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Bible Commentaries

Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae

1 Samuel 7

Verses 8-9

DISCOURSE: 288
SAMUEL’S SUCCESSFUL INTERCESSION

1 Samuel 7:8-9. And the children of Israel said to Samuel, Cease not to cry unto the Lord our God for us, that he will save us out of the hand of the Philistines. And Samuel took a sucking lamb, and offered it for a burnt-offering wholly unto the Lord: and Samuel cried unto the Lord for Israel; and the Lord heard him.

THERE is scarcely a more striking instance of reformation to be found in all the Holy Scriptures, than in the chapter before us. The people of Israel had long been in a state of awful departure from God. They had presumptuously confided in the ark at a former period, as though its very presence was sufficient to secure them the victory over the most powerful enemies [Note: 1 Samuel 4:3-5.]: but now, though it had been restored to their country twenty years, no one had shewn any just regard to it. We may well suppose, however, that Samuel had not been idle: indeed we apprehend that the general reformation which took place at this time, was the fruit of his labours. Availing himself of the deep impression which had been made on the minds of the whole nation, he proposed to meet all the elders of Israel at Mizpeh, with a view to keep a fast unto the Lord. This measure was adopted: but the Philistines, imagining that the collecting of so many persons at one place was with a view to combine for military purposes, took the alarm, and determined to make an assault on them, before they should be able to arrange their plans, and prepare themselves for the battle. The approach of the Philistines produced great consternation at Mizpeh, and necessitated the Israelites to stand on their defence. But, conscious of their incapacity to resist their foes, they besought Samuel to intercede with God for them. His intercession is the subject which we propose for our present consideration; and we shall notice it,

I.

As solicited by them—

They had now learned by experience that God alone could help them—
[They did not, as formerly, resort to the ark for aid: nor did they confide in an arm of flesh: Jehovah himself was now their hope: and they sought him in a manner that was truly becoming: “they lamented after him,” being grieved at their hearts that they had provoked him to depart from them: they “drew water, and poured it out before him,” expressing thereby the depth of their sorrow [Note: Psalms 22:14.]: and “they fasted,” in order to beget in themselves a more penitent sense of all their transgressions. In this frame of mind they betook themselves to him, whose power had so often proved effectual for their support.]

But, conscious of their own unworthiness, they sought with all earnestness the intercession of Samuel—
[Very striking is their address to him; “Cease not to pray unto God for us.” They were persuaded that “the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man would avail much.” Hence they entreated Samuel to intercede for them. But they remembered that the intercession of Moses against Amalek was no longer successful than whilst his hands were held up in prayer; and therefore they importuned Samuel not to suspend for a moment his cries to God in their behalf. Happy were they in having such an intercessor; and happy in having an heart to acknowledge his worth, and to seek his aid.]
Let us next attend to the intercession,

II.

As offered by him—

He offered to the Lord a burnt-offering—
[Though Samuel was not a priest, he officiated as a priest on this occasion, and was doubtless accepted of God in that service. The presenting of a sucking lamb upon the altar intimated that neither the people nor himself could approach unto God, or hope for any mercy at his hands, but through that great Sacrifice which should one day be offered, even that Lamb of God which should take away the sins of the whole world. At the same time, as a burnt-offering, it was intended to honour God, who had so often succoured them in the hour of need. This affords an important hint to us in all our addresses at the throne of grace: we must implore mercy solely through the sacrifice of Christ, and acknowledge God’s perfections as glorified, in all his dispensations, whether of mercy or of judgment, of providence or of grace — — —]
This sacrifice he accompanied with fervent prayer—
[Samuel well knew, that as prayer without a sacrifice would be of no avail, so neither would a sacrifice without prayer. He therefore “cried unto the Lord.” O what is intimated in that expression! what humility, what fervour, what importunity! Such is the prayer that God requires; and such prayer, offered in dependence on our great Sacrifice, shall never go forth in vain [Note: Psalms 50:15.].]

The efficacy of his intercession will be seen, if we notice it,

III.

As accepted of the Lord—

Instantly did God vouchsafe to answer it—

[Before the offering of the lamb was finished, God’s acceptance of the prayer was manifest. The Philistines approached to the battle; but were so intimidated and confounded by thunder and lightning, that they fell an easy prey to those whom they had expected utterly to destroy. Thus the intervention of God was seen in the clearest light. Had the victory been gained solely by the sword of Israel, they might have ascribed it to their own skill and prowess: but when it arose from causes that were entirely out of the reach of men, they could not but acknowledge that God himself had interposed in answer to the prayer of Samuel. Signal as this favour was, we are warranted to expect a similar acceptance of our prayers, if only we ask in humility and faith. Jehoshaphat obtained a similar answer under circumstances precisely similar [Note: 2 Chronicles 20:21-22.]: and with equal speed was Daniel answered, when praying for himself [Note: Daniel 9:19-23.]: and we also shall be heard in like manner, if we draw nigh to God, as it is both our privilege and our duty to do [Note: Isaiah 65:24.].]

He answered too to the utmost extent of the petitions offered—
[Deliverance out of the hands of the Philistines was the mercy asked; and so entirely was this deliverance effected, that the Philistines never came again into the land of Israel as long as Samuel lived.
We too may expect that God will exceed our utmost requests. If we are straitened at all, it is not in him, but in ourselves. If we were more earnest, and more enlarged in prayer, our blessings would be proportionably multiplied [Note: 2 Kings 13:19; Ephesians 3:20.].]

We may learn from hence,
1.

On what our safety as a nation rests—

[We should imitate their repentance—reformation—faith—and zeal—and should unite, both ministers and people, in committing our cause to God — — —]

2.

How our safety as individuals is to be secured—

[There is no other way for individuals than for nations: only in nations the mercies of God may be enjoyed by those who have been at no pains to seek them; whereas every individual must stand or fall according to his own exertions in the ways of penitence and faith.]


Verse 12

DISCOURSE: 290
THE DUTY OF COMMEMORATING GOD’S MERCIES

1 Samuel 7:12. Then Samuel took a stone, and set it between Mizpeh and Shen, and called the name of it Eben-ezer, saying, Hitherto hath the Lord helped us.

The Jews lived under a Theocracy, and received from God a greater number of visible interpositions in their favour than any other nation under heaven. In remembrance of these, many different memorials were erected, and many rites instituted; that so the people might be kept in a steadfast adherence to him as their rightful Sovereign, and in a constant dependence on him as their almighty Protector. But they were ever prone to depart from him, and to transfer their allegiance to the gods of the heathen that were no gods, but idols of wood and stone. For these iniquities that were frequently given up into the hands of their enemies, and left to feel the bitter consequences of their impiety. But, when they were made sensible of their guilt, and brought to humble themselves before God, he returned in mercy to them, and effected for them the deliverance they implored. Such an interposition was obtained for them by the prayers of Samuel; and in remembrance of it was the stone erected, to which my text refers.
But, as God is the Governor of all the earth, and interposes still for his people as really, though not so visibly, as in the days of old, we will not confine our views of this transaction to the particular deliverance to which it primarily refers, but will extend them generally to the Church at large; and consider it as,

I.

A commemorative act—

The Jews at this time were grievously oppressed by the Philistines. Samuel called them to repentance, and promised, that, if they would put away their false gods, and return with penitential sorrow to the Lord their God, they should be delivered out of the hands of their enemies. That their return to Jehovah might be the more solemn and universal, Samuel appointed all the heads of the nation to meet him at Mizpeh. But the Philistines, jealous of so large an assemblage of Israelites on the borders of their country, came forth to attack them: and God, in answer to the prayers of Samuel, rescued his people from their hands, and utterly discomfited the Philistine armies. To commemorate this deliverance, Samuel “put up the stone, which he called Eben-ezer, saying, Hitherto hath the Lord helped us.” But, to understand the precise scope of this memorial, we must advert to the means by which the deliverance was obtained. Then we shall see that the stone thus raised, proclaimed, to the whole nation,

1.

