The Biblical Illustrator
Ye shall be holy.
The object of God’s laws
The position of this come mand at the head of the long list of precepts which follows is most significant and instructive. It sets before us the object of the whole ceremonial and moral law, and, we may add, the supreme object of the gospel also, namely, to produce a certain type of moral and spiritual character, a “holy” manhood; it, moreover, precisely interprets this term, so universally misunderstood and misapplied among all nations, as essentially consisting in a spiritual likeness to God: “Ye shall be holy: for I the Lord your God am holy.” These words evidently at once define holiness and declare the supreme motive to the attainment and maintenance of a holy character. This, then, is brought before us as the central thought in which all the diverse precepts and prohibitions which follow find their unity; and, accordingly, we find this keynote of the whole law echoing, as it were, all through this chapter, in the constant refrain, repeated herein no less than fourteen--twice seven--times; “I am the Lord!” “I am the Lord your God!” (S. H. Kellogg, D. D.)
A fountain of purity
One summer day, a few years ago, strolling for rest and pleasure near the mouth of the Columbia river, where there is a large rise and fall of the tide, I came, at low tide, upon a splendid spring of pure, fresh water, clear as crystal, gushing up from between the rocks that two hours before had formed a part of the river’s bed. Twice a day the soiled tide rises above that beautiful fountain and covers it over; but there it is, down deep under the salt tide, and when the tide has spent its force and gone back again to the ocean’s depths, it sends out its pure waters fresh and clear as before. So if the human heart be really a fountain of love to Christ it will send out its streams of fresh, sweet waters, even into the midst of the salt tides of politics or business. And the man who carries such a fountain into the day’s worry and struggle will come again at night, when the world’s tide has spent its force, with clean hands, sweet spirit, and conscience void of offence toward God and man. (S. S. Chronicle.)
Holiness silences the profane
Holiness has a mighty influence upon others. It stops the mouths of the ungodly, who are ready to reproach religion and throw the dirt of professors’ sins on the face of profession itself. They say frogs will cease croaking when a light is brought near them; the light of a holy conversation hangs, as it were, a padlock on profane lips. (W. Gurnall.)
Ye shall fear . . . mother . . . father.
This is a remarkable command, given by God to Moses. Not for the matter of it, for it is the same in substance with the fifth in the Decalogue. But as differing from that and other parallel passages, it is remarkable on two accounts. In those the father is always put first. It is, “Honour thy father and thy mother.” “He that smiteth his father and his mother, shall surely be put to death.” “My son, hear the instruction of thy father, and forsake not the law of thy mother.” “Hearken unto thy father that begat thee, and despise not thy mother when she is old.” “Honour thy father and thy mother, which is the first commandment with promise.” But here, mother is put first--“Ye shall fear every man his mother and his father.” Then again, the word “fear”--“Thou shalt fear thy mother and thy father,” occurs in no other passage. There must be a meaning, both in the word “fear,” and the singular collocation of the sentence. And what is it? Fathers are in general wont to govern their children more by authority, and mothers by love. Hence they are more afraid of offending their fathers than their mothers. This is especially the case with boys, about the time when they enter their teens. For three or four years they are more impatient of restraint than ever before or after. They are then apt to think they know much more than their mothers, and are quite capable of governing themselves. To guard against this undervaluing of their mother’s authority seems to have been the special design of the command in question. “Ye shall fear every man his mother”--detracting nothing from the father’s authority; hut putting the mother’s in the foreground, because there is danger of its being despised or overlooked. The word “fear,” in this case, is not quite synonymous with “honour,” in the fifth commandment. It has rather more intensity of meaning, if it is not more imperative. There is more of awe in fear, if not more of reverence. God intended to put both parents on the same level. Both are to be feared alike. And this purity of governmental control carries along with it corresponding obligations. Mothers must not shrink from exercising the authority with which God has clothed them, to “train Up their children in the way in which they should go,” however crossing it may sometimes be to their parental yearning. Let them rule by love as much as they can. The more the better. But restraint, by coercion, where nothing else will do, is one of the highest forms in which parental love is manifested. It would be wrong, it would be cruel to withhold it from the wayward child. Thousands upon thousands have been greatly wronged, if not ruined, by overweening motherly indulgence. The surest way ultimately to win that undying filial love, “which casteth out fear,” is to restrain and govern the boy just at the age when he is most restive under parental control. Woe to the child that breaks away from the authority which God has ordained. Evil is as surely before him as the going down of the sun (Proverbs 30:17). (Dr. Humphrey.)
Ungrateful children rebuked by birds
The birds can teach ungrateful children their duty towards aged parents. It is an old tradition with regard to storks, says Mr. Morris in his “British Birds,” that they take care of and nourish their parents when they are too old to take care of themselves, from whence the Greek word “pelargicos,” signifying the duty of children to take care of their parents; and “pelargicoi nomoi,” signifying the laws relating to that duty, both derived from the Greek word for a stork; “Pelargos,” from pelas, black; and “argos,” white, alluding to the prevailing colours of the stork. (Scientific Illustrations.)
A son’s devotion to his mother
I remember just now a young man whom the Lord has blessed on account of the love he has shown his mother. Many years ago when her husband died, she was walking the streets of Glasgow in sore distress, her heart being, as it were, in the grave with her husband. She was utterly heedless of the great crowd, and almost forgetful of the kindly little boy, then only three and a half years old, who was walking by her side. He reminded her that he was there by pulling her hand earnestly, and when she looked down to him, he said, “Mother, don’t cry!”--for he saw the tears were stealing down her cheeks--“I will be the father,” and the whole soul of the child was in his face. As he spoke those words the warmth of summer and the life of the spring-time of joy came again into the mother’s heart. God spared him to fulfil his promise, and to receive the blessing that is annexed to the fifth commandment, and I am glad he is living to-day a prosperous and honourable merchant. It is some years-since I joined him in laying his mother’s honoured head in the grave. Shortly before she died she was able, beautifully and lovingly, to testify that her son had amply redeemed the promise of his childhood, that what his father would have been, had he been spared, her son had successfully tried to be to her. (J. G. Cunningham.)
Respect for a mother
Men who have risen from humble life to wealth and high social rank have often been ashamed of their parents, and shown them little attention or respect. Such treatment indicates a vulgar mind. True nobility follows a different method. Richard Hurd, an eminent bishop of the Church of England at the close of the last century, was a man of courtly manners, of great learning, who moved with distinction in the best society in the kingdom. George III. pronounced him “the most naturally polite man he had ever known.” He, however, never failed to show the utmost respect for his mother, a farmer’s wife, of no education, but of sterling character. When he entertained large companies at the Episcopal Palace, he led her with a stately courtesy to the head of the table, and paid her the greatest deference. The high-born families who sat at his table reverenced his conduct, so becoming to a son and a gentleman. (New Orleans Democrat.)
Sacred to the memory of a mother
“I want,” said the late Emperor of Germany, the last but one, the great William, “I want a lamp such as Such-and-so has,” naming some distinguished member of the Court. The lamp was provided according to the very pattern, but his Majesty complained, on returning to his study after withdrawment, that he could not bear the savour of the room; the lamp was emitting smoke, and it was altogether intolerable, One of the secondary servants knew the reason, but dare not name it to his Majesty. One of the higher servants learned the cause and brought it under his Majesty’s attention. “It is because your Majesty turns down the light when you leave the study that occasions the emission of smoke and vapours, and if you will cease to do that all will be well.” “Ah,” said the sweet old patriarch of his nation, “I know how that is. I learned that in the days of our poverty. After the battle of Jena we were very poor, and my mother never allowed us to leave the room at night without turning down the light, and I continue to turn down the light in memory of my mother.” A beautiful example, a tender domestic story that. Here is a man who could have had a thousand lamps, yet in memory of the days of his poverty, when his mother taught him the uses of money, he kept turning down the light, saying, “Sacred to the memory of my mother.” (J. Parker, D. D.)
And keep My Sabbaths.--
The Sabbath kept
During the latter part of his life General Jackson was in the habit of coming down to New Orleans to see his old friends and comrades in arms and participate in the celebration of the glorious 8th of January. It happened on one of these visits that the 8th occurred on Sunday. General Plauche called upon the old hero and requested him to accompany the military to the battle-ground on the anniversary of the great day. “I am going to church to-morrow,” mildly observed the General. The military preparations for the celebration went on, and on Sunday morning at ten o’clock General Plauche called at the St. Charles and informed General Jackson that the military and civic processions were ready to accompany him to the scene of his glory. “General Plauche,” responded old Hickory, turning upon him the glance of his kindling eye, “I told you I was going to church to-day.” General Plauche withdrew, muttering to himself, “I might have known better.” The celebration was postponed till the next day.
Turn ye not unto idols.
Folly of idolatry
A Chinese wife was one day seen by a missionary to enter a temple. In her hands were some humble offerings, such as a twig, or rice, for propitiating the poor, blind deity. There he stood, some forty feet high, blackened and begrimed with the smoke of incense for hundreds of years. She presented her petition; she called upon the idol to protect and return in safety her husband, then on the sea in a storm. A few weeks after the missionary was there, and saw the same female enter the temple in a rage. She stood before the grim idol and cursed it for being so blind, so deaf, so helpless, as to let her husband perish! Yes, the wailing widow of heathen life only echoed the sad complaints of millions in Christian lands. They found their hopes and build their plans on just such baseless, blind, deaf gods as this humble dweller in darkness. The worldling ever prays to a god that is deaf and blind I (VanDoren, D. D.)
Thou shalt not wholly reap the corners of thy field.
A sermon to gleaners
The subject of gleaning in the fields may appear to some to be a very lowly one, and an address delivered exclusively to those who have been engaged in it, unnecessary: but a little reflection will suffice to remove such objections, if they ever existed in the mind of any person. Gleaning is not a humbler employment than that of a fisherman, and if the Lord turned the latter so as to convey instruction to His followers, there is no reason why the former should be beneath the notice of His ministers, in their efforts to reach the consciences of men. The custom of gleaning in the fields is very ancient. It is probable that it prevailed in the land of Canaan long before it was taken possession of by the children of Israel, and it is not unlikely that they found it there and adopted the practice. The nations who dwelt in this land were so wicked and abandoned that they were marked for destruction by the sword of Israel and of God. Their fields were fertile far beyond any fertility which now exists, as it was not an uncommon thing for grain to be reaped a hundred times beyond what was sown. The vines were so fruitful and the clusters were so large that the two men who went out as spies from the camp of the Israelites at Kadesh-Barnea, returned from the valley of Eschol carrying one bunch of grapes on a staff upon their shoulders as a specimen of what they saw growing in the vineyards. The gleaning of such fields and of such vineyards must have afforded no insignificant reward. When the Jews obtained possession of the land, after they had driven out the nations which were before them, God recognised gleaning in the Mosaic Law, and laid down rules for its regulation. The text which I have chosen from the nineteenth chapter of Leviticus contains part of this law; the rest will be found in Deuteronomy 24:1-22. God sanctioned the practice, and commanded that some grain and olives and grapes should be left to be gleaned by the poor, the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, and thus He required the Jews to pay to those who are more immediately depending for support on His bounty, a sort of tribute in acknowledgment of the tenure under which they held their land. The Jews paid no rent, because God Himself was the owner, having given it to them without price or reward; and when He commanded them to leave something for the poor gleaners in harvest, He did so that He might be able to bless His people in all the work of their hands. The reason why the Almighty sanctioned the practice of gleaning is very similar to this notion. He commanded His people to allow their fields to be gleaned, that they might always be kept in remembrance that they had been bondmen in Egypt. The recollection of this slavery was also preserved among them by the Sabbath, and by the command to do strict justice between man and man, as if the Almighty intended that the people, after they had attained to national power and prosperity, should be continually reminded of “the rock from whence they were hewn, and of the hole of the pit from whence they were digged.” The sight of poor persons gleaning in the fields always reminded the Jews that they had been in slavery in Egypt, and that like them they had been depending upon others for a hard and uncertain living. In’ fact, both the gleaners and the owners of the fields had been bondmen, and both were alike the receivers of God’s bounty, although in different ways and in different degrees. More than three thousand years have rolled past since this law was enacted, but the principle which it contains is just as applicable to gleaners now as it was then. The poor Jew, gleaning in the fields of his rich brethren, had been a slave, but after he got into the Promised Land he became free; and exactly so, every gleaner who now searches in the fields of the farmers for heads of grain is free. I mean to tell you that you are politically free, and that you do not owe obedience to any master, except you bind yourselves to serve him for some payment. You were never slaves, as the Jews had been in Egypt, when they were forced to serve in a cruel bondage. But, let me ask you, are you really free? When you were gleaning in the fields this harvest, could you say with truth that you had once been slaves, but that you were now free? A person gleaning in the fields in harvest may be free, but she is a slave, bound hand and foot, if sin have the dominion over her. A woman gathering heads of grain in the fields may be free, but she is a slave if she spend her hard-won earnings in the public-house, drinking out of the cup which cheers, but swallowing along with the drink liquid fire and death. That gleaner is free who goes out and comes in without any to forbid, but she is a slave to the custom of gleaning, which is otherwise lawful, if, for the sake of the trifle which she may obtain in this way, she neglects her children, her husband, and her home. Every gleaner is as free as the air of heaven, but they are all slaves to their own passions if they are unable to agree together in the same field, and begin to use abusive language, to quarrel about rights which have no existence, except in the goodwill of the farmer, exhibiting scenes which could only find a parallel in the fields of the degraded Canaanites before they were driven out by the Jews. There is not a gleaner in the land who is not absolutely free, but every one of them is bound in fetters far stronger than fetters of iron or of brass, if, with this privilege of gleaning in another man’s fields at their command, they have thankless hearts, and entertain no gratitude to God for His mercy, nor to the farmers for their benevolence. This brings me in natural consequence to speak about the persons on whose behalf God made the law about gleaning. They are the poor, the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow. I do not know whether those who go out to glean in the fields in these days could be arranged into these four classes; but they at least furnish a guide as to the persons to whom the Almighty especially extends His care. He told His people that the poor should never cease out of the land, therefore He commanded them, saying, “Thou shalt open thine hand wide unto thy brother, to thy poor and to thy needy in thy land.” The poor are the objects of God’s special protection, as long as they lead lives of holiness and humility, contented with their lot, and confident in the mercy of Heaven. If they are profligate and ungodly, dishonest and discontented, idle and careless, not one of the promises in Scripture will apply to them any more than they do to any of God’s open and avowed enemies.
