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Bible Commentaries

Simeon's Horae Homileticae

1 Kings 8

Verse 18

DISCOURSE: 332
GOOD INTENTIONS APPROVED

1 Kings 8:18. Thou didst well that it was in thine heart.

THE sovereignty of God is a subject from which the minds of men in general revolt. But this arises from their considering it almost exclusively in relation to things which have an arbitrary and painful aspect. For instance, when “God says to Pharaoh, Even for this purpose have I raised thee up, that I might shew my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth;” St. Paul represents the proud heart of man as rising against it: “Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he yet find fault? for who hath resisted his will [Note: Romans 9:17-19.]?” But, if we behold the same divine attribute as displayed in the appointment of Saul to the Apostleship, and the making of him “a chosen vessel to carry the Gospel to the Gentiles [Note: Acts 9:1; Act 9:15 with Galatians 1:15.],” we must surely acquiesce in the exercise of it, and adore our God as doing all things well. Now, in the passage before us we have a remarkable instance of divine sovereignty, in the refusal given to the wishes and desires of David, relative to the building of a temple for the Lord, and the transfer of that honour to David’s son. On David’s expression of his wish, the Prophet Nathan had encouraged him to carry it into effect. But God forbade it; and devolved the office of constructing the temple on David’s son and successor: at the same time, however, commending David’s purpose, and telling him, “Thou didst well that it was in thine heart [Note: ver. 17–19 with 2Sa 7:1-3; 2 Samuel 7:12-13.].”

Now, from this commendation, we may observe,

I.

That there is in the hearts of God’s faithful servants more good than they are able to carry into effect—

In the hearts of the ungodly there is more evil than they can execute. If the restraints of Divine Providence and of human laws were withdrawn, so that men could perpetrate all that is in their hearts, this world would be little better than hell itself. Of the godly, on the contrary, it may be said, that there is more good in them than they can execute: not because Divine Providence or human laws impose restraints on them, (though, in some cases, that may be found true;) but because there is in the regenerate man a principle of evil as well as of good: “he has the flesh lusting against the spirit, as well as the spirit lusting against the flesh; and these are contrary the one to the other, so that he cannot do the things that he would [Note: Galatians 5:17.].”

There is in a regenerate man’s heart much that he would gladly do for himself

[Gladly would he extirpate from his soul all the remains of sin, and practise universal holiness — — — But he finds himself utterly unable to do these things. The experience of St. Paul is common to every true believer: “I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good, I find not; for the good that I would, I do not; but the evil which I would not, that I do. I find then a law, that when I would do good, evil is present with me. For I delight in the Law of God after the inward man: but I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death [Note: Romans 7:18-24.]?” The saint, if he could accomplish his own wishes, would be “holy as God is holy,” and “perfect even as his Father which is in heaven is perfect.” But he feels imperfection cleaving to him in every thing, so that his very best actions need to be cleansed in the Redeemer’s blood; yea, his very tears need to be washed, and his repentances to be repented of.

Moreover, could the regenerate man have his heart’s desire, he would walk continually in the light of God’s countenance, and bask incessantly, as it were, in the beams of the Sun of Righteousness. But clouds frequently arise, to intercept his views of God, and to abate the joy with which, for a season, he has been favoured. The disciples would gladly have built tabernacles on Mount Tabor, to protract their vision of the divine glory. But they must descend again into the plain, to renew their conflicts with sin and Satan, and to finish the work which had been given them to do [Note: Luke 9:33-34.]. And similar alternations of light and darkness, ease and conflict, joy and sorrow, are the portion of every saint, whilst in this vale of tears.]

There is much, also, that the regenerate man would gladly do for the world around him

[Where is there a servant of God who would not, if it were possible, extend the blessings he enjoys to every child of man? Where is there a real saint that does not attempt this, so far as his influence extends? Is the very first petition which our Lord has commanded us to offer at the throne of grace, that “God’s name may be hallowed;” and does not the real saint endeavour to carry this into effect, both in his own soul, and in the souls of those around him? Does he further pray, “Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven;” and does he not long to see these things effected? He says from his heart, “O that the wickedness of the wicked might come to an end!” yea, he prays with David, “Let the whole earth be filled with the Redeemer’s glory. Amen, and Amen [Note: Psalms 72:19.].” But how little of this is he able to accomplish! Even ministers, who “labour most assiduously, and for many years, in the blessed work of bringing souls to God, how universally are they constrained to adopt the prophet’s complaint, and to say, “Who hath believed our report? and to whom hath the arm of the Lord been revealed?” The parent for his children, and the children for their parents, have but too much reason to acknowledge, that “whoever may plant or water, it is God alone who can give the increase.”]

It is a comfort to them, however, to know,

II.

That not the smallest good that is in them shall pass unnoticed, or unrewarded, by their God—

God inspects the inmost recesses of the heart—
[So he himself declares: “I know the things that come into your mind, every one of them [Note: Ezekiel 11:5.].” To the same effect, also, it is said by an inspired Apostle: “All things are naked and opened unto the eyes of Him with whom we have to do [Note: Hebrews 4:13. See the Greek, τετραχηλισμένα.].”]

