« 上一頁繼續 »
shadow; and in whose superiour lustre they disappear, as the light of the stars is absorbed in the splendour of the sun. The prophetess celebrates JEHOVAH who "shall judge the ends of the earth," as that "King" to whom all authority is committed, to whom all "strength is given," as that "anointed" One, Messiah the prince, whose "horn," should be finally "exalted," and before the brightness of whose coming, all disorder, iniquity and misery shall flee away; who shall first "judge the ends of the earth," and then reign forever and ever.
And thus is the voice of this holy woman, near twelve hundred years before Messiah's day, in perfect unison with the tongue of Christ himself, and of the apostles of the Lord, after his ascension into heaven, and the descent of the Holy Spirit. "The Father judgeth no man; but hath committed all judgement unto the Son: that all men should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father. He that honoureth not the Son, honoureth not the Father which hath sent him."* "God now commandeth all men every where to repent because he hath appointed a day in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead."+ The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign forever and ever." And such, in every age, is the native expression of a soul alive to God, the natural aspiration of the spiritual and divine life.
-Art thou, O man, through grace a partaker of it? You shall "know it by its fruits." As it increases, corruption dies. "If Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness." To be destitute of this life, in whatever state of perfection the intellectual life may be, is to be under the power of everlasting death, a death of trespasses and sins. But if its very first breathings are felt, however feebly, it is a new creation begun, it is "Christ in you, the hope of glory." Attempts will be made to extinguish it, but in vain. Like its Author it is immortal. It may be oppressed, it may be suspended, it may, at seasons, lie dormant, but it cannot expire. It doth not always make itself sensible to the eyes and ears of the world; for the believer's "life is hid with Christ in God." But "when Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory."|| Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is."¶
* John v. 22, 23.
† Acts xvii. 30, 31.
Rev. xi. 15.
¶ 1 John iii. 2.
HISTORY OF HANNAH.
MOTHER OF SAMUEL.
1 SAMUEL II. 18, 19, 20, 21.
But 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 daughters. And the child Samuel grew before the Lord.
THE character of most men is formed and fixed, before it is apprehended that they have, or can have, any character at all. Many vainly and fatally imagine, that the few first years of life may be disposed of as you please: that a little neglect may easily be repaired, that a little irregularity may easily be rectified. This is saying in other words, "never regard the morning; sleep it, trifle it, riot it away; a little closer application at noon will recover the loss." "The spring returns, the flowers appear upon the earth, the time of the singing of birds is come. No matter; it is soon enough to think of the labours of spring. Sing with the birds, skip with the fawn, the diligence of a more advanced, more propitious season will bring every thing round; and the year shall be crowned with the horn of plenty." A single ray of reason is sufficient to detect and expose such absurdity; yet human conduct exhibits it, in almost universal prevalence. Infancy and childhood are vilely cast away; the morning is lost; the seedtime neglected-And what is the consequence? A life full of confusion, and an old age full of regret; a day of unnecessary toil, and a night of vexation; a hurried summer, a meagre autumn, a comfortless winter.
It is the ordinance of Providence that the heaviest and most important part of education should devolve upon the mother. It begins before the child is born; her passions and habits affect the fruit of her womb. From her bosom the infant draws the precious juice of health and virtue, or the baleful poison of vice and disease. The fleeting period he passes under the shadow of her wing, is a season sacred to wisdom and piety. If the mother lead not her son to the hallowed spring, if she fail to disclose to his eager eye and panting heart the loveliness of goodness, the excellency of religion; if she permit the luxuriant soil to be overrun with briars and thorns, in vain will she strive to redeem the lost opportunity, by restraints and punishments, by precepts and masters, by schools and colleges, in a more advanced stage of life. The good or the mischief is done by the time he comes out of her hands.
That Providence which has imposed this employment on the feebler sex as a task, has most graciously contrived to render it one of the highest and most exquisite of female comforts; as, in truth, all the impositions, nay, the very chastisements of Heaven are really blessings. Let the woman who has given suck, tell if she can," how tender it is to love the babe that milks her." Ask that mother if there be any joy like the joy of hearing her child repeat
the lessons which she taught him. Ask her if she recollects or regards her pain and anguish; her anxious days and sleepless nights. Ask her, if all is not forgotten and lost in the progress which expanding faculties have made, and in the richer harvest which they promise. Ask, if she has not already received more than her reward. If the representation of the case be just, let it procure for dutiful mothers the respect and gratitude which they merit; let it reconcile their minds to what is painful and laborious in their lot; let it raise them to their due rank and importance in society; and let it stimulate them to perseverance in well-doing, in the full assurance that they shall in no wise lose their reward.
