Ruth Deciding for God
“And Ruth said, Intreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God.” — Ruth i. 16.
THIS was a very brave, outspoken confession of faith. Please to notice that it was made by a woman, a young woman, a poor woman, a widow woman, and a foreigner. Remembering all that, I should think there is no condition of gentleness, or of obscurity, or of poverty, or of sorrow, which should prevent anybody from making an open confession of allegiance to God when faith in the Lord Jesus Christ has been exercised. If that is your experience, my dear friend, then whoever you may be, you will find an opportunity, somewhere or other, of declaring that you are on the Lord’s side. I am glad that all candidates for membership in our church make their confession of faith at our church-meetings. I have been told that such an ordeal must keep a great many from joining us; yet I notice that, where there is no such ordeal, they often have very few members, but here are we with five thousand six hundred, or thereabouts, in church-fellowship, and very seldom, if ever, finding anybody kept back by having to make an open confession of faith in Christ. It does the man, the woman, the boy, or the girl, whoever it is, so much good for once, at least, to say right out straight, “I am a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, and I am not ashamed of it,” that I do not think we shall ever deviate from our custom. I have also noticed that, when people have once confessed Christ before men, they are very apt to do it again somewhere else; and they thus acquire a kind of boldness and outspokenness upon religious matters, and a holy courage as followers of Christ, which more than make up for any self-denial and trembling which the effort may have cost them.
I think Naomi was quite right to drive Ruth, as it were, to take this brave stand, in which it became an absolute necessity for her to speak right straight out, and say, in the words of our text, “Intreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God.” What is there for any of us to be ashamed of in acknowledging that we belong to the Lord Jesus Christ? What can there be that should cause us to be ashamed of Jesus, or make us blush to own his name?
“Ashamed of Jesus! that dear Friend
On whom my hopes of heaven depend!
No: when I blush, be this my shame,
That I no more revere his name.”
We ought to be ashamed of being ashamed of Jesus; we ought to be afraid of being afraid to own him; we ought to tremble at trembling to confess him, and to resolve that we will take all suitable opportunities that we can find of saying, first to relatives, and then to all others with whom we come into contact, “We serve the Lord Christ.”
I should think that Naomi was — certainly she ought to have been — greatly cheered by hearing this declaration from Ruth, especially the last part of it: “Thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God.” Naomi had suffered great temporal loss; she had lost her husband and her two sons; but now she had found the soul of her daughter-in-law; and I believe that, according to the scales of true judgment, there ought to have been more joy in her heart at the conversion of Ruth’s soul than grief over the death of her husband and her sons. Our Lord Jesus has told us that “there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth;” and I always understand, by that expression, that there is joy in the heart of God himself over every sinner’s repentance. Well, then, if Naomi’s husband and sons were true believers, — if they had been walking aright before the Lord, — as, let us hope, they had done, she need not have felt such sorrow for them as could at all compare with the joy of her daughter-in-law being saved.
Perhaps, some of you, dear friends, have had bereavements in your homes; but if the death — the temporal death — of one should be the means of the spiritual life of another, there is a clear gain, I am sure there is; and though you may have gone weeping to the grave, yet, if you have evidence that, with those tears, there were also tears of repentance on the part of others of your family, and with that sad glance into the grave there was also a believing look at the dying, risen, and living Saviour, you are decidedly a gainer, and you need not say, with Naomi, “I went out full, and the Lord hath brought me home again empty.” Really Naomi, with her converted daughter-in-law at her side, if she had only been able to look into the future, might have been a happier woman than when she went away with her husband and her boys, for now she had with her one who was to be in the direct line of the progenitors of Christ, — a right royal woman; for I count that the line of Christ is the true imperial line, and that they were the most highly honoured among men and women who were in any way associated with the birth of the Saviour into this world; and Ruth, though a Moabitess, was one of those who were elected to share in this high privilege. So I beg you, if you have been sorrowful because of any deaths in your family circle, to pray God to outweigh that sorrow with a greater measure of joy because, by his grace, he has brought other members of your family to trust in Jesus.
