Imatges de pÓgina
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religion press upon him in the plainest and most common appearances of nature. Add to all this, the labors of the husbandman are of all others the most essential, the most important to society. Other arts may minister to wealth, to pleasure, to conveniency and comfort, but on this depends the very subsistence of human life; and to the plough and the sickle, the ingenious manufacturer, the pampered citizen and the haughty peer must, of necessity, look for the main ingredient of their daily support.

It was, then, in that happy state of civil society, the scene is laid which is to be the subject of this evening's meditation. It was that joyful season of the year when the ardor of summer was giving place to the milder glory of autumn; when industry was gathering in the produce of hope, when the common occupations of the sun-burnt plain had levelled the distinctions of master and servant; when all was emulation, cheerfulness and joy, that Boaz issued forth betimes to superintend his harvest, and Ruth to glean after the reapers. Her sex, her demeanor, her employment, which bespoke her poverty, attract his notice, and excite his compassion. There are persons, there are countenances, there is a deportment, which strike at first sight, and create an interest which it is impossible to account for. The great hand of nature has in many, perhaps in most instances, engraven on the external appearance, no doubtful or equivocal signs of the internal spirit and character. Ruth presented to the eye of Boaz an undescribable somewhat which spoke her im~ mediately to be above the level of those common drudges, whose minds their servile condition has degraded ; her native greatness shone through the veil that covered it, and naturally led to an inquiry into her situation and connexions. The attention which her figure and occupation at first roused, her history powerfully fixes and confirms. The mournful story of Naomi, and of the Moabitish damsel her daughter-in-law, all Bethle»

hem-Judah had heard, but not one had stepped forth to acknowledge and relieve them. Boaz himself is faulty here. Had he been informed, as he must, of the return of his nearest relations, and of their wretched flight, he ought to have sought them out, and, unsolicited, to have, minister d to their comfort., He is in this respect an instance of what is frequently to be met with in the world; of that calm, unimpassioned goodness, which is abundantly disposed to succor distress, when it falls in the way, but is not sufficiently zealous, and vigorous, and active, to go abroad in quest of ob jects to relieve. But let us not pretend to look down on moderate and ordinary beneficence, till the pure and sublime come more into use. The former neglect of Boaz, and his future zeal, shall but the more redound to the glory of God.

....The short and simple tale awakens a thousand tender emotions in the bosom of the good man. He feels the sad reverses to which families, and states, and all sublunary things are exposed. He sees one branch of his own kindred demolished, extinguished. A woman, a young woman, a widow, a stranger in a strange land, but one step above begging her bread; with a still more wretched mother to sustain by the meagre fruits of her feeble industry. He sees women of condition, his equals, fallen far below the estate of the meanest of his servants and hand-maids. Self-reproach perhaps mingled with compassion, and instantly produced a resolution to compensate past carelessness and unkindness, by all that future sympathy and friendship could bestow. The dialogue that ensues is a beautiful exhibition of the honest simplicity of nature. The characters are supported with a happiness of expression, and displayed with a strength and exactness of coloring, worthy of Him who knows what is in

man.

In Boaz which shall we most admire; his prudent attention to his own affairs, his winning condescension 25

VOL. III.

to his inferiors, or his pious acknowledgment of God in every thing? In his conduct to the forlorn stranger, we see a heart overflowing with benevolence, attending to minute circumstances, out-running the expecta tions, the very wishes of the person whom he means to oblige. Observe his delicacy; he recommends the solitary helpless female to the society and protection of those of her own sex, and by his authority guards her from the incivility and insults of the other. He aims at soothing her soul to peace; he would have her be heve herself at home. The law obliged him to permit her to glean, but he makes a free will offering of much more; the liquor in the vessels, the food provided for the reapers, all is tendered to her with hearty good will. Ordinary minds feel ashamed at the sight of poor relations, deny them, turn away from them, hide their faces from their own flesh. True magnanimity thinks meanly of nothing but vice, esteems worth, though cloathed in rags, considers the revolutions which affect every thing under the sun, despises not the wretch of to-day, knowing that he may be obliged to change places with him to-morrow. Such an one was the wealthy owner of yonder happy field. The spirit of the master is diffused, it is felt over the whole extended domain. No jarring string mars their rural harmony, no contention reigns, but the strife, the bles sed strife, of mutual affection and attachment.

