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RUTH.LONG, long ago there was a sore famine in the land of Judah, and the peoplewere in great straits for want of food. A family who had suffered much, thoughtto make matters better by removing into the country of Moab, so the father andmother and their two sons went and dwelt there. The famine did not follow them,but they had to meet with sad changes. First the father died, and this was a heavytrial to the mother, who was left a widow in a strange land with her two sons.One trouble came after another like the waves of the sea. The two sons diedleaving their young widows, Orpah and Ruth, behind them. The mother, whosename was Naomi, was left alone with her daughters-in-law. ow that herhusband and her two sons were dead she felt lonely and desolat, and she beganto think much of her native country and the friends she had left there. She alsoheard that the Lord had been kind to His people, and had sent them plenty of food,so she told her daughters-in-law that she would go back to the land of Judah.They said they would go with her, for they would not leave her to go alone. Naomiwould not hear of this, and begged them again and again not to leave the placeof their birth, for she was old and could do nothing to help them. Orpah wentback, but Ruth would not leave her mother-in-law. The words which Ruth spaketo her at this time of sorrow are most touching, and have been set to beautiful music."Entreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whitherthou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge; thy people shall bemy people, and thy God my God. Where thou diest, will I die, and there will I beburied: the Lord do so to me, and more also, if aught but death part thee and me."They went on their way together, and arrived at Bethlehem at the time of thebarley-harvest. They were very poor, but they were rich in love to one another.They were so poor that Ruth went into a field to glean among the reapers of awealthy farmer whose name was Boaz. He saw her a stranger, and was verykind to her; he told her to come and glean as often as she wished, and commandedhis servants to show her every kindness. By and by he was so pleased with herthat he made her his wife, and there was great joy amongst the friends of Boaz.All the people of Bethlehem were very glad, but there was none more so thanNaomi herself. Everybody had a good word to say of this happy couple, and manywere the blessings that were invoked upon their wedded life. A son was born tothem, and he became the grandfather of David, the shepherd king of Israel.i The Baldwin LibrarImO mB
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THE SHUNAMMITE'S SON.THERE was a woman of good repute and of great renown who lived at Shunemin the days of the prophet Elisha. She was very kind to him, and whenevershe saw him coming she invited him into her house, and set food before him andhis servant. At last she prepared a small apartment for his special use, and puttherein a table, a stool, and a candlestick. This was called Elisha's chamber,and as often as he passed that way he turned in to rest and to be refreshed. Thiskind friend would doubtless make the room as clean and tidy and comfortableas hands could make it, and she would have great pleasure in keeping it as nicelyas possible for the sole use of the prophet. It pleased the Lord in return for herkindness, and in answer to the prayers of the man of God, to give her a sweetlittle child. This dear son was a new joy to her heart and her home. Howquickly the time now passed, and how full of sunshine was the dwelling! for thepattering of little feet and the music of a child's voice were there. Who can tellthe joy of that mother's heart as her little boy became more engaging every day?The harvest came round, and the father was out among the reapers; the childfound his way to the field, and how delighted his father was to see him playingamong the yellow grain. It was a proud day to the parent's heart, and a glad timeto the reapers, as the child clapped his hands with joy or hid among the sheaves.Suddenly he screamed out, "My head, my head." Perhaps it was sunstroke hegot on the harvest-field. He was carried home at once to his mother, and laidon her lap, where he died at noon. With a sad heart she laid her dead childon the prophet's bed, and went to seek him.On hearing of the death of the little boy the prophet at first sent his staffwith his servant to lay upon the child, but the heart was still and would notthrob, and there was no breath in the child, to show that life had come back.At last the prophet came himself, and he went in beside the dead child, and shutthe door, and prayed for life. He' took him in his own warm bosom, and besoughtthe Lord to have pity on the mother, who was in great distress.Life was granted in answer to. prayer. What words can tell the joy of thatmother's heart when she saw her only dear boy restored to life, and pressed him oncemore to her bosom in all the fulness of her love?Let us learn from this the power of prayer, and be encouraged to make all ourrequests known unto the Lord.
