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entreaty will serve to move nature to be good unto itself. Every one is rather a Naomi to his own soul, to persuade it to stay still, and enjoy the delights of Moab, rather than to hazard our entertainment in Bethlehem. Will religion allow me this wild liberty of my actions, this loose mirth, these carnal pleasures? Can I be a Christian, and not live sullenly? None but a regenerate heart can chuse rather to suffer adversity with God's people, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season.

The one sister takes an unwilling farewell, and moistens her last kisses with many tears: the other cannot be driven back, but repels one entreaty with another; Entreat me not to leave thee; for whither thou goest, I will go; where thou dwellest, I will dwell; thy people shall be my people; thy God my God; where thou diest, I will die, and there will I be buried. Ruth saw so much upon ten years' trial in Naomi, as was more worth than all Moab; and in comparison whereof, all worldly respects deserved nothing but contempt: the next degree unto godliness is the love of goodness: he is in a fair way to grace, that can value it; if she had not been already a proselyte, she could not have set this price upon Naomi's virtue. Love cannot be separated from a desire of fruition: in vain had Ruth protested her affection to Naomi, if she could have turned her out to her journey alone: love to the saints doth not more argue our interest in God, than society argues the truth of our love.

As some tight vessel that holds out against wind and water, so did Ruth against all the powers of a mother's persuasions. The impossibility of the comfort of marriage in following her, which drew back her sister-in-law, cannot move her. She hears her mother, like a modest matron, contrary to the fashion of these times, say, I am too old to have a husband; and yet she thinks not on the contrary, "I am too young to want a husband."

It should seem, the Moabites had learned this fashion of Israel, to expect the brother's raising of seed to the deceased: the widowhood and age of Naomi cuts off that hope; neither could Ruth then dream of a Boaz that might advance her: it is no love, that cannot make us willing to be miserable for those we affect the hollowest heart can be content to follow one that prospereth: adversity is the only furnace of friendship: if love will not abide both fire and anvil, it is but counterfeit; so in our love to God, we do but crack and vaunt in vain, if we cannot be willing to suffer for him.

But if any motive might hope to speed, that which was drawn from example was most likely; Behold, thy sister-in-law is gone back unto her people, and to her gods; return thou after her. This one artless persuasion hath prevailed more with the world, than all the places of reason: how many millions miscarry upon this ground; "Thus did my forefathers; thus do the most: I am neither the first, nor the last!" Do any of the rulers? We strait think that either safe or pardonable, for which we can plead a precedent. This good woman hath more warrant for her resolution,

than another's practice. The mind can never be steady, while it stands upon others' feet, and till it be settled upon such grounds of assurance, that it will rather lead than follow; and can say with Joshua, whatsoever become of the world, I and my house will serve the Lord.

If Naomi had not been a person of eminent note, no knowledge had been taken at Bethlehem of her return. Poverty is ever obscure; and those that have little may go and come without noise. If the streets of Bethlehem had not before used to say, "There goes Naomi:" they had not now asked, Is not this Naomi? She, that had lost all things but her name, is willing to part with that also; Call me not Naomi, but call me Marah. Her humility cares little for a glorious name, in a dejected estate. Many a one would have set faces upon their want; and, in the bitterness of their condition, have affected the name of beauty. In all forms of good, there are more that care to seem, than to be: Naomi hates this hypocrisy; and, since God hath humbled her, desires not to be respected of men. Those, which are truly brought down, make it not dainty that the world should think them so; but are ready to be the first proclaimers of their own vileness.

Naomi went full out of Bethlehem, to prevent want; and now she brings that want home with her, which she desired to avoid. Our blindness oft-times carries us into the perils we seek to eschew: God finds it best many times, to cross the likely projects of his dearest children; and to multiply those afflictions, which they feared single.

Ten years have turned Naomi into Marah: what assurance is there of these earthly things, whereof one hour may strip us? What man can say of the years to come, "Thus I will be?" How justly do we contemn this uncertainty, and look up to those riches that cannot but endure, when heaven and earth are dissolved! Ruthi.


