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Bible Commentaries

Simeon's Horae Homileticae

1 Chronicles 29

Verse 2

DISCOURSE: 391
DAVID’S PREPARATION FOR THE TEMPLE

1 Chronicles 29:2. Now I have prepared with all my might for the house of my God.

THERE is no end to the benefits which we may derive from Scripture history. What if our situation and circumstances be different from those which are there adverted to? the advantage to be received from the relation of them is not a whit the less: on the contrary, it often happens, that the voice of God in them is on that very account the more powerful. Take, for instance, the example before us. David, of his own mind, desired to build a temple for the Lord: and he was forbidden to do it: yet “with all his might he prepared for it;” though it was never to be done till he should be removed to a better world. It may be said, and with truth, that we are not, nor are at all likely to be, in circumstances like his: yet will his example be found of very peculiar use, whilst I set before you,

I.

The zeal he manifested for the building of a material temple to the Lord—

Though forbidden to execute his wishes, he was not forbidden to prepare for the execution of them by his son and successor on the throne of Israel. He, therefore, availed himself of the wealth and influence which God had given him, himself to contribute, out of his own personal property, above eighteen millions of our money; and to promote a similar liberality amongst his subjects, who contributed above thirty millions. The amount of both together was fifty millions of pounds. Now, it may be asked, On what principle did he proceed? And why should he so strip both himself and his people of their possessions, for the purpose of raising a structure to the Lord? I answer, he did it,

1.

To honour God—

[David had built for himself a noble palace: and he could not endure to live in a house of cedar himself, whilst the ark, which was the symbol of the divine presence, “dwelt between curtains.” True, no earthly house could be a fit habitation for Him who filleth heaven and earth: but still it was more seemly that there should be for God a fixed abode: and by making it “exceeding magnifical,” it would become an object of admiration to all the surrounding nations. It would also fill with reverence all his own people; and thus be the means of honouring God among them, and of exalting in their esteem its Divine Inhabitant. And was not this an object worthy to be promoted, whatever might be the trouble, or whatever the expense?]

2.

To bring down a blessing upon his whole land—

[Greatly would it facilitate the access of all the people to their God, especially when they should come up annually, at the three appointed seasons, to worship there. And much would they see that would afford them abundant edification. Indeed, the candlesticks and lavers that were used in the tabernacle were multiplied ten-fold in the temple: and the accommodations for the worshippers would be enlarged, perhaps an hundred-fold. Whilst, therefore, the very sight or that magnificent structure would fill them with reverential awe, they would derive exceeding great comfort and encouragement from the increased facilities of social worship. And, beyond a doubt, in proportion as they delighted in drawing nigh to God, God would delight in drawing nigh to them; and in proportion as they sought him, he would be found of them, and pour out his benefits upon them.
And could a monarch improve his wealth and influence better than in such a work? No, surely: no labour, however great, nor any sacrifice, however costly, would be ill bestowed in the advancement of so blessed and desirable an end. Millions of gold and silver were well appropriated to a cause like this.]
But greater far is,

II.

The zeal that becomes us in raising a spiritual temple in his name—

In reference to this work, no prohibition is issued to any living soul; but, on the contrary, a commandment is given to all. And infinitely more does it deserve our utmost exertions: we all are called to aid in raising this nobler edifice—
[Yes, a nobler edifice it is indeed!

Its foundation is more solid. The material temple, doubtless, was built on a foundation well fitted for its support. But Jesus Christ is, “the foundation laid in Zion:” on him must we raise the edifice [Note: Isaiah 28:16.]; or rather “on the foundation of the Prophets and Apostles, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner-stone [Note: Ephesians 2:20.].”

Its materials are more precious. Doubtless of timber and stone there was the most careful selection that could be made. But our temple consists of “living stones [Note: 1 Peter 2:4-60.2.5.],” every one of them penetrated by the Spirit of God, and animated with the very life that is in Christ Jesus [Note: Galatians 2:20. Colossians 3:3-51.3.4.].

Its architect is more honourable. Bezaliel and Aholiab are immortalized by their unrivalled skill. But of the Temple in which our assistance is required, it must be said, “Its Builder and Maker is God [Note: Hebrews 11:10.].” There is not a stone belonging to it which has not been hewn out of the quarry by God himself, and formed and fashioned by Him who built the universe: so true is that declaration of the Apostle, “We are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works [Note: Ephesians 2:10.].”

Far nobler sacrifices, too, are offered in it. All the cattle upon a thousand hills were not worthy to be compared with the sacrifice of a broken and contrite spirit. “With every such offering God is well pleased:” and the temple itself is infinitely more raised in his esteem, on account of the offerings presented there [Note: Isaiah 66:1-23.66.2.]. Not one is ever inflamed with his heavenly fire, but the odours of it ascend up before him with acceptance, and are “well pleasing to him through Jesus Christ [Note: Psalms 51:17.].”

The manifestations of God in it are also more bright. True, in the material temple, God so filled it, that the priests could no longer stop to minister there [Note: 1 Kings 8:10-11.8.11.]. But in his spiritual temple he dwells, not by a bright cloud, the symbol of his presence, but by his own immediate presence; making it “his habitation through the Spirit [Note: Ephesians 2:22.],” and displaying to the view of every faithful worshipper “all the glory of the Godhead in the face of Jesus Christ [Note: 2 Corinthians 3:18.].