Another thought strikes me here; that is, that it was when Naomi returned to the land which she ought never to have left, it was when she came out from the idolatrous Moabites among whom she had, as you see, relatives, and friends, and acquaintances, — it was when she said, “I will go back to my own country, and people, and God,” — that then the Lord gave her the soul of this young woman who was so closely related to her. It may be that some of you professedly Christian people have been living at a distance from God. You have not led the separated life; you have tried to be friendly with the world as well as with Christ, and your children are not growing up as you wish they would. You say that your sons are not turning out well, and that your girls are dressy, and flighty, and worldly. Do you wonder that it is so? “Oh!” you say, “I have gone a good way to try to please them, thinking that, perhaps, by so doing, I might win them for Christ.” Ah! you will never win any soul to the right by a compromise with the wrong. It is decision for Christ and his truth that has the greatest power in the family, and the greatest power in the world, too. If a soldier in the barracks is converted, and he says, “I mean to be a Christian; but, at the same time, I will join with the other men as much as I can; I will sometimes step into the public-house with them,” and so forth, he will do no good. But the moment he boldly takes his stand for his new Captain, and is known to be a Christian, his comrades may begin to scoff at him, but they will also begin to be impressed; and if he bravely maintains that stand, and never gives way in the least degree, but is faithful to his Lord and Master, then he will be likely to see conversions among his fellow-soldiers.
It was while Naomi was on her way back to her own land that she heard the good news that her dear daughter-in-law had decided to be a follower of Jehovah, and to say, “Thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God.” This gave her great joy; but how must some of you Christian people feel when you find out that others have been caused to stumble through your living at a distance from Christ? What pangs of remorse will seize you when you discover that your arm has been paralyzed for good, that you have been unable to lead others to the Saviour, because you yourself were living so far off from him that it was a serious question whether you were not growing to be a worshipper of the Moabitish idols, and giving up altogether your profession of being a follower of the one true God!
Now, with this as a preface, I come distinctly to the subject of the text. Here is a young woman who says to a follower of Jehovah, “Thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God.”
I. My first observation is, that AFFECTION FOR THE GODLY SHOULD INFLUENCE US TO GODLINESS.
It did so in this case. Affection for their godly mother-in-law influenced both Orpah and Ruth for a time, “and they said unto her, Surely we will return with thee unto thy people.” They were both drawn part of the way towards Canaan; but, alas! natural affection has not sufficient power in itself to draw anybody to decision for God. It may be helpful to that end; it may be one of the “cords of a man” and “bands of love” which God, in his infinite mercy, often uses in drawing sinners to himself; but there has to be something more than that mere human affection. Still, it ought to be of some service in leading to decision; and it is a very dreadful thing when those who have godly parents seem to be the worse rather than the better for that fact, or when men, who have Christian wives, rebel against the light, and become all the more wicked because God has blessed their homes with godly women who speak to them, lovingly and tenderly, concerning the claims of the religion of Jesus. That is a terrible state of affairs, for it ought always to be the case that our affection for godly people should help to draw us towards godliness. In Ruth’s case, by the grace of God, it was the means of leading her to the decision expressed in our text, “Thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God.”
Many forces may be combined to bring others to this decision. First, there is the influence of companionship. Nobody doubts that evil company tends to make a man bad, and it is equally sure that good companionship has a tendency to influence men towards that which is good. It is a happy thing to have side by side with you one whose heart is full of love to God. It is a great blessing to have as a mother a true saint, or to have as a brother or a sister one who fears the Lord; and it is a special privilege to be linked for life, in the closest bonds, with one whose prayers may rise with ours, and whose praises may also mingle with ours.
