« AnteriorContinuar »
are never timorous in making assertions, or forming conjectures on such occasions, they tell you her father was Eglon whom Ehud slew. It is hardly probable that a prince of that country would have given his daughter in marriage to a needy adventurer who had banished himself from his country through necessity. But of little importance is it, whether she were born a princess or
Nature has adorned her with qualities such as are not always to be found in the courts of kings; qualities which best adorn high birth, and which ennoble obscurity and indigence; fidelity and attachment; a soul capable of fond respect for departed worth, and living virtue : magnanimity to sacrifice every thing the heart holds dear, to decency, friendship and religion ; magnanimity to encounter, without repining, painful toil, and humiliating dependence, in fulfilling the duties of gratitude, humanity and piety. How eloquent is she when she speaks, how great when she says nothing, how transcendantly exalted in all she thinks, speaks and acts! With what divine art, shall I say, is she introduced in the sacred drama ? After we have been melted into pity by the calamities of Naomi's family, and seen the widowed mourner sinking under wave upon wave; and the prospect of progeny, the last darling hope of an Israelitish matron, rudely torn from her, lo an angel in the form of a damsel of Moab, a mourner and a widow like herself, appears to comfort her, and makes her to know by sweet experience that he, that she, has not lost all, who has found a kind and faithful friend. What is the sound of the trumpet, and a long train of mute and splendid harbingers, compared to the simple preparation of unaffected nature ! Let us wait her approach in silent expectation ; and muse on what is past.
—Behold one generation of men goeth and another cometh ; one planet arising as another sets, every human advantage balanced by its corresponding inconveniency, every loss compensated by a comfort that grows out of it.
-Behold the purpose of the Eternal mind maintaining its ground amidst all the tossings and tempests of this troubled ocean, triumphing over opposition, serving and promoting itself by the wrath of man and the malice of hell, out of darkness rising into lustre, "out of weakness made strong,” by the energy of the great first cause, acquiring life, vigour and prosperity from the extinction of means, from the destruction and death of secondary causes.
Attend to the great leading object of divine revelation, to which all refer, to which all are subservient, in which all are absorbed and lost. I will make mention of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; of Moses and the prophets ; of Boaz and Ruth, “ I will make mention of Rahab and Babylon to them that know me ; behold Philistia and Tyre with Ethiopia ; this man was born there; and of Zion it shall be said, this man was born in her: and the Highest himself shall establish her. The Lord shall count, when he writeth up the people, That this man was born there.” May our names be written in the Lamb's book of life, among the living in Jerusalem !
The introduction of these personages and events, one after another, were remote steps of the preparation of the gospel of peace. And every person now born into the church of Christ, and every event now taking place in the administration of human affairs, is a little space in the great scale of eternal Providence, and a gradual preparation for the final consummation of all things. Let “thy kingdom come,” O God! Let Satan's kingdom be destroyed ; let the kingdom of grace be advanced, ourselves and others brought into and preserved in it, and let the kingdom of glory be hastened! Amen!
HISTORY OF RUTH. .
RUTH I. 14, 15, 16, 17, 18.
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 ihee, or to return from following after thee : for wbither 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 : the Lord do so to me, and more also, if ought but death part thee and me. When she saw that she was steadfastly minded to go with her, then she left speaking unto her.
The calm, untumultuous, unglaring scenes of private life, afford less abundant matter for the pen of the historian, than intrigues of state, senatorial contention, or the tremendous operations of the tented field, but they supply the moralist and the teacher of religion with more pleasing, more ample, and more generally interesting topics of useful information, and salutary instruction. What princes are, what statesmen meditate, what heroes achieve, is rather an object of curiosity than of utility. They never can become examples to the bulk of mankind. It is when they have descended from their public eminence, when they have retired to their private and domestic station, when the potentate is lost in the man, that they become objects worthy of attention, patterns for imitation, or beacons set up for admonition and caution. • For the same reason the meek, the modest, the noiseless exhibition and exercise of female excellence, occupy a smaller space in the annals of human nature than the noisy, bustling, forensic pursuits and employments of the other sex. But when feminine worth is gently drawn out of the obscurity which it loves, and advantageously placed in the light which it naturally shuns, O how amiable, how irresistible, how attractive it is! A wise and good woman shines, by not seeking to shine; is most eloquent when she is silent, and obtains all her will, by yielding, by submission, by patience, by self-denial.
Scripture as it excels in every thing, so it peculiarly excels in delineating and unfolding the female character, both in respect of the quantity exhibited, and of the delicacy, force and effect of the design. We have already seen this exemplified, in a variety of instances in the dignified conjugal attachment and respect, in the matron-like, conscious impatient superiority of Sarah-in the maternal partiality, eagerness and address of Rebekah-in the jealous discontent and impatience of Rachel-in the winning condescension, and the melting commisseration of Pharaoh's daughter-in the patriotic ardour, the prophetic elevation, the magisterial dignity of Deborah, the wife of Lapidoth-in the unrelenting firmness, and the daring, enterprising spirit of Jael, the wife of Heber.
