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to him; accompanied with the bounty of virtue were as well entailed upon us as sin, other sacrifices, more in number and mea- one might serve to check the other in our sure than the law of God required of her: children ; but now, since grace is derived and all this is too little for her God, that from heaven on whomsoever it pleases the so mercifully remembered her affliction, and Giver, and that evil, which ours receive miraculously remedied it. Those hearts hereditarily from us, is multiplied by their which are truly thankful, do no less rejoice own corruption, it can be no wonder that in repayment, than in their receipt; and good men have ill children; it is rather do as much study how to show their hum- a wonder that any children are not evil. ble and fervent affections for what they The sons of Eli are as lewd, as himself have, as how to compass favours when they was holy. If the goodness of examples, want them; their debt is their burden, precepts, education, profession, could have which, when they have discharged, they been preservatives from extremity of sin, are at ease.
these sons of a holy father had not been If Hannah had repented of her vow, wicked; now neither parentage, nor breed. and not presented her son to the taber- | ing, nor priesthood, can keep the sons of nacle, Eli could not have challenged him: | Eli from the sons of Belial. If our chilhe had only seen her lips stir, not hearing dren be good, let us thank God for it; this the promise of her heart. It was enough was more than we could give them: if evil, that her own soul knew her vow, and God, they may thank us, and themselves: us for which was greater than it. The obliga- their birth-sin; themselves for the improve. tion of a secret vow is no less, than if it ment of it to that height of wickedness. had ten thousand witnesses.
If they had not been sons of Eli, yet Old Eli could not choose but much re- being priests of God, who would not have joice to see this fruit of those lips, which hoped their very calling should have infused he thought moved with wine; and this some holiness into them? But now, even good proof, both of the merciful audience their white ephod covers foul sins; yea, of God, and the thankful fidelity of his rather, if they which serve at the altar dehandmaid: this sight calls him down to his generate, their wickedness is so much more knees: “ He worshipped the Lord.” We above others, as their place is holier. A are unprofitable witnesses of the mercies of wicked priest is the worst creature upon God and the graces of men, if we do not earth. Who are devils but they which glorify him for others' sakes, no less than were once angels of light ? Who can for our own.
stumble at the sins of the evangelical LeEli and Hannah grew now better ac-vites, that sees such impurity even before quainted ; neither had he so much cause the ark of God? That God which pro. to praise God for her as she afterwards for mised to be the Levite's portion, had set him ; for if her own prayers obtained her forth the portion of his ministers; he will first child, his blessings enriched her with feast them at his own altar; the breast five more, If she had not given her first and the right shoulder of the peace-offering son to God, ere she had him, I doubt whe- | was their morsel. These bold and covetous ther she had not been ever barren; or, if priests will rather have the flesh-hook their she had kept her Samuel at home, whether arbiter, than God. Whatsoever those three ever she had conceived again. Now that teeth fasten upon, shall be for their tooth; piety which stripped her of her only child they were weary of one joint, and now for the service of her God, hath multiplied their delicacy affects variety; God is not the fruit of her womb, and gave her five worthy to carve for these men, but their for that one, which was still no less hers own hands; and this they do not receive, because he was God's. There is no so but take; and take violently, unseasonably. certain way of increase as to lend or give It had been fit God should be first served; unto the owner of all things.
