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whole; every one is acting in his own sphere; while infinite wisdom binds all together by invisible or unnoticed bands, and the various members, without knowledge or design, co-operate for the common benefit, and fulfil the great design of Heaven.
Idleness is not more dishonorable, than it is inimical to real felicity. The sluggard at once defeats the purpose of his Maker, and destroys his own peace: and what was denounced against man as a punishment, "In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread," like every other punishment that comes from above, is converted into a blessing; and, as in every other case, the great God is just and merciful at once; just, in imposing on the fallen creature the necessity of laboring; merciful, in rendering the fruit of it so sweet.
But can the inhabitants of a great, commercial, polished city, find either amusement or instruction in contemplating the rude and simple manners of ancient times; in listening to the history of the inglorious toils of the husbandman; in tracing the operations of an art, the very terms of which they do not understand; in observing the mean employments of poverty and wretchedness which they only pity or despise? Whether they can derive amusement, or instruction, from such things as these, or not, may not courtly pride be admonished in behalf of the lowly, rustic sons of want and industry, in the words of two sweet singing bards of our own country.
"Let not ambition mock their useful toil,
Their homely joys, and destiny obscure : Nor grandeur hear with a disdainful smile, The short and simple annals of the poor." GRAY's Church-yard.
." Nor ye who live
In luxury and ease, in pomp and pride,
We have heard the artless tale of Naomi's woe, and Ruth's attachinent. We have accompanied the deserted, widowed mother and daughter-in-law from Moab to Bethlehem-Judah, the city of their departed busbands but alas, all the reception they meet with, is stupid wonder, silly curiosity, or insulting pity. We hear of no kind contention to entertain the stranger and succor the distrest. The season of reaping was come; but for them no golden harvest waved in the wind, for them no mower was preparing his sickle; their poverty was but embittered by the sight of plenty diffused around: and the misery of Naomi's fall is dreadfully aggravated, by the prosperity which ElimeJech's nearest relations were enjoying.
Of these the most distinguished was Boaz, whom the sacred historian introduces to our acquaintance as a mighty man of wealth." Riches, like every other gift of God, become a blessing or a curse just according to the use that is made of them. Riches are a solid good, when they are received with thankfulness, enjoyed with moderation, and employed in the service of God and of mankind; but are perverted into a sore evil when they engender pride, and harden the heart, as is too generally the case, when they purchase fuel for the lusts, or are fabricated into a golden image, to become the unworthy object of adoration. Had Boaz been merely a man of wealth, he had not deserved a place in these sacred memoirs; but though a rich man, he was not slothful in business; he was a man of humanity, of intelligence, of discretion, of affability: a man that feared the Lord, that did justly, that loved mercy. He was ennobled by qualities which great possessions cannot confer, and which do not, with fugitive treasures, fly away as an eagle toward heaven.
Behold the mysterious distribution of the gifts of Providence! The family of one" brother is waxen poor and fallen into decay;" that of the other is shining in splendor, affluence and renown. Hasty and
partial views of the divine conduct, are always puzzling and distressful; calm and comprehensive investigation, will ever lead to composure and acquiescence.
What must these helpless women do for daily bread? They sit neglected and forlorn; but despondency will only increase the calamity. Necessity suggests many expedients. While health, virtue and friendship remain, all is not lost; and Heaven frequently per mits the current of human felicity to spend itself to the very lowest ebb, that its own hand may be acknowledged in the means which caused the flood to rise and swell again.
The proposal of Ruth to her mother-in-law, discovers in every point of view, a noble and ingenuous spirit, and an excellent heart. She will do nothing without the consent and advice of the venerable matron who was become father and mother, country, friends and every thing to her. Begging is the last miserable refuge of age or infirmity, of disease or sloth; she scorns to think of recurring to it, while she has youth, health and strength to labor, and while there was a field of lawful employment. An ordinary mind in her situation would have vented itself in unavailing womanish lamentations; perhaps in unkind upbraidings of the ancient woman as the cause of all the distress which she endured; would have been for dispatching Naomi up and down among her wealthy relations and towns-folks, to solicit protection and subsistence. No, it is more honorable in her eyes to earn food by her own labor; she conceals the anguish which wrung her own heart, for fear of adding affliction to the afflicted. The season of the year was favorable; and happily the law of that God, whom she bad deliberately taken for her God, had made provisions for persons in her destitute condition.
