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thoughts of heart. Why abodest thou among the sheep-folds, to hear the bleatings of the flocks? For the divisions of Reuben there were great searchings of heart. Gilead abode beyond Jordan: and why did Dan remain in ships? Asher continued on the sea-shore, and abode in his breaches. Zebulun and Naphtali were a people that jeoparded their lives unto the death in the high places of the field,” Verse 15–18. This is the third time that prophetic inspiration has presented us with the discriminating features of the sons of Israel, and of the tribes which descended from them, at three different periods, and in very different situations —Jacob on his dying bed, Moses on the wing to ascend mount Nebo, and Deborah on the defeat of Sisera. The comparative view of Israel at these distant periods seem to me a subject of curious, pleasant and not useless disquisition, and I mean to devote the meditation of a particular evening to it. The season* arrests us now, and demands a series of reflections suited to winter, and change, and decay, and death. The past rushes upon our memory and af. fections in an impetuous tide. The future still presents the same impenetrable curtain to our eager eyes. We go on fondly planning; and after a thousand proofs of vanity, return to treasure up for ourselves vexation of spirit. But we shall be relieved at length, and ere long land on that shore where fear and hope are no longer. If permitted to enter on the commencement of another year, we shall endeavour to improve that kind indulgence, by endeavouring to suggest reflections suited to the occasion. If permitted to advance to a second sabbath in a new year, we shall attempt to resume our accustomed pursuits: If to any, this be the last opportunity of the kind, the solemn farewell is now taken. And kind is that Providence which does not always let us know when we are saying “finally farewell;”
* The last day of the year.
which permits the bitterness of death to pass before we are sensible it is come. Wo, wo, wo, to the man who is punished with a foresight of the evil that is coming upon him. The exploits of a Deborah and a Barak now live only in the page of history; their song is now to be found only in a few measured words, whose rhyme is lost, whose sense is obscure, whose spirit is evaporated. But, my friends, we have this day been commemorating” an event which will never sink in oblivion, never spend its force, never lose its importance. We have this day been carrying on, keeping up the song, which the enraptured shepherds of Bethlehem caught two thousand years ago from a choir of the heavenly host, which is ever pleasing, ever new, let us again resume it, and teach it to our children. “Glory, glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will towards men.” “Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto Him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever.” Amen. Hallelujah! HISTORY OF DEBORAH.
* In the participation of the Lord’s supper.
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 inspiration, and contemplating the various revolutions of human affairs which it unfolds, we seem transported to a superior region; we behold the earthly ball rolling round beneath our feet: we witness the birth, the progress, the dissolution of nations; we learn to correct the prejudices of education, and our narrowness of conception; we no longer ignorantly admire, nor superciliously despise our fellow-creatures; we adore the eat Father and Lord of all, who “ has of one blood formed all nations of men to inhabit upon the face of the whole earth,” and “whose kingdom ruleth over all.” From that elevation, we observe with humble acquiescence and holy joy, the designs of eternal providence, maturing, and executing themselyes; the individual passing away, but the species permanent; states and kingdoms changing their form, their spirit, their character; but human nature the same under every government, in every climate, under every sky. We behold regions, and periods, and nations rising into notice, into eminence, into importance, by the talents, the virtues, the address of one man, of one woman; and returning again to obscurity and insignificance, through a defect of wisdom, of public spirit, of exertion. The history of perhaps no nation exhibits such striking and instructive variety of character and event, as that of the posterity of Abraham. It is interesting in itself, and it is closely connected with the general interests of mankind. That people, through dispersion of near two thousand years, have preserved an existence. Hated, despised and persecuted by all other nations, they remain unextirpated; a monument at once of the vengeance and of the care of Heaven: and unequivocal intimations, from the oracles of truth, hold them up as the objects of eternal providence, in events of superior magnitude, yet to take place. We have followed the successive changes which they underwent, with successive emotions of astonishment, exultation, indignation and sorrow. And we find them, at the defeat of Sisera and his host, in a situation highly critical and interesting. The prophetess Deborah in this celebrated song, goes into a comparative delineation of the respective merit and demerit of the several tribes; and thereby enables us to estimate the particular character of each, at different eras of their political existence. Jacob on his death-bed, and Moses on the wing to depart, in his valedictory address, present us with a similar opportunity; of which we are now to avail ourselves, in the two-fold view of extending a little our pittance of knowledge of human nature, and increasing our admiration of, and dependence upon, the divine Providence. In the dying benediction of Jacob, Judah, his fourth son, and the tribe which should spring from him, make a most conspicuous figure. The spirit of prophecy employs every image expressive of power, greatness, plenteousness and duration, to represent the future eminence and superiority of that tribe. In all the musVOL. III. 2 K
ters which were made of the people during the forty years wandering in the wilderness, and in the distribution of place and station according to divine appointment, in their encampments and removals, we still find Judah excelling in number and strength, and occupying the post of honour. But Moses takes leave of that tribe, with a very slight degree of notice; and in the song of Deborah their name is not so much as mentioned, nor is any allusion made to any exploit of theirs, in celebrating the triumph of that eventful day. Indeed the spirit and pre-eminence of Judah seems to have been gradually on the decline, from the days of Caleb, who conquered and dispossessed the sons of Anak; till they were revived, maintained and extended under David and Solomon. And, for several centuries, we find this prerogative tribe, which was destined to the lasting honours of royalty and rule, sleeping in oblivion and unimportance with the insignificant tribe of Simeon, which hardly every atchieved any action, or produced any personage worthy of being remembered. Of so much consequence is one man in a tribe, in a nation, in a world. But the person and tribe the most distinguished in the prophecy of Jacob, and the blessing of Moses, are also the most distinguished in this triumphant anthem, Ephraim, the younger son of Joseph, the beloved son of Jacob, raised by the destination and interposition of high Heaven, to power and precedency over his elder brother. To the exertions of this branch of the house of Joseph, in conjunction with those of Zebulun, and Napthtali, the victory now by the blessing of God obtained over the armies of Canaan, was chiefly to be ascribed. The spirit of their father Joshua, dead in so many other of the tribes of Israel, is alive in them, and happily is propitious to the common cause. A severe censure of the conduct of the two tribes and a half beyond the river, is more than insinuated; it is brought directly forward. They are represented as totally lost to all public spirit, and wrapt up in cold