their presumption will not stay his leisure: ere the fat be burned, ere the flesh be boiled,
they snatch more than their share from the CONTEMPLATION VII. — ELI AND HIS SONS. altar; as if the God of heaven should wait
on their palate ; as if the Israelites had If the conveyance of grace were natural, come thither to sacrifice to their bellies, holy parents would not be so ill suited with And, as commonly a wanton tooth is the children. What good man would not ra. harbinger of luxurious wantonness, they ther wish his loins dry, than fruitful of are no sooner fed, than they neigh after the wickedness? Now we can neither traduce | dames of Israel. Holy women assemble to Evodness, nor choose but traduce sin. If the door of the tabernacle ; these varlets
tempt them to lust, that came thither for the judge of Israel, should have impartially devotion : they had wives of their own, yet judged his own flesh and blood; never their unbridled desires rove after strangers, could he have offered a more pleasing sacriand fear not to pollute even that holy place fice, than the depraved blood of so wicked with abominable filthiness. O sins too sons. In vain do we rebuke those sins shameful for men, much more for the spi- abroad, which we tolerate at home. That ritual guides of Israel! He that makes man makes himself ridiculous, that, leaving himself a servant to his tooth, shall easily his own house on fire, runs to quench his become a slave to all inordinate affections. neighbour's. That altar, which expiated other men's I heard Eli sharp enough to Hannah, sins, added to the sins of the sacrificers. | upon but a suspicion of sin, and now how Doubtless many a soul was the cleaner for mild I find him to the notorious crimes of the blood of the sacrifices which they shed, i his own! “Why do you so, my sons ? it is while their own were more impure; and no good report; my sons, do no more so." as the altar cannot sanctify the priest, so The case is altered with the persons. If the uncleanliness of the minister cannot nature may be allowed to speak in judgpollute the offering ; because the virtue ment, and to make difference, not of sins, thereof is not in the agent, but in the in but of offenders, the sentence must needs stitution; in the representation, his sin is savour of partiality. Had these men but his own, the comfort of the sacrament is some little slackened their duty, or heedfrom God. Our clergy is no charter for lessly omitted some rite of the sacrifice, heaven. Even those, whose trade is de- this censure had not been unfit ; but to votion, may at once show the way to punish the thefts, rapines, sacrileges, adulheaven by their tongue, and by their footteries, incests of his sons, with a why do lead the way to hell. It is neither a cowl, ye so?" was no other than to shave that nor an ephod, that can privilege the soul. head, which had deserved cutting off. As
The sin of these men was worthy of con- it is with ill humours, that a weak dose tempt, vea, perhaps their persons; but for doth but stir and anger them, not purge the people therefore to abhor the offerings them out, so it fareth with sins: an easy of the Lord, was to add their evil unto the reproof doth but encourage wickedness, priests, and to offend God, because he was and makes it think itself so slight as that offended. There can no offence be justly censure importeth. A vehement rebuke taken, even at men, much less at God for to a capital evil is but like a strong shower the sake of men. No man's sins should to a ripe field, which lays that corn which bring the service of God into dislike: this were worthy of a sickle. It is a breach of is to make holy things guilty of our pro- | justice, not to proportionate the punishfaneness. It is a dangerous ignorance, not ment to the offence: to whip a man for a to distinguish betwixt the work and the murder, or to punish the purse for incest, instrument; whereupon it oft comes to pass, | or to burn treason in the hand, or to award that we fall out with God, because we find the stocks to burglary,—it is to patronize cause of offence from men, and give God evil, instead of avenging it. Of the two just cause to abhor us, because we abhor extremes, rigour is more safe for the public his service unjustly. Although it be true, weal, because the over punishing of one of of great men especially, that they are the fender frights many from sinning. It is better last to know the evils of their own house; to live in a commonwealth where nothing yet either it could not be, when all Israel is lawful, than where every thing. rung of the lewdness of Eli's sons, that he Indulgent parents are cruel to