Female vice and worthlessness are delineated on the sacred page with equal skill, truth and justice, from the insolence of Hagar, and the treachery
of Delilah, down to the implacable vengeance of Herodias, and the insatiate cruelty of her accursed daughter.
Three more female portraits are now presented for our inspection, and our improvement; all expressive of characters essentially different, all possessing features of striking resemblance, all exhibiting qualities which create and keep alive an interest, all copies from nature, all pourtrayed by the hand of him who knows what is in man.
We have witnessed the wretchedness and sympathized in the sorrows of Naomi, my pleasant one, reduced from rank and fulness to obscurity and indigence, banished from her country and friends, a stranger in a strange land, robbed of her husband, bereaved of her children; having no protector savo Heaven, no hope or refuge but in the peaceful grave. Behold the thrice widowed mourner bowing the head, and hiding the face in silent grief.
She is dumb, she opens not her mouth, because the Lord hath done it. The miserable partners of her woe only increase and embitter it. Two young women, like herself widows, childless, comfortless ; fondly attached to her, and tenderly beloved by her, because fondly attached to the memory of their husbands; but their mutual affection rendered a punishment, not a pleasure, by the pressure of poverty and the bitterness of neglect. At length she is roused from the stupefaction of grief by tidings from her country, from her dear native city, and a ray of hope dispels the gloom of her soul. She “ hears in the country of Moab how that the Lord had visited his people in giving them bread.”
In the wisdom and goodness of Providence, there is a healing balm provided for every wound. The lenient hand of time soothes the troubled soul to peace; the agitation of the mind at last wearies it out, and lulls it asleep and its weakness becomes its strength. Though in misery we cleave to the love of life, and having lost our comforts one after another, we are still enabled to look forward with fond expectation to a new source of joy, and when all temporal hope is extinguished, and reluctantly given up, the spirit asserts its own immortality, and rests in hope beyond the grave. Naomi is reduced to a melancholy, mortifying alternative; of continuing a poor, deserted exile in the land of Moab, or of returning to Bethlehem-Judab, stripped of all her wealth, all her glory; to be an object, at best, of pity, perhaps of contempt. On this however she resolves, flattering herself that change of place and change of objects may alleviate her distress.
The two young Moabitesses, in uniting themselves to men of Israel, had renounced their own kindred and country, perhaps their native gods; and therefore listen with joy to the proposal of their mother-in-law, to return to Canaan. It is the more pleasing to observe this union of sentiment and affection, that the relation in question is seldom found favourable to cordialty and harmony. It furnishes a presumptive proof of the goodness of all the three, and they had indeed a most mournful bond of union among them-, selves—common loss, common misery: and the heart seems to have felt and acknowledged the ties which alliance had formed and the hand of death had rivetted.
Behold then the mother and her daughters turning their back on the painfully pleasing scenes of joys and sorrows past, unattended, unprotected, unbefriended, disregarded, as sad a retinue as ever wandered from place to place. They are hardly in motion from their place, when Naomi, penetrated with a lively sense of gratitude for friendship so generous and disinterested, overwhelmed with the prospect of the still greater misery in which these dutiful young women were about to involve themselves, from their love to her, and unwilling to be outdone in kindness, earnestly entreats them to return home again, urging upon them every consideration that reason, that affection, that prudence
could suggest, to induce them to separate from a wretch so friendless and forlorn, so helpless, so hopeless as herself. To suffer alone is now all the consolation she either expects or seems to wish; the destitute condition of these sisters in affliction, is now her heaviest burthen. Indeed the situation of these three female pilgrims has in it something wonderfully pathetic and interesting. There they are upon the road, on foot, with all the weakness, ignorance, timidity, uncertainty and irresolution of their sex; not knowing which way to bend their course, exposed to the craft, violence or insult of every one they met; sinking under the recollection of what they had endured, shrinking from the apprehension of what might yet be before them: attempting to comfort each other, and, in that, every one seeking some slender consolation for herself. Think on the failure of bread, on the failure of money, on the approaches of night, on the natural terrors and dangers of darkness, on the save ageness of wild beasts, and the more formidable savageness of wicked men. Think on the unkindness and indifference of an unfeeling world, and the darker frowns of angry Heaven. We are disposed to weep while we reflect on Jacob, a fugitive from his father's house, composing his head to rest upon a pillow of stone, under the canopy of the open sky; at reflecting on Joseph, torn from his father's embrace, sold into slavery, cast into a dungeon; but I find here something infinitely more deplorable. They were men, flushed with youthful spirits, with youthful hope : the vigour of their minds had not been broken down by the iron hand of affliction, their prospects were enlivened with the promises and visions of the Almighty, but these unhappy wanderers have drunk deep of the cup of adversity ; their society is worse than solitude, despair hangs over all their future prospects. Staná still and shed the tear of compassion over them, ye daughters of affluence, prosperity and ease, who start at a shadow, who scream at the sight of a harmless mouse, who tremble at the rustling of a leaf shaken by the wind; ye who never knew the heart of a stranger, the keen biting of the wind of heaven, the stern aspect of hunger, the surly blow, or scornful look of pride and cruelty. Or rather, weep over them, ye whose wounds are still bleeding, to whom wearisome days and nights have been appointed, who by the experience of misery, have learned to pity and to succour the miserable. May the God of mercy, the friend of the orphan, the judge of the widow, the refuge of the distressed, have mercy upon them, and conduct them in safety to their desired haven.
