« ElőzőTovább »
diest, will I die, and there will I be buried : the Lord do so to me, and more also, if ought but death part thee and me."*
The mother is every way outdone, overcome, and contends no longer-to persist farther had been cruelty, not friendship: and thus mutual sympathy and deliberate choice have, under the direction of all-ruling Providence, formed an union dearer than the ties of interest, or even the bonds of nature know: and thus the same breath which extinguishes the fainter spark, blows up the stronger into a purer, brighter flame; and thus the God who has all hearts and all events in his hand, ever rears a refuge for the miserable, provides a remedy against despair, and extracts a precious essence from calamity, which operates its own cure. “When she saw that she was steadfastly minded to go with her, then she left speaking unto her.”p And thus Ruth stands without an equal, without a rival. And how has she gained the glorious superiority over a sister ? By a lofty tone and an overbearing spirit, by the poisoned whisper, and the dark insinuation ; by smoothness of forehead and malignity of heart? No, but by perseverance in well-doing, and adherance to rectitude ; by modest firmness, and heart-affecting simplicity ; by undissembled affection, and unaffected piety. O goodness, how pure, how sincere, how satisfactory are the honours which crown thy head, and dilate thy heart!
It is impossible to tire in contemplating an object so transcendantly excellent. In that fair form all the feminine virtues and graces love to reside. We have pointed out some of them; let us meditate for a moment, on that which is the crown and glory of all the rest. Estimable for her conjugal fidelity, and filial attachment; great in her voluntary renunciation of the world, and patient submission to poverty, hardship and contempt; how superlatively great, how supremely estimable does she appear, arrayed in the robe of unfeigned piety, and triumphant faith in God! The world may perhaps condemn her for preferring the society, country, and prospects of so poor a woman as Naomi to the friendship of her own kindred, the possessions of her native home, the allurements of present ease and comfort. Had she conferred with flesh and blood, how very different had the decision been! But the same divine principle which caused Moses to " refuse to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter;" and which taught him "to esteem the reproach of Christ greater riches than the the treasures of Egypt," determined this amiable creature to withdraw from the companions of her youth, the protection of her father's house, and the religious worship of her ancestors; and to follow a destitute forlorn widow from country to country, to cast her subsistence upon the care of Providence, and to look for her reward beyond the grave.
Observe these distinct qualities of the religious principle by which she was actuated.
I. It was deliberate, the result of reflection, comparison and choice, not the prejudice of education, the determination of self-interest, nor the momentary effect of levity and caprice. Her prejudices, her partialities, her worldly interests were all clearly on the other side. The idolatrous rites of Moab were fascinating to a young mind, not yet beyond a taste for pleasure ; the aspect of the religion of Canaan was rather ungainly and forbidding, and to adopt it implied the renunciation of all that the heart naturally holds dear. When she therefore thus solemnly affirms, “ Your God shall be my God," it is in effect saying, “ I have counted the cost, I know whom I have believed. I have opened my mouth unto the Lord, and I cannot go back. I have subscribed with my hand to the God of Jacob. Blessed be the day that I came into connexion with an Israelitish family. It has indeed cost me many tears,
pierced through my heart with many sorrows, it is banishing me from my dear native clime, from the endearments of parental affection, from ease, honour and abundance, driving me among strangers, exposing me to struggle with uncertainty, anxiety, necessity, neglect and scorn ; but my resolution is fixed, none of these things move me ; every sacrifice, every loss, every disgrace is infinitely more than compensated by having Israel's God for my God." Which leads to observe a
Second feature of Ruth's religious character; it was steady and persevering. It might at first have been mere respect for the opinions and practice of the husband of her youth; the mere decency that suited an adopted daughter of Israel; but this had long ceased to be a motive; had it amounted but to this, it had been buried in the grave of her departed lord ; but what was at first complaisance and decency, grows up into inquiry, inquiry produces hesitation, and more serious inquiry, this improves into conviction, and conviction is followed by a determination not to be moved or shaken, and she continues steadfast to the end. Her constancy, it must be allowed, was put to severe trials. Orpah has gone back, Naomi carries her expostulation up to importunity, I had almost said, to downright violence; the difficulties and hardships of the way were increasing not diminishing upon her. Had not " the heart been established by grace," so many, such accumulated discouragements, must have subdued the ardour of her spirit, and sent her back after her sister, but she has put her hand to the plough, and must not look back. Observe, she does not attempt to reason, does not oppose argument to argument, but, “ being fully persuaded in her own mind," adheres firmly to her point, and argues irresistibly by not arguing at all, and prevails by entreaty. See that your cause be good, my fair friend, persist in it, prosecute it thus, and be assured of the victory.
