but God said to me, 'You are not to build a house for My Name, because you are a man of war who has spilled blood.'
2 Samuel 23:1-7) is full of mingled regret and hope; over the scenes of his shame he lingers for a moment sadly, but from them he turns to look up to the faithful God, whom he had ever desired to serve, and assured his heart of the permanence of that everlasting covenant, ordered in all things and sure. In those closing words the old prophet-power came back to him, and we wish that such sentiments of humility, trust, and joy in God were the only dying utterances of his that had been preserved for us." The occasion of the effort recorded in our text was a public one: the solemn commendation of Solomon to the people, and closing public instructions for Solomon himself. The subject suggested is the moral influence exerted by the aged godly man, who has behind him the varied experiences of a long and checkered life. The importance of the witness of such a man's life, and of such a man's own expression of the results of his life, and of his moods of mind on coming to its close, need to be pointed out, as these may bear on the men of his own age, and as they may bear on the young generation that is growing up to take the place of those who are "passing away." As the treatment of these divisions must directly depend on the feeling and experience of the preacher, we prefer to give only the barest outline, at most suggesting lines along which the development and illustration of each point may run. As far as possible the treatment should be made cheerful and hopeful, the experience of those who see more good than evil in life being preferred.
I. THE OLD MAN'S TESTIMONY CONCERNING LIFE. He will say that he has found it other - but, on the whole, better - than he expected. Contrast the sunny anticipations of the youth with the serious reviews of the aged. A thousand anticipations have never been realized, but more than a thousand good things, of which youth could not have dreamed, have crowned the passing days with beauty and joy. Many an old man speaks brightly of the "good way wherein the Lord his God has led him."
II. THE OLD MAN'S TESTIMONY CONCERNING MAN. Looking back, he can to some extent know himself and judge his fellows. This at least the old man has learned. Man imagines and even purposes more than he can ever accomplish, and he lives, works, and dies with scaffoldings all about which were but beginnings of buildings that were never built. He has to shelter in the great hope that God will accept his purposes. And so God will, if the unwrought schemes were no mere sentimental dreams, but resolves as serious as David's, to build a temple for the Lord his God.
III. THE OLD MAN'S TESTIMONY CONCERNING GOD. He says he is the Wonder-worker who always gets his will over man's. And he is the faithful One, who keeps covenant and fulfils promise, and may be wholly trusted. He says, "I have been young, and now am old, yet have I never seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread." The light of the old men's experience may well brighten and cheer the young men's toil, and make easier the yoke of those who bear the burden and heat of the day. - R.T.
The Lord made me understand in writing by His hand upon me.
I. The NATURE of this inspiration. "All this the Lord made me to understand by His hand upon me." Now, I am sure you will not at this moment expect from me any exact definition of the term inspiration. There are some words you cannot define. You cannot define such words as love, or life, or beauty. Neither will you expect me to distinguish between the inspiration of Isaiah and that of Shakespeare, or between the inspiration of David building the temple and that of Michael Angelo building St. Peter's; the singularity of the prophet and preacher is that they have to do not with the intellectual and material worlds, but with the spiritual universe, with the relation of man to the living God, and to that eternal universe of which He is the centre.
