Sermon 2680. Ruth Deciding for God
INTENDED FOR READING ON LORD'S-DAY, JUNE 24, 1900.
DELIVERED BY C. H. SPURGEON,
AT THE METROPOLITAN TABERNACLE, NEWINGTON, ON THURSDAY EVENING, APRIL 21, 1881.
"And Ruth said, Entreat me not to leave you, or to return from following after you: for where you go, I will go; and whereyou lodge, I will lodge: your people shall be my people, and your God my God." Ruth 1:16.
THIS was a very brave, outspoken confession of faith. Please 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 anybodyfrom making an open confession of allegiance to God when faith inthe Lord Jesus Christ has been exercised. If that is your experience, my dear Friend, then whoever you may be, you will findan opportunity, somewhere or other, of declaring that you are on the Lord's side. I am glad that all candidates for membershipin our Church make their confession of faith at our Church Meetings. I have been told that such an ordeal must keep a greatmany from joining us, yet I notice that where there is no such ordeal, they often have very few members-but here we are with5,600 or thereabouts, in Church fellowship and, very seldom, if ever, finding anybody kept back by having to make an openconfession 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 shallever deviate from our custom. I have also noticed that when people have once confessed Christ before men, they are very aptto do it again somewhere else. And they thus acquire a kind of boldness and outspokenness upon religious matters-and a holycourage 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 necessityfor her to speak right straight out and say, in the words of our text, "Entreat me not to leave you, or to return from followingafter you: for where you go, I will go; and where you lodge, I will lodge: your people shall be my people, and your God myGod." What is there for any of us to be ashamed of in acknowledging that we belong to the Lord Jesus Christ? What can therebe that should cause us to be ashamed of Jesus, or make us blush to acknowledge 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 morerevere His name." We ought to be ashamed of being ashamed of Jesus! We ought to be afraid of being afraid to acknowledge Him!We ought to tremble at trembling to confess Him and to resolve that we will take all suitable opportunities that we can findof 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, especiallythe last part of it-"Your people shall be my people, and your God my God." Naomi had suffered great temporal loss. She hadlost her husband and her two sons, but now she had found the soul of her daughter-in-law. And I believe that, according tothe scales of true judgment, there ought to have been more joy in her heart at the conversion of Ruth's soul than grief overthe death of her husband and her sons. Our Lord Jesus has told us that "there is joy in the presence of the angels of Godover one sinner that repents." 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 Believ-Volume 46 www.spurgeongems.org 1
ers-if they had been walking aright before the Lord-as, let us hope, they had done, she need not have felt such sorrow forthem 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 shouldbe the means of the spiritual life of another, there is a clear gain! I am sure there is and though you may have gone weepingto the grave, yet if you have evidence that, with those tears, there were also tears of repentance on the part of others ofyour family-and with that sad glance into the grave there was also a believing look at the dying, risen, and living Savior-youare decidedly a gainer and you need not say with Naomi, "I went out full, and the Lord has 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 havebeen 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 inthe direct line of the progenitors of Christ-a right royal woman-for I count that the line of Christ is the true imperialline and that they were the most highly honored among men and women who were in any way associated with the birth of the Saviorinto this world. And Ruth, though a Moabitess, was one of those who were elected to share in this high privilege. So I begyou, if you have been sorrowful because of any deaths in your family circle, pray God to outweigh that sorrow with a greatermeasure 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-itwas when she came out from the idolatrous Moabites among whom she had, as you see, relatives, and friends, and acquaintances-itwas 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 youngwoman who was so closely related to her. It may be that some of you professedly Christian people have been living at a distancefrom God. You have not led the separated life. You have tried to be friendly with the world as well as with Christ-and yourchildren are not growing up as you wish they would. You say that your sons are not turning out well and that your girls aredressy, 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 doing so, 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 thathas the greatest power in the family and the world, too. If a soldier in the barracks is converted and he says, "I mean tobe 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 tavernwith them," and so forth, he will do no good. But the moment he boldly takes his stand for his new Captain and is known tobe a Christian-his comrades may begin to scoff at him, but they will also begin to be impressed-and if he bravely maintainsthat stand and never gives way in the least degree, but is faithful to his Lord and Master, then he will be likely to seeconversions 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 decidedto be a follower of Jehovah and to say, "Your people shall be my people, and your God my God." This gave her great joy, buthow must some of you Christian people feel when you find out that others have been caused to stumble through your living ata distance from Christ? What pangs of remorse will seize you when you discover that your arm has been paralyzed for good-thatyou have been unable to lead others to the Savior because you, yourself, were living so far from Him that it was a seriousquestion whether you were not growing to be a worshipper of the Moabite idols and giving up altogether your profession ofbeing a follower of the one true God?
