SUNSET ON RAMAH
Now SAMUEL died, and all Israel assembled and mourned for him; and they buried him at his home in Ramah." 1 Samuel 25:1
What a gathering of mourners is this!--thousands upon thousands--for it is "all Israel" that are assembled to do honor to the deceased prophet. We found, at the death of Abraham only two sorrowing survivors named as having been present--Isaac and Ishmael. Here we have a mighty nation congregated around the casket of SAMUEL at Ramah.
His must have been of no ordinary worth. There must have been an unusually rare combination of goodness and greatness, which gathered together, in a village-city of Benjamin, so vast a crowd.
Come, let us join the saddened throng--and, as the wail of the mourners wakes the echoes of the hills around, let us inquire what it was that made the name of Samuel so revered--what so embalmed this prophet and judge in the affections and memories of Israel--what the secret of his greatness in life, and of the universal lamentation at his death and burial.
The First element in his character we shall notice is KINDNESS OF HEART; this was accompanied with the kindred virtues of generosity, unselfishness, and delicate consideration for the feelings of others.
We could almost have inferred this congenial beneficence of spirit in Samuel, independent of any specific instances in his history, from the mere fact of old Eli's affection being drawn out so early and so strongly towards him. There could be (we are naturally led to think) but little affinity or sympathy between this old man and this mere child. Eli! the most illustrious name in Israel--God's high priest, the chief magistrate of the nation--combining the regal and priestly functions--gathering around him, from his position, all the great and wise and good. Yet see how he clings to that child at Shiloh. No father ever loved his offspring more tenderly than did that old half-blind patriarch and priest the little boy wearing the linen ephod, and whose bed was in the chamber adjoining his own. Indeed, ever since that father's eyes had been opened to the reckless and profligate conduct of his own sons, he seems to have turned his broken heart towards this devoted youth; and nothing, in all the Bible's pictures of human love, is more affecting than the tender attachment that sprang up between them. It was old Winter, with furrowed brow and hoary locks, and tottering step, clasping Spring with its buds and blossoms. It was the Alpine glacier nestling the tiny floweret in its snowy bosom; or in some deep crevice, screening it from the blast. It was the old gnarled cedar bending its top bough to the sapling that had taken shelter under its shadow. See how youth and age love one another!
This remarkable kindness of the old man was so far, doubtless, unselfish--the offspring of a naturally easy and confiding nature; but it must have arisen, also, from idiosyncrasy. There must have been loving and endearing qualities in that young heart which converted the boy into the confidential friend.
Take one instance, one illustrative trait of this kindness, or rather, considerate delicacy of feeling, from the opening chapter of the prophet's history.
"The word of God," we read, "was precious in those days; there was no open vision." That is to say, the old prophetic communications--the miraculous appearances and divine interventions had been long suspended--it was a comparatively rare thing for a divine utterance to be heard. Yet, on a memorable night, when Samuel had laid himself down to sleep--when the lamp was dimly flickering in the temple--a mysterious voice sounded in his ear--"The Lord called Samuel!" (1 Sam. 3:1-4.)
Favored child! to be the first, after a long interval of silence, to listen to the lively oracle. The message, indeed, was a sad one--"not a joyous chime, but a funeral knell." It would "make the ear of every one that heard it to tingle," (1 Sam. 3:17). But yet, sad and direful as it was, and tenfold more so to the sleeping priest near by--how few at such an age, elated with the signal honor, could have resisted the impulse to go at once and make it known. Unthinking childhood, from the very love of communicating what is startling, marvelous, or strange, often unwittingly wounds and lacerates--making public the tale of sadness which a maturer judgment would see it befitting to suppress. But mark Samuel's kind consideration for the old father's feelings. He dreads to disclose the terrible secret. Locking it in his bosom, he lies until morning on his sleepless couch; and when morning comes--the customary hour for duty--wearing as joyous a countenance as he can, he resumes his ordinary work. It is not until Eli (guessing perhaps too faithfully the burden of the vision) urges his young attendant to make the disclosure, that Samuel, with misgiving heart, reveals what dare no longer be concealed. If a less tender affection had subsisted between them, Eli might have indignantly spurned the message and the messenger. What! a child the rebuker of age! a child the prophet of evil, the bearer of tales of horror to God's High Priest! But he has watched and appreciated his kind consideration. He knows too well the tenderness of that little heart, and in reply he pours into the child's ears nothing but words of sublime resignation--"It is the Lord, let him do what seems good to Him!"
