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HISTORY OF RUTH.
And they lift up their voice, and wept again: and Orpah kissed her mother-in-law; but Kuth 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 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 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....RUTH i. 14, 18.
'HE 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 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 irrisistible, 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 Rachael....in the winning condescension, and the melting commiseration of Pharaoh's daughter ....in the patriotic ardor, the prophetic elevation, the magisterial dignity of Deborah, the wife of Lapidoth ....in the unrelenting firmness and the daring, enterpri zing 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 Deliab, down to the implacable vengeance of Herodius, 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
tures 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 save 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 Betalehem-Judah, 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 favorable to cordiality 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 themselves....common łoɔs, 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 unwil ling to be outdone in kindness, earnestly entreats them to return home again, urging upon them every consid eration 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 2 M
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 appreheusion of what might yet be before them : attempt. ing 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 teriors and dangers of darkness, on the savageness 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 pillar 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 bope: the vigor 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 pros pects. Stand 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