« VorigeDoorgaan »
ary of God profaned by being made the scene of displaying the rivalship of beauty, dress, equipage, rank and affluence? The humbling services of the meek and lowly Jesus, are unnaturally forcedin to the ministers of pride and vain-glory. The tranquillity of the day of sacred rest, and its gentle, peaceful employments, give a birth, which they detest and disclaim, to the whisper of envy, and the noise of slander. The feast of love is disturbed, the sacrifice of peace is defiled by the impure claws of harpies; and "the house of prayer is turned into a den of thieves." "Surely, my beloved brethren, these things ought not so to be."
Happily for us, the influence of the gospel, and the laws of our country, and the spirit of the times, prevent the practice which threw Elkanah's family into such a flame; and which, wherever it has prevailed, has been productive of confusion, and every evil work. May a purer religion, and wiser institutions, and a more enlightened spirit, produce a more perfect morality, promote domestic happiness, and extend and secure national prosperity.
We now proceed farther to unfold, from the sacred history, the character and conduct of Hannah; earnestly praying, that with "all" the rest of " scripture," which "is given by inspiration of God," it may prove profitable for doctrine, and for reproof, and for correction, and for instruction in righteousness."
HISTORY OF HANNAH,
THE MOTHER OF SAMUEL.
So Hannah rose up after they had eaten in Shiloh, and after they had drunk. Now Eli the priest sat upon a seat by a post of the temple of the Lord. And she was in bitterness of soul, and prayed unto the Lord, and wept sore. And she vowed a vow, and said, O Lord of hosts, if thou wilt indeed look on the affliction of thine handmaid, and remember me, and not forget thine handmaid, but will give unto thine handmaid a man-child, then I will give him unto the Lord all the days of his life, and there shall no razor come upon his head. And it came to pass, as she continued praying before the Lord, that Eli marked her mouth. Now Hannah, she spake in her heart; only her lips moved, but her voice was not heard: therefore Eli thought she had been drunken. And Eli said unto her, How long wilt thou be drunken? put away thy wine from thee. And Hannah answered and said, No, my lord, I am a woman of a sorrowful spirit: I have drank neither wine nor strong drink, but have poured out my soul before the Lord. Count not thine handmaid for a daughter of Belial: for out of the abundance of my complaint and grief have I spoken hitherto. Then Eli answered and said, Go in peace: and the God of Israel grant thee thy petition that thou hast asked of him. And she said, Let thine handmaid find grace in thy sight. So the woman went her way, and did eat, and her countenance was no more sad.-1 SAMUEL i. 9-18.
THE support and theconsolations administered by religion, are adapted to the nature and necessities of man. The exercises which it prescribes arise out of the circumstances and events of human life; and the being and perfections of God present themselves to us according as we pass from one condition to another. There are comforts which no one but God could have bestowed: there is wretchedness which God only can relieve. Hence the soul rises directly to the Giver of all good in transports of gratitude, and cleaves to him when every other refuge fails. Hence, all that is known by the name of prayer, is at once the voice of nature, the result of reason, and a dictate of religion.
What is the confession of the penitent, but the trembling hope of a guilty creature toward the God of mercy, fleeing from the judgment of unrelenting, unforgiving man; from the persecution of an awakened, an accusing conscience, to a proclamation of peace and pardon from heaven? What is the resignation of the patient, but a devout acknowledgment of unerring wisdom, which does all things well, and afflicts in loving kindness? What is the cry of distress, but an appeal to omnipotence for that assistance which the powers of nature cannot bestow? What is adoration, but the faculties of an intelligent being lost in the contemplation of infinite perfection? Even the rash and impious appeals to Heaven, which are uttered by the thoughtless and profane, demonstrate, that piety and prayer are founded in the very constitution of our nature. Why does that blasphemer take the name of the Lord God in vain? why swears he by the great and terrible name of Jehovah? why is his imprecation sanctioned by that tremendous signature? why are the emotions of anger, of pain, of surprise, of joy, enforced by the names and attributes of Deity? The wretch who thus tramples on his law, insults his authority, defies his power, is in these very acts of horror paying an involuntary homage to the God of truth and justice, and obliquely confesses
that divine perfection which he has the boldness to violate.
We turn from the dreadful practice with holy indignation, to contemplate the desponding mourner fleeing for rest and relief in the bosom of a Father and a God; and to learn lessons of piety, and derive nourishment to hope, from the experience of others.
We have seen the disorder of a family in Israel, occasioned by the foolishness of man; we are now to consider that disorder rectified, and turned into a source of domestic joy and public felicity, through the wisdom and goodness of God. The solemnity of the yearly sacrifice, and the cheerfulness of the feast, had been continually embittered 'and destroyed to Hannah, by reflection on her state of reproach among the daughters of Israel, and the merciless insults of her rival and adversary. The kind attentions, and affectionate remonstrances of a beloved husband, soothe for a moment, but cannot remove the anguish that preyed upon her heart. She looks with impatience through the tediousness of the entertainment, to the hour of retirement; and, as soon as decency permits, she exchanges the house of mirth for the house of prayer.
"If any one is afflicted, let him pray." And who is not ready to give testimony to the salutary influence of this hallowed employment? The suppliant thus disburthens the mind of a load, before intolerable; the effusion of tears cools and refreshes the heart. Prayer does not always bring down the grace that is solicited, but verily it has produced its effect, when the spirit is moulded into the will of the Most High. Prayer prevails not to obtain that particular blessing, but behold it is crowned with another and a greater benefit. The expected good comes not exactly at the time and in the way it was entreated, but it is conveyed at the most proper season, and in the fittest way; and how much is the enjoyment heightened and sweetened by the delay! Thus, whether the wrestler "as a prince has power
with God," and prevails, or by a touch is made sensible of his weakness and inferiority, God is glorified, and the divine life is promoted in him.
The memoirs of this good woman's life comprehend but a very short period, a few years at most. Herein consists one of the excellencies of the sacred writings. Other biographers drag you with them into dry, uninteresting details of events which had much better been forgotten. You are wearied out with the laborious display of childish prattle, the pretended prognostic of future eminence, or the doating, imperfect, distorted recollections of a wretched old man who has outlived himself. There are in truth very few particulars in any man's life worthy of being recorded; and of those who really have lived, a very short memoir indeed will serve all the valuable purposes of history.
Every thing of importance for us to know respecting Hannah is what related to the birth of her son Samuel; and to that accordingly the scripture account of her is confined. She is the fourth, as far as we recollect, on the face of the sacred history, represented in nearly similar circumstances, and she is not the least respectable of the four. "Sarah laughed," staggering at the promise of God through unbelief. Rebekah seems to have borne her trial with listlessness and indifference; and Rachel, irritated with her's, loses all sense of shame and decency, and exclaims, "Give me children, else I die." Hannah feels her calamity as a woman, deplores it as a woman, and seeks deliverance from it as one who believed in the power and grace of God.
Observe the more delicate shades in her character. She rose not up till "after they had eaten in Shiloh, and after they had drunk." She had patience and selfgovernment sufficient to carry her without any apparent disquietude, through the formalities of a public assembly, which must have been very painful, irksome, and disgusting to her. She would rather constrain herself, than make others uneasy; and pine in secret, rather