« הקודםהמשך »
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 foot-stool of yonder radiant throne; behold the good and perfect gift coming down in return from the Father of light. Thus the vapours exhaled from the briny deep, fall back in copious showers to refresh and fertilize the earth. What a 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 showing 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 for ever 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 approves, 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 for ever, 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 yourself 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, 3 c
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 by both 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 show 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 for ever 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 combating a mistake into which neither the men nor the women of the present age are greatly disposed 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, I 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 dependence taught and enforced.
To you, O woman, I call, who, without a shadow of reason; who, in the face of decency and propriety; who, in defiance 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 child-birth. 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,