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HANNAH’S SONG OF THANKSGIVING
1 Samuel 2:1-10. 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 born 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 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. 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.
THE return which mankind in general make to God for his mercies is, to idolize the gift, and forget the Giver. Directly opposite to this is the conduct of those who are truly pious: they value the gift only in proportion to its real worth, and rise in heavenly contemplations to the Donor himself; thus making the creature an occasion of exalting and magnifying the Creator. We observe this particularly in the history of Hannah, whose devout acknowledgments we have just recited. She had been greatly afflicted on account of her not bearing any child to her husband Elkanah, whilst Peninnah, who was his other wife, had borne several. Her grief was daily augmented by the unkind behaviour of Peninnah; nor could all the kindness and love that she experienced from her husband, remove it. She carried her complaints therefore to the Lord, who alone was able to relieve them: unto him she vowed, that if he would grant her a son, she would dedicate him to the service of the sanctuary, and that he should be a Nazarite from the womb. Having obtained her request from God, she now came to perform her vow: as soon as the child could with any propriety be separated from her, it is thought at three or four years old, she took him with her to the tabernacle at Shiloh, and there, for the whole remainder of his days, “lent him to the Lord.” At the time of surrendering him up, she burst forth in this song of praise and thanksgiving, in which she takes occasion, from the mercy vouchsafed to her, to adore the goodness of God as manifested towards the whole creation. She mentions,
The perfections of his nature—
Unless we are fully aware of the desire which the Jewish women felt to have the Messiah spring from them, we shall not be able to account for the extreme grief occasioned by barrenness, or for the exultation arising from the birth of a child. But to all the common grounds of joy which Hannah had in the birth of Samuel, that of her deliverance from the taunts and insults of her rival was a great addition: and to that she had especial respect in the opening of this song — — — But, after this slight mention of her own particular case, she proceeds to celebrate,
The power and holiness of God—
[God does not always interpose in this world to display his hatred of sin, or to vindicate the oppressed; because there is a day coming, when he will rectify all the present inequalities of his moral government: but he does not leave himself altogether without witness, that he is a righteous Governor, and a powerful Avenger. His effectual interposition on this occasion was, in Hannah’s eyes, a decisive proof, yea and a glorious exhibition too, of his holiness and power; and gave her an assurance, that as these perfections were essential to his nature, and unbounded in their extent, so they should ever be called forth into activity in behalf of all who should trust in him — — —]
His wisdom and equity—
[Great was her consolation, that whilst she was judged uncharitably by her fellow-creatures, she had One to whom she could commit her cause; One who was privy to every thought of her heart, and would put a just construction upon the whole of her conduct: and, in the contemplation of this truth, she exulted over those who had so proudly and so arrogantly condemned her. And truly this is one of the richest sources of consolation that any person can have, when suffering under misrepresentations or calumnies of whatever kind: yea, it is quite sufficient to tranquillize the mind, and to raise it above all those feelings which oppression is calculated to produce [Note: 1 Corinthians 4:3-5.] — — —]
The dispensations of his providence—
[Here the pious Hannah extends her views from herself to the world at large; and declares, that the change thus produced in her state, is illustrative of what is done by God throughout the whole creation. In the events of war — in the enjoyment of plenty — in the increase of families — in the continuance of life — in the possession of wealth — and in advancement to honour — who does not see that the greatest changes take place, even when least expected [Note: ver. 4–8.]? and who therefore must not be convinced of the folly of indulging either presumptuous confidence, on the one hand, or desponding fears on the other? None can say, “I am so strong, I shall never be moved;” nor ought any one to say, “There is no hope;” the afflicted should “weep, as though they wept not;” and the prosperous “rejoice, as though they rejoiced not;” each being aware that their condition may soon be altered, and shall be, if God see it on the whole conducive to their good.]
