Imágenes de páginas

oracles of truth, hold them up as the objects, in conjunction with those of Zebulun and of eternal Providence, in events of superior Naphtali, the victory now by the blessing of magnitude, yet to take place.

God obtained over the armies of Canaan was We have followed the successive changes chiefly to be ascribed. The spirit of their which they underwent, with successive emo- father Joshua, dead in so many other of the tions of astonishment, exultation, indignation, tribes of Israel, is alive in thein, and happily and sorrow. And we find them at the defeat is propitious to the common cause. of Sisera and his host, in a situation highly A severe censure of the conduct of the critical and interesting. The prophetess two tribes and a half beyond the river. is Deborah in this celebrated song, goes into a more than insinuated; it is brought dicomparative delineation of the respective rectly forward. They are represented as merit and demerit of the several tribes; and totally lost to all public spirit, and wrapé thereby enables us to estimate the particular up in cold selfishness and inditierence. character of each, at different cras of their Jordan was a kind of defence to them from political existence. Jacob on his death-bed, the Canaanitish foe, and the cries of their and Moses on the wing to depart in his oppressed brethren beyond the river are valedictory address, present us with a similar drowned in the more interesting bleatings opportunity; of which we are now to avail of their own flocks. The same spirit of selfourselves, in the twofold view of extending ishness is represented as pervading the tribes a little our pittance of knowledge of human who inhabited the sea coasts, Dan and Asher, nature, and increasing our admiration of, and and who, subsisting by trade, and absorbed dependence upon, the Divine Providence. by the love of gain, steeled their hearts to

In the dying benediction of Jacob, Judah, the feelings of sympathy and humanity. his fourth son, and the tribe which should Drawing their supplies from the ocean, they spring from him make a most conspicuous forget they have a country; and under the figure. The spirit of prophecy employs influence of one domineering lust, all the every image expressive of power, greatness, better claims of the human heart, are sus plenteousness, and duration, to represent the pressed and silenced. They pursue their future eminence and superiority of that tribe. merchandize, as the others attended to their In all the musters which were made of the sheep-farms, regardless what their wretched people during the forty years, wandering in countrymer. meanwhile endured. “For the the wilderness, and in the distribution of divisions of Reuben there were great thoughts place and station according to divine appoint- of heart. Why abodest thou among the ment, in their encampinents and renovals, sheep-folds, to hear the bleatings of the we still find Judah excelling in number and flocks? For the divisions of Reuben there strength, and occupying the post of honour. were great searchings of heart. Gilead But Moses takes leave of that tribe, with a , abode beyond Jordan : and why did Dan very slight degree of notice; and in the song remain in ships ? Asher continued on the of Deborah their name is not so much as seashore, and abode in his breaches."* mentioned, nor is any allusion made to any Such is the general view of the state of exploit of theirs, in celebrating the iriumph Israel at this period, which the words of Deof that eventful day. Indeed the spirit and borah convey. The import of many of the pre-eminence of Judah seems to have been expressions which the prophetess employs to gradually on the decline, from the days of convey her feelings on this occasion, we preCaleb, who conquered and dispossessed the tend not to understand or to explain. Is it sons of Anak; till they were revived, maintain any wonder that in a poetical composition ed, and extended under David and Solomon. upwards of three thousand years' old, in a lasAnd for several centuries, we find this pre- guage so little studied, referring to a history rogative tribe, which was destined to the which the outline only is drawn, there should lasting honours of royalty and rule, sleeping be many things difficult to be understood ! in oblivion and unimportance, with the in- This much is evident upon the face of it, that significant tribe of Simeon, which hardly Israel at that unhappy period exhibited a ever achieved any action, or produced any spectacle, bearing but too near a resemblance personage worthy of being remembered. Of to what our own timest have seen drendso much consequence is one man in a tribe, fully realized. A, whole host of foes, a world in a nation, in a world.

in arms, combined to work the downfall of a But the person and tribe the most distin- sinful devoted country. Internal discord, the guished in the prophecy of Jacob, and the extinction of public virtue, the doniinion of blessing of Moses, are also the most distin. barefaced iniquity--but, the arm of the Lord guished in this triumphant anthem. Ephraim, is revealed, and salvation is wrought. the younger son of Joseph, the beloved son The picture which the poetess draws of the of Jacob, raised by the destination and inter- desperate state of Israelitish affairs is truly position of high İleaven, to power

and cedency over his elder brother. To the ex

* Judges v. 15–17. ertions of this branch of the house of Joseph, America, and an armci nutrality