2. The next class of persons who were permitted to glean in the fields were strangers, from whatever country they might have come, as was Ruth, who was a daughter of Moab. God also made provision for them, knowing how unhappy is the lot of that man who is an exile from his native land. He commanded His people not on any account to do them an injury: “Thou shalt neither vex a stranger nor oppress him, for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt.” God by His providence watches over strangers, and never fails to reward those who help them, whether by allowing them to glean in the fields in harvest-time, or in any other manner.
3. The next class who were allowed to glean were the fatherless, whose parent was dead. If the Jew drove off from his fields in harvest a poor fatherless child, who wanted to glean some heads of corn, I have no doubt that he was guilty of a sin and a crime. There is no obligation upon any Christian man to allow such a one to search over his fields at this season of the year, but when he does permit the fatherless to glean up what the reapers have left behind, I make no doubt that he does that which is pleasing in the sight of God, and he will be able to understand, from the description of the judgment in the twenty-fifth chapter of St. Matthew, that the reward will far outbalance the kindness.
4. The only other class whom God allowed to be gleaners were widows. Like the poor, the stranger, and the fatherless, God always remembers them. Let them always remember, that, whether they may be in a cornfield among other gleaners, like Ruth in the field of Boaz, or, like the woman of Sidon, alone in a cottage with scarce enough food to eat, or, like the widow of Nain, following in tears an only son to the grave, God watches over them, and commands His angels to give them an invisible but effectual protection. There is little more to be said on this subject of gleaning, beyond one other consideration, which we shall do well to lay seriously to heart. We reflected upon the great harvest of men, which is to be gathered in by the angelic reapers at the end of this dispensation. That will be a harvest after which there will be no gleaning. (O. B. Courtenay, M. A.)
How notable are the provisions made in the Mosaic Law for the poor.
1. The Sabbatical year (Exodus 23:10-11; cf. Deuteronomy 15:12; Deuteronomy 15:15).
2. The equalisation of the atonement money for poor and rich, thus establishing the value of the poor as equal to the rich (Exodus 30:12).
3. The same minute directions for the poor man’s offerings, showing God’s equal interest in his sacrifice (chap. 2. &c.)
4. And here the command that the harvest and vintage gleanings should be left (Leviticus 19:9-10). Notice--
I. That the humane laws of modern times, respecting gleaning privileges, are all based upon this Mosaic command. Everywhere there is a popular feeling that the farmer should allow, and was not entitled to prevent the poor from gathering what the reaper left behind. In England the custom of gleaning had very nearly passed into a legal right, for there is an extra judicial dictum of Lord Hall, in which he says that those who enter a field for this purpose are not guilty of trespass; and Blackstone (3:12) seems to adopt his opinion. But that has since been twice tried, and decided in the negative in the Court of Common Pleas; the Court finding it to be a practice incompatible with the exclusive enjoyment of property, and productive of vagrancy and many mischievous consequences. “It is still, however, the custom all over England to allow the poor to glean, at least after the harvest is carried” (Chambers).
II. That a benevolent helpfulness in respect of the poor is a special obligation of those who enjoy plenty.
1. With God in thought the rich will spare of their abundance that the poor may be fed. You owe all to Him, especially in harvest; and, therefore, share with the needy His gifts to you.
2. Amid harvest rejoicings, gratitude should incite to generosity. “As ye have received, give!” Seek occasion to gladden others--those in need. God is lavish; let your “hands be open” also (Psalms 145:16).
3. Kindness to the poor has especial assurances of Divine approval (Psalms 9:18; Psalms 12:5).
III. That this generous consideration for the poor is a token of god’s regard for the lowly.
1. Their maintenance engaged the Divine attention. For them “the corner” of the field was claimed from the reapers, and to them was assigned the right to clear the ground. It was their part in the national soil, the poor had this heritage in the land. And God enjoins on His Church now to “care for the poor.” They are Christ’s bequeathment to His disciples. “The poor always ye have with you.”
2. Their salvation is prominently sought in the gospel. “To the poor the gospel is preached.” And “God hath chosen the poor rich in faith.” He who showed concern for their physical supply and maintenance, as emphatically manifests His desire that they be “blessed with all spiritual blessings” in Christ. Therefore--
A margin for the benefit of the poor
I think one of the most beautiful traits in the provision and economy of God in the Old Testament Scriptures is the constant reference to the poor. The permanency of the rich and the poor is what Christ Himself has declared; there will be rich and poor as long as this dispensation lasts, and any attempt to break down the distinction entails calamity on the nation that makes it. The distinction does exist, and will exist as long as men live and intellectual energies differ in degree--for the fact is, men are not all equal, they may talk as they will that all men are equal. In one sense, before God, all men are equal; but in another respect they are not. One man has more physical energy or more mental energy than another. One man has more skill than another, one man more activity than another; and several things are constantly keeping up that broad and palpable distinction between them that have and them that have not. But just as the Israelite reaper left some ears of corn for the poor and for the stranger, so you, in estimating your labours, which are to you for all practical purposes your cornfields, in arranging your profits, your gains, your losses, ought to have a balance or a margin for the benefit of the poor, the destitute, and the needy. God especially blessed a nation that took care of the poor; and God still provides for and pronounces blessed those that consider the poor. I know that what are called “poor’s rates” are extremely objectionable, because, when you pay your poor’s rates you give a tax, and when the poor get in the workhouse, the bread that it buys they take as a right, and the consequence is, all benevolence on your part is quenched, and all gratitude on the part of the poor is ruined also. But then, such is the hardness of the human heart in so many cases, that a wise and merciful Government is bound to make the law, and to compel that as a right which many would much rather give as the act of benevolence and kindness. But because you do pay poor’s rates you still must leave a margin to give something; for those rates are not yet intolerable, and on all occasions we should be delighted that we have an opportunity of making the heart of the widow rejoice and the orphan sing for joy. (J. Cumming, D. D.)
Ye shall not steal.
The illustrious Joseph Priestley tells us in his Memoir that he was influenced in his very earliest life by an act of his mother, who died when he was seven years old. He had returned from visiting his cousins, and had brought home a pin. “Where did you get that pin from, Joseph?” said his mother. “I brought it from my cousins’.” “Then,” she said, “it is not yours--take it back”; and he was gently and lovingly, yet firmly, made to take it back. So great was the impression made on his mind that afterwards not the smallest detail of wrong could he ever think of without being influenced by the recollection of that simple admonition. Such is the influence upon the young life of all that it sees. It is the tabula rasa on which you write your words and thoughts in the deeds that are yet to come. (Dr. Richardson.)
Neither lie one to another.
Discredit gained by falsehood
When Aristotle was asked what a man could gain by telling a falsehood, he replied, “Never to be credited when he tells the truth.”
I remember some years ago, when living in a country town in Kent, the superintendent of our Sunday School saying: “We are to have an address this afternoon. Mr. Waters has asked to say a few words to us.” True to hit promise he soon came into the chapel, and all eyes were on him. “My dear teachers, you often think you labour in vain, but it is not so; I want to encourage you this afternoon. This last week I have met with two circumstances which have pleased me much. One day I was in my shop, when a stone came through the window. I went to the door; there were a good many boys in the road; I called out, ‘Who broke my window?’ No answer. I then asked several of them, but all said, ‘No, not me.’ Just then a little lad stepped up and said, ‘I am very sorry, sir, but I did it.’ ‘But how is it, my lad, that you own to it? Come in and tell me.’ ‘Sir, I go to the Sunday School, and I can’t tell a lie.’ Well done, John Rolfe, I have come here this afternoon to give you a shilling--not for breaking my window, no, no, but for speaking the truth, and practising what you hear.” (Mrs. Spurgeon.)
Truth a handle to lying
A lie always needs a truth for a handle to it, else the hand would cut itself which sought to drive it home upon another. The worst lies, therefore, are those whose blade is false, but whose handle is true. (H. W. Beecher.)
One sin entertained fetcheth in another; a lie especially, which being a tinkerly, blushful sin, is either denied by the liar, who is ashamed to be taken with it, or else covered by another and another lie, as we see in Jacob, who, being once over shoes will be over boots too but he will persuade his father that he is his very son Esau. (J. Trapp.)
Ye shall not swear by My name falsely.
All nations have severely punished perjury. The Egyptians with dentil or mutilation; the Greeks with heavy fines and ultimate loss of all civil rights; the Romans visited it with the penalty of death. These ancient nations all held that the gods were especially incensed by this crime, and that a Divine Nemesis pursued the perjurer.
I. What swearing by God’s name entails.
1. Acknowledgment of His Omniscience. It calls Him to witness, and imprecates Him as the avenger of falsehood.
2. Acknowledgment of His righteousness. He is to be the umpire and arbitrator. We call in as a witness to our fidelity only such a one as is himself faithful and true, and will act a right part. Such is God. Man’s use of His name is an appeal to the certainty that He will judge aright.
II. What perjury in god’s name entails.
1. An insolent affront upon God’s character. It is infamy, daring insolence, the degradation of His most holy name for unholy ends. It invokes Him to act as a witness that a lie is true. Yet He loathes falsity. It is defiant trifling, an affront to the God of truth. It “profanes His name.”
2. A certain visitation of judgment. He “will not hold him guiltless that taketh His name in vain” (Exodus 20:7). Certainly, therefore, He will punish lying and profanity. Having been called in as a witness to a lie, He will prove that He witnessed it. Thus to insult His love of truth and defy His power to vindicate it, and trail the purity of His character in the mire--before whom the very angels veil their faces as they adore Him--will ensure a just requital (Hebrews 10:30). And “there shall in no wise enter the heavenly city any who loveth and maketh a lie” (Revelation 21:27). (W. H. Jellie.)
I. What perjury is, and how many ways it is committed.
1. Perjury is a swearing by God’s name falsely, a calling God to witness for the confirmation of a lie.
2. It is committed several ways.
II. The heinousness of this sin of perjury.
1. It is an affront to God, and to all those glorious attributes that shine forth and display themselves in the government of the world.
2. It is also most injurious and mischievous to man.
III. The occasions of, or temptations to this sin.
1. Atheism. A denying of God and Providence. This indeed were a rational account of, and excuse for, perjury, if atheism itself were rational. An atheist should he swear falsely every hour, upon every occasion, would do like an atheist, and act consistently to his principles. For what should hinder him from complying with our forms and customs of calling of God to witness when it is for his advantage? He knows of no God to come at his call to look on and be a witness of his words, and the searcher of his heart. He believes no judgment to come, no future state.