And this he does in order to a future judgment—
[”He will judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ [Note: Romans 2:16.];” and “will bring every secret thing into judgment, whether it be good or evil [Note: Ecclesiastes 12:14.].” It is in this way that the ungodly shall be judged: for the motions of anger or impurity, though not operating to the extent of the outward act of murder or adultery, will be construed as violations of the commandments which prohibit those particular sins, and be visited with the penalties due to such transgressions [Note: Matthew 5:22-28.]. So, also, the good desires of men shall be rewarded, though, from circumstances, they were never carried into full effect. Young Abijah had “in his heart some good thing towards the Lord God of Israel,” and it was not overlooked [Note: 1 Kings 14:13.]. And not those only who “spake of God one with another,” shall be approved by him in the day of judgment, but those also who, without having embodied their thoughts in language, only “thought upon his name [Note: Malachi 3:16-17.].” The look, the sigh, the groan, the tear, shall all be recorded by God in the book of his remembrance, or be treasured up in his vial: and all “the counsels of men’s hearts,” though never realized in act, shall be made manifest, to their honour; and every man, according as his inward dispositions have been, shall in that day “receive praise from God [Note: 1 Corinthians 4:5.].”]

Improvement—
1.

In a way of caution—

[Certainly this subject should be entertained with great jealousy: for there is “a desire which killeth;” because it is not productive of suitable exertions [Note: Proverbs 21:25.]. If a mere wish or desire would save us, who would ever perish? Even Balaam could say, “Let me die the death of the righteous; and let my last end be like his [Note: Numbers 23:10.].” But David, though not permitted to build the temple, contributed to the amount of eighteen millions of our money towards it. In like manner must our desires operate to the extent of our ability: and, if we cannot do what we would, we must do what we can.]

2.

In a way of encouragement—

[Men are often cast down because of their short-comings and defects. But they would do well to consider, that the more ardent their desire is to honour God, the more will they discern and lament their incapacity to fulfil the dictates of their hearts. Suppose, for a moment, that a man were to express himself satisfied with his attainments, what judgment would you form of him? You would surely set him down as a self-deceiving hypocrite [Note: See Philippians 3:12-14.]. Distinguish between humiliation and despondency: the former is called for in our best estate: but to no sinner in the universe is the latter suitable; for “Christ is able to save to the uttermost all that come unto God by him.”]


Verses 28-30

DISCOURSE: 333
FOR THE OPENING OF TRINITY CHURCH AT CHELTENHAM

1 Kings 8:28-30. Have thou respect unto the prayer of thy servant, and to his supplication, O Lord my God, to hearken unto the cry and to the prayer, which thy servant prayeth before thee to-day: that thine eyes may be open toward this house night and day, even toward the place of which thou hast said, My name shall be there: that thou mayest hearken unto the prayer which thy servant shall make toward this place. And hearken thou to the supplication of thy servant, and of thy people Israel, when they shall pray toward this place: and hear thou in heaven thy dwelling-place: and when thou hearest, forgive [Note: The Author being taken ill at Cheltenham at the time that this Discourse was to have been preached, it was not delivered according to his intention.].

THE consecration of buildings erected for public worship obtained very early in the Church of Christ. We have the most authentic testimony that it was practised, to a very great extent, in the days of Constantine [Note: Eusebius mentions it with peculiar satisfaction. See “Bingham’s Antiquities of the Church,” Book viii. ch. 9. sec. 2.]. Whether it existed in the first three centuries, we have no certain information: but when we consider for what a holy purpose they are set apart, we can have no doubt but that it is a service highly reasonable in itself, and truly acceptable unto God. We are not to suppose that the giving of the names of saints to churches was any mark of their being consecrated to them: it was to God alone that they were dedicated: and the names given to them were merely commemorative of their founder, or tokens of respect to the particular saint whose name they bore.

The idea of consecrating such edifices seems evidently to have been suggested by the dedication of Solomon’s Temple, which exhibited altogether as glorious a scene as ever was beheld on earth. On that occasion, the king himself, a paragon of wisdom, and the greatest monarch of his day, bowed his knees before God in the sight of all the congregation of Israel, and, with up-lifted eyes and out-stretched hands, implored the favour of his God. To this prayer was vouchsafed an answer which filled all the spectators with the deepest awe: for fire came down from heaven, in the sight of all, to consume the sacrifices; and the glory of the Lord so filled the temple, that the priests could no longer continue their ministrations there [Note: 2 Chronicles 7:1-2.].

But that to which I would more particularly call your attention at this time is, the prayer which Solomon offered, and which brought down so signal a blessing upon them all. It affords a noble specimen of man’s intercourse with his Maker; and shews us,

I.

What we may hope for in God’s house of prayer; and,

II.

How we may secure every blessing which our souls can desire.

I.

Let me state what we may confidently hope for in God’s house of prayer—

Whatever there may be in this history that should be limited to that particular occasion, I think we may at least gather this instruction from it, that, whenever we draw nigh to God in the public services of his Church, we may expect these two things; namely, His gracious presence to receive our prayers, and His merciful acceptance to forgive our sins.