† Great Britain embroiled with France, Spain, Halland,


affecting; and is a happy preparation for a dis- many circumstances of the case, which the play of that unexpected and astonishing relief, conciseness of the sacred history enables us which had just turned their sorrow into glad- not to discover; that there is a singularity ness. Judah lulled asleep in listless inaction, in the whole conduct and occasion of the buwithout exertion, without existence; a fourth siness, which forbids it to be drawn into a part of the national force, on the other side precedent, and pleaded in ordinary cases as Jordan, careless, tending their flocks; ano- an example or an excuse, that we are to disther fourth devoted to their private traffic; the tinguish carefully betwixt the poetic ardour sword of judgment in the feeble hand of a fe- and enthusiasm of a female bard and patriot, male; confederated kings threatening their and the calm, unimpassioned praise and cenutter extirpation; enemies, numerous, "strong sure of sound reason, or the deliberate apand lively, and hating them with a cruel ha- probation of the God of truth, mercy, and jus tred;" what power can dissipate the gathered tice. We know certainly that God cannot storm? That power which says to the roar- love nor commend perfidy, cruelty, or revenge. ing ocean, “Hitherto shalt thou come, but But he justly may, and often does employ the no further, and here shall thy proud waves outrageous passions of one great offender to be stayed.”. “They fought from heaven: the punish those of another. And that through stars in their courses fought against Sisera.”* ignorance, prejudice, or wilful misconception, Behold all nature engaged in the cause of Is- the wisest of men are very incompetent rael's God. The heavenly host first take up judges of the ways and works of the Althe quarrel; angels, legions of “angels that mighty. excel in strength:” “the least of whom could The winding up of the sacred poem, sugwield these elements.” The most powerful gests the most satisfactory apology for the and splendid parts of inanimate nature feel conduct of Jael, and accounts at the same time the alarm, and join their influence; “the stars for the warmth of the strains in which De. in their courses.” The earth quickly hears borah celebrates that conduct. It is the horthe heaven; the waters swell and rage; rid use which conquerors usually made of Kishon increased, most probably, by the re-victory, to which I allude. The wretched cent dreadful tempest which had fallen from females of the vanquished people fell a prey the air, rises suddenly upon them, and like to the brutal lust of the victors. This was a the Red Sea of old, swallows up, as in a mo case so common that “the mother of Sisera ment, the enemy and the avenger.

and her wise ladies” are represented as so There is a singular force and beauty in lost to feminine delicacy and compassion as the repetition of the name of the river, with remorselessly to exult in the thought of porthe edition of the epithet "ancient." It is tioning out the virgins of Israel to Sisera natural for men to value themselves on the and his soldiers, as the mere instruments of antiquity of their country, and its cities. It a brutal pleasure; as an article of horrid is the fond term which, in the honest pride booty for the lawless plunderer. “The and exultation of our hearts, we affix to our mother of Sisera looked out at a window, and own land; it seems to confer additional digni- cried through the lattice, Why is his chariot ty and importance; we associate in the idea, so long in coming? why tarry the wheels of the valour and success of former times; we his chariots ? Her wise ladies answered her, feel our hearts attracted as to a common pa- yea, she returned answer to herself, Have they rent; filial affection and brotherly love re- not sped ? have they not divided the prey, to vive at the sound. In the enthusiasm of every man a damsel or two? To Sisera a prey pious and poetical inspiration, she bestows of divers colours, a prey of divers colours of animation and passion on the flood; she re-needle-work, of divers colours of needle-work presents it as rising in pride and joy, and on both sides, meet for the necks of them that overflowing its banks, to serve the cause of take the spoil ?"* Now, may we not suppose ancient friends, lying under the rod of inso- both Jael and Deborah animated with a holy lence and oppression. And the period pa- indignation against the intended violators of thetically closes, with the prophetess, in a their sex's modesty and honour, and with a single word, apostrophizing herself as the holy joy, on the defeat of their ungracious honoured, happy instrument of co-operating purpose? May we not innocently suppose a with intelligent and animated nature in mixture of virtuous female spirit inspiring trampling pride and cruelty into the dust. “O what the one acted and the other sung? Our my soul, thou hast trodden down strength.” pity for the fallen warrior, and his untimely,

