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Bible Commentaries

Simeon's Horae Homileticae

1 Samuel 16

Verse 7


1 Samuel 16:7. The Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart.

WHAT a solemn and awful declaration is this! how interesting to every one of us! The generality, it is to be feared, scarcely think of themselves as in the presence of God: whereas his eye is immediately upon our hearts, inspecting the very inmost recesses of them, and marking every imagination of them with a view to a future judgment. The admonition, though arising out of particular circumstances, is general, and deserves from every one of us the most attentive consideration. The occasion of it was this. God having determined to reject Saul from being king over Israel, and to place on the throne one who should fulfil all his will, commanded Samuel to take a horn of oil, and to anoint to the kingly office one of the sons of Jesse the Beth-lehemite. Samuel, the more effectually to cloke the real object of his mission, was directed to offer a sacrifice at Beth-lehem, and to invite to it both Jesse and all his sons. Eliab, the eldest of the sons, came first before him; and Samuel concluded, from his portly mien and his majestic stature, that he must be the person whom God had ordained to the office: but God rectified his mistake, and told him, that HE did not form his estimate after the manner of men; for “men regarded only the outward appearance; whereas he looked on the heart.” A similar intimation was given to Samuel in relation to seven of Jesse’s sons, who passed before him; in consequence of which, David, the youngest, was sent for, and “was anointed in the midst of his brethren.” There was in his heart what God did not see in the heart of any of his brethren. There were in them many external recommendations; but he “was a man after God’s own heart:” and to his internal qualities God had respect, in appointing him to the kingdom. Having thus seen the scope of the words as delivered on that particular occasion, we shall proceed to notice,


The truth contained in them—

God does inspect the hearts of men—


He is qualified to do so—

[“He is light; and with him there is no darkness at all [Note: 1 John 1:5.].” “His eyes are in every place, beholding the evil and the good [Note: Proverbs 15:3.].” There is no possibility of going from his presence: “if we ascend to heaven, he is there: if we make our bed in hell, behold, he is there also. If we say the darkness shall cover us, the darkness and the light to him are both alike [Note: Psalms 139:7-12.].” “All things are naked and opened before him,” just as the sacrifices, when flayed and cut open, were to the inspection of the priest [Note: Hebrews 4:13. See the Greek.]. “Hell and destruction are before him; and much more the hearts of the children of men [Note: Proverbs 15:11.].”]


He does so—

[“His eyes run to and fro throughout the whole earth [Note: 2 Chronicles 16:9.].” And not only do “his eyes behold, but his eyelids try the children of men [Note: Psalms 11:4.];” insomuch that he marks with the utmost precision every imagination of the thoughts of their hearts [Note: Deuteronomy 31:21.]. And, to preclude all possibility of mistake, he represents himself as “searching the hearts” of men [Note: Revelation 2:23.], and trying their reins [Note: Psalms 7:9.], yea, as “pondering their hearts [Note: Proverbs 21:2.],” and “weighing their spirits [Note: Proverbs 16:2.].” This, I say, he does: and it is his exclusive prerogative to do so; as Solomon has told us: “Thou, even thou only, knowest the hearts of all the children of men [Note: 1 Kings 8:39.].”]


He does so with an express reference to a future judgment—

[Having ordained a future judgment for the express purpose of manifesting the justice and equity of his procedure, he notes every thing in the book of his remembrance, and will “bring every secret thing into judgment, whether it be good or evil [Note: Ecclesiastes 12:14.].” There is not a thought or counsel in the heart of any man which he will not then make manifest, in order to pass his judgment upon it [Note: 1 Corinthians 4:5; Romans 2:16.]. Nay more, as every evil thought brings with it certain consequences, defiling the soul, hardening the heart, grieving the Holy Spirit, and dishonouring God, so he will hold us responsible for these consequences, as well as for the evil from whence they proceed. And of this he has warned us, saying, “I the Lord search the heart; I try the reins, even to give to every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings [Note: Jeremiah 17:10.].”]

Such is the truth declared in our text. Let us now mark,


Its aspect on our future destinies—

[We have seen that God had respect to the heart of David, when he appointed him to the kingdom. We are not to suppose that David was by nature better than other men: for he himself says, that “he was shapen in iniquity, and that in sin his mother conceived him [Note: Psalms 51:5.].” Much less are we to imagine that David was justified before God by any righteousness of his own: for St. Paul assures us, that he was justified solely by faith in Christ, whose righteousness was imputed to him without any works of his own [Note: Romans 4:5-8.]. Nor can any of us hope to be exalted to heaven on account of our own superior goodness: for we are all sinners before God; and, if ever we are accepted of him, we must be “accepted in, and through, his beloved” Son, “being found in him, not having our own righteousness, but the righteousness which is of God by faith in him [Note: Philippians 3:9.].” Nevertheless, though none will possess the kingdom on account of their own righteousness, none will possess it who have not previously been “made meet for it,” and are not truly righteous in their own souls.]

