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than permit her private griefs to spread a gloom over the innocent communications of society. Tell me, if you will, that the remark is frivolous, and the doctrine unedifying. I shall neither feel mortified nor complain, provided you permit me to think that nothing is frivolous that tends to unfold the excellence and importance of the female character, and nothing unedifying which serves to improve the better part of our species in the knowledge of the means whereby both their respectability and importance may be effectually promoted. I repeat it therefore confidently, that Hannah is here represented as exemplifying a hard lesson, but one of high importance to all her sex. Who does not know, my female friends, that your condition and place in society necessarily subject you to many cruel privations, many mortifying constraints? What heart but sympathizes with you, obliged, as you are, to bear and to forbear, in patience and silence, and to practise painful duty, without so much as the poor reward of notice and approbation. But trust me, you have often, when you little think of it, the admiration and esteem of the more attentive and judicious; you have the sweet consolation of reflecting that you are endeavouring to act well; you can look up in humble hope to that God who seeth in secret; who observes and records what the world overlooks or forgets.
How pitiable, on the other hand, are those unhappy females, who dream of deriving consequence from vexing and disturbing all around them, by perpetually bringing forward their personal vexations, as if the world had nothing to mind but them, and their real or imaginary grievances.
But this, as was said, is only a shade in the character; the great, striking feature, is a fervid, importunate, aspiring spirit of devotion. Sighs and tears are the language of nature sinking under its own wo, of a "heart that knows its own bitterness;" prayer is the language of faith in, and hope toward God, the exertion
of a soul struggling to get free, casting its burthen upon the Lord, and acquiring strength from exercise. There is a beautiful and affecting copiousness in her expression. She addresses God as the Lord of universal nature, who "doth according to his will in the armies of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth;" as "the Lord of hosts," who has all creatures, all events in his hand and at his disposal. The repetition of the word "handmaid" is emphatical, and powerfully expresses her humility, submission, and sense of dependence; and it is humility that lends energy to every other principle of the divine life. "From the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh,' and accordingly we find her diversifying her petition into all the various modes of address; "if thou wilt indeed look on my affliction, and remember me, and not forget me." Is this the vain repetition of the hypocrite, who thinks he shall "be heard for his much speaking?" O no, it is the honest effusion of a heart filled with its object, persisting in the pursuit, and rising gradually into confidence of success. It is a happy anticipation of the Saviour's doctrine, " that men ought to pray always, and not to faint:" a happy example of clearness and precision in the subject matter of prayer, of confidence in, and reliance on the Hearer of prayer, of holy resolution to make a suitable return to prayer heard, accepted, and answered.
But what was here, the expression of a devout, a praying spirit? The noise of the Pharisee, the pomp of words, the correctness that courts the applause of men? No, but the ardour of a gracious spirit which neglects forms, which never thinks of appearance, or the opinion of others, which, occupied with God, overlooks man. What need of words, to him who reads the secret recesses of the heart, who hears the half-breathed sigh of the prisoner in his dungeon, who collects the falling tears of the mourner, and has already granted the pious request before it is formed in the anxious breast? Strong inward emotion will of necessity imprint itself on
the external appearance. The voice may be suppressed, but the features will speak; what bushel will confine the lightning of the eye? the lips will move involuntary; the hands will raise themselves to heaven, without an admonition from vanity, and the bosom will swell to make room for the expanding heart, though no eye is present to see it, and regardless whether there be or no.
How equivocal are the signs of human passions, and how liable to mistake is the most discerning human eye? What was in the sight of God an indication of faith believing against hope, of a fervent piety which totally absorbed the senses, of a heavenly mind which rapt the very body up to the throne of God, is, in the sight of Eli, the disorder of a distempered brain, the effect of excess, the lowest, the most deplorable, the most disgusting exhibition of degraded humanity. Alas, the good man, as we shall presently find, had "a beam in his own eye;" and thereby was led to discern "a mote" in that of another, where there was none. In reflecting on the rash judgments of men, the choice of David, when in a great strait, presses itself upon us with redoubled force; "Let me fall now into the hand of the Lord, for his mercies are great; and let me not fall into the hand of man." "If God justifieth, who is he that condemneth?" But ah! what signifies the applause of the world to him who is condemned of his own conscience, and who trembles every hour at thought of the righteous judgment of God!
I like the defence of Hannah almost as well as her prayer; it argues conscious innocence and integrity. Not a single particle of gall enters into her reply, not even a particle of honest heat and indignation, at an imputation so odious. A female charged with a breach of decency so gross as excess of wine, and not break out into a flame! Ah, her calmness and temper refute sufficiently the infamous aspersion, infinitely better than a torrent of intemperate abuse would have done. How calm, how beautiful, how lovely, how dignified is inno
cence! It seeks the light, it shrinks not from the eye of inspection, it defies calumny, and wraps itself up in its own pure mantle; but disdains not, at the same time, to satisfy the honest inquiry, and to remove the hasty suspicion of true goodness; it is always ready to render a reason, always ready to prevent its good from be ing evil spoken of.
The conduct of Eli is estimable in two points of view. Observing, as he thought, the temple of the Lord profaned, and the female character dishonoured, he honestly speaks out his suspicion and censure to the party concerned; instead of whispering them in the ear of a third person; and thereby affords an opportunity of explanation, and of coming to right understanding; and, once satisfied of his having been mistaken, he retracts his hasty judgment, and exchanges reprehension into blessing, and supplicates Heaven in favour of her whom he had rashly condemned.
To what a happy serenity is the mind of Hannah now restored! She has poured out her soul before the Lord, and vindicated her innocence to man. The tranquillity and joy of her spirit shine in the whole of her outward deportment; her countenance brightens up, she partakes in the festivity of the season, and "is no more sad." What a different figure does the same man present to the eyes of the world, inflamed with rage, torn with envy, stung with remorse, distracted with anxiety, degraded with debauchery; or with a visage beaming benevolence, eyes animated with love, a form firm and erect from conscious integrity.
Would you wish to appear to advantage before others, take care to cleanse the inside of the cup. Purify thyself "from all filthiness of the spirit." Let order and peace reign within; no artificial daubing applied on the outside, no splendour or elegance of apparel, no studied arrangement of the features, will do it half so well.
Looks and appearance are perhaps of inferior consequence to one sex, but they are of much to the other.
With some, appearance is all in all. In that view, it is not easy to imagine the effect which the inward , temper and character produce. Beauty becomes perfect ugliness, and inspires nothing but disgust, from the moment that the face begins to wear the traces of pride, contempt, envy, fury or insolence. On the other hand, be assured, that a very homely external may bẹ improved into perfect loveliness, by affability, gentleness, benevolence, compassion, and, above all, by a spirit of genuine piety, the parent of every grace. If there be a human being that really deserves the name of angel, a term, for the most part, most vilely prostituted, it is a sensible woman descending from the temple, or issuing from her closet, to enter with composedness, sweetness and satisfaction on the employments of her humble, but important station in human life.
It was through the disorder of a divided family, it was through the wo of an afflicted woman, it was amidst the corruptions of a degenerate church and a disjointed state, that God was pleased to raise up a prophet, a priest, a judge in Israel to stem the torrent, to restore the lost dignity of religion, to save a sinking nation. When events flow in an even channel, when the powers of nature produce their effect in an uniform tenour, a blind chance, an irresistible fate, or an unintelligent arrangement receives the homage, which is due only to sovereign wisdom, and all-comprehensive beneficence. For this reason, God sometimes permits the great machine as it were to stand still, that men may observe by what hand it is stopt, and by what hand it is put in motion again.
Isaac, Jacob, Samson, Samuel, four of the most eminent among the types of the great Restorer of fallen man, were introduced into the world, through the agonies of desponding nature, through the exercise of undaunted faith, and the unwearied importunity of prayer and supplication. They were the successive lights of the world, each in his day; and having every one ful