The same bounty which poured the abundance of autumn into the lap of the mighty, had reserved a pittance for the support of the famished and friendless, 2 P
How the mercy of Jehovah bursts upon us in every 'dispensation and in every event! in wisdom he has permitted distinctions of rank and fortune to take place; in compassion he has taken care to make provision for the wants of the necessitous. So that while industry and pity remain, no one is reduced to absolute despair.
It is with pleasure we recur to the words of the law; and trace that God who "careth for oxen,” much more solicitous about the support and consolation of the miserable part of the rational creation. "And when ye reap the harvest of your land, thou shalt not wholly reap the corners of thy field, neither shalt thou gather the gleanings of thy harvest. And thou shalt not glean thy vineyard, neither shalt thou gather every grape of thy vineyard; thou shalt leave them for the poor and stranger: I am the Lord your God," Lev. xix. 9, 10. And again, "When ye reap the harvest of your land, thou shalt not make clean riddance of the corners of thy field when thou reapest, neither shalt thou gather any gleaning of thy harvest; thou shalt leave them unto the poor and to the stranger: I am the Lord your God," Lev. xxiii. 22. And again, in recapitulating the law in Deuteronomy, " When thou cuttest down thine harvest in thy field, and hast forgot a sheaf in the field, thou shalt not go again to fetch it: it shall be for the stranger, for the fatherless, and for the widow: that the Lord thy God may bless thee in the work of thine hands. When thou beatest thine olive-tree, thou shalt no go over the boughs again: it shall be for the stranger, for the fatherless, and for the widow. When thou gatherest the grapes of thy vineyard, thou shalt not glean it afterward: it shall be for the stranger, for the fatherless, and for the widow. And thou shalt remember that thou wast a bond-man in the land of Egypt: therefore I command thee to do this thing," Deut. xxiv. 19....22
In this law, several remarkable circumstances, tend
ing to illustrate the law of nature in general, and the spirit of the Mosaic dispensation in particular, press themselves upon our notice
1st. The consideration and recollection of their own and their father's misery in Egypt are urged as the powerful motive to pity, to spare and to succor. A Syrian ready to perish" on the road to Padanaram 66 was my father." "A generation of slaves in Egypt were my progenitors, let me therefore commiserate, and receive, and cherish, the forlorn traveller; let me treat my own captive, bond-man, dependant, with gentleness, and humanity." Who gives charity? Not unfeeling wealth, nor giddy dissipation; but the man who has known want, who once stood in need of a friend, who has been himself succored in the hour of calamity. Who is it that relents and forgives? Not cold-blooded, meritless, constitutional virtue; but res tored, recovered frailty; goodness, which arose the purer and the stronger from having fallen. Who is liberal and generous? Not the nobly born, the unvaryingly prosperous, but magnanimity nursed on the breast of adversity; the prince whom native worth, whom conscious dignity, whom the experience of human woe have taught to devise liberal things, to do good, and to communicate. But is hereditary greatness, unvarying opulence, unhumbled, unmortified success, always cold, selfish, unfeeling? God forbid. High birth, lineal honors, the accumulating wealth of many generations, sometimes put on their most beautiful garments, borrow lustre from condescension, sympathy and beneficence. Is successful adversity, illuminated obscurity, aggrandized littleness, always merciful, condescending, generous, and humane? O, no; the poor wretch frequently forgets himself; condemns the arts by which he arose, spurns the ladder on which he climbed to eminence and distinction, and tries to make his upstart greatness bear a mimic resemblance to an