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by Robert Hawker
THE Holy Ghost hath not thought proper to gratify our curiosity, in giving information from whose pen the book of Ruth hath issued. Had it been at all needful, no doubt the Church would have been made acquainted with it. But, that it carries with it marks of being written under his own blessed inspiration, and that he intended it for the perpetual instruction and comfort of the Church in all ages, there can be no question. Indeed, according to my view of things, the truest evidence that any Book bears his signature is, when his people are enabled, from his own precious teachings therein, to set to their seal that God is true. For, when at any time the Holy Ghost refreshes their minds with his word; when those sweet truths they read, in any part of the divine oracles, are made life and spirit to their hearts; this is what the Apostle says, in the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established. And in the instance of this book of God when those blessed effects accompany the perusal, here are the three all agreeing together. The sacred word itself is one. The Almighty Author of it is another. And the heart of the believer, in whom the word seals its authenticity, is a third.
The design the blessed Author of the book of Ruth had in giving it to the church, seems to have been directed for the display of the divine mercy, both in the world of Providence and of grace. And perhaps yet more pointedly, to lead unto Jesus.
The gracious superintending mercy of God over his people, in a way of Providence, is beautifully illustrated in Ruth's history. In her life, simply considered, as relating to the things of time and sense, connected with this world only, we behold the fullest proof of our dear Lord's promise displayed, Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness, and all things needful shall be added unto you. Ruth, in leaving all that was near and dear to nature, to seek the God of Israel, and finding him, and all things with him, and in him, became a living testimony of this precious doctrine. But though I very readily and cheerfully allow that this, in a subordinate sense, might be among the gracious designs of the Holy Ghost, in causing the Book of Ruth to be written, and her history recorded; yet I cannot but believe that a greater and more important design was intended in giving this sweet morsel of sacred truth to the Church. Was it not to display yet more illustriously the wonders of his grace? And what can more illustriously display the riches of his grace, than the call of this poor Moabitish daughter to be among the fellow-heirs of the same covenant promises with Israel?
Independent of all other considerations, the Book of Ruth claims peculiar regard from the followers of the blessed Jesus, in that Christ, after the flesh, sprung from Ruth; and thereby manifested his alliance to the Gentile as well as to the Jewish church, So that we may upon this occasion, as well as many other grand considerations connected with it, say with Paul, Is he the God of the Jews only? Is he not also of the Gentiles? Yes! of the Gentiles also. And it is, I conceive, a very delightful consideration to the believer, to trace this connection even in the minutest point. For it is not the question, or enquiry, after endless genealogies (as an apostle terms it) but it is concerning him, who is in all characters and offices, dear to his people, not after the law of a carnal commandment, but after the power of an endless life.
I shall not presume, in this humble Commentary on the book of Ruth, which I here offer, under divine teachings, in aid to the Believer to be wise above what is written; and therefore will not venture to allegorize the several very interesting things contained in it, which certainly seem to lean that way. That there are very many beauties in scripture of this kind, no one, who is conversant in the word of God, will question, It corresponds so much to the ancient method of instruction in the eastern world, that we might reasonably expect, in a gracious revelation from heaven, the great truths contained in it might, in accommodation to the capacities of men, be conveyed that way. And hence we find, not only the servants of the Lord Jesus, but the Master himself, adopted similitude and parable in their teaching. Whether some of the most interesting outlines in the book of Ruth be of this kind or not, I leave undetermined. But the Reader will perhaps be led to think, (and I wish him not to think otherwise), that I am strongly inclined to this belief, when I add, who among the fallen race of Adam would ever have understood, unless the Holy Ghost had commissioned his servant Paul the Apostle to inform the Church of it, that the things concerning the history of Sarah's Isaac, And Hagar's Ishmael, were an allegory.
Reader! may the blessed Spirit of all truth guide me into all truth, while writing, and you while reading, this Precious book of God! May our hearts be mutually refreshed and comforted in all our researches, in the faith which maketh wise unto salvation. And may we be led into a saving acquaintance, and full assurance of understanding, to the acknowledgment of the mystery of God, and of the Father, and of' Christ, in whom are hid all the treasures of' wisdom and knowledge. Amen.
the Week of Proper 13 / Ordinary 18