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blessing to mankind; conveying to distant nations and latest posterity harmless pleasure blended with whole. some instruction.
On a favoured few has been conferred the combined glory of acting nobly, and writing well; of serving their own day and generation with credit to themselves and advantage to their country, and of transmitting useful information to regions remote and generations un. born. On the list of these illustrious few, stands with distinguished honour, the name of Deborah, the judge, the prophetess, the sweet singer of Israel; and it is with exultation we observe the most dignified, arduous and important stations of human life filled with reputation by a woman: a woman, who first, with resolution and intrepidity, saved her country in the hour of danger and distress, and ruled it with wisdom and equity; and then recorded her own atchievements in strains which must be held in admiration, so long as good taste and the love of virtue exist in the world.
Having with veneration and respect attended to the equitable decisions, and the oracles of truth which flowed from the lips of the female seer and sage, who sat under the palm-tree in mount Ephraim; and accompanied the undaunted heroine to the top of mount Tabor, and the ensanguined plains washed by the river of Kishon; let us listen with wonder and delight to the lofty strains of the female bard, and join our voices in the burden of her song.
This sublime poem is the most ancient that exists, two excepted, namely, that which celebrates the miraculous passage through the Red Sea; and the sweetly swelling notes of the dying swain of Israel. It is two hundred and thirty-four years later than the former, and one hundred and ninety-four years than the latter of these sacred compositions; but it is four hundred and ten years older than Homer, the great father of heathen poesy. From its high antiquity therefore, were there nothing else to recommend it to notice, it is most respectable; but from its antiquity and the very nature of poetical composition, it must of necessity be, in some respects, involved in difficulty and obscurity. This we pretend not wholly to clear up or to remove. Instead then of making an attempt in which we should probably, perhaps certainly fail, we shall satisfy ourselves with pointing out a few of the more obvious and striking beauties of a piece, which all will allow to contain many and shining excellencies.
The inscription of this hymn of praise, first challenges our notice. “Then sang Deborah, and Barak the son of Abinoam, on that day, saying,'Verse 1. In exhibiting the character and conduct of this truly estimable woman, the feminine delicacy and reserve are never dropped. As a ruler and a prophetess she is introduced under her relative character of the wife of Lapidoth. As the leader of armies to battle, and leader in the musical choir which celebrated the victories of her country, she is represented as the companion and coadjutrix of Barak, the son of Abinoam. She was undoubtedly the first woman of her own, perhaps of any age; but her consequence, in place of being diminished, is increased and supported by the blending of private, personal worth and ability, with the relations of social life, those of wife, mother and friend.
Adam might exist a little while in paradise, before Eve was formed, but nature and reason and religion, all seem to declare, that woman can neither comfortably nor reputably subsist, separated from that side whence she was originally taken. Who will deny, that the superiority in point of discretion and understanding is frequently on the side of the female? But a woman forfeits all pretension to that very superiority, the moment she assumes or boasts of it. Whether, therefore, it were Deborah's own good sense, and female modesty, which preferred appearing in a connected to appearing in a solitary state, though more flatter. ing to vanity; or whether the Spirit of God, in repre
life Sonal worth and pported by the ble being diminishery
Á dose of wife, moth ty, with the reling of private.
woman forfeits animes or boasts or sense, and fe
senting the most elevated of female geniuses in the most elevated of situations, thought proper to point her out as connected and dependent; the same lesson of moderation, diffidence, delicacy and condescension is powerfully inculcated: and her sex is instructed where their true dignity, safety, honour and comfort lie.
The time is marked, when this triumphant anthem was first composed and sung. “On that day.” It had been a day of danger, anxiety and fatigue: a day of vengeance upon the insulting foe, a day of mutual congratulation and rejoicing; but ill had Israel deserved such a victory, and shamefully had Deborah improved it, if either the emotions of joy or of revenge had excluded those of gratitude and love. The tongue of Deborah, like the pen of a ready writer, dictates “ acceptable words” to the thousands of her people; she cannot think of repose, till the evening sacrifice of praise be offered up, and from the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaketh. The day which the arm of Omnipotence had distinguished by wonders of mercy, must not be concluded without songs of deliverance. From “the confused noise of the warrior, and garments rolled in blood,” the soul turns with holy joy, to the acknowledgment of that “right hand and holy arm which had gotten them the victory:”and in one solemn“ praise ye the Lord” bursting at once from every tongue, every redeemed Israelite calls upon himself and upon his fellow to give unto JEHOVAH the glory due unto his name.