Now, with this as a preface, I come directly to the subject of the text. Here is a young woman who says to a follower of Jehovah,"Your people shall be my people, and your 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 untoher, Surely we will return with you unto your people." They were both drawn part of the way towards Canaan, but, alas, naturalaffection has not sufficient power, in itself, to draw anybody to a decision for God! It may be helpful to that end. It maybe 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 a decisionand 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 of God and become all the more wicked because God has blessedtheir 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 thatour affection for godly people should help to draw us towards godliness. In Ruth's case, by the Grace of God, it was the meansof leading her to the decision expressed in our text, "Your people shall be my people, and your God my God."
Many forces may be combined to bring others to this decision. First, there is the influence of companionship. Nobody doubtsthat evil company tends to make a man bad. And it is equally sure that good companionship has a tendency to influence mentowards 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 isa 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 aspecial privilege to be linked for life, in the closest bonds, with one whose prayers may rise with ours, and whose praisesmay also mingle with ours. There is something about Christian companionship which must count in the right direction unlessthe heart is 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 Ruthlooked 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 unselfishperson-not one who, because of her own great sorrow, would burden others with it and pull them down to her own level in orderthat they might in some way assist her. She was one who considered the interests of others rather than her own-and all suchpersons are sure to win admiration and esteem. When a Christian man so lives that others see something about him which theydo not perceive in themselves, that is one way in which they are often attracted towards the Christian life. When the sickChristian is patient. When the poor Christian is cheerful. When the Believer in Christ is forgiving, generous, tenderhearted,sympathetic, honest and upright, then it is that observers say, "Here is something worth looking into-from where comes allthis excellence?" And they take knowledge of them that they have been with Jesus and that they have learned these things ofHim-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 Savior. 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 Naomiwould be only too glad to tell her all she knew. When the Spaniards went over to South America, they treated the poor nativesso badly that the Indians did not wish to know anything about the Spaniards' god, for they thought, from the cruelties theyhad suffered, that he must be a devil! And there are certain sorts of professors who are so unkind-they have such an absenceof everything gentle and generous about them-that one does not want to know anything about their god, for if they are likehe, he probably isthe 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 thenbe 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 wildernessand how the goodly land, which flowed with milk and honey, had been given to them by the hand of Joshua. Then she would tellthem about the tabernacle and its worship, and talk to them about the lamb, and the red heifer, and the bullock, and the sin-offeringand so on. And it was thus, probably, that Ruth's heart had been won to Jehovah, the God of Israel. And, perhaps, for thatreason-because of Naomi's instruction-Ruth said to her, "'Your people shall be my people.' I know so much about them thatI want to be numbered with them. 'And your God shall be my God.' You have told me about Him-what wonders He has worked-andI have resolved to trust myself under the shadow of His wings." Well, Beloved, it ought to be thus with us, also. We shouldtake care that the influence of our companionship, the influence of our lives in which there should be something for observersto admire and the influence of our conversation, which should be full of gracious instruction, should lead those who comeunder 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 whomthey love. And though I do not put this forward as one of the highest and strongest motives, yet I do feel at liberty to suggestto some young people here that their sins are a great grief to their loving fathers and mothers and that, if their heartswere 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 itwas an infinitely surpassing joy as, one after the other, they told me that they had sought and found the Savior! To praywith 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 howmuch those who love you would be cheered if you were converted-especially any of you who have not lived as you should havedone-who have, perhaps, even gone away from home and acted in a way that might well bring your father's gray hairs in sorrowto 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 countryto 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. Itwas somewhat to this effect. His son had been such a scapegrace and such a disgrace to his family that he was helped to goabroad-and he came to London to join the ship. As he had heard his father speak of me, he thought that he would spend hislast Thursday night, before starting on the Friday morning, in hearing me in this Tabernacle. And here God met with him, forI was moved by the Holy Spirit to say, "Here you are, Jack-going away from home, from your father's house, oh, that the greatFather in Heaven would take you to Himself!" It happened that his name was Jack, so it was the very words for him-and theLord blessed it to him then and there. He went to America. He did not write to his father to tell him about his conversiontill he had had time to prove the reality of it. But when he had been baptized and had joined the Church, and walked consistentlyfor six months, he sent the good news home. The old man said, "I thought he might have been lost at sea, but the Lord hadsaved 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 