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Female Scripture Biographies, Vol. I by Francis Augustus Cox

Part 3 out of 6

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story of the birth and preservation of Moses. His mother--unenviable name
in this sad season of calamity!--his weeping mother, by a thousand
schemes, such as maternal fondness and ingenuity would naturally devise
to save the little darling of her heart, contrived to conceal this "goodly
child" for the space of three months; but finding it impossible to hide
him any longer, she took him--and with what feelings, say, ye
tender-hearted mothers!--to the river Nile.

--"A dealing parent lives
In many lives; through many a nerve she feels;
From child to child the quick affections spread,
For ever wand'ring, yet for ever fix'd.
Nor does division weaken, nor the force
Of constant operation e'er exhaust
Parental love. All other passions change
With changing circumstances; rise or fall,
Dependent on their object; claim returns;
Live on reciprocation, and expire,
Unfed by hope. A mother's fondness reigns,
Without a rival, and without an end."


Miriam, an interesting actor upon this occasion, accompanied her mother.
Willing to adopt every possible expedient, even at this last extremity,
the afflicted parent had prepared a little boat of bulrushes, which grew
plentifully on the bank; and, making it water-proof by the use of pitch
and tar, she put the child into it, committed it to the uncertain
elements, and retired from the heart-rending scene. Poor Miriam, his
sister, supposed to be at this time about ten or twelve years of age, was
placed at a distance to watch the event. Dear little sentinel! what heart
can refuse to pity thy sad employment! who does not sympathize with thy
sorrow, and begin to mourn with thee for thy anticipated bereavement!
Imagination listens to strains which seem to strike upon the ear of
distant ages:

"The flags and sea-weeds will awhile sustain
Their precious load, but it must sink ere long;
Sweet bade, farewell! Yet think not I will leave thee.
No, I will watch thee, till the greedy waves
Devour thy little bark."

The dispensations of Providence are indeed considerably diversified; but
at what an early period does affliction familiarize itself, even with the
happiest family! Behold Moses, in his cradle of bulrushes, exposed to the
waters and the crocodiles of the Nile! Behold his little sister at some
distance, participating the cares of her mother, and already at the outset
of life deluged with a storm of grief. She had learned to love the
babe--she had fondled it, and felt the kindlings of sisterly
affection--and at an age just sufficiently advanced to realize something
of the nature and extent of her loss, the new-born infant is torn from her
heart by the hands of sanguinary violence. It was because he was a Hebrew
child. His danger, and the distress of Miriam and her mother, arose from
their belonging to the persecuted Israelites; but with all their
disadvantages in this unfriendly world, let the children of pious parents
rejoice, even amidst their tribulations and reproaches, in being connected
with the people of God. It is an honour which, however at present
overlooked, will hereafter be fully appreciated, both by those who have
desired and those who have despised it!

At this juncture, the daughter of Pharaoh, to whom Josephus has given the
name of Thurmutis, came down with her maidens to the river-side; and
perceiving the frame of bulrushes, sent her servant to fetch it. Upon
opening it the little stranger wept. Her heart was touched with
compassion, and she said, "This is one of the Hebrew children."

Miriam, all observant and alert, seized the happy moment, introduced
herself, or perhaps she was called by the royal lady; but dexterously
contrived to propose her going to call a Hebrew nurse to nourish and rear
it as her adopted child. Divinely influenced by him who has all hearts in
his hands, and moves them by his secret touch, she consents; and who
should the well-instructed young messenger bring, but the babe's own
mother! Pharaoh's daughter intrusted the adopted stranger to her care, and
pays her for a service which she would willingly have rendered even at the
hazard of her life. The child grew, and, from the expression of the sacred
historian, appears to have become a favourite with this illustrious
princess. "And she called his name Moses; and she said, Because I drew him
out of the water." Such is the story, which needs none of the Rabbinical
embellishments to make it additionally interesting or wonderful.

Miriam is next introduced to us upon an occasion the most remarkable that
ever occurred in the history of the world. Miracle after miracle had been
performed by the instrumentality of Moses, ere the infatuated king of
Egypt could be persuaded to dismiss the children of Israel; and no sooner
had he given his consent to their removal, than taking an immense army he
pursued them to their encampment, which was by the sea, beside Pihahiroth,
before Baal-Zephon. The terrified fugitives complained to their leader,
who presented fervent supplications to Heaven for their deliverance. The
ear of mercy heard; he was commanded to take his rod, and stretch it over
the waters, upon the assurance that they should instantly divide, and
present a dry channel, over which they might safely pass. Awed by a divine
[Sidenote: Years before Christ, 1491.] power the retiring waves became a
wall of defence on either side, while the pillar of a cloud guided their
adventurous march. During the night, the Egyptian and Israelitish armies
were kept asunder, in consequence of the cloud affording a miraculous
light to the one, and shedding disastrous darkness upon the other.
Pharaoh, obdurate and furious, led on his troops into the new-formed
channel; and already by anticipation seized in the grasp of his mighty
malice, the prey which he intended to tear and devour. "And it came to
pass, that in the morning-watch the Lord looked upon the host of the
Egyptians through the pillar of fire and of the cloud, and troubled the
host of the Egyptians, and took off their chariot-wheels, that they drave
heavily: so that the Egyptians said, Let us flee from the face of Israel:
for the Lord fighteth for them against the Egyptians. And the Lord said
unto Moses, Stretch out thine hand over the sea, that the waters may come
again upon the Egyptians, upon their Chariots, and upon their horsemen.
And Moses stretched forth his hand over the sea, and the sea returned to
his strength when the morning appeared; and the Egyptians fled against it;
and the Lord overthrew the Egyptians in the midst of the sea. And the
waters returned, and covered the chariots, and horsemen, and all the host
of Pharaoh that came into the sea after them; there remained not so much
as one of them."

What a scene did the light of morning exhibit to Israel! Pharaoh's
chariots, his chosen captains, and all his host, had perished; "the depths
had covered them, they sank into the bottom as a stone." But, as if the
waters refused to harbour even the bodies of these enemies of the people
of God, they were no sooner drowned than thrown, by the indignant billows,
upon the sea-shore. See their ranks broken, their persons disfigured,
their glory for ever extinguished! Their unburied and unpitied remains
proclaim how fearful a thing it is to fall into the hands of God, and how
dangerous it is to venture upon "touching" his people, which is, in
effect, "touching the apple of his eye."

Anxious to celebrate so miraculous a victory, a victory achieved without a
battle, and by the special interposal of an omnipotent arm, Moses composed
that celebrated song of thanksgiving which is recorded in the fifteenth
chapter of the book of Exodus. It is remarkable, not only on account of
its intrinsic excellency, but as being composed six hundred and
forty-seven years before the birth of Homer, the best of heathen poets,
and, therefore, the most ancient piece of poetical composition in the
world. It is characterized by the beauty and boldness of its imagery, the
strength of its language, and the piety of its sentiments. If brought into
comparison with the finest specimens of human genius that have since
delighted mankind, its superiority must instantly be established.

According to the practice of the age, Miriam, with whom we are
particularly concerned at present, appeared at the head of the women to
congratulate Israel upon this splendid event, in responsive strains and
dances. She was anxious only to aid the universal joy, and express in
every possible manner her accordance of sentiment with that of her two
illustrious brothers, Moses and Aaron, and the thousands of Israel. Happy
was it for Miriam, that, instead of leading the unhallowed and prostituted
festivities of heathen gods, she was "educated in the Jews' religion;"
and, from infancy to maturer years, had been taught to sing the praises of
the great I AM! Nor did she merely mingle her undistinguishable notes of
joy with her country-women and her nation; but, from the ardour of her
zeal, and the general superiority of her character, she took the lead in
these devotional raptures. Her early advantages, and her pious connexions,
had contributed essentially to the formation of her future character. They
not only contributed to impress a holy bias upon her mind, but to prepare
and mould her into that characteristic pre-eminence, by which she occupied
so conspicuous a station among the Israelites, and was ranked with their
two illustrious leaders. [18] What might not be anticipated from the
singular concurrence of such means in her favour? She was the sister of a
man who refused the honours of a court, and perhaps of a crown, to incur a
voluntary degradation with the afflicted people of God; and with him she
enjoyed a familiar and incessant intercourse. She had, besides, received
her earliest lessons in the school of adversity, and was become an eminent
proficient in sacred knowledge.

Let us duly appreciate, but be cautious of overrating, the advantage of
religious education. It did not necessarily follow, from the means which
Providence so amply and so graciously dispensed to Miriam, that she should
become a truly religious person, much less that she should acquire such
distinction in Israel; but while we gratefully admit, that good
instruction is calculated to effect the best results, and will commonly
produce them, it does not infallibly secure the end; nor can it at any
time prove available, independently of the blessing of God. With the use
of that system of means which is established in the providential
arrangements of Heaven, his concurring sanction may be expected;
although, to show the impotency of mere means, and to fulfil the secret
purposes of the divine government, they are sometimes totally inefficient.
It was the privilege of Miriam to be born an Israelite, and to have pious
relatives; and it is our advantage to live in an age, and to be born in a
country, blessed with the pure light of the Christian revelation. But
religion is personal in its nature; and unless our advantages be improved,
it is in vain that we have possessed them. Providence may give us Abraham
for our father, and impenitence may incur perdition for our portion! It
was to the most distinguished, and to the most boasting of the Jewish
fraternity, that Jesus Christ afterward declared, "I know you, that ye
have not the love of God in you."

The conduct of Miriam, on the triumphal occasion already mentioned,
exhibits a striking contrast to that of Michal, the daughter of Saul, when
at a subsequent period, the ark of God was brought from the house of
Obed-edom into the city of David. Harps, psalteries, timbrels, cornets,
cymbals, and all kinds of musical instruments, were put in requisition
upon that interesting day; and David disarraying himself of the dress of
royalty, and substituting the lighter linen vestment of the priest, danced
before the ark in a devout ecstacy. But Michal, instead of uniting in the
shouts of universal gladness, and extolling her husband's humility and
zeal, addressed him in this taunting language, "How glorious was the king
of Israel to-day, who uncovered himself to-day in the eyes of the
handmaids of his servants, as one of the vain fellows shamelessly
uncovereth himself!" From David's vindication of his behaviour, and from
the punishment inflicted on this inconsiderate woman, we perceive how
little capable irreligious characters are of estimating the nature and
value of those extraordinary acts of piety, for which eminent saints have
been always distinguished; and how displeasing to God is their proneness
to vilify those whom they ought rather to admire. In the present instance,
however, Miriam inspires the song, and leads the dance, vying with the
other sex in expressions of praise, and recognizing with equal joy an
interposing Providence. While Moses exclaims, "I will sing unto the Lord;"
Miriam, with no tardy zeal, utters the responsive and animating strain,
"Sing ye to the Lord, for he hath triumphed gloriously, the horse and his
rider hath he thrown into the sea."

Union in religious exercises is conducive to holy pleasure, and no sight
can he more gratifying than that of brethren and sisters engaging with
heart and voice in the praises of God. Within the small circle of a single
family, what a considerable portion of happiness--such as the world cannot
possibly supply--is dispensed, when every heart is in tune to devotion,
and no discordant sympathies blend with the universal feeling of pious
delight. It resembles a young plantation, which the gentle gales of the
south bend in the same direction--all under the same divine influence, all
tending to the same point. But never had witnessing spirits before beheld
such a scene on earth, as that of a _whole nation_ assembled to celebrate
the praises of Jehovah--never till the day of deliverance from the Red
Sea, had they before listened to such acclamations as those of all the
tribes and tongues of the thousands of Israel united in one general,
instantaneous, and harmonious song. Now a world, which having been
characterized by its apostacy, was marked by signs of displeasure--a world
from which only a few notes of holy praise, a few strains of sincere
devotion, had ascended to heaven from individual saints during the long
course of more than _two thousand five hundred years_--seemed beginning
to redeem its character; and rise to the dignity of serving God!

If blessed spirits were not permitted to break silence, and mingle their
congratulations with man, as they did when incarnate mercy descended to
Bethlehem, who can doubt the reality of their sympathy and satisfaction,
when the songs of Moses and Miriam were thus emulating "the song of the
Lamb?" Faith travels onward to a future and still happier day, when
_every_ redeemed individual, from amongst men, shall be permitted to utter
his voice in the great chorus of eternity, in which the millions of the
human race, who have "washed their robes and made them white in the blood
of the Lamb," shall unite with the unfallen universe in the praises of
Heaven. By the visions of the apocalypse, we are admitted to a view of the
employments of that celestial state, and the very prospect of it is highly
calculated to kindle a warm devotion. How truly trifling do all the
pursuits of time appear to the exercises and enjoyments of happy beings
around the throne, who, elevated above this mortal sphere, behold the
unveiled glories of God and the Lamb, and drink immortal bliss from "the
fountain of living waters." The many angels round about the throne, and
the living creatures and elders, whose number is ten thousand times ten
thousand, and thousands of thousands, are represented as _uniting_ in the
same immortal song, adoring the same Lord, and celebrating the same
redemption. It is thus--exhilarating anticipation!--the devotions of time
will expand into the songs of eternity; thus the services of earth issue
in the raptures of heaven!