That there is great caution to be used in deducing general conclusions from particular premises, I readily acknowledge. But such conclusions are drawn by the inspired writers: for, from a particular promise made to Joshua, it is inferred, that all true believers, of whatever age or nation, may assure themselves of effectual aid from God; and, in the confident expectation of it, may hurl defiance at all the enemies of their salvation. The same general inference, I think, may well be drawn from God’s gracious answer to this prayer of Solomon. Doubtless, a suppliant, in his secret chamber, shall find favour with God: for “God never says to any, Seek ye my face in vain.” But, in public, when presenting his petitions in concert with others, the suppliant has a double assurance that he shall be heard: for God has especially promised, that “where two or three are gathered together in his name, he will be in the midst of them;” and that “whatever such persons, so associated, have agreed to ask, it shall be granted unto them.” I well know, that persons may very easily and very materially err in relation to the subject of answers to prayer; and that to expect fire to descend from heaven, as on that occasion, or a visible manifestation of God’s glory before our eyes, would be the height of enthusiasm. But still there are ways in which God may manifest his acceptance of our prayers, and in which he will manifest it: what else can be meant by that promise, “It shall come to pass, that before they call, I will answer; and while they are yet speaking, I will hear [Note: Isaiah 65:24.]?” and again, “Thou shalt call, and the Lord shall answer; thou shalt cry, and he shall say, Here I am [Note: Isaiah 58:9.]?” The whole Scriptures attest, that, “if we draw nigh to God, he will draw nigh to us;” and that “he will manifest himself unto us, as he does not unto the world;” yea, that “he will come unto us, and make his abode with us:” and, I think there is not in the universe a person who has sought after God with humble, fervent, and believing prayer, but will acknowledge, that God does fulfil his promises, “satisfying the hungry soul, and replenishing the sorrowful” with the richest consolations of his Spirit.

This, then, we may expect, and this we should expect, in God’s house of prayer: nor should we ever be satisfied, if we have not a sensible access to God in prayer, and a well-founded hope that he has heard the petitions which we have presented before him.

But I have also observed, that we may hope for the actual forgiveness of our sins in answer to our prayer. And, in truth, if we obtain not this, we pray to little purpose. In drawing nigh to God, this must be chiefly kept in view. We go as sinners, to obtain mercy at the hands of God. And in this respect, the Liturgy of our Church is admirably fitted for our use. The extemporaneous effusions that are used in other places bear no comparison with the formularies of our Church. In truth, our churches themselves are, not houses for preaching only, but, in a pre-eminent degree, what our Reformers designed them to be, and what God ordained his Temple of old to be, “houses of prayer.” And those who make light of the Prayers, and regard them only as a kind of decent prelude to the Sermon, shew that “they know not what spirit they are of:” since all the preaching in the universe will be of no use without prayer; whereas the souls of men will prosper if they abound in prayer, though they are less favoured as to the ministrations of sinful men. Let any one consult our Liturgy in this particular view. The Introductory Sentences all bear on this point, to shew us what sinners we are, and how much we stand in need of mercy, and how ready God is to receive returning penitents. But, as I shall have occasion to enter somewhat more fully into this point under my next head, I will wave all further mention of it now; observing only, that a congregation uniting fervently in the prayers of our Liturgy would afford as complete a picture of heaven as ever yet was beheld on earth: in spirit, there would be the most perfect accordance that can be imagined: the only difference would be, that the one are uniting prayer with praise, because of their still-continued necessities; whereas the other engage in praise alone, having all their necessities for ever supplied. And here I would particularly call your attention to the prayer of Solomon, that you may see how much the subject of forgiveness is dwelt upon throughout the whole of it. He requests God’s attention to all who, under any calamity, shall, in future, direct their supplications towards that house: and, in every distinct case, he takes it for granted that sin has been the true and proper source of their calamity; and he implores in their behalf, not merely the removal of the judgment, but especially, and above all, the forgiveness of their sin [Note: See ver. 21, 22, 24, 26, 30, 36, 50.]. Nor must we overlook this, in God’s answer to his prayer: on the contrary, we must regard it as a pledge, that he will receive returning prodigals, and that all who approach him with deep contrition shall find that “there is mercy with him, yea, with him is plenteous redemption.” I say, then, that this is a blessing which we are to look for, whensoever we approach God in the house of prayer. Every promise in God’s blessed word authorizes this hope: and no one should be satisfied with having offered up his petitions, if he carry not away with him a comfortable hope, that “his iniquities are forgiven, and his sins are covered.”

If it be asked, How shall we secure these blessings? I answer, Use the means which Solomon employed: and by them we may,

II.

Secure to ourselves every blessing that our souls can desire—

We have seen that Solomon diversified his petitions according to the supposed conditions to which, at any future period, the people might be reduced. Whatever, therefore, our condition be, we must apply to God in prayer, with humility of mind, with fervour of spirit, with confidence of heart, and with consistency of life and conversation.

