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Female Scripture Biographies, Vol. I by Francis Augustus Cox

Part 4 out of 6

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to meet Barak, who was in eager pursuit, she conducted, him to the corpse
of his prostrate foe. "So God subdued on that day, Jabin, the king of
Canaan, before the children of Israel."

Let us dismiss Jael, for the present, from our meditations, and offer a
reflection or two on the fate of Sisera.

I. No event recorded upon the page of history is more calculated to
impress upon our minds the assertion of Solomon, than that to which we
have just given our attention: "The race is not to the swift, nor the
battle to the strong ... for man also knoweth not his time, as the fishes
that are taken in an evil net, and as the birds that are caught in the
snare; so ere the sons of men snared in an evil time, when it falleth
suddenly upon them." Nothing could have been more improbable, according to
human calculations, than the result of this extraordinary battle. Who that
had seen the far-stretching troops of the king of Canaan overspreading,
like a vast inundation, the vicinity of Kishon and Harosheth, whose
polished armour glittered along the valley to the rising sun, accustomed
to victory, breathing revenge, and headed by the most distinguished
general of the age--who that had viewed their prodigious forces,
consisting of infantry and cavalry, in contrast with the diminutive
strength and contemptible numbers of the Israelitish army, but must have
considered the attack as the feeble effort of an unaccountable
infatuation? But though HE who "sitteth upon the circle of the earth,"
could have interposed at once to crush the foe by the thunder of his
power, ten thousand men of Israel were appointed to execute his purpose
against the devoted Canaanites, to show that it is his will to work by
human means;--he required the employment of _only_ ten thousand, to
prove that all human skill and success is mere instrumentality, and that
the honour of victory is to be attributed to the God of battles.

2. The enemies of God and his people shall perish ingloriously. This is
not the only instance. Pharaoh makes ready his own chariot, and takes with
him all the chariots of Egypt, in eager pursuit of Israel, just escaped
from his relentless oppression. In the pride of his strength he proclaims,
"I will pursue, I will overtake, I will divide the spoil, my lust shall be
satisfied upon them--I will draw my sword, my hand shall destroy them;"
but there was an arm of superior might that seized the unresisting
elements, and launched them upon the rash adventurer and his guilty
myriads. "Thou didst blow with thy wind, the sea covered them; they sank
as lead in the mighty waters. Who is like unto thee, O Lord, among the
gods?"--Sennacherib, king of Assyria, sends Tartan, and Rabsaris, and
Rabshakeh, with a great host against Jerusalem, in the reign of Hezekiah.
Mark their insolent blasphemy: "Hearken not unto Hezekiah when he
persuadeth you, saying, The Lord will deliver us. Hath any of the gods of
the nations delivered at all his land out of the hand of the king of
Assyria? Where are the gods of Hamath and of Arpad? where are the gods of
Sepharvaim, Hena, and Ivah? have they delivered Samaria out of mine hand?
Who are they among all the gods of the countries that have delivered their
country out of mine hand, that the Lord should deliver Jerusalem out of
mine hand?" A letter was afterward sent to the king to the same effect,
commencing with this blasphemous sentence, "Let not thy God, in whom thou
trustest, deceive thee." Hezekiah instantly repairs to the temple, opens
his letter in the immediate presence of the Eternal, and supplicates his
great name for that interference in the present extremity, which would
deliver his people, and promote his own glory. His prayer is heard. From
the heaven of heavens an angelic envoy is despatched to the Assyrian
encampment, and with the flaming sword of almighty indignation, smites _a
hundred and eighty-five thousand_ of the boasting foe; "and when they
arose early in the morning, behold they were all dead corpses." Herod
ventures upon the dangerous experiment of persecuting the church of God:
he dares, with an untrembling hand, to put James to the sword, and
ultimately imprison Peter for the same horrid purpose: but he who "sitteth
in the heavens" held the presumptuous criminal in "utter derision,"
despatched an angel to break off the chains by which his servant was
bound, and laid his finger upon the royal rebel to extinguish his glory
and his pride for ever; "he was eaten of worms, and gave up the ghost."
Ah! the immortality of the soul elevates it above mortal power, and the
utmost that a persecutor can do is, by a painful stroke, to put a
Christian into speedier possession of his promised blessedness. "A tyrant
is mortal, his empire expires with his life; and were he to employ the
whole course of his life in tormenting a martyr, and in trying to impair
his felicity, he would resemble an idiot throwing stones at the lightning,
while in an indivisible moment, and with as inconceivable rapidity, it
caught his eye as it passed from the east to the west."

"Thou dull stupid man, who art not stricken with the idea of a God, whose
will is self-efficient, and who alone can act immediately on an immaterial
soul, come and behold some sensible proofs of that infinite power, of
which metaphysical proofs can give thee no idea! And thou, proud insolent
man! go aboard the last-built vessel, put out to sea, set the most
vigilant watch, surround thyself with the most formidable instruments:
what art thou, when God uttereth his voice?' What art thou, when the
'noise' resounds? What art thou, when torrents of rain seem to threaten a
second deluge, and to make the globe which thou inhabitest one rolling
sea? What art thou when lightnings emit their terrible flashes? What art
thou when the 'winds' come roaring 'out of their treasures?' What art thou
_then_? Verily, thou art no less than thou wast in thy palace. Thou art no
less than when thou wast sitting at a delicious table. Thou art no less
than thou wast when every thing contributed to thy pleasure. Thou art no
less than when at the head of thine army, thou wast the terror of nations,
shaking the earth with the stunning noise of thy warlike instruments: for,
at thy festal board, within thy palace, among thy pleasures, at the head
of thine armies, thou wast _nothing_ before the King of nations. As an
immaterial and immortal creature, thou art subject to his immediate power;
but, to humble and to confound thee, he must manifest himself to thee in
sensible objects. Behold him, then, in this formidable situation: try thy
power against his: silence 'the noise of the multitude of waters:' fasten
the vessel that 'reeleth like a drunken man;' smooth the foaming waves
that 'mount thee up to heaven;' fill up the horrible gulfs whither thou
goest 'down to the bottoms of the mountains;' dissipate the lightning that
flasheth in thy face; hush the bellowing thunders; confine the winds in
their caverns; assuage the anguish of thy soul, and prevent its melting
and exhaling with fear. How diminutive is man! How many ways hath God to
confound his pride! He uttereth his voice, and there is a noise of a
multitude of waters in the heavens. He causeth the vapours to ascend from
the ends of the earth. He maketh lightnings with rain, and bringeth forth
the wind out of his treasures. Who would 'not fear thee, O King
of nations?"

It is necessary, however, to remark, that we are not authorized always to
expect the strict exercise of retributive justice in the present state.
Some remarkable visitations have, in all periods, roused the attention of
an astonished world, and powerfully appealed to the understanding of men,
in vindication of the character, and in proof of the existence, of a
superintending Providence. Tyrants have been hurled from their thrones,
empires uprooted from their foundations, and the "poor set on high from
oppression;" but these dispensations have not been regular, nor can they
be calculated upon as certain, or in general, perhaps, as probable. They
have been sufficiently numerous to indicate an observant though invisible
eye fixed upon human affairs; but not so frequent as to supersede the
Christian's anticipations of a day of final and impartial judgment. The
present may indeed be considered rather as a time of permitted, confusion,
the period of moral chaos, in which the elements of a new creation
exists, but in a disorganized state; in which the principles of depraved
human nature are permitted to develope themselves, and human passions are
suffered to act in an ample field of exertion with comparatively little
control, and for the purpose of ultimately promoting the glory of God.
Hereafter "the morning stars" will "sing together," and all "the sons of
God" again "shout for joy," when "all things that offend shall be gathered
out of his kingdom," when sinners shall be everlastingly degraded, Christ
for ever exalted, the most mysterious dispensations shine with transparent
brightness in the light of eternity, and the unfading paradise of the
saints bloom amidst the wrecks of time.

3. "Boast not thyself of to-morrow, for thou knowest not what a day may
bring forth." Little did Sisera imagine the fatal reverses he was destined
to suffer, when in all the pride of fancied superiority, sustained by the
recollection of the successes of twenty years, he made his arrangements
for the battle with Barak and Deborah. What a contrast between the moment
of confident preparation, and that of disgraceful retreat! What a mighty
and unexpected contrast between the high-spirited general at the head of
his army, and the trembling fugitive hiding himself in a tent, and slain
by a woman.

Let us apply the reflection to ourselves. How often do we form our
schemes, and calculate on temporal prosperities, without any due regard to
the will of Providence, or any proper consideration of the uncertainty of
life. "We live without God in the world," an omniscient Deity has no
existence in our minds, and we inquire "Who will show us any good?" as if
God were not the chief good, or could not supply our happiness.

Alas! how often have we boasted of to-morrow by neglecting, in a
religious sense, the most important business of to-day. It is not easy to
imagine a more dangerous state of mind, than that of a person, whose
resolutions of repentance and amendment all respect futurity, because he
makes these very resolutions an excuse for his negligences, and even
considers them as an expiation of the guilt of his procrastinating temper.
It is indeed an affecting thought, that so thick a mist surrounds us, we
are not only unacquainted with the events of YEARS to come, we do not know
what a DAY may bring forth. It may produce a change in our
circumstances--our faculties--our friendships--our hopes.--An hour--a
moment, may waft us from time into eternity! "Now," then, "is the accepted
time, behold, NOW is the day of salvation."--"Seek the Lord while he may
be found, call ye upon him while he is near."

4. Mount TABOR has been repeatedly mentioned as the place where Deborah
directed that the forces of Zebulon and Naphtali should be concentrated,
and its immediate vicinity as the scene of the celebrated contest between
Barak and Sisera; but though it may appear a digression from the present
subject, it would be scarcely pardonable to omit a reference to that still
more wonderful circumstance, the transfiguration of Jesus Christ, which
probability and tradition concur in assigning to the same remarkable spot.
Three of his disciples, Peter, James, and John, accompanied him to this
mountain, where two bright spirits from among the glorified saints, Moses
and Elias, descended to join their society. Delightful pledge of that
inseparable union which will one day take place upon the summits of
immortality, when "the general assembly and church of the first-born"
shall associate together in the realms of bliss!

"O happy, happy company,
Where men and heavenly spirits greet,
And those whom death hath severed meet,
And hold again communion sweet;
O happy, happy company!"

What though death at present divides them, and while some of this glorious
family have reached their destined habitation, others are left on earth to
struggle with the calamities of life; the separation is but temporary, and
will serve to heighten the raptures of union, when they shall come from
the east and from the west, from the north and from the south, and sit
down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of God.

And what will constitute the heaven of believers? Doubtless the vision of
the Lamb, converse with Jesus, and perpetual intercourse with saints of
all nations and ages. Moses and Elias descended from the raptures of
immortality to talk with Jesus on the mount, and the same divine communion
will form a considerable portion of our felicity in the invisible world.
To be for ever near him, and to "see him as he is"--to converse of the
things of his kingdom--to learn from his own lips the purpose of all his
most inscrutable dispensations to the church and to each believer, the
reason of every sorrow, and the nature of its connection with our ultimate
happiness--to hold fellowship with all his redeemed, holy patriarchs,
distinguished apostles, and victorious martyrs--to be encircled with all
his family, emparadised in his embraces, and united to all who love him in
bonds of indissoluble affection; no sea to separate, no discord to
agitate, no enemies to infest the unbroken circle of friendship--this will
be "joy unspeakable and full of glory." Not the delight of Moses, when
conversing with God in the burning bush, at the door of the tabernacle,
or in mount Sinai--not the transports of David, when his enchanted spirit
waked the lyre of praise and gratitude--not the bliss of the three
favoured disciples, even on this mount of transfiguration, can be compared
with this perfect happiness. All the little streams of felicity which flow
to the church of God in the desert, will then be collected into one vast
ocean, in which the tears and sorrows of time will be eternally lost. The
pleasures of a moment which now solace us by the way, will be exchanged
for the permanent joys of that celestial inheritance, in which "the Lamb,
which is in the midst of the throne, shall lead us, and feed us by
fountains of living waters; and God shall wipe away all tears from our
eyes." By the anticipations of faith, we are "come unto mount Sion, and
unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an
innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the
firstborn which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to
the spirits of just men made perfect, and to Jesus the Mediator of the new

Section II.

Capacity of Deborah as a Poetess--Paraphrase of her remarkable Song,
composed to celebrate the victory over Sisera.

"On a favoured few," says an elegant writer, "has been conferred the
combined glory of acting nobly and writing well; of serving their own day
and generation with credit to themselves and advantage to their country,
and of transmitting useful information to regions remote and generations
unborn. On the list of those illustrious few, stands, with distinguished
honour, the name of Deborah, the judge, the prophetess, the sweet singer
of Israel; and it is with exultation we observe the most dignified,
arduous, and important stations of human life filled with reputation by a
woman; a woman who first with resolution and intrepidity saved her country
in the hour of danger and distress, and ruled it with wisdom and equity,
and then recorded her own achievements in strains which must be held in
admiration so long as good taste and love of virtue exist in the world."

