« AnteriorContinuar »
know at the time that there was another still nearer kinsman. She therefore counselled Ruth to assert her claim, as it was customary for widows to do in like cases. And Ruth, having full confidence in Naomi's integrity, implicitly followed her advice: the circumstances are related in the third and fourth chapters. But my present purpose only requires of me to state the event: Boaz admitted the right of Ruth to make the demand she did upon the nearest of kin; neither did he reproach her with impropriety of conduct, nor disdain her as a destitute stranger, nor suspect her of interested motives; on the contrary, he plainly testified to her honour, that all knew her to be a virtuous woman, and his whole behaviour indicates a true regard for her.
But, though neither she nor her mother-in-law knew it, there was a nearer relative who had a prior claim to redeem the estate, and who might be first called upon to marry Ruth. "Let him," therefore, said Boaz, "do the kinsman's part;" but if he will not, then he tells Ruth, "I will do the part of a kinsman to thee, as the Lord liveth "."
And so, indeed, had the Lord willed. The kinsman waived his claim, and Ruth became the wife of Boaz. This, of course, put an end to the distress and poverty both of herself and of her mother-in-law; and, besides this, it has caused the name of Ruth to be had in honour in the Church of God in all ages; for she bare a son to Boaz whose name was Obed: "and Obed begat Jesse, and Jesse begat David "," of whom after the flesh, as we know, came Jesus Christ. In Ruth, therefore, the Scripture was fulfilled, "Godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come "."
Thus the history concludes: I have omitted some particulars which might have been profitably dwelt upon, leaving you to collect them, as I hope you will do, by reading the history yourselves at home. But I
5 Ruth iii. 13.
• Ibid. iv. 22.
7 1 Tim. iv. 8.
told you, when I began, what was my single aim in bringing thus much before you at this time, namely, to show you the wisdom and necessity of promptly and decidedly giving up all for God. So that now it only remains to apply to you the words of the Prophet, "How long halt ye between two opinions? If the Lord be God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him "."
Orpah, as ye have seen, followed Baal: she may not have been fully conscious of what she did; she may not have avowed it to her own mind; she may have succeeded in shutting her eyes against it; but still the practical conclusion, to which she had really come, was no other than that the service of the world, the devil, and the flesh, was the more profitable service. For the question was not in her case whether she loved Naomi a little, or whether she had attended to her instructions in some degree, or whether she had some inclinations and wishes to know the one true God and to worship Him: the question was, whom and what she loved best; and this was proved when she actually turned back to Moab.
Then do not ye follow her; and, that ye may not, do not deceive yourselves, as she seems to have deceived herself, either when the choice is especially propounded to you between God and the world, or when, after ye have gone wrong, an opportunity of repentance is afforded you, as in the tender mercy of God it may be.
Natural conscience is God's witness and watchman in the soul of man; and the light of Scripture is so far diffused and apprehended as to be always confirming the witness of conscience; so that few forsake God, or commit wilful sin, or renounce duty, or sell their souls for worldly ease and advantage without an effort, without seeing and feeling their own folly, without crossing some better inclinations and stifling some right convictions; but if the soul is sold, notwithstanding, let none set down these misgivings as testimonies in their
1 Kings xviii. 21.
favour, or view them as palliations of their guilt. It is just the contrary. The more you get over, for the sake of sin, the more you love sin; and the longer you stand debating and hesitating, the more you have got over. Your misgivings, therefore, will be swift witnesses against you; and as to the fair speeches that you make on the side of religion, and all your professions of honouring the cause, there is no hope to be built on them. You acknowledge by them, indeed, that God has a just claim upon your regards, as Orpah acknowledged Naomi to have on hers by the parting kiss she gave her; but "this," after all, and nothing else, "is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and whoso will be Christ's disciple he must take up his cross and follow Him'. King Agrippa was none the better for being almost persuaded to be a Christian; but all the worse for having overcome the impression which the Apostle's sermon made upon him. Do not deceive yourselves, then, in this way.
And let me add, if you have thus erred, do not deceive yourselves still further in another way. It might by possibility have fared with Orpah as it did with him mentioned in the parable, who refused at first to do his father's bidding, to work in his vineyard, but afterwards repented and went; but it did not so befall in fact, and it may be that in her case the Scripture was fulfilled, "The prosperity of fools shall destroy them +"
Orpah had made a foolish choice; but probably, as has been observed before, among her people and her gods she had found those comforts and enjoyments which are capable of contenting, or at least fully occupying, a vain and worldly mind for a season; and, if so, any thing of good impression which remained to her from Naomi's past instructions would wear away speedily; her regrets would vanish, and the thought, if ever she had any, of yet following Naomi would
9 1 John v. 3.
2 Acts xxvi. 28. 4 Prov. i. 32.
perish altogether. And thus it is ever wont to be. Those who have chosen the world against conscience, will love it better and better till that candle of the Lord within them is quite put out. Beware of this, I pray you. Do not think all is well because in the world you have much comfort and little to vex you, and because you fancy that prosperity is within your reach. Do not accept of these things as your portion. Remember what that man came to who in his lifetime had received his good things; and set your affections not on things on earth, as he did, but on things above; "for the things which are seen" here on earth "are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal "." Whatever you have of the world, let it not keep out the thought of a better world; and the more you have, and the more at ease you are, guard the more against its tendency to do so. And so long as ye profess and call yourselves Christians, remember, further, that it is this which distinguishes a true Christian from any other, that he walks "by faith and not by sight "."
This brings back our thoughts to Ruth. She acted upon this principle, we have seen; and, if she left not her country and her kindred without regret, that only proves the strength of the principle within her. Her heart was God's, and she showed it, when the time was come, by her obedience.
As ye take warning from her sister's folly, take pattern from her wisdom. Her history, as I said at first, illustrates our Saviour's doctrine, and exemplifies the faithfulness of his promises. My exhortation to you, therefore, cannot be better summed up than by repetition of his words: "Ye cannot serve God and mammon. Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment? Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into
5 2 Cor. iv. 18.
6 2 Cor. v. 7.
barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they? Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature? And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin and yet I say unto you, that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to-day is, and to-morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith. Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? For after all these things do the Gentiles seek for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof"."
But all this supposes, ye will say justly, full and implicit trust in God; and how is that grace to be attained to and held fast in trials?
In answer to this, I will only, in conclusion, borrow two plain directions from the practice of Ruth. Faith is the gift of God; but we must cultivate it, and take the right course to nourish and strengthen it, in dependence upon Him, of course I mean, to give the blessing.
First, then," He that walketh with wise men shall be wise; but a companion of fools shall be destroyed." Ruth clave to Naomi. Let your "delight be upon the saints that are in the earth, and upon such as excel in virtue ";""the tongue of the just is as choice silver," and "the lips of the righteous feed many 10." The image of Christ, moreover, is to be honoured in those who belong to Him; and "he that receiveth a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a pro
7 Matt. vi. 24-34.
9 Ps. xvi. 3. Prayer Book Translation.
8 Prov. xiii. 20.