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THE CALL OF SAMUEL.
"And the child Samuel ministered unto the Lord before Eli. And the word of the Lord was precious in those days; there was no open vision." (1 Sam. iii. 1.)
NOTES AND OBSERVATIONS.
SAMUEL was a child of many prayers. And his mother called his name Samuel on this very account; for she said, "Because I have asked him of the Lord." (Chap. i. 20.) Holy men of old were remarkable for calling their children by certain names, which might perpetuate and keep alive in their minds the Lord's gracious manifestation of himself to them in special mercies. Yea, the Lord gave his divine sanction to this method of his people; for, upon several occasions, we find the Lord assuming to himself a name, which might impress the minds of his people with the recollection of some more than ordinary mercy. We have a very striking instance of the kind, as related by the prophet, which serves to shew the good pleasure of the Lord, in points of this nature. Looking into gospel times, the Lord taught his people, that such should be the auspicious events which would then take place, that the deliverance which the Lord had wrought for them, in rescuing them from Egyptian bondage, would be as nothing, in comparison with their greater deliverance from sin, death, hell, and the grave, by the mighty salvation of the Lord Jesus Christ. "Behold the days come saith the Lord, that they shall no more
say, The Lord liveth, which brought up the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt; but The Lord liveth, which brought up, and which led the seed of the house of Israel out of the north country, and from all countries whither I had driven them, and they shall dwell in their own land." (Jer. xxiii. 7, 8.)
And we have a yet more striking proof of the Lord's approbation in his thus assuming some new name upon the manifestation of some new mercy; and being pleased that his people should know him under this endeared and endearing character. For, speaking of the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ in his triumphs over death and the grave, God is called, The God of peace. "Now the God of peace that brought again from the dead, our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you perfect in every good work, to do his will, working in you that which is well pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory, for ever and ever." Amen. (Heb. xiii. 20.)
I cannot help remarking upon this subject, how much degenerated, to such memorials of perpetuating divine mercies, is the present era of the church! Modern times seem to have lost sight of such records. And even among the Lord's own people; and of whom we have reason to hope good; few are there that preserve memorandums in the names of their children, or of remarkable places in God's providence over them in the eventful circumstances of their lives. We find whole Psalms written, and marked with this title, "To bring to remembrance." (Psalm xxxviii. 70.) And Hannah's Samuel, as often as his history is read, cannot fail to bring to remembrance, that the godly mother so named him, that while she loved her child, and considered him as the Lord's gift, she loved yet more the Lord himself as the Giver. "And the child Samuel ministered unto the Lord before Eli"
It forms a very beautiful introduction of the life of Samuel, that he was so early brought into the outer courts of the Lord's house. As his mother had considered her child as a gift from the Lord; she had formed a resolution, through grace, that she would give back the precious loan again to the Lord for ever. Godly parents may here learn a most interesting lesson. All we have, and all we are, can only come from the Lord: and consequently they are still the Lord's. So that when the Lord gave Hannah this son, the Lord did not forego his right in Samuel.
He was still his. It would be well in the Lord's people, so to estimate the Lord's gifts, rather as loans than gifts; lent but for a season, and which in reality they are; and not as our fee-simples, to hold for ever, which they are not. And by thus sitting loose to creatures, as having only a secondary right in them; and even that, only during the Lord's pleasure; when they are re-called, the vacancy will not be so great : neither the heart so violently torn in the separation. I would recommend the reader to ponder the subject in this light; and if the Lord gives grace to a scriptural understanding of it, the meditation will be profitable. One sweet thought ariseth out of it, which I wish to mention before we close this review of the subject; namely, that there is a gift which God our Father hath given to his church and people, which in every sense of the word is a gift, and so fully given, as never can be recalled: I mean, his dear Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. Here is a gift, which not only infinitely exceeds all other gifts, but is essential to make other gift truly blessed. And this the church hath, to have and to hold for ever. Well may every redeemed and regenerated child of God who knows this, cry out with the apostle and say: "Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift!" (2 Cor. ix. 15.)
We have another interesting instruction, from the
view this Scripture gives of the child Samuel minis tering unto the Lord before Eli; namely, the importance of children attending ordinances in the Lord's house of prayer, before they can be supposed capable of drawing any spiritual improvement from ordinances. We find the Lord himself, on those occasions, commanding the little ones of Israel, as well as their fathers, to come before the Lord. (Deut. xxix. 10, 13. Joshua viii. 35.) Nay, the very babes that sucked the breasts were to be brought also. (Joel ii. 16.) Hence we learn the pleasure of the Lord on this interesting point. And who shall say, in respect to the election of grace, how many are there, like Samuel, when godly parents present their little ones with themselves, before the Lord, have found
grace in the eyes of the Lord, unto whom the Lord is waiting to be gracious; and in the fulness of time to quicken into a new and spiritual life in Christ! It is said of the good king Josiah, that he was but " eight years old when he began to reign, and in the eighth year of his reign, while he was yet young, he began to seek after the God of David his father." (2 Chron. xxxiv. 1-3.) And it is said as the highest commendation of Timothy; that "from a child, he had known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make wise unto salvation, through faith which is in Christ Jesus. (2 Tim. iii. 15.) And what can be a more lovely sight than to see the father or mother of a family, taking with them their little ones to the house of prayer, and bringing them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord!" (Eph. vi. 4.)
"And the word of the Lord was precious in those days: there was no open vision." It was an awful day, when the Lord, the Holy Ghost, suspended the operations in the ministry of his word! The sons of Eli, we are told, made themselves vile, and brought their ministry into contempt; "for men abhorred
thereby the offering of the Lord." (Chap. ii. 12—17.) It is an equally awful day now, if from the unfaithfulness. of those that minister in holy things, the Lord's presence is not known, nor felt, in the assembly of the people. The glory of the assembly of the faithful is Jehovah Shammah, "the Lord is there." But if the Lord be not there, in the manifestations of his presence to bless his people, the ordinance is useless. We know that under the Old Testament dispensation, Shiloh itself became an hissing, when God had left it. (Jer. xix. 8. and xxvi. 6.) And when the glory of a land is thus departed, Ichabod, may be written on the walls of the house. (1 Sam. iv. 21.)
I detain the reader in the midst of this sad prospect of the present day, which bears with it too much sameness to the days spoken of in this Scripture, to call his attention to what is also said, that the word of the Lord was precious, though there was no open vision; that is, there was no open display, as in the days of their fathers, of the Lord's speaking in and by his servants the prophets; yet the Lord had then, as the Lord hath now," a seed to serve him." (Ps. xxii. 30.) And blessed be God, that he hath not left himself without witness in the earth. There are still here and there those in our Jerusalem that " sigh and cry for all the abominations that are done in the midst thereof." (Ezek. ix. 4.) To such, the word of the Lord is, and must be always, precious. Yea, they can and do say, with one of old: "I have esteemed the words of his mouth more than iny necessary food." (Job xxiii. 12.) And like the prophet: "Thy words were found, and I did eat them, and thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of my heart." (Jer. xv. 16.)
Doth the reader desire to ascertain for himself the important question; whether he be of the blessed few