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And they arose up in the morning early, and worshipped before the Lord, and returned, and came to
their house to Ramah ; and Eikanah knew Hannah his wife, and the Lord remembered her. Wherefore it came to pass, when tbe time was come about, after Hannah had conceived, that she bare a son, and called his name Samuel, saying, Because I have asked him of the Lord. And the man Elkanah, and all his house, went up to offer unto the Lord the yearly sacrifice, and his vow. But Hannah went not up : for she said unto her husband, I will not go up until the child be weaned, and then I will bring him, that he may appear before the Lord, and there abide forever. And Elkanab 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 weaned him.
The birth of a child is an event of much importance to those who are immediately concerned in it, and of much importance to the world. It is natural for a man to wish that his family should be built up, and his name transmitted. Every child is an accession to national strength, is one more added to the number of rational immortal beings, is a new display of the great Crcator's power, wisdom and goodness. There lie dormant the precious seeds of faculties which are one day to astonish, instruct and bless mankind. These infants, a few years hence, are to be the pillars of the state, the bulwarks of their country, the glory of the church of Christ. That young one shall by and by burst through the obscurity of his birth, and the meanness of his condition; shall become eminently useful, and purchase a name which ages to come shall pronounce with respect and esteem. But what is it to be known and distinguished among men? The period approaches, when God himself shall in the face of the universe acknowledge the least of these as his sons, and seat them on heavenly thrones.
It is natural for a man to wish his family built up, and for a good woman to wish the name and virtues of the husband of her youth preserved and propagated, even though she has not the fond desire, the flattering hope, of being a mother in Israel. But the determinations of Providence do not always accord with the innocent propensities of the human heart, much less with the insatiate demands of pride, avarice and ambition. Even the wise, the amiable and the virtuous are visited with this sore evil, the want of children. It is sometimes the calamity of those who have no other calamity. It demonstrates the imperfection of human bliss ; it spreads a field for the exercise of resignation to the will of God! it furnishes both a motive and a subject for prayer : for we can carry with confidence, to the throne of grace, many a
petition which we should be afraid or ashamed of preferring to a man like ourselves. Happy is the man, happy the woman, who can deposit this and every other care in the bosom of a Father in heaven. She may sit down with Hannah, and “eat” and drink, “ and be no more sad.”
We are this evening presented with the history of the birth and infancy of one of those illustrious children whose fame is universally known, and shall be had in everlasting remembrance, namely, of Samuel, the prophet of the Lord, the judge of Israel, the setter up and the terror of kings; the glory of his own age and country; and the morning-star of a brighter day. The gift of this precious child was long withheld, that it might be more devoutly acknowledged, and more highly prized. Men overlook the ordinary appearances of nature, however stupendous and striking. In order therefore to rouse them to attention, and constrain them to observe the finger of God, the fiery comet is made to glare through the sky, and the earth shakes to the centre.
The blessing was sweetened to Hannah by every circumstance that can affect the fond maternal heart. A child to one who had long been afflicted with barrenness, and cruelly insulted on that account; a man-child, the answer of prayer ; the power of performing for her darling infant the sweetest, and one of the most important maternal duties; and the cordial concurrence of the father in all her prudent, affectionate and pious purposes ; present enjoyment, and blossoming prospects! If there be a pure and perfect bliss on earth, it is the portion of such a woman, in such a situation.
“ The Lord remembered her.” Was he ever unmindful or unkind ? No, he delayed, and he granted in love. How much it concerns thee, O man, o woman, to know and to believe this! What can reconcile thee to the hardships of thy lot, but the persuasion that the good thou desirest is denied in wisdom, and the load that oppresses thee laid on by the hand of a Father? Trust in the Lord, and be of good cheer; the time to favour thee will come; “the Lord will provide,” “the Lord will remember thee.”
