« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
simplicity, what pathos, what sublimity! She the strength of Israel which God employed seems to regret her exhausted powers; her in crushing the “nobles” and pride of Caspirit is still willing; she cannot bear to cease naan, it was not by opposing force to force, so soon from so divine an employ; she starts skill to skill, that Providence decided the into fresh enthusiasm. Having put words of contest; but by a scattered, broken remainpraise into the mouths of a whole saved peo- der; but by a dispirited handful, that durst ple, she takes up her own peculiar strain; not trust themselves in the plain against the “Awake, awake, Deborah : awake, awake, enemy, but by an unarmed rabble whom Siutter a song:" And then, turning to the com- sera held in contempt, that Jehovah trampled panion of her victory, excites him to make a the glory of Jabin in the dust; as by a cake public display of the wonderful trophies of of barley bread rolling down upon a tent, and that wondrous day; “ Arise, Barak, and lead levelling it with the ground. thy captivity captive, thou son of Abinoam." To set the divine sovereignty in a still Exhibit them in chains, who had forged chains stronger light, Deborah suggests, but not in for the hands and feet of Israel ; lead them the spirit of self-confidence, that when God captive, who led in captivity the free-born did appear for his people, he did it, not by sons of God; show triumphantly the spoils kindling martial ardour and resentment in of them that spoiled thee; "the prey taken manly bosoms, by putting the machine in mofrom the mighty, and the lawful captive de- tion in the usual way; but by creating a new livered ;" them that “oppressed thee fed thing in the earth; by. endowing a woman with their own flesh, and drunken with their with more than manly sagacity and resoluown blood, as with sweet wine;" a righteous tion ; by making a woman the life and soul “God contending with them, who contended of a sinking nation ; that God himself might with thee." “ Thou son of Abinoam.” She have the undivided praise. “The Lord made rouses her noble colleague to excel in praise, me have dominion over the mighty.” Is it as he had excelled in counsel and courage, not somewhat remarkable, that Deborah is by one of the most powerful motives of hu- only once described as the wife of Lapidoth ? man conduct, the honour of his father's name whereas Barak is repeatedly, both in history and family. Let the names of Barak and and in song, brought forward as the son of Abinoam be transmitted, hand in hand, with such a father. Is it to mark the base degerespect, to the latest generations; let the neracy of Israel at this period? all mascuworld know that on Abinoam a gracious Pro-line virtue extinguished, and importance vidence conferred the distinguished honour sunk; the only trace of the existence of the of being the father of the father of his country. man, that he was the husband of such a wo
It is not ancestry, it is not country, that man? The repetition of this relation, therecan bestow celebrity on a deedless name, on fore, may have been omitted, because it an idle or worthless character; it is illustri- would have reflected reiterated disgrace ous virtue, it is superior wisdom, it is useful upon the one, without adding much to, perability that confers nobility, true nobility on haps somewhat detracting from, the glory of families, and celebrity on countries. Con- the other. Whereas the blazoning of a son's tending cities claim the honour of giving birth praise, instead of detracting from, is the most to Homer. Strip Athens of her renowned gratifying addition to, a father's honour.. sons, and she sinks into a mass of rocks and In the passage which follows, the prophetsand. How would the heart of Abinoam ess goes with a poetical and prophetic enthuglow with delight, as often as the sound of siasm into a detail of the distinguishing chahis name reached his ears, in connexion with racters of the several tribes of Israel, acthat of a son whom a grateful country according to the part which they had taken, or knowledged, and celebrated with songs, as its neglected to take, in the cause of their counsaviour !
try, at this trying crisis, which at present I In the 13th verse we see the low and re- shall simply quote, with a single remark; duced state of Israel again brought into view, and then conclude. “And the princes of to prepare for a fresh discovery of the power Issachar were with Deborah ; even Issachar, and goodness of God, and to exhibit in another and also Barak; he was sent on foot into the point of light, the solidity, strength, and se- valley. For the divisions of Reuben there curity of his church, “out of weakness made were great thoughts of heart. Why abodest strong," " waxing," in a moment, "valiant in thou among the sheepfolds, to hear the bleatfight, turning to flight the armies of the ings of the focks? for the divisions of Reualiens.” “ Then he made him that remain- ben there were great searchings of heart. eth bave dominion over the nobles among the Gilead abode beyond Jordan: and why did people: the Lord made me have dominion Dan remain in ships? Asher continued on over the mighty."* In two striking particu- the seashore, and abode in his breaches. lars, this gracious interposition of Heaven is Zebulun and Naphtali were people that emphatically pointed out. "Ile made him jeoparded their lives unto the death in the that remaineth to have dominion. It was not high places of the field."* This is the third * Judges v. 13.
