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general welfare” was only a part of his task. In addition to these, he accomplished other works of even greater magnitude. He established the dignity of his court; he formed alliances with other nations; he made Jerusalem a splendid capital; he fostered commerce and encouraged useful handicrafts. In addition to these enterprises of a political character, he accomplished other and greater works, such as the promotion of arts and sciences and the development of music and poetry. He won the love of his people and the respect of his enemies. In the breadth and variety of his labors he is probably without a peer, and in the quality of his achievements he has hardly a rival. Other kings have won renown in one or other of these fields, but none cut so wide a swath, or did so many things so well.
But the greatest work of his life, and that in which we are interested here, was his contribution to the religious development of the nation, his part in the preparation of Israel for his office as the priest of the world.
In general we may say he restored the order of religion and enriched its service. His bringing up of the ark of God and establishing the sanctuary on Mt. Zion was typical of his life work in religion. He found the whole service in disorder. Eli's sons had disgraced their father's name, and profaned the sacred office; and, even under Samuel, the people did not regain their reverence for the hallowed ordinances; and during the reign of Saul things went from bad to worse.
David's first care was to purify the service, to purge the priesthood and establish rigid discipline within their ranks. Then as occasion offered, he dignified the service and enriched it by the arts of music and appropriate ritual, till it became a solemn and impressive means of religious education, edifying and inspiring; yet restrained from the spectacular extremes, to which an elaborate ritual is apt to run.
But it is in the Psalms that we have the best expression of the religious ideals of David. It is not certain how many, or which,
of the Psalms are of David's authorship; but it is generally agreed that the prevailing tone of Hebrew worship as established in the Book of Psalms is of David's time, and largely due to his direction and example.
Such psalms as the 23rd and 24th, the 31st and sist and 40th are to this day the high water mark of devotional poetry. A nation that had attained to such conceptions of divine character, and religious truth was already far advanced beyond anything the heathen world had ever attained before that time, or since.
It would take too long to illustrate this proposition here, as we hope to do hereafter. Our present interest is with history; and we are all sufficiently acquainted with the psalms to judge by them of the religious aspirations and ideals to which the people had attained in David's time, and by his help. It is not to be supposed that all the people had attained to such a high degree of religious culture; but the service that was filled with such lofty sentiments, and set before the worshiper such high ideals of spiritual life, must have had tremendous influence; and the response of the people to the hopes thus set before them proves their progress in religious life.
It is remarkable that, notwithstanding the great revelations made in all the ages since that time, by prophets and apostles and by our Lord himself, yet the highest and profoundest of our religious aspirations still find their best expressions in the words of these ancient psalms of David. “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want” is still the sweetest song in all our hymnal; and the 25th psalm, beginning with the words "Unto Thee O Lord do I lift up my soul,” needs no revision to fit it for the use of Christian church. It is right and proper that the Jewish people have ever regarded David as the typical king, the father of their church, and with Abraham and Moses the greatest of
It is true that Saul's heart-breaking task was necessary as a
preparation, without which David could not have done his work. But take him all in all—with all his faults and crimes— he was all that the eulogies of his posterity has represented him to be “The man who was raised up on high. The annointed of the God of Jacob, and the sweet psalmist of Israel."
The Messiah's title “Son of David,” denotes much more than a mere fact of genealogy. He was in very fact the direct successor of the great king who did so much to prepare the nation for their office as the priest of the world.
Under David, Israel reached its full maturity. It is now a nation, fully organized and well developed in all the features which mark the Hebrew race down to the present day. Solomon succeeded to a throne of splendid opportunity. For nearly thirty centuries the name of Solomon has been a synonym for wisdom, and his reign the type of kingly glory. So well established is his reputation, that it seems almost sacrilege to question his title to the highest kind of wisdom. It is, indeed, unquestioned that he had, in very unusual measure, that shrewd insight into the obscure depths of things, and that instinctive genius for practical judgment that is very properly called wisdom, though it is not the highest kind of wisdom. His ambition was practical, but it was not lofty. His prayer, when God asked him to choose what he should give him, was "give thy servant an understanding heart to judge the people”; a good prayer, certainly, and abundantly granted; but, for all that, in height and breadth and greatness of soul, he did not even approach the stature of his father David.
His whole conception of life was on a lower plane, his glory is of a more material sort, his religion more external, and his influence entirely worldly.
His reign was indeed remarkable for peace and prosperity;
but that peace was chiefly owing to the military genius of his father, who had won the respect of neighboring nations by the valor of his sword; and that prosperity was largely due the location of Israel at "the cross roads of the commercial world," so that they could lay heavy tribute on all the commerce that passed from Egypt to the East and from the Mesopotamian valley to the Mediterranean coasts. He built the temple, for which his father had provided all the material. He extended the trade lines, which his father had opened ; and he strengthened the alliances which David had formed. He was, in brief, the successful builder on the broad and firm foundations which he found already laid. In all this he showed wisdom, energy and tact.
But when we look more closely at the man, we find but little to attract our admiration or to entitle him to such high honor as we feel constrained to ascribe to his illustrious father.
He was magnificent, but not magnanimous. He was shrewd, but hardly great. He was a great mind, but a mediocre soul.
His glory was brilliant, but a trifle too spectacular. His great prayer at the dedication of the temple ranks higher in rhetorical beauty than in religious fervor, and his proverbs are on a much lower plane than the psalms of David.
In the political history of Israel, Solomon has a large place; in their commercial history, he is still more preeminent; but in their religious history he counted for but little, and that little almost wholly adverse to their true prosperity. His work appeals more strongly to the artist than to the saint, and his influence is more easily traced to Wall Street than to Galilee.
With, no doubt, the best intentions, he made the religion of Israel an aesthetic cult, and unwittingly fostered that devotion to externals, which became the bane of their religious life. On the whole the reign of Solomon was influential in advancing Israel in the arts of civilization, in the culture and intelligence that were necessary to their preparation for their office, but
it was not favorable to their growth in spiritual grace. The whole drift and tendency of the time was secular, material, mundane.
From this time the religious life of the nation was more and more widely separated from their political life. The theocratic features disappeared from their constitution, and their kings, for the most part, counted for nothing in their religious life.
Solomon's son and successor is easily classified as the spoiled child of an illustrious father. He inherited neither the wisdom of his father nor the character of his grandfather. His headstrong arrogance and tactless folly drove his people to revolt, and Jereboam—a shrewd and energetic demagogue—was followed by ten tribes in establishing a rival kingdom. Thus the brilliant reign of Solomon failed to maintain the union which David had established; and the glory of his day was followed by the storm and darkness of civil war, and the rending of his kingdom.
The history of the rival kingdoms for the next four hundred years is dreary reading. Few of their kings in either nation rose above the uninteresting level of dull mediocrity, and the few that had some higher ambitions were baffled by the sullen indifference of the people; or, if they succeeded in restoring something of the national integrity, left it to be destroyed by their successors. There is really nothing in their political life of these four hundred years of any importance in their religious development. Of all the epochs of their history this is the most difficult to interpret. In most of their experience it is comparatively easy to discover, as we look back upon it, how God was working out his purpose, and training the nation for their office of priest, by which they should bless the world. But during this long period they seem to be standing still, or merely marking time, while the great world toils on under its heavy burdens of sin and misery, its awful need of a Savior all the more pitiful because the world was all unconscious of its need. It is not surprising that