HEAVENLY Father, we welcome the return of Thine own day, the day
which the Lord hath made. We will be glad and rejoice in it; and
though we assemble not in Thy house, make this the place of
Thine abode. It is heaven where Thou art. May we have a
foretaste of heaven here. May heavenly manna descend for the
nourishment of our souls, and the Holy Spirit help us to gather
it and to be strengthened thereby; and thus may we be helped on
our way to the rest and service above, through Jesus Christ our
HYMN, or Psalm cxviii. 24-29.
WELCOME, sacred day of rest,
Sweet repose from worldly care;
Day above all days the best,
When our souls for heaven prepare;
Day when our Redeemer rose
Victor o’er the hosts of hell,
Thus he vanquished all our foes:
Let our lips his glories tell.
Gracious Lord, we love this day,
When we hear thy holy word.
When we sing thy praise and pray,
Earth can no such joys afford.
But a better rest remains:
Heavenly sabbaths, happier days,
Rest from sin, and rest from pains,
Endless joys, and endless praise.
2. KINGS II. 1-16.
AND it came to pass, when the Lord would take up Elijah into
heaven by a whirlwind, that Elijah went with Elisah from Gilgal.
2. And Elijah said unto Elisha, Tarry here, I pray thee; for the
Lord hath sent me to Beth-el. And Elisha said unto him, As the
Lord liveth, and as thy soul liveth, I will not leave thee. So
they went down to Beth-el. 3. And the sons of the prophets that
were at Beth-el came forth to Elisha, and said unto him, Knowest
thou that the Lord will take away thy master from thy head
to-day? And he said, Yea, I know it; hold ye your peace. 4. And
Elijah said unto him, Elisha, tarry here I pray thee, for the
Lord hath sent me to Jericho. And he said, A the Lord liveth,
and as thy soul liveth, I will not leave thee. So they came to
Jericho. 5. And the sons of the prophets that were at Jericho
came to Elisha, and said unto him, Knowest thou that the Lord
will take away the master from thy head to-day? And he answered,
Yea, I know it, hold ye your peace. 6. And Elijah said unto him,
Tarry, I pray thee, here; for the Lord hath sent me to Jordan.
And he said, As the Lord liveth, and as thy soul liveth, I will
not leave thee. And they two went on, &c.
HEAVENLY Father, we thank Thee for the provision made for our
bodily wants. Thou hast a numerous family to provide for yet
Thou openest Thine hand and satisfiest the desire of every
living thing. We bless Thee for the light of this day, and that
it brings with it so many spiritual blessings. May it be a day
of rest to us -- a rest not only from worldly toil and care, but
rest in close communion with Thee. We adore Thee that this day
is a monument of creation, and of redemption also. Thou hast
erected it by the empty tomb of Jesus, to remind us that He is
risen indeed. May our risen Lord manifest Himself unto us in
another way than He does to the world. May He breathe upon us,
and say, Receive ye the Holy Ghost. May He talk with us, that
our hearts may burn within us. May He come in and tarry with us,
that our dwelling may become the house of God and the gate of
We bless Thee for the abundant proof afforded that Christ hath
finished the work given Him to do. We hear Him exclaim from His
cross, It is finished. We know it from the empty tomb. We behold
in thought the multitude which no man can number before the
throne, who have washed their robes and made them white in the
blood of the Lamb. But especially we bless Thee that we
ourselves are living witnesses. Lord, we once were burdened with
sin, but we obtained deliverance at the cross. Sprinkled with
the atoning blood, we have peace with God. Wilt Thou cleanse us,
this day, from all the contracted pollution of the past week?
Destroy within us the roots of sin, and may we perfect holiness
in the fear of the Lord. And help us, we beseech us, to live as
the children of God. As we pass through this world as pilgrims,
may our affections not linger among forbidden things, but be
steadfastly fixed on things above. May our meetness for heaven
be advancing day by day. As Thy children, may we submit to be
taught by Thy Spirit and Thy Providence. Bring us to the
Saviour’s feet, that learning of Him we may in due time be fit
to dwell with Him. We earnestly plead with Thee for those of our
kindred who love Thee not. Spirit of God! Convince them of their
sinfulness and their need of Christ. Wound their hearts by the
arrows of divine truth as well as by the strokes of affliction,
that broken in heart they may come to the Great Physician, and
be made whole. O that none united to us by the ties of nature
may be parted from us hereafter, but as a family may we all meet
in our Father’s house above. And we desire to thank Thee on
behalf of our kindred who have already gone thither, and who
wait our coming. We would not ask back any whom Jesus has taken
to his bosom. They were His more than they were ours, and the
right to gather them was His alone. We will go to them, but they
cannot come to us.
Bless, we pray Thee, all Thy people. Begotten of Thee, may they
bear much resemblance to their Father, and to Christ their elder
brother. Bind them with the cords of love to the cross, that
they may be brought closer to one another. May they be the salt
of the earth and the light of the world. May Thy church go forth
in divine strength to subdue a revolted world to Christ. May all
Thy ministering servants be faithful to their Master and to the
souls of men, watching for them as those that must give account.
Hasten the day when the Redeemer’s throne shall be set up in
every heart and His praise sung by every tongue, yea, when all
the earth shall be filled with His glory.
Bless our native land in all its interests, religious, civil,
and commercial. May peace and plenty, truth and justice, honesty
and temperance, abound among us. Bless our beloved queen and all
the members of the royal family; may they belong to the family
of God, and their names be written in the Lamb’s book of life.
Remember those who have great public duties to fulfil. May they
seek to promote the glory of God and the nation’s good. Look
down upon our sailors and soldiers and miners, and all exposed
to danger whether on land or sea, and may their souls be saved
from everlasting death.
And now Heavenly Father, be with us as we further wait upon
Thee. May the message to be delivered be mixed with faith in
them that hear it; and unto the Father, unto the Son, and unto
the Holy Ghost, as unto one God, be all honour and glory, for
ever and ever. Amen.
THE CHURCH IN THE HOUSE.
O GOD, when we are about to read Thine own word, we turn to
Thyself, the author of it. Help us to understand it, that it may
nourish our souls. May it be brought home to our hearts by Thy
Holy Spirit, and prove a word in season, to the edification and
comfort of each of us, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
HYMN, or Psalm lxviii. 7-10.
WHEN on Sinai’s mount I see
God descend in majesty,
To proclaim his holy law
All my spirit sinks with awe.
When, in ecstasy divine,
Tabor’s glorious steep I climb,
At the top, transporting light,
Darkness rushes on my sight.
When on Calvary I rest,
God, in flesh made manifest,
Shines in my Redeemer’s face
Full of beauty, truth, and grace.
Here I would for ever stay,
Weep and gaze my soul away;
Thou art heaven on earth to me,
Lovely, mournful, Calvary.
MATTHEW XVII. 1-8.
AND after six days Jesus taketh Peter, James, and John his
brother, and bringeth them up into an high mountain apart, 2.
And was transfigured before them: and his face did shine as the
sun, and his raiment was white as the light. 3. And, behold,
there appeared unto them Moses and Elias talking with him. 4.
Then answered Peter, and said unto Jesus, Lord, it is good for
us to be here: if thou wilt, let us make here three tabernacles;
one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias. 5. While he
yet spake, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them: and behold
a voice out of the cloud, which said, This is my beloved Son, in
whom I am well pleased; hear ye him. 6. And when the disciples
heard it, they fell on their face, and were sore afraid. 7. And
Jesus came and touched them, and said, Arise, and be not afraid.
And when they had lifted up their eyes, they saw no man, save
MARK IX. 2-8.
AND after six days Jesus taketh with him Peter, and James, and
John, and leadeth them up into an high mountain apart by
themselves: and he was transfigured before them. 3. And his
raiment became shining, exceeding white as snow; so as no fuller
on earth can white them. 4. And there appeared unto them Elias
with Moses: and they were talking with Jesus. 5. And Peter
answered and said unto Jesus, Master, it is good for us to be
here: and let us make three tabernacles; one for thee, and one
for Moses, and one for Elias. 6. For he wist not what to say;
for they were sore afraid. 7. And there was a cloud that
overshadowed them: and a voice came out of the cloud, saying,
This is my beloved Son: hear him. 8. And suddenly, when they had
looked round about they saw no man any more, save Jesus only
“AND IT CAME TO PASS ABOUT AN EIGHT DAYS AFTER THESE SAYINGS, HE
TOOK PETER, AND JOHN, AND JAMES, AND WENT UP INTO A MOUNTAIN TO
PRAY,” &c. -- Luke ix. 28-31.
THE precise locality of our Lord’s transfiguration is not given
in the sacred writings; tradition, however, has fixed on Mount
Tabor, in Galilee, as the scene of this wonderful event. Whether
this be the precise locality or not is still open to doubt, but
the locality is nothing: it is the event itself that claims our
attention, and this seems to be the divine purpose in the life
of our Lord upon earth -- to fix our attention on events, and
not on localities. Has it never struck you that the exact spots
of Christ’s birth, baptism, temptation, and death, cannot be
ascertained with certainty? The site of Bethlehem is still
pointed out to the modern traveller, but there is not a spot on
which you can stand and say, “The stable stood here, and here
must have been the manger where the babe was laid.” Christ was
no doubt baptized in Jordan, but the exact spot is a matter on
conjecture. He was tempted in the wilderness, but who can fix
the precise locality? He was crucified on Calvary, but even the
site of that place is doubtful. No doubt, monuments have been
erected on certain spots by human hands, but the very attempt to
identify localities has rather obliterated than preserved them.
Now, why is this? Surely the divine hand that has preserved the
sacred writings through many centuries, could have preserved the
sacred places; but they come not within the scope of
supernatural care, and are therefore left to themselves. God’s
wisdom and forethought are seen in this. We all know the
tendency of the mind to the superstitious and the sensuous:
hence the Mahometan repairs every year to the shrine of the
false prophet; and the Papist is taught to adore pieces of the
material cross and manger, and even the thorns and nails that
pierced Christ. But the religion of Jesus is a spiritual
religion, and the less we have to do with what is material, the
better. It appeals, not to our superstition, but to our hearts
and consciences; hence its indifference to places connected with
the life of our Lord.
Have you not noticed the same divine purpose in the Old
Testament? Had the burial place of Moses been known, and the
tables of stone been extant, what gross superstition would have
been engendered? Moses was the saviour of Israel -- their leader
through the sea and the wilderness, their captain in battle, and
their lawgiver in peace. If the Jews had known the locality they
would, doubtless, have made the pilgrimages to his tomb. How
wise in God to remove him quietly from the earth when his work
His work survives; that is what we have to do with. But the
place of his burial is unknown unto this day.
