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any intercourse with Delilah. Then would he have retained his eyes, and his strength; would have continued the terror of the Philistines, and the
boast of his own people Israel. These considerations ought to teach us to guard against all carnal connections, for it is difficult to take fire into the bosom without being burned, or to touch pitch without being defiled. If the strength of Sampson, and the wisdom of Solomon, could not preserve them, we surely can have no reason to hope being more successful.
The preceding verse strongly verifies the Psalmist's declaration, Psal. xxxiv. 19. Many are the afflictions of the righteous, • but the Lord delivereth him out of them all.' Here was loss upon loss, trial upon trial. First, the husband died, and was buried in a strange land; secondly, the sons married strange women, the daughters of an accursed race, and enemies unto Israel; and, thirdly, the sons themselves are taken away by death in early life, without being permitted to visit their paternal inheritance : so that the woman was emptied indeed. We are told that God afflicteth not willingly, nor grieveth the children of men for their hurt; and yet, that whom the Lord loves he
chastens, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.' One son, and only one he had, who never sinned, but not without suffering; sinless Jesus was the greatest sufferer of the race of mankind, and yet the Holy One of Israel, the only Begotten of the Father, and the immaculate Redeemer of the election of grace, which was indispensably necessary to our salvation.
From what we read of the afflictions of others, we are taught that our cases are by no means singular, even when our griefs are complicated. What did Israel, the elect of God, undergo in Egypt that house of bondage ? what did Naomi endure in the land of Moab ? and what is the general character of Jesus himself, but a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief ?'
III. We come now to treat of Naomi's return into the land of Judah ; in which we shall accompany her, making the following familiar remarks as we go along.
After being as it were buried in Moab for the space of ten years, this mother in Israel, in the words of the text, begins to emerge from obscurity and resume her proper character.
(1) · Then she arose.'---Then, after she had drank the bitter cup, in being stripped of her earthly all : for whilst husband and sons were alive, we hear not so much as of the most distant intention of returning again into the land of Israel. But her God prepared a school of heavenly instructions for her, in the outward corrections, and by the terrible things in righteousness with which he visited her, and thereby taught her that her resting place was not in the country of Moab. Those terrible things which she suffered, made her sit loose from her then present
abode, think of the land of Canaan, and long once more to visit Bethlehem, the city of her ancestors, and abode of her husband's kindred.
What more than afHiction tends to wean the believing soul from the things of earth and sense ? What can tend more to make the heart long to be at rest in the peaceful mansions above, where sinning and suffering are known no more for ever? David was not the only saint who wished for the wings of a dove, that he might fly away and be at rest. In the present case, the rod had a voice, as it always has whether attended to or not, and the holy woman had an ear to hear, and an heart to understand its language, which was “ Arise, depart, this is not your rest, for it is polluted ;” wherefore she arose accordingly to prepare for her departure.
When affictions, of what kind soever, reduce you to a state of emptiness and nothingness, take off your dependence upon seen objects, and bring you to the necessity of living upon God as revealed in his word, you may say, that in very faithfulness your God hath afflicted you. Indeed that he could not have been faithful either to your souls, or to himself, without afflicting you in the very manner he has done. How comely is it for the believer to say, 'It is the Lord, let him do what seemeth him 'good.'
(2) 'She arose with her daughters-in-law.'---If it is a beautiful thing, as the Psalmist says, 'for brethren to dwell in unity,' how lovely must it be to see the mother-in-law, and her daughtersin-law, arising together with an apparent design to forsake the land of Moab, and journey towards Israel, seeing these relative characters are, in general, no way remarkable for their reciprocal affection.
Now there must have been some remarkable cause for the daughters-in-law venerating, and so far cleaving to their mother in the days of their adversity, which could be nothing besides the following: Naomi was a woman who professed godliness, and acted in character; so that her daughters could not but be struck with conviction of her integrity, and the excellency of her religion. How different is this from the conduct of those professors, which in its own nature tends to give the lie to their profession, to excite prejudice in the carnal mind against the religion professed! thus making poor unconverted sinners tenfold more the children of wrath than they were before. Such professors have not only their own transgressions to answer for, but the blood of poor sinners, by their means hardened, will undoubtedly be required at their hand.