The whole economy of it, also, is more lasting. The material temple has been so entirely destroyed, that not even its site can now be accurately ascertained. But the spiritual Temple shall endure for ever, as we are told by the beloved Apostle: “I heard a great voice out of heaven, saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and he will be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away [Note: Revelation 21:3-66.21.4.].” The Romans utterly subverted the one: but not all the power and policy of hell shall ever prevail against the other.]

What zeal, then, can be too great, in promoting such a work as this?
[Did David “prepare with all his might for the house which he was forbidden to construct?” Surely we should spare no labour and no cost in advancing the work to which we are called. We should devote to it both our persons and our property, our persons doubtless in the first instance [Note: 2 Corinthians 8:5.]; for without that sacrifice, all the wealth of kingdoms would be a vain and empty, yea, a hateful and detestable offering [Note: Isaiah 66:3.Romans 12:1; Romans 12:1.]: but with that, we must present also our gold and our silver, to the utmost extent of our power [Note: ver. 13, 14.]. It cannot be that men should go forth to preach the Gospel to Jews and Gentiles, all over the world, at their own cost: nor can the Holy Scriptures be translated into all languages, and be dispersed over all countries, without great and liberal contributions. But if David and his subjects gave so richly of their substance to raise a temple of wood and stone, and even adored God for giving them the inclination and ability to contribute [Note: 2 Corinthians 8:3-47.8.4. If there were only 12,5001. raised, as for the London Society, it would occupy the space of 4000 years! How little do we, for the souls of God’s Ancient People, in comparison of David!], much more should we be willing to give all that we can spare—I had almost said, all that we possess, for the advancing of God’s kingdom over the face of the whole earth.

Shall it be thought that our present contributions are large? Suppose them to be fifty thousand a year; there will be a lapse of a thousand years before we have collected what David and his servants gave, before so mach as a single stone was laid.

Shall it be said, as it often is, in reference to the Millennium, “It will not take place in our day?” Be it so, if you please: yet learn from David, that that consideration, even if it were certain, should not induce you in the least degree to relax your exertions. You should still “prepare for it with all your might,” and help it forward to the utmost of your power — — —
If any one say, “I can do nothing towards that great work;” let him know, that he has at least one Temple to prepare, even his own soul, which must, ere it can be happy, become “a Temple of the living God [Note: 1 Corinthians 3:16; 1 Corinthians 6:19.]:” that you must prepare, by penitence and faith, to be the habitation of Almighty God [Note: 2 Corinthians 6:16.]. But take care that “Christ be the foundation on winch you build; for there neither is, nor can be, any other [Note: 1 Corinthians 3:11.].” Take care, also, what your superstructure is: “If it be hay, straw, stubble, it will be burnt up. It must be of gold, and silver, and precious stones,” in order to be approved of the Lord [Note: 1 Corinthians 3:12-46.3.15.]. Take care, also, not to retain in your bosom any evil disposition. God could not endure that his temple of old should be defiled; much less will he suffer with impunity any lusts to be harboured in the soul of man: “If any man defile the Temple of God, him shall God destroy: for the Temple of God is holy: which Temple ye are [Note: John 2:13-43.2.17. 1 Corinthians 3:17.].” I call on every one of you, then, to be “workers together with God” in this sacred cause [Note: 2 Corinthians 6:1.]: and, “whatever your hand findeth to do, do it with all your might [Note: Ecclesiastes 9:10.].”]


Verse 15

DISCOURSE: 392
SAINTS STRANGERS ON EARTH

1 Chronicles 29:15. We are strangers before thee, and sojourners, as were all our fathers: our days on the earth are as a shadow, and there is none abiding.

THE more truly pious we are, the more shall we be clothed with humility. On no occasion had David evinced more exalted piety, than in his preparations for the building and furnishing the temple, which he was not permitted in his lifetime to erect. “He had prepared for it with all his might,” “because he had set his affection to the house of his God [Note: ver. 2, 3.].” He contributed to the amount of about eighteen millions of money: and his people also shewed a similar liberality, according to their power. And what reflections did these efforts generate in his mind? Was he filled with self-complacency? or did he assume any merit to himself? No: he gave to God the glory of all that had been done, acknowledging that the power to do it was the effect of his bounty, and the disposition to do it the fruit of his grace. A more sublime ascription of praise will scarcely be found in all the Book of God, than that which he uttered on this occasion. He bore in mind, that, as his continuance here was but of short duration, it became him to exert himself with all possible zeal, whilst any opportunity to serve God remained. The expressions which he made use of in my test will lead me to shew you,

I.