THE SHEPHERD KING.M ANY great and illustrious men have sprung from shepherd life, but Davidexcels them all. His father Jesse had large flocks at Bethlehem, and on theplains and uplands all around that famous ancient town the youthful shepherdkept his father's sheep. He was the youngest of eight sons, and he was the fairestlooking of them all, for "he was ruddy, and of a beautiful countenance, andgoodly to look to." He was a noble lad, kind and brave, and swift of foot. Whena lion and a bear broke into the flock he killed them both, and so preserved thelives of the sheep. While tending his father's flock he was never idle, for hespent all his leisure time in learning to play upon the harp, and he was lookedupon as one of the best musicians in the land. When an evil spirit of melancholypossessed King Saul the young minstrel was sent for to the court, and every timehe played on his harp the king was refreshed and was well, and the evil spiritdeparted from him.He was also a great poet, and wrote many beautiful songs, such as the twenty-third psalm, that will be sung till the end of time. Better still, he was a deeplypious youth, and had strong trust in God. Never, during his whole life, did heshow this more than when he went out to fight the great giant of the Philistines,Goliath of Gath, who day after day came out and proudly defied God and thehosts of Israel. The young shepherd, who had left his sheep in the wilderness,went out to meet the giant with a staff, and a sling, and five smooth stones outof the brook. Goliath, who was armed to the teeth with heavy mail, looked at thestripling with scorn, and said, " Come, and I will give thy flesh to the fowls of theair, and to the beasts of the field." David's trust was in the Lord, who had deliveredhim out of the paw of the lion, and out of the paw of the bear, and so, nothingdaunted, he said to the Philistine, "Thou comest to me with a sword, and witha spear, and with a shield: but I come to thee in the name of the Lord of hosts,the God of the armies of Israel, whom thou hast defied. This day will the Lorddeliver thee into mine hand; that all the earth may know that there is a Godin Israel." The giant fell by the hand of the shepherd lad, who thus, by the helpof God, wrought a great deliverance for His people. After the death of SaulDavid became a mighty king, and raised the nation to great power.He has left a rich dower of blessing to all times in the Psalms which he wrote,so full of loving trust in the Almighty God. No sacred poet has ever touched thehuman heart so deeply as he has done. Where is the boy or the girl, in any pioushome, who cannot repeat the immortal twenty-third psalm?The Lord's my shepherd, I'll not want.He makes me down to lieIn pastures green: he leadeth methe quiet waters by.
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THE LITTLE HEBREW MAID.NAAMAN was a great man in his day. He was a captain of the host of theKing of Syria. When the people saw him riding past them, in his gildedchariot, drawn by beautiful horses with gorgeous trappings, and servants in richattire, they bowed the knee to the king's greatest favourite, and thought thatNaaman must be the happiest man in the kingdom. But ah! he was a leper, andwhat was all his greatness, all the splendour of his gay equipage, what all his rank,and titles, and honours, when he was the victim of this terrible disease? "Hewas a leper." This was the worm that gnawed at the root of all his greatness.But the Lord had mercy in store for him, and the little Hebrew maid, that was inthe service of Naaman's wife, was the means of bringing her master a cure. Shehad been taken captive in one of the frequent raids that the bands of the Syrianshad made into the land of Israel. She saw her mistress sad, and becoming sadderevery day, as the leprosy of her husband grew worse and worse. Though youngin years, she was quick enough to discern the cause of the heavy burden that lay onthe heart of her mistress. One day when the little captive maid saw Naaman'swife very sad, and shedding many bitter tears, she said to her, "Would God, mylord were with the prophet that is in Samaria! for he would recover him of hisleprosy." Here was a ray of hope at least to the sorrowing wife, and Naaman alsowas soon told these words, and his heart revived. The king urged his favouritecaptain to go and try what could be done by the prophet in the land of Israel. Thewretched leper made great preparations for the journey, and took many valuablepresents with him, for what will a man not give to get rid of a sore disease?At last he came to the humble dwelling of the prophet Elisha, and stood at thedoor with his chariot, and horses, and servants, and all the presents that he hadbrought. The prophet sent a messenger to say that the leper was to go to theJordan, and wash in it seven times. Naaman's pride was wounded, for he thoughtthe least thing the prophet would do, was to come out and make a great ado, bywords and by gestures. But the prophet stayed within doors, and so Naamanthought, "if he will not trouble himself to come out, and do as I wish, I will nottrouble myself to go to the Jordan, and try such a simple cure. I have rivers inmy own country, which I think better than the Jordan," and so he was about toleave in a rage, but his servants persuaded him to do as he had been told. At lasthe thought better of the prophet's command, and he went and washed in the Jordan.To his delighted surprise his flesh came back like that of a little child. What achange was wrought on his mind and on his body! Now his joy and his gratitudeknew no bounds, and he did not know how to reward the prophet.L
