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hitherto sustained and protected them, now orders the dispensations of his providence, with reference to their deliver
For this purpose, one is to be raised up, of a peculiar character, who should crush the power of their foes.
In the tribe of Dan, whose territory bordered upon the Philistines, there lived a man, by the name of Manoah, whose wife was without children. To this woman, the Angel-Jehovah, so often spoken of in the history of the Israelites, and who appeared to Moses, Joshua, Gideon, and others, now manifests himself, and announces to her that she shall become a mother; and that, as her son, from his birth, shall be a Nazarite, she must herself be subject to the laws of the Nazarites, that the sanctification of her son may commence with herself. Other observances, on her part, and in relation to the management of the child, are enjoined; upon which, the angel departs, making the important annunciation, as he retires, that, on reaching maturity," he should begin to deliver Israel out of the hands of the Philistines."
The wife of Manoah, whose name is not revealed, soon informs her husband of the appearance of the “man of God,” of whose superhuman character she seems to have had some surmise, and acquaints him, also, with the import of his communication.
Prompted, it would seem, by a strong faith, and a high esteem of the promised blessing, and, withal, desirous of receiving further instructions in regard to the child, Manoah betakes himself to prayer. “When I see the strength of Manoah's faith," says Bishop Hall, “I marvel not that he had a Samson to his son. He saw not the messenger;
he heard not the errand; he examined not the circumstances : yet now he takes thought, not whether he should have a son, but how he shall order the son, which he must have. Zacharias had the same message, and, craving a sign, lost his voice, wherewith he craved it. Manoah seeks no sign for the promise, but counsel for himself. Happy are they
that have not seen, yet believed. True faith takes all for granted-yea, for performed, that is promised.”
Manoah's prayer is answered, and again the angel appears; and, as at the first, to his wife. Immediately she seeks her husband, to whom she communicates the re-appearance of the “man of God.” He returns with her, and
pres. ently Manoah stands before him, and expresses a desire that the gracious promise made to his wife may be fulfilled. The injunction, given at the former interview, in relation to the mother's abstemiousness, is reiterated; upon which, the angel, probably giving some intimation of his readiness to depart, Manoah begs him to tarry till food should be prepared.
To this the angel, yet unknown to Manoah in his true character, responds, that he would not himself eat; but Manoah, if disposed, might offer the food as a burnt-offering, only it must be unto the Lord. The way was preparing to make known to Manoah the true character of the august personage with whom he was holding converse. Already it would seem, that he had suspicions that he was some celestial messenger; and now, with reference to satisfaction on that point, he inquires his name. The answer was remarkable—apparently a denial; perhaps intended, in part, as a rebuke, and yet, in truth, it was a disclosure: “Why asketh thou after my name, seeing it is secret ?” or, as the same word is rendered in Isaiah 9:6," Wonderful,” a name expressly given to Christ. Whether Manoah understood its entire import, may be doubted; but he had become so satisfied of the real character of his guest, that he no longer hesitates to make an offering to him. For this purpose, he selects a rock, as did Gideon on a like occasion, (ch. 6: 20, 21,) instead of an altar. “And the angel did wondrously." How “wondrously?" Doubtless setting on fire the offering, as he had done for Gideon; and, as the flames rose, he went up towards heaven thereon, leaving Manoah and his wife
intense gazers of the sublime scene, and confirmed in the belief that they had seen the Angel-Jehovah.
Thus signally honored were Manoah and his wife, by a visitant of exalted dignity and glory. And when, at length, they discovered who that visitant was, a holy awe seems to have taken possession of their hearts; and, in respect to Manoah, he seems to have been apprehensive lest they should die, because they had seen God. On many occasions, the Old Testament saints were blessed with personal interviews with the Angel-Jehovah, and received communications from him, which had respect to their own interests, or the interests of God's people.
Anterior to the appearance of the Messiah in the flesh, the Shekinah, in one form and another, was a frequent and established organ of communication, between Jehovah and his covenant people; and, by means of this, the divine will was often delivered to them. Such honor had Adam, Noah, Abraham, and the other heirs of the covenant; as, in after times, had also Moses, Joshua, Gideon, and the prophets.
But, with the ascension of Jesus, such manifestations generally ceased. We rarely read of the Shekinah, in any of its visible forms. But are the children of God now less favored ? less honored, than under the ancient dispensation ? On the contrary, they are more favored, and far more honored. And, though the medium of communication be changed, the intercourse between heaven and earth is more frequent-more intimate-more glorious.
Under the former arrangement, the Angel-Jehovah made his appearance not often, and only on special occasions. But
now, how many thousands of his children does he visit every day? Said he to his disciples-and what, in this respect, he said to them, he has said to all, who should believe on his name—“I will not leave you comfortless : I will come unto you.” “ He that loveth me, shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him.” “If
I depart, I will send the Comforter to you." “He shall receive of mine, and show it unto you."
To many, these promises are daily fulfilled. And there lives not that disciple of Jesus, who may not, each and every day, hold far more intimate and blessed communion with the Redeemer, than the ancient believers did, or perhaps could. We have now a more full and ample revelation. They enjoyed light, which shone dimly through types, shadows, cloudy pillars; but we see the Sun of Righteousness, shining in full gospel-splendor. They had the promise of good things; we the fulfillment. They the shadow; we the substance. Were some children of God to tell of their interviews with Jesus; of their communion with him; of the wonderful effects it has upon their souls; raising, expanding, warming, blessing them, and filling them with such raptures, as that they scarcely know whether they are in the body, or out of it—and this, day after day, and month after month; and this, too, while, perhaps, a cold and chilling apathy is prevailing all around—would there be any question whether the advantage lies with the ancient or modern believer? Doubtless the “ministration of the Spirit” is far more glorious.
While, therefore, I feel that such interviews as Manoah, and others, in still more distant periods, enjoyed with the Messiah, were very desirable, I prefer my own interviews with him, by means of his Word and Spirit; and, especially, when engaged in prayer, led on and influenced by this blessed agent. When may I not retire, and hold such communion with him? feel, and, indeed, know that he is present with my soul? And, in the ardor of my love to him, while he whispers that I am his, say to him, in return, “Whom have I in heaven but thee; and there is none on the earth that I desire besides thee?"
There are some, at the present day, who are looking for the personal appearance and reign of Jesus on earth. There is something startling, and, at times, delightful, in such a
thought. But I cannot say that it would enhance
views of the blessedness of the Church. Rather let the ministrations of the Spirit” proceed; let the communion of the saints with Jesus be spiritual, till such times as the earth is filled with the knowledge and love of God. Then, let him come; “ to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe.” Meanwhile, let us, who now live, and those who shall live till that glorious day dawn, sing in hope:
O may we reach that happy place,
PRAYER OF SAMSON.
And Samson called unto the Lord, and said, O Lord God, remember me, I pray thee,
and strengthen me, I pray thee, only this once, God, that I may be at once avenged of the Philistines for my two eyes. And Samson took hold of the two middle pillars upon which the house stood, and on which it was borne up, of the one with his right hand, and of the other with his left. And Samson said, Let me die with the Philistines. And he bowed himself with all his might; and the house fell upon the lords, and upon all the people that were therein.—Judges xvi. 28.-30.
The story of Samson is too familiar to require even an outline of the incidents of his strange and eventful life.
He early gave indications of great strength; and, at length, began that series of exploits, which has given him notoriety, in every succeeding age, where his history has been known
He was raised up to judge Israel ; and, in that capacity, to defend them against their most implacable foes, the Philistines. And, on several occasions, he proved himself a formidable champion. He destroyed their crops; he slaugh. tered them by thousands.