And thus is it in connection with Christ’s transfiguration. As
we have said, the precise spot is not known -- that is quite
immaterial. But the event itself is recorded, which is the
material point that concerns us. It is recorded by three
evangelists, almost in the same words, with only those points of
difference that show they wrote independently, and did not copy
from one another.
Let us then notice two or three points in this remarkable event:
I. “He went up into a mountain to pray; and as he prayed, the
fashion of his countenance was altered, and his raiment was
white and glistering.” It is evident this remarkable event was
preceded by prayer: it was, in fact, an answer to prayer. Though
Jesus was God and man in one person, yet even he could not do
without prayer. The most striking events in his life were always
preceded by prayer. When he fed the thousands in the desert he
prayed; when he was in the garden of Gethsemane he prayed; and
when he hung on the cross he prayed. No wonder, then, that he
prayed at his transfiguration. The words of the prayer are not
recorded: perhaps no words were uttered, for are there not deep
feelings in the heart that cannot be put into words? The best
and most effectual prayers are offered when alone with God, and
when the heart prays without the aid of the lips. Still we may
conceive what the burden of Christ’s prayer was, from the answer
to it. Remember his death was drawing nigh. What Moses and Elias
on the mount spake of, be assured Jesus thought of; and “they
spake of the decease which he should accomplish at Jerusalem.”
It was all they could do. Peter, and John, and James might
accompany Jesus to the mount, but they could not share his
sufferings. He trode the wine-press alone; of his people there
were none with him. It was the prospect of suffering -- it was
the burden of a world’s guilt pressing upon his soul -- that led
him to pray; his humanity shrank from suffering, and therefore
he needed strength; he was, even now, bearing the cross and
staggering under its awful weight, and he must pray to his
Father for support.
Where was his closet for prayer? It was in the mountain
solitude; to him this was like a quiet haven by a stormy sea,
and there, far removed from the strife of men, the light and
glory of heaven came in answer to prayer. And why should the
answer to prayer come in this particular form-- “the fashion of
his countenance was altered, and his raiment was white and
glistering?” In his approaching sufferings “his countenance was
so marred more than any man, and his form more than the sons of
men.” Was not his brow lacerated with thorns and his back with
the scourge? Was not even his raiment stripped off him, and lots
cast whose it should be? The answer to prayer is thus sent as a
foretaste of the glory when all his shame and sufferings were
past: “for the joy that was set before him he endured the cross
and despised the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the
throne of God.” Yes, after the shame and pain of the cross there
awaited him the glory and honour of the crown; after the
wounding and bruising of the body there would be the glorified
body which pain could not touch, and its exaltation to the right
hand of God. Was not the answer to prayer, coming thus,
sufficient to strengthen him for his approaching trial? And as
it has been with the Master, so has it been with his servants
who have suffered shame and death for his name. They have had
such ravishing views of heavenly glory, that in the midst of
floods and flames they have sung hymns of praise, rejoicing they
were counted worthy to suffer martyrdom for Christ. Is there not
in this a great lesson given to ourselves? We, too, may prove
the power of prayer: we, too, can ascend the mount of communion
with our Father, and there, far away from the tumult of life, we
can pray to him who seeth in secret, and obtain grace to help us
in time of need, and -
“Who that knows the worth of prayer
But wishes to be often there?”
There have we not often been? There we have felt the clouds of
sorrow roll away, and we have emerged from the shadows of earth
into marvelous light; there we have been lifted out of
ourselves, as it were, into the serene calm and assurance of
faith. Our hearts have been burdened with care, but there they
have let fall the load. Our countenances have been darkened with
grief, but there they have been lighted up with joy. What is all
this but a kind of transfiguration passed upon ourselves? and it
is in answer to prayer: and the end thereof, in our case, is the
same as it was to Christ. We have got strength for present
trials and coming sorrows, and have descended from the holy
mount with our countenances radiant with heavenly glory. Oh! Let
us try to be more in this mount with Jesus; there will be less
doubt on our minds, less fear in our hearts, less feebleness in
our purposes, less worldliness in our affections. We should have
more of heaven in our souls, and less of earth -- more of the
better world to which we are going, and less of this we soon
must quit; and “men would take knowledge of us that we have been
II. Observe, there were three witnesses of the transfiguration
-- Peter, John, and James. Why three only, and not the twelve?
In the divine plan nothing is superfluous -- no waste of power,
no unnecessary expenditure of means. Three witnesses were
therefore sufficient, for they had only to attest a fact: in the
mouth of two or three witnesses every word shall be
established.” Remember, the fact of Christ’s transfiguration was
to be kept secret until after he was risen from the dead. Read
the 36th verse -- “They told no man of those things which they
had seen.” The transfiguration was a secret, and we all know the
fewer persons intrusted with a secret the better. The selection
of three disciples, and these the chief of them, was therefore
in harmony with the end to be accomplished.
