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THE FATAL CONSEQUENCES OF A BAD
1. SAMUEL iii. 12, 13.
In that day, I will perform against Eli, all things which I have
spoken concerning his house : when I begin, I will also make an end. For I have told him, that I will judge his house for ever, for the iniquity which he knoweth : because his sons made themselves vile, and be restrained them not.
HESE words are part of a discourse, which
God addressed to young Samuel in a vision, the whole history of which is well known to us all. We intend to fix our chief attention on the misery of a parent, who neglects the education of his children : but before we consider the subject in this point of view, we will make three remarks tending to elucidate the history. The crimes of the isons of Eli, the indulgence of the unhappy fatlier, and the punishment of that indulgence demand our attention.
Observe the crimes of the sons of Eli. They supported their debaucheries by the victims, which the people brought to the tabernacle to be offered in sacrifice. The law assigned them the shoulders and the breasts of all the beasts sacrificed for peace offerings : but not content with these, they seized the portions, which God had appointed to such as brought the offerings, and which he bad command
ed them to eat in his presence to signify their communion with him. They drew these portions with flesh-hooks out of the caldrons, in which they were boiling. Sometimes they took them raw, that they might have an opportunity of preparing them to their taste; and thus by serving themselves before God they discovered a contempt for those just and charitable ends, which God had in view, when he ordained that his ministers should live on a part of the sacrifices. God, by providing a table for the priests in his own house, intended to make it appear, that they had the honor of being his domestics, and, so to speak, that they lived on his revenue. This was a benevolent design. God also, by appointing the priests to eat after they had sacrificed, intended to make them understand, that he was their sovereign, and the principal object of all the ceremonies performed in his palace. These were just views
The excesses of the table generally prepare the way for debauchery; and the sons of Eli having admitted the first, had fallen into the last, so that they abused the women, that assembled at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, chap. ii: 22. and to such a degree had they carried these enormities, that the people, who had been used to frequent the holy place only for the purpose of rendering homage to Almighty God, were drawn thither by the abominable desire of gratifying the inclinations of his unworthy ministers. Such were the crimes of the sons of Eli.
Let us observe next the indulgence of the parent. He did not wholly neglect to correct his sons, for the reproofs he gave them are recorded in the second chapter. Why do ye such things ? said he to them, for I hear of your evil dealings by all this people. Do not so my sons, for it is no good report that I hear. To perform a duty of such importance with so much indifference was equal to an encouragement of the sin. Eli made use of petitions and exhortations, when he ought to have applied sharp reproofs, and alarming threatenings. He censured and rebuked, when he ought to have anathematised and thundered : accordingly, after the holy spirit had related the reproofs, which Eli, in the words just now cited, addressed to his sons, he tells us in the text, by a seeming contradiction, but in words full of truth and good sense, that Eli restrained them not.
Observe thirdly what terrible punishments this criminal indulgence drew down upon the guilty father, the profligate sons, and even the whole people under their direction. A prophet had before denounced these judgments against Eli, in order to engage him to prevent the repetition of the crimes, and the infliction of the punishments. Wherefore honorest thou thy sons above me ? said the man of God. I said, indeed, that thy house, and the house of thy father should walk before me for ever ; but behold the days come that I will cut of thine arm, and the arm of thy father's house, that there shall not be an old man in thine house, And thou shalt see an enemy in my habitation, in all the wealth which God shall give Israel. And the man of thine, whom I shall not cut off from mine allar, shall be to consume thine eyes, and to grieve thine heart. And this shall be a sign unto thee, thy two sons, Hophni and Phinehas in one day shall both of them die, chap. ii. 29, &c.
These threatenings were accomplished in all their rigor. The arm is in scripture an emblem of strength, and when the prophet threatened Eli, that the Lord would cut off his arm, and the arm of his father's house, he meant to foretel that the family of this priest should fall into decay. Hophni and Phinehas perished in battle when the Philistines conquered the Israelites. Ahitub and Ichabod, the sons of Phinehas, lived only a few years after the death of their father. If we believe a tradition of the Jews, this threatening was accomplished many ages after it was uttered. We are told in the Talmud, that there was at Jerusalem a family, in which no one outlived the eighteenth year of his age; and that a famous Rabbi found by enquiring into the origin of that family, that it descended from Eli. A rival, Zadok, was made high priest instead of Abiathar, a descendant of Eli. We are able to prove by very exact registers that the high priest continued in the family of Zadok not only from the building of the temple to the destruction of it, that is to say for the space of four hundred years, but even to the time of Antiochus and Epiphanes. The rest of the misfortunes of Eli, the victory obtained by the Philistines, the taking of the ark, the confusion which brought on the labor and the death of the wife of Phinehas, who expired, saying, name the child Ichabod, for the gloryis departed from Israel, chap. iv. 19, &c. the violent death of Eli; all these events are fully known.
I hasten to the chief design of this discourse. The extreme rigor, which God used toward Eli, and the terrible judgments, with which he punished the indulgence of this unhappy parent seem to offend some, who have not attended to the great, guilt of a parent, who neglects to devote his children to God by a holy education. I am going to endeavor to remove this offence, and, in order to do so, I shall not confine myself to my text, but shall treat of the subject at large, and shew you, as our time will allow, first, the crimes and miseries of a parent, who neglects the education of his