II. ELI HIS HEART TREMBLED FOR THE ARK OF GOD.
PART I. "I will judge his house for ever; because his sons made themselves vile, and he restrained them not." "And Eli said, It is the Lord; let him do what seemeth him good." "Eli sat by the wayside watching; for his heart trembled for the ark of God." 1 SAM. i.-iv.
THE key to Elis character is in these simple words: "His heart trembled for the ark of God." He was a good man, but timid; faithful, but fearful; with much love in his heart to God and the ark of God, but with little strength of mind or firmness and decision of purpose. His conduct at this crisis may be contrasted with that of Moses on a similar occasion. When the Israelites, discouraged by the report of the spies, refused to go up and take possession of the promised land, and were condemned, in consequence, to wander for forty years in the wilderness, stung with remorse, they resolved hastily to repair their fatal fault : "They rose up early in the morning, and gat them up into the top of the mountain, saying, Lo, we be here, and will go up unto the place which the Lord hath promised : for we have sinned/ Not only did Moses strenuously oppose their resolution, "It shall not prosper; go not up, for the Lord is not among you; that ye be not smitten before your enemies;" he peremptorily refused either to lead them himself, or to let the ark of God go with them: "They presumed to go up unto the hill-top: nevertheless the ark of the covenant of the Lord, and Moses, departed not out of the camp." The issue of the engagement was disastrous to the Israelites; for "the Amalekites came down, and the Canaanites which dwelt in that hill, and smote them, and discomfited them, even unto Hormah." But, thanks to the moral courage of Moses, the ark of God was safe (Num.. xiv. 40-45).
Eli is placed in circumstances not unlike those in which Moses acted so nobly. The army of Israel is smarting under a defeat sustained at the hands of the Philistines. It is proposed to send for the ark of God: "Let us fetch the ark of the covenant of the Lord out of Shiloh unto us, that, when it cometh among us, it may save us out of the hand of our enemies" (1 Sam. iv. 3). Eli being both high priest and chief magistrate for he is at the head of civil affairs as well as ecclesiastical has of course the custody of the ark; and has in fact, in virtue of his double office, more power over it than even Moses himself could possess. Evidently he has misgivings as to the step about to be taken; and well he may, considering all things. A heavy cloud of judgment overhangs himself and his household. If the ark is to accompany the army, it must be under the custody of his sons. Are they fit keepers of it, vile as they have made themselves, and doomed to perish miserably? Is the army itself engaged in so righteous a warfare, and animated by so good a spirit, as to warrant their carrying with them what, in better times, was wont to be the pledge of victory? Eli may well hesitate; and, when the message from the army reaches him, it must cause him deep distress. Is he to consent? Hophni and Phinehas are ready to run every risk; not unwilling, perhaps, to seize the opportunity of somewhat recovering their character, and gaining a little credit with their countrymen. The elders and people are importunate. The old man does not resist, though in the very act of yielding his mind misgives him, and his heart cannot but tremble for the ark of God. He is a godly man, and as kind as he is godly. The brief notices of his connection with Samuel are singularly affecting. He seems never to have forgotten the little injustice he had inadvertently done to his mother, Hannah, when he mistook her unwonted fervency in prayer for a sign of intoxication: "Now Hannah, she spake in her heart; only her lips moved, but her voice was not heard: therefore Eli thought she had been drunken" (1 Sam. i. 13). Observe how promptly and eagerly he accepts her explanation, and hastens to relieve her wounded spirit: "No, my lord, I am a woman of a sorrowful spirit: I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but have poured out my soul before the Lord" (ver. 15). "Then Eli answered and said, Go in peace; and the God of Israel grant thee thy petition that thou hast asked of him. And she said, Let thine handmaid find grace in thy sight. So the woman went her way, and did eat, and her countenance was no more sad" (ver. 17, 18). Thus he turns her weeping into joy.
