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On a favored few has been conferred the combined glory of acting nobly, and writing well; of serving their own day and generation with credit to themselves and advantage to their country, and of transmitting useful information to regions remote and generations unborn. On the list of those illustrious few, stands 'with distinguished honor, the name of Deborah, the judge, the prophetess, the sweet singer of Israel; and it is with exultation we observe the most dignified, arduous and important stations of human life filled with reputation by a woman: a woman, who first, with resolution and intrepidity, saved her country in the hour of danger and distress, and ruled it with wisdom and. «quity; and then recorded her own achievements in strains which must be held in admiration, so long as good taste and the love of virtue exist in the world.
Having with veneration and respect attended to the equitable decisions, and the oracles of truth which flowed from the lips of the female seer and sage, who sat under the palm-tree in Mount Ephraim: and accompanied the undaunted heroine to the top of Mount Tabor, and the ensanguined plains washed by the river of Kishon; let us listen with wonder and delight to ti;e lofty strains of the female bard, and join our voiceein the burden of her song.
This sublime poem is the most ancient that exists, two excepted, namely, that which celebrates the miraculous passage through the Red Sea; and the sweetly swelling notes of the dying swan of Israel. It is two hundred and thirty-four years later than the former, and one hundred and ninety-lour years than the latter of these sacred compositions i but it is four hundred and ten years older than Homer, the great fat her of heathen poesy. From its high antiquity therefore, were there nothing else to recommend it to notice, it is most respectable; but from its antiquity and the very nature of poetical composition, it must of necessity be, in some respects, involved in difficulty and obscuri* ty. This we pretend not wholly to clear up or to remove. Instead then of making an attempt in w hich we should probably, perhaps certainly fail, we shall satisfy ourselves with pointing out a few of the more obvious and striking beauties of a piece, which all will allow to contain many and shining excellencies.
The inscription of this hymn of praise, first challenges our notice. "Then sang Deborah, and Barak the son of Abinoam, on that day, saying." Verse i. In exhibiting the character and conduct of this truly estimable woman, the feminine delicacy and reserve are 'never dropped. As a ruler and a prophetess she is introduced, under her relative character of thewifeof Lapidoth. As the leader of armies to battle, and leader in the musical ch' ir which celebrated the victories of her country, she is represented as the companion and coadjiitrix of Barak, the son of Abinoam. She was undoubtedly the first woman of her own, perhaps of any age; but her consequence, in place of being diminished, is increased and supported by the blending of private, personal worth and ability, with the relatious of social life, those of wife, mother and friend.
Adam might exist a little while in paradise, before Eve was formed, but nature and reason and religion, all seem to declare, that woman can neither comfortably nor reputably subsist, separated from that side whence she was originally taken. Who will deny, that the superiority in point of discretion and understanding is frequeutly on the side of the female? But a woman forfeits all pretension to that very superiority, the mo
it were Deborah's own good sense, and female modesty, which preferred appearing in a connected*to appearing in a solitary state, though more flattering to vanity; or whether the Spirit of God, in representing the most elevated of female geniuses in the most elevated of situations, thought proper to point her out as connected and dependent; the same lesson of naodera
mer.t she assumes or boasts of it.
tion, diffidence, delicacy and condescension is powerfully inculcated: and her sex is instructed where their true dignity, safety, honor and comfort lie.
The time is marked, when this triumphant anthem was first composed and sung. "On that day." It ■ had been a day of danger, anxiety and fatigue: a day of vengeance upon the insulting foe, a day 'of mutual congratulation and rejoicing; but ill had Israel deserved such a victory, and shamefully had Deborah improved it, if either the emotions of joy or of revenge had excluded those of gratitude and love. The tongue of Deborah, like the pen of a ready writer, dictates " acceptable words" to the thousands of her people; she cannot think of repose, till the evening's sacrifice of praise be offered up, and from the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaketh. The day which the arm of Omnipotence had distinguished by wonders of mercy, must not be concluded without songs of deliverance. From the " confused noise of the warrior, and garments rolled in blood," the soul turns with holy joy, to the acknowledgment of that " right hand and holy arm which had gotten them the victory:" and in one solemn " praise ye the Lord" bursting at once from every tongue, every redeemed Israelite calls upon himself and upon his fellow to give unto Jehovah the glory due unto his name.
