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many children is waxed feeble.” There is a Jewish legend which saith, that for every child that Hannah bore, one of Peninnah's died. It is a mere conjecture; Hannah's triumphant song is rather a proof of the contrary. She discovers a spirit too excellent, in other respects, to permit us to suppose her capable of rejoicing in the devastation which the hand of God had wrought, much less in the destruction of her own husband's family. That heart must be lost to every feeling of humanity, lost to decency, lost to the fear of God, who can make the calamity of another, especially such a calamity, a ground of self-gratulation and complacency, or a subject of thanksgiving to a holy and merciful God, as if he could become a party to our petty jealousies and contentions. No, a spirit so regulated as hers, so patient under mortification, so long nurtured in the school of affliction, so observant of, and submissive to the will of Providence, could not taste the mortality of even Peninnah's cbildren as a source of joy. Her expressions amount to no more than a devout and humble acknowledgement of unerring wisdom, of unimpeachable justice in conducting all the affairs of this world : in building up families, and in bringing them low; in exercising an absolute right of sovereignty, which will not be compelled to give account of its matters to any one. The gift of children is not always withheld in anger, nor bestowed in kindness, as the character and history of Eli's family will shortly evince.
She proceeds to pursue the same idea of a divine superintendence in every thing, through a variety of particulars strikingly contrasted one with another, all aimiog at the same end, all calculated to enforce the same practical lesson. "The Lord killeth, and maketh alive: he bringeth down to the grave, and bringeth up. The Lord inaketh poor and maketh rich : he bringeth low, and lifteth up. He raiseth up the poor out of the dust, and lifteth up the beggar from the dunghill, to set them among princes, and to make them inherit the throne of glory : for the pillars of the earth are the Lord's, and he hath set the world upon them. He will keep the feet of his saints, and the wicked shall be silent in darkness; for by strength shall no man prevail."*
In the conclusion of her song, Hannah, rapt into futurity, no doubt by the spirit of prophecy, contemplates the final consummation of the great mystery of Providence, as issuing in the establishment of universal order : in the sappression and punishment of vice; and in the unchangeable and perinanent glory of a Redeemer's kingdom. The same hand which balances the spheres, which conducts all the affairs of men, which preserves harmony and prevents confusion, in both the natural and moral worlds, shall at length, by another almighty fiat, “ make all things new.” Then “the adversaries of the Lord shall be broken to pieces : out of heaven shall he thunder upon them.” “ But who may abide the day of his coming ? and who shall stand when he appear. eth? for he is like a refiner's fire; and he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver." Chastisement shall, therefore, be preceded by righteous judgement, that every mouth may be stopped before God. “ The LORD shall judge the ends of the earth.” Now these words of the prophetic mother of Samuel, taken in connexion with the clearer and fuller display of a judgement to come, in the writings of the New Testament, clearly point out that glorious and divine person, in whose hallowed name the song terminates-God's Anointed. A woman was honoured first to announce the Saviour of the world, under that description ; and a succession of prophets henceforward hold it up to the eyes of succeeding generations, as “ all their salvation, and all their desire." Samuel, David, Isaiah, Daniel, Habakkuk, eachr in his day proclaims the approach of this King of glory, of whom all who were anointed with material oil, whether as priests, or prophets, or kings, were but a
* 1 Samuel ii. 6–9.
shadow ; and in whose superiour lustre they disappear, as the light of the stars is absorbed in the splendour of the sun. The prophetess celebrates Jehovah who “shall judge the ends of the earth," as that “King” to whom all authority is committed, to whom all“ strength is given," as that “ anointed" One, Messiah the prince, whose “ horn," should be finally “exalted,” and before the brightness of whose coming, all disorder, iniquity and misery shall flee away ; who shall first “ judge the ends of the earth," and then reign forever and ever.
And thus is the voice of this holy woman, near twelve hundred years before Messiah's day, in perfect unison with the tongue of Christ himself, and of the apostles of the Lord, after his ascension into heaven, and the descent of the Holy Spirit. “ The Father judgeth no man; but hath committed all judgement unto the Son : that all men should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father. He that honoureth not the Son, honoureth not the Father which hath sent him."* "God now commandeth all men every where to repent: because he hath appointed a day in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead.”+ "The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his
Christ; and he shall reign forever and ever." I And such, in every age, is · the native expression of a soul alive to God, the natural aspiration of the spiritual and divine life.
