Oldalképek
PDF
ePub

this great woman, this more than princess, through the remainder of her song, in another Lecture.

- Men and brethren, we are furnished with a much more noble subject of praise-a subject which angels delight to celebrate in celestial strains-a subject which carries us back into the eternal counsels of peace " before the world was,” which carries us forward to the grand consummation, when " time shall be no longer ;" when " the ransomed of the Lord shall return and come to Zion with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads :" when " they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sigbing shall fice away." Need I point out the era, christians, and the spot, and the performers, and the audience, or repeat the words of the lofty theme?--" There were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for behold I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David, a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling-clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God, in the highest, and on earth peace, good will towards men.”* Here are celebrated, not the transient interests of a petty tribe, the momentary triumph of the oppressed, and the downfal of the oppressor; not events which have long ago spent all their force, and left no trace behind; but the broad, unbounded, permanent interests of mankind; thriumph of “the love of Christ which passeth knowledge;" of " the peace of God which passeth all understanding ;" events which extend their influence into eternity. We celebrate “ the praises of Him, who hath called us out of darkness into his marvellous light”-of God, who “ so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”+-Of “ Him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, and hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen." OF Ilim " who, through death, has destroyed him that had the power of death, that is the devil.” The burden of the christian's song is, “Salvation,” salvation begun, going on, ready to be accomplished. “The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever.''

The song of Deborah exhibits awful distinctions between man and man, between nation and nation ; presents a mystery of Providence, which human understanding endeavours in vain to trace : in the song of the redeemed of the Lord, all distinction is abolished; it presents a mystery of grace which “angels desire to look into ;” it is in full harmony sung, by those who have "come from the east and from the west, from the south and from the north, and have sat down with Abraham and Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of God :" where the spirit of this world finds no place, and its differences are absorbed of the spirit of love: where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free; but Christ is all, and in all.” Let these reflections be practically improved, in conformity to the apostolic exhortation, by our daily learning to put on, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering ; forbearing one another, and forgiving one another-and above all these things, put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts." Amen.

: * Luke ii. 8–14.

"

John iii. 16.

Rev. 15, 6.

Rev. xi. 15,

HISTORY OF DEBORAH.

LECTURE V.

JUDGES V, 12, 13.

Awake, awake, Deborah : awake, awake, utter a song : arisc, Barak, and lead thy captivity captive,

thou son of Abinoam. Then he made him that remaineth have dominion over the nobles among the people : the Lord made me have dominion over the mighty.

It is natural for man to look forward to futurity; and to derive a part, at least, of his felicity and importance from the estimation in which he is to be held by posterity. He knows that his body must soon die, and his connexion with the world be dissolved; but he flatters himself with the fond hope, that his name may survive his ashes, and that his memory may be cherished and respected, though his person be lost in the grave, and sink into oblivion.

When this anticipation, and desire of immortality, serve as a stimulus to virtuous exertion, and call forth wisdom and goodness, honourably to fulfil their day, the love of fame is a respectable principle in the individual, because it becomes a blessing to mankind. But to wade to the temple of fame through a sea of blood ; to extract “the bubble reputation” from widow's tears and the groans of expiring wretches, is worse than contemptible; it is detestable, it is monstrous. And, whatever national partiality and prejudice may have done, reason and humanity will always regard such characters as Alexander and Cæsar with abhorrence, strip them of their ill earned glory, and stigmatize their names to the latest generations, as the enemies of mankind.

The spirit of patriotism, in other respects noble and excellent, is here faulty, pernicious, and worthy of the severest censure. It encroaches on the sacred rights of loving-kindness and tender mercy. It encroaches on the more sacred prerogatives of high Heaven. It would make the God of the spirits of all flesh, a party in the quarrels of two petty states, and force the great interests of an universe to bend to the caprice, the pride, the ambition or revenge of some paltry prince. Hence, the literary monuments of all nations, exhibit a narrow, illiberal, ungenerous, impious spirit. The warlike genius of Rome acquired the ascendant over her rival Carthage. The literary genius of that gallant people assumed the superiority of course ; and Punic perfidy, barbarity and cowardice, became the subject of proverbial apothegms, historical records, and poetical rhapsodies. But suppose, for a moment, the scales changed, and the fate of Carthage preponderating, and we should have had this whole picture reversed ; and Roman not Punic faithlessness, cruelty and cowardice had been the burden of the song, and the object of detestation. While our notes of triumph rend the vault of heaven, cross that brook, look forward from the summit of that little hill, where we are celebrating victory with all the insolence of success, and erecting the monumental column to prosperous valour, and nought is to be seen, but sights of woe, no voice is to

be heard, but that of lamentation and despair ; while angels, from yonder sphere, look down with pity and concern, such as angels feel, on both the victor and the vanquished. “The broad eye of one Creator, takes in all mankind : his laws expand the heart;" and the “ Te Deum,” which angels sing with rapture, is, “ Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will towards men."