2. Lying, and treachery, and customary swearing. These things do qualify and dispose a man to forswear himself upon any convenience or temptation. Because hereby men throw off that reverence and respect to religion, that fear of God’s power and justice, which would restrain them.
3. To these I might add the usual occasions and common temptations to this sin. Such are poverty and necessity; covetousness, and hope of reward; also fear, whether of shame or of punishment, or of both. In some, ambition and popularity, a desire and thirst after honour and greatness. In others, or perhaps in the same, revenge and malice; or else favour, affection and partiality. Or, lastly, faction, sedition, and designs against the government. As to all of which it may be enough to remark, that when these furious passions and violent desires are able to overmaster and run down the fear of God, and the reverence of an oath in the hearts of men, then is perjury the most easy and compendious, the most secure, the most proper way to relieve their wants, or satisfy their covetous desires, or to rid them of their fears, or to gratify their ambition, or to pleasure their friends, or despatch their enemies, or to compass and complete their seditious designs.
IV. The punishments of perjury, and these are severe and dreadful in proportion to the guilt of this great sin. It is a good rule. Men ought to weigh well the damages and mischievous consequences of their false-witnessing and perfidiousness, not to others only, but to themselves; that if conscience and the sense of their duty cannot prevail with them, they may be restrained by the fear of suffering. (John Allen, M. A.)
Of the nature and manner of an oath, and when to be taken
1. An oath is a constant and serious asseveration of the truth of a thing, whereunto the Divine Majesty is called to witness.
2. The use of an oath is common to God, who sweareth by Himself, having not a greater to swear by, to angels and to men.
3. Things affirmed by oath are either uncertain in themselves--as to swear touching things to come; or are certain, but seem uncertain to us, and therefore an oath is required; or they are not only certain but necessary, as are all God’s promises, which depend upon His immutable word, yet in regard of our weakness are confirmed by the Lord’s oath.
4. As God is the author and institutor of an oath, so His name only is to be used therein, because He alone knows the heart, is everywhere present to hear, and of omnipotent power, able to take revenge both of soul and body.
5. Three things are to be considered in a lawful oath--the necessity, the truth, and the manner. (A Willet, D. D.)
The nature and obligation of an oath; the guilt and danger of perjury
The necessity of oaths is almost universally admitted among men. It arises out of the unavoidable condition of human affairs, and is so essential to the peace and order of society that they could scarcely subsist without it. It is not only in places of trust, and in cases of evidence, that it is necessary to have recourse to this sacred obligation. It is frequently requisite, for the final decision of disputes, to refer to the oath of one of the parties. Not that an oath is always a true and infallible decision; but it is the highest credit which a human being can give to his own declaration; it is the utmost security which a man can give to the public in doubtful cases; it is the last effort of truth and confidence among mankind. After this we can go no farther; for if the religion of an oath will not oblige a man to speak the truth, there is nothing which will oblige him. It must rest till that awful day of retribution come, when God will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and judge the secrets of men’s hearts by Christ Jesus. One would be almost tempted to conclude that no man who believes in a future state could be guilty of false swearing. But there is no arguing against fact, and fact is decidedly against this conclusion. The generality of men who swear falsely, do it either to procure some worldly advantage, or to save themselves from some necessary expense; and there have been some so abandoned as to take the wages of iniquity, and to sell themselves to prostitute the name of God. What is the reason that these temptations prevail, and drive men to this wickedness and sin against God? It is either because they are ignorant or inconsiderate. If men distinctly understood the force of this sacred obligation, and considered the guilt and danger of violating it, there is scarcely any earthly consideration which could tempt them to perjury.
I. There are two lights in which an oath principally regards God, that of an omniscient witness, and that of a righteous judge. So help me God, is one of the ordinary expressions in it. So protect me from evil, or abandon me to misery, as I now use Thy name to support truth or to cover falsehood. So help in the hour of solemn devotion, when Thou hearest the prayer of the upright man, and rejectest him who has sworn deceitfully. So help me amidst the dangers and evils of life, through which I have to pass, and from which no man can deliver me. So help me in the awful hour of dissolution, when I must walk through the valley of the shadow of death, when all human help is vain, and our only hope is in God. To swear falsely is to renounce that hope, and to forfeit all title to the Divine protection.
II. Such is the nature of an oath; and from this account it will be easy to ascertain the guilt of false swearing, which was the second thing we proposed to consider. In whatever light you view perjury, whether in respect of God or man, you will find it to be a sin of the most enormous nature. Consider the impiety of it towards God, and it will appear to be the grossest indignity which man can offer to his Maker.
1. It is not a sin of ignorance or infirmity, into which he may fall through the weakness of human nature. It is a presumptuous transgression against God. The guilt of perjury is deliberate, which is one of the greatest aggravations of sin. Other sins generally proceed from a forgetfulness of God, a want of due sense of His presence; but to swear falsely by the name of God is at once to remember God and to disobey Him. Other sins are nothing more than acts of disobedience to God; but perjury is much more than disobedience, it is a direct insult offered to the Supreme Being. To call solemnly on God to witness a falsehood, in order to cover our own guilt, and to impose on the ignorance of mankind--what does it imply? It is to invoke the Supreme Being to be present at an unrighteous action; it is to summon in the Almighty to be a spectator of wickedness. Awful as this is, it is not the worst. To call on God to countenance falsehood, and to sanction a lie by His sacred name, contains a still grosser impiety, which I shudder to mention. It is an attempt to draw God Himself into sin, to make the great Creator a party in vice, to make the Holy One and the Just an accomplice in villainy.
2. The guilt of perjury farther appears from its effect on society-. It is not only an act of the grossest indignity to God, but of the greatest injury to mankind. There are some individuals who suffer by every act of false swearing. Consider what loss of property, what hurt of character, or what vexation and distress of mind it frequently brings on an innocent man. Ask the person who has suffered by perjury, and he will describe, from his feelings, what a heinous crime it is. Put yourself in his place, enter into his feelings, listen to the language of your own heart, and you will see clearly the guilt of false swearing. But the mischievous effects of perjury are not confined to the persons who more immediately suffer by it. It is of much more extensive influence; it militates against mankind in general; it is an act of treason against human society. It is an attempt to subvert the foundation of public order, and of private security. It is an attempt to defeat the last method which the wisdom of man has devised in order to maintain the peace and order of society, and to decide doubtful matters. The man who can be guilty of this sin, must be void of all reverence for his Sinker, and of all regard for the interests of his fellow creatures. He is not only a reprobate in the sight of God, but also a traitor against mankind.
III. Need I now proceed to the last head of discourse, to point out the danger of false swearing? A vice of so uncommon a magnitude, every man’s conscience must tell him, deserves to be punished both by God and man. Among all nations with which we are acquainted, false swearing has been punished as a triune which strikes at the root of society; and in many places of the world the perjurer, as well as the murderer, has been thought worthy of death. But though the perjurer should escape the scourge of the law, there is another punishment from men which generally awaits him. He forfeits his character, the most precious thing in the world, and is consigned to infamy. But what are all the punishments from men in comparison of the judgments of God, which await the perjurer? This is a degree of guilt which God will certainly punish with more than ordinary vengeance. I will come near to you in judgment, says God Himself by the prophet., and be a swift witness against the swearer. The curse, says another inspired writer, goeth over the face of the whole earth; and God shall bring it forth, and it shall enter into the house of him that sweareth falsely by the name of God, and shall remain in the midst of his house, and shall consume it with the timber thereof and the stones thereof. It shall remain in the midst of his house, and shall consume it. But the external judgments of God are not the only punishment to which the perjurer becomes liable. He destroys the foundation of the peace of his own mind, and exposes himself to the greatest of all terrors, to the dread of the great Creator. But what are all the sufferings of this life in comparison to that of everlasting misery which awaits the false swearer in the life to come? With what tremblings of heart, with what confusion of face, will he appear before the Judge of all the earth, whose authority he contain, el, and whose name he prostituted? The whole scene of his iniquity will then be disclosed, in the presence of an assembled world, in the presence of Christ and the holy angels. He must then lie down in shame and everlasting contempt. (Andrew Donnan.)
Neither shalt thou profane the name of thy God.
Against profaning the name of God
I. The signification of the terms.
II. The nature of the several vices included in this prohibition.
1. The highest and most presumptuous degree is perjury; when a man solemnly calls God to witness to the truth of that which he either knows to be false or does not know to be true.
2. The next degree is that indecent, as well as wicked, custom of rash swearing in common conversation.
3. Scoffing, blaspheming, or speaking reproachfully of religion. This is what the Psalmist reckons in the highest degree of sins, where he distinguishes offenders into three several ranks (Psalms 1:1).
4. Careless and inconsiderate vows. When the matter of them is unjust, as in the case of the Corban among the Jews, who hypocritically dedicated that to the service of God and for the use of the Temple, which they ought to have employed in relieving the necessities of their destitute parents (Mark 7:2). Or when the matter of a vow is impossible or unreasonable, or the thing vowed be unprofitable and of no tendency to promote true religion, or the manner of making the vow be rash and irreligious.
5. Too frequent familiar and irreverent mention of God in ordinary conversation, without an habitual sense and just awe of Him upon our minds; men are very apt to run into some degree of the fault forbidden here.
III. The argument brought to enforce the prohibition. “I am the Lord.” The Lord, that is, he whose sovereignty and supreme dominion or authority over us gives Him a right to demand, and whose continual mercy and goodness towards us gives Him reason to expect that we should, in an equal sense both of duty and gratitude, pay all possible obedience to Him. The Lord, who made and governs all things, whose power is irresistible, and His kingdom infinite and eternal, who will not be mocked, nor hold them guiltless that take His name in vain. Will not hold them guiltless; that is, will certainly and severely punish them. (S. Clarke, D. D.)
On profaning the name of God
I. An oath is an appeal to the supreme being, as Judge of the truth of what we assert, whose omniscience knows the secrets of our hearts, knows whether what we declare be correspondent or not to the conviction of our minds, and whose justice will accordingly either favour or be avenged of us; it is the submitting to God, the invisible Judge, and imploring His protection, or imprecating His vengeance, according to the truth or falsehood of what we affirm.
II. Let us next observe what it is to profane the name of God.
1. This is done when we use it without due consideration and reverence, or when we use it in an unlawful action. We are directed to sanctify the Lord our God, i.e., to form such holy conceptions of His great and adorable nature as may lead us to a suitable return of reverential homage. And yet how common is it, on the most slight and unimportant occasions, to hear men utter inconsiderately the name of God when neither the subject of their thoughts is so weighty, nor the temper of their minds so serious, as to justify the use of it.
2. But further, the name of God is in a peculiar manner profaned when we invoke His presence to an unlawful action, and summon Him, as it were, to be a spectator of our guilt. This is a sin of more than common magnitude; it is an open defiance to the power and justice of the Almighty, and an insult on almost all the perfections of the Divine nature.
III. I proceed to offer some considerations on the guilt of habitually profaning the name of God in conversation. No one instructed in the first rudiments of religion can be ignorant of the flagitious nature of this sin (Exodus 20:7). In the New Testament our Saviour says, “Swear not at all.” And by the vehemence expressed by St. James we may reasonably judge that he considered this sin of habitually profaning the name of God as a sin of no small weight. “Above all things, my brethren,” says he, “swear not.” But why “above all things,” if not because it is a sin in a peculiar manner hateful and offensive in the sight of God? The passionate man may plead the fire of a warm disposition; the gloomy sullenness of the morose may urge the power of an unhappy complexion; but the profaner of the name of God has no such plea. Common reason teaches us to reverence the majesty of the Supreme Being; and no corruption of our nature tempts us to profane that name which we all know it is our duty to adore. But further, besides the guilt of this practice in itself, it unhappily leads to a sin of a still more enormous magnitude--to that of perjury. This should incline all to contribute their endeavours by advice, by example, by reproof, or any other method, to suppress the common practice of profaning the name of God; since the pernicious sin of perjury, by which the character, property, or life of any person whatever may be endangered--a sin which has a tendency to destroy all mutual confidence, and to subvert all civil society--is in a great degree owing to it. I shall conclude with some short admonitions, in order to prevent the growth or continuance of this sin.
1. He who would avoid the habit or custom must beware of the first step or tendency to it. It is a maxim in spiritual as well as bodily disorders, to check the first appearance of a disease, lest it should grow inveterate, and at length incurable. And, therefore, we should do well to avoid all vehemence of assertion, all violence of passion, as dangerous approaches to this sin.
