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asleep, and its weakness becomes its strength. | hension of what might yet be before them: Though in misery we cleave to the love of attempting to comfort each other, and, in life, and having lost our comforts one after that, every one seeking some slender conso another, we are still enabled to look forward lation for herself. Think on the failure of with fond expectation to a new source of bread, on the failure of money, on the apjoy, and when all temporal hope is extin- proaches of night, on the natural terrors and guished, and reluctantly given up, the spirit dangers of darkness, on the savageness of asserts its own immortality, and rests in hope wild beasts, and the more formidable sabeyond the grave. Naomi is reduced to a vageness of wicked men. Think on the unmelancholy, mortifying alternative; of con- kindness and indifference of an unfeeling tinuing a poor, deserted exile in the land of world, and the darker frowns of angry HeaMoab, or of returning to Beth-lehem-judah, ven. We are disposed to weep while we stripped of all her wealth, all her glory; to reflect on Jacob, a fugitive from his father's be an object, at best, of pity, perhaps of con- house, composing his head to rest upon a pillow tempt. On this however she resolves, flat- of stone, under the canopy of the open sky; at tering herself that change of place and reflecting on Joseph, torn from his father's change of objects may alleviate her distress. embrace, sold into slavery, cast into a dun
The two young Moabitesses, in uniting geon; but I find here something infinitely themselves to men of Israel, had renounced more deplorable. They were men, fushed their own kindred and country, perhaps their with youthful spirits, with youthful hope: the native gods; and therefore listen with joy to vigour of their minds had not been broken the proposal of their mother-in-law, to return down by the iron hand of affliction, their to Canaan. It is the more pleasing to observe prospects were enlivened with the promises this union of sentiment and affection, that and visions of the Aliflighty, but these unthe relation in question is seldom found fa- happy wanderers have drunk deep of the cup vourable to cordiality and harmony. It fur- of adversity; their society is worse than nishes a presumptive proof of the goodness solitude, despair hangs over all their future of all the three, and they had indeed a most prospects. Stand still and shed the tear of mournful bond of union among themselves, compassion over them, ye daughters of afflucommon loss, common misery: and the heart ence, prosperity, and ease, who start at a seems to have felt and acknowledged the shadow, who scream at the sight of a harmless ties which alliance had formed and the hand mouse, who tremble at the rustling of a leaf of death had rivetted.
shaken by the wind; ye who never knew the Behold then the mother and her daughters heart of a stranger, the keen biting of the turning their back on the painfully pleasing wind of heaven, the stern aspect of hunger, scenes of joys and sorrows past, unattended, the surly blow, or scornful look of pride and unprotected, unbefriended, disregarded, as cruelty. Or rather, weep over them, ye sad a retinue as ever wandered from place whose wounds are still bleeding, to whom to place. They are hardly in motion from wearisome days and nights have been aptheir place, when Naomi, penetrated with a pointed, who by the experience of misery, lively sense of gratitude for friendship so have learned to pity and to succour the generous and disinterested, overwhelmed miserable. May the God of mercy, the friend with the prospect of the still greater misery of the orphan, the judge of the widow, the in which these dutiful young women were refuge of the distressed, have mercy upon about to involve themselves, from their love them, and conduct them in safety to their to her, and unwilling to be outdone in kind- desired haven. ness, earnestly entreats them to return home Which shall we most admire, the geneagain, urging upon them every consideration rosity and disinterestedness of the mother, or that reason, that affection, that prudence could the steadiness, spirit, and resolution of the suggest, to induce them to separate from a daughters? How pleasurable is strife of a wretch so friendless and forlorn, so helpless, certain kind, the strife of good will, of mag. so hopeless as herself. To suffer alone is now nanimity, of gratitude, of piety, of selfall the consolation she either expects or denial! The language, the sentiments, are seems to wish; the destitute condition of the language and sentiments of nature, they these sisters in affliction, is now her heaviest flow from the heart, and reach the heart, burden. Indeed the situation of these three “And Naomi said unto her too daughters-infemale pilgrims has in it something wonder- law, Go, return each to her mother's house: fully pathetic and interesting. There they the Lord deal kindly with you, as ye have are upon the road, on foot, with all the weak dealt with the dead, and with me. The Lord ness, ignorance, timidity, uncertainty, and grant you that ye may find rest, each of you, irresolution of their sex; not knowing which in the house of her husband. Then she way to bend their course, exposed to the kissed them. And they lift up their voice craft, violence, or insult of every one they and wept."* met; sinking under the recollection of what The good woman herself admits that they had endured, shrinking from the appre
