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HISTORY OF HANNAH,
THE MOTHER OF SAMUEL.
Now the sons of Eli were sons of Belial: they knew not the Lord. And the priests' custom with the people was, that when any man offered sacrifice, the priest's servant came while the flesh was in seething, with a flesh-hook of three teeth in his hand: and he struck it into the pan, or kettle, or caldron, or pot : all that the flesh-hook brought up, the priet took for himself: so they did in Shiloh, unto all the Israelites that came thither. Also before they burned the fat, the priest's servant came, and said to the man that sacrificed, Give flesh to roast for the priest : for he will not have sodden flesh of thee, but raw. And if any man said unto him, Let them not fail to burn the fat presently and then take as much as thy soul desireth, then he would answer him, Nay, but thou shalt give it to me now and if not, I will take it by force. Wherefore the sin of the young men was very great before the Lord, for men abhorred the offering of the Lord. Now Eli was very old, and heard all that his sons did unto all Israel. And he said unto them, Why do ye such things? for I hear of your evil dealings by all this people: nay, my sons: for it is no good report that I hear; ye make the Lord's people to transgress....1 SAMUEL ii. 12....17, 23, 24.
PERFECTION consists in the happy medium be
tween the too little and too much. It is etninently conspicuous in every thing that comes immediately from God. "He is the rock, his work is perfect, and all his ways are judgment." Contemplate the stupendous whole, or examine the minutest part, and you find no redundancy, no defect. All is good, yea very good. But man is ever in the extreme. Now under the power of an indolence which shrinks from every appearance of difficulty or danger, and now hurried on by a zeal which overleaps all the bounds of wisdom and discretion. Now he cannot be prevailed on to begin, and now nothing can persuade him to stop. He makes his very good to be evil spoken of, by imprudence and excess in the manner of performing it.
In nothing is human ignorance and frailty more apparent, than in the important article of education. It is conducted, at one time, with a severity that intimidates and overwhelms; at another, with a lenity that flatters, encourages, and fosters vice. One is driven into an evil course by despair, another drawn into it, and fortified in it, by excessive indulgence. It is, in truth, no easy task to manage this matter aright. The modes of treatment are as various as the character and dispositions of the young ones, who are the subjects of it. The application of a general rule is impracticable and absurd. The discipline which would oppress one child, is hardly sufficient to restrain another within any bounds of decency. It is happy when the child is inured to habits of restraint and submission from the cradle. If the mother has discharged her duty tolerably, the business of the father and master is half executed. Last Lord's day we had the satisfaction of observing the effects of an early good education, in the example of Hannah, the mother of Samuel. We saw in her con duct a happy mixture of tenderness and resolution; of attention to domestic employments, and regard to the offices of religion; of moderated anxiety about
the safety and comfort of her son's person, and prudent concern about the culture of his mind. We are, this evening, to meditate on a subject much less pleasing, but not less instructive: the ruinous effects of education neglected; youth licentious and unrestrained, sinking gradually into universal depravity, and issuing in accumulated wretchedness and untimely death. A father weak and indulgent; sons profligate and abandoned; a God holy, righteous, and just.
Observe, in the entrance, the provision which infinite wisdom has been making to supply the breach which was ready to be made in the priesthood. The measure of the iniquity of Eli's sons was nearly full, their destruction was hastening on; Samuel is already born, instructed in, prepared for, the service of the tabernacle: and the care of a pious mother has been employed, in the hand of Providence to counteract the criminal negligence and carelessness of a too easy father.
The representation given us of the degeneracy and dissoluteness of the Levitical family, equals, if not exceeds, ail that history relates of the irregularity, and impurity of idol worship. The law had made a decent, and even an ample provision, for them who ministered at the altar, but had carefully guarded against whatever tended to countenance luxury or excess.... But behold every thing confounded. The directors of religious worship are become the patterns of impiety. There is no reverence of God, no regard to man. Before the fat of the sacrifice smokes upon the altar of Jehovah, the choicest pieces of the victim are served up on the abominable table of a luxurious priest. The pious worshipper has his offering marred, his spirit discomposed, the festival of his family peace disturbed and defrauded, and indecencies, too shocking to be mentioned, close the scene, of riot and intemperance.
All this is easily to be traced up to early habits of indulgence: men could not have become thus wicked all at once. Had the authority of the father, had the
sanctity of the high-priest, had the severity of the judge interposed, to check and punish the first deviation from propriety, it had never come to this. We may judge of the gentleness with 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, goodnatured 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 tameness, 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, grievously 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 dishonor on both his understanding, and his heart; his bitterest enemy could not have devised at 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 delagat
ed to them, for this very end, that they may be "a ter-