WHILE Elimelech shifted to Moab to avoid the famine, Boaz abode still at Bethlehem, and continued rich and powerful: he staid at home; and found that, which Elimelech went to seek and missed. The judgment of famine doth not lightly extend itself to all: pestilence and the sword sparc none; but dearth commonly plagueth the meaner sort, and balketh the mighty. When Boaz's storehouse was empty, his fields were full, and maintained the name of Bethlehem.

I do not hear Ruth stand upon the terms of her better education or wealthy parentage; but now, that God hath called her to want, she scorns not to lay her hand unto all homely services; and thinks it no disparagement, to find her bread in other men's fields: there is no harder lesson to a generous mind, nor that more beseems it, than either to bear want, or to prevent it: base spirits give themselves over to idleness and misery; and because they are crossed, will sullenly perish.

That good woman hath not been for nothing in the school of patience; she hath learned obedience to a poor step-mother: she was now a widow, past reach of any danger of correction; besides, that penury might seem to dispense with awe. Even children do easily learn to contemn the poverty of their own parents Yet hath she inured herself to obedience, that she will not so much as go forth into the field to glean, without the leave of her mother-in-law; and is no less obsequious to Marah, than she was to Naomi. What shall we say to those children, that in the main actions of their life forget they have natural parents? It is a shame to see, that in mean families want of substance causeth want of duty; and that children should think themselves privileged for irreverence, because the parent is poor.

Little do we know when we go forth in the morning, what God means to do with us ere night. There is a providence that attends on us in all our ways, and guides us insensibly to his own ends. That divine hand leads Ruth blind-fold to the field of Boaz. That she meets with his reapers, and falls upon his land amongst all the fields of Bethlehem, it was no praise to her election, but the gracious disposition of him, in whom we move: his thoughts are above ours, and do so order our actions, as we, if we had known, should have wished.

No sooner is she come into the field, but the reapers are friendly to her; no sooner is Boaz come into his field, but he invites her to more bounty than she could have desired: now, God begins to repay into her bosom her love and duty to her mother-in-law. Reverence and loving respects to parents never yet went away unrecompensed: God will surely raise up friends amongst strangers, to those that have been officious at home.

It was worth Ruth's journey from Moab, to meet with such a man as Boaz; whom we find thrifty, religious, charitable. Though he were rich, yet he was not careless: he comes into the field to oversee his reapers. Even the best estate requires careful managing of the owner. He wanted no officers to take charge of his husbandry, yet he would rather be his own witness: after all the trust of others, the master's eye feeds the horse. The master of the great household of the world gives us an example of this care, whose eye is in every corner of his large possession. Not civility only, but religion, binds us to good husbandry. We are all stewards; and what account can we give to our Master, if we never look after our estate?

I doubt whether Boaz had been so rich, if he had not been so frugal; yet was he not more thrifty than religious: he comes not to his reapers, but with a blessing in his mouth: The Lord be with you, as one that knew, if he were with them, and not the Lord, his presence could avail nothing. All the business of the family speeds the better for the master's benediction. Those affairs are likely to succeed, that take their beginning at God.

Charity was well matched with his religion; without which, good works are but hypocrisy no sooner doth he hear the name of the Moabitess, but he scconds the kindness of his reapers; and

still he rises in his favours: first, she may glean in his field; then, she may drink of his vessels; then, she shall take her meal with his reapers, and part of it from his own hand; lastly, his workmen must let fall sheaves for her gathering.

A small thing helps the needy: a handful of gleanings, a lapfull of parched corn, a draught of the servants' bottles, a loose sheaf, was such a favour to Ruth, as she thought was above all recompence: this was not seen in the estate of Boaz, which yet makes her for the time happy. If we may refresh the soul of the poor with the very offals of our estate, and not hurt ourselves, woe be to us if we do it not. Our barns shall be as full of curses as of corn, if we grudge the scattered ears of our field to the hands of the needy.

How thankful doth Ruth take these small favours from Boaz! Perhaps some rich jewel in Moab would not have been so welcome. Even this was a presage of her better estate. Those, which shall receive great blessings, are ever thankful for little; and if poor souls be so thankful to us, for but a handful or a sheaf, how should we be affected to our God, for whole fields full, for full barns, full garners!

