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HISTORY OF HANNAH,
THE MOTHER OF SAMUEL.
But Samuel ministered before the Lord, being a child,
girded with a linen ephod. Moreover his mother made him a little coat, and brought it to him fron year to year, when she came up with her husband, to vfer the yearly sacrifice. And Eli blessed Elkanah and his wife, and said, 'I he Lord give thee seed of this woman, for the loan which is lent to the Lord. And they went unto their own home. And the Lord visited Hannah, so that she conceived, and bare three sons and two daughters. And the child Samuel grew before the Lord.... 1 SAMUEL ii. 18.... 21.
THE character of most men is formed and fixed,
1 before it is apprehended they have, or can have, any character at all. Many vainly and fatally imagine, that the few first years of life may be disposed of as you please: that a little neglect may easily be repaired, that a little irregularity may easily be rectified. This is saying in other words, “ never regard the morning; sleep it, trifle it, riot it away; a little closer apo plication at noon will recover the loss.” “The spring returns, the flowers appear upon the earth, the time of the singing of birds is come. No matter; it is soon enough to think of the labors of spring. Sing with the birds, skip with the fawn, the diligence of a more advanced, more propitious season will bring every thing
round; and the year shall be crowned with the horn of plenty." A single ray of reason is sufficient to detect and expose such absurdity; yet human conduct exbibits it, in almost universal prevalence. Infancy and childhood are vilely cast away ; the morning is lost; the seed-time neglected...And what is the consequence? A life full of confusion, and an old age full of regret; a day of unnecessary toil, and a night of vexation ; a hurried summer, a meagre autumn, a comfortless winter.
. It is the ordinance of Providence that the heaviest and most important part of education should devolve upon the mother. It begins before the child is born ; her passions and habits affect the fruit of her womb. From her bosom the infant draws the precious juice of health and virtue, or the baleful poison of vice and disease. The fleeting period he passes under the shadow of her wing, is a season sacred to wisdom and piety. If the mother lead not her son to the hallowed spring, if she fail to disclose to his eager eye and panting heart the loveliness of goodness, the excellency of religion ; if she permit the luxuriant soil to be overrun with briars and thorns, in vain will she strive to redeem the lost opportunity, by restraints and punishments, by. precepts and masters, by schools and colleges, in a more advanced stage of life. The good or the mischief is done by the time he comes out of her hands.
That Providence which has imposed this employment on the feebler sex as a task, has most graciously contrived to render it one of the highest and most exquisite of female comforts; as, in truth, all the impositions, nay, the very chastisements of Heaven are really blessings. Let the woman who has given suck, tell if she can,“ how tender it is to love the babe that milks her.” Ask that mother if there be any joy like the joy of hearing her child repeat the lessons which she taught him. Ask her, if she recollects or regards her pain and anguish; her anxious days and sleepless
nights. Ask her, if all is not forgotten and lost in the progress which expanding faculties have made, and in the richer harvest which they promise. Ask, if she has not already received more than her reward. If the representation of the case be just, let it procure for dutisul molbers the respect and gratitude wbich they merit ; let it reconcile their minds to what is painful and laborious in their lot; let it raise them to their due rank and importance in society; and let it stimulate them to perseverance in well.doing, in the full assurance that they shall in no wise lose their reward.
.... The passage of holy writ, on the consideration of which we are now entering, is a very affecting representation of the effects and consequences of a good and a bad education, exemplified in the conduct of Hannah, the mother of Samuel, and of Eli, the father of Hophni and Phinehas. Scripture, instead of mule tiplying precept upon precept, leads us at once into human life, and exhibits the law written in the event. It instructs us how to bring up children, by delineating the dreadful consequences of excessive lenity and indulgence on the one hand, and the happy fruits of early piety, regularity and self-government on the other. This theme, being by far the more pleasing of the two, and coming in more regularly in the order of history, shall obtain the preference, in the course of our inquiry. Though, indeed, attention to the one must, of necessity, bring forward the other; and the good fortify and recommend itself by contrast with the evil.
The education of Samuel began in the pious resolu. tion of his mother before he was conceived in the u omb. “ If thou wilt give unto thine handmaid a man-child, then I will give him unto the Lord all the days of his life." Every parent receives every child under a tacit engagement to the same purpose : and the command of God, from the moment of the birth, is, . “ Rear that child for me." I bave watched over him while he lay in darkness, “ mine eyes saw his sub
stance yet being unperfect; in my book all his members were written, wbich in continuance were fashion). ed, when as yet there was none of them. I added the immortal principle to the finished limbs; I stamped my image upon him. There my hand has scattered the seeds of wisdom and happiness: to thy fostering care I commit that tender plant. Cared for, it will abundantly reward thy toil ; neglected, it will grow into a sharp thorn to tear thy flesh. Every day, every hour is producing a change in it. Grow it will and must; what it grows into, depends upon thyselt. Of thy hand will I require it."
As Samuel was to be a Nazarite to God frum the womb, the law prescribed to the mother certain ceremonial observances respecting her own conduct, and the treatment of her own person, which corresponded to that bigh destination. Abstinence, in particular, from certain kinds of meat and drink, which might eventually affect the bodily or mental constitution of the unborn infant. With these prescriptions we have no room to doubt Hannah punctually complied. And here we fix the second stage, or if you will, erect the second pillar of education. The commands of God are none of them arbitrary and capricious, but founded in reason and the nature of things. Whatever strongly affects the mother during the months of pregnancy, beyond all doubt affects her offspring, whether it be violent liquors or violent passions. It belongs to another profession than mine to account for this, and to determine how far the sympathy goes. But the general belief of it would most certainly have a very happy effect in procuring attention to female health, regularity, and tranquillity in that delicate and interesting situation. The comfort of both parent and child, to the end of lile; what do I say? through the whole of their existence, may be concerned in it.
As soon as Samuel was born, we find Hannah devoting undivided attention to the first and sweetest of ma
ternal offices. « The woman tarried at home, and gave her son suck, until she weaned him." Nature and inclination concur in pressing this duty upou every inother. The instances of real inability are too few to merit consideration. The performance of it, carries its own recompense in its bosom; the neglect, is, first and last, its own punishment. Without considering at present its connexion with the health and comfort of both parties, let us attend for a moment to its influence on morals, and as constituting a branch of education. Is not parental and filial affection the first bond of society, and the foundation of all virtue? It is this which arms a delicate female with patience which no pain nor labor can exhaust, with fortitude which no calami. ty can subdue, with courage which no difficulty or danger can intimidate. It is this which first inspires the infant purpose to excel, which blows the sacred spark of gratitude into a flame, which first awakens and animaies the latent seeds of immortality in the human soul. The first perception of the child, is the sweet sense of obligation and dependence; he feels himself far advanced in a commerce of reciprocal affection the moment he becomes conscious of his existence; and finds himself engaged in habits of goodness, long before he understands the meaning of words. And is it fit that these kind affections should be transferred to a stranger? Who can be so well qualified to communicate these earliest and best lessons, as a mother? Can you complain that your child is cold, indifferent or averse to you, when you set the example of coldness, indifference and aversion, and preferred a little ease or pleasure to his health and comfort, and what is infinitely more, to bis early, infant morals? Can you hope from a hireling, who must have renounced nature ion, as well as yourself, what God, and nature, and decency, and regard to your own real well-being have pressed upon you in vain ? It was so much a primary duty in the eyes of Hannah, that her attendance