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both in act and maintenance. If the Is. | oath, would wonder at this contrariety in raelites had not held marriage and issue a the affections of Israel : they are sorry for very great blessing, they had not thus re- the slaughter of Benjamin; and yet they venged themselves of Benjamin : now they slay those that did not help them in the accounted the withholding of their wives slaughter. Their oath calls them to more a punishment second to death. The hope blood: the excess of their revenge upon of life in our posterity, is the next content. Benjamin may not excuse the men of ment to an enjoying of life in ourselves. Gilead. If ever oath might look for a dis
They have sworn, and now, upon cold pensation, this might plead it: now they blood, repent them. If the oath were not dare not but kill the men of Jabesh-Gilead, just, why would they take it? and if it lest they should have left upon themselves were just, why did they recant it? If the a greater sin of sparing than punishing. act were justifiable, what needed these Jabesh-Gilead came not up to aid Israel, tears? Even a just oath may be rashly therefore all the inhabitants must die. To taken. Not only injustice, but temerity of exempt ourselves, whether out of singu. swearing, ends in lamentation. In our very larity or stubbornness, from the common civil actions, it is a weakness to do that actions of the church, when we are law. which we would after reverse; but in our fully called to them, is an offence worthy affairs with God, to check ourselves too of judgment. In the main quarrels of the late, and to steep our oaths in tears, is a church, neutrals are punished. This exedangerous folly. He doth not command us cution shall make amends for the former ; to take voluntary oaths; he commands us of the spoil of Jabesh-Gilead shall the to keep them. If we bind ourselves to in- Benjamites be stored with wives. That no convenience, we may justly complain of our man may think these men slain for their own fetters. Oaths do not only require daughters, they plainly die for their sin ; justice, but judgment; wise deliberation, and these Gileadites might not have lived no less than equity.
without the perjury of Israel; and now, Not conscience of their fact, but com since they must die, it is good to make miseration of their brethren, led them to benefit of necessity. I inquire not into the this public repentance. “O God! why is rigour of the oath: if their solemn vow did this come to pass, that this day one tribe not bind them to kill all of both sexes in of Israel shall want?" Even the justest | Benjamin, why did they not spare their revenge of men is capable of pity. Insulta- virgins ? and if it did so bind them, why did tion, in the rigour of justice, argues cruelty; they spare the virgins of Gilead ? Favours charitable minds are grieved to see that must be enlarged in all these religious redone, which they would not wish undone: strictions. Where breath may be taken in the smart of the offender doth not please them, it is not fit nor safe they should be them, which yet are thoroughly displeased straitened with the sin, and have given their hands to four hundred virgins of Gilead hiave lost punish it. God himself takes no pleasure parents, and brethren, and kindred, and in the death of a sinner, yet loves the now find husbands in lieu of them. An punishment of sin : as a good parent whips enforced marriage was but a miserable his child, yet weeps himself. There is a comfort for such a loss : like wards, or measure in victory and revenge, if never so captives, they are taken, and choose not, just, wbich to exceed, loses mercy in the These suffice not; their friendly adversaries suit of justice.
consult for more upon worse conditions. If there were no fault in their severity, Into what troublesome and dangerous straits It needed no excuse: and if there were a do men thrust themselves, by either unjust fault, it will admit of no excuse: yet, as if or inconsiderate vows! they meant to shift off the sin, they expos- In the midst of all this common lawlesstulate with God: “O Lord God of Israel, ness of Israel, here was conscience made why is this come to pass this day?" God on both sides of matching with infidels. gave them no command of this rigour: yea, The Israelites can rather be content their he twice crossed them in the execution ; daughters should be stolen by their own, and now, in that which they entreated of than that the daughters of aliens should be God with tears, they challenge him. It is given them. These men, which had not a dangerous injustice to lay the burden of grace enough to detest and punish the cur sins upon him, which tempteth no man, beastliness of their Gileadites, yet are not nor can be tempted with evil; while we so graceless as to choose them wives of so remove our sin, we double it.
the heathen. All but atheists, howsoever · A man that knew not the power of an they let themselves loose, yet in some things find themselves restrained, and show that rebellious people want somewhat to to others that they have a conscience. If | humble them. One rod is not enough for there were not much danger and much sin a stubborn child. The famine must needs in this unequal yoke, they would never be great, that makes the inhabitants to run have persuaded to so heavy an inconve- their country. The name of home is so nience. Disparity of religion, in matrimo. sweet, that we cannot leave it for a trifle. nial contracts, hath so many mischiefs, that Behold, that land which had wont to flow it is worthy to be redeemed with much with milk and honey, now abounds withi prejudice.
want and penury; and Bethlehem, instead They which might not give their own of an house of bread, is an house of famine : daughters to Benjamin, yet give others, “ A fruitful land doth God make barren, while they give leave to steal them. Stolen | for the wickedness of them that dwell there. Inarriages are both unnatural and full of in." The earth bears not for itself, but hazard; for love, whereof marriage is the for us ; God is not angry with it, but with knot, cannot be forced; this was rather men. For our sakes it was first cursed rape, than wedlock. What unlikeness, per to thorns and thistles; after that, to moishaps contrariety of disposition, what averse ture; and since that, not seldom to drought, ness of affection, may there be, in not only and by all these to barrenness. We may a sudden, but a forcible meeting! If these not look always for plenty. It is a wonder, Benjamites had not taken liberty of giving while there is such superfluity of wickede themselves ease by divorcement, they wouldness, that our earth is no more sparing of often have found leisure to rue this stolen her fruits. booty. This act may not be drawn to The whole earth is the Lord's, and in example; and yet here was a kind of in-him ours. It is lawful for the owners to definite consent. Both deliberation and change their houses at pleasure. Why good liking, are little enough for a during should we not make free use of any part estate, and that which is once done for of our own possessions ? Elimelech and ever.
his family remove from Bethlehem-Judah These virgins come up to the feast of unto Moab. Nothing but necessity can the Lord ; and now, out of the midst of dispense with a local relinquishing of God's their dances, are carried to a double capti. church; not pleasure, nor profit, nor curio. vity. How many virgins have lost them- sity. Those which are famished out, God selves in dances ? And yet this sport was calls, yea, drives from thence. The Creanot immodest. These virgins danced by tor and Possessor of the earth hath not themselves, without the company of those confined any man to his necessary destrucwhich might move towards unchastity; for tion. if any men had been with them, they had It was lawful for Elimelech to make use found so many rescuers as they had assaul. of pagans and idolaters, for the supply of ters; now, the exposing of their weak sex all needful helps. There cannot be a betto this injury proves their innocence. Our ter employment of Moabites, than to be usual dances are guilty of more sin. Wan- the treasurers and purveyors of God's ton gestures, and unchaste touches, looks, children. Wherefore serve they, but to motions, draw the heart to folly. The gather for the true owners? It is too ambushes of evil spirits carry away many a much niceness in them, which forbear the soul from dances, to a fearful desolation. benefit they might make of the faculties of
It is supposed, that the parents, thus profane or heretical persons; they consider robbed of their danghters, will take it not that they have more right to the good heavily. There cannot be a greater cross such men can do, than they that do it, and than the miscarriage of children: they are challenge that good for their own. not only the living goods, but pieces of But I cannot see how it could be law. their parents; that they should, therefore, ful for his sons to match with the daughters be torn from them by violence, is no less of Moab. Had these men heard how far, injury than the dismembering of their own and under how solemn an oath, their father bodies.