Or shall we go to the end of his life for an illustration of that same unselfish kindness, the unselfish generosity of a noble nature? It was after a long period of unflinching devotion to the interests of the commonwealth, that Samuel one day, in his house at Ramah, was waited on by the heads of the tribes. In their mad love of change, they demanded the introduction of a regal government. The prophet heard them in silence. He was not wounded, as he might have been, by any apparent slight of his own services; but too well he foresaw the consequences of this reckless disregard of the principles on which their nation was established by God himself. If he had been like many, he would have resented the affront. Stung to the quick by their ingratitude and dissatisfaction with his rule, he might at once have flung aside the reins of government. Driven from the helm, he might have allowed the ship to drift hopelessly among the breakers, saying, "Well, do what you please; you have sown it the wind, I leave you to reap the whirlwind."
What is his conduct? With a beautiful abnegation of self; without one spark of envy, or jealousy, or wounded pride--consulting only the well-being of his country--he does that for which generations unborn had reason to bless his memory. He tells them, indeed, with the plain outspoken candor of an honest man, that they had committed a great political blunder. No, further, he expostulates and remonstrates. But when all is in vain--when he gets in reply the dogged answer--"No! but we will have a king over us, that he may judge us, and go out before us, and fight our battles"--then this noble pilot, that had weathered the political storms for twenty years, will not desert his post until he has done his best to equip the vessel afresh. He shapes for them their new form of regal government, and does what he can, probably to modify the insolence of oriental kingly rule.
Farther, we see him and his political successor, at their first meeting at Ramah, seated side by side at a banquet, then walking together on the top of Samuel's flat-roofed house--the Judge initiating the elect King into the duties and responsibilities of his momentous destiny. And when he pours the consecrated oil on Saul's head, and by this act consummated his own deposition and the elevation of the young Benjamite, it was accompanied, not with the frown of envy, but the kiss of friendship, the token of good success. He cheerfully steps down from the pinnacle of power, and is the first of the Hebrew nation to utter the loyal prayer, "God save THE KING!" It reminds us of the generosity shown by Jonathan a few years afterwards, when, as lawful heir to the throne, he willingly waives his princely prerogative, saying to him whom the world would have called his "rival," but whom he loved as his friend--"You shall be king, and I shall be next to you."
Let us imitate this kindness, this unselfish love in another's welfare, even where our own interests may suffer. Ah! what magic there is in kindness. How many a little Samuel in a household has smoothed the brow of wrinkled age, and erased the channel of hot tears. How many a morose and moody spirit has had cheerfulness imparted by the light, buoyant step, the sunny countenance, and the little, thoughtful act of unostentatious attention! It is an easy and inexpensive way of doing much. Kindness is not measured or expounded by great deeds, by princely gifts, generosity, extravagant and showy acts of beneficence. It is often best manifested in little ways--in the visit to the sick--the mindful interest shown in the failing invalid; the clothing or schooling of the orphan; readiness, as in the case of Samuel, to minister to the aged. Remember the apostolic injunction, "Be kind one to another." "Let all your things be done with charity or kindness." "The cup of cold water given to a disciple will not lose its reward."
Another trait in the character of Samuel was FIRMNESS.
We often find in great men a remarkable union of opposite qualities. This was eminently the case with Samuel, who combined the gentleness of the lamb with the boldness of the lion. He suggests, in more than one passage of his history, the composite character of Luther--at one time, the center of a peaceful domestic picture in the bosom of his family, doting with unwonted fondness and tenderness on the one little daughter that was early taken from him--at another, displaying the dauntless hero-spirit which never failed him in his great life-struggle.
Samuel's was no child's work, in the era of Hebrew history in which his lot was cast. During the first twenty years of his public life, the people had fallen into a humiliating state of vassalage under the iron yoke of Philistia. The Philistines had not actually taken possession of the country, but they had so garrisoned all the border-towns, that they were enabled to overawe the entire land, and exact exorbitant tribute. And what intensified this patriot's sorrows was, that the worship of Dagon had in many places been introduced--idolatry in its worst form had been corrupting the purity of the ancient faith. The lamp of the Lord in the temple was, in a figurative sense, "waxing dim"--the patriot spirit was low--the tribes had been broken up into separate petty republics, with few elements of cohesion.
For these twenty years, this bold champion ceased not to exhort and to expostulate--rousing the apathetic to a sense of their guilt and danger, and vindicating the name and worship of the great God whose servant he was. Great in this respect was the contrast with his revered father, Eli, whose fatal blemish was an easy flexibility of temper; seen first in the insubordination of his own family, and more fatally manifested in the feeble way in which he grasped the helm of government. This cowardly conduct--this "fear of man which brings a snare," had no place in the character or administration of Samuel. His first magisterial act at the close of these twenty years of political servitude, was to issue a public manifesto on the guilt of idolatry--to quench the fire of these defiled altars--to hurl Baal and Ashtaroth from their seats, and re-establish the national faith. He was no warrior--he was not bred to fight. We look in him for no feats of chivalry--no bold marches and surprises such as we read of in the life of Joshua. Perhaps this was the main reason for the Israelites afterwards desiring a king; that they wished one with more of a soldier look, and demeanor, and training. But though no soldier by name, the true warrior-spirit lurked under the lowly and unwarlike attire of the prophet of Ramah. See how that spirit rose with the occasion, when he assembled, at this same period of his history, all the tribes at Mizpah. The scene itself must have been a striking one. Though the position of Mizpah has not positively been ascertained, there is the strongest reason to identify it with the well-known eminence called "Nebi-Samuel," so conspicuous in the northern view from Jerusalem. It is the highest eminence in the landscape, and was peculiarly fitted as a rendezvous for the surrounding tribes.
The thousands of Israel have mustered at the bidding of their great head! The tidings are carried through the ranks, that the lords of Philistia are advancing; a panic spreads through the host of the Hebrews--they are taken at unawares, and are all unprepared for conflict. Left to themselves, they must either abandon their camp in inglorious flight, and their city and adjacent villages to merciless pillage, or else submit to the humiliating alternative of unconditional surrender. It was a moment requiring promptitude, courage, decision. But Samuel was equal to the emergency. It is to his brave conduct, his calm fortitude on this occasion, (to which we shall have cause afterwards to revert,) that the inspired apostle refers. In his illustrations of faith, in the Epistle to the Hebrews, among other ancient worthies, of whom he says, "time would fail him to tell"--he specially includes Samuel, "who escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness was made strong, waxed valiant in fight, and turned to flight the armies of the aliens."
Take one other example. Look at his bold and manly bearing on the occasion of summoning the same tribes at Gilgal, to ratify their own choice of a king, and publicly inaugurate him in his regal functions. Saul had just returned, covered with martial glory, from his first successful campaign against the Ammonites. He is the idol of the hour. The camp had rung with loyal acclamations; and had Samuel wished to ingratiate himself at that moment of elation, alike with monarch and people, he would have kept silence, and allowed the vast assembly to disperse, with no utterance of rebuke or warning to mar their rejoicings. But this moral hero must, on this the occasion of his last public appearance, deliver a faithful and earnest reproof for their wickedness and apostasy. Though the monarch's crown is glittering before his eyes, and the wreath of victory on his brow, the old prophet does not scruple thus to address the people in hearing of their sovereign--"If you shall still do wickedly, you shall be consumed, both you and your king!" With his wrinkled hands uplifted to heaven, his warning is divinely ratified by thunder and rain; and that, also, at the unusual time of wheat-harvest, when neither thunder nor rain is known in Palestine. We are told that "the people greatly feared the Lord and Samuel," (1 Sam. 12:18).