Here the song naturally begins, by this it must be supported, and m this it must terminate. All creatures, all events point out" Him first, Him last, Him midst, and without end." "Praise ye the Lord."
But, religion is *'a reasonable service." The divine essence we do not, we cannot know; "the invisible things of (?od " even " his eternal power and deity," are to be discovered only " by the things which he has made," and the things which he doth. Here then the spirit of praise immediately fixes, and the recent interposition of a gracious Providence rises instantly into view: his ** avenging of Israel," in which Jehovah is acknowledged as at once just and merciful: just, ia recompencing tribulation to them that troubled his covenanted church and people; merciful in giving bis troubled people rest.
Vengeance; the vengeance of God! Fearful thought! but oh, it is sweetly relieved, by the reflection, that the right of executing vengeance, is claimed by the God of mercy, with awful propriety, as bis own. This dreadful thunder no arm but his own must presume to wield; " Vengeance is mine, I will repay, saith the Lord." If I must be punished, " let me fall now into the hand of the Lord, for his mercies are great: and let me not fall into the hands of man." The only vengeance permitted to man is a vengeance of kindness aud forgiveness; the only coals which he must scatter, are the coals of the fire of love. "If thine enemy hunger, feed him, if be thirst, give him drink: ...."Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good." "Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you and persecute you: that ye niay be the children of your Father which is in heaven: lor he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust," Matt. v. 44, 45.
The voluntary actions of the people, in " offering themselves" to light their own battles, are with singular beauty ascribed to the wisdom and goodness of God who has the" hearts of all in his hand," and can ** turn them which way soever he will." He who could Jiave saved by miracles, will save by means. If there t>e a spirit of concord to resist the common enemy, it is of the Lord. If internal dissension aM the euemy without, we behold a righteous God infatuating those Whom he means todesttoy.
Having thus simply proposed the glorious subject of frer praise, "the sweet enthusiast4' prepares to unfold and amplify it. She throws her eyes over the face of the whole earth: views all nations and their potentates, as interested in the glowing theme; and summons an admiling world to her song. "Hear, O ye kings; give ear, O ye princes: I, even I will sing unto the Lord; I will sing praise to the Lord God of Israel." Verse'S. What bo delightful to a grateful and affectionate heart, as the enumeration of benefits received! What benefactor once to be compared with the Giver of all good, " the Father of lights, from whom cometh down every good'gift, and every perfect V
Having proposed her theme and summoned her august audience, the divine poetess seems to pause for a moment, as if awed by the presence of such a splendid audience, and overwhelmed with the magnitude of the task she has undertaken, and with renovated strength, aims her flight, like the eagle, up to her native skies. The deliverance of that day, brings former wonders of mercy to mind; and " God, the same yesterday, to-day and forever," is seen and adored in all Instead of expatiating on the goodness of the Most High in strains addressed to the" kings and princes" whom she had called to attend, she rises' at once to ** Jehovah's awful throne," loses all sense of created majesty, and loses herself in the contemplation of infinite perfection. "Lord when thou wentest out of Sen-, when thou marchedst out of the field of Edorh, the earth trembled, and the heavens dropped, the clouds also dropped water. The mountains melted from before the Lord, 'even that Sinai from before the Lord God of Israel," Verse 4,5.
The former part of this animated address probably refers to that passage in the history of Israel which we have in the book of Numbers, chap. xx. relating to the passage of Israel through the land of klmnea, which was humbly and peaceably solicited, and unkindly refused. Of this, some particulars might have been preserved by tradition to the times of Deborah, though Hot admitted into the sacred canon, and sugs^ted to