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private virtues of the man, and the Chris- glaring, but not less instructive history of tian.
RUTH, the Moabitess, and Naomi, her moI proceed to illustrate the female cha- ther-in-law; happy to escape the scenes racter, its amiableness, usefulness, and of horror and blood which are the subimportance, in persons and scenes of aject of the remainder of the history of very different complexion ; in the less the Israelitish judges.
HISTORY OF RUTH
Now it came to pass in the days when the judges ruled, that there was a famine in the land. And
a certain man of Beth-lehem-judah went to sojourn in the country of Moab, he and his wife and his two sons. And the name of the man was Elimelech, and the name of his wife Naomi, and the name of his two sons Mahlon and Chilion, Ephrathites of Beth-lehem-judah. And they came into the country of Moab, and continued there. And Elimelech, Naomi's husband, died; and she was left and her two sons. And they took them wives of the women of Moab; the name of the one was Orpah, and the name of the other Ruth: and they dwelled there about ten years. And Mahlon and Chilion died also both of them; and the woman was left of her two sons, and her husbandRuth i 145.
The perpetual vicissitude that prevails in ed man may surely repose unlimited confithe system of the universe, and in the cun- dence in infinite goodness. duct of Providence, is adapted to the nature, During the dreadful times when there was and conducive to the happiness of man. The no king in Israel, the whole head was so succession of day and night, alternate lavour sick, the whole heart so faint, the whole mass and repose, the variations of the changing sea- so corrupted, that an ocean of blood must be sons lend to each other, as it returns, its drained off, before it can be restored to soundpeculiar beauty and fitness. We are hept ness again. Not only one rotten limb, but still looking forward, we are ever hovering the whole body is in danger of perishing, and on the wing of expectation, rising from at- nothing but a painful operation can save it. tainment to attainment, pressing on to some The skilful, firm, but gentle hand of Provifuture mark, pursuing some yet unpossessed dence takes up the instrument, cuts out the prize. The hireling, supported by the pros- disease, and then tenderly binds up the bleedpect of receiving the evening's reward, ing wounds. Relieved from the distress of cheerfully fulfils the work of the day. The beholding brother lifting up the spear against husbandman, without regret, perceives the brother, from hearing the shouts of the vicglory of summer passing away, because he tor, and the groans of the dying, we retire lifts up his eyes and“ beholds the fields white to contemplate and to partake of the noiseunto the harvest;" and he submits joyfully less scenes of domestic life; to observe the to the painful toil of autumn, in contempla- wholesome sorrows and guiltless joys of tion of the rest and comfort he shall enjoy, calmness and obscurity; to join in the triwhen these same fields shall be white with umphs of sensibility, and to solace in the soft snow. It is hunger that gives a relish to effusions of nature; to "smile with the simfood; it is pain that recommends ease. The ple, and feed with the poor.” value of abundance is known only to those The little history on which we are now who have suffered want, and we are little entering, is one of those which every where, sensible what we owe to God, for the bless and at all seasons, must afford pleasure and ing of health, till it is interrupted by sick- instruction. It is a most interesting display
of ordinary life, of simple manners, of good The very plagues which mortality is heir and honest hearts; of the power of friendship to, have undoubtedly their uses and their and the rewards of virtue. It forms an imends: and the sword may be as necessary to portant link in the chain of Providence, and draw off the gross humours of the moral the history of redemption. There is perhaps world, as storm and tempest are to disturb no story that has been wrought into so many the mortal stagnation, and to chase away the different forms, transfused into so many difpoisonous vapours of the natural. Weak, ferent languages, accommodated to so many shortsighted man is assuredly unqualified to different situations, as the history of Ruth. decide concerning the ways and works of It is felt, from the cottage up to the palace, infinite wisdom; but weal, labouring, wretch-I by the rustic and the courtier, by the orphan
gleaner in the field, and the king's daughter. | the house of bread, so called from the fertility The man of taste delights in it on account of the circumjacent fields, sinks under tho of the artless structure, elegant diction, and pressure of this sore evil, and Elimelech, one judicious arrangement of the tender tale of the chiefs of his tribe, is, like the most The friend of virtuous sensibility delights in illustrious of his ancestors, driven to seek it, for the gentle emotions which it excites, subsistence in a strange land. and the useful lessons which it inculcates. Every land according to its place on the The pious soul rejoices in it from the enlarg- globe has its peculiar climate, soil, produced, the instructive, the consolatory views of tion. One is watered by the clouds of heathe Divine Providence which it unfolds. The ven, another by an inundation of the waters inquiring and devout Christian prizes it, as of the earth. Here the rain descends acstanding in connexion with the ground of cording to no fixed law, either as tn season his faith, and contributing to strengthen theor quantity, there it is measured to a drop, evidence, and explain the nature of " those and timed to a moment. On the regularity things wherein he has been instructed,” and or uncertainty of these distributions by the on which he rests for salvation. Happy the hand of nature, or the intervention of Provi. man, who, possessing all these qualities, shall dence, depend the comfort, the very sustenperuse and employ it as a corrector and guide tation of human life; on them depends all to the imagination, as a support to the spirit, the variation of vegetable produce, as to as a light to the understanding, a monitor to plenty or scarcity, as to greatness, wholethe conscience, a guard to the affections, and someness, pleasantness, and their contraries. a faithful instructer to the heart.
