1 Samuel 2:30
Why the LORD God of Israel said, I said indeed that your house, and the house of your father, should walk before me for ever…
The words are in the strictest sense the word of God, uttered immediately by God Himself; and may thence command from us an especial attention and regard.
I. THE REWARD MAY BE CONSIDERED EITHER ABSOLUTELY, AS WHAT IT IS IN ITSELF; OR RELATIVELY, AS TO ITS RISE AND WHENCE IT COMES.
1. For itself, it is honour; a thing, if valued according to the rate it bears in the common market, of highest price among all the object of human desire; the chief reward which the greatest actions and which the best actions do pretend unto or are capable of; that which usually bears most sway in the hearts, and hath strongest influence on the lives of men; the desire of obtaining and maintaining which doth commonly overbear other most potent inclinations. The love of pleasure stoops thereto: for men, to get or keep reputation, will decline the most pleasant enjoyments, will embrace the hardest pains. If we observe what is done in the world, we may discern it to be the source of most undertakings therein. For honour the soldier undergoes hardship. In such request, of such force, doth honour appear to be. If we examine why, we may find more than mere fashion to ground the experiment on. There is one obvious reason why no mean regard should be had thereto; its great convenience and usefulness: it being an engine very requisite for the managing of any business, for the compassing any design, at least sweetly and smoothly. But searching farther, we shall find the appetite of honour to have a deeper ground, and that it is rooted even in our nature itself. For we may descry it budding forth in men's first infancy (before the use of reason, or speech); even little children being ambitious to be made much of, maintaining among themselves pertly emulations and competitions, as it were about punctilios of honour. It is a spirit that not only haunts our courts and palaces, but frequents our schools and cloisters, yea, creeps into cottages, into hospitals, into prisons, and even dogs men into deserts and solitudes. The reason why is clear: for it is as if one should dispute against eating and drinking, or should labour to free himself from hunger and thirst: the appetite of honour being indeed, as that of food, innate unto us, so as not to be quenched or smothered, except by some violent distemper or indisposition of mind; even by the wise Author of our nature originally implanted therein, for very good ends. For did not some love of honour glow in men's breasts, were that noble spark quite extinct, few men probably would study for honourable qualities, or perform laudable deeds; there would be nothing to keep some men within bounds of modesty and decency. A moderato regard to honour is also commendable as an instance of humanity or good will to men, yea, as an argument of humility, or a sober conceit of ourselves. For to desire another man's esteem, and consequently his love, doth imply somewhat of reciprocal esteem and affection toward him; and to prize the judgment of other men concerning us, doth signify that we are not oversatisfied with our own. But beyond all this, the holy Scripture doth not teach us to slight honour, but rather in its fit order and just measure to love and prize it. It indeed instructs us to ground it well, not on bad qualities or wicked deeds; not on things of a mean and indifferent nature, that is vanity; but on real worth and goodness, that may consist with modesty and sobriety. Such is the reward propounded to us in itself; no vile or contemptible thing, but on various accounts most valuable; that which the common apprehensions of men, plain dictates of reason, a predominant instinct of nature, the judgments of very wise men, and Divine attestation itself conspire to commend unto us as very considerable and precious. Such a reward our text prescribes us the certain, the only way of attaining.
2. Such a benefit is here tendered to us by God Himself: "I," saith He, "will honour." It is sanctified by coming from His holy hand; it is dignified by following His most wise and just disposal; it is fortified and assured by depending on His unquestionable word and uncontrollable power: who, as He is the prime Author of all good, so He is in especial manner the sovereign dispenser of honour. It is but an exchange of honour for honour; of honour from God, which is a free gift, for honour from us, which is a just duty; of honour from Him our sovereign Lord, for honour from us His poor vassals; of honour from the most high Majesty of heaven, for honour from us vile worms creeping on the earth. Such an overture one would think it not only reasonable to accept, but impossible to refuse. For can any man dare not to honour invincible power, infallible wisdom, inflexible justice?
II. THERE ARE SEVERAL WAYS OF HONOURING GOD, or several parts and degrees of this duty.
1. The soul of that honour which is required of us toward God, is that internal esteem and reverence which we should bear in our hearts towards Him; importing that we have impressed on our minds such conceptions about Him as are worthy of Him, suitable to the perfection of His nature, to the eminency of His state, to the just quality of His works and actions. In acts, I say: not in speculative opinions concerning the Divine excellencies, such as all men have who are not downright atheists. Such an apprehension of God's power, as shall make us dread His irresistible hand, shall cause us to despair of prospering in bad courses, shall dispose us to confide in Him, as able to perform whatever He wills us to expect from Him. "This people," saith God, "do honour me with their lips, but their heart is far from me." Such honour is indeed no honour at all, but impudent abuse and profane mockery.
