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small favours from Boaz! Perhaps some best to advise. Good old Naomi sits still rich jewel in Moab would not have been so at home, and by her counsel pays Ruth welcome. Even this was a presage of her all the love she owes her. The face vi better estate. Those which shall receive that action, to which she directs her, is the great blessings, are ever thankful for little: worst piece of it; the heart was sound. and if poor souls be so thankful to us for Perhaps the assurance, which long trial but an handful, or a sheaf, how should we had given her, of the good government and be affected to our God, for whole fields full, firm chastity of her daugtiter-in-law, tofor full barns, full garners!
gether with her persuasion of the religious Doubtless Boaz, having taken notice of gravity of Boaz, made her think that design the good nature, dutiful carriage, and the safe, which to others had been perilous, it near affinity of Ruth, could not but pur- not desperate. But besides that, holding pose some greater beneficence, and higher Boaz next of blood to Elimelech, she made respects to her; yet now onwards he fits account of him as the lawful husband of his kindness to her condition, and gives Ruth; so as there wanted nothing but a her that, which to her meanness seemed challenge, and consummation. Nothing much, though he thought it little. Thus was abated but some outward solemnities, doth the bounty of our God deal with us. which, though expedient for the satisfacIt is not for want of love that he gives us tion of others, yet were not essential to no greater measure of grace, but for want marriage ; and if there were not these coof our fitness and capacity. He hath re lours for a project so suspicious, it would served greater preferments for us when it not follow that the action was warrantable, shall be seasonable for us to receive them. because Naomi's. Why should her exam
Ruth returns home wealthy with her ple be more safe in this, than in matching ephah of barley, and thankfully magnifies her sons with infidels, than in sending back the liberality of Boaz, her new benefactor. Orpah to her father's gods? If every act Naomi repays his beneficence with her of an holy person should be our rule, we blessing: « Blessed be he of the Lord!" should have crooked lives. Every action If the rich can exchange their alms with that is reported, is not straightways allowed. the poor for blessings, they have no cause | Our courses were very uncertain, if God to complain of an ill bargain. Our gifts had not given us rules, whereby we may cannot be worth their faithful prayers : examine the examples of the best saints, therefore it is better to give than to re- and as well censure as follow them. Let ceive; because he that receives, hath but them that stumble at the boldness of Ruth, a worthless alms; he that gives, receives an imitate the continence of Boaz. invaluable blessing.
These times were not delicate. This man, I cannot but admire the modesty and though great in Bethlehem, lays him down silence of these two women: Naomi had to rest upon a pallet, in the floor of his not so much as talked of her kindred in barn: when he awakes at midnight, no Bethlehem, nor till now had she told Ruth marvel if he were amazed to find himself that she had a wealthy kinsman; neither accompanied; yet, though his heart were had Ruth inquired of her husband's great cheered with wine, the place solitary, the alliance ; but both sat down meekly with night silent, the person comely, the invitheir own wants, and cared not to know tation plausible, could he not be drawn to any thing else, save that themselves were a rash act of lust; his appetite could not poor. Humility is ever the way to honour. get the victory of reason, though it had
It is a discourtesy, where we are be- wine and opportunity to help it. Herein holden, to alter our dependency, like as Boaz shewed himself a great master of his men of trade take it ill, if customers, which affections, that he was able to resist a fit are in their books, go for their wares to temptation. It is no thank to many, that another shop. Wisely doth Naomi advise they are free of some evils; perhaps they Ruth not to be seen in any other field, wanted not will, but convenience. But if while the harvest lasted. The very taking a man, when he is fitted with all helps to of their favours, is a contentment to those his sin, can repel the pleasure of sin out that have already well deserved ; and it is of conscience, this is true fortitude. quarrel enough that their courtesy is not | Instead of touching her as a woman, he received. How shall the God of heaven blessed her as a father, encourageth her as take it, that while he gives and proffers a friend, promiseth her as a kinsman, relarge, we run to the world, that can afford wards her as a patron, and sends her away us nothing but vanity and vexation ? | laden with hopes and gifts; no less chaste,
Those that can least act, are ofttimes the more happy, than she came. O admirable temperance, worthy the progenitor of Him, | As a man that had learned to square all in whose lips and heart was no guile! his actions to the law of God, Boaz pro.
If Boaz had been the next kinsman, the ceeds legally with his rival; and tells him marriage had needed no protraction, but now of a parcel of Elimelech's land, which, it that his conscience told him that Ruth was is like, upon his removal to Moab, he had the right of another, it had not been more alienated; which he, as the next kinsman, sensuality than injustice to have touched might have power to redeem ; yet so, as his kinswoman. It was not any bodily impo he must purchase the wife of the deceased tency, but honesty and conscience, that re- with the land. Every kinsman is not a strained Boaz; for the very next night she | Boaz: the man could listen to the land, if conceived by him: that good man wished it had been free from the clog of a neceshis marriage-bed holy, and durst not lie sary marriage ; but now he will rather leave down in the doubt of a sin. Many a man the land than take the wife, lest, whilst he is honest out of necessity, and affects the should preserve Elimelech's inheritance, praise of that which he could not avoid: but | he should destroy his own; for the next that man's mind is still an adulterer, in the seed, which he should have by Ruth, forced continence of his body. No action should not be his heir, but his deceased can give us true comfort, but that which kinsman's. How knew he whether God we do out of the grounds of obedience. might not, by that wife, send heirs enough
Those which are fearful of sinning, are for both their estates? Rather had he, careful not to be thought to sin : Boaz, therefore, incur a manifest injustice, than though he knew himself to be clear, would hazard the danger of his inheritance. The not have occasion of suspicion given to law of God bound him to raise up seed to others: " Let no man know that a woman the next in blood; the care of bis inhericame into the floor.” A good heart is no tance draws him to a neglect of his duty, less afraid of a scandal, than of a sin ; though with infamy and reproach; and whereas those that are resolved not to make now he had rather his face should be spit any scruple of sin, despise others' construc-upon, and his name should be called “ The tions, not caring whom they offend, so that house of him whose shoe was pulled off," they may please themselves. That Naomi than to reserve the honour of him that did might see her daughter-in-law was not sent his brother right, to his own prejudice. back in dislike, she comes home laden with How many are there that do so over-love corn. Ruth had gleaned more this night, their issue, as that they regard neither sin than in half the harvest. The care of Boaz nor shame in advancing it, and that will was, that she should not return to her rather endanger their soul, than lose their mother empty. Love, wheresoever it is, name! It is a woful inheritance that makes cannot be niggardly. We measure the love men heirs of the vengeance of God. of God by his gifts : how shall he abide to | Boaz is glad to take the advantage of send us away empty from those treasures his refusal; and holds that shoe (which of goodness!
was the sign of his tenure) more worth Boaz is restless in the prosecution of this than all the lands of Elimelech. And suit, and hies him from his threshing-floor whereas other wives purchase their hus. to the gate, and there convenes the nearer bands with a large dowry, this man pur. kinsman before the elders of the city. What chaseth his wife at a dear rate, and thinks was it that made Boaz so ready to enter- his bargain happy. All the substance of tain, so forward to urge this match ? Wealth the earth is not worth a virtuous and she had none, not so much as bread, but prudent wife; which Boaz doth now so rewhat she gleaned out of the field; friends joice in, as if he this day only began to be she had none, and those she had elsewhere wealthy. Moabites; beauty she could not have much, Now is Ruth taken into the house of after that scorching in her travel, in her Boaz; she, that before had said she was gleanings. Himself tells her what drew his not like one of his maidens, is now become heart to her : “ All the city of my people their mistress. This day she hath gleaned doth know that thou art a virtuous wo all the fields and barns of a rich husband; man." Virtue, in whomsoever it is found, and that there might be no want in her is a great dowry, and, where it meets with happiness, by a gracious husband she hath an heart that knows how to value it, is ac- gained a happy seed, and hath the honour, counted greater riches than all that is hid above all the dames of Israel, to be the in the bowels of the earth. The corri-heap / great-grandmother of a king, of David, of of Boaz was but chaff to this, and his the Messiah. money dross.