The course of the history of Israel at length introduces us to a very
different, but perhaps a no less instructive scene. Miriam must not only
be contemplated in a new, but unpleasing light. Hitherto she had been the
coadjutor of her brother Moses, but now becomes his opponent, pursuing a
line of conduct, in consequence of indulging a guilty passion, which
usually produces the most deplorable effects, and which we cannot but
lament should have been so conspicuous in this illustrious woman. The
circumstance alluded to is recorded, with the characteristic fidelity of
the inspired historians, in the twelfth chapter of the book of Numbers.

"Wrath is cruel, and anger is outrageous; but who is able to stand before
_Envy?_" To this latter principle must be attributed the plot in which
both Aaron and Miriam engaged to diminish the reputation of Moses. This
was not indeed the ostensible reason, but it was their real design; and
occasioned the severe, but just chastisement which was immediately
inflicted. Seldom do any of the baser passions act without combining and
blending themselves with hypocritical pretences, in order to conceal from
view their own hateful deformity. This will be found particularly the
case, when they prevail in persons who have acquired respectability and
influence, and who are not given over to total blindness and hardness of
heart. Artifice may sometimes conduce to success, but it usually betrays

Aaron and Miriam spake _against_ Moses, but not _to_ him. If they had
observed any thing objectionable in his administration of public affairs,
it would have been candid, fair, and kind, to have taken a private
opportunity for expostulation or inquiry. Not only was he extremely
accessible, but they were his relatives, and in habits of daily intimacy
and communication. They knew him well, and saw him often. Such a conduct
would have done them honour, and although their surmises had proved
incorrect, Moses would have applauded their ingenuousness. But, alas!
these dear relatives, and otherwise good and great characters, had become
envious of their brother; and acting conformably to the invariable
meanness of such a spirit, they secretly circulated reports in the camp
tending to disparage his excellence, for the purpose of advancing their
own pretensions to popular estimation. Their arrogance is sufficiently
apparent from their words, "Hath the Lord indeed spoken ONLY by Moses?
Hath he not spoken ALSO by us!"

Can this be _Aaron?_ Can that be _Miriam?_ The one the _brother_--the
other the _sister_ of Moses? Persons too, venerable for their years, and
for their office, and only next in honour to the great legislator and
leader of Israel? It may have comported with the ambition of a Pagan to
exclaim, "I had rather be the first man in a village, than the second in a
kingdom;" but is such language befitting the lips of saints and prophets
of the true God? Was not _Aaron_ the person that sought the intercession
of his brother when he had committed idolatry? Was he not consecrated a
high priest unto God? Was not _Miriam_ his elder sister, who acted so
conspicuous a part in his early preservation, watching his bulrush-cradle
when exposed to the waves and the monsters of the Nile? Was it not
_Miriam_ that accompanied him in his prosperities, that hailed his
increasing glory, that aided his triumphant songs when the Egyptian army
was submerged in the Red Sea? and can _Miriam_ be envious? Strange

But, perhaps, we are really censuring ourselves. Listen to the unbiassed
voice of conscience. Does it not thunder in your ears, "Thou art the man?"
Art thou insensible to its powerful and just remonstrances, "Wherein thou
judgest another, thou condemnest thyself; for thou that judgest doeth the
same things?" O beware of this mean, creeping, reptile spirit! Persons in
eminent stations may, in a certain degree, expect to suffer from the wiles
of envy: But to suffer from those of their own household, and from persons
on whose friendship they have had the greatest reason to rely, must be
peculiarly afflictive. If it be possible to add one drop to the bitterness
of such a portion, it is by being envied, and consequently depreciated, by
those who are _associated in the same sacred office_. A remark upon this
subject cannot be misplaced, the history seems rather to claim it. A
mortal creature cannot be invested with a more important commission than
that of the ministry of the word. So highly did the apostle of the
Gentiles appreciate his work, that, gifted as he was in every requisite to
discharge it with honour and success, he exclaimed, "Unto me, who am less
than the least of all saints, is this _grace_ given, that I should preach
amongst the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ." But if each
heavenly ambassador be really convinced that he and his brethren are
intrusted with an office at once so dignified in its nature, so useful in
its design, so extensive in its duties, that no one can adequately fulfil
for himself what would be sufficient to expend the energies of an angel;
and that the combined exertions of all the preachers that ever have, or
ever will, minister in holy things, cannot _wholly_ occupy the sphere of
possible usefulness, were every power of the mind, and every moment of
time, made tributary to the service--if this were duly considered, surely
instead of envying, depreciating, and thwarting each other, perfect love
must prevail, and mutual assistance be incessantly rendered. The world is
sufficiently disposed to reproach the servants of the sanctuary; they
should not undervalue each other. Nothing can exceed, and no words can
express, the littleness of attempting to construct our own fame upon the
ruins of others; and when this temper exists, as it sometimes
unquestionably does, amongst those who teach humility, it is singularly
detestable. Ministers of the divine word should be guardians of each
other's reputation, aware that the honour, and in some degree the success
of it depends upon the _character_ of its publishers and representatives.
Miriam and Aaron should have been the last, while, such is human nature,
they were the first, to envy Moses!

Mark the origin of those depreciating reports which they contrived to put
in circulation. They had taken some offence respecting Zipporah, his wife,
who is called the Ethiopian woman. The precise occasion of this offence
cannot, and need not, be ascertained. Some have supposed it was on account
of his having married her; but as this had taken place forty years before,
and, being perfectly legal, could have furnished no just ground of
crimination, the probability is, that some recent occurrence, grounded
perhaps on personal and long cherished antipathy, produced a difference.
Some private contention might have existed; that ungovernable member, the
tongue, had inflamed resentments; and a revengeful spirit fastened the
blame upon Moses, whose only offence was, probably, some meek and
pacifying word.

But what connexion subsisted between the marriage of Moses with an
Ethiopian woman, and the pretentious of Aaron and Miriam to an equality
with their illustrious brother? Truly, none at all. Their conduct is a
striking display, not only of the virulence of envy, but of the progress
and resentful nature of anger. It always wanders from its subject, and
ranges around for new materials upon which to operate. It possesses the
perverse capacity of converting every thing into an element of mischief,
of inventing circumstances and envenoming objections. It seeks to enlist
others into its services, and to bring every thing into a confederacy
against the peace of its object. It is limited by no bounds, and
restrained by no considerations; it will often, like the exasperated judge
of Israel, pull down ruin upon his own head, for the sake of destroying
others. The present contention began about Zipporah, but it ended in Moses
himself. It was, perhaps, at first, a common-place strife; but at length
it assumed the shape of a settled hostility. It was but a spark, and if
angry passions had not blown it, soon it might have gone out; imprudence
and revenge raised and extended it into a vast conflagration.

Family quarrels are, of all other dissentions, the most to be deprecated.
We should be careful to prevent them, and if they occur, take effectual
and speedy measures for their extinction. Let us not be tenacious of our
own opinions, or determined upon practising our own plans. It becomes the
Christian, both for his own sake and for the interest of religion, to make
every possible sacrifice to peace. Pour the oil of gentleness upon the
stormy billows of strife: ever remembering that "a brother offended is
harder to be won than a strong city, and their contentions are like the
bars of a castle."

One expression in this narrative merits particular notice. Let the envious
detractor tremble at the words, "the Lord heard it." It requires not the
tone of thunder to penetrate the ear of God: his omniscience perceives the
secret whisperings of slander, and even the inaudible and unexpressed
surmises of a perverted mind. Moses may have been ignorant of the
industrious malignity of his brother and Miriam, or disregardful of any
intimations on the subject; for a person of integrity is unwilling to
believe, without very compulsory evidence, the dishonesty of others; or,
if it cannot be discredited, he will patiently pursue that course which
will eventually place injured innocence in the point of complete
vindication. In this he resembled the great Exemplar of every virtue of
whom he was an eminent antitype, and of whom it is recorded, that "when he
was reviled, he reviled not again, but committed himself to him that
judgeth righteously."

But whether _Moses_ did or did not hear, or, hearing, disregarded the
detractions of his nearest relatives, _God_ observed them, and instantly
came down to express his displeasure. The two delinquents were summoned to
the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, with their much-injured
brother: the glory of the Shekinah appeared, and the solemn voice of the
divine majesty issued from the cloud of his presence. The superiority of
Moses was proclaimed, and an unanswerable question proposed to them,
"Wherefore then were ye not afraid to speak against my servant Moses?" As
an indication of anger, the symbolic cloud instantly removed from the
tabernacle; and Miriam, the most forward, and perhaps the first in this
transgression, became "leprous, white as snow."

Aaron was shocked at the sight, and had immediate recourse to the man he
had before so defamed, humbly requesting him to pass over the sin they had
perpetrated, and entreating his powerful intercession with God on behalf
of their afflicted sister. Moses, obeying at once the impulse of humanity,
piety, and fraternal attachment, pleaded for her restoration. He was
graciously heard. Miriam was excluded from the camp only seven days,
during which the journeyings of Israel were suspended, to express the
displeasure of God at their concurrence in her transgression, and to show
the kind intermixture of mercy with judgment in the divine proceedings.
After this, the people removed from Hazeroth, and pitched in the
wilderness of Paran.

[Sidenote: Years before Christ, about 1451.]

With this instructive story the history of Miriam closes, excepting the
brief notice of her death at The encampment at Kadesh, where she was
buried. Josephus relates, that after interring her with great solemnity,
the people mourned for her a month. This occurred in the fortieth year
after the departure from Egypt, Eusebius says, that in his time her
sepulchre was still to be seen at Kadesh.

Whether the imputation be true or false, that women are particularly
addicted to the vice of slander, it cannot be deemed unsuitable to suggest
a caution upon this subject. Character is a sacred thing, and it is
unworthy of you to trifle with it. To sit in judgment upon others, and to
pronounce a hasty verdict upon actions which may be carelessly
misrepresented, or words, if not intentionally, yet heedlessly misquoted,
without affording an opportunity to the condemned individual to speak for
himself, is unjust in the extreme. But how many excellent persons are made
the butt of ridicule, or tossed about as the playthings of a gossipping
spirit, which, incapable of a direct charge, gratifies its malignity by
infusing calumnies into the too listening ear of prejudice. An idle report
is, by this means, magnified and circulated to an incalculable extent; or
the infirmities of excellent characters animadverted upon, for no other
purpose than to fill up the waste moments of a ceremonious visit. Women
should assume their proper rank, by aspiring to the dignity of rational
intercourse; and not degrade themselves, and disquiet society, by
engaging in petty warfare against the reputation of others.

Let what is termed _religious conversation_ turn rather upon _things_ than
_persons_; otherwise men in public station, perhaps of equal though
dissimilar excellence, will be in danger of undue praise or excessive
depreciation. The favourite preacher will be unmercifully extolled, and
the unpopular one as cruelly degraded. A clashing of opinion will be
likely to produce rivalries, and invigorate partialities; till, probably,
the effect of their respective labours is lost upon these fair but
injudicious critics. Let young women, especially, take the hint, and "set
a watch upon the door of their lips." Beware of indiscriminate censure, or
extravagant applause. Regard the ministers of the word as the servants of
God. Receive instruction from their lips with all humility, pray for their
increasing wisdom, and tenderly cherish their good name. If a Moses, with
all his excellencies, seem to you to assume, or in any respect to commit
an error, do not be the first to publish it abroad in the camp, or to
aggravate, by misrepresentation, a failing which is blended with such
acknowledged worth. Remember, it is as likely that _you_ should be
mistaken in your judgment, as that _he_ should be faulty in spirit or
conduct; and that if your detractions be not visited with an outward token
of displeasure, resembling the loathsome deformity of Miriam, which
required a veil, they render you most unlovely in the sight of God and
man. "The tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue amongst
our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the
course of nature, and it is set on fire of hell. For every kind of beast,
and of birds, and of serpents, and things in the sea, is tamed, and hath
been tamed of mankind: but the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly
evil, full of deadly poison."