* Ruibi. & 9
enough of respect has been paid to filial and I who felt and expressed it; composed to the conjugal tenderness; she wishes and prays, prospect and suffering of solitary anguish, as a recompence for their kindness to the provided her amiable children were restored living, and devotedness to the memory of the to the rank, affluence, and comfort which they dead, more lasting and more auspicious con- so well deserved. How poor and contemptnexions with husbands of their own country. ible are the contentions for precedency and She proposes not, recommends not the affect- pre-eminence, the emulation of fortune and ed, constrained, involuntary retirement and dress, the rage of admiration and conquest sequestration of prudish, squeamish virtue; compared to this! How pleasant is it to see and they, on their part, assume no unnatural an humble fortune dignified and supported by airs of immortal grief; they form no flimsy generosity and greatness of mind ! suspicious vows of undeviating, unalterable The touchstone is now applied to the affecattachment; make no clamourous, unmean- tion of the two sisters, and their characters ing, deceptious protestation of love extin- and merits are finally disclosed. Orpah sufguished, and never to be rekindled, the piti- fers herself to be persuaded; with regret we ful artifice of little minds to flatter them- behold her resolution overcome; we behold selves, and catch the admiration of others. her separating from her mother-in-law, with How much more emphatical the silent, un- the valedictory kiss of peace, and returning protesting reply of Orpah and Ruth! She to her own country and her gods; and we kissed them; and they lift up their voice and hear of her no more. But Ruth cleaves to wept." What charming eloquence is heard, her new choice, unmoved by the example of is seen, is felt in those tears! Have these her sister, or the entreaties of her mother, lovely damsels less regard for their departed she persists in her purpose; the desertion of lords, are they. more.exger to form new alli- Orpah only knits her heart the faster to her ances, that they say nothing? I cannot be adopted parent, and in words far sweeter than lieve it. Noisy grief is quickly over, soon the nightingale's song, she breathes out her spends itself. Sincerity seldom calls in the unalterable resolution to live and to die with aid of exclamation, vehemence, and vows; her. How could Naomi find in her heart to but dubious, staggering fidelity is glad to make another attempt to shake off so lovely support itself with the parade of wo, and a companion? How delighted must she have the pomp of declamation.
been, in yielding the triumph of kindness to Their persevering, determined, unprotest- a pleader so irresistible. And Ruth said, ing friendship but endears them the more to Entreat me not to leave thee, or to return their venerable parent, and inelines her the from following after thee: for whither thou more powerfully to resist their inclination, goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I and prevent the sacrifice which they were will lodge: thy people shall be my people, disposed to make; and again she has recourse and thy God my God: where thou diest, will to more earnest and tender expostulation, I die, and there will I be buried : the Lord resolved to offer up a noble sacrifice to ma- do so to me, and more also, if aught but death ternal tenderness in her turn. " And Naomi part thee and me."* said, Turn again, my daughters: why will ye The mother is every way outdone, overgo with me? are there yet any more sons in come, and contends no longer-to persist farmy womb, that they may be your husbands?ther had been cruelty, not friendship: and Turn again, my daughters, go your way; for thus mutual sympathy and deliberate choice I am too old to have an husband. If I should have, under the direction of all-ruling Provisay, I have hope, if I should have a husband dence, formed an union dearer than the ties also to-night, and should also bear sons; of interest, or even the bonds of nature know: would ye tarry for them till they were grown and thus the same breath which extinguishwould ye stay for them from having hus-es the fainter spark, blows up the stronger bands? nay, my daughters: for it grieveth into a purer, brighter flame; and thus the me much for your sakes, that the hand of the God who has all hearts and all events in his Lord is gone out against me.
hand, ever rears a refuge for the miserable, What sweet touches of unsophisticated na- provides a remedy against despair, and exture press upon the heart, in perusing this tracts a precious essence from calamity, which address! beyond the pomp and power of art operates its own cure. “When she saw that to reach. Who is not melted at hearing the she was steadfastly minded to go with her, undissembłed wailings of a good and honest then she left speaking unto her.”t. And thus mind, mourning for others, not itself; calmly Ruth stands without an equal, without a risurrendering its own interest in the joys of val. And how has she gained the glorious life, but anxiously desirous to procure and superiority over a sister? By a lofty tone preserve them for those whom she loved as and an overbearing spirit, by the poisoned her own soul; nobly resigning that cordial whisper, and the dark insinuation; by smoothof cordials, virtuous friendship, when it could ness of forehead and malignity of heart! No, not be enjoyed but to the detriment of those but by perseverance in well-doing, and ad
| Ruth i. 18.
