Imatges de pÓgina

day. The husbandman, without regret, perceives the glory of summer passing away, because he lifts up his eyes and "beholds the fieids white unto the barvest ;" and he submits joyfully to the painful toil of autumn, in contemplation of the rest and comfort he shall enjoy, It is when these same fields shall be white with snow. hunger that gives a relish to food; it is pain that recommends ease. The value of abundance is known only to those who have suffered want, and we are little sensible what we owe to God for the blessing of health, till it is interrupted by sickness.

The very plagues which mortality is heir to, have undoubtedly their uses and their ends: and the sword may be as necessary to draw off the gross humors of the moral world, as storm and tempest are to disturb the mortal stagnation, and to chase away the poisonous vapors of the natural. Weak, short-sighted man is assuredly unqualified to decide concerning the ways and works of infinite wisdom; but weak, laboring, wretched man may surely repose unlimited confidence in infinite goodness.

During the dreadful times when there was no king in Israel, the whole head was so sick, the whole heart so faint, the whole mass so corrupted, that an ocean of blood must be drained off, before it can be restored to soundness again. Not only one rotten limb, but the whole body is in danger of perishing, and nothing but a painful operation can save it. The skilful, firm, but gentle hand of Providence takes up the instrument, up the cuts out the disease, and then tenderly binds bleeding wounds. Relieved from the distress of beholding brother lifting up the spear against brother, from hearing the shouts of the victor, and the groans of the dying, we retire to contemplate and to partake of the noiseless scenes of domestic life, to observe the whoelsome sorrows and guiltless joys of calmness and obscurity; to join in the triumphs of sensibility, and

to solace in the soft effusions of nature; to "smile with the simple, 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, must afford pleasure and instruction. It is a most interesting display of ordinary life, of simple manners, of good and honest hearts; of the power of friendship, and the rewards of virtue. It forms an important link in the ch in of Providence, and the history of redemption. There is perhaps no story that has been wrought into so many different forms, transfused into so many different languages, accommodated to so inany different situations, as the history of Ruth. It is felt, from the cottage up to the palace, by the rustic and the courtier, by the orphan gleaner in the field, and the king's daughter. The man of taste delights in it on account of the artless structure, elegant dic-' tion, and judicious arrangement of the tender tale. The friend of virtuous sensibility delights in it, for the gentle emotions which it excites, and the useful lessons which it inculcates. The pious soul rejoices in it from the enlarged, the instructive, the consolatary views of the divine providence which it unfolds. The inquiring and devout christian prizes it, as standing in connexion with the ground of his faith, and contributing to strengthen the evidence, and explain the nature of "those things wherein he has been instructed," and on which he rests for salvation. Happy the man, who, possessing all these qualities, shall peruse and employ it as a corrector and guide to the imagination, as a support to the spirit, as a light to the understanding, a monitor to the conscience, a guard to the affections, and a faithful instructor to the heart.

The particular era of this story is not marked by the sacred penman, neither has he been directed to affix his name to his precious little work. In general it was not in the times of boisterous anarchy and wild uproar, that Boaz cut down his barley, and Ruth

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gleaned after the reapers. The fruits of the field were protected to the owner by lawful authority, and justice was administered by the elders in the gate.

If we consider that the life of man was now reduced to the common standard, that David was the fourth in order of succession from Boaz, and allow thirty or thirty-five years to be the medium standard of distance from one generation to another, the marriage of Boaz with Ruth will be thrown upon the short administration of his townsman Ibzan, the successor of Jeptha, of which we have only a brief account: "And after him, Ibzan of Bethlehem judged Israel," Judges xii. §.

Samuel is generally understood to have written both this book and the preceding, and thereby to have preserved the historical series of events from Joshua to himself, almost unbroken; and also the genealogical deduction of succession down to David, in whom the royal line of the house of Judah commenced, altogether uninterrupted. And while we behold Rahab the harlot, a woman of Jericho, and Ruth the Moabitess, not only admitted to the rank of mothers in Israel, but mothers of a race of kings, mothers in the line of "Messiah the Prince," we are admonished as Peter was long afterward, on a different occasion, "not to call that common or unclean which God hath purified."