The situation of Miriam during her exclusion from the camp suggest an
observation on the debasing nature of sin. When engaged in the exercises
of religion, and taking the lead in the celebration of the overthrow of
the Egyptian army by the interposing providence of God, she appears the
glory of her sex and the ornament of her country; but from the moment she
indulges a guilty passion, her honour is tarnished, her dignity degraded,
and her pre-eminence lost; the moral defilement she has contracted is
marked by an external deformity, and issues in a degrading separation.
Miriam is deeply conscious of her guilt, and confounded at its bitter
consequences: she feels that she is a sufferer because she was a sinner;
and would no doubt have made any sacrifice could it have been possible to
regain the forfeited paradise of peace and innocency. But we have here a
specimen of the inevitable consequence of sin. It does not indeed
generally incur immediate and temporal punishment; but it degrades the
perpetrator of it in the eyes of God, in the opinion of others,
(especially the wise and good,) and in his own sight: it lowers him in the
scale of being, at once diminishing his reputation and contracting his
means of usefulness. If the face of Miriam recovered its beauty, and the
eyes of Israel could discern no external blemishes, it is questionable
whether a scar would not ever after be discernible upon her character: and
even should her indulgent friends have forgotten, and God have graciously
forgiven her past iniquities, Miriam, as a true penitent, would scarcely
ever forgive herself: the very consciousness of pardoning mercy would
often renew the sensations of penitence; and moments of holy joy would
ever after be bedewed with tears of humiliation.

From this example it is further obvious, that the hope of escaping the
divine displeasure on account of sin, under the notion of being the
professed people of God, is altogether delusive; sin is detestable in the
eyes of perfect purity _wherever_ it exists, and can neither escape
detection nor elude chastisement. Its perpetration by his own people is
rather a reason for more signal and exemplary chastisement, than for any
kind of exemption from it; because the motive to obedience arising from
gratitude and other sources is proportionably stronger; and because a
contrary proceeding would tend to disparage the divine government, by
affording a plausible pretence to the doctrine of salvation _in_ sin, and
not _from_ it. The eminence of Miriam rendered her disgrace the more
requisite as a punishment, and the more salutary as an example: the
leprosy in her face was a practical lesson, which every Israelite could
not fail of understanding, and probably would not soon or easily forget.

It is, besides, not only the necessary tendency of sin to procure its own
punishment, but such is the appointment of God: it constitutes an
essential part of the great system of his moral government to unite them
together; and no mortal power can disconnect them. Sooner or later every
transgressor must be humbled; he _must_ fall--by judgment, or by
penitence--before the sword of excision, or into the arms of mercy. Happy
for us if external visitations produce internal prostration of spirit; if,
instead of stiffening ourselves into resistance, we bend to the
inflictions of parental chastisement; and if present and temporary
sufferings excite a feeling which will supersede the necessity of future
and more awful visitations.

If, again, Miriam were so severely visited for speaking against _Moses_,
how fatal will prove the consequences of resisting _Christ!_ The secret
whisperings of envy and ambition against the _servant_ of God, occasioned
a public and awful punishment: what tremendous wrath may not they expect
who reproach or disregard his beloved _Son!_ "If they escaped not, who
refused him that spake on earth, much more shall not we escape if we turn
away from him that speaketh from heaven."

This remarkable manifestation to Miriam, Aaron, and Moses, may remind us
of that period which is hastening on the rapid wings of time, when the
descending Judge of the universe will "come in the clouds of heaven with
power and great glory," "the glory of the Father and all the holy angels,"
to summon every class, and all the generations of mankind, to his
tribunal, and pronounce their final, irreversible, everlasting doom: then,
like Moses, his servants will be vindicated from every charge, honoured by
witnessing celestials, admitted through the gates into the city of the New
Jerusalem, be emparadised forever in the embraces of their God. Then, like
Miriam and Aaron, a guilty race, which has plotted against the righteous,
and opposed by their impenitence, if not their actual persecutions, the
prosperity of his cause and people, will be driven, not into temporary
exile and disgrace, but into ever-during darkness. "These shall go away
into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into life eternal." The
pride of Miriam was intelligibly marked upon her smitten countenance; and
the sin of transgressors will be written by the finger of God in
appropriate and conspicuous characters upon their immortal destinies. Thus
will the perfections of the Deity for ever blaze in the flames of
perdition, and irradiate the temple of glory!

Finally, imitate the conduct of Moses, who, on this occasion, so nobly
displayed a conduct which the Redeemer of the world thus inculcated as an
essential part of his religion: "Pray for them that despitefully use you
and persecute you." His intercession for Miriam, who had so cruelly
injured him, was prompt and ardent; instead of resenting her calumnies, or
triumphing in her merited affliction, he prayed for her recovery! Here we
see the very spirit of the Gospel under the law! a Christian in the habit
of a Jew! Superior to the age in which he lived, he seemed in character
and temper to have anticipated a far distant period of evangelical
illumination; to have caught, so to speak, by ascending the summits of
faith and hope, some of the yet unrisen splendour of the Sun of
Righteousness; to have been in a sense the _disciple_, as he was the most
illustrious _antitype_ of Christ, even centuries previous to his
incarnation! The cross is indeed the centre of union and the point of
attraction to all ages and nations. There the antediluvian and patriarchal
saints associate with those of later times, imbibing one spirit,
coalescing upon one principle, meeting in one sacred spot, conjoined in
one fraternal band! The wise and the good of a former dispensation looked
forward with anticipating pleasure to the great event, which we are
permitted to contemplate with retrospective joy. Hail, happy hour! when we
shall meet with all the redeemed in one glorious assembly; not as at
present, _by faith_, on mount Calvary, but _in reality_, on mount Zion--in
a world where the imperfections of Christians shall be removed, and their
excellencies completed--where Miriam shall not envy Moses, nor Moses be
exhibited in contrast with Miriam!

Naomi, Orpah, and Ruth.

Chapter VIII.


History of Domestic Life most instructive--Book of Ruth--Sketch of the
Family of Elimelech while residing in Moab--Reflections arising out of a
View of their Circumstances--Naomi's Resolution to return, and that of
her Daughters-in-law to accompany her--Orpah soon quits her Mother and
Sister--Her Character, and that of Ruth--Requirements of Religion--
Arrival of Naomi and Ruth at Bethlehem--feelings of the Former.

Domestic life furnishes the most attractive and the most instructive
species of history. If it do not present an equal diversity of incident
with the narratives of rising or falling empires, in whose mighty concerns
every passion of human nature is interested, it possesses the superior
advantage of "coming home to men's business and bosoms."

The scene of _general history_ is frequently placed in a region which, to
the great proportion of mankind, is inaccessible; and however we may
admire its principal actors, they seldom furnish examples capable of being
exhibited for imitation. The sphere in which they moved is so totally
different, so far remote from that in which our duty usually lies, that
the knowledge of their achievements can conduce but little, to the great
purposes of practical improvement. The story of _private life_ possesses a
very different character; we are at once introduced to our _own_ sphere;
and although it may relate to a class in society either very much inferior
or superior in point of station to ourselves, it necessarily brings into
review relations which we all sustain, situations we have all to occupy,
and duties we have all to discharge. Whether, therefore, a princess or a
peasant be the principal actor, the central point round which every
circumstance revolves, and from which it derives interest and distinction,
it claims and will repay our serious attention.

Independently of these general considerations, the history of Ruth, in
connection with that of Naomi and Orpah, has been always regarded as
singularly interesting: it is a most pathetic tale, illustrative of the
operation of the tenderest of the domestic affections, in unison with
genuine religion: it exhibits the most artless simplicity of manners, the
most virtuous sensibilities, and the most affecting interpositions of
Providence. It is at once romantic and true, sublime and simple,
marvellous and natural: it constitutes, moreover, a connecting link in the
great chain of providence, and an important incident in the history of

The sacred book, which derives its name from RUTH, was in all probability
written by Samuel: this is the concurrent opinion of Jews and Christians.
It may be considered as supplementary to the book of Judges, an
introductory to the history of David, whose descent from Judah through
Pharez is distinctly traced in the genealogy of Boaz.

According to Jewish tradition, Ruth was of the royal race of Moab, a
nation descended from Lot, and settled on the borders of the salt sea in
the confines of Judah. She married Mahlon, the son of Elimelech, who lived
in Moab in consequence of a famine which prevailed in Judea. After his
death, relying on the promises made to the tribe of Judah, to which her
husband belonged, she became a proselyte; and thus the Holy Spirit, by
recording the adoption of a Gentile woman into that family from which the
Messiah was to descend, might intend to intimate the comprehensive design
of the Christian dispensation. "It must be remarked also, that in the
estimation of the Jews it was disgraceful to David to have derived his
birth from a Moabitess; and Shimei, in his revilings against him, is
supposed by the Jews to have tauntingly reflected on his descent from
Ruth. This book, therefore, contains an intrinsic proof of its own verity,
inasmuch as it records a circumstance so little flattering to the
sovereign of Israel [19]; and it is scarcely necessary to
appeal to its admission into the canon of Scripture for a testimony of its
authentic character; or to mention that the evangelists, in describing our
Saviour's descent, follow its genealogical accounts." [20]

[Sidenote: Years before Christ, about 1818] This book commences with a
statement of the calamitous situation of Israel in consequence of a
famine, one of those messengers of divine displeasure sometimes
commissioned to scourge a guilty land, and chastise them into obedience.
Elimelech, a resident in Bethlehem-Judah, was compelled, probably with
many others, to quit his beloved home, and seek a temporary subsistence in
the country of Moab, which, although favoured at this time with the
blessings of temporal prosperity and abundance, was destitute of those
religious means, without which, in the view of a good man, Eden would lose
its charms, and life its value. He took with him his wife Naomi and his
two sons Mahlon and Chilion; and, under the guidance of that Providence
which once tamed the lions and restrained the fires of Chaldea, found an
asylum in the bosom of Israel's enemies.

In this exile, a family so ancient and reputable sunk into such
degradation excites our compassion; still more so, when in tracing their
adventurous history, we find them assaulted by new forms of sorrow and
calamity. Elimelech dies, and Naomi is left with her two sons. The young
men afterward marry, the one Orpah, the other Ruth, both natives of Moab.
It seems as though the disconsolate widow were beginning to dry up her
tears, and to rebuild her fallen house by those matrimonial alliances
which tended to naturalize them in the country; but whether the use of
these idolatrous materials was displeasing to God, or whether it was
deemed requisite to detach the mind of Naomi, by repeated afflictions,
from a soil in which her affections were becoming too deeply rooted, her
two sons also died in a few years, and the three females were left to
grapple with adversity alone. The original state and character of the
young women is uncertain, but they became proselytes to the Jewish
religion. They might have become so previously to their union with their
now departed husbands, whom, if the sacred narrative had been more
detailed and minute, we might possibly have had occasion to applaud for
their pious discrimination, rather than to censure or suspect for
impropriety of conduct; at least, under all the circumstances, we are by
no means justified in severe animadversions upon their choice. But,
whatever might have been their intentions, the Supreme Disposer was
working with a wise but mysterious secrecy, to promote his designs which
were linked with a succession of events extending to far distant
generations. Poor Naomi! how desolate thy condition! how deep thy
depression! Wave after wave rolls over thy defenceless head! And yet,
where is the human being to whom no comforts are left? Thy daughters
remain, and even if they had been removed, thy pious spirit would not have
sorrowed over their graves, as one that has no hope! Thy religion has
supplied thee with sources of consolation unknown to the world, and
indestructible by calamity, time, or death--"The eternal God is thy
refuge," "and underneath are the everlasting arms."

The rapid changes in this family cannot fail to remind us of the
instability of earthly possessions and enjoyments; nor ought we to forget
the wisdom and the goodness of that divine superintendence, which holds
all these changes in subserviency to his will. How impressive is the
language of inspiration, "we all do fade as a leaf;"--and how
illustrative of the present tragical history! When the sun of summer beams
upon the growing landscape, and, ascending some eminence, you survey the
valleys covered over with corn, the hills adorned with verdure, the trees
bending their abundant foliage to the gale, the flowers in "yellow meads
of asphodel and amaranthine bowers," perfuming the air with their odours,
you seem for a moment to inhabit regions of enchantment and perpetual
beauty. A month or two intervenes--you reascend your former elevation,
once more to feast the senses--to admire and adore the Dispenser of these
blessings--but O how faded! The bright beams of the sun are shrouded in a
wintry cloud--the corn has disappeared--the flocks retire--the trees are
bereft of their foliage--the flowers lie scattered on the ground. Such,
such is human life; thus we and our families fade! to-day in
vigour--to-morrow in dust! Where are generations past? where are our
ancestors? where our immediate predecessors? where our early associates,
and many of the individuals that have enlivened our social hours in
maturer life? Like the leaves which cluster on the ground in autumn, and
almost obstruct the path of the traveller, they seem to have dropped in
quick succession, and to lie in faded heaps on the road that leads into
eternity. And, alas! with an indifference too nearly resembling that which
is apparent in the unheeding passenger, who tramples autumnal foliage
beneath his feet, we tread on the graves of departed ages, and neglect to
imitate the example of the pious dead.

Pause and reflect, "we _all_ do fade." Whatever our circumstances or
connections, the inevitable dominion of death extends over all. The leaves
may occupy a higher or a lower station on the tree, they may be suspended
on the loftiest or the lowliest branches--but they _all_ drop off; and we
may be rich or poor, learned or illiterate, young or old, the house of the
grave is "appointed for _all _ living." Providence in mercy permits the
union of families long to remain unbroken; and, at length, in _mercy_
too--whatever the suggestions of despondency--dissolves it. The parent
expires, and the children follow; till, perhaps, the _name_ only survives,
like a tree bared to the storm of winter thrown down by the blast, and at
length rotting into dust.

