Imágenes de páginas
[graphic][ocr errors][ocr errors][subsumed][merged small]

tional animosity, represses the rage of the In the disasters which befall, and the suclion, quenches the violence of fire. The fu- cesses which attend certain families and ingitive of Beth-lehem-judah finds kindness and dividuals, we behold an apparent partiality of protection among inveterate enemies; Daniel distribution that confounds and overwhelms sleeps secure amongst the fiereest of the sa- us. Death enters into that house, passes from vage tribes; and the three children of the couch to couch, spares neither root nor branch; captivity walk unhurt in the midst of the the insatiate fiend never says it is enough. flaming furnace.

Whatever that poor man attempts, be the We see, at first, nothing but one of those scheme ever so judiciously formed, ever so instances which every day occur, of the sad diligently prosecuted, uniformly fails; the reverses to which individuals, families, states winds as they change, the stars in their courses are liable; the downfal and distress of an fight against him. The very mistakes of his ancient and reputable house, struggling with neighbour turn out prosperously, his sails are penury, and forced into exile ; but we soon always full, his children multiply, his wealth discover, that the Eternal eye is fixed on a increases, his mountain stands strong. Is nobler object, that the hand of omnipotence God therefore unwise, capricious, partial, or is preparing the materials and laying the unjust ? No, but we are blind, contracted, foundation of a more magnificent fabric; that presumptuous. We can discern, can compreintinite wisdom is bringing low the royal hend only here and there a little fragment of house of Beth-lehem, only to restore it with his works, we are gone, before the event has greater splendour.

explained itself; it requires the capacity, the We have before us at once the cure of eternity of God himself to take in the mighty pride and of despair. Behold, O man of an whole of his plan. hundred ancestors, and of an hundred thou The house of Elimelech exhibits an affectsand acres, behold Elimelech, the son of Abra- ing instance of the inequality we have been ham, poor and despised; the head of the tribe mentioning. The sad account of famine, of of Judah, a stranger in a strange land, exist- banishment, of degradation, of dependence, ing through sufferance, supplied through fo is at length closed with death. Disease of reign bounty; and remember by what a brit- body,co-operating with distress of mind, protle tenure thy privileges and possessions are bably the effeet of it, shortens his days, and held. Consider, child of adversity, whom no terminating his own worldly misery, dreadman knows, whom no one regards, consider fully aggravates the woes of the unhappy suryonder neglected, reduced, extinguished fa- vivors. Wretched mother, left to struggle mily, and behold from the ashes of the expiring alone with poverty, solitude, danger, and nephenix, an immortal offspring arising, whose glect: far from friends, encompassed with Right neither time nor space can limit, and enemies, loaded with the charge of two fatherfeel thine own importance, and aim only at less children, not more the objects of affechigh things, and trust in omnipotence for the tion, than the sources of anxiety and care ! execution of its own eternal purpose. While Elimelech lived, penury was hardly

In a country and among a people where felt as a burden; in exile thou wert always names were not mere arbitrary sounds, but at home; secluded from society, the converconveyed a meaning connected with cha- sation of one still dispelled the gloom. Thy racter, with history, with expectation, those sons afforded only delight, because that deof Elimelech, God is king," and of light was participated in, by him who had a his wife Naomi, “the pleasant one,” from common interest with you in them: but all their peculiar import, must have a refe- is now changed, every load is accumulated rence to certain circumstances in their sevenfold, every comfort is embittered, every history which are not recorded. The former prospect is clouded : the past presents nothing might be dictated by the spirit of prophecy, but regret; the future discloses nothing but and be significant, without the intention of despair. them who imposed, or of him who bore it, She seems to have given up at this period of the future greatness to which the family, all thoughts of returning to her native coun, through the favour of Heaven, should arise, try, and, making a virtue of dire necessity, in the person of David, of Solomon, and that attempts to naturalize her family in the land long succession of princes which finally cen- of Moab, by allying her sons, through martred, and was absorbed, in the person of Christ. riage, to the inhabitants of the country. The David's son; yet David's Lord. The parti- sense of the loss she has sustained gradually culars of his own story that have reached us, yields to the lenient hand of time, and to the are too few and too general to admit of our sweet hope of seeing the house of her belovdiscerning any reference or application of ed husband built up, and his name revived in his name to his character, office, or condition: the persons of his grandchildren. Alas! what but we know enough of the character and is the hope of man! the flatterer has been history of Naomi to justify the suitableness only decoying her into a greater depth of wo; of the appellation to her person, dispositions, her two remaining props sink, one after anoand final attainments.

ther, into the dust ; all that the eyes desired


is taken away with stroke upon stroke ; and, , when she speaks, how great when she says to fill up the measure of a mother's wretched- nothing, how transcendantly exalted in all ness, both her sons die childless, and hope she thinks, speaks, and acts! With what diexpires with them. Now she is a widow in- vine art, shall I say, is she introduced in deed, and exhausted nature sinks under the the sacred drama ? After we have been meltpressure.

ed into pity by the calamities of Naomi's faIt is the opinion of many interpreters, that mily, and seen the widowed mourner sinking the premature death of the young men was under wave upon wave; and the prospect of a judgment from heaven to punish their ille- progeny, the last darling hope of an Israelitish gal intermarriage with strange and idolatrous matron, rudely torn from her, lo an angel in women. It becomes not man to judge; and we the form of a damsel of Moab, a mourner and know that God executeth only righteous judg- a widow like herself, appears to comfort her, ment; and in wrath still remembers mercy. and makes her to know by sweet experience

Thus in three short lines the sacred his that he, that she, has not lost all, who has torian has delivered a tragic tale that comes found a kind and faithful friend. What is the home to the bosom of every one that possesses sound of the trumpet, and a long train of mute a spark of sensibility. It is a domestic story; and splendid harbingers, compared to the simit represents scenes which may, which do ple preparation of unaffected nature ! Let us happen every day. It admonishes every one wait her approach in silent expectation; and in how many points he is vulnerable, how de- muse on what is past. fenceless he is against the thunderbolts of Behold one generation of men goeth and Heaven. It awfully displays the evil of sin, another cometh; one planet arising as another and the wrath of God against all ungodliness sets, every human advantage balanced by and unrighteousness of man. If such be the its corresponding inconveniency, every loss temporal effects of his vengeance, how bitter compensated by a comfort that grows out of it

. must be the cup which his just displeasure Behold the purpose of the Eternal mind mingles for incorrigible offenders, in a state maintaining its ground amidst all the tos of final retribution ? How pleasing to reflectings and tempests of this troubled ocean, that trials of this sort do not always flow from triumphing over opposition, serving and proanger, that they are the wholesome severity moting itself by the wrath of man and the of a father, that they aim at producing real malice of hell, out of darkness rising into good, that they in the issue really yield lustre, “out of weakness made strong," by the peaceable fruits of righteousness. The the energy of the great first cause, acquiring darkness of night at length yields to the glo- life, vigour, and prosperity from the extinction rious orb of day, the shadow of death is turn- of means, from the destruction and death of ed into the morning, and the desolate is as secondary causes. she who hath an husband.

Attend to the great leading object of This makes way for the introduction of the divine revelation, to which all refer, to which heroine of this eventful history; and we be- all are subservient, in which all are absorbed come interested in her from the very first and lost. I will make mention of Abraham, moment. The Jewish writers, to heighten Isaac, and Jacob; of Moses and the prophets; our respect for Ruth, perhaps from a pitiful of Boaz and Ruth; “I will make mention of desire to exalt their own ancestry, make her Rahab and Babylon to them that know me; the daughter of a king of Moab, and as they behold Philistia and Tyre with Ethiopia ; are never timorous in making assertions, or this man was born there, and of Zion it forming conjectures on such occasions, they shall be said, this man was born in her: and tell you her father was Eglon, whom Ehud the Highest himself shall establish her. The slew. It is hardly probable that a prince of Lord shall count, when he writeth up the that country would have given his daughter people, That this man was born there." in marriage to a needy adventurer who had May our names be written in the Lamb's banished himself from his country through book of life, among the living in Jerusalem! necessity. But of little importance is it whe The introduction of these personages and ther she were born a princess or no. Nature events, one after another, were remote steps has adorned her with qualities such as are of the preparation of the gospel of peace. not always to be found in the courts of kings; And every person now born into the church qualities which best adorn high birth, and of Christ, and every event now taking place which ennoble obscurity and indigence; fide in the administration of human affairs, is a lity and attachment; à soul capable of fond little space in the great scale of eternal respect for departed worth, and living virtue: Providence, and a gradual preparation for the magnanimity to sacrifice every thing the final consummation of all things. Let "thy heart holds dear, to decency, friendship, and kingdom come," O God! Let Satan's kingreligion; magnanimity to encounter, with- dom be destroyed ; let the kingdom of grace out repining, painful toil, and humiliating de- be advanced, ourselves and others brought pendence, in fulfilling the duties of gratitude, into and preserved in it, and let the kingdom humanity, and piety. How eloquent is she of glory be hastened! Amen!