We must apply with humility of mind. Solomon particularly prays for those who “know every man the plague of his own heart [Note: See ver. 38.].” Nor can we ever come before God with acceptance, unless we approach him weary and heavy laden with the burthen of our sins. To “draw nigh to him with our lips, whilst our heart is far from him, is vile hypocrisy: and “all such worship is vain,” yea, worse than vain, because it serves to lull our consciences asleep, and supersedes in our own minds the necessity of any better service. It is not possible for any man to have better direction, or more suitable help, than that provided for him in our Liturgy. The whole Service, from beginning to end, is the service of a sinner imploring mercy at the hands of God. What can express deeper humility than our General Confession? “Almighty and most merciful Father, we have erred and strayed from thy ways like lost sheep; we have followed too much the devices and desires of our own hearts: we have left undone those things which we ought to have done, and have done those things which we ought not to have done; and there is no health in us.” He can know little of “the plague of his own heart,” who does not find those acknowledgments exactly suited to his state. At the beginning of the Litany, what can express the desires and feelings of a contrite spirit more justly than that reiterated cry to every person of the Holy Trinity to “have mercy upon us, as miserable sinners?” In the Communion Service, after the recital of every distinct command, we cry, “Lord, have mercy upon us for our past breaches of it, and incline our hearts to keep it in future.” Now this is the very frame in which we should draw nigh to God. There must be nothing in us of a self-righteous and self-applauding spirit. Blasphemy itself is not more hateful to God than that pride of heart, and formal self-complacency, wherewith the generality approach their God. The self-applauding Pharisee, with all his pretended thankfulness, was to God an object of abhorrence; whilst the poor self-condemning publican was liberated from the guilt of all his sins. And wherever there is a prayer like his, there shall also be the same success: for “the broken and contrite spirit, God never did, nor ever will, despise.”

But we must seek God, also, with fervour of spirit. Prayer is not a service merely of the lip and knee, but of the heart; and the whole heart should go forth to God in the performance of it. This was well understood by the compilers of our Liturgy; and ought to be understood, and felt, by every worshipper in the Established Church. The whole of the Liturgy breathes an ardour suited to the feelings and necessities of a contrite soul: “Lord, have mercy upon us: Christ, have mercy upon us: Lord, have mercy upon us.” Oh! what would not be obtained by a congregation pouring out those prayers with corresponding emotions? I will not say, that the house would be shaken, as it was when the Apostles prayed [Note: Acts 4:31.]; but I will say, that the worshippers would all “be filled with the Holy Ghost,” not indeed in his miraculous powers, but in his enlivening, comforting, and transforming energies. We may form some idea of the frame which is proper for us, from the very attitude in which Solomon addressed his prayer to God: “He fell down on his knees, and spread forth his hands to heaven.” How different this from the irreverent and careless attitude of many amongst us, who, instead of prostrating themselves before God with becoming reverence, sit during the prayers; shewing, thereby, how little they feel the elevation of a devout worshipper, or the humiliation of a contrite one! Be it known unto you, that God must be importuned in prayer, and that “the kingdom of heaven must be taken by violence,” if ever it be taken at all: and, if you find that common efforts will not suffice to bring you to your Saviour’s presence, you must resemble those who went up to the top of the house and let down the paralytic through the roof: you must “cry unto God,” and “give him no rest,” and not cease from your importunity, till you have obtained an answer to your prayer. It was in this way that the widow in the parable prevailed over the unjust judge; and in this way shall every child of man prevail, if only he will “pray, and not faint.”

The confidence of the heart is yet further necessary: for our hands must be lifted up “without doubting;” “nor can we hope to receive any thing from God, if we supplicate him with a wavering mind.” It must be remembered, that the Temple was called, “A house of sacrifice [Note: 2 Chronicles 7:12.].” On this occasion sacrifices were offered without number; and on every morning and evening throughout the year they were regularly presented to the Lord. Now this shewed, that every prayer which was there offered was to find acceptance by virtue of those sacrifices; and that no blessing whatever could be obtained from God, but through faith in the atonement which those sacrifices prefigured. The same is strikingly illustrated in the Liturgy of the Church of England; not a prayer of which is offered, but in the name and through the mediation of Jesus Christ. To him must we look in all our addresses at the throne of grace, and to the Father through him. Indeed, this is very particularly marked in the whole of Solomon’s prayer. In the greater part of that prayer he intercedes in behalf of those who should direct their supplications “toward that house.” Now the Temple itself was a very eminent type of Christ, “in whom dwelt all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.” The body of the Lord Jesus is, on this very account, represented as “a tabernacle, not made with hands:” and towards him, as our incarnate God, must we direct our supplications, if we would obtain answers of peace unto our souls. If we come to God in this way, we then have an express assurance from God himself, that “we shall in no wise be cast out;” but that, on the contrary, “the Lord Jesus Christ himself will confer upon us whatsoever we ask, that the Father may be glorified in the Son:” so indispensable is it that we look towards that Temple; and so certain is the success of prayers when so directed.