Mournfully fascinating, however, and instructing as these considerations
appear, they must not divert us longer from the narrative. Naomi, at the
distance of ten years, cherished a constant anxiety respecting what passed
in Israel; and, weaned by repeated trials, if not still more so by
Moabitish idolatry, from her present situation, she heard with pleasure,
"that the Lord had visited his people, in giving them bread:" upon which
she determined to return, and take her two daughters-in-law with her into
Judea. This secondary kindred often proves a source of the most unhappy
jealousies and animosities in domestic life, but the harmony in which
these women lived, and with which they concerted measures for their
removal, indicated at least the goodness of all their dispositions. They
were, besides, in equal distress. Affliction, in almost every form, is
beneficial in its tendency; and nothing is more calculated to strengthen
mutual attachment than common calamity.

How often is distress, similar to this, aggravated by unkindness!
Moroseness on the one part, and undutifulness on the other, excite the
mother-in-law against the daughter-in-law, and the daughter-in-law against
the mother-in-law; whereas reason, religion, and even self-love, require a
different conduct. The poverty of Naomi was no objection to Orpah and Ruth
to accompany her in her departure from Moab; but at once, abandoning every
minor or selfish consideration, they prepared to attend her unprotected
way. They would not suffer her to drink alone of the bitter cup, but
resolved to encourage her by sharing it.

A bitter cup indeed it was. Who can imagine, without a painful sympathy,
the situation of three friendless women, each a widow, and quitting a
country where they left behind so many sad recollections! There they had
lost the dearest of earthly connections, who, had they been preserved to
this hour, would have soothed their sorrows, sustained their spirits, and
accompanied their journey! The voice of parental and conjugal tenderness
was silent in the grave! Their natural timidity had no shelter--their
tears were wiped away by no kind hand--their steps were supported by no
sustaining arm--the world was a barren wilderness before them--they seemed
to be alone, as after a ship-wreck--and they had no immediate refuge but
in themselves, and--for there was still another hope, an observant friend,
a helper to the needy in his distress--in GOD!

Having proceeded a short distance, Naomi, overwhelmed with a sense of the
disinterested kindness of her daughters-in-law, even more than with her
own affliction, begged them to leave her, and return to their respective
homes. She adverts to their past amiable and affectionate conduct; and
severe as parting would prove to her maternal heart, she wished them still
to be happy in the Sand of their nativity. Commending them to the
benediction of the God of Israel, and expressing her desire for their
happiness in the formation of future connections, "she kissed them" in
token of a long and last farewell.

What fondness and what agony blended in that embrace! What a separation!
It was no moment for words; the lovely daughters could only weep! A
thousand past endearments recurred to their memory, a thousand
uncertainties springing from the bosom of futurity, presented themselves
to their minds. They had cherished a mutual esteem--they were blended
into one in feeling, in interest, in all that can render life desirable.
Their dark path had hitherto been enlightened by the beam of
affection;--and was the sun to set upon their day for ever?

Alas! what a land of mourning is this! what heart-rending separations are
we called to experience on earth; and what an hour of parting from the
tenderest of connexions will soon arrive, when, death interposing his
authority to break the ties of nature and of friendship, we must bid adieu
to those who would indeed gladly accompany us, but _must_ survive to walk
alone in the wilderness.

We are, however, attributing too much to this formidable power. He may
break the ties of nature--but he cannot dissolve the union of _Christian_
friendship. The pious shall meet again in a region uninfested by
malignity, and where the long annals of everlasting ages shall record no
day of separation, and no instance of death.

It was kind, it was disinterested, it was maternal, in Naomi to propose
this parting; but they were not to be persuaded. As soon as tears
permitted utterance, they exclaimed, "Surely we will return with _thee_
unto _thy_ people."--"We have taken our resolution, and cannot depart
from it. To go _with_ thee is indeed a trial--but to go _from_ thee is
incalculably worse. Thou shall not be forsaken. We will be inseparable."
Naomi remonstrated, and kindly repeated her commands. She called them
_daughters_, an appellation they had well merited by their ardent and
unabated attachment, earnestly entreating them to "turn again; and"
intimating that they could not reasonably entertain a hope of her having
sons whom they might marry, and therefore they could not accompany her
without detriment to themselves. She was afflicted at the idea of their
being widows in the days of their youth; and especially that, for her
sake, they should continue in so solitary a condition, voluntarily
resigning to her comfort the joys of connubial love.

Again they wept--but from this moment, Orpah and Ruth take a different
course. The former fails in her resolution, embraces her mother-in-law,
and returns; the latter "cleaves to her," and remains the solitary example
of unconquerable affection, the heroine of the future narrative.

In the character of Orpah, we perceive an exemplification of that
imperfect obedience which characterizes those who have been induced to pay
some degree of attention to the gospel of Christ, but who have been
influenced by certain subordinate motives to retrace their steps. She
contemplated future poverty with alarm, and cannot be exculpated from a
charge of secretly preferring the service of Chemosh, the Moabitish god,
to the service of Jehovah. Her affection for Naomi had, perhaps, induced
her hitherto to dissemble; and though she persevered to a considerable
extent, when the final resolution was to be taken, she paused--hesitated
--trembled--and drew back. She could not part with _all_ for this
service. In the days of Christ, many treated him with respect, listened to
his words, admired, and like the young ruler, even wished to become his
follower, but excited the best hopes only to disappoint them. Happy,
thrice happy, they who take up the cross, and follow him through much
tribulation; nobly resisting the allurements of the world, the demands of
earthly friendship, and even the interdictions of human authority, for the
sake of Christ and his gospel! The martyr's _crown_ awaits them, for
they display the martyr's _spirit_.

At a superficial glance, the address of Naomi to Ruth, upon this occasion,
seems altogether extraordinary; "Behold, thy sister-in-law is gone back
unto her people, and unto her gods; return thou after thy sister-in-law."
Did she then really wish to urge this young widow to imitate the conduct
of her sister, not only in returning to her relations, but to the service
of the gods of Moab? Whatever opinion she entertained of her
daughter-in-law's piety, could she really be desirous of placing her in
circumstances of such temptation and danger? This supposition would be at
least uncharitable, and contradicts probability. It was rather a trial of
her sincerity in religion, and an evidence of her determination to use no
compulsory measures, not even maternal influence, to coerce her
conscience. Her language was, besides, premonitory and warning, similar to
the permission given to Balaam, who though apparently admonished to go and
curse Israel, was really interdicted.

Ruth received the appeal in a manner worthy of her character, and the
most satisfactory to Naomi. "Entreat 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." If the pious
origin of this attachment were not sufficiently apparent, we should be
tempted to call it romantic; but founded as it was in religion, we must
contemplate it as a rare specimen of a perfection in friendship, scarcely
ever attained in the cold and chilling atmosphere of this world. Nothing
could have so ripened and matured it, but the beamings of heavenly love,
which rendered even an unfriendly soil productive of so choice a fruit.

Notwithstanding the indigent circumstances of Naomi, her daughter-in-law
persisted in accompanying her, and thus voluntarily chose affliction with
the people of God in preference to hereditary affluence and distinction.
With deliberate resolution, and persevering consistency, she adhered to
her purpose, calculating upon all the inconveniences that might result,
but not fearing them. She turned her back upon the glory of the world,
neither dreading its frowns nor soliciting its patronage. She knew that
she could live happily without human applause, but not without divine
approbation. Her early prejudices were subdued by principle, and she felt
no hesitation in discarding the gods of Moab to procure the love of the
God of Israel. In fact she _did_ choose the path of true honour and
renown. The servant of God is the greatest character in the universe, and
will eventually be exalted to a situation which will fully and for ever
disclose the perfect nothingness of terrestrial glory, and the shadowy
nature of all that mortals have been deluded to imagine substantial.

This part of the history may serve to suggest the beneficial inquiry,
whether we habitually cherish an equal zeal for our religion, with that
which this young Moabitess manifested? It would be easy to descant upon
the superiority of our advantages, and to urge our increased
responsibility; but do we equal her in the firmness of our faith, and the
steadfastness of our profession? It may not be a question, whether we are
likely to be called to similar or equal trials; but the most important
consideration is, whether through the grace of God we stand prepared for
_whatever_ trials await us in the path of duty; and whether, with fewer
difficulties and greater advantages, we at least display an equal decision
of character? We have Sabbaths--do we keep them? We have Bibles--do we
read them? We have religious and social opportunities--do we improve
them? We have pious friends--do we, like Ruth, cleave to them? Do we come
out from the world, and are we separate, saying to the church of Christ,
and adhering to our purpose, "We will go with you, for we have heard that
God is with you?" Association is a test of character. The companion
exhibits the man.

Candour and sincerity may be recommended from this example, as the best
policy. We should not be ashamed of our religion: an open avowal, like
that of Ruth, which prevented any farther importunity to return to the
idolatries of Moab, is calculated to prevent a thousand perplexities into
which the wavering, the timid, and the dissembling, inevitably fall.
Persons of this description fail in every respect. They dissatisfy both
parties, sacrifice their own peace of mind, and incur all the pains,
without securing any of the pleasures of genuine piety. Hesitating
between a sense of duty and an inclination to sin, trembling amidst
conflicting attractions and opposing interests, they never attain to
dignity of character or repose of spirit. They lie at the mercy of every
foe, of every passion, of every change. Without the pilotage of principle,
they know not what course to take, and are every moment in danger of a
fatal wreck. "He that wavereth is like a wave of the sea, driven with the
wind and tossed! ... A double-minded man is unstable in all his ways."

It is unquestionably a duty devolving on all who believe in Christ, to
"confess him;" and to this candid avowal he has himself attached, not only
the purest felicities on earth, but the honour of a public acknowledgment
of their persons and services before assembled ages in the day of
judgment, together with a final admission into the paradise of his
presence. It is indeed criminal to profess attachment to him when we do
not feel it, and it is also highly improper to cherish such an attachment
without daring to avow it. If the former must be characterized as
hypocrisy, the latter cannot be exculpated from the charge of sinful
timidity; if the one be presumptuous boldness, the other is unholy fear.

To avow our principles, on all suitable occasions, with unshrinking
firmness, is essential to integrity, and distinctly claimed by religion.
The worldly motives which influenced some of the chief rulers in the days
of our Lord, if not to disavow, at least to withhold their public
concurrence with his doctrines, are mentioned in the gospel to their
everlasting dishonour. They are not exhibited as specimens of violent
hostility, but of that spirit of neutrality which resulted from political
feelings, and which, being no less deemed a real enmity, will receive its
appropriate condemnation. "Nevertheless, among the chief rulers also many
believed on him; but because of the Pharisees they did not confess him,
lest they should be put out of the synagogue. For they loved the praise of
men more than the praise of God."

This kind of preference seems to be the result of strange infatuation, the
origin of which demands a serious inquiry. In part, it may be accounted
for from the impression which sensible and near objects produce on the
mind, in comparison with those which are less obvious and more distant.
Visible things attract attention, while those which are invisible, being
placed beyond the sphere of sense, remain unnoticed. An object which is
really greater, appears less when it is more remote. Eternity seems, in
human estimation, extremely distant; its crown of glory afar off; all the
possessions of the New Jerusalem disappear from view, when covered with
the mists of futurity. We are easily affected by loud applauses, gay
scenes, and temporal good. The secret whispers of an approving conscience
are less audible, the smiles of God less perceptible to a depraved and
earthly mind. In addition to which, temporal inconveniences or dangers are
frequently connected with a conduct which secures the approbation of God;
a criminal apprehension of which produces indifference and distaste for
religion. When the choice lies between shame, poverty, affliction, the
sacrifice of worldly interest, and even death itself in the one
balance--and temporal distinction, affluence, ease, advancement, in the
other--many will hesitate, with Agrippa, few determine, with Moses. In the
present history one was taken, the other left. The experiment has been
since sufficiently tried upon a large scale, and proofs are perpetually
accumulating, that the temper and conduct of Orpah were coincident with
those of the great majority in the world.

The narrative of the journey to the place of Naomi's early residence, is
comprised in one short sentence; "So they two went until they came to
Bethlehem." We are left in ignorance of those circumstances which
curiosity would wish to explore in so remarkable a removal. Who can doubt,
that in a distance of at least one hundred and twenty miles over mountains
and rivers, these female travellers, unprotected, friendless, on foot, and
seeking day by day a precarious assistance from the wild luxuriancy of
nature, or the occasional hospitality of the stranger, must have
encountered repeated perils, and often deemed themselves irretrievably
lost. But there was an eye that watched them, of whose observance they
were not ignorant; an arm that protected them, on whose powerful support
they leaned by faith, and leaned not in vain. _He_ can never be destitute
who has _God_ for his father; _he_ can never be lost, in whatever region
he wanders, who has _God_ for his guide! In the adventurous journey of
life take his proffered aid, ye children of adversity! repose in his
goodness, having committed your way to him, ye widowed mourners! while God
is on his throne, ye cannot inhabit a fatherless world, ye cannot be
destitute of efficient aid! "A Father of the fatherless, and a Judge of
the widows, is God in his holy habitation."

In a small town, like Bethlehem, the arrival of these strangers would
naturally awaken inquiry. After an absence of ten years, the inhabitants
probably never expected to see Naomi again. Such is the vicissitude of
human affairs, that within a few years many strange mutations occur, even
in places of no great extent. Of her former friends or acquaintances, some
were, no doubt, consigned to the grave; and her own appearance and
circumstances were so altered since her departure, that the voice of
friendship, the congratulation of love, seems to have subsided into the
idle language of wonderment, "Is this Naomi?"

_It is_--but the mention of her name is a caustic to the wounds of her
heart. The endearments attached to that beloved and significant
appellation are fled with departed time, and Bethlehem no longer beholds
her in a situation to command respect, to excite envy, or to purchase
attention. Her husband, her children, are no more!--one, one only comfort
remains--one friend, one solace in adversity--one ray of light in the dark
hour! Amidst universal desertion, RUTH has not forsaken her; but is become
her joy in sorrow, her companion in solitude, her prop in decrepit age!
Can we wonder that she wishes to discard a name which awakened such
recollections, and only recalled the _dream_ of happiness? "Call me not
_Naomi_,--call me _Mara_; 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?"

There is something in these words which charity requires us to excuse. If,
under the peculiar circumstances in which she was at present placed, the
name of NAOMI, which signifies _pleasant_, distracted her, and she wished
rather to adopt that of Mara, importing _bitterness_, her impatience must
not be interpreted in the worst sense. After long absence, it is natural
to anticipate a return home, and a rush of joy pervades even unfeeling
minds, when the spire of their native _village_, the smoke of their native
_hamlet_, especially the roof of their native _cottage_, first strikes
upon the sight. Friends, family, neighbours, early scenes and pleasures,
recur with a force which gives the air of enchantment to the long-lost
scene. But every feeling of this nature was, in the case of Naomi,
checked by different associations; the darkness of the sepulchre converted
this day into midnight, and this lovely spot into a desolate wilderness!

There is, moreover, something in Naomi's remonstrance, which sympathy
would lead as to pity, and experience, in some degree, to blame. She
commits an evident mistake in attributing the dispensations she had
suffered, to a _testimony against her_ on the part of the supreme
Disposer. Viewing past events through the discolouring medium of present
affliction, and incapable of perceiving their secret and concurrent
design, she forms a conclusion, which is rather the effect of temporary
depression of mind, than of a settled conviction of judgment. We cannot
doubt, indeed that the impression was evanescent; but it seems allied to
that of the impatient patriarch, who exclaimed, "All these things are
against me." _That_ eminent servant of God enjoyed the privilege of living
to a period in which the divine purposes were fully developed, and of
seeing that what he deemed hostile circumstances, were really conducive to
the most wise and felicitous results. Had Jacob departed during the
interval, and while the mysterious plan was yet unaccomplished, his grey
hairs would have gone down with sorrow to the grave, and the cloud of
mystery would have been suspended over his dying hour. Such is the usual
lot of the righteous. Life, in general, does not afford a space
sufficiently ample, a period sufficiently protracted, for the complete
execution of the great purposes of Infinite Goodness with regard to our
real interests; and we murmur, because we cannot penetrate his
arrangements. Patience, however, should be supported by the consideration
that either in this, or in a future state of existence, the day of
satisfactory explanation will arrive.

But there is a sentiment pervading the whole of this appeal, which,
notwithstanding its partial defects, piety must warmly approve. Every
thing is imputed to "the Lord." Naomi sees his hand in whatever occurrence
she has witnessed. To him she imputes the fulness of her prosperity, and
the emptiness of her adversity. In _every_ change, in _every_ place, she
beholds and bows, to the ALMIGHTY. When this is happily the prevailing
sentiment, the storm of angry passions will soon subside, the murmurings
of discontent cease, and the clear shining of comfort break forth from
behind the cloud.

"The Lord God omnipotent reigneth." This is enough! Angels and blessed
spirits shall not monopolize the strain of gratitude and acknowledgment.
Mortal voices shall join immortal harps, saying, "HALLELUJAH!"


Time of the Return to Bethlehem--Ruth offers to go and
glean--Dispositions indicated by this proposal--she happens upon the
Field of Boaz--his Kindness--their Conversation--additional
Favours--Ruth's return Home--Her Mother-in-law's wish to connect her in
Marriage with Boaz--the Measures she suggests, and which her daughter
adopts with ultimate Success--their Marriage--Birth of a
Son--concluding Remarks,

Tales of fictitious wo, and of splendid distress, may alone be capable of
fascinating those who recline on the lap of luxury, and who seek
amusement, without soliciting instruction; but, among persons who possess
any taste for genuine simplicity, any delight in the sacred employment of
tracing the operations of infinite wisdom in the works of Providence, any
desire for their own mental and spiritual improvement, and who have not
yet learned of dissipated folly to despise

"The short and simple annals of the poor;"

the remaining circumstances of the narrative introduced into the preceding
chapter, cannot fail of exciting interest.

That God, who promised Noah, that "while the earth remaineth, seed-time
and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night,
shall not cease;" and who "visits the earth and waters it, greatly
enriching it with the river of God which is full of water, and prepares
them corn when he has so provided for it;" having at this period dispensed
fertility to the fields of Bethlehem, the humble travellers from Moab
chose, or rather, were appointed by a superior influence to return in the
season of barley-harvest. This was probably at the commencement of the
month of May. [21]

But whither shall the wretched fugitives turn for assistance and support?
It was indeed a time of plenty, but they were in extreme poverty. Golden
harvests waved around them, but having no fields to reap, they were
sorrowful amidst universal gladness, and depended upon precarious means of

Ruth proposed to her mother-in-law to allow her to go and glean in any
field where she could obtain the permission of the proprietor; to which
Naomi readily consented. _As_ a Moabite, she was probably ignorant, that
what she regarded as a _favour_, was bestowed upon the needy as a _right_
by the God of Israel. "When thou cuttest down thine harvest in thy field,
and hast forgot a sheaf in the field, thou shall not go again to fetch it:
it shall be for the stranger, for the fatherless, and for the widow; that
the Lord thy God may bless thee in all the work of thine hands." This law
is more than once repeated, and Ruth had a peculiar claim upon the
liberality of its provisions, as uniting all the three species of
wretchedness in her individual case. She was indeed a _stranger_, an
_orphan_, and a _widow_.

The proposal of Ruth upon this occasion is, in many respects, illustrative
of her estimable character. It furnishes a specimen of that _respectful
treatment_ which is due from the younger relative, to those whom venerable
age and long experience have rendered their superiors. She would do
nothing without Naomi; but consults her wishes, and seeks her concurrence
in attempting to procure subsistence by means which she deemed the best
adapted to their present poverty. A churlish temper would have submitted
with extreme reluctance, and many taunting reproaches to what might easily
have been represented as the drudgery and degradation of the gleaner's
field; but this excellent daughter-in-law displayed a spirit most worthy
of imitation.

Her _reflecting kindness_ may be recommended to the notice of the
inconsiderate and unfeeling. Offering herself to the laborious but
necessary service, she is far from hinting any wish that Naomi should
either accompany her to the field, or take measures to spare her, by
seeking the aid of her richer relations, or the casual contributions of
others. She wished to extend her support to the wearied and decaying
nature of her beloved relative, and to use every possible exertion to
alleviate her anxieties, to minister to her comfort, and to assist her
infirmity. "Let _me_ now go to the field." Amiable, generous, kindhearted
woman! Thou wert anxious to procure for thy poor, afflicted, aged mother,
all the repose which her advanced life seemed to require, to wipe away the
tear from her dimmed eye and farrowed cheek, and as far as possible, to
dissipate the clouds that hovered about the setting beam of her earthly

If there be one scene of domestic life pre-eminently attractive, it is
that of a lovely daughter manifesting a promptitude and zeal to alleviate
the sorrows, and to aid the weekness of a parent, by those nameless and
numberless assiduities which bespeak a genuine affection. Her own works
praise her, and the mere flatterer's tongue is awed into respectful
silence. How deplorable is it to witness the impatience of some young
persons who think every little exertion an insufferable effort, a trouble,
and a fatigue; and who forget the maternal fondness which cherished their
infancy, the wakefulness that guarded their sickness, the love that
never slept.

As Ruth was characterized by a virtuous sensibility, the proposal she made
distinguished her also as _active and industrious_. Although her
mother-in-law was advanced in years, she being in the vigour of her days,
determined to devote her health and strength to procure subsistence. She
did not waste her time in complaining, or sit down in a state of inactive
despondency; but was alive to the duties of her lowly station. The poorest
individual, who cheerfully fulfils his obligations, and exerts himself by
an honest industry to maintain himself and his family, is inexpressibly
more respectable in a wise man's estimation, than pampered luxury lolling
on the couch of indulgence, and dreaming away existence in slothfulness
and pomp. Real worth unquestionably consists in the proper occupation of
that sphere, whatever it may be, which Providence has assigned us: and
that person who is "not slothful in business," but "fervent in spirit,
serving the Lord," secures the esteem of the good, and what is infinitely
more important, the approbation of God. Idleness is no less a perversion
of the designs of nature, than detrimental to our personal happiness. It
not only renders its unhappy devotees useless to society, but burthensome
to themselves. All beings, through every gradation of existence, from the
toiling emmet to the flaming angel, are formed for activity and exertion.
Nor ought we, who are privileged to live under the Christian dispensation,
to forget, that Jesus Christ himself, by his humble appearance and lowly
occupation, as the Son of a carpenter, has elevated honest industry to a
just and honourable distinction.

Accidentally, so far as related to herself, Ruth went and gleaned in the
field of Boaz; but she was guided by an invisible hand. This proprietor
was a man of great opulence, and a relative of Naomi. Coming from
Bethlehem to his reapers, and having exchanged their mutual salutations
according to the pious custom of the times, [22] he inquired of
the superintendent, or steward, the name of the young woman he observed
gleaning amongst the sheaves. Ruth, it appears, attracted his particular
notice. Even a superficial reader might be struck with the astonishing
providential coincidences in this story; and nothing but the most perverse
infidelity can refuse to admit, that the God who had conducted this
interesting widow from Moab to Bethlehem, and from Bethlehem into the
field of the reapers, guided the steps and awakened the solicitude of Boaz
on this occasion.

"And the servant that was set over the reapers answered and said, It is
the Moabitish 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." The rich are frequently
reluctant to acknowledge their poor connections, and in the great majority
of instances, a discovery like this would rather have averted than
conciliated the regards of an affluent proprietor from the humble
individual he found to be the daughter-in-law of his indigent relative.
Superior, however, to unwarrantable prejudices and ridiculous vanity, Boaz
listened to the tale and immediately addressed her in affectionate terms.
It is by no means improbable, that a blush of shame crimsoned his cheek,
from the recollection of his past negligence in suffering Naomi to pine
away in solitary sadness and penury, when it was in his power to have
afforded her relief. Reasons _might_ have existed to justify this delay,
though they must have been very imperious to furnish even a plausible
pretence for such indifference; but the best construction we can put upon
his conduct is to suppose, that, like many worthy and benevolent men, he
was dilatory in the execution of measures which he might have planned to
discover and relieve the necessities of his kindred. The law of love was
in his heart; he hastened to make reparation, and kindly enjoined her to
glean in no other field, to keep fast by his own female servants, and to
drink whenever she chose out of the vessels which were replenished from
time to time for his reapers. He further issued orders to the young men
employed in his service, to show every kindness, and to observe the utmost
decorum towards her, upon pain of his displeasure.

It is observable, that Boaz addressed her by the tender epithet of
_daughter_, adopting the language while he displayed the affection of a
parental protector. Ruth had forsaken every Moabitish friend and relative,
to share the fortunes of Naomi. Her birth-place, her home, her
connections, all were relinquished for the privileges of her new
relationship and adopted country, although to her eye nothing was
presented but poverty and want. But her loss was gain; in Naomi she found
a mother--in Boaz a father--in Bethlehem a home--in Judaism the religion
of heaven, and the way to God. And shall they be eventually losers, who
forsake all things for Christ and his gospel? Listen, ye youthful readers
of either sex, and be wise--"Every one that hath forsaken houses, or
brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or
lands, for my name's sake, shall receive a hundred-fold, and shall inherit
everlasting life."