III. Observe finally as Ruth's religious principle was deliberate, was steady and persevering, so it was lively, efficacious, practical. We hear nothing of the prattle of piety, nothing of the violence of a young and a female proselyte, no question of doubtful disputation introduced, about places and modes of worship, about Jerusalem and this mountain, nothing of the religion that floats merely in the head, and bubbles upon the tongue; no, her religion is seen, not heard, it “ works by love, it purifies the heart, it overcomes the world.” It offers up a grand sacrifice unto God, the body and spirit, affection and substance, youth, beauty, parentage, the pleasures and the pride of life. Let me see a single instance of this sort, and I will believe the convert more in earnest, than by exhibiting all the wordy zeal of a thousand polemics.
Indeed it is by action that this truly excellent woman expresses all her inward feelings. Her affection to her husband is not heard in loud lamentation over his tomb, but in cleaving to all that remained of him, his mother, his people, his country and his God. Her affection to his mother is not expressed in the set phrase of condolence and compliment; but in adhering to her when all had forsaken her, in labouring for her subsistence, in submitting to her counsel : and her reverence for his God is manifested not merely in adopting the language and observing the rites of Canaan, but in relinquishing forever, and with abhorrence, the gods beyond the flood, and every thing connected with their abominable rites.
Every circumstance of the case and character under review, administers plain and important instruction. And, being a case in ordinary life, Ruth stands forth a pattern and instructer to young persons, in particular, whose situation may resemble her own.
Young woman, you may have married into a strange family. You have, of course, adopted the kindred, the pursuits, the friendships, and to a certain degree, the religion of your husband. It is your duty, and you will find it
your interest, to let him and his connexions know, from your general deportment, that you are satisfied with the choice which you have made. Learn to give up your own prejudices in favour of country, of parentage, of customs, of opinions. Unless where the sacred rights of conscience are concerned, deem no sacrifice too great for the maintenance or restoration of domestic peace. As far as lieth in you, " whither he goeth, go thou; and lodge where he lodgeth; let his people be thy people, and his God thy God.” You will thereby preserve and secure bis affection ; you will harmonize family interests and intimacies, instead of disturbing them : if yours be the better religion, this is the way to bring over to it the man of no religion, or of an erroneous one; and if it be the worse, your relinquishing it, on conviction, will be at once a token of conjugal affection, a mark of good understanding, and a reasonable service toward God.
Have you had, in early life, the calamity of becoming a widow ? It is a distressing, a delicate situation. It calls for every maxim of prudence, every counsel of friendship, every caution of experience, every support of piety. If you are a mourner indeed, you are already guarded against affectation ; you will find rational and certain relief in attending to, and performing the duties of your station. You will neither seek a hasty cure of sorrow by precipitately plunging into the world, nor attempt an unnatural prolongation of it by affected retirement and sequestration. The tongue will utter no rash vows; the pang of separation will dictate no ensnaring resolutions; the will of Providence will be respected, obeyed, followed. Respect for the dead is best expressed by dutifulness to the living.
You have before you an useful example of firmness blended with female softness, of resolution heightened and adorned by sensibility. Lately, like Ruth, you had one who thought and acted for you; one who joyfully endured the burden and heat of the day, that your body and mind might enjoy repose. But now necessity is laid upon you. You must awake and arise to think and act for yourself. And here, as in every case, Nature has annexed the recompense to the duty. The mental powers are enfeebled, and at length destroyed, by disuse and inaction. Exertion invigorates the mind, and composes by directing it. The listlessness of indolence undermines health; the activity of useful employment is the simplest and most infallible medicine for bodily complaints. And the most direct road to an honourable and happy second connexion, probably, is, to guard carefully against all vehement expression of either inclination or aversion, on the subject.
All these, however, are merely lessons of prudence, adapted to the life that now is; and, however important in themselves, unless aided and supported by a higher principle, will constitute, at most, the decent kinswoman, or the respectable sufferer. In Ruth we have this higher principle likewise beautifully exemplified-rational, modest, unaffected piety. True religion sits well on persons of either sex, and in all situations; but its aspect is peculiarly amiable in a female form, and in particular situations. Youth, beauty and sorrow united, present a rnost interesting object-a daughter weeping at a parent's tomb; a mother mourning over the babe that milked her," and "refusing to be comforted;" a widow embracing the urn which contains the ashes of the husband of her youth-in all their affliction we are afflicted, we cannot refrain from mingling our tears with theirs. Let religion be infused into these lovely forms, and mark how the interest rises, how the frame is embellished, how the deportment is ennobled! The eye of that dutiful child is turned upward, her heart is delivered from oppression, her trembling lips pronounce, 6 When my father and my mother forsake me, then the Lord will take me up." - My Father who art in Heaven !” The mother withdraws from the breathless clay, reconciled to the stroke which bereaved her, "goes
her way, and eats bread, and her countenance is no more sad,” for her Maker has said to her, Why weepest thou ? and why eatest thou not? and why is thy heart grieved ? Am not I better to thee than ten sons?”—The widowed mourner “ gives her mortal interest up; and makes her God her all."
Young woman, whatever thy condition may be ; whether thou art in thy father's house, or married to an husband ; at home, or in a strange land; in society, or solitude ; followed or neglected; be this thy monitor, this thy guide, this thy refuge-" The love of God shed abroad in thy heart;" “ the fear of God which is the beginning of wisdom ;" “ the peace of God which passeth all understanding.” However easy, gentle, flexible, complying, in other respects, where your religious principles, where the testimony of a good conscience, where your duty to your Creator are concerned, be firm and resolute, “ be steadfast and unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord.” Thus shall youth be guarded, and beauty adorned; thus shall society be sweetened, and solitude cheered ; thus shall prosperity be sanctified, and adversity soothed; thus shall life, even to old age and decay, be rendered useful and respectable ; and thus shall death and the grave be stripped of all that is terrible in them.
HISTORY OF RUTH.
RUTH I, 19, 20, 21, 22.
So they went until they came to Beth-lebem. 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 Alinighty 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 haih atlicied 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-lehem in the beginning of barley-harvest.
Of the calamities to which human life is exposed, a few only are to be accounted real evils : the rest are imaginary and fantastical. Want of health is real woe ; but what proportion do the hours of pain and sickness bear to the years of ease, and comfort, and joy? Want of bread is real distress, but it is very seldom the work of nature, and therefore ought not, in justice, to be introduced into the list of the unavoidable ills which flesh is heir to. The loss of friends is a sore evil, but even wounds from this sharp-pointed weapon are closed at length, by the gentle hand of time, and the tender consolations of religion.
Whence then the unceasing, the universal murmurings of discontent, of desire, of impatience ? Men fix their standard of felicity too high; and all they have attained goes for nothing, because one darling object is still out of reach; or they groan and sigh under the weight of some petty disaster, which scarce deserves the name ; while ten thousand substantial blessings are daily
falling on their heads unnoticed, unacknowledged, unenjoyed. Compare, O · man, thy possessions with thy privations, compare thy comforts with thy
deserts, compare thy condition with thy neighbour's, consider how far, how very far thy state is on this side worst, and learn to give God thanks. Repine not that some wants are unsupplied, that some griefs are endured, that some designs have been frustrated, while so many unmerited good things are left, while hope remains, while there is recourse to Heaven. Behold these two forlorn wanderers, widowed, friendless, destitute, and cease from thy complaints, and stretch out thy hand to succour the miserable.
In the glorious strife of affection, Ruth has nobly prevailed. Impelled by the fond recollection of endearments past, and now no more--prompted by filial duty and tenderness to the mother of her choice, attracted, animated, upheld by the powers and prospects of religion, she composedly yields up her worldly all, takes up her cross, and bears it patiently along from Moab to Bethlehem-Judah. The history is silent on the subject of their journey. It is easy to conceive the anxieties, the terrors, the fatigues, the sufferings of female travellers, on a route of at least a hundred and twenty miles across the Arnon, across the Jordan, over mountains, through solitudes, without a protector, without a guide, without money. But that God who is the friend of the destitute, and the refuge of the miserable, that God who was preparing for them infinitely more than they could ask, wish or think, guides and guards them by the way, and brings them at length to their desired resting place.
These are not the only female pilgrims whom the sacred page has presented to our view, advancing by slow and painful stages to Bethlehem of Judah. Upwards of thirteen hundred years after this period we behold a still more illustrious traveller, and in circumstances still more delicate, on the road from Nazareth of Galilee, to her native city; but not to take possession of the inheritance of her fathers, not to repose in the lap of ease and indulgence, not to deposit the anxieties of approaching childbirth in the bosom of a fond and sympathizing parent; but to know the heart of a stranger, to feel the bitterness of unkindness and neglect; so friendless that not a door would open to receive her, so poor that she cannot purchase the accommodations of an inn, overtaken by nature's inevitable hour, “ she brings forth her first born son in a stable, and lays him in the manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.” But through such humiliating circumstances of meanness and poverty, what a display of glory and magnificence was the arm of Jehovah preparing! What an important station do the simple annals of these poor women hold in the history of mankind! What celebrity, in the eyes of all nations, have they conferred on Bethlehem, on their country! How a thousand years shrink into a point, before that God who “ sees the end from the beginning !" How the purposes of Heaven are accomplished to one iota, to one tittle! How places and times are determined of Him who saith, as one having authority, - My counsel shall stand, and I will fulfil all my pleasure."
One of the advantages, and not the least, of travelling abroad is the joy which the thought of returning home inspires; but this is a consolation which Naomi's return is not permitted to enjoy. She brings back no treasures to purchase attention, to command respect, to excite envy. She is accompanied with no husband, no son, to maintain her cause, or cheer her solitude. She brings back nothing but emptiness, dereliction and tears. A great part of her ancient acquaintance and friends are gone, as well as her own family. Those who remain hardly know her again, so much are her looks impaired and disfigured with grief. A new generation has arisen, to whom she is an utter stranger, and who are utter strangers to her. But in a little city, a trifling event makes a great noise. The curiosity of the whole town is excited by the appearance of these two insignificant fugitives; and various we may suppose were the inquiries set on foot, the conjectures formed, the remarks made, the censures passed, on their account. This is the