Imatges de pÓgina
PDF
EPUB

though the one knew him not, and the other openly defied him. The rod which he condefcendeth to use, for the chastisement of difobedient and gainfaying children, when their reformation is accomplished, he often breaks and dafhes on the ground. Every instrument he employs muft neceffarily partake of human imperfection; but it follows not that he is pleafed with imperfection. The devices of Satan himself fhall in the iffue redound to the glory of God, as "the wrath of man must praise him;" but that wrath is hateful to his nature, and thofe devices his wifdom counteracts, and his justice condemns. We are not therefore to mistake the patriotic ardour of a female Ifraelitish bard, for the calm, the merited applause of the God of mercy and truth. I can eafily conceive the perfon, whom national partiality, refentment or gratitude would celebrate in strains of admiration, to be regarded with abhorrence by the Father of mercies, the avenger of falsehood, the refuge of the miferable. And while Ifraelitish Deborah, in the heat of her zeal, makes the eulogium of a woman fo unlike herself, and ftyles Jael, the wife of Heber, who murdered her fleeping gueft," bleffed above women," why may not a christian Dorcas, a woman of mercy and humanity, "a woman full of good works, and alms deeds," under the mild and gentle influence of that religion which the believes, feels and practises, reprobate the cruel and perfidious act, and its author, in terms of the fevereft indignation? Indeed, the conduct of Jael, confidered by itfelf, is a horrid complication of all that is base and deteftable in human nature; an infamous violation of facred truth; a daring infringement of the law of nature and nations; a flagrant breach of the laws of hofpitality, which the most favage natures and nations have refpected as facred; the vileft degradation of her character as a woman; the most barbarous exhibition of a little mind, enjoying the triumph over unfufpecting credulity, and defenceless mifery.

D 2

mifery. "Curfed be her anger, for it was fierce, and her wrath for it was cruel." Observe,

IV. Into what dreadful extremes we impetuoufly rufh, when the radical principles of our nature are once fubdued. Time muft have been, that the idea of fhedding the blood of another, would have chilled the blood in Jael's veins. What must it have cost her, to overcome the timidity, the tenderness, the compaffion of her fex! But being overcome, lo, each gentle, feminine paffion is lulled afleep; and frantic zeal, or demoniac revenge alone is awake. Ah me, what beaft of prey fo favage and unrelenting, as a human being deftitute of pity! Ah me, how eafily the beft things degenerate into the worft! Of what importance is it, to guard against the first deviation from the fimple and direct path! Who can promife for himfelf, that he fhall ftop, return, and regain the right road, when he pleases? Obferve,

V. That the rarity of the inftances, the peculiarity of the fituations, and the fingularity of the fpirit and conduct, apparent in the female characters here brought into public view, forbid, by more than a pofitive law, female interference in matters of business and of government. Believe me, my fair friends, it is not ftripping you of your juft importance, it is increafing and fecuring it, to fay, the fhade is your na tive, your proper ftation: it is there you fhine, it is there you are ufeful, it is there you are refpectable. Your heart and your understanding affent to the truth of it. Is there a woman among you, who would not prefer in obfcurity, the affection of her husband, the attachment and gratitude of her children, the estimation and refpect of her friends, to all the public fplendour of Deborah's magifterial, power, and prophetic fpirit; to all the blufhing, empurpled honours of Jael's more than mafculine refentment? It is not your want of talents for government we difpute; it is the fuitablenefs of government to your talents, your natural difpofitions, your real honour and happi

nefs.

nefs. A wife and good woman never can defire to become the object of univerfal admiration, nor the fubject of every one's difcourfe. If you aim at fo much, depend upon it, you will loofe fomething of what you have, and what is infinitely better than all the incenfe of flattery, than all the fonnets of a thoufand poetic fwains. In the hiftory of our own country, the reigns of two female fovereigns fhine with confpicuous luftre. They were periods of great national profperity and glory. But the weakest of women would not furely thence infer, that the fceptre ought always to be committed to female hands. With all due deference to the memory of an Elizabeth and an Anne, and the general felicity which their adminiftration diffufed over the land; Great-Britain can look with pride and exultation to a Queen, whofe perfonal glory and virtues far exceed theirs. Not a fovereign indeed, but a partner of the throne: who fhines in reafon's eye, becaufe fhe affects not to fhine; reigns over willing hearts, because fhe difclaims all rule; is great and bleffed among women, because fhe nobly finks the princess in the woman, the wife, the mother and the friend.

We encroach no farther on your patience, by extending our obfervations on the fubject. And the rather, as a review of the fong of Deborah, compofed on this memorable occafion, will, if God permit, bring it again before us, and place female genius in our eye, in a new, and not unpleafing point of light; uniting poetic and mufical fkill to fervent devotion, heroic intrepidity, and prophetic infpiration. A combination how rare, how inftructive, how refpectable!

History

History of Deborah.

LECTURE IV.

JUDGES V. 1-5.

Then fang Deborah, and Barak, the fon of Abinoam, on that day, faying, Praije ye the Lord for the avenging of Ifrael, when the people willingly offered themfelves. Hear, Oye kings; give tar, O ye princes: I, even I will fing unto the Lord; I will fing praife to the Lord God of Ifrael. Lord, when thou wenteft out of Seir, when thou marchedft out of the field of Edom, the earth trembled, and the heavens dropped, the clouds alfo dropped water. The mountains melted from before the Lord, even that Sinai from before the Lord God of Ifrael.

To fome it is the gift of Heaven, to perform actions worthy of being recorded; to others it is given, to preserve the memory of illuftrious actions, in writings worthy of being read. To both, the world is under great obligations, and gratefully permits the hiftorian or the poet, to divide the palm with the hero, or the fage, whom they celebrate. To the writer, perhaps, the more ample fhare of praise is due. The achievements of valour and ftrength are local and temporary. They benefit but a few, and quickly spend their force. But the historic and poetic page, more durable, more diffused, and more confpicuous than monuments of brafs and marble, is an univerfal and a perpetual bleff

ing to mankind; conveying to diftant nations and lateft pofterity harmless pleasure blended with wholefome inftruction.

On a favoured few has been conferred the combined glory of acting nobly, and writing well; of ferving their own day and generation with credit to themselves and advantage to their country, and of tranfmitting ufeful information to regions remote and generations unborn. On the lift of thofe illuftrious few, ftands with distinguished honour, the name of Deborah, the judge, the prophetefs, the fweet finger of Ifrael; and it is with exultation we obferve the moft dignified, arduous and important ftations of human life filled with reputation by a woman: a woman, who firft, with refolution and intrepidity, faved her country in the hour of danger and diftrefs, and ruled it with wifdom and equity; and then recorded her own achievements in ftrains which must be held in admiration, fo long as good tafte and the love of virtue exift in the world.

Having with veneration and refpect attended to the equitable decifions, and the oracles of truth which flowed from the lips of the female feer and fage, who fat under the palm-tree in Mount Ephraim; and accompanied the undaunted heroine to the top of Mount Tabor, and the enfanguined plains washed by the river of Kishon; let us liften with wonder and delight to the lofty strains of the female bard, and join our voices in the burden of her fong.

This fublime poem is the most ancient that exifts, two excepted, namely, that which celebrates the miraculous paffage through the Red Sea; and the sweetly fwelling notes of the dying fwan of Ifrael. It is two hundred and thirty-four years later than the former, and one hundred and ninety-four years than the latter of these facred compofitions; but it is four hundred and ten years older than Homer, the great father of heathen poefy. From its high antiquity therefore, were there nothing else to recommend it to notice, it

« AnteriorContinua »