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THE STORY OF RUTH.
SERMON X X XIII.
Ruth i, 16, - THY PEOPLE SHALL BE MY PEOPLE, AND
THY GOD MY GOD.
To show the watchful eye, and controlling hand, of Providence, over even the minutest concerns of domestic life; and the unfailing reward of humble affection and piety; I will relate to you that very beautiful Pastoral, the simple and endearing Story of Ruth.
In the days of the Judges, a very long time ago, in order to escape from a famine that was in their own land, a certain man named Elimelech, with Naomi his wife, and his two sons, Mahlon and Chilion, removed from a city in Canaan into the country of Moab, where he probably thought he could live at a less expense; but where, perhaps for distrusting the Providence of God, be soon died. Indeed, it was evident he had done wrong, for he appears to have been a person of property, and therefore not likely to suffer for any of the supports of life; and he forsook the people and ordinances of the true God, to dwell in an idolatrous country.
Naomi was now left a widow. But her two sons, Mahlon and Chilion, soon after the death of their father, as it seems, married two young maidens in Moab, one named Orpah, and the other Ruth. Here was another evil of Elimelech's leaving Canaan for Moab; that his two sons married and settled among idolaters.
But the pious Naomi, who was so soon
widowed of her husband in a strange land, was yet to suffer another affliction; for in less than ten years, both of her sons, Mahlon and Chilion, who were perhaps of a weakly constitution, as their names indicate, died also, and died childless. Now Naomi, who perhaps had gone to Moab out of duty to her husband, and afterwards continued out of affection to her children, being bereaved both of her husband, and of her two sons; and having heard that the Lord had again visited the land of her nativity with plenty, communed with her two daughters-inlaw, Orpah and Ruth, about leaving Moab, and returning to the city in Canaan, and they started on their way. As they were leaving Moab, the birthplace of her daughters-in-law, and the residence of their relations, Naomi, who tenderly loved her sons' wives, as they also greatly loved her, but who had now no worldly inducements to encourage them to go with her, said unto Orpah and Ruth: Ĝo, 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. And they said unto her, Surely we will return with thee unto thy people. Now it was the custom in these lands, and in early times, that the surviving brother should marry the widow of the deceased, if she were left childless. And Naomi, who had no more sons, replied to Orpah and Ruth, Turn again, my daughters; why will ye go with me? are there yet any more sons with me, that they may be your husbands? Turn again, my daughters, go your way; for it grieveth me much for your sakes, that the hand of the Lord is gone out against me.
And they lifted up their voice, and wept again. And Orpah, being unprepared to renounce all her worldly prospects for the sake of religion, kissed her mother-in-law, and returned back to her country, her relations, and her gods. But Ruth clave unto her mother-in-law. And Naomi, who was doubtless glad that Ruth remained with her, but who wished further to try her sincerity, said unto her: Behold, thy sister-in-law is gone back unto her people, and unto her gods: return thou after thy sister-in-law. But the
affectionate and pious Ruth, who had conceived so favourable an opinion of the character and religion of the God of Naomi, as to be willing to give up her connexions and prospects in her own country, and to embrace hardship and
penury in a new land, tendered to her mother-in-law this most beautiful and melting reply. Intreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge; thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God. Where thou diest will I die, and there will I be buried: the Lord do so to me, and more also, if aught but death part thee and me.' And when Naomi saw that Ruth was steadfastly minded to go with her, then she left speaking unto her. So they two went until they came to the city in Canaan. And when they were come to the city, behold, all the city was moved about them; and they said, Is this Naomi? Naomi appears to have been greatly altered in her person and circumstances, since she left Canaan, where she and Elimelech had probably lived in abundance, and been much respected; but now she and Ruth seem to have travelled on foot, for many, perhaps near a hundred weary miles, and around one end of the Salt Sea, without any attendants, which quite surprised her former neighbours. And they said, Is this Naomi? And she, humbly accepting her afflictions as coming from the Lord, and perhaps considering herself as guilty in not having left Moab immediately on the death of her husband, said unto her neighbours, Call me not Naomi, which signifies pleasant, but call me Mara, which means bitter; for the Almighty hath dealt very bitterly with me. I went out full, and the Lord hath brought me home again empty; why then call ye me Naomi, seeing the Lord hath testified against me, and the Almighty hath afflicted me? So the humble widow Naomi, with the devoted Ruth, her daughter-in-law, returned out of the idolatrous country of Moab; and they came to the city in Canaan in the beginning of the barley-harvest.
