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ed approbation of ignorant erring man, while I have just cause to tremble under the apprehension of condemnation and punishment from a holy and righteous God.
The cordial of cordials administered by the hand of Boaz to this truly excellent woman, was his recommendaton of her to the care, blessing and protection of the Almighty. It was much to be permitted to pick up a scanty livelihood among strangers; it was much to meet with notice and encouragement from a mighty man of wealth in a foreign land; it was highly soothing to a spirit broken by calamity to be approved and caressed by a great and a good man; but all this was nothing compared to the smiles of approving Heaven, in sweet accord with the serenity and composure of a quiet and approving conscience. How cordially could she pronounce "amen" to his affectionate and pious prayer, "the Lord recompense thy work, and a full reward be given thee of the Lord God of Israel, under whose wings thou art come to trust," Verse 12.
The petition contains a piece of sweet imagery, of which interpreters have given different ideas. "Under whose wings thou art come to trust." The expression, according to some, implies an approbation of her resolution in renouncing the religion of her country and fathers, in forsaking the idol worship wherein she had been educated, and in deliberately joining herself to the Israelites and worship of the living and true God." The words, it is alleged, have an illusion to the Shechinah, the visible glory, the symbol of the divine presence which resided between, or under, the wings of the cherubim which were extended over the mercy-seat. This is, as it were, the point in which all the parts of the dispensation concentered, and therefore is employ. ed to denote in brief, all that related to the knowledge, belief and service of Jehovah, in opposition to idolatry.
Others consider it as merely a tender and significant
image, borrowed from nature, and frequently employ ed in other passages of scripture, the image of the tender callow brood of the feathered race fleeing, in the moment of danger, for protection, under the shelter of the parental wing. In either case, it marks the providential care, and the sacred security extended to all who seek refuge in the divine wisdom and mercy. No plague shall come nigh the place where they dwell, no evil shall befal them. It unfolds the spirit of a truly good man, disposed to do every thing that humanity dictates, and ability permits, for the relief of the sons and daughters of affliction; but deeply impressed with the belief that without the blessing and favor of Heaven the interposition of man is vain and unprofitable, He refers not to the divine bounty as an exemption from deeds of charity and mercy, but to render his benevolence effectual, and to crown, promote and prosper his kind intentions; to fill up the measure of his liberal design, which, after all, was narrowed and contracted by slenderness of ability.
The effect of the whole upon Ruth is the same which a sense of unmerited friendship from man, and the expectation of blessings from on high, will ever produce on a good and honest heart. As she rises in situation as she rises in hope, she sinks in humility. "Then she said, Let me find favor in thy sight, my lord; for that thou hast comforted me, and for that thou hast spoken friendly unto thine hand-maid, though I be not like unto one of thy hand-maidens," Verse 13.
This draws from the benevolent lord of the harvest reiterated assurances of regard and sympathy. He again runs over the whole store of the field, lest he should have omitted any particular in his former enumeration; again intimates a cheerful and unaffected welcome to what she could desire, or he had to bestow. In this, if I mistake not, may be seen the farther progress of affection. Ruth gains upon his heart by, every word she utters, by every gesture and attitude
and pleases most, from having formed, from pursuing no design to please. The greater her diffidence and self-denial, the greater is his earnestness to bring her forward, and to support her. She was by the former order permitted to go at pleasure and serve herself with whatever was in the field for the general use; now, she is invited to join the company where Boaz himself presided; she is fed from his own hand, and her portion is not a scanty one," she did eat and was suf ficed and left." It was thus that Joseph expressed the partiality of his affection for Benjamin his own brother, his mess was five times so much as any of theirs; and thus in artless guise, the growing passion of Boaz for the fair Moabitess declared itself; and thus, not in high-flown rhapsodies of unmeaning jargon, but in little attentions, in petty offices of kindness, the genuine effusions of unsophisticated nature, the generous passion of love, always will declare its existence and quality. Happy, thrice happy banquet, far beyond all the luxury and pride of unwieldy, uneassy, unblessed magnificence. There they sit, under the open canopy of heaven, the master, the servants, the stranger in one group. Their fare is homely, but labor has made it pleasant to sit down, and hunger gives to the food a relish.