This truth being unquestionable, let me now, like Samuel, summon you all to the Sacrifice which is prepared for you in the Gospel; and let me declare which of you God has ordained to the kingdom of heaven.
Who is this that first presents himself before me? He is one possessed of exemplary morality

[Surely, I say, this is the person whom God has chosen. Behold, how decorous his habit! how amiable his deportment! how unimpeachable his character! Doubtless, I must congratulate you as the happy person to whom I am authorized to declare God’s designs of love and mercy.
No, says God: thou hast erred in judgment respecting him: thou admirest him, because of his outward appearance: but I look at the heart: and I command thee to pass him by, because “I have refused him.” Blameless as he appears, he is not accepted of me, because he is trusting in his own righteousness, and not in the righteousness of my dear Son [Note: Romans 9:31-32.]. He has “a form of godliness,” it is true; but he is destitute of “its power [Note: 2 Timothy 3:5.].” He is ignorant of his own state before me: he fancies himself “rich, and increased with goods, and in need of nothing; whilst, in reality he is wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked.” He is lukewarm in all that relates to me; and therefore I lothe him, and shall cast him off with abhorrence [Note: Revelation 3:15-17.]. “He draws nigh to me with his lips; but his heart is far from me [Note: Matthew 15:7-9.].” I consider him, therefore, as no better than a whited sepulchre, beautiful without, but full of every thing that is offensive within. His self-righteousness and self-complacency render him odious in my sight; and therefore dismiss him: and proceed.]

Whom is it that I behold advancing next? He is the man, no doubt: for he is one that loves the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ

[I am in no fear of erring now. Behold, thou believest in Christ! Dost thou not? And thou regardest him as “all thy salvation, and all thy desire.” Thou art highly valued, too, in the Church of Christ: thou hast more than mere morality: thou “renouncest all confidence in the flesh, and rejoicest in Christ alone,” I congratulate—
Pause, saith the Lord: thou art deceived again. This is not the man whom I have chosen. He has embraced the Gospel, it is true: but “his soul is not upright within him [Note: Habakkuk 2:4.].” “He has a name to live, but in reality he is dead [Note: Revelation 3:1.].” He has come into the fold: but he climbed over the wall; and is therefore, in my estimation, no better than a thief and a robber [Note: John 10:7-9.]. He never came in at the strait gate: he was never truly broken-hearted and contrite: he never fled for refuge to the hope that was set before him: he has taken up religion lightly, and he will renounce it lightly: “if tribulation should arise to him on account of the word, he will presently be offended; and in the time of temptation will fall away [Note: Matthew 13:21.].” Dismiss him: for “he has not the root of the matter in him [Note: Job 19:28; Matthew 13:6.];” and therefore is none of mine.]

Now then, I trust, I cannot err: for he whom I now see has long made an honourable and consistent profession of religion

[I think I have long seen thee a regular attendant on the house and ordinances of God. I have long seen thee a supporter of the Gospel, and a friend of all who profess it. Thou hast withstood many a storm of temptation and persecution; and hast maintained a good profession before many witnesses. Of thee, therefore, I can have no doubt. Draw nigh, and receive the tokens of God’s favourable acceptance.
But what do I see here? What! Lord, am I deceived again? Yes; thou still art attracted too much by the outward appearance. He is not the man whom I have chosen. “He has left his first love [Note: Revelation 2:4.]:” he is “a backslider in heart,” if not in act; and therefore “shall be filled with his own ways [Note: Proverbs 14:14.].” See what a hold the world has upon him; and how all “the seed that has been sown in his heart, is choked, so that he brings forth no fruit to perfection [Note: Luke 8:14.]!” He gives me but a divided heart, and therefore cannot be accepted of me [Note: Hosea 10:2.]. He once embraced my covenant; but “he was not steadfast in it;” “his heart was never right with me [Note: Psalms 78:8; Psalms 78:37.]:” he never “followed me fully.” He “says he is a Jew; but he lies [Note: Revelation 3:9.]:” “for he is not a Jew, who is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision which is outward in the flesh: but he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God [Note: Romans 2:28-29.].”]

Beloved Brethren, it is not in the power of man to point out, with certainty, which of you shall inherit the kingdom of God. It is probable enough that there is some obscure David, unthought of by man, yet chosen of God, and through grace endued with that integrity of heart, which many, who make a figure before men, are destitute of, and who, though last in man’s esteem, shall be first in God’s.
But, as the event can be determined ultimately by God alone, let me entreat you all,


To examine carefully your own hearts—

[This we are commanded to do; and we should do it with all imaginable fidelity and care. We should not, however, rest in our own endeavours, but should “entreat of God to search and try us, and to see whether there be, unperceived by ourselves, any wicked way in us, and to lead us in the way everlasting [Note: Psalms 139:23-24.].” Desperate is “the deceitfulness of the human heart: who can know it?” There are thousands who “think themselves to be something, when they are nothing [Note: Galatians 6:3.].” Remember, I pray you, not to be too confident of your own state: but, after the strictest search, adopt the modest diffidence of St. Paul, and say, “Though I know nothing by myself, yet am I not thereby justified: but He that judgeth me is the Lord [Note: 1 Corinthians 4:4.].”]


To give yourselves unreservedly to God—

[This is the very improvement which David himself, in his dying counsels to Solomon, teaches us to make of this subject: “Thou, Solomon, my son, know thou the God of thy father, and serve him with a perfect heart, and with a willing mind: for the Lord searcheth all hearts, and understandeth all the imaginations of the thoughts [Note: 1 Chronicles 28:9.].” God “requireth truth in the inward parts [Note: Psalms 51:6.]:” nor will he accept any, who are not, like Nathanael, “Israelites indeed, and without guile [Note: John 1:47.].” Remember, a kingdom is at stake; and not an earthly kingdom, that shall soon pass away, but a kingdom that shall be possessed for ever. Bear in mind, too, that whomsoever you deceive, you cannot deceive God: and that, whatever you may judge respecting yourselves, or others may judge of you, “God’s sentence, and that alone, will stand [Note: Jeremiah 44:29.]:” for “not he that commendeth himself shall be approved; but he whom the Lord commendeth [Note: 2 Corinthians 10:18.].”]

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Bibliographical Information
Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 16". Simeon's Horae Homileticae. 1832.