The character of Ruth opened upon us with singular grace and beauty: it untolds itself with equal energy and propriety. She discovers from first to last, a soul susceptible of tender and persevering attachment; ready to yield the sacrifice of ease, of rank, of estimation, of every thing, for the sake of enjoying the testimony of a good conscience, and the society that she Joved. She discovers a spirit at once sweetly timid and bashful, and nobly resolute and undaunted. She inspires tove by her gentleness, meekness and complaeency; she commands respect by her firmness, mag

nanimity and patience. In addressing her mother-inlaw, she is all amiable warmth and earnestness; in replying to the friendly tenders of Boaz, she is all amiable reserve and modesty. In speaking to Naomi ber heart flows to her lips, her words glow, her speech is copious and redundant: in answering a man, and a stranger, her words are few, she speaks by looks and gestures, and is then most eloquent when she says nothing.

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I behold the effect which youth, and simplicity, and bumbleness of mind, and distress have made upon a generous and sensible heart. The artless simplicity of the Moabitish damsel have made a deeper impression than all that cunning and design could have invented to allure affection, and impose on the understanding. Happily the progress of virtuous love advances without the consciousness of the parties concerned; it is at first a mere intercourse of civility, an attention to trifles, an interchange of kind words and pleasant looks. It grows unperceived, it gathers strength by neglect, it has arrived at maturity before it was known to exist, it gave no warning of its approach, and thereby became irresistible. And has the great Author of nature vouchsafed in his word to delineate, in more than one instance, the nature, progress, and effects of this important and necessary passion, and shall we turn away from it with affected delicacy, or take it up and pursue it with indecent mirth? No, if we adopt and imitate the candid, guileless simplicity, and the modest reserve of scripture, we cannot greatly err.

In the case of Boaz and Ruth, it was enchantingly grateful to the former, as highly honorable to the latter, that the decision of the understanding confirmed the judgment of the eyes. He had known, admired and approved the conduct, before he had seen and admired the beauty of the person, and the gracefulness of the behavior. The charms of wisdom, virtue and piety, superadded to personal accomplishments, what

a happy combination; what a foundation of felicity! The latter indeed, will, and must fade, but their effect is immortal; the company in which they flourished and brought forth fruit, bestows on them a permanency not their own. How wretched is that female all whose consequence is fled with her bloom; who depended on rank or fortune to command respect; who has lost the admiration and applause of others, before she has begun to acquire the dignity of self-approbation, the only genuine source of public esteem.

The history before us strikingly displays the transi tion from pity to love on the one hand, from gratitude to love on the other. Compassion in Boaz, sense of obligation in Ruth, excite the same mutual affection in both. It becomes his pride and joy to raise her to that distinction and affluence which she so well merited; it is her pride and joy to repay the tenderness of her benefactor by every kind office of compliance and affection. She had hitherto pleased herself with the consciousness of having done her duty; she had not hunted after praise; she had discovered no anxiety, taken no pains to publish abroad her own merits; but honor will follow virtue, as the shadow does the substance, and the flight of the one but accelerates the pursuit of the other. And how grateful must it havė been to the modest ear of Ruth herself, to hear her conduct approved, and her qualities celebrated, by the wise and good man who had taken her under his protection, and admitted her to his friendship. The praise which goodness confers on goodness, the praise which a man's own heart and conscience allow to be merited, praise bestowed by one we love and esteem is a feast indeed; it does equal honor, it communicates equal delight to the giver and the receiver; it is an anticipa tion of the glorious rewards of the faithful, from Him whose favor is better than life. But save me, merciful Heaven, from the commendation which my own mind rejects. Save me from the approbation, the ill-inform-.

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