Which shall we most admire, the generosity and disinterestedness of the mother, or the steadiness, spirit and resolution of the daughters ! How pleasurable is strife of a certain kind, the strife of good will, of magnanimity, of gratitude, of piety, of self-denial! The language, the sentiments, are the language and sentiments of nature, they flow from the heart, and reach the heart. “ And Naomi said unto her two daughters-in-law, Go, return each to her mother's house: the Lord deal kindly with you, as ye have dealt with the dead, and with me. The Lord grant you that ye may find rest, each of you, in the house of her husband. Then she kissed them. And they lift up their voice and wept.
The good woman herself admits that enough of respect has been paid to filial and conjugal tenderness; she wishes and prays, as a recompense for their kindness to the living, and devotędness to the memory of the dead, more lasting and more auspicious connexions with husbands of their own country. She proposes not, recommends not the affected, constrained, involuntary retirement and squestration of prudish, squeamish virtue; and they, on their part, assume no unnatural airs of immortal grief; they form no fimsy suspicious vows of undeviating, unalterable attachment; make no clamourous, un
* Ruth i. 8,9.
meaning, deceptious protestation of love extinguished, and never to be rekindled, the pitiful artifice of little minds to flatter themselves, and catch the admiration of others. How much more emphatical the silent, unprotesting reply of Orpah and Ruth! She kissed them ; and they lift up their voice and wept.” What charming eloquence is heard, is seen, is felt in those tears! Have these lovely damsels less regard for their departed lords, are they more eager to form new alliances, that they say nothing? I cannot believe it. Noisy grief is quickly over, soon spends itself. Sincerity seldom calls in the aid of exclamation, vehemence and vows; but dubious, staggering fidelity is glad to support itself with the parade of woe, and the pomp of declamation.
Their persevering, determined, unprotesting friendship but endears them the more to their venerable parent, and inclides her the more powerfully to resist their inclination, and prevent the sacrifice which they were disposed to make; and again she has recourse to more earnest and tender expostulation, resolved to offer up a noble sacrifice to maternal tenderness in her turn. “ And Naomi said, Turn again, my daughters : why will ye go with me? are there yet any more sons in my womb, that they may be your husbands? Turn again, my daughters, go your way ; for I am too old to have an husband. If I should say, I have hope, if I should have a husband also to-night, and should also bear sons; would ye tarry for them till they were grown? would ye stay for them from having husbands ? nay, my daughters : for it grieveth me much for your sakes, that the hand of the Lord is gone out against me.
What sweet touches of unsophisticated nature press upon the heart, in perusing this address ! beyond the pomp and power of art to reach. Who is not melted at hearing the undissembled wailings of a good and honest mind, mourning for others, not itself; calmly surrendering its own interest in the joys of life, but anxiously desirous to procure and preserve them for those whom she loved as her own soul; nobly resigning that cordial of cordials, virtuous friendship, when it could not be enjoyed but to the detriment of those who felt and expressed it ; composed to the prospect and suffering of solitary anguish, provided her amiable children were restored to the rank, affluence and comfort which they so well deserved. How poor and contemptible are the contentions for precedency and preeminence, the emulation of fortune and dress, the rage of admiration and conquest compared to this! How pleasant is it to see an humble fortune dignified and supported by generosity and greatness of mind !
The touchstone is now applied to the affection of the two sisters, and their characters and merits are finally disclosed. Orpah suffers herself to be persuaded ; with regret we behold her resolution overcome ; we behold her separating from her mother-in-law, with the valedictory kiss of peace, and returning to her own country and her gods; and we hear of her no more. But Ruth cleaves to her new choice, unmoved by the example of her sister, or the entreaties of her mother, she persists in her purpose ; the desertion of Orpah only knits her heart the faster to her adopted parent, and in words far sweeter than the nightingale’s song, she breathes out her unalterable resolution to live and to die with her. How could Naomi find in her heart to make another attempt to shake off so lovely a companion ? How delighted must she have been, in yielding the triumph of kindness to a pleader so irresistible. “ And Ruth said, Entreal 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
* Ruth i. 11-13.