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propriety, it had never come to this. We may judge of the gentleness with which slighter offences were reproved, when the most atrocious transgressions meet with so mild a rebuke as this, " Nay, my sons, it is no good report that I hear.” This is rather an invitation to commit iniquity, than the vengeance of a magistrate to expose and suppress it. To point out the aggravations of Eli's offence, is neither malicious nor useless; it is written, among the other things in this book, for our instruction, and by the blessing of God it may prove salutary, as a beacon pointing out the rock on which others have made shipwreck. .
Against his personal virtue no censure is insinuated. He seems to have been one of those quiet, easy, good. natured men, who love not to have their tranquillity disturbed, and are loth to disturb that of others; who without being vicious themselves, by a passive tame. ness, become the undesigned abettors of the sins of other men. The corruption of the times must indeed have been very great, when it was supposed possible for the mistress of a family, during the solemnity of a sacred festival, to be disguised with wine, in the face of the sun, in the court of God's house. But the bare, possibility of such a case, grieviously enhances his guilt. He had not done his duty as the public guardian of morals and religion, or Hannah had not been suspected of intemperance, and the suspicion reflects the highest dishonour on both his understanding, and his heart: his bitterest enemy could not have devised a severer censure upon his conduct, than that under the priesthood of Eli such enormities were committed, and connived at.
Men in power are chargeable, not only with the evil which they do, but also with the evil which they might have prevented, but did not. Power is delegated to them for this very end, ihat they may be “a terror to evil doers,” as well as “a praise to such as do well." The same carelessness runs through the whole of his
domestic and public administration; a disorderly family, a polluted church, a distracted, staggering state; no government, or what was worse than none. The best things are the most liable to abuse: and we shall give this faulty, unhappy father all the credit we can. His errors had their origin perhaps in goodness. His natural disposition was mild and gentle; his parental af. fection was great; he was unwilling to render any one unhappy; he thought of prevailing by love! He began with overlooking trifling faults; he flattered himself that the reason and reflection of riper years would correct and cure the wildness and irregularity of boyish days; ! Surely the young men will by and by see their folly, and grow wiser.” Who would not rather attempt to rule by love? But what is the proper conduct and ex. pression of love? What saith the wisest of mankind? “ He that spareth the rod, hateth the child.” What saith the great Father and Saviour of all men? “ As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten.” There is no such thing as happiness, but in habits of order, decency and subjection. The man, or the child, who knows no law but that of appetite or caprice, must of necessity be mi. serable. It is cruelty, not kindness, to give a man up to himself; and to dream of changing habits of indolence, dissipation, and criminal indulgence, by remonstrance and reason, is expecting that reason should survive itself, or that it should effect, when enfeebled, disordered, and corrupted, what it could not do when clear, and sound, and vigorous. But, “ the grace of God is almighty, and his mercies are very great.” Nay, but who art thou, O man, who darest to expect, or ask a mi. racle of grace, with the consciousness of having neglected the means, which timely employed, might, through the divine blessing, have proved effectual without a mi. raculous interposition? The one talent is justly taken away from him who hid it in the earth, and it is given to increase the store of the diligent and faithful servant, TOE. JII.
who, by wisdom and industry, had increased his five talents into ten.
The human mind, put under early culture, may be made to produce any thing. It possesses a happy pliancy, which may be moulded into any form. But the same plant, which, young and tender, you could with a touch bend into what shape you pleased; when grown into a tree, resists every effort of your strength. Cut it down you may, break it you may, cleave it asunder you may, but bend it you cannot. And alas, how great a portion of human life is spent in useless, unavailing regret for opportunities lost, seasons mispent, mischief done, misery incurred! Yet men will not profit even by experience, that plainest, most faithful, and most powerful of all instructors.
Who can view, without pitying him, that wretched old man, deploring the guilt which he himself had occasioned, which he wants resolution to punish, and wisdom to cure; which is proceeding from evil to worse, filling the past with remorse, and overspreading the future with despair? Ah, how heavily he suffers in his age, because these profligate sons bore not the wholesome yoke of discipline and restraint in their youth! Who can conceive the anguish of Jacob's soul as he was sinking into the grave under the loss of a gracious son by the stroke of Providence? But what is it, compared to the more dreadful anguish of Eli, looking forward in horror to the utter extinction of all his family, with the insupportable reflection, that all, was chargeable upon himself?
The character and behaviour of the unhappy young men is a melancholy and affecting representation of the: progress of moral corruption. It begins in their making light of the ordinances of religion which they were bound, by their office, to venerate themselves, and to recommend by their example, to others. And you may be assured there is something essentially wrong about the man who expresses real or affected contempt for the worship of God. It is a gross violation of the
laws of decency and good breeding. For what title can you have to insult that sober-minded person, who has given you no provocation, by deriding or profaning what he holds sacred? It is a direct defiance to the laws of your country, which have adopted the institutions of religion, to assist, at least, in carrying on and supporting good government, so essential to public happiness. He that despises, therefore, the ordinances of God, is a friend to anarchy, is making a wicked attempt to dissolve the bands of society, and deserves to be treated as a public enemy. It is an argument of a light and silly mind, aiming to supply the want of consequence by affected boldness, impiety and singularity; and which, like every other species of affectation, generally misses its aim.
In the example before us, we find irreverence toward God speedily degenerating into violence and injustice to men. And indeed what hold has society of that man who has shaken off the first and strongest obligations of his nature, who has professedly degraded himself, and is become less than a man, in making the silly attempt to be thought something more. He who begins with defrauding God of his due, will not long be scrupulous about invading the rights of his fellow-creature. The same spirit which defers the sacrifice till an unruly appetite be first gratified, will, by and by, proceed to s take by force" the portion of another; and will lose all sense of the just claims and real wants of mankind, in pride and selfishness.
The third stage of this humiliating progress, discovers to us men wholly brutified, plunged into the lowest, grossest sensuality; sinking deeper and deeper in the mire, till nothing remains but the image of the most odious and abominable of animals. Young man, look at the picture, consider it well. If you are so happy as to have preserved your virtue, if you have any savour of piety, you must regard it with a mixture of indignation and pity; if you are not lost to the feelings of humanity, it will fill you with loathing and disgust. The sequel
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will teach us many important lessons. For my own part, ever since I became a father, I have never been able to read this history without trembling; and my anxiety has not been diminished by reflecting, that the children whom God has given me, neither in their bodies, nor their minds, nor their dispositions, are among the lowest of their species. I have an awful conviction, that if any of them should unhappily turn out ill, a great part of the blame will be imputable to myself. I am frequently tempted to rejoice that none of my grown children have made choice of my own profession, the most dangerous, the most responsible of all; and I am much more alarmed at the apprehension, that when they are become men and women, they may accuse me of over-indulgence, than I am now, of being thought harsh and unkind by children.
As the greatest and most respectable part of my audience are parents, I must of necessity apply the great and important subject of my discourse particularly to them. And, as I always flatter myself with the greater hope of success with female parents, I take the liberty of addressing myself first to mothers. Providence, my friends, as I have frequently repeated, has laid the earliest, the heaviest, and the most important part of education, upon you; but it has also alleviated and sweetened the task by many peculiar affections and endearments. Let me suppose you have done your duty, and carefully reared up infancy and childhood. The charge must then pass into other hands. But surely both your heart and conscience tell you that you have not yet done with them. Female children in particular are an anxious and a lasting burthen upon the mother. They love you, they look up to you, they imitate you. You must be therefore what you wish them to become. Will a daughter learn to be industrious from an idle, indolent mother? Will she learn to be sober-minded, by seeing you habitually carried away by the pride of life? Will she catch the spirit of piety from one whose very sabbaths are devoted to