It ought never to be forgotten, that the church of the Lord is as a city set upon an hill, the light of which cannot be hid ; that the daughters of Moab very narrowly mark the tempers, the life and conversation of an Israelite, and consequently that circum17
spection is indispensably necessary. Solomon says, Prov. XXX 29. “That there are four things comely in going ; to which a hfth may very safely be added, A Christian walking in all the commandments of the Lord blameless. How cautious ought people to be who are in providence called to converse much with the unconverted world, that they may be able to take God to witnuss, that they are clear from the blood of all men. It must be an awful reflection to a saved soul to think that he has, in any wise, contributed to the ruin of any of his fellow creatures; and must have yielded a comfortable reflection to Naomi, tbat God had made her the honoured instrument of bringing Ruth into the tents of Israel.
(3) She arose that she might return from the country of Moab.'---The Moabites themselves may rest at ease in their native land, and worship idols of their own formation. worldlings of every rank, and every name, continue satisfied with carthly productions. Not so with chosen Naomi ; for to her, God imbitters every Moabitish sweet, dries up every well of consolation, and shuts up every prospect of future happiness in that land of strangers, till her soul became as a child weaned from its mother, and she renounces the name Naomi, laying claim to that of Marah. Nor was she the only person thus taught by terrible things, for we find the Psaimist, Psal. cxxxi. 2. thus confessing, I have behaved myself as a child weaned of its mother; 'my soul is even as a weaned child. This also is in some measure the case with every Christian, to whom the Almighty is pleased to imbitter all the enjoyments of the present life, in order to endear unto them the heavenly felicity.
Paul, the holy Apostle of the Gentiles, found to his daily and bitter experience, that wherever he went, bonds and persecutions awaited him; and the effect which this experience produced was an earnest desire of dissolution, as expressed Phil. i. 23. 'I • desire to be dissolved that I may be with Jesus. Indeed, it is one evidence of the love of God to his people, that when he sees them inclined to wander from his house and ways, to hedge up their way with aflictions, losses, crosses, and disappointments, that they may say with the church, Hosea ii. 6, 7. I will return
to my first husband, for then was it better with me than now.' And Cnap. xiv. 3. · Ashur shall not save us, we will not ride upon horses, neither will we say any more to the work of our hands, Ye are our gods ; for in thee the fatherless findeth mercy.'
(4) Emptiness of all Moabitish comforts was attended with an encouraging, inviting voice from Canaan ; ' for she had heard in
the country of Moab, how the Lord had visited his people ir. giving them bread.' From whence we see that the Lord bath liis visiting seasons, as well as times of withdrawment from his people. Sometimes indeed in holy jealousy with paternal chas
tisement, as Psal. Ixxxix, 39. · Then will I visit their transgres
sions with a rod, and their iniquities with stripes.' And thus lie visited Israel with famine, and Naomi with the stripping providences, to which reference has above been made.
He visits his people in manifest mercy in giving them bread after famine, and makes them say with the church, Isa. xii. 1. O Lord, I will praise thee; though thou wast angry with me,
thine anger is turned away, and thou comfortest me.' It soon repents the Lord concerning the evil brought upon his servants, and he says when he sees their distresses, as to the destroying angel, 2 Sam. xxiv. 16. “It is enough ; stay now thy hand.' It is precisely the same in the case before us; in jealousy for his holy name, he visited his people with a famine; and in tender compassion, he also visited them in giving them bread. This news reached the ear of Naomi, and was good news from a far country, and therefore was to her as cold water to a thirsty soul. O how reviving to the fainting soul is good news from the heavenly country! news of abundant pardon and plenteous redemption to the most abject slaves, the greatest offenders! It is as it were the richest wine of the kingdom of heaven, and makes even babes in grace appear as giants, and excites the worm to emulate Jacob, that wrestler with God, and thresher of the mountains of opposition. But this good news did not reach the car of this venerable matron till she was bereaved of her husband and sons, and left in a state of desolate widowhood ; neither does the news from heaven, in common, arrive till all the springs of creature comfort are dried up; consequently, believers ought not to think it strange, if they see the Almighty to be stripping them daily of their delights.