The state of man as it is here represented—

Man is but “a stranger and sojourner” upon earth—
[This world is not our home. If we are saints indeed, we have been born from above: we are children of a heavenly Father: we are of “the family of which Christ is the head,” and the glorified saints and angels are the members: and heaven itself is the inheritance to which we are begotten [Note: 1 Peter 1:3-60.1.4.]. This world is but a wilderness, through which we are passing to our Father’s house. We are mere pilgrims here. The people amongst whom we sojourn are governed by different laws, and speak a different language, and are strangers to us, even as we are to them. Our communion with them is such as necessity alone requires. Wherever we are, we are only like travellers in an inn. Our stay is of uncertain duration. If our accommodations be good, we are thankful for them; but not much elated, because we regard them as merely momentary, and have our minds intent on far higher joys to come. On the other hand, if our accommodations be of a less comfortable nature, we feel no great disappointment. We consider that as incident to our state as travellers; and are consoled with the thought, that in due season we shall reach our home, where there is fulness of joy for evermore.

This has been the state of all the saints, from the beginning: the patriarchs “confessed it to be theirs;” and gloried in the thought that they were “seeking a better country,” which they should inhabit for ever [Note: Hebrews 11:13-58.11.14.].]

This representation is confirmed by actual experience—
[“Our days on earth are but as a shadow, and there is none abiding.” Behold the shadow of a cloud passing over the fields; how rapidly does it proceed! and how speedily does it vanish, not leaving the slightest trace of it behind! Thus generations pass away, and “the places where they have lived know them no more.” “No one has found here any continuing city.” The antediluvians lived for eight or nine hundred years; yet they died at last. How short, then, is our continuance, now that the term of life is reduced to seventy or eighty years! Let the oldest of us look back: our life seems to have been but “a mere span:” it has “declined as a shadow [Note: Psalms 102:11.];” it has come to an end, “as a tale that is told [Note: Psalms 90:9.];” it has been “as a vapour, that appeareth for a moment, and then vanisheth away [Note: James 4:14.].” Thus it has been with all, however great, or however good. The kings of the earth, that have made all the world to stand in awe of them, have passed away; yea, and their very empires have vanished with them. Where are now the Assyrian, Babylonish, Persian, Grecian, and Roman empires? They have been swallowed up, as it were, and lost; together with the monarchs by whom they were established. In like manner, “the Prophets and Apostles, where are they?” they filled but an appointed time, and then were taken to their eternal rest. But, in truth, the very place where we are assembled gives us a convincing evidence, that, whether by choice or not, the same character pertains to every one of us; we are but pilgrims upon earth, hastening every moment to our destined home.]

Let us, then, mark,

II.

The conduct which the consideration of that state is calculated to inspire—

Frequently is the consideration of that state urged upon us, as a motive to that habit of mind which the state itself demands. “I beseech you, then, as strangers and pilgrims [Note: 1 Peter 2:11.],”

1.

Be moderate in your regards for earthly things—

[A man intent on reaching his destined home, would not think of making a place his rest, because of its beautiful prospects or its comfortable accommodations. He would be pleased with them, and thankful for them as refreshments by the way; but he would not think of resting in them as his portion. So must we look beyond these transient things, and rest in nothing short of our destined home. To this effect is the counsel of the Apostle Paul: “This I say, Brethren, the time is short: it remaineth, that both they that have wives be as though they had none; and they that weep, as though they wept not; and they that rejoice, as though they rejoiced not; and they that buy, as though they possessed not; and they that use this world, as not abusing it: for the fashion of this world passeth away [Note: 1 Corinthians 7:29-46.7.30.].” “Let your moderation, then, be known unto all men:” and “set your affections on things above, and not on things on the earth.”]

2.

Be diligent in the prosecution of your journey heaven-ward—

[You have no time to lose. Whether your stay in this wilderness be more or less protracted, you will find every hour short enough for the making of such a progress as will ensure a happy termination of your labours. You are not merely in a journey; but in a race, which requires the most strenuous and unremitted exertions. Whatever advance you may have made, you are to “forget what is behind, and to press forward to that which is before, that so you may attain the prize of your high calling.” And never are you to be weary of well-doing; for “then only will you reap, if you faint not.”]

3.

Avail yourselves of the aids which God has provided for you by the way—

[To his people in the wilderness, God gave a daily supply of manna from the clouds, and of water from the rock that followed them. And similar provision has he made for us also, in our way to the promised land: and, in the strength of it, we may prosecute our journey without fear. If we are “strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might,” what may we not undertake, with a full assurance of success? We need not draw back from any labour; for “the grace of Christ shall surely be sufficient for us:” nor need we fear any enemy; for we shall be “more than conquerors, through Him that loved us.”]

4.

Keep your eye fixed on heaven, as your home—

[What would ever divert your steps, or retard them for an instant, if you contemplated, as you ought, the blessedness that awaits you at the close of your journey? To be in your Father’s house, in the very mansion prepared for you; yea, and in the very bosom of that Saviour, who went, as your forerunner, to prepare it—to have all your trials for ever terminated, and all your dangers for ever past, and all your labours for ever closed; and to have nothing but an eternity of bliss, such as no words can express, no imagination can conceive—what joy will you feel in the retrospect, what exultation in the prospect, and, above all, what recollections as arising from the stupendous mystery of redemption, whereby the whole has been accomplished for you! Set before you this prize; and then tell me, whether you will ever need any thing to carry you forward in your heavenly course. Truly, the contemplation of that glory will swallow up every thing else, even as the stars of heaven are eclipsed by the meridian sun. Joys will be no joys, and sorrows no sorrows—I mean, not worth being so accounted—if only you keep heaven in your view: for neither the comforts “nor the sufferings of this present life are worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed in us [Note: Romans 8:18.].” Moses [Note: Hebrews 11:24-58.11.26.], and Paul [Note: Acts 20:24.], and all the saints [Note: Hebrews 11:35.], yea, and even the Lord Jesus Christ himself [Note: Hebrews 12:2.], were animated by this thought: and, if it fully possess your mind, you can never faint, nor ever come short of the rest that remaineth for you [Note: 2 Peter 1:10-61.1.11.].]


