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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 occurences exactly similar to our own, and we find a proof that the Bible is the word of God, in our 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 pleas ing 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 convulsive grasp of expiring virtue.
Nature has laid upon you, mothers, the heaviest and most important part of education. The good or evil is already done, before the child is taken out of hands. Happily the weakness of your constitution is your strengthened and upheld for the arduous task, by the force of affection, and your very labor thereby is rendered your delight. And O, how glorious is your reward! 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 compassionate and merciful Father of all, who by means so sim
ple, so pleasant, so powerful, so effectual, makes constant provision for the comfort, the protection and the improvement of man!
Let us proceed to meditate, for a moment on the amiable and instructive pattern here set before us, of a faithful and obedient heart. Distress naturally dic tates wishes, and prayers, and vows; it makes us sensible of subjection and dependence; but when the blessing is obtained, the load removed, and the hour of performance come, men are as forgetful and as niggardly as once they were attentive and liberal. Ten lepers were cleansed, but " where are the nine ?" Has one only returned to give thanks? Ingratitude is one of those crimes which no man is either bold or depraved enough to defend, but which all men are justly chargeable. How few earthly benefactors but have reason to complain of an ungracious return? How few parents but have that bitterness of bitterness, filial ingratitude, mingled in their cup? How verily guilty is a whole" world lying in wickedness," before God, in this respect? There is really no merit in gratitude, but what arises from its rarity; and that rarity stamps it one of the highest moral virtues. Would it be doing injustice to the other sex, to say, that gratitude is a quality more frequently to be found in the female character? I have no hesitation in affirming, that it is one of the most powerful attractions in any character, and that all other attractions whatever are good for nothing without it.
We observed formerly in the conduct of Hannah a happy mixture of piety and prudence. While the state of her child confined her to Mount Ephraim, it would have been the reverse of a religious service to repair to the feast at Shiloh; when he could with safety be removed to the place of God's presence, to keep him back had been unfaithfulness and impiety. Prudence without piety will quickly degenerate into selfishness and the love of this world; will harden the
heart, and lull the conscience asleep. Piety without prudence will inspire pride and intolerance; will lead to idleness and irregularity in conduct; and out of an affected zeal for the first table of the law, will eraze the characters of the second, or through negligence and disuse, suffer them to be disfigured by filth, or corrupted and impaired by rust, so as to become at length wholly illegible. Where piety and prudence are found united, the love of God and man will perfectly consist ;- both tables of the law will be equally clear and distinct, and their combined influence will instruct the person by whom it is felt and understood, to "use the world so as not to abuse it."
At length the time of presenting herself before the Lord, and of performing her vow arrives. The precious child must be no longer her's, but God's. And did he indeed cease to be the parents, by being dedicated to the Most High? Surely no, he became theirs by a firmer and more sacred tie, they have an interest in him unknown, unfelt before. Their treasure has acquired infinite value from the place in which it is deposited; and attendance at God's altar has conferred nobility on the little Levite which all the possessions on Mount Ephraim could not countervail.
Hannah presented herself before the Lord at a former solemnity with bitter crying and tears; she "went forth then weeping, bearing precious seed, she cometh again rejoicing, bringing her sheaves with her; for they that sow in tears shall reap in joy." She presents herself before the Lord, but neither with a contracted heart nor an empty hand. The law demanded for God the first-born of every creature. The whole tribe of which Samuel was a son, was accepted in place of the first-born of all Israel, and the first-born of her family might be redeemed by the substitution of a victim. Thus clearly was the spirit of the gospel inculcated by the institutions of the law; and the doctrine of the atonement through the blood of the 3 D
"Lamb slain from the foundation of the world," was taught unto them as it is taught unto us. Throughout we see the innocent suffering for the guilty; from the sacritice of Abel down to the sacrifice on Mount Calvary, of" the just suffering for the unjust, that he might bring us unto God."
With what mixed emotions must an Israelitish parent, of any sensibility, have presented this sacrifice? Behold the darling child, the first-born led to the altar, but not to bleed and die: no, that innocent lamb, that bullock in the prime of life, is to bleed and die in his stead; and, mournful to reflect, though religion does not now demand such sacrifices, necessity and the appetites of men constantly require them, and we bebold the whole brute "creation groaning and travelling in pain together," to perform the drudgery, minister to the pleasure, or with their flesh to satisfy the need of a creature much more criminal than themselves; and, as if that were too little, subjected to the cruelty and caprice of rational beings, become greater brutes than themselves.
With confidence of true goodness Hannah now addresses Eli, and reminds him of what he had probably forgotten, but was of too much moment to herself ever to be permitted to fall into oblivion. Eli bad only seen her lips move, but heard not the words she pronounced; and the violent emotion in which she was, had conveyed very foul suspicions to his mind. These, with the diguity and calmness of conscious innocence, she repelled; and assured him in general terms that what be had unkindly mistaken for the effect of wine, was the agitation of an afflicted spirit, pouring out its anguish before God; but the subject of her prayer she still kept within her own breast. There was then no witness of her vow but God and her own conscience; and that was enough; it was recorded in heaven; and an honest mind will find itself equally bound by a resolution formed in secret, as by an oath administered