Alas! the monarch does fail to fulfill his covenanted obligations--adding hypocrisy to a delinquency of duty in his conduct regarding Amalek. The bold reprover of his wrongs is once more at his side, telling that the penalty of disobedience is the forfeiture of his crown--demanding, "What is more pleasing to the Lord--your burnt offerings and sacrifices or your obedience to his voice? Obedience is far better than sacrifice. Listening to him is much better than offering the fat of rams. "1 Samuel 15:22. Yes, even after the old prophet is laid in his ancestral grave at Ramah, the affrighted king bribes the enchantress of Endor to summon him up--knowing that from those lips that never shrunk from duty, nor trembled with coward concealment, he will get, at all events, the dreadful truth.
Nothing is so much the attribute of a noble mind as strength of purpose--moral fortitude. True, there is a point where firmness lapses into its counterfeit of wilfulness--where strength of principle is confounded with obstinacy. Nor must we mistake for boldness and fortitude, rash impulse and blind fervor. Saul himself was, in this worst sense, a man of boldness and firmness; exhibiting at times flashes of kindness and generosity, along with vindictive temper, intense selfishness, impatience of restraint, fiery passion, and cruel revenge. He had much of the soldier spirit as well as the soldier look. Moral courage is the greatest of all. Be it ours to aspire after this fortitude--"Add to your faith," says the apostle, "fortitude!"
It is the fortitude of Daniel, the prime minister of Babylon, standing in a heathen court and maintaining a resolute and uncompromising fidelity to the faith of his fathers. It is the fortitude of the saints in Nero's household, "rendering to Caesar the things that are Caesar's," but all subordinate to "rendering to God the things that are God's." It is the fortitude of the merchant, upholding his Christian integrity and commercial honor amid temptations to fraud and prevailing corruption of principle. It is the fortitude of youth, amid the snares of a vast city and the jeers of scoffing companions--hallowing the remembrance of a father's counsels and a mother's prayers, and the voice of One greater still--able to say with unabashed countenance, and to act out the saying--"I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ; for it is the power of God unto salvation unto every one that believes," (Rom. 1:16).
A third element in the character of Samuel was his INTEGRITY.
He was, in every action of his life, the true patriot. He had but one end in view--to uphold his country's honor--to defend it from foreign invasion and internal feuds. He loved his country more than himself--Well might Saul's servant, as they were approaching the gates of Ramah, in search of their stray donkeys, say, "Behold, there is in this city a man of God, and he is an honorable man," (1 Sam. 9:6).
His unworthy sons, so strangely unlike the noble example set them from their youth, seem to have been displeased that he had not been less scrupulous. Of them it is said, "They took bribes, and perverted justice." Never was there one so guiltless of ambition for personal aggrandizement. Hear his great address on the heights of Gilgal, where he had assembled the tribes for Saul's public inauguration as king, "Here I stand. Testify against me in the presence of the Lord and his anointed. Whose ox have I taken? Whose donkey have I taken? Whom have I cheated? Whom have I oppressed? From whose hand have I accepted a bribe to make me shut my eyes? If I have done any of these, I will make it right." (1 Sam. 12:3.) It was a glorious testimony to the justice of this appeal, when the shout of an assembled nation echoed back, "You have not defrauded us, or oppressed us."