itwas 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 ashe had become a true Believer in the Lord Jesus Christ! What a mercy it would be if this sermon should be blessed as thatone 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 downstairsto the communion and I had to go home, or to remain with the spectators in the gallery. I did not like to be separated fromher even here. And then, Sir, the thought stole over me, 'What if I have to be divided from her forever and ever?'" I thinkthat 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 from an awful distance, with a great gulf fixed between her and you, so that shecannot cross over to you, or you go over to her! There will come a day when one shall be taken and another left. And beforethe great separation takes place at the Judgment Seat of Christ-when there shall be a division made between the goats andthe sheep, and between the tares and the wheat-I implore you to let the influence of the godly whom you love help to drawyou 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 secondobservation which is, that which RESOLVES TO GODLINESS WILL BE TESTED. Ruth speaks very positively-"Your people shall be mypeople, and your God my God." This was her resolve, but it was a resolve which had already been put to the test and she 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 has dealt very bitterlywith me," yet Ruth says, "Your God shall be my God." I like that brave resolution of the young Moabitess. Some people say,"We would like to be converted, for we want to be happy." Yes, but suppose you knew that you would notbe happy after conversion?You still ought to wish to have this God to be your God. Naomi has lost her husband, she has lost her sons, she has lost everything-sheis going back penniless to Bethlehem-and yet her daughter-in-law says to her, "Your 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 Christand a cross-then your decision to be His follower is true and real! It has been tested by the afflictions and the trials whichyou 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 hadtold her daughter-in-law that there was no hope that she should ever bear a son who could become a husband to Ruth-and thatshe 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 wishedher to do so. But, my young Friend, before you say to any Christian, "Your people
shall be my people, and your God my God," count the cost! Remember if you are following an evil trade, you will have to giveit up. If you have formed bad habits, you will have to forsake them. And if you have had bad companions, you will have toleave 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 aswell as up upon the hills? Are you ready to carry His Cross as you hope, afterwards, to share His crown? If you can standthe test in detail-such a test as Christ set before those who wanted to be His followers on earth-then is your decision aright one!
Ruth had been tried, too, by the apparent coldness of one in whom she trustedand whom she had a right to trust, for Naomidid not at all encourage her. Indeed, she seemed to discourageher. I am not sure that Naomi is to be blamed for that and Iam not certain that she is to be much praised. You know, it is quite possible for you to encourage people too much. I haveknown some encouraged in their doubts and fears till they never could get out of them. At the same time, you can certainlyvery easily chill enquirers and seekers. And though Naomi showed her love to Ruth, yet she did not seem to have any very greatdesire to bring her to follow Jehovah. This is a test that many young people find to be very trying-but this young woman saidto her mother-in-law, "Entreat me not to leave you, or to return from following after you: for where you go, I will go; andwhere you lodge, I will lodge: your people shall be my people, and your 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 influenceof one young person upon another when they are of the same age, or when they are related as these two were. You went to therevival meeting with a friend and she was as much impressed as you were. She has gone back to the world and the temptationis 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 feltthe force of the Word of God, but your companion has gone back to where he used to be. Can you hold out, now, and say, "Iwill follow Christ alone if I cannot find a companion to go with me?" If so, it is well with you-
"Can you cleave to your Lord? Can you cleave to your Lord,
When the many turn aside?
Can you witness He has the living Word,
And none upon earth beside?
And can you endure with the virgin band,
The lowly and pure in heart,
Who, wherever the Lamb does lead,
From His footsteps never depart?
Do you answer, 'We can'? Do you 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 ismeant, for after she had solemnly declared that she would follow the Lord, we read, "When she saw that she was steadfastlyminded to go with her, then she stopped speaking unto her." She left off stating the black side of the case, but she doesnot appear to have talked to her about the bright side. "She stopped speaking unto her." The good woman was so sorrowful thatshe could not talk! Her heart-break was so great that she could not converse. And such silence must have been very tryingto 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 verymournful Christian and not to get one encouraging word!
Sometimes, Brothers and Sisters, we must swallow our own bitter pills as fast as we can, that we may not discourage othersby 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, for here comes one who might be discouraged by my grief." You rememberhow the Psalmist, when he was in a very mournful state of mind, said, "If I say, I will speak thus-
behold, I should offend against the generation of your 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 Savior, butlet 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 behelped 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 she still 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 ofDestruction? Or will you, like Christian, pursue your way and steadfastly hold on through the Slough of Despond, or whateverelse 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-"YourGod shall be my God."