THE THREE HEBREW YOUTHS.ONE of the greatest kings of ancient times was Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon.He conquered many nations, and led them away as captives to people thegreat towns which he had built. He was the scourge of the Jewish nation, whomhe had subdued, and it is on this account that we read so much about him in theBible. He carried off their noblest young men to Babylon, and some of these roseto great honour and distinction in his court. Although they were removedto a foreign land, and placed in the midst of those who worshipped the gods of theheathen, they never forgot the God of their fathers, and in all their trials they neverceased to pray to him, and to give him the loving trust of their hearts. Threeof these young men have become illustrious in the records of the Bible. Theirnames will go down as heroes through all the ages, because they chose to part withall the honours of the court, the favour of the king, and with life itself, rather thanforget their God. When the king had waxed great in power, and was at thehead of many conquered nations, his heart was lifted up in pride, and he causedan immense golden image to be made to his god, to whom he thought he owedall his victories. He set up this image of gold in the centre of a vast plain, whereit could be seen at a great distance. When the sun shone on this image of goldthe sight was dazzling to the eye. The king's decree was, that every one shouldfall down and worship that image, and if any one refused to do so he mustbe put to death. This was a great trial to the three Hebrew youths, for theywould not bow down to a strange god, no, not even to please the king. Whenhe heard this he was filled with wrath, and his countenance was terrible to lookon. They were brought before him, but they did not quail in that awful presence.The king commanded the furnace to be heated seven times more than usual.Three of the strongest men in his army laid hold of the three Hebrew youths, andcast them into the fire. The promise of God was now fulfilled to those noblewitness-bearers, "When thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned,neither shall the flames kindle upon thee." Not a hair of their head was singed in theflames which swept over them. The Lord sent his angel, and the fire had no powerto hurt.The king was astonished beyond measure when he saw this heavenly messengerwalking with them in the furnace. "Come forth," he said, "ye servants of themost High God." And they walked out from the midst of the flames withoutthe smell of fire, and with no change whatever upon their clothes. They soughtGod in the hour of trial, and they found him. They were true to the God of theirfathers, and he stood true to them, and threw his loving arms around them in thedevouring flames. "Them that honour me, I will honour."Stand by the truth and God will stand by you, and bring you safely throughall trial.
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DANIEL IN THE DEN OF LIONS.DANIEL was another Hebrew youth, who was raised to the highest honourin the kingdom of Babylon. He was placed at the head of all the nativeprinces, and because the king showed him so much favour, and gave him so muchpower, their hearts were filled with envy and spite against him. They eagerlysought every day for some occasion or another so that they might accuse him toKing Darius. But Daniel was so wise and so careful in every matter, thatnotwithstanding all the hatred they bore him they could find nothing to lay to hischarge. They continued, however, to watch for his halting, and they set spies overhim in the hope that they would succeed. They were baffled in all their attemptsto find him in fault; and so they formed a conspiracy against him, and betookthemselves to the king. They urged him to make a decree and sign it at once,that if any person would present a petition to any god or any man during a periodof thirty days, save to the king himself, he should be cast into a den of lions. Theking signed the decree, not knowing the secret design of these wicked men. "Now,"they said, "we have this fellow in our power." They did not need to wait long,for he was in the habit of praying three times a day. They knew this, and so theyset a watch to see if he would offer prayer to his God at the stated times he waswont to do. Daniel made no difference, but knelt down upon his knees three timesa day and gave thanks to his God as he did aforetime. The windows of hischamber were open towards Jerusalem, the city of his fathers, which he never couldforget, and the bad men who got the king to sign the decree saw him through theopen windows praying to his God. Off they hastened to the king, and accusedthe man whom they could not endure to see above them. The king heard it withmuch sorrow, for he had a great love to Daniel, and he turned over and over againin his mind how he could .save his life. But he could not alter the decree whichhe had signed, and so his favourite prime-minister was cast into the den of lions.What a terrible death he had now to face, and his enemies, who had brought himto this, went back to their houses with glad hearts, because he had always stoodbetween them and their wicked designs. Now they would see him no more, and theywould do as they pleased. So they thought, and they went home to rejoice overthis. The king could not sleep that night. No music could soothe his troubledspirit, so he rose very early in the morning and came to the den. In the stillnessof the morning hour he listened, but he could not hear a sound either from man orbeast. There was the seal, which he had affixed to the stone the night before, stillunbroken. But was Daniel alive? The king called to him in a voice choking withgrief, and the reply of the prophet showed his loyalty to the king, and the faithfulnessof a covenant-keeping God. "0 king, live for ever. My God hath sent his angel,and hath shut the lions' mouths, that they have not hurt me." No words candescribe the joy of the king when he heard this, or the gratitude of the prophet'sheart.