Now is Marah turned back gain to
Naomi; and Orpah, if she hear of this in redress; yea rather, that which might seem Moab, cannot but envy at her sister's hap- to lose the love of her husband, wins it, piness. O the sure and bountiful payments her barrenness. The good nature of Elof the Almighty! Who ever came under kanah laboured, by his dear respects, to his wing in vain? Who ever lost by trust-recompense this affliction; that so she might ing him? Who ever forsook the Moab of find no less contentment in the fruit of his this world for the true Israel, and did not hearty love, than she had grief from her at last rejoice in the change?
own fruitlessness. It is the property of true mercy to be most favourable to the weak
est; thus doth the gracious spouse of the CONTEMPLATION V-HANNAH AND Christian soul pity the barrenness of his PENINNAH.
servants. O Saviour, we should not find
thee so indulgent to us, if we did not comIll customs, where they are once en- plain of our own unworthiness! Peninnah tertained, are not easily discharged: poly-may have the more children, but barren gamy, besides carnal delight, might now | Hannah hath the most love. How much plead age and example, so as even Elkanah, rather could Elkanah have wished Penin. though a Levite, is tainted with the sin of nah barren, and Hannah fruitful! But if Lamech ; like as fashions of attire, which she should have had both issue and love, at the first were disliked as uncomely, yet, she had been proud, and her rival despised. when they are once grown common, are God knows how to disperse his favours so taken up of the gravest. Yet this sin, as that every one may have cause both of then current with the time, could not make thankfulness and humiliation: while there Elkanah not religious. The house of God is no one that hath all, no one but hath in Shiloh was duly frequented of him ; some. If envy and contempt were not thus oftentimes alone, in his ordinary course of equally tempered, some would be over. attendance, with all his males thrice a-year, haughty, and others too miserable ; but and once a-year with all his family. The now every man sees that in himself which continuance of an unknown sin cannot is worthy of contempt, and matter of emuhinder the uprightness of a man's heart lation in others; and, contrarily, sees what with God; as a man may have a mole to pity and dislike in the most eminent, upon his back, and yet think his skin clear; and what to applaud in himself; and out the least touch of knowledge or wilfulness of this contrariety arises a sweet mean of mars his sincerity.
contentation. He, that by virtue of his place was em The love of Elkanah is so unable to free ployed about the sacrifices of others, would Hannah from the wrongs of her rival, that much less neglect his own. It is a shame | it procures them rather. The unfruitfulfor him that teaches God's people that they ness of Hannah had never with so much should not appear before the Lord empty, despite been laid in her dish, if her hus. to bring no sacrifice for himself. If Levites band's heart had been as barren of love to be profane, who should be religious ? her. Envy, though it take advantage of
It was the fashion, when they sacrificed, our weaknesses, yet is ever raised upon to feast; so did Elkanah: the day of his some grounds of happiness in them whom devotion is the day of his triumph; he it emulates; it is ever an ill effect of a good makes great cheer for his whole family, cause. If Abel's sacrifice had not been even for that wife which he loved less. accepted, and if the acceptation of his There is nothing more comely than cheer- sacrifice had not been a blessing, no envy fulness in the services of God. What is had followed upon it. there in all the world, wherewith the heart There is no evil of another, wherein it of man should be so lift up, as with the is fit to rejoice, but his envy, and this is conscience of his duty done to his Maker! | worthy of our joy and thankfulness; beWhile we do so, God doth to us, as our cause it shows us the price of that good glass, smile upon us, while we smile on him. which we had, and valued not. The ma.