LECTURE XCIII. And they lift up their voice and wept again : and Orpah kissed her mother-in-law; but Ruth clave unto

her. And she said, Behold, thy sister-in-law is gone back unto her people, and unto her gods: return thou after thy sister-in-law. And Ruth said, Entreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God: where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried: the Lord do so to me, and more also, it'aught but death part thee and me. When she saw that she was steadfastly minded to go with her, then she left speaking unto her._Ruth i. 14—18.

The calm, untumultuous, unglaring scenes Lapidoth-in the unrelenting firmness, and of private life, afford less abundant matter the daring, enterprising spirit of Jael, the for the pen of the historian, than intrigues wife of Heber. of state, senatorial contention, or the tremen Female vice and worthlessness are delidous operations of the tented field, but they neated on the sacred page with equal skill, supply the moralist and the teacher of reli- truth, and justice, from the insolence of Hagion with more pleasing, more ample, and gar, and the treachery of Delilah, down to more generally interesting topics of useful the implacable vengeance of Herodias, and information, and salutary instruction. What the insatiate cruelty of her accursed daughprinces are, what statesmen meditate, what ter. heroes achieve, is rather an object of curio Three more female portraits are now presity than of utility. They never can become sented for our inspection, and our improveexamples to the bulk of mankind. It is when ment; all expressive of characters essenthey have descended from their public emi- tially different, all possessing features of nence, when they have retired to their pri- striking resemblance, all exhibiting qualities vate and domestic station, when the poten- which create and keep alive an interest, all tate is lost in the man, that they become copies from nature, all pourtrayed by the objects worthy of attention, patterns for hand of him who knows what is in man. imitation, or beacons set up for admonition We have witnessed the wretchedness and and caution.

sympathized in the sorrows of Naomi, my For the same reason the meek, the modest, pleasant one, reduced from rank and fulness the noiseless exhibition and exercise of fe- to obscurity and indigence, banished from male excellence, occupy a smaller space in her country and friends, a stranger in a the annals of human nature than the noisy, strange land, robbed of her husband, bereaved bustling, forensic pursuits and employments of her children; having no protector save of the other sex. But when feminine worth Heaven, no hope or refuge but in the peaceis gently drawn out of the obscurity which ful grave. Behold the thrice widowed mournit loves, and advantageously placed in the cr bowing the head, and hiding the face in light which it naturally shuns, o how amia- silent grief. She is dumb, she opens not ble, how irresistible, how attractive it is! A her mouth, because the Lord hath done it. wise and good woman shines, by not seek. The miserable partners of her wo only ining to shine; is most eloquent when she is crease and embitter it. Two young women, silent, and obtains all her will, by yielding, like herself widows, childless, comfortless; by submission, by patience, by self-denial. fondly attached to her, and tenderly beloved

Scripture as it excels in every thing, so it by her, because fondly attached to the peculiarly excels in delineating and unfold- memory of their husbands; but their mutual ing the female character, both in respect of affection rendered a punishment, not a pleathe quantity exhibited, and of the delicacy, sure, by the pressure of poverty and the force, and effect of the design. We have bitterness of neglect. At length she is already seen this exemplified, in a variety roused from the stupefaction of grief by of instances in the dignified, conjugal at- tidings from her country, from her dear tachment and respect, in the matron-like native city, and a ray of hope dispels the conscious, impatient superiority of Sarah-gloom of her soul. She “hears in the counin the maternal partiality, eagerness, and try of Moab how that the Lord had visited address of Rebekah-in the jealous discon- his people in giving them bread.” tent and impatience of Rachel—in the win In the wisdom and goodness of Providence, ning condescension, and the melting com- there is a healing balm provided for every miseration of Pharaoli's daughter-in the wound. The lenient hand of time soothes patriotic ardour, the prophetic elevation, the the troubled soul to peace; the agitation of magisterial dignity of Deborahı, the wife of the mind at last wearies it out, and lulls it

« AnteriorContinuar »