I told him that I will judge his house forever for the iniquity of which he knows, because his sons blasphemed God and he did not restrain them.
Genesis 18:19) to do what is right, and restraining them from doing what is wrong. Concerning PARENTAL RESTRAINT, observe that -
I. ITS NEED IS URGENT.
1. Because of the strong tendency to evil which exists in children. However it may be accounted for or explained, there can be no doubt of the fact. If it be simply, as some say, a desire of self-gratification, and dislike of everything that hinders it - self-will, it is necessary that it should be checked; for those who are trained to deny themselves in very early life, and submit to the will of their parents, are far more likely than others to accept and submit to the will of God when they become conscious of it. "In order to form the minds of children, the first thing to be done is to conquer their will and bring them to an obedient temper. This is the only strong and rational foundation of a religious education, without which both precept and example will be ineffectual. As self-will is the root of all sin and misery, so whatever cherishes this in children insures their after wretc.hedness and irreligion; whatever checks and mortifies it promotes their future happiness and piety" (The mother of the Wesleys).
2. Because of the evil examples by which they are surrounded, and which act so powerfully on their susceptibility to impression and their propensity to imitation.
3. Because of the manifold temptations to which they are exposed. However guarded, they cannot be altogether kept from their influence.
II. ITS OBLIGATION IS IMPERATIVE.
1. It is obviously a part of parental duty.
3. It is clearly adapted to accomplish beneficial results (Proverbs 22:6). It is thus a duty which parents owe not only to their children, but also to the great Parent of all, who, by the manner in which he deals with his earthly children, has himself set them an example.
II. ITS METHOD IS IMPORTANT. It should be -
1. Timely; commenced at an early age (Proverbs 13:24).
2. Firm and just.
"O'er wayward childhood wouldst thou hold firm rule,
For as old Atlas on his broad neck places
IV. ITS OMISSION IS RUINOUS.
1. To children (1 Samuel 4:11).
2. To parents (1 Samuel 4:18).
3. To the nation (1 Samuel 4:22). Indulgent parents are cruel to themselves and their posterity (Hall). How numerous are the facts which justify these statements! "As in inviduals, so in nations, unbridled indulgence of the passions must produce, and does produce, frivolity, effeminacy, slavery to the appetite of the moment; a brutalised and reckless temper, before which prudence, energy, national feeling, any and every feeling which is not centred in self, perishes utterly. The old French noblesse gave a proof of this law which will last as a warning beacon to the end of time. The Spanish population of America, I am told, gives now a fearful proof of this same terrible penalty. Has not Italy proved it likewise for centuries past? It must be so. For national life is grounded on, is the development of, the life of the family. And where the root is corrupt the tree must be corrupt likewise" (Kingsley, 'The Roman and the Teuton,' Lect. 2). Therefore
(1) let parents exercise due restraint over their children; and
1. In disorderly families it is likely that both parents and children will have to divide the blame.
For I have told him that I will judge his house forever for the iniquity which he knoweth.Matthew Henry remarks, "There was no edge to his reproofs." He was not only too late; he was too lenient. His culpable indulgence had left no respect even for his gray hairs or his tears; they had come to despise the parent who had never secured their respect nor made them feel his authority. Eli's wretched failure was the failure of millions of fathers since his day: when his children were young he would not restrain them, and when they grew older he could not. Before we reach the catastrophe of this most; instructive story let me emphasise a few truths in regard to paternal influence. If Hannah is a model for mothers, Eli is a beacon for fathers. Many things have been spoken or written — yet not one syllable too many — about the happy and holy influence of a godly mother, But there yet remains a solid philosophy in the ancient adage, "Like father, like family." The law of heredity decides the denominational and the political status very generally. "He is a chip of the old block," said someone when he heard the younger Pitt's first speech. "Nay," replied Burke; "he is the old block himself." But if in your houses the "old block" is worm eaten, what shall become of the chips? The grace of God is not transmitted by inheritance, yet a father's conscientious piety is often reproduced in his children. If his footsteps are deeply indented toward God and heaven, he may reasonably hope that his children may tread in them. "He sought to the Lord God of his father and walked in His commandments," is the Bible description of the good King Jehoshaphat. If there is a law of Christian nurture by which, with God's help, the godly family becomes a nursery of religion, so there is a law of unchristian nurture, and by this law bad opinions and bad habits are transmitted to the next generation. Whatever "fires the father kindles, the children gather the wood." Show me one who fences his home around with God's commandments, and lights it up with domestic comforts and pleasures, and anchors himself to his home, and I will show you the best kind of restraint from dangerous evening resorts. A happy Christian home is the surest antidote for evil amusements. But if a father hears the clock strike eleven in the theatre or in his clubhouse, he need not be surprised if his sons hear it strike twelve in the drinking saloon or in the gaming room or the haunts of the profligate. But Eli, you may say, was a servant of God. So he was, in his way, but there are two different types of paternal religion. It is a terrible truth to declare, but I honestly believe that some professed Christians are an absolute hindrance to the conversion of their children. For the warning of such the Divine Spirit has spread out at full length the calamitous history of Eli's awful mistake.