[Sidenote: Years before Christ, 1285.] The remarkable victory we have just
related and remarked upon, is celebrated by Deborah in a poem, which
claims our attention as one of the most ancient in the world, having been
composed upwards of four hundred years before the birth of Homer, and
which is characterized by unusual pathos and sublimity. Many passages in
it are confessedly obscure, which will not be deemed surprising, when it
is recollected how imperfectly we are acquainted, in this distant period,
with the various circumstances, incidents, and localities of the memorable
event it celebrates, and even with the original language in which it
was written.

Dr. Lowth [26] very
properly divides this poem into three parts; first, the exordium: next, a
recital of the circumstances which preceded, and of those which
accompanied the victory; lastly, a fuller description of the concluding
event, the death of Sisera, and the disappointed hopes of his mother;
which is embellished with the choisest flowers of poetry.

It is proposed in the present chapter to furnish an extended paraphrase
of this fine specimen of ancient poetry, for the purpose chiefly of
illustrating its meaning. Its various beauties as a composition can
scarcely fail of striking the most superficial reader. It occupies the
fifth chapter of the book of Judges.

[PG Editor's note: In the original book, the text and paraphrase were
displayed side-by-side. In this case, for each verse, the paraphrase
follows in brackets.]

1. Then sang Deborah, and Barak the son of Abinoam, on that day, saying,
[Deeply impressed with a grateful sense of that remarkable interposition
of Providence for the deliverance of Israel from the long tyranny of their
inveterate enemies, which Deborah and Barak saw accomplished by their own
instrumentality, the one directing by her wisdom, what the other performed
by his valor, they sang a sacred ode on the very same day; a day so
wonderful for its dangers, anxieties, and triumphs. It was to this effect.]

2. Praise ye the Lord for the avenging of Israel, when the people
willingly offered themselves. [Give thanks, ye tribes of Israel, to the
God of battles, who has smitten the daring foe, and thus avenged our
wrongs. "The hearts of all men are in his hands," and instead of internal
dissention enfeebling our energies, he has graciously disposed the people
of Zebulon and Naphtali to offer their zealous services in the war; a war
which patriotism and piety have, under the blessing of Heaven, conducted
to a glorious termination.]

3. Hear, O ye kings; give ear, O ye princes; I, even I, will sing unto the
Lord; I will sing praise to the Lord God of Israel [Let the voice of
praise, uttered from the thousands of Israel, resound to distant nations,
so that Gentile princes and potentates may hear of the miracles of mercy
wrought for the covenanted people of God. Ye idolatrous rulers of the
world, reject forever your gods of wood and stone, for I am called to
celebrate the majesty of Jehovah, who has triumphed over them; and will
sing to the honour of him, who, though no local divinity, has chosen the
children of Israel as his peculiar people.]

4. Lord, when thou wentest out of Seir, when thou marchedst out of the
field of Edom, the earth trembled, and the heavens dropped, the clouds
also dropped water.

5. The mountains melted from before the Lord; even that Sinai from before
the Lord God of Israel. [This illustrious day revives the recollection of
those ancient interpositions of the strong arm of Omnipotence for our
ancestors, which have often excited the our admiration, and of which this
appears like the continuation of a miraculous series. O God! what a period
was that, when Israel marched round the confines of Idumea, and the
majesty of thy protecting presence was displayed before the enemy, in the
pillar of cloud by day, and of fire by night. Edom refused a passage
through their land, but so terrible were thy signs, that the trembling
earth, the tempestuated heavens--all nature seemed to avenge the cause of
thine insulted people; and the surrounding nations were smitten with
terror, as when mount Sinai herself quaked, and for a time disappeared
amidst the tremendous glory of the divine presence. These wonders do not
surpass what we have witnessed to-day, and which prove that none shall
oppress thy people with impunity. [27]]

6. In the days of Shamgar, the son of Anath, in the days of Jael, the
highways were unoccupied, and the travellers walked through byways.

7. The inhabitants of the villages ceased, they ceased in Israel, until
that I, Deborah, arose, that I arose a mother in Israel [Turn your weeping
eyes to the recent miseries of our country Shamgar, indeed, who succeeded
Ehud as judge, effected something for Israel, and Jael shall never be
forgotten for her heroism and her useful exertions, although in a private
station; but alas! the long tyranny of our oppressors continued to produce
the most disastrous effects--trade perished, for no caravans of merchants
dared to occupy the public ways, infested as they were with an armed
banditti, the life of the unoffending traveller became endangered, and the
dejected inhabitants of the country were afraid to venture abroad, except
as thieves, stealing through the most unfrequented paths, and even there
the most dreadful outrages were committed; until I Deborah, arose, and
notwithstanding the weakness of my sex, and the desperate situation of
affairs, became the happy instrument of benefiting Israel, by the
restoration of public justice, general security, and national glory.]

8. They chose new gods; then was war in the gates; was there a shield or
spear seen among forty thousand in Israel? [But trace our former miseries
to their source. Israel relapsed into idolatry, and God punished them with
the scourge of war. The insulting foe pressed to the very gates of our
fortified cities--the means of defence were utterly neglected in
consequence of general despondency, and no adequate supply of arms could
be furnished to repel the infuriated enemy.]

9. My heart is toward the governors of Israel, that offered themselves
willingly among the people. Bless ye the Lord. [My warmest affections are
due to the chiefs of Israel, who, in the hour of calamity and
apprehension, did not shrink from danger, nor tremble at death; but, in
the true spirit of patriotism, accompanied the people to battle, placed
themselves at their head, flew at my first mandate to defend the common
cause, and animated our warriors by their noble enthusiasm. Let _them_
unite in this anthem of praise to Jehovah, who had the best opportunities
of knowing, that nothing but his gracious interposition could have
procured such unparalleled success.]

10. Speak ye that ride on white asses, ye that sit in judgment, and walk
by the way. [Rejoice, ye nobles and judges of the land, who have the
honorable distinction of riding upon white asses, [28] the most valuable
animal of the kind, and therefore appropriated to persons of your rank;
shout for joy, because now there is no impediment to the exercise of your
high offices; and ye, merchants, assist in the song, for no obstruction
remains to commercial intercourse; the ways are clear, communications
open, and your marauding foes shall alarm you no more.]

11. They that are delivered from the noise of archers in the places of
drawing water, there shall they rehearse the righteous acts of the Lord,
even the righteous acts towards the inhabitants of his villages in Israel;
then shall the people of the Lord go down to the gates. [Ye shepherds, who
a short time since scarcely dared to drive your flocks to the watering
places, and ye maidens, who were afraid to go and draw for your daily
supply, or went in silence lest the smallest noise should rouse your
ever-watchful enemies, [29] now sing with a loud voice, and without the
least apprehension, and unite with the husbandmen and vine-dressers, in
extolling that miraculous mercy which has restored to your most
unprotected habitations the blessings of peace and security. The gates of
our cities shall no longer be shut for fear of the enemy, and the people
may again repair to these seats of justice and judgment. [30]]

12. Awake, awake, Deborah! awake, awake, utter a song! arise, Barak, and
lead thy captivity captive, thou son of Abinoam! [Let not my exhausted
powers drop the exulting strain; but rather, O Deborah, kindle with fresh
enthusiasm upon every new view of the glorious subject! Exert thy utmost
powers of praise, upon this inexhaustible theme! And thou, companion and
instrument of victory, Barak, arise! exhibit the captive foe who once led
Israel captive! let the spoils of triumphant war be shown, and thou and
thy father's name shall be had in everlasting remembrance!]

13. Then he made him that remaineth have dominion over the nobles among
the people; the Lord made me have dominion over the mighty. [Alas! to what
a wretched state was Israel reduced: but even this remnant of former
greatness, this weak and dispirited handful, God employed to crush the
power of Canaan and the presumption of her nobles and, be it spoken to his
glory, the Lord made even me, a feeble woman, the conqueror of formidable
armies, and the saviour of a sinking state.]

14. Out of Ephraim was there a root of them against Amalek, after thee,
Benjamin, among thy people out of Machii, came down governors, and out of
Zebulun, they that handle the pen of the writer. [Those noble warriors who
hastened to the conflict with so much courage, and conquered with so much
glory, have not only rendered themselves, but their tribes, for ever
illustrious, Ephraim originated the expedition, who had, on a former
occasion, discomfited Amalek, and now manifested an heroic zeal against
them and the confederates of Jabin, Benjamin caught the holy infection of
hatred against the enemies of the Lord, and first rushed to the fierce
encounter, Machir, the half tribe of Manasseh, despatched her great men
with their forces, and Zebulon sent her sons more famed indeed, as a
commercial tribe, for handling the pen than the sword, but who readily
came forward to aid the common cause.]

15. And the princes of Issachar were with Deborah, even Issachar and also
Barak; he was sent on foot into the valley. For the divisions of Reuben
there were great thoughts of heart. [The chiefs of Issachar repaired to
Deborah and Barak in Mount Tabor, and with them the strength of their
tribe. They descended into the valley as foot soldiers, with Barak, and
trembled not at the chariots and cavalry of Sisera. But alas! for Reuben,
whose internal dissentions issued in a shameful neutrality, a circumstance
deeply perplexing and vexatious to their brethren.]

16. Why abodest thou among the sheepfolds, to hear the bleatings of the
flocks? For the divisions of Reuben there were great searchings of heart.
[Why didst thou obey the dictates of a selfish spirit and a carnal policy,
and while engrossed with thy flocks and herds, refusedst to listen to the
cries of thy brethren in distress, and the loud calls of Deborah and
Barak? Alas, for the dissentions of Reuben! What painful thoughts, what
dreadful anxieties were occasioned by such unaccountable and
unpatriotic conduct!]

17. Gilead abode beyond Jordan, and why did Dan remain in ships? Asher
continued on the sea-shore, and abode in his breaches. [Influenced by a
similar temper, Gilead, or Gad, remained inactive, in their possessions
beyond Jordan, as though, happy themselves, they were insensible to the
miseries of others, and why didst thou, O Dan, regarding only thy
merchandise and thy gainful navigation, continue motionless in the day of
our calamity! And see how Asher imitated the base example, abiding within
the ruined walls of his cities, and in his bays and havens!]

18. Zebulun and Naphtah were a people that jeoparded their lives unto the
death in the high places of the field. [But Zebulon and Naphtah have
acquired immortal renown, by cheerfully hazarding their lives and their
all, when they assembled in the heights of Tabor, and impetuously rushed
upon the foe in the valley where Kishon flows. [31]]

19. The kings came and fought, then fought the kings of Canaan in Taanach,
by the waters of Megiddo they took no gain of money. [Dire was the strife
and vast the struggle when the confederate kings of Canaan fought in
Taanach, and near Megiddo, to which places in the tribe of Issachar their
mighty forces extended. They pressed eagerly and freely to the war, but
how were their vain hopes disappointed when they returned without spoils.]

20. They fought from heaven, the stars in their courses fought against
Sisera. [The awful contest was decided by the God of heaven. His angels,
his elements--all nature aided our righteous cause; and the stars of the
firmament lighted our midnight pursuit, and shone disastrously upon the
fugitive enemy.]

21. The river of Kishon swept them away, that ancient river, the river
Kishon. O my soul, thou hast trodden down strength! [The river Kishon
rising, as if elated with joy at the opportunity, and overflowing its
banks, swept thousands away; that river, celebrated in ancient times, and
the witness of former conflicts. O Deborah, thou art indeed thrice happy
in becoming the favoured instrument of exciting this glorious war, and
thus eventually of crushing a most formidable confederacy!]

22. Then were the horse-hoofs broken by means of the prancings, the
prancings of then mighty ones. [The war-horse, urged in his rapid flight
over the flinty soil, cut his hoofs to pieces; or entangled amidst the
overflowings of Kishon, pranced, and foamed, and perished. [32]]

23. Curse ye Meroz, said the angel of the Lord; curse ye bitterly the
inhabitants thereof, because they came not to the help of the Lord, the
help of the Lord against the mighty. [The angel, who preceded our hosts as
the sword of an irresistible Providence, denounced a curse upon the city
of Meroz, and commanded us to cherish a holy indignation against its
lukewarm inhabitants, who, instead of resisting the giant armies of
Canaan, remained as uninterested or timid spectators of the
dreadful battle.]

24. Blessed above women shall Jael, the wife be of Heber the Kenite, be;
blessed shall she be above women in the tent. [But feminine heroism shall
exhibited in honourable contrast with such shameful neutrality. Let the
benediction of heaven rest upon the head of Jael, the wife of Heber the
Kenite, above all other women! Blessed shall she be above all other
female, heads of families who remained at home, having with
masculine-courage completed in her tent, what was so happily begun in
the field.]