One thing more is necessary, and that is, consistency of life and conversation. “The prayer of the wicked,” so far from finding acceptance with the Lord, is altogether “an abomination to him.” How can it be expected, that persons coming to the house of God with all the professions of real piety, and going from thence into all the dissipation and vanity of the world, shall obtain mercy of the Lord? Behold them on their knees, crying, “From all the deceits of the world, the flesh, and the devil, Good Lord, deliver us;” and then, perhaps, spending the remainder of the day, not in reading the Bible, not in instructing their families, not in fervent prayer to God, but in any light conversation and specious amusement, that may enable them to relieve the weariness of a Sabbath evening. Say, Is this consistent? Nay, would these people themselves, if they saw persons who were truly religious, and who had entered fully into the spirit of the prayers, so spending the Sabbath, account them upright and consistent characters? No: they would see at once the glaring inconsistency between such professions and such practice. But, perhaps, they will say, “We do not make any such profession of religion.” Then, I answer, you have gone to God with a lie in your mouths. What mean you when you pray, “that you may lead a righteous, sober, and a godly life, to the glory of God’s holy name?” Is dissipation, or carelessness to his praise and glory? Has he not required that “you should refrain from doing your own pleasure on his holy day, and call the Sabbath a delight, the holy of the Lord, honourable; and should honour him, not doing your own ways, nor finding your own pleasure, nor speaking your own words; but should throughout that day delight yourselves in the Lord [Note: Isaiah 58:13-14.]?” Yes, this is what you will do, if you are consistent Christians; nor can you in any other way expect to obtain any blessing from the Lord. This, also, is very particularly noticed by Solomon in his prayer: he does not venture to hope for mercy on behalf of any, unless “they return unto God with all their heart and with all their soul [Note: ver. 47, 48.].” He prays, “The Lord our God be with us, that he may incline our hearts unto him, to walk in all his ways, and to keep his commandments, and his statutes, and his judgments, which he commanded our fathers [Note: ver. 57, 58.].” And then, to impress this the more deeply on the people’s minds, he addresses them also, saying, “Let your heart be perfect with the Lord our God, to walk in his statutes, and to keep his commandments, as at this day [Note: ver. 61.].” Solomon would have the solemnities of that day carried, as it were, into their daily converse; and the engagements then entered into, remembered throughout their whole lives. Thus it should be with us: and thus it must be with us, if we would prosper in our souls. Our prayers are to be the pattern of our whole lives. What we have sought for, and obtained in the house of God, must be exhibited and exemplified in our daily walk: and, if there be not a correspondence between the two, what do we but proclaim ourselves hypocrites before the whole world? We “cannot serve God and Mammon too;” nor must we pretend to “fear the Lord, whilst we are serving other gods.” But, if we will indeed devote ourselves to the Lord, then shall our prayers descend in blessings on our souls, and the services of time be a prelude to the enjoyments of eternity. Hear the answer which God made to Solomon on this very occasion: “Now, mine eyes shall be open, and mine ears attent unto the prayer that is made in this place: for now have I chosen and sanctified this house: and my name shall be there for ever: and mine eyes and mine heart shall be there continually. If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land [Note: 2 Chronicles 7:14-16.].”

Permit me now, in conclusion, to take yet further the example of Solomon for my guide; and, as he in his prayer addressed himself to God in behalf of his own people, and of the strangers who sojourned amongst them, so now to address myself, first, to the stated inhabitants of this place, and then to those, who, as strangers, are sojourning here only for a season.

The stated inhabitants I would congratulate on the further accommodation which they will now receive for the worship of Almighty God. For though the provision now made is very inadequate to the wants of this daily augmenting population, it will doubtless be of important service, and serve as a prelude, I trust, to somewhat which shall be still more effectual.

The necessity of waiting upon God in public is here obviously proclaimed. But there is an improvement of the occasion, which, though less obvious, is not a whit less necessary, and which I would take the liberty earnestly to recommend; and that is, the establishment of prayer in your own families. Who that sees the zeal of Solomon on this occasion, does not perceive the duty of every head of a family? We cannot all raise public edifices to the Lord; but we may all set up altars in our own houses, and promote the worship of God amongst those who are within the sphere of our own influence. God has said, that “where two or three are met together in his name, there will he be in the midst of them;” and that, “when two or three agree respecting what they shall ask,” he will confer it upon them. If any say, that they feel unequal to the task of conducting family worship, they need not be discouraged on that account, because there are abundant aids afforded them, both in the formularies of our. Church, and in other books that are written for that express purpose.
And let me not omit this occasion of inculcating the duty of private prayer. This is absolutely indispensable to every child of man. Without this, no soul can prosper: without this, no sinner in the universe can find acceptance with God. In the public Services of the Church, your petitions must be, for the most part, general, and such as all the congregation can join in: but in your private chambers you may, every one of you, spread before the Lord your own personal transgressions, and implore at his hands those blessings which you more especially stand in need of. Remember, I pray you, that on your own personal application to God in prayer is suspended all your hope of mercy and forgiveness. “God will be inquired of by us” for those gifts which he has most freely promised and covenanted to bestow. “Ask, and ye shall have; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.” These are the terms with which we must comply: and, if we will not ask, it is in vain to hope that we shall obtain any thing of the Lord.
Let the duty of prayer generally, of public, social, and private prayer, be this day impressed upon your minds; and you will have reason to bless God to all eternity for the occasion that has suggested to you so important and necessary a reflection.
To the occasional visitors who are here present, I would beg leave, also, to offer a seasonable suggestion. You will observe that Solomon, in the benevolence of his heart, was especially mindful of strangers. “Concerning a stranger, that is not of thy people Israel, but cometh out of a far country for thy name’s sake, when he shall come and pray toward this house, hear thou in heaven thy dwelling-place, and do according to all that the stranger calleth to thee for [Note: ver. 41, 43.].” So would I now be mindful of you, and affectionately entreat you to improve the occasion which may have brought you hither. The improvement of your bodily health may be supposed to have had some influence in directing you to this place: in truth, many are brought hither, even from a great distance, for the promoting of this end. And shall not the soul, also, have a just measure of your regard? Shall nothing be deemed too expensive or self-denying for the obtaining of bodily health, and no attention whatever be paid to the soul? Consider, I pray you, of what infinitely greater importance the interests of eternity are than the concerns of time; and how far more certain in its efficacy the fountain of salvation is, which is opened for us in the Gospel, than any which this place, or any other in the universe, can boast. And I thank God that this fountain of salvation is here opened to you, and is accessible to all. Here you may be cleansed from sin and uncleanness, so as to be made altogether pure, without spot or blemish. And O! how rich a mercy will it be, if, when coming hither only for the restoration of your bodily health, you should find health also to your souls! Then, when you have left this place, you will look towards it with affectionate remembrance, from the very ends of the earth: and, above all, you will look to Him whom the Temple of old typified, the Lord Jesus Christ, and bless him for the dispensation which led you to the knowledge of him, and to the acquisition of his favour.