There is something about Christian companionship which must tell in the right direction unless the heart be resolutely bent on mischief. There is something more than this, however, and that is, the influence of admiration. There can be no doubt whatever that Ruth looked with loving reverence and admiration upon Naomi, for she saw in her a character which won her heart’s esteem and affection. The few glimpses which we have of that godly woman, in this Book of Ruth, show us that she was a most disinterested and unselfish person, not one who, because of her own great sorrow, would burden others with it, and pull them down to her own level in order that they might in some way assist her. She was one who considered the interests of others rather than her own; and all such persons are sure to win admiration and esteem. When a Christian man so lives that others see something about him which they do not perceive in themselves, that is one way in which they are often attracted towards the Christian life. When the sick Christian is patient, when the poor Christian is cheerful, when the believer in Christ is forgiving, generous, tenderhearted, sympathetic, honest, upright, then it is that observers say, “Here is something worth looking at; whence came all this excellence?” And they take knowledge of them that they have been with Jesus, and that they have learnt these things of him; and in that way they are themselves inclined to become his followers.
Nor is it only by companionship and admiration that people are won to the Saviour; there is also the influence of instruction. I have no doubt that Naomi gave her daughter-in-law much helpful teaching. Ruth would want to know about Naomi’s God, and Naomi would be only too glad to tell her all she knew. When the Spaniards went over to South America, they treated the poor natives so badly that the Indians did not wish to know anything about the Spaniards’ god, for they thought, from the cruelties they had suffered, that he must be a devil; and there are certain sorts of professors who are so unkind, they have such an absence of everything gentle and generous about them, that one does not want to know anything about their god, for if they are like him, probably he is the devil.
But, dear friends, it ought not to be so with us. We should make people want to know what our religion really is, and then be ready to tell them. I have no doubt that, many a time, in the land of Moab, when her daughters-in-law ran in to see her, Naomi would begin telling them about the deliverance at the Red Sea, and how the Lord brought his people through the wilderness, and how the goodly land, which flowed with milk and honey, had been given to them by the hand of Joshua. Then she would tell them about the tabernacle and its worship, and talk to them about the lamb, and the red heifer, and the bullock, and the sin-offering, and so on; and it was thus, probably, that Ruth’s heart had been won to Jehovah the God of Israel. And, perhaps, for that reason, — because of Naomi’s instruction, — Ruth said to her, “‘Thy people shall be my people;’ I know so much about them, that I want to be numbered with them; ‘and thy God shall be my God.’ Thou hast told me about him, what wonders he has wrought, and I have resolved to trust myself under the shadow of his wings.” Well, beloved, it ought to be thus with us also. We should take care that the influence of our companionship, the influence of our lives, in which there should be something for observers to admire, and the influence of our conversation, which should be full of gracious instruction, should lead those who come under our influence in the right way,
Besides that, I have no doubt that some persons are drawn towards good things by a desire to cheer the godly persons whom they love; and, though I do not put this forward as one of the highest and strongest motives, yet I do feel at liberty to suggest to some young people here that their sins are a great grief to their loving fathers and mothers, and that, if their hearts were given to Christ, it would fill the whole house with holy joy. It was a great joy to me when my sons were born, but it was an infinitely surpassing joy as, one after the other, they told me that they had sought and found the Saviour. To pray with them, to point them yet more fully to Christ, to hear the story of their spiritual troubles, and to help them out of their spiritual difficulties, was an intense satisfaction to my soul. Ah! my young friends, you do not know how much those who love you would be cheered if you were converted, — especially any of you who have not lived as you should have done, — who have, perhaps, even gone away from home, and acted in a way that might well bring your father’s grey hairs in sorrow to the grave. I think that he would almost dance with delight if he could only hear that you were truly converted to God. I know a minister, who took out of his pocket an old letter that was nearly worn to pieces; he made a journey from the country to bring it up for me to see. It was not really old, it was worn out because he had so constantly taken it out to read. It was somewhat to this effect. His son had been such a scapegrace, and such a disgrace to his family, that he was helped to go abroad, and he came to London to join the ship. As he had heard his father speak of me, he thought that he would spend his last Thursday night, before starting on the Friday morning, in hearing me in this Tabernacle; and here God met with him, for I was moved by the Holy Spirit to say, “Here you are, Jack; going away from home, from your father’s house. Oh, that the great Father in heaven would take you to himself!” It happened that his name was Jack, so it was the very word for him, and the Lord blessed it to him there and then. He went to America. He did not write to his father to tell him about his conversion till he had had time to prove the reality of it; but when he had been baptized, and had joined the church, and walked consistently for six months, he sent the good news home. The old man said, “I thought he might have been lost at sea, but the Lord had saved him through your preaching. God bless you, sir!” I had a thousand blessings heaped upon my head by that grateful father. It was only a simple sermon that I had preached on a Thursday night, but it was the means of that son’s conversion, and it was the source of great joy to that father. He did not mind about his son being in America, or what he was doing, so long as he had become a true believer in the Lord Jesus Christ. What a mercy it would be if this sermon should be blessed as that one was!