25. He asked water, and she gave him milk; she brought forth butter in a
lordly dish. [Sisera, famished and fainting, requested water to allay his
thirst; she opened a leathern bottle, and with feigned respect presented
him with butter-milk; yes, she poured him out butter-milk in a vessel of
copper, such as nobles use. [33]]

26. She put her hand to the nail, and her right hand to the workmen's
hammer; and with the hammer she smote Sisera; she smote off his head, when
she had pierced and stricken through his temples. [Lulled into a fatal
security by her deceptive homage, he slept--to wake no more! She seized a
nail of her tent, and a hammer, approached in cautious silence the
sleeping adversary of Israel, and, animated by an irresistible impulse of
patriotic zeal, she drove it through his temples, and cut off his head.]

27. At her feet he bowed, he fell, he lay down; at her feet he bowed, he
fell: where he bowed, there he fell down dead. [Thus fell the great
instrument of Canaanitish oppression at the feet of a woman; thus
ingloriously he perished [34]]

28. The mother of Sisera looked out at a window and cried through the
lattice, Why is his chariot so long in coming? Why tarry the wheels of his
chariots? [O day of triumph! Methinks the mother of Sisera, anticipating
the fruits of victory, and the final subjection of all Israel to their
oppressor's yoke, stood at her window, chiding the tardy moments, and
impatiently exclaiming from behind the lattice-work, Why is the chariot of
our victorious general so long in returning? Whence this painful delay?
Hasten, ye fleet animals that draw his chariots, and restore him to our

29. Her wise ladies answered her, yea, she returned answer to herself,

30. Have they not sped? have they not divided the prey; to every man a
damsel or two, to Sisera a prey of divers colours, a prey of divers
colours of needle work, of divers colours of needle work on both sides,
meet for the necks of them that take the spoil? [Her maids of honour, who
were scarcely less eager than herself to see the laurelled conqueror,
answered her; yea, chiding for a moment her own impatient expressions, as
if they indicated a doubt of success, she said within herself, Have they
not succeeded in discovering the enemy?--Doubtless they have, Have they
not enriched them selves with immense booty, and apportioned an
Israelitish damsel two to our brave warriors?--Yes, yes, this must
occasion some delay, and let them enjoy the reward of their valour. As for
Sisera, the most beautiful captives are his portion, and shall be the
slaves of his will; the most elegant dresses, curiously interwoven and
wrought with the needle, such as may well be deemed worthy of heroes,
shall grace his triumph and heighten his renown.]

31. So let all thine enemies perish, O Lord let them that love him be as
the sun when he goeth forth in his might. [But who can describe their
utter disappointment! So shamefully, so totally, let all the enemies of
thy people, and all the opponents of thy dominion in the earth perish, O
Lord, from before thy face forever! But let all those who are animated
with a sacred zeal for thy glory resemble the morning sun as he advances
rapidly to his meridian splendour; let them increase in usefulness,
influence, and esteem, the honour of human nature, and the lights of
the world.]

Manoah's Wife.

Chapter IX

State of Israel--Appearance of an Angel to the Wife of Manoah--She
communicates the Design of his Visit to her Husband--Second
Manifestation from Heaven--Result of the Interview--Reflection of
Manoah's Wife stated and analyzed--Considerations deducible from the
Narrative--to avoid Precipitancy of Judgment--to avow our Convictions at
every suitable Opportunity--to feel assured that the Providence of God
does never really, though it may apparently, contradict his word.

Obscurity of station or of birth has no tendency to prelude the favour of
God. In this respect, he "seeth not as a man seeth," but, in the past
dispensations of his mercy, appears to have preferred the lowly as objects
of high and distinguishing manifestations. This is the case in the
Christian era, and to the present hour the stream of celestial goodness
pursues its silent and chosen course, chiefly down the vales of poverty
and wretchedness.

We see from the histories of Scripture, that in seasons of national
defection, there have existed pleasing instances of individual piety.
Amidst universal darkness, some stars of considerable magnitude have shed
a light, though comparatively feeble, athwart the moral hemisphere. God
has never totally suspended his intercourse with man, even in the worst of
times, nor suffered the series of his communications to be entirely
broken. If, during certain disastrous periods, truth has been eclipsed, it
has not been extinguished: the watchful eye of Providence has never been
removed from the earth, nor has the divine hand ceased to interpose in
terrestrial affairs.

[Sidenote: Years before Christ, about 1156.]

The history of Manoah and his wife is introduced by an allusion to the
state of Israel. This people, in consequence of returning to the
commission of those sins for which they were so notorious, were delivered
up to their oppressors forty years. The Philistines were, in fact, very
inconsiderable, in comparison to the Israelites, having only five cities
of any importance; yet they were the appointed scourge in the divine hand
to chastise his people. Thus he imparts power to the weak, or enfeebles
the energy of the strong, to accomplish his omniscient purposes.

On a certain occasion, an angel of the Lord appeared to the wife of Manoah
with most welcome tidings. She was a sufferer from the same cause which
tried the faith and patience of so many of the illustrious females of
patriarchal age: and, to alleviate those painful anxieties which good
people at that period were accustomed to cherish for a family, but
especially to evince the unceasing regard of Heaven to the interests of
Israel, the commissioned spirit announced to her the conception of a son;
and giving her at the same time some directions respecting her own mode of
living, and the devotement of the future Samson as a Nazarite from the
womb, assured her that be should become the deliverer of Israel from
Philistine subjection. It does not seem as if she were commanded to tell
her husband; nevertheless, she immediately hastens to disclose to him
every circumstance that had transpired. To whom could she so properly
confide this important secret? who, excepting herself, could be so deeply
interested; or who so worthy of sharing her utmost confidence? Between
relatives so dear, and so closely allied, there should be few or no
concealments. On every subject they are entitled to reciprocal confidence,
which is the life of friendship and the soul of love: and whither it be
for advice or for congratulation, the husband should share the feelings,
the sympathies, the unreserved affections of the wife, and the wife those
of her husband. These tender relatives may derive advantage especially
from reciprocal communications on religious topics, and points of pious
experience. By this means, they may sweeten and sanctify domestic
enjoyments; by this renew and purify the flame of affection.

The simplicity and veracity of the wife of Manoah appear in her address to
him. "Then the woman came and told her husband, saying, A man of God came
unto me, and his countenance was like the countenance of an angel of God,
very terrible; but I asked him not whence he was, neither told he me his
name. But he said unto me, Behold, thou shalt conceive and bear a son; and
now drink no wine, nor strong drink, neither eat any unclean thing; for
the child shall be a Nazarite to God, from the womb to the day of
his death."

The injunction respecting her own abstinence was no arbitrary requirement,
but was founded in nature and reason. The temper of the mind, is
materially affected by the state of the body, and both may concur in
communicating permanent impressions from the mother to her offspring,
which often affect the comfort of existence.

The condition to which her child was thus devoted requires a brief
historical elucidation. The term Nazarite signifies _separated_; and is
commonly applied to persons who make a vow to live in a more holy manner
than others, either during a certain specified number of years, or ever
after the pledge is given, without recantation or change. The Nazarite
abstained from every kind of intoxicating liquor, "from wine and strong
drink," from vinegar of wine, or vinegar of strong drink, and from grapes,
whether moist or dried; he was to let his hair grow, and upon no pretext
whatever to approach a dead body, though it were to render funeral honours
to a father or mother. If, during the period of a vow, the Nazarite
neglected any of these injunctions, the whole ceremony was to recommence.
The least admissible time for this consecration was, according to some of
the Jewish Rabbins, thirty days; and the perpetual Nazarite whose hair had
been allowed to grow for many years, might cut it once. At the expiration
of the appointed term, various sacrifices were to be offered, a particular
enumeration of which is given in the sixth chapter of the book of Numbers.
After this, the priest shaved the head of the Nazarite at the door of the
tabernacle, and burnt his hair on the fire of the altar. If the person
died previous to the expiration of his vow, his son was required to
fulfil the time, and offer the same sacrifices. Perpetual Nazarites, like
Samson, were consecrated by their parents; but there is a peculiarity
attaching to him above all others of whom we read, being devoted even
before his birth. Similar rites were observed amongst the heathen,
especially the Egyptians, the Greeks, and the Romans, the origin of which
is unquestionably to be referred to the Jewish law. [35]

As soon as Manoah was informed by his wife of the visit she had received,
and the delightful promises she had heard, he entreated God to permit the
return of the messenger, whom he supposed to have been a prophet. "When,"
says Bishop Hall, "I see the strength of Manoah's faith, I marvel not that
he had a Samson to his son: he saw not the messenger, he beard not the
errand, he examined not the circumstances; yet now he takes thought, not
whether he should have a son, but how he shall order the son which he must
have; and sues to God, not for the son which as yet he had not, but for
the direction of governing him, when he should be. Zachary had the same
message, and craving a sign, lost that voice wherewith he craved it.
Manoah seeks no sign for the promise, but counsel for himself; and yet
that angel spake to Zachary himself, this only to the wife of Manoah; that
in the temple like a glorious spirit, this in the house or field, like
some prophet or traveller; that to a priest, this to a woman. All good men
have not equal measures of faith; the bodies of men have not more
differences of stature, than their graces. Credulity to men is faulty and
dangerous, but, in the matters of God, is the greatest virtue of a
Christian. Happy are they that have not seen, yet believed. True faith
takes all for granted, yea, for performed, which is once promised.

"He that before sent his angel unasked, will much more send him again upon
entreaty; those heavenly messengers are ready, both to obey their Maker,
and to relieve his children. Never any man prayed for direction in his
duties to God and was repulsed; rather will God send an angel from heaven
to instruct us, than our good desires shall be frustrated."

Upon his reappearance, the angel did not present himself to Manoah, though
he came in answer to his supplications; but to his wife as she sat alone
in the field. She immediately hastened to her husband, who gladly returned
with her to the spot; and hearing from her own lips, that it was the same
remarkable visitor she had so recently seen, he expressed his faith in the
promise, and his solicitude for the child. His wife concurred in every
desire; and his inquiry was, in fact, equally her own. "How shall we order
the child, and how shall we do unto him?" The angel repeated his former
injunctions, which this pious female was ready to observe.

Good people commence their plans, and offer their prayers, in behalf of
children, even before their birth; feeling the weight of that
responsibility which the parental relationship incurs, and knowing well
the early trials and dangers that await their little ones. The tears and
concerns that attend the period of parental anticipation, mingle with the
transports which accompany their nativity, and stimulate their future
exertions to train them up in the ways of religion. How gladly do they
make considerable sacrifices of time and property to this object; and how
richly are the maternal pangs repaid, when true wisdom guides the steps
of their youthful charge into paths of pleasantness and peace! The mercies
of Providence are ill requited, when the parents never inquire, like
Manoah and his wife, "How shall we order the child?" If incapable of
properly cultivating the infant mind themselves, either on account of
their own ignorance, from their too abundant occupation, or from an
unprincipled disregard to the best interests of the little immortals
intrusted to their care; it is a happiness for the present generation,
that so many benevolent institutions exist, which invite the poor and the
neglected to their parental guidance. But let parents, and especially
Christian parents, consider it one of their first duties, one of their
noblest privileges, to implant the good seed of knowledge in their hearts,
which in its future developements, may not only expand their faculties and
dignify their characters, but render them the ornaments' of society, the
comfort of their parents, the guides and examples of posterity, and the
objects of divine approbation.

Hitherto these two favoured individuals had no idea of the being they were
addressing, but still supposing him to be an ordinary prophet, Manoah, in
the true spirit of eastern hospitality, requested permission to dress a
kid for his refreshment. He was, besides, animated with a sense of
gratitude for the joyful news he communicated. The angel declined his
offer, assuring him, though he remained with him a little while, he should
not take any food; but that if he designed to offer a burnt-offering, he
ought to be careful not to imitate the prevailing enormity of sacrificing
to strange gods, but to worship God.

Manoah now became anxious to know the stranger's name, that he might have
an opportunity of hereafter expressing his gratitude and affection, by
informing him of the birth of his predicted offspring, and making suitable
acknowledgments for his kindness. This request was refused; and he was
assured it was "a secret," and must remain concealed. This was a
sufficient reply to Manoah and his wife, who did not presume, with an
impertinent eagerness, to press the question. Many secret things belong to
God; and it is the province of true piety to repress curiosity, where it
is not authorized, or would be useless. All impatience, we should often
take wing, and pursue our adventurous flight through all the regions of
possible knowledge, and beyond the limits of Scriptural revelation; but,
"Why askest thou?"--"What is that to thee?"--Truth is disclosed in all its
essentials--regard thy duty, and listen to thy Saviour--"follow me."