Love will be seen by entertainment: lignity of envy is thus well answered, when Peninnah and her children shall not com- it is made the evil cause of a good effect plain of want, but Hannah shall find her to us, when God and our souls may gain husband's affection in her portion; as his by another's sin. I do not find that Han. love to her was double, so was her part: nah insulted upon Peninnah, for the greater she fared not the worse because she was measure of her husband's love, as Penin. childless. No good husband will dislike nah did upon her for her fruitlessness. his wife for a fault out of the power of her | Those that are truly gracious, know how
to receive the blessings of God, without / whom we ask it: by this means shall God contempt of them that want; and have both pleasure his servant, and honour himlearned to be thankful without overliness. self; whereas, if the scope of our desires
Envy, when it is once conceived in a be carnal, we may be sure either to fail of malicious heart, is like fire in billets of ju- our suit, or of a blessing. niper, which, they say, continues more years than one. Every year was Hannah thus vexed with her emulous partner, and CONTEMPLATION VI.- ELI AND HANNAH. troubled both in her prayers and meals. Amidst all their feastings, she fed on no. 1 Old Eli sits on a stool by one of the thing but her tears. Some dispositions are posts of the tabernacle. Where should less sensible, and more careless of the de. the priests of God be, but in the temple ? spite and injuries of others, and can turn Whether for action or for oversight, their over unkind usages with contempt. By very presence keeps God's house in order, how much more tender the heart is, so and the presence of God keeps their hearts much more deeply is it ever affected with in order. discourtesies : as wax receives and retains It is oft found, that those which are that impression, which in the hard clay themselves conscionable, are too forward cannot be seen; or, as the eye feels that to the censuring of others. Good Eli, bemote, which the skin of the eye-lid could cause he marks the lips of Hannah to move not complain of; yet the husband of Han without noise, chides her as drunken, and nah, as one that knew his duty, labours, uncharitably misconstrues her devotion. by his love, to comfort her against these It was a weak ground whereon to build so discontentments : “ Why weepest thou ? | heavy a sentence. If she had spoken too Am I not better to thee than ten sons?" loud and incomposedly, he might have had It is the weakness of good natures to give some just colour for this conceit; but now, 80 much advantage to an enemy. What to accuse her silence, notwithstanding all would malice rather have, than the vexa- | her tears which he saw, of drunkenness, it tion of them whom it persecutes? We was a zealous breach of charity. cannot better please an adversary, than by | Some spirits would have been enraged hurting ourselves. This is no other than with so rash a censure. When anger meets to humour envy, to serve the turn of those with grief, both turn into fury. But this that malign us, and to drawn on that malice good woman had been inured to reproaches, whereof we are weary; whereas careless- and besides, did well see the reproof arose ness puts ill-will out of countenance, and from misprision, and the misprision from makes it withdraw itself in a rage, as that zeal; and therefore answers meekly, as which doth but shame the author, with- one that had rather satisfy than expostulate, out the hurt of the patient. In causeless “ Nay, my lord, but I am a woman troubled wrongs, the best remedy is contempt. in spirit." Eli may now learn charity of
She, that could not find comfort in the Hannah. If she had been in that distemloving persuasions of her husband, seeks it per whereof he accused her, his just reproof in her prayers : she rises up hungry from had not been so easily digested. Guilti. the feast, and hastens to the temple; there ness is commonly clamorous and impatient, she pours out her tears and supplications. whereas innocence is silent, and careless of Whatsoever the complaint be, here is the misreports. It is natural unto all men to remedy. There is one universal receipt wipe off from their name all aspersions of for all evils, prayer; when all helps fail us, evil, but none do it with such violence as this remains, and, while we have an heart, they which are faulty. It is a sign the comforts it.
