« PreviousContinue »
another, the children of one who hated her? Alas, the spirit of devotion itself is checked and repressed by the incessant, unrelenting stings of envy and jealousy; life is become a burden to her.
The deep affliction with which she was overw helmed could not escape the attentive eyes of Elkanab. Though her tongue said nothing, her eyes, her tears, her dejection, her abstinence, her sighs betrayed abundantly the anguish of her soul. ** Then said Elkanah her husband to her, Hannah why weepest thou, aud why eatest thou not, and why is thy heart grieved? Am not I better to thee than ten sons?" To what distress has the good man red need "himself? Now he severely 'eels the effect of his own imprudence, and laments his having tried the dangerous experiment which robbed him of all domestic quiet, disturbed the festivity of the solemn rendezvous at Sluloh, and threatened to produce one day some tragical event in his family.
Sympathy if it does not wholly dispel our miseries, pours at least a temporary balm into the wound, and "soothes pain for a while." Hannah becomes composed, and the feast is concluded. There is still one refuge left lor the miserable, one remedy against despair, one friend able and ready to help in every time of trouble; and our eyes with complacency follow the mourner, not into her secret retirement, to spend her sorrow in unavailing tears, or to curse the day in which she was born; not into the round of giddy dissipation, to drown reflection and anxiety, in the poisoned chalice of intemperate mirth and jollity; but to the place of prayer, but to the door of mercy, but to the dawn of hope.
We shall presently find, that what related to the externals of God's worship was at that time but badly conducted in Israel, the " sons of Eli were sous of Belial," they " knew not the Lord." But be the minister who he will, the word and service of God cannot be rendered of none effect. Not only the spirit of piety, but a sense of common decency was now lost in the Leviticai priesthood: when it pleased God tO; make this very afflicted woman, the means Id his hand, to restore the dignity, purity, and importance of the sacred function, to revive the decayed interests of religion, and to bring forward the great events which are *o ultimately connected with the things which belong to our everlastmg peace.
When we look mto human life, whether as exhibited on the hallowed page of inspiration, or hy our own observation and experience, we shall fmd that most of the ** ills which llesh is heir to" may easily be traced up to some imprudence, heedlessness, or transgression' of the man himself, who, before be was aware, found himself involved in difficulties and distresses the native eilects of his own misconduct, but which he foresaw not, comprehended not, and which he never could intend. I know how poor a consolation it is, tc tell a man, "you have nobody but yourself to blame," and to upbraid him with the warnmg which you gave him, and he would not take; but it is not, tor that, useless lor one to discover the source, cause and progress of his calamity. The case must be bad indeed, or his eyes must have been opened very late, or his " heart hardened through the deoeitfulness of sin," if he cannot turn to some good account of the reflections of maturer judgment, the admonitions and chastisement of experience, the pain and remorse of an ill conscience, or the mistakes and wanderings of a good one.
....There are steps in conduct which are irretrievable, and therefore ought not to be tampered with. The excessive use of the most wholesome food, will at length overwhelm the strongest constitution; the occasional application of what is doubtful or unwholesome may undermine or waste it, but poison is certain death; and the sagacity of a brute, the understanding of a ''child, is sufficient to distinguish between poison and food, perhaps not between poison and medicine.
....To how many gracious, social, civil and moral purposes, may not the wise and proper use of religious services be applied? The man who has performed with understanding and feeling the devotions of the closet, will issue from it in a higher state of preparation lor every duty of life. Filled with veneration for his heavenly Father, " who seeth," and with whom he has been conversing in " secret," he breathes good will to man. The emotions of every unkind, ungentle, unjust affection are stifled, extinguished, forgotten. The principles of benevolence and benignity have acquired new life and energy. He is disposed to meet the ills of life with more firmness and fortitude, and to enjoy its blessings witli a more exquisite relish. Hannah having poured out her soul to God, " went her way, and did eat, and her countenance was no more sad." The devotion of the morning will prove the best assistant toward conducting the business of the commg day ; and that of the evening, the happiest review and improvement of the past. From him who habitually begins and ends every thing with God, you may reasonably expect, the fruits of a good and honest heart, "speech alway with grace, seasoned with salt," and order in conduct, more than from other men: more works of mercy, more fair dealing, more steadiness in friendship: and less of the rancor of opposition, less of the selfsufficiency of pride, less of the malignity of envy; for the love of God absorbs all these baleful, malignant fires.
The devotions ef the family, in like manner, produce the happiest effects within that sphere. How soothing, how cementing, how conciliating they are! Does, common calamity press? It is alleviated, it is sanctified, it is done away, when the " care is cast upon God," when the burthen is transferred to a Father in heaven, who stands engaged to remove it, or to render it a blessing. Is domestic prosperity abounding, increasing? What an additional lustre, value, sweetness does
it derive from union, from piety, from a common senso of obligation and dependence r Have oflVnces come < Has peace been disturbed? Are the bonds which u»)iled husband and wife, parent and child, brother ami brother, master and servant, unhappily broken? Thu moment that the healing address," " Our Father who art in heaven," reaches the ear, every soul is peace, tht> spirit of love pervades the whole, and the voice of. discord is heard no more. When pardon is implored from him whom all have offended, the stony heart relents, melts, forgives, for he needs to be forgiven.
The influence of public worship likewise, where it has not degenerated into mere form, is the strongest cement of society. It serves to consolidate men ot various ranks and conditions, with their several talents and abilities, into one compact, efficient, well-organized body, ready to act with one heart and one soul, in the cause of God and their country. Little shades of difference, in men truly good, will unite instead of disjoining. Our great national assemblies are obliged, by Jaw tu open their sittings for public business, by acts of public devotion. The reason and intention of the law, and of the practice founded upon it, are abundantly obvious. If the effect does not follow to the extent that might be wished....it must be concluded, that the devotional part of the sitting is neglected; that formality has extinguished the flame; or that difference of religious sentiment, or what is still worse, indifference to all religion, mar and weaken, and distract the whole. The prevalency of a worldly spirit must at length prove fatal to piety, and when piety is gone, public spirit is on the decline, and will not long survive.
....But we have in the history under review, a melancholy instance of what frequently happens to this
day, and under a happier dispensation of religion
seasons and places of devotion perverted into the instruments of kindling and exercising the ungracious, the unsocial, the unkind affections- -How often it the sanctuary of God profaned, by being made the scene ofdisplavingtbe rivalshipofbeauty, dress, equipage, rank and affluence? The ht.mbling servic es of the meek and lowly Jesus, are unnaturally forced into the mmisters of pride and vain, glory. The tranquillity of the day of sacred rest, and i.s gentle, peaceful employments, give a birth, which they detest and disclaim, to the whisper of envy, and the noise of slander. The feast of love is disturbed, the sacrifice of peace is defiled by the impure claws of harpies; and " the house of prayer is turned into a den of thieves." Surely, my beloved brethren, these things ought not so to be.
....Happily for us, the influence of the gospel, and the laws ot our couutry, and the spirit of the times, prevent the practice which threw Elkanah's family into such aflame; and which, wherever it has prevailed, has been productive of confusion and every evil work. May a purer religion, and wiser institutions, and a more enlightened spirit, produce a more perfect morality, promote domestic happiness, and extend and secure national prosperity.
We now proceed farther to unfold, from the sacred history, the character and conduct of Hannah; earnestly praying, that with " all" the rest of" scripture," which " is given by inspiration of God," " it may prove profitable tor doctrine, for reproof, and for correction, and for instruction in righteousness."