The reply of Ruth is singularly expressive of her characteristic modesty,
humility, and goodness, The wealthy proprietor of the field had
unexpectedly discovered in one word the history of this stranger: but she
was wholly ignorant of the string that had been touched, and with
artlessness replies, "Why have I found grace in thine eyes, that thou
shouldest take knowledge of me, seeing I am a stranger?" This is equally
the language of astonishment and gratitude. Little did she imagine the
mighty consequences of this casual interview, or the real origin of this
extraordinary kindness. Her susceptible and affectionate heart would have
acknowledged the _smallest_ favour, while some, and unhappily too often,
the most dependent and the most indulged of the children of indigence seem
scarcely thankful for the _greatest_ obligations. It ought not to prevent
our charity, but it may well excite our surprise, to find that needy
persons are sometimes disposed to claim as a right what is bestowed as
a boon.

Boaz intimated that the principal circumstances of her past life had come
to his knowledge, and conveyed the most delicate commendation into her
modest ear. He said, that he was aware of her whole behaviour to Naomi,
with the sacrifice she had made of her native land and connections, and
pronounced upon her an affectionate, solemn, and pious benediction: "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." To the same refuge
from painful convictions and impending judgments may every reader
instantly repair, embracing, by a devout faith, that glorious Light of the
world, and Saviour of men, who was prefigured, in all the splendours of
his love, by that miraculous brightness which shone between the wings of
the cherubim in the ancient temple, and pointed the Jewish worshipper to
"God manifest in the flesh."

Virtually disclaiming the praise which the opulent stranger had conferred,
and far from imagining that she deserved, or had reason to expect any
reward of God for conduct which she considered as no other than what a
proper sense of duty demanded, Ruth thought herself honoured in the notice
which she had received, respectfully acknowledged the condescension, and
solicited its continuance. "Let me find favour in thy sight, my lord; for
that thou hast comforted me, and for that thou hast spoken friendly unto
thine handmaid, though I be not like unto one of thine handmaidens." Boaz
repeats every kind assurance, invites her to share the rural repast, to
"eat of the bread, and dip her morsel in the vinegar;" and with his own
hand plentifully supplies her with "parched corn."

The sentiments of this excellent woman for the comparatively trifling
kindness of her kinsman, may serve to reprove our cold returns, our
disproportionate gratitude to the Supreme Benefactor, who daily loads us
with temporal benefits, and constantly replenishes the cup of spiritual
blessing; he, indeed, "comforts us;" in his word he "speaks friendly to
us;" and we have, individually, abundant reason to confess, "I am not
worthy of the least of all the mercies and of all the truth which the Lord
has showed unto his servant."

The rural repast being ended, and Ruth having withdrawn into the field to
pursue the humble labour of gleaning, which necessity and affection for an
aged parent alike concurred to prompt, Boaz enjoined his reapers not only
to allow her to glean, and to glean among the sheaves, but to "let fall
some of the handfuls on purpose for her, and leave them that she may glean
them, and rebuke her not." Her real thankfulness and amiable diffidence
procured her these additional favours, and seem to have inspired the noble
benefactor with a feeling which was afterward matured into love and
consolidated in marriage. Let the poor beware of that cold indifference in
the reception of benefits which freezes up the stream of benevolence, and
chills the heart of the most liberal friend; let them equally avoid that
forwardness which seems to demand, rather than to solicit kindness. Boaz,
on this occasion, enjoyed a Double feast; with condescending familiarity
he partook the frugal meal with his labourers, encouraging them by his
presence and piety; with pleasure he fed the hungry stranger, cheerfully
dispensing a portion of what he thankfully received from the Lord of all,
whose bounty had enriched his possessions, and thus enjoying the luxury of
doing good: this was indeed to his benevolent spirit, a feast which all
the wealth of a Croesus could not otherwise have procured.

Boaz may be exhibited as a specimen of that prudential charity which
should always regulate our distributions. He might have supplied Ruth at
once from his ample repository of grain, or from the sheaves of the golden
harvest; but he chose, on the contrary, to encourage her industry, though
he kindly mitigated her toil. Indiscriminate gifts may rather favour
idleness than relieve necessity; and it is as much a duty to see to the
mode of distributing help to the needy, as to render them the requisite
aid: besides which, the poor are more likely to value and to use properly
what has been industriously acquired, than what is lavishly, however, as
to its principle, benevolently communicated. Alleviate the toil of the
necessitous, but do not prevent their useful employment of time and means.
Industry is the law of the universe; and the Supreme Disposer of human
affairs has appointed that "in the sweat of his face man should eat bread
till he return unto the ground."

To Ruth this was one of the happiest evenings of a life which had been
chequered with vicissitude, and of late particularly beclouded with,
sorrow. How different were the feelings with which she returned to the
cottage of her mother-in-law from those which afflicted her bosom when she
quitted it in the early part of this memorable day.

Distressed and friendless she had gone forth; "not knowing whither she
went," anxious only to procure some scanty subsistence for the day to
satisfy the cravings of appetite, and to sustain the weakness of her dear
and aged relative; but she returned laden with the spoils of the harvest
field, an ephah of barley; she had been noticed by a very liberal
proprietor of the soil, and invited to continue gleaning in his field.
With what heartfelt satisfaction did she present the fruits of her
first-day's exertion at the feet of Naomi, and sit down to share that kind
of comfort to which Solomon has so strikingly alluded--"Better is a dinner
of herbs where love is, than a stalled ox, and hatred therewith."

What family in Bethlehem was so truly blessed as these two poor women?
Where, in the whole city, was concentrated so many sweet enjoyments, so
many pure unsophisticated pleasures as met beneath this dwelling? Who
would not rather turn into that lowly door, and listen to the inspired
record of the conversation which took place between, its pious inmates,
than hear the music which shakes the lordly roof, or witness the unmeaning
gayety that riots in its apartments?--The good matron inquired where she
had been gleaning; and seeing the ample supply she had procured, eagerly
demanded where she had wrought: but unable, in the exultation and
overflowings of her gratitude to wait for an answer, she pours forth her
benedictions upon the unknown benefactor: "Blessed be he that did take
knowledge of thee!" Her daughter informed her it was BOAZ; a name welcome
to her ear, and calculated to kindle a hope in a bosom long filled with
distracting griefs: she was reminded of former favours: she remembered his
constant friendship to her family, and uttered an instantaneous
supplication to Heaven for blessings upon his head. Unable herself to
requite his kindness, she well knew who could recompense it, and
therefore prayed, "Blessed be he of the Lord, who hath not left off his
kindness to the living and to the dead!"

Such is the commerce between the benevolent rich and the pious poor; the
former bestows subsistence, the latter blessings. How miserable, how
_deservedly_ miserable is an incommunicative selfishness! Happy the man
who can say with Job, "When the ear heard me then it blessed me; and when
the eye saw me it gave witness to me: because I delivered the poor that
cried, and the fatherless, and him that had none to help him. The blessing
of him that was ready to perish came upon me, and I caused the widow's
heart to sing for joy. I was a father to the poor."

With what astonishment must Ruth have heard, "The man is near of kin unto
us, one of our next kinsmen!" but she did not arrogantly assume her right
to what she had received, or, presuming upon the dignity of her
relationship, propose to make immediate application for that support which
he was so well able to afford: this would have been the first thought of an
ordinary or a selfish mind. On the contrary, she expatiates, with a
satisfaction which heartfelt gratitude and pre-eminent goodness alone
could have inspired, upon the marked attention of Boaz--"He said unto me
also, Thou shall keep fast by my young men until they have ended all my
harvest." Naomi advised her to accept this bounty, lest, by gleaning in
any other field she might seem to undervalue the permission, or to cherish
an offensive dependency of spirit. With her characteristic meekness, Ruth
assented, continuing to pursue her mean occupation during the weeks of
harvest, and returning every evening to share with Naomi her humble cot
and her scanty fare.

During all this time, the mind of the affectionate mother-in-law was
meditating a plan to promote the future happiness of her daughter. Past
the period of marriage herself, she knew that Ruth might yet adorn, as
well as obtain an accession of comfort from such a connection. If the
young woman were satisfied with her obscurity, and content to provide a
precarious subsistence for herself and her venerable relative by the
labour of her hands, Naomi was superior to that selfishness which would
rather have aimed to retain her in perpetual subserviency to her
convenience, than seek to augment her joys, advance her interests, and
raise her to her proper sphere of usefulness. Having made every possible
sacrifice to her and her religion, she deemed it the part of maternal
kindness to avail herself of the existing laws respecting matrimony, to
connect her with the noble minded Boaz. This solicitude she took the first
opportunity of expressing, and directed her to measures, which, if they
appear extraordinary to us, might not have been unseemly or unusual at
that period and in that country. A few years are sufficient to operate a
complete revolution in existing customs; it cannot therefore be
surprising, that the manners of another quarter of the globe, at the
distance of more than thirty centuries, should essentially differ from our
own. To judge of their propriety by our standard is manifestly absurd; and
to make great allowances for the state of society is, in cases of extreme
variation, obviously necessary. After all, the conduct of Naomi may not be
capable of entire vindication; though we are certain it proceeded from a
sentiment of pure affection, and was connected with important results in
the order of Providence: it is, moreover, recorded without the slightest
hint of disapprobation.

Ruth was directed by her mother-in-law to repair with the utmost secrecy
to the threshing-floor; and, when Boaz, conformably to the simple manners
of the age, retired to rest among the heaps of corn, to place herself at
his feet. When be spoke, she was to answer frankly, and await the
intimation of his will. She did so: Boaz made the inquiry, and promised
all that a sense of her virtues and a knowledge of her rights dictated.
The law authorized the present application on her part at the instigation
of Naomi, in order that the possessions of the family might not be
alienated. Kinsmen were required to intermarry, and in case of refusal the
near relative was treated with the utmost public indignity. Boaz perfectly
understood this legal claim; and, notwithstanding his evident partiality
to Ruth, ingenuously informed her, "There is a kinsman nearer than I." If
he performed the kinsman's part, law and piety required acquiescence; if
not, he solemnly avowed his own resolution to do so. Ruth departed before
it was light, and carried the intelligence home. Boaz availed himself of
the earliest opportunity in the morning to bring the affair to a decision;
he went up to the gate, stopped the relative to whom he had alluded as he
was passing by, and appealed to ten of the elders of the city. He at first
agreed to the redemption of some family inheritance which belonged to
Naomi; but, upon intimation that if he purchased the land he must marry
Ruth, he declined it, giving full permission to his relative to enter into
this contract. The mutual regard subsisting between Boaz and Ruth rendered
this a most welcome circumstance, and the former immediately called upon
the elders and all the people who were assembled on the occasion, to hear
witness to this, as a fair, public, and honourable transaction. "So Boaz
took Ruth, and she was his wife."

In some cases, where the matrimonial connection has been founded upon a
dereliction of principle, and formed in defiance of the suggestions of
common prudence, of parental kindness, and even of the interdictions of
Heaven itself, we feel compelled to express our grief, rather than offer
our congratulations; but where, as in the present instance, the voice of
nature harmonized with that of reason, conscience, and God, who can
hesitate to approve the union, and to anticipate that delightful result
which has been so well expressed in poetic numbers?

"Hail, wedded love! by gracious Heaven design'd,
At once the source and glory of mankind!
'Tis this can toil, and grief, and pain assuage,
Secure our youth, and dignify our age;
'Tis this fair fame and guiltless pleasure brings,
And shakes rich plenty from its brooding wings;
Gilds duty's roughest path with friendship's ray,
And strews with roses sweet the narrow way."

If, in all the circumstances that lead to this union, the interpositions
of Providence be not always, perhaps not frequently, so marked,
incontrovertible, and striking, as in the history under consideration, let
it never be forgotten, that such a wise and good superintendence really
exists, and may, in every instance, be traced in some degree by the devout
observer. If our ways be committed to the Lord, he will direct our paths.
Amidst the ardour of youth, we are not always capable of discerning what
is really obvious, or of fully believing what is infallibly true: but
years teach wisdom; the developements of futurity often throw light upon
the mysteries of the past; in the coolness and quiet of the eventide of
life, and even before that period, how commonly do good men acknowledge
the kindness of those once distressing dispensations that thwarted their
juvenile susceptibility. In the adverse, as well as the prosperous events
of the life of Ruth, she could perceive that "all things worked together
for her good;" and no reflecting Christian will hesitate to appropriate
the same sentiment to himself. A plan was laid in the divine mind, in the
execution of which she often acted unconsciously: the birth, the
education, the original circumstances and residence, the removal, the
final elevation of Ruth, were all essential parts of the scheme, links in
the chain of mercy; and the same may be affirmed respecting the life of
every pious individual.

One circumstance demands particular notice. Neither in Boaz nor in Ruth
can we discern the least symptom of _precipitation_; they suffered
Providence to work its own way, to accomplish, without any obstruction
from their unholy haste and heedlessness, its own purposes; in neither of
them is discernible the least trace of a wish to seek their own
gratification irrespectively of the will of Omniscience; they were in a
sense passive, resigning themselves wholly to the disposal of God; they
did not force a passage through intervening impediments with an indecent
and impious resolution of spirit, as if they could not, or would not be
happy excepting in their own way, but "waited patiently for the Lord."

