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our inspection, and our improvement; all expressive of characters essentially different, all possessing features 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
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 wo 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 Bethlehem-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 favourable 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 loss, 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 unwilling to be outdone in kindness, earnestly entreats them to return home again, urging upon them every consideration 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 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 apprehension of what might yet be before them: attempting 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 terrors 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 pillow 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 hope: the vigour 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 prospects. 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 days and nights have been appointed, who by the experience of misery, have learned to pity and to succour the miserable. May the God of mercy, the friend of the orphan, the judge of the widow, the refuge of the distressed, have mercy upon them, and conduct them in safety to their desired haven.
Which shall we most admire, the generosity and disinterestedness of the mother, or the steadiness, spirit and resolution of the daughters? How pleasurable is strife of a certain kind, the strife of good will, of magnanimity, of gratitude, of piety, of self-denial! The language, the sentiments, are the language and sentiments of nature, they flow from the heart, and reach the heart. "And Naomi said unto her two daughtersin-law, Go, return each to her mother's house: the Lord deal kindly with you, as ye have dealt with the dead, and with me. The Lord grant you that ye may find rest, each of you, in the house of her husband. Then she kissed them. And they lifted up their voice, and wept," Verse 8, 9.
The good woman herself admits that enough of respect has been paid, to filial and conjugal tenderness; she wishes and prays, as a recompense for their kindness to the living, and devotedness to the memory of the dead, more lasting and more auspicious connexions with husbands of their own country. She proposes not, recommends not the affected, constrained, involuntary retirement and sequestration of prudish, squeamish virtue; and they, on their part, assume no unatural airs of immortal grief; they form no flimsy suspicious vows of undeviating, unalterable attachment; make no clamorous, unmeaning, deceptious protestation of love extinguished, and never to be rekindled, the pitiful artifice of little minds to flatter themselves, and catch the admiration of others. How much more
emphatical the silent, unprotesting reply of Orpah and Ruth! "She kissed them; and they lifted up their voice and wept." What charming eloquence is heard, is seen, is felt in those tears! Have those lovely damsels less regard for their departed lords, are they more eager to form new alliances, that they say nothing? I cannot believe it. Noisy grief is quickly over, soon spends itself. Sincerity seldom calls in the aid of exclamation, vehemence and vows; but dubious, staggering fidelity is glad to support itself with the parade of wo, and the pomp of declamation.
Their persevering, determined, unprotecting friendship, but endears them the more to their venerable parent, and inclines her the more powerfully to resist their inclination, and prevent the sacrifice which they were disposed to make; and again she has recourse to more earnest and tender expostulation, resolved to offer up a noble sacrifice to maternal tenderness in her turn. "And Naomi said, Turn again, my daughters: why will ye go with me? are there yet any more sons in my womb, that they may be your husbands? Turn again my daughters, go your way; for I am too old to have an husband. If I should say, I have hope, if I should have a husband also to-night, and should also bear sons; would ye tarry for them till they were grown? would ye stay for them from having husbands? nay, my daughters; for it grieveth me much for your sakes, that the hand of the Lord is gone out against me," Verse 11-13.
What sweet touches of unsophisticated nature press upon the heart, in perusing this address! beyond the pomp and power of art to reach. Who is not melted at hearing the undissembled wailings of a good and honest mind, mourning for others, not itself: calmly surrendering its own interest in the joys of life, but anxiously desires to procure and preserve them for those whom she loved as her own soul; nobly resigning that cordial of cordials, virtuous friendship, when