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The Philistines be upon thee Samson..
AND; What then ?:-What can the PhiListines do to Samson the man of invincible strength ? He has proved himself more than a match for a thousand of them. He once entered alone into one of their principal cities, slew thirty men, took their spoil, and went off in safety. He afterward; at another place, spread among them a more extensive slaughter. He, with only the contemptible weapon of a jaw bone, smote to the ground a thousand men, and laid them heaps upon heaps. The gate posts of Gaza he plucked up with his hands, and carried them off on his shoulders, with the gate, bar and all. Consenting to be bound with strong cords, green withes, and new ropes, in succession, he snapped them asunder, as a thread of tow; and when his enemies, thinking him in their power, shouted against him, he rose, and fell upon them with prodigious havock. And, What can they do to him now?
Alas! Samson has slept in the lap of a harlot, and his strength is gone ! His enemies now seize him, put out his eyes, bind him in fetters of brass, and make him grind in the prison. Fatal change! The dismal effect of breaking the sacred vow of Nazariteship, and yielding to the power of lust.
Samson's prodigious strength was not a natural endowment, always at his own command : It tvas an immediate gift, vouchsafed on special occasions, and, on those occasions, obtained by prayer to God. In his exertions, it is said, The spirit of God came upon him. When his strength failed, it is said, The Lord departed from him.
From his infancy, he had been dedicated to God, as a Nazarite forever. He was separated to the service of God, under an obligation to abstain from wine, and every sensual indulgence, which might, in any degree, unfit him for the service to which he was devoted. He was raised up to be the deliverer of the Jews, now under the oppression of the Philistines, and to be their chief magistrate in the administration of their civil government. That he might better discharge the duties of his exalted station, he was required to be a Nazarite as long as he lived. The badge and token of his dedication, was his hair growing in its natural state. By the divine law, å Nazarite was forbidden to cut his hair, or shave his head. Samson's bodily strength had no natural connexion with the growth of his hair : It was a privi. lege annexed to the religious observance of his vow. When, in consequence of his vidlating this bond, he lost the badge, he lost also the benefit of his Nazariteship. God withdrew the special aid which once he afforded him, and left him to his natural weakness. The loss of his hair was followed with the loss of his strength, as a moral, not as a natural effect; and only because that was the fruit of his own guilty indulgence. Had his hair been taken from him by force or accident, without a previous fault of his own, and while he was in the strict ob
servance of his vow, there is no reason to conclude that the same effect would have ensued.
Whether Samson was a man of real piety, is a question which the history of his life seems not clearly to decide. The strongest argument in his favour, is the honour done him
by the Apostle to the Hebrews, who has given him a place in his list of believers.
However this may be, he was evidently a man of a mixed character.
He believed in the true God, regarded his gov. erning providence, often addressed hiin in prayer, received communications of supernatural strength; which he sensibly acknowledged, and, until he was overcome by the inticements of an artful wo. man, he carefully preserved the external token of his separation to the service of God. But, on tee other hand, we find him, early in life, seeking a marriage contrary to the advice of his parents, and to the law of his God. This marriage is indeed said to be of the Lord; not commanded, but permitted of the Lord in his wise providence; but, though God was wise in his permission, Samson was not wise in his choice. Afterward we find him in the company of a known prostitute, yielding to female charms, making and attending festivals, in which he would naturally meet with temptations to violate his vow of abstinence from wine. And it is probable, that he at length fell under the power of a depraved appetite; for that he should sleep so soundly, as not to be awakened by the operation of the razor on his head, can hardly be accounted for, but by supposing a degree of inebriation, which Josephus affirms to have been the case.
These stains we discover in his character ; not to mention his last act, which perhaps may be justified on the principle of regard to the liberties of his country; for doubtless there are cases, in which men may expose themselves to probable, if not to certain death, for the general safety of their nation.
But, though we see in this hero, great and inexcusable faults, still it is to be remembered, that, while he lay in confinement, he had time for reflection and repentance. And the return of his strength, with the future growth of his hair, affords a probable argument of the sincerity of his humiliation, in that painful period.
But whatever may be his religious character, the errours of his life, and the calamities which they brought on him, will suggest to us some useful warnings and instructions.
By a conduct inconsistent with his solemn dedi. cation to God, he lost his strength ; not only the strength of his body, but, which was of more importance, the strength of his mind, and of his virtue; and suddenly, in the torpor of an artificial sleep, he fell under the power of his enemies. He lay down a freeman, and awoke a captive and a slave. While he thought his strength remained, he attempted to exercise it for his deliverance, but in vain, he was weak as another man.
I. We are here taught, that the young should ever act under a sense of their religious dedication to God.
Samson was, by his parents, consecrated as a Nazarite. Their act he considered as binding on him, because it was in consequence of a divine command.
It is sometimes asked, How are children bound by an act of their parents, to which they have nev. er consented, and of which they are not even con. scious ?
But, Can you tell me, how Samson was bound by the act of his parents ?
You will say, “It was the authority of God, which obliged him to be a Nazarite, and which
obliged his parents to set him apart in this charac. ter."
It is well answered. Remember, too, God re. quires the Christian parent to bring up
his chil. dren in the knowledge and practice of the religion of the gospel ; and to make an early dedication of them to him, in a particular instituted form, as an acknowledgment of his obligation thus to educate them; and as a token of their future obligation, to walk worthy of their Christian education. To ask then, how a parent's act binds his children, is only to ask, How they are bound by the command of God ? A question which surely needs no answer.
If you have been dedicated to God, it is because you are bound to live to him. Your obligation to virtue does not originate from your baptism ; but the reason of your baptism is founded in your obligation to virtue. If you live in opposition to the will of God, you contradict the great design, for which
have been consecrated to him. Samson was much more concerned to keep the token of his Nazaritism, than to observe the duties of it. He never voluntarily parted with his locks : but he often violated that purity of life, to which his parents had consecrated him, and which his locks denoted. An inconsistency this, which is not uncommon. Few would, in a formal manner, re. nounce their baptism ; but thousands live contrary to it. While they choose to be considered in the character of baptised Christians, in the character of disciples of Christ, whose name has been called on them, and on whose name they call, they in, dulge those corruptions of heart, and impurities of life, which his gospel expressly forbids. But, Will their baptism save them, while in works they deny it? It verily profiteth, if they obey the gospel. Otherwise, in effect, it becomes no baptism. He is not a Christian, who is only one outwardly,