Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

sents 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 their 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, long suffering; 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.

[ocr errors]

HISTORY OF DEBORAH.

LECTURE V.

Awake, awake, Deborah; awake, awake, utter a song: arise, 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.JUDGES V. 12, 13.

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 widows' 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 suceess, and erecting the monumental column to prosperous valour, and nought is to be seen, but sighs of wo; 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 JEHOVAH 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 effecting 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; 66 They choose new gods; then was war in the gates: was there a shield or spear seen among forty thousand in Israel?" Verse 8.

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 shild 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 rabbin* 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 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 towards the governors of Israel that offered themselves willingly among the people: Bless ye the Lord. Speak, ye that ride on white asses, ye that sit in judgment, and walk by the way. They

* Sal. Jarchi, page 64.

« VorigeDoorgaan »