I have already anticipated much of what inglorious fate, must of course abate, when I had to say, on the subject of the glowing we consider that a righteous and merciful eulogium which Deborah pronounces on the Providence, by whatever means, shortened a conduct of " Jael the wife of Heber.” Per- life, and stopped a career, which threatened mit me only to repeat, that in order to our the life, the virtue, the happiness of thousands. fully adopting the sentiments of the Israel In personifying the character of Sisera's itish poetess, we must be acquainted with mother and her attendants, Deborah presents

* Judges v. 28-30 3 F


Judges v. 20.

us with a happy imitation of a passage in the as the sun when he goeth forth in his song of Moses on the triumphant passage of might." the Red Sea; where the poet insinuates him. Next to the great Lord of nature himself, self, by a bold figure of eloquence, into the who is, councils of Pharaoh, overhears their formid

to us invisible,

Or dimly seen, in these his lowest works; MILTOX. able resolutions, and in the close of the scene, rejoices in seeing their counsels, once so much that glorious creature of his power, the sun, dreaded, turned into foolishness, by the grace is the most striking and impressive of all oband power of Heaven. “ The enemy said, Ijects. And poets of every description have will pursue, I will overtake, I will divide the enriched and ennobled their compositions by spoil; my lust shall be satisfied upon them; allusions to the glorious orb of day, “ of this I will draw my sword, my hand shall destroy great world the eye and soul," as the brightthem. Thou didst blow with thy wind, the est inanimate image of Deity here below, sea covered them; they sank as lead in the the fountain of light, the dispenser of vital mighty waters."* So here, Deborah brings warmth, the parent of joy. The inspired in the matrons of Canaan as anticipating the sacred writers have likewise happily emfruits of victory, prematurely enjoying the ployed it to represent the most glorious anitriumph of the subjection of the Israelitish mated image of God in our world, & wise damsels to their own pride, and the pleasure and good man "going from strength to of their warriors; and she inspirits the grati- strength;” shining as a light in a dark place; tude and joy of her fair countrywomen, by silently, without expectation of return, withgently hinting at the dreadful hazard which out upbraiding, in an unceasing revolution they had run. This too, of course, diminish- of diffusing happiness; aiming at resemes our concern for the cruel disappointment blance to his Creator by becoming a god to which the mother of Sisera endured, looking his fellow-creatures. It is thus that Deborah and looking, from her window, but still look- concludes her song; with a warm effusion ing in vain for him who was never more to of faith, and hope, and desire, that righteousreturn; expecting and expecting that linger-ness might abound and increase, that good ing chariot, which the ancient river Kishon men might be in succession raised up, each had long ere now swept down its stream: in his day a light to his country, to mankind; fushed with hope, only to make calamity "going forth as the sun in his might," from more bitter. And let that hope be for ever lustre to still higher lustre, from usefulness blasted, which could be accomplished only to usefulness, without diminution, and withby what humanity shudders to think of. out end. By the same simple but powerful

Having thus enjoyed self-gratulation, and imagery, the wise man represents the precalled forth the grateful congratulations of gress of true goodness; "the path of the her delivered country, and with heroic ardour just is as the shining light, that shineth more trampled on disappointed lust, insolence, and and more unto the perfect day.” And Wis. ambition, she now aims a nobler flight. The dom itself by a similar suggestion animates world and its transitory interests and employ the zeal and supports the industry of those ments disappear. The throne of God meets who are to teach his religion to the nations her enraptured eye. Private, personal, na- of the earth : “ Ye are the light of the world. tional animosity are no more: all, all is lost Let your light so shine before men, that in the higher, unlimited, unchanging in- they may see your good works, and glorify terests of the divine glory. “So let all thine your Father which is in heaven." enemies perish, O Lord." This is but a pro To the whole is affixed an historical note, phetic enunciation of what needs must be short indeed, but highly interesting and imAfter one revolution has obliterated another, portant; “ And the land had rest forty years one mortal interest swallowed another up- This is the noblest eulogium of Deborah, the after the distinctions of Jew and Gentile, most honourable display of her talents and Greek and barbarian, bond and free are lost virtues. If there be feelings worthy of envy, and forgotten, the honours of the divine jus- they are those of this exalted woman, on retice and mercy shall flourish and prevail. flecting that God had honoured her to restore They that are afar from him; of whatever liberty, and peace to her country; and to other name or description, shall perish; and establish such a system of administration of the workers of iniquity shall be destroyed. justice, of civil government, of military dis. But the pious leader of the heavenly theme, cipline, and of religious

worship, as preserved as if unwilling to shut up her song with an the public tranquillity for forty years

. How idea so gloomy as the awful displeasure of effectually may every individual serve the the great God against his adversaries, re- community! Of what importance, then, is lieves herself and us, by taking up the more every, the meanest individual! How lasting encouraging view of the favour of Jehovah to and how extensive is the influence of real his friends, and thus she fervently breathes worth! There is one way in which erery out her soul; “ But let them that love him, be man may be a public blessing, may become

a saviour of his country--by cultivating the

* Exod. xv. 9, 10.

private virtues of the man, and the Chris- glaring, but not less instructive history of tian.