And is it not also remarkable, that this event in Christ’s life
was foreshadowed by an event in the life of Moses? When Moses
was installed as the Jewish lawgiver, he too went up into a
mountain, and three witnesses accompanied him -- Aaron, Nadab,
and Abihu; thus the type is fulfilled in the antitype; Moses was
transfigured on the mount: his countenance was so radiant with
the divine glory, that when he descended the people could not
look upon him. Jesus was likewise transfigured: “and the fashion
of his countenance was altered, and his raiment was white and
glistering.” But why should the witnesses be Peter, and John,
and James? Marvel not that Jesus had his special favourites,
whom he loved and honoured more than the rest. Within the circle
of the twelve there was an inner circle, and these three
disciples composed it. And just as to our most intimate friends
we speak more unreservedly, so Jesus spake more unreservedly to
them; he told them more, and revealed his heart more to them
than to the others. Nor was the witnessing of his
transfiguration the only honour given to them: they were the
witnesses of his agony in Gethsemane also. Not only were they
permitted to behold his highest glory on earth, but his lowest
abasement likewise; and the results of this close intimacy with
Christ may be traced still further in the subsequent career of
these three apostles. Their devotedness to Christ stands out
more prominently than the rest. Take the writings of Peter, and
John, and James out of the New Testament, and (except Paul, who
also had a transfiguration) the remainder would be but small.
Let us then bear this in mind: because they lived nearer to
Jesus than the rest, therefore they were more highly honoured,
and is it not so still? If we live not near to Christ we shall
not be honoured; we shall feel a chill in our souls which will
paralyze all our spiritual movements. Mark a Christian who is
cold in his religious duties, heartless in his devotions, feeble
in the execution of his purposes; it is unnecessary to ask the
cause -- he is not walking with Christ. True, he may continue to
follow him, but it is afar off; he may come to the table of the
Lord, but he sits at the foot of the table, and is not at the
head where Jesus is; his place can never be where John was
seated, so near the Master that he could lean on his bosom.
“Them that honour me I will honour, but they that despise me
shall be lightly esteemed.” And so it comes to this: if we would
possess the seat of honour we must live nearer to Jesus than we
have ever done; and such honour and privilege every Christian
may have, for the condition of attaining it is within the reach
of all. It is not intellect that is wanted -- not learning --
not knowledge. What evidence have we that Peter, and John, and
James had higher natural gifts or culture than the rest of the
twelve? But they had more love, and this was the secret of all
their honour and usefulness. What wonderful power in love! It is
love that will enable you to speak for Christ, to win souls to
Christ. The most successful winners of souls have been the most
ardent lovers of Jesus. Are any of us occupying the lowest place
in Christ’s esteem? Why not strive to gain the highest? Why
remain at the bottom of the table when you might be at the head?
Then climb the mount as these three apostles did. Enter into thy
closet and shut to the door, and in closer and more frequent
communion with Christ we shall be strong for duty and bold in
our testimony for him.
III. Observe, Moses and Elias appeared in glory talking with
Jesus. Why should these two servants of God, long since gone,
appear on this great occasion? Most died on Mount Nebo fourteen
hundred years before; Elias went up in a chariot of fire some
six hundred years later, and they both went to heaven. Why did
they reappear now? Moses represented the law; Elias represented
the prophets: and taking them both together, the whole Old
Testament economy was represented by them, and they both appear
in conference with Jesus, the sole head and representative of
the New Testament economy. Is not this at once an announcement
that Moses, and Elias, and Jesus were all in perfect harmony?
Christ came not to destroy the law, but to fulfil it; and also
to fulfil all that the prophets had spoken. In him the law and
the prophets met, even as in his presence Moses and Elias stood.
Was that church a perfect church to which these representatives
had previously belonged? Perfect in its way it was, even as a
scaffolding is perfect in the erection of a permanent building.
But when the building is completed, the scaffolding must be
removed. The law was only a shadow of good things to come, and
not the substance of the things themselves. The law made nothing
perfect, but the bringing in of a better hope did. Here, then,
Moses opportunely appears on the mount with Jesus, to attest the
completion of the law and its perfect harmony with the gospel
system: that which was perfect had now come, and that which was
imperfect was to be done away. Strange! that the priests and
scribes would have nothing to do with Christ. They regarded him
as a revolutionist, who sought to disestablish the ancient
church of Moses. But, behold, Moses himself appears and
approves; and if the acknowledged founder of the Jewish church
is satisfied, the priests and scribes are rebuked to silence.
But alas! they were blinded, and hence their opposition to
Christ. In the same way the appearance of Elias was significant:
for while he lived he stood forth as the reformer of the Jewish
church; he sought to turn the hearts of the children of Israel
to the God whom they had forsaken. He was what John the Baptist,
the herald of Christ was, eight hundred years after; and here he
too lays aside his rod of office in the presence of One greater
than he, even Jesus of whom he spake. “What the law could not
do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sent his Son in
the likeness of sinful flesh, that the righteousness of the law
might be fulfilled in us who walk not after the flesh, but after
From all this we have a striking proof how little of God’s plan,
in reference to his church, we can take in. It has all along
been a gradual development; and yet not the last, for the
heavenly church is to be the last development of all. Things
that are still unfinished we are not competent judges of: and
our views of Christ’s church are often confused and narrow, so
that it well becometh us not to be dogmatic in our opinions
respecting it. Had the patriarchs lived in the days of Moses,
and seen their simple form of religion superseded by a most
elaborate one; had they beheld the temple in its architectural
splendour, and the priests in their magnificent robes, and all
the elaborate ritualism connected with the worship of God --
they would have concluded that true religion had disappeared.