(T. L. Cuyler, D. D.)
2. When children grow up into vicious courses, it is wise for parents to try to change the temptations which injured them.
3. When God sends a warning, it will not do just to settle down into a discouraged apathy and consider it resignation.
4. In considering the matter of home government, we must remember that the children have some rights. No one principle is lodged in a boy's mind by nature more deeply than that of a strict and irrevocable justice.
5. Ideas are yet influential in the training of even the stubbornest of children and even the vainest. There is a power in family instruction, and parents are to teach their children what is right and honest and decent and of good report. It is folly to think that young people are without reflection. Perhaps the time will come in which people will cease foolishly to object that the hearts and habits of children ought to be allowed, especially in religious matters, to grow up unbiassed.
6. A proper measure of permissions should be mingled with the restrictions which the family sovereignty imposes. Those who are familiar with the autobiography of Goethe will perhaps recollect with what energy he exclaims, after recounting some painful frettings of parental discipline he himself endured, "If elderly persons wish to play the pedagogue properly, they should neither prohibit nor render disagreeable to a young man anything which gives him an innocent pleasure, of whatever kind it may be, unless at the same time they have something else to put in its place or can contrive a substitute."
7. The time for making impressions upon the minds and the hearts of the children comes much earlier than many parents seem to suppose.
8. When a direct conflict of authority is reached there can be no compromise. The story that Gambetta poked out one of his own eyes when a child, because his father would not permit him to do as he pleased, is perfectly true. What is not so generally known is that the elder Gambetta remained inflexible even after this appalling display of wilfulness. The boy was being educated at the Lycee of Cahors; and conceiving a dislike to the institution, asked to be removed from it. His father refused again and again. At last Leon said, "I will put out one of my eyes if you send me back to the Lycee." It was holiday time. "As you please," said the father, to whom it seems never to have occurred that his boy might have inherited his own strength of purpose. The same day Leon took, not a penknife, as the popular tradition has it, but an inkstand, which he dashed such violence against his eye as to destroy it. Shocked as was the elder Gambetta, he would not give in; and Leon returned to the Lycee. There could have been no other decision with such a lad. Better the loss of an eye than the victorious defiance of law.
9. Prayer for help every instant is the one necessity for all success in family government. The devil of misrule is one of those evil spirits which cannot be cast out otherwise.
(C. S. Robinson, D. D.)
1. That to spoil children is not only a weakness on the part of the parents, but a positive sin, which may bring great mischief and sorrow not to the children only, but to the parents themselves; and further, that children will be spoiled, if parents, to save trouble or spare their own feelings, only remonstrate without actually punishing them.
2. That God does not leave a man unpunished for his sins and weaknesses, because he is in the main a good man and a true servant of God.
3. That people may be naturally amiable; and yet that their very amiabilities may be a snare to them, and plunge them into all sorts of spiritual mischief.
2. It is evident that all the covenants of God are founded upon a moral basis. "I said indeed that thy house, and the house of thy father, shall walk before me forever." There is the bond, there is the covenant of God repeated by a servant. Hath he promised thee, O man, and art thou living upon that promise? Know thou, that the promise is always secondary; the character is primary — righteousness first. Go to the first line — the great line on which all true things are built, all lasting empires and monarchies are founded — and you will find that along the line of righteousness God never moves to the right band or to the left — on from eternity to eternity, never a break or a deflection in the line of infinite righteousness 3 It is evident that some of the communications of God are at first very startling and terrible.
(J. Parker, D. D.)