Israel was now enjoying the blessing of good gov ernment, but the land is visited with a calamity which no sagacity of government could foresee or prevent, and no human power remove....with famine. Bethlehem itself, the house of bread, so called from the fertility of the circumjacent fields, sinks under the pressure of this sore evil, and Elimelech, one of the chiefs of his tribe, is, like the most illustrious of his ancestors, driven to seek subsistence in a strange land.

Every land according to its place on the globe has its peculiar climate, soil, production. One is watered

by the clouds of heaven, another by an inundation of the waters of the earth. Here the rain descends according to no fixed law, either as to season or quantity, there it is measured to a drop, and timed to a moment. On the regularity or uncertainty of these distributions by the hand of nature, or the intervention of Providence, depend the comfort, the very sustentation of human life; on them depends all the variation of vegetable produce, as to plenty or scarcity, as to greatness, wholesomeness, pleasantness and their contraries. Hence the same country is one year as the garden of God, for beauty and abundance, and the next as the waste howling wilderness; Canaan now flows with milk and honey, and gives bread to the full, and anon eats up its inhabitants. We hear an offended and a merciful God, by the mouth of the same prophet, reproving and threatening human thoughtlessness and ingratitude in relation to this interesting subject, in these glowing terms: "She did not know that I gave her corn and wine and oil, and multiplied her silver and gold, which they prepared for Baal; therefore will I return and take away my corn in the time thereof, and my wine in the season thereof, and will recover my wool and my flax, given to cover her nakedness. And I will destroy her vines and her fig-trees, of which she said, These are my rewards which my lovers have given me and I will make them a forest, and the beasts of the field shall eat them." And thus relents the God of grace towards penitent returning children, "I will betroth thee unto me in faithfulness, and thou shalt know the Lord. And it shall come to pass in that day, I will hear, saith the Lord, I will hear the heavens, and they shall hear the earth, and the earth shall hear the corn and the wine and the oil, and they shall hear Jezreel; and I will sow her unto me in the earth, and I will have mercy on her that had not obtained mercy." Such is the mysterious scale of both mercy and judg ment. Thus universal nature is combined in one firm'

league to oppress and confound God's adversary. Thus every creature, every event unites in preserving the existence, and promoting the happiness of his repenting, dutiful, obedient children.

Elimelech seeks and finds refuge in Moab, for" the earth is the Lord's and the fulness thereof;" and he bas given commandment, "Let mine outcasts dwell with thee, Moab;" and that one word disarms in an instant national animosity, represses the rage of the lion, quenches the violence of fire. The fugitive of Bethlehem-Judah finds kindness and protection among inveterate enemies; Daniel sleeps secure among the fiercest of the savage tribes; and the three children of the captivity walk unhurt in the midst of the flaming fur.


We see, at first, nothing but one of those instances which every day occur, of the sad reverses to which individuals, families, states are liable; the downfall and distress of an ancient and reputable house, struggling with penury, and forced into exile; but we soon discover, that the eternal eye is fixed on a nobler object, that the hand of omnipotence is preparing the materials and laying the foundation of a more magnificent fabric; that infinite wisdom is bringing low the royal house of Bethlehem, only to restore it to greater .splendor.

We have before us at once the cure of pride and of despair. Behold, O man of an hundred ancestors, and of an hundred thousand acres, behold Elimelech, the son of Abrahain, poor and despised; the head of the tribe of Judah, a stranger in a strange land, existing through sufferance, supplied through foreign bounty; and remember by what a brittle tenure thy privi Jeges and possessions are held. Consider, child of adversity, whom no man knows, whom no one regards, consider yonder neglected, reduced, extinguished family, and behold from the ashes of the expiring phonix, an immortal offspring arising, whose flight neither

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