1. The true preacher is a man of faith. God revealed to David the patterns of the temple building and furniture. In vision he beheld the forms that he was to body forth in silver and gold and cedar. He did not follow his own vagrant fancy, but he made all the sacred things according to the patterns seen in his exalted mood. There is a faculty of sight which is more profound and penetrating than any power of sense. This is manifest in the intellectual world. The poet, the painter, and the musician possess a faculty that beggars sense; they look upon a world that is unseen by the natural eye. Now, just as these rare spirits of the intellectual realm possess an imaginative faculty that transcends the tangible and technical world, a faculty that beggars sense, so the true preacher has a faculty that beggars imagination, a faculty of faith that penetrates depths beyond space and worlds beyond reason. The true preacher possesses spiritual imagination by which he discerns everywhere the spiritual fact. In man he finds the image of God; behind this world he discerns the eternal world; within history he traces the working of a Divine plan and purpose; in the Church he is conscious of God's presence and love; and he feels the power of that immortal life of which this life iii the germ, and for which this life is the preparation. This is the grand gift of the true preacher: in an eminent degree he possesses that faith which is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
2. Again, the true preacher is a man of experience. David did not proceed by simply reduplicating the forms and arrangements of the tabernacle. God granted him an inward revelation, he had a vision that was inwrought into his very soul. "The Lord made me understand by His hand upon me, even all the works of this pattern." This means something more than a superficial knowledge, than a mere spectacle; it implies a vivid, profound, personal acquaintance with the things he was called upon to fashion and arrange. It means something more than a passing dream; the objective became the subjective; David realised God's purpose as an inward and joyful experience. His soul entered into the vision, the vision entered into his soul. And if the preacher is to be effective, the subjects of his preaching must be living facts to his own mind and heart. There is a whole world of difference between the mere intellectual perception of a doctrine and the realisation of that doctrine in our own conscience and feeling. Just think of the dweller in a city who knows the seasons only as they appear in the almanac! Spring quarter begins; bits of information and hints about summer gardening; stray allusions to harvest; and then the record closes with prognostications of winter's storms and snows. The almanac gives much information — varied, exact, useful information; you seem, indeed, to know all about the thing. Do you? Ah! it is a very different matter to know the seasons as they actually unfold in nature. And so it is one thing to know religion formally in a theological treatise, and another thing to know its power and sweetness and hope in your own soul. Notice —
II. The LIMITS of this inspiration. "The Lord made me understand in writing." The question arises as to what is precisely to be understood by this writing. Some think it teaches that David simply followed the law of Moses. Moses, as we learn in the book of Exodus, received the measures and plans of the tabernacle from God Himself, and all that David did, these commentators think, was to follow severely these ancient specifications in the instructions which he gave to Solomon. David follows the writing from Jehovah's hand given to Moses. Other students think that this explanation of the passage is wholly mistaken. They hold that David affirms that he received an altogether special revelation. Just as the Lord had formerly shown to Moses the pattern of the tabernacle, so did the Lord also make known by revelation to David the pattern of the temple and its furniture. It seems to me that neither interpretation expresses the real situation — a middle view seems the juster. The description given in Exodus of the sacred utensils evidently furnished the groundwork for the workmanship of David, but what he teaches here is that it was under the guidance of the Divine Spirit that he varied the sacred architecture and furniture to suit the changed conditions of the new temple. He did not work either independently or arbitrarily, but modified the structure and the vessels by the authority of the Spirit who first instituted them. The grand teaching of the whole situation being this, that in the entire work of the temple we must be governed by Divine revelation, but that at the same time we must be sensitive to the action of the Spirit of God, so that we may interpret the Scriptures and modify ecclesiastical organisations according to the changing needs of successive generations. Does not the preacher of to-day need to learn the lesson taught here? One of our great dangers is a literalism which denies all further revelation or inspiration. We must beware lest we doom ourselves to a barren literalism. But, on the other hand, there are others who assume entire independence of revelation. They affirm that men are still as fully inspired as Moses was, or Isaiah, or John, or Paul, and that it is an injustice to ourselves to yield exclusive reverence to the sacred oracles. What, then, is the true path here? We answer, the path followed by the King of Israel in our text. We must reverentially accept the fully-accredited revelation that God has secured to us, and under the influence of the Holy Spirit give that revelation new and fuller expression as the evolution of the race may require. We must be true to the Scriptures, and true also to the Spirit that gives to the written word concurrent adaptation. Only as we follow this delicate line shall we be truly orthodox and yet remain full of reality, power, and effectiveness. A great artist does not attempt to get rid of nature; if he were to yield to such licentiousness his images would become bizarre, his poetry unintelligible, and his music degenerate into a monstrous melody; the sincere artist is therefore profoundly true to the forms, the colours, and the sequences of nature, he gives place to no arbitrary ideas. But, at the same time, he is not literal, topographical, prosaic; he seizes the essential truth of the physical universe, and gives it free rendering and bold representation. It is much the same with the preacher. He is profoundly loyal to God's Word, but in the light and liberty of the Spirit he freely handles the eternal truth, and makes it speak to the heart of the congregation. It is God's message to this generation that is expected from you. Be able to say, "The Lord made me understand this by His hand upon me," and your word shall be in power and blessing.