I think, too, that there was another thing which had great influence over Ruth, as it has had over a great many other people. That is, the fear of separation. “Ah!” said one to me, only last week, “it used to trouble me greatly when my wife went downstairs to the communion, and I had to go home, or to remain with the spectators in the gallery. I did not like to be separated from her even here; and then, sir, the thought stole over me, ‘What if I have to be divided from her for ever and ever?’” I think that a similar reflection ought, with the blessing of God, to impress a good many. Young man, if you live and die impenitent, you will see your mother no more, except it be from an awful distance, with a great gulf fixed between her and you, so that she cannot cross over to you, or you go over to her. There will come a day when one shall be taken and another left; and before the great separation takes place, at the judgment-seat of Christ, when there shall be a sundering made between the goats and the sheep, and between the tares and the wheat, I do implore you to let the influence of the godly whom you love help to draw you towards decision for God and his Christ.
II. My time would fail me if I dwelt longer on this point, though it is a very interesting one, so I must pass on to my second observation, which is, that RESOLVES TO GODLINESS WILL BE TESTED. Ruth speaks very positively: “Thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God.” This was her resolve, but it was a resolve which had already been put to the test, and had in great measure satisfactorily passed through it.
First, it had been tested by the poverty and the sorrow of her mother-in-law. Naomi said, “The Almighty hath dealt very bitterly with me;” yet Ruth says, “Thy God shall be my God.” I like that brave resolution of the young Moabitess. Some people say, “We should like to be converted, for we want to be happy.” Yes, but suppose you knew that you would not be happy after conversion, you ought still to wish to have this God to be your God. Naomi has lost her husband, she has lost her sons, she has lost everything; she is going back penniless to Bethlehem, and yet her daughter-in-law says to her, “Thy God shall be my God.” Oh, dear friends, if you can share the lot of Christians when they are in trouble, if you can take God and affliction, if you can accept Christ and a cross, then your decision to be his follower is true and real. It has been tested by the afflictions and the trials which you know belong to the people of God, yet you are content to suffer with them in taking their God to be your God, too.
Next, Ruth’s decision had been tested when she was bidden to count the cost. Naomi had put the whole case before her. She had told her daughter-in-law that there was no hope that she should ever bear a son who could become a husband to Ruth, and that she had better stay and find a husband in her own land. She set before her the dark side of the case, — possibly too earnestly. She seemed as if she wanted to persuade her to go back, though I do not think that, in her heart, she could really have wished her to do so. But, my young friend, before you say to any Christian, “Thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God,” count the cost. Recollect. if you are following an evil trade, you will have to give it up; if you have formed bad habits, you will have to forsake them; and if you have had bad companions, you will have to leave them. There are a great many things, which have afforded you pleasure, which must become painful to you, and must be renounced. Are you prepared to follow Christ through the mire and the slough, as well as along the high road, and down in the valley as well as up upon the hills? Are you ready to carry his cross as you hope, afterwards, to share his crown? If you can stand the test in detail, — such a test as Christ set before those who wanted to be his followers on earth, then is your decision a right one, but not else.