I. We are to consider THE SIN HERE MENTIONED. Eli's sons made themselves vile, and he restrained them not. It is not said that he set them a bad example. It is evident, on the contrary, that his example was good. Nor is he accused of neglecting to admonish them. In this respect he was much less culpable than many parents at the present day. But though Eli admonished he did not restrain his children of the same sin those parents are now guilty, who suffer their children to indulge, without restraint, those sinful propensities to which childhood and youth are but too subject; and which, when indulged, render them vile in the sight of God. Among the practices which thus render children vile are a quarrelsome, malicious disposition, disregard to truth, excessive indulgence of their appetites, neglect of the Bible and religious institutions, profanation of the Sabbath, profane, scurrilous, or indecent language, wilful disobedience, associating with openly vicious company, taking the property of their neighbours, and idleness which naturally leads to everything bad. From all these practices it is in the power of parents to restrain their children in a very considerable degree. Nor will a few occasional reproofs and admonitions, given to children, free parents from the guilt of partaking in their sins. No, they must be restrained; restrained with a mild and prudent, but firm and steady hand: restrained early, while they may be formed to habits of submission, obedience, and diligence; and the reins of government must never for a moment be slackened, much less given up into their hands, as is too often the case. If we neglect our duty to our heavenly Father, we surely cannot wonder or complain, if He suffers our children to neglect their duty to us.
II. THE PUNISHMENTS DENOUNCED AGAINST THOSE WHO ARE GUILTY OF IT. It will soon appear, that these punishments, like most of those with which God threatens mankind, are the natural consequences of the sin against which they are denounced.
1. That most of his posterity should die early, and that none of them should live to see old age. Now it is too evident to require proof, that the sin of which Eli was guilty, naturally tends to produce the consequence which is here threatened as a punishment. When youth are permitted to make themselves vile, without restraint, they almost inevitably fail into courses which tend to undermine their constitutions, and shorten their days.
2. In the second place, God declares to Eli, that such of his children as were spared should prove a grief and vexation, rather than a comfort to him. The man of thine, whom I shall not cut off, shall be to consume thine eyes, and to grieve thine heart. How terribly this threatening was fulfilled in the case of Eli, you need not be told. If parents indulge their children in infancy and childhood, and do not restrain them when they make themselves vile, it is almost impossible that they should not pursue courses and contract habits, which will render them as bitterness to their fathers, and a sorrow of heart to those that bore them. If such parents are pious, their hearts will probably be grieved, and their eyes consumed with tears, to see their children rebelling against God, and plunging into eternal ruin. They that sow the seeds of vice in the minds of their children, or who suffer them to be sown by others, and to grow without restraint, will almost invariably be compelled to reap, and to eat with many tears the bitter harvest which those seeds tend to produce.
3. In the third place, God forewarns Eli, that his posterity should be poor and contemptible. Here again we see the natural consequences of Eli's sin in its punishment. Children, who are not well instructed and restrained by their parents, will almost inevitably in such a place as this, contract habits of idleness, instability, and extravagance, which naturally lead to poverty and contempt.
4. Lastly; God declares that none of the methods thus appointed to obtain the pardon of sin, should avail to procure pardon for the iniquity of his house; I have sworn unto Eli, that the iniquity of his house shall not be purged away by sacrifice nor offering forever. This too was the natural consequence of his conduct. He had suffered them to follow without restraint those courses which rendered them unfit for heaven, until their day of grace was past, and the door of mercy forever closed against them. They were now given up to a hard heart and reprobate mind. The terrible punishments denounced against this sin sufficiently show that it is exceedingly displeasing in the sight of God. Let us then inquire as was proposed.
III. WHY IT IS SO?
1. Because it proceeds from very wicked and hateful principles. There is scarcely any sin which proceeds from worse principles and more hateful dispositions than this. For instance, sometimes it proceeds from the love and the practice of vice. Openly vicious and profligate parents, who do not restrain themselves, cannot, of course, but be ashamed to restrain their children. In other instances, this sin is occasioned by secret impiety and infidelity. Even if such parents sometimes restrain the grosser vices of their children, they will give them no religious instruction; they will never pray for them, for they never pray for themselves; and without religious instruction and prayer, little or nothing effectual can be done. But in religious parents, this sin almost invariably proceeds from indolence and selfishness. They love their own ease too well to employ that constant care and exertion, which are necessary to restrain their children, and educate them as they ought. They cannot bear to correct them, or put them to pain There is also much unbelief, much contempt of God, and much positive disobedience in this sin Parents are as expressly and as frequently commanded to restrain, to correct, and instruct their children, as to perform any other duty whatever Now these are some of the worst principles of our depraved nature; and therefore we need not wonder that a sin, which proceeds from such sources, is exceedingly displeasing to God.