Can we, each of us, say the same? Can we stand up before high heaven, whatever our situation, or circumstances, or profession, and say with an honest heart, "These hands are clean! I have never defrauded my neighbor, or wounded his character, or sought to exalt my own on the ruins or at the expense of his? I have never stooped to do an underhand deed, or be a party to a clandestine transaction that cannot stand the light of day? I may be in humble circumstances--wealth, or position, or influence I may have none. I may be poor, the victim of contriving men; but, thank God, I have 'a good conscience.' This volume of my inner life corresponds with the outer. Every leaf may be read; find the blot if you can."
There are volumes in this world's strange library which have their splendid exteriors--a binding gilt and embossed--but on opening them, they are tattered and worm-eaten; they cannot bear inspection; they are to be looked at, not examined. When opened, they fall to pieces, like the dust in the mummy-case! Oh, rather have the outside cover poor--the binding tattered--than the leaves soiled with mercantile depravity and villain fraud; rather the scanty meal and the frugal dwelling, than the banquet with its every piece of plate showing the reflected face of a hungry creditor, and the music jarred with the whimpering cry of the defrauded orphan!
If there be a character which we would, more than another--like the enchantress at the cave at Endor--conjure up from the invisible world, as a grand pattern for the times, it is this great--this venerable impersonation of old-world honor and integrity. Would none cower in guilty shame at his apparition? Would no knees tremble if the apparition appeared in the shop, the warehouse, the market-place, the exchange? We have plenty of Sauls now-a-days--men of brave heart, and fiery impulse, and warrior-spirit, all ready with the armor of brass and spear of iron. We need more of the Samuels; who, with the moral armor of virtue and honor, will save their country from a sadder invasion than that of sword and bayonet, and from a more humiliating and debasing ruin.
Avoid--and young men especially--avoid all base, servile, underhand, sneaking ways. Part with anything sooner than your integrity and "conscious rectitude;" flee from injustice as you would from a viper's fangs; avoid a lie as you would the gates of hell. Some there are who are callous as to this. Some there are who, in stooping to business tricks and baseness, in driving the immoral bargain, think they have done a clever action. Things are often called by their wrong names--deception is called shrewdness, and wrong-heartedness is called long-headedness, evil is called good, and good, evil, and darkness is put for light, and light for darkness. Well! be it so. You may be prosperous in your own eyes; you may have realized an envied fortune; you may have your carriage, and plate, and servants, and pageantry; but rather the poor hut and the crust of bread with a good conscience, than the stately dwelling or palace without it. Rather than the marble mausoleum, which gilds and smothers tales of heartless villainy and fraud--rather, far rather, that lowly heap of grass we were used often to gaze upon in an old village churchyard, with the simple stone that bore record of a peasant's virtues, "Here lies an honest man!"
There is nothing more sad than to be carried like a vessel away from the straight course of principle; to be left a stranded outcast thing on the sands of dishonor. There is nothing more pitiable than to behold a man bolstering himself up in a position he is not entitled to. "That is a man of capital," say the world, pointing to an unscrupulous and successful swindler. Capital! What is capital? Is it what a man has? Is it counted by pounds and pence, stocks and shares, by houses and lands? No! capital is not what a man has, but what a man is. Character is capital; honor is capital; the world's wretched version sometimes is, "the man makes his worth"--"makes" it, they care not how--over-riding others, cheating others, clever and successful roguery. But the old proverb of the good old times condemns the counterfeit, tosses the base coin aside, and proclaims, "worth makes the man."
Angels, as they look down at times on our streets, say, as they point to someone walking there, "That man is ruined!" Ruined! what has ruined him? Do they see him in tattered attire, with shabby dress, the ticket on his house, or the shutter on his place of business? Was he once a prosperous man--a credited millionaire? but the sand-built castles have become the sport of the tide, his wife and family beggared? No; he has all that--town and country house, equipages standing at his door, lights of luxury gleaming in his windows. Ruined! then how is this? Ah, his character is gone, his integrity is sold; he has bartered honor for a miserable mess of earthly pottage.
