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partial views of 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 dependency will only increase the calamity. Necessity suggests many expedients. While health, virtue and friendship remain, all is not lost; and Heaven frequently permits 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 labour, 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 townsfolks, to solicit protection and subsistence. No, it is more honourable in her eyes to earn food by her own labour; she conceals the anguish which rung her own heart, for fear of adding affliction to the afflicted. The season of the year was favourable; and happily the law of that God whom she had deliberately taken for her God, had made provision 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.
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 thee widow: that the Lord thy God may bless the in all the works of thine hands. When thou beatest thine olive-tree, thou shalt not 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 WOL. III. 2 Q
spirit of the Mosaic dispensation in particular, press themselves upon our notice. lst. The consideration and recollection of their own and their fathers’ misery in Egypt, are urged 2s the powerful motive to pity, to spare and to succour. “A Syrian ready to perish” on the road to Padanaram “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, dependent, 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 succoured in the hour of calamity. Who is it that relents and forgives? Not cold-blooded, meritless, constitutional virtue; but restored, 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 wo 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 honours, 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 antique dignity, by aping the viler, not the nobler qualities of traditional importance. Again, 2dly. Observe the law inculcates pity to the poor and wretched by the most glorious of all examples. “I am the Lord, who had compassion upon you in your misery, who delivered you from the furnace, who drove out the nations from before you, who planted you in the land, who fill thy garner, and make thy wine-press to overflow; and who only ask, in return, a mite or two, for the sons and daughters of af. fliction, these few ears which thy haste has let fall to the ground, that sheaf which has accidentally dropped from thy car; that little corner of thy field which the sickle has spared, and which that starving creature, by nature thy equal, by Providence thy inferior, is waiting to pick up and devour. He is an object of tenderness and af. fection to me, see therefore that thou neglect him not, that thou defraud him not, that thou distress him not.” 3dly. The law plainly supposes that there may be an over anxiety and solicitude about things in their own nature lawful and innocent; which it therefore aims at repressing: it supposes that there may be an eagerness of accumulation which defeats itself, a scattering abroad that produces increase, a withholding of more than is meet, and it tendeth only to poverty; that diffusing, not hoarding up abundance, is the proper use of it. 4thly. The law had a double object in view, the improvement of the affluent, and the relief of the poor. It thus became a mutual benefit, the one was blessed in giving, the other in receiving. The greater blessedness however on the side of the giver, as the blessedness of the Creator is superior to that of the creature. It is as much an ordination of Providence, that “the poor should never cease out of the land,” as that “the earth should yield her increase,” and the spheres perform their stated revolutions: and while they do exist, the great Lord and Preserver of all things, is concerned to make suitable provision for them. The rich are his stewards, and their storekeepers: he that gleans his own field to the last ear, is a thief and a robber as much as he who plunders his neighbour's granary; he robs
God, he plunders the needy and the destitute, he does what he can to subvert the divine government, he would make the law of charity and mercy of none effect, he bars his own plea for pardon at a throne of grace, he mars the possession of all he has, he cankers his own enjoyment, and affixes his seal to his own condemnation. 5thly. The law particularly describes the objects which it meant to relieve, “the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow.” Unhappy Buth! her title to 'the wretched offal from the hand of the reaper was but too well established. She united in her own person all * these characters of wo. Her melancholy claim to pity and support was fearfully multiplied, and a three-fold burden presses her down to the ground: nevertheless she entreats, as a boon, what she might have demanded, and taken, as a right. Her trustin, and submission to the direction of Providence sweetly accord with her filial affection and tenderness, and her noble independency of spirit; she is determined to labour, she disdains not to employ the necessary means for supplying herself and aged parent with food, but she leaves the direction of her footsteps to High Heaven; she is in the way of her duty, and deposits all anxiety about the issue in the bosom of her heavenly Father. What a happy mixture of fortitude and resignation! It cannot but prosper. Having obtained the consent of her mother, who perhaps might have a presentiment of what was approaching, behold her up with the dawn, pensive, timorous and slow, advancing to the fields; the country all before her, where to choose her place of toil, and Providence her guide; with the downcast look of ingenuous modesty; the timidity which sour misfortune inspires; the firm step of conscious rectitude, and the flushed cheek of kindling hope. By some nameless, unaccountable circumstance, Heaven-directed, she unknowingly bends her course to the field and reapers of Boaz. She has done her part, has made the sacrifices which conscience and affection demanded, has submitted