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By Mrs Ashton
I the thirteenth chapter of the Book of Judges is recorded the short but suggestive story which is our present Bible lesson. Horeb is long since left behind. The evil generation, who forty years tried the patience of Jehovah, have fallen in the wilderness, and their successors are now in possession of the promised land. Moses, and Joshua, and Caleb, have gone to their rest, and Israel, bereft of their counsel, follow wise or evil advices, as a wayward fancy may dictate, and receive a corresponding recompense at the hands of their God. The children proved in no respect wiser or more obedient than their fathers. Again and again " they forsook the Lord, and served the idols of the Canaanites, and in wrath he gave them up to their enemies." Often, in pity, he raised up for them deliverers, who would lead them for a time in better paths ; " but when the judge was dead, they returned, and corrupted themselves more than their fathers, in following
178 THE MOTHERS OF THE BIBLE. other gods to serve them, and to bow down unto them : they ceased not from their own doings, nor from their stubboriv way ;" and therefore were they often, for long, tedious years, in bondage to the various nations which God had left in the land, " to prove them whether they would walk in his ways." It was during one of these seasons of trouble that the subject of our study is mentioned. She was the wife of Manoah, a citizen of Zorah, of the tribe of Dan. Of her
previous history, and the events of her after life, we know nothing. He who beholdeth all thujgs that are done under the sun, and readeth ail hearts, had marked her out as the instrument wherewith he would work to get glory to himself; and, however little known to others, he deemed her worthy of this distinguished honor, — wo'ihy to receive a direct communication from himself. Of her character nothing is said ; but we gather that she was a self-denying, obedient child of God. It is not necessary that we should detail every incident of those interviews with the angel Jehovah, which the mother of Samson was permitted
THE MOTHER OF SAMSO . 178 to enjoy. Take your Bible, friend, and read for yourself, in words more befitting than we can use ; and, as you rise from the perusal, if the true spirit of a Christian reigns in your heart, you will perhaps exclaim, *' 0, that the Lord would come to me also, and tell me how I shall order my children, that so they may be the subjects of his grace, and instruments of his will ! '' If you meditate deeply while you read, perhaps you will conclude that, in his directions to this mother, our heavenly Father has revealed to us wonderful and important things, which may answer us instead of direct communications from himself, and which, if heeded and obeyed, will secure to us great peace and satisfaction. Bear in mind that he who speaks is our Creator, — that all the wonders of the human frame are perfectly familiar to him, and that he knows far more than earthly skill and science have ever been able to ascertain, or even hint at, concerning the rela-
tions which himself ordained. He comes to Manoah's wife with these words : — " ow, therefore, beware, and drink not wine nor stiong drink, and eat not any unclean thing. For, lo I
180 THE MOTHERS OF THE BIBLE. thou shall conceive and bear a son ; and no razoi shall come on his head : for the child shall be a azarite unto God from the womb/' Can you discern in this only an allusion to Jewish customs and ceremonies, long since obsolete, and in no way interesting to us, except as a matter of history ? Can you not rather see gleaming out a golden rule which all would be blessed in following ? To us, in this history, Jehovah says, " Mother, whatever you wish your child to be, that must you also in all respects be yourself." Samson is to be consecrated to God by the most solemn of vows all the days of his life, and the conditions of that vow his mother is commanded to fulfil, from the moment that she is conscious of his existence, until he is weaned, a period of four years at least, according to the custom of her time. These thoughts introduce to us a theme on which volumes have been written and spoken Men of deep research and profound judgment have been ready to say to all the parents of earth, *' Whatever ye are, such will also your children prove always, and in every particular, to be ; "
THE MOTHER OF SAMSO . 181 and there are not wanting multitudes of facts to
strengthen and confirm the position. In certain aspects of it, it is assuredly true, since the principal characteristics of the race remain from age to age the same. or is it disproved by what seem at first adverse facts ; for although children seem in physical and intellectual constitution often the direct opposite of their parents, yet a close study into the history of families may only prove, that if unlike those parents in general character, they have nevertheless inherited that particular phase, which governed the period from which they date their existence. o person bears through life precisely the same dispositions, or is at all times equally under the same influences, or governed by the same motives. The gentle and amiable by nature, may come into circumstances which shall induce unwonted irritability and ill-humor ; the irascible and passionate, surrounded, in some favored time, by all that heart can wish, may seem as lovely as though no evil tempers had ever deformed them ; and the children who shall be the offspring of these episodes in life, may bear indeed a character differ16
182 THE MOTHERS OF THE BIBLE. ing wholly from the usual character of their parents, but altogether corresponding to the brief and unusual state which ruled their hour of beginning life. So is it also in physical constitution. The feeble and sickly have sometimes intervals of health, and the robust see months of languor and disease. Hence, perhaps, the differences which are observable many times in the children of the same family with regard to health and natural vigor.
