Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

to prosper, their own exertions must co-operate with the influence of over-ruling Providence. Such was either the general despondency that prevailed in Israel at that dark period, or such the general confidence reposed in Deborah, that Barak accepts the commission given him, and consents to head the forces of his country into the field, under the express condition that their prophetess and judge would be his companion and directress in the welfare. To this she yields a cordial assent, and cheerfully engages to take part in all that regarded the public service, whether counsel or resolution were needful to carry it on. She would not, could it with propriety be avoided, become a leader in arms, but feels no reluctance, is conscious of no fear, when attending the captain of the Lord's host into “the valley of decision.” It is pleasant to observe how the manly virtues, properly modified and corrected, may be adopted into the female character, not only without giving offence, but so as to communicate the highest satisfaction and win approbation; and how, on the other hand, the softest of the female graces, may, without sinking the manly character, without exciting contempt, become a shade to the boldest, hardiest masculine qualities. Courage has been reckoned an attribute peculiar to men; but it is easy to conceive it so raised, and so expressed, and so exerted, as to be not only pardonable in, but highly ornamental to, woman. “A hen gathering her chickens under her wings,” is a picture not only of maternal tenderness, but of undaunted intrepidity. “A bear bereaved of her whelps,” is not more fierce and more fearless. A mother defying the danger of the pestilential air which she inhales from her smitten child; a mother flying as a lioness on the brutal wretch who dared to crush her little darling; how dignified, what a noble creature she is! A tender virgin stirred up into holy indignation at hearing her absent friend traduced by the tongue of malevolence, forgetting herself for a moment, to repel

the barbarous insult. O it is a disorder so lovely, that it almost deserves to be stamped with the name of virtue. To see Deborah quitting her seat under the palmtree, to attend Barak to the top of mount Tabor, when the enemies of her God and of her country are to be engaged and subdued; what heart does not catch fire from her heroic ardour! what tongue can withhold its tribute of praise! While Deborah, without hesitation, agrees to accompany Barak to the high places of the field, by virtue of the spirit of prophecy which was upon her, she informs him that the glory he should obtain, was to suffer considerable diminution, not only by her participation of it, but also by the communication of it to another woman, for whom Providence had reserved the honour of putting the last hand to this arduous undertaking. Indeed this seems to be a crisis, in the history of human nature, at which Providence intended to exhibit the powers of the female mind in all their force and all their extent; intended to represent the sex in every situation that can create esteem, inspire love, command respect, or awaken terror. The united spirits and achievements of Deborah, and Jael the wife of Heber, seem to comprehend the whole compass of the feminine character in its more extraordinary feelings and exertions; and in the displaying the conduct of these two individuals, rouse our attention to the whole sex, as the most warm, steady and affectionate of friends, or the most formidable, dangerous and determined of enemies. But we must not bring forward both at once. We conclude with a reflection or two, on what has been suggested from the history of Deborah. I. It exposes the folly of despising or undervaluing any description of our fellow-creatures in the lump. All national reflections are founded in ignorance and folly; and the despisers have often paid dear for their insolence and presumption. The illiberal abuse so indiscriminately poured upon the gentler sex, is of the same nature. It generally comes from men something worse than the worst part of womankind. The truly sensible, and the truly brave, entertain far better and far more just sentiments of female utility and importance in the scale of being; and are ever disposed to ascribe to female capacity and worth, more than female modesty and wisdom are disposed to assume, or even to receive. No good man ever wished to see the female character undervalued or degraded; and perhaps very few good women have ever violently coveted stations and employments which belong peculiarly to men. But as nature delights in producing variety, as well as uniformity, it is not to be wondered at, if we sometimes meet with men more silly, timid and frivolous, than the most insignificant of the other sex; and on the other hand, women as daring, as enlightened, as magnanimous, as public spirited, as the first among mankind. The rivalship, however, and competition of the sexes, is altogether ridiculous and absurd. Each has its distinct, and both have their conjoined dignity and usefulness—and mutual concession is the truest wisdom in the one and the other. But, II. However weak and contemptible the instrument were in itself, from the hand that wields it, it becomes mighty and respectable: and the history before us becomes, and that not darkly, a typical representation of the gospel of Christ, which was “to the Jews a stumbling-block, and to the Greeks foolishness.” Pride and self-sufficiency smile at the idea of a female prophet, a female judge, a female poet, a female politician, a female warrior; and yet, in truth, women have filled all these offices, with credit to themselves, and with satisfaction to the public. And “who hath made man's mouth? or who maketh the dumb or deaf, or the seeing, or the blind!” In the honoured list of those who “through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens,” female names too stood recorded with commendation and renown. And “what hast thou, O man, but what thou hast first received?”—“God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise: and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; and base things of the world, and things which are despised hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to naught things that are: that no flesh should glory in his presence.” III. As the great Ruler of the world never can want an instrument to save, so he is always provided with instruments to punish. “He is wise in heart and mighty in strength; who had hardened himself against him and hath prospered?” The haughtiest of monarchs is at length constrained to “praise and extol and honour the King of heaven, all whose works are truth, and his ways judgment, and those that walk in pride he is able to abase.” “By a strong hand and stretched-out arm,” Pharaoh is at length compelled to “let Israel o.” “Humble” then “thyself,” O man, “under his mighty hand.” “Be wise now, O ye kings, be instructed, ye judges of the earth, serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling.” The next Lecture will carry on the history of Deborah, in connexion with that of Jael. I conclude the present, with calling on the female part of my audience to bless God, that while he has carried some of their sex, through the most arduous employments, most eminent stations, and most hazardous enterprises, not only with safety, but with applause, he is pleased, in general, to put their talents and their virtues to a trial less severe; and let them remember, that after all which has been, or may be said, in praise of the few who have acted wisely and well upon the public theatre, to the generality, “the post of honour, is a private station.”

[merged small][ocr errors][merged small]

Then Jael, Heber’s wife, took a nail of the tent, and took an hammer in her hand, and went softly unto him, and smote the nail into his temples, and fastened it into the ground for he was fast asleep, and weary. So he died. And behold, as Barak pursued Sisera, Jael came out to meet him, and said unto him, Come, and I will show thee the man whom thou seekest. And when he came into her tent, behold, Sisera lay dead, and the nail was in his temples. So God subdued on that day Jabin the king of Canaan before the children of Israel–JUDGE's iv. 21—23.

WHEN we consider how frequent, how violent, and how sudden are the transitions from condition to condition in human life, pride appears to be a mystery of folly, below contempt. To behold a rational being assuming consequence on an empty, unmeaning title; or from the possession of a little wealth, that bird of passage, eternally on the wing; or from beauty and strength, which accident or disease may blast in a moment, and which the lapse of a very few years certainly will impair; to behold a man putting confidence in princes, or feeding on the applause of a multitude; to hear him saying to himself, “Soul, take thy rest; thou hast much goods laid up for many years.” “M mountain standeth strong; I shall never be moved.”

« AnteriorContinuar »