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of the Lord, so she provoked her.” In female bosoms can such malignity dwell? Ah, what so bad as the good corrupted, perverted! Behold a rancour which no time could enfeeble, no sense of shame restrain, and which the sacredness of the sanctuary served only to embitter and inflame! Can it be possible, merciful Father, can it be possible, that such a fell spirit should ever have accompanied any of us to thy house of prayer? Can " the same tongue utter blessing and cursing?” Dare we say 66 we love God, whom we have not seen, while we hate” or dispise “a brother” a sister 6 whom we have seen?” “ Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting," Psalm xxxix. 23, 24.
It is greatly to the honour of Hannah, that all this cruel and insulting treatment drew from her no indecent return. Though grieved in spirit, provoked, fretted beyond all enduring, we hear of no furious ap. peal to the partial tenderness of her husband, no railing for railing, no rash malediction, no furious threatning of revenge. It is not easy to govern the spirit; it is not always possible to command the temper under offence and insult; but the tongue is in every one's power, improper words admit of no defence, and rage is but a poor apology for abuse and blasphemy. But she pines away in silent sorrow. “ She wept, and did not eat.” These seasons of rejoicing before the Lord, these times of refreshing to every other daughter of Israel, were to her days of heaviness and wo. What signifies a large portion to one who has no appetite? What is the prosperity of her people, to one, who, like a dried branch, is cut off from all interest in posterity, who sees the name and honours of her beloved husband passing away to the children of another, the children of one who hated her? Alas, the spirit of devotion itself is checked and repressed by the incessant, unrelenting
stings of envy and jealousy; life is become a burden to
The deep affliction with which she was overwhelmed could not escape the attentive eyes of Elkanah. Though her tongue said nothing, her eyes, her tears, her dejection, her abstinence, her sighs betrayed abun. dantly the anguish of her soul. “Then said Elkanah her husband to her, Hannah why weepest thou, and why eatest thou not, and why is thy heart grieved? Am not I better to thee than ten sons?" To what distress has the good man reduced himself? Now he severely feels the effect of his own imprudence, and laments his having tried the dangerous experiment, which robbed him of all domestic quiet, disturbed the festivity of the solemn rendezvous at Shiloh, and threatened to produce one day some tragical event in his family.
Sympathy, if it does not wholly dispel our miseries, pours at least a temporary balm into the wound, and “ soothes pain for a while.” Hannah becomes composed, and the feast is concluded. There is still one refuge left for the miserable, one remedy against despair, one friend able and ready to help in every time of trouble; and our eyes with complacency follow the mourner, not into her secret retirement, to spend her sorrow in unavailing tears, or to curse the day in which she was born; not into the round of giddy dissipation, to drown reflection and anxiety, in the poisoned chalice of intemperate mirth and jollity; but to the place of prayer, but to the door of mercy, but to the dawn of hope.
We shall presently find, that what related to the externals of God's worship was at that time but badly conducted in Israel, the 66 sons of Eli were sons of Belial,” they know not the Lord.” But be the minister who he will, the word and service of God cannot be rendered of none effect. Not only the spirit of piety, but a sense of common decency was
now lost in the Levitical priesthood; when it pleased God to make this very afflicted woman, the means in his hand, to restore the dignity, purity and importance of the sacred function, to revive the decayed interests of religion, and to bring forward the great events which are so intimately connected with the things which belong to our everlasting peace.
When we look into human life, whether as exhibited on the hallowed page of inspiration, or by our own ob. servation and experience, we shall find that most of the “ills which fesh is heir to,” may easily be traced up to some imprudence, heedlessness, or transgression of the man himself, who, before he was aware, found himself involved in difficulties and distresses, the native effects of his own misconduct, but which he foresaw not, apprehended not, and which he never could intend. I know how poor a consolation it is, to tell a man, " you have nobody but yourself to blame," and to upbraid him with the warning which you gave him, and he would not take; but it is not, for that, useless for one to discover the source, cause, and progress of his calamity. The case must be bad indeed, or his eyes must have been opened very late, or his “heart hard. ened through the deceitfulness of sin," if he cannot turn to some good account the reflections of maturer judgment, the admonitions and chastisement of experience, the pain and remorse of an ill conscience, or the mistakes and wanderings of a good one.
There are steps in conduct which are irretrieveable, and therefore ought not to be tampered with. The ex. cessive use of the most wholesome food, will at length overwhelm the strongest constitution; the occasional application of what is doubtful or unwholesome, may undermine or waste it, but poison is certain death; and the sagacity of a brute, the understanding of a child, is sufficient to distinguish between poison and food, perhaps not between poison and medicine."
To how many gracious, social, civil, and moral purposes, may not the wise and proper use of religious services be applied? The man who has performed with understanding and feeling, the devotions of the closet, will issue from it in a higher state of preparation for every duty of life. Filled with veneration for his hea. venly Father, " who seeth," and with whom he has been conversing“ in secret,” he breathes good will to man. The emotions of every unkind, ungentle, unjust affection are stifled, extinguished, forgotten. The prin. ciples of benevolence and benignity have acquired new life and energy. He is disposed to meet the ills of life with more firmness and fortitude, and to enjoy its blessings with a more exquisite relish. Hannah having poured out her soul to God, “ went her way and did eat, and her countenance was no more sad.” The de. votion of the morning will prove the best assistant toward conducting the business of the coming day; and that of the evening, the happiest review and improvea inent of the past. From him who habitually begins and ends every thing with God, you may reasonably expect the fruits of a good and honest heart, 6 speech alway with grace, seasoned with salt,” and order in conduct, more than from other men; more works of mercy, more fair dealing, more steadiness in friend. ship; and less of the rancour of opposition, less of the self-sufficiency of pride, less of the malignity of envy; for the love of God absorbs all these baleful, ma. lignant fires.
The devotions of the family, in like manner, produce the happiest effects within that sphere. How soothing, how cementing, how conciliating they are! Does com. mon calamity press? It is alleviated, it is sanctified, it is done away, when the “ care is cast upon God," when the burthen is transferred to a Father in heaven, who stands engaged to remove it, or to render it a blessing. Is domestic prosperity abounding, increasing? what an additional lustre, value, sweetness, does it de. rive from union, from piety, from a common sense of bas not as cociety.
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obligation and dependence? Have offences come? Has peace been disturbed? Are the bonds which united husband and wife, parent and child, brother and brother, master and servant, unhappily broken? The moment that the healing address, “ Our Father, who art in heaven," reaches the ear, every soul is peace, the spirit of love pervades the whole, and the voice of dis. cord is heard no more. When pardon is implored from him whom all have offended, the stony heart re. lents, melts, forgives, for he needs to be forgiven.
The influence of public worship likewise, where it has not degenerated into mere form, is the strongest cement of society. It serves to consolidate men of various ranks and conditions, with their several talents and abilities, into one compact, efficient, well-organized body, ready to act with one heart and one soul, in the cause of God and their country. Little shades of difference, in men truly good, will unite instead of disjoining. Our great national assemblies are obliged, by law, to open their sittings for public business, by acts of public devotion. The reason and intention of the law, and of the practice founded upon it, are abundantly obvious. If the effect does not follow to the extent that might be wished-it must be concluded that the devotional part of the sitting is neglected; that formality has extinguished the flame; or that difference of religious sentiment, or what is still worse, indifference to all religion, mar and weaken, and dis. tract the whole. The prevalency of a worldly spirit must at length prove fatal to piety, and when piety is gone, public spirit is on the decline, and will not long survive.
But we have in the history under review, a melancholy instance of what frequently happens to this day, and under a happier dispensation of religion-seasons and places of devotion perverted into the instruments of kindling and exercising the ungracious, the unsocial, the unkind affections. How often is the sanctu.