Abraham sent for a wife of his own tribe, for his son Isaac ? Had they heard the
earnest charge of holy Isaac to the son he CONTEMPLATION 111. — NAOMI AND RUTH. blessed, “ Thou shalt not take a wife of
the daughters of Canaan ?" Had they forBETWixt the reign of the judges, Israel gotten the plagues of Israel, for but a short was plagued with tyranny, and, while some conversation with the Moabitish women? of them reigned, with famine. Scldom did | If they plead remoteness from their own
people, did they not remember how far | doth more misbeseem a Christian, than that Jacob walked to Padan-Aram? Was it far- his spirits should flag with his estate, and ther from Moab to Bethlehem, than from that any difficulty should make him despair Bethlehem to Moab? And if the care of of attaining his best ends. themselves led them from Bethlehem to Goodness is of a winning quality, where. Moab, should not their care of obedience soever it is; and, even amongs: infidels, to God have as well carried them back will make itself friends. The good dispofrom Moab to Bethlehem? Yet if their sition of Naomi carries away the hearts of wives would have left their idolatry with her daughters-in-law with her, so as they their maidenhead, the match had been more are ready to forsake their kindred, their safe ; but now, even at the last farewell, country, yea, their own mother, for a Naomi can say of Orpah, that she is re- stranger, whose affinity died with her sons. turned to her gods. These men have sin. | Those men are worse than infidels, and ned in their choice, and it speeds with next to devils, that hate the virtues of them accordingly. Where did ever one God's saints, and could love their persons of these unequal matches prosper? The well, if they were not conscionable. two sons of Elimelech are swept away How earnestly do these two daughters childless in the prime of their age, and, in- of Moab plead for their continuance with stead of their seed, they leave their car. Naomi ; and how hardly is either of them cases in Moab, their wives widows, their dissuaded from partaking of the misery of mother childless and helpless amongst in her society! There are good natures even fidels, in that age which most needed com among infidels, and such as, for moral disfort. How miserable do we find poor position and civil respects, cannot be exNaomi, which is left destitute of her coun ceeded by the best professors. Who can try, her husband, her children, her friends, suffer his heart to rest in those qualities, and turned loose and solitary to the mercy which are common to them that are withof the world! Yet even out of these hope-out God! less ruins will God raise comfort to his ser- Naomi could not be so insensible of her vant. The first good news is, that Godown good, as not to know how much comhath visited his people with bread; now, fort she might reap to the solitariness, both therefore, since her husband and sons were of her voyage and her widowhood, by the unrecoverable, she will try to recover her society of these two younger widows, whose country and kindred. If we can have the affections she had so well tried. Even every same conditions in Judah that we have in partnership is a mitigation of evils : yet, Moab, we are no Israelites if we return so earnestly doth she dissuade them from not. While her husband and sons lived, accompanying her, as that she could not I hear no motion of retiring home; now have said more, if she had thought their these her earthly stays are removed, she presence irksome and burdensome. Good thinks presently of removing to her country. dispositions love not to pleasure themselves Neither can we so heartily think of our with the disadvantage of others, and had home above, while we are furnished with rather be miserable alone, than to draw in these worldly contentments: when God partners to their sorrow; for the sight of strips us of them, straightways our mind is another's calamity doth rather double their homeward.
own, and, if themselves were free, would She that came from Bethlehem under affect them with compassion; as, conthe protection of a husband, attended with trarily, ill minds care not how many comher sons, stored with substance, resolves panions they have in misery, nor how few now to measure all that way alone. Her consorts in good: if themselves miscarry, adversity had stripped her of all but a good they would be content all the world were heart : that remains with her, and bears upenwrapped with them in the same distress. her head, in the deepest of her extremity. I marvel not that Orpah is by this sea
True Christian fortitude wades through all sonable importunity persuaded to return evils; and, though we be up to the chin, | from a mother-in-law, to a mother in nayet keeps firm footing against the stream : ture; from a toilsome journey to rest; where this is, the sex is not discerned ; from strangers to her kindred; from a hopeneither is the quantity of the evil read in less condition, to likelihoods of content. the face. How well doth this courage be- ment. A little entreaty will serve to move come Israelites, when we are left comfort nature to be good unto itself. Every one less in the midst of the Moab of this world, is rather a Navmi to his own soul, to perto resolve the contempt of all dangers in the suade it to stay still, and enjoy the delights way to our home! as, contrarily, nothing of Moab, rather than to hazard our enter. tainment in Bethlehem. Will religion allow | most likely: “ Behold, thy sister-in-law is nie this wild liberty of my actions, this gone back unto her people, and to her gods; loose mirth, these carnal pleasures ? Can return thou after her.” This one artless I be a Christian, and not live sullenly ? | persuasion hath prevailed more with the None but a regenerate heart can choose world, than all the pleas of reason. How rather to suffer adversity with God's peo many millions miscarry upon this ground: ple, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for Thus did my forefathers; thus do the a season.
