Parental Trials
1 Samuel 8:1-8
And it came to pass, when Samuel was old, that he made his sons judges over Israel.…

The best sometimes meet with the bitterest disappointment, and their grey hairs are brought down with sorrow to the grave by the unprincipled conduct of their sons. The most exemplary home has become a place of weeping by the unexpected misconduct of those who were its brightest ornaments. Samuel was now growing old. Those in high positions are naturally wishful that their sons should sustain a father's name and exercise a similar influence. Samuel had that laudable desire, and he made his sons judges over Israel. Nepotism has been one of the grossest scandals of most Roman pontiffs, and not a few high functionaries in every land. But there are honourable exceptions. It is not said that Samuel did wrong in appointing his sons to the judicial bench. The people never accused him of nepotism. Sons of such a sire would promise hopefully for the administration of justice. But the fairest sky may have a darkening cloud, the brightest buds may be early blighted, and a hopeful spring result in a scanty harvest; so the conduct of Samuel's sons disappointed a father's heart, and troubled the land of Israel.

1. They did not walk in their father's ways. They misimproved the bright example they had before them at home, where they saw little that would tend to blind their minds or pervert their hearts. When we consider Eli's softness and incapacity for command, we do not wonder at his sons going astray. But Samuel was so firm, yet generous withal, that it indicated great depravity in his sons to abuse the example of their father's spotless life. Their conduct showed that they had sought no personal religion, but had trusted to what they joined in at the family altar. Hence, when they left the sacred enclosures of the domestic circle at Ramah, they had no principle of restraint. What must the eternal experience be but remorse, anguish, and despair, to those who, in time, daily beheld a Christian parent, yet never personally sought the Saviour?

2. They "turned aside after lucre, and took bribes." The qualifications of a judge are thus specified by Jethro to Moses (Exodus 18:21). Moses thus commanded the people in the name of the Lord (Deuteronomy 16:18, 19). But the sons of Samuel did not fulfil these requirements. They were led astray by the love of money. It is amazing how speedily this sin of covetousness perverts the moral faculties. Gold, unlawfully got, sears the conscience. Perhaps there was not a greater man in his own age, or in any age, than Lord Bacon. He is the father of modern philosophy, and revolutionized the inquiries of the schools. To him more than to any man is the student of nature and of science indebted. He conferred a lasting benefit on mankind by opening up the true method of inquiry. Yet, strange to relate, Lord Bacon was one of the most unscrupulous lawyers, and one of the most disreputable judges that ever sat on the English bench. His place hunting was most dishonourable; and, after having become, by the most ignoble means, Lord High Chancellor, he degraded the highest legal office in the country by taking bribes. So glaring was the evil, and so notorious, that this philosopher, who had written so much in praise of learning, virtue, and religion, was impeached by the House of Commons, and found guilty of receiving bribes to the amount of £100,000! It must have been a most humiliating spectacle to see such a man as Bacon confessing to his peers that he had been guilty of corruption. "This glimpse of the rise and fall of this great man proclaims aloud the insufficiency of all but the grace and truth of God to keep man morally erect. Not gigantic intellectual powers — had these sufficed, Bacon would have been steadfast as a rock; not worldly success — Bacon sat at the right hand of royalty, and kept the conscience of a king; not great trust — the Lord Hugh Chancellor of England was the foremost subject in that respect; not celebrity — with that Bacon might have been satiated; not greatness without goodness — that is a tinkling cymbal. What, then? The answer which experience, history, and the word of God combine to give is this — 'I am what I am, by the grace of God that is in me.' The man who dims the light of that lamp which was kindled in heaven has already tottered to his fall." Thus acted the sons of Samuel.

3. They "perverted judgment." This was the natural consequence of the course they pursued. It was not justice, but profit which they sought. Their decision was not what the law of God demanded, but what they were best rewarded to decree. Their conduct was most offensive to God: "He that justifieth the wicked, and he that condemneth the just, even they both are an abomination to the Lord" (Proverbs 17:15). Samuel was a disappointed father. He had evidently hoped that his sons might fill his place when his days were ended. There is nothing that distresses a parent more than the misconduct of a son. It was the grief of Isaac when Esau associated with idolaters, and despised the patriarchal birthright. It made many of Jacob's years a perennial sorrow. It was Aaron's trial soon after the priesthood had been settled on his house, when Nadab and Abihu went drunk to the altar, and offered strange fire to God. It was Eli's calamity and punishment, as his reckless sons, whom he had never restrained, rushed on the ruin of his house, It was David's sorest wounding, when one of his sons after another wrought folly and wickedness in Israel. Sons should consider the necessity of a personal religion, by means of which the best wishes of a parent may be realised, and the individual happiness of a soul secured. Without this you may be drifted by every wind, like a boat without a rudder; you may be borne along a current of evil.

(R. Steel.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: And it came to pass, when Samuel was old, that he made his sons judges over Israel.

WEB: It happened, when Samuel was old, that he made his sons judges over Israel.

Ignoble Sons of an Honoured Father
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