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ate and merciful Father of all, who by means so simple, so pleasant, so powerful, so effectual, makes constant provision for the comfort, the protection and the improvement of man!
Let us proceed to meditate, for a moment, on the amiable and instructive pattern here set before us, of a faithful and obedient heart. Distress naturally dictates wishes, and prayers, and vows; it makes us sensible of subjection and dependence; but when the blessing is obtained, the load removed, and the hour of performance come, men are as forgetful and as niggardly as once they were attentive and liberal. Ten lepers were cleansed, but “where are the nine?” Has one only returned to give thanks? Ingratitude is one of those crimes which no man is either bold or depraved enough to defend, but with which all men are justly chargeable. How few earthly benefactors but have reason to complain of an ungracious return? How few parents but have the bitterness of bitterness, filial ingratitude, mingled in their cup? How verily guilty is a whole world lying in wickedness,” before God, in this respect? There is really no merit in gratitude, but what arises from its rarity; and that rarity stamps it one of the highest of moral virtues. Would it be doing injustice to the other sex, to say, that gratitude is a quality more frequently to be found in the female character? I have no hesitation in affirming, that it is one of the most powerful attractions in any character, and that all other attractions whatever are good for nothing without it.
We observed formerly in the conduct of Hannah a happy mixture of piety and prudence. While the state of her child confined her to mount Ephraim it would have been the reverse of a religious service, to repair to the feast at Shiloh; when he could with safety be removed to the place of God's presence, to keep him back had been unfaithfulness and impiety. Providence without piety will quickly degenerate into selfishness and the love of this world; will harden the heart, and lull
the conscience asleep. Piety without prudence, will inspire pride and intolerance; will lead to idleness and irregularity in conduct; and, out of an affected zeal for the first table of the law, will erase the characters of the second, or through negligence and disuse, suffer them to be disfigured by filth,
or corrupted and impaired by rust, so as to become at length wholly illegible. Where piety and prudence are found united, the love of God and man will perfectly consist; both tables of the law will be equally clear and distinct, and their combined influence will instruct the person by whom it is felt and understood, to use the world so as not to abuse it.”
At length the time of presenting herself before the Lord, and of performing her vow arrives. The precious child must be no longer her's, but God's. And did he indeed cease to be the parents, by being dedicated to the Most High? Surely no, he became theirs by a firmer and more sacred tie, they have an interest in him unknown, unfelt before. Their treasure has acquired infinite value from the place in which it is deposited; and attendance at God's altar has conferred nobi. lity on the little Levite, which all the possessions on mount Ephraim could not countervail.
Hannah presented herself before the Lord at a former solemnity with bitter crying and tears; she “ went forth then weeping, bearing precious seed, she cometh again rejoicing, bringing her sheaves with her; for they that sow in tears shall reap in joy.” She presents herself before the Lord, but neither with a contracted heart nor an empty hand. The law demanded for God the first-born of every creature. The whole tribe of which Samuel was a son, was accepted in place of the first-born of Israel, and the first-born of her family might be redeemed by the substitution of a victim. Thus clearly was the spirit of the gospel inculcated by the institutions of the law; and the doctrine of the atonement through the blood of the “ Lamb slain from the foun
dation of the world,” was taught unto them as it is taught unto us. Throughout we see the innocent suffering for the guilty; from the sacrifice of Abel down to the sacrifice on mount Calvary, of “ the just suffering for the unjust, that he might bring us unto God."
With what mixed emotions must an Israelitish parent, of any sensibility, have presented this sacrifice? Behold the darling child, the first-born led to the altar, but not to bleed and die: no, that innocent lamb, that bullock in the prime of life, is to bleed and die in his stead; and, mournful to reflect, though religion does not now demand such sacrifices, necessity and the appetites of men constantly require them, and we behold the whole brute “creation groaning and travelling in pain together," to perform the drudgery, minister to the pleasure, or with their flesh to satisfy the need of a creature much more criminal than themselves; and, as if that were too little, subjected to the cruelty and caprice of rational beings, become greater brutes than themselves.