She bare a son, and called his name Samuel.” Gracious is the correspondence between a devout spirit and approving, assenting Heaven. Behold the prayer of faith ascending as on eagle's wings, and resting on the footstool of yonder radiant throne; behold the good and perfect gift coming down in return from the Father of lights. Thus the vapours exhaled from the briny deep, fall back in copious showers to refresh and fertilize the earth. What à holy contention is here presented to us! The pious soul striving with God in supplication, in praise, in obedience, in faithfulness; the God of mercy striving with the meek and humble one in shewing kindness, in heaping favour upon favour. Samuel, “ asked and given of God," shall bear to the last hour of his life the memorial of his mother's fervent importunity at the throne of grace, and of God's hearing her in the time of need. " It shall serve forever to remind himself, that he was a gift obtained of God by prayer, and devoted to God in gratitude. Every tongue that pronounces, every ear that hears the sound, shall be admonished of the union which devotion forms and maintains between earth and heaven. The mother names, the father assents, God ap. proves, and time confirms the nomination.
We find Elkanah and all of his family, who were fit for the journey, again on the road to Shiloh, to celebrate the great yearly festival, after the birth of his son. The bounties of Providence bind more powerfully the duties of the law upon the heart as well as upon the conscience, and thereby render religion not only a reasonable, but a pleasant service. The pleasure of waiting upon God, in the ordinances of his appointment, was greatly heightened to this good man, by the company of those whom nature had endeared to him. The length and inconvenience of the road were relieved, and sweetened, and shortened, by friendly conversation, and mutual offices of attention and kindness. The bitterness of strife is heard no more. The sacrifice is offered up with greater ardour, when one flame of affection meets another in presenting it; and the feast of peace acquires a higher relish from its being eaten in the spirit, and in the bonds of love. Social worship, as has been observed, has a most blessed effect in producing, supporting and improving social affections. The tie of duty is strengthened between husband and wife; the bond of nature between parent and child, between brother and brother, is fortified and ennobled by going together to the house of God, and returning in company from thence. The eye of a stranger is caught and pleased with the sight of a decent family on their road to the temple. Your prayers arise with increased ardour from seeing your children around you, in the house of prayer ; your hearts glow with a holier gratitude when you hear their voices join in the praises which you sing. Offence has been given, behold it lost, and forgotten forever, because the parties have bowed their knees together before God, and pronounced together the petition of reconciliation and peace. “Heavenly Father, forgive our trespasses as we forgive them who trespass against us." Common mercies have been received; see how they increase and multiply, see with what additional satisfaction they are felt and enjoyed, while the notes of thanksgiving ascend from hearts and lips in unison. Common distress presses : lo, the burthen is already made light, the mourners have been together before the Father of mercies, the refuge of the miserable; they have poured out their hearts before God, and are lightened; they have cast all their care upon him, and are at rest.
Christians, you have no painful and expensive journey to undertake, in order to present yourselves before the Lord. Your Shiloh is at home. Of you no costly sacrifice is demanded. “Offer unto the Lord thanksgiving, and pay your vows unto the Most High; and call upon him in the day of trouble.” Christian parent, Providence has made thee priest to that little church and congregation ; bear them, as Aaron did the twelve tribes of Israel, engraven like jewels upon thy heart to the most holy place; to the altar of incense.
“But Hannah went not up; for she said unto her husband, Not until the child be weaned.” Every duty of life and of religion has its proper place and season. God hath said, and the great Teacher sent from God, hath both by precept and practice established the word, “I will have mercy and not sacrifice." The religion which makes light of relative duty, which teaches carelessness or neglect in our lawful worldly concerns, and withdraws men from their place and station in society, is mistaken and erroneous; it is not the religion of the Bible ; it has neither authority nor example to support it, That man is doing God service, who labours in his vocation, that he may have wherewith to do justly, and to shew mercy; not he who is slothful in business, but eager in argument, and who gives himself to speculating, when he ought to be working with his hands. That woman is performing a religious service, who is looking well to her household ; giving suck to one child and instruction to another, practising industry and economy; not she who is forever rambling after favourite dogmas or favourite teachers; aiming at shining in the church, when she ought to be shining in her most honourable sphere, her own house; and engaging warmly in matters of doubtful disputation, while the food and clothing of her family are neglected. Who can call in question the piety of Hannah? And surely her absenting herself from the feast at Shiloh, on so just an occasion, will not be deemed an impeachment of it.
But though the history has led me to make these remarks, perhaps, in our day they might have been spared. Have I not been combatting a mistake into which neither the men nor the women of the present age are greatly dis
posed to fall? Ought I not rather to caution my hearers against the prevalence of a worldly spirit, to the extinction not only of the soul, but to the neglect of the very form of religion? What, warn this generation against “the danger of being religious overmuch?” What, warn them of the importance of attending to, and pursuing their temporal interest? What, caution them against frequenting the temple on working days, when they will not be diverted from the pursuit of business or pleasure on the Lord's day ? I was in the wrong; and I change the object of my exhortation. To you, O men, 1 call, who, absorbed in frivolous, transitory occupations, forget that “one thing is needful ;' to you, who, wallowing in the bounties of an indulgent Providence, regard not the hand from which all your comforts flow; to you, who, rising into a little wealth, a little hope, a little consequence, have lost the recollection of your having once been needy, and obscure, and unimportant; and what is infinitely worse, have lost the recollection and the practice of that humility, and decency, and piety, which poverty, and obscurity, and dependance taught and enforced.
To you, O women, I call, who, without a shadow of reason, who, in the face of decency and propriety, who, in defianoe of both feeling and conscience, who, entrusted with the education of children, female children, feel not the importance of the charge, or are not aware of the influence of example; can dispense with the very externals of godliness, can become the patterns of sabbath neglect or violation; can trifle with any thing that affects the morals or religion of the rising generation. To you I call, and say, you are treasuring up for yourselves remorse ; and for these young ones, whom you dearly love, shame, and sorrow, and distress. What is the lot of a female, without the consolations of religion; and how is a young woman to learn religion if not from her own mother ? Let me remind you of what you once thought, felt and resolved. You carried that child with uneasiness and anxiety in your womb; you formed a thousand fond wishes, you put up a thousand prayers, you came under a thousand engagements. You employed not perhaps the very words of Hannah, but undoubtedly you entered entirely into her views, and the fruit of the womb was to be “ holiness to the Lord.” Well, God has been gracious to thee, and remembered thee. Thou hast survived the danger, and been delivered from the pangs of childbirth. You have enjoyed the satisfaction of training the beloved of your soul through the dangers, difficulties and solicitude of infancy and childhood. God has graciously done his part, and you have so far performed yours. But did your engagements cease, when the infant was weaned ? Did you rear that tender plant with so much anxiety, tenderness and care, only to poison and corrupt it, after it had begun to take root, and bud, and blossom? Know you not, that the inconsideration and folly of a day may destroy the pains and labour of many years; and that the eyes of children are much quicker and more retentive than their ears ?
Happy that daughter who is betimes formed to habits of discretion, of purity, of regularity, of piety, by the tender guardian and guide of her early days! Happy that mother whose attention is bent on infusing betimes, in her female offspring at least, the principles of wisdom, virtue, and true godliness, who is honoured to exemplify what she teaches, and is blessed with a docile, affectionate, and improving disciple !
The manner in which Elkanah and Hannah live and converse together, is exemplary and instructive. They have one common interest; they have one darling object of affection; they express one and the same will, in terms of mutual kindness and endearment. “She said unto her husband, I will not go up until the child be weaned, and then I will bring him, that he may appear before the Lord, and there abide forever. 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 parental 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 anncunced “ 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 times 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.”* 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.”+
* Heb. i. 1-3.
| Phil. ij. 9-11.