First, dear Friends, God is the Believer's choicest possession. Indeed, it is the distinguishing mark of a Christian thathe acknowledges a God. Naomi had not much else-no husband, no son, no lands, no gold, no silver, no pleasure, even-but shehad a God. Come, now, my Friend, are you determined that, henceforth and forever, 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, asHe had been to Naomi-her Ruler and Law-Giver. When anyone truthfully says, "God shall be my God," there is some practicalmeaning 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 endeavor 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, butto 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 inthe God who is revealed to us in the Bible. "What?" you say. It is so, I grieve to say it. 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 theGod of the Old Testament-He is said to be too strict, too severe, too stern for our modern teachers. They do not believe inHim. The God of Abraham is dethroned by many, nowadays, and in His place they have a spineless god, like those of whom Mosesspoke, "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 quitea new god since his day-but, Brothers and Sisters, I believe in the God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and of Jacob! This God ismy God-yes, 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 theGod whom I adore-He is the God and Father of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, full of mercy, compassion and Grace, tenderand gentle, yet just and dreadful in His holiness and terrible out of His holy places. This is the God whom we worship andhe who comes to Him in Christ, and trusts in Him, will take Him to be his Instructor-and so shall he learn aright all thathe needs to know. But woe unto the men of this day who have made unto themselves a calf of their own devising which has nopower to bless or to save them! "Your God" says Ruth to Naomi-not another god-not Chemosh or Moloch, but Jehovah-"shall bemy 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-firstto trust Him with your soul through Jesus Christ the Savior-and then to trust Him with everything and in everything. I amspeaking what I know! The life of sense is death, but the life of faith is life, indeed! Trust God about temporary things-no,I do not know any division between temporary things and spiritual things-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 thingswill be right about you. It is because we get to partlytrusting God and partly trusting ourselvesthat 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-anda whole series of wonders is spread out before you! Your life becomes like a miracle, or a succession of miracles, God hearingyour prayers and answering you out of Heaven, delivering you in
the time of trial, supplying your every need and leading you always onward by a matchless way which you know not, which everymoment shall cause you greater astonishment and delight as you see the unfolding of the Character of God. Oh, that each oneof 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, forRuth said, "Your 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 haveall manner of bad things to say in Moab about Bethlehem-Judah, but I do not mind that, for I am going to be, from now on,an inhabitant of Bethlehem and to be reckoned in the number of the Bethlehem people, 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 willingto be spoken against, too? I daresay that the Bethlehem people were not all that Ruth could have wished them to be. Even Naomiwas not-she was too sad and sorrowful-but, still, I expect that Ruth thought that her mother-in-law was a better woman thanshe was herself. I have heard people find fault with the members of our Churches and say that they cannot join with them forthey are such an inferior sort of people. Well, I know a great many different sorts of people and, after all, I shall be quitecontent to be numbered with God's people, as I see them even in His visible Church, rather than to be numbered with any otherpersons in the whole world! I count the despised people of God the best company I have ever met with-and I often say of thisTabernacle, 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 Savior, 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, "butperhaps I may." Well, but it will not be a perfect church the moment you have joined it, for it will cease to be perfect assoon 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 Churchand gave Himself for it"-then may I not think it an honor 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 theycan get! Yet the loaves and fishes are always a bait for some people. But there was Ruth, going with Naomi to Bethlehem-andall that the townsfolk would do would be to turn out and stare at them and say, "Is this Naomi? And pray who is this youngwoman that has come with her? This Naomi-dear me! How altered she is! How worn she looks! Quite the old woman to what shewas when she left us." Not much sympathy was given to them, as far as I gather from that remark, yet Ruth seemed to say, "Ido not care how they treat me. They are God's people, even if they have a great many faults and imperfections, and I am goingto 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, youwill bring a good deal to it, for that is the true spirit of Christ. "It is more blessed to give than to receive." Yet, inany 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 Bethlehem people might be, there was among them one notable being, and it wasworth while to join the nation for the sake of union with him. Ruth found it all out by degrees. There was a near kinsmanamong those people and his name was Boaz. She went to glean in his field and, by-and-by, she was married to him. Ah, thatwas 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 faultstheymay have, is so fair and lovely that He more than makes up for all their imperfections! My Lord Jesus Christ, in the midstof His people, makes them all fair in His fairness and makes me feel that to be poor with the poorest and most illiterateof the Church of Christ, meeting in a village barn, is an unspeakable honor 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 onthe list, there may be a number of odds and ends put down with Him-members of different denominations, some strange persons,some very old people-as long as His name is on the list, I do not mind about what others are
there, put my name down! Oh, that I might have the eternal honor of having my name written even at the bottom of the pagebeneath the name of Jesus, my Lord, the Lamb! As Boaz was there, it was enough for Ruth, and as Christ is here, that is quiteenough 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 inthe Scriptural fashion, and God bless you in the doing of it, for Christ's sake! Amen.