2. This bodily part consists in outward expressions and performances, whereby we declare our esteem and reverence of God, and produce or promote the like in others. First, in general, God is honoured by a willing and careful practice of all piety and virtue for conscience sake, or in avowed obedience to His holy will. This is the most natural expression of our reverence toward Him, and the most effectual way of promoting the same in others. The light and lustre of good works done in regard to Divine command, will cause men to see clearly the excellencies of our most wise and gracious Lord; will consequently induce and excite them "to glorify our Father which is in heaven." "In this," saith our Saviour, "is my Father glorified, if you bear much fruit." It is an aggravation of impiety, often insisted on in Scripture, that it slurs, as it were, and defames God, brings reproach and obloquy on Him, causes His name to be profaned; and it is answerably a commendation of piety, that by the practice thereof we beget esteem to God Himself, and sanctify His ever-blessed name. Secondly, but there are, deserving a particular inspection, some members thereof, which in a peculiar and eminent manner do constitute this honour: some acts which more signally conduce to the illustration of God's glorySuch are —
1. The frequent and constant performance (in a serious and reverent manner) of all religious duties, or devotions.
2. Using all things peculiarly refuted unto God, His holy name, His holy word, His holy places (the places "where His honour dwelleth,") His holy times (religious fasts and festivities) with especial respect.
3. Yielding due observance to the deputies and ministers of God.
4. Freely spending what God hath given us (out of respect unto Him) in works of piety, charity, and mercy; that which the wise man calls, "honouring the Lord with our substance."
5. All penitential acts, by which we submit unto God, and humble ourselves before Him. As Achan, by confessing of his sin, is said to "give glory to the Lord God of Israel."
6. Cheerful undergoing afflictions, losses, disgraces, for the profession of God's truth, or for obedience to God's commands. (As St. Peter is said "by his death," suffered on such accounts, "to glorify God.")
7. We shall especially honour God, by discharging faithfully those offices which God has intrusted us with; by improving diligently those talents which God hath committed to us; by using carefully those means and opportunities which God hath vouchsafed us, of doing Him service, and promoting His glory. It is a most notorious thing, both to reason and in experience, what extreme advantage great persons have, especially by the influence of their practice, to bring God Himself, as it were, into credit; how much it is in their power easily to render piety a thing in fashion and at request. For in what they do, they never are alone, or are ill attended; whither they go, they carry the world along with them: they lead crowds of people after them, as well when they go in the right way, as when they run astray. Their good example especially hath this advantages that men can find no excuse, can have no pretence why they should not follow it.
III. I SHOULD NOW SHOW WHY THE DUTY IS REQUIRED OF US, OR HOW REASONABLE IT IS. God surely doth not exact honour from us because He needs it, because He is the better for it, because He, for itself, delights therein. He is infinitely excellent, beyond what we can imagine or declare.
1. For that to honour God is the most proper work of reason; that for which primarily we were designed and framed; whence the performance thereof doth preserve and perfect our haters; to neglect it being unnatural and monstrous.
2. For that also it is a most pleasant duty. He is not a man who doth not delight to make some returns thither, where he hath found much goodwill, whence He hath felt great kindness.
3. For that likewise our honouring God disposes us to the imitation of Him (for what we do reverence we would resemble), that is, to the doing those things wherein our chief perfection and happiness consists, whence our best content and joy doth spring.
4. In fine, for that the practice at this duty is most profitable and beneficial to us; unto it by an eternal rule of justice our final welfare and prosperity being annexed.
IV. THIS PROMISE HE MAKES GOOD SEVERAL WAYS.
1. The honouring God is of itself an honourable thing; the employment which ennobles heaven itself, wherein the highest angels do rejoice and glory. It is the greatest honour of a servant to bring credit to his master.
2. By honouring God we are immediately instated in great honour; we enter into most noble relations, acquire most illustrious titles, enjoy most glorious privileges.
3. God hath so ordered it, that honour is naturally consequent on the honouring Him. God hath made goodness a noble and stately thing; hath impressed on it that beauty and majesty which commands an universal love and veneration, which strikes presently both a kindly and an awful respect into the minds of all men.
4. God, by His extraordinary providence, as there is reason and occasion, doth interpose so as to procure honour to them, to maintain and further their reputation who honour Him. Many are the instances of persons (such as Abraham, Joseph, Moses, David, Job, and Daniel), who, for their signal honouring of God, from a base and obscure, or from an afflicted and forlorn condition, have, in ways strange and wonderful, been advanced to eminent dignity.
5. Whereas men are naturally inclined to bear much regard to the judgment of posterity concerning them, are desirous to leave a good name behind them, and to have their memory retained in esteem: God so disposes things, that "the memory of the just shall be blessed"; that "his righteousness shall be had in everlasting remembrance."
6. Lastly, to those who honour God here, God hath reserved an honour infinitely great and excellent, in comparison whereto all honours here are but dreams, the loudest acclamations of mortal men are but empty sounds.
(I. Barrow, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Wherefore the LORD God of Israel saith, I said indeed that thy house, and the house of thy father, should walk before me for ever: but now the LORD saith, Be it far from me; for them that honour me I will honour, and they that despise me shall be lightly esteemed.
WEB: "Therefore Yahweh, the God of Israel, says, 'I said indeed that your house, and the house of your father, should walk before me forever.' But now Yahweh says, 'Be it far from me; for those who honor me I will honor, and those who despise me shall be lightly esteemed.