2. We may observe the danger of yielding to the first impulses of passion, since even an apostle, in a short space of time, was led on from a bare denial to bitter and violent imprecations. When the mind is hurried on by the impetuosity of violent passion, oaths are often found the readiest way to discharge the heat of resentment; and the mind, not under the conduct of reason, vents a sinful passion by a more sinful execration.
3. Let us possess our minds with the most respectful and awful sentiments of the greatness and goodness and majesty of the Supreme Being. This is the most rational and effectual means to prevent us from prostituting and profaning His sacred name. Let us ever preserve an awful and reverential regard for the majesty of Heaven; let us not speak or think of God but with veneration; let the words of our mouth, as well as the meditations of our heart, be ever acceptable in His sight; let us ever consult His honour, and “Hallowed be His name.” (G. Carr, B. A.)
A just rebuke
After Dr. Scudder’s return from India, he was on a steamboat with his son, when he heard a person using profane language. Accosting him, he said, “This boy was born and brought up in a heathen country and a land of idolatry; but in all his life he never heard a man blaspheme his Maker until now.” The man apologised and moved away ashamed.
Profanity is the tribute which the devil’s servants pay to their master as token of allegiance. (New Handbook of Illustration.)
Thou shalt not defraud thy neighbour.
I. The purchaser is guilty of fraud when he makes use of falsehood or low cunning to diminish the value of any commodity in the estimation of its proprietor. He likewise defrauds his neighbour when he takes advantage of his ignorance to obtain anything for less than its real value; when he receives any part of his property and applies it to his own use, without being careful to make him the equitable return, at the time when he may reasonably expect it; and lastly, when he makes that wise and merciful institution of the legislature, which was only intended for the security of those whom misfortune hath rendered incapable of answering the demands of equity, a protection for extravagance and knavery.
2. The seller defrauds his neighbour when he takes advantage of the ignorance or mistakes of the purchaser, or makes use of arts to impose upon his judgment.
3. The master, or he who employs labourers under him for hire, acts a dishonest part when he lays upon them burdens too heavy to be borne; when he requires harder or longer labour from them than was at first agreed upon, without making them a proportionable acknowledgment; or when he deprives them of their wages, or withholds them beyond a reasonable time.
4. The labourer, or servant, acts contrary to the rules of equity, and defrauds his neighbour when, without good reason, he quits the business he hath undertaken and leaves his master in difficulty; when he performs his engagements in a negligent and defective manner; or when he takes advantage of the confidence which his master hath placed in him, to embezzle or injure his property. I proceed to lay before you the principal argument, to guard you against all the low arts of fraud and deceit, and to enforce the observance of the strictest honour and most perfect equity in your dealings.
I. And, in the first place, let it be considered that the observance of the injunction of the text is of the highest importance to the welfare of society. What would be the consequence if injustice and knavery were daily to gain ground in the world, and at last to become universally prevalent? surely nothing less than universal confusion and wretchedness. On the contrary, were all unrighteousness and deceit banished from the earth, what a long train of evils would take their flight with them I what uninterrupted peace and harmony, what perfect satisfaction and happiness would ensue!
II. But it may be observed, farther, that the virtue of honesty is of essential importance to the happiness of individuals. The honest man is most secure from disappointment in business, and has the fairest prospect of success in his undertakings. It often happens that the artful and designing knave is discovered, and his schemes of iniquity are blasted, before he hath accomplished his purpose. After much care and labour, and many fears and anxieties, he may very possibly betray himself and frustrate his own designs. But the honest man pursues the plain and beaten path of diligence, prudence and integrity, till he gradually obtains a competence which he can behold with satisfaction and enjoy with pleasure. Honesty is likewise the best guard of our reputation. Let two men be in every other respect equal; if the one have the character of an upright and good man, and the other be deemed treacherous and fraudulent, it will be no difficult thing to determine which will be generally espoused, employed and assisted, and which will be treated with neglect and contempt. The honest man likewise enjoys the continual happiness of being satisfied from himself. If he enjoys an abundance of the good things of life, he hath the happiness to reflect that it is the fruit of his honest industry and the blessing of heaven. Or if he meets with disappointment and trouble, he hath this for his consolation, that “they have not befallen him for any iniquity in his hands”; and can triumph, if not in the success of his undertakings, in the innocence of his life. Let it be remembered, in the last place, that all injustice and fraud are highly displeasing to the Almighty, and that uprightness and honour will always be acceptable in His sight. (W. Enfield.)
Unjust dealing repudiated
A customer of Messrs. Thomas Adams and Co., of Nottingham, from whom they were in the habit of receiving considerable orders, requested that besides Thomas Adams and Co’s ticket, the firm would affix the ticket of this customer, marked with a larger number of yards than was really in the piece. Pressure having been put on some of the salesmen, the thing had actually been done a few times, when it was brought under the notice of Mr. Adams. At that period trade was exceedingly bad, and orders scarce, yet, as soon as he was apprised of the facts, he holdly declared to his customer that he could be no party to a transaction so unjust, and that such misleading tickets could not again be affixed to goods going forth from his warehouse. The customer was exceedingly angry at this practical rebuke of his injustice, and withdrew all his orders immediately. After a time, however, he reopened the account on a scale as large as ever, and was content to deal with Mr. Adams on his own terms. (H. A. Page.)
Sad result of an unpaid bill
A wealthy banker, who is noted for his large subscriptions to charities, and for his kindly habits of private benevolence, was called on by his pastor, one evening, and asked to go with him to the help of a man who had attempted suicide. They found the man in a wretched house, in an alley not far from the banker’s dwelling. The front room was a cobbler’s shop; behind it, on a miserable bed, in the kitchen, lay the poor shoemaker, with a gaping gash in his throat, while his wife and children were gathered about him. “We have been without food for days,” said the woman, when he returned. “It is not my husband’s fault. He is a hard-working, sober man. But he could neither get work, nor pay for that which he had done. To-day he went for the last time to collect a debt due to him by a rich family, but the gentleman was not at home. My husband was weak from fasting, and seeing us starving drove him mad. So it ended that way,” turning to the fainting, motionless figure on the bed. The banker, having fed and warmed the family, hurried home, opened his desk and took out a file of little bills. All his large debts were promptly met, but he was apt to be careless about the accounts of milk, bread, &c., because they were so petty. He found there a bill of Michael Goodlow’s for repairing children’s shoes, £2. Michael Goodlow was the suicide. It was the banker’s unpaid debt which had brought these people to the verge of the grave, and driven this man to desperation, while, at the very time, the banker had given away hundreds in charity. The cobbler recovered, and will never want a friend while the banker lives, nor will a small unpaid bill ever again be found on the banker’s table. No man has a right to be generous until his debts are paid; and the most efficient use of money is not alone in almsgiving, but to pay liberally and promptly the people whom we employ.
The wages of him that is hired.
Fairness to hired labourers
I. Work is a just basis for an equitable claim. Therefore it should be paid for, not patronisingly, nor grudgingly, but as a due. The labourer has given you his time, strength, ability, and ingenuity; he has a right to an equivalent from you, and should not be treated ignominiously, but respectfully, in asking a just return.
II. Wages cannot righteously re deferred after work is done. During a day of toil the labourer has put his capital into your service, spent his life for that period for your advantage and gain. You are to that extent his debtor; to detain his wages is to make yourself more his debtor, and delay in payment should be compensated with increment. “Short reckonings make long friends.”
III. Masters should study the position and comfort of those they employ. A poor man has no capital, wants prompt settlement; he lives day by day upon his hard earnings. His strength--expended by the day’s toil--must be replenished for the morrow’s work. To hold back the means for his nourishment is to rob him of the morrow’s capital, his replenished energy. And he may have dependants in his lowly home waiting to share in the earnings of the day. Hold not back his dues “all night until the morning,” lest your inconsiderateness inflict privation and embitter poverty (Deuteronomy 24:14-15; Jeremiah 32:13; Malachi 3:5; James 5:4). (W. H. Jellie.)
God’s consideration for hired labourers
What tender care is here! The High and Mighty One that inhabiteth eternity can take knowledge of the thoughts and feelings that spring up in the heart of a poor labourer. He knows and takes into account the expectations of such an one in reference to the fruit of his day’s toil. The wages will, naturally, be looked for. The labourer’s heart counts upon them; the family meal depends upon them. Oh I let them not be held back. Send not the labourer home with a heavy heart, to make the heart of his wife and family heavy likewise. By all means give him that for which he has wrought, to which he has a right, and on which his heart is set. Thus does our God take notice of the very throbbings of the labourer’s heart, and make provision for his rising expectations. Precious grace! Most tender, thoughtful, touching, condescending love! The bare contemplation of such statutes is sufficient to throw one into a flood of tenderness. Could any one read them and thoughtlessly dismiss a poor labourer, not knowing whether he and his family have wherewithal to meet the cravings of hunger? (C. H. Mackintosh.)
Far from defrauding, or withholding what is due to thy neighbour, thou shalt not even delay giving him what he is entitled to. This precept is directly pointed against incurring debt. Fraudulent bankruptcies, and pretexts for withholding payments, are condemned by it; but remaining in debt to any one is also pointedly condemned. “Owe no man anything, but to love one another.” In James 5:4, this is spoken of as a sin of the last days. (A. A. Bonar)
Thou shalt not curse the deaf.
The weak protected
I. The meanness of the conduct here rebuked. Dishonourable dealing, commercial sharp-practice, trading upon the defects of others, issuing delusive prospectuses to entrap the unwary, traducing our fellows behind their backs so that they cannot learn and answer the charges brought against them--all such action deserves our reprobation and avoidance. The natural ills of humanity call for commiseration and help, rather than for ridicule and maltreatment. Where weakness has been self-incurred, where ignorance is wilful, there is less need of sympathy. Let our young people be early imbued with the feeling that it is wrong to trample upon the defenceless.
II. The way to guard against invasion of the rights of others. “But shalt fear thy God.”
1. Reverence for Jehovah is the best security against violation of His statutes. Remember, that to transgress is to grieve our heavenly Father, to show ourselves unmindful of His claims.
2. The omniscience of Jehovah should restrain from the commission of unfair deeds. He hears every word and sees every act, though the deaf and the blind cannot. Let not mean, cowardly performances expect to pass unnoticed, unpunished.
III. The comfort the weak may derive from the knowledge that they are under the protection of god. He is seen to cherish them, to make provision for their need; He puts His strong right arm around them, shelters them under His wing. We cannot believe that His fostering care is denied to any class of the infirm, in body, mind, or spirit. (S. R. Aldridge, B. A.)
Protection of the infirm
Persons stricken with some defect which renders them helpless, stand under God’s special protection; it would be heartless and impious to “curse the deaf,” who is unaware of the attacks made upon him, which may involve calumnies, and which he is unable to rebut; and it would be cruel indeed to “put a stumbling-block before the blind,” to whom every right-minded man should be eager to “serve as eyes”; a crime like the latter was publicly cursed on Mount Ebal; and in both eases the law warns the offender, “Thou shalt fear thy God,” who hears if there is no other ear to listen, who sees if there is no other eye to see, and who, to punish thy wickedness, can strike thee with the same afflictions: hence the same menace, “Thou shalt fear thy God,” is repeated with respect to the treatment of old and infirm men, of poor persons, of dependents, and servants. Philo inveighs vehemently against the inhumanity here forbidden, and observes that those who are guilty of it, “would not spare even the dead, in the excess of their cruelty, but according to a common proverb, would slay the slain again.” Jewish tradition applies the second command of our verse figuratively to insidious advice or false information given to a man who is in ignorance or perplexity, whether on some question of learning or on some matter of business. The law of Man inflicts a pecuniary fine upon any one who taunts a person with being one-eyed or lame or deformed. (M. M. Kalisch, Ph. D.)
No advantage to be taken of incapacity
This base action of reviling or cursing a deaf person is here condemned. But that is not all; there is something more forbidden by this law; for it seems to be of a proverbial nature, and the general meaning is, Thou shalt not take the sordid advantage of a man’s incapacity to defend himself, and hurt him either in his body, his fortunes, or his reputation. To abuse an absent person, to calumniate people in secret, to attack another’s reputation in the dark and in disguise, to defame those who are dead, to hurt in any manner those who are unable to help and redress themselves, all this may be called, To curse the deaf. (J. Jortin, D. D.)
The absent not to be slandered
So did St. Augustine, that worthy father, abhor this vice, that over his table where he dined he wrote two verses, to tell all them that sat with him, if they carped at any person absent, that table was not for them, nor the guests welcome to him. (Bp. Babington.)