Young persons sometimes attempt to outstrip Providence, and dare to chide
its lingerings, or to murmur at its decisions; they set up for separate
empire, and imagine they can create their own paradise; a conduct which
ultimately proves as fatal to their comfort as it is now to their
respectability. It is an advantage for young people of both sexes, which
cannot be too highly appreciated, to have judicious, and especially
parental advisers. Let them not impute their kind suggestions to the
frigidity of age when they do not keep pace with their own warm feelings,
but consider that they are likely to know more of the world, and to
deserve their attention after amassing a stock of experience. Why should
their good advice, or even their urgent importunity, be deemed officious
or be treated with contempt? If mistaken, they are not, or ought not to
be, peremptory. If not obliged to _follow_ their opinion, young persons
are certainly required, by every motive of duty, and even of
self-interest, to _hear_ it. Were it admitted that Ruth erred in some
degree from her excessive obsequiousness to Naomi, yet her general spirit
and temper merit the strongest encomium, the deepest study, and the closet

Tragical as was the commencement of this history, its termination presents
a very different aspect. We beheld the family of Elimelech sinking fast in
human apprehension into oblivion, and his name beginning to cease in
Israel; we now witness its restoration and prosperity: it has emerged from
its obscurity into splendour, and shines with imperishable glory on the
page of inspiration. The aged tree, which time had well nigh lopped of
every branch, sprouts out afresh, and shoots forth with new vigour and
luxuriancy. We should learn never to despair of Providence, never to
relinquish hope, never to imagine that "any thing is too hard for the
Lord." Time, and change, and death, whatever revolutions they may occasion
in general society or in individual families, not only cannot prevent,
but, by their diversified operations, shall conduce to accomplish the
purposes of Heaven. "Time and change," exclaimed Job, "are against _me_."
True; but they cannot countervail _Omniscience_.

We naturally congratulate our favourites upon their prosperity; and the
interest we must feel in the history of Ruth swells into the highest
satisfaction upon reading the closing part of the narrative. We hear of
the birth of Obed, who derives additional importance from the illustrious
line of his descent. A few generations conduct immediately to the MESSIAH.
All the neighbourhood celebrates the event, and we have equal reason to
hail and proclaim it: "And the women said unto Naomi, Blessed be the Lord,
which hath not left thee this day without a kinsman, that his name may be
famous in Israel; and he shall be unto thee a restorer of thy life and a
nourisher of thine old age: for thy daughter-in-law, which loveth thee,
which is better to thee than seven sons, hath borne him. And Naomi took
the child and laid it in her bosom, and became nurse unto it. And the
women her neighbours gave it a name, saying, There is a son born to Naomi;
and they called his name Obed: HE IS THE FATHER OF JESSE, THE FATHER

Ordinary minds avoid, as much as possible, recurring to past periods of
indigence and inferiority of station. Any reference to such circumstances
is deemed offensive, by people of the world who have been elevated from
low situations to opulence and rank, and whose arrogant nothingness proves
they have descended in moral worth and real respectability exactly in
proportion as they have risen in temporal distinction. But every thing we
know of Ruth tends to convince us that, if a detailed account of her
private life had been given, it would have been highly honourable to her
sensibility and her piety. How often, and with what feelings, would she
pace the field where, in the situation of a humble gleaner, she first met
with Boaz. With what emotions would she trace and retrace her own
eventful story! And especially, with what devout gratitude would she call
to mind the days of her idolatry in Moab, and the happy era of her
spiritual emancipation! In her own past character, in her infatuated
sister's defection, what motives to praise would arise, and what tears of
mingled pain and pleasure would she shed! And shall not we, who have
"tasted that the Lord is gracious," cherish a sense of our obligations to
redeeming mercy, and "remember all the way which the Lord our God hath led
us these years in the wilderness, to humble us and to prove us, to know
what was in our hearts, whether we would keep his commandments or no?"
Sweet are the recollections of piety, and acceptable the offerings of a
grateful mind! How inferior to these the trees of Lebanon in sacrifice, or
all the spicy mountains of Arabia in a blaze! From what depths of sin,
what delusions of mind, and what danger of soul, has "God in Christ"
delivered us! "Once far off," we are now "brought nigh"--"sometimes
darkness, now light in the Lord"--"you hath he quickened, who were dead in
trespasses and sins."

But far more exalted pleasures of memory and retrospection await the
Christian in a future world. Having ascended above this cloudy spot into
the glory of the divine presence, it will be his pleasing and privileged
employment to retrace the events of past existence, when nothing but a
_remembrance_ of the struggles and conflicts of this mortal state will
remain, to enhance the raptures of eternal victory. What is crooked will
then be made straight, what is perplexing will become plain, what is
unknown will be revealed. Amidst the songs of heaven it will heighten our
blessedness to recollect the sorrows of earth as _past_--clothed in the
robe of salvation and triumph, it will be grateful to recall the time
when we _wore the armour_ and _strove in the field_--arrived in port, it
will be inexpressibly delightful to recur to the storm as then for ever
_gone by_!


Chapter VIII.


Historical retrospect--Deborah sitting as a Judge and Prophetess under a
Palm-tree--Sends to Barak to Confront Sisera--Accompanies him--
Preparations for Battle--Victorious Result--Death of Sisera--Reflections.

After the death of Joshua, which occurred in the hundred and tenth year of
his age, and in the two thousand five hundred and seventy-eighth of the
world, the people of Israel were in a very fluctuating, unsettled
condition, having no regularly appointed governor; and the book of Judges,
supposed to have been written by Samuel, exhibits a striking picture of
the disorders incident to such a state of civil disorganization. "Let
every soul," then, "be subject unto the higher powers;" remembering that,
as "rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil," while we are
properly submissive to their authority, we should be grateful to God for
their appointment.

Although the Israelites, who had been commanded to extirpate the nations
of Canaan, pursued their conquests for some time, they gradually relapsed
into a neglectful inactivity, permitting the inhabitants of the land to
remain in tributary subjection. Whatever personal objections they might
feel, and whatever apparent contrariety there might have been between
their views of strict justice and the explicit directions of Heaven, they
were bound to execute the divine will with a prompt unhesitating
compliance. If general rules of conduct were not perfectly superseded by
the paramount authority of an express direction from God, the great
principle of positive institutions would he annulled, and the prejudices,
passions, and misconceptions of a fallible creature, might, in certain
cases, interfere with the acts of supreme legislation. Though, to
strengthen the principle of obedience, and, as far as possible, to render
"a reasonable service," it may often be proper to inquire "_why_--" such
is our present incapacity, or so profound and vast the mysteries of divine
administration, that in general our inquiries must be limited to the great
question, "_what_--is enjoined?" His conduct does not require our
vindication, while his commands claim our obedience.

Nor does a rebellious spirit merely incur censure; it inevitably exposes
to punishment. The people upon whom Israel neglected to execute the
purposes of Infinite Justice, became, according to prophetic intimations,
"snares and traps to seduce them to idolatry," and "scourges in their
sides, and thorns in their eyes." They were in subjection eight years to
Cushan, king of Mesopotamia, till judges, of whom Othniel was the first,
and Samuel the last, were raised up for their deliverance.

After the signal interference of Heaven on their behalf, in the successes
of their first judge, which terminated in a peace of forty years, the
"children of Israel did evil again in the sight of the Lord, and the Lord
strengthened Eglon, the king of Moab; against Israel," by whom they were
enslaved eighteen years. After which, Ehud, a Benjamite, became their
deliverer, by assassinating the king of Moab, and another peaceful
interval of eighty years elapsed: but such was the strange perversity of
this extraordinary nation, that they abused their prosperity, and again
apostatized from God. Nor will it be difficult or unprofitable to trace in
ourselves some striking points of resemblance to them, and in the divine
conduct that same character of love and forbearance which marks his
dispensations to his church in all the successive ages of time, "They were
disobedient, and rebelled against thee, and cast thy law behind their
backs, and slew thy prophets which testified against them to turn them to
thee; and they wrought great provocations. Therefore thou deliveredst them
into the hand of their enemies, who vexed them: and in the time of their
trouble, when they cried unto thee, thou hearedst them from heaven; and
according to thy manifold mercies thou gavest them saviours who saved them
out of the hand of their enemies. But after they had rest, they did evil
again before thee; therefore leftest thou them in the hand of their
enemies, so that they had the dominion over them; yet when they returned
and cried unto thee, thou hearedst them from heaven, and many times didst
thou deliver them according to thy mercies; and testifiedst against them,
that thou mightest bring them again unto thy law: yet they dealt proudly,
and hearkened not unto thy commandments, but sinned against thy judgments,
(which, if a man do, he shall live in them,) and withdrew the shoulder,
and hardened their neck, and would not hear: yet many years didst thou
forbear them, and testifiedst against them by thy spirit in thy prophets:
yet would they not give ear; therefore gavest thou them into the hand of
the people of the lands. Nevertheless, for thy great mercies' sake, thou
didst not utterly consume them, nor forsake them; for thou art a gracious
and merciful God."

Jabin, king of Canaan, was raised up by Providence to disturb that long
period of national tranquillity already adverted to, during which the
religious character of Israel had so much degenerated: and it must be
admitted to evince the unfailing regard of their divine Protector, rather
to inflict corrective chastisement upon his people, than to suffer them to
proceed with unchecked eagerness in a course fatally injurious to their
real interests. In every individual concern shall we not gratefully
confess, that "whom the Lord loveth--he chasteneth, and scourgeth every
son whom he, receiveth?"

[Sidenote: Year before Christ, 1805 to 1235]

Jabin is said to have reigned in Hazor, a place situated, according to
Josephus, in the tribe of Naphtali, on the lake Semechon. Joshua had
reduced this place to ashes, and slew its former sovereign; but, probably,
the present prince had availed himself of the criminal indolence of the
Israelites to rebuild it. The captain of Jabin's army was Sisera, who was
truly formidable; having, according to the inspired historian, nine
hundred chariots of iron. This, for a petty prince of Canaan, was a most
extraordinary force, by which Israel was kept under tyrannical domination
for twenty years. Ardent cries were presented to Heaven in these critical
circumstances; and he whose ears are ever open to the cries of the
distressed, interposed by raising up an illustrious female to accomplish
the plans of mercy. "And DEBORAH, a prophetess, the wife of Lapidoth, she
judged Israel at that time." As no prophet is mentioned in Israel during
their defection, this was a signal testimony of the divine favour upon
their repentance; and while observing that out of the millions of Israel a
woman was chosen to execute the great purposes of Heaven, we cannot but
admire the inscrutable wisdom that appoints all persons to their stations,
qualifies all agents for their particular instrumentality, and regulates
all the movements of this lower world. Not a sparrow falls to the ground,
nor an angel wings his flight, but in subserviency to the arrangements of
an omniscient mind.

Deborah was a judge, as well as a prophetess; and a ruler over some, if
not all their tribes. Some have supposed, that judges among the ancient
Israelites resembled the Archons among the Athenians, and the Dictators
among the Romans. The office was not hereditary, but conferred for life;
and seems to have been considerably allied, although somewhat inferior, to
royal authority.

We are struck with the simplicity of the age in which this prophetess and
judge of Israel is represented as sitting under a palm-tree, to discharge
her public and eminently important duties. It was between Rama and Bethel,
in mount Ephraim. The subject is curious and interesting; we may,
therefore, enter into some particulars.

The palm, or date-tree, is a native of Africa and the East, where it grows
to the height of fifty or sixty, and occasionally a hundred feet. A
cluster of branches issues from the top of it, eight or nine feet long,
bending towards the earth, and extending all round in the form of an
umbrella. The trunk is upright, and full of cavities, the vestiges of its
decayed leaves, having a flat surface within, adapted to the human foot,
and forming a kind of natural ladder, by which a person may easily ascend
to the top. The lower part produces a number of stalks or suckers, which
diffuse the tree considerably, and form a kind of bushy forest. This
illustrates the scriptural term in the history of Deborah. "She dwelt
under the _palm-tree_;" or, as it might be rendered, _in a forest of
palms_. This tree was very common in Palestine. It abounded along the
banks of Jordan, and particularly about Engeddi and Jericho; the latter
place is designated, in Scripture, _the city of palms_.