themselves only should not know it; or, if he knew it and their posterity. Eli could not have not, his ignorance cannot be excused; for devised which way to have plagued himself a seasonable restraint might have prevented and his house so much, as by his kindness this extremity, of debauchedness. Com- to his children's sins. What variety of judg. plaints are long muttered of the great, ere ments doth he now hear of from the mes. they dare break forth into open contesta- senger of God! First, because his old age tion. Public accusations of authority argue (which uses to be subject to choler) in, intolerable extremities of evil. Nothing clined now to misfavour his sons, therefore but age can plead for Eli, that he was not there shall not be an old man left of his the first accuser of his sons. Now, when house for ever; and because it vexed him their enormities came to be the voice of not enough to see his sons enemies to God the multitude, he must hear it by force; in their profession, therefore he shall see and doubtless he heard it with grief enough, his enemy in the habitation of the Lord ; but not with anger enough: he that was and because himself forbore to take venge. ance of his sons, and esteemed their life | further cells of the Levites, he is easily above the glory of his Master, therefore raised from his sleep; and even in the night God will revenge himself, by killing them runs for his message to him who was raboth in one day; and because he abused ther to receive it from him. Thrice is the his sovereignty by conniving at sin, there- old man disquieted with the diligence of his fore shall his house be stripped of this servant; and, though visions were rare in honour, and see it translated to another; his days, yet is he not so unacquainted with and, lastly, because he suffered his sons to God, as not to attribute that voice to him please their own wanton appetite, in taking which himself heard not. Wherefore, like meat off from God's trencher, therefore a better tutor than a parent, he teaches those which remain of his house shall come Samuel what he shall answer : “ Speak, to his successors to beg a piece of silver, Lord, for thy servant heareth." and a morsel of bread. In a word, because It might have pleased God, at the first he was partial to his sons, God shall exe-call, to have delivered his message to cute all this severely upon him and them. Samuel, not expecting the answer of a I do not read of any fault Eli had, but in-novice unseen in the visions of God; yet dulgence; and which of the notorious of- doth he rather defer it till the fourth sumfenders were plagued more ? Parents need mons, and will not speak till Samuel conno other means to make them miserable, fessed his audience. God loves ever to than sparing the rod.
prepare his servants for his employments, Who should be the bearer of these fear- and will not commit his errands but to those ful tidings to Eli, but young Samuel, whom whom he addresseth, both by wonder and himself had trained up! He was now grown | attention, and humility. past his mother's coats, fit for the message Eli knew well the gracious fashion of of God. Old Eli rebuked not his young God, that, where he intended a favour, prosons, therefore young Samuel is sent to re- rogation could be no hindrance; and therebuke him. I marvel not, while the priest. fore, after the call of God thrice answered hood was so corrupted, if the word of God with silence, he instructs Samuel to be were precious, if there were no public vision. ready for the fourth. If Samuel's silence It is not the manner of God to grace the had been wilful, I doubt whether he had unworthy. The ordinary ministration in been again solicited; now God doth both the temple was too much honour for those pity his error, and requite his diligence, by that robbed the altar, though they had no redoubling his name at the last. extraordinary revelations. Hereupon it Samuel had now many years ministered was, that God lets old Eli sleep (who slept before the Lord, but never till now heard in his sin), and awakes Samuel, to tell him his voice ; and now hears it with much what he would do with his master. He terror, for the first word that he hears God which was wont to be the mouth of God / speak is threatening, and that of vengeance to the people, must now receive the mes. to his master. What were these menaces, sage of God from the mouth of another: as but so many premonitions to himself that great persons will not speak to those with he should succeed Eli? God begins early whom they are highly offended, but send to season their hearts with fear, whom he them their checks by others.