Now in the city of Canaan Naomi had a relation of her husband's, who was a mighty man of wealth, and whose name was Boaz. And when Naomi and Ruth had become settled in some homely lodging, the latter, looking forward
to nothing in Canaan but a life of labour and dependance, in order to support her mother-in-law and herself
, proposed to go out a gleaning, as was customary, in those simple times, for the poor. Let me, said the kind-hearted Ruth to Naomi, who was probably unable to endure the heat and fatigue of such employment herself, Let me now go to the field, and glean ears of corn that is, of barley corn, for what we call corn in our country was not there known — and glean ears of corn after him in whose sight I shall find grace. And Naomi said unto her, Go, my daughter. Thus, although the Lord intended other things for the devoted Ruth, he was pleased first to try her humility, and patience, and industry, which shone so superior in her above her sister Orpah. And Ruth went, and came, and gleaned in the field after the reapers. And she happened, by chance as it seemed to her, but doubtless by the Lord's secret_direction, to light on a part of the field belonging unto Boaz, the relation of her deceased father-in-law Elimelech. And, behold, Boaz came out from the city, and said unto the reapers, The Lord be with you. And they answered him, The Lord bless thee. Although Boaz was a mighty man of wealth, yet he went in person to superintend his own reapers. And it is delightful, to hear the condescending and pious salutation of the rich Boaz to his reapers, and their respectful and pious reply. The Lord be with you, said he. And they answered him, The Lord bless thee. Would that such might be the language always heard in our fields, while the bounty of Providence is gathering in ! Then Boaz asked his servant that was set over the reapers, Whose damsel is this? And the servant that was set over the reapers answered, It is the damsel that came back with Naomi out of the country of Moab. And she said, I pray you, let me glean and gather after the reapers among the sheaves : so she came, and hath continued even from the morning until now, that she tarried a little in the house. There is a beautiful simplicity in this narrative, and in the introduction of Boaz to the gleaning damsel. Hearest thou not, my daughter ? spake Boaz kindly unto her, Go not to glean in another field, neither go from hence, but abide here fast by my maidens ; for females in those days, and
in that country, were joined with the men in gathering in the harvest. Let thine eyes, continued Boaz, be on the field that they do reap, and go thou after them : have I not charged the young men that they shall not touch thee? And when thou art athirst, go unto the vessels, and drink of that which the young men have drawn; that is, of the pure water from the spring, which, it seems, was all that Boaz thought necessary until the work of the day was done. Then Ruth fell on her face, and bowed herself to the ground, and said unto Boaz, Why have I found grace in thine eyes, that thou shouldest take knowledge of me, seeing I am a stranger ? But Boaz had heard of Ruth, the
pious damsel from a heathen land, how kind she had been to her mother-in-law since she was left a widow, and how she had left her own father and mother, and the land of her nativity, and was come unto a people which she knew not heretofore. And he said to her, The Lord recompense thy work, and a full reward be given thee of the Lord, under whose wings thou art come to trust. And Ruth replied, being thus encouraged by the gracious notice of Boaz, Let me find favour in thy sight, my lord, though I be not like unto one of thine hand-maidens. And Boaz, who had now formed a very favourable opinion of the modesty and piety of Ruth, said to her, At meal-time, come thou hither and eat ; and as she sat beside the reapers, and dipped her bread in the cooling vinegar, he himself reached her parched corn, the simple fare of those times, until she was sufficed. And when she was risen up to glean, Boaz commanded his young men, to let her glean even among the sheaves, and to reproach her not ; and even to let fall some of the handfuls of purpose for her, and to leave them, that she might glean them, and to rebuke her not. So Ruth gleaned in the field until even, and beat out that she had gleaned, and it was about an ephah, that is, nearly a bushel of barley. And she took it up, and went into the city. And her mother-in-law, the good Naomi, when she saw what she had gleaned, said, Blessed be he, that did take knowledge of thee. And when she learnt, that the man from whom she had gleaned was Boaz, the one of their next kinsmen ; and that he had told Ruth to keep fast by his young men,