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Let the names of Barak and Abinoam be transmitted, hand in hand, with respect, to the latest generations; let the world know that on Abiuoam a gracious Providence conferred the distinguished honor of being 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 superior wisdom, it is useful ability that confers nobility, true nobility on families, and celebrity on countries. Contending cities claim the honor of giving birth to 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 exhibit in another point of light, the solidity, strength and security of his church, "out of weakness made strong, 66 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," Verse 13. In two striking particulars, this gracious interposition of Heaven is emphatically pointed out. "He made him that
remaineth to have dominion. It was not the strength of Israel which God employed in crushing the "nobles" and pride of Canaan, it was not by opposing force to force, skill to skill, that Providence decided the contest; but by a scattered, broken remainder; but by a dispirited handful, that durst not trust themselves in the plain against the enemy, but by an unarmed rabble whom Sisera held in contempt, that Jehovah trampled the glory of Jabin in the dust; as by a cake
of barley bread rolling down upon a tent and levelling it with the ground.
To set the divine sovereignty in a still stronger light, Deborah suggests, but not in the spirit of self-confi dence, that when God did appear for his people, he did it not, by kindling martial ardor and resentment in manly bosoms, by putting the machine in motion in the usual way; but by creating a new thing in the earth; by endowing a woman with more than manly sagacity and resolution; by making a woman the life and soul of a sinking nation; that God himself might have the undivided praise. "The Lord made me have dominion over the mighty." Is it not somewhat remarkable that Deborah is only once described as the wife of Lapidoth? whereas Barak is repeatedly, both in history and in song, brought forward as the son of such a father. Is it to mark the base degeneracy of Israel at this period? all masculine virtue extinguished, and importance sunk; the only trace of the existence of the man, that he was the husband of such a woman? The repetition of this relation therefore may have been omitted, because it would have reflected reiterated disgrace upon the one, without adding much to, perhaps somewhat detracting from, the glory of the other. Whereas the blazoning of a son's praise, instead of detracting from, is the most gratifying addition to, a father's honor.
In the passage which follows, the prophetess goes with a poetical and prophetic enthusiasm into a detail of the distinguishing characters, of the several tribes of Israel, according to the part which they had taken, or neglected to take, in the cause of their country, at this trying crisis, which at present I shall simply quote, with a single remark; and then conclude. "And the princes of Issachar were with Deborah; even Issachar, and also Barak: he was sent on foot into the valley. For the divisions of Reuben there were great thoughts of heart. Why abodest thou among the
sheep-folds, to hear the bleatings of the flocks? for the divisions of Reuben there were great searchings of heart. Gilead abode beyond Jordan: and why did Dan remain in ships? Asher continued on the seashore, and abode in his breaches. Zebulun and Naphtali were a people that jeoparded their lives unto the death in the high places of the field," Verse 15... 18. This is the third time that prophetic inspiration has presented us with the discriminating features of the sons of Israel, and of the tribes which descended from them, at three different periods, and in very different situations... Jacob on his dying bed, Moses on the wing to ascend, Mount Nebo, and Deborah on the defeat of Sisera. The comparative view of Israel at these different periods seems to me a subject of curious, pleasant and not useless disquisition, and I mean to devote the meditation of a particular evening to it.
The season arrests us now, and demands a series of reflections suited to winter, and change, and decay, and death. The past rushes upon our memory and affections in an impetuous tide, the future still presents the same impenetrable curtain to our eager eyes. We go on fondly planning; and after a thousand proofs of vanity, return to treasure up for ourselves vexation of spirit. But we shall be relieved at length, and ere long land on that shore where fear and hope are no longer. If permitted to enter on the commencement of another year, we shall endeavor to improve that kind indulgence, by endeavoring to suggest reflections suited to the occasion. If permitted to advance to a second sabbath in a new year, we shall attempt to resume our accustomed pursuits: If to any, this be the last opportunity of the kind, the solemn farewell is now taken. And kind is that Providence which does not always let us know when we are saying " fin-. ally farewell:" which permits the bitterness of death to pass before we are sensible it is come. Woe, woe,
*The last day of the year.
woe, to the man who is punished with the foresight of the evil that is coming upon him. The exploits of a Deborah and a Barak, now live only in the page of history; their song is now to be found only in a few measured words, whose rythm is lost, whose sense is obscure, whose spirit is evaporated. But, my friends, we have this day been commemorating* an event which will never sink in oblivion, never spend its force, never lose its importance. We have this day been carrying on, keeping up the song which the enraptured shepherds of Bethlehem caught two thousand years ago from a choir of the heavenly host, which is ever pleasing, ever new; let us again resume it, and teach it to our children. 66 Glory, glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will towards men." Blessing and honor, and glory, and power be unto Him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb, for ever and ever. Amen. Hallelujah!
* In the participation of the Lord's supper.
HISTORY OF DEBORAH.
They fought from heaven: the stars in their courses fought against Sisera. The river Kishon swept them away, that ancient river, the river Kishon: O my soul, thou hast trodden down strength....JUDGES. v. 20, 21.
N turning over the hallowed page of inspiration, and contemplating the various revolutions of human affairs which it unfolds, we seem transported to a superior region; we behold the earthly ball rolling round beneath our feet; we witness the birth, the progress, the dissolution of nations; we learn to correct the prejudices of education, and our narrowness of conception; we no longer ignorantly admire, nor superciliously despise our fellow-creatures, we adore the great Father and Lord of all, who "has of one blood formed all nations of men to inhabit upon the face of the whole earth," and "whose kingdom ruleth over all." From that elevation, we observe with humble acquiescence and holy joy, the designs of eternal Providence, maturing, and executing themselves; the individual passing away, but the species permanent; states and kingdoms changing their form, their spirit, their character; but human nature the same under every government, in every climate, under every sky. We behold regions, and periods, and nations rising into notice, into eminence, into importance, by the talents, the virtues, the address of one man, of one woman; and returning again to obscurity and insignificance, through a delect of wisdom, of public spirit, of exertion.