-Art thou, O man, through grace a partaker of it? You shall “ know it by its fruits." As it increases, corruption dies. “ If Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness." To be destitute of this life, in whatever state of perfection the intellectual life may be, is to be under the power of everlasting death, a death of trespasses and sins. But if its very first breathings are felt, however feebly, it is a new creation begun, it is “ Christ in you, the hope of glory.” Attempts will be made to extinguish it, but in vain. Like its Author it is immortal. It may be oppressed, it may be suspended, it may, at seasons, lie dormant, but it cannot expire. It doth not always make itself sensible to the eyes and ears of the world; for the believer's “ life is hid with Christ in God." But " when Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory.”'ll “ Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him ; for we shall see him as he is."'T
* John v. 22, 23.
Rom. viii. 10.
Acts xvii. 30, 31. # Col. iii. 4.
Rev. xi. 15. #1 John ü. 2.
HISTORY OF HANNAH.
MOTHER OF SAMUEL.
1 SAMUEL II. 18, 19, 20, 21.
But Samuel ministered before the Lord, being a child. girded with a linen ephod. Moreover luis
mother made him a little coat, and brought it to him from year to year, when she came up with ber husband, to offer the yearly sacrifice. And Eli blessed Elkapah and his wife, and said, The Lord give thee seed of this woman, for the loan which is lent to the Lord. And they went unto their own home. And the Lord visited Hannah, so that she conceived, and bare three sous and ino daughters. And the child Samuel grew before the Lord.
The character of most men is formed and fixed, before it is apprehended that they have, or can have, any character at all. Many vainly and fatally imagine, that the few first years of life may be disposed of as you please : that a little neglect may easily be repaired, that a little irregularity may easily be rectified. This is saying in other words, “ never regard the morning; sleep it, trifle it, riot it away; a litile closer application at noon will recover the loss.” “The spring returns, the flowers appear upon the earth, the time of the singing of birds is come. No matter; it is soon enough to think of the labours of spring. Sing with the birds, skip with the fawn, the diligence of a more advanced, more propitious season will bring every thing round; and the year shall be crowned with the horn of plenty." A single ray of reason is sufficient to detect and expose such absurdity ; yet human conduct exhibits it, in almost universal prevalence. Infancy and childhood are vilely cast away ; the morning is lost; the seedtime neglected-And what is the consequence? A life full of confusion, and an old age full of regret; a day of unnecessary toil, and a night of vexation; a hurried summer, a meagre autumn, a comfortless winter.
It is the ordinance of Providence that the heaviest and most important part of education should devolve upon the mother. It begins before the child is born ; her passions and habits affect the fruit of her womb. From her bosom the infant draws the precious juice of health and virtue, or the baleful poison of vice and disease. The fleeting period he passes under the shadow of her wing, is a season sacred to wisdom and piety. If the mother lead not her son to the hallowed spring, if she fail to disclose to his eager eye and panting heart the loveliness of goodness, the excellency of religion ; if she permit the luxuriant soil to be overrun with briars and thorns, in vain will she strive to redeem the lost opportunity, by restraints and punishments, by precepts and masters, by schools and colleges, in a more advanced stage of life. The good or the mischief is done by the time he comes out of her hands.
That Providence which has imposed this employment on the fсebler sex as a task, has most graciously contrived to render it one of the highest and most exquisite of female comforts; as, in truth, all the impositions, nay, the very chastisements of Heaven are really blessings. Let the woman who has given suck, tell if she can, “ how tender it is to love the babe that milks her." Ask that mother if there be any joy like the joy of hearing her child repeat
the lessons which she taught him. Ask her if she recollects or regards her pain and anguish; her anxious days and sleepless nights. Ask her, if all is not forgotten and lost in the progress which expanding faculties have made, and in the richer harvest which they promise. Ask, if she has not already received more than her reward. If the representation of the case be just, let it procure for dutiful mothers the respect and gratitude which they merit; let it reconcile their minds to what is painful and laborious in their lot ; let it raise thein to their due rank and importance in society; and let it stimulate them to perseverance in well-doing, in the full assurance that they shall in no wise lose their reward.
-The passage of holy writ, on the consideration of which we are now entering, is a very affecting representation of the effects and consequences of a good and a bad education, exemplitied in the conduct of Hannah, the mother of Samuel, and Eli, the father of Hophni and Phinehas. Scripture, instead of multiplying precept upon precept, leads us at once into human life, and exhibits the law written in the event. It instructs us how to bring up children, by delineating the dreadful consequences of excessive lenity and indulgence on the one hand, and the happy fruits of early piety, regularity and self-government on the other. This theme, being by far the more pleasing of the two, and coming in more regularly in the order of history, shall obtain the preference, in ihe course of our inquiry. Though, indeed, attention to the oue must, of necessity, bring forward the other; and the good fortify and recommend itself by contrast with the evil.