Verse 17

DISCOURSE: 393
UPRIGHTNESS OF HEART REQUIRED

1 Chronicles 29:17. I know also, my God, that thou triest the heart, and hast pleasure in uprightness.

THE true way to form a correct estimate of our actions is, to consider the principles from which they flow: for it is very possible that an act, which may be highly esteemed amongst men, may be an utter “abomination in the sight of God [Note: Luke 16:15.],” on account of the motives by which we have been actuated in the performance of it. Jehu obeyed an express command of God in destroying the house of Ahab; and was even rewarded by God for it; whilst yet he was also punished for it, because, in what he did, he was impelled only by his own pride and vanity, instead of consulting, as he should have done, the glory of his God [Note: Compare 2 Kings 10:30. with Hosea 1:4.]. “Man looketh only on the outward appearance; but God looketh at the heart [Note: 1 Samuel 16:7.].” The efforts which David made in preparing for the erection of the Temple were amazing: yet, if they had proceeded from a desire of man’s applause, they would have been of no value before God. But David sought only to glorify his God: and for his integrity, in this respect, he could appeal, yea, and did appeal, to the heart-searching God: “I know, my God, that thou triest the heart, and hast pleasure in uprightness:” and I can affirm, as in thy presence, that “in the uprightness of my heart I have willingly offered all these things [Note: The text, with the clause following it.].”

From this striking and confident declaration, I shall take occasion to shew,

I.

What is here affirmed of God—

Two things are here asserted respecting God:

1.

His knowledge of the human heart—

[“The eyes of the Lord are in every place, beholding the evil and the good [Note: Proverbs 15:3.].” Nor is it a mere cursory view which he takes of the things that are passing in the world: he inspects them all: he marks the most hidden actions of mankind: he observes with accuracy the principles from which they flow. Not so much as a thought escapes his notice; no, nor the most fleeting “imagination of a thought [Note: Genesis 6:5. 1 Chronicles 28:9.].” “He searches the heart, and tries the reins [Note: Psalms 7:9.],” in order that not the slightest motion of the soul may escape him. He so “ponders the ways of men [Note: Proverbs 21:2.],” that not a turn in them is unobserved; and so “weighs their spirits [Note: Proverbs 16:2.],” as infallibly to ascertain the precise measure of every principle contained in them. In natural productions, this is done with a considerable degree of accuracy by chemists: but no chemist can subject the heart of man to this process: that is the work of God alone [Note: Revelation 2:23.]: but it is a work which he is executing every day, and every hour, over the face of the whole earth: and in his book of remembrance he records the result of his observations on every child of man [Note: Psalms 56:8.]. In truth, if he did not thus search the heart, he would not be able to judge the world. But, seeing that “all things are naked and opened before him, and that he is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart [Note: Hebrews 4:12.],” and that the darkest recesses of it are to him as clear as the light of day [Note: Psalms 139:11-19.139.12.], we may, without hesitation, say with Job, “I know that no thought can be withholden from thec [Note: Job 42:2.].”]

2.

His love of uprightness—

[He requireth truth in the inward parts [Note: Psalms 51:6.]; and whatever is contrary to it, he utterly abhors. “He made man upright” in the first instance [Note: Ecclesiastes 7:29.], and pronounced his work to be “very good [Note: Genesis 1:26; Genesis 1:31.].” In his works of grace he seeks to restore to man that uprightness: and never will he look with complacency on any child of man, till that change is wrought. By uprightness, however, we are not to understand sinless perfection: for, if none but those who have attained that were objects of his love, there would not be found one upon the face of the whole earth; seeing that “there is no man that liveth, and sinneth not [Note: 1 Kings 8:46.].” But, in desire and purpose, we must be perfect. There must be in us no allowed sin. “Our heart must be right with God [Note: Psalms 78:37.].” He will not endure “a divided heart [Note: Hosea 10:2.].” There must be in us a simplicity of aim and intention: no leaning to self; no corrupt bias; no undue mixture of carnal motives or principles: we must be “without guile in our spirit [Note: Psalms 32:2.],” if we would approve ourselves to him. Where a person of this character is, God views him with pleasure [Note: Proverbs 15:8-20.15.9.], and listens to him with delight [Note: Proverbs 11:20.]. The testimony borne to Nathanael is a clear evidence of this. No human eye saw him “under the fig-tree;” nor could any person, who had seen him, have ventured to pronounce upon his character in such decided terms. But God had searched his heart, and “found it perfect before him [Note: 2 Kings 20:3.].” That his delight in such characters might be fully known, he has recorded it in his word; and, for the encouragement of all future generations, has borne witness to Nathanael, saying, “Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no guile [Note: John 1:47.].”

Know, then, that “God has pleasure in uprightness.” He has pleasure in it as a conformity to his Law, a correspondence with his own image, the very end and consummation of all his works.]
Such being the mind of Almighty God, let us consider,

II.

What effect the knowledge of it should produce upon us—

No subject whatever has a wider scope, or needs more to be seen in all its diversified bearings, than that before us. The consideration of God’s omniscience, and of his exclusive approbation of what is holy, should operate forcibly on every child of man. It should operate to make us,

1.

Humble in our review of our past lives—

[Who amongst us could stand, if God were to enter into judgment with us? Who, if God should “lay judgment to the line and righteousness to the plummet,” would be found to have been upright before him? Let us take even the best day of our whole lives, and try ourselves by the holy Law of God; or rather, not by the Law as it is in itself, but as it has been known and understood by us? Let us take even our own standard of duty to God and man, and say whether we have fulfilled—whether we have even striven to fulfil it? whether we have laboural, as men in earnest, to get our views of duty rectified and enlarged, in order that we might not, through ignorance, come short of it in any thing? Let us think whether we can appeal to the omniscient and heart-searching God, that we have studied his blessed word in order to learn his will, and cried to him for grace to enable us for the performance of it? In short, let us see, whether for one day or hour we have been truly upright before God, so as to have not a wish of our hearts comparable to that of pleasing, serving, glorifying him? If, then, we cannot stand this test even for the best day of our whole lives, what must have been our state taken in the aggregate, from the first moment of our existence to the present hour? Tell me whether it is possible for us to abase ourselves too much? Job, with all his perfection, “abhorred himself in dust and ashes [Note: Job 42:6.]:” tell me, then, what should be the posture of our souls before God? Verily, there should not be a day or an hour, throughout all our future lives, wherein we should not “put our hands on our mouths, and our mouths in the dust, crying, Unclean, Unclean [Note: Leviticus 13:49. Lamentations 3:29.]!”]

2.

Earnest in our desires to be found in Christ—

[Whither should such guilty creatures flee, but to the Saviour? to Him who has expiated our guilt, and wrought out a righteousness wherein we may stand accepted before God? To think of procuring remission of our sins by any obedience of our own, were madness. Satan himself might attempt it as reasonably as we. O! with what joy should we hear of the provision made for us in the Gospel!—of an incarnate God! of a sacrifice for sin! of a sacrifice commensurate with the necessities of a ruined world! of a free access to the Father through that sacrifice! of acceptance with Him, simply through faith in it as a propitiation for our sins! of every thing being treasured up in Christ for us [Note: Colossians 1:19.], so that it may be secured against a possibility of being lost [Note: Colossians 3:3.], and may “be received at all times, out of his fulness,” through the exercise of faith and prayer [Note: John 1:16.]! Let us but see in what light we stand before God, as viewed in ourselves, and we shall most cordially unite with the Apostle Paul, in “desiring to be found in Christ, not having our own righteousness, which is of the Law, but the righteousness which is of God by faith in Christ [Note: Philippians 3:9.].”]

3.

Watchful against the assaults of our great adversary—

[Even in Paradise, whilst yet our first parents retained their integrity, did Satan prevail to beguile them, What, then, will he not do with us, if we be not constantly on our guard against him? He can assume “the appearance of an angel of light [Note: 2 Corinthians 11:14.]:” how, then, can we hope to stand against his wiles, if Almighty God do not interpose to preserve us? It is not necessary for his purpose, that he should draw us into gross sin: he effects our destruction no less certainly, if he only “beguile us from the simplicity that is in Christ [Note: 2 Corinthians 11:3.].” If he succeed only so far as to keep us from being upright before God, he needs no more to ruin us for ever. Beloved Brethren, reflect on this, and cry mightily to God to arm you against him on every side [Note: Ephesians 6:11.]; that, whether he assume the violence of a lion [Note: 1 Peter 5:8.], or the subtlety of a serpent [Note: Revelation 12:9.], he may never be able to prevail against you.]

4.

Faithful in examining every motion of our hearts—

[If Satan were less active, we should still be in continual danger, from the deceitfulness and depravity of our own hearts. We are ever ready to “put evil for good, and darkness for light [Note: Isaiah 5:20.].” Self-love is so predominant in the best of us, that we rarely can discern, and never without the most careful observation, the true motives by which we are actuated. We give ourselves credit for a purity, which we but rarely attain: and hence, in ten thousand instances, we deceive our own souls [Note: James 1:26.]. But we cannot deceive God. When he searches our heart and tries our reins, we cannot impose on him. The least obliquity of mind or principle is as obvious to him, as the greatest and most open enormity. We should therefore carefully examine ourselves as to the motives and principles from which we act; yea, and should beg of God, also, to “search and try us, and to see if there be any wicked way in us, and to lead us in the way everlasting [Note: Psalms 139:23-19.139.24.].”]

5.