Verses 38-39

DISCOURSE: 334
THE REQUISITES FOR ACCEPTABLE PRAYER

1 Kings 8:38-39. What prayer and supplication soever be made by any man, or by all thy people Israel, which shall know every man the plague of his own heart, and spread forth hit hands toward this house: then hear thou in heaven thy dwelling-place, and forgive, and do, and give to every man according to his ways, whose heart thou knowest.

RELIGION is often thought to be an employment fit only for weak minds, or for those who have nothing else to engage their attention; but it is worthy the pursuit of the wisest and greatest of men. Never did Solomon appear more glorious than when uttering these words. At the head of all his subjects he dedicated his temple to God. He set them a bright example of piety and devotion; and interceded, not for them only, but for all succeeding generations.
In this portion of his instructive prayer we may sec,

I.

The requisites for acceptable prayer—

An humble, upright, fervent, believing, submissive, obediential frame of mind is necessary when we approach the throne of grace. But the most essential requisites for acceptable worship are comprised in,

1.

A deep sense of our own depravity—

[The “plague of one’s own heart” is, one’s in-dwelling corruption [Note: Some understand “plague” as expressing some loathsome disorder; and the rather because it is translated “sore” in the parallel passage, 2 Chronicles 6:29. This is the true sense of it when it relates to the body; but here the heart is represented as the seat of this disorder, and therefore it must be understood of sin. This is confirmed by what is said in the text, of God’s knowing the heart.]. “Every one” has some “sin that more easily besets him;” and this sin he ought to know. Not that a mere acquaintance with this plague is sufficient: we must know the depth and inveteracy of our disorder. Our knowledge too must produce an unfeigned self-abhorrence, and a full conviction of our utter helplessness: nor without this knowledge can we offer up one acceptable prayer. We cannot lament what we neither feel nor know; or seek for mercy, when we perceive not our need of it. While ignorant of our depravity, we are not in a state to receive mercy: we should not even be willing to accept of mercy on God’s terms. The very offers of salvation would rather excite our displeasure than our gratitude [Note: A man, not sensible that he had subjected himself to capital punishment by breaking the laws of his country, would reject with indignation an offer of deliverance from an ignominious death: but a self-condemned criminal on the eve of his execution would receive such an offer gladly.].]

2.

A believing view of Christ—

[The temple of Solomon was the more immediate residence of the Deity: all were on this account directed to look towards it when they prayed. That temple was typical of the Lord Jesus Christ [Note: See John 2:19; Joh 2:21 and compare Exo 23:21 with the expression “My name shall be there,” 1 Kings 8:29.]: in him “dwells all the fulness of the Godhead bodily:” to him our eyes are therefore to be directed [Note: Isaiah 45:22.]. We are to offer all our petitions to him, or in his name [Note: John 14:13-14.]. This regard to him is necessary to the acceptance of our prayers: it is through him alone that we gain access to the Deity [Note: Ephesians 2:18.]. We cannot approach the Father in any other way [Note: John 14:6.]; nor is there any other channel whereby the divine blessings can flow down to us [Note: John 1:16.]. On these accounts we must “stretch out our hands towards” him: we must view him as our only source of spiritual blessings.]

They who truly seek after God will soon experience,

II.

The efficacy of prayer when attended with those requisites—

Cold or unbelieving petitions will receive no answer [Note: James 4:3; Matthew 15:8-9; James 1:6-7.]; but humble and believing prayer will obtain the richest blessings:

I.

National—

[The passage before us relates to the whole Jewish nation: it supposes them to have incurred the heavy displeasure of God, and teaches them how they are to avert his wrath; nor did God leave them in suspense about the issue of such humiliation: he declared in a vision to Solomon that his petitions were accepted [Note: 2 Chronicles 7:12-14.]. The Jewish history affords many striking instances of deliverance vouchsafed to a repenting people [Note: Jehoshaphat praying according to the direction in the text, 2 Chronicles 20:5-13, expressly reminded God of his promise, ver. 9. And the success of his prayer far exceeded all reasonable expectation ; see ver. 22–25.]; nor can we doubt but that the same means will still be crowned with the like success [Note: If this were a Fast Sermon, it would be proper to enlarge a little on this idea in reference to the peculiar state of the nation at the time.].]

2.

Personal—

He who “knows our heart” will grant all that we can desire [Note: 1 John 5:14-15.]”:

Forgiveness of sin—
[Who more infamous and abandoned than that woman [Note: Luke 7:37; Luke 7:39.]? Yet she, in humility and faith, applied to Jesus [Note: Luke 7:38.], and received an assurance that her iniquities were forgiven [Note: Luke 7:47-48; Luke 7:50.]. And shall not we obtain mercy if we apply to him in the same humble and believing way?]