| horse is galled, that stirs too much when Here was not more bitterness in the soul he is touched. of Hannah, than feryency; she did not She that was censured for drunken, only weep and pray, but vow unto God: censures drunkenness more deeply than if God will give her a son, she will give her reprover: “ Count not thine handher son to God back again. Even nature maid for a daughter of Belial.” The drunitself had consecrated her son to God; kard's style begins in lawlessness, proceeds for he could not but be born a Levite : but in unprofitableness, ends in misery; and if his birth make him a Levite, her vow all shut up in the denomination of this peshall make him a Nazarite, and dedicate digree, a son of Belial. his minority to the tabernacle. The way. If Hannah had been tainted with this to obtain any benefit, is to devote it, in | sin, she would have denied it with more our hearts, to the glory of that God of fervour, and have disclaimed it with an ex. tenuation : what if I should have been child was the son of his mother's prayers, merry with wine ? yet I might be devout. and was consecrated to Godere his possi. If I should have overjoyed in my sacrifice bility of being ; so now himself shall know, to God, one cup of excess had not been so both how he came, and whereto he was heinous: now her freedom is seen in her se- ordained; and, lest he should forget it, his verity. Those which have clear hearts from very name shall teach him both: “ She any sin, prosecute it with rigour, whereas called his name Samuel.” He cannot so the guilty are ever partial : their conscience much as hear himself named, but he must holds their hands, and tells them that they needs remember both the extraordinary beat themselves while they punish others. mercy of God, in giving him to a barren
Now Eli sees his error, and recants it; | mother, and the vow of his mother, in reand, to make amends for his rash censure, storing him back to God by her zealous deprays for her. Even the best may err, but dication ; and by both of them earn holinot persist in it. When good natures have ness and obedience. There is no necessity offended, they are unquiet till they have of significant names; but we cannot have hastened satisfaction. This was within his too many monitors to put us in mind of our office, to pray for the distressed: where- duty. fore serves the priest, but to sacrifice for It is wont to be the father's privilege to the people? And the best sacrifices are name his child; but because this was his the prayers of faith.
mother's son, begotten more by her prayers She that began her prayers with fasting than the seed of Elkanah, it was but reason and heaviness, rises up from them with that she should have the chief hand both cheerfulness and repast. It cannot be in his name and disposing. It had been spoken how much ease and joy the heart | indeed in the power of Elkanah to have of man finds in having unloaded his cares, changed both his name and profession, and and poured out his supplications into the abrogate the vow of his wife; that wives ears of God; since it is well assured, that might know they were not their own, and the suit whieh is faithfully asked, is already that the rib might learn to know the head; granted in heaven. The conscience may but husbands shall abuse their authority, well rest, when it tells us, that we have if they shall wilfully cross the holy purneglected no means of redressing our afflic poses and religious endeavours of their tion; for then it may resolve to look either yoke-fellows. How much more fit is it for for amendment, or patience.
them to cherish all good desires in the The sacrifice is ended, and now Elkanah weaker vessels, and, as we use, when we and his family rise up early to return unto carry a small light in a wind, to hide it Ramah; but they dare not set forward, with our lap, or hand, that it may not go till they have worshipped before the Lord.out. If the wife be a vine, the husband That journey cannot hope to prosper, that should be an elm, to uphold her in all takes no God with it. The way to receive worthy enterprises, else she falls to the blessings at home, is to be devout at the | ground, and proves fruitless. temple.
The year is now come about ; and El. She that before conceived faith in her kanah calls his family to their holy journey, heart, now conceives a son in her womb. to go up to Jerusalem, for the anniversary God will rather work miracles, than faith-solemnity of their sacrifice. Hannah's ful prayers shall return empty. I do not heart is with them, but she hath a good find that Peninnah asked any son of God, excuse to stay at home -- the charge of her yet she had store ; Hannah begged hard Samuel: her success in the temple, keeps for this one, and could not till now obtain her happily from the temple, that her de. him. They which are dearest to God, dovotion may be doubled, because it was reofttimes, with great difficulty, work out spited. God knows how to dispense witb those blessings, which fall into the mouths necessities; but if we suffer idle and need. of the careless. That wise disposer of all less occasions to hold us from the taberthings knows it fit to hold us short of those nacle of God, our hearts are but hollow to favours which we sue for; whether for the religion. trial of our patience, or the exercise of our Now, at last, when the child was weaned faith, or the increase of our importunity, | from her hand, she goes up and pays her or the doubling of our obligation.
vow, and with it pays the interest of her Those children are most like to prove intermission. Never did Hannah go up blessings, which the parents have begged with so glad a heart to Shiloh, as now that of God, and which are no less the fruit of she carries God this reasonable present, our supplications than of our body. As this, which himself gave to her, and she vowed