Constant in prayer for more abundant grace—

[It is by the grace of Christ alone that we can do any thing that is good [Note: John 15:5.]. Without that, we should be “carried captive by the devil at his will.” But it is not by grace once received, that we are to stand: we must have daily supplies of grace: and in seasons of temptation we must have a greater measure of grace imparted to us, according to the augmented measure of our necessities. But this can only be brought in by prayer. St. Paul, under the buffetings of Satan, cried earnestly to the Lord Jesus Christ for succour and support. Yet he did not at first succeed. Therefore he renewed his supplications again and again; till at last the Lord Jesus Christ answered him, “My grace is sufficient for thee;” and assured him, that “Jehovah’s strength should be made perfect in his weakness [Note: 2 Corinthians 12:9.].” This enabled the Apostle to “glory in his infirmities;” and to acquiesce cheerfully in the trial, from a confidence that “the power of Christ should rest upon him.” So should we also, under a sense of our constant liability to fall, commit ourselves entirely to God; crying with eager and constant importunity, “Hold thou me up, and I shall be safe [Note: Ps. 199:117.].”]

6.

Careful in our endeavours to approve ourselves to God—

[To God we should act, and not to man. Through a sweet consciousness that he was doing this, David could rejoice in his own uprightness: as Paul also did, when he said, “Our rejoicing is this, the testimony of our conscience, that in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom, but by the grace of God, we have had our conversation in the world [Note: 2 Corinthians 1:12.].” Our wisdom is, to “set the Lord alway before us [Note: Psalms 16:8.],” and to walk as in his immediate presence. We know what an influence the eye of a fellow-creature has over us, in things which are cognizable to him: and if we could realize the idea of God’s presence, and see inscribed on every place, “Thou, God, seest us [Note: Genesis 16:13.],” we should walk far more circumspectly than we do, particularly in our private intercourse with God. Endeavour, then, to “stand perfect and complete in all the will of God [Note: Colossians 4:12.]:” rest in no attainment short of that. “Let all guile be put away from you.” Determine, through grace, that God himself shall discern no allowed evil within you: so shall you “walk holily and unblamably before God,” and be kept “sincere and without offence until the day of Christ [Note: Philippians 1:10.].”]


Verses 17-18

DISCOURSE: 394
LIBERALITY IN GOD’S SERVICE COMMENDED

1 Chronicles 29:17-13.29.18. Now have I seen with joy thy people, which are present here, to offer willingly unto thee. O Lord God of Abraham, Isaac, and of Israel, our fathers, keep this for ever in the imagination of the thoughts of the heart of thy people, and prepare their heart unto thee.

RELIGION, in whomsoever it is seen, is exceeding beautiful; and all its exercises and operations deserve our most attentive regard. But when it shines forth in persons of high station, or is exhibited in the united efforts of a multitude, it excites our highest admiration. Who can behold the three thousand converts on the day of Pentecost, “all of one heart and one soul,” all living together in the devoutest fellowship with God and each other [Note: Acts 2:41-44.2.47.], and dividing with each other their possessions, that, being supported out of one common stock [Note: Acts 4:32-44.4.34.], they might be entirely freed from all care about the things of this world; who can behold this, I say, and not admire “the exceeding grace of God in them?” In the chapter before us we have a powerful monarch at the head of all the chief men in his kingdom, devoting their property to God, for the purpose of erecting a stately edifice to his honour. The prayer which David offered on the occasion, in the hearing of them all, expressed, doubtless, their sentiments as well as his own, and shews that they were actuated, not by warm affections only, but by a just and heavenly principle: for, while they were performing a most exalted act of piety towards God, they were not elated with pride, but filled with gratitude to him for enabling and inclining them to render him this service.

In discoursing on the words which we have just read, we shall consider them,

I.

In reference to the history before us—

David had purposed to build a house unto the Lord: but his intention, though approved and applauded by his God, was not suffered to be carried into execution, “because he had been a man of war, and had shed much blood.” Nevertheless he made great preparations for it, in order that he might at least testify the sincerity of his wishes, and facilitate the accomplishment of them in God’s appointed time. The princes and people heartily concurred with him in this good work; and thereby filled his soul with joy and gratitude. We may notice in the text,

1.

The grounds of his joy—

[His subjects manifested on this occasion an extraordinary zeal for God’s honour, and liberality in his service. Had they been disposed to excuse themselves from engaging in this expensive work, they might have urged many specious reasons for declining it. They might have said, ‘God has not required this at our hands; why then should we do it? His “ark has abode within curtains” for five hundred years; why then should it not continue to do so? Must not any building which we can raise, be altogether unworthy of his notice? Have we not other, and more imperious, calls for our money? Have we not many poor, whom we might relieve; and many ignorant, for whom we might provide instruction? Besides, have not our families a claim upon us, that we should not so prodigally lavish the wealth by which we are enabled to provide for them?’ But no such objections were made. A desire to glorify God swallowed up every selfish and worldly consideration; and the people vied with each other in contributing to the utmost of their power, insomuch that above thirty millions in gold and silver were dedicated by them to this service.

And was not this a proper ground of joy to the pious monarch? It was at least a presumptive proof that their souls were penetrated with true religion. Some indeed might have been influenced by baser motives; but the greater part were doubtless animated by love to God: for they had been long amassing riches for this particular end: and, if their principle had not been good, it would scarcely have operated so uniformly and to such an extent. What then could afford a more just occasion of joy than such a sight, whether to a prince among his subjects, or a minister among his people, or a parent among his children? Every one in whom true piety exists, must of necessity rejoice in beholding such a testimony of piety in others. But the people’s conduct was also a pledge that the grand design should in due time be completed. David had set his heart on having the work accomplished, though it was not to be performed by him, or even during his life. Large as his own donations had been, they would not have been sufficient without the aid of others: and if his own example had not been followed while he was present to exert his influence, he could have but little hope that any attention would be paid to it after his death. But no room for such fears was left. The people’s zeal and liberality ensured success: and nothing remained, but that the plan which God himself had given him for every part of the work, should be executed by Solomon his son. Well might he rejoice in such a prospect. Well might he exult in the thought, that in this amazing undertaking he had not laboured in vain or run in vain.]

2.

The expressions of his love—

[Good impressions, especially when our temporal interests are likely to be affected by them, are very apt to languish and decay. As the gratitude of the Israelites, promising as it appeared at the first moment when their enemies were overwhelmed in the sea, vanished within the space of a few days, so the zeal and liberality which are called forth on some particular occasions are too often found to yield after a time to the suggestions of prudence and economy. None but God can “put a good desire into the heart [Note: 2 Corinthians 8:16.];” nor can any but God preserve it there. Under a full conviction of this truth, David entreated God to “keep these good dispositions in the hearts of his people,” and to “prepare more fully and entirely their hearts unto him.” The accumulation of words which he uses on this occasion suggests, that, if there be not a living principle of piety in the heart, the actings of it will be of short continuance; if there be no spring or fountain, the channel will soon cease to flow.

Now this devout application to God on their behalf was the strongest possible expression of his love towards them: for what other thing could tend so much either to their present or eternal felicity as a continuance of these liberal and devout affections? It conduced exceedingly to their present happiness. From the joy which they manifested on the occasion, it might be supposed rather that they had unexpectedly acquired some large property. This would have been a more common and natural source of joy. But they felt happiness in parting with their wealth: they found it “more blessed to give than to receive:” they experienced a more refined and elevated pleasure than the largest acquisitions could possibly have conveyed [Note: 2 Corinthians 8:9.]. And, instead of thinking that they conferred any obligation upon God by these sacrifices, they felt themselves indebted to him, in exact proportion to the cheerfulness and liberality with which they were enabled to offer to him [Note: ver. 14.]. Moreover it tended also to their eternal happiness. Their gifts could not purchase heaven, it is true; nor could their liberality merit any thing at God’s hands: but God has been graciously pleased to say, that even “a cup of cold water, if given to him, or for his sake, in a becoming manner, shall in no wise lose its reward:” nay, he would consider himself as “unrighteous, if he were to forget our works and labours of love which we have shewn towards his name [Note: Hebrews 6:10.].” Without arrogating any merit to ourselves therefore, we may say, that “the fruits of generosity shall abound to our account [Note: Philippians 4:17.];” that “what we lay out for the Lord shall be repaid us again [Note: Proverbs 19:17.];” and that in being ready to distribute our wealth in his service, we “lay up in store for ourselves a good foundation against the time to come, that we may lay hold on eternal life [Note: 1 Timothy 6:18-54.6.19.].”

On these accounts David prayed that these holy dispositions might be kept alive in their hearts; and in this prayer he expressed in the most effectual manner his love towards them. If he had flattered them, he might have gratified their pride; but in praying for them he consulted their best interests.]
Having noticed the words in reference to the history before us, we shall consider them,

II.

In reference to that which is typically represented by it [Note: If this were the subject of n Sermon for Charity or Sunday Schools, the words following the text, “And give unto Solomon my son a perfect heart,” should form a part of the text. Then the second head might be treated in reference to, 1st, The Christian Church; and 2dly, The souls of men. Under the former of these the propriety of supporting Missions might be stated; and under the latter, (see 1 Corinthians 6:19, and 1 Peter 2:4-60.2.5.) the importance of having the soul built up as an habitation for God. The necessity of postponing all other considerations to this may be shewn from hence, that if David disposed of his wealth so liberally for the constructing of an edifice of stone for God, much more should we disregard the acquiring of wealth in comparison of making our souls a temple for him. A particular address might then be made to the children, to shew them, that the ultimate end of the charity was to put them in the way of obtaining a perfect heart, and that they should concur in this design to the utmost of their power.]—

The material temple was a type of the Christian Church, even of that temple which is “built on the foundation of the Apostles and Prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner-stone.”
This temple we are now called upon to build—
[God has of late years stirred up an almost unprecedented zeal to erect this temple in heathen lands. Every denomination of Christians has stood forth on this occasion. The Moravians, with unrivalled perseverance, led the way. Independents and Baptists, Methodists and Presbyterians, have followed, according to their respective abilities. The Church of England has long had two Societies engaged in this glorious cause [Note: That for promoting Christian Knowledge; and that for propagating the Gospel in Foreign Parts.]; and of late a third has arisen, whose attention is principally directed to Africa and the East [Note: Here an account may be given of what has been done by them.]. None of these interfere with each other: there is room for all; and there is need of all. It might be thought better perhaps if all were combined in one: but, considering what human nature is, we cannot expect that all should so perfectly coalesce, as to prosecute their plans with sufficient unanimity: and it is certain that far greater efforts are likely to be made, when all can exert themselves in a way congenial with their own sentiments, than if they were called upon to support a plan which they did not wholly approve.

