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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 sing 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 heart, 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 miseries of this transitory life.
Think 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 ardour and impetuosity, that allays their purity, and hastens on their dissolution. We sincerely bid them good night, and leave them to the sweet repose of conscious integrity, of acquiescence in the will and thankfulness for the bounty of gracious Heaven, and of budding, blossoming hope of greater blessings yet to come.
-At what a small expense may a great man acquire respect, esteem, love? How infinitely nature excels art! In how simple and easy a method does Providence bring about the greatest events! "Godliness is" every way "great gain:" it has "the promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come.”
HISTORY OF RUTH.
And her mother-in-law said unto her, Where hast thou gleaned to-day? And where wroughtest thou? Blessed be he that did take knowledge of thee. And she showed her mother-in-law with whom she had wrought, and said, The man's name with whom I wrought today is Boaz. And Naomi said unto her daughter-inlaw, Blessed be he of the Lord, who hath not left off his kindness to the living and to the dead. And Naomi said unto her, The man is near of kin unto us, one of our next kinsmen. And Ruth, the Moabitess, said, He said unto me also, Thou shalt keep fast by my young men, until they have ended all my harvest. And Naomi said unto Ruth her daughter-in-law, It is good, my daughter, that thou go out with his maidens, that they meet thee not in any other field. So she kept fast by the maidens of Boaz to glean unto the end of barley-harvest, and of wheat-harvest; and dwelt with her mother-in-law. Then Naomi her mother-in-law said unto her, My daughter, shall I not seek rest for thee, that it may be well with thee? RUTH ii. 19-23, and iii. 1.
NOTHING is more absurd than to judge of ancient and foreign customs, by the fashion of our own country and of the present day. Language, manners, and dress are incessantly changing their form. Were our ancestors of the last century to arise from the dead, and to appear in the habit of their own times, their great grand-children and they would be utter strangers to
one another. Their speech would be mutually unintelligible, their modes of behaviour uncouth, their apparel ridiculous. How much more, after the lapse of many centuries has intervened, and the scene shifted to a distant land, peopled by men of a different complexion, governed by different laws, and communicating thought by means of a different language.
One of the great pleasures arising from the study of ancient history, is to trace these differences, to contemplate the endless variety of the human mind, ever changing, still the same; to compare age with age, nation with nation, in order to excite admiration of the great Creator's wisdom and goodness, and to inspire love towards our fellow-creatures.
In examining the customs described in the context, let it be remembered, that they are the customs of men who lived upwards of three thousand years ago, who inhabited a different quarter of the globe, whose ideas, employments and pursuits had no manner of resemblance to ours, and who would be equally astonished, shocked and offended, were modern and European manners made to pass in review before them. And let it be farther remembered, that we speak of customs and manners only, and not of morals; of circumstances which from their own nature and the current of human affairs are liable to alteration, not of things in themselves eternal and immutable.
We have seen by what easy and natural progress, the providence of God carried on its purpose respecting the posterity of Abraham in general, and the royal line of the house of David in particular, and respecting a much higher object, to which this was a mere ministering servant, an harbinger and preparation, namely, "the ma nifestation of God in the flesh," for the redemption of a lost world. We have seen the commencement of the temporal rewards of virtue, and the dawning of everlasting joy. We are now to attend the progress of divine beneficence, of providential interposition, to crown the endeavours, and promote the happiness of the faithful.
Ruth has returned to her mother-in-law, laden with the fruits of honest industry, and provided with a supply for present necessity; cheered and comforted by the benevolence of a respectable stranger, and exulting in the prospect of future employment and success. Sweet are the communications of filial attachment and prosperity to the ear of maternal tenderness. It is not easy to conceive happiness more pure than was enjoyed that evening by these amiable and excellent women. Artless, undesigning Ruth, seems to look no farther than to the remainder of the harvest, the continuation of her labour, and of protection and encouragement from Boaz, and to the pleasure of supporting herself and aged parent by her own exertions. But Naomi, more experienced and intelligent, begins to build on the history of what Providence had done for them that day, a project of recompence to her beloved daughter, which her piety and affection so well merited, even no less than that of uniting her to Boaz in marriage. Was she to be blamed in this? By no means. It is criminal to outrun Providence, it is madness to think of constraining or bending it to our partial, selfish views. But it is wisdom, it is duty to exercise sagacity, to observe the ways of the Almighty, and to follow where he leads. The advice she gives in pursuance of this design, and Ruth's ready compliance, have, according to our ideas, a very extraordinary and questionable appearance, and seem rather calculated to defeat than to forward the end which they had in view; but modern refinement and licentiousness are little competent to judge of rustic simplicity and ancient purity. The proceeding was authorized by custom, was free from every taint of immorality, and had not, in the eyes of the world, even the semblance of indecency. The parties were all virtuous, they feared the Lord, they conformed to the laws and usages of their country, and Heaven smiled on their honest, unsullied intentions.
Had I the happiness, with a mind as pure, to address
ears as chaste, imaginations as undefiled, I should without hesitation or fear enter on the detail of the transaction as it stands on the record. But regard must be had to the prejudices of the times, to the propriety and decency which custom has established, remarking at the same time, that guilt is the parent of shame, and that an over-refined delicacy is too often the proof of a polluted heart.
The marriage of Boaz to Ruth, is the only instance we have of the application of a civil and political statute of long standing: which runs in these terms, "The land shall not be sold for ever; for the land is mine, for ye are strangers and sojourners with me. And in all the land of your possession ye shall grant a redemption for the land. If thy brother be waxen poor, and hath sold away some of his possession, and if any of his kin come to redeem it, then shall he redeem that which his brother sold. And if the man have none to redeem it, and himself be able to redeem it; then let him count the years of the sale thereof, and restore the overplus unto the man to whom he sold it; that he may return unto his possession. But if he be not able to restore it to him, then that which is sold shall remain in the hand of him that hath bought it, until the year of jubilee: and in the jubilee it shall go out, and he shall return unto his possession," Lev. xxv. 23-28. And it stands in connexion with another law, circumstantially narrated. "If brethren dwell together, and one of them die and have no child, the wife of the dead shall not marry without unto a stranger: her husband's brother shall go in unto her, and take her to him to wife, and perform the duty of an husband's brother unto her. And it shall be, that the first-born which she beareth, shall succeed in the name of his brother which is dead, that his name be not put out of Israel. And if the man like not to take his brother's wife, then let his brother's wife go up to the gate unto the elders, and say, My husband's brother refuseth to raise up unto his