2. This sin is exceedingly displeasing to God, because, so far as it prevails, it entirely frustrates His design in establishing the family state.
3. God is greatly displeased with this sin on account of the good which it prevents, and the infinite evil which it produces. He has taught us, that children properly educated will be good and happy, both here and hereafter.
4. Lastly; this sin is exceedingly displeasing to Him, because those who are guilty of it, break over the most powerful restraints, and act a most unnatural part. He knew that it would not be safe to entrust such creatures as we are with the education of immortal souls, unless we had powerful inducements to be faithful to the trust. He, therefore, implanted in the hearts of parents a strong and tender affection for their offspring, and a moss ardent desire for their happiness, that they might thus be induced to educate them as they ought. But then who neglect to restrain their children, do violence to this powerful operative principle.And now let us improve the subject,
1. By inquiring whether the sin does not greatly prevail among ourselves.
2. If there are any children or youth now present, whose parents do not restrain them, and who make themselves vile, by indulging in vicious or sinful practices, they may learn from this subject, what will be their fate, unless repentance prevent.
(E. Payson, D. D.)1. The life and history of Eli is full of instruction, of painful warning and sad reflection. The prominent feature of his history is the ill-success of his children. Eli failed in his children, but more than this, he culpably failed. It was no matter of commiseration; it was one of blame and severe censure.
2. The leading circumstance which I will dwell upon in Eli's life is his conduct to his children and his treatment of them. It is a circumstance which must have struck many that the sons of eminently good persons often turn out ill; or that in many cases, they fall far short of the character and reputation of their parents.(1) One leading reason by which we may account for the frequent follies of the children of the good may lie in the initiative and assimilative powers of childhood, and the circumstance that these two powers are generally developed to the suppression of the other powers of the mind and imagination. If a person with any peculiarity of manner enters a schoolroom he will find from each remote corner children of three years old at once marking the peculiarity and taking it off exactly. Now this same imitative faculty, this powerful exercise of the assimilative principle accounts to a great degree for the matter before us. The forms of a religious life in the parents live before the child, and the child skilfully sketches from the well-known original. But religion will not endure so superficial a handling. The seeds in such cases as the above He scattered on the beaten highway of life; they do not sink in, or if they do, they simply fall into the dry and arid rut of the roadside, which produces a thin, vapid, and fruitless result. In the hour of temptation or trial, Satan takes away the seed which has no natural hold on the soil, or leaves it withering by the roadside of life. The remedy for this difficulty is almost self-suggested. It is incumbent on every religious parent to lead his child to do his own work, to examine self frequently, and to search into the reality of his motives. Considering the great temptation there must ever be to such an one to be satisfied with his copy, he should as a rule be checked rather than encouraged, since encouragement lies ever ready to hand. The religious parent should trust far more to the ascertaining his child's character, disposition, and leaning, than to producing rapid and brilliant results through the associative principle, and should constantly throw back his child on the use of stated means, than on the refreshing yet too evanescent influences of associative feeling. He should avoid making the structure of religion in his child rest on the hereditary and traditional principle, thereby letting him imagine that religion can be an heirloom, rather than the self. wrought, self-gained result of original energy, Religion is no matter of a past aristocracy, but a present energy.(2) Another cause of this disappointment will lie in the official position of the parent. Eli was a priest. His position and daily work set him apart as God's servant in a peculiar manner. A certain consistency in all which pertained to him was expected by the world. What men expect others to be, or estimate them as, they will either become or pretend or imagine they are. The opinion and expectation of others have a strange influence over us. The expectations of others, as our parents and relations, that we shall assume a certain form of character, while we retain our relationship and connection with them, will often make us imagine that we are acting rightly because we pursue the suggested courses, and make us feel consistent, because we assume a certain external uniformity. This is hollow. In such cases the youth has been so accustomed to dwell amid the external influences of religion, that he is as one who has been all his life gazing on a picture gallery, and is satisfied because he has scanned the features of the portrait that is identified with the individual character which it represents. Nothing is more fatal.(3) Another reason for this inconsistency will exist in the close connection which religion ever has with the natural feelings. It recognises and consecrates the yearning affections, the inclinations to respect those in immediate authority over us, the sensation of gratitude, and the strong consolation which there is in constant dependence; all of these are evoked hourly in the domestic circle, and religion making them her subject matter they are often too rapidly mistaken for religion itself, and for a time carry away its credit and good report. But they will not stand the test of time and adversity. There will be found no duty mere incumbent upon the parent than that of teaching the child to discern between association and principle, and to value at a high price individual exertion and independent energy.(4) But further, another reason by which we may account for this inconsistency in children of religious parents is, that religion is very often not made in homes sufficiently individual. The religion of caste, the religion of family prestige, the religion of ancestral predilection, is not the religion which will stand before the assaults we may be prepared to meet. The only principle that will stand the test of the last day is that which is based on deep inward convictions and experience in the individual attachment to God's will. Parents cannot too much throw their children in these respects on to their own resources.(5) Then, too, much will lie at the door of the natural indulgence of the parent in matters to do with the soul and God. The parent should avoid being the moral judge of the child; he should bring him to the test of some great objective law, which will know of no partialities or differences of administrations. He should urge his child to have reference to those who are accustomed to stand free of earthly relationships in their estimate of moral acts. We are all of us born with a nature that is better managed by laws purely external and objective to itself. The subjectivity of personal influences, reflexes as they too often are of self, are in many cases replete with hazard for those who fall under them.(6) Another reason that may sometimes account for this result with children of religious parents, is, that they not unfrequently are allowed to imagine that they may taste of the fruit of the perfected religious character before they have spent a single laborious effort towards its production.
3. But, singularly enough, another fault seems to have mixed itself up In the character of Eli — a yearning for and a love of family aggrandisement. There seems to have been a winking, if not more, at the mode in which his sons made a traffic of their religious position. Religion, especially family religion, has always a market value in the world. The recognition of this, and the practical use of it for a man's own ends will rank among a man's most perilous faults. It is a fearful thing to" deal with out position with regard to God as a medium of exchange and barter.
1. Let me remind you that a parent is a ruler by appointment of God, and is held at God's bar accountable for the office and work of a ruler. A parent then is more than an example and an instructor. He is one of these "powers that be, that are ordained of God," and, in his sphere, is appointed to be a terror to evil-doers, and for a praise to them that do well. The family is a Divine polity of which he is the head; and as such, in it he is the representative of God, with a portion of whose power he is correspondently clothed. And what is a polity without laws? and what are laws without penalties? and what are penalties without punishments? Too many are wont in this day to regard the whole subject of punishment, whether in the family or the state, under the misleading influence of a weak sensibility and a counterfeit benevolence. But He, whose love is far purer and truer than any known to man, has appointed it to man as a needful restraint and a salutary remedy; and we shall never find our wisdom or our welfare in any vain attempt to criticise or amend the ordinance of God.
2. Lastly, let me remind you that a child is a being that needs restraint and coercion. False theories of education are mainly built on the basis of a false estimate of the moral condition of human nature. Starting with the false position that the child has nothing in it but elements of good, which only need to be developed in order to the production of a pure and lovely character, and protected during their growth from corrupting influences from without, it overlooks the solemn truth, that, mingled with these elements, are prolific seeds of evil, which need to be eradicated with a firm and steady hand, and resolutely repressed upon their first shooting forth and growth. The true work of moral training is, like all other true works of men, a warfare also, undertaken and prosecuted against contrary influences and opposite tendencies, which nature does not aid, but opposes. Parents have the world, the flesh, and the devil to hinder their success. True, it is not in man's power to change the heart. That is the prerogative of God only. But he that works by Divine rules, with faith in Divine promises and Divine methods, will not be apt to lack a Divine blessing.
(R. A. Hallam, D. D.)