most; I am neither the first nor the last ; The one sister takes an unwilling fare. - Do any of the rulers ?" We straight think well, and moistens her last kisses with many that either safe or pardonable, for which tears: the other cannot be driven back, we can plead a precedent. This good but repels one entreaty with another: “En woman hath more warrant for her resolu. treat me not to leave thee; for whither tion than another's practice. The mind thou goest I will go, where thou dwellest can never be steady, while it stands upon I will dwell, thy people shall be my people, others' feet, and till it be settled upon such thy God my God, where thou diest I will grounds of assurance, that it will rather die, and there will I be buried.” Ruth saw | lead than follow; and can say with Joshua, so much, upon ten years' trial, in Naomi, whatsoever become of the world, “ I and as was more worth than all Moab; and, in my house will serve the Lord." comparison whereof, all worldly respects If Naomi had not been a person of emi. deserved nothing but contempt. The next nent note, no knowledge had been taken at degree unto godliness is the love of good. Bethlehem of her return. Poverty is ever ness: he is in a fair way to grace, that can obscure; and those that have little may value it. If she had not been already ago and come without noise. If the streets proselyte, she could not have set this price of Bethlehem had not before used to say, upon Naomi's virtue. Love cannot be se- “ There goes Naomi," they had not now parated from a desire of fruition : in vain asked, " Is not this Naomi ?" She that had Ruth protested her affection to Naomi, had lost all things but her name, is willing if she could have turned her out to her to part with that also; • Call me not journey alone. Love to the saints doth Naomi, but call me Marah.” Her humility not more argue our interest in God, than cares little for a glorious name in a dejected society argues the truth of our love. | estate. Many a one would have set faces
As some tight vessel that holds against upon their want, and, in the bitterness of wind and water, so did Ruth against all the their condition, have affected the name of powers of a mother's persuasions; the im- | beauty. In all forms of good, there are possibility of the comfort of marriage, in more that care to seem, than to be: Naomi following her (which drew back her sister hates this hypocrisy, and, since God hath in-law), cannot move her. She hears her humbled her, desires not to be respected of mother, like a modest matron (contrary to men. Those who are truly brought down, the fashion of these times), say, “I am too make it not dainty, that the world should old to have a husband ;" and yet she thinks think them so, but are ready to be tlie first not, on the contrary, I am too young to I proclaimers of their own vileness. want a husband. It should seem, the Mo- | Naomi went full out of Bethlehem to abites had learned this fashion of Israel, prevent want, and now she brings that to expect the brother's raising of seed to want home with her, which she desired to the deceased: the widowhood and age of avoid. Our blindness ofttimes carries us Naomi cuts off that hope ; neither could into the perils we seek to eschew. God Ruth then dream of a Boaz that might ad finds it best, many times, to cross the likely vance her: it is no love that cannot make projects of his dearest children, and to us willing to be miserable for those we af multiply those afflictions which they feared fect. The hollowest heart can be content single. to follow one that prospereth. Adversity Ten years have turned Naomi into Mais the only furnace of friendship. If love rah. What assurance is there of these will not abide both fire and anvil, it is but earthly things whereof one hour may strip counterfeit ; so, in our love to God, we do us? What man can say of the years to but crack and vaunt in vain, if we cannot come, Thus I will be? How justly do we be willing to suffer for him.
contemn this uncertainty, and look up to But if any motive might hope to speed, those riches that cannot but endure when that which was drawn from example was heaven and earth are dissolved !
come into his field, but he invites her to CONTEMPLATION IV. - BOAZ AND RUTH. more bounty than she could have desired.
Now God begins to repay into her bosom WHILE Elimelech shifted to Moab to her love and duty to her mother-in-law. avoid the famine, Boaz abode still at Beth | Reverence and loving respects to parents lehem, and continued rich and powerful. never yet went away unrecompensed. God He stayed at home, and found that which | will surely raise up friends among strangers Elimelech went to seek and missed. The to those that have been officious at home. judgment of famine doth not lightly extend! It was worth Ruth's journey from Moab, itself to all. Pestilence and the sword to meet with such a man as Boaz, whom spare none; but dearth commonly plagueth we find thrifty, religious, charitable: though the meaner sort, and baulketh the mighty. he were rich, yet he was not careless; he When Boaz's storehouse was empty, his comes into the field to oversee his reapers. fields were full, and maintained the name Even the best estate requires careful maof Bethlehem. I do not hear Ruth stand naging of the owner: he wanted no officers upon the terms of her better education, or to take charge of his husbandry, yet he had wealthy parentage; but now that God hath rather be his own witness. After all the called her to want, she scorns not to lay trust of others, the master's eye feeds the her hand unto all homely services, and horse. thinks it no disparagement to find her bread The Master of the great household of in other men's fields. There is no harder the world gives us an example of this care, lesson to a generous mind, nor that more whose eye is in every corner of his large beseems it, than either to bear want or to possession. Not civility only, but religion, prevent it. Base spirits give themselves binds us to good husbandry. We are all over to idleness and misery, and, because stewards; and what account can we give they are crossed, will sullenly perish. to our Master, if we never look after our
That good woman hath not been for estate? I doubt whether Boaz had been nothing in the school of patience; she so rich, if he had not been so frugal; yet hath learned obedience to a poor step-was he not more thrifty than religious. He mother; she was now a widow past reach comes not to his reapers but with a blessof any danger of correction; besides that ing in his mouth — « The Lord be with penury might seem to dispense with awe. you ;" as one that knew, if he were with Even children do easily learn to contemn them, and not the Lord, his presence could the poverty of their own parents ; yet hath avail nothing. All the business of the she inured herself to obedience, that she family speeds the better for the master's will not so much as go forth into the field benediction. Those affairs are likely to to glean without the leave of her mother succeed, that take their beginning at God. in-law, and is no less obsequious to Ma- Charity was well matched with his relirah, than she was to Naomi. What shall gion, without which, good works are but we say to those children that, in the main hypocrisy. No sooner doth he hear the actions of their life, forget they have natu- name of the Moabitess, but he seconds the ral parents? It is a shame to see, that, in kindness of his reapers, and still he rises in mean families, want of substance causeth | his favours. First, she may glean in his want of duty; and that children should field; then she may drink of his vessels ; think themselves privileged for unreverence, | then she shall take her meal with his reapers, because the parent is poor. Little do we and part of it from his own hand ; lastly, know, when we go forth in the morning, his workmen must let fall sheayes for her what God means to do with us ere night! gathering. A small thing helps the needy.
There is a providence that attends on us A handful of gleanings, a lapful of parched in all our ways, and guides us insensibly to corn, a draught of the servants' bottles, a his own ends: that divine hand leads Ruth | loose sheaf, was such a favour to Ruth, as blindfold to the field of Boaz. That she she thought was above all recompense. meets with his reapers, and falls upon his This was not seen in the estate of Boaz, land amongst all the fields of Bethlehem, which yet makes her for the time happy. it was no praise to her election, but the If we may refresh the soul of the poor with gracious disposition of Him in whom we the very offals of our estate, and not hurt move. His thoughts are above ours, and ourselves, woe be to us if we do it not! do so order our actions, as we, if we had Our barns shall be as full of curses as of known, should have wished. No sooner corn, if we grudge the scattered ears of our is she come into the field, but the reapers field to the hands of the needy. arc friendly to her. No sooner is Boaz! How thankfully doth Ruth take these