Here the song naturally begins, by this it must be supported, and in this it must terminate. All creatures, all events point out “ Him first, Him last, Him midst, and without end.” “ Praise ye the Lord.”
But, religion is “a reasonable service.” The divine essence we do not, we cannot know; “ the invisible things of God,” even “his eternal power and deity,” are to be discovered only “ by the things which he has made," and the things which he doth. Here then the spirit of praise immediately fixes, and
and in one arm which h
redeemed to bursting at
the recent interposition of a gracious Providence rises instantly into view: his “avenging of Israel," in which Jehovah is acknowledged as at once just and merciful; just, in recompensing tribulation to them that troubled his covenanted church and people; merciful in givinghis troubled people rest.
Vengeance; the vengeance of God! Fearful thought! but oh, it is sweetly relieved, by the reflection, that the right of executing vengeance, is claimed by the God of mercy, with awful propriety, as his own. This dreadful thunder no arm but his own must presume to wield; “ Vengeance is mine, I will repay, saith the Lord.” If I must be punished, “ let me fall now into the hand of the LORD, for his mercies are great: and let me not fall into the hand of man.” The only vengeance permitted to man is a vengeance of kindness and forgiveness; the only coals which he must scatter, are the coals of the fire of love. “ If thine enemy hun. ger, feed him, if he thirst, give him drink:"_“Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.” “ Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despite. fully use you and persecute you: that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.”
The voluntary actions of the people in offering themselves” to fight their own battles, are with singular beauty ascribed to the wisdom and goodness of God who has the “hearts of all in his hand,” and can “ turn them which way soever he will.” He who could have saved by miracles, will save by means. If there be a spirit of concord to resist the common ene my, it is of the LORD. If internal dissention aid the enemy without, we behold a righteous God infatuating those whom he means to destroy.
Having thus simply proposed the glorious subject of ber praise, “the sweet enthusiast” prepares to unfold
uth; views all na theme; and sHear, o ye
and amplify it. She throws her eyes over the face of the whole earth; views all nations and their potentates, as interested in the glowing theme; and summons an admiring world to listen to her song. “Hear, O ye kings; give ear, O ye princes; I, even I, will sing unto the Lord; I will sing praise to the Lord God of Israel,” Verse 3. What so delightful to a grateful and affectionate heart, as the enumeration of benefits received! What benefactor once to be compared with the Giver of all good, “ the Father of lights, from whom cometh down every good gift, and every perfect!”
Having proposed her theme and summoned her au. gust audience, the divine poetess seems to pause for a moment, as if awed by the presence of such a splendid audience, and overwhelmed with the magnitude of the task she has undertaken, and with renovated strength, aims her flight, like the eagle, up to her native skies. The deliverance of that day, brings former wonders of mercy to mind; and “God, the same yesterday, to-day and for ever," is seen and adored in all. Instead of expatiating on the goodness of the Most High in strains addressed to the “kings and princes” whom she had called to attend, she rises at once to “ JEHOVAH's aw. ful throne,” loses all sense of created majesty, and loses herself in the contemplation of infinite perfection. “ Lord, when thou wentest out of Seir, when thou marchedst out of the field of Edom, the earth trembled, and the heavens dropped, the clouds also dropped wa. ter. The mountains melted from before the Lord, even that Sinai from before the Lord God of Israel,"> Verse 4, 5.
The former part of this animated address probably refers to that passage in the history of Israel which we have in the book of Numbers, chap. xx, relating to the passage of Israel through the land of Idumea, which was humbly and peaceably solicited, and unkindly refused. Of this, some particulars might have been preserved by tradition to the times of Deborah, though not.