Imatges de pÓgina
PDF
EPUB

tor by becoming a god to his fellow-creatures. It is thus that Deborah concludes her fong; with a warm effufion of faith, and hope, and defire, that righteoufnefs might abound and increase, that good men might be in fucceffion raised up, each in his day a light to his country, to mankind; "going forth as the fun in his might," from luftre to ftill higher luftre, from usefulnefs to usefulness, without diminution and without end. By the fame fimple but powerful imagery the wife man represents the progrefs of true goodness; path of the juft is as the fhining light, that fhineth more and more unto the perfect day." And Wisdom itself by a fimilar fuggeftion animates the zeal and fupports the industry of those who were to teach his religion to the nations of the earth; "Ye are the light of the world. Let your light fo fhine before men, that they may fee your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven."

To the whole is affixed an hiftorical note, fhort indeed, but highly interefting and important; "And the land had reft forty years. This is the nobleft eulogium of Deborah, the most honourable difplay of her talents and virtues. If there be feelings worthy of envy, they are those of this exalted woman, on reflecting that God had honoured her to reftore liberty and peace to her country; and to eftablish fuch a fyftem of administration of justice, of civil government, of military discipline, and of religious worship, as preferved the public tranquillity for forty years. How effectually may every individual ferve the community! Of what importance, then, is every, the meaneft individual! How lafting and how extenfive is the influence of real worth! There is one way in which every man may be a public bleffing, may become a faviour of his country by cultivating the private virtues of the man and the Christian.

I proceed to illuftrate the female character, its amiablenefs, usefulness and importance, in perfons and fcenes

fcenes of a very different complexion; in the lefs glaring, but not lefs inftructive history of RUTH, the Moabitefs, and Naomi, her mother-in-law; happy to efcape the scenes of horror and blood which are the fubject of the remainder of the history of the Ifraelitish judges.

History

History of Ruth.

LECTURE VII.

RUTH i. 1-5.

Now it came to pass in the days when the judges ruled, that there was a famine in the land. And a certain man of Beth-lehem-Judah went to jojourn in the country of Moab, he and his wife and his two fons. And the name of the man was Elimelech, and the name of his wife Naomi, and the name of his two fons Mahlon and Chilion, Ephrathites of Beth-lehem-Judah. And they came into the country of Moab, and continued there. And Elimelech, Naomi's husband, died; and fhe was left and her two fons. And they took them wives of the women of Moab; the name of the one was Orpah, and the name of the other Ruth : and they dwelled there about ten years. And Mahlon and Chilion died alfo both of them; and the woman was left of her two fons, and her husband.

THE perpetual viciffitude that prevails in the sys

tem of the universe, and in the conduct of Providence, is adapted to the nature, and conducive to the happinefs of man. The fucceffion of day and night, alternate labour and repofe, the variations of the changing seasons lend to each, as it returns, its peculiar beauty and fitness. We are kept ftill looking forward, we are ever hovering on the wing of expectation, rifing

from

from attainment to attainment, preffing on to fome. future mark, purfuing fome yet unpoffeffed prize. The hireling, fupported by the profpect of receiving the evening's reward, cheerfully fulfils the work of the day. The hufbandman, without regret, perceives the glory of fummer paffing away, because he lifts up his eyes and "beholds the fields white unto the harveft;" and he submits joyfully to the painful toil of autumn, in contemplation of the reft and comfort he fhall enjoy, when these fame fields fhall be white with fnow. It is hunger that gives a relifh to food; it is pain that recommends eafe. The value of abundance is known only to those who have fuffered want, and we are little fenfible what we owe to God for the bleffing of health, till it is interrupted by fickness.

The very plagues which mortality is heir to, have undoubtedly their uses and their ends: and the fword may be as neceffary to draw off the grofs humours of the moral world, as ftorm and tempeft are to disturb the mortal stagnation, and to chafe away the poisonous vapours of the natural. Weak, fhort-fighted man is affuredly unqualified to decide concerning the ways and works of infinite wifdom; but weak, labouring, wretched man may furely repofe unlimited confidence in infinite goodness.

During the dreadful times when there was no king in Ifrael, the whole head was fo fick, the whole heart fo faint, the whole mafs fo corrupted, that an ocean of blood must be drained off, before it can be restored to foundness again. Not only one rotten limb, but the whole body is in danger of perishing, and nothing but a painful operation can fave it. The fkilful, firm, but gentle hand of Providence takes up the inftrument, cuts out the difeafe, and then tenderly binds up the bleeding wounds. Relieved from the diftrefs of beholding brother lifting up the fpear against brother, from hearing the fhouts of the victor, and the groans of the dying, we retire to contemplate and to partake of the noiseless scenes of domeftic life; to ob

ferve the wholesome forrows and guiltless joys of calmnefs and obfcurity; to join in the triumphs of fenfibility, and to folace in the foft effufions of nature; to "fmile with the fimple, and feed with the poor."

The little history on which we are now entering, is one of those which every where, and at all seasons, muft afford pleasure and instruction. It is a most interefting difplay of ordinary life, of fimple manners, of good and honeft hearts; of the power of friendship and the rewards of virtue. It forms an important link in the chain of providence, and the hiftory of redemption. There is perhaps no ftory that has been wrought into fo many different forms, transfufed into fo many different languages, accommodated to fo many different fituations, as the hiftory of Ruth. It is felt, from the cottage up to the palace, by the ruftic and the courtier, by the orphan gleaner in the field, and the king's daughter. The man of tafte delights in it on account of the artlefs ftructure, elegant diction, and judicious arrangement of the tender tale. The friend of virtuous fenfibility delights in it, for the gentle emotions which it excites, and the ufeful leffons which it inculcates. The pious foul rejoices in it from the enlarged, the inftructive, the confolatory views of the divine providence which it unfolds. The inquiring and devout christian prizes it, as ftanding in connexion with the ground of his faith, and contributing to ftrengthen the evidence, and explain the nature of "thofe things wherein he has been inftructed," and on which he rests for falvation. Happy the man, who, poffeffing all thefe qualities, fhall peruse and employ it as a corrector and guide to the imagination, as a fupport to the fpirit, as a light to the understanding, a monitor to the confcience, a guard to the affections, and a faithful inftructor to the heart.

The particular era of this story is not marked by the facred penman, neither has he been directed to affix his name to his precious little work.

In general

« AnteriorContinua »