* Ruth i. 11-13.
* Rutb i. 16, 17.
house, or married to an husband; at home, / science, where your duty to your Creator or in a strange land; in society or soli- are concerned, be firm and resolute, - be tude; followed or neglected; be this thy steadfast and unmoveable, always abounding monitor, this thy guide, this thy refuge in the work of the Lord,” Thus shall youth * The love of God shed abroad in thy be guarded, and beauty adorned ; thus shall heart;" " the fear of God which is the be- society be sweetened, and solitude cheered; ginning of wisdom;" "the peace of God thus shall prosperity be sanctified, and adverwhich passeth all understanding." How-sity soothed; thus shall life, even to old age ever easy, gentle, flexible, complying, in and decay, be rendered useful and respectother respects, where your religious princi- able; and thus shall death and the grave be ples, where the testimony of a good con- stripped of all that is terrible in them.
HISTORY OF RUTH.
So they went until they came to Beth-lehem. And it came to pass when they were come to Beth-lehem,
that all the city was moved about them; and they said, Is this Naomi ? And she said unto them, Call me not Naomi, call me Mara : for the Almighty hath dealt very bitterly with me. I went out full, and the Lord hath brought me home again empty: why then call ye me Naomi, seeing the Lord hath testified against me, and the Almighty hath afflicted me? So Naomi returned, and Ruth the Moabitess her daughter-in-law with her, which returned out of the country of Moab. And they came to Beth-lehen in the beginning of barley-harvest.-Ruth i. 19–22.
Of the calamities to which human life is ed, friendless, destitute, and cease from the exposed, a few only are to be accounted real complaints, and stretch out thy hand to sueevils: the rest are imaginary and fantasti-cour the miserable. cal. Want of health is real wo; but what In the glorious strife of affection, Ruth proportion do the hours of pain and sick- has nobly prevailed. Impelled by the fond ness bear to the years of ease, and comfort, recollection of endearments past, and now and joy? Want of bread is real distress, but no more-prompted by filial duty and tenit is very seldom the work of nature, and derness to the mother of her choice, attracted, therefore ought not, in justice, to be intro- animated, upheld by the powers and prusduced into the list of the unavoidable ills pects of religion, she composedly yields up which flesh is heir to. The loss of friends is her worldly all, takes up her cross, and a sore evil, but even wounds from this sharp- bears it patiently along from Moab to Bethpointed weapon are closed at length, by the lehem-judah. The history is silent on the gentle hand of time, and the tender consola- subject of their journey. It is easy to cotions of religion.
ceive the anxieties, the terrors, the fatigues, Whenee then the unceasing, the univer- the sufferings of female travellers, on a route sal murmurings of discontent, of desire, of of at least a hundred and twenty mies impatience? Men fix their standard of feli- across the Arnon, across the Jordan, orer city too high; and all they have attained mountains, through solitudes, without a progoes for nothing, because one darling object tector, without a guide, without money. is still out of reach; or they groan and sigh But that God who is the friend of the destiunder the weight of some petty disaster, tute, and the refuge of the miserable, that which scarce deserves the name; while ten God who was preparing for them infinitely thousand substantial blessings are daily fall- more than they could ask, wish, or think, ing on their heads unnoticed, unacknow- guides and guards them by the way, and ledged, unenjoyed. Compare, O man, thy brings them at length to their desired restpossessions with thy privations, compare thy ing place. comforts with thy deserts, compare thy con These are not the only female pilgrims dition with thy neighbour's, consider how whom the sacred page has presented to our far, how very far thy state is on this side view, advancing by slow and painful stages worst, and learn to give God thanks. Re- to Beth-lehem of Judah. Upwards of thirpine not that some wants are unsupplied, teen hundred years after this period we bethat some griefs are endured, that some de- hold a still more illustrious traveller, and in signs have been frustrated, while so many circumstances still more delicate, on the road unmerited good things are left, while hope from Nazareth of Galilee, to her native city; remains, while there is recourse to Heaven. but not to take possession of the inheritance Behold these two forlorn wanderers, widow- 1 of her fathers, not to repose in the lap of