Many expositors have concurred in rendering the words of the angel thus,
"Why askest thou after my name, seeing it is WONDERFUL?" and for an
explanation of the epithet, they refer to the sublime description of
Isaiah, "His name shall be called WONDERFUL, Counsellor, the mighty God,
the everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace." If this be correct, the
ministering spirit, concealing his glory in the form of a man, was no
other than the Angel of the covenant, the Wisdom, the Word, and the Son of
God. If, after his resurrection from the dead, and immediately previous to
his reascension to the glories of eternity, when invested with the
character of the Conqueror of death and hell, he appeared to two of his
disciples on the way to Emmaus whom he had so recently left, without their
suspecting who it was, "for their eyes were holden, that they should not
know him?" it cannot be deemed an improbable circumstance in itself, that
on this occasion he should have been divested of all his splendid
peculiarities, to fulfil so interesting a mission to these worthy
Danites, to authorize so unusual a sacrifice, and to accomplish so
glorious a mode of disappearance.

Manoah now proceeded to present an offering to the Lord, presenting, as
was customary, a meat-offering with his burnt-offering. He was not indeed
a priest, nor was this the place; but it was not requisite to go to the
tabernacle in Shiloh, when his divine visiter had already dispensed them
from the circumstantials, by sanctioning the sacrifice here. "Audit came
to pass, when the flame went up towards heaven from off the altar, that
the angel of the Lord ascended in the flame of the altar; and Manoah and
his wife looked on it, and fell on their faces to the ground." This was,
at once, a proof of the full acceptance of their sacrifice; and
irresistibly convinced them, they had been conversing with a divine
personage. "And Manoah said unto his wife, We shall surely die, because we
have seen God. But his wife said unto him, IF THE LORD WERE PLEASED TO

Considering all the circumstances, this was very remarkable language, and
merits attention; not only as illustrative of the character of this
excellent woman, but as furnishing a principle of sound and legitimate
reasoning in the concerns of religion.

At first, being overawed by the majestic manifestation, both these pious
people fell prostrate in the dust. A reverential awe pervaded their
bosoms, at a sight so wonderful and so unexpected. The sentiments they
felt were, doubtless, allied to those which dictated the exclamation of
Jacob, "How dreadful is this place! this is none other than the house of
God, and this is the gate of heaven:" or the humble tone of Isaiah, "Wo is
me, for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell among
a people of unclean lips; for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of
Hosts." But if the divine appearance in mercy proved so terrific and
overwhelming to pious persons in those extraordinary times; how tremendous
will the second appearance of Christ in judgment be to his enemies, with
the glory of his Father, and all the holy angels! If the splendour of his
grace confound a mortal eye; what must be the lightning of his
indignation, how intolerable the flaming fire of his displeasure!

On this occasion, Manoah appears the weaker believer. He thought of
nothing but death; he expresses his confidence of perishing, and assigns a
reason, which, however weak, is sufficiently accounted for by the extreme
terror of his mind, and the universal prejudice of that age: "We shall
surely die, for we have seen God." Even good men are sometimes tempted to
listen to the suggestions of nature, rather than to the assurances of
revelation; and to dread as an evil, what in their better moments is
anticipated as a good. If death were the extinction of being, it might
excite alarm; but, if it be only the means of our purification, and the
preparatory process to fit the spiritual character for the felicities of a
higher existence, it should, and often does, awaken pleasure. If, even
while the shroud is worn by the body, the spirit is clothed with the
garments of salvation, and that shroud will soon be exchanged for the
white robe of purity and heaven; what is there to prevent our adopting the
words of an apostle, "I have a _desire_ to depart, and to be with Christ,
which is far better?" If the apprehensions of Manoah had been really well
founded, and himself and his beloved partner had yielded Up their spirits
on that memorable spot; who can say it would have proved an undesirable
exchange? As the servants of the living God, they were prepared for all
events, and for either world. Their union could never have been dissolved,
and the sphere of their spiritual discoveries would have been amply
enlarged. To see God is the antidote, and not the occasion, of death; the
hope, and not the terror, of the believer.

It is not difficult, however, to ascertain the reason why this prejudice
so early and so extensively influenced the pious in primitive times. It
arose from a consciousness of guilt, and a dread of merited punishment. As
a sinner, man must necessarily tremble at the thought of his approaching
God, or at the communication of any message from his throne: when God
opens his mouth, he naturally fears the sentence; when tidings arrive from
the invisible world, he dreads their purport, and conscience suggests that
even the most favourable manifestations may be blended with tokens of
displeasure. Every approach of the Deity is liable to excite confusion to
a guilty world; and a sense of demerit may lead us not only to expect a
war-rant for execution when a reprieve is coming; but at first, like
Manoah, to mistake and misinterpret the sign.

The wife of this good man entertained no such fears. With a faith which
penetrated the divine intentions, at least in part, and which elevated her
not only above the prejudices of the age, but gave her a decided
superiority over her trembling partner, she suggested a far different
conclusion, and intimated the reason on which it was founded. Her
conclusions, the very opposite to his--so different are the _degrees_ of
grace in different characters--were deduced from three considerations.
Each of these, in her view, was a decisive evidence against his
suggestion, and a consoling reflection in this extraordinary and
ambiguous moment.

The first was, _the acceptance of their sacrifices_. "If," said she, "the
Lord be pleased to kill us, he would not have received a burnt-offering
and a meat-offering at our hands." The law which prescribed the
presentation of sacrifices, expressly represented them as "a _sweet
savour_ unto the Lord;" which implied not only an approbation of the
offering, which was indeed of divine appointment, and could not therefore
be rejected, but complacency in the worshipper. The _person_ could not be
disowned, while the _presentation_ was acknowledged. If this sentiment
needed any corroboration, the history of Cain and Abel would have
furnished it. The acceptance and rejection of each was evinced by the
divine treatment of their respective offerings. "The Lord had respect unto
Abel, and to his offering: but unto Cain, and to his offering, he had not
respect." When God entered into a solemn covenant with Abram, "a smoking
furnace and a burning lamp passed between the divided pieces of the
sacrifice, and consumed them." At the dedication of the tabernacle, when
"the glory of the Lord appeared unto all the people, there came a fire out
from before the Lord, and consumed upon the altar the burnt-offering and
the fat; which when all the people saw, they shouted and fell on their.
faces." The dedication of the temple was signalized by a similar
manifestation. "Now, when Solomon had made an end of praying, the fire
came down from heaven, and consumed the burnt-offering, and the
sacrifices; and the glory of the Lord filled the house!" The same
principle is fully-recognized by David, in the following supplications:
"The Lord hear thee in the day of trouble, the name of the God of Jacob
defend thee: Send thee help from the sanctuary, and strengthen thee out of
Zion: Remember all thy burnt-offerings, and accept thy burnt-sacrifice."
The argument, therefore, of Manoah's wife was pious, legitimate, and
conclusive: "if _we_ were to be destroyed, our _services_ could not be

The people of God too frequently resemble Manoah; but their doubts and
fears would soon subside, could they be persuaded to adopt the reasoning
of his wife. Past experience is a solid basis for future expectations. A
succession of spiritual mercies is a pledge of kind intention, and of
continued favour. In periods of despondency, recur to days of religious
prosperity and happiness, when the candle of the Lord shone upon you, and
spiritual enjoyments were dispensed in the use of means. Have you not good
evidence, that your sacrifices _have been_ received--your prayers heard,
your dedication to God accepted? Have the spirit and efficacy of his
promise evaporated in the lapse of time, "I will never leave you, nor
forsake you?" or have you no reason to say with holy anticipation, "Surely
goodness and mercy _shall_ follow me all the days of my life, and I will
dwell in the house of the Lord for ever?"

Feeble, imperfect, and disproportionate to our obligations, as all our
offerings must be, they are acceptable to God by Jesus Christ. He has
presented a sacrifice, "once for all," upon the cross, to which this
subject naturally directs our attention, which constitutes the foundation
of human hope, and secures a welcome reception, and gives an available
power to all the future offerings of faith. The figurative nature of the
ancient dispensations renders it not improbable, that these humble
Israelites perceived, in the memorable transactions they witnessed, some
typical representation of the work of redemption, some glimpses of the
great atonement, and of the principle upon which what they offered was
accepted. This event was not intended merely to astonish or overawe, but
to instruct; and the wife of Manoah presents a noble example of that
profound attention, which it becomes us to pay to all the revelations of
Heaven. If, in particular, the "angels desire to look into" the mysteries
of redeeming love, and consider the sabbath of eternity well employed in
this research; mortals surely, who are more nearly interested, cannot
devote the less sacred hours of time to a more important inquiry. Nor
should they be satisfied with superficial, or indeed with _any_
attainments in spiritual wisdom, which is so unfathomable in its depths,
and illimitable in its extent.

The second consideration, which led to the inference in their own favour
drawn by Manoah's wife, was _the wonders which the angel had shown them_.
These were of a nature, in her belief, to justify her conclusion, that God
did by no means purpose their ruin, but the reverse. It appears from the
general expression, that "the angel did wondrously," in connection with
the mention of "_all_ these things," that some other manifestations,
probably of a hieroglyphic or typical nature, were given antecedently, or
as an immediate preparation to his miraculous ascent in the flame of the
altar. This at least is certain, making a general application of the
statement, that we are not only authorized to conclude from the privileges
we enjoy, but from the spiritual discoveries we have made, that God is our
Father and our Friend. He would not have pointed out our danger, and
exhibited our remedy, if he had designed our ruin. Were we appointed to
perish in our guilt, "the Physician of souls" would never have been
commissioned to visit us. To be shown, by Scriptural statement, by
ministerial instruction, and by providential guidance, the way to heaven,
is no indication of an appointment to destruction. Have you not discovered
the evil of sin, the value of the soul, and the excellency of Christ? Have
you not felt the sorrows of repentance, and the joys of faith? Have you
not touched the outstretched sceptre, submitted to the chastising rod, and
gloried in the cross? God does not impart a fixed aversion to all
iniquity, an intense desire after holiness, habitual delight in his word,
and desire after his presence and glory; he does not impress a sense of
the infinite excellence of the Saviour, and a readiness to sacrifice every
thing to his will, and for his sake, excepting to holy souls, which are
"born, not after the flesh, but after the Spirit."

The wife of Manoah adverted to a third source of consolation, at the
period of this miraculous disappearance. She refers to _what they were
told_. The assurances they had received of the birth of a son, rendered it
impossible they should die. She had received very minute directions, both
respecting her offspring and herself, who was to be consecrated as a
Nazarite, and to rise up as the deliverer of his country from the yoke of
Philistia. Possibly, during the preparation of the sacrifice, the
inquisitive spirit of this thoughtful woman induced her to seek a
conversation, which the celestial messenger was not unwilling to
encourage, and during which they might have received some further
instructions. Our fears are apt to betray us into absurdities, and confuse
the memory; so that good men, like Manoah, speak or act inconsistently
with themselves, and their own more deliberate convictions. Happy they who
are blessed with an intelligent awl pious companion, whose kind
suggestions may detect their errors, refresh their recollections, quell
their fears, and comfort their desponding hours! Thus "two are better than
one, because they have a good reward for their labour. For, if they fall,
the one will lift up his fellow: but wo to him that is alone when he
falleth; for he hath not another to help him."

Obvious but important considerations are deducible from this narrative,
which seem capable of an application to the general concerns of life, as
well as to the inquiries of religion.

1. We should avoid precipitancy of judgment. The wife of Manoah, in this
view, appears in advantageous contrast to her hasty husband. She did not
suffer herself to be hurried into a discouraging inference, without
reviewing the circumstances of the case, and allowing time for reflection.
In the common affairs of life, an inconsiderate eagerness, either to
escape from danger or to possess good, is often itself productive of the
disappointment it dreads; while a proper deliberation prepares the mind
either for failure or success: and, in the pursuit of moral and religions
inquiries, the same precipitancy is calculated to plunge into error,
which, if it do not always endanger our salvation, may disturb our peace.
Jesus Christ has expressly exhorted us to close and deliberate
investigation, intimating that our labour will be repaid by discovery; for
"searching the Scriptures," and acquiring a knowledge of him respecting
whom they "testify," and "whom to know is life eternal," are inseparably
connected. On another occasion, when describing the true hearer of his
word, he suggests a comparison equally and beautifully illustrative of the
necessity of a diligent use of the means of instruction, and that serious,
profound, and careful inquiry, which is calculated to prevent an implicit
submission to the opinion of others, or taking our religion upon trust.
"Whosoever cometh to me, and heareth my sayings, and doeth them, I will
show you to whom he is like. He is like a man which built a house, and
digged deep, and laid the foundation on a rock; and when the flood arose,
the stream beat vehemently upon that house, and could not shake it, for it
was founded upon a rock."

