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HISTORY OF HANNAH,
MOTHER OF SAMUEL.
1 SAMUEL II. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10.
And Hannah prayed, and said, My heart rejoiceth in the Lord: mine horn is exalted in the Lord, my mouth is enlarged over mine enemies: because I rejoice in thy salvation. There is none holy as the Lord for there is none beside thee: neither is there any rock like our God. Talk no more so exceeding proudly; let not arrogancy come out of your mouth for the Lord is a God of knowledge, and by him actions are weighed. The bows of the mighty men are broken, and they that stumbled are girded with strength. They that were full have hired out themselves for bread; and they that were hungry ceased; so that the barren hath borne seven and she that hath many children is waxed feeble. The Lord killeth, and maketh alive he bringeth down to the grave, and bringeth up. The Lord maketh poor, and maketh rich he bringeth low, and lifteth up. He raiseth up the poor out of the dust, and lifteth up the beggar from the dunghill, to set them among princes, and to inake them inherit the throne of glory for the pillars of the earth are the Lord's, and he hath set the world upon them. He will keep the feet of his saints, and the wicked shall be silent in darkness for by strength shall no man prevail. The adversaries of the Lord shall be broken to pieces: out of heaven shall he thunder upon them: the Lord shall judge the ends of the earth; and he shall give strength unto his king, and exalt the horn of his anointed.
IN man, the masterpiece of creation, are discernible various kinds of life, distinct from each other, yet most wonderfully blended and united, so as to form one great and astonishing whole. The animal, the intellectual, the moral life; to which we add, in man as he came from the hands of his Creator, and in man 66 renewed" by grace "in the spirit of his mind," the spiritual and divine life, the dawning light, the earnest and pledge, the celestial foretaste of everlasting life.
The first of these we enjoy in common with the beasts that perish. Like theirs, our bodies grow and decline. Like them we are led by sense and appetite, and are susceptible of pleasure and pain. And, like them, we arose out of the earth, are supported by it, and feel ourselves returning to it again.
The second or intellectual life, raises man far above every other animal, He possesses the power of thought, that productive faculty of the Almighty; that image of God in our nature. He contemplates, compares, reflects, reasons, plans, performs. By means of this he exercises dominion over all other creatures. Inferiour to many, in some respects, by this he renders himself superiour to all; and reduces all their powers to the subjection and obedience of himself.
The moral life places man in society; connects him with intelligent beings like himself; opens a capacious field of duty and of enjoyment; stamps him an object of approbation or blame, of reward or punishment.
The divine life unites man to the Author and supporter of his existence, the source of all his comforts, the foundation of all his hopes; the witness
and the judge of all his actions; the avenger of all unrighteousness, "the rewarder of them who diligently seek him."
To Adam, as an animal, God said, "Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth; behold I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of the earth; and every tree in which is the fruit of a tree, yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat."
In Adam the intellectual life discovered itself, when the Lord God brought unto him "every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air, to see what he would call them; and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof."
-God having implanted a principle of moral life in man, said, "It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him;" he took the man and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it; and commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it. For in the day that thou eatest thereof, thou shalt surely die." In Adam the spiritual and divine life was perfected, when "God created man in his own image." It was extinguished and lost when by transgression he fell; it was revived by the promise of the Messiah and salvation through his blood; and it will be completely recovered when the image of God is restored through the spirit of sanctification.
All these different kinds of life have their several and corresponding expressions; and according as any one prevails, such is the character of the When the habitual cry is, "What shall I eat, what shall I drink, and wherewithal shall I be clothed ?" it is easy to determine what life is predominant it is easy to discern when the brute runs away with the man. Solomon may be given as an instance of the prevalence of intellectual life. He looked through nature, and “ spake of trees, from the cedar-tree that is in Lebanon, even unto the hyssop that springeth out of the wall; he spake also of beasts, and of fowls, and of creeping things, and of fishes." "His wisdom excelled the wisdom of all the children of the east country, and all the wisdom of Egypt." The psalmist has presented us with an exquisite representation of the moral life of man, (would to God it were more frequently realized) in the fifteenth psalm; "He that walketh uprightly, and worketh righteousness and speaketh the truth in his heart. He that backbiteth not with his tongue, nor doeth evil to his neighbour, nor taketh up a reproach against his neighbour; in whose eyes a vile person is contemned: but he honoureth them that fear the Lord: he that swe eth to his own hurt, and changeth not. He that putteth not out his money to usury nor taketh reward against the innocent. He that doeth these things shall never be moved."* Where shall we look for an example of the highest life of man, the life of God in the soul? Nature stands silent, the whole world lies dead; it presents every kind of life but this. Where is the model to which we refer? Where is the idea of this most exalted excellence of our nature? It is to be found. "I came not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me." 66 I seek not mine own glory, but the glory of him who sent me.' Read and ponder the seventeenth chapter of John's gospel, and discover the author, the example, the giver of this divine life; and aspire after a participation of it.
We have some of these holy aspirations in the passage now read. We behold a spirit alive unto God; sinking the creature in the Creator; discerning God in every object, and in every event that arises; referring all things to Him" who doth according to his will in the armies of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth." Let us blend our spirits, with that of pious Han
Psal. xv. 2-5.
nah, and may God grant us to know and feel the happiness of having fellowship with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ.
"Hannah prayed." In affliction she prayed: and in prosperity she prayed. Tears and smiles are not more the expression of their corresponding emotions, than supplication and thanksgiving are of that life which dictates them, in a suitableness to the various aspects of Divine Providence. Sorrow is no longer sorrow when it is poured out into the bosom of sympathy and tenderness. Every joy is multiplied an hundred fold by every communication of it to the ear and the heart of friendship. Hannah prays, "and her countenance is no more sad." She restores her earnestly expected son to God; and is infinitely enriched by the restitution. Whether the child cry for relief, or express its gratitude by caresses and looks with satisfaction, it is equally grateful and soothing to the parental heart. And will the great God in the very deed vouchsafe to make himself known to us by the name of the hearer of prayer? Is he exalted to shew mercy? Can he be pleased with the effusions of a thankful heart? Thoughtless, inconsiderate creatures that we are; blind to our highest interest, dead to our purest joy! We see nothing of God in that distress, in that deliverance. We attended to the creature only, and therefore found no comfort. We endured without hope, and we enjoyed without relish. Happy soul, that can command itself to peace, and say, I have poured out my anguish before the Lord, I have cast all my care upon him, my burden is no longer mine, but his. "Return unto thy rest, O my soul, for the Lord hath dealt bountifully with thee. He hath delivered my soul from death, mine eyes from tears, and my feet from falling.'
In the first transports of her joy, Hannah forgets every thing but the glorious object of it. The insults of Peninnah, her delight in Samuel, stand for a while suspended; they are lost and forgotten in the contemplation of Him, who had delivered her from the one, and bestowed the other upon her. But God, as he is in himself, cannot long be an object of contemplation to mortals. It is only by what he doth, that he can be known, and loved, and enjoyed by us. The soul springs up to God, is instantly repelled and overwhelmed by "light inaccessible and full of glory," and seeks relief and employment in surveying the ways and works of God.
"My heart rejoiceth in the Lord." But "who is this king of glory?” The spirit shrinks with reverence from the inquiry; and the heart sweetly slides into the observation and acknowledgement of what an incomprehensive Jehovah hath done. "Mine horn is exalted in the Lord. "The horn," in scripture language, is the emblem of strength and empire. She was till now undistinguished, unprized, unimportant in Israel; a wife, without the honour of being a mother. But now she has risen into lustre, and place, and preeminence. Her Samuel is to her "a crown of glory, and a diadem for beauty!" She had power with God and prevailed; she asked, and God granted her request. This is naturally blended in her mind, with the derision and cruel mocking which she had endured. For the very devotions of fallen creatures must savour of the calamities to which they are exposed, and the imperfection in which they are involved. Both nature and piety accordingly concur in dictating the expression of thankfulness which follows; My mouth is enlarged over mine enemies:" Here the woman speaks; but the saint instantly subjoins, "because I rejoice in thy salvation."
When the life of God is completely formed in the soul, every particle of human corruption shall be purged away. There shall be no feeling, nor recollection of unkindness or enmity. And in proportion as evil affections are rooted out, and kind affections are implanted, cherished, and promoted, so is the image of God impressed, renewed and preserved. The love of God perfected shall obliterate and efface every trace of resentment against man.
After a short vibration on this string, the heart of the worshipper seems to recur with increased complacency and delight to a worthier subject of meditation, and loses itself in infinite perfection. "There is none holy as the Lord; for there is none beside thee; neither is there any rock like our God." When we attempt to meditate upon God thought fails. When we attempt to address ourselves to him, language fails. In vain do we look round for a similitude that may enable us to form a clearer perception of his nature. It is his glory to be single and alone; to defy and prevent every idea of resemblance or comparison. When the whole world of nature is explored, when all the powers of nature are exhausted, the soul falls back upon itself, shrinks into nothing from the daring attempt, and exclaims, "There is none beside thee," "there is none holy as the Lord." "Who can find out the Almighty to perfection!"