With the confidence of true goodness Hannah now addresses Eli, and reminds him of what he had proba. bly forgotten, but was of too much moment to herself ever to be permitted to fall into oblivion. Eli had only seen her lips move, but heard not the words she pronounced; and the violent emotion in which she was, had conveyed very foul suspicions to his mind. These, with the dignity and calmness of conscious innocence, she repelled; and assured him in general terms that what he had unkindly mistaken for the effect of wine, was the agitation of an afflicted spirit, pouring out its anguish before God; but the subject of her prayer she still kept within her own breast. There was then no witness of her vow but God and her own conscience; and that was enough; it was recorded in heaven; and an honest mind will find itself equally bound by a resolution formed in secret, as by an oath administered in the face of an assembled world. With what holy exultation does she now declare her engagement, exhibit the sacred pledge of it, and proceed to the public and solemn discharge of it! “She brought the child to Eli, and said, O my lord, as thy soul liveth, my lord, I am the woman that stood by thee here, praying unto the Lord. For this child I prayed; and the Lord hath given me my peti. tion which I asked of him,” Verse 25-27. How sweetly affecting are the effusions of nature, when aided and animated by devotion! How religion ennobles and dignifies every character, how it places every other quality in its fairest and most favourable point of view! How well it is adapted to every season and situation of life! It was this which fortified Hannah against the bitter insults and reproaches of her merciless adversary, and preserved her from rendering railing for railing. It was this which taught her self-government, so that she disturbed not the solemnity of the feast with womanish complaints, but covered a sorrowful heart with a serene countenance! It was this which carried her to the house of the Lord, for light, comfort and relief. It was this which carried her with reputation and advantage through the first duties of a mother; and exhibited, in one,
the affectionate wife, the tender parent, the devout worshipper. This filled her heart and inspired her tongue, in presenting her offspring, in addressing "the high-priest, in raising her song of praise. And this will communicate lustre, value and importance on every female character, whether known to the world, or overlooked by it; in the secrecy of the family, or in the celebrity of the temple. There is a God whọ “ seeth in secret, and will reward openly."
Eli repeats a cordial Amen to her pious purpose, accepts the precious trust committed unto him, and bends his knees in joyful acknowledgment of that God who had been multiplying his mercy to this family, and building up the house of Israel. And it is not long before he finds that this young Nazarene was provided of God, and instructed of his mother, to rectify the
disorders of his own house, and to supply the place of a degenerate race of priests, ripe for destruction and doomed to it, and ready to bring down a “ father's grey hairs with sorrow to the grave." Hannah's
song of praise, which follows at length in the opening of the next chapter, merits, on many accounts, a separate and particular consideration. It possesses all the majesty, grace and beauty of ancient oriental poetry. It is one of the happiest effusions of an excellent female labouring under a grateful sense of the highest obligations. It presents and impresses some of the justest and most interesting views of divine Providence, and, what is above all, it discloses one of the clearest and most distinct prospects of the coming, person and character of Messiah, the Prophet of prophets, King of kings, Lord of lords. Yes, christians, for this prophetess was reserved the honour of first pronouncing in sacred song, that “name which is as ointment poured forth,” which angels mention with wonder and reverence, and which the whole company of the redeemed shall one day proclaim with “joy unspeakable and full of glory;” MESSIAH the anointed of the Lord—whom the world so long expected, who in the fulness of time appeared, whom unbelieving Jews refused to acknowledge; whom they despised, rejected, crucified, and put to death; whom “God has exalted a Prince and Saviour to give repentance and remission of sins;" to whose second coming the course of nature, the evolutions of providence, the hopes and fears of every heart of man, the earnest expectation of the creature, and the hand writing of God in scripture, all, all directly point.
The next Lecture will be an attempt to illustrate, and practically to improve Hannah's song of praise. May we bring to it a portion of that spirit which inspired the lips of her who sung, and directed the pen of him who wrote. Let me conclude the present,