2. It is wise, and may be useful, on all proper occasions, to avow our
convictions. Selfishness and timidity may concur to suggest a different
proceeding: but religion requires that we act upon principles superior to
those of worldly policy. Manoah had every reason to be grateful to his
wife, for the distinct and prompt avowal of her sentiments; which, though
contradictory to his, were adapted to rouse him from his despondency and
stupor. She was, no doubt, ready to sympathize with his distress; but duty
to God, attachment to her husband, a consciousness of knowing the truth,
and even a proper respect to herself, prompted a statement of her
disagreement with his opinions. When religion claims our services, we must
not withhold the offering of our lips, or the labour of our hands, through
fear of danger or hope of gain. When truth demands that we should speak,
or Providence that we should act, it would be criminal--it would be
disgraceful, to continue silent or inactive.

To generalize and apply these remarks to the circumstances in which
Christianity has placed us--it is required not only to believe in Christ,
but explicitly to avow our sentiments of attachment to his Gospel by a
public profession, whether we meet with the concurrence, or suffer the
opposition, of our dearest friends. Timidity is natural to the female
mind; but religion requires even the youngest and the weakest of the sex,
not to suffer even natural delicacy to degenerate, by excessive
indulgence, into criminal shame. It does more, it enables women to become
heroes and martyrs! Inflamed with the love it inspires, they have learned
to see no lions, to fear no dangers, to feel no pains in the path of duty;
not only evincing patience, but expressing joy.

Jesus Christ was "not ashamed to call us _brethren_," to assume our
nature, to fill our humble station, to suffer our sorrows, or to die for
us an ignominious death; he is not ashamed to own his connection with us
now he is in the highest heavens, or to be engaged in preparing a mansion,
in his Father's house, for our final reception. Shall we be ashamed of
him, or of his cause? Shall we tremble to avow our attachment, if we feel
it? This would expose us to the censure of our own consciences, to the
reproach of a dishonourable, hesitating, indecisive conduct; and, above
all, to the Saviour's final malediction, as the Judge of mankind. It is
the design of Christ to establish an interest in the world; and this is to
be maintained, not by fear, but by firmness: not by temporal compliances,
but by holy resistance; not by sloth, inactivity, and shrinking into a
corner, but by "putting on the whole armour of God." Not to be _for_
Christ is to be _against_ him--neutrality is enmity--a refusal to enlist
under his banners is disloyalty, rebellion, and treason!

3. The providence of God does never _really_, though it may _apparently_
and to human apprehension, contradict his word or discredit his character.
The present manifestation of the angel in flame and terror, did not
subvert the confidence which the wife of Manoah felt in his past
declarations, nor excite despondency respecting future events. The fears
of her husband did not shake her faith in the promises of God, nor did the
incomprehensible nature of the mystery blind her perceptions of the
concealed mercy. We are very inadequate judges of the divine conduct. It
is neither possible, nor proper, that we should know the mighty plan of
his operations; and it can never be a sufficient reason, even under the
most disastrous circumstances, for questioning the goodness or wisdom of
his dispensations that _we_ cannot comprehend them. The designs of God are
very imperfectly unravelled in the present world. We can see but to a
short distance, nor is it necessary that we should. _Some_ light from the
sacred page beams across the path of life; but if we cannot at present
attain all we may wish to know, let us be contented to wait for the
manifestations of eternity. In the mean time we may rest assured, that
whatever is thought contradictory in the dispensations of Providence to
the written word, is but _seemingly_ so. It is so merely because we cannot
now see the connecting links, the unbroken chain of events, which, when
the clouds that obscure this earthly atmosphere shall be finally
dispersed, will become distinctly and for ever visible.


Chapter X.

Section I.

Religion a Source of Peace--Account of Elkanah and his two
Wives--Peninnah reproaches Hannah--Sin of despising others for their
Infirmities--the Family at Shiloh--Elkanah endeavours to console his
Wife--her Conduct and Prayer--Eli's unjust Imputation--Hannah's Defence,
and her Accuser's Retractation--Return from Shiloh--Birth of
Samuel--his Weaning.

"Where there is _piety_," says an excellent commentator, "'tis pity but
there should be _unity._" There is, however, too frequent occasion to
deplore the dissentions of families, whose religious profession induces
us to expect the prevalence of peace and harmony. Nevertheless, these
inconsistencies are so far from being justly chargeable upon religion,
that they furnish the most decisive evidence of its value. It is in
consequence of a departure from its genuine spirit, and a compliance with
the suggestion of evil principles and passions, that individuals are
rendered miserable and families distracted. The renewal of that "right
spirit" which it inculcates, is the direct means of restoring personal
comfort and domestic tranquillity.

The Psalmist represents "the law of the Lord" as "_perfect:"_ it is the
only solid-basis of human felicity; and every hope that is differently
founded, must prove, inevitably prove, a shadowy super-structure. A
deviation from the order and appointments of Heaven is a proportionate
departure from happiness; for this order and these appointments do not
result from caprice, but a perfect combination of goodness and wisdom. The
divine system of legislation is formed with a merciful regard to our best
interests, and an entire knowledge of our nature. Its arrangements are not
arbitrary, but kind; and obedience is no less essential to our real
welfare, both present and eternal, than it is expressive of a just regard
to our obligations. In opposing the requirements of God, man is an enemy
to himself; his resistance is not only culpable, but ruinous.

These observations are fully exemplified in the history of Hannah, and the
family of which she was the female head. Her husband, whose name was
Elkanah, resided at a place in the tribe of Ephraim, called
Ramathaim-zophim. He is mentioned as having descended from Zuph an
Ephrathite, or inhabitant of Bethlehem-Judah, which is Ephratah, probably
with the view of showing his connection with David. As persons have
sometimes conferred distinction upon places, so places have occasionally
dignified persons. Who would not have thought it an honour to be born at
Bethlehem, whence the light of the world first proceeded, and where such
wonderful events were to be afterward transacted? And yet it is but an
adventitious honour, which will soon fade, if it be not sustained by
personal character and real excellence.

Elkanah had two wives; Hannah, the subject of this history, and Peninnah.
Here we trace the origin of the infelicity of this religious household. It
is strange that the experience of past ages, the incongruity of such a
practice in itself, and the unauthorized nature of such a proceeding,
should not have prevented him from forming two matrimonial connections at
the same time. If polygamy were not expressly interdicted by a law, but
rather tolerated in an age of imperfect revelation, like the plan of
divorce to which our Saviour alludes, for "the hardness of their hearts;"
it had plainly no foundation in reason, no sanction from Heaven; and not
only no good consequences attached to it, but it was commonly attended
with calamitous results. Every recorded instance of it proves its extreme
inexpediency. It seldom failed to involve the comfort of all parties, and
must be regarded as a proof of weakness, if not absolutely of a criminal
indulgence of passion, even when adopted under the most plausible
pretences. If the Creator had at first perceived that a plurality of wives
was conducive to human felicity, he would have bestowed more than one upon
man in his paradisiacal state. Infinite wisdom must have known what was
really best; and the inspired narrative shows that infinite goodness
pursued every conceivable method of completing the enjoyment of him who
was placed, both in point of capacity and authority, at the summit
of creation.

There is a marked difference between the two women whom Elkanah had
espoused. In most cases of contention, considerable blame attaches to all
the parties concerned. We hear of provocations and insults on the one
hand, of recriminations and resentments on the other. Whoever originates
the dispute, an irreconcilcable spirit in both usually perpetuates it.
Hannah, reproached as she was by Peninnah for her barrenness, does not
seem to have returned railing for railing. The haughty behaviour, indeed,
of her rival, made her the more deeply sensible of her affliction, and
fretted her almost into despondency. Day after day, she was ridiculed for
what implied no blame, and admitted of no remedy. With how much greater
reason might she have retorted upon Peninnah her malignant temper and
provoking tongue! What was her natural infirmity, in comparison with the
slanderer's moral defilement! How misplaced the censures of the one! How
admirable the patience of the other!

This disagreement presents a fair occasion of remarking upon a practice
too much tolerated in society, for which young persons especially cannot
be too strongly reprehended. It is the cruel conduct of despising others
for their natural imperfections, turning their blameless deformities into
ridicule, and speaking ill of them for defects which ought rather to
excite the deepest commiseration. Perhaps the persons who suffer this
unmerited contempt, possess qualities of a mental and moral description,
which ought to conciliate the esteem and excite the imitation of the fair
and graceful slanderer. Perhaps they have a cultivated mind and a pious
spirit, while she has nothing but a pretty countenance or an attractive
form. But how ill is wisdom compensated by beauty, and how disgraceful is
it to despise the work of God's hands! If the object of offensive remark
should happen to be endowed with neither wisdom nor symmetry, is it
becoming of you, my reader, to institute an arbitrary standard of
gracefulness, and despise every one who has not attained it! Is it for you
to aggravate as a crime, what reason teaches is, at worst, a misfortune?
Is it for you to calumniate those who have given you no personal offence;
who are, notwithstanding their disadvantages, good members of society; and
if in some respects defective, may not be vicious? But if the latter were
the case, if they exhibited a combination of exterior deformity and
interior depravity, they would not then be the proper objects of
_ridicule_. The former peculiarity would still merit pity, and indeed
forbid observance; the latter would require more serious treatment.

In many instances, perhaps in the majority, young persons are guilty of
this misconduct through inadvertency. They have been stimulated to it by
others, or they have never been impressed with a sense of its impropriety.
It has been the result of thoughtlessness, rather than of malignity. It
was not their design to injure, but to seek amusement. Let parents and
tutors, therefore, explain the evil of such practices; let such as read
these pages meditate upon its enormity, and be solicitous of cultivating
those benign and benevolent feelings which peculiarly adorn their early
age, and are inculcated by the religion and the example of Christ.

To return to the family of Elkanah. This worthy man did not allow domestic
dissentions to interrupt his religious duties. He went up to the worship
of the Lord in Shiloh at the yearly festivals, according to the
appointments of the law. "Unto the place which the Lord your God shall
choose out of all your tribes to put his name there, even unto his
habitation shall ye seek, and thither thou shall come; and thither ye
shall bring your burnt-offerings, and your sacrifices, and your tithes and
heave-offerings of your hand, and your vows, and your free-will-offerings,
and the firstlings of your herds and of your flocks. And there ye shall
eat before the Lord your God, and ye shall rejoice in all that ye put your
hand unto, you and your households, wherein the Lord thy God hath
blessed thee."

In the services of religion, it becomes us to ascend above all temporal
considerations, and regard exclusively the will of God. Elkanah, however,
even at the solemn and public festival, unhappily gave a worthy or double
portion to Hannah, which was the ancient mode of expressing peculiar
affection. This was likely to inflame, rather than to extinguish strife;
and though done, no doubt, with the kind attention of alleviating the
sorrows of his best beloved partner, was a sad display of weakness, and a
miserable profanation of the worship of God. Peninnah had children, Hannah
the affections of her husband; the former persecutes, and the other weeps.
Who would not have indulged the pleasing hope, that the worship of God,
that cement of society, that healing remedy for the disorders of the moral
world, would have quieted contention; and that the flames of animosity
would not have mingled with the hallowed fires of sacrifice! It was well
meant in Elkanah to bring all his household together to the tabernacle
in Shiloh--

"Religion should extinguish strife,
And make a calm of human life."

If we cannot be reconciled at the altar, it is an indication of rooted
antipathy, and will neutralize the effect of our entreaties for divine
forgiveness. "If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord," said David,
"will not hear me." The salutary effect of Elkanah's measure was prevented
by the continuance of discord. Year after year this mischievous spirit
prevailed. Elkanah was unable to conciliate Peninnah, or to sooth Hannah.
The good man was rendered wretched, both by the temper of the one and the
tears of the other: the latter, however, was the most intolerable.
"Hannah," said he, "why weepest thou? why eatest thou not? and why is thy
heart grieved? Am not I better to thee than ten sons?"

There is something soothing and gentle in this remonstrance, which
bespeaks the affection of Elkanah, and exhibits his pacific character in
an advantageous light. He does not directly interpose to settle the point
of domestic difference by the stern dictation of authority, but with a
kind hand endeavours to wipe away the falling tears of his disconsolate
wife. Nothing is more difficult than properly to administer reproof,
except it be properly to receive it. Elkanah seems, on this occasion, to
have managed it with extreme delicacy, and with happy success. He kindly
insinuated, that she ought to feel consolation in her husband's regard;
and that a becoming submission to Providence is at all times our duty. She
might have suffered not only the affliction which she so deeply deplored,
but the still greater distress of her partner's aversion. If he had been
alienated, or even if his regard had been only diminished, there would
have existed a more plausible pretence for incessant grief; but although
Peninnah was blest with children, Hannah was best beloved. Would the
latter have been willing to exchange advantages? would she have descended
from a pre-eminence so justly valued, for the sake of a family? Doubtless
it was her wish to unite these comforts; to retain the love of Elkanah,
and to rival the children of Peninnah. But it is our duty, and would prove
eminently conducive to our happiness, to improve the blessings we enjoy,
rather than to cherish undue solicitude for what Providence does not see
fit to confer.