Hannah awakes from this holy rapture, to contemplate this incomprehensible Jehovah, as exercising an intelligent uncontrollable, irresistible authority over all the ways of men; as the wise and righteous Governor of the world whom none can successfully oppose, from whose notice none can possibly conceal himself. "Talk no more so exceeding proudly; let not arrogancy come out of your mouth for the Lord is a God of knowledge, and by him actions are weighed. The bows of the mighty men are broken, and they that stumbled are girded with strength."* Behold the cure of pride. There is a God on high, from whom descended every advantage which one possesses above another, who carefully notes the use that is made of his benefits, and will demand an account of them; who "seeth the proud afar off, but hath respect unto the lowly." "By him actions are weighed;" they are judged, not according to their apparent circumstances, nor the maxims of the world, nor the rank of the parties concerned, but according to truth, according to the real merit or demerit of the action, according to the thoughts and intent of the heart. Thus is the mouth of arrogancy effectually shut, and the whole world laid low in the dust before a holy and righteous God. "The bows of the mighty men are broken, and they that stumbled are girt with strength." Even in this world, "the Lord maketh himself known by the judgements which he executes ;" and causeth men to change conditions, and turneth the world upside down. The affairs of men, like the frame of nature, are in a state of perpetual revolution, and the history of mankind is simply an account of the rise and depression of wretched mortals by means not of their own contrivance, by events which they could not foresee, and over which they had no power. The victor of to-day is to-morrow a captive, and he who now lieth " among the pots, shall come forth as the wings of a dove covered with silver, and her feathers with yellow gold."
The greater part of Hannah's song of praise is employed in making a more enlarged display of the wisdom and justice of the Divine Providence in the government of the world. "They that were full have hired themselves out for bread." Some are born to ease and affluence, and through indolence, inattention or prodigality, reduce themselves to want. Some acquire wealth by frugality and industry. But however gotten, it is but an uncertain possession and we daily see multitudes, not through any apparent fault of their own, "waxing poor and falling into decay." Others, as unaccountably rise into distinction and opulence. There is an unseen hand which gives and takes away. In prosperity there is no ground of insolence and triumph; in adversity no reason to despair.
Her own peculiar felicity again presents itself to view, and the incense of praise ascends to heaven. "The barren hath borne seven, and she that hath
many children is waxed feeble." There is a Jewish legend which saith, that for every child that Hannah bore, one of Peninnah's died. It is a mere conjecture; Hannah's triumphant song is rather a proof of the contrary. She discovers a spirit too excellent, in other respects, to permit us to suppose her capable of rejoicing in the devastation which the hand of God had wrought, much less in the destruction of her own husband's family. That heart must be lost to every feeling of humanity, lost to decency, lost to the fear of God, who can make the calamity of another, especially such a calamity, a ground of self-gratulation and complacency, or a subject of thanksgiving to a holy and merciful God, as if he could become a party to our petty jealousies and contentions. No, a spirit so regulated as hers, so patient under mortification, so long nurtured in the school of affliction, so observant of, and submissive to the will of Providence, could not taste the mortality of even Peninnah's children as a source of joy. Her expressions amount to no more than a devout and humble acknowledgement of unerring wisdom, of unimpeachable justice in conducting all the affairs of this world: in building up families, and in bringing them low; in exercising an absolute right of sovereignty, which will not be compelled to give account of its matters to any one. The gift of children is not always withheld in anger, nor bestowed in kindness, as the character and history of Eli's family will shortly evince.
She proceeds to pursue the same idea of a divine superintendence in every thing, through a variety of particulars strikingly contrasted one with another, all aiming at the same end, all calculated to enforce the same practical lesson. "The Lord killeth, and maketh alive: he bringeth down to the grave, and bringeth up. The Lord maketh poor and maketh rich he bringeth low, and lifteth up. He raiseth up the poor out of the dust, and lifteth up the beggar from the dunghill, to set them among princes, and to make them inherit the throne of glory for the pillars of the earth are the Lord's, and he hath set the world upon them. He will keep the feet of his saints, and the wicked shall be silent in darkness; for by strength shall no man prevail."
In the conclusion of her song, Hannah, rapt into futurity, no doubt by the spirit of prophecy, contemplates the final consummation of the great mystery of Providence, as issuing in the establishment of universal order: in the suppression and punishment of vice; and in the unchangeable and permanent glory of a Redeemer's kingdom. The same hand which balances the spheres, which conducts all the affairs of men, which preserves harmony and prevents confusion, in both the natural and moral worlds, shall at length, by another almighty fiat, "make all things new." Then the adversaries of the Lord shall be broken to pieces: out of heaven shall he thunder upon them." "But who may abide the day of his coming? and who shall stand when he appeareth? for he is like a refiner's fire; and he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver." Chastisement shall, therefore, be preceded by righteous judgement, every mouth may be stopped before God. "The LORD shall judge the ends of the earth." Now these words of the prophetic mother of Samuel, taken in connexion with the clearer and fuller display of a judgement to come, in the writings of the New Testament, clearly point out that glorious and divine person, in whose hallowed name the song terminates-God's Anointed. A woman was honoured first to announce the Saviour of the world, under that description; and a succession of prophets henceforward hold it up to the eyes of succeeding generations, as "all their salvation, and all their desire." Samuel, David, Isaiah, Daniel, Habakkuk, each in his day proclaims the approach of this King of glory, of whom all who were anointed with material oil, whether as priests, or prophets, or kings, were but a
* 1 Samuel ii. 6-9.