« AnteriorContinuar »
time nor space can limit, and feel thinë own import. ance, and aim only at high things, and trust in omni. potence for the execution of its own eternal purpose.
In a country and among a people where names were not mere arbitrary sounds, but conveyed a meaning connected with character, with history, with expectation, those of Elimelech,“ my God is king,” and of his wife Naomi, “ the pleasant one,” from their peculiar import, must bave a reference to certain circum„stances in their history which are not recorded. The former might be dictated by the spirit of prophecy, and be significant, without the intention of them wbo imposed, or of him who bore it, of the future greatness to which the family, through the favor of Heaven, should arise, in the persons of David, of Solomon, and that long succession of princes which final. Jy centered, and was absorbed, in tbe person of Christ, David's son; yet David's Lord. The particulars of his own story that have reached us, are too few and too general to admit of our discerning any reference or application of his name to his character, office, or condition : but we know enough of the character and history of Naomi to justify the suitableness of the appellation to her person, dispositions and final attainments.
In the disasters which befal, and the successes which aitend certain families and individuals, we behold an apparent partiality of distribution that confounds and overwbelms us. Death enters into that house, passes froin couch to couch, spares neither root nor branch; the insatiate tiend never says it is enough. Whatever that yoor man attempts, be the scheme ever so judici. ously formed, ever so diligently prosecuted, uniformly tails; the winds as they change, the stars in their courses fight against him. The very mistakes of his neighbor turn out prosperously, bis sails are always full, his children multiply, his wea th increases, his niountain stands strong. Is God therefore unwise, capricious, partial or unjust? No, but we are blind, contracted, Vau. 111.
presumptuous. We can discern, can comprehend, ondy here and tbere a little fragment of his works, we are gone, before the event has explained itself; it requires the capacity, the eternity of God himself to take in the mighiy whole of his plan.
The house of Elimelech exhibits an affecting in. stance of tbe inequality we have been mentioning. The sad account of famine, of banishment, of degra. dation, of dependence, is at length closed with death. Disease of body, co-operating with distress of mind, probably the effect of it, shortens his days, and terminates his own worldly misery, dreadfully aggravates the woes of the unhappy survivers. Wretched mother, lett to struggle alone with poverty, solitude, danger, and neglect : far from friends, encompassed with ene. nies, loaded with the charge of two fatherless children, not more the objects of affection, than the sources of anxiety and care! While Elimelech lived, pepury was haruly fell as a burden ; in exile thou wert always at home; secladeei from society, the conversaiion of one still dispelled the gloom. Tby sons afforded only deJight, because that delight was participated in, by him who had a common interest with you in them ; but all is now changed, every load is accumulated seven-fold, every comfort is enbittered, every prospect is clouded: the past presents notbing but regret ; the future disclo. ses nothing but despair.
She seems to have given up at this period, all thoughts of returning to her native country, and, making a virtue of dire necessity, attempts to paturalize her family in the land of Moab, by allying ber sons, through marriage, to the inhabitants of the country. The sense of the loss she has sustained gradually yields to the lenient hand of time, and to the sweet hope of seeing the house of her beloved husband built up, and his name revived in the person's of his grand. children. Alas, what is the hope of man ! the flatterer has been only decoying her into a greater depth of
woe; her two remaining props sink, one after another, into the dust; all that the eyes desired is taken away: with stroke upon stroke; and, to fill up the measure of a mother's wretchedness, both her sons die childless, and hope expires with them. Now she is a widow ildeed, and exhausted nature sinks under the pressure.
