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And even this is in itself so ample, that I must compress a great deal into a little compass.
And first, let not the reader overlook the graciousness of the Lord, in his advances towards the object of his love; in not only going on a second and a third time to call him; but now repeating his name; Samuel ! Samuel! As if, (and which is the case) the Lord not only knows all his people, and calls them all by name; but delights in their name. It was in the same endearing way the Lord spake to Moses in the mount: "I know thee by name, and thou has found grace in my sight." (Exod. xxxiii. 12.) And looking forward to gospel times, the Lord declared by his servant the prophet Isaiah, that the church should be so known: "Thou shalt be called by a new name, which the mouth of the Lord shall name.” (Isa. lxii. 2.) A new name, in the renewal of the child of God in regeneration, by which the Lord named each individual of the mystical body of Christ; when before all worlds they were chosen in Christ, and were predestinated to the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself. This is as the Lord saith elsewhere: Even unto them will I give in mine house, and within my walls, a place, and a name, better than of sons and of daughters; I will give them an everlasting name that shall not be cut off." (Eph. i. 4, 5. Isa. lxvi. 5.) And the same blessed truth is carried on through the whole of the gospel church. Our adorable Lord is said to "call all his sheep by name." (John x. 3, 4.) And he saith himself: "Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out; and I will write upon him the name of my God; and the name of the city of my God, which is New Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God; and I will write upon him my new name." (Rev. iii.)
It is a subject of everlasting comfort and holy joy,
that the names of the Lord's people are not only written in the book of life, but their persons are known by name; and the Lord loveth to call them by name, and to reveal himself to them by name. As in the instance of Old Testament saints, when the Lord spake to them, it was personally by name; and so now in the case of all New Testament believers; the Lord manifests himself spiritually to them by name, and speaks personally to their hearts, as letters of lovetokens, sent down from heaven, to testify to them his unchanging affection. "Thou shalt be called Hephzibah, and thy land, Beulah; for the Lord delighteth in thee; and thy land shall be married.” (Isa. Ixii. 4.)
In the second place, let the reader remark, the special, personal, and retired manner, in which the Lord revealed himself to Samuel. As is said to one of the seven churches, in the book of the Revelations : so is it now in effect said to every individual of the church: "To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna; and will give him a white stone, and in the stone, a new name written, which no man knoweth, saving he that receiveth it." (Rev. ii. 17.) Nothing could more decidedly manifest this divine truth, than in the instance of Samuel. During all the time that Samuel at the first and second call of the Lord was running to Eli, and laying down again, there was no manifestation of the Lord's mind to him; but when retired from Eli, and brought into a frame of mind to hear what the Lord would say: then the Lord opened to him the vision. Such for the most part, are all the revelations which are personally made to the people of God. As the word expresseth it in the Proverbs; "that thy trust may be in the Lord, I have made known to thee this day, even to thee." (Prov. xxii. 19.) General truths may be spoken generally, but the special and personal apprehension of them, is from divine teaching. When the
Lord directs his word to the heart and conscience of any of his people, faith takes home the application, as directed to his own circumstances, and receives it as his own; "To you is the word of this salvation sent." (Acts xiii. 26.)
We have a beautiful illustration of this, in the instance of the Lord's first appearance to Mary Magdalen, after he arose from the dead. It appears, from the relation given by the Evangelists, that the two Marys and Joanna, and certain other women, had come early to the sepulchre, on the morning of Christ's resurrection; and several of the disciples also followed them; and when they arrived at the door of the sepulchre, "they entered in, and found not the body of the Lord Jesus. And it came to pass as they were much perplexed thereabout, that behold two men stood by them in shining garments, which declared to them the wonderful relation of Christ's resurrection. Upon this, the disciples and the women, wondering at what they had seen, went away again unto their own home. "But Mary stood without weeping."
Now, during the whole of these transactions, (as appears by the sequel,) the Lord was present, but suffered all to depart, except this poor woman. He chose to be alone. Therefore, all but she went away before that he came forth to view. There is somewhat very blessed in this. Jesus loves to reveal himself to his people in secret. She was to have the honour of the first manifestation of a risen Saviour; but this was to be alone. Even the apostles were not to have this privilege. Jesus therefore waited their departure, before that he made himself known to Mary. As in the instance of Samuel, none were to be privy to this personal revelation of the Lord. Eli shall have the relation of it, but Eli himself shall not be present, neither shall he be conscious of what passed between the Lord and his servant.
There is another very precious instruction ariseth from hence. The disciples, and all but Mary, however, astonished from what had happened, soon left the sepulchre, making at that time no further inquiry concerning the Lord Jesus Christ. Even the apostles went away unto their own home. Not so Mary. She still stood without weeping. And as she wept, she looked into the sepulchre. Neither doth it appear that the appearance of the two angels, who accosted her, dressed in the garb of men, either affrighted or diverted her from her enquiry after Jesus. I pray the reader to observe, how uniformly, in all the manifestations the Lord is about to make of himself, he prepares the minds of his people for what he is preparing for them. So it was with Mary. So it was with Samuel. So is it with all the Samuels and Marys of every generation in the church. The Lord brings them into a suited frame for the discovery of himself. He prepares them to receive him. He calls them by name, as he did Samuel and Mary. He speaks to their case and circumstances, and they hear his voice. And thus the Lord makes a manifold distinction in revealing himself to his people, otherwise than he doth to the world.
"And the Lord appeared again in Shiloh; for the Lord revealed himself to Samuel in Shiloh, by the word of the Lord." (1 Sam. iii. 21.)
NOTES AND OBSERVATIONS.
THE limits I must observe in a work of this kind will not suffer me to trespass further in the relation of the call of Sanuel. Let me only, before I close, beg the reader to observe with me, the graciousness of the Lord in the continuance of his favour. What
it is now, in the present day of the church, so it was then; and hath been in all ages of the church; "being confident (saith the apostle) of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you, will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ." (Philipp. i. 6.)
And let every one who reads this part of Samuel's history, and feels interested to be made partaker of the like grace, take encouragement from the perusal. The Holy Ghost hath not, without a special design, caused it to be recorded, and handed it down to the church, with such marks of his favour. Let the whole of the Lord's people, and especially the younger branches of the Lord's family, take the sweetness of it to themselves. Surely, none will presume to call in question the powerful operation of the word of the Lord upon the hearts of his people, when in the instance of a youth, like Samuel, and at a time when he himself was utterly unconscious what grace meant, that work was so strikingly shown.
And let me only add this one observation more, which belongs equally to the whole church of Christ, whether babes or young men, or fathers; namely, that all the histories of the Bible, both in the Old Testament and the New, were evidently designed to set forth this most blessed truth; that if the Son of God, before his openly tabernacling in our flesh, thus in his manifestations to his people, meant to shew how much he longed for the time of coming, to redeem his church; and since his resurrection, by the many appearances he made to his disciples, before he returned to glory, as plainly testified, that though no longer present with them in flesh, yet is he always present with them in spirit: it plainly follows, that by the ministry of his word and ordinances, he is, (as he said himself, before his departure,) " always with them, even to the end of the world." Amen.