That God is a hearer of prayer—

[This the people could not but acknowledge, since they all had applied to Samuel to entreat the Lord in their behalf [Note: ver. 8.]. And this was a truth which it was of the utmost importance to commemorate, since it demonstrated Jehovah to be the only true God. To this truth the whole Scriptures bear witness. It was in answer to the cries of Israel that God had formerly delivered them from Egypt, and brought them in safety through the Red Sea. When Amalek came forth against them to destroy them in the wilderness, it was not by the sword of Joshua, but by the prayers of Moses, that Israel obtained the victory: for, when the hands of Moses hanged down, Amalek prevailed; but, in consequence of their being held up until the evening, Israel prevailed, and gained at last a complete triumph. In every part of their history the same truth was manifested [Note: See Psa 106:43-44 and Psalms 107:0 throughout.] — — — And to this hour are the memorials of it the greatest possible encouragements to seek for mercy at his hands.]

2.

That he will deliver his penitent and believing people—

[Here we must have an especial eye to the occasion before us. The people, in compliance with the exhortations of Samuel, prayed, and fasted, and confessed their sins, and put away their strange gods, and gave themselves up to Jehovah, “to serve him only [Note: ver. 6.].” This shewed the sincerity of their repentance, without which they could not hope for mercy at God’s hands.

But, as humiliation alone could be of no avail, Samuel offered a sucking lamb as a burnt-offering to God, thereby acknowledging the people’s desert to be utterly consumed, and their hope of acceptance only through a vicarious sacrifice. And it is remarkable, that, as Samuel was in the very act of offering this sacrifice, “God thundered with a great thunder upon the Philistines,” and, by the terror which those thunders inspired, caused them to fall an easy prey to the sword of Israel [Note: ver. 9–11. A still more glorious testimony he gave to Peter’s exhibition of this Lamb of God as crucified for the sins of men. See Acts 10:43-44.].

Thus the people were reminded, that in all their approaches to the throne of grace there must be an union of penitence and faith: and that, whenever they so approached God, they should assuredly be delivered, however great might be the difficulties in which they were involved, or imminent the dangers to which they were exposed.]
But to all future ages also was this memorial intended to convey,

II.

An instructive lesson—

It plainly teaches us,

1.

That we should often review our past mercies—

[All have received mercies in abundance, which they ought from time to time to review, in order to impress a sense of them the more deeply on their minds. For want of this, how many mercies are forgotten! and what a loss do we sustain by means of our forgetfulness! Blessings that are unnoticed are no more to us than they are to the brute creation: but if we bring them frequently to our remembrance, we have frequently in the retrospect a sweeter taste of them than we had in the actual possession. From this act of Samuel’s then let us learn to pass over no mercy without labouring to imprint it on our minds, and to retain the remembrance of it to our dying hour.]

2.

That we should especially view the hand of God in them—

[It is this which gives the chief zest to all our mercies. And to whom can we trace them but to God? Look at your temporal mercies; the time, and place of your birth, when the light of the Gospel was shining all around you—your preservation during the helpless state of infancy, which so many myriads of human beings never survive—the many deliverances, seen, and unseen, which you have experienced since—the blessings of health and abundance, whilst so many have spent their days in sickness and want. View but the last year, and see how many have been plunged into deep distress, from which you are exempt; or been called away into the eternal world, whilst you are left with protracted opportunities of working out your salvation — — — Think of your spiritual mercies. Have you any measure of light in your minds, of softness in your hearts, of holiness in your lives? Have you any hopes in Christ as your Saviour; any experience of the Spirit as your Comforter; any prospects of heaven, as your inheritance? Think of multitudes around you, or look at those who are gone beyond redemption, and say, whether it is within the power of language to express your obligations to your God. For who is it that has made you to differ? Will you, or can you, trace these blessings to your own superior wisdom, or goodness, or strength? Must you not of necessity acknowledge the hand of God in them, and say, “Hitherto hath the Lord helped us?” Surely in reference to every blessing, whether temporal or spiritual, you must say with David, “Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto thy name be the praise.”]