Had the Jews who lived in the days of Moses and Elias, lived in
Christ’s day and of his apostles; had they seen a new system
inaugurated and carried on, in which neither temple, nor
priests, nor altars, nor sacrifices, were to be found -- they
would have concluded that real religion had died out. What! a
religion disconnected with the state and stripped of its outward
grandeur -- a religion entirely spiritual! they would surely
have opposed it with all their might. And thus the priest and
the people in Christ’s day did; they tried to put Chrisianity
down by crucifying its Founder, and by persecuting the apostles.
Oh! had they but known better, they would not have crucified the
Lord of glory, nor treated his servants thus. But the church has
outlived all opposition, because Jesus its Founder lives; and
all the events that have happened have but helped to extend it
in the world. There have various dispensations from God, and
there are various religious denominations among men; but there
is only one church -- one holy catholic church -- which
supersedes, because it has absorbed, the patriarchal and Mosaic
churches; and this is the church of the living God -- the one
spiritual house built into a habitation of God through the
Spirit. It is built upon the foundation of the apostles and
prophets; Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner-stone. And
as Christ’s church hath absorbed these, so the heavenly church
shall ultimately absorb this; and they “shall come from the east
and the west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and
Jacob in the kingdom of heaven.”
“Apostles, patriarchs, prophets there,
Around my Saviour stand;
And soon my friends in Christ below
Will join the glorious band.”
Shall we be among them? Then let us look unto Jesus, the author
and finisher of our faith. What made glory on the mount in
Galilee? the presence of Jesus. This heavenly glory may be
experienced on earth, with “Jesus in the midst.” It may be
experienced here: to the soul resting on the finished work of
Christ, heavenly glory is already begun.
Amen. -- ROBERT BALGARNIE.
THE CHILDREN’S SERVICE.
THE STORY OF RUTH.
AT one time there was a great dearth in the land of Israel. A
dearth, you know, is a want of food. We have not, in our days,
so many dearths as they had in old times. We can help each other
better now than they were able to do long ago; and we can guard
against want better. Yet some fearful famines do come even in
our times. A quarter of a century ago, when the potato crop
failed from a strange disease, there was a great dearth in
Ireland, and many persons, little children among them, died.
People long spoke of that sad time, as the time of the hunger.
Not so far back as that, we heard of famine in India, and
children in this country gathered money to buy rice and other
kinds of food, to save the starving. It is a fearful thing when
people are well and hungry, and can find nothing to eat. It is a
terrible death to die, stricken through for want of the fruits
of the field.
I do not quite know what caused the famine in the land of Israel
at the time of which I speak. But I suppose there had been no
rain for a long time, and things sown and planted in the ground
did not grow. The earth grew dry and hot; the very wells became
empty, and hunger and thirst together made a very sad state of
things. It was at the time when God ruled his people by raising
up brave, strong, wise men to help them in distress. But famine
is a foe very hard to fight against. I suppose as much was done
as could be done to help poor people while the drought lasted;
but who could bring water to fill the wells, and refresh the
fields? No doubt many died, and the rest had to suffer and wait.
Some of the people went off to other countries. That must have
been a very hard thing for an Israelite to do in those days. The
Jews are scattered everywhere now. But, at present, their land
is kept from them and desolate. There is no temple for them in
it, nor ark of God. Yet even to this day they yearn over their
lost country. In those days the tabernacle and the ark were in
Canaan, and to go away from it, to one that knew and loved God,
was like going from His presence. Yet some even of the good had
to go, just as God’s children still have to suffer like others,
that they may be humbled and tried, and blessed in the end.
Among the good Israelites who left their country to go to some
other land, where the dearth was not raging, was a man of the
name of Elimelech. It was a fine name to wear in a time of
distress: for it means My God is king, and it would seem to say,
Never mind the famine; God is reigning, and will make all things
work for good to those who trust him. This man Elimelech had a
wife, who was called Naomi, and two grown sons. He had a farm in
the neighbourhood of Bethlehem; but though the very name of the
little town means House of bread, there was no bread to be got
out of the farm for Elimelech and his family So they went away
east, over the river Jordan, into the land of Moab, and sought a
living there among strangers. A singular and beautiful thing
grew out of this emigration of theirs.
The famine continued for years in the land of Canaan, and
Elimelech and his household lived on in the country of Moab. At
first, I suppose, they felt much from home, and longed to get
back. But as months and years went past, Moab became less
strange to them. Several things helped this. Elimelech, first of
all, died shortly after they went there. Then the two sons of
Naomi, who was left a widow with them, saw young maidens of the
people of Moab that pleased them, and they asked them in
marriage, and had wives whom they loved in the strange country.
Then both the young husbands died, and the three widows were
left to weep by the three graves of their dead husbands. To two
of them Moab was home; and even to Naomi the country where the
dust of her wedded lord and two beloved sons was lying, could
not help being dear.
Still the widow of Elimelech would not forget Judah, and the
farm that was her own in the land of God’s promise. So when
after ten years had passed she heard that the dearth had ceased,
and that there was bread again in the old country, she felt
desirous to return, and see the home she had left in the day of
want. One day she proposed to her daughters-in-law to leave the
place where they were, and set out on a journey to the country
of Israel. Now both of them were very fond of their
mother-in-law, and they said they were quite ready to go with
her, and set out at once. After they had gone some distance,
Naomi, wishing, I suppose, to try them, how far they were
willing to go through trouble for her sake, or perhaps,
beginning to doubt whether she was doing right in taking them
away from their own people, said to them, “Go back now, my
children, each of you to your mother's house. The Lord be kind
to you, for you have been very good and kind to my dead sons,
and to me. I hope that each of you will, ere long, be happy and
at home in the house of a loving husband. God bless you both.”
