there could be no resurrection!
Young man! what woman is it you like the best? Who is her god? Fashion? Pleasure? What is the name of the deity she worships? If it is anyone rather than Jehovah, beware! Before you die, she shall turn you as Solomon was turned. What is that you say? You are not such a fool! Well, that remains to be seen. Are you one of those who trust in his own heart? If so, remember what he is called. See Prov. xxviii.26. Is not the helm of your life in her hands now? Would you love her as you do, if she had not the reins of your soul in her grasp? If Solomon had known all that was to follow when he first looked on the daughter of Pharaoh, he would have died before he would have made her his bride. Let not this sad story be in any way a prophecy of your future. There are plenty of women whom to know is to be elevated, and whom to wed would be to foretaste the companionship of heaven. Wives are often the architects and the husbands the builders. See to it, that the woman you love does not make you lay out the foundation of a jail. She may tell you it is a palace, but neither of you have yet seen the elevation. She only draws the ground-plan.
There is yet another scene in this tragedy. Solomon, by his folly, lost his son's estate. God said, "I will surely rend the kingdom from thee." Rehoboam was the poorer for his father's sin.
OUR CHILDREN BECOME THE HEIRS OF OUR CRIMES.
Some other day, it may be, we will take the story of the son. Let it suffice to-day that we learn the lesson the Bible would teach us. Solomon's sun went down in a cloud. It is a disputed question whether Solomon repented in time to save his soul. There ought to have been no question as to whether he was in heaven or no. As it is, we don't know that David has one of his children with him, except the baby boy who died despite his father's fasting and prayer. Surely no one more than David will need to have that promise fulfilled -- "God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes." It may be that David has needed to be comforted, because the builder of the temple is among those who died in idolatry.
Let every father among us bear in mind, that when we neglect prayer, or give up devotion, because we want the time for seeking gold or any other idol, we are mortgaging our children's future. Giving up religious exercises is like cutting down the trees on an estate, the next heir will know the want of them. No man can be said to be a good father, who, for the sake of any worldly good, impoverishes the souls of his offspring. "Turned away his heart after other gods," means turning away the kingdom of Israel. Sin cannot be separated from sorrow, and this is as true to- day as it was in the days of Solomon.