3.

That we should make our experience of past mercies the ground of expecting all that we can need from God in future—

[Doubtless the memorial raised by Samuel was particularly intended to answer this end. And so should the memorials that are raised in our hearts: “Thou hast been my help; therefore under the shadow of thy wings will I rejoice [Note: Psalms 63:7.]:” “Because the Lord hath inclined his ear unto me, therefore will I call upon him as long as I live [Note: Psalms 116:2.].” This was St. Paul’s mode of improving past mercies: “God,” says he, “delivered us from so great a death, and doth deliver; in whom we trust that he will yet deliver us [Note: 2 Corinthians 1:10.].” From what we have received “hitherto,” we know what to expect henceforth. O blessed effect of preserving memorials of past mercies in our minds! What holy confidence will it introduce into the soul, and what a happy anticipation even of eternal blessedness! Only let the “Eben-ezer” which Samuel erected teach us this, and we shall ourselves raise in due time a similar memorial in the realms of bliss.]

Application—
1.

Take now a review of all that God has done for you in times past—

[Let those who are yet living as without God in the world contemplate God’s forbearance towards them — — — Let those who have been brought out of darkness into the marvellous light of the Gospel survey the riches of divine grace displayed towards them — — — Let believers bring to their remembrance their manifold temptations, their grievous back-slidings, their repeated falls; or, if they have been kept from falling, the almost miraculous succours by which they have been upheld — — — Then will the example before us have its due effect; and God will receive the glory due unto his name.]

2.

Look forward now to all that you can need from God in times to come—

[Nothing but a sense of our necessities will keep us properly dependent on God. Let your minds then be continually intent on this subject. Think of all you need for body — — — or for soul — — — for time — — — or for eternity — — — And then see what need you have for help from God in future. Yet be not disheartened by the sight of all your necessities; but remember, that however great they be, “God is able to supply all your need out of his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” Call to mind the promises of help which God has given you in his word [Note: Isaiah 41:10-16.]; see how ample they are; how repeated; how strong! Though thou art but “a worm,” yet through him “thou shalt thresh the mountains.” In a full persuasion of this, commit your every concern to him, and expect that he will be “a very present help to you in every time of need.” Only trust in him with your whole hearts, and “you shall not be ashamed or confounded world without end.”]


Verse 12

DISCOURSE: 290
THE DUTY OF COMMEMORATING GOD’S MERCIES

1 Samuel 7:12. Then Samuel took a stone, and set it between Mizpeh and Shen, and called the name of it Eben-ezer, saying, Hitherto hath the Lord helped us.

The Jews lived under a Theocracy, and received from God a greater number of visible interpositions in their favour than any other nation under heaven. In remembrance of these, many different memorials were erected, and many rites instituted; that so the people might be kept in a steadfast adherence to him as their rightful Sovereign, and in a constant dependence on him as their almighty Protector. But they were ever prone to depart from him, and to transfer their allegiance to the gods of the heathen that were no gods, but idols of wood and stone. For these iniquities that were frequently given up into the hands of their enemies, and left to feel the bitter consequences of their impiety. But, when they were made sensible of their guilt, and brought to humble themselves before God, he returned in mercy to them, and effected for them the deliverance they implored. Such an interposition was obtained for them by the prayers of Samuel; and in remembrance of it was the stone erected, to which my text refers.
But, as God is the Governor of all the earth, and interposes still for his people as really, though not so visibly, as in the days of old, we will not confine our views of this transaction to the particular deliverance to which it primarily refers, but will extend them generally to the Church at large; and consider it as,

I.

A commemorative act—

The Jews at this time were grievously oppressed by the Philistines. Samuel called them to repentance, and promised, that, if they would put away their false gods, and return with penitential sorrow to the Lord their God, they should be delivered out of the hands of their enemies. That their return to Jehovah might be the more solemn and universal, Samuel appointed all the heads of the nation to meet him at Mizpeh. But the Philistines, jealous of so large an assemblage of Israelites on the borders of their country, came forth to attack them: and God, in answer to the prayers of Samuel, rescued his people from their hands, and utterly discomfited the Philistine armies. To commemorate this deliverance, Samuel “put up the stone, which he called Eben-ezer, saying, Hitherto hath the Lord helped us.” But, to understand the precise scope of this memorial, we must advert to the means by which the deliverance was obtained. Then we shall see that the stone thus raised, proclaimed, to the whole nation,

1.

That God is a hearer of prayer—

[This the people could not but acknowledge, since they all had applied to Samuel to entreat the Lord in their behalf [Note: ver. 8.]. And this was a truth which it was of the utmost importance to commemorate, since it demonstrated Jehovah to be the only true God. To this truth the whole Scriptures bear witness. It was in answer to the cries of Israel that God had formerly delivered them from Egypt, and brought them in safety through the Red Sea. When Amalek came forth against them to destroy them in the wilderness, it was not by the sword of Joshua, but by the prayers of Moses, that Israel obtained the victory: for, when the hands of Moses hanged down, Amalek prevailed; but, in consequence of their being held up until the evening, Israel prevailed, and gained at last a complete triumph. In every part of their history the same truth was manifested [Note: See Psa 106:43-44 and Psalms 107:0 throughout.] — — — And to this hour are the memorials of it the greatest possible encouragements to seek for mercy at his hands.]

2.

That he will deliver his penitent and believing people—

[Here we must have an especial eye to the occasion before us. The people, in compliance with the exhortations of Samuel, prayed, and fasted, and confessed their sins, and put away their strange gods, and gave themselves up to Jehovah, “to serve him only [Note: ver. 6.].” This shewed the sincerity of their repentance, without which they could not hope for mercy at God’s hands.

But, as humiliation alone could be of no avail, Samuel offered a sucking lamb as a burnt-offering to God, thereby acknowledging the people’s desert to be utterly consumed, and their hope of acceptance only through a vicarious sacrifice. And it is remarkable, that, as Samuel was in the very act of offering this sacrifice, “God thundered with a great thunder upon the Philistines,” and, by the terror which those thunders inspired, caused them to fall an easy prey to the sword of Israel [Note: ver. 9–11. A still more glorious testimony he gave to Peter’s exhibition of this Lamb of God as crucified for the sins of men. See Acts 10:43-44.].

Thus the people were reminded, that in all their approaches to the throne of grace there must be an union of penitence and faith: and that, whenever they so approached God, they should assuredly be delivered, however great might be the difficulties in which they were involved, or imminent the dangers to which they were exposed.]
But to all future ages also was this memorial intended to convey,

II.

An instructive lesson—

It plainly teaches us,

1.

That we should often review our past mercies—

[All have received mercies in abundance, which they ought from time to time to review, in order to impress a sense of them the more deeply on their minds. For want of this, how many mercies are forgotten! and what a loss do we sustain by means of our forgetfulness! Blessings that are unnoticed are no more to us than they are to the brute creation: but if we bring them frequently to our remembrance, we have frequently in the retrospect a sweeter taste of them than we had in the actual possession. From this act of Samuel’s then let us learn to pass over no mercy without labouring to imprint it on our minds, and to retain the remembrance of it to our dying hour.]

2.

That we should especially view the hand of God in them—

[It is this which gives the chief zest to all our mercies. And to whom can we trace them but to God? Look at your temporal mercies; the time, and place of your birth, when the light of the Gospel was shining all around you—your preservation during the helpless state of infancy, which so many myriads of human beings never survive—the many deliverances, seen, and unseen, which you have experienced since—the blessings of health and abundance, whilst so many have spent their days in sickness and want. View but the last year, and see how many have been plunged into deep distress, from which you are exempt; or been called away into the eternal world, whilst you are left with protracted opportunities of working out your salvation — — — Think of your spiritual mercies. Have you any measure of light in your minds, of softness in your hearts, of holiness in your lives? Have you any hopes in Christ as your Saviour; any experience of the Spirit as your Comforter; any prospects of heaven, as your inheritance? Think of multitudes around you, or look at those who are gone beyond redemption, and say, whether it is within the power of language to express your obligations to your God. For who is it that has made you to differ? Will you, or can you, trace these blessings to your own superior wisdom, or goodness, or strength? Must you not of necessity acknowledge the hand of God in them, and say, “Hitherto hath the Lord helped us?” Surely in reference to every blessing, whether temporal or spiritual, you must say with David, “Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto thy name be the praise.”]

3.

That we should make our experience of past mercies the ground of expecting all that we can need from God in future—

[Doubtless the memorial raised by Samuel was particularly intended to answer this end. And so should the memorials that are raised in our hearts: “Thou hast been my help; therefore under the shadow of thy wings will I rejoice [Note: Psalms 63:7.]:” “Because the Lord hath inclined his ear unto me, therefore will I call upon him as long as I live [Note: Psalms 116:2.].” This was St. Paul’s mode of improving past mercies: “God,” says he, “delivered us from so great a death, and doth deliver; in whom we trust that he will yet deliver us [Note: 2 Corinthians 1:10.].” From what we have received “hitherto,” we know what to expect henceforth. O blessed effect of preserving memorials of past mercies in our minds! What holy confidence will it introduce into the soul, and what a happy anticipation even of eternal blessedness! Only let the “Eben-ezer” which Samuel erected teach us this, and we shall ourselves raise in due time a similar memorial in the realms of bliss.]

Application—
1.

Take now a review of all that God has done for you in times past—

[Let those who are yet living as without God in the world contemplate God’s forbearance towards them — — — Let those who have been brought out of darkness into the marvellous light of the Gospel survey the riches of divine grace displayed towards them — — — Let believers bring to their remembrance their manifold temptations, their grievous back-slidings, their repeated falls; or, if they have been kept from falling, the almost miraculous succours by which they have been upheld — — — Then will the example before us have its due effect; and God will receive the glory due unto his name.]

2.

Look forward now to all that you can need from God in times to come—

[Nothing but a sense of our necessities will keep us properly dependent on God. Let your minds then be continually intent on this subject. Think of all you need for body — — — or for soul — — — for time — — — or for eternity — — — And then see what need you have for help from God in future. Yet be not disheartened by the sight of all your necessities; but remember, that however great they be, “God is able to supply all your need out of his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” Call to mind the promises of help which God has given you in his word [Note: Isaiah 41:10-16.]; see how ample they are; how repeated; how strong! Though thou art but “a worm,” yet through him “thou shalt thresh the mountains.” In a full persuasion of this, commit your every concern to him, and expect that he will be “a very present help to you in every time of need.” Only trust in him with your whole hearts, and “you shall not be ashamed or confounded world without end.”]


Verses 15-17

DISCOURSE: 291
SAMUEL’S JUDICIAL CHARACTER

1 Samuel 7:15-17. And Samuel judged Israel all the days of his life. And he went from year to year in circuit to Bethel, and Gilgal, and Mizpeh, and judged Israel in all those places. And his return was to Ramah; for there was his house; and there he judged Israel; and there he built an altar unto the Lord.

AS there are times and seasons commended to our special attention on a religious account, so there are particular occasions which it is proper for us to notice, on account of the interest they create in the public mind, and the facility they afford for imparting instruction suited to them. The pomp with which the judges of the land are surrounded, when they go their circuits for the purpose of dispensing justice through the land, is calculated to make a good impression upon the community at large; and to fill all ranks of men with gratitude to God, for the protection which they enjoy, under the dominion of laws wisely enacted and well administered. We avail ourselves of the opportunity now offered, to set before you the judicial character of Samuel, (than whom there never existed a more diligent or impartial judge,) with a view to trace a parallel between the privileges enjoyed by Israel under his government, and those with which we are favoured in this happy land.
In the prosecution of this subject I will state,

I.

The advantages of Israel under the government of Samuel—

Perhaps, amongst all the governors of Israel, there was not one that maintained a more blameless character than Samuel. Indeed, he is distinguished in Scripture as inferior to none, not excepting even Moses himself [Note: Psalms 99:6; Jeremiah 15:1.]: and in our text, we see how eminent he was,

1.

In the administration of justice—

[Though he had all the cares of government upon his hands, yet did he, from year to year, make a circuit to Bethel, and Gilgal, and Mizpeh, in order to take cognizance of the violations of the law, and to decide with equity all the cases that should be brought before him. Now, this was a very great benefit, not to those particular places only, but to all the country round about them: for it tended to uphold the authority of the laws: it gave to all an assurance that their grievances should be redressed, and that those who dared to violate the law should not go unpunished. Thus it conduced to the peace and welfare of society in general, inasmuch as it checked the commission of outrage amongst the lawless, and gave security to those who were quiet in the land. His knowledge of the laws inspired all with confidence: his known integrity disposed all to a ready acquiescence in his decisions: his authority silenced opposition, where unreasonable selfishness would otherwise have maintained and perpetuated discord: and his taking a circuit, annually, for the express purpose of dispensing justice, facilitated the access of all to his tribunal; when, if he had remained at home, multitudes would have been constrained to go without redress, through an incapacity to bring before him all the witnesses that should be necessary to substantiate their claims.]

2.

In the maintenance of true religion—

[Whilst the ark was at Shiloh, he would probably have not felt himself authorized to build an altar at Ramah: but now that it had been many years removed from the Tabernacle, in which, till it was taken by the Philistines, it had been kept—and, consequently, the worship of Jehovah, as appointed in the Law, had been neglected—he, as a prophet of the Most High God, and doubtless by inspiration of God, raised an altar at Ramah, where the seat of government was; and thus proclaimed through the land, that Jehovah, and Jehovah alone, was to be worshipped. To see this in a proper light, we must recollect, that the whole people of Israel had been addicted to idolatry, worshipping everywhere strange gods, even Baalim and Ashteroth [Note: 1 Samuel 6:3-4.]. For this, God had given them up into the hands of the Philistines for several years; till, upon their repenting and turning to the Lord, he had delivered them by the hands of Samuel. It was under these circumstances that Samuel built an altar to the Lord, that so the people might be kept steadfast to the faith they had received. And this was doubtless a great benefit conferred upon the land; because his example, supported and enforced as it was by his authority, could not fail to deter many from relapsing to idolatry, and to encourage everywhere the worship and the service of the one true God.]

Perceiving, as we now must, how happy that people was under such a governor, we yet are only the better prepared to see,

II.

The superior advantages which we enjoy under our government—

We will mark this in both of the preceding particulars: for it is certain that we far, very far, excel them,

1.

In our legal proceedings—

[We have an order of persons expressly for the purpose of maintaining, and enforcing, and executing the laws. For this office they are qualified, by a long and most laborious education; and are chosen from amongst their competitors on account of their superior proficiency: and, so far from having their time occupied with political engagements, they are absolutely prohibited from entering upon the great political arena of the nation, in order that they may be kept free from any undue bias, and be enabled to devote all their time and all their talents to the prosecution of their one object of dispensing justice through the land. And these persons take a circuit, not through one district only, (like Samuel, who went not beyond the country belonging to the tribe of Benjamin,) but through the whole kingdom; and that, not once only, but twice in the year, and in some part even thrice: and in respect of impartiality and integrity, they were not exceeded even by Samuel himself. Under the whole heavens there never was a country where the laws were more equitably, more impartially dispensed. Even religion itself, which, as an object of aversion, is more likely to warp the judgment than any thing else, is sure to find support according to the laws; and, if it is on any occasion oppressed, it is only in conformity with laws that have been unadvisedly enacted, and not in opposition to laws that have been made for its support.

And who amongst us has not reason to bless God for such a constitution as this? Who is there that can injure the very meanest amongst us, without being amenable to the laws, and paying the penalty due to his transgression? The peace and security which we of this happy land enjoy, under the dominion of the laws, are not exceeded by any people under heaven, and are equalled by very few. And this benefit depends not on the life of any individual: (the Israelites found a far different state of things under the government of Saul:) it is the constitution of the land: it is transmitted and perpetuated under every reign: and I trust it will continue the happy portion of this country to the latest generations!]

2.

In our religious privileges—

[We have not one altar raised, in one favoured place; but many, throughout the whole land; so that, for the most part, they are accessible to all: and where the increase of population has required more, they have been erected, with great liberality, at the public expense. Nor is our worship so unedifying or expensive as that at Ramah. No, truly; we have a Liturgy provided for us; a Liturgy, in which all that was shadowed forth under the Jewish ceremonies is plainly declared. The imposition of hands on a dying victim, the sprinkling of his blood upon the mercy-seat and on the offerer, and the consuming of his flesh upon the altar, were but faint emblems of what we are taught in express terms. We go as sinners unto God: we bring before him that great Sacrifice, the Lord Jesus Christ: we implore mercy in the name of that adorable Saviour; and declare our affiance in his all-atoning blood, which we sprinkle on our consciences for the remission of our sins. The king upon the throne, and the meanest subject in the land, here meet upon a footing of equality; all having equal access to God, and equal encouragement to expect mercy at his hands. Say, ye who are here assembled, whether ye do not feel your elevation in these respects, and congratulate yourselves that the golden sceptre of mercy is held forth equally to all; and that, instead of having occasion to envy the great and mighty of the earth, you have reason rather to rejoice that “there is no respect of persons with God,” or that, if there be, it is in your favour; since God has “chosen the poor of this world to be rich in faith, and heirs of his kingdom [Note: James 2:5.]?” Truly the preaching of the Gospel, unrestrained as it is to time, or place, or party, calls for the devoutest gratitude from every person in the land.]

Learn ye then, Brethren,
1.

How to appreciate the blessings ye enjoy—

[We have seen how happy Israel was under the government of Samuel; and what still richer privileges we of this nation enjoy. But we are surprisingly slow to acknowledge the blessings which are thus richly bestowed upon us. Indeed, the commonness of these mercies is the very thing which hides them from our view. Could we but see what has been done by the Court of Inquisition in Popish countries, and what is still clone wherever that tribunal exists; could we see our own friends and relatives seized for some supposed crime, we know not what; and carried, we know not whither; and tried, by we know not whom; and put to death by torments more cruel and lingering than we can conceive; verily we should bless our God for our courts of law, for our trials by jury, for the publicity of all judicial acts, and for the high unimpeachable integrity of our judges. And if we could conceive the cruelties exercised on thousands on account of articles of faith, we should indeed adore our God for the liberty we enjoy, of worshipping God in conformity with our own judgment, and of serving him according to the dictates of our own conscience. Religion, with us, is a part of the national law; and is upheld as sacred, against the efforts of all who would subvert it. Verily, I must say, if we praise not God for these benefits, “the very stones may well cry out against us.”]

2.

How to improve the influence we possess—

[Samuel improved his influence for the honour of God, and for the benefit of man. And thus must we also act, according to our ability. True, we are not invested with such authority as his: yet have all of us, in our respective spheres, some opportunity of doing good. We may, both by our example and advice, promote the dominion of law and equity, by doing unto others as we, in a change of circumstances, would think it right that they should do unto us: yes, and on many occasions we may strengthen the hands of those who administer the laws, by giving them the aid of our testimony, and upholding them in the execution of their high office. In so doing, we may be public benefactors to the state. Yet we must not let our zeal be exercised only on things relating to the outward benefit of man: we must have a zeal for God also, and must endeavour to uphold his worship in the land: yes, and in this we must be particularly active in the place where we live. There are many who will take extensive circuits about some temporal matter, who yet are found very remiss at home in matters relating to their God. But in us should be combined a zeal, both public and personal, both civil and religious. Look well then, I pray you, Brethren, to this duty. Let there be in you a holy consistency: and let it be seen, that, if you are benevolent abroad, you are religious at home: and that the more closely your conduct is inspected, the brighter will it be found, and the more will your character be exalted in the estimation both of God and man.]


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Bibliographical Information
Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 7". Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/shh/1-samuel-7.html. 1832.