Ruth had been tried, too, by the apparent coldness of one in whom she trusted, and whom she had a right to trust, for Naomi did not at all encourage her; indeed, she seemed to discourage her. I am not sure that Naomi is to be blamed for that, and I am not certain that she is to be much praised. You know, it is quite possible for you to encourage people too much. I have known some encouraged in their doubts and fears till they never could get out of them. At the same time, you can certainly very easily chill enquirers and seekers. And though Naomi showed her love to Ruth, yet she did not seem to have any very great desire to bring her to follow Jehovah. This is a test that many young people find to be very trying; but this young woman said to her mother-in-law, “Intreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God.”
Another trial for Ruth was the drawing back of her sister-in-law. Orpah kissed Naomi, and left her; and you know the influence of one young person upon another when they are of the same age, or when they are related as these two were. You went to the revival meeting with a friend, and she was as much impressed as you were. She has gone back to the world, and the temptation is for you to do the same. Can you stand out against it? You two young men went to hear the same preacher, and you both felt the force of the Word; but your companion has gone back to where he used to be. Can you hold out now, and say, “I will follow Christ alone if I cannot find a companion to go with me”? If so, it is well with you.
“Can ye cleave to your Lord?
Can ye cleave to your Lord,
When the many turn aside?
Can ye witness he hath the living Word,
And none upon earth beside?
And can ye endure with the virgin band,
The lowly and pure in heart,
Who, whithersoever the Lamb doth lead,
From his footsteps ne’er depart?
“Do ye answer, ‘We can’?
Do ye answer, ‘We can,
Through his love’s constraining power’?
But, ah! remember the flesh is weak,
And will shrink in the trial-hour.
Yet yield to his love, who round you now,
The bands of a man would cast;
The cords of his love, who was given for you,
To the altar binding you fast.”
But one of the worst trials that Ruth had was the silence of Naomi. I think that is what is meant, for after she had solemnly declared that she would follow the Lord, we read, “When she saw that she was stedfastly minded to go with her, then she left speaking unto her.” She left off stating the black side of the case, but she does not appear to have talked to her about the bright side. “She left speaking unto her.” The good woman was so sorrowful that she could not talk, her heart-break was so great that she could not converse, but such silence must have been very trying to Ruth; and when a young person has just joined the people of God, it is a severe test to be brought face to face with a very mournful Christian, and not to get one encouraging word. Sometimes, brethren and sisters, we must swallow our own bitter pills as fast as ever we can, that we may not discourage others by making a wry face over them. It is sometimes the very best thing a sorrowful person can do to say, “I must not be sad; here is young So-and -so coming in. I must be cheerful now, for here comes one who might be discouraged, by my grief.” You remember how the psalmist, when he was in ft very mournful state of mind, said, “If I say, I will speak thus; behold, I should offend against the generation of thy children. When I thought to know this, it was too painful for me.” Let it be too painful for us to give any cause for stumbling or disquietude to those who have just come to the Saviour, but let us cheer and encourage them all we can. Still, Naomi’s silence did not discourage Ruth; she was evidently a strong-minded though gentle young woman, and she gave herself up to God and his people without any reserve. Even though she might not be helped much by the older believer, and might even be discouraged by her, and still more by the departure of her sister-in-law Orpah, yet still she pressed on in the course she had chosen. Well, you do the same, Mary; and you, Jane, and John, and Thomas. Will you be like Mr. Pliable, and go back to the City of Destruction? Or will you, like Christian, pursue your way, and steadfastly hold on through the Slough of Despond, or whatever else may be in your pathway to the Celestial City?
III. Now, thirdly, and very briefly, TRUE GODLINESS MUST MAINLY LIE IN THE CHOICE OF GOD. That is the very pith of the text: “Thy God shall be my God.”