The purposes of his grace—
From a view of temporal concerns, she rises to those which are spiritual and eternal: indeed here her words are evidently prophetic, and relate,
To the Church—
[She had found to her joy what care God takes of his people: and she confidently declared, that that care should be extended to all his saints, even to the end of time. Their adversaries might lay snares for their feet; but he would “keep their feet;” he would “keep them from falling, and present them faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy [Note: Jude, ver. 24.]” — — — On the other hand, his adversaries should assuredly be confounded by him: however they might vindicate themselves now, they should soon “be silent in darkness;” and though now they might defy him, as it were, to his face, he would thunder upon them out of heaven, and utterly, yea eternally, destroy them — — —]
To the Church’s King, the Messiah himself—
[As yet there had been no king in Israel; nor was there for fifty years afterwards: and therefore it is reasonable to think that she spake of Him, whose throne was in due time to be erected in the hearts of men, even the Lord Jesus Christ. This further appears from her characterising him by the very name Messiah, a name never before assigned to the king of Israel, but henceforth intended to designate him before all others; the Messiah, the Anointed, and the Christ, being all terms of precisely the same import. That she spake of Him, yet further appears by the marked resemblance between this song, and that which the blessed Virgin poured forth at the prospect of the Saviour’s birth [Note: Luke 1:46-55.]. His triumph then she firmly predicts; and declares that his kingdom shall be extended even to “the ends of the earth.” Many efforts will be made to prevent its establishment in the world; but none shall prevail: “his horn shall be exalted,” and all his enemies shall perish.
It may be asked, What had this to do with the particular occasion of Hannah’s thanksgiving? I answer, It is this very thing which constitutes in a very great degree the beauty of this song, and that marks the effects of ardent piety upon the soul: a single mercy, like a stream, leads the soul up to the Fountain-head: and it is then only improved aright, when we take occasion from it to contemplate the fulness that is treasured up there, and that is diffusing all possible blessings, temporal and spiritual, throughout the world: and, inasmuch as the universal reign of Christ is that which will bring most glory to God and most good to men, it ought ever to be uppermost in our minds; and every mercy we enjoy should lead us ultimately to the contemplation of it.]
We may learn then from hence,
The benefit of prayer—
[See how successful she was, though she uttered no words, but only importuned God in her heart [Note: 1 Samuel 1:10; 1 Samuel 1:12-13.]! And what will God refuse to those who seek him in sincerity and truth? — — — The Saviour’s promise to us all is this, “Whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, I will do it;” “Ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.”
Let all the sons and daughters of affliction bear this in mind. Here is a sure remedy for all their griefs, and an infallible supply for all their wants [Note: Psalms 40:1-3.].]
The blessedness of true religion—
[Exceeding heavy were Hannah’s trials [Note: 1 Samuel 1:6-7.]: and they were not a little aggravated by the uncharitable surmises of Eli himself [Note: 1 Samuel 1:13-16.]. But into what holy joy were they turned at last! Thus, when true religion occupies the soul, will even the most afflictive dispensations be overruled for good: our night of sorrow may appear long; but the morning of joy shall soon arise: our seed-time of tears shall be followed with a blessed harvest. Only let us delight in heavenly contemplations, and every perfection of God’s nature, every dispensation of his providence, and every purpose of his grace, shall swell, as it were, our tide of joy, till it becomes “unspeakable and glorified.”]
THE DANGER OF NEGLECTING THE GREAT SACRIFICE
1 Samuel 2:25. If one man sin against another, the judge shall judge him: but if a man sin against the Lord, who shall entreat for him?
THE consideration of an earthly tribunal is of great use to restrain the wickedness of ungodly men. But as there are innumerable offences which can neither be proved by human testimony, nor defined by human laws, it is necessary that men should be reminded of another tribunal, to which they shall be shortly summoned, and before which they shall be called to a strict account. Long before the deluge this was a topic much enforced by the preachers of religion [Note: Jude, ver. 14, 15.]; and Eli adverted to it, as well calculated to enforce his exhortations, and to dissuade his sons from their impieties. His sons were transgressors of no common stamp: they are justly reprobated as sons of Belial. Their father being advanced in years, the administration of the priestly office had devolved to them. This office they abused to the purposes of oppression and debauchery. The interposition of their father became highly necessary: as God’s vicegerent, he should have vindicated the honour of God, and the rights of his subjects. He should have interposed, not only with parental but judicial authority. He should not only have manifested his detestation of their lewdness and rapacity, but should have punished them with degradation. He however, either from a timidity and supineness incident to age, or from a shameful partiality for his own children, forbore to inflict the punishment they deserved; and contented himself with expostulations and reproofs. He said to them, “Why do ye such things? for I hear of your evil doings by all this people. Nay, my sons: for it is no good report that I hear; ye make the Lord’s people to transgress. If one man sin against another, the judge shall judge him; but if a man sin against the Lord, who shall entreat for him?” With less hardened criminals these words might have produced a good effect: for if it be awful to be summoned before an earthly judge, how much more so to be called into the presence of God, laden with iniquities, and destitute of any advocate or intercessor!
May our minds be impressed with reverence and godly fear, while we consider the import of this admonition, and deduce from it some suitable and important observations!
The words of the text do not at first sight appear to need much explanation: but we cannot well understand the antithesis, or see the force of the interrogation, without adverting particularly to the circumstances, which occasioned the reproof. The sense is not, That, if a man violate an human law, he shall be condemned by an earthly judge; and, that if he violate the divine law, he shall be condemned by God himself: this is far short of its real import.
The sin which the sons of Eli had committed was of a peculiar nature. They, as priests, had a right to certain parts of all the sacrifices that were offered: but, instead of being contented with the parts which God had allotted them, and of burning the fat according to the divine appointment, they sent their servants to strike their flesh-hooks of three teeth into the pot or caldron where the meat was seething, and to take whatsoever the flesh-hook might bring up. If they came before the flesh was put into the caldron, they demanded it raw, together with all the fat that was upon it. If the people objected to such lawless proceedings, or reminded them that they must not forget to burn the fat, the servants were ordered to take away the meat immediately, and by force [Note: ver. 16.]. To these enormities, the young men added others of a most malignant nature: they, who, from their office, should have been ministers of justice, and patterns of all sanctity, availed themselves of their situation to seduce the women, when they came to worship at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation [Note: ver. 22.]. Thus they discouraged the people from even coming to the house of God, and caused them to “abhor the offering of the Lord.”
Now it should be recollected that sacrifices were the instituted means of reconciliation with God: there was no other way in which any offence, whether ceremonial or moral, could be purged, but by the offering of the appointed sacrifice before the door of the tabernacle: without shedding of blood there was to be no remission [Note: Hebrews 9:22.].
It should be remembered further, that these sacrifices were typical of the great sacrifice which Christ was in due time to offer upon the cross. The whole Epistle to the Hebrews was written to establish and illustrate this point. “The blood of bulls and of goats could never take away sin:” they had no efficacy at all, but as they typified him who was to “appear in this last dispensation to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself [Note: Hebrews 9:25-26; Hebrews 10:1; Hebrews 10:4; Hebrews 10:14.].”
In causing therefore the offerings of the Lord to be thus abhorred, the young men sinned in a peculiar manner against God himself: they poured contempt upon the very means which God had provided for their obtaining of pardon and reconciliation with him. Thus they rendered their situation desperate: had they only committed some heinous offence against man, a judge, intrusted with the execution of the laws, might have arbitrated between the parties: he might have punished the delinquents, and obtained satisfaction for the injured person: and, the offenders, if truly penitent, might have brought their offering to God, and thus, through the blood of their sacrifice and the intercession of the priest, have obtained the remission of their sin. But they had sinned immediately against God himself; so that there was no third person to redress the grievance or settle the dispute. Moreover they had despised the only atonement that could be offered for them: yea, in despising the typical, they had, in fact, disclaimed all trust in the real atonement. What hope then remained for them? Having provoked God, they had no person of authority sufficient to arbitrate between them: and having rejected the only Sacrifice, the only Advocate, the great High-priest, they had none to make atonement for them, they had none to intercede: they must therefore be left to their fate, and reap the bitter fruits of their iniquities. In confirmation of this, God declared that “their sin should not be purged by sacrifice or offering for ever [Note: 1 Samuel 3:14.].”
With this explanation we see at once the force and emphasis of the words before us. They were intended to express the exceeding heinousness of the sins that had been committed, and to deter the offenders from persisting in such fatal conduct. While they intimate the danger to which a violation of human laws will expose us, they insinuate the infinitely greater danger we incur by contemning the only means of forgiveness with God.
With the additional light which the New Testament reflects on this passage, we may see that we are as much interested in this admonition, as the very persons were, to whom it was first given: for, though we have not run to their excess of riot, or caused the offering of the Lord to be so abhorred, yet we have too much disregarded the sacrifice of the Son of God. If we have not openly opposed the atonement of Christ, we have been, perhaps still are, too indifferent about it. The censure therefore in the text, how severe soever it may appear, lies in full force against us. To neglect the Saviour is in a most fatal manner to sin against God: it is, at the same time, to provoke the Majesty of heaven, and to reject the only Advocate, the only Propitiation for sin. Hence the Apostle asks with such tremendous energy, “How shall ye escape if ye neglect so great salvation [Note: Hebrews 2:3.]?” Which question, both in import and expression, accords with that in our text, “If a man sin against the Lord, who shall entreat for him?”
In this application of the passage we are countenanced by a parallel passage in the Epistle to the Hebrews [Note: Hebrews 10:26-29.], “If we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries.” Here the writer states the reason why an apostate from the truth has nothing to expect but wrath and fiery indignation; the reason is the same as in our text; he has turned his back on the sacrifice of Christ, and there will be no other sacrifice for sin to all eternity: there is therefore no hope of salvation for him. The Apostle then adds, “He that despised Moses’ law, died without mercy, under two or three witnesses: of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite to the Spirit of grace?” Thus may we ask, in reference to the text, If the infraction of human laws, when substantiated by sufficient evidence, be ever punished with the loss of life, how much more shall a neglect and contempt of Christ meet with due recompence from an holy and omniscient God?
The text being thus explained, we may proceed to deduce from it some important observations.
The solemnity of the present occasion [Note: An Assize Sermon at Cambridge.] requires us to take some notice of human judicatures: we shall not however restrict our observations to them: there is a future judgment to which we must look forward; nor should we satisfy your expectations any more than our own conscience, if we did not principally advert to that. The text affords us a proper opportunity for discharging our duty in both respects.
We observe then,
That the dispensing of justice by persons duly qualified and authorized, is an unspeakable blessing to a nation.
The institution of judges is a necessary part of every well-ordered government. When God called his people Israel, and formed them into a distinct nation by his servant Moses, he gave this command; “Judges and officers shalt thou make thee in all thy gates which the Lord thy God giveth thee throughout all thy tribes; and they shall judge the people with just judgment [Note: Deuteronomy 16:18.].” When Jehoshaphat set himself to restore the political and religious welfare of his kingdom, he paid immediate attention to this point: “he set judges in the land throughout all the fenced cities of Judah, city by city; and said to the judges, Take heed what ye do; for ye judge not for man, but for the Lord, who is with you in judgment [Note: 2 Chronicles 19:5-6.].” After the Babylonish captivity also, when the Persian monarch gave commandment respecting the re-establishment of the Jews in their own land, he particularly enjoined Ezra to be mindful of this matter: “Thou, Ezra, after the wisdom of thy God that is in thine hand, set magistrates and judges, which may judge all the people that are beyond the river: and whosoever will not do the law of thy God, and the law of the king, let judgment be executed speedily upon him, whether it be unto death, or to banishment, or to confiscation of goods, or to imprisonment [Note: Ezra 7:25-26.].” Indeed, without such an institution, the laws themselves would be altogether vain and useless: the weak would sink under oppression; and the strong tyrannize with impunity. The bonds of society would be broken asunder; and universal anarchy would prevail. We have witnessed the destruction of all constituted authorities, and the utter annihilation of all established laws. We have beheld licentiousness stalking with the cap of liberty, and ferocious despotism, under the name of equality, spreading desolation with an undiscriminating hand [Note: At the time of the French Revolution.]. But, blessed be God, it is not thus with Britain: I pray God it never may be. The laws, with us, are respected; and they, who superintend the execution of them, are reverenced. If one man sin against another, we have judges, who are competent, and not afraid, to judge him. If existing laws are not sufficient to check the progress of conspiracy and treason, we have a legislature, that will deliberate with coolness, and enact with wisdom. If the necessary restraints be violated by presumptuous demagogues, we have magistrates, that will call the offenders to trial; juries, that will bring in their verdict with conscientious truth; and judges, that, while they declare the sentence of the law with firmness, know how to temper judgment with mercy. Yes, to their united efforts, under the care of Providence, we owe it, that faction and sedition have been disarmed of the power, would to God I might also add, the inclination, to disturb the realm.
However the opinions of many were shaken for a time by specious arguments and groundless cavils, there are but few, it is hoped, at this time, whose eyes have not been opened to discern the excellence of our constitution. Who, that has seen insulted majesty proclaiming pardon to mutiny and sedition; who that, when the contemners of that pardon were brought to trial, has seen the very judges becoming counsel for the accused; who, that has seen to what an amazing extent lenity has been carried (not from partiality or supineness, as under Eli’s administration, but from a love of mercy, and a desire to win the offenders to a sense of duty) who, that reflects how forbearance has been exercised, insomuch that not a single execution even of the most daring traitors took place, till lenient measures absolutely defeated their own ends; who, I say, that has seen these things, must not acknowledge the equity and mildness of our government? And who, that knows the value of such a government, would not uphold it to the utmost of his power?
While we are speaking upon this subject, it is impossible to omit the mention of one, who with unexampled fortitude has stemmed the torrent of iniquity in this country, and has made the most opulent to know, that if they will tempt the chastity of individuals, and destroy the peace of families, they shall do it at their peril. I do not hesitate to say, that every father of a family, and every lover of virtue in this kingdom, stands indebted to him, and has reason to bless God, that such integrity and power are combined in one person [Note: The name of Lord Kenyon will necessarily occur to the mind of every reader. He awarded 10,000l. damages in a case of adultery.].
There is one other point worthy to be noticed in the judicatories of this country; I mean, a freedom from political or religious prejudice. If a man be known to disapprove the measures of government, he is not the less likely on that account to obtain justice in any cause in which he may be engaged: if he dissent from the established mode of worship, he is not the less protected in the right of serving God according to his conscience: nor, if on account of superior zeal and piety, he be branded with an ignominious name, will prejudice be suffered to bias the decisions of our courts against him. Every member of the community, of whatever denomination or description, is sure to have his cause attentively heard, and impartially determined.
These things cannot but create a love to our constitution in the mind of every man, who rightly appreciates the blessings of civil and religious liberty. And I pray God that the laws of our country may ever continue to be thus respected, and to be thus dispensed.
The observation now made, has been suggested by the first part of Eli’s admonition. Another observation we may offer, arising from the obvious connexion which subsists between that and the latter member of the text; namely,
That there are many things, not cognizable by human laws, which will be brought to trial before the Judge of quick and dead.
Man’s tribunal is erected principally for judging things which particularly affect the welfare of society; and, in criminal causes, respect is had to actions rather than to thoughts, or at least to actions as the evidences of our thoughts. But at the tribunal of God, every thing which affected the divine government will be brought forward, the sins against God, as well as sins against our fellow-creatures; the sins of omission, as well as of commission; the sins of thought and desire, as well as those of purpose and of act. There is not any one action of our lives that will not then be weighed in the balance of the sanctuary; there is not a word of our lips, which will not then bear its proper stamp of piety, or transgression: there is not so much as a thought of our hearts, that will not receive its just mark of approbation or displeasure. We are expressly told, that “God in that day will judge the secrets of men; that he will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and make manifest the counsels of the heart;” and that “he will then reward every man according to what he hath done, whether it be good or evil;” “to them, who by patient continuance in well-doing have sought for glory and honour and immortality, he will give eternal life: but to them that were contentious, and obeyed not the truth, indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish, even upon every soul of man that doeth evil.” At that day, we are informed, “the Judge will come in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory;” and he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, even “with the voice of the archangel, and the trump of God.” “Then shall the sea give up the dead which were in it, and death and hell deliver up the dead that were in them, and all, small and great, shall stand before God.” “The Ancient of days, whose garment is white as snow, and the hair of whose head is like pure wool, will sit upon his fiery throne; and while a fiery stream issues from before him, and ten thousand times ten thousand minister unto him, he will open the books [Note: Daniel 7:9-10.]; the book of life [Note: Revelation 20:12.], wherein the names of his people are written; the book of his remembrance [Note: Malachi 3:16.], wherein the most secret imaginations of men’s hearts were registered; the book of conscience too [Note: Matthew 22:12.], which, however illegible now through our ignorance and partiality, will be found to correspond with his records in every particular; and lastly, the book of his law [Note: Romans 2:12.], according to which he will pass his judgment. Ah! who can reflect on the solemnities of that day, and not be filled with awe? Who amongst us can endure so strict a scrutiny? “Who can abide the day of his coming?” We may easily conceive the feelings of a prisoner, who, being to be tried for a capital offence, hears the trumpet announce the coming of his judge. Let us endeavour to realize the thought, and to apply it to our own case. We are sure that such a criminal would lose no time in preparing for his defence. He would engage his counsel, summon his witnesses, and employ every art in order to obtain a favourable sentence. Let us go and do likewise: our “time is short; the Judge is at the door,” and if we be unprepared to meet him, woe be unto us; our sentence will be awful indeed: the very terms, in which it will be expressed, are already told us; “Depart, ye cursed, into everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels [Note: Matthew 25:41.].” In one respect indeed we differ widely from such a criminal: if he escape, it must be through want of evidence to convict him: whereas the only way for us to escape is, to confess our guilt, and plead the atonement offered for us by the Son of God.
This leads me to my last observation, namely,
That a neglect of Christ will be found in that day to have been the most fatal of all offences.
Sins of any other kind, how heinous soever they may have been, yea, though they may have brought us to an ignominious end, may yet be pardoned of our God, provided we turn to him with unfeigned sorrow and contrition, and rely on the atonement which Christ has offered. The Scriptures are extremely full and strong upon this subject. They declare that “all who believe, shall be justified from all things;” that “the blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth us from all sin;” that “though our sins be as scarlet they shall be as wool, though they be red like crimson they shall be white as snow.” So undoubted is this truth, and so suited to the condition of fallen man, that it has been often and well proclaimed in our very courts of justice; proclaimed, I say, to criminals condemned, at the very time of condemnation, and that too, by those very persons who pronounced the sentence of death against them. Yes, thanks be to God, there are judges, even in this degenerate age, who are not ashamed to unite the balm of Christian counsel with the severity of a penal sentence.
But let us suppose that we have neither violated the laws of man, nor, in any flagrant instances, the laws of God; shall we therefore be acquitted at God’s tribunal? Shall we need none to entreat for us, none to plead our cause in that day? May we safely neglect the sacrifice of Christ, because we have abstained from gross iniquities? Let us not deceive ourselves with any such dangerous imagination: “We all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;” “every mouth therefore must be stopped, and all the world must become guilty before God.” None can stand upon the footing of his own righteousness. Having transgressed the law, we are cursed by the law; as it is written, “Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things that are written in the book of the law to do them.” We must therefore all, without exception, seek deliverance in Him, “who hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us.” God has declared that “there is salvation in no other; that there is no other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved, but the name of Jesus Christ:” if we will not “enter by that door,” we exclude ourselves from even a possibility of obtaining mercy to all eternity.
I know it will be urged in opposition to this, that we have been free from all gross offences, and have been punctual in the observance of many civil and religious duties. Be it so: but how would such a plea sound in a court of justice? Let a criminal, accused of rebellion against an earthly monarch, plead his allegiance to the King of kings; let him say, “I regarded his sacrifice, I trusted in the atonement, I sought an interest in Christ.” Would his plea be valid? Would he not be told immediately, that these things he ought indeed to have done, and not have left the other undone? Thus then we answer those, who go about to establish their own righteousness instead of submitting to the righteousness of God; “It was well that you abstained from gross sin, and fulfilled many duties; but you ought also to have sought redemption through the blood of Christ; you ought to have ‘fled for refuge to the hope set before you:’ and because you have neglected him, you have no part or lot in his salvation.” What can be plainer than our Lord’s own assertions, “No man cometh to the Father but by me;” and, “If I wash thee not, thou hast no part in me?” or what can be more awful than that interrogation of St. Peter, “What shall the end be of them that obey not the Gospel of God?” We may venture to put the question to the conscience of every considerate man; If you sin against God in neglecting and despising his dear Son, what atonement will you offer to him? If you make light of the sacrifice offered upon Calvary, where will you find another sacrifice for sin? If you disregard the mediation and intercession of Christ, where will you find another advocate? If you sin thus against God, who shall entreat for you?
Here then the subject wears a very serious and solemn aspect. We all are hastening to “the judgment-seat of Christ, where we must give account of ourselves to God.” There, high and low, rich and poor, judges and criminals, must all appear to receive their sentence of condemnation or acquittal; there will be no respect of persons with God: even the criminal who died by the hand of the executioner, provided that his disgraceful circumstances led him to reflection, and made him implore mercy through the blood of Jesus, shall stand a monument of redeeming grace: while his superiors in morality, yea, even the judge who condemned him, if they died in impenitence and unbelief, shall hear the sentence of condemnation pronounced against them, and be doomed to that “second death in the lake that burneth with fire and brimstone.”
Let us then inquire diligently into the state of our souls: let us “judge ourselves that we be not judged of the Lord.” Let us examine what regard we have paid, and are yet daily paying, to the sacrifice of Christ; let us inquire whether “He be all our salvation and all our desire?” And let us remember, that if we would have him to entreat for us in that day, we must now entreat him for ourselves, “desiring earnestly to be found in him, not having our own righteousness, but the righteousness of God which is by faith in him.”
ELI’S UNFAITHFULNESS REPROVED
1 Samuel 2:30. Them that honour me I will honour, and they that despise me shall be lightly esteemed.
HOWEVER the promises of God may be expressed, they are never so to be understood, as if they should be fulfilled to us whilst we are in a state of wilful sin: there is always in them an implied condition, that we depart from iniquity, and endeavour faithfully to serve the Lord. To Aaron a promise was made, that the priesthood should be continued in his family, and in that of Eleazar his son: yet for some wickedness of his descendants it was transferred from the family of Eleazar, his eldest son, to that of his younger son, Ithamar, from whom Eli was descended. Again the promise was made, that it should be continued in the line of Eli: but, for a similar reason, it was afterwards taken from Abiathar, his descendant, and given to Zadoc, who was of the elder branch. That the promises were to be understood with such limitations, God himself declares in this address to Eli; wherein he tells Eli, that he had rescinded the promise made to him, and determined to act towards him on the broad basis of equity, precisely as he would towards all mankind: “I said indeed that thy house, and the house of thy father, should walk before me for ever: but now the Lord saith, Be it far from me; for them that honour me I will honour, and they that despise me shall be lightly esteemed.”
Here we may see,
What conduct God requires of us—
This will be best learned from a review of the context. Eli being far advanced in age, his sons performed the priestly office in his stead. But they abused their power to such a degree as to “make the offerings of the Lord to be abhorred.” Eli heard of their proceedings, and reproved them for their wickedness: but he neglected to exert that authority with which God had invested him; and manifested more regard for the feelings of his sons, than he did for the honour of his God. This was Eli’s fault, and the occasion of God’s heavy displeasure against him. From hence then we see what God requires of us: he expects us,
To have a supreme regard for his glory—
[The honour of God ought to be dear to every one of us: for though we cannot augment or diminish his essential glory, we may greatly affect the regards of men towards him, and be an occasion of his being either honoured or blasphemed by multitudes around us. In truth, there is not any thing we do, but has considerable influence of this kind. How careful then should we be, and how watchful, not to do any thing which may lower him in the esteem of men! The thought that should be ever uppermost in our minds, is this; “What aspect will such or such conduct have upon religion; and what effect will it produce in advancing or retarding its influence in the world? — — —]
To promote it to the utmost of our power—
[To exemplify religion in our own conduct must be our first labour, and to shew all possible respect to every thing that relates to God. His word, his Sabbath, his name, his Gospel, his cause and interest in the world, must be exceeding high in our estimation. But we must not content ourselves with honouring God in our own persons; we must exert all our influence that he may be honoured by all around us. Some are invested with magisterial power; and they must use it for God, and not bear the sword in vain. To others is committed the ministry of the Gospel; and they must boldly reprove sin of every kind, and commend themselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God. To others is parental authority intrusted; and they must not content themselves with gently rebuking the wickedness of their children, but must exert themselves to the uttermost to restrain it. Here was Eli’s defect. He did well to begin with mild reproof: but he should have proceeded to severer measures, when he saw that they were not to be reclaimed by gentler means. In a word, we should be so intent on advancing the honour of God in the world, as to esteem nothing too much to do, nor any thing too great to suffer, for the attainment of our object: relations, interests, or life itself, should be of no account with us in comparison of this [Note: Luk 14:26 with that expression in the verse before the text, “Thou honourest thy sons above me.”].]
Such being the conduct which God requires, let us consider,
In what light he will view it—
He will account himself “honoured” by our observance of it—
[Often does he speak to us to this effect: and in what sense we must understand the expression, has been before explained. Though “our goodness cannot extend to him,” or profit “him,” if he esteem himself glorified by it, it is quite sufficient for us: nor can we have any greater stimulus to exertion than such a consideration as this. To form a just estimate of it, let us only reflect on the zeal which is manifested by all the hosts of heaven to honour God: how do they all vie with each other in their songs of praise! And if an opportunity were afforded them to advance his honour by any offices on earth, how readily would they leave their blest abodes, and fly hither to execute his high commands! They are represented as “doing his commandments, and hearkening to the voice of his word,” to obey the first intimation of his will. Such is the zeal that should animate us; and God will assuredly consider himself as glorified by it: indeed he is glorified, inasmuch as our obedience proclaims to all around us, that he is, in our estimation at least, worthy of all the love that we can manifest, and of all the service that we can render him.]
But where such conduct is wanting, God accounts himself treated with contempt—
[Is there no medium between an honouring of God and a despising of him? I answer, No: if he be not honoured, something else is honoured above him, and the creature is set above the Most High God. It is said of Eli, that he “honoured his sons above God:” and this was considered by God as an instance of direct and absolute contempt. The same is true respecting every act of disobedience, and every neglect of duty; which necessarily implies an attention to our own ease, interest, or pleasure, in preference to the will of God. What a contempt of the Divine Majesty does it argue, when we resist his will! What a contempt of his love and mercy, when we neglect his salvation! What a contempt of his justice, his holiness, and his truth, when we entertain the idea that such conduct can pass with impunity! This is the very construction that God himself puts upon such conduct: “Wherefore doth the wicked contemn God, while he doth say in his heart, Thou, God, wilt not require it?”
If then we, poor, ignorant, guilty creatures, feel so keenly when we are treated with contempt, let us consider how indignantly the Most High God will resent such conduct at our hands.]
He himself has told us,
What notice he will take of it—
He will honour his faithful and obedient servants—
[This he has promised [Note: John 12:26.]: and he will perform it. Men may treat them as if they were “the filth of the earth and the offscouring of all things;” (though they cannot help reverencing them in their hearts [Note: Mark 6:20.]:) but God will honour them with the most distinguished tokens of his love. He “will give them a name better than of sons and of daughters,” and will enrich them with the inestimable blessings of grace and peace. Through their whole lives he will admit them to the nearest fellowship with himself: and what will he not do for them in the hour of death? — — — Yet all this falls infinitely short of the glory he will confer upon them in the future world. Read what testimonies of his approbation he will give them before the assembled universe, and with what honours he will invest them at his own right hand [Note: Matthew 25:34; Malachi 3:17.]: verily they shall never have reason to complain that their fidelity to God has not been adequately rewarded.]
But those who have despised him shall be despised by him—
[Though they may be exalted among men, God will hold them in the utmost contempt. He will not vouchsafe to them so much as one kind look: but, on the contrary, in the hour of their greatest extremity, “he will laugh at their calamity, and mock when their fear cometh.” No consolations will he administer to them in a dying hour; but will rather hide his face from them, and shut his ear at the voice of their cry. And when they stand at his judgment-seat, he will bid them “depart accursed into everlasting fire,” regarding them no more than the chaff that is cast into the oven — — — They will then indeed “be lightly esteemed;” for they will “awake to shame and everlasting contempt.”]
Here then we may see,
What estimate we should form of lukewarm religion—
[That religion is most pleasing to men, which is regulated by the opinions of the world: but that alone is acceptable with God, which is agreeable to the standard of his revealed will. He requires our whole hearts; and looks with utter abhorrence upon the lukewarmness of a Laodicean state [Note: Revelation 3:15-16.] — — — Let us then not be contented with serving God in our closets; but let us confess him in the world: and let us not only serve him ourselves, but use all our influence to bring others also to a submission to his will. Yea, if all others should determinately reject his yoke, let us say, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”]
What alone we are to regard as the great object of our desire—
[“The honour that cometh of man” should be no further of any account with us, than it may augment our influence in serving God. It is the honour which cometh of God that alone deserves our concern. To have the witness of his Spirit and the testimony of our own conscience that we are pleasing God, is worthy of our most diligent pursuit. That will comfort us, when all other sources of consolation are cut off. Moreover, the approbation of God will continue, millions of ages after that the breath of man’s applause has vanished away. Let us then act to God, and live for God, and endeavour so to walk with him, that we may enjoy the light of his countenance: for “in his favour is life, and his loving-kindness is better than life itself.”]
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Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 2". Simeon's Horae Homileticae. https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Sunday after Epiphany