ease and indulgence, not to deposit the Base, unfeeling world, that can feast itself anxieties of approaching childbirth in the on the orphan's tears, and the widow's sorrow! bosom of a fond and sympathizing parent; See, there they are, every one from his own but to know the heart of a stranger, to feel business, or rather his own idleness, to stare the bitterness of unkindness and neglect; and talk a wretched woman out of counteso friendless that not a door would open to nance; the whisper goes round, the finger receive her, so poor that she cannot purchase points, the scandal of ten years standing is the accommodations of an inn, overtaken by revived, and a new colouring is given to it. nature's inevitable hour, "she brings forth Affected pity and real indifference wound her first-born son in a stable, and lays him in the heart which God himself has just bruised! the manger, because there was no room for whose husband and children he has taken them in the inn." But through such humi- to himself. The wretched mourner seems liating circumstances of meanness and po- to feel it; she bursts into an agony of grief, verty, what a display of glory and magnifi- and thus vents the bitterness of her soul, cence was the arm of Jehovah preparing! Call me not Naomi, call me Mara: for the What an important station do the simple Almighty hath dealt very bitterly with me. annals of these poor women hold in the I went out full, and the Lord hath brought history of mankind! What celebrity, in the me home again empty : why then call ye eyes of all nations, have they conferred on me Naomi, seeing the Lord hath testified Beth-lehem, on their country! How a thou- against me, and the Almighty hath afflicted sand years shrink into a point, before that me?"* What simple, but what forcible lanGod who “sees the end from the begin- guage the heart speaks! She dwells on the ning!" How the purposes of Heaven are minute circumstances of her case, takes up accomplished to an iota, to one tittle! How her own name as a theme of wo, changes places and times are determined of Him who the fond appellation of parental affection, of saith, as one having authority, My coun- parental hope, Naomi, on which Providence, sel shall stand, and I will fulfil all my had poured out the wormwood and gall of pleasure."
disappointment, into one better adapted to her One of the advantages, and not the least, tragical history. The past presents nothing of travelling abroad, is the joy which the but happiness passed away as a shadow; rank, thought of returning home inspires; but this and opulence, and importance gone, gone, is a consolation which Naomi's return is not never to return. The future spreads a gloom permitted to enjoy. She brings back ng unirradiated by a single gleam of hope. She treasures to purchase attention, to command apprehends no change of things, but the oprespect, to excite envy. She is accompa- pressive change from evil to worse. nied with no husband, no son, to maintain But yet her misery admits of alleviation. her eause, or cheer her solitude. She brings It comes from God, she sees the hand of a back nothing but emptiness, dereliction, and Father in her affliction, she kisses the rod, tears. A great part of her ancient acquaint- and commands the soul to peace. To endure ance and friends are gone, as well as her distress the fruit of our own folly, to suffer own family. Those who remain hardly know from the pride, cruelty, and carelessness of her again, so much are her looks impaired a man like ourselves, is grievous, is unsupand disfigured with grief. A new genera- portable, it drinks up our spirits. But the tion has arisen, to whom she is an utter evil that comes immediately from God has stranger, and who are utter strangers to her. its own antidote blended into its substance; But in a little city, a trifling event makes a wedrink the poison and the medicine from the great noise. The curiosity of the whole same chalice, and at the same instant; the one town is excited by the appearance of these destroys the effect of the other; their joint opetwo insignificant fugitives; and various we ration is salutary, is life-giving, not deadly. may suppose were the inquiries set on foot, Was that the voice of God which I heard ? the conjectures formed, the remarks made, Spake it not in thunder ? Said it not, the censures passed, on their account. This " Take now thy son, thine only son, Isaac, is the never-failing inconveniency of incon- whom thou lovest, and offer him for a burntsiderable places. Where there is abundance offering ?" It is well; it was the voice of of idleness, abundance of ill-nature, every God, and that is enough. I will offer up the man is a spy upon his neighbour, every one sacrifice, I will surrender my dearest delight, is at leisure to attend to the affairs of an- I cannot tell how the promise is to be acother, because he is but half occupied by his complished, consistently with my obedience OWA. We have here enough of inquiry, and submission, but the command and the enough of wonder, but not a single word of promise proceed from the same lips; I leave compassion, of kindness, of hospitality; and all to him. Naomi might have gone without a roof to From all that we see, Naomi had slender shelter her head, or a morsel of bread to sus- motives, and poor encouragement, to return tain sinking nature, but for the industry and to her own country; we cannot tell what attachment of her amiable daughter-in-law ! |
* Ruth i. 20, 21.