Hence the same country is one year as the The particular era of this story is not garden of God, for beauty and abundance, and marked by the sacred penman, neither has the next as the waste howling wilderness; he been directed to affix his name to his Canaan now flows with milk and honey, and precious little work. In general it was not gives bread to the full, and anon eats up its in the times of boisterous anarchy and wild inhabitants. We hear an offended and a uproar, that Boaz cut down his barley, and merciful God, by the mouth of the same Ruth gleaned after the reapers. The fruits prophet, reproving and threatening human of the field were protected to the owner by thoughtlessness and ingratitude in relation lawful authority, and justice was administer- to this interesting subject, in these glowing ed by the elders in the gate.
terms: “She did not know that I gave her If we consider that the life of man was now corn, and wine, and oil, and multiplied. her reduced to the common standard, that David silver and gold, which they prepared for was the fourth in order of succession from Baal; therefore will I return and take away Boaz, and allow thirty or thirty-five years to my corn in the time thereof, and my wine in be the medium standard of distance from one the season thereof, and will recover my wool generation to another, the marriage of Boaz and my flax, given to cover her nakedness. with Ruth will be thrown upon the short ad. And I will destroy her vines and her figtrees, ministration of his townsman Ibzan, the suc- of which she said, These are my rewards cessor of Jephthah, of which we have only a which my lovers have given me: and I will brief account: “And after him, Ibzan of make them a forest, and the beasts of the Beth-lehem judged Israel."*
field shall eat them." And thus relents the Samuel is generally understood to have God of grace towards penitent returning written both this book and the preceding, and children," I will betroth thee unto me in thereby to have preserved the historical series faithfulness, and thou shalt know the Lord. of events from Joshua to himself, almost un. And it shall come to pass in that day, I will broken ; and also the genealogical deduction hear, saith the Lord, I will hear the heavens, of succession down to David, in whom the and they shall hear the earth, and the earth royal line of the house of Judah commenced shall hear the corn, and the wine and the oil, altogether uninterrupted. And while we and they shall hear Jezreel; and I will sow behold Rahab the harlot, a woman of Jericho, her unto me in the earth, and I will have and Ruth the Moabitess, not only admitted mercy on her that had not obtained mercy." to the rank of mothers in Israel, but mothers Such is the mysterious scale of both mercy of a race of kings, mothers in the line of and judgment. Thus universal nature is - Messiah the Prince," we are admonished combined in one firm league to oppress and as Peter was long afterward, on a different confound God's adversary. Thus every crea. (ccasion, “not to call that common or un- ture, every event unites in preserving the clean which God hath purified."
existence, and promoting the happiness of Israel was now enjoying the blessing of his repenting, dutiful, obedient children. good government, but the land is visited with Elimelech seeks and finds refuge in Moab, a calamity which no sagacity of government for “ the earth is the Lord's and the falness (nuld foresee or prevent, and no human power thereof;" and he has given commandment, remove,-with famine. Beth-lehem itself, " Let mine outcasts dwell with thee, Moab;" * Judges xii e
and that one word disarms in an instant na
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 fiercest 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 su 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 compreinfinite 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 effect 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 flight 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,“ my 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 counthrough 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