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So long as they think the character of God like thcir own, they will naturally conclude that their hearts are good. They will never view themselves in a true light, till they see God as he is. 3. It is not unacc
ccountable, that the wicked should sometimes take delight in devotional exercises. This they do, notwithstanding their general indifference and even aversion to prayer aud praise, and every mode of communing with God. God says of the Israelites in the days of Isaiah, • They seek me daily, and delight to know my ways,' The hypocritical pbarisees loved to pray.' And it is so with many of the wicked at this day,
Now this can be accounted for, on the principle laid down in our text. As the wicked think God to be like themselves, they as easily imagine that God loves them, as that they love God. They think their devotional performances very good, and such as God must approve and accept. Whereas if they had just views of the divine character, they would see that their liearts are not right with God, and that their worship is no better than abomination in his sight.
4. It is very important that correct views of God should be communicated to the wicked. Until they think justly of God, they will remain ignorany of themselves, and of the nature of true religion. Some right conceptions of the character of God Jie at the foundation of repentance, faith and holy obedienee. And since men are so prone to think God a very different being from what he is; too much paios cannot be bestowed in teaching them the true character of the living and true God. This should be the leading object of every minister of the Gospel. In his first sermon to the Athenians, Paul exhibited the divine character; and every minister should do the same, by declaring all his counsel, teaching his universal agency, and unfolding his purposes, works and ways. Unless the preacher thus exbibits the divine character, there is the utmost danger that he will keep his nearers in ignorance of themselves, and be accessory to their eternal ruin.
5. There is reason to apprehend that most of the wicked, at death, meet with a woful disappointment. They generally retain their vain and absurd thoughts of God, as long as they live, and go out of the world, flattering themselves that they shall meet the smiles and enjoy the favor of God in eternity. How, then, must they be disappointed and confounded, when, upon leaving the body, they see God as he is,' in all the glory
of his disinterested benevolence, sovereign mercy, and inflexible justice! What amazement will seize their souls, when they perceive that God is actually such a being as they have ever viewed with utter aversion, as a respecter of persons, and a hard master ? What bitter reflections will they have, upon their past stupidity, ignorance and absurdity? How will their hearts die within them, at the prospect of dwelling forever in the presence, and feeling forever the frowns of that holy and Almighty Being, whom they find to be to them 'a consuming fire'! Now, consider this, ye that forget God, and form dishonorable thoughts of him. You cannot much longer retain the delusion that he is like yourselves; and it will be a fearful thing to fall, unreconciled, into his hands. Wherefore listen to the conclusions of right reason, the dictates of an enlightened conscience and the instructions of the inspired volume, and 'acquaint now yourselves with God, and be at peace; and thereby good will come unto you forever.'
For the Hopkinsian Magazine.
SOLOMON'S PRAYER FOR AN UNDERSTANDING HEART
Thongh Solomon took the reins of government into his hands before his father David's death, yet after the death of his father, the people made bim king a second time. The principal men in the nation assembled at Gibeon, where they anointed him and inaugurated him into his regal office, with great and peculjar joy and solemnity. On this occasion, Solomon's heart was enlarged with gratitude, and he offered a thousand burnt offerings on the altar. This was a sacrifice well pleasing to God, who the night following, appeared to him in a dream and said, Ask what Ishall give thee?' This was as great an offer as God could make. It was implicitly saying to Solomon, Extend your views, and enlarge your desires as far as possible, and then ask for what you esteem the most valuable, and most desirable of all blessings. Solomon soberly and humbly reflected upon his nature, and sad situation, and made a request which was expressive of his superior wisdom, and which God more than answered. “And Solomon said, thou hast shewed unto thy servant David, my father, great mercy, according as he walked before thee in truth and in righteousness, and thou hast kept for him this great kindness, that thou hast given him a son to sit on his throne as it is this day. And now, O Lord my God, thou hast made thy servant king, instead of David my father; and I am but a litile child, I know not how to go out or come in. Give therefore, thy servant an understanding heart, to judge thy people, that I may discern between good and bad, für who is able to judge this, thy so great people! And the speech pleased the Lord, that Solomon had asked this thing. And God said unto him, because thou hast asked this thing, and hast not asked for thyself long life, neither hast asked riches for thyself, nor hast asked the life of thine enemies, but hast asked for thyself understanding, to discern judgement, Behold I have done according to thy words; and' lo, I have given thee a wise and understanding heart.' If Solomon was the wisest man, we must conclude that he asked for the greatest of all blessings, espeeially since God was pleased with his request, for he would not have been pleased, if Solomon had made an unwise choice; and it would have been an unwise choice, if he bad chosen a less, instead of a greater favor.
