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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 bene. factor by every kind office of compliance and affection. She had hitherto pleased herself with the con. sciousness 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 honour will follow virtue, as the shadow does the sub. stance, and the flight of the one but accelerates the pursuit of the other. And how grateful must it have been even 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 honour, it communicates equal delight to the giver and the receiver; it is an anticipation of the gloricus rewards of the faithful, from Him whose favour is better than life. But save me, merciful Heaven, from the commendation which my own mind rejects. Save me from the approbation, the ill-informed 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 recommen. dation 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 VOL. III.
wealth in a foreign land; it was highly soothing to a spirit broken by calamity to be approved and caressed by a great and 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. 66 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 allusion 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 employed 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 employed in other passages of scripture, the image of the tender callow brood of the feathered race, fleeing in the mo. ment 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 favour 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 favour 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 enumerą. tion; again animates 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 af. fection. 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 sufficed and left.” It was thus that Joseph expressed the partiality of his affection for Benjamin his own brother, his mess was five times as 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,
he generous passion of love, always will declare its existence and quality. Happy, thrice happy banquet, far beyond all the luxury and pride of unwieldy, uneasy, 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 labour 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 receiv. ing, 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 she 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 tornienting 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 labour 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 labour, 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 la. bourer, when at the going down of the sun, on separat. ing the straw and chaff from the good grain, and measuring the produce of her patience and industry, she found it to 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 de. pendence upon himself.