* Judges v. 15-18
time that prophetic inspiration has presented to resume our accustomed pursuits: If to us with the discriminating features of the any, this be the last opportunity of the kind, sons of Israel, and of the tribes which de- the solemn farewell is now taken. And kind scended from them, at three different pe- is that Providence which does not always let riods, and in very different situations
Jacob us know when we are saying “ finally fareon his dying bed, Moses on the wing to as- well;" which permits the bitterness of death cend mount Nebo, and Deborah on the de- to pass before we are sensible it is come. feat of Sisera. The comparative view of Is- Wo, wo, wo, to the man who is punished rael, at these distant periods, seems to me a with the foresight of the evil that is coming subject of curious, pleasant, and not useless upon him. The exploits of a Deborah and a disquisition, and I mean to devote the medi- Barak now live only in the page of history: tation of a particular evening to it. their song is now to be found only in a few
The season* arrests us now, and demands measured words, whose rhythm is lost, whose a series of reflections suited to winter, and sense is obscure, whose spirit is evaporated. change, and decay, and death. The past But, my friends, we have this day been comrushes upon our memory and affections in an memorating* an event which will never sink impetuous tide. The future still presents in oblivion, never spend its force, never lose the same impenetrable curtain to our eager its importance. We have this day been careyes. We go on fondly planning; and after rying on, keeping up the song, which the ena thousand proofs of vanity, return to trea- raptured shepherds of Bethlehem caught two sure up for ourselves vexation of spirit. But thousand years ago from a choir of the heawe shall be relieved at length, and ere long venly host, which is ever pleasing, ever new; land on that shore where fear and hope are let us again resume it, and teach it to our no longer. If permitted to enter on the com- children. “Glory, glory to God in the highmencement of another year, we shall endea- est, and on earth peace, good will towards vour to improve that kind indulgence, by en men.” “ Blessing and honour, and glory, deavouring to suggest reflections suited to the and power be unto Him that sitteth upon the occasion. If permitted to advance to a se- throne, and unto the Lamb, for ever and cond sabbath in a new year, we shall attempt ever. Amen. Hallelujah ! * The last day of the year.
* In the participation of the Lord's supper.
HISTORY OF DEBORAH.
They fought from heaven: the stars in their courses fought against Sisera. The river of Kishon swept
them away, that ancient river, the river Kishon: O my soul, thou hast trodden down strength.-JUDGES v. 20, 21.
In turning over the hallowed page of in- character; but human nature the same under spiration, and contemplating the various re-every government, in every climate, under volutions of human affairs which it unfolds, every sky. We behold regions, and periods, we seem transported to a superior region; and nations rising into notice, into eminence, we behold the earthly ball rolling round into importance, by the talents, the virtues, beneath our feet; we witness the birth, the the address of one man, of one woman; and progress, the dissolution of nations; we learn returning again to obscurity and insignifito correct the prejudices of education, and cance, through a defect of wisdom, of public our narrowness of conception; we no longer spirit, of exertion. ignorantly admire, nor superciliously despise The history of perhaps no nation exhibits our fellow-creatures; we adore the great such striking and instructive variety of chaFather and Lord of all, who “has of one racter and event, as that of the posterity of blood formed all nations of men to inhabit Abraham. It is interesting in itself
, and it upon the face of the whole earth," and is closely connected with the general inter“ whose kingdom ruleth over all.” From ests of mankind. That people, through a that elevation, we observe with humble ac- dispersion of near two thousand years, have quiescence and holy joy, the designs of eter-preserved an existence. Hated, despised, nal Providence,' maturing, and executing and persecuted by all other nations, they themselves; the individual passing away, remain unextirpated; a monument at once but the species permanent; states and king- of the vengeance and of the care of Heaven; doms changing their form, their spirit, their and no unequivocal intimations, from the
oracles of truth, hold them up as the objects, in conjunction with those of Zebulun and of eternal Providence, in events of superior Naphtali, the victory now by the blessing of magnitude, yet to take place.
God obtained over the armies of Canaan was We have followed the successive changes chiefly to be ascribed. The spirit of their which they underwent, with successive emo- father Joshua, dead in so many other of the tions of astonishment, exultation, indignation, tribes of Israel
, is alive in them, and happily and sorrow. And we find them at the defeat is propitious to the common cause. of Sisera and his host, in a situation highly A severe censure of the conduct of the critical and interesting. The prophetess two tribes and a half beyond the river, is Deborah in this celebrated song, goes into a more than insinuated; it is brought dicomparative delineation of the respective rectly forward. They are represented as merit and demerit of the several tribes; and totally lost to all public spirit, and wrapt thereby enables us to estimate the particular up in cold selfishness and indifference. character of each, at different eras of their Jordan was a kind of defence to them from political existence. Jacob on his death-bed, the Canaanitish foe, and the cries of their and Moses on the wing to depart in his oppressed brethren beyond the river are valedictory address, present us with a similar drowned in the more interesting bleatings opportunity; of which we are now to avail of their own flocks. The same spirit of selfourselves, in the twofold view of extending ishness is represented as pervading the tribes a little our pittance of knowledge of human who inhabited the sea coasts, Dan and Asher, nature, and increasing our admiration of, and and who, subsisting by trade, and absorbed dependence upon, the Divine Providence. by the love of gain, steeled their hearts to
In the dying benediction of Jacob, Judah, the feelings of sympathy and humanity. his fourth son, and the tribe which should Drawing their supplies from the ocean, they spring from him make a most conspicuous forget they have a country; and under the figure. The spirit of prophecy employs influence of one domineering lust, all the every image expressive of power, greatuess, better claims of the human heart, are supplenteousness, and duration, to represent the pressed and silenced. They pursue their future eminence and superiority of that tribe. merchandize, as the others attended to their In all the musters which were made of the sheep-farms, regardless what their wretched people during the forty years, wandering in countrymer. meanwhile endured. * For the the wildernoss, and in the distribution of divisions of Reuben there were great thoughts place and station according to divine appoint- of heart. Why abodest thou among the ment, in their encampments and removals, sheep-folds, to hear the bleatings of the we still find Judah excelling in number and flocks? For the divisions of Reuben there strength, and occupying the post of honour. were great searchings of heart. Gilead But Moses takes leave of that tribe, with a abode beyond Jordan : and why did Dan very slight degree of notice; and in the song remain in ships? Asher continued on the of Deborah their name is not so much as seashore, and abode in his breaches."* mentioned, nor is any allusion made to any Such is the general view of the state of exploit of theirs, in celebrating the triumph Israel at this period, which the words of Deof that eventful day. Indeed the spirit and borah convey. The import of many of the pre-eminence of Judah seems to have been expressions which the prophetess employs to gradually on the decline, from the days of convey her feelings on this occasion, we preCaleb, who conquered and dispossessed the tend not to understand or to explain. Is it Bons of Anak; till they were revived, maintain- any wonder that in a poetical composition ed, and extended under David and Solomon. upwards of three thousand years' old, in a lanAnd for several centuries, we find this pre- guage so little studied, referring to a history rogative tribe, which was destined to the which the outline only is drawn, there should lasting honours of royalty and rule, sleeping be many things difficult to be understood ? in oblivion and unimportance, with the in- This much is evident upon the face of it, that significant tribe of Simeon, which hardly Israel at that unhappy period exhibited a ever achieved any action, or produced any spectacle, bearing but too near a resemblance personage worthy of being remembered. Of to what our own timest have seen dreadso much consequence is one man in a tribe, fully realized. A whole host of foes, a world in a nation, in a world.
in arms, combined to work the downfall of a But the person and tribe the most distin- sinful devoted country. Internal discord, the guished in the prophecy of Jacob, and the extinction of public virtue, the dominion of blessing of Moses, are also the most distin- barefaced iniquity--but, the arm of the Lord guished in this triumphant anthem. Ephraim, is revealed, and salvation is wrought. the younger son of Joseph, the beloved
son The picture which the poetess draws of the of Jacob, raised by the destination and inter- desperate state of Israelitish affairs is truly position of high Heaven, to power and precedency over his elder brother. To the ex
* Judges v. 15–17. ertions of this branch of the house of Joseph, America, and an armed neutrality.
| Great Britain embroiled with France, Spain, Holland,
affecting; and is a happy preparation for a dis-, many circumstances of the case, which the play of that unexpected and astonishing relief, conciseness of the sacred history enables us which had just turned their sorrow into glad- not to discover; that there is a singularity ness. Judah lulled asleep in listless inaction, in the whole conduct and occasion of the bu. without exertion, without existence; a fourth siness, which forbids it to be drawn into a part of the national force, on the other side precedent, and pleaded in ordinary cases as Jordan, careless, tending their flocks; ano- an example or an excuse, that we are to disther fourth devoted to their private traffic; the tinguish carefully betwixt the poetic ardour sword of judgment in the feeble hand of a fe- and enthusiasm of a female bard and patriot, male; confederated kings threatening their and the calm, unimpassioned praise and cenutter extirpation; enemies, numerous, strong sure of sound reason, or he deliberate apand lively, and hating them with a cruel ha- probation of the God of truth, mercy, and jus tred;" what power can dissipate the gathered tice. We know certainly that God cannot storm ? That power which says to the roar- love nor commend perfidy, cruelty, or revenge. ing ocean, “ Hitherto shalt thou come, but But he justly may, and often does employ the no further, and here shall thy proud waves outrageous passions of one great offender to be stayed.”. “They fought from heaven: the punish those of another. And that through stars in their courses fought against Sisera.”* ignorance, prejudice, or wilful misconception, Behold all nature engaged in the cause of Is- the wisest of men are very incompetent rael's God. The heavenly host first take up judges of the ways and works of the Althe quarrel; angels, legions of “angels that mighty. excel in strength:” “the least of whom could The winding up of the sacred poem, sugwield these elements.” The most powerful gests the most satisfactory apology for the and splendid parts of inanimate nature feel conduct of Jael, and accounts at the same time the alarm, and join their influence; “the stars for the warmth of the strains in which De. in their courses.” The earth quickly hears borah celebrates that conduct. It is the hor the heaven; the waters swell and rage; rid use which conquerors usually made of Kishon increased, most probably, by the re-victory, to which I allude. The wretched cent dreadful tempest which had fallen from females of the vanquished people fell a prey the air, rises suddenly upon them, and like to the brutal lust of the victors. This was a the Red Sea of old, swallows up, as in a mo- case so common that "the mother of Sisera ment, the enemy and the avenger,
and her wise ladies" are represented as so There is a singular force and beauty in lost to feminine delicacy and compassion as the repetition of the name of the river, with remorselessly to exult in the thought of porthe edition of the epithet “ancient.” It is tioning out the virgins of Israel to Sisera natural for men to value themselves on the and his soldiers, as the mere instruments of antiquity of their country, and its cities. It a brutal pleasure; as an article of horrid is the fond term which, in the honest pride booty for the lawless plunderer. “The and exultation of our hearts, we affix to our mother of Sisera looked out at a window, and own land; it seems to confer additional digni- cried through the lattice, Why is his chariot ty and importance; we associate in the idea, so long in coming ? why tarry the wheels of the valour and success of former times; we his chariots? Her wise ladies answered her, feel our hearts attracted as to a common pa- yea, she returned answer to herself, Have they rent; filial affection and brotherly love re- not sped ? have they not divided the prey, to vive at the sound. In the enthusiasm of every man a damsel or two? To Sisera a prey pious and poetical inspiration, she bestows of divers colours, a prey of divers colours of animation and passion on the flood; she re- needle-work, of divers colours of needle-work presents it as rising in pride and joy, and on both sides, meet for the necks of them that overflowing its banks, to serve the cause of take the spoil ?"* Now, may we not suppose ancient friends, lying under the rod of inso- both Jael and Deborah animated with a holy lence and oppression. And the period pa- indignation against the intended violators of thetically closes, with the prophetess, in a their sex's modesty and honour, and with a single word, apostrophizing herself as the holy joy, on the defeat of their ungracious honoured, happy instrument of co-operating purpose? May we not innocently suppose a with intelligent and animated nature in mixture of virtuous female spirit inspiring trampling pride and cruelty into the dust. “O what the one acted and the other sung? Our my soul, thou hast trodden down strength." pity for the fallen warrior, and his untimely,
I have already anticipated much of what inglorious fate, must of course abate, when I had to say, on the subject of the glowing we consider that a righteous and merciful eulogium which Deborah pronounces on the Providence, by whatever means, shortened a conduct of " Jael the wife of Heber.” Per- life, and stopped a career, which threatened mit me only to repeat, that in order to our the life, the virtue, the happiness of thousands. fully adopting the sentiments of the Israel In personifying the character of Sisera's itish poetess, we must be acquainted with mother and her attendants, Deborah presents
* Judges v. 28-30
* Judges v. 20.
us with a happy imitation of a passage in the as the sun when he goeth forth in his song of Moses on the triumphant passage of might." the Red Sea; where the poet insinuates him. Next to the great Lord of nature himself, self, by a bold figure of eloquence, into the who is, councils of Pharaoh, overhears their formid
to us invisible,
Or dimly seen, in these his lowest works; Milton. able resolutions, and in the close of the scene, rejoices in seeing their counsels, once so much that glorious creature of his power, the sun, dreaded, turned into foolishness, by the grace is the most striking and impressive of all oband power of Heaven. “The enemy said, Ijects. And poets of every description have will pursue, I will overtake, I will divide the enriched and ennobled their compositions by spoil; my lust shall be satisfied upon them; allusions to the glorious orb of day, “ of this I will draw my sword, my hand shall destroy great world the eye and soul,” as the brightthem. Thou didst blow with thy wind, the est inanimate image of Deity here below, sea covered them; they sank as lead in the the fountain of light, the dispenser of vital mighty waters."* So here, Deborah brings warmth, the parent of joy. The inspired in the matrons of Canaan as anticipating the sacred writers have likewise happily emfruits of victory, prematurely enjoying the ployed it to represent the most glorious anitriumph of the subjection of the Israelitish mated image of God in our world, a wise damsels to their own pride, and the pleasure and good man "going from strength to of their warriors; and she inspirits the grati- strength;" shining as a light in a dark place; tude and joy of her fair countrywomen, by silently, without expectation of return, withgently hinting at the dreadful hazard which out upbraiding, in an unceasing revolution they had run. This too, of course, diminish- of diffusing happiness; aiming at resemes our concern for the cruel disappointment blance to his Creator by becoming a god to which the mother of Sisera endured, looking his fellow-creatures. It is thus that Deborah and looking, from her window, but still look- concludes her song; with a warm effusion ing in vain for him who was never more to of faith, and hope, and desire, that righteousreturn; expecting and expecting that linger- ness might abound and increase, that good ing chariot, which the ancient river Kishon men might be in succession raised up, each had long ere now swept down its stream: in his day a light to his country, to mankind; Aushed with hope, only to make calamity "going forth as the sun in his might," from more bitter. And let that hope be for ever lustre to still higher lustre, from usefulness blasted, which could be accomplished only to usefulness, without diminution, and withby what humanity shudders to think of. out end. By the same simple but powerful
Having thus enjoyed self-gratulation, and imagery, the wise man represents the procalled forth the grateful congratulations of gress of true goodness; "the path of the her delivered country, and with heroic ardour just is as the shining light, that shineth more trampled on disappointed lust, insolence, and and more unto the perfect day." And Wise ambition, she now aims a nobler flight. The dom itself by a similar suggestion animates world and its transitory interests and employ- the zeal and supports the industry of those ments disappear. The throne of God meets who are to teach his religion to the nations her enraptured eye. Private, personal,, na- of the earth : " Ye are the light of the world. tional animosity are no more: all, all is lost Let your light so shine before men, that in the higher, unlimited, unchanging in- they may see your good works, and glorify terests of the divine glory. So let all thine your Father which is in heaven.” enemies perish, O Lord.”. This is but a pro To the whole is affixed an historical note, phetic enunciation of what needs must be. short indeed, but highly interesting and ime After one revolution has obliterated another, portant; “ And the land had rest forty years. one mortal interest swallowed another up- This is the noblest eulogium of Deborah, the after the distinctions of Jew and Gentile, most honourable display of her talents and Greek and barbarian, bond and free are lost virtues. If there be feelings worthy of envy, and forgotten, the honours of the divine jus- they are those of this exalted woman," on retice and mercy shall flourish and prevail
. flecting that God had honoured her to restore They that are afar from him; of whatever liberty, and peace to her country; and to other name or description, shall perish; and establish such a system of administration of the workers of iniquity shall be destroyed. justice, of civil government, of military dis
But the pious leader of the heavenly theme, cipline, and of religious worship, as preserved as if unwilling to shut up her song with an the public tranquillity for forty years. How idea so gloomy as the awful displeasure of effectually may every individual serve the the great God against his adversaries, re- community! Of what importance, then, is lieves herself and us, ty taking up the more every, the meanest individual! How lasting encouraging view of the favour of Jehovah to and how extensive is the influence of real his friends, and thus she fervently breathes worth! There is one way in which every put her soul; “ But let them that love him, be man may be a public blessing, may become * Exod. xv. 9, 10.
a saviour of his country-by cultivating the