[K:NWTS 23/1 (May 2008) 26-27]

A Greater Than Solomon[1]

James Hamilton

It was autumn with the Hebrew commonwealth. Like withered leaves from the sapless tree, the Jews easily parted from the parent Palestine, and were blown about, adventurers in every land; and like that fungous vegetation which rushes up when nobler plants have faded, formalism and infidelity were rankly springing everywhere; and it was only a berry on the topmost bough—some mellow Simeon or Zacharias—that reminded you of the rich old piety. The sceptre had not quite departed from Judah, but he who held it was a puppet in the Gentiles’ hand; and with shipless harbors, and silent oracles, with Roman sentinels on every public building, and Roman tax-gatherers in every town, patriotism felt too surely, that from the land of Joshua and Samuel, of Elijah and Isaiah, of David and Solomon, the glory was at last departing. The sky was lead, the air a winding-sheet; and every token told that a long winter was setting in. It was even then, amid the short days and sombre sunsets of the waning dynasty, when music filled the firmament, and in the city of David a mighty Prince was born. He grew in stature, and in due time was manifested to Israel. And what was the appearance of this greater than Solomon? What were his royal robes? The attire of a common Nazarene. What were his palaces? A carpenter’s cottage, which He sometimes exchanged for a fisherman’s hut. Who were his Ministers and his Court attendants? Twelve peasants. And what was his state chariot? None could He afford; but in one special procession He rode on a borrowed ass. Ah! said we so? His royal robe was heaven’s splendor, whenever He chose to let it through; and Solomon, in all his glory, was never arrayed like Jesus on Tabor. His palace was the heaven of heavens; and when a voluntary exile from it, little did it matter whether his occasional lodging were a rustic hovel, or Herod’s halls. If fishermen were his friends, angels were his servants; and if the borrowed colt was his triumphal charger, the sea was proud when, from crest to crest of its foaming billows, it felt his majestic footsteps moving; and when the time had arrived for returning to his Father and his God, the clouds lent the chariot, and obsequious airs upbore Him in their reverent hands. Solomon’s pulpit was a throne, and he had an audience of kings and queens. The Saviour’s synagogue was a mountain-side—his pulpit was a grassy knoll or a fishing-boat—his audience were the boors of Galilee; and yet, in point of intrinsic greatness, Solomon did not more excel the children playing in the marketplace, than He who preached the Sermon on the Mount excelled King Solomon.

[1] James Hamilton (1814-1867) was pastor of the Regent Square Presbyterian Church in London from 1841. A disciple of Thomas Chalmers (1780-1847), he brought this scintillating English style to his pulpit. These comments are from his book The Royal Preacher: Lectures on Ecclesiastes (1852) 42-44. I am indebted to Rev. Adam King for introducing me to Hamilton. Read the man for the ‘King’s English’ as well as the grace of the King of kings. His use of language is superb!