תמונות בעמוד

in darkness, “ mine eyes saw his substance yet being imperfect; 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 cere. monial observances respecting her own conduct, and the treatment of her own person, which corresponded to that high distinction. Abstinence, in particular, from certain kinds of meat and drink, which might effectually 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 vio. lent 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 be. lief 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 devot. ing undivided attention to the first and sweetest of ma

ternal offices. “ The woman tarried at home, and

gave her son suck, until she weaned him.” Nature and incli. nation 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 a child, is the sweet sense of obligation and dependence: he feels himself far advanced in a com. merce 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 well-being 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 pro, gress 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.

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

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? 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 instructed her darling son; stored his memory with interesting events, and touched his heart by affecting representations of the mercy and judgment of God, exemplified in the history

of his own forefathers. Milk is the proper food of babes; strong meat belongeth to them who are of full age. A dry precept is but half understood, and is speedi. ly forgotten; but a tale of distress, the triumph of goodness over malevolenceand opposition, the merited shame and punishment of wickedness, is easily understood, is long retained, and its impression is not to be effaced.

We advance to the fourth stage of wise and good education, of which we have the pattern before us. The same principle which induced Hannah to keep her son at home for a season, and to abide with him, constrain. ed her to send him from home, to give up her interest in him, when the service of God, and the greater good of the child demanded the sacrifice. It is just the reverse of what high life, at least with us, daily presents. You shall see a mother who hardly inquired after her child at the time of life when her tenderness was most necessary to him, all at once assuming the parent, exercising an affected tenderness which he no longer needs, reducing him to childhood after he is becoming a man, and endeavouring to compensate by an aftergrowth of affection, the unkindness and neglect which Llighted the early blossoms of the spring. She can suffer him no longer out of her sight. The discipline which her own wickedness has rendered necessary to his improvement, is reprobated as cruelty, and the poor youth is frequently ruined by having at one time, no mother at all; at another, one too much. I honour the firmness of Hannah as much as I love her motherly soft. ness and attachment. To possess with gratitude, to cherish a worthy object with tenderness, and to resign it with steadiness and magnanimity, is equally an ob. ject of admiration and esteem. Observe the mixed emotions which animate and correct her countenance as she conducts her well-beloved son to the altar. The saint speaks in that eye, sparkling with delight, as she devotes what she holds most dear in the world to Him, from whom she had by hoiy importunity obtained him;


3 G

the tear rushes to it, and all the mother stands confessed as she retires. Piety has prevailed, and presented the offering: nature feels, but submits.

It is easier to conceive than to describe what was the siate of her mind as she returned from Shiloh to Ramah: the anxiety and regret at leaving her Samuel behind; the satisfaction and delight of reflecting in what hands she had left him, and to what care she had coinmitted him. But we hear of no wild projects formed of removing the whole family to reside at Shiloh, in order to indulge a fond mother's partial affection, with the continual presence of her little minion. No, the same spirit of prudence, the same domestic regards, the same sense of duty which once engaged her to prefer attention to Samuel, to attendance on the sacred festival, now engage her to prefer the unostentatious employments of a wife, and the mistress of a family at Ramah, to the sacredness of the tabernacle, and the care of an only son, a first-born. But the heart of a mother finds, and flies to, the innocent refuge which nature pointed out. She employs her mind and her hands during the intervals of the feast, about her absent son; “ His mother made him a little coat, and brought it to him from year to year, when she came up with her husband to offer the yearly sacrifice.”. O

how cheap, how satisfying are the pleasures of virtue! No words can express the inward, the incommunicable joy of that mother, as her fingers wove • the threads of that little coat, as her eyes saw it grow into shape and colour and shade, as the increasing stature of the wearer rendered the increase of her labour necessary. You must be converted and become a little child, a dutiful, affectionate, and pious child, like Samuel, to conceive the delight of seeing his parents return, of putting on his new garment, of exhibiting his mother's present. These nothings are the bond of affection among virtuous minds, and the source of their felicity.

how pure,

« הקודםהמשך »