First, dear friends, God is the believers choicest possession; indeed, it is the distinguishing mark of a Christian that he owns a God. Naomi had not much else, — no husband, no son, no lands, no gold, no silver, no pleasure even; but she had a God. Come, now, my friend, are you determined that, henceforth, and for ever, the Lord shall be your chief possession? Can you say, “God shall be mine; my faith shall grasp him now, and hold him fast”?
Next, God was, henceforth, to Ruth, as he had been to Naomi, her Ruler and Law-giver. When anyone truthfully says, “God shall be my God,” there is some practical meaning about that declaration; it means, “He shall influence me; he shall direct me; he shall lead me; he shall govern me; he shall be my King. I will yield to him and obey him in everything. I will endeavour to do all things according to his will. God shall be my God.” You must not want to take God to be your helper, in the sense of making him to be your servant; but to be your Master, and so to help you. Dear friends, does the Holy Spirit lead you to make this blessed choice, and to declare, “This God shall be mine, my Law-giver and Ruler from this time forth”?
Well, then, he must also be your Instructor. At the present day, I am afraid that nine people out of ten do not believe in the God who is revealed to us in the Bible. “What?” you say. It is so, I grieve to say. I can point you to newspapers, to magazines, to periodicals, and also to pulpits by the score, in which there is a new god set up to be worshipped; — not the God of the Old Testament, he is said to be too strict, too severe, too stern for our modern teachers. They do not believe in him. The God of Abraham is dethroned by many nowadays; and in his place they have a molluscous god, like those of whom Moses spoke, “new gods that came newly up, whom your fathers feared not.” They shudder at the very mention of the God of the Puritans. If Jonathan Edwards were to rise from the dead, they would not listen to him for a minute, they would say that they had quite a new god since his day; but, brethren, I believe in the God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and of Jacob; this God is my God; — ay, the God that drowned Pharaoh and his host at the Red Sea, and moved his people to sing “Hallelujah ” as he did it; the God that caused the earth to open, and swallow up Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, and all their company; — a terrible God is the God whom I adore; — he is the God and Father of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, full of mercy, compassion, and grace, tender and gentle, yet just and dreadful in his holiness, and terrible out of his holy places. This is the God whom we worship, and he who comes to him in Christ, and trusts in him, will take him to be his Instructor, and so shall he learn aright all that he needs to know. But woe unto the men of this day, who have made unto themselves a calf of their own devising, which has no power to bless or to save them! “Thy God” says Ruth to Naomi, — not another god, — not Chemosh or Moloch, but Jehovah — “shall be my God;” and so she took him to be her Instructor, as we also must do.
Then, let us take him to be our entire trust and stay. O my beloved friends, the happiest thing in life is to trust God, — first to trust him with your soul through Jesus Christ the Saviour, and then to trust him with everything, and in everything. I am speaking what I do know. The life of sense is death, but the life of faith is life indeed. Trust God about temporals, — nay, I do not know any division between temporals and spirituals; — trust God about everything, about your daily livelihood, about your health, about your wife, about your children; live a life of faith in God, and you will truly live, and all things will be right about you. It is because we get partly trusting God and partly trusting ourselves that we are often so unhappy. But when, by simple faith, you just cast yourselves on God, then you find the highest joy and bliss that is possible on earth, and a whole series of wonders is spread out before you; your life becomes like a miracle, or a succession of miracles, God hearing your prayers, and answering you out of heaven, delivering you in the time of trial, supplying your every need, and leading you ever onward by a matchless way which you know not, which every moment shall cause you greater astonishment and delight as you see the unfoldings of the character of God. Oh, that each one of you would say, “This God shall be my God; I will trust him; by his grace, I will trust him now.”
IV. The last thing is, that THIS DECISION SHOULD LEAD US TO CAST IN OUR LOT WITH GOD’S PEOPLE AS WELL AS WITH HIMSELF, for Ruth said, “Thy people shall be my people.”