III. The CONDITIONS of this inspiration.
1. We must watch against the temper of unbelief. We discern a thing only when we are in the mood to see it, to hear it, to know it. And it is entirely true that we apprehend the things of the higher world and the higher life just as we have a certain affinity with them. I deny altogether that the mood of doubt is the becoming mood of a theologian. The mood of the artist is the receptive mood. We are sometimes told how some grand melody, picture, or poem originated in a most trivial incident, but this only shows how exceedingly delicate was the susceptibility of the artist; he must have possessed a peculiar alertness and responsiveness of soul. A cold, critical temper would mean a poor artist. Did not Columbus expect to see America? Is America, therefore, a baseless fabric? Columbus saw America because he was prepared to see it, and the true attitude to unknown worlds is the expectant attitude of the astronomer looking for a star mathematically inferred, but not hitherto seen, of the chemist searching for an element indicated, but not yet demonstrated. We lose much by cherishing the spirit of doubt. Preachers are men who ought to live in the mood of meditation and susceptibility — waiting, listening, looking, hoping; and so does God whisper into their wakened ear great and gracious truths.
2. We must be on our guard against the spirit of worldliness. It has been noticed that the greatest naturalists, poets, and philosophers are singularly unworldly men. It seems as if they can see the rarer beauty of the world, hear the music of the spheres, catch the subtler suggestions of phenomena only as they are free from all secularity of spirit. The best and the highest of the things that are seen are discerned and appreciated only by men cleansed from the spirit of greed, and pride, and self. And this in a very high degree is true of the preacher. It is only when the eye is single that the whole body is full of light.
3. We must watch against sensuality. "Sensual, not having the Spirit," writes the apostle. Now sensual indulgence clouds the genius of the artist and the scholar. Hugh Miller tells us that when he was a young man he one day drank some liquor, and on turning to read Milton found himself incapable of appreciating the great master. So any form of sensuality renders the spiritual man incapable of influentially realising the great discoveries of revelation. Sensual thought makes the higher perceptions impossible, the gross film blinds the eye of the soul. Purity of thought and feeling are essential to a really great preacher. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they see the best of everything, and they possess a wonderful faculty for making other people feel the power and charm of truth and goodness. We have spoken this morning of the patterns God showed to Moses and to David, but we must remember that He has shown to us another order of patterns, sublimer far than archetypes of architecture and upholstery. God who in times past spake unto the fathers by the prophets hath in these latter days spoken unto us by His Son. Our Lord Jesus Christ has taken us into the Mount and shown us patterns of things in the heavens. Study the New Testament and you will find set forth with clearness the ultimate moral ideals after which the ages have blindly striven. At Nazareth and Bethany you see the ideal home. You have seen the ideal Church when you have seen Christ dwelling with His disciples. And, more than all, comprehending all, you behold the supreme ideal of character, "We see Jesus." All the great ideals are in "this writing by His hand," not "the shadow of heavenly things," but "the very substance of the things."
(W. L. Watkinson.)
I. TO THE SINGULAR INSTRUCTIONS GIVEN TO DAVID.
1. David did not receive them by consultation with others.
2. David did not slavishly follow the former model.
3. God gave David instructions about the details of the work.
4. The directions given were extremely minute.
5. The innermost things were laid bare to David.
6. David not only knew the details; but he understood them.
7. The writing was written on David's own mind by God Himself.
II. THE SPIRITUAL TUITION OF THE SAINTS IN THE TRUTH OF GOD.
1. God still writes upon the hearts of men.
2. Let me show you a little in detail how God writes the great truths of His Word on our hearts.
III. THE DUTY OF THE TRANSMISSION TO OTHERS OF ANYTHING THAT GOD WRITES ON YOUR HEARTS.
1. David told Solomon about it.
2. We ought to talk about Christ to chosen companions.
3. David gathered all the people together and told them about the temple.
( C. H. Spurgeon.)10
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