In righteousness shalt thou judge thy neighbour.
On judging our neighbour in righteousness
To judge our neighbour in righteousness, it is our duty to consider those motives which may corrupt our judgment. When we set ourselves to reflect how far we have cultivated this species of justice, we deceive ourselves by quoting the examples of those who have become dear to us from particular circumstances; by citing the judgments we have made of friends, of kindred, of men who have embarked with us in common designs, and been actuated by the same principles. Doubtless, we are just enough in all these instances; here we feel real sorrow at the faults of others, and do all, and even more than the most righteous judges ought to do; but if we really, and faithfully, wish to fulfil this great duty, we are to examine how far we have righteously judged those to whom we never have been connected in friendship; those whom chance has separated from us by rank, and wealth; nature by talents; education by opinions; those who have been opposed to us in questions which try the passions; those from whom we have suffered disrespect, injury, and contempt. If, in the awful moments of self-judgment, we can satisfy ourselves that we never wished that calumny to be true which accorded with our warmest passions; that we have never been disappointed by that innocence which baffled our resentment, that the infirmities of our nature have rarely stifled this tenderness for the good fame of others; then, and not till then, are we entitled to conceive that we have obeyed this precept of the Scriptures, and judged our fellow creatures in righteousness. (S. Smith, M. A.)
Just judgment to be administered
There must be in us no affectation of kindness to the poor, any more than fawning flattery of the great. Especially in matters of judgment the judge must be impartial. The eye of God is on him; and as He is a just God, and without iniquity, He delights to see His own attributes shadowed forth in the strict integrity of an earthly judge. If these are God’s holy principles, ah! then the misery and oppression and suffering of the lower classes will in no way serve as a reason for their acquittal at His bar, if they be found guilty. Suffering in this world is no blotting out of sin. Hence, we find at Christ’s appearing “the great men and the mighty men, and every bondman,” cried to the rocks, “Fall on us, and hide us from the face of Him that sitteth on the throne” (Revelation 7:15). (A. A. Bonar.)
The power of the court of Areopagus at Athens was very great; and it is said to have been the first court that ever determined upon questions of life and death. It was customary to bold its sittings in the night only, and without light. The reason of this singular practice is said to have been, that the members might not be prejudiced for or against any accused person, by seeing his gestures and looks. Truth only was regarded, and no attempt to warp the opinion of the judges was permitted. (Univ. Hist.)
Impartiality in judgment
The Grecians placed justice betwixt Leo and Libra, thereby signifying that there must not be only courage in executing, but also indifferency in determining. The Egyptians express the same by the hieroglyphical figure of man without hands, winking with his eyes; whereby is meant an uncorrupt judge, who hath no hands to receive bribes, no eyes to behold the person of the poor, or respect the person of the rich. And before our tribunals, we commonly have the picture of a man holding a balance in one hand, and a sword in the other, signfying by the balance, just judgment; by the sword, execution of judgment. For as the balance putteth no difference between gold and lead, but giveth an equal or unequal poise to them both, not giving a greater weight to the gold for the excellency of the metal because it is gold, nor a less to the lead for the baseness of it because it is lead: so they were with an even hand to weigh the poor man’s cause as well as the rich. But it is most notably set out by the throne of the house of David (Psalms 122:5), which was placed in the gate of the city toward the sun rising; in the gate, to signify that all which came in and out by the gate of the city might indifferently be heard, the poor as well as the rich, and might have free access and regress to and from the judgment-seat; and toward the rising of the sun, in token that their judgment should be as clear from corruption as the sun is clear in his chiefest brightness. (J. Spencer.)
Thou shalt not go up and down as a talebearer.
Talebearing and slander
I. Character is in the keeping, and therefore at the mercy of acquaintances.
1. Therefore supremely value each other’s good name.
2. Jealously defend a worthy reputation.
3. Scornfully silence the unproved rumours of evils.
II. Character may be ruthlessly shattered by sinister whisperings.
1. For listeners are ready to entertain and repeat slander. “Man’s inhumanity to man!”
2. Aspersions feed on the inventiveness of malice.
3. Reputation is easily damaged. That which only a lifetime can build an hour may defame.
III. Character is so precious that its traducers should be loathed.
1. Dread a talebearer as a destroying pestilence.
2. He who wrongs another’s reputation may next wrong yours. By heeding his slanders you” encourage his vile trade, and slander must find new victims!
3. Put to shame all talebearers with ruthless severity.
1. There is enough of woe abroad without increasing it.
2. As we need our many evils to be pitied by man and pardoned by God, let us with “charity hide sins,” not expose them.
3. There is grace in Christ, and energy in the Holy Spirit, by which to perfect a good life and win a good name, which even enemies of religion shall be unable to defame or destroy.
4. The light of the final judgment will refute all slander, and bring every secret thing to the open gaze of the world. (W. H. Jellie.)
Mischief of talebearing
The carrying of a tale, and reporting what such an one said or such an one did, is the way to sow such grudges, to kindle such heart-burnings between persons, as oftentimes break forth and flame to the consumption of families, courts, and perhaps at length of cities and kingdoms. The mischief such incendiaries do is incredible, as being indeed for the most part inevitable. And a vine or a rose-tree may as well flourish when there is a secret worm lurking and gnawing at the root of them, as the peace of those societies thrive that have such concealed plagues wrapt up in their hearts and bowels. (R. South.)
One day, in the presence of a pious tanner, at Elberfield, some people were tearing their neighbours’ characters to pieces. Diedrich, the tanner, was silent. “You say nothing,” said they. “You see,” replied he, “I am a little like a bankrupt. He may be engaged in a most animated conversation, but I have always remarked, when the subject turns upon bankruptcy, he is suddenly dumb. I, too, am a bankrupt; the defects you are just reproaching your neighbours with I find in myself, and that shuts my mouth.” (Pastor Krummacher.)
The following is related of the late J. J. Gurney, by one who, as a child, was often of his family circle:--One night--I remember it well--I received a severe lesson on the sin of evil speaking. Severe I thought it then, and my heart rose in childish anger against him who gave it; but I had not lived long enough in this world to know how much mischief a child’s thoughtless talk may do, and how often it happens that great talkers run off from the straight line of truth. I was talking very fast about some female relative, who did not stand very high in my esteem, and was about to speak further of her failings of temper. In a few moments my eyes caught a look of such calm and steady displeasure, that I stopped short. There was no mistaking the meaning of that dark, speaking eye; it brought the colour to my face, and confusion and shame to my heart. I was silent for a few moments, when Joseph John Gurney asked, very gravely, “Dost thou not know any good thing to tell us of her?” I did not answer. The question was more seriously asked, “Think; is there nothing good thou canst tell us of her?” “Oh yes, I know some good things, certainly, but--” “Would it not have been better, then, to relate these good things than to have told us that which must lower her in our esteem? Since there is good to relate, would it not be kinder to be silent on the evil? Charity rejoiceth not in iniquity, thou knowest.” (Great Thoughts.)
One celebrated nation of antiquity used to express this man’s character by a very significant figure. They called a talebearer a “seed picker.” They gave him the same name which they used for a bird which goes about everywhere picking up seeds. There are men in the world who live by their seed collecting; by going about here and there from house to house, and gathering together all the little stories which can be told or made about the neighbours who are dwelling all the time securely by them and ignorant of the calumnies by which they are assailed. Yes, the “seed collector,” the man who goes about gathering anecdotes, great and small, about his neighbours, and retailing them again as he goes, is a common character everywhere. I wish that I could hold up the mirror to him for his own conviction. I am sure he would be ashamed, I believe he would be sorry if he saw himself faithfully pourtrayed. (Dean Vaughan.)
Thou shalt in any wise rebuke thy brother.
Am I my brother’s keeper
I. The ill-conduct of a neighbour demands a personal rebuke.
1. This injunction supposes cognisance of another’s actions. Man was made for society, and its value consists greatly in taking an affectionate interest in those about us.
2. It is often easier for a bystander to detect a fault than for the one actively concerned in the deed. Our friend may be in ignorance of his guilt, and a word of reproof may open his eyes. What we imagined way done with intent may prove to have been thoughtlessly wrought.
3. The text inculcates what is acknowledged to be a hard duty, one which most are willing to relegate to others. We may fear some cutting retort, “Who made thee a judge over us?” We know that our neighbour’s vanity may be wounded, and he may inflict some blow in return. Perhaps the duty is most difficult when the wrong has been perpetrated upon ourselves. Pride urges us to keep silence, and we nourish a sentiment of undeserved injury which rather flatters our conception of ourselves. Yet Jesus Christ re-enforced the law.
4. Regard for God demands the observance of the text. Every transgression is sin against Him.
5. The welfare of our neighbour requires it.
II. To rebuke a neighbour is the surest method to prevent our hating him for his evil action.
1. Hatred proceeds from the perception of something repugnant to our feelings, and, in the case supposed, of something that is distasteful to our moral sentiments. An outrage upon good taste is committed--a deed that is offensive to our judgment of what is congruous to the relationship and circumstances under consideration. This just resentment will be soothed by the recantation and improvement of the transgressor consequent on the reproof administered. We learn to distinguish between the sinner and the sin.
2. Our perception of wrong is clearer and more intense when the injury is done to ourselves, and the hatred threatens to become stronger. The picture is directed towards ourselves, and we get a good front view of it. It is the more necessary, therefore, to take steps to abate ensuing enmity. We shall relieve our burdened breasts by expressing our sense of the unrighteousness of our neighbour’s behaviour, the utterance of resentment being a sentence of condemnation that satisfies to a certain extent our love of justice. Holy indignation will have been vented, and to that degree appeased.
3. On the other hand, the repression of reproof aggravates hatred. The concealment of our knowledge genders a sore that spreads till our every sight and thought of the man is one of utter dislike. By the sin of a brother we ourselves are thus betrayed into dire sin against the very purport of the Decalogue. We do not love, but hate our neighbour, and “he that hateth his brother is a murderer.” Whereas “if he hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother.” Thy reproof may be “an excellent oil, which shall not break his head.”
III. The reproof will discharge us from all guilt of tacit participation in our neighbour’s sin. The marginal rendering is preferable, “that thou bear not sin for him” or “on his account.” To witness a crime and not make an endeavour to stop it is to be an abettor of it. (S. R. Aldridge, B. A.)
On reproving sin in others
I. The Christian duty of reproving sin in others.
1. Duty to God.
Now from these three principles arises the duty of the Christian to reprove sin in his brother, for he may say, “I cannot sincerely love God if I do not aim to please Him; I cannot be a child of God and suffer sin in my brother; I cannot be conformed to the example of Christ without aiming to counteract sin; I cannot but aim to destroy all that is opposed to the mind and will of God, and that is contrary to His glory.” Here are three principles, then, to guide us, better than any especial rule. If it be asked, Shall I do good? or, How shall I do it? or, Will it be prudent to do it now? or, May not others do it better than I?--to all these inquiries the Christian may present these three principles as an answer. The God I love is displeased by sin; He is insulted--He is dishonoured.
2. Duty to neighbour. Love him as self. No outward act of what is called “good fellowship,” no degree of goodwill or social intercourse can possibly make up for neglect of the soul. Now the exhortation in the text comes enforced by our duty to our neighbour. For what is it which is most injurious to our brother? It is sin. And shall I suffer sin on him? I should grieve, if I were to see him on the brink of a precipice or surrounded with devouring flames; if I saw that in his bosom was concealed a venomous serpent, or that he was about to lift a cup of deadly poison to his lips! And how, then, shall I suffer sin upon my brother?
II. The difficulties in the way of discharging this duty.
1. There are a number of circumstantial difficulties, but these I shall not dwell upon here.
2. The chief difficulties are in the heart of the Christian himself.
(a) The weakness of religious principle;
(b) The strength of corruption.
I. What brotherly reproof or correction is. It is an act of love and charity, whereby we endeavour to reduce our offending brother to repentance and reformation.
1. By words. Remonstrating to them the greatness of their sin; the scandal which they give to others, either by encouraging or saddening them; the reproach which they bring upon religion; and the danger which they bring upon their own souls.
2. Where words have proved ineffectual, we may try how deeds can prevail--prevail, I say, either to deliver them, or, at least, to deliver thine own soul from death.
And to these two things are necessarily previous and antecedent--
1. Instruction and conviction. Could we but skilfully convince our brother by representing the odiousness of such and such sins, to which we know he is addicted, possibly we might spare ourselves in that which is the most ungrateful part of this work--I mean personal reflection, and leave it to his own conscience to reprove himself, and to apply it home with “Thou art the man.” And--
2. It is necessary that we watch over our brother, not so as to be insidious spies upon him, officiously to pry into his actions, and busily to concern ourselves in all he doth.
II. But indeed, which is the second thing, it is not so hard a matter to know what it is as it is difficult conscientiously and faithfully to practise it
1. Many are afraid to reprove sin, lest they should incur displeasure, weaken their secular interest, ruin their dependencies, and bring some mischief upon themselves by exasperating the offenders against them. But these are poor, low, carnal considerations. Where matter of duty is in question, it is very necessary for every Christian to be of an undaunted courage and resolution.
2. Others, again, are ashamed to reprove sin. And whereas many profligate wretches glory in their shame, these, on the contrary, are ashamed of that which would be their glory. Either they doubt they shall be thought but troublesome and hypocritical inter-meddlers, or else, possibly, being conscious to themselves of many miscarriages, they suspect their reproofs will be upbraidingly retorted upon themselves; and so, by reproving the faults of others, they shall but give an occasion to have their own ripped up and exposed, and so they think it the safer way to say nothing.
III. It is a most necessary duty. The greatest good you can do in the world is to pluck up these briars and thorns with which it is overgrown.
IV. I shall give you some brief rules and directions when you ought to reprove, and how you ought to manage your reproofs, so as they may be most beneficial to your brother. And some of them shall be negatives, and others shall be positives.
1. For the negative rules take these that follow.
2. Let us now proceed to lay down some positive rules and directions for the right managing of our reproofs. And here--
(a) Presently, as soon as the sin is committed; for then the heat is not over, nor the uproar of the passions and affections appeased. In all likelihood a reproof as yet would but irritate. Nor yet--
(b) Is a time of mirth and joy fit for reproof; for that will look like a piece of envy, as if we were malicious at their prosperity, and therefore studied to cast in somewhat that might disturb them, and so they will be apt to interpret it. Nor--
(c) Is a time of exceeding great sadness and sorrow a proper season for reproof; for this will look like hostility and hatred, as if we designed utterly to overwhelm and dispatch them. But the fittest opportunity for this duty is when they are most calm, their passions hushed, and their reason (with which you are to deal) again reseated upon its throne.
V. Some MOTIVES which may quicken you to the conscientious discharge of this duty. And here, next to the express command of Almighty God, whose authority alone ought to prevail against all the difficulties which we either find or fancy in the way of obedience thereunto, consider the great benefit which may redound both to the reprover and reproved.
1. To the reprover.
2. The practice of this duty will be greatly profitable unto him that is reproved. How knowest thou but it may be a means to turn him from his iniquity? and so thou shalt prevent a multitude of sins and save a soul from death (James 5:20). (Bp. E. Hopkins.)
The duty of brotherly admonition or reproof
I. Explain the duty. “We are members one of another.” Then I may not act with a view to myself alone. If there be thus an obligation on me, from the very fact of my creation, to have reference in all which I do to the benefit of my brethren, how am I to shift off from myself the duty of brotherly admonition or reproof? If I see that a brother or neighbour is pursuing a course which is likely to provoke God’s wrath, and must issue in ruin, then it can be no matter of option with me; I must be altogether and grievously at fault if I “suffer sin upon him,” and do not strive to bring him to repentance and amendment. It is bound on us that we do this by word, seeking to set faithfully before the offender the bitter consequences of his offence-invoking him by his hopes and his fears that he turn away from evil. The righteous have not protested against wickedness by boldly separating themselves from it. They have denounced heresy and impiety, but they have not been sufficiently diligent in digging the gulf or throwing up the rampart between themselves and those whom they profess to rebuke.
II. State rules and motives.
1. There must be a diligent and prayerful observation of both the relative and the absolute circumstances of the offending party, so that we may decide whether the interference is likely to be spurned as an unwarrantable intrusion or provoke to additional sin.
2. Supposing that neither of these results be likely to follow, and supposing the offending party is one who, if I reproach, he may probably be advantaged by reproof, then we give, as a second rule, that an exact proportion should be preserved between the offence committed and the rebuke which it receives. It is very easy, but, at the same time, infinitely removed from all that is Christian, to upbraid the shiner in place of rebuking the sin. Whereas, if we would act up to the spirit of our text, the rebuke should never part from our lips which has not the double object of love for the offender and hatred of the offence. The brotherly correction, which alone can be expected to work its way to the heart, must bear upon itself the evident marks of having been dictated by genuine affection.
3. The reproof should be given privately rather than publicly.
4. If you hope that your admonition may carry any weight, take heed that you be not yourself chargeable with the fault that you reprove in another. The force of example is vastly greater than that of words, and the reproof which rebounds on itself leaves no permanent impression on the rock against which it was thrown.
5. These are simple rules, which you may all understand and apply. Their motives are so involved in them that it is unnecessary to multiply reasons urging to the duty under review. Enough for us to know that he who neglects the duty suffers sin on his brother; enough for us to be assured that “they who turn many to righteousness shall shine as stars for ever and ever.” And equipped with the fear of partaking in the guilt which we do not rebuke, and with the hope of securing the glories of those who turn souls to the Lord, we have all which can brace us up to the vigorous effort of checking the rule and progress of impiety. (H. Melvill, B. D.)
The duty of reproving our neighbour
I. What duty is enjoined, and what should be rebuked.
1. TO tell any one of his fault, “Thou shalt not suffer sin upon him.” Sin, therefore, is the thing we are called to reprove, or rather him that commits sin. Do all we can to convince him of his fault, and lead him in the right way.
2. Love requires that we should also warn him of error, which would naturally lead to sin.
3. Avoid reproving for anything that is disputable.
II. Who they are we are called to reprove.
1. There are some sinners we are forbidden to rebuke. “Cast not your pearls before swine.”
2. Our “neighbour” is every child of man, all that have souls to be saved.
3. The reproving is not to be done in the same degree to every one. First, it is particularly done to our parents, if needing it; then to brothers and sisters; then to relatives; then to our servants; to our fellow-citizens; members of the same religious society; watch over each other that we may not suffer sin upon our brother. To neglect this is to “hate our brother in our heart”; and “he that hateth his brother is a murderer.” It imperils our own salvation to neglect this duty.
III. What spirit and manner should mark our performance of this duty.
1. There is considerable difficulty in doing it aright. Although some are specially qualified to do it by grace, and skilful by practice. But, though difficult, we must do it; and God will aid us.
2. How most effectual? When done in “the spirit of love,” of tender goodwill fur our neighbour, as for one who is the son of our common Father, as for one for whom Christ died, that he might be a partaker of salvation.
3. Yet speak in the spirit of humility. “Not think of yourself more highly than you ought to think.” Not feeling or showing the least contempt of those whom you reprove; disclaiming all self-superiority; owning the good there is in him.
4. In the spirit of meekness. “For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God.” Anger begets anger, not holiness.
5. Put no trust in yourself; in your wisdom or abilities; speak in the spirit of prayer.
6. And as for the outward manner, as well as the spirit, in which it should be done; let there be a frank outspokenness, a plain and artless declaration of disinterested love. It will pierce like lightning.
7. With great seriousness, showing that you are really in earnest. A ludicrous reproof makes little impression, or is taken ill.
8. Yet there are exceptions when a little well-placed raillery will pierce deeper than solid argument. “Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own eyes.”
9. Adapt the manner to the occasion. By few or many words as the situation determines; or by no words at all, but a look, a gesture, a sigh. Such silent reproof may be attended by the power of God.
10. Watch for a fair occasion. “A word spoken in season, how good it is.” Catch the time when his mind is soft and mild.
11. But should a man be left alone when intoxicated? I dare not say so; for instances are forthcoming of a reproof then having had good effects. Despise not the poor drunkard. Many of them are self-condemned, but they despair. He that tells a man there is no help for him is a liar from the beginning. “Behold the Lamb of God that taketh away the sins of the world.”
12. You that are diligent in this labour of love be not discouraged. You have need of patience. (John Wesley, M. A.)
Can a physician show his love better than by telling his patient his disease, and declaring unto him the means whereby to cure it? Can a man, meeting his brother wandering out of his way in hills and dales, in woods and wildernesses, show his love better unto him than by bringing him into the way, and laying his error before his face? So that no man can give a sounder testimony of his sincere heart and unfeigned love toward his brother than by dealing plainly with him when he walketh not uprightly. For a friend is unto the soul as physic unto the body, and the admonishing of our brother is as the director of a traveller. Let us therefore suffer the word of exhortation. Knowing that such as are out of order must be admonished, the feeble-minded must be comforted, the weak must be strengthened, the evil must be reproved, the obstinate must be terrified and threatened. And let us not fret and rage against our brethren when we are checked and controlled for our sins. It is a sign we are persuaded and resolved to continue in our sins when we cannot abide to be reproved, but are ready to say with Ahab: “Hast thou found me, O mine enemy?” The Word of God is good to him that walketh uprightly; and we shall find in the end, that open rebuke is better than secret love; yea, that the wounds of a lover are faithful, and the kisses of an enemy are pleasant. (W. Attersoll.)
Gentleness in reproof
It is written of Andrew Fuller that he could rarely be faithful without being severe; and, in giving reproof, he was often betrayed into intemperate zeal. Once, at a meeting of ministers, he took occasion to correct an erroneous opinion delivered by one of his brethren, and he laid on his censure so heavily that Ryland called out vehemently, in his own peculiar tone of voice, “Brother Fuller! Brother Fuller! you can never admonish a mistaken friend but you must take up a sledge-hammer and knock his brains out.” Gentleness and affection should be evident in all our remonstrances; if nail be dipped in oil it will drive the more readily. There is a medium in our vehemence which discretion will readily suggest: we must not drown a child in washing it, nor cut off a man’s foot to cure a corn. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
A successful reprover
Instead of a long enumeration of the qualities required in a successful reprover, we instance the case of Dr. Waugh. “At one of the half-yearly examinations at the Protestant Dissenters’ Grammar School, Mill Hill, the headmaster informed the examiners that he had been exceedingly tried by the misconduct and perverseness of a boy who had done something very wrong, and who, though he acknowledged the fact, could not be brought to acknowledge the magnitude of the offence. The examiners were requested to expostulate with the boy, and try if he could be brought to feel and deplore it. Dr. Waugh was solicited to undertake the task, and the boy was, in consequence, brought before him. ‘How long have you been in the school, my boy?’ asked the doctor. ‘Four months, sir.’ ‘When did you hear from your father last?’ ‘My father’s dead, sir.’ ‘Ah! alas the day! ‘tis a great loss--a great loss, that of a father; but God can make it up to you, by giving you a tender, affectionate mother.’ On this the boy, who had previously seemed as hard as a flint, began to soften. The doctor proceeded: ‘Well, laddie, where is your mother?’ ‘On her vow-age home from India, sir.’ ‘Ay I good news for you, my boy. Do you love your mother?’ ‘Yes, sir.’ ‘And do you expect to see her soon?’ ‘Yes, sir.’ ‘Do you think she loves you?’ ‘Yes, sir, I am sure of it.’ ‘Then think, my dear laddie, think of her feelings when she comes home, and finds that, instead of your being in favour with every one, you are in such deep disgrace as to run the risk of expulsion, and yet are too hardened to acknowledge that you have done wrong. Winna ye break your poor mother’s heart, think ye? Just think o’ that, my lad.’ The little culprit burst into a flood of tears, acknowledged his fault, and promised amendment.” (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Reproving a swearer
I will give you an instance of how you ought to reprove the swearer, which I know to be true. It was by a friend of mine, and I don’t mind telling you his name. He was a clergyman, now dead; he wrote some very valuable books; his name was Benjamin Field. He was staying at a Brighton boarding-house. At dinner, at the boarding-house, a young officer in the army swore. At the dinner-table Mr. Field took no notice at all. He waited his opportunity. In the evening, when Mr. Field came in from his walk, he found this young man alone in the drawing-room. He said to him, “Sir, you hurt my feelings very much at dinner.” The young gentleman said, “Did I? I am exceedingly sorry. I don’t know what you refer to. Did I speak of a friend of yours in a way you did not like?” “That is exactly what you did,” Mr. Field replied. “You spoke of my greatest Friend in a way I did not like at all. You swore. And God is my greatest Friend. And you spoke of my greatest Friend in a way that pained me very much, and pained Him.” Mr. Field talked to this young man a great deal; and he asked Mr. Field, before he left the room, to pray that God would forgive him, and he did so; and every day, while Mr. Field stayed at Brighton, he went up to that young man’s bedroom in the morning of the day, and prayed with him. That was the way to reprove him. The result was, I believe, that young man was converted, turned to God by Mr. Field reproving him for swearing. (J. Vaughan.)
