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that it was ever restored to its ancient seat. The men of Kirjath-jearim joyfully received the ark; by which it seems, that they perfectly understood the offence of the Bethshemites. Abinadab, in whose house the ark was deposited, was a man of distinction amongst them, and eminent for his piety, and they sanctified his son to keep it, who entirely devoted himself to the care of the ark, and applied to no other business. Eleazar was not a regular priest, nor was it necessary he should be so, because here was no altar, either for sacrifice or incense.
We need not dwell upon these circumstances, because they relate principally to those parts of the law of Moses which concerned the Jews only; the general instruction they give is this, that in all religious acts we must pay constant regard to the honour of God, and not wish to search into those mysteries which He, for: wise reasons, has concealed from us.
It surely must have been a great mortification and disgrace to the Israelites to have their tabernacle de.. prived of its greatest ornament and treasure, the ARK. of the TESTIMONY, from which the Divine PRESENCE was manifested between the cherubims, but this people were so degenerated, and had so little regard for reli.. gion, that they were contented with lamenting the abo: sence of their. God, without endeavouring to invite his Presence, though, according to their covenant, they had no claim to His Divine assistance, unless they oba a served His holy institutions.
May we never imitate them in this respect, but en. deavour, by a regular attendance on the worship of God, and the discharge of our duty, to secure his fa. vour to us; of which we may then be as fully, assured, , as if we should behold His Glory from the mercy seat; ; for the ark was only an emblem of God's heavenly
throne, intended" to "intimate, that though the Divine Being is surrounded with angels, and dwelleth in brightness, which no one can approach, He will graciously receive the sacrifices of prayer and thanksgiving, and bless those who offer them with sincerity and humility of heart,
THE ISRAELITES-THEY RE
PENT AND TURN UNTO THE LORD.
From 1 Sam. Chap. vii.
And Samuel spake unto all the house of Israel, saying, If ye do return unto the Lord with all
your hearts, then put away the strange gods and Ashtaroth from among you, and prepare your hearts unto the LORD, and serve him only: and he will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines.
Then the children of Israel did put away Baalim and Ashtaroth, and served the LORD only.
And Samuel said, Gather all Israel to Mizpeh, and I will
pray for you unto the Lord. And they gathered together to Mizpeh, and drew water, and poured it out before the Lord, and fasted on that day, and said there, We have sinned against the LORD. And Samuel judged the children of Israel in Mizpeh.
And when the Philistines heard that the children of Israel were gathered together to Mizpeh, the lords of the Philistines went up against Israel. And when the children of Israel heard it, they were afraid of the Philistines. And the children of Israel said to Samuel, Cease not to cry unto the Lord our God for us, that he will save us out of the hand of the Philistines.
And Samuel took a sucking lamb, and offered it for a burnt-offering whole unto the LORD: and Samuel cried unto the Lord for Israel ; and the LORD heard him.
And as Samuel was offering up the burnt-offering, the Philistines drew near to battle against Israel: but the Lord thundered with a great thunder on that day upon the Philistines, and discomfited them and they were smitten before Israel.
And the men of Israel went out of Mizpeh, and pursued the Philistines, and smote them until they came under Beth-car.
Then Samuel took a stone, and set it between Mizpeh and Shen, and called the name of it Eben-ezer, or the stone of Help *, saying, Hitherto liath the Lord helped us.
So the Philistines were subdued, and they came no more into the coast of Israel. And the hand of the LORD was against the Philistines all the days of Samuel.
And the cities which the Philistines had taken from Israel were restored to Israel, from Ekron even unto Gath, and the coasts thereof did Israel deliver out of the hands of the Philistines. And there was peace between Israel and the Amorites.
And Samuel judged Israel all the days of his life. And he went from year to year in circuit to Beth-el, and Gilgal, and Mizpeh, and judged Israel in all those places.
And his return was to Ramah: for there was his house: and there he judged Israel; and there he built an altar unto the LORD.
* Marginal translation,
ANNOTATIONS AND REFLECTIONS.
It is likely, that immediately after the death of Eli, Samuel succeeded to his authority as judge; and being a PROPHET, he might offer sacrifices; but it does not appear that there was any High Priest, for the whole form of worship was overturned by the loss of the ark: and we may suppose the people were ill disposed to hearken unto Samuel's admonitions; besides, it is probable, that he did not take upon himself to proceed in any important matter without the direction of the Lord, who withheld Divine inspiration on account of the peo-ple's unworthiness, leaving them to suffer a while the ill consequences of their folly and wickedness; but as soon as they returned and sought the LORD, Samuel knew he might intercede for them, though he was only a Levite, for the priests had debased themselves, and his sacrifices proved acceptable. About this time it is likely the great passover was kept, which is afterwards mentioned *. Divine Providence visibly interposed in the defeat of the Philistines, and the Lord once more shewed himself to be God of Israel.
Samuel built an altar, not in contempt of that which was with the tabernacle, but as Shiloh was laid waste, and no other place had yet been chosen, he looked upon the law which obliged them to one place to be suspended; therefore being a prophet, and under Divine inspiration, he did as the patriarchs had formerly done, built an altar where he lived, both for the use of his own family, and for the good of the inhabitants who chose to resort to it.
As we shall have occasion, in the succeeding part of
the history, to say so much about prophets, it is necessary to have proper ideas of the PROPHETIC OFFICE.
It was the business of the priests to explain the law to. the people, and to take particular care that the ceremonial part of it should be punctually observed, that they might continue to be a holy people, and enjoy the privileges granted to them on those conditions. The Levites were assistants to the priests in the work of the tabernacle; but to prevent the people's dwelling too much on the rituals of religion, it pleased Gov to appoint another order of men called PROPHETS; these men preached the necessity of righteousness, and admonished the people to adhere to the spiritual intent of the law of Moses, as well as to observe its ceremonies ; warned them of the evils to come if they were disobedient, and comforted them with the promise of God's returning favour if they repented. To qualify them for this office, the Lord inspired them with His Holy SPIRIT: on these occasions they spoke in the name of the LORD, and uttered unpremeditated predictions in sublime and majestic language.
Sometimes they foretold * the fate of those nations with whom the Israelites were concerned (of which we shall have occasion to remark a variety of instances); but the principal ends of PROPHECY were, to keep up a constant expectation of the Messiah till he should come into the world, and to serve afterwards as a TESTIMONY, or witness, that Jesus Christ was really the promised SAVIOUR.
As Abraham continued faithful in the midst of an idolatrous generation, his posterity was selected as a peculiar people, amongst whom God shewed forth His power and goodness; and the gift of prophecy was
* See Bishop Hurd's Sermon on Prophecy.