It is the opioion of many interpreters, that the premature death of the young men was a judgment from heaven to punish tbeir illegal intermarriage with strange ' and idolatrous women. It becomes not man to judge; and we know that God executeth only righteous judge ment; and in wrath still remembers mercy,
Thus in three short lines the sacred historian has de livered a tragic tale that comes home to the bosom of every one that possesses a spark of sensibility. It is a domestic story:; it represents scenes which may, which do happen every day. It admonishes every one in.how many points be is vulnerable, how defenceless he is against the thunderbolts of Heaven. It awfully displays the evil of sin, and the wrath of God against : all unyodliness and unrighteousness of man. If such be the temporal effects of his vengeance, how bitter must be the cup which bis just displeasure mingles for incorrigible offenders, in a state of final retribution ! How pleasing to reflect that trials of this sort do not always flow from anger, that they are the wholesome severity of a father, that they aim at producing real good, that they in the issue really “ yield the peacea. ble fruits of righteousness." The darkness of night at length yields to the glorious orb of day, the shadow of death is turned into the morning, and the desolate is as she who hath an husband.
This makes way for the introduction of the heroine of this eventful history; and we become interested in , her from the very first moment. The Jewish writers, to heighten our respect for Ruth, perhaps from a pitiful desire to exalt their own ancestry, make her the daughter of a king of Moab, and as they are neverti.
morous in making assertions, or forming conjectures on such occasions, they tell you her father was Eglon. wbom Ehud slew. It is hardly probable that a prince of that country would have given his daughter in marriage to a needy adventurer who bad banished bimself from his country through necessity. But of little inportance is it, whether she were born a princess or no. Nature has adorned her with qualities such as are not always to be found in the courts of kings; qualities which best adorn high birth, and which ennoble obscurity and indigence; fidelity and attachment; a soul ca. pable of fond respect for departed worth, and living virtue: magnanimity to sacrifice every thing the heart holds dear, to decency, friendship, and religion ; mag-, nanimity to encounter, without repining, painful toil and humiliating dependence, in fulfilling the duties of gratitude, humanity and piety. How eloquent is she when she speaks, how great when she says nothing, how transcendently exalted in all she thinks, speaks and acts! With what divine art, shall I say, is she intro. duced in the sacred drama? After we have been melt. ed into pity by the calamities of Naomi's family, and seen the widowed mourner sinking under wave upon wave; and the prospect of progeny, the last darling hope of an Israelitish matron, rudely tory from her, lo an angel in the form of a damsel of Moab, a mourner and a widow like berself, appears to comfort ber, and makes her to know by sweet experience that he, that she, has not lost all, who has found a kind and faithful friend. What is the sound of the trumpet, and a long train of mute and splendid harbingers, compared to the simple preparation of unaffected nature ! Let us wait her approach in silent expectation; and muse on what is past.
....Behold one generation of men goeth and another cometh; one planet arising as another sets, every buman advantage balanced by its corresponding inconve
niency, every loss compensated by a comfort that grows out of it.
....Behold the purpose of the Eternal Mind maintaining its ground amidst all the tossings and tempests of this troubled ocean, triumphing over pposition, serving and promoting itself by the wrath of man and the malice of hell, out of darkness rising into lustre, “ out of weakness made strong," by the energy of the great first cause, acquiring life, vigor and prosperity from the extinction of means, trum tbe destruction and death of secondary causes.
Attend to the great leading object of divine revelation, to wbich all refer, to which all are subservient, in which all are absorbed and lost. I will make mention of Abrahain, Isaac, and Jacob; of Moses and the pro. phets; of Boaz and Ruth. “I will make mention of Rahab and Babylon to them that know me; behold Philistia and Tyre with Ethiopia : this man was born there; and of Zion it shall be said, This man was born in her: and the Highest himself shall establish her. The Lord shall count, when he writeth up the people That this man was born there.” May our names be written in the Lamb's book of life, among the living in Jerusalem!
The introduction of these personages and events, one after another, were remote steps of the preparation of the gospel of peace. And every person now born into the church of Christ, and every event now taking place in the administration of human affairs, is a little space in the great scale of eternal Providence, and a gradual preparation for the final consummation of all things. Let thy kingdom come," O God! Let Satan's kingdon be destroyed ; let the kingdom of grace be advanced, ourselves and others brought into, and preserved in it, and let the kingdom of glory be hastened! Amen!