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“ the father of the damsel saw him, he rejoiced te “ meet him.”
-A most sentimental group! you'll say : and so it is, my good commentator, the world talks of every thing. Give but the outlines of a story,-let spleen or prudery snatch the pencil, and they will finish it with so many hard strokes, and with so dirty a colouring, that candour and courtesy will sit in torture as they look at it.-Gentle and virtuous spirits ! ye who know not what it is to be rigid interpreters, but of your own failings-to you I address myself, the unhired advocates for the conduct of the misguided,
Whence is it that the world is not more jealous of your office ? How often must ye repeat it, • That
such a one's doing so or so,' is not sufficient eyi. dence by itself to overthrow the accused !-that our actions stand surrounded with a thousand circumstances which do not present themselves at first sight that the first springs and motives which impell'd the unfortunate, lie deeper still !-and, that of the millions which every hour are arraign'd, thousands of them may have err'd merely from the head, ånd been actually outwitted into evil! and, even when from the heart,--that the difficulties and tempt. ations under which they acted, the force of the passions, the suitableness of the object, and the many struggles of Virtue before she fell, may be so many appeals from Justice to the judgment-seat of Pity!
Here then let us stop a moment, and give the story of the Levite and his concubine a second hearing. Like all others, much of it depends upon the telling; and, as the scripture has left us no kind of comment upon it, 'tis a story on which the heart
cannot be at a loss for what to say, or the imagination for what to suppose ;-the danger is, Humanity may say too much.
" And it came to pass in those days, when there
was no king in Israel, that a certain Levite sỞ« journing on the side of Mount Ephraim, took unto 6 himself a concubine.'
O Abraham ! thou father of the faithful! if this was wrong - Why didst thou set so ensharing an example before the eyes of thy descendant ? and, Why did the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and Jacob, bless so often the seed of such intercoura ses, and promise to multiply and make princes come out of them?
God can dispensé with his own laws: and accordingly we find the holiest of the patriarchs, and others in scripture, whose hearts cleaved most unto God, accommodating themselves as well as they could to the dispensation : that Abraham had Hagar ;-that Jacob, besides his two wives, Rachel and Leah, took also unto him Zilpah and Bilhah, from whom many of the tribes descended ;-that David had seven wives and ten concubines ;-Rehoboam, sixty ;-and that, in whatever cases it became reproachable, it seemed not so much the thing itself as the abuse of it, which made it so. This was remarkable in that of Solomon whose excess became an insult upon the privileges of mankind ; for, by the same plan of luxury, which made it necessary to have forty thousand stalls of horses,-he had unfortunately miscalculated his other wants, and so lad seven hundred wives, and three hundred concubines.
Wise,-deluded man! was it not that thou madest some amends for thy bad practice by thy good preaching, what had become of thee !-three hundred !-but let us turn aside, I beseech you, from so sad a stumbling-block.
The Levite had but one. The Hebrew word ime ports a woman a concubine, or a wife a concubine, to distinguish her from the more infamous species who came under the roofs of the licentious without principle. Our annotators tell us, that in Jewish economicks, these differ'd little from the wife, except in some outward ceremonies and stipulations, but agreed with her, in all the true essences of marriage, and gave themselves up to the husband (for so he is call'd) with faith plighted, with sentiments, and with affection.
Such a one the Levite wanted to share his solitude, and fill up that uncomfortable blank in the heart in such a situation ; for, notwithstanding all we meet with in books, in many of which, no doubt, there are a good many handsome things said upon the sweets of retirement, &c.—yet still, “ it is not “good for man to be alone :" nor can all which the cold-hearted pedant stuns our ears with upon the subject, ever give one answer of satisfaction to the mind; in the midst of the loudest vauntings of phi losophy, nature will have her yearnings for society and friendship ;-a good heart wants some object to be kind to ;-and the best parts of our blood, and the purest of our spirits, suffer most under the des. titution.
Let the torpid monk seek heaven comfortless and alone.-God speed him ! For my own part, I fear, I should never so find the way. Let me be wise and religious-but let me be man. Wherever thy providence places me, or whatever be the road I take to get to thee-give me some companion in my journey, be it only to remark to, how our shadows lengthen as the sun goes down to whom I may say, how fresh is the face of nature !-how sweet the flowers of the field !how delicious are these fruits !
Alas! with bitter herbs, like his passover, did the Levite eat them : for as they thus walked the path of life together,--she wantonly turn'd aside unto another, and fled from him.
It is the mild and quiet half of the world who are generally outraged and borne down by the other half of it : but in this they have the advantage ; whatever be the sense of their wrongs, that pride stands not su watchful a centinel over their forgiveness, as it does in the breasts of the fierce and froward. We should all of us, I believe, be more forgiving than we are, would the world but give us leave ; but it is apt to interpose its ill-offices in remissions, especially of this kind. The truth is, it has its laws, to which the heart is not always a party; and acts so like an unfeeling engine in all cases without distinction, that it requires all the firmness of the most settled humanity to bear up against it.
Many a bitter conflict would the Levite have to sustain with himself-his concubine, and the sen. timents of his tribe, upon the wrong done him much matter for pleading and many an embarrassing account on all sides. In a period of four whole months, every passion would take its empire by turns; and in the ebbs and flows of the less unfriendly ones, pity would find some moments to be
heard-religion herself would not be silent-charity would have much to say ;-and thus attun'd, every object he beheld on the borders of Mount Ephraim,every grot and grove he pass'd by, would solicit the recollection of former kindness, and awaken an advocate in her behalf, more powerful than them all.
• I grant,-I grant it all, he would cry ;- 'tis <foul ! 'tis faithless !--but, why is the door of merocy to be shut forever against it ? and, why is it to
be the only sad crime that the injured may not re“'mit, or reason, or imagination pass over without
a scar ?Is it the blackest ? In what catalogue of • human offences is it so marked ? or, is it, that of - all others 'tis a blow most grievous to be endur. red - The heart cries out, it is so : but let me ask
my own, what passions are they which give edge 6 and force to this weapon which has struck me ?
and, whether it is not my own pride, as much as
my virtues, which at this moment excite the great i est part of that intolerable anguish in the wound
which I am laying to her charge ? But, merciful • Heaven, was it otherwise, why is an unhappy i creature of thine to be persecuted by me with so
much cruel revenge and rancorous despite as my • first transport called for ? Have faults no extenua (ations ?-Makes it nothing, that when the trespass
was committed, she forsook the partner of her guilt, and fled directly to her father's house? And
is there no difference betwixt one propensely go• ing out of the road and continuing there, through • depravity of will, and a hapless wanderer stray
ing by delusion, and warily treading back her steps ?-Sweet is the look of sorrow for an offence,