But they both said, “No, surely we will go with you; we would
like to live with you among your own people, in the land about
which you have often told us such wonderful stories.” The
widowed Naomi, however, still urged them to go back; she said
she could not get them homes such as they had had, and they had
better stay and be married in Moab. At last one of them (her
name was Orpah) was persuaded to return. But it was a sad and
yet sweet thing to see how they parted. They wept and kissed,
and wept and kissed again. At length the farewell was over, and
Orpah went home. Then Naomi said to the other, “See, your sister
is gone back to her people and their gods; go you too.” But Ruth
(that was her name) would not hear a word more from her
mother-in-law. She said, “Do not ask me again to leave you;
nothing but death will part you and me; I will not go back. I
have quite made up my mind that, wherever you go, I will go with
you. Your people shall be my people, and your God shall be my
God. When you come to die, mother, if I live after you, I will
live till I die in the same place, and my grave shall be made
close by yours. Nothing shall separate us.” When Naomi heard
Ruth say that, she said no more. Indeed Ruth was so perfectly in
earnest that she had made an oath about it; not lightly or
profanely, but solemnly, to show that nothing could change her
mind. So the two widows, older and younger, travelled on
After a while they came to Bethlehem, which Naomi had left ten
years before. Now ten years make a great change on most people.
In that space of time, boys and girls grow to be men and women,
and persons in their prime get to have grey hairs. But the
change is greater when grief, as well as time, has been at work.
So when Naomi came back to the town where she had been so well
known, all her old friends came round about her wondering. They
said, “Such a change! We should not have known you. Can you be
Naomi?” “Yes,” she said, “but do not call me by my old name.
Call me Marah.” Naomi means beautiful or pleasant, and Marah
means bitter. So she said, “Don’t call me Pleasant, call me
Bitter, for the Lord has dealt bitterly with me. I had a husband
and two sons when I went away, and now I have only this widowed
daughter. I was full before, now I am empty.” Yet, by and by,
she came to feel that her emptiness was preparing for a great
fulness. That daughter-in-law was to bring to her great joy, and
to be one of the mothers who were honoured to be in the line
that at last gave to the world the blessed child Jesus.
QUESTIONS FROM THE BIBLE STORY.
1. Can you find a passage that speaks of a worse famine than
that of bread or water?
2. Where do we read of a famine in the land of Israel when
plenty came back in a single day?
3. What land was it that supplied corn to people of other
countries, when dearth was trying them all?
4. Can you find texts in which the use of water to make trees
grow fast and fair and fruitful is spoken of?
5. What wise man did God raise up to save many lives in dearth?
6. What poor woman, with only enough left for one meal, was
wonderfully provided for in a time of famine?
7. Can you find a text where it is foretold what dreadful things
would happen for want during a siege of cities in Israel?
8. What husband and wife once left their home in Israel, for
fear of a king’s rage against a little child dear to them?
9. What psalm shows how dear Judah and Jerusalem were to those
who had been obliged for a time to live in another country?
10. Where have we a name given in sorrow, and for the purpose of
keeping the sorrow in mind, changed for one expressive of joy?
11. Who was it that, being father of a numerous family, lost
them all in a sudden storm?
12. Who was it that thought himself bereaved of two sons, when
it was not the fact?
13. Can you find a text in which daughter-in-law appears to be a
name even dearer than that of daughter?
ANSWERS to the foregoing questions will be found in the
following chapters. -- Amos viii.; 2 Kings vii.; Gen. xli.; Isa.
xliv. and Ps. i.; Gen. xli. and l.; 1 Kings xvii.; Deut.
xxviii.; Matt. ii.; Ps. cxxxvii.; Gen. xxxv.; Job i; Gen. xlii.;
Micah vii. and Matt. x.
O GOD our Maker and Preserver, we thank thee that from day to
day thou hast given us bread to eat, and clothing to wear. We
could not live but for Thy kind care. We pray Thee to give us
still our daily bread. Make us content with that; and if Thou
givest us more, help us to use Thy bounty so as to glorify Thy
name. Bless all rich people with kind hearts, that will prompt
them to aid the poor. Bless the poor that they may look to Thee,
and hope in Thy goodness. If anywhere in the world just now
there is dearth, do Thou relieve the wants of the suffering
people. Bring the abundance of one place to help the lack that
is in another. May the days soon come when every part of the
world shall be known to all the rest, and if it need help, shall
have it freely. May all men soon be brethren, and know and love
Him who is our Brother in heaven. This we ask for His name’s
HEAVENLY Father, bless to us Thy word. May it be as good seed
cast into a soil prepared for its reception. Water it abundantly
by the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven. Prevent the enemy of
souls from sowing tares, or in any way rendering the word
unprofitable. May there be a rich harvest to Thy glory. During
the remaining part of this day may we enjoy much of Thy
presence. May the common duties of life be means of grace to us,
because performed with a single eye to Thy glory, and thus may
our sabbaths upon earth be a foretaste of the rest that
remaineth for Thy people. Forgive the sins or our service, and
accept us for Christ’s sake. Amen.
HYMN, or Psalm cvii. 10-15.
JESUS, where’er thy people meet,
There they behold thy mercy seat;
Where’er they seek thee thou art found,
And every place is hallowed ground.
For thou, within no walls confined,
Inhabitest the humble mind;
Such ever bring thee where they come,
And going, take thee to their home.
Here may we prove the power of prayer
To strengthen faith, and sweeten care,
To teach our faint desires to rise,
And bring all heaven before our eyes.
Lord, we are few, but thou art near,
Nor short thine arm, nor deaf thine ear;
O rend the heavens, come quickly down,
And make a thousand hearts thine own.
LUKE XXII. 14-39.
AND when the hour was come he sat down, and the twelve apostles
with him. 15. And he said unto them, With desire I have desired
to eat this passover with you before I suffer: 16. For I say
unto you, I will not any more eat thereof, until it be fulfilled
in the kingdom of heaven. 17. And he took the cup, and gave
thanks, and said, Take this, and divide it among yourselves: 18.
For I say unto you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine,
until the kingdom of God shall come. 19. And he took bread, and
gave thanks, and brake it, and gave unto them, saying, This is
my body, which is given for you; this do in remembrance of me.
20. Likewise also the cup after supper, saying, This cup is the
new testament in my blood, which is shed for you. 21. But,
behold, the hand of him that betrayeth me is with me on the
table. 22. And truly the Son of man goeth, as it was determined;
but woe unto that man by whom he is betrayed! 23. And they began
to enquire among themselves, which of them it was that should do
this thing. 24. And there was also a strife among them, which of
them should be accounted the greatest. 25. And he said unto
them, The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and
they that exercise authority upon them are called benefactors.
26. But ye shall not be so: but he that is greatest among you,
let him be as the younger; and he that is chief, as he that doth
serve. 27. For whether is greater, he that sitteth at meat, or
he that serveth? is not he that sitteth at meat? but I am among
you as he that serveth. 28. Ye are they which have continued
with me in my temptations: 29. And I appoint unto you a kingdom,
as my Father hath appointed unto me; 30. That ye may eat and
drink at my table in my kingdom, and sit on thrones, judging the
twelve tribes of Israel. 31. And the Lord said, Simon, Simon,
behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as
wheat: 32. But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not:
and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren. 33. And he
said unto him, Lord, I am ready to go with thee, both into
prison, and to death. 34. And he said, I tell thee, Peter, the
cock shall not crow this day, before that thou shalt thrice deny
that thou knowest me. 35. And he said unto them, When I sent you
without purse, and scrip, and shoes, lacked ye anything? And
they said, Nothing. 36. Then he said unto them, But now, he that
hath a purse, let him take it, and likewise his scrip: and he
that hath no sword, let him sell his garment, and buy one, &c.
HEAVENLY Father, we draw near unto Thee in the evening of Thine
own day. We bless Thee that we can assemble for worship in our
own dwelling, none daring to make us afraid. May our prayer come
up before Thee as incense, and the lifting up of our hands as
the evening sacrifice. We put our songs and petitions into the
hands of our great High Priest, through whose merit alone we
look for acceptance with Thee. We confess that our best services
are sinful, and all our righteousness as filthy rags. Even in
the calm of Thine own day we have been worldly in our
affections, and grovelling in our desires. Sprinkle us afresh
with with the blood of Jesus, that our sins may be taken away
and our whole nature consecrated to Thy glory. We recall to
remembrance the evening, when Jesus came into the midst of his
disciples, and said, Peace be unto you. Lord Jesus, deign to
come unto us: make Thyself known as all our salvation and
desire. Thy peace is what our souls need, and without which we
are like the waves of the sea which cannot rest. As we have been
forgiven much, help us to love much; and though the honour is
not ours of anointing Thy feet, yet do Thou accept the love and
gratitude of our hearts. And may it not be in this day alone
that we have Thy presence. Having begun the week with Thee, may
it be continued and ended with Thee. May a sense of Thy presence
always incite us to duty, and check us when tempted to wander in
forbidden paths. Help us to follow Thee fully, and to copy Thine
example in everything. Bless us at this time, as forming a part
of Thy worshipping people. In diverse places and many tongues
they worship, yet in Thy sight they appear as one vast
congregation. May our family song blend with that of the great
multitude, and to our individual hearts may the answers come.
Will it please Thee to bless the preaching of the Gospel this
day to all who have heard it? May it prove as manna to the
hungry, to strengthen them for the pilgrimage that remains. May
it be as a sword in the hearts of the King’s enemies, and
henceforth may they acknowledge His sceptre. Bless all
instruction imparted to the young this day, whether in the
Sunday school or around the family altar. May the rising race be
found in the ways of righteousness. Write Thy name in each
youthful heart and each name in the Book of Life; and when the
fathers shall be no more, may their places in Thy church be
filled by their children. We commend unto Thee all absent
relatives and friends; may they share in the blessings which we
have invoked upon ourselves. We commend ourselves to Thy kind
protections during the night. May we lie down and be refreshed
with sleep and strengthened thereby for the duties of the coming
day. May the close of every day remind us of the end of life;
and when life’s day is done may we sleep in Jesus, and awake in
His presence, and be for ever with Him. And all we ask is in the
name of Jesus. Amen.
MORNING AND EVENING MEDITATIONS.
