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him up to be more than priest, - even a prophet and a judge. When a mere child, it was he who declared to Eli the ruin of his house, since he had not restrained the wickedness and cruelty of his sons. From that time the prophetic character of Samuel was established, and his influence constantly increased until he became the foremost man of his nation, second to no one in power and dignity since the time of Moses.
But there is not much recorded of him until twenty years after the death of Eli, who lived to be ninety. It was during this period that the Philistines had carried away the sacred ark from Shiloh, and had overrun the country and oppressed the Hebrews, who it seems had fallen into idolatry, worshipping Ashtaroth and other strange gods. It was Samuel, already recognized as a great prophet and judge, who aroused the nation from its idolatry and delivered it from the hand of the Philistines at Mizpeh, where a great battle was fought, so that these terrible foes were subdued, and came no more into the borders of Israel during the days of Samuel; and all the cities they had taken, from Ekron unto Gath, were restored. The subjection of the Philistines was followed by the undisputed rule of Samuel, under the name of Judge, during his life, even after the consecration of Saul.
The Israelitish Judge seems to have been a sort of dictator, called to power by the will of the people in
times of great emergency and peril, as among the Romans. “The Theocracy,” says Ewald,“ by pronouncing any human ruler unnecessary as a permanent element of the State, lapsed into anarchy and weakness. When a nation is without a government strong enough to repress lawlessness within and to protect from foes without, the whole people very soon divides once more into the two ranks of master and servant. In Deborah's songs all Israel, so far as lay in her circle of vision, was divided into princes and people. Hence the nation consisted of innumerable self-constituted and self-sustained kingdoms, formed whenever some chieftain elevated himself whom individuals or the body of citizens in a town were willing to serve. Gaal, son of Zobah, entered Shechem with troops raised by himself, just like a condottiere in Italy in the Middle Ages. As it became evident that the nation could not permanently dispense with an earthly government, it was forced to rally round some powerful leader; and as the Theocracy was still acknowledged by the best of the nation, these leaders, who owed their power to circumstances, could not easily be transformed into regular kings, but to exceptional dictators the State offered no strong resistance.”
And yet these rulers arose not solely by force of individual prowess, but were expressly raised up by God as deliverers of the nation in times of peculiar peril. And further, the spirit of Jehovah came upon them, as it did upon Deborah the prophetess, and as it did still more remarkably upon Moses himself.
The last and greatest of these extemporized leaders called Judges, was Samuel. In him the people learned to put their trust; and the national assembly which he summoned was completely guided by him. No one of the Judges, it would seem, had his seat of government in any central city, but where he happened to live. So the residence of Samuel was at his native town of Ramah, where he married. It would seem that he travelled from city to city to administer justice, like the judges of England on their circuits; but, unlike them, on his own supreme authority, — not with power delegated by a king, but acknowledging no superior except God himself, from whom he received his commission. We know not at what time and whom he married; but his two sons, who in his old age shared power with him, did not discharge their delegated functions more honorably than the sons of Eli, who had been a disgrace to their office, to their father, and to the nation. One of the greatest mysteries of human life is the seeming inability of pious fathers to check the vices of their children, who often go astray under an apparently irresistible impulse or innate depravity, in spite of parental precept and example, — thus seeming to show that neither virtue nor vice can be surely transmitted, and that every humau being stands on his individual responsibility, with peculiar temptations to combat, and peculiar circumstances to influence him. The son of a saint becomes mysteriously a drunkard or a fraud, and the son of a sensualist becomes an ascetic. This does not uniformly occur: in fact, the sons of good men are more likely to be an honor to their families than the sons of the wicked; but why are exceptions so common as to be proverbial ?
It was no light work which was imposed on the shoulders of Samuel, —- to establish law and order among the demoralized tribes of the Jews, and to prepare them for political independence ; and it was a still greater labor to effect a moral reformation and reintroduce the worship of Jehovah. Both of these objects he seeins to have accomplished; and his success places him in the list of great reformers, like Mohammed and Luther, — but greater and better than either, since he did not attempt, like the former, to bring about a good end by bad means; nor was he stained by personal defects, like the latter. “It was his object to re-enkindle the national life of the nation, so as to combat successfully its enemies in the field, which could be attained by rousing a common religious feeling;” for he saw that there could be no true enthusiasm without a sense of dependence on the God of battles, and that heroism
could be stirnulated only by exalted sentiments, both of patriotism and religion.
But how was Samuel to rekindle a fervent religious life among the degenerate Israelites in such unsettled times? Only by rousing the people by his teachings and his eloquence. He was a preacher of righteousness, and in all probability went from city to city and village to village, — as Saint Bernard did when he preached a crusade against the infidels, as John the Baptist did when he preached repentance, as Whitefield did when he sought to kindle religious enthusiasm in England. So he set himself to educate his countrymen in the great truths which appealed to the inner life, — to the heart and conscience. This he did, first, by rousing the slumbering spirits of the elders of tribes when they sought his counsel as a prophet, the like of whom had not appeared since Moses, so gifted and so earnest; and secondly, by founding a school for the education of young men who should go with his instructions wherever he chose to send them, like the early missionaries, to hamlets and villages which he was unable to visit in person. The first “school of the prophets” was a seminary of missionaries, animated by the spirit of a teacher whom they feared and admired as no prophet had been revered in the whole history of the nation since Moses. Samuel communicated his own burning spirit wher