1Ch_29:17-18. 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: Act_2:41-47.], and dividing with each other their possessions, that, being supported out of one common stock [Note: Act_4:32-34.], 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,
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,
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.]
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: 2Co_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: 2Co_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: Heb_6:10.].” Without arrogating any merit to ourselves therefore, we may say, that “the fruits of generosity shall abound to our account [Note: Php_4:17.];” that “what we lay out for the Lord shall be repaid us again [Note: Pro_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: 1Ti_6:18-19.].”
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,
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 1Co_6:19, and 1Pe_2:4-5.) 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:
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.”]
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: 2Co_8:3-4.]. 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.]
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: Pro_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: 2Co_8:2; 2Co_8:5. See also 1Pe_2:4-5.].” 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: Isa_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: Php_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.]
[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.]