He is put on the bankrupt-list by all the truly great in the ranks of lofty being. God save us from ruin like this! Perish what may--perish gold, silver, houses, lands; let the winds of misfortune dash our vessel on the sunken rock, but let integrity be like the valued keepsake the sailor-boy lashed with the rope round his body, the only thing we care to save. Let me die; but let angels read, if friends cannot afford to erect the gravestone, "Here lies an honest man!"
Another and crowning element of Samuel's character was his PIETY.
We have been speaking hitherto only of the virtues of native growth--those which made him the man. We speak of him now as the "man of God"--the Saint--the Minister of heaven. Piety, like a silver thread, runs through the weaving of his every-day life, from its earliest commencement. He had been baptized by the prayers of a godly mother. Better far than that little coat, (the little linen ephod which she made him and brought year by year as her offering of love), were those childhood lessons with which faith and piety clothed his infant spirit. Instead of being, as many a youth is, launched at tender years on the wide world, sent out to buffet a sea of temptation--she had the joy of taking him up to be placed under the influences of an aged saint of God. For twenty years of his early life there is a blank in his history.
One single entry is all the historian gives us, but it is significant and suggestive--"And Samuel grew, and the Lord was with him." We meet him at his own city of Ramah, but, like Abraham, he has "built an altar to the Lord." He was emphatically a man of prayer. On a great emergency when even his sagacious and well-balanced mind was greatly perplexed to know the path of duty--afraid perhaps that personal feeling mingled with his displeasure--we read, "the thing displeased Samuel, and he cried unto the Lord." It was the befitting time for prayer. How often do we go to our knees with difficulties prejudged--hard questions we pretend to ask God to solve, but which our own poor judgments have solved already. Samuel gives us the definition of prayer--it is a cry to God in straits--a groping for direction not from sparks of our own kindling, but from the great Fountain of Light.
In God's name and strength he embarked in all his enterprises--"Elimelech" (my God is king) seemed to be his life motto; and it was the denial of this by the people, the rejection of God's regal prerogative, and the substitution of the earthly kingship, which roused him more than once to honest indignation. The boldness he displayed at that striking convocation at Mizpah, was all inspired by Religion. It was his own pious reverential spirit that gathered together the vast assemblage. He convened the tribes, that he might inaugurate his own rule and government by prayer and solemn fasting. The people, at his bidding, brought buckets of water from a neighboring fountain, and pour them on the ground, in token alike of their denunciation of idolatry, and in confirmation of the national oath. And, when the shout of the Philistines is heard, and their gleaming array is seen in the distance, see how Samuel comforts himself! "No time now," some would say, "for religious duties. Why tarry by that altar? Why linger by the bleating cries of that 'young lamb?' when the ranks should be forming, and the arrow on the bow-string?" (So Samuel took a young lamb and offered it to the Lord as a whole burnt offering. He pleaded with the Lord to help Israel, and the Lord answered. 1 Samuel 7:9)
"Some trust in chariots," is the spirit of Samuel's war-song, "and some in horses," but "we will remember the name of the Lord our God." As the theocratic governor in that hour of imminent peril, he stands between the living and the dead! See him, calm and undismayed, behind the smoke of his sacrifice, his hands raised to heaven, until he sees these blue skies melting into allies. The clouds (nature's chariots and horsemen) mustering to battle. It is enough--God answered him in peals of thunder. "The Lord also thundered in the heavens, and the Highest gave his voice--hailstones and coals of fire!" Not a sword was unsheathed--not a bow was bent--not a spear hurled. These thunders and lightning-arrows from the quiver of God, did the work of victory. They had only to "Stand still and see His salvation." The Philistines fled, and Israel pursued them with great slaughter to Beth Car. (While Samuel was sacrificing the burnt offering, the Philistines drew near to engage Israel in battle. But that day the Lord thundered with loud thunder against the Philistines and threw them into such a panic that they were routed before the Israelites. The men of Israel rushed out of Mizpah and pursued the Philistines, slaughtering them along the way to a point below Beth Car. 1 Samuel 7:10-11)