The education of Samuel began in the pious resolution of his mother before he was conceived in the womb. “ If thou wilt give unto thine hand· maid a man-child, then I will give him unto the Lord all the days of his life." Every parent receives every child under a tacit engagement to the same purpose : and the command of God, from the moinent of the birth is, “ Rear that child for me.” I have watched over him while he lay in darkness, “mine eyes saw his substance yet being unperfect; in my book all his members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them. I added the immortal principle to the finished limbs; I stamped my image upon him. There my hand has scattered the seeds of wisdom and happiness; to thy fostering care I commit that tender plant. Cared for, it will abundantly reward thy toil ; neglected, it will grow into a sharp thorn to tear thy flesh. Every day, every hour is producing a change in it. Grow it will and must; what it grows into, depends upon thyself. Of thy hand will I require it."
As Samuel was to be a Nazarite to God from the womb, the law prescribed to the mother certain ceremonial observances respecting her own conduct, and the treatment of her own person, which corresponded to that high destination. Abstinence, in particular, from certain kinds of meat and drink, which might eventually affect the bodily or mental constitution of the unborn infant. With these prescriptions we have no room to doubt Hannah punctually complied. And here we fix the second stage, or if you will, erect the second pillar of education. The commands of God are none of them arbitrary and capricious, but founded in reason and the nature of things. Whatever strongly affects the mother during the months of pregnancy, beyond all doubt affects her offspring, whether it be violent liquors, or violent passions. It belongs to another profession than mine to account for this, and to determine how far the sympathy goes. But the general belief of it would most certainly have a very happy effect in procuring attention to female health, regularity and tranquillity in that delicate and interesting situation. The comfort of both parent and child, to the end of life; what do I say ? through the whole of their existence, may be concerned in it.
As soon as Samuel was born, we find Hannah devoting undivided attention to the first and sweetest of maternal offices." The woman tarried at home, and gave her son suck, until she weaned him.” Nature and inclination concur in pressing this duty upon every mother. The instances of real inability are too few to merit consideration. The performance of it, carries its own recompense in its bosom ; the neglect is, first and last, its own punishment. Without considering at present its connexion with the health and comfort of both parties, let us attend for a moment to its influence on morals, and as constituting a branch of education. Is not parental and filial affection the first bond of society, and the foundation of all virtue? It is this which arms a delicate female with patience which no pain nor labour can exhaust, with fortitude which no calamity can subdue, with courage which no difficulty or danger can intimidate. It is this which first inspires the infant purpose to excel, which blows the sacred spark of gratitude into a flame, which first awakens and animates the latent seeds of immortality in the human soul. The first perception of the child, is the sweet sense of obligation and dependence: he feels himself far advanced in a commerce of reciprocal affection the moment he becomes conscious of his existence; and finds himself engaged in habits of goodness, long before he understands the meaning of words. And is it fit that these kind affections should be transferred to a stranger ? Who can be so well qualified to communicate these earliest and best lessons, as a mother ! Can you complain that your child is cold, indifferent or averse to you, when you set the example of coldness, indifference and aversion, and preferred a little ease or pleasure to his health and comfort, and what is infinitely more, to his early, infant morals? Can you hope from a hireling, who must have renounced nature too, as well as yourself, what God, and nature, and decency, and regard to your own real wellbeing have pressed upon you in vain ? It was so much a primary duty in the eyes of Hannah, that her attendance on the duties of the sanctuary at Shiloh gave place to it; she revered the ordinance of that God, who says, “ I will have mercy and not sacrifice ;” and religious service is interrupted for a season, to be resumed with greater ardour and effect, when the duties of life were faithfully discharged.
At what age the child was weaned, the history relates not. He remained under the tuition of his mother till he was of a proper age to be presented to the Lord, in the place which he had chosen to put his name there, and to be put under the instruction of Eli, and prepared for the service of the tabernacle. And we shall presently find that he was infinitely more indebted to the solicitous attentions of a pious mother for his progress in divine knowledge, than he afterwards was to the superintendence of the high-priest of Israel, who knew so ill to rule his own house, and to whom, of a pupil, he became a teacher.
I am well aware of the difficulty of forming a plan of religious instruction for children. Scripture suggests the happiest, the most obvious, and the most effectual. It ought to come from the children themselves. They are desirous of information. If left to themselves, they will think and inquire. Their questions will point out the mode of instruction. Do not be over anxious to take the lead, but carefully follow them. Their ideas will be directed by what they observe and feel ; and strong facts and appearances of nature will make a deep and lasting impression upon them. He who knows what is in man, has accordingly given us, in a particular example, a general rule of proceeding in this great article : “ And it shall be when thy son asketh thee in time to come, saying, What is this? That thou shalt say unto him, by strength of hand the Lord brought us out of Egypt, from the house of bondage. And it came to pass when Pharaoh would hardly let us go, that the Lord slew all the first-born in the land of Egypt." It was probably thus, that Hannah instruct