Hence we may justly conclude, that a wise and understanding heart, is the grealest faror that men can ask of God. The heart, strictly speaking, consists of moral exercises, which are neither wise nor unwise, seperately considered. But as our Sarious said of an evil eye, that it fills the body with darkness, and of a single eye, that it fills the body with light, so it may be said ef an evil heart, that it is unwise, because it makes men act 11Lwisely; and of a good heart, that it is wise and understanding, because it makes men act in a wise and understanding manner. By a wise and understanding heart, therefore, Solomon meant a good, a holy, or a benevolent heart. He did not mean to ask God to give him any new intellectual faculty, or to enlarge those which he had given him. He was come to manhood, og maturity of body and mind, when he prayed for a wise and understanding heart; for his father, before, had called him a wise man. He was at that very time, when he prayed for a wise heart, the wisest man in the world, in point of intellectual pokers, and acquired knowledge. It was a good heart, which he desired above every other favor, as necessary to guide and direct all his superior talents, to the most wise and desirable purposes. The understanding does not govern the heart, but the heart governs the understanding. And a good heart always dispones men to employ all their powers and faculties wisely. And for this reason, Solomon esteemed and desired a good heart, above every other favor. Aud his opinion in this case, met the approbation of God, whlch is a conclusive eridence that it was justly founded. But to make it more clearly appear that a good heart is the greatest favor that a man can possibly ask or desire, I would observe,
1. That a wise or good heart will always enable men to know their duty. Though Solomon possessed the best abilities, and best information, and had in bis hand the sacred oracles, yet he acknowledged that he was like a little child, in point of praclical wisdom, and liable to mistake his duty, in bis higli and important station. And if he was liable mistake his duty, then surely all men are much more exposed to this eril. In
dced there have been innumerable instances of men's mistaka ing their duty in very interesting and important cases. Our first parents mistook their duty by which they i ujured themselves and all their posterity. Aaron mistook his duiy when he made the golden calf. Saul inistook bis duty, when he neglected to wait for Samuel. Jelioshaphat mistook his duty, when he consented to go with Ahab, up to Ramoth-vilead. Hezekiah mistook his duty when he displayed his wealth before the ambassadors of the king of Babylon. Paul mistook his duty, while he verily thonght that he ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus. In these and all other cases in which men have mistaken their duty, it has been owing to the want of a wise and understanding heart. For when inen's hearts are right they never will mistake their duty, because they will judge impartially in respect to the evidence of duty set before them, either by the word or providence of God, or by the instruction or advice of their fellow men. And what appears to them to be their duty when they judze impartially, is their duty in their present situation, or until they have further light. It is morally impossible for men to mistake their duty, while they are under the influence of a wise and understanding heart. They can no more mistake their duty, than the holy angels can mistake their duty. It is an unspeakabe favor therefore, to have a wise and understanding heart. And the favor is great, in proportion to the multitude and importance of the duties, which men have to perform. Though some have more, yet all have many and important duties to discharge. But they must know their duty in all cases, in order to perform it. All who desire to do their duty, must highly value a good heart, which will infallibly enable them to know what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God which they ought to follow.
2. A good heart will not only make men know their duty, but will always dispose them to do it. A wise and good heart consists in love to God and man, and consequeutly in love to every known duty. While inen are under the influence of a good heart, they will know and love their duty; and while they both know and love their duty, it is impossible, that they should neglect it. No such instance ever existed, as any person's knowing and loving, and yet neglecting bis duty. Adam and Eve did not neglect their duty, so long as they knew and loved it. . Paul would not have persecuted Christ and his followers, had he known and loved bis duty. Nor would any o!her man have ever neglected his duty, if he had known and loved it. It is morally certain, therefore, that a wise and understanding heart, will lay men under a moral necessity of doing their duty, which is a matter of the liighest importance. For all men were made to do their duty, and they are just as valuable as they are dutiful, and no more. While they neglect their duty, they are unprofitable, and worse than nothing. So the apostle says of all sinners. They are gone out of the way; they are altogether become un profitable.' And in this respect, they are compared to chaff and dross, and the most noxivus animals. But where men do their duty, they answer the great end of their creation, and like faithful servants, are really profitable and important. Men ought to prize a wise and good heart as much as their own rational and importal existence, because it makes them know and do their own duty. Solomon, when he prayed for a wise and understanding heart, and afterwards, set this high estimation upon it: For he says in the conclusion of his Ecclesiastes, which he wrote in the decline of life, "To fear God and keep his commandments, is the whole duty of man.' A good heart is iufinitely more valuable, than eternal existence without it. Hence Solomon prefered it, not only to riches and honors and safety, but even to long life, which is more desired by mankind, than any thing else in this world. For they will give up any thing and every thing that they possess, to preserve and prolong their lives. Besides,
3. A wise and understanding heart is the most desirable and important favor, that men can ask of God, because it prepares them for every other, that God can bestow upon them, either in time or eternity. It prepares them for the enjoyment of both temporal and eternal felicity. After Solomon had asked, and God had given the good heart, which would make him know and do his duty, he told him that he would make an addition of the highest temporal blessings. “And I have also given thee that which thou hast not asked, both riches and honor so that there shall not be any among the kings like unto thee all thy days. And if thou wilt walk in my ways, to keep my statutes and my commandments, as thy father David dia walk, then will I lengthen thy days.' Indeed, God promised long life and prosperity to all his people who had a wise and understanding heart, to know and to do his will. And though the same temporal promises are not made to those, who now have a wise and honest heart; yet every necessary favor is promised. For Christ says to his followers, •'Fake no thought, saying, what shall we eat? or what shall we drivk ? or wherewithal shall we be clothed. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added unto you.' A good heart while it influences inen to know and do their duty, prepares them to enjoy every temporal favor, which God sees best to bestow upon them, and to be satisfied with what he withholds. So that, • if they have nothing, they may possess all things,' by rejoicing in the good of others. Besides, a wise and good heart prepares men for future and eternal good, and absolutely secures the enjoyment of it. Our Savior declares, .blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are the meek : for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are the inerciful: for they shall obtain mercy, Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.' Solomon says, “ The way of life is above to the wise.' And again he says, The wise shall inl.erit glory. Indeed, all the promises of both temporal and eternal good in the Bible, are made to the wise in heart. And