Ruth, the Moabitess, and Naomi, her moI proceed to illustrate the female cha- ther-in-law; happy to escape the scenes racter, its amiableness, usefulness, and of horror and blood which are the subimportance, in persons and scenes of a ject of the remainder of the history of very different complexion ; in the less the Israelitish judges.



Now it came to pass in the days when the judges ruled, that there was a famine in the land. And

a certain man of Beth-lehem-judah went to sojourn in the country of Moab, he and his wife and his two sons. And the name of the man was Elimelech, and the name of his wife Naomi, and the name of his two sons Mahlon and Chilion, Ephrathites of Beth-lehem-judah. And they came into the country of Moab, and continued there. And Elimelech, Naomi's husband, died; and she was left and her two sons. And they took them wives of the women of Moab; the name of the one was Orpah, and the name of the other Ruth: and they dwelled there about ten years. And Mahlon and Chilion died also both of them; and the woman was left of her two sons, and her husband. Ruth i. 1–5.

The perpetual vicissitude that prevails in ed man may surely repose unlimited confithe system of the universe, and in the con- dence in infinite goodness. duct of Providence, is adapted to the nature, During the dreadful times when there was and conducive to the happiness of man. The no king in Israel, the whole head was so succession of day and night, alternate labour sick, the whole heart so faint, the whole mass and repose, the variations of the changing sea- so corrupted, that an ocean of blood must be sons lend to each other, as it returns, its drained off, before it can be restored to soundpeculiar beauty and fitness. We are kept ness again. Not only one rotten limb, but still looking forward, we are ever hovering the whole body is in danger of perishing, and on the wing of expectation, rising from at. nothing but a painful operation can save it. tainment to attainment, pressing on to some The skilful, firm, but gentle hand of Provifuture mark, pursuing some yet unpossessed dence takes up the instrument, cuts out the prize. The hireling, supported by the pros- disease, and then tenderly binds up the bleedpect of receiving the evening's reward, ing wounds. Relieved from the distress of cheerfully fulfils the work of the day. The beholding brother lifting up the spear against husbandman, without regret, perceives the brother, from hearing the shouts of the vicglory of summer passing away, because he tor, and the groans of the dying, we retire lifts up his eyes and beħolds the fields white to contemplate and to partake of the noiseunto the harvest;" and he submits joyfully less scenes of domestic life; to observe the to the painful toil of autumn, in contempla- wholesome sorrows and guiltless joys of tion of the rest and comfort he shall enjoy, calmness and obscurity; to join in the triwhen these same fields shall be white with umphs of sensibility, and to solace the soft snow. It is hunger that gives a relish to effusions of nature; to “smile with the simfood; it is pain that recommends ease. The ple, and feed with the poor." value of abundance is known only to those The little history on which we are now who have suffered want, and we are little entering, is one of those which every where, sensible what we owe to God, for the bless- and at all seasong, must afford pleasure and ing of health, till it is interrupted by sick- instruction. It is a most interesting display ness.

of ordinary life, of simple manners, of good The very plagues which mortality is heir and honest hearts; of the power of friendship to, have undoubtedly their uses and their and the rewards of virtue. It forms an imends: and the sword may be as necessary to portant link in the chain of Providence, and draw off the gross humours of the moral the history of redemption. There is perhaps world, as storm and tempest are to disturb no story that has been wrought into so many the mortal stagnation, and to chase away the different forms, transfused into so many dif. poisonous vapours of the natural. Weak, ferent languages, accommodated to so many shortsighted man is assuredly unqualified to different situations, as the history of Ruth. decide concerning the ways and works of It is felt, from the cottage up to the palace, infinite wisdom; but weak, labouring, wretch-I by the rustic and the courtier, by the orphan