There does, by no means, exist that inequality in the distribution of
divine favours, which our impatience tempts us to imagine. One thing is
set over against another; comforts are associated with crosses: and if we
were in a situation, or possessed a capacity, to estimate with exactness
the proportion of good and evil in the individual condition of mankind, it
is more than probable we should find the balances by which these
proportions are determined most accurately poised. We _may_ safely, and
_ought_ unhesitatingly, to trust the hands in which they are placed, and
the power that regulates their distribution.

If the language of Elkanah may be considered as honourable to his general
spirit, the silent obedience of Hannah was no less illustrative of her
extraordinary excellence. How many tempera would have been exasperated by
such an appeal; and instead of drying up the tears of grief, and
proceeding to partake food, would have instantly retorted both upon the
intercessor and the rival! She might have demanded why her husband,
instead of asking her to conceal her sorrows, did not rather reprove the
provoking conduct of Peninnah, and silence her exasperating tongue?
Availing herself of the decided preference shown her, she might have aimed
at making her husband a party in the dispute; and, by his means, have
triumphed over her adversary. But Hannah was influenced by far different
sentiments. To her husband's remonstrances she appears to have returned no
answer: nor was it a sullen silence; for she took food, interrupted no
longer the festivities of the occasion, but, painful as the struggle must
have been, heroically concealed her own feelings till the termination of
the public solemnities.

"After they had eaten in Shiloh, and after they had drunk," Hannah
continued in "bitterness of soul," and rose up to withdraw. But whither
did she go? Whither, under circumstances like these, was it natural for
her to fly? Perhaps into solitude to bemoan her sad situation, to pour out
her unrestrained tears, to anathematize her insulting rival, to plot
revenge, to curse the day of her birth. The stream of grief and complaint
might be expected to flow, in the secret hour, with accelerated force and
rapidity, proportioned to the restraint which publicity had imposed. She
did not, however, yield to this influence, or retire for such a purpose.
Perhaps she withdrew to seek the counsel of a friend, or solicit the
prompt interference of others who pitied her sufferings, to check
Peninnah, or to stimulate Elkanah to stronger measures. Such a proceeding
was not unlikely; it was not, however, the one she adopted. Perhaps, then,
it may be supposed, she went home to wait for some favourable opportunity
of urging her husband to discard Peninnah, and of exasperating his
prejudices against her. It was indeed _natural_ for her to pursue either
or of all these courses; but she chose a different one. The pious mourner
has another and a better resource. If she look around her for comfort in
vain, she can look above. She may be pressed on every side--difficulties
and distresses accumulating in every direction--foes behind, and seas of
trouble before--but the opening into heaven is free; the ear of mercy is
not shut; the way of access to God never can be closed! "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 wilt 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."

This solemn address to Heaven exemplifies some of the essential qualities
of genuine prayer. It is marked by _reverence_ and _godly_ fear; for she
appeals to "the Lord of hosts," whose prerogative it is to marshal the
celestial armies, and to regulate with undeviating skill and irresistible
influence the affairs of this lower world: it displays profound
_humility_; for she repeats the simple and self-abasing term, "thine
handmaid:" it expresses _submission_ and _dependence_ of spirit; for she
refers with implicit obedience to the determinations of the divine will,
as comprising whatever is best calculated to promote her real interests,
though without presumption, she solicits Omnipotent interference to remove
her affliction, if it should comport with the arrangements, and seem
proper to the wisdom of God; it manifests an importunity which will always
operate with more or less intenseness in every genuine prayer. Her solemn
vow, her judicious repetitions, her whole phraseology, evince this
prevailing disposition. She kindles with holy fervour, and seems to
stretch forth her eager hand to take the blessing which she cannot
persuade herself will be refused. She is fully aware that power and
goodness combine in perfect proportions to influence the dispensations of
the God whom she addresses, and pleads with success, because she pleads
with fervour.

Nor is Hannah the first or the last witness to the apostolic assurance:
"the effectual fervent prayer of the righteous availeth much." It is not
indeed insinuated, that importunity in soliciting favours is invariably
successful. Unquestionably, many considerations of propriety, necessity,
and adaptation, must be understood to enter into the account. The spirit
of dictation must not blend with that of earnestness, nor must we deem
ourselves qualified to determine the time, the manner, or the proportion
of divine communications; but, so far as relates to the spirit of prayer,
importunity is materially connected with success, and coldness with
failure: the former advances, and the latter negatives our supplications,
even while we present them. There are cases of extraordinary ardour, which
can be measured by no common standard; moments of outgoing after God,
seasons of inexpressible sensibility, when the mind possesses an
invincible persuasion of success, which is at once the dictate of the Holy
Spirit, and the certain indication of acceptance. Faith discerns the
blessing, with a distinctness hitherto unknown, and love burns with a
vigour hitherto unfelt. A certain persuasion pervades the soul that its
entreaties cannot fail, that the contemplated good is its destined
portion; and amidst the deepest, the most unusual impression of
unworthiness, its assurance is sustained by a vivid remembrance of the
promises, and an overwhelming consciousness of personal interest in them:
all obstacles seem to remove, or to vanish at the first touch; every thing
yields before the pursuit of zeal, distance disappears, time dwindles into
a moment, and the mind at once enters upon a paradise of possession. In
the very midst of discouragements, the supplicant becomes a hero, and
triumphs by _a prevailing power_, analogous to that of a great conqueror,
whose very consciousness of superiority wins an otherwise doubtful battle,
and gives him a victory even by anticipation. Amidst the provocations of
her rival, and the soothings of her husband, Hannah could only weep and
fast: but at the footstool of mercy, she wrestles like Jacob, and
prevails like Israel. She rises above herself, no longer the despised and
desponding mourner, but the accepted and the triumphant suppliant. Thus
devotion not only sanctifies, but ennobles character. It awakens all the
energies of our nature, directs them to their proper object, and supplies
an ample sphere for their exercise. It produces extraordinary elevation,
and creates a heaven in the exercise of faith, and in the sphere of duty.

It cannot excite surprise, that a mere spectator, even though he be a
pious spectator, should, on such occasions as these, mistake the outward
indications of inward feeling. Objections will sometimes arise in persons
of cooler temperament or more constitutional apathy to the enthusiasm of
younger and more ardent Christians, founded altogether in misapprehension,
not like those of the world, in impious dislike. That the latter should
miscal the holy ecstacies of religion enthusiastic and rhapsodical, we do
not wonder; since they _cannot_ understand them by that medium through
which alone they become comprehensible, the medium of _experience_: nor
need we feel much astonishment at the occasional mistakes of the former,
when it is recollected, that the external indications of the passions are
often equivocal.

This was the case with Hannah. Eli, the venerable priest, was sitting upon
a seat by a post of the temple; and either from want of charity, or a
defect of eyesight, he pronounced a precipitate judgment upon this good
woman, whom he strangely imagined to have been in a state of intoxication.
Hannah, it appears, "spake in her heart; only her lips moved, but her
voice was not heard." This excited the unjust suspicions of Eli, who
immediately charged her with gross immorality. "How long" said he, "wilt
thou be drunken? Put away thy wine from thee."

It may be admitted, as an extenuation of this rude attack, that the good
priest was jealous for the honour of his God, whose temple he supposed was
suffering profanation by indecent conduct: and that, instead of turning
tale-bearer and whisperer, he openly expressed his sentiments to the party
concerned, affording an opportunity for acknowledgment or explanation.
Still his precipitancy cannot be justified. It was his duty to have
obtained better evidence, before he ventured upon such a crimination; or,
at least, to have been more ceremonious and considerate. Reproof may be
well merited; but, in order that its end be answered, it should be
properly administered. Gentleness and mercy should blend their benign
influences with justice. We are ourselves liable to error, and have no
right to assume the tone of severity, or the air of triumph, when required
to notice blameable conduct. If we should be mistaken, either in the
general fact, or in the circumstances, upon some of which we may have
dwelt with unkind severity, the reproof will not only affect us by a
strong and most unwelcome reaction, but in many instances furnish the
transgressor with means of defending himself in what was actually wrong,
and thus nullify _our_ testimony, and harden _his_ mind.

Admirable, indeed, was the reply of Hannah. "No, my lord," said she, "I am
a woman of sorrowful spirit, I have drunk 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."

Nothing could be a more complete vindication of herself than this
respectful, dispassionate, and dignified language. She merely disclaims
the unjust imputation of her accuser, and explains the true cause of her
emotions. If she had been resentful and clamorous, the suspicion of Eli
would rather have been confirmed than removed; but her innocence shone
forth as the noon-day, unclouded by irritability or violence.

There is usually a marked difference between innocence and guilt, in the
mode of treating accusations: the latter boisterous and impatient; the
former gentle, calm, and moderate, comparatively careless of
misrepresentations, and often silent; the latter adopts any artifice to
shun the light, the former affords every facility to investigation. If a
character be free from the stain of guilt, it will not shrink from those
proceedings which tend to hold it up to the light, and which of course
only exhibit its perfect transparency.

Eli, perceiving his mistake, disdains to persist in it. Like a man of
integrity and piety, he corrects himself at once, dismisses her with a
blessing, and prays for her success. This was making the best possible
reparation, and it was done with a promptness which evinced its sincerity.
The good man was as ready to express his approbation, when convinced of
Hannah's innocence, as he had been to censure her conduct, when he
imagined it to be culpable.

In this transaction, we perceive him practising one of the most difficult
of duties; and if the wife of Elkanah be worthy of imitation for a
respectful and modest defence against a false accusation, the pious priest
of the Lord is no less so for retracting a hasty judgment, and instantly
exchanging frowns for smiles, reproof for applause, cursing for blessing.
In most cases, the offending party is the last to be reconciled; and
mistake is frequently adhered to with an obstinacy, and defended with a
pertinacity, proportioned to the haste with which it has been adopted.
Look inward. What is the present state of your minds respecting the errors
you have committed, or the wrong steps you have taken, and of which you
are deeply conscious? Have you adopted any measures to give satisfaction
to an injured party, or, are you disposed to that concession which you
know your past improprieties require? To trifle with the character of
another is cruel--to persist in misrepresentation is wicked. Can you
expect pardon of God, while living in the indulgence of an unforgiving
spirit towards your fellow-creatures? Justice requires, and Christianity
insists, upon reparation. O listen to their united voice! Hasten to wipe
off the stain which your carelessness, or your malignity, has flung upon
the white robe of innocence! Hasten to dry up the tears which you have
caused the sufferer to shed: hasten to heal the wound you have foolishly,
perhaps wickedly, inflicted.

This duty, remember, is not superseded even by the ill conduct of the
person you have made your foe. If, instead of submitting to your
unkindness, or bearing your mistake with the meekness of Hannah, you have
been loudly denounced--if you have been represented as a calumniator, and
railing has been rendered for railing--if the injured person have even
taken advantage of your error to reproach you in turn, and circulated a
thousand mis-statements to your disadvantage, you are still under the
greatest obligations to correct and apologize for your original error.
Never can you be justified in the eyes of impartial men; never can you
stand upon the high ground of an unblemished reputation, and become
invulnerable to attack; never can you obtain the divine approbation, till
you have adopted this measure. Neither conscience, reason, nor religion,
will admit that the aspersions of another justify your slanders. His
persistance is no reason against your concession.

Restored to tranquillity and happiness, Hannah withdrew from the temple,
and "her countenance was no more sad." Her innocence was apparent to the
priest, her petition heard in heaven. She went up weeping, she returned
rejoicing. Devotion had pacified her troubled breast, and since
"committing her way to the Lord," the tide had ebbed, the sky had cleared.
She knew that her request would be granted, or, if denied, that she should
see occasion ultimately to feel perfect acquiescence and satisfaction in
the determinations of Providence. She, therefore, wiped away her tears,
and dismissed her anxiety. Such is the relief afforded by humble prayer.
How often has sorrow been transformed into joy by religious exercises!
From the dark vale of life, where the winds blow and the rains descend,
how often has the pious mourner ascended to that sacred mount of communion
with God, _the closet_, or to the "_holy hill of Zion_," and dwelt in the
sunshine of heaven! Agitated no longer with conflicting elements, and
mysterious events, the clouds have appeared far, far below; while the
omnipotent hand has been seen engaged in regulating their movements,
directing their course, and preparing to disperse them in every direction.

It is obvious that no combination of happy circumstances, no human power,
no earthly friendship, could have afforded substantial consolation to
Hannah, if she had not repaired to the mercy-seat. Already had her
affectionate husband attempted, in vain, to sooth her grief. He had
renewed his love, wiped off her tears, kindly remonstrated and reasoned
with her.--Hannah! "am not I better to thee than ten sons?" Ah! what
avails it! Elkanah can sympathize, but he cannot relieve--he can reason,
but he cannot remove the cause of her sorrows--he cannot turn the course
of nature, or renew the springs of existence--he cannot change weakness
for strength, or convert barrenness into fertility: but he who has all
resources in his hands, all elements and worlds at his disposal, _can_;
and, at the voice of prayer, _will_ accomplish the holy desires of the
mind. See, Christians, your best resource, your ultimate appeal, your
distinguished privilege! "God sitteth upon the throne of his holiness."

Henceforward, the sacred narrative omits the name of Peninnah, and there
is nothing in her history to induce a wish to penetrate the concealing
veil. She was, in fact, originally introduced to notice for the purpose of
illustrating the more valuable qualities of Hannah, whose excellence
continues to shine with indiminished lustre to the end of her days. It is
indeed profitable, as a warning, to contemplate specimens of moral
deformity as well as examples of moral worth; but we naturally hasten from
the offensive, to the pleasing and attractive forms of female character.
Peninnah perishes unregretted from the page--Hannah continues to adorn it,
and obtains an everlasting remembrance.

On the day fixed for the return of this pious family, it is stated that
they rose early in the morning, and worshipped before the Lord. It is
deplorable, that so many of our thoughtless race should live from day to
day, and from year to year, in a state of perfect estrangement from the
duties of devotion. Whirled about in the circle of dissipation, or busied
with the cares of the world, they forget God their Maker; and, though the
constant recipients of mercies which flow to them in uninterrupted
succession, they never acknowledge, they can scarcely be said to know the
Giver. The most important transactions, schemes, and journeys, are
undertaken without once committing themselves to the guidance or
protection of that Providence which is observant of their steps, and
supplies them, notwithstanding their ingratitude. How pleasantly do _they_
proceed, who, like the family of Elkanah, first solemnly present
themselves before the Lord, and commence every business and every day with
an act of worship! It is true they are not exempted from misfortune, or
rendered invulnerable to the attacks of evil; but they are well prepared
for, and will be graciously sustained in every vicissitude.

[Sidenote: Years before Christ, 1155.]

The predestined hour having arrived, a son was born to Hannah, whom she
named _Samuel_; "because," said she, "I have asked him of the Lord."
Sometimes, what has been sought with importunity, is received with
coldness, or enjoyed with ingratitude. No sooner is the blessing bestowed,
no sooner is the tear of agony dried up, than every pledge is forgotten,
and the mind relapses into thankless indifference. The sun shines, and our
impressions pass away with the storm. But Hannah adopted a measure well
calculated to excite every member of the family, and his mother in
particular, to a perpetual recurrence to the goodness of Providence. She
was resolved upon an expedient, by which the flame of gratitude might be
kept incessantly burning in her breast. Could she ever look upon _Samuel_
without recollecting he was "asked of God?" Could she ever repeat the
name of her beloved first-born, without thinking of the Hearer of prayer?
Amidst the ecstasies of maternal love, when she witnessed the infant
sportings, and traced the expanding faculties of her Samuel, how often
would she remember the stirrings of her spirit, and the sad days of her
reproach. Once she had scarcely indulged the hope of being a mother, much
less the mother of so remarkable a child. Once she wept in bitterness of
soul, now she shed tears of parental transport.

Assiduity in the discharge of maternal duties is the next distinguishing
excellence of Hannah to which our attention is invited. The sensibilities
of her character seemed to have remarkably qualified her for the new
station she was called to occupy after the birth of her child.

Providence has so wisely and so kindly ordered the connection subsisting
between the parent and the offspring, and has rendered human nature, even
in its depraved state, so susceptible of fine impressions and feelings,
that the moment this relationship commences, a sort of new character is

When a dependant little being is presented, a careful and protecting
disposition is generally displayed; the arm of support is readily held
forth to the weakness of infancy, and the most inconsiderate and volatile
of women are, by a natural instinct--a certain powerful, indefinable
transformation--converted to sober habits and necessary attentiveness--Who
can withhold his admiration of this singular economy, or refuse to admit
the interference of an invisible and wonderworking God! If this be the
effect in ordinary instances, it is easy to imagine that the wife of
Elkanah proved an exemplary instance of diligence and goodness when she
became a mother. For such an honourable situation she was peculiarly
qualified by her gentleness and piety. The precious gift, for which she
had been so solicitous, was nursed with fondness, and eventually presented
with all a mother's, with all a Christian's joy, to the Lord in Shiloh.

At the next anniversary festival, Elkanah went up to fulfil a vow he had
made, and to renew the dedication of himself and his family to the divine
service. Hannah accompanied him in spirit, but was prevented from a
personal attendance by her little lovely dependant: she intimated to her
husband the propriety of her remaining at home, pledging herself to
undertake the pleasing journey when the child was weaned. "Then," said
she, "I will bring him, that he may appear before the Lord, and there
abide for ever." It is no honour to religion for its professors to neglect
the duties of civil life under the pretence of superior sanctity: in vain
do those who disregard their families apologize for their misconduct by
pleading their diligence in pious services. Religion not only requires a
punctuality of observance in reference to its more public engagements, but
demands an unremitted attention to those of a more private, social, and
domestic nature: these ought not indeed to be viewed apart, in a separate
and disunited form, but as constituting a beautiful whole. Religion, in
fact, consists both in diligence and devotion, in the occupation of our
stations in society, as well as in fulfilling the services of the
sanctuary; in nursing and educating the child, as well as in presenting
the sacrifice, or keeping the holy festival of saints.

Elkanah fully concurred with the arrangements of Hannah. Happy is it for
that family where the domestic hearth is cheered by love and the altar by
piety. Happy they, whose affection, planted in religion, resembles a
flourishing tree that spreads its shade over the united household. Hannah
consulted her husband, and stated the reasons of the plan she had
devised--Elkanah listened to the representations of his wife, and
instantly assented.

"Do," said he, "what seemeth thee good; tarry until thou hast weaned him;
only the Lord establish his word. So the woman abode, and gave her son
suck until she weaned him."

How beautiful is the allusion of the royal psalmist to this important
period in the history of infancy: "Lord, my heart is not haughty, nor mine
eyes lofty, neither do I exercise myself in great matters, or in things
too high for me. Surely I have behaved and quieted myself as a child that,
is weaned of his mother: my soul is even as a weaned child."

It costs, indeed, a severe struggle to alienate the little offspring from
the breast from which it has drawn the means of subsistence, and, for a
short time, uneasiness and fretfulness may be the result; but when the
days of weaning are accomplished, the long-valued provision is regarded
with total indifference. Strong is the conflict and sharp the encounter
between a sense of duty and an inclination to sin, when the world presents
those fascinating pleasures which are so adapted to the appetites of
nature; but having obtained the victory--having, through the grace of God,
triumphed over the enticement, a real Christian will contemplate the
glories of this world which once enchanted him, with an indifferent eye,
and seek more substantial blessings. What naturally afforded satisfaction,
will, in a renewed state of mind, excite aversion or be treated with
neglect. The propensity being conquered, will never, or but partially
return, and if not absolutely exterminated, it can never again acquire an
ascendancy. The soul is become, in reference to the fleeting honours and
possessions of time, like a "weaned child."

It is at once our duty and felicity to aim at this detachment of affection
from the vanities of life, to cherish a holy disinclination toils
allurements, and to seek our bliss in the unfading good which Scripture
recommends and Heaven dispenses. An interest in the love of God, by faith
in the Redeemer, is the supreme enjoyment to which we are encouraged to
aspire, and which alone can fill the capacities and consummate the
blessedness of intelligent and immortal creatures. Pitiable is the
situation of those who are still attached, with childish fondness, to what
cannot promote their spiritual growth, and befits not their advancing
maturity. "Let Israel," then, "hope in the Lord from henceforth and
for ever."

Section II.

Samuel is devoted to the Service of the Sanctuary--Uniformity of
Character exemplified in Hannah--her Song paraphrased--five other
Children born to Hannah--View of her natural Kindness and
self-denying Piety.

As soon as the time proposed by Hannah had elapsed, she thought of
fulfilling her vow, and hastened to Shiloh. In the days of her distress
she had pledged herself to devote her child to the service of God; in the
days of her prosperity she does not forget the obligation. Never, so far
as we can discover, was a more perfect example of female excellence and
persevering religion: in adversity and in prosperity, in sorrow and in
joy, the light of her piety shone with undiminishing splendour. She had
virtues appropriate to every season, and conspicuous in every situation:
in affliction she cannot be reproached with impatience, nor in success
with ingratitude.

When Samuel was weaned, she took him with her, with three bullocks, an
ephah of flour, and a bottle of wine, determining to leave him with the
priest, for the purpose of being trained up to the service of the
tabernacle. It was an equal honour to the pupil and the tutor, the one to
have such a priest as Eli, the other to have such a child as Samuel. With
all the dignity of innocence and all the pleasure of devotion, she
presented the little stranger to Eli, reminding him of the occasion when
she first pledged herself to consecrate the child she requested to the
work of the sanctuary, and explaining a vow of which he was previously
ignorant. It is true that God and her own soul were the only witnesses and
hearers of this vow; but she did not deem it the less obligatory though it
was made in secret, nor was her upright mind the less anxious for its
punctual fulfilment: "And they slew a bullock, and brought the child to
Eli. And she 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 petition which I asked of him: therefore
also I have lent him to the Lord: as long as he liveth he shall be lent to
the Lord."

There is an exquisite delicacy in this language. The allusion to her
former appearance in the house of God is as cursory as could be devised to
enable the good priest to recognize her. Eli is reminded of her former
prayers; but not a syllable is uttered tending to criminate or to reflect
upon his past precipitancy and misrepresentation. She tells a simple
story, in a candid and respectful manner. The points of deepest interest
are introduced, and her darling child is devoted forever, and with
unreluctant zeal, to the God of her salvation.

Let the impatient and revengeful study the example of Hannah, who did not
allow herself to utter an angry word, or even to cherish a resentful
feeling against Eli, when he preferred against her an inconsiderate and
aggravating accusation; much less did she indulge a spirit of malignity.
How many would have felt an invincible aversion, even though his frank
acknowledgment had compelled them to a momentary reconciliation; and,
viewing his character ever after through the medium of prejudice, would
have magnified every feeling, and flung their public reproaches, or
circulated their secret whispers and surmises against this venerable
minister of the tabernacle. It becomes the people of God to be careful of
the reputation of their brethren, and aim to wipe off the aspersions with
which the world is apt to depreciate their characters, rather than to
unite in the clamours of defamation. Men in official situations are placed
upon a pinnacle which renders them conspicuous, and envy is always ready
to shoot at them its envenomed darts. They have their faults indeed, but
let charity cover them: they may have also their counterbalancing
excellencies--let piety observe and imitate them. Should the criminal
conduct of such persons belie their general profession, dishonour the
religion they profess, and render it necessary to displace them, we ought
to tremble for ourselves, and not triumph in their fall. Who would be
qualified to cast the first stone, if his offences were all detected,
exposed, and treated with merciless severity? The practice of dedicating
children to God, is, we perceive, sanctioned by the usage of high
antiquity; but, what is far better, it is conformable to reason and
Scripture. Sometimes, indeed, it is accompanied with much absurdity and
superstition; but, when properly attended to, it secures many advantages.
Prayer, at all times important, is peculiarly effectual when offered in so
solemn a manner: and if, in ordinary cases, it procure the blessings of
Heaven, a well-founded hope may be excited, that the interesting little
object of such a service will reap some substantial benefits. It tends
besides to purify the domestic affections, and to regulate their exercise.
The child which is bestowed in answer to prayer, and by prayer is, at the
very dawn of existence, consecrated to God, and committed to the future
care and guidance of his providence, is regarded with a new kind of
feeling even by its parents; their fondness receives a peculiar tone and
character from their piety; the motive to seek its spiritual interest is
strengthened by their holy vows; and they cannot but feel an additional
motive to impart early instruction, to cultivate its expanding faculties,
and form the young immortal both for its present and ultimate destination.

Devote, then, ye mothers of Israel, devote your babes to piety and God!
Hesitate not to incur the solemn responsibility which a vow implies in
reference to your tender offspring: it is the most immediate method of
making them your future comforts in this life, and your companions in a
better. Your solicitude will at least afford you personal satisfaction;
you will inherit the delightful consciousness of having done your duty:
you may be happily instrumental in producing early impressions, and
preparing them for their future crown. Then, should they depart from the
world before you, to be "forever with the Lord," they will rise from their
thrones of light to hail your approach, and mingle their thanksgivings and
praises with yours in the songs of eternity.

