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frustrated, but the worship of God was profaned} and wretched indeed must be the state of that family, where religion not only fails to conciliate, but tends to alienate, irritate, and inflame. "Elkanah loved Hannah, but the Lord had shut up her womb.".....The absence of one desired blessing renders the possession of a thousand others tasteless and insipid. The moderating hand of eternal Providence rectifies the disorders, and` counteracts the violence, of human passion; preserves the balance from a preponderancy too great, or too lasting, on either side; and conducts all to the happi est issue at length.
But an evil which comes immediately from heaven is by that very consideration rendered both tolerable and salutary. The Lord can do nothing but what is right; in wrath he remembers love: "he afflicts not willingly nor grieves the children of men, not for his pleasure, but their profit." But alas, there was ming. led in Hannah's cup, an ingredient which converted the whole into wormwood and gall; "her adversary also provoked her sore for to make her fret, because the Lord had shut up her womb." What relish had now the double portion, though the token of a fond husband's unabated kindness? The insulting words and looks of her pitiless "adversary" are as vinegar upon nitre. How dreadful to have a calamity which was incessantly, though secretly preying upon her vitals, incessantly thrown in her teeth: home rendered a burthen; the place of sacrifice, a habitation of discord; fire snatched with unhallowed hands from the altar of Jehovah to kindle the gloomy fire of hell! There needs no tormenting fiend to ascend from the bottomless pit, armed with scorpions, to plague and torture wretched mortals; see, they are armed like furies one against another, they exult in one another's pain; relentless, remorseless, they "say not it is enough."
Dreadful to think, this angry vengeful spirit continued to agitate and torment these unhappy women for
many years together; and what is hell, but a state of unabating, growing animosity and hatred?" As he went up year by year, when she went up to the house of the Lord, so she provoked her." In female bosoms can such malignity dwell? Ah, what so bad as the good corrupted, perverted! Behold a rancor which no time could enfeeble, no sense of shame restrain, and which the sacredness of the sanctuary served only to embitter and enflame! can it be possible, merciful Fa ther, can it be possible, that such a fell spirit should ever have accompanied any of us to thy house of prayer? Can the same tongue utter blessing and cursing?" Dare we say "we love God, whom we have not seen, while we hate❞ or despise " a brother" a sister" whom we have seen?' "Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me and know my thoughts: and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting," Psalm cxxxix. 23, 24.
It is greatly to the honor of Hannah, that all this cruel and insulting treatment drew from her no indecent return. Though grieved in spirit, provoked, fretted beyond all enduring, we hear of no furious appeal to the partial tenderness of her husband, no railing for railing, no rash malediction, no furious threatening of revenge. It is not easy to govern the spirit; it is not always possible to command the temper under offence and insult; but the tongue is in every one's power, improper words admit of no defence, and rage is but a poor apology for abuse and blasphemy. But she pines away in silent sorrow. "She wept, and did not eat." These seasons of rejoicing before the Lord, these times of refreshing to every daughter of Israel, were to her days of heaviness and woe. What signifies a large portion to one who has no appetite? What is the prosperity of her people, to one, who, like a dried branch, is cut off from all interest in posterity, who sees the name and honors of her beloved husband passing away to the children of
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 jeafousy; life is become a burden to ber.
The deep affliction with which she was overwhelmed could not escape the attentive eyes of Elkanah. 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, and 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 reduced himself? Now he severely feels 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 solemu rendezvous at Shiloh, 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 relage left for 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 Levitical priesthood: when it pleased God to make this very afflicted woman, the means in 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 so intimately connected with the things which belong to our everlasting peace.
When we look into human life, whether as exhibited on the ballowed page of inspiration, or by our own observation and experience, we shall find that most of the "ills which flesh is heir to" may easily be traced up to some imprudence, heedlessness, or transgression of the man himself, who, before he was aware, found himself involved in difficulties and distresses the native effects 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, to tell a man, "you have nobody but yourself to blame," and to upbraid him with the warning which you gave him, and he would not take; but it is not, for that, useless for 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 deceitfulness of sin," if he cannot turn to sume 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 for 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 with a more exquisite relish. Hannah ha`ving 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 coming day; and that of the evening, the bappiest review and improve ment 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 of 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