We must carry these ideas with us as a corrective to the vehemence of poetical enthusiasm, and learn still to distinguish between the rapturous praise and censure of a female patriot, and the calm, equitable, unbiassed applause or condemnation of unerring wisdom and eternal justice. In the picture of human nature here suspended before our eyes, we behold it, as it is, not what it ought, in all respects, to be.

Deborah having proposed her subject, in plain and simple terms, in the second verse, and summoned the princes and potentates of the earth to listen to her song, as if the whole world were interested in the event she was about to celebrate, she presents to them an object supremely worthy of their attention and reverence, namely, the great Jehovau marching in awful state before the armies of his people, and delivering to them his dreadful law from Sinai, while universal nature bears witness to the presence of the Creator and Lord of all. “The earth trembling, the mountains melting, the powers of heaven shaken."

From thence she turns a weeping eye to the recent miseries of her yet bleeding country, and summons her compatriots to gratitude and joy, for the deliverance of that day, from the recollection of the cruel restraints under which they so lately lived, and the calamities which they endured : and she rises into holy rapture at the thought, that a gracious Providence had not only wrought salvation for his people, but made her the blessed instrument of ef fecting it. But in recalling the memory of former evils, in order to awaken holy joy, she fails not to trace those evils up to their proper source, in order to excite holy sorrow and contrition; " They chose new gods; then was war in the gates: was there a shield or spear seen among forty thousand in Israel ?"'*

The great object of the prophetess is, to impress this everlasting and unchangeable truth, that sin is the ruin of any nation, and that salvation is of the Lord. The moment a new god is set up, behold a new enemy is in the gate. That instant the idol is pulled down, the hope of Israel revives. The poetic question of Deborah, “was there a shield or spear seen among forty thousand in Israel ?" expresses the highest degree of political dejection and distress; and represents the insulting foe, as not only filling all their borders with present consternation, but also, undermining all their hope for the time to come ; stripping them of every kind of armour both for defence and attack ; to such a degree, that not one man, out of forty thousand, was furnished for the field.

A Jewish Rabbint has given a turn somewhat different to the words of the text, and not an absurd one. “ Has Israel chosen new gods ? then was war in the gates. Was there shield or spear seen among forty thousand ?" that is to say, “ From the time that Israel made choice of strange gods, they were under a necessity of maintaining war in their gates; or, of supporting a standing army for defence against the inroads of their enemies. But now that you offer yourselves willingly to the Lord, and put away the strange gods which are among you, see whether you have any need of shield or spear against the most formidable and numerous hosts of foes, against the thousands and forty thousands of Canaan ? No, JEHOVAH himself is your shield and

* Judges v. 8.

Sal. Jarchi, page 64.

buckler, he fights your battles. Heaven and earth combine to destroy the adversary, the stars in their courses fought against Sisera, the river Kishon swallows them up.”

“My heart is toward the governors of Israel, that offered themselves wil lingly among the people. Bless ye the Lord, Speak, ye that ride on white asses, ye that sit in judgement, and walk by the way. They that are delivered from the noise of archers in the places of drawing water ; there shall they rehearse the righteous acts of the Lord, even the righteous acts towards the inhabitants of his villages in Israel; then shall the people of the Lord go down to the gates."* That we may enter into the true spirit of the patriotic bard, let us suppose, what it is apparent she has in view, namely, severally to address the various orders and descriptions of men, whereof the Israelitish state was composed, and who had each a peculiar, as well as a common interest, in the salvation which they celebrated. She begins with her companions in the warfare, who, roused by her exhortations, and a sense of their country's wrongs, had cheerfully offered themselves to this laborious and hazardous service. “My heart is toward the governors of Israel, that offered themselves willingly among the people. Bless ye the Lord.”+ They best knew how little was due to human skill and valour, how much to the gracious and powerful interposition of Heaven ; let them, therefore, lead the band, and ascribe unto Jehovah the glory due unto his name. She next turns to the civil governors and judges of the land, and invites them to continue the song. “ Speak, ye that ride on white asses, ye that sit in judgement, and walk by the way."} Such was the simple state in which the rulers of Israel travelled from place to place, administering justice. The ideas, in her address to them, are tender and pathetic, and may be thus extended, “ Alas! my associates in government, it was but yesterday, that we were rulers without subjects, judges without a tribunal, and without authority: the lives and property of Israel were not secured and protected by law, but were at the disposal of a foreign lawless despot; and your progress through the land in the exercise of your high office, was checked and overawed by a licensed banditti. Let us rejoice together, that government has reverted its channel ; the highways are no longer blocked up, and therefore no longer unoccupied. Place your thrones of judgement where you will, in the gate, in the highway, the communication is open, there is none to make you afraid, the enemies whom you have seen, you shall see them no more again forever."