(5) 'He visited his people in giving them bread.'---Notwith standing it pleased the Lord to visit Israel with a famine on ac count of their wickedness, bis anger was but of short duration ; he turned from its fierceness, owns them for his people, and manifests his kindness to them, by visiting them with plenty. We are here taught that the common necessaries and conveniences of life, are as much the gifts of providential bounty, as Christ and salvation are the fruits of everlasting loving kindness. Therefore he is to be sought unto for all things, and to be acknowledged in every enjoyment.
We have likewise a specimen of the divine conduct towards Israel, as different from what it was towards Egypt. The latter had her plenty, and her soil teemed with fruitfulness, before assailed by pinching penury: but although during the seven years of plenty the earth brought forth by handfuls, ghastly famine in its turn stalked through all the land, and soon devoured all that Joseph had carefully laid up in bis granaries. Just so it is withi the worldling of every character. They bave their good things now, and the evil is reserved for an unthought-of hereafter.
One possesses his affluence and grandeur, and with contempt treats inferior classes of the people, but the day of downcasting, Jisgrace, and penury everlasting, is making hasty marches towards is present dwelling; nor shall he be able, in his present circumstances, to evade the just and tremendous judgment. Another sits in a chair of state, and in self-adulation Aatters himself that his honour shall be permanent; but death, like a mole, is undermining his station, and preparing him a bed on a perfect equality with the most needy and tattered beggar, where his body shall become a feast to the vilest worms, and, without repentance, his soul the taunt and derision of fiends! Not so with the Lord's people Israel; they are first visited with famine, and afterwards with plenty; the first gives a zest to the last, and the experience of famine makes the plenty more precious and desirable, therefore it is received with the greater thankfulness. The Christian also hath bis evil things to bear in his present state of existence, all the best things being reserved till the last. He is now groaning in this tabernacle, being burdened ; the reproaches of the wicked fall upon him daily; temptations assail him ev, ry hour; losses, crosses, and disappointments pay him frequent unwelcome visits. To sum up bis character in one word, · He is * coming up through great tribulation, washing his robes, and
making them white in the blood of the Lamb.' But all this is leading to the remaining rest ; to the mansions of pure and unspotted pleasure ; to the sweet delights of the kingdom of Jesus, where the visions of God shall never be beclouded.
(6) Having heard this good news from her own country, this holy woman went forth out of the place where she was, and her two daughters-in-law with her.'
She was in Moab, a place of vanity, therefore an unsuitable dwelling for a mother in Israel, and especially one who was stripped of her ali upon earth. What fellowship can light have ' with darkness, or what communion hath Christ with Belial ?' This whole world is a place of vanity; and vanity is as much to be deprecated as hell itself, seeing the latter is only the end to which the former naturally and infallibly leads its deluded subjects. To die in a state of sin and vanity, is infinitely worse than to die in a ditch, or on a scaffold; for such a death has no manner of influence upon the concerns of the immortal soul : but vanity stamps everlasting infamy upon its slave, were he even to die upon a bed of state, and under a silver canopy. Surely, my hearer, it must be awful to live in a state or place in which you are afraid to die ; and yet this is but too frequently the case, even amongst gospel hearers. But if you would not wish to die in Moab, or to perish with the world, the word is unto you, • Arise, depart, this is not your rest, for it is polluted'
(7) 'She went forth, she, and her two daughters-in-law with Ler::--- It is in jable to see mothers-in-law, and daughters-16