Doubtless, Boaz, having taken notice of the good nature, dutiful carriage, and the near affinity of Ruth, could not but purchase some greater beneficence and higher respects to her yet now onwards he fits his kindness to her condition; and gives her that, which to her meanness seemed much, though he thought it little. Thus doth the bounty of our God deal with us: it is not for want of love, that he gives us no greater measure of grace, but for want of our fitness and capacity: he hath reserved greater preferments for us, when it shall be seasonable for us to receive them.

Ruth returns home wealthy, with her ephah of barley; and thankfully magnifies the liberality of Boaz, her new benefactor: Naomi repays his beneficence with her blessing; Blessed be he of the Lord. If the rich can exchange their alms with the poor for blessings, they have no cause to complain of an ill bargain. Our gifts cannot be worth their faithful prayers: therefore it is better to give than to receive; because he that receives, hath but a worthless alms; he that gives, receives an invaluable blessing.

I cannot but admire the modesty and silence of these two women: Naomi had not so much as talked of her kindred in Bethlehem, nor till now had she told Ruth that she had a wealthy kinsman; neither had Ruth inquired of her husband's great alliance; but both sat down meekly with their own wants, and cared not to know any thing else, save that themselves were poor. Humility is ever the way to honour.

It is a discourtesy, where we are beholden, to alter our dependancy like as men of trade take it ill, if customers which are in their books go for their wares to another shop. Wisely doth Naomi advise Ruth, not to be seen in any other field, while the harvest lasted. The very taking of their favours is a contentment to those, which have already well deserved; and it is quarrel

enough, that their courtesy is not received. How shall the God of heaven take it, that, while he gives and proffers large, we run to the world, that can afford us nothing but vanity and vexation ?

Those, that can least act, are oft-times the best to advise. Good old Naomi sits still at home, and by her counsel pays Ruth all the love she owes her.

The face of that action, to which she directs her, is the worst piece of it; the heart was sound. Perhaps, the assurance, which long trial had given her of the good government and firm chastity of her daughter-in-law, together with her persuasion of the religious gravity of Boaz, made her think that design safe, which to others had been perilous, if not desperate. But besides that, holding Boaz next of blood to Elimelech, she made account of him as the lawful husband of Ruth; so as there wanted nothing but a challenge and consummation. Nothing was abated, but some outward solemnities, which, though expedient for the satisfaction of others, yet were not essential to marriage.

And if there were not these colours for a project so suspicious, it would not follow, that the action were warrantable because Naomi's. Why should her example be more safe in this, than in matching her sons with infidels; than in sending back Orpah to her father's gods? If every act of a holy person should be our rule, we should have crooked lives: every action, that is reported, is not straightways allowed. Our courses were very uncertain, if God had not given us rules, whereby we may examine the examples of the best saints; and as well censure, as follow them. Let them, that stumble at the boldness of Ruth, imitate the continence of Boaz.

These times were not delicate. This man, though great in Bethlehem, lays him down to rest upon a pallat, in the floor of his barn. When he awakes at midnight, no marvel if he were amazed to find himself accompanied; yet, though his heart were cheered with wine, the place solitary, the night silent, the person comely, the invitation plausible, could he not be drawn to a rash act of lust: his appetite could not get the victory of reason, though it had wine and opportunity to help it. Herein Boaz shewed himself a great master of his affections, that he was able to resist a fit temptation. It is no thank to many, that they are free of some evils: perhaps they wanted not will, but convenience. But if a man, when he is fitted with all helps to his sin, can repeł the pleasure of sin out of conscience, this is true fortitude.

Instead of touching her as a wanton, he blesses her as a father, encourageth her as a friend, promiseth her as a kinsman, rewards her as a patron, and sends her away laden with hopes and gifts; no less chaste, more happy than she came. Oh admirable temperance, worthy the progenitor of him, in whose lips and heart was no guile !

If Boaz had been the next kinsman, the marriage had needed no protraction; but now that his conscience told him, that Ruth was the right of another, it had not been more sensuality than in

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