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HISTORY OF HANNAH,
THE MOTHER OF SAMUEL.
Now there was a certain man of Ramathaim-zophim, of Mount Ephraim, and his name was Elkanah, the son of Jeroham, the son of Elihu, the son of Tohu, the son of Zuph, an Ephrathite. And he had two wifes; the name of the one was Hannah, and the name of the other Peninnah: and Peninnah had children, but Hannah had no children. And this man went up out of his city yearly, to worship and to sacrifice unto the Lord of Hosts in Shiloh. And the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, the priests of the Lord, were there. And when the time was that Elkanah offered, he gave to Peninnah his wife, and to all her sons and her daughters, portions. But unto Hannah he gave a worthy portion: for he loved Hannah; but the Lord had shut up her womb. And her adversary also provoked her sore, for to make her fret, because the Lord had shut up her womb. And as he did so year by year, when she went up to the house of the Lord; so she provoked her; therefore she went and did not eat. Then said Elkanah her husband to her, Hannah, why weepest thou? And why eatest thou not? And why is thy heart grieved? Am not I better to thee than ten sons?....1 SAMUFL i. 1...8.
SIMILAR causes ever have produced, and ever will produce similar effects. You may shift the scene from one age and country to another, but like beings, the same spirit, the same passions and pursuits arise continually to view. The difference between period and period, nation and nation, city and city, man and man, consists merely in a few arbitrary cutsoms, various forms of speech and modes of behavior; but the great principles of human nature, the great moving springs of human actions are universal and invariable. What then is so absurd as to tax others with absurdity, only because their language, manners or prejudices do exactly coincide with our own?
As the principles of our nature, so the rules of the divine government are similar and uniform. The views passions and interests of men are the hinges on which the mighty engine revolves. Every little individual moves and acts in his own proper sphere, like the stars in the firmament of heaven, but all move and act together under the influence of one great commanding power, which animates and directs the whole. Every one possesses, and feels, and exercises its separate intelligence, and all are, at the same time, checked, impelled, sustained by one supreme Intelligence which is above all, through all and in all.
The justest and most accurate, the most useful and instructive representations of human life and conduct are to be found in this divine record. The actors in this sacred and interesting drama, are personages of the very highest distinction, patriarchs and prophets, legislators and kings; but we are never permitted, for a single moment, to forget, that they are also men. In their form and features we behold our own image reflected. In the emotions by which they were agitated, in the objects which they pursued, we recognize our own aversions and desires, our own pursuits and attainments, our own mortifications and success.
We are now entering on the history of one of the
greatest among the prophets, and that history deline ated by his own pencil. He begins it with a description of his father's family, previous to his own birth, and a faithful representation of the different characters of which it was composed. And this will furnish ample matter for the present Lecture.
Elkanah, the father of Samuel, from the genealogical deduction here presented, was a Levite of the family of the Kohathites, and is denominated a man of Ra. mathaim-zophun, from his being born or residing at that city.
Men of eminence, as has often been observed, confer celebrity on cities and countries; but poor is that merit which is derived from no other source but a man's parentage, or the place of his birth. The Levitical tribe was scattered over the whole country, and, during the di-orderly times which succeeded the death of Joshua, their residence and their services seem to have been regulated by no certain and fixed standard. His ancestors for many generations are mere names in the historic page; shadows without a substance; and he himself borrows the fame and lustre in which he has transmitted to us, from the reputation, ability and distinction of his nobler son; whose children in their turn, sink into infamy, and thence into oblivion.
The first article in Elkanah's domestic economy presented to our consideration, is an imputation upon his wisdom, if not upon his piety. "He had two wives." Polygamy, or a plurality of wives, was a practice at that time indeed connived at, but no where, and at no period, sanctioned by a law: a practice not indeed condemned by statutes and punishments, but sufficiently condemned by effects and consequences. It is of very little importance to inquire whether it be forbidden, if it can be proved unreasonable, unwise, inexpedient. And for such proof we have but to recur to the domestic history of Abraham, of Jacob, of Elkanah, and of every family in which it prevailed.
Hannah was probably the prior wife, and it is presumable that the disappointment of not having children by her suggested the hazardous experiment of a double marriage; and the issue demonstrated that every deviation from the path of rectitude leads directly to its own chastisement.
The mortification of Hannah, already too much to bear, is grievously embittered by the assumption of a rival in the affection of her husband, and becomes intolerable by the fruitfulness of that rival. And thus, by one ill-advised step, all the parties are rendered unhappy, and that without any bigh degree of criminality on any side. Elkanah's peace is incessantly disturbed by the mutual jealousy, and bitterness, and strife of those conjoined, who separately might have contributed to soothe and soften the cares of life. The pleasure of having children is marred and impaired to Peninnah, by the ill-disguised partiality of the father of her children to another. The misery of barrenness is dreadfully agravated to Hannah, by the cruel mocking and taunts of her merciless adversary. And what became of the children all the while? Were they likely to be well and wisely educated, amidst all these domestic jarrings? Hated and opposed by more than a step-mother's rancor, spoiled by the over indulgence of maternal tenderness, striving to compensate that rancor and hatred; secretly caressed, openly neglected by an embarrassed father, who was now afraid to express, and now to conceal the honest emotions of nature. It is not vice only that destroys human com. fort. And if mere imprudence involves a man in so many difficulties and distresses, how dreadful must it be to bear continually in one's bosom the burning coal of an ill conscience.
Happily for Elkanah and his house, family discord. did not extinguish family religion; he went up regu larly with all his household to worship the Lord at ShiLoh, at the great yearly festivals. The law command
ed the attendance of the males only, on such occasions; but whether it were that a higher sense of piety induced him to appear before Jehovah rejoicing with all that were his, or whether he hoped to allay the ferment of fierce and angry spirits in the soul-composing exercises of devotion, both his wives attended him to the service of the sanctuary, and sat down together with him at the sacrifice of peace-offering. It was wisely and well intended, the fire of malignity fades and dies in presence of the pure flame of love divine, as material fire is absorbed and extinguished when exposed to the rays of the glorious orb of day. It was well intended, had he not reason to hope that Hannal would forget her misery, and Peninnah her pride in the presence of God; that the power of religion, and the prospects of immortality might haply unite those whom passion and interest had severed. But if such were his intention, he succeeded not. And that he succeeded not, is to be imputed, in part, to his own weakness. The beloved wife must be distinguished by a "worthy portion," and to render it more insulting, at a public festival, and before envious, watchful eyes, those of Peninnah, and her sons and daughters. Thus, through some mixture of folly in ourselves, through the craftiness and malignity of another, or through some untowardness of arrangement, over which we had no power, and neither could foresee nor prevent, the best designs miscarry, medicine is converted into poison, and religion is made a minister of wrath and unrighte
Who does not here recollect a certain "coat of many colors," which cost so dear to him who gave, and to him who wore it? Who is not warned to guard against, or at least to conceal partial affections, where claims are equal? Who does not feel the importance of bringing to the altar of God, a spirit elevated above all temporal considerations!
Not only was the good natured intention of Eikanah