A glorious high throne from the beginning is the place of our
O Lord, the hope of Israel, all that forsake thee shall be
ashamed, and they that depart from me shall be written in the
earth, because they have forsaken theLord, the fountain of
Heal me, O Lord, and I shall be healed; save me, and I shall be
saved: for thou art my praise.
Be not a terror unto me: thou art my hope in the day of evil.
But do thou for me, O God the Lord, for thy name’s sake: because
thy mercy is good, deliver thou me.
Jer. xvii. 12, 13, 14, 17. Ps. cix. 21.
I have set watchmen upon thy walls, O Jerusalem, which shall
never hold their peace day nor night: ye that make mention of
the Lord, keep not silence;
And give him no rest, till he establish, and till he make
Jerusalem a praise in the earth.
Behold, the Lord hath proclaimed unto the end of the world, Say
ye to the daughter of Zion, Behold, thy salvation cometh;
behold, his reward is with him, and his work before him.
And they shall call them, The holy people.
Isa. lxii. 6, 7, 11, 12.
My beloved spake, and said unto me, Rise up, my love, my fair
one, and come away.
Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after
me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.
For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; and whosoever
will lose his life for my sake shall find it.
And every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or
sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands,
for my name’s sake, shall receive an hundred -fold, and shall
inherit everlasting life.
They forsook all, and followed him.
Song. ii. 10. Matt. xvi. 24, 25. Matt. xix. 29. Luke v. 11.
I remember the love of thine espousals, when thou wentest
after me in the wilderness, in a land that was not sown.
Thus saith the Lord, What iniquity have your fathers found in
me, that they are gone far from me, and have walked after
vanity, and become vain?
Wherefore I will yet plead with you, saith the Lord, and with
your children’s children will I plead.
For my people have committed two evils, they have forsaken me,
the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns,
broken cisterns, that can hold no water.
Jer. ii. 2, 5, 9, 13.
The angel of the Lord encampeth round about them that fear
him, and delivereth them.
O fear the Lord, ye his saints: for there is no want to them
that fear him
Hungry and thirsty, their souls fainted in them.
Then they cried unto the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered
them out of their distresses.
And which of you, with taking thoughts, can add to his stature
If ye then be not able to do that thing which is least, why take
ye thought for the rest?
For all these things do the nations of the world seek after: and
your Father knoweth that ye have need of these things.
Ps. xxxiv. 7, 9. Ps. cvii 5, 6. Luke xii. 15, 26, 30.
Let them exalt him also in the congregation of the people,
and praise him in the assembly of the elders.
He turneth rivers into a wilderness, and the watersprings into
A fruitful land into barrenness, for the wickedness of them that
He turneth the wilderness into a standing water, and dry ground
And there he maketh the hungry to dwell, that they may prepare a
city for habitation;
And sow the fields, and plant vineyards, which may yield fruits
He blesseth them also, so that they are multiplied greatly, and
suffereth not their cattle to decrease.
Ps. cvii. 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38.
Beware that thou forget not the Lord thy God, in not keeping
his commandments, and his judgments, and his statutes.
Lest when thou hast eaten and art full, and hast built goodly
houses, and dwelt therein;
Then thine heart be lifted up, and thou forget the Lord thy God,
And thou say in thine heart, My power, and the might of mine
hand, hath gotten me this wealth.
But thou shalt remember the Lord thy God: for it is he that
giveth thee power to get wealth.
Deut. viii. 11, 12, 14, 17, 18.
Go to now, ye rich men, weep and howl for your miseries that
shall come upon you.
Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are moth-eaten.
Your gold and silver is cankered; and the rust of them shall be
a witness against you, and shall eat your flesh as it were fire.
For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the
lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father,
but is of the world.
And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that
doeth the will of God abideth for ever.
James v. 1, 2, 3. 1 John ii. 16, 17.
The righteous considereth the cause of the poor: but the
wicked regardeth not to know it.
Is this not the fast that I have chosen? to loose the bands of
wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed
go free, and that ye break every yoke?
Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry, and that thou bring
the poor that are cast out to thy house? When thou seest the
naked, that thou cover him; and that thou hide not thyself from
thine own flesh?
Then shall thy light break forth as the morning, and thine
health shall spring forth speedily; and thy righteousness shall
go before thee: the glory of the Lord shall be thy reward.
Prov. xxix. 7. Isa. lviii. 6, 7, 8.
Rejoice not when thine enemy falleth; and let not thine heart
be glad when he stumbleth;
Lest the Lord see it, and it displease him, and he turn away his
wrath from him.
Fret not thyself because of evil men, neither be thou envious at
If thine enemy be hungry, give him bread to eat: and if he be
thirsty, give him water to drink:
For thou shalt heap coals of fire upon his head, and the Lord
shall reward thee.
But thou hast fully known my doctrine, manner of life, purpose,
faith, long-suffering, charity, patience.
Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer
Prov. xxiv. 17, 18, 19. Prov. xxv. 21, 22. 2 Tim. iii. 10, 12.
When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee;
and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou
walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burnt; neither shall
the flame kindle upon thee.
For I am the Lord thy God, the Holy One of Israel, thy Saviour.
Since thou wast precious in my sight, thou hast been honourable,
and I have loved thee.
Isa. xliii. 2, 3, 4.
The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men
count slackness; but is long-suffering to us-ward, not willing
that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.
But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in
the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and
the elements shall melt with fervent heat.
Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what
manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and
2 Pet. iii. 9, 10, 11..
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