"The extensive importance of the date-tree," says Dr. Clarke, "is one of
the most curious objects to which a traveller can direct his attention. A
considerable part of the inhabitants of Egypt, of Arabia, and Persia,
subsist almost entirely upon its fruit. They boast also of its medicinal
virtues. Their camels feed upon the date stone. From the leaves they make
couches, baskets, bags, mats, and brushes; from the branches, cages for
their poultry, and fences for their gardens; from the fibres of the
boughs, thread, ropes, and rigging; from the sap is prepared a spirituous
liquor: and the body of the tree furnishes fuel: it is even said, that
from one variety of the palm-tree, the _Phoenix farinifera,_ meal has been
extracted, which is found among the fibres of the trunk, and has been used
for food." [23]

In the East, it is very common for persons to live in tents, either
entirely or during some of the most sultry seasons of the year. This was
the patriarchal mode, and persons of considerable distinction are
accustomed to pitch them for occasional residence. Mr. Harmer quotes Dr.
Pococke as speaking of a pleasant place not far from Aleppo, where he met
an Aga, who had a great entertainment there, accompanied with music under
tents. Maillet mentions tents as things of course, in an account he gives
of an Egyptian officer's taking the air with his lady in the neighbourhood
of Cairo; and Chardin says, that Tahmasp, the Persian monarch, used to
spend the winter at Casbin, and to retire in the summer three or four
leagues into the country, where he lived in tents at the foot of Mount
Alouvent, in a place abounding with cool springs and pleasant shades; and
that his successors lived after the same manner until the time of Abas the
Great, who removed his court to Ispahan. [24] It is sufficiently probable,
therefore, that Deborah pitched her tent during a considerable period of
the year, under some remarkable palm-tree which stood either alone, or in
a forest of palms. There, for the purpose of convenient shelter in a
sultry climate, and with primitive simplicity of mind and manners, she
received the children of Israel who came to her for judgment,
investigating their causes, and by her integrity and wisdom, promoting the
happiness of her illustrious nation. The homage which mere external pomp
compels is lighter than vanity, compared with that stirling solidity of
character which no less ministers to the general good than to the
individual's own reputation. He who rules over others, should aim to be
enthroned in their affections; and they whom Providence calls to obey,
should readily cherish, and, on all suitable occasions, express feelings
of respect for their appointed rulers.

As the supreme magistrate of Israel, Deborah sent to Barak, of whom we
know only that he was the son of Abinoam, and resided in Kedesh-Naphtali,
requiring him to take ten thousand men of the tribes of Naphtali and
Zebukin into the neighbourhood of mount Tabor; and, as a prophetess under
supernatural influence of immediate inspiration, she assured him of the
most perfect success against the hostile prepartions of Sisera. He was
not only warranted to anticipate a decisive victory, but also the
destruction of this celebrated general, of whom it was expressly affirmed
that he should be "delivered into his hand."

It is not necessary to inquire by what particular means this divine
intimation of success was communicated to the prophetess of Israel,
whither by an audible voice, a nocturnal vision, an angelic messenger, or
a secret impression; suffice it to know, that the great Disposer of human
destiny has often adopted some and all of these methods to disclose the
scenes of futurity to the mind, in proof that he is not only the ruler of
nations, but the guardian of his church. Though he permit the rod to smite
his people, it shall he broken in pieces whenever it has accomplished its
work. On the present occasion, it was revealed to Deborah, that in the
ensuing conflict Israel should certainly be victorious; and this
disclosure of the event might be kindly intended to revive the desponding
feelings of the pious part of the community under circumstances of painful
depression. We are not authorized to anticipate, in our individual or
national calamities, such a miraculous discovery, nor ought we to repine
at the concealment of future events; but of this we may rest assured, if
indeed the people of God, and the "called according to his purpose," the
hostility of our worst enemies cannot eventually injure us--the "Captain
of our salvation" will conduct, us to triumph--and the standard of victory
shall be planted upon the graves of our foes.

Barak, it seems, started some objection to the message of Deborah,
alleging, "If thou wilt go with me, then I will go; but if thou wilt not
go with me, then I will not go." This extraordinary reply may, perhaps, be
explained, by supposing it to be the language of that modesty which has so
often characterized the greatest of men; and which, it must be admitted,
is no less admirable than their most splendid achievements. Thus when the
angel of the Lord appeared to Moses, announcing a divine commission to go
to Pharaoh, and bring the children of Israel out of Egyptian servitude, he
replied, "Who am I, that I should go unto Pharaoh?" and, during a
long-continued conference, he stated a variety of difficulties, and
manifested a degree of reluctance that excites astonishment. We are ready
to charge him with an infatuation bordering upon insolence and
presumption; nor, upon a first perusal, should we wonder to find him
smitten to the earth for his strange hesitation and timidity; but a closer
inspection of the narrative will convince us, that his reluctance, and
apparent refusal, ought not to be attributed to any unwillingness to
engage in the service of God, with a view of promoting his glory in the
earth, but to a consciousness of his personal unworthiness. His objection
was less to the _work_, than to _himself_; he did not so much tremble
because _that_ was arduous, as because _he_ was, in his own apprehension,
_unfit_. This was a feeling, however, which, under the circumstances of
his call, we cannot vindicate; for, to say the least, it was excessive.
Whatever estimate Moses in the one case, or Barak in the other, might have
formed of themselves, the divine will ought to have been considered the
only rule of action. We must never shrink from the course to which
Providence calls us--allowing God, who cannot err, to choose his own
instruments; and feeling that he who _commands_ can _enable_ us to perform
the most arduous duties.

Animated by a zeal which nothing could repress, Deborah instantly complied
with the condition upon which Barak proposed to engage in the war. In
language expressive of an unconquerable heroism, a masculine energy of
character and a devoted patriotism of spirit, she sent him word, "I will
surely go with thee;" but accompanied this message with an intimation,
that the honour of this exploit would in part at least attach to a woman,
whom Providence had selected to execute the purposes of heaven upon
Sisera. The little army being collected, the general and the prophetess
hastened to the field of battle, anxious to revenge the wrongs of their
insulted country, and to emancipate her enslaved provinces. A patriotism
inspired _her_ breast, and probably by this time animated _his_, which was
kindled by a fire from heaven, which roused into vigorous action all the
respective talents, and energies of their nature; and which, urging them
forward to righteous war, a war against impiety and oppression, undertaken
in the fear, and to promote the glory, of God, excited them to march to an
anticipated victory.

Under these circumstances, it is as much to the honour of Barak, that he
wished for the presence of the prophetess. Heroes are seldom anxious for
the observant eye of piety to watch their movements, and to penetrate
their camps. Alas! those whom we admire as the defenders of our country,
we weep over as the corrupters of our morals; and too often the page which
celebrates their prowess, is stained with the record of their rapacity.
But, however unwelcome an attendant, let them remember that an omniscient
eye witnesses both their private transactions, and their public career.

It is no less honourable to the character of this illustrious heroine and
female head of Israel, that so far from cherishing any petty jealousies of
Barak, and aiming at a monopoly of the reputation likely to result from
the present undertaking, she assigned to him the post of honour, and
contented herself with becoming his adviser. The superiority of her mind
induced her to seek an inferiority of station; anxious only to ensure
success, not to gain applause; to be approved of God, not to be altered of
man. Happy would it be for us all in our respective stations, whether
elevated by opulence or depressed by poverty, were we constantly
influenced by a similar principle. Then should we be stimulated to the
noblest duties, and fulfil the solemn injunction of our God and Saviour,
"Occupy till I come."

Sisera, the captain of the Canaanitish army, having been informed of the
movements of Israel, gathered together all his nine hundred chariots of
iron, and encamped between Harosheth and the river Kishon. This hostile
force, stretching along the circumjacent valley of mount Tabor, must have
presented a formidable appearance; and it would not have been surprising,
if even veteran troops, whose scared bosoms proclaimed their unretreating
hardihood in battle, had been appalled to meet so mighty a preparation
with only ten thousand men. But the spirit of a weak woman, when sustained
by the living God, shall brave every danger. Faith shall triumph over
fear, and the sword shall follow and fulfil prophetic inspirations. "Up,"
said Deborah to Barak, "for this is the day in which the Lord hath
delivered Sisera into thine hand; is not the Lord gone out before thee?"
If from this spirited appeal, it might be unjust to the military character
of Barak, to cherish a suspicion that he manifested some degree of
reluctance to attack the army of Sisera, overawed by his numerical
superiority, we cannot help perceiving the wisdom and promptitude which
actuated the conduct of Deborah. She had an eye to discern, and a courage
to seize, an important crisis. But what most claims our admiration is, an
incessant reference to Providence, which marks all her words and actions.
Nothing of that boastful language, which indicates an arrogant mind
escaped her lips. She evinced no self-adulation, and no undue dependence
upon human resources. How many in similar circumstances, would have vushed
forward to disproportionate battle with a blind impetuosity, trusting to
_chance_, for the result: or, inspired alone by personal hatred against
the foe, and a thirst for renown, would have hastened to conquer or to
die! From our earliest days we have been taught to admire the heroes of
classical story, and have followed with acclamations the conquerors of
later ages, who seem to have rivalled the fame of a Themistocles or a
Leonidas, and to have reacted the tragical sublimities of Salamis and
Thermopylæ; but, in the present history, we see piety clad in the armour
of heroism--the achievements of military valour ascribed solely to the
higher cause of a divine superintendence--"The LORD hath delivered Sisera
into thine hand; is not the LORD gone out before thee?"

Without detracting however from the military genius of Barak, or ascribing
an undue pre-eminence to Deborah, it may be readily believed, that so
disproportionate a force as that of the Israelites at first acted, and
very properly acted, on the defensive, till a favourable conjunction of
circumstances occurred; and, perhaps, some miraculous sign, or some divine
inspiration on the mind of the prophetess, suggested the moment of attack.
[25] It is in fact impossible to determine with any precision where human
skill ceased to operate, and where divine interposition commenced; and so
imperfect is our present acquaintance with the laws by which spirit and
matter are connected, that our speculations will certainly be fruitless,
and may therefore be pronounced unwise. Let us be grateful, that _the
fact_ of divine operation on the human mind is fully ascertained, and by
every sincere Christian pleasingly experienced; and that, though "all the
Lord's people" are not "prophets," the language of kind encouragement can
never be expunged from the sacred page, "If ye being evil know how to give
good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your heavenly Father
give THE HOLT SPIRIT to them that ask him?"

In obedience to the orders of Deborah, Barak immediately put his little
band of intrepid warriors in motion. The result was such, as under these
circumstances might, however astonishing, have been reasonably expected;
for "if God be for us, who can be against us?" The mighty hosts of Canaan,
amounting, according to the estimate of Josephus, to three hundred
thousand foot, and ten thousand horse, vanished before the valiant arm of
Israel, nerved as it was by an energy from heaven. Barak poured the
irresistible torrent of war upon his presumptuous foes, and swept
them away.

Josephus states, that "when they were come to a close fight, there came
down from heaven a great storm, with a vast quantity of rain and hail; and
the wind blew the rain in the face of the Canaanites, and so darkened
their eyes, that their arrows and slings were of no advantage to them; nor
would the coldness of the air permit the soldiers, to make use of their
swords; while this storm did not so much incommode the Israelites, because
it came in their backs. They also took such courage upon the apprehension
that God was assisting them, that they fell upon the very midst of their
enemies, and slew a great number of them. So that some of them fell by the
Israelites, some fell by their own horses, which were put into disorder,
and not a few were killed by their own chariots."

Scarcely does the history of the world furnish an example of so complete a
victory, accompanied by so utter an annihilation of the enemy. Curiosity
might wish to trace the various movements of that memorable day, the plan
of battle, the occasion of defeat, the exploits of individual heroes, and
a thousand other circumstances, with which fancy often decorates the head
of the hero, and amplifies the page of the historian; but with a majestic
simplicity so eminently characteristic of the sacred narrative, it is
stated that "the Lord discomfited Sisera, and all his chariots, and all
his host, with the edge of the sword, before Barak; so that Sisera lighted
down off his chariot, and fled away on his feet. But Barak pursued after
the chariots, and after the host, unto Harosheth of the Gentiles: and all
the host of Sisera fell upon the edge of the sword; and there was not a
man left." Who will compare with this simple record the language of
Cæsar, though so often celebrated, "_Veni, vidi, vici_--I came, I saw, I
conquered;" words at least as remarkable for egotism as for laconic force:
or who would represent the battle of _Zela_, and the defeat of the
_Pharnaces_ as worthy of being named in connection with the memorable
victory of Tabor.

Sisera, defeated, dispirited, and alone, fled to the tent of Jael, the
wife of Heber the Kenite, a family which was at this time at peace with
the king of Canaan. It was an additional reason to hope for security from
the enemy's pursuit, that the custom of the country interdicted intrusion
of all strangers into the woman's apartment. Jael moreover went forth to
invite this defeated general under her protection, and encouraged him to
expect every attention that humanity could dictate in this moment of
extremity. No wonder he resigned himself with a fearless confidence to her
care, and prepared to seek in "balmy sleep" an oblivion of all his
distractions. She furnishes him with a refreshing draught of milk, though
he only requested water; covers him with a mantle, and undertakes to guard
him from all unwelcome intrusion, by standing at the door of the tent, to
answer the interrogatories of any inquisitive stranger. But no sooner did
he drop into a sound sleep, than, seizing upon the first weapons that her
situation afforded, a nail and a hammer, and approaching softly to the
unconscious general, she drove the nail into his temple, and transfixed
him to the ground. Hastening from her tent, in the transport of success,

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