Peace of conscience—
[How troubled, almost to distraction, were the murderers of our Lord [Note: Acts 2:37.]! But, according to Peter’s direction, they looked to Jesus [Note: Acts 2:38.], and were immediately filled with “peace and joy in believing [Note: Acts 2:46.].”]

[Note: Those particulars which are marked with an asterisk under the second head may be omitted.] Deliverance from temporal troubles—

[We cannot conceive greater temporal affliction than that endured by Jonah [Note: John 2:1-3.]; yet, when to appearance irrecoverably lost, he prayed in this manner [Note: John 2:4; John 2:7.], and experienced a most unparalleled deliverance [Note: John 2:10.].]

[Note: Those particulars which are marked with an asterisk under the second head may be omitted.] Victory over our spiritual enemies—

[With what vehemence did Satan assault the Apostle Paul [Note: 2 Corinthians 12:7.]! The afflicted saint cried with earnestness to the Lord Jesus [Note: 2 Corinthians 12:8.]: his troubles were immediately turned into triumphant exultations [Note: 2 Corinthians 12:9.].]

Renewal after the divine image—
[Nothing on earth does a believer desire so much as this; yet this shall be attained in the same way. An humble and believing view of Christ shall effect it [Note: 2 Corinthians 3:18.].]

[Note: Those particulars which are marked with an asterisk under the second head may be omitted.] A peaceful death—

[Stephen died by the hands of cruel and blood-thirsty enemies [Note: Acts 7:54.]; but he offered an humble and believing prayer to Christ [Note: Acts 7:59.], and his death was to him as a serene and peaceful sleep [Note: Acts 7:60.].]

A glorious immortality—
[He who died justly by the hands of the public executioner must have merited in an high degree the wrath of God [Note: Luke 23:41.]: nevertheless in his last hour he directed his eyes to Christ [Note: Luke 23:42.]; and that very day was he admitted with Christ to Paradise [Note: Luke 23:43.].]

Application—

[Let none despair on account of the greatness of their sins, or of the judgments of God which are already inflicted on them. God will suffer none to “seek his face in vain.” Let every one then bewail “the plague of his own heart,” and offer up believing prayers “towards God’s holy oracle [Note: This will suffice for two Sermons; the first head being the subject of one, and the second head of the other. If it form the ground of one Sermon only, those particulars which are marked with an asterisk under the second head may be omitted.].”]


Verses 54-61

DISCOURSE: 335
SOLOMON’S THANKSGIVING PRAYER

1 Kings 8:54-61. And it was so, that when Solomon had made an end of praying all this prayer and supplication unto the Lord) he arose from before the altar of the Lord, from kneeling on his knees with his hands spread up to heaven. And he stood, and blessed all the congregation of Israel with a loud voice, saying, Blessed be the Lord, that hath given rest unto his people Israel, according to all that he promised: there hath not failed one word of all his good promise, which he promised by the hand of Moses his servant. The Lord our God be with us, as he was with our fathers: let him not leave us, nor forsake us: that he may incline our hearts unto him, to walk in all his ways, and to keep his commandments, and his statutes, and his judgments, which he commanded our fathers. And let these my words, wherewith I have made supplication before the Lord, be nigh unto the Lord our God day and night, that he maintain the cause of his servant, and the cause of his people Israel at all times, as the matter shall require: that all the people of the earth may know that the Lord is God, and that there is none else. Let your heart therefore be perfect with the Lord our God, to walk in his statutes, and to keep his commandments, as at this day.

TO men Solomon might appear most glorious when seated on his throne, and surrounded by all his courtiers: but in the eyes of God he never was so glorious, as when he was leading the devotions of all his people, and imploring blessings on them from above. Neither actuated by ostentation, nor restrained by shame, he erected a stage or pulpit in the court of the temple near the altar, and there in the midst of all the congregation kneeled down upon his knees, and with his hands stretched out to heaven poured forth his soul in the devoutest supplications. The prayer he uttered was of considerable length, and, as it should seem, the extemporaneous effusion of his own heart. How happy would it be, if all our kings were so disposed, or even if all the ministers of the sanctuary were alike earnest in their acknowledgment of God, and qualified to conduct, from the abundance of their own hearts, the service of his sanctuary!
After having offered to God his prayer and supplication, he rose from his knees to bless the people. By “blessing them,” we are not to suppose that he pretended to have any fulness in himself, whereby to make them blessed: it is not in man, however great, to make others blessed; he can only ministerially declare what God has promised, or implore in their behalf the blessing of God upon them. This is what was done by the priests of old [Note: Numbers 6:23-26.], and this is what he did on this occasion.

The words in which he blessed them contain,

I.

An address to God—

This consisted of two parts:

1.

A thanksgiving for mercies received—

[God had now fulfilled in its utmost extent the promises which he had given to Israel. “The whole land, from the river of Egypt to the river Euphrates [Note: Gen 15:18 with Deuteronomy 11:24.],” was under Solomon’s dominion: the most perfect rest and peace prevailed throughout the whole empire [Note: 1 Kings 5:4.]: and a place was now erected, on a spot chosen by God himself, for his worship and service [Note: Deuteronomy 12:11.]. Of “all the promises which God had given by Moses, not one word had failed:” all was come to pass; and the whole nation enjoyed a state of unprecedented prosperity. For these things Solomon now “blessed the Lord,” both in his own name, and in the name of all the people.