But what a superior relish did the morsel of Boaz himself possess! Think what a banquet, to see his numerous family around him, all contented and happy; to give bread to so many, and to receive the ample return of it in their honest attachment, and in the fruits of their industry. What a luxury, to feed a hungry, to raise a sinking stranger! to render gentle services to a deserving object, which humanity inspired, the understanding confirmed, the heart directed, and Heaven approved! What a desert, to reflect that all these comforts flowed from a heavenly Father's beneficence, that thus he was "twice blessed," blessed in receiving, blessed in giving.
The felicity of Ruth was far from being so pure and perfect. She felt the depression of dependence and obligation; obligation which had no prospect of ever being able to repay. She felt for the anxiety, distress and want of a venerable aged woman, for whom nothing was provided; who was sitting solitary at home brooding over past calamities, and tormenting herself with apprehensions about futurity. She can hardly swallow her own morsel for grief to think that one more helpless, more feeble, more friendless than herself, wanted the common necessaries of life; that Naomi was perhaps fasting till she returned, and, worse than fasting, tormented with solicitude about her safety, The sweetest part of the repast to Ruth was the portion she had reserved from her own necessities for the sustentation of her ancient, affectionate, starving parent.
Their frugal simple meal being ended, they rise up, not to play, but to work again, and continue their labor until the evening. A fresh charge is given to the reapers on no account to disturb, or insult the lovely gleaner, and the young men are directed to find no fault with her, gather where she would, even among the sheaves before they were bound up; and to drop here and there a handful, as if by accident, to render her toil more pleasant and easy, without hurting her honest pride. This injunction could proceed only from a delicate and ingenuous mind. To have made her directly a present of the ears of corn, had been an indignity offered to her poverty; to scatter them without any apparent design, was effectually to facilitate her labor, and diminish her fatigue, without rendering the burden of obligation too grievous to be borne. The manner of conferring a benefit, it cannot be too often repeated, infinitely outweighs the matter. The comfort of human life, is a combination of little, minute attentions, which, taken separately, are nothing, but connected with the circumstances of time,
place and manner, as coming from the heart, as tokens of good-will, possess a value and inspire a pleasure beyond the purchase of gold and rubies.
Think of the heart-felt satisfaction of the amiable laborer, when at the going down of the sun, ou separating the straw and chaff from the good grain, and measuring the produce of her patience and industry, she found it amount to so considerable a quantity! Would you make a poor man happy, do not encourage him to beg. Idleness and happiness are incompatible. No, render his toil a little easier to him, teach him to draw his subsistence and comfort from, and to build his dependence upon himself.
And now Ruth's comfort was going to begin; it was hitherto mixed and imperfect...it now flows pure and unrestrained. She has it in her power to relieve indigence, to remove anxiety, to dispel sorrow, to make the widowed heart smg for joy. See with what exultation she produces her store, re measures her corn, details the adventures of the day, and receives, in communicating joy. This, O virtuous friendship, is thy present great reward! Such, if pride and perverseness prevented not, the felicity which Providence has graciously placed within every one's reach! Let me have some friendly ear, in the calmness of the evening's retreat, to listen to my tale; some sympathetic beart, to participate in my sorrows and my joys, and I care not what hardships I endure, what mortifications I meet with, through the live-long day. Friendship doubles the delights, divides, and thereby diminishes, the cares and mis ries of this transitory life.
Tuink of the composed felicity of the ancient matron, as she surveyed the fruits of her beloved daughter's dutiful exertions, and heard the artless story of a harvest day's employment and recreation. Yes, she is the happier of the two. The joys of age are calm, untumultuous, untempestuous; those of youth have always a mixture of ardor and impetuosity, that allays