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that he may appear before the Lord, and there abide for ever. And Elkanah her husband said unto her, Do what seemeth thee good, tarry until thou have weaned him, only the Lord establish his word. So the woman abode, and gave her son suck until she had weaned him.”
There was in all this a commanding principle of religion, of zeal for the will and glory of God, which regulated the spirit, and inspired the tongue; without which I am afraid there is but a slender security for domestic felicity in the exercise of even good nature and good manners, much less in a mere sense of decency, or regard to the opinion of the world. These may overawe at particular seasons and in particular situations; but the fear and love of God are permanent and unvarying principles; they enforce and assist relative duty till it grows into a habit, and habit renders even difficult things easy and agreeable.
Samuel, who is his own biographer, has most judiciously drawn a veil over his infancy. Childish prognostics of future eminence are generally ridiculous and contemptible; they can impose only on the partiality of parential affection, or the credulity of superstition. The cynic snarls disdain at the relation of these premature prodigies of dawning wisdom, and the sage smiles indulgence and compassion on the fond belief. Let parents, by all means, amuse, delight themselves and each other with the sallies of infant, opening genius, but let them keep the delight to themselves. It is one of the joys in which “a stranger intermeddleth not.”
In the next Lecture we shall be led forward to consider the presentment of Samuel before the Lord in Shiloh; the sacrifice which accompanied that solemn ceremony; the farther discovery of the amiable and excellent spirit by which the mother was actuated; and the infant prophet's entrance on his important office.
—Behold once more, christians, the spirit of prophecy still pointing to one and the same great object. The persons and circumstances of the prophets were various; but amidst that variety, some one striking feature of character, office, or condition announced “Him that was to come,” more clearly or more obscurely reflected his image, and “prepared the way of the Lord.” The tongues of the prophets are many; but they all speak the same language, they all pronounce one name. The periods of their existence and predictions were widely remote; but all meet in one central point of light, in one auspicious instant, “the fulness of time,” in one illustrious personage, “to whom all give witness,” in one commanding “purpose and grace”—the salvation of the world. “God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers, by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds; who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high,” Heb. i. 1–3. Behold all created glory thus absorbed in one glorious, divine person, “who is above all, and through all, and in all.” “Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father,” Phil. ii. 9–11.
And when she had weaned him, she took him up with her, with three bullocks, and one ephah of flour, and a bottle of wine, and brought him unto the house of the Lord in Shiloh. And the child was young. And they slew a bullock, and brought the child to Eli. .And she said, O my lord, as thy soul liveth, my lord, I am the woman that stood by thee here, praying unto the Lord. For this child I prayed; and the Lord hath given me my petition which I asked of him. Therefore also I have lent him to the Lord as long as he liveth; he shall be lent to the Lord. And he worshipped the Lord there.—l SAMUEL i. 24–28.
“I.ORD, what is a man, that thou art mindful of him, and the son of man that thou visitest him?” Every serious reflection on the nature, and perfections, and works of God, suggests this rapturous meditation of the holy psalmist. Every view of Deity is at once humiliating and encouraging to the soul. We seem to shrink into nothing, while we contemplate the regions of unbounded space; while the eye wanders from orb to orb; and the mind loses itself in calculating their number, distances, magnitude, lustre and harmony; while imagination wings its daring flight to the world of spirits, and surveys myriads of angles adoring before the throne of the Most High; and “the spirits of just men made perfect” rejoicing “with joy unspeakable and full of glory.” But man rises into greatness and importance, when we reflect that “God created him in his own image;” that eternal Providence exercises an unremitting solicitude about him; and that for his redemption the Son of God suffered and died. The little concerns of individuals, and of private families, acquire value and dignity when we consider them as stamped with the seal of omnipotence, as the operation of infinite wisdom, as links in the great chain of divine administration, and as extending their influence to eternity. But destroy this connexion, and we perceive only a strange and unaccountable scene of vanity, folly, and confusion. The holy scriptures, which exhibit the justest representation, and enable us to form the justest estimate of human life, keep this continual interposition and commanding influence of divine Providence constantly in view. We meet with domestic feelings and occurrences exactly similar to our own, and we find a proof that the Bible is the word of God, in our own personal, daily experience. The transactions which led to the scene represented in the passage now read, have been too recently submitted to your notice, to need repetition. In the spirit and deportment of Elkanah and Hannah to each other, we have an useful example of conjugal complacency and affection. In the character of Hannah, we behold the feelings of the woman sweetly blended with the piety of the saint: and the child of sorrow seeking and finding refuge in the power and mercy of God. We are now to contemplate one of the most pleasing objects that human life presents—a good and honest heart in possession of its wish, and making the proper use of the expected blessing; the spirit of prayer changed into the spirit of praise, and vows formed in the hour of distress faithfully performed.
Let our first meditations turn on the wisdom and goodness of that great Being, who has established human felicity on such a solid foundation; or rather has drawn it from so many combined sources. How manifold and how tender, in particular, are the ties which unite a mother and her son? She carried him in her womb with solicitude and uneasiness, and brought him into the world at the hazard of her life. She sustained his infant days with the blood of her own veins, and slumber was a stranger to her eyes, that he might sleep in tranquillity. The first object which he distinguished, was the smiling face of his guardian angel, the first sound that struck his opening ear, was the murmur of maternal affection; the first idea he formed, was that of seeking refuge from want, and pain, and danger, in the fond bosom of a parent. The very anguish and trouble which she endured on his account, but endear him the more to her; a sense of early assured protection, “grows with his growth, and strengthens with his strength,” and forms a bond of mutual attachment, which on one side is hardly to be dissolved, and on the other, is one of the most powerful securities against the inroads of vice, and is the last convuksive grasp of expiring virtue. Nature has laid upon you, mothers, the heaviest and most important part of education. The good or the evil is already done before the child is taken out of your hands. Happily the weakness of your constitution is strengthened and upheld for the arduous task, by the force of affection, and your very labour thereby is rendered your delight. And, O how glorious is your rewards you desire, you can desire none higher, than to see your son, the son of your womb, the son of your vows, remembering and practising the early lessons which his mother taught him. How happy was Eli in having for a pupil, a child suckled, and weaned, and instructed in early life, by a Hannah! How great the goodness of the compassion: yo I., II r. 3 D