Her next address seems to be made to the shepherds of the lately oppressed country. “They that are delivered from the noise of archers in the places of drawing water ; there shall they rehearse the righteous acts of the Lord, even the righteous acts towards the inhabitants of his villages in Israel; then shall the people of the Lord go down to the gates.''S They are represented as trembling at the sound of their own feet among the pebbles of the brook, lest thereby they should awaken the attention of their rapacious masters; they are afraid to drive their flocks to the watering place, lest they should expose themselves and their harmless fleecy charge, to the cruel shafts of the archer, ever on the watch to gall and annoy them. But now, there, even there, in the very scene of their sorrow and misery, where the rustling of a leaf durst not be heard, they shall break out together into singing; there, free from sorrow, free from fear, “shall they rehearse the righteous acts of the Lord, even the righteous acts to the inhabitants of the villages in Israel.” Finally, she calls upon the inhabitants of the villages, the husbandmen and vine-dressers, to add their voices to the swelling band, on recovering their tranquillity, on being restored to the felicity of labouring for themselves, and saved from the

* Judges v. 9–11.,

Judges v. 9.

# Judges v. 10.

Jadges v. 11.

mortification of seeing lazy, insolent strangers devouring the fruit of their painful toil, and repairing, as before, in happier days, to their own gates, 10 their own judges for justice and judgement. Thus we hear, as it were, the tuneful choir gradually increasing in number, the peasant taking up the song which the shepherd had put into his mouth, the shepherd following the magistrate, the magistrate the soldier, till all Israel becomes one voice, one heart, one soul, to celebrate the high praises of God. Faint representation of that more glorious consummation, that purer triumph, that more auspicious day, that inexpressibly more important salvation, to which the believer in Christ Jesus looks in hope.

The voice of this universal chorus having ceased, a solemn pause of some moments seems to ensue; when the divinely-inspired poetess awakes to new rapture; and the harmony of myriads of joyful voices subsides into the melody of one simple strain. “Awake, awake, Deborah : awake, awake, utter a gong : arise, Barak, and lead thy captivity captive, thou son of Abinoam."* What genuine touches of nature have we here, what simplicity, what pathos, what sublinity! She seems to regret her exhausted powers ; her spirit is still willing; she cannot bear to cease so soon from so divine an employ ; she starts into fresh enthusiasm. Having put words of praise into the mouths of a whole saved people, she takes up her own peculiar strain ; " Awake, awake, Deborah : awake, awake, utier a song :' And then, turning to the companion of her victory, excites him to make a public display of the wonderful trophies of that wondrous day; “ Arise, Barak, and lead thy captivity captive, thou son of Abinoam." Exhibit them in chains, who had forged chains for the hands and feet of Israel ; lead them captive, who led in captivity the freeborn sons of God ; shew triumphantly the spoils of them that spoiled thee; " the prey taken from the mighty, and the lawful captive delivered ;" them that "oppressed thee fed with their own flesh, and drunken with their own blood, as with sweet wine;" a righteous “God contending with them, who contended with thee." - Thou son of Abinoam.” She rouses her noble colleague to excel in praise, as he had excelled in counsel and courage, by one of the most powerful motives of human conduct, the honour of his father's name and family. Let the names of Barak and Abinoam be transmitted, hand in hand, with respect, to the latest generations; let the world know that on Abinoam a gracious Providence conferred the distinguished honour of being the father of the father of his country.

It is not ancestry, it is not country that can bestow celebrity on a deedless name, on an idle or worthless character; it is illustrious virtue, it is superiour wisdom, it is useful ability that confers nobility, true nobility on families, and celebrity on countries. Contending cities claim the honour of giving birth io Homer. Strip Athens of her renowned sons, and she sinks into a mass of rocks and sand. How would the heart of Abinoam glow with delight, as often as the sound of his name reached his ears, in connexion with that of a son whom a grateful country acknowledged, and celebrated with songs, as its saviour !

In the 13th verse we see the low and reduced state of Israel again brought into view, to prepare for a fresh discovery of the power and goodness of God, and to exbibit in another point of light, the solidity, strength and security of his church, “out of weakness made strong," " waxing," in a moment, "valiant in fight, turning to flight the armies of the aliens.” “Then he made him that remaineth have dominion over the nobles among the people : the Lord made me have dominion over the mighty.” In two striking particulars, this gracious interposition of Heaven is emphatically pointed out.

* Judges v. 12. Vol vi.

Judges y. 13.

« ElőzőTovább »