gleaner in the field, and the king's daughter. the house of bread, so called from the fertility The man of taste delights in it on account of the circumjacent fields, sinks under the of the artless structure, elegant diction, and pressure of this sore evil, and Elimelech, one judicious arrangement of the tender tale. of the chiefs of his tribe, is, like the most The friend of virtuous sensibility delights in illustrious of his ancestors, driven to seek it, for the gentle emotions which it excites, subsistence in a strange land. and the useful lessons which it inculcates. Every land according to its place on the The pious soul rejoices in it from the enlarg- globe has its peculiar climate, soil, produced, the instructive, the consolatory views of tion. One is watered by the clouds of heathe Divine Providence which it unfolds. The ven, another by an inundation of the waters inquiring and devout Christian prizes it, as of the earth. Here the rain descends acstanding in connexion with the ground of cording to no fixed law, either as to season his faith, and contributing to strengthen the or quantity, there it is measured to a drop, evidence, and explain the nature of " those and timed to a moment. On the regularity things wherein he has been instructed,” and or uncertainty of these distributions by the on which he rests for salvation. Happy the hand of nature, or the intervention of Proviman, who, possessing all these qualities, shall dence, depend the comfort, the very sustenperuse and employ it as a corrector and guide tation of human life ; on them depends all to the imagination, as a sapport to the spirit, the variation of vegetable produce, as to as a light to the understanding, a monitor to plenty or scarcity, as to greatness

, wholethe conscience, a guard to the affections, and someness, pleasantness, and their contraries. a faithful instructer to the heart.

Hence the same country is one year as the The particular era of this story is not garden of God, for beauty and abundance, and marked by the sacred penman, neither has the next as the waste bowling wilderness; he been directed to affix his name to his Canaan now flows with milk and honey, and precious little work. In general it was not gives bread to the full, and anon eats up its in the times of boisterous anarchy and wild inhabitants. We hear an offended and a uproar, that Boaz cut down his barley, and merciful God, by the mouth of the same Ruth gleaned after the reapers. The fruits prophet, reproving and threatening human of the field were protected to the owner by thoughtlessness and ingratitude in relation lawful authority, and justice was administer- to this interesting subject, in these glowing ed by the elders in the gate.

terms: “ She did not know that I gare her If we consider that the life of man was now corn, and wine, and oil, and multiplied her reduced to the common standard, that David silver and gold, which they prepared for was the fourth in order of succession from Baal; therefore will I return and take away Boaz, and allow thirty or thirty-five years to my corn in the time thereof, and my wine in be the medium standard of distance from one the season thereof, and will recover my wool generation to another, the marriage of Boaz and my flax, given to cover her nakedness

. with Ruth will be thrown upon the short ad- And I will destroy her vines and her figtrees

, ministration of his townsman Ibzan, the suc- of which she said, These are my rewards cessor of Jephthah, of which we have only a which my lovers have given me: and I will brief account: “And after him, Ibzan of make them a forest, and the beasts of the Beth-lehem judged Israel."*

field shall eat them." And thus relents the Samuel is generally understood to have God of grace towards penitent returning written both this book and the preceding, and children, “ I will betroth thee unto me in thereby to have preserved the historical series faithfulness, and thou shalt know the Lord. of events from Joshua to himself, almost un- And it shall come to pass in that day, I will broken ; and also the genealogical deduction hear, saith the Lord, I will hear the heavens

, of succession down to David, in whom the and they shall hear the earth, and the earth royal line of the house of Judah commenced shall hear the corn, and the wine and the oil, altogether uninterrupted. And while we and they shall hear Jezreel; and I will sow behold Rahab the harlot, a woman of Jericho, her unto me in the earth, and I will have and Ruth the Moabitess, not only admitted mercy on her that had not obtained mercy." to the rank of mothers in Israel, but mothers Such is the mysterious scale of both mercy of a race of kings, mothers in the line of and judgment. Thus universal nature " Messiah the Prince,” we are admonished combined in one firm league to oppress and as Peter was long afterward, on a different confound God's adversary. Thus every creaoccasion, “ not to call that common or un- ture, every event unites in preserving the clean which God hath purified.”

existence, and promoting the happiness of Israel was now enjoying the blessing of his repenting, dutiful, obedient children, good government, but the land is visited with Elimelech seeks and finds refuge in Moab

, å calamity which no sagacity of government for “ the earth is the Lord's and the fulness could foresee or prevent, and no human power thereof;" and he has given commandment; remove, with famine. Beth-lehem itself

, " Let mine outcasts dwell with thee, Moab; " Judges xii. 8.

and that one word disarms in an instant na

[ocr errors]
« AnteriorContinuar »