means to make eminent instruments of his The lights of the temple were now dim, glory. It is his mercy to make us witnesses and almost ready to give place to the morn. of the judgments of others, that we may be ing, when God called Samuel ; to signify | forewarned, ere we have the occasions of perhaps, that those which should have been sinning. the lights of Israel, burned no less dimly, I do not hear God bid Samuel deliver and were near their going out, and should his message to Eli. He, that was but be succeeded with one so much more light now made a prophet, knows, that the some than they, as the sun was more bright errands of God intend not silence; and than the lamps. God had good leisure to that God would not have spoken to him of have delivered this message by day, but he another, if he had meant the news should meant to make use of Samueľs mistaking; be reserved to himself: neither yet did he and therefore so speaks, that Eli may be run with open mouth unto Eli, to tell him asked for an answer, and perceive himself this vision unasked. No wise man will be both omitted and censured. He that meant hasty to bring ill tidings to the great ; rather to use Samuel's voice to Eli, imitates the doth he stay till the importunity of his voice of Eli to Samuel : Samuel had so master should wring it from his unwilling. accustomed himself to obedience, and to ness; and then, as his concealment showed answer the call of Eli, that lying in the his love, so his full relation shall approve
his fidelity. If the heart of Eli had not we shall not smart with outward afflictions : told him this news, before God told it that can prevent the eternal displeasure of Samuel, he had never been so instant with God, but still it may be necessary and good Samuel not to conceal it: his conscience we should be corrected : our care and suit did well presage that it concerned himself. must be, that the evils, which shall not be Guiltiness needs no prophet to assure it of averted, may be sanctified. punishment. The mind that is troubled, If the prediction of these evils were projecteth terrible things ; and though it fearful, what shall the execution be? The cannot single out the judgment allotted to presumption of the ill-taught Israelites shall it, yet it is in a confused expectation of give occasion to this judgment; for, being some grievous evil. Surely Eli could not smitten before the Philistines, they send think it worse than it was: the sentence for the ark into the field. Who gave them was fearful, and such as I wonder the neck authority to command the ark of God at or the heart of old Eli could hold out the their pleasure? Here was no consulting report of: That God swears he will judge with the ark, which they would fetch; no Eli's house, and that with beggary, with inquiry of Samuel, whether they should death, with desolation, and that the wick fetch it; but a heady resolution of preedness of his house shall not be purged sumptuous elders to force God into the with sacrifice or offerings for ever: and yet field, and to challenge success. If God this, which every Israelite's ear should were not with the ark, why did they send tingle to hear of, when it should be done, for it, and rejoice in the coming of it? If old Eli hears with an unmoved patience God were with it, why was not his allowand humble submission : “ It is the Lord, ance asked that it should come? How can let him do what seemeth him good.” O the people be good, where the priests are admirable faith, and more than human wicked? When the ark of the covenant constancy and resolution, worthy of the of the Lord of hosts, that dwells between aged president of Shiloh, worthy of a heart the cherubims, was brought into the host, sacrificed to that God, whose justice had though with mean and wicked attendance, refused to expiate his sin by sacrifice! If Israel doth, as it were, fill the heaven and Eli have been an ill father to his sons, yet shake the earth with shouts ; as if the ark he is a good son to God, and is ready to and victory were no less inseparable, than kiss the very rod he shall smart withal : they and their sins. Even the lewdest “ It is the Lord," whom I have ever found men will be looking for favour from that holy and just and gracious, and he cannot God, whom they cared not to displease, but be himself; “let him do what seem contrary to the conscience of their deeth him good ;" for whatsoever seemeth servings. Presumption doth the same in good to him, cannot but be good, howso- wicked men, which faith doth in the holiest. ever it seems to me. Every man can open | Those that regarded not the God of the ark, his hand to God while he blesses; but to think themselves safe and happy in the ark expose ourselves willingly to the afflicting of God. Vain men are transported with a hand of our Maker, and to kneel to him confidence in the outside of religion, not rewhile he scourges us, is peculiar only to garding the substance and soul of it, which the faithful.
only can give them true peace. But rather If ever a good heart could have freed a than God will humour superstition in Isman from temporal punishments, Eli must raelites, he will suffer his own ark to fali needs have escaped. God's anger was into the hands of Philistines. Rather will appeased by his humble repentance, but he seem to slacken his hand of protection, his justice must be satisfied. Eli's sin, than he will be thought to have his hands and his sons', was in the eye and mouth of bound by a formal misconfidence. The all Israel ; his, therefore, should have been slaughter of the Israelites was no plague much wronged by their impunity. Who to this; it was a greater plague rather to would not have made these spiritual guides them that should survive and behold it. an example of lawlessness, and have said, The two sons of Eli, which had helped to What care I how I live, if Eli's sons go corrupt their brethren, die by the hands of away unpunished? As not the tears of the uncircumcised, and are now too late Eli, so not the words of Samuel, may fall separated from the ark of God by Philisto the ground. We may not measure the tines, which should have been before sedispleasure of God by his stripes. Many parated by their father. They had lived for. times, after the remission of the sin, the merly to bring God's altar into contempt, very chastisements of the Almighty are and now live to carry his ark into captivity: deadly. No repentance can assure us that and at last, as those that had made up the
measure of their wickedness, are slain in their sin.
BOOK XII. Ill news doth ever either run or fly. The man of Benjamin, which ran from the host, CONTEMPLATION IV.— THE ARK AND DAGON. hath soon filled the city with outcries, and Eli's ears with the cry of the city. The IF men did not mistake God, they could good old man, after ninety and eight years, not arise to such height of impiety; the sits in the gate, as one that never thought acts of his just judgment are imputed to im. himself too aged to do God service, and potence. That God would send his ark hears the news of Israel's discomfiture, and captive to the Philistines, is so construed by his sons' death, though with sorrow, yet them, as if he could not keep it. The wife with patience: but when the messenger of Phinehas cried out, that glory was detells him the ark of God is taken, he can parted from Israel; the Philistines dare live no longer; that word strikes him down say in triumph that glory is departed from backward from his throne, and kills him in the God of Israel. The ark was not Isthe fall. No sword of a Philistine could rael's but God's; this victory reaches higher have slain him more painfully: neither than to men. Dagon had never so great know I whether his neck or his heart were a day, so many sacrifices, as now that he first broken. O fearful judgment, that ever seems to take the God of Israel prisoner. any Israelite's ear could tingle withal! The Where should the captive be bestowed, but ark lost! What good man would wish to in custody of the victor? It is not love, live without God? Who can choose but but insultation, that lodges the ark close bethink he hath lived too long, that hath side Dagon. What a spectacle was this, overlived the testimonies of God's presence to see uncircumcised Philistines laying their with his church? Yea, the very daughter-profane hands upon the testimony of God's in-law of Eli, a woman, the wife of a lewd presence! to see the glorious mercy-seat husband, when she was at once travailing under the roof of an idol! to see the two (upon that tidings), and in that travail cherubims spreading their wings under a dying, to make up the full sum of God's | false god! judgment upon that wicked house, as one ( the deep and holy wisdom of the Al. insensible of the death of her father, of mighty, which overreaches all the finite con. her husband, of herself, in comparison of ceits of his creatures! who, while he seems this loss, calls her (then unseasonable) son most to neglect himself, fetches about most Ichabod, and with her last breath says, glory to his own name! He winks, and sits “ The glory is departed from Israel, the still, on purpose to see what men would do, ark is taken.” What cares she for a pos. and is content to suffer indignity from his terity which should want the ark? What creature for a time, that he may be ever. cares she for a son come into the world of lastingly magnified in his justice and power. Israel, when God was gone from it? And That honour pleaseth God and men best, how willingly doth she depart from them, | which is raised out of contempt. from whom God was departed! Not out. The ark of God was not used to such ward magnificence, not state, not wealth, porters: the Philistines carry it unto Ashnot favour of the mighty, but the presence dod, that the victory of Dagon may be more of God in his ordinances, are the glory of glorious. What pains superstition puts men Israel; the subduing whereof is a greater unto, for the triumph of a false cause! And judgment than destruction.
if profane Philistines can think it no toil O Israel, worse now than no people! a to carry the ark where they should not, thousand times more miserable than Philis- what a shame is it for us, if we do not tines! Those Pagans went away triumph- gladly attend it where we should! How ing with the ark of God and victory, and justly may God's truth scorn the imparity leave the remnants of the chosen people of our zeal! to lament that they once had a God.
If the Israelites did put confidence in O cruel and wicked indulgence, that is the ark, can we marvel that the Philistines now found guilty of the death, not only of did put confidence in that power, which, the priests and people, but of religion! as they thought, had conquered the ark ? Unjust loercy can never end in less than The less is ever subject unto the greater ; blood : and it were well if only the body what could they now think, but that heaven should have cause to complain of that kind and earth were theirs ? Who shall stand cruelty,
out against them, when the God of Israel hath yielded ? Security and presumption I attend ever at the threshold of ruin.