Reproof a Christian duty
Who is so kind and gentle as the surgeon with his knife? He that is to be cut cries, but cut he is; he that is to be cauterised cries, but cauterised he is. This is not cruelty: on no account let that surgeon’s treatment be called cruelty. Cruel he is against the wounded part, that the patient may be cured; for if the wound be softly dealt with, the man is lost. Thus, then, I would advise that we love our brethren howsoever they may have sinned against us: that we let not affection toward them depart out of our hearts; and that, when need is, we exercise discipline toward them, lest by relaxation of discipline wickedness increase. (St. Augustine.)
Reproof hindered by consciousness of personal imperfection
A person who objects to tell a friend of his faults because he has faults of his own acts as a surgeon would who should refuse to dress another person’s wounds because he had a dangerous one himself. (R. Cecil.)
Meekness in reproving
A parishioner, notoriously culpable for his inadequate discharge of certain official duties, received a private remonstrance from his pastor, Dean Alford, the force of which he attempted to evade by angrily retorting with a charge of negligence. In the course of the day the following was sent to him by the vicar: “Regarding my own pastoral deficiencies, I heartily thank you. I am deeply aware that I am not sufficient for these things, and only wish my place were better filled. At the same time the deficiencies of one man do not excuse another. Let us both strive, and pray that we may be found diligent in our business, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord our God, and do our best to live in charity and peace with one another, and with all men.
Believe me, your affectionate minister and friend, Henry Alford.”
Firmness in rebuke
When John Coleridge Patteson was at, Eton he was secretary of the cricket eleven. The boys of the cricket and beat clubs had an annual dinner at the hotel at Slough. On these occasions songs of a low moral tone were sometimes sung. Patteson gave notice beforehand that he would not tolerate this, and one of the lads having begun such a song, and no notice being taken of his immediate remonstrance, he rose and left the dinnertable, a few others doing the same. He followed up this protest with an intimation that he must leave the club unless an apology were made; and his firmness gained the point and secured a condemnation of the abuse.
A most profane swearer in the Royal Engineers was remonstrated with by Sergeant Marjouram in New Zealand. He was disposed to be angry with his reprover, but the latter said to him: “Well, if I were to get behind your back and now and then give you a gentle push down the road to hell, I suppose you would think me a better friend than you do now for warning you before it be too late.” The man’s face quivered with emotion, and he rushed from the place He soon returned however and exclaimed to his companions: “I’ll tell you what, chaps--I’m not going to lead this sort of life any longer, and to-morrow I shall begin a change:” Formerly the majority of his words were oaths, but from that day to the time of recording the incident, Marjouram did not hear him use one.
Thou shalt not avenge.
Forgive and forget
In another place we read, “For vengeance is Mine, and I will repay.” Wrest not God’s sword therefore out of His hand, sit not down in His seat, nor make thyself a god, for fear of the end. Well, let Him go then, I will not avenge, but sure I will remember Him; forgive I may, but never forget, &c. See what followeth in the very next words of this verse, “Neither shalt thou be mindful of a wrong against the children of thy people.” “Remembering,” then, you see, is condemned as well as “avenging,” and therefore it standeth you upon both to forgive and to forget, or else the Lord shall forget you out of His Book of Life. Nay, see more: all this is not yet enough, but we must “love also our neighbours, and that even as ourselves,” or else we perish. For, “I am the Lord,” saith the verse, that is, One that seeth and hateth and will smite thee in that strength that thou canst not resist nor endure. Foolish politic, think, then, of piety, and abhor that policy that devoureth piety and destroyeth thee. Thou canst not live ever, but must die, and come unto judgment. (Bp. Babington.)
Penalty of the desire to avenge
Small birds have an intense natural antipathy of nocturnal birds of prey. If one of these birds happens to be seen out of its lurking-place during the day they assail it vigorously, resent its intrusion, and avenge the oppression exercised over them during the night by combined attacks. This antipathy has been taken advantage of for the purpose of catching birds ever since the days of Aristotle. The catcher imitates, for instance, the voice of an owl about an hour before sunset, when the birds will flock together and perch on the trees or bushes in the suspected neighbourhood. The twigs, &c., having been previously covered with bird-lime, the birds pay their liberty and perhaps life as the penalty of their desire to avenge themselves on the owl. (Scientific lllustrations.)
Euclid showed in himself the true symptoms of brotherly affection, who, when his brother in his rage made a rash vow, saying, “Let me not live, if I be not revenged on my brother”; Euclid turns the speech contrary way, “Nay, let me not live, if I be not reconciled to my brother; let me not live, if we be not as good friends as ever we were before.” Shall a heathen thus outstrip us Christians? nature be stronger than grace? the bonds of flesh tie faster and surer than the bonds of grace? We call on God our Father, we acknowledge, or should do, one Church our mother, we are bred up in the same school of the Cross, fed at the same table of the Lord, incorporated into the same communion of saints. If these and the like considerations cannot knit our hearts in love one to another, the very heathens will rise up in judgment against us, and condemn us. (J. Spencer.)
Victory over self the best way to gain others
Winthrop, the Puritan Governor of Massachusetts, had a wonderful control of his own passions. On one occasion, one of the officers of the colony wrote him a “sharp letter,” complaining of his official acts. He sent back the letter--would not keep such a letter of provocation by him. By and by, the writer of the letter, while there was a scarcity of food in the colony, sent to buy some of Winthrop’s cattle. “Receive them,” said the governor, “as a gift in token of my goodwill.” The offender wrote back: “Sir, your overcoming of yourself hath overcome me.” This way of dealing with offenders was loved by him.
A garment mingled of linen and woollen.
Most probably the reference is to different materials, interwoven in the yarn of which the dress was made; but a difficulty still remains in the fact that such admixture was ordered in the garments of the priests. Perhaps the best explanation is that of Josephus, that the law here was only intended for the laity; which, as no question of intrinsic morality was involved, might easily have been. But when we inquire as to the reason of these prohibitions, and especially of this last one, it must be confessed that it is hard for us now to speak with confidence. Most probable it appears that they were intended for an educational purpose, to cultivate in the mind of the people the sentiment of reverence for the order established in nature by God. For what the world calls the order of nature is really an order appointed by God, as the infinitely wise and perfect One; hence, as nature is thus a manifestation of God, the Hebrew was forbidden to seek to bring about that which is not according to nature, unnatural commixtures; and from this point of view, the last of the three precepts appears to be a symbolic reminder of the same duty, namely, reverence for the order of nature, as being an order determined by God. (S. H. Kellogg, D. D.)
Woollen and flaxen threads
Not only is it forbidden to weave woollen and flaxen threads together into one material to make wearing apparel of it; but, according to the administrators of the law during the second Temple, an Israelite must not mend a woollen garment with a flaxen thread, and vice versa. One of the reasons which the ancient canonists assign for this prohibition is that “wool and linen were appointed for the priests alone.” This law is observed by the orthodox Jews to this day. (C. D. Ginsburg, LL. D.)
A bondmaid betrothed.
Divine toleration of defective morality
It will be said, and truly, that by this law slavery and concubinage are to a certain extent recognised by the law; and upon this fact has been raised an objection bearing on the holiness of the lawgiver, and, by consequence, on the Divine origin and inspiration of the law. Is it conceivable that the holy God should have given a law for the regulation of two so evil institutions? The answer has been furnished us, in principle, by our Lord (Matthew 19:8), in that which He said concerning the analogous case of the law of Moses touching divorce; which law, He tells us, although not according to the perfect ideal of right, was yet given “because of the hardness of men’s hearts.” That is, although it was not the best law ideally, it was the best practically, in view of the low moral tone of the people to whom it was given. Precisely so it was in this case. Abstractly, one might say that the case was in nothing different from the case of a free woman, mentioned Deuteronomy 22:23-24, for which death was the appointed punishment; bat practically, in a community where slavery and concubinage were long-settled institutions, and the moral standard was still low, the cases were not parallel. A law which would carry with it the moral support of the people in the one case, and which it would thus be possible to carry into effect, would not be in like manner supported and carried into effect in the other; so that the result of greater strictness in theory would, in actual practice, be the removal thereby of all restriction on license. On the other hand, by thus appointing herein a penalty for both the guilty parties such as the public conscience would approve, God taught the Hebrews the fundamental lesson that a slave-girl is not regarded by God as a mere chattel; and that if, because of the hardness of their hearts, concubinage was tolerated for a time, still the slave-girl must not be treated as a thing, but as a person, and indiscriminate license could not be permitted. And thus, it is of greatest moment to observe, a principle was introduced into the legislation, which in its ultimate logical application would require and effect--as in due time it has--the total abolition of slavery wherever the authority of the living God is truly recognised. The principle of the Divine government which is here illustrated is one of exceeding practical importance as a model for us. We live in an age when, everywhere in Christendom, the cry is “Reform”; and there are many who think that if once it be proved that a thing is wrong, it follows by necessary consequence that the immediate and unqualified legal prohibition of that wrong, under such penalty as the wrong may deserve, is the only thing that any Christian man has a right to think of. And yet, according to the principle illustrated in this legislation, this conclusion in such cases can by no means be taken for granted. That is not always the best law practically which is the best law abstractly. That law is the best which shall be most effective in diminishing a given evil, under the existing moral condition of the community; and it is often a matter of such exceeding difficulty to determine what legislation against admitted sins and evils may be the most productive of good in a community whose moral sense is dull concerning them, that it is not strange that the best men are often found to differ. Remembering this, we may well commend the duty of a more charitable judgment, in such eases, than one often hears from such radical reformers, who seem to imagine that in order to remove an evil all that is necessary is to pass a law at once and for ever prohibiting it; and who, therefore, hold up to obloquy all who doubt as to the wisdom and duty of so doing, as the enemies of truth and of righteousness. (S. H. Kellogg, D. D.)
In the fourth year all the fruit thereof shall be holy.
The law regarding fruit-trees
The explanation of this peculiar regulation is to be found in a special application of the principle which rules throughout the law--that the firstfruit shall always be consecrated unto God. But in this case the application of the principle is modified by the familiar fact that the fruit of a young tree, for the first few years of its bearing, is apt to be imperfect; it is not yet sufficiently grown to yield its best possible product. Because of this, in those years it could not be given to the Lord, for He must never be served with any but the best of everything; and thus until the fruit should reach its best, so as to be worthy of presentation of the Lord, the Israelite was meanwhile debarred from using it. During these three years the trees are said to be “as uncircumcised”; i.e., they were to be regarded as in a condition analogous to that of the child who has not yet been consecrated, by the act of circumcision, to the Lord. In the fourth year, however, the trees were regarded as having now so grown as to yield fruit in perfection; hence the principle of the consecration of the firstfruit now applies, and all the fourth year’s product is given to the Lord, as an offering of thankful praise to Him whose power in nature is the secret of all growth, fruitfulness, and increase. The moral teaching of this law is very plain. It teaches, as in all analogous cases, that God is always to be served before ourselves; and that not grudgingly, as if an irksome tax were to be paid to the Majesty of Heaven, but in the spirit of thanksgiving and praise to Him, as the Giver of “every good and perfect gift.” It further instructs us, in this particular instance, that the people of God are to recognise this as being true even of all those good things which come to us under the forms of products of nature. (S. H. Kellogg, D. D.)
1. A merciful providence for posterity; for if a tree be suffered to bear too soon, as the first, second, or third year, it doth not usually endure long, but decayeth sooner than otherwise it would, the fruit draweth away the nourishment which should make the root and tree strong.
2. It restrained covetousness in the Jews, and taught them how God hateth scraping all to man’s self for his time, and nothing caring for posterity. Such are they that will take the heart out of the land before their term end, cut down the wood, fruit-trees, hedges, destroy the game, and do all the mischief they can and dare do. The Lord seeth them and thinketh of them, though they little think of themselves and of their malicious actions.
3. It shadowed how little worth the fruits of youth usually are, either to the Church or commonwealth, till years have bred strength of judgment, and made them both see and do what is profitable. Even as uncircumcised fruits, so are the actions of youth, and therefore David prayed for pardon in this case. (Bp. Babington.)
Ye shall not round the corners of your heads.