That such a spirit should be so generally diffused, must surely be a matter of rejoicing to every one that has the interests of religion at heart. And we trust that, in reference to this assembly, we may adopt the words of the text, “Now have I seen with joy thy people which are present here to offer willingly unto thee.”]

Let us then imitate the example now set before us:

1.

Let us offer willingly—

[Difficulties and objections are very apt to arise in the mind, especially when we want a plea for withholding or limiting our contributions. But what objection can be urged, which would not have had incomparably greater force on the foregoing occasion? Indeed the reasons that should animate us to exertion, are ten-fold stronger than any which David could have urged in support of his measure. God might have been known and worshipped, even though that costly edifice had not been reared: but how shall he be known among the heathen, if none be sent to instruct them? How could he have been known by us when in our heathen state, if none had pitied our ignorance, and laboured for our relief? Since then “we have freely received, should we not freely give?” Though we have too much ignorance at home, yet all have some means of instruction: and there are none so far from God, but that the sound of the Gospel may reach their ears, and convert their souls. But this is not the case with the heathens. If we send them not the light of divine truth, they must abide in darkness and the shadow of death. Let us therefore discard from our minds every thought, except that of zeal for God and compassion for our fellow-creatures. And “let us give not grudgingly, or of necessity; for God loveth a cheerful giver.”]

2.

Let us offer bountifully—

[If we had been asked, what would be proper for David to give towards the building of the temple, we should probably have thought ten thousand pounds a large sum: we should scarcely have judged it reasonable to require of him so large a subscription as an hundred thousand pounds: yet he not only gave as much as that, but ten times as much; yea, a hundred times as much; yea, almost two hundred times as much. Independent of the immense treasures dedicated as spoils taken from his enemies, he gave, out of his own purse, gold and silver to the amount of above eighteen millions of money. And what was it that prompted him to such astonishing liberality? He himself tells us in the preceding context; “I have prepared with all my might …. because I have set my affection to the house of my God [Note: ver. 2, 3,].” Let the same principle operate in us: let us set our affection to the work of Christ, and the salvation of our fellow-creatures, and then our ability alone will determine the measure of our contributions. Instead of waiting for arguments to overcome a parsimonious and reluctant spirit, we shall be “willing of our own selves to give, not only according to our ability, but even beyond our proper ability; and with much entreaty we shall urge and compel, as it were, the acceptance of our gifts” for the furthering of this blessed cause [Note: 2 Corinthians 8:3-47.8.4.]. The rich will give largely out of their abundance; and the poor will be casting in their not less acceptable mite; and all will unite in adoring God for the opportunity afforded them to shew their love to him.]

3.

Let us give in due order—

[There is an offering which God requires, previous to his acceptance of any other: it is this; “My son, give me thy heart [Note: Proverbs 23:26.].” Here then we must put to you the question which David put to his subjects on that glorious occasion; “Who amongst you is willing to consecrate his service this day unto the Lord [Note: ver. 5.]?”

Who will consecrate himself to God as a Christian? It would be a blessed day indeed, if you were all as unanimous in this, as that assembly were in devoting their treasures unto God. Could we but see you offering to him your hearts, we need not add a word respecting your property; for you would feel that it is not possible to dispose of that in any other way so happily for yourselves, so beneficially for the world, or so honourably to God. Give then, I say, like the Macedonians; of whom St. Paul says, that “out of their deep poverty they abounded unto the riches of liberality:” but, like them, “give first your own selves unto the Lord [Note: 2 Corinthians 8:2; 2 Corinthians 8:5. See also 1 Peter 2:4-60.2.5.].” Then you will know, that all which you have is his; and make no account of your property, but as it may be subservient to his glory [Note: ver. 14, 16.].

Permit me to ask further, Who will consecrate himself to God as a Missionary? It is in vain that materials are collected for a building, if there be none found to construct the edifice. And alas! here is the difficulty, here the want! Of those who are destined to the service of their God, how few are found willing to sacrifice their earthly prospects, and their carnal ease! When God calls them to an arduous and self-denying service, how do they, like Moses, multiply their excuses, when they are actuated only by a fear of the cross! God has been for many years saying to us of the Established Church, “Who will go for us?” but there have been few Isaiahs found to answer, “Here am I, send me [Note: Isaiah 6:8.].” O that there were less reason for that complaint, “All men seek their own, not the things which are Jesus Christ’s [Note: Philippians 2:21.]!” If we even knew that the fruits of our labours would not appear to any great extent in our day, it were no reason for declining the service to which we are called. David sowed, that others might reap: our blessed Lord did the same: I pray God there may be some found amongst us inclined and qualified to follow their examples.]

To conclude—

[If there be any, whether in the ministry or out of it, who desire to be the Lord’s, we pray that “our Covenant-God would keep this in the imagination of the thoughts of their hearts for ever.” And if the raising of God’s spiritual temple among the heathen be an object worthy of our regard, let us now vie with each other in our endeavours to promote it, and shew our sense of its importance by the cheerfulness and extent of our donations.]

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Bibliographical Information
Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on 1 Chronicles 29". Simeon's Horae Homileticae. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/shh/1-chronicles-29.html. 1832.