Uniformity of character is a high attainment, of which Scripture history
presents some pleasing specimens, though perhaps it affords more numerous
instances of irregularity. The early life of some is nothing but the
record of crime and folly, when the passions were indulged in unbridled
licentiousness, and the moral creation groaned beneath the burden of
their vices; but afterward retrieving their errors, they have become
examples of sobriety, kindness, and religion. Others shone, forth at first
with preeminent brightness, attracting the eyes of an extensive community
to their juvenile excellence, and holding forth the best promises of
futurity; but their goodness has proved like the morning cloud, and like
the early dew, that passeth away; the eyes of parental tenderness, that
once glistened with rapture and admiration, are suffused with tears; the
church of God, that once hailed their zeal, is filled with regrets to
witness its faded ardours and its altered nature. "How is the gold become
dim, and the fine gold changed?" There is another, a sort of intermediate
class, who have rather a doubtful complexion, some of whose actions
indicate piety, others the reverse: at a distance they may be admired,
but, upon a closer inspection, their principles are questionable, and, as
our acquaintance with them increases, our respect irresistibly diminishes.
Candour itself, which would put the most favourable construction upon
them, is compelled to see new spots and blemishes in proportion as we
perceive more distinctly their entire character.

The illustrious female, however, before us, exhibits a singular contrast
to all these diversities. From the first to the last mention of her name
in the page of Scripture, she challenges unmitigated admiration; she is
uniform in every character: adversity and prosperity find her the same
woman: she does not murmur in the one, she is not vain in the other. There
is but a single variety in her character, arising from its progressive
excellence. She is not _the same_, only because she is _better_; our
veneration keeps pace with our knowledge. Her character does not, like
that of many others, suffer by investigation; it does not resemble an
object seen at some distance through a mist, which is magnified into
unnatural dimensions, so that the illusion vanishes when you come near;
but is like a tower seen afar off under a clear sky, swelling in majesty
at every step of approximation.

We are now brought to the close of Hannah's history; it is even more
splendid than its commencement. We have traced her through the various
characters of a persecuted wife, a weeping suppliant, a misrepresented
worshipper, a joyful mother, and a grateful saint, fulfilling her vows and
devoting her first-born to the service of God. In some respects the latter
must have proved a trying occasion, a duty of difficult execution; and we
could have forgiven, we could have sympathized with the tears of a mother
who was placed in the situation of violating her vows or giving up her
darling; we could have pitied her struggles, while we commended their
successful issue, in leaving her Samuel behind her at Shiloh. But she
assumes a higher tone and spirit: the mother is absorbed in the saint;
and, at the moment when we expected the language of parting regret and
anxiety, behold, she bursts into a song of praise, and soars to the
heights of prophecy.

This holy effusion is somewhat analogous to that of the mother of our
Lord, which we shall hereafter have occasion to illustrate. In the mean
time the hymn of Hannah claims our examination. It is called a _prayer_,
because it was addressed to God as an act of worship, and because the
acknowledgment and celebration of divine mercies constitute an important
branch of devotion.

"_My heart rejoiceth in the Lord; mine horn is exalted in the Lord: my
mouth is enlarged over mine enemies: because I rejoice in thy salvation_."

A vain mother might have celebrated her _son,_ and, if she had expressed
a general sense of divine goodness in his bestowment, would have dwelt
with satisfaction upon his premature indications of greatness. Inordinate
attachment to the gift is apt to obliterate from the mind a grateful
recollection of the giver; and to this forgetfulness we are liable to be
seduced by our affections. But Hannah cannot taste of the stream without
being led to the fountain; she cannot receive mercies without viewing the
hand that bestows them; nor be so enraptured with the blessing as to sink
the Creator in the creature. In fact, Samuel is unnamed. His beauty, his
pliability--whatever he really possessed, or whatever the fond eye of a
mother fancied he possessed--all was forgotten, lost, and annihilated in
God. Every valued blessing--her child, her husband, her possessions;--the
whole creation vanished into nothingness before the thought of the
"eternal ALL!"

The "horn" is an emblem of power and pre-eminence, and Hannah speaks of its
exaltation. She had been degraded and despised for the childless
condition, and had suffered reproach from the daughters of Israel, in
particular from Peninnah; but she had now, through the mercy of God, risen
to distinction, and obtained the object of her warmest solicitude. The
lips which before moved in secret whispers or inarticulate prayer, are now
taught to praise! The horn was also an instrument of music, and was lifted
up to be sounded in the sacred chorus. In the days of David we read of the
sons of Heman, who were to "lift up the horn;" and this pious woman
perhaps borrowed the allusion to represent the ardour of her worship and
the triumph that inspired her tongue.

If, with her solemn praises, Hannah blended a momentary recollection of
the unkindness with which she had been treated, it was solely to express
her thankfulness for deliverance, and not to produce a charge against her
enemies. "Her mouth was enlarged," indeed, but not to utter the language
of retaliation, not in passionate exclamations or in threatening words,
but to memorialize the goodness of the Lord. Nor was this her only source
of joy. Temporal interposition served but to remind her of spiritual
blessings; and, while her spirit exulted in the birth of Samuel, she
looked forward to a more auspicious day, and rejoiced in the "salvation"
which should hereafter be accomplished by the incarnation of the Redeemer.

Winged with holy rapture, she now ascends far above all earthly interests
and concerns; and quiting the subject, to which she had made but a
transient allusion, though of the deepest personal importance, she
meditates alone on infinite perfection:

"_There is none holy as the Lord: for there is none besides thee: neither
is there any rock like our God. Talk no more so exceeding proudly; let not
arrogancy come out of your mouth; for the Lord is a God of knowledge, and
by him actions are weighed_."

The attributes of the Divine Being excite in the bosoms of the wicked
unmingled dread. Every manifestation of his character is an appeal against
their impieties, and hence they "desire not the knowledge of his ways." In
a state of innocence the presence of the blessed God enhanced the
felicities of Paradise, and nothing but the estrangement which sin has
occasioned could have so altered the views and perverted the inclinations
of mankind as to render the best of beings an object of terror; but in
proportion to the renewal of the mind will be the return of that feeling
of complacency which was cherished by unfallen man, and is felt by sinless

In all the principal events of her own life, and in the general
regulation of human affairs, Hannah perceived a display of those
perfections which she now celebrates; the perfections of holiness, power,
omniscience, and justice. Nothing is better calculated to suppress the
arrogance of man than the contemplation of these divine excellencies,
which are so many rays of one ineffable glory; distinct yet blended;
separate, yet harmonious in their operations. The history of pagan nations
supplies ample proof that the spirituality of the divine essence, which
implies the existence and exercise of these attributes, is too high an
idea for a creature sunk under the dominion of his senses: he cannot
ascend to the conception of infinite purity and wisdom: God is not known,
and cannot be discovered as the searcher of hearts, and the righteous
dispenser of good and evil, life and death: he cannot realize his
unlimited dominion, nor imagine the pervading presence of that all-seeing
eye which looks through the universe, penetrates every concealment, and
observes, with leisurely and perfect survey, every movement of the soul.
It is the province of revelation to disclose these great facts, and the
privilege of piety to triumph in them.

"_The bows of the mighty men are broken, and they that stumbled are girded
with strength. They that were full have hired out themselves for bread;
and they that were hungry ceased: so that the barren hath borne seven: and
she that hath many children hath waxed feeble_."

The dispensations of Providence illustrate his perfections. Often, indeed,
they do not accord with human plans or expectations, but they are
nevertheless marked with wisdom and equity. In accomplishing the mighty
purposes of omnipotence the strong are sometimes weakened, and the feeble
supplied with power; the wealthy are impoverished, and the poor enriched;
the childless blessed with families, and those whose tables are surrounded
with a smiling offspring made to weep over their fading health and
glory. For,

"_The Lord killeth, and maketh alive; he bringeth down to the grave, and
bringeth up. The Lord maketh poor, and maketh rich: he bringeth low, and
lifteth up. He raiseth up the poor out of the dust, and lifteth up the
beggar from the dunghill, to set them among princes, and to make them
inherit the throne of glory: for the pillars of the earth are the Lord's,
and he hath set the world upon them_."

These changes are frequently ascribed, by unthinking mortals, to mere
chance, or at least to the uncontrolled operation of second causes. Hannah
ascribes them "to the Lord." Her faith discerned an invisible hand, and
rejoiced in an omniscient superintendance. Whatever confusion appears to
the eye of sense to prevail in the world, religion has access behind the
scenes, observes the finger that touches the prime spring of this vast
machine of providence, and sees nothing but harmonious movements,
concurrent designs, merciful and intelligible plans, perfect and universal
order. The perspective of human affairs is to such an one complete; he is
placed by the fear of God in the very point of observance; he looks to the
distant results, to the termination of the series, and every object, to
his renewed sight, appears in just and proportionate dimensions. Unless
seen from this point, every thing will be out of place and contradictory;
and human arrogance will naturally arraign as irregular, imperfect, or
unwise, what genuine piety will acknowledge to be best.

"_He will keep the feet of his saints, and the wicked shall be silent in
darkness; for by strength shall no man prevail. The adversaries of the
Lord shall be broken to pieces; out of heaven shall he thunder upon them:
the Lord shall judge the ends of the earth; and he shall give strength
unto his king, and exalt the horn of his anointed_."

There is a _progressive_ energy in this sacred song. Hannah warms into
enthusiasm as she proceeds, till, under the influence of a heavenly
inspiration, she assumes the language of prophecy, and becomes "wrapt into
future times." At the opening, she expressed her gratitude for personal
blessings; hence she is led to celebrate the perfections of Jehovah: then
she proclaims the interference of his providence in the vicissitudes of
this lower world: and finally, proceeds to contrast the destinies of the
righteous and wicked, as resulting from the manifestation of the Messiah
to rule over all nations by a spiritual and everlasting dominion. In that
name which is above every name, in the hallowed name of the ANOINTED ONE,
the song of Hannah terminates. What greater honour could be conferred on a
woman than to be gifted with that spirit of prophecy which first announced
the approaching Redeemer, to whom all the prophets gave witness? She
speaks of his authority as a "King," his administration as a "Judge," his
work as a Priest and Prophet, prefigured by that oil which was poured upon
the most eminent of mankind, who were types of the distinguished Personage
who was to come, and who is therefore designated as the Lord's "Anointed."
How great his influence! "he will keep the feet of his saints!" How
terrible his power! "the adversaries of the Lord shall be broken in
pieces: out of heaven shall he thunder upon them." Preposterous indeed is
the hope of his enemies, that they shall evade the destruction of his iron
rod; while pleasing and well-founded is the expectation of his saints, who
bow with unreluctant submission, with grateful acceptance, to his
golden sceptre.

Almost twelve hundred years were yet until when Hannah uttered this
prediction of the Messiah; and yet her faith, overleaping the ages of
intervening time, beheld his glory, and triumphed in his salvation. No
darkness could blind her perceptions, nothing could repress her love: she
lived as it were, in advance, and, like many of her illustrious
predecessors and of her posterity, believed in Christ to the saving of
her soul.

These ages are passed away, and many more are numbered since the actual
manifestation of the Son of God in human nature. We are partakers of his
day; we live in the light of his glory: from the ages of prediction, we
are advanced to those of accomplishment; from the time of shadows to the
era of reality. And have we _improved_ upon the past, in the strength of
our faith or in the warmth of our attachment to the Lord of glory? Would a
fair comparison of our state of mind with that of early saints, in far
distant ages, prove advantageous or unfavourable to our character? Is our
piety proportionate to our privileges? Does the intensity of our love
equal the clearness of our discoveries? These are salutary questions, and
questions of practical importance. Let us aim to be able to put them often
to our consciences without a blush.

Very little more information is communicated respecting Hannah: her
history is merged in that of her distinguished son. We have, however, a
beautiful picture of her maternal character, a record of the blessing
which the aged priest pronounced upon the family, and an account of five
other children which Providence gave them: "Samuel ministered before the
Lord, being a child girded with a linen ephod. Moreover 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. And Eli blessed
Elkanah and his wife, and said, The Lord give thee seed of this woman, for
the loan which is lent to the Lord. And they went unto their own home. And
the Lord visited Hannah, so that she conceived and bare three sons and two

The good mother and the eminent saint are delightfully blended in the wife
of Elkanah, and the influence of each is obvious in Samuel. Eli seems to
have beheld him with unusual affection. He had been early trained to
gentleness, docility, and goodness. Discipline at home commenced from his
first infancy, and continuing to the moment of his removal to Shiloh,
prepared him for the course of life to which he was so soon introduced.
Too often the petulance and frowardness of children indicate the defective

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