And when the pursuit is over, and the trumpet musters its victorious squadrons, the first act of the prophet-conqueror is to give the glory to whom the glory alone is due. Samuel then took a large stone and placed it between the towns of Mizpah and Jeshanah. He named it Ebenezer—"the stone of help"—for he said, "Up to this point the Lord has helped us!" 1 Samuel 7:12
Let Samuel's piety be ours. That manly piety--the happy cultivation and combination of the active and passive virtues--the blending of the inner with the outer life--not a negative saintship, like that of the men of Meroz, but the harmonious intermingling of diligence in business, with fervor in spirit "serving the Lord." The true type of "the Man"--the ideal of the Christian--is simplicity of faith and activity in duty. Samuel was kind in heart, strong in faith, and pure in spirit--but all was crowned and beautified by giving glory to God. The true Christian is not like the pyramid, with its naked sides, and tiers of monotonous stone; but rather like the Alp--its majestic slopes feathered and studded with forest and cave, shady rock and limpid stream; where the antelope may bound, and the bird may nestle, and the fox-glove hang its bells, and the weary pilgrim rest and slake his thirst--while its diadem of snow, glorifying all, is bathed in the cloudless azure of heaven.
We have thus endeavored to stand in the midst of that dense crowd which followed the prophet to his earthly resting-place at Ramah, and taken a brief retrospect of his life and character; tracing the sun from its earliest rising on Mount Ephraim and Shiloh, on through the clouded political skies, to its setting in Ramah of Benjamin. The latter portion of his life was spent in apparent seclusion. He retired from his public work. But to the last, he was the devoted patriot. Saul was the appointed king, but Samuel the real ruler. Saul, in the eyes of the electing tribes, may have had the right, but even they seemed to assign to the old prophet the might--for we read, "He judged Israel all the days of his life." (1 Sam. 7:15.)
His closing years could not fail to be years of sorrow. Not only had his own children failed to profit by the example of his lofty principle and exalted piety, but he saw the scepter dishonored in the tyrant's hand, and him, on whose head he had poured the anointing oil, proving sadly untrue to his great mission.
There must, however, have been gleams of hope and comfort, also, amid the anarchy and confusion of the present. That consecrating oil had been poured also on a shepherd-boy in Bethlehem, now the unmerited victim of Saul's worst passions. With prophetic foresight, the closing hours of the old Seer and Judge may have been gladdened by assurances of a great national revival under "the man after God's own heart." Yes, the vision of a mightier than David may have risen up before him in the dim future--that of "a King" who was to "reign in righteousness;" who was to pour His blessing not on the tribes of Israel only, but on "all the families of the earth"--"the root and offspring of David, the bright and morning star!" As to how he fell asleep--his closing moments, his dying words and benedictions, we know nothing. Nothing is recorded. But this we do know, that his influence and life, in its best sense, perished not with him in the grave of Ramah--its pulses beat in the nation's heart for generations afterwards. It might be averred of him, as was afterwards said of a nobler Prophet, that he was "set for the rising of many in Israel," (Luke 2:34).
"Samuel died," we here read, "and all the Israelites were gathered together and lamented him." No, in one sense, weep not! lament not! He is not dead, but lives! Let the prophet's ashes repose in peace. We need not go with Saul to the cave at Endor, to utter incantations, that we may see his shape, and listen to his burning words. His deeds are living, imperishable realities. His voice is even now heard. He is enrolled in the Bible's high genealogies--canonized in the noblest sense with the great and the good of all time–"Moses and Aaron were among his priests; Samuel also called on his name. They cried to the Lord for help, and he answered them. Psalm 99:6