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hero compared to this triumph of a man over himself! What are trophies stained with blood, opposed to the silent applause of a good conscience, and the approbation of Almighty God! I see him bringing the cause to the determination of the judges, with the firmness of an honest man, with the anxiety of one in love, and with the resignation of one who feared the Lord, and committed all to the conduct of infinite wisdom. Characters shine by contrast. The nearer kinsman's versatility, disingenuousness, and insensibility to shame, serve as a foil to the firmness, candour, and delicacy of Boaz. When the former hears of a good bargain, when he considers the advantage of his birth as the means of stepping into a vacant inheritance upon easy terms, he is all acquiescence and eagerness; but the moment he hears of the condition under which he is to purchase, of the assumption of the widow, of the relief of the miserable, of transmitting the name of Elimelech, not his own, to posterity, together with his lands, he instantly cools, submits to the infamy of having " his shoe pulled off," of being publickly spit upon, of having his house branded with a note of disgrace, and leaves the field open to a much better man than himself.
It is much easier to conceive than to describe the solicitude of the parties, while the cause was yet in dependence. What a blow to the heart of Boaz, when he, on whom the law bestowed the preferencs, declared his assent to the proposal ; what disappointment to the hopes of Naomi, who had evidently set her mind on the match ; what a damp thrown on the wishes and expectations of Ruth, on whose susceptible heart the goodness and generosity of Boaz must have made a deep impression! What relief to all, to hear him solemnly retract his assent, resign his right, and submit to the penalty. Those are the genuine delights of human life at which we arrive through danger and difficulty, which are the immediate gift of Heaven, which we have not employed improper arts to acquire, and which we can therefore enjoy without shame or remorse. The felicity which we are in too great haste to grasp, which we pursue independent of God and religion, which by crooked paths we arrive at, proves at best a cloud in the embrace, often a serpent full of deadly poison in the bosom. The very delays which Providence interposes, the sacrifices which a sense of duty offers up, the mortifications to which conscience submits, enhance the value, and heighten the relish of our lawful comforts.
Let us apply this observation to the three leading personages in this interesting tale. Naomi sits down, and thus meditates with herself. “With what fair prospects did I begin the world ; the wife of a prince, a mother in Israel, among the first in rank, in wealth, in expectation. But how early were my prospects clouded! Driven by famine from the land of promise, reduced to seek shelter and subsistence among strangers, but supported and refreshed by the companiy and tenderness of the husband of my tender years, and the presence and improvement of my children: finding a new home in the land of Moab, my family respected in a foreign country, reputably allied, comfortably settled. But the cup of prosperity again dashed from my hand; husband and sons, the desire of mine eyes, taken away with a stroke ; Canaan and Moab, rendered equally a place of exile, robbed of that which rendered all places a home, all situations a pleasure ; deserted of all but Heaven, and a good young woman, once the partner of my joys, now my sister in affliction : fleeing back for the relief of my anguish to my native soil and city, and mortified at finding myself there more a stranger than among aliens; providentially raised into notice and consequence again, my affectionate daughter nobly allied, the name of Elimelech about to be revived, and his house built up! What a strangely chequered life! Naomi and Mara in perpetual succession ! But every thing is ordered wisely and well of Him who sees all things at one view;
the latter end is better than the beginning; behold good arising out of evil the designs of the Most High hastening to their accomplishment, All is of the Lord of Hosts, who is wonderful in counsel and excellent in working.”
The reflections of the Moabitess may be supposed to run in this channel. “ What a blessing for me that I ever became united to an Israelitish family, whatever pangs it may other ways have cost me! But for this I should have been, like my fathers, a worshipper of stocks and stones, the work of men's hands ; a stranger to rational piety, to inward peace! Happy loss, which procured for me this unspeakably great gain : propitious poverty, which sent, which drove me out in quest of treasures inestimable; blessed exile, wbich conducted me to a habitation under the wings of the Almighty! What real gain is true godliness! It has more than the promise, it has the enjoyment of the life that now is. Mysterious Providence, that directed my doubtful, trembling steps to glean in that field, that has in a few short weeks made such a change in my condition, that has raised me from the lowest, meanest, most forlorn of dependants, to the highest state of affluence, ease and respectability; and transplanted me from the vast howling deserts of idolatry and jgno. rance, to the fair and fertile regions of knowledge, of purity, of hope and joy! To comfort and maintain a mother like Naomi, to find such a friend and husband as Boaz! It is life from the dead. It is of that God who has taught me to know, and to choose him as my God, and who will never fail nor forsake them who put their trust in him.”
Boaz too finds his situation greatly improved, rejoices and gives God thanks. " My wealth was great, my garners full, my man servants and maidens numerous, dutiful and affectionate, but I had no one to share my prosperity with me, I was solitary in the midst of a multitude : like Adam in Paradise, incapable of enjoyment, because destitute of a companion, an help meet for me; but God hath provided for me a virtuous woman, whose price is above rubies. My house has now received its brightest ornament, my family its firmest supu port, my estate its most prudent and faithful dispenser. I have done my duty. I have respected the majesty of the law. I have followed where Providence led the way, and I have found my reward, in the peace of my own mind, in the possession of a wise and good woman, in the blessing of that God who has done all things for me, and who does all things wisely and well." .
Behold a match formed immediately by the hand of Providence, through the happy concurrence of little incidental circumstances ; a match built, not on the brittle foundation of sordid interest, but on the solid basis of mutual affection, of generosity, of wisdom, of religion ; a match pregnant with what consequences to Bethlehem-Judah, to all Israel, to the human race!
From this advantage of ground, how pleasant it is to trace the sweetly meandering course of the river of prophecy and promise united, toward the vast the immeasurable ocean of accomplishment. Now the tribe of Judah is rising into consequence, now the royal sceptre is ready to be put into his hand, never to depart thence “ till Shiloh come, of the increase of whose government and peace there shall be no end : to whom the gathering of the people shall be." Now the star of Jacob begins to appear. Now the “ tender plant" begins to rear its head, and the “root out of the dry ground to spring up; it buds and blossoms as the rose, and its smell is as the smell of Lebanon."
But what eye can discover, what created spirit take in the whole extent of “God's purpose and grace given in Christ Jesus before the world began," and terminating in the final and everlasting redemption of a lost world, through faith in his blood ? The veil of eternity is drawn over it; “ Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither bave entered into the heart of man the things which God hath prepared for them that love him."* “ Beloved, now are we
* 1 Cor. ii. 9,
the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be : but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him ; for we shall see him as he is.”+
The history of Ruth, will be brought to a period next Lord's day.
You see, men and brethren, the object which is closely kept in view, through every era of time, under all dispensations, and by whatever instruments. The work of God cannot stand still, his purpose cannot be defeated. One generation of men goeth and another cometh, but every succeeding generation contributes to the furtherance of his design ; and, whether knowingly or ignorantly, voluntarily or reluctantly, all fulfil his pleasure.
None are forsaken of Providence, but such as are false to themselves, and till we have done what is incumbent upon us, we have neither warrant nor encouragement to look up and wish, to expect and pray.
Nothing is dishonourable, but what is sinful : poverty that is not the effect of idleness, prodigality or vice, has nothing shameful in it; the gleaner behind the reapers may be as truly dignified as the lord of the harvest. Let lordly wealth cease from pride, and virtuous obscurity and indigence from dejection and despair.
Waste not time, spirits and thought in airy speculation about imaginary situations, but try to make the most of that in which infinite wisdom has seen meet to place thee.
Disdain to envy any one, at least until thou hast thoroughly examined into the estate of him whom thou art disposed to envy.
He is destitute of the happiest preparation for the relish and enjoyment of prosperity, who has not arrived at it through the path of adversity. To receive with thankfulness, to enjoy with moderation, to resign with cheerfulness, to endure with patience, is the highest pitch of human virtue.
Men are often fulfilling a plan of Providence, without intending, or even being conscious of it. They are acting a double part at the same instant ; the one private and personal, local and transitory, the other public, comprehensive and permanent: they may be building up at once a private family and the church of God, carrying on and maintaining the succession to an inheritance, to a throne, and ministering to the extension and progress of a kingdom which shall never be moved or shaken.
In the kingdom of nature, there is high and low, mountain and valley, sameness with diversity : in the kingdom of Providence, there is difference of rank and station, of talent and accomplishment, of fortune and success, but an mutual and necessary connexion and dependence. In the kingdom of grace, there is diversity of gifts and offices, but the same Spirit; and so in the kingdom of glory, different degrees of lustre, as stars differ one from another, but one universal glory, of which all the redeemed are together partakers, all being kings and priests unto God. Throughout the whole, there is a gradation which at once pleases and confounds, that depresses and exalts, that inspires contentment and teaches to aspire, that now attracts to the pure fountain of uncreated light, and now repels the bold inquirer to his native darkness and distance again.
Is it pleasant to survey from the exceeding high mountain, where the christian tabernacle is pitched, the course of that river whose streams make glad the city of our God ? What will it be, from the summit of yonder eternal hills, to contemplate the whole extent of Emanuel's land, “ watered with the pure river of water of life ;' to mingle with the nations of them that are saved, as they expatiate through the blissful groves, planted with the tree of life: to converse with the distinguished personages who shine on this hallowed
page, and shall then shine in immortal lustre ; to reap with Boaz a richer harvest than ever waved on the plains of Bethlehem-Judah; to assist Naomi in raising her triumphant song of praise; and to rejoice with Ruth, and with one another, in our joint reception into God's everlasting kingdom, in our common admission into “ the general assembly and church of the first-born.” Glorious things are spoken of thee, O city of our God. We have heard of them with the hearing of the ear, may our eyes be blessed with the sight of them. May “the Lamb who is in the midst of the throne lead us to living fountains of waters, and God wipe away all tears from our eyes." “ Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus.”
HISTORY OF RUTH.
RUTH IV. 13, 14, 15, 16, 17.
So Boaz took Ruth, and she was his wife : and when he went in unto her, the Lord gave her concep
tion, and she bare a son. And the women said unto Naomi, Blessed be the Lord, which bath bot left thee this day without a kinsman, that his name may be famous in Israel. And he shall be unto thee a restorer of thy life, and a nourisher of thine old age. For thy daughter-in-law, wbich loveth thee, wbich is beiter to thee than seven sons, hath borne him. And Naomi took the child, and laid it in her bosom, and became nurse unto it. And the women her neighbours gave it a na saying, There is a son born to Naomi, and they called his name Obed. He is the father of Jesse, the father of David.
There is an obvious resemblance between the general plan. of the divine providence, and the separate and detached parts of it. The life of almost every good man exhibits virtue for a season struggling with difficulty, overwhelmed with distress, but emerging, rising, triumphing at length. Through much tribulation the christian must enter into the kingdom of God, and on his way be often in heaviness through manifold temptations. It is the wise ordinance of infinite goodness. Opposition rouses, calls forth the latent powers of the soul ; success is heightened by the danger to which we were exposed, by the trouble which it cost us, by the pains we took ; antecedent labour sweetens rest. Hence, the passages of our own lives which we most fondly recollect and relate, and those in the lives of others which most deeply engage and interest us, are the scenes of depression, mortification and pain through which we have passed. The perils of a battle, the horrors of a shipwreck, so dreadful at the moment, become the source of lasting joy, when the tempest has ceased to roar, and the confused noise of the warrior is hushed into silence.
Fiction, in order to please, is, accordingly, forced to borrow the garb of truth. The hero's sufferings, the lover's solicitude and uncertainty, the parent's anguish, the patriot's conflict, are the subject of the drama. When the ship has reached her desired haven, when the cloud disperses, when the contest is decided, the curtain must drop. Periods of prosperity cannot be the theme of history.
The vast, general system, in like manner, exhibits “the whole creation groaning and travailing in pain together :" interest clashing with interest, spirit rising up against spirit, one purpose defeating another, universal nature apparently on the verge of confusion; chaos and ancient night threatening to resume their empire : but without knowledge, design or cooperation, nay, in defiance of concert and cooperation, the whole is making a regular, steady progress; the muddy stream is working itself pure; the discordant mass is bound as in chains of adamant, the wrath of man is praising God; every succeeding era and event is explaining and confirming that which preceded it; all is tending towards one grand consummation which shall collect, adjust, unite and crown the scattered parts, and demonstrate, to the conviction of every intelligent being, that all was, is, and shall be very good.
Finite capacity can contemplate, and comprehend but a few fragments at most : and scripture has furnished us with a most delicious one, in the little history, of which I have now read the conclusion. The story of Ruth has been considered, by every reader of taste, as a perfect model in that species of composition. It will stand the test of the most rigid criticism, or rather, is calculated to give instruction and law to criticism. With your patience I will attempt a brief analysis of it.
1st. The subject is great and important beyond all that heathen antiquity presents: the foundation and establishment of the regal dignity in the house of David, the type and ancestor of the Messiah. An event in which not one age, one nation, one interest is concerned, but the whole extent of time, the whole human race, the temporal, the spiritual, the everlasting interests of mankind. What is the demolition of Troy, or the settlement of Æneas in Latium, compared to this? Paradise Lost, itself, must give place to this glorious opening of Paradise Regained.
2d. The story is perfect and complete in itself; or, as the critic would say, has a beginning, a middle, and an end. Elimelech is driven by famine into bapishment, dies in the land of Moab, and leaves his family in distress. Here the action commences. Naomi and Ruth, united by propinquity, by affection and by distress, are induced to return to Bethlehem-Judah, in hope of effecting a redemption of the estate which had belonged to the family, but under the pressure of necessity had been alienated. Their reception, deportment, and progress, form the great body of the piece. The marriage of Boaz and Ruth, and the birth of Obed is the conclusion of it.
3d. The conduct of the plot is simple, natural and easy. No extraneous matter, personage, or event is introduced, from first to last : the incidents
follow, and arise out of one another, without force, without effort. No extra- ordinary agency appears, because none is requisite; the ordinary powers of
nature, and the ordinary course of things, are adequate to the effect intended to be produced. There is no violent or sudden transition, but a calm, rational, progressive change from deep sorrow to moderated affliction, to composed resignation, to budding hope, to dawning prosperity, to solicitous prosecution, to partial success, to final and full attainment.
The discovery of Ruth, of her character, of her virtues, of her relation to Boaz, is in the same happy style of natural simplicity and ease. On her part we see no indecent eagerness to bring herself forward, no clamourous publication of her distresses or pretensions, no affected disguise or concealment to attract observation or provoke inquiry : on his, there is no vehemence of exclamation, no hastiness of resolution ; but in both, the calmness of good minds, the satisfaction which conscious virtue enjoys, in the unexpected discovery of mutual attractions and kindred worth. The situations are interesting, affecting, governed by the laws of nature and probability, and consonant to every day's experience.
4th. The sentiments are just, arising out of the situations, adapted to the