We cannot enter into the subject. It is wide and extended as human nature itself. It is also, apart from the gospel of God's grace, a very discouraging subject to the parent who contemplates it with seriousness, and with an earnest desire to ascertain the path of duty. " How useless," we maybe tempted to exclaim, ''any attempt to gain an end which is so uncertain as the securing any given constitution, either of body or mind, for my children ! To-day I am in health, full of cheerfulness and hope ; a year hence I may be broken and infirm, a prey to depressing thoughts and melancholy forebodings. My mind is now vigorous and active ; who knows how soon the
THE MOTHER OP SAMSO . 183 material shall subject the intellectual, and clog every nobler faculty ? What Avill it suffice that to-day I feel myself controlled by good motives, and swayed by just principles, and possessed of a well-balanced character, since, in some evil hour, influences wholly unexpected may gain the ascendency, and I be so unlike my present self that pitying friends can only wonder and whisper. How changed ! and enemies shall glory in my fall ? o. It is vain to strive after certainty in this world of change and vicissitude, since none of us can tell what himself shall be on the morrow. Do what I will, moreover, my child can only inherit a sinful nature." In the midst of gloomy thoughts like these, we turn to the story of Samson's mother, and hear Jehovah directing her to walk before him in the spirit of consecration, which is to be the life-long spirit of her son. He surely intimates that the child's character begins with, and depends upon, that of the mother. A ray of light and encouragement
dawns upon- us. True, we are fickle and changeable, and subject to vicissitude ; but he, our God, is far above all these shifting scenes, and all thp
184 THE MOrHEHS OF THE BIBLE. varying circumstances of this mortal life are under his control, he can turn the hearts of men as he will ; his counsel shall stand. True, we are transgressors like our first father, partakers of his fallen nature, and inheritors of the curse ; but *' where sin abounds grace does muoh more abound," and " Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us." For all the evils under which we groan, the Gospel has a remedy, and we have faith that in spite, of all obstacles and difficulties, our Saviour will yet present us, as individuals, faultless before the throne. Why may not our faith take a still higher flight ? There are given to us exceeding great and precious promises. The Holy Spirit, first of all, shall be given to all who ask. They who hunger and thirst for righteousness shall be filled. He has never said to the seed of Jacob, seek ye me in vain. There are, on almost every page of the sacred word, these precious promises. By them you are encouraged daily in your onward struggle. Christian friend. What shall hinder you now from taking them to your heart as a mother v/i(h the same faith ? If God is able
THE MOTHER OF SAMSO 185 t,) secure your soul against all evil influences, — yes, even against the arch enemy himself, — and if he has made the character of your child to depend
upon your own in any degree, why may you not plead the promises of his word with double power, when your prayers ascend not merely for yourself, but for another immortal being whom he has so intimately associated with you ? You are accustomed daily to seek from him holy influences ; you pray that you may grow in grace and knowledge, and be kept from the evil that is in the world, and from dishonoring your Saviour. Can you not offer these same petitions as a mother, and beg all these blessings on behalf of your child, who is to take character from you ? Can you not consecrate yourself in a peculiarly solemn manner to the Lord, and, viewing the thousand influences which may affect you, pray to be kept from all which would be adverse to the best good of the precious soul to be intrusted to you ; and believe, by all you knovv^ of your heavenly Father, and of his plan of grace, that you will be accepted and your petitions answered 1 And then can you not act upon that faith ? DeIG*
186 THE MOTHERS OP THE BIBLE. Birhig your child to be a man of prayer, will you not, during the years in which you are acting directly on him, give yourself much to prayer ? Hoping that he may not be slothful, but an active and diligent servant of his Lord, will you not give your earnest soul and busy hands to the work which you find to do ? Wishing him to be gentle and lovely, will you not strive to clothe yourself with meekness ? In short, will you no. cultivate every characteristic that is desirable for the devoted Christian, in order, that, at least, your child may enter on life with every possible advantage which you can give him ? And since
a sane mind, and rightly- moving heart, are greatly dependent on a sound body, will you not study to be yourself, by temperance and moderation, and self-denial and activity, in the most perfect health which you can by any effort gain ? Who does not believe that if all Christian mothers would thus believe and act, most blessed results would be secured ? The subject appeals to fathers also, and equal responsibility rests upon them. Some will doubtless be ready to say, " This
THE MOTHER OF SAMSO . 187 would require us to live in the spirit a azarite's Yow all the time. You have drawn for us a plan of life which is difficult to follow, and demands all our vigilance, constant striving, and unwearied labors." True, friends ; but the end to be gained is worth the cost, and you have " God all-sufficient ' ' for your helper.
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