I. Let us consider ELI'S SIN. We can be too kind and indulgent to our children is the simple, yet important lesson taught by the history of Eli. There are, then two things equally to be avoided in the graining of children — over kindness and over severity. Eli's sin was over kindness. Now, this paternal over kindness in Eli was a sin for which he was held responsible. It is a sin, too, which, on account of the tender susceptibility of the parental instinct, requires the nicest degree of watchfulness over the treacherous emotions of our deceitful heart. There are many parents who are scrupulous to maintain a character for moral decorum, and spare no pains to instruct their children how to walk in the paths of worldly wisdom, but they have not that anxiety for their eternal welfare which the Word of God requires. They seem to imagine, that, if they take their children regularly to church every Sunday, they have fulfilled their parental duty in a religious point of view.
II. Such was Eli's sin: Let us now consider THE MANNER IN WHICH HE IS REPROVED FOR IT BY THE MOST HIGH. He who had judged Israel for nearly forty years, was now condemned at the bar of conscience by a stern reproof from the lips of a stripling. It is not usual for venerable old age to be obliged to sit to hear the voice of inexperienced youth raised in reprimanding accents. Nothing could have been more humiliating to Eli's sense of righteousness than to have had the sin of neglecting to discharge his duty towards his children brought to his remembrance by a child. If it were wisely ordained that a child endued with such a disposition as that of Samuel should be sent to rebuke an elder, the reception given by Eli to Samuel is worthy the imitation of old age. It is worthy of remark that the same humble instrument has been employed by God on other occasions. The voice, manner, and conduct of a good child oftentimes exercise a mysterious power in not only checking the faults of old age, but in bridling the restless pride in the bosom of manhood at its prime. In the gradual training of the mind to the attainment of the perfection of its original knowledge and happiness, it forfeited through the first act of disobedience to the commands of God, our most valuable instruction in gaining our lost inheritance is not to be derived in the heated crowds of a busy and ever-vying world, but from the simple ways and unadorned sentiments of childhood. The silvery voice of childhood has ere this touched a chord in man's complicated system that has aroused his supine nature from its prevailing tendency to apathy, and set in motion the million wheels of duty.
III. Let us consider SOME OF THE PRACTICAL CONSEQUENCES ATTENDING ELI'S SIN. Having been too fondly indulged in the days of youth, they gradually lost that filial respect for parental authority which is of the last importance to the welfare of children. The sequel of the unfortunate career of Hophni and Phinehas is soon told. In consequence of the transgressions of the Israelites, they were given up by God to the vengeance of their enemies. Finally, let those parents, whose besetting sin, like that of Eli, tempts them to make a practice of spoiling their children, of excusing their faults, and allowing them to have too much of their own way, remember that they are certainly exposing themselves to the wrath of God. If indulged children do not turn out immoral, they are likely to turn out proud, selfish, ungrateful, disrespectful, cold, distant, inattentive, disobliging, self-willed, headstrong, grasping, extravagant, unnatural. Be sure such a sin will find the incautious parent out. God says so, and who shall contradict it?
(R. Jones, B. A.)I. Observe THE CRIMES OF THE SONS OF ELI.
II. THE INDULGENCE OF THE PARENT.
III. Observe WHAT TERRIBLE PUNISHMENTS THIS CRIMINAL INDULGENCE DREW DOWN UPON THE GUILTY FATHER, THE PROFLIGATE SONS, AND EVEN THE WHOLE PEOPLE UNDER THEIR DIRECTION. These threatenings were accomplished in all their rigour.
1. To neglect the education of our children is to be ungrateful to God, whose wonderful power created and preserved them.
2. To neglect the education of our children is to refuse to retrench that depravity, which we communicated to them.
3. To neglect the education of our children is to be wanting in that tenderness, which is so much their due. What inheritance can we transmit to them? Titles? They are often nothing but empty sounds without meaning and reality. Riches? (Proverbs 23:5.) Honours? They are often mixed with disagreeable circumstances, which poison all the pleasure. It is a religious education, piety, and the fear of God, that makes the fairest inheritance, the nobles succession, that we can leave our families. To neglect the education of our children is to let loose madmen against the state, instead of furnishing it with good rulers or good subjects. The least indulgence of the bad inclinations of children sometimes produces the most fatal effects in society. This is exemplified in the life of David, whose memory may truly be reproached on this article, for he was one of the most weak of all parents. Observe his indulgence of Amnon. It produced incest. Remark his indulgence of Absalom. This produced a civil war. Remark how he indulged Adonijah, who made himself chariots, and set up a retinue of sixty men (1 Kings 1:6.). This produced an usurpation of the throne and the crown. To neglect the education of your children is to furnish them with arms against yourselves. To neglect the education of children is to prepare torments for a future state, the bare apprehension of which must give extreme pain to every heart capable of feeling. A reformation of the false ideas, which you form on the education of children, is, so to speak, the first step, which you ought to take in the road set before you this day. First maxim: Delays, always dangerous in cases of practical religion, are peculiarly fatal in the case of education. As soon as children see the light, and begin to think and reason, we should endeavour to form them to piety. Second maxim: Although the end of the divers methods of educating children ought to be the same, yet it should be varied according to their different characters. Let us study our children with as much application as we have studied ourselves. Third maxim: A procedure, wise in itself, and proper to inspire children with virtue, may sometimes be rendered useless by symptoms of passions, with which it is accompanied. We cannot educate them well without a prudent mixture of severity and gentleness. Fourth maxim: The best means of procuring a good education lose all their force, unless they be supported by the examples of such as employ them. Example is always a great motive, and it is especially such to youth. Children know how to imitate before they can speak, before they can reason. Fifth maxim: A liberty, innocent when it is taken before men, becomes criminal when it is taken before tender minds, not yet formed. What circumspection, what niceties does this maxim engage us to observe. Sixth maxim: The indefatigable pains, which we ought always to take in educating our children, ought to be redoubled on these decisive events, which influence both the present life, and the future state. For example, the kind of life, to which we devote them, is one of these decisive events. Companions, too, are to be considered as deciding on the future condition of a child. Above all, marriage is one of these decisive steps in life. A good father of a family, unites his children to others by the two bonds of virtue and religion. Seventh maxim: The best means for the education of children must be accompanied with fervent prayer.
(J. Saurin.)I. ELI, LET US OBSERVE, WAS OTHERWISE AND PERSONALLY A GOOD MAN. His character underwent searching tests at the most critical period of his life, and it is clear that he was resigned, humble, and in a true sense devout. If Eli had been the successor of a long line of rulers of the religion of Israel, submission would have been easier. "You can fall with dignity," it has been said, "when you have behind you a great history." It was easier for Louis XVI to mount the scaffold, than for Napoleon to embark for St. Helena. Eli had succeeded to a position to which his family could never have expected to succeed in the ordinary course of things. He hoped, no doubt, that his sons would secure to his family the dignity of the priesthood for all coming time; he hoped he was to be the first of a long line of priests of the house of Ithamar. The disappointment of a hope like this is much more than any but a good man can experience without repining. His fault, after all was not positive but negative; he had only done less than he ought to have done; he had sinned out of good nature, out of an easy temper, but could he have been chastised more severely had he himself sinned viciously and out of malice prepense? This is what many a man would have said in Eli's position; but Eli is too certain that he is in the hands of One who is all just, as well as all powerful, to attempt or to think of complaint or remonstrance. And Eli's personal goodness is also seen in his humility; he submits to be rebuked and sentenced by his inferior without a word of remonstrance. The nameless member of a prophetic order tells a man who is at the head of the religious as well as the civil state of Israel, that his conduct has been marked by ingratitude to God, and that the doom of degradation awaits his house. We know how rulers like Ahab and Manasseh treated prophets, however eminent, who told them unwelcome truths. Eli listens, he is silent; no violent word, much less any act of violence, escapes him. He has no petty sense of offended dignity that must vent its spleen on the messenger, when his conscience tells him that the message is only what he might expect to hear. This, I say, is true humility, the desire, the determination to see ourselves as we really are, to bear ourselves towards God and towards our fellow men accordingly. And, thirdly, Eli's personal piety is especially noticeable at the moment of his death. He had to hear that the ark of God was taken. It was too much. It came to pass that when the messenger "made mention of the ark of God, Eli fell from off the seat backward by the side of the gate, and his neck brake, and he died." This, I say, was an unpremeditated revelation of character. He might have survived the national disgrace; he might have survived the death of his children; but that the ark of the sacred presence, of which he was the appointed guardian, should be taken, this he could not survive. It touched the Divine honour, and Eli's devotion is to be measured by the fact, that the shock of such a disaster killed him on the spot.
II. There is, then, no question as to Eli's personal excellence, but IT WAS ACCOMPANIED BY A WANT OF MORAL RESOLUTION AND ENTERPRISE WHICH EXPLAINS THE RUIN OF HIS HOUSE. He and it were ruined "because his sons made themselves vile, and he restrained them not." The original word might perhaps be better rendered. "They brought curses on themselves." They are described as sons of Belial, or in modern language as thoroughly bad men. Eli only talked to his sons, and we can understand how he may have persuaded himself that talking was enough; that instead of taking a very painful resolution it was better to leave matters alone. If he were to do more, was there not a risk that he might forfeit the little influence over the young men that still remained to him? Would not harsh treatment defeat its object by making them desperate? Might they not attribute the most judicial severity to mere personal annoyance? If, after speaking to them, he left them alone they would think over his words. Anyhow, they would soon be older, and as they grew older they would, he may have hoped, grow more sensible; they would see the imprudence, the impropriety, as well as the graver aspects of their conduct; they would anticipate the need of action on their father's part by such a reformation of their manners as would hush the murmurs and allay the discontent of Israel. And even if this could not be calculated on very seriously, something might occur to give a new turn to their occupations. In any case, it might be better to wait and see whether matters would not in some way right themselves. This is what weak people do. They escape, as they think, from the call of unwelcome duty, from the duty of unwelcome action, by stretching out the eyes of their mind towards some very vague future, charged with all sorts of airy improbabilities. If Eli had not been blinded by his misplaced affection for his children, he would have known that outward circumstances do not improve those whose wills are already on a wrong moral tack, and that there is no truth whatever in the assumption that because we are getting older, we are therefore, somehow, necessarily getting better. Years may only bring with them a harder heart, and a more blunted conscience. Nothing but an inward change, a change of will, and character, and purpose, could possibly have saved Hophni and Phinehas, and this change was, to say the least, more probable if they could have ceased to hold the offices which meant for them only every day they held them deepening guilt and ever accumulating profanation. Downright wickedness rouses opposition; something, others feel, must be done, if anything can be done, to put it down; but weakness saunters through the world arm in arm with some form of goodness, and men put up with its failures out of consideration to the good company that it keeps. Had it not been for the excellence of Eli's personal character, Israel would have risen in indignation to chase the young profaners of the sacred priesthood from the precincts of the sanctuary; but Eli's sons could not be treated as common criminals, and Eli failed to do for his God, for his religion, for his country, that which he only could do, if the law of God's just judgments was not to take effect. Eli's sin consisted precisely in this: he did not restrain his sons.
III. Let us make TWO OBSERVATIONS IN CONCLUSION.
1. It is said that a refined civilisation brings with it increased softness of manners and a corresponding weakening of human character, and this, it is urged, is to be seen in public as well as in private life; but it is especially observable in the modern relations that exist between parents and children. Fifty years ago the English father was king in his household. He was approached with a kind of distant respect; he was loved, but he was feared as much as he was loved; his will was law, and he did not scruple to enforce it. Now, many a family is virtually a little republic, which assigns to the parents a sort of decorative leadership, but in which the young people, in virtue sometimes of their numbers, sometimes of their boisterous spirits, really rule. Those who know most of the change can tell us whether it works well, and especially whether fathers who have failed to assert their true authority are rewarded by the priceless gift of dutiful and high-minded sons. It may be that two generations back the relations between parents and children erred on the side of stiffness and severity. Is it certain that we in our day do not err on the side of good-natured indifference to plain moral obligations? No relationship can be more charged with responsibility: than that between a parent and the immortal being to whom he has been the means of giving life. It may be that two generations ago the relations between fathers and sons were wanting in geniality, that they were stiff, that they were formal; but let us ask ourselves this question: Is it better, when a father has gone to his account, that his son should say of him: "My father kept me in strict order, but he never knowingly let me do any wrong that he could prevent," or that he should say, as sons have said: "My father was the most kindly and easy-going of men; but he never helped me to keep out of troubles which, alas! will not be buried in my grave?"
2. And, lastly, let us note that no outward circumstances can of themselves protect us against the insidious assaults of evil or against the enfeeblement of mind. If Hophni and Phinehas could have led honest and pure lives anywhere, it surely would have been on the: steps of the sanctuary at Shiloh; if anywhere Eli could have felt that family affections may be so displaced as to dishonour God, and that weakness in a ruler may be criminal, he would have felt it at a spot which was so charged with the memories of the heroes and saints of Israel; but, in truth, external advantages of this kind only help us when the will and the conscience are in a condition to be helped.
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