Изображения страниц

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 see 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 tossof final retribution? How pleasing to reflect ings 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


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; a 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!



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 : ihe Lord do so to me, and more also, if 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 çf 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 er 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 Deborah, the wife of the mind at last wearies it out, and lulls it

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, flushed 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 Almighty; 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 magso 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 ere 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."* inet; sinking under the recollection of what The good woman herself admits that they had endured, shrinking from the appre

* Ruth i: 8,9.

cnough of respect has been paid to filial and 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 eager 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 inclines 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 Provi, say, 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, undissembled wailings of a good and honest then she left speaking unto her.” 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. 11-13.

* Ruth i. 16, 17.

Ruth i. 18.

herance to rectitude; by modest firmness, , abundance, driving me among strangers, ezand heart-affecting simplicity; by undissem- posing me to struggle with uncertainty a.ixbled affection, and unaffected piety. O good- iety, necessity, neglect, and scorn; but my ness, how pure, how sincere, how satisfactory resolution is fixed, none of these things move are the honours which crown thy head, and me; every sacrifice, every loss, every disgrace dilate thy heart !

is infinitely more than compensated by haIt is impossible to tire in contemplating an ving Israel's God for my God.” Which leads object so transcendantly excellent. In that to observe a fair form all the feminine virtues and graces Second feature of Ruth's religious characlove to reside. We have pointed out some of ter; it was steady and persevering. It mig it them; let us meditate for a moment, on that at first have been mere respect for thn, opiwhich is the crown and glory of all the rest. nions and practice of the husband of her Estimable for her conjugal fidelity, and filial youth; the mere decency that suited an attachment; great in lier voluntary renunci- adopted daughter of Israel; but this had ation of the world, and patient submission to long ceased to be a motive; had it amounted poverty, hardship, and contempt; how super- but to this, it had been buried in the grave latively great, how supremely estimable does of her departed lord; but what was at first she appear, arrayed in the robe of unfeigned complaisance and decency, grows up into piety, and triumphant faith in God! The inquiry, inquiry produces hesitation, and world may perhaps condemn her for prefer- more serious inquiry, this improves into conring the society, country, and prospects of so viction, and conviction is followed by a de poor a woman as Naomi to the friendship of termination not to be moved or shaken, and her own kindred, the possessions of her native she continues steadfast to the end. Her home, the allurements of present ease and constancy, it must be allowed, was put to comfort. Had she conferred with flesh and severe trials. Orpah has gone back, Naomi blood, how very different had the decision carries her expostulation up to importunity, been! But the same divine principle which I had almost said, to downright violence; caused Moses to "refuse to be called the son the difficulties and hardships of the way of Pharaoh's daughter;" and which taught him were increasing, not diminishing upon her. "to esteem the reproach of Christ greater Had not “the heart been established by riches than the treasures of Egypt," deter- grace," so many, such accumulated discoumined this amiable creature to withhraw ragements, must have subdued the ardour of from the companions of her youth, the protec- her spirit, and sent her back after her sister; tion of her father's house, and the religious but she has put her hand to the plough, and worship of her ancestors; and to follow a des- must not look back. Observe, she does not titute forlorn widow from country to country, attempt to reason, does not oppose argument to cast her subsistence upon the care of Pro- to argument, but, “ being fully persuaded in vidence, and to look for her reward beyond her own mind,” adheres firmly to her point,

and argues irresistibly by not arguing at all, Observe these distinct qualities of the re- and prevails by entreaty. See that your cause ligious principle by which she was actuated. be good, my fair friend, persist in it, prose

1. It was deliberate, the result of reflection, cute it thus, and be assured of the victory. comparison, and choice, not the prejudice of III. Observe finally as Ruth's religious education, the determination of self-interest, principle was deliberate, was steady and nor the momentary effect of levity and ca- persevering, so it was lively, efficacious, price. Her prejudices, her partialities, her practical. We hear nothing of the prattle worldly interests were all clearly on the other of piety, nothing of the violence of a young side. The idolatrous rites of Moab were fas- ; and a female proselyte, no question of doubtcinating to a young mind, not yet beyond a ful disputation introduced, about places and taste for pleasure; the aspect of the religion modes of worship, about Jerusalem and this of Canaan was rather ungainly and forbidding, mountain, nothing of the religion that floats and to adopt it implied the renunciation of all merely in the head, and bubbles upon the that the heart naturally holds dear. When tongue; no, her religion is seen, not heard, she therefore thus solemnly affirms, “Your it - works by love, it purifies the heart, it God shall be my God," it is in effect saying, overcomes the world.” It offers up a grand “I have counted the cost, I know whom I sacrifice unto God, the body and spirit, affechave believed. I have opened my mouth un- tion, and substance, youth, beauty, parentage, to the Lord, and I cannot go back. I have the pleasures, and the pride of life. Let me subscribed with my hand to the God of Jacob. see a single instance of this sort, and I will Blessed be the day that I came into connex- believe the convert more in earnest, than by ion with an Israelitish family. It has indeed exhibiting all the wordy zeal of a thousand cost me many tears, pierced through my heart polemics. with many sorrows, it is banishing me from Indeed it is by action that this truly excelmy dear native clime, from the endearments lent woman expresses all her inward feelings. of parental affection, from ease, honour, and Her affection to her husband is not heard in

the grave.

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »