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But with all his giant-strength, and astonishing courage; in other respects, he was weak, and easily overcome by temptation. At length, he falls under the power of a woman, in the pay of the Philistines; who, by the practice of her facinations upon him, obtains an important secret; that he was a Nazarite unto God; and that "the preservation of his head unshorn is the mark, or sign of his Nazariteship, and a pledge, on the part of God, of the continuance of his miraculous physical powers." That sign lost, his vow would be broken, and his strength depart, and in that respect, he would be
come as a common man.
Not with greater delight does the sea-bird scream, as she discovers some hidden wreck, than the harlot of Sorek exults when, at length, she discovers the secret, which would bring not Samson only, but the lords of the Philistines at her feet.
He soon sleeps in her lap. The locks of his strength are removed. He wakes; but God has departed from him.
This is the prelude to a series of degradations, most humiliating and painful. The Philistines have accomplished their long-cherished purpose. They take him; deprive him of sight; bind him in fetters of brass, and he becomes grinder-general in the prison-house of Gaza.
Ask for the great deliv'rer now; and find him
We attempt no lengthened explanation of these dark and mysterious matters. The character of Samson, in some of its features, is inexplicable. "By none of the judges, did God work so many miracles, and yet by none were so many faults committed. He is enrolled by Paul in the list of ancient worthies, in the eleventh of Hebrews, which affords a strong presumption, that, notwithstanding his errors, he was a pious man. It must be recollected, however, that his history is short, and that the peculiar dispensation, under which he lived, may account for some things, which, if done at this
day, and without the special appointment of God, would be highly criminal. Besides, there may have been in him many exercises of true piety, which, if recorded, would have reflected a different light upon his character." Good men, in all ages, have been imperfect; and some of them, upon the whole eminent for their piety, have evinced great failings. Good men may sin; we know not precisely the limit; but this we do know, that they must, and do repent.
Samson was now in the hands of his bitterest foes. he there to correct him for his transgressions? Will God give him a cup of bitterness for trifling with a sacred vow?
In the prison-house of Gaza, he had time for deep and solemn reflections; and it is probable that they came. Indeed, it is to be inferred that there he repented, since, as his hair grew, his strength returned. Not as a natural consequence, but because he repented; and therefore God, being once more reconciled to him, reinvests him with his lost powers. In the language of Bp. Hall, "his hair grew, together with his repentance, and his strength with his hair."
God had still an important work for Samson to do. He shall avenge himself upon his enemies; he shall give relief to the people of Israel; he shall vindicate the honor of God. An opportunity for the accomplishment of these objects, not long after, occurs. A sacrifice to Dagon is proposed by the Philistines, in honor of his having delivered the champion of Israel into their hands; though they well knew that his captivity was owing to the arts of the sorceress of Sorek. The plan is adopted. The Philistines assemble by thousands at Gaza. They give themselves up to mirth and revelry. In the midst of their insane and idolatrous joy, it is proposed to bring Samson out; no longer an object of fear; but blind, weak, and defenseless; that they might make him the butt of their scoffs and insults.
The proposal is acceptable to the multitude, and Samson is led into the idol temple; within which the mighty lords of
Gaza, Gath, Ascalon, and other cities, are assembled. Thousands of others gather upon the roof, so arranged that they, too, can look down upon the object of their insulting triumph.
At length, Samson finds himself near two pillars, supporting the roof. He hears the shouts of thousands. What exultations! What taunts are heaped upon him! What insults are poured out against the God of Israel! Let us not impute vindictive feelings to the penitent, humbled judge of Israel. In the prison of Gaza, he had gone through a purifying process. He had humbled himself before God. What he now hears, fills him with sorrow and grief. May he not vindicate the divine honor? May he not prove, by one single and one signal effort-his last, if that be the divine pleasure that the God of Israel is still his friend, and the Savior of his people.
At this critical juncture, he seems suddenly impelled by some influence from on high. The spirit of God is evidently moving with mighty power upon his heart. Under the inspiration of that Spirit, he lifts his soul to Him that sitteth on the throne; his prayer is holy, devout, intense.
He ceases. The might of God is upon him. He grasps the pillars, on which rests the idol temple of Gaza, and bows himself with the superhuman strength with which God invests him. Those pillars, strong and massive, tremble, rock, fall; and with them, as they fall, are mingled the broken fragments of the temple, and the thousands, which had gathered upon the roof, or were within its walls.
How soon does the eye, which was gazing in fiendish delight upon Samson, roll wildly in its socket! How soon is the boisterous laugh turned into the shriek of death! Samson himself dies; such is the will of God; but he triumphs in his fall; and he becomes more terrible to the Philistines in his death, than he had ever been during his life!
PRAYER OF HANNAH.
And she was in bitterness of soul, and prayed unto the Lord, and wept sore. And she vowed a vow, and said, O Lord of hosts, if thou wilt indeed look upon the affliction of thy handmaid, and remember me, and not forget thy handmaid, but wilt give unto thy handmaid a man child, then I will give him unto the Lord all the days of his life, and there shall no razor come upon his head.-1 Samuel i. 10, 11.
DESCENDING With the sacred history, we have now reached nearly the three thousandth year of the world, and before us is the first recorded instance of a woman at prayer. But, though it be the first recorded instance, let it not be thought, that of the daughters of Eve, Hannah of Mount Ephraim was the first at a throne of grace. Eve herself, we hope, was often there, praying that the evils, which she had been. instrumental in pouring into the cup of her daughters, in all time to come, might be mitigated. Nor can we doubt, that she would inculcate this duty; and of all privileges and comforts to woman, most important, to her female descendants, during her protracted sojourn on earth. She, who had first plucked the fruit
Of that forbidden tree, whose mortal taste
would she not tell her daughters, and teach them to transmit it to future generations, into whose ears they might pour their sorrows? whose aid they might implore, in sustaining the relations of life? and whose support and consolation they might claim, in the hour of their keenest anguish ?
And were the secret history of woman before us-of woman in the far-distant ages of the world-should we not find
many examples-bright, beautiful, lovely-of those, who were devoted to prayer? Many a mother, who has sought blessings upon her children? Many a wife, who has prayed fervently for her husband? And many a daughter, for her parents?
It certainly is so now. There are more daughters than sons of Zion, in the Christian world; and they spend more hours in prayer. Their supplications are more fervent; their faith more confiding; their love more pure and constant.
And has it not been essentially thus in all periods of the world? Wherever light has dawned, the pious female has been up to see, and announce it. Whatever alleviations to human woe, moral or spiritual, have been possible, she has been out in the field in search for them. Into the web of human hope, she has woven promises, drawn from the divine word, and better prospects and happier anticipations gathered from her confidence in God, which have served to wipe away many a tear. "First at the cross, and last at the sepulchre," involves a principle of action, which has ever characterized pious females, to whatever age or country they have belonged. Nor can it be doubted, that when this world's drama shall close, it will be seen, that, if there have been some Jezebels, who have disgraced, there have been more Hannahs, Annas, Marys, and Dorcases, who have honored and exalted their sex. It will be seen, and acknowledged to the praise and honor of female piety, that it did much in making children, families, the church, and the world, what they should be. Many a child may trace its piety, under God, to the prayers and counsels of a good mother; and communities and nations, in not a few instances, are indebted to some Hannah for the judge, the king, the prophet, the minister, who have ruled, taught, and served them in the Lord.
But the prayer of Hannah claims our notice. It was on this wise: