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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 repel 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

justice, to have touched his kinswoman. It was not any bodily impotency, but honesty and conscience, that restrained Boaz; for the very next night she conceived by him. That good man wished his marriage-bed holy, and durst not lie down in the doubt of at sin. Many a man is honest out of necessity, and affects the praise of that, which he could not avoid; but that man's mind is still an adulterer, in the forced continence of his body. No action can give us true comfort, but that which we do out of the grounds of obedience.

Those, which are fearful of sinning, are careful not to be thought to sin. Boaz, though he knew himself to be clear, would not have occasion of suspicion given to others; Let no man know, that a woman came into the floor: a good heart is no less afraid of a scandal, than of a sin; whereas those, that are resolved not to make any scruple of sin, despise others' constructions, not earing whom they offend, so that they may please themselves.

That Naomi might see her daughter-in-law was not sent back im dislike, she comes home laden with corn. Ruth hath gleaned more this night, than in half the harvest. The care of Boaz was, that she would not return to her mother empty love, wheresoever it is, cannot be niggardly. We measure the love of God by his gifts: how shall he abide to send us away empty from those treasures of goodness!

Boaz is restless in the prosecution of this suit; and hies him from his thrashing floor to the gate, and there convenes the nearer kinsman before the elders of the city. What was it that made Boaz so ready to entertain, so forward to urge this match? Wealth she had none, not so much as bread, but what she gleaned out of the field; friends she had none, and those she had elsewhere, Moab ites; beauty she could not have much, after that scorching in her travel, in her gleanings: himself tells her what drew his heart to her; All the city of my people doth know that thou art a virtuous woman. Virtue, in whomsoever it is found, is a great dowry; and where it meets with a heart that knows how to value it, is accounted greater riches than all that is hid in the bowels of the earth. The corn heap of Boaz was but chaff to this, and his money dross.

As a man that had learned to square his actions to the Law of God, Boaz proceeds legally with his rival; and tells him of a parcel of Elimelech's land (which, it is like, upon his removal to Moab, he had alienated ;) which he, as the next kinsman, might have power to redeem; yet so as he must purchase the wife of the deceased, with the land. Every kinsman is not a Boaz: the man could listen to the land, if it had been free from the clog of a necessary marriage; but now he will rather leave the land, than take the wife, lest, while he should preserve Elimelech's inheritance, he should destroy his own; for the next seed, which he should have by Ruth, should not be his heir, but his deceased kinsman's. How knew he, whether God might not by that wife send heirs enough for both their estates? Rather would be therefore incur a manifest

injustice, than hazard the danger of his inheritance. The law of God bound him to raise up seed to the next in blood; the care of his inheritance draws him to a neglect of his duty, though with infamy and reproach; and now, he would rather his face should be spit upon, and his name should be called, The house of him whose shoe was pulled off, than to reserve the honour of him, that did his brother right to his own prejudice.

How many are there, that do so overlove their issue, as that they regard neither sin nor shame in advancing it; and that will rather endanger their soul, than lose their name! It is a woeful inheritance, that makes men heirs of the vengeance of God. Boaz is glad to take the advantage of his refusal; and holds that shoe, which was the sign of his tenure, more worth than all the land of Elimelech. And whereas other wives purchase their husbands with a large dowry, this man purchaseth his wife at a dear rate, and thinks his bargain happy. All the substance of the earth is not worth a virtuous and prudent wife; which Boaz doth now so rejoice in, as if he this day only began to be wealthy.

Now is Ruth taken into the house of Boaz: she, that before had said she was not like one of his maidens, is now become their mistress. This day she hath gleaned all the fields and barns of a rich husband; and, that there might be no want in her happiness, by a gracious husband she hath gained a happy seed; and hath the honour, above all the dames of Israel, to be the great grandmother of a king, of David, of the Messiah."

Now is Marah turned back again to Naomi; and Orpah, if she hear of this in Moab, cannot but envy at her sister's happiness. Oh the sure and bountiful payments of the Almighty! Who ever came under his wing in vain? Who ever lost by trusting him? Who ever forsook the Moab of this world for the true Israel, and did not at last rejoice in the change? Ruth i, iii, iv.


ILL customs, where they are once entertained, are not easily discharged. Polygamy, besides carnal delight, might now plead age and example; so as even Elkanah, though a Levite, is tainted with the sin of Lamech: like as fashions of attire, which at the first were disliked as uncomely, yet when they are once grown common are taken up of the gravest.

Yet this sin, as then current with the time, could not make Elkanah not religious. The house of God in Shiloh was duly frequented of him; often times, alone, in his ordinary course of attendance; with all his males, thrice a year; and once a year, with all his family. The continuance of an unknown sin cannot hinder the uprightness of a man's heart with God; as a man may have a mole upon his back, and yet think his skin clear: the least touch of knowledge or wilfulness mars his sincerity.

He, that by virtue of his place was employed about the sacri

fices of others, would much less neglect his own. It is a shame for him, that teaches God's people that they should not appear before the Lord empty, to bring no sacrifice for himself. If Levites be profane, who should be religious?

It was the fashion, when they sacrificed, to feast; so did Elkanah. The day of his devotion is the day of his triumph: he makes great cheer for his whole family, even for that wife which he loved less. There is nothing more comely, than cheerfulness in the services of God. What is there in all the world, wherewith the heart of man should be so lifted up, as with the conscience of his duty done to his Maker? While we do so, God doth to us as our glass, smile upon us, while we smile on him.

Love will be seen by entertainment: Peninnah and her children shall not complain of want, but Hannah shall find her husband's affection in her portion: as his love to her was double, so was her part.

to us,

She fared not the worse, because she was childless: no good husband will dislike his wife, for a fault out of the power of her redress; yea, rather, that, which might seem to lose the love of her husband, wins it, her barrenness. The good-nature of Elkanah laboured by his dear respects to recompense this affliction, that so she might find no less contentment in the fruit of his hearty love, than she had grief from her own fruitlessness. It is the property of true mercy, to be most favourable to the weakest: thus doth the gracious spouse of the Christian soul pity the barrenness of his servants. Ó Saviour, we should not find thee so indulgent if we did not complain of our own unworthiness. Peninnah may have the more children, but barren Hannah hath the most love. How much rather could Elkanah have wished Peninnah barren, and Hannah fruitful? but if she should have had both issue and love, she had been proud, and her rival despised. God knows how to disperse his favours so, that every one may have cause both of thankfulness and humiliation; while there is no one that hath all, no one but hath some. If envy and contempt were not thus equally tempered, some would be over haughty and others too miserable; but now, every man sees that in himself which is worthy of contempt, and matter of emulation in others; and contrarily, sees what to pity and dislike in the most eminent, and what to applaud in himself; and out of this contrariety, arises a sweet mean of contentation.

The love of Elkanah is so unable to free Hannah from the wrongs of her rival, that it procures them rather. The unfruitfulness of Hannah had never with so much despite been laid in her dish, if her husband's heart had been as barren of love to her. Envy, though it take advantage of our weaknesses, yet is ever raised upon some grounds of happiness in them whom it emulates: it is ever an ill effect of a good cause. If Abel's sacrifice had not been accepted, and if the acceptation of his sacrifice had not been a blessing, no envy had followed upon it.

There is no evil of another, wherein it is fit to rejoice, but his

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