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          Reflections on the book of Ruth (chapter 1)


by John Brown of Haddington


John Brown (1722-1787) was raised in extreme poverty, but his herdsman father was a godly man who led the family in worship morning and evening. He died when John was eleven, and his dear mother followed soon after, leaving the youth to earn his living as a shepherd in the hills around Abernethy, Scotland. From an early age he gave evidence of the work of Christ in him, and also of prodigious academic abilities to the disbelief of many, he taught himself New Testament Greek while in the fields with his flock. Having sought righteousness by the works of the law, he at length received and grew in the knowledge of God's grace, and as a good soldier of Jesus Christ was enabled to endure many early hardships and persecutions. He eventually became renowned as a pastor – though in a small Presbyterian denomination – and for his literary works such as the Self-Interpreting Bible and his devotional notes on the Metrical Psalms.


Numerous and diversified are the arrows in God's quiver for the punishment of men's sins: and often, while his enemies riot in plenty, his people are pinched with scarcity and want. A diligent care to provide for our family is highly commendable; but it is seldom safe to flee from God's land, though he frown on it, or to suffer scarcity of bread to draw us from the ordinances of God. It is not in fleeing from God’s mighty hand, but in humbling ourselves under it, that safety lies. It is not in outrunning crosses, but in taking them up and following Christ, that true comfort is to be had. Young people often mistake in their marriage, through want or neglect of their parents’ advice. But marriages and deaths are near neighbours, and one death in a family is but the forerunner and warning of another. Both comforts and crosses are often nearer us than we suspect; and if we are shut up into the society of the wicked, we should escape for our life as soon as our hindrances are removed. It is a mercy when God embitters our condition of distance from himself, that we may be weaned from it and hastened to our heavenly home; but yet it is pleasant to see near relations knit together in love, and loath to part. With the most strong and fixed resolution should we set out in the Lord's way, as we know not what repeated and strong temptations we may have to turn back; but the difficulties of the way, which discourage the temporary believer, will but bind the faithful soul the more closely to Jesus Christ. Nothing, no, not death, can separate them from him and his people. Poverty and age make great alterations on mankind; and it is proper that all around should remark it with solemn awe and cordial sympathy; for surely it is but madness to set our heart on that comeliness and wealth which so quickly fade. Let us, therefore, keep waiting on God in the way of his judgments; in patience possessing our souls; eyeing the Lord's hand in all that we meet with; humbling ourselves under humbling providences; mourning, but never murmuring, under his hand; and ever remarking how the minutest circumstances of our lives are directed by the over-ruling providence of God.




The Self-Interpreting Bible, 1831. pp 286-287