And ever after he seems anxious to make up for that first affront by his treatment of her son, whom the Lord gave her in answer to her many prayers, and whom, in terms of her own vow, she gave to the Lord. The child, Samuel, is warmly welcomed by him when his mother leaves him, while yet an infant, under his care; and as he "grows on, and is in favour both with the Lord, and also with men" (1 Sam. ii. 26), he shares the home, perhaps even the chamber, of his venerable guardian; the parents, as they pay their annual visit to Shiloh, receive his blessing; and the youthful servant of the sanctuary is to Eli, as it might seem, instead of his own sons. With what affectionate tenderness does Eli initiate Samuel in the right manner of receiving the word of the Lord! Eli, old and well-nigh blind, is "laid down in his place;" and Samuel hearing himself called by name, naturally starts up to ask what service his now almost helpless friend may be requiring from him: "Here am I, for thou didst call me." "I called not, my son; lie down again;" is the simple reply, until the third repetition of the incident awakens Eli to its real meaning: "Eli perceived that the Lord had called the child" (1 Sam. iii. 8). Nor is there any grudging in the old mans bosom that he should be passed by, and another, a mere child, chosen to receive one of those divine communications which in those degenerate days had become so precious, because so rare (ver.1). On the contrary, we almost seem to see the lighting up of his dim eye, and to feel the throbbing of his heart, as with tenderest interest he tells the favoured youth how to demean himself under so high an honour: "Go, lie down: and it shall be, if he call thee, that thou shalt say, Speak, Lord; for thy servant heareth" (ver. 9); and then he quietly composes himself to await the issue of the scene.
Ah! Little did he dream what the issue was to be! Some fond thoughts he might have as to the sort of voice or vision from on high likely to mark the beginning of a childs and such a childs prophetic ministry. Something bright, something encouraging, something charged with the fullness of divine love and heavenly joy, will probably form the appropriate subject of the Lords first message or address to so gracious a youth. Alas! Alas! Little thinks the old man that Samuels office, like Jeremiahs afterwards, is to open with denunciations of wrath and judgment; still less, that these denunciations are to be directed against himself. Eli has been warned already by a man of God, and warned in language of terrible distinctness, that he and his whole house are to be cut off with dishonour from the earth (1 Sam. ii. 27-36). Must the warning be repeated; and must it be through the lips of the child he has so fondly cherished; and must it be the very first word these lips are to be inspired to utter in the name of the Lord? A hard and cruel trial this might well be thought to be. No wonder that "Samuel feared to show Eli the vision," and that it was only after the most solemn and urgent importunity on the part of Eli "God do so to thee, and more also, if thou hide anything from me" that he could find it in his heart to "tell him every whit, and hide nothing from him." Nor would it have been any wonder, if, on hearing such a message conveyed through such a messenger, some little of the irritation of wounded love had ruffled Elis spirit, and some impatient words had escaped from his mouth. But nothing of the kind appears. The grey-haired saint of God is as a little child, and meekly takes rebuke from the little child he has himself nursed.
Reversing the prophecy, "The child shall die a hundred years old," the man all but a hundred years old is to die a child: for it is the "quiet spirit and mild" of a little child that breathes in the simple utterance, "It is the Lord; let him do what seemeth him good." What a soul is Elis! Truly, his "soul is even as a weaned child." (Psa. cxxxi.) What else could have made him so gentle when he heard, out of the mouth of a mere babe, as it might seem, and one too who "had eaten of his own meat and drunk of his cup, and had lain in his bosom, and been unto him as a son" such unmitigated threatenings as these? "Behold, I will do a thing in Israel, at which both the ears of every one that heareth it shall tingle. I will perform against Eli all that I have spoken concerning his house; when I begin, I will also make an end. For I have told him that I will judge his house for ever for the iniquity which he knoweth; because his sons made themselves vile, and he restrained them not. And therefore I have sworn unto the house of Eli, that the iniquity of Elis house shall not be purged with sacrifice nor offering for ever" (1 Sam. iii. 13, 14). Think of Samuel, the child Samuel, having such a message to deliver! Think of Eli, the venerable Eli, having such a message, so delivered, to receive! No doubt, his conscience testified that he had grievously sinned, and deserved many stripes; but severity so pitiless as this wrath, as it might seem, so unrelenting, after so long a time of service, during the whole of which, however weak and indulgent he may have been to others, he has himself been faithful to his God might be felt as treatment that it was very hard to understand, and harder still to endure. He might almost have been tempted to cry out with Cain, "My punishment is greater than I can bear." And that it should be the very hands so often clasped in holy adoration between his own knees, that were now selected to strike the blow, and the very lips he had himself taught to lisp in prayer, that were to pour forth the oracle of vengeance and of woe against him was it not a strange and sad aggravation of the distress; was it not, in a sense, like "seething a kid in its mothers milk?" But, "It is the Lord; let him do what seemeth him good." "Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him." What acquiescence is here! What patience! What faith! There is no justifying of himself; nothing like charging God foolishly. The old mans "sin is ever before him." He acknowledges it all to the Lord. He owns the perfect righteousness of the sentence. God is just in judging. Elis mouth is stopped. He is verily guilty. That he should be thus rebuked and chastened is no more than he deserves; nay, it may even be fitting that the stroke should come through that dear child, in whose opening and expanding graciousness of character he has been apt, perhaps, too readily to find comfort and compensation for the unbridled license of his own sons. For it could not but be a more congenial task to Eli to train the docile Samuel than to restrain unruly Phinehas and Hophni; and there might be something of retribution in the arrangement, that the very first act of Samuels ministry, in the prophetic office for which Eli had with so fond and deep an interest been preparing him, should be, to denounce the parents neglect of parental discipline and duty, and open his eyes to all its inexcusable guilt.
At all events, Eli makes no complaint. There is no feeling of even momentary resentment, either against God or against Samuel. He sees nothing amiss, either in the dreadful message or in the channel through which it comes. He blames only himself. Samuel is as dear to him as ever, although reluctantly the bringer of evil tidings. And God is honoured by the exercise, not of a mere stern and stubborn bravery, submitting sullenly to an irrevocable and irresistible decree, but of a meek faith; faith accepting judgment, and yet clinging to and confiding in the very judge himself; faith, in short, still seeing, even in the God of judgment, a pacified and reconciled God, a father and a friend! "Lord, rebuke me not in thine anger, neither chasten me in thy hot displeasure. Have mercy upon me, Lord; oh save me for thy mercies sake. The Lord hath heard the voice of my weeping; the Lord hath heard my supplication; the Lord will receive my prayer," (Ps. vi.) Such a man is Eli, so godly, so gracious and kind; the very "meekness and gentleness of Christ" might be supposed to characterize him. But, alas! He is deficient in that quality which alone can give to all other good dispositions their proper weight and value, the quality of which the Apostle Paul speaks when he says, "Add to your faith, virtue" or valour, fortitude, and moral courage. His deficiency in this respect comes sadly out in all the relations which he has to sustain as a ruler, in the State, in the Church, and in the Family.
1. Eli was head of the State. He was a judge in Israel. He was the last but one in the succession of judges or rulers, coming after Samson as it is generally thought, and having only Samuel as his successor; for the kingly power soon superseded that of the judges, in the person, first of Saul, and then of David. As a judge, in his capacity of civil governor, Eli saw the affairs of the Jewish commonwealth brought to the lowest ebb of fortune. It is true, that little or nothing is recorded of his administration; but in the last act of it, the war waged with the Philistines, and in the way in which that war is conducted, we see indications of imbecility not to be mistaken. (1 Sam. iv.) There is an evident want of due consideration and concert. The contest is obviously begun rashly, without a previous appeal to God; and the army marches without the divine sanction: (for the first clause in the first verse of the chapter, "And the word of the Lord came to all Israel" is to be connected with the previous chapter; it indicates the general acceptance of Samuel in his prophetic character, and has nothing to do with the Philistian war.) The expedition, then, wants that symbol of the divine presence which of old was wont to strike terror into the foe, and to inspire every heart in the host of Israel with holy zeal; according to the usage described in the book of Numbers: "And it came to pass, when the ark set forward, that Moses said, Rise up, Lord, and let thine enemies be scattered; and let them that hate thee flee before thee. And when it rested, he said, Return, O Lord, unto the many thousands of Israel" (Numb. x. 35, 36).
No such ringing battle-cry, "Rise up, Lord" is heard on this occasion; and no glad note of peace concludes the fight. The sudden expedient, the desperate after-thought, of summoning the ark to help in retrieving the disaster, only brings out more sadly the absence of all sound and godly counsel in the whole affair at the first; and the conduct of Eli is throughout that of a habitual waverer. One thing is clear, as a ruler, he left the State on the very brink of ruin.
2. As high priest, set over the affairs of the House of God, he lets his weakness still more shamefully get the better of him. The scandalous outrages and excesses committed by his two sons when they were associated with him in the priesthood, never could have taken place had "things been done decently and in order." The law as to offerings, and as to the several shares which the altar, the priesthood, and the worshippers, were to have in them, was clear enough, if due authority had been put forth to enforce it; nor, with all their greed, could Hophni and Phinehas have so used their flesh-hooks as to make "men abhor the offering of the Lord," if there had not been prevalent already a grievous laxity in the mere routine of the tabernacle service. This laxity Eli must have tolerated; at least he wanted firmness to repress it (1 Sam. ii. 12-17). Need we point to the still grosser infamies that made the holy place of the Most High resemble the abominable dens of moral pollution to be found in the heathen temples (ver. 22)? Such foul wickedness never could have been so practised by the most abandoned of mankind, except under a state of things implying the most deplorable misrule. We do not speak of the actual misconduct of the miserable young men themselves, who prostituted to these vile purposes their priestly character and office; we found rather on the mere fact, that misconduct like theirs was possible, as proving that the reins of spiritual government must have fallen into the hands of one himself either very wicked or very weak And as, in the case of Eli, the former side of the alternative is out of the question for he was a holy man, and hated sin, we are forced to conclude, that in his capacity of priest, as well as in that of judge, he was the victim of indecision and imbecility.
3. But it is as a parent that he chiefly shows his weakness; and it is in that character that he is especially reproved and judged. "Thou honourest thy sons above me" is the charge which the Lord brings against him (chap. ii. 29). And yet Eli feared God, and had no sympathy with his sons in their vile crimes. On the contrary, he remonstrated with them faithfully: "Why do ye such things? For I hear of your evil dealings by all this people. Nay, my sons; for it is no good report that I hear: ye make the Lords 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?" (chap. ii. 23-25.) What more could he do? Instruction, admonition, expostulation, persuasion, are all in vain. The resources of his parental influence are exhausted. What further remains to be tried? Ah! He forgets that he is invested with parental authority; authority, in his case, backed and seconded by all the powers of law and all the terrors of religion. Nay, it is not so much that he forgets this, as that he has not nerve to act upon the recollection of it. He knows his right and duty as a father; but he weakly shrinks from enforcing his right and performing his duty, out of false tenderness and pity to his sons. And what construction does God put upon his weakness? "Thou honourest thy sons above me." Is it not a harsh construction? Is no allowance to be made for his parental feelings? He does not mean deliberately to prefer his sons to God; and if he fails to execute the full measure of severity that their offences merit, and his position warrants, is it not hard to ascribe the failure to a want of respect for God ? Might it not rather be allowed to pass as the venial, and even amiable, infirmity of parental love? No. For it is not really parental love, according to any right view of that pure affection, but self-love at bottom that Eli indulges, and self-love in one of its least respectable, forms. It is himself that Eli is unwilling to mortify, not his sons. It is to himself that he is tender, not to them. And when it is considered that his selfish feebleness and fondness show themselves in his neglect of parental discipline even in matters in which the divine honour is immediately concerned, it is not too much to say that he is preferring his children to his God. How offensive to God must be a parents want of firmness in enforcing his authority! For what, in fact, is that authority but the authority of God himself? God has delegated his own authority to the parent; and, so far as the parent has any right of rule at all over his child, he has it as representing God. In the exercise of it, therefore, he has properly no discretion. If he rule as God, he must rule for God; and to let any partial leaning of the natural heart towards his child tempt him to act as if it were otherwise, as if he ruled in his own right and for himself, and not in Gods right and for God, and might, in consequence, please himself or his child as he sees fit, this is evidently to usurp a power independent of that of God, it is to dishonour the Lord of all.
How this sin of Elis, in his treatment of his sons, commenced, we cannot tell; probably in their early childhood, when their evil dispositions began to show themselves, and he spared the rod and withheld correction. What his sin was, is very precisely pointed out; "he restrained them not." Doubtless he taught them; surely he prayed for them; he certainly exhibited to them the example of a holy and blameless life; but he restrained them not. At first, he might have restrained them with comparatively a very gentle hand: a firm voice, a decided look, might have been enough; a few instances of patient, persevering determination, with an absence of all angry passion provoking them to wrath, might have taught the little rebels how hopeless it was to think of making their father yield to them; judicious kindness, not being bitter against them, would have made them feel the relief and gladness of yielding to him; and thereafter he might have guided them with his eye. Failing at that first stage to form in them the habit of obedience, Elis task became of course more difficult as his sons grew in strength and stature, as well as in force of will. The waywardness and impetuosity of early youth, succeeding to the insubordination of spoiled and fondled childhood, presented a stouter aspect of resistance or defiance. Still he might have restrained them; his parental resources were not yet exhausted; they had not yet outgrown the power of the parental arm, nor could they yet dispense with the support of parental love. He has a hold over them still by many ties, if only he will summon resolution for the task of first thoroughly studying their characters, and then vigorously and wisely using bit and bridle, if need be, to keep them in. It may be a struggle; but calm consistency will gain the day. For a parents rule commends itself to the conscience, as a parents kindness touches the heart; and an effort put forth even at the last hour, in faith and prayer, to resume the reins of parental discipline, will have the countenance of God, and will not fail of success.
But, alas for Eli! This second opportunity also is allowed to pass. His sons have become men; they have left the parental roof; they have families of their own ; they take rank on their own account in the world; they hold office in the Church. They are their own masters now, and, availing themselves of their liberty, they let loose their unruly passions and make themselves vile. Still Eli should have restrained them; for it is expressly mentioned, that his not restraining them even then was his sin. He had power to restrain them. He had the power every parent has, when his children make themselves incurably vile, he could disown them, discountenance them, solemnly renounce their fellowship, and cast them off. He had power also as their ruler in the state, and their superior in the priesthood. And every consideration of decency and good order, as well as of godliness and virtue, should have made him use his power to the utmost, and adopt the most decided measures, when they were making the very sanctuary a foul scandal. But he had not the heart; he could not bring himself to be severe. Even Gods highest honour must give place to the indulgence of his fond and feeble dotage. And the issue is, that "the iniquity of Elis house shall not be purged for ever." It is an issue, as to all the parties concerned, sufficiently disastrous. For the sons of Eli, whom "he did not restrain" what hope is there? Sudden destruction comes upon them. There may be a show and semblance of adventurous patriotism in their readiness to bear the ark, as a forlorn hope, into the midst of Israels renewed battle with the Philistines. But, with all their daring, they carry into the fight a weight of guilt and a crushing sentence of wrath that cannot but be fatal. They perish miserably. Will it alleviate the pang of a sudden and violent death; will it allay the burning torments of the fire that is not quenched to think of their indulgent father, who did not restrain them? Eli may well be cut to the heart as the reflection comes across him, that possibly, had he restrained his sons, they might not have made themselves so vile and perished so miserably. But will any such reflection avail them? On the contrary, will not the very fondness of Eli, which they have so foully abused, add a scorpion-sting to the gnawing of the worm that "dieth not"? In spite of all his ill-judged leniency and want of firmness to restrain them, he was the kindest of parents and the holiest of men.
These unnatural and ungrateful sons knew this right well. Many a holy thought was associated with their fathers image; many a tender tear; many a fervent prayer. The very mildness of his pleading with them "Why do ye such things? Nay, my sons; it is no good report that I hear" that gentleness which at the time only emboldened them to scoff and sneer must enhance their agony when their sin finds them out; and whatever fault his extreme paternal fondness may be in him, and however sharply it may be visited upon him, assuredly it is not fitted to be even so much as a drop of cold water to their parched tongues, when in hell they lift up their eyes, being in torments. Of the utter ruin of Elis household we need not speak. The priesthood passes away from his family; the government is upon other shoulders; his seed are a beggared race. The last incident recorded concerning his children is most profoundly touching; it is the birth of his grandson, the child of his son Phinehas. The unhappy mother hears of her husband Phinehas, fallen in the disastrous fight; and of her father-in-law Eli, suddenly dead. She cannot stand the shock. She bows her head and the pangs of premature travail are upon her. The women about her say, "Fear not, for thou hast born a son." But there is no joy for her because a man-child is born into the world. She is a godly woman, broken-hearted by the sin and fate of an ungodly husband. She is like-minded with her husbands godly father, Eli. When the women tell her of the son she has born, "she answers not, neither regards it." But with her dying breath she names the child "Ichabod;" for she says "The glory is departed from Israel, because the ark of God is taken." The whole house of Eli is a ruin; the priesthood degraded; the nation defeated; the ark taken; and, amid the wreck, his own family broken up, and the sole survivor launched on the stream of time with an ominous name, and under a heavy curse. And all this in connection with one of the meekest and holiest of the saints of God!
It is a terrible lesson. And, in keeping with it, is the lesson taught by the melancholy notice of his own decease. For in truth there is not anywhere in the Bible and, if not there, certainly nowhere else a more affecting picture than that of the aged Eli, sitting on the watch for tidings of the disastrous battle which was to be fought on the day when he allowed the ark to be carried from its home at Shiloh to the camp of Israel at Ebenezer. He had many things to make his heart tremble. He had a deep stake in the fight, on which issues most vital to him, both public and domestic, depended. It seems to have been a critical death-struggle between the two armies, which was to decide the fate of their respective nations; and Eli, as a patriot, must have had many an anxious thought as he brooded over the alternative of his countrys liberty or bondage, which one brief and .bloody hour might fix for ages. Nor could he be insensible to the fate of the many thousand brave hearts that, ere the setting of the sun, must cease to beat, and the many mothers in Israel that must be made to mourn. And, besides these public cares, he had his two sons on that field of battle, with a dark and heavy prophecy of judgment hanging over their heads; which, whatever they in their profligate impiety might think of it, their devout, though, alas! too fond father, could never dismiss for a moment from his memory.
It was not any of these things, however, that moved the old man most deeply: "His heart trembled for the ark of God." For this, he sat upon a seat by the wayside watching. And when he heard the noise of the tumult in the city as the man of Benjamin, running out of the army, with clothes rent and earth on his head, came into the city, and told the woeful tale which made all the city cry out, the old man stretched forth his palsied arms and strained his sightless eyes. "What is there done, my son?" is his eager question to the messenger. "And the messenger answered and said, Israel is fled before the Philistines, and there hath been also a great slaughter among the people, and thy two sons also, Hophni and Phinehas, are dead, and the ark of God is taken" (1 Sam. iv. 17). The messenger of evil delivered his tidings; and his hearer could stand the accumulation of horrors; Israel fled before the Philistines; a great slaughter among the people; aye, and his two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, dead also. But when the crowning calamity burst upon him "the ark of God is taken," Eli could bear up no longer. Bending under the weight of ninety and eight years, and crushed by the stunning blow of this disastrous intelligence, "he fell from off the seat backward by the side of the gate, and his neck brake, and he died; for he was an old man, and heavy."
No words could add to the pathos of this sad and simple announcement. It is all the epitaph which Scripture has for one who had spent nearly a century beside the altar, and for somewhat less than half that time had occupied the seat of power for "he had judged Israel forty years." Such was the end of so protracted a life; thus miserably died this man of God. Many practical remarks suggest themselves in connection with the painful history which we have been considering; remarks applicable to parents and members of families, to individual Christians, to the ungodly, and to all.
1. It is a most emphatic warning that the fate of Eli gives to parents; and not to parents only, but to all who have influence or authority of any sort in families. Whoever in a family has any power at all to restrain evil and fails to use that power to the uttermost, incurs a responsibility from which a thoughtful man would shrink. The power may be of various kinds; it may be superior strength, or superior station, or weight of character, or example, or that control which seasonable and tender affection wields, and gratitude gladly owns. But whatever it be, let it be faithfully and fully used. The positive duty lying upon all heads and members of households, to seek one anothers good in the highest and most spiritual sense, is not more binding, and scarcely more important, than the negative duty of restraining one anothers evil. Nor is this a harsh or invidious task. It may be done with all the meekness and gentleness of Christ. And the secret of its being rightly and effectively done is this: Let no one, let nothing, be honoured above God; let God be honoured above all. Let your intercourse with children, or brothers, or sisters, or domestics, or any with whom you dwell together in families, be upon this principle. Honour God; honour God supremely; honour God alone. Consider not merely what may be best for them, but what, in every instance, is due to God. This will prevent compromise, concession, and fond indulgence on your part; while it will place your power of restraining evil on the highest of all grounds of advantage, the law and the will of God himself.
2. Let individual Christians ponder the lesson of Elis character. Much, very much, there is in it to be admired and imitated, especially the grace and godliness of his walk, the tenderness of his affections, and the manner in which he takes the divine rebuke. But his defects or, let us say at once, his sins are recorded for our especial warning. The first of these, his want of firmness, is a very sad one; it mars and hinders the exercise of every other grace, and stamps upon the whole man the character of one like a wave of the sea, driven by the winds and tossed. "Add to your faith virtue" or moral courage, is a precept to be again and again repeated and pondered well. But another fault in Eli is that which is so emphatically rebuked by God, he honoured his sons above God; or, in other words, he did not honour God with an entirely undivided and undistracted heart. "How can ye believe," said our Lord to the Jews, "which receive honour one of another, and seek not the honour that cometh from God only?" And if seeking honour from any but God is a fatal obstacle in the way of guileless faith, giving honour to any besides God is a serious and dangerous hindrance in the way of holy obedience. 3. Let the ungodly tremble. Let them look on, and see how God deals with sin in his own people. Does he spare sin in them? Does he spare them in their sins? Behold the severity of God in his treatment of the good and gracious Eli, and tremble at the thought of what may be his treatment of you! "If the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and sinners appear?" Or as a greater than Eli reasoned, when, bearing the cross up the hill of Calvary, he pointed to his own sufferings for sin as a pledge and presage of judgment against sinners, "If these things be done in the green tree, what shall be done in the dry?" 4. And, finally, let all lay to heart the irrevocable decree and determination of God, that sin shall not pass unpunished; let them look and see the end of the ungodly, while they stand in awe at the chastisement of the just. Whatever excuse the wicked may frame out of the weakness of those who should have restrained them; and whatever promise the just may plead, as warranting assurance and good hope through grace; the law of the divine procedure is fixed, as announced to Eli and his sons: "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" (1 Sam. ii. 30).
Go to Scripture Characters No.Three
SCRIPTURE CHARACTERS BY ROBERT S. CANDLISH, D.D., FREE ST. GEORGES, EDINBURGH. LONDON: T. NELSON AND SONS, PATERNOSTER ROW EDINBURGH; AND NEW YORK.
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