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THIRD PERIOD.

CHAPTER I.

MIRIAM.

HAVING now considered the law of God under all its various bearings relative to woman, it only remains to prove, from the female characters of Scripture, in what manner that law was obeyed; and whether it be possible to discover any trace of statutes, which, in direct contradistinction to the changeless law of the Eternal, tend to degrade, instead of to elevate, the female character; or whether we cannot bring forward some sufficiently convincing arguments in favour of our deeply studied theory, that the law of the Eternal is explained, by its practical illustration, through the whole history of the Bible.

To the oralist, or non-oralist, this consideration ought to be of equal weight. Keeping aloof entirely from the discussion which has of late too painfully agitated the whole Jewish nation, we would yet present to both parties the simple fact, that the supposed degradation of the women of Israel can have no existence whatever in the Oral Law, or we must find some trace of this abasement in this and the succeeding periods of our history. If both were given at the same time, the women of Israel whom we are about to bring forward, must have lived under the jurisdiction of both; and as their lives, feelings, and actions, are all in exact accordance with the

spirit and the form of the written law, it is clearly evident, that the modern accusation against us can have no foundation whatever in the Oral Law, or we must have discovered it in the female characters of Scripture. Nor will the groundless assertion of our individual inferiority and social abasement find confirmation in the writings of our ancient fathers, whose beautiful parables and tales all tend to illustrate alike the spirit of our law, and the axiom of our wise "Who can find a virtuous woman, for her price is far above rubies?" We will proceed, then, without further introduction, to our history, convinced that were the word of the Eternal more deeply studied, the love and peace it breathes must infuse themselves unconsciously in every human heart, and strife and discord melt away before the inspired transcript of the love and mercy of our God.

man,

one of the most perfect mixed nature of good Her first introduction

The character of Miriam is delineations of woman in her and evil which the Bible gives. we have already noticed-a young girl, watching, at the command of her mother, the fate of the ark which held her baby brother, and boldly addressing the princess of Egypt in the child's behalf.

Her next mention is her sharing the holy triumph of that brother, and responding, with apparently her whole heart, to the song of praise bursting forth from the assembled Israelites on the shores of the Red Sea. "And Miriam the prophetess, the sister of Aaron, took a timbrel in her hand, and all the women went out after her, with timbrels, and with dances, And Miriam answered them, Sing, sing ye to the Lord, for

he hath triumphed gloriously, the horse and his rider hath he thrown into the sea."

The Hebrew word,

, here used, and translated prophetess, means also a poetess, and the wife of a prophet, and is applied sometimes to a singer of hymns. In this latter meaning, and perhaps also as a poetess, it must be applied to Miriam, as she was neither the wife of a prophet, nor, as in the case of Deborah, and afterwards Huldah, endowed by the Eternal with the power of prophecy itself. She appears to have been one of those gifted beings, from whom the words of sacred song flow spontaneously. The miracles per

formed in their very sight were sufficient to excite enthusiasm in a woman's heart, and awaken the burst of thanksgiving; and Miriam might have fancied herself at that moment as zealous and earnest in the cause of God as she appeared to be. But for true piety, something more is wanted than the mere enthusiasm of the moment, or the high-sounding religion of flowing verse. By Miriam not being permitted to enter the promised land, it is evident that she "had not followed the Lord fully," but had probably joined in the rebellions and murmurings which characterised almost the whole body of the Israelites during their wanderings in the wilderness. The very next mention of her after her song of praise, is her presumptuous attack upon Moses, and daring insult to the power of the Lord, contained in the twelfth chapter of Numbers. Some chronologists believe this incident occurred only one year after the passage of the Red Sea, a period not sufficiently long for circumstances to have changed the character of Miriam so completely, had not jealousy and pre

sumption been secretly inmates of her heart before; unknown, perhaps, even to herself, for how few of us know our "secret sins," until they are roused into action, by some unlooked-for temptation in an unguarded moment, and we are startled at ourselves.

The feelings of Miriam, recorded in this chapter, are so perfectly accordant with woman's nature, that surely no woman of Israel will turn from it, believing the length of time which has elapsed removes all the warning which it should inculcate. One of the most prominent of female failings is secret jealousy, quite distinct, however, from the fearful passion so called. We allude simply to that species of secret and unconfessed jealousy, which is the real origin of detraction, so often, unhappily, practised by woman upon woman. We are not now writing of any class, or creed, or people in particular, but of women in general. There never yet was gossip, without some species of detraction spoken or implied; and never yet has detraction been probed candidly and fairly (disregarding the pain of so doing) to its root, without being traced to either jealousy or envy of some quality, or possession, of the more favored being so unkindly judged.

Women, and single women more especially, are more liable to petty failings than man, simply because they have less to engross their minds, and less of consequence to employ their hands. Unless taught from earliest years to find and take pleasure in resources within, they must look without, and busy themselves with the characters, and conduct, and concerns of their neighbours. Now acknowledged merit to such characters gives very little food for cosy chat; it wants esprit, and

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