-The passage of holy writ, on the consideration of which we are now entering, is a very affecting representation of the effects and consequences of a good and a bad education, exemplified in the conduct of Hannah, the mother of Samuel, and Eli, the father of Hophni and Phinehas. Scripture, instead of multiplying precept upon precept, leads us at once into human life, and exhibits the law written in the event. It instructs us how to bring up children, by delineating the dreadful consequences of excessive lenity and indulgence on the one hand, and the happy fruits of early piety, regularity and self-government on the other. This theme, being by far the more pleasing of the two, and coming in more regularly in the order of history, shall obtain the preference, in the course of our inquiry. Though, indeed, attention to the one must, of necessity, bring forward the other; and the good fortify and recommend itself by contrast with the evil.
The education of Samuel began in the pious resolution of his mother before he was conceived in the womb. "If thou wilt give unto thine handmaid a man-child, then I will give him unto the Lord all the days of his life." Every parent receives every child under a tacit engagement to the same purpose and the command of God, from the moment of the birth is, "Rear that child for me." I have watched over him while he lay in darkness, "mine eyes saw his substance yet being unperfect; in my book all his members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them. I added the immortal principle to the finished limbs; I stamped my image upon him. There my hand has scattered the seeds of wisdom and happiness; to thy fostering care I commit that tender plant. Cared for, it will abundantly reward thy toil; neglected, it will grow into a sharp thorn to tear thy flesh. Every day, every hour is producing a change in it. Grow it will and must; what it grows into, depends upon thyself. Of thy hand will I require it."
As Samuel was to be a Nazarite to God from the womb, the law prescribed to the mother certain ceremonial observances respecting her own conduct, and the treatment of her own person, which corresponded to that high destination. Abstinence, in particular, from certain kinds of meat and drink, which might eventually affect the bodily or mental constitution of the unborn infant. With these prescriptions we have no room to doubt Hannah punctually complied. And here we fix the second stage, or if you will, erect the second pillar of education. The commands of God are none of them arbitrary and capricious, but founded in reason and the nature of things. Whatever strongly affects the mother during the months of pregnancy, beyond all doubt affects her offspring, whether it be violent liquors, or violent passions. It belongs to another profession than mine to account for this, and to determine how far the sympathy goes. But the general belief of it would most certainly have a very happy effect in procuring attention to female health, regularity and tranquillity in that delicate and interesting situation. The comfort of both parent and child, to the end of life; what do I say? through the whole of their existence, may be concerned in it.
Ås soon as Samuel was born, we find Hannah devoting undivided attention to the first and sweetest of maternal offices. "The woman tarried at home, and gave her son suck, until she weaned him." Nature and inclination concur in pressing this duty upon every mother. The instances of real inability are too few to merit consideration. The performance of it, carries its own recompense in its bosom; the neglect is, first and last, its own punishment. Without considering at present its connexion with the health and comfort of both parties, let us attend for a moment to its influence on morals, and as constituting a branch of education. Is not parental and filial affection the first bond of society, and the foundation of all virtue? It is this which arms a delicate female with patience which no pain nor labour can exhaust, with fortitude which no calamity can subdue, with courage which no difficulty or danger can intimidate. It is this which first inspires the infant purpose to excel, which blows the sacred spark of gratitude into a flame, which first awakens and animates the latent seeds of immortality in the human soul. The first perception of the child, is the sweet sense of obligation and dependence: he feels himself far advanced in a commerce of reciprocal affection the moment he becomes conscious of his existence; and finds himself engaged in habits of goodness, long before he understands the meaning of words. And is it fit that these kind affections should be transferred to a stranger? Who can be so well qualified to communicate these earliest and best lessons, as a mother? Can you complain that your child is cold, indifferent or averse to you, when you set the example of coldness, indifference and aversion, and preferred a little ease or pleasure to his health and comfort, and what is infinitely more, to his early, infant morals? Can you hope from a hireling, who must have renounced nature too, as well as yourself, what God, and nature, and decency, and regard to your own real wellbeing have pressed upon you in vain? It was so much a primary duty in the eyes of Hannah, that her attendance on the duties of the sanctuary at Shiloh gave place to it; she revered the ordinance of that God, who says, "I will have mercy and not sacrifice ;" and religious service is interrupted for a season, to be resumed with greater ardour and effect, when the duties of life were faithfully discharged.
At what age the child was weaned, the history relates not. He remained under the tuition of his mother till he was of a proper age to be presented to the Lord, in the place which he had chosen to put his name there, and to be put under the instruction of Eli, and prepared for the service of the tabernacle. And we shall presently find that he was infinitely more indebted to the solicitous attentions of a pious mother for his progress in divine knowledge, than he afterwards was to the superintendence of the high-priest of Israel, who knew so ill to rule his own house, and to whom, of a pupil, he became a teacher.
I am well aware of the difficulty of forming a plan of religious instruction for children. Scripture suggests the happiest, the most obvious, and the most effectual. It ought to come from the children themselves. They are desirous of information. If left to themselves, they will think and inquire. Their questions will point out the mode of instruction. Do not be over anxious to take the lead, but carefully follow them. Their ideas will be directed by what they observe and feel; and strong facts and appearances of nature will make a deep and lasting impression upon them. He who knows what is in man, has accordingly given us, in a particular example, a general rule of proceeding in this great article: "And it shall be when thy son asketh thee in time to come, saying, What is this? That thou shalt say unto him, by strength of hand the Lord brought us out of Egypt, from the house of bondage And it came to pass when Pharaoh would hardly let us go, that the Lord slew all the first-born in the land of Egypt." It was probably thus, that Hannah instruct
ed her darling son; stored his memory with interesting events, and touched his heart by affecting representations of the mercy and judgement of God, exemplified in the history of his own forefathers. Milk is the proper food of babes, strong meat belongeth to them who are full of age. A dry precept is but half understood, and is speedily forgotten, but a tale of distress, the triumph of goodness over malevolence and opposition; the merited shame and punishment of wickedness, is easily understood, is long retained, and its impression is not to be effaced.
We advance to the fourth stage of wise and good education, of which we have the pattern before us. The same principle which induced Hannah to keep her son at home for a season, and to abide with him, constrained her to send him from home, to give up her interest in him, when the service of God, and the greater good of the child demanded the sacrifice. It is just the reverse of what high life, at least with us, daily presents. You shall see a mother who hardly inquired after her child at the time of life when her tenderness was most necessary to him, all at once assuming the parent, exercising an affected tenderness which he no longer needs, reducing him to childhood after he is becoming a man, and endeavouring to compensate by an after-growth of affection, the unkindness and neglect which blighted the early blossoms of the spring. She can suffer him no longer out of her sight. The discipline which her own wickedness has rendered necessary to his improvement, is reprobated as cruelty, and the poor youth is frequently ruined, by having at one time no mother at all; at another, one too much. I honour the firmness of Hannah, as much as I love her motherly softness and attachment. To possess with gratitude, to cherish a worthy object with tenderness, and to resign it with steadiness and magnanimity, is equally an object of admiration and esteem. Observe the mixed emotions which animate and correct her countenance as she conducts her well beloved son to the altar. The saint speaks in that eye, sparkling with delight, as she devotes what she holds most dear in the world to Him, from whom she had by holy importunity obtained him; the tear rushes to it, and all the mother stands confessed as she retires. Piety has prevailed, and presented the offering: nature feels, but submits.
It is easier to conceive than to describe what was the state of her mind as she returned from Shiloh to Ramah: the anxiety and regret at leaving her Samuel behind; the satisfaction and delight of reflecting in what hands she had left him, and to what care she had committed him. But we hear of no wild project formed of removing the whole family to reside at Shiloh, in order to indulge a fond mother's partial affection, with the continual presence of her little minion. No, the same spirit of prudence, the same domestic regards, the same sense of duty which once engaged her to prefer attention to Samuel, to attendance on the sacred festival, now engage her to prefer the unostentatious employments of a wife, and the mistress of a family at Ramah, to the sacredness of the tabernacle, and the care of an only son, a first-born. But the heart of a mother finds, and flies to the innocent refuge which nature pointed out. She employs her mind and her hands during the intervals of the feast, about her absent son; "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." O how pure, how cheap, how satisfying are the pleasures of virtue! No words can express the inward, the incommunicable joy of that mother, as her fingers wove the threads of that little coat, as her eyes saw it grow into shape, and colour, and shade, as the increasing stature of the wearer rendered the increase of her labour necessary. You must be converted and become a little child, a dutiful, affectionate, and pious child, like Samuel, to conceive the delight of seeing his parents return, of putting on his new garment, of exhibiting his mother's present. These noth