That is, they are not to shave off the hair around the temples and behind the ears, so as to leave the head bald except a dish-like tuft upon the crown, thus imparting to their heads the form of a hemisphere. This was done by the Arabs, and other worshippers of the god Orotal. Hence the Arabs are ironically called “those with the corner of their hairpolled” (Jeremiah 9:26; Jeremiah 25:23; Jeremiah 49:32). (C. D. Ginsburg, LL. D.)
The true worshipper to appear as such
The command means, that the Israelite was not only to worship God alone, but he was not to adopt a fashion in dress which, because commonly associated with idolatry, might thus misrepresent his real position as a worshipper of the only living and true God. (S. H. Kellogg, D. D.)
Neither shalt thou mar the corners of thy beard.--An injunction not to mar the beard might hardly appear necessary, since it is well known with what pride and scrupulous care the beard was cultivated by the Hebrews and other Eastern nations; that it was deemed the greatest ornament of a man, a badge of his dignity, and a type of his vigour and perfect manhood; beard and life were hence often employed as synonymous, and oaths were confirmed, and blessings bestowed, by invoking the one or the other’; suppliants, desirous to give the utmost solemnity to their appeals, touched the beards of those they addressed; and a mutilation of the beard was looked upon as an unbearable disgrace, and often regarded as more calamitous than death. In some countries the beard was the distinctive mark of free men. An old Spartan law forbade the ephori, from the moment of their taking office, to clip their beards; and those who had fled before the enemy in battle were compelled to appear in public with half-shorn beards. However, it was customary among several nations for young men “to present to their gods the firstlings of their beards”; and it was possibly to prevent the adoption of similar usages among the Hebrews that the injunction was deemed desirable. Besides, “marring the cornets of the beard” was a heathen mode of mourning, which was not to be imitated, since it might easily lead to more objectionable perversities. (M. M. Kaliseh, Ph. D.)
Cuttings in your flesh for the dead.
The wild and frantic demonstrations of grief so common among eastern dud southern nations, included cuts and incisions in the body, among the Hebrews, the Philistines, and the Moabites, the Arabs and Ethiopians, the Babylonians and Armenians; among the early Greeks and Romaus, people in bereavement, especially women, indulged in the hideous practice of “lacerating their cheeks”; and when the king of the Seythians died, those of his subjects who received his body for burial, “cut off a part of their ears, shaved off their hair, wounded themselves on the arms, and drove arrows through their left hands.” Such acts, which are still customary among some tribes of Persia, Arabia, and Abyssinia, were to be shunned by the Hebrews, not only because immoderate grief is unbecoming a nation of priests, but because cuts and incisions, usually made by persons while engaged in prayer or other religious exercises, were meant as substitutes for self-immolation, and the blood thus shed was supposed to ensure atonement: such notions were held in abhorrence by the advanced Levitical writers, who attributed the power of expiation to the blood of clean sacrificial animals, but not to human blood. More widespread still was the custom of “inscribing” upon the body, by means of a “caustic,” words or short maxims, or of marking the forehead and cheeks, the hands, the arms, and the neck, with figures and emblems. It prevailed, and partially still prevails, in many countries of the old and the new world, both among savage and more civilised nations; and though in many cases it is in itself harmless, beingmerely intended for ornament, or for identification, as when a slave bears the name or the initials of his master, or the soldier those of his general, it was, in many instances, a very efficient mode of strengthening the most dangerous superstitions. It was so common for idolaters to have the name or image of their chief deities, or some other significant symbol associated with their faith, engraved upon their bodies, that even the earlier religious legislators of the Hebrews deemed it necessary to devise some substitute for that custom in harmony with their new creed, and they introduced the “phylacteries,” which the Hebrews were to “bind” as “a sign” upon their head, and as “a memorial” between their eyes, “that the law of the Lord might be in their mouths.” Thus more than one advantage was gained; the sign or memorial was known to refer to none else but the One and true God of the Hebrews, and it was understood not as an amulet, which in itself is a shield against danger and misfortune, but as an emblem meant to remind the Israelite of his duties, and of their faithful accomplishment by his own zeal and vigilant exertion. Yet it was even after the exile considered unobjectionable to cover with such symbols the body itself, as is manifest from allusions of Isaiah (Isaiah 44:5; Isaiah 49:16). The Levitical writers prohibited, therefore, tattooing of any kind and for whatever purpose, well aware how imperceptibly that practice might lead again to the heathen rites and notions. Christians in some parts of the East, and European sailors, were long in the habit of marking, by means of punctures and a black dye, their arms and other members of the body with the sign of the crucifix, or the image of the Virgin; the Mohammedans mark them with the name of Allah, and Orientals generally with the outlines of celebrated towns and places. A traveller relates that, as a preparation for an Arabian wedding, the women tattoo the bride with figures of flowers, houses, cypresses, antelopes, and other animals. Among the Thraeians tattooing was considered as a mark and privilege of noble birth. The branding of prisoners and malefactors, extensively practised to this day, is included in the interdiction of our verse. (M. M. Kalisch, Ph. D.)
Reverence My sanctuary.
If you consider, you will find that there is scarcely a sin which does not concentrate into itself the venom of many sins. It is sinfulness against God, whose law it violates; against our neighbour, whom, directly or indirectly, it inevitably injures; against ourselves, whom it tends to destroy. But the reason why every sin has this threefold cord of iniquity is because the tabernacle of God is with men, so that in every act of sin we cannot but sin against Him by defiling His temple, against ourselves by desecrating the inner sanctuary of our own being, against others because they, too, are His living sanctuaries. When the great American orator, Daniel Webster, was asked what thought impressed him most by its awful solemnity, he answered at once, “The thought of my immediate accountability to God.” There is a form of this thought yet more impressive--to feel that God is with us and in us; that every sin against ourselves or our brother-man is also a sin committed in His very presence-chamber, and therefore also a sin committed directly against Him. In sinning against myself, I sin not against a mere handful of dust, a mere piece of clay, but against that which is majestic, eternal, and Divine, against the Holy Spirit, against the Lord Jesus my Saviour, against the eternal Lord of all my life. A living poet has said, “Self-reverence, self-knowledge, self-control, these three alone lead life to sovereign power.” It is most true. Self-reverence depends upon self-knowledge, and it leads to self-control; and these are the elements of the only true greatness of mankind. Now I wish to show how this high reverence for our being lifts men above temptation, and how the absence of it or unfaithfulness to it plunges them in vice and shame. For instance, self-reverence results in the preservation of innocence, of perfect childlike innocence in some men, the heart of childhood taken up and glorified in the powers of manhood, the young lamb’s heart amid the full-grown flocks. This is one of the loveliest, certainly one of the rarest, if not always the most instructive, forms of human character. Again, this self-reverence, even if it has failed to produce this absolute innocence which is the rarest thing in all the world, may yet lead to the repentance of an intense conviction. If it has not kept a soul from lying, for a moment at least, among the dust and potsherds of a sensuous life, it can yet uplift it from them and give it the wings of a dove. (Archdeacon Farrar.)
On reverencing the sanctuary
I. How the sanctuary is to be reverenced.
1. The sanctuary is reverenced when proper ideas are entertained of its nature and holiness. This appropriate and sacred respect will be shown by not permitting the sanctuary to be dishonoured by any profane use of it, by keeping it in decent repair and cleanliness, and, as far as in us lies, in a state of magnificence worthy of the Great Being to whom it is dedicated; and by those outward tokens of reverence, by which we can express, without an idle superstition, our respect for the Being, the dwelling-places of whose honour are the temples devoted to His service.
2. After having proper ideas of the nature and holiness of the sanctuary, the next step towards reverencing it is to love to be in it, and to join in its services. When a place is consecrated to the worship of God; when He has promised to be there with a blessing; when He has proffered His word to be there as a fountain, set open for sin and uncleanness; and has appointed a priesthood to minister between Him and His people; when the priesthood of Christ is there enjoyed after His ordinance; to be wholly absent, or but partially present, comports little with a reverence for the sanctuary.
3. It is essential to a reverence for the sanctuary that we strive not to bring thither our worldly thoughts and improper affections.
4. In order to discharge the duty enforced in the text, we must be attentive to decorum, when entering the sanctuary, while continuing in it, and when returning from it.
II. The foundation and importance of the duty enjoined. This is briefly and fully assigned in the words, “I am the Lord.”
1. If we consider the nature of the Being, to whom the sanctuary belongs, and whom we there meet, this is sufficient to fill us with awe.
2. The authority of the Lord, as our Sovereign, renders an obedience to His law indispensable. (Bp. Dehon.)
Reverence due to holy places
I. What a sanctuary of god is, and wherein the holiness of it consists. Places are capable of a relative holiness in two respects.
1. In respect of a peculiar propriety God has in them by their dedication to His immediate worship and service.
2. In respect of His especial presence vouchsafed in them, and the particular communications of His grace in the holy offices there performed.
II. What respect or reverence is due to such holy places.
1. The building, repairing, adorning, and furnishing such places for the service of God.
2. The keeping them from all profane and common usage, and applying them wholly to the worship of God, and the business of religion.
3. The duly frequenting the worship of God in these holy places (Psalms 43:3; Psalms 84:2; Psalms 84:4.)
4. Consider what reverence becomes us when we come into the House of God. Our business there is to exercise ourselves in holy and heavenly matters; and our demeanour in it ought to be such as may testify what awful thoughts we have of that glorious Majesty, before whom, in a particular manner, we present ourselves. (John Leng, B. D.)
The reverence due to God’s sanctuary
The reverence we owe to public places of worship must be expressed
I. In solemnly separating them from common use. Churches, when once consecrated, cannot be alienated from God’s service without sacrilege, nor applied to any other use without profanation; for, as the Divine Majesty is holy, so it is manifestly a part of that honour we owe to God, that those things wherewith and whereby He is served should not be common and promiscuous, but reserved solely for sacred purposes.
II. In the beautifying and adorning them. Shall the Almighty vouchsafe, in a peculiar manner, to take up His residence among us here on earth, and shall not we endeavour to provide the most honourable reception for Him? The bestowing proper ornaments upon God’s house is not only an instance of respect due from us to Him, but is also a useful means of promoting religion; for outward objects will always affect the mind with impressions, according to the nature of them.
III. By a constant attendance upon the services in them. God, no doubt, is conscious to our most private devotions in our closets, to every ejaculation, to every pious thought that ever rises in our souls; He requires these, and approves of them; but then He expects, and commands also, that we pay Him public homage and external worship, wherein if we are deficient, we discharge but half our duty.
IV. By a decent and devout behaviour in them. As earthly potentates have many palaces in several parts of their dominions, where at different times they keep their court, one whereof is generally erected in their principal city, superior in magnificence and grandeur to the rest: so the Almighty, the King of kings, has His several mansion-houses throughout the world, though His chief dwelling be in heaven, where He is encircled with beams of light and glory, too strong for mortals to approach. These mansion-houses in these lower realms are those places that are dedicated and consecrated to His service, in which He is ever present, ready to dispense liberally His favours to all that duly ask, surrounded with a guard of angels and archangels, who to us indeed are invisible, but we are not so to them. With what humility, with what reverence and devotion, then, ought we to carry ourselves, in a place so dreadful as is the house of God, and in the presence of such honourable, such awful company! (S. Grigman, M. A.)
Reverence at worship
There are some who, when they behave irreverently in church, think that, after all, it is only a matter that concerns themselves. That if they do not behave well, “that’s,” as they term it, “their own look-out.” Of all the mistakes of which a man could be guilty, this is, I think, one of the greatest. Do you think that when you behave badly in church you wilt, at the day of account, only have that one sin of your own to answer for? Let me tell you this--that every sin of irreverence adds to you a mountain of sins for which you will have to give account at the Day of Judgment. Let me illustrate my meaning. You come to a service and behave badly. There are people, good people, sitting or kneeling around you. They have come to church to worship, but they see your bad behaviour and are upset by it. They try to pray, but through your bad behaviour they cannot do so. They try to join in the service but find it almost impossible. It is a wasted service to them. They feel angry: it is a Sunday service gone for ever, never to be re-lived so far as that Sunday service is concerned, spoiled for them by you. Who will have to answer for that at the Day of Judgment? Not they, but you! (E. Husband.)
Man himself a sanctuary
St. Augustine gives the inmost meaning of this exhortation when he says, “Dost thou worship in a temple? Worship in thyself; be thou first a temple of the Lord.”
Our visits to the sanctuary should be frequent
We shall never see the glory of that light which dwells between the cherubim if our visits to the shrine are brief and interrupted, and the bulk of our time is spent outside the tabernacle amidst the glaring sand and the blazing sunshