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After such an awful, such an heart-rending premonition as this, surely some effect will follow. Eli must be roused. But, no ! if he even said anything, it was not deemed to be worth recording : that he did nothing seems but too evident, from the fact, that seven or eight years passed away before another messenger was sent to him. At last, then, since Eli has trifled so long with parental obligations, and since he will not positively restrain” these children, even this child Samuel has been reared
before his eyes to rebuke him. God had spoken twice, nay thrice, yet he had not perceived. Now he shall be awaked from his slumbers three times in one night, and then left in awful suspense until the morning, as to what awaited him. A man of God had been sent to him years before, and now, after ample time and space for repentance, there is sent to him literally a child. Conscious, it seems, of his constitutional failing, and of the sad torpor of his mind, at last he is anxiously alive and in earnest, " And Samuel lay until the morning, and opened the doors of the house of the Lord. And Samuel feared to show Eli the vision. Then Eli called Samuel, and said, Samuel, my son. And he answered, Here am I. And he said, What is the thing that the Lord hath said unto thee ? I pray thee hide it not from me : God do so to thee and more also, if thou hide anything from me, of all the things that he said unto thee." Who will not admire the delicate sensibility of this child, in not saying a word till he is sent for ; and his fidelity, in not concealing one word when he is questioned ! For “Samuel told him every whit, and hid nothing from him." But what did he say? More awful language he could not employ than that which Eli had already heard. No, certainly ; but to Eli's ear it must have been more awful, from its being at once the dreadful reverberation of a neglected warning, and an explicit testimony to the sufficiency of that warning.
“ And the Lord said to Samuel, Behold, I will do a thing in Israel, at which both the ears of every one that heareth it shall tingle.”
“In that day I will perform against Eli,
All which I have spoken concerning his house.
For I have told him, that I will judge his house for ever
Yet, roused as Eli was at last to his criminal negligence, what did it avail ? It is true, that nine or ten years are yet to elapse before he and his Sons die in one day ; but there is a certain bound to imprudence and misbehavior, which being transgressed, there remains no possibility of redressing the grievance. To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heavens. “ It is further very much to be remarked, that neglects from inconsiderateness,--want of attention,--not looking about us to see what we have to do, are often attended with consequences altogether as dreadful as any active misbehavior from the most extravagant passion."*
For nineteen years had Eli held the office of priesthood before Samuel was born: after this, a prophet had been sent to warn him in such terms, that one is astonished at his torpitude ; for still he delays till Samuel is grown up, even in his twelfth year, before he is convinced and laid low for his remiss conduct ! It now therefore only remains for the reader to mark the inevitable and awful results of Parental remissness.
Third, The ruin which ensued from the negligence and torpor of even a religious Parent.
As in many, if not in most cases, it does not comport with infinite wisdom and divine forbearance, that the punishment of neglect should follow immediately : so now we are to see, that “the delay of punishment is no sort or degree of presumption of final impunity.” Long indeed had the Almighty been of beginning, but now he tells Eli, and by the lips of a child, “When I begin I will also make an end." After such delay, too,
After such delay, too, it is observable, that vengeance comes not by degrees, but suddenly, with violence and at once. In one day, Hophni and Phineas are slain, and thirty thousand men with them; the ark of God itself is taken, and at this intelligence, before the sun is set, at the age of ninety-eight, Eli also expires! Even his daughter-in-law, the wife of Phineas, apparently a good woman, can live no longer. On the same day she also dies, leaving an orphan behind her, to look back on this as the day on which he was born! With her dying breath, too, she named him Ichabod, or where is the glory? for she said, “ the glory is departed from Israel.”
Long, however, had Jehovah borne with Eli, and long will he continue to testify to his guilt and sin. Many, many years pass away, when “in one day” again, besides Abimelech, the great-grandson of Eli, not less than eighty-four priests of his house are slain with their entire families! Neither man nor woman, child nor suckling, is spared by the cruel hand of Doeg the Edomite. “The sins of pious individuals among Eli's posterity would be pardoned through the sacrifice of Christ for their eternal salvation; but the Lord had determined that no number of sin-offerings or oblations should prevail with him to continue that family in the priesthood."* On this account, we find that even this slaughter was not the final
testimony of his displeasure. On that awful day, David, in another part of Judea, was flying before the face of Saul, and though, in this case, he certainly did not deserve it, yet, fortunately for his comfort, one individual ran and escaped the edge of the sword. And Abiathar showed David that Saul had slain the Lord's priests. And David said to Abiathar, I knew it that day when Doeg the Edomite was there, that he would surely tell Saul. I have occasioned the death of all the persons of thy Father's house. Abide thou with me, fear not : for he that seeketh my life seeketh thy life : but with me thou shalt be in safeguard.” Still the eye of the Lord must follow this descendant of Eli, and as a warning to Parents, so should theirs.
Eli's sin, let it be remembered, had consisted in honoring his Sons above the Lord-in despising the sacred character and obligations of the priesthood : and therefore, so far down as the days of Solomon, more than a hundred years after Eli's death, when the Jewish economy was about to shine out in all its glory; when the temple was going to be erected, and the ark, which Eli had so dishonored, was to become stationary in that magnificent abode ; then must the lineal descendant of Eli be brought into view; and though of a high character on the whole, must he be excluded from the priesthood, and banished to his own estate in the country. 16 And unto Abiathar the priest said the king, Get thee to Anathoth, unto thine own fields; for thou art worthy of death: but I will not at this time put thee to death, because thou barest the ark of the Lord God before David my Father, and because thou hast been afflicted in all wherein my father was afflicted. So Solomon thrust out Abiathar from being priest unto the Lord, that he might fulfil the word of the Lord which he spake concerning the house of Eli in Shiloa.”
After this we read no more of Eli's posterity. They
sink into oblivion ; though, without doubt, all was fulfilled, to the very letter of the prophecies which went before on him and his. As his Sons had run to great excess, their posterity must, it seems, be pinched with poverty; and as they delighted to gratify a pampered appetite, their Children must another day beg for their mere sustenance :
at last, come and crouch even to the priest of the day, and do so, saying, “ Join me to somewhat about the priesthood, that I may eat a piece of bread."
What a contrast, then, is there between Abraham and Eli! Yet is this not a contrast between an eminently good and a positively bad man. No, it is a contrast between a consistent or vigilant, and a negligent or overindulgent Father of a family. Eli's sad and melancholy case is mainly intended to admonish à Parent of the dreadful consequences resulting from his love of ease, -his negligence and procrastination, or his trifling with obligations so sacred and so important to posterity.
It is granted, indeed, and with some alleviation to the feelings of the reader, it is noticed, that one solitary gleam of comfort is found towards the close of this narrative, but it serves chiefly to make the surrounding gloom more affecting and impressive. Yes, though Eli had been long most criminally indulgent to his Children, to his guilt and folly he was at last fully awakened, and for nine long years, at least, he lived to lament both. So, on the eventful day on which his Sons and himself died, his principal anxiety seems to have been about the ark of God. 16 When he heard that it was taken by the enemy, his reflections on the dishonor to God and to religion, and the dreadful loss to his people, which his sins and negligence had occasioned, were more than he could support. Thus his death, under divine rebuke for his sins, has been a salutary warning to Parents even to the present day. Let it not, however, be overlooked, that, in the circumstances