Have we received such blessings from the Lord? let us then bless him too. Have we a peaceable enjoyment of God’s ordinances, and freedom from the assaults of open enemies? Have we union also and harmony amongst ourselves? let us be thankful for these mercies: it is not every Church that enjoys them; nor can any thing but the peculiar favour of Heaven continue them to us.

But what if we have experienced an accomplishment of that promise of our Lord, “Come unto me, and I will give you rest?” What if we have obtained a victory over all our spiritual enemies, and be living in a sweet sense of God’s love, and the habitual enjoyment of his presence? Shall not we bless the name of our God, yea, bless him too with all our faculties and all our powers? — — —]

2.

A prayer for the continuance of them—

[The presence of God with them comprehended every blessing that Solomon could desire; and therefore Solomon entreated God “never to leave them nor forsake them [Note: ver. 57.].” This alone could “incline their hearts” to serve the Lord [Note: ver. 58.]: this alone could secure to them a complete enjoyment of their happiness [Note: ver. 59]: this alone could enable them to glorify their God in the world [Note: ver. 60.].

And what can any one desire more in your behalf? If “God be with you,” and operate in you effectually for these ends and purposes, you are blessed, you must be blessed for ever. On the contrary, “Woe be to them,” saith God, “when I depart from them [Note: Hosea 9:12.]!” Yes, if he depart, we shall have no more “inclination to walk in his ways,” but shall surely “walk after the imagination of our own evil hearts:” we shall no more be able to “maintain our own cause” against our spiritual adversaries, but shall fall a prey to every lust: we shall no more constrain the world to admire “the exceeding grace of God in us,” but shall rather cause them “to blaspheme his holy name.

May God therefore bless you with his continued presence and his effectual grace!]
This address to God he concluded with,

II.

An exhortation to the people—

Solomon would not dismiss the people without exhorting them to perform their duties to God, who had so loaded them with his richest benefits: he therefore besought them,

1.

To be perfect with the Lord—

[Absolute perfection is not to be attained in this world [Note: Ecclesiastes 7:20; James 3:2.]: but there is a perfection which every Christian must attain, a perfection of desire, of purpose, and of endeavour. We should see such a beauty in holiness as to long for the utmost possible attainment of it: we should desire to “be holy as God is holy,” and “perfect as our Father which is in heaven is perfect.” At this too we should aim: the great object of our lives should be to mortify every thing that is contrary to God’s will, and to get his law perfectly engraven upon our hearts. To be “cast into the very mould of the Gospel,” and to be “renewed after the perfect image of our God in righteousness and true holiness,” should be the ambition of our souls. After this also should we labour; never thinking that we have attained any thing, whilst any thing remains to be attained. This was the state of the Apostle Paul [Note: Philippians 3:12-14.], and must be the state of every one that would be approved of his God [Note: Philippians 3:15.].

Is it thought by any, that, in requiring this, we require too much? I ask, For what has “God given us such exceeding great and precious promises,” but that “by them we may be partakers of the divine nature, and escape the corruption that is in the world through lust [Note: 2 Peter 1:4.]?” I ask again, What is the use which God teaches us to make of his promises? Is it not to “cleanse ourselves by their means from all filthiness both of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God [Note: 2 Corinthians 7:1.]?” I ask yet further, What is the desire which every pious minister will feel in behalf of his people; and to what will he endeavour, both in his private prayers and his public labours, to bring them? Is it not, “that they may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God [Note: Colossians 4:12.]?” Away then with all apprehensions that we require too much: we require only what God requires, and what every soul that shall ever be saved, must possess: in actual attainments there will, in spite of our utmost exertions, be much lacking; but in desire, purpose, and endeavour, we must be perfect, not willingly harbouring the smallest imperfection [Note: 1 Chronicles 28:9.], but striving to “grow up into Christ in all things, as our living Head.”]

2.

To preserve continually the frame they now possessed—

[The people now, as well as their king, were in a very devout and heavenly frame: there was nothing they would not now have done, or sacrificed, for the honour of their God. Solomon therefore says to them, “Be perfect with the Lord, as at this day.” Now there are times when every godly person has felt himself more especially alive to the concerns of eternity: he has been humbled in the dust, under a sense of his own guilt and helplessness; he has been filled with admiration at the divine goodness to him; he has longed to have God ever with him, and to find all his happiness in the presence of his God. If such, then, have ever been our state, is there not the same reason that it should be so now? Does God deserve less at our hands, than he did at the period referred to? Why then do we not feel the same towards him? Perhaps we may be disposed to look back upon such seasons with complacency; but we should rather look upon all other seasons with shame and sorrow. O labour, Brethren, to preserve upon your minds those better feelings which you have at any time experienced; and, instead of declining from them, to get them revived and strengthened from day to day!

Such is the blessing, which, were it at our disposal, we would bestow upon you; and such is the blessing which we entreat of God to confer on every one amongst you.]


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Bibliographical Information
Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on 1 Kings 8". Simeon's Horae Homileticae. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/shh/1-kings-8.html. 1832.