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ed, God, in sovereign wisdom and mercy, sometimes accomplishes purposes of grace to wards an individual sinner. This issue of an overruling providence did not at all lessen the sin of Elimelech, in going to Moab, supposing that determination to have been sinful; or the undoubted crime of his sons in marrying heathen women. God's revealed will should be our rule, and our only rule of duty. What good he may incidentally educe from the guilt and disorder of our passions, is quite above human calculation, and does not at all alter our obligations or accountableness. This is a principle which cannot be too strongly impressed on the mind. It runs through the whole system of the divine government. The secret purposes of God cannot be the rule or measure of man's obedience; nor, when they are manifested, can they be pleaded in excuse for his transgressions. The unjust treatment of Joseph, the treason of Judas, and the crucifixion of Christ, were not the less criminal, so far as the actors were concerned, because God in his inscrutable mercy accomplished the preservation of Egypt by the first, and the redemption of the world by the two last of those events. The same may be said of God's inflictions of punishment by sinful agents. The rebellion of Absalom, for example, was not the less abominable, because by means of it God punished
the sins of David. Thus may we adore the providence of the Almighty in bringing Ruth into a connexion with his people, though under circumstances, as in the case of the conversion of Onesimus, in themselves improper and criminal, and such as a God of infinite holiness could not, without blasphemy, be said to approve, even while he overruled them for
of grace and mercy. THE DEATH OF MAHLON AND CHILION followed; by which Ruth was deprived of her husband, and Naomi of her sons. What a picture of human life does the case of Naomi present! First the famine falls beavily upon her, then the death of her husband, then the marriage of her sons to idolaters, and lastly their death. When affliction enters a family, it is not often satisfied with a single victim. Separation, parting, solitude, death, too often follow each other in rapid and melancholy succession.
Thus bereaved and desolate, Naomi, hearing that God had visited his people in giving them bread, RESOLVED TO RETURN UNTO THE LAND OF JUDAH. When we perceive the world failing us, mouldering away before our eyes, presenting us with an universal blank, we should then, if not before, think of returning to God, Rebukes in providence are intended to teach us the vanity of the world; they call upon us to come out
from the company of sinners, and be separate. Thus Jacob was admonished by afflictions to go up to Bethel; Jonah was brought back to God by punishments; and Job was humbled by his calamities. What a blessing is it, for God to deprive us of our earthly comforts, in order to quicken our languid piety and to bring us into closer union with himself!
Naomi had, by this time, GAINED THE CONFIDENCE OF RUTH. The humble servants of God usually do far more good in their private walk than forward and loquacious professors of religion. The name, Naomi, was probably descriptive of her cheerful and winning piety *. She had studied to commend her religion to her daughters-in-law, and to be a blessing to her family. When therefore she determined to go back to Israel, her widowed daughters were disposed to accompany her. The providence of God was thus silently and unsuspectedly leading Ruth to become a proselyte to the true faith.
We may notice ARRANGEMENTS OF God's PROVIDENCE EQUALLY REMARKABLE in some other instances of conversion recorded in Holy Scripture. The events in the history of Rahab; the coincidences in the case of the woman of Samaria; the conversion of Zaccheus; the meeti ing of Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch, of
* The Hebrew word, Naomi, signifies pleasant,
Paul and Onesimus, and of the same Apostle and the Philippian jailor, are of this nature. But the instance of Lydia deserves particular notice. St. Paul was at Troas in Asia Minor; but being forbidden of the Holy Ghost to preach the word in Asia, he was called by a vision into Europe. Coming to Philippi, he went out of the city on the sabbath by a river-side, where prayer was wont to be made; and sat down and spake unto the women which resorted thither. Amongst these a certain woman, not of Philippi, but of the city of Thyatira, heard him, whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul. What a concurrence of events, trifling in themselves, and apparently accidental, and yet, in the unsearchable wisdom of God (whatever might be their other effects), all working together to the conversion of this one individual person!
Now, though it is not always possible to retrace our conversion to such predisposing arrangements of Providence, and though, were it possible, it may not be always necessary to do so ; yet, generally speaking, the humble Christian will look back, as in every thing, so particularly in this greatest event of his life, with adoration and gratitude, to the tenour of God's dispensation towards him. He will remember the persons whom he met, the books he read, the sermons be heard, the journeys he took, the afflic
tions by which he was visited, the unexpected and apparently accidental combination of circumstances which took place, all contributing eventually to his salvation. If any thing criminal as to the agents themselves was perpetrated, he will in no respect excuse or lessen its guilt; and if any part of his own conduct was blameworthy, he will be deeply and unfeignedly contrite for it before God. But he will not the less acknowledge and bless the infinite riches of God's goodnees and forbearance and long-suffering, which, notwithstanding the wickedness and perverseness of man, led him, by methods un thought of and inexplicable, to true repentance and conversion.
But it is time for us now to consider,
II. THE EFFECTS OF DIVINE GRACE APPARENT IN RUTH'S PIOUS DETERMINATION TO FOLLOW NAOMI TO THE LAND OF ISRAEL..
There had very probably, before this resolution was uttered, been a GRADUAL WORK OF PIETY going on in the mind of Ruth. Naomi had evidently won her regard; for goodness is attractive; and thus Naomi's affection for her daughters-in-law, her patience under trials, her integrity, meekness, and kindness, and her attention to their temporal comfort, had probably rendered Ruth more disposed to receive with good-will her endeavours to instruct her in the