She might have said, “You are not well spoken of, you Jews, you Israelites; the Moabites, among whom I have lived, hate you.” But, in effect, she said, “I am no Moabitess now. I am going to belong to Israel, and to be spoken against, too. They have all manner of bad things to say in Moab about Bethlehem-Judah; but I do not mind that, for I am going to be henceforth an inhabitant of Bethlehem, and to be reckoned in the number of the Bethlehemites, for no longer am I of Moab and the Moabites.”
Now, dear friend, will you thus cast in your lot with God’s people; and though they are spoken against, will you be willing to be spoken against, too? I daresay that the Bethlehemites were not all that Ruth could have wished them to be. Even Naomi was not; she was too sad and sorrowful; but, still, I expect that Ruth thought that her mother-in-law was a better woman than she was herself. I have heard people find fault with the members of our churches, and say that they cannot join with them, for they are such inferior sort of people. Well, I know a great many different sorts of people; and, after all, I shall be quite content to be numbered with God’s people, as I see them even in his visible church, rather than to be numbered with any other persons in the whole world. I count the despised people of God the best company I have ever met with; and I often say of this Tabernacle, as I hope members of other churches can say of their own places of worship, —
“Here my best friends, my kindred dwell,
Here God my Saviour reigns.”
“Oh!” says one, “I will join the church when I can find a perfect one.” Then you will never join any. “Ah!” you say, “but perhaps I may.” Well, but it will not be a perfect church the moment after you have joined it, for it will cease to be perfect as soon as it receives you into its membership. I think that, if a church is such as Christ can love, it is such as I can love; and if it is such that Christ counts it as his Church, I may well be thankful to be a member of it. Christ “loved the Church, and gave himself for it;” then may I not think it an honour to be allowed to give myself to it?
Ruth was not joining a people out of whom she expected to get much. Shame on those who think to join the church for what they can get! Yet the loaves and fishes are always a bait for some people. But there was Ruth, going with Naomi to Bethlehem, and all that the townsfolk would do would be to turn out and stare at them, and say, “Is this Naomi? And pray who is this young woman that has come with her? This Naomi, — dear me! How altered she is! How worn she looks! Quite the old woman to what she was when she left us.” Not much sympathy was given to them, as far as I gather from that remark; yet Ruth seemed to say, “I do not care how they treat me; they are God’s people, even if they have a great many faults and imperfections, and I am going to join them.” And I invite all of you who can say to us, “Your God is our God,” to join with the people of God, openly, visibly, manifestly, decidedly, without any hesitancy, even though you may gain nothing by it. Perhaps you will not; but, on the other hand, you will bring a good deal to it, for that is the true spirit of Christ. It is more blessed to give than to receive.” Yet, in any case, cast in your lot with the people of God, and share and share alike with them.
I conclude by saying that, whatever the other Bethlehemites might be, there was among them one notable being, and it was worth while to join the nation for the sake of union with him. Ruth found it all out by degrees. There was a near kinsman among those people, and his name was Boaz. She went to glean in his field; and, by-and-by, she was married to him. Ah! that was the reason why I cast in my lot with the people of God, for I said to myself, “There is One among them who, whatever faults they may have, is so fair and lovely that he more than makes up for all their imperfections. My Lord Jesus Christ, in the midst of his people, makes them all fair in his fairness; and makes me feel that, to be poor with the poorest and most illiterate of the Church of Christ, meeting in a village barn, is an unspeakable honour, since he is among them.” Our Lord Jesus Christ himself is always present wherever two or three are gathered together in his name. If his name is in the list, there may be a number of odds and ends put down with him, — members of different denominations, some queer persons, some very old people; but as long as his name is in the list, I do not mind about what others are there, put my name down. Oh, that I might have the eternal honour of having it written even at the bottom of the page beneath the name of Jesus, my Lord, the Lamb! As Boaz was there, it was enough for Ruth; and as Christ is here, that is quite enough for me. So I hope I have said sufficient to persuade you, who say that our God is your God, to come and join with us, or with some other part of Christ’s Church, and so to make his people to be your people. And mind you do it at once, and in the Scriptural fashion, and God bless you in the doing of it, for Christ’s sake! Amen.