iletermined her resolution ; it might be a lit- propitious and prophetic; God brings it about tle fit of female impatience, occasioned by in his own way, and it is “wondrous in our some piece of Moabitish insolence or unkind- eyes." Mess; it might be the mere restlessness of a The continuation of this story will carry nind ill at ease, grasping at the shadow of us on to the contemplation of scenes of rural 1elicity merely from change of place; it simplicity, for the enjoyment of which, graninight be the ardent desire of home, of the deur might well relinquish its pride and iscenes of childish simplicity, innocence, and pomp, its vanity and vexation of spirit, and joy, which in certain circumstances all men rejoice in the exchange. Let us meanwhile feel, and by which the conduct of all is, to a pause and reflect on the history of Naomi as certain degree, regulated. Whatever it were administering useful instruction. it came from above, it was overruled of in 1st. As an admonition never to despair. finite wisdom, it was, unknown to itself, act. God frequently brings his people to that ing in subserviency to a most important mournful spectacle, hope expiring, that he event: and it is thus, that little, unnoticed, may have the undivided honour of reviving unknown powers, put the great machine in it again, and may be acknowledged as the one motion, produce effects that astonish, and pure and perennial fountain of light, and life, delight, and bless mankind.
and joy. The condition of Jacob, of Joseph, The same all-ruling Providence is con- of Naomi, all preach one and the same doespicuous in determining the season of Nao trine; all proclaim that the time of man's mi's return. On this hinged all the mighty extremity is God's opportunity. consequences of Ruth's acquaintance and 2dly. Let us call, let us reckon nothing connexion with Boaz—the birth of kings, the mean or contemptible which God employa transmission of empire, the accomplishment or may be pleased to employ, in his service of ancient prophecy, the hopes of the hu- The notice of the King of kings impresses man race. Had this apparently unconse- dignity and importance, confers true noblity quential journey been accelerated, been re- on the low-born child, the beggar, the outtarded, a month, a week, a single day, the cast, the slave. On them all he has stamped parties might never have met. Contingent his own image ; and their present and every to men, it was foreseen, fixt, disposed, and future condition, is the work of his provimatured by Him," who is wonderful in coun- dence. “It is not the will of your Father in sel, and excellent in working."
heaven that one of these little ones should Every one observes and records the great perish;" and if destined to salvation, to what incidents of his life. But would you, O worldly distinction may they not aspire, may man, have rational pleasure, blended with they not arrive? Carefully mark the prouseful instruction, attend to little things, gress of children: study the bent of their trace matters of highest moment up to their dispositions, of their talents; endeavour to source; and behold thy fate stand quivering put them in the train which nature and Proon a needle's point: and a colour given to thy vidence seem to have pointed out: attend to whole future life, thy eternal state fixed, by what constitutes their real consequence in a reed shaken with the wind, by an accidental life, and leave the issue to Him who governs concurrence which thou wert neither seek- all events. ing nor avoiding; and rejoice to think that 3dly. Observe how the great Ruler of the all things are under the direction of uner- universe contrasts and connects great thing ring wisdom, of all-subduing mercy; are with small, that he may humble the pride of “working together for good.
man, and expose the nothingness of the glory Does this ieach a lesson of levity and in- of this world. That forlorn gleaner, and consideration? Darest thou to trifle with Boaz the wealthy; the exile from Mosb, and thy everlasting concerns because there is a the resident possessor of the fertile plains of God who ruleth and judgeth in the earth, Beth-lehem-judah, seem wonderfully remote who doth all things after the counsel of his from each other. Their condition is as op own will ? God forbid. Presumptuously to posite as human life can well present: bat lead the decrees of Providence, impiously to in the eye of Heaven they are already one. resist them, or timidly to draw back, are She is but a single step from being lady of equally offensive to a righteous, a holy, and the harvest which she gleans, “ an help meet" wise God.
for its lord, and the sovereign mistress of We have seen the unhappy Naomi strip- those servants at whose aspect she now tremped of almost every earthly good; husband, bles, the meanest of whom she now looks up children, friends, means, country, comfort; to as her superior. Childless and a widow, it is the dark midnight hour with her. No, her family, her own children are but three there is one little lamp left burning, to dis- steps from a throne—the throne of Judah and sipate the gloom, to prevent despair—the sa- Israel; and in the purpose of the Eternal cred flame of virtuous friendship. No, the " the fulness of time” is hastening to exhibit sun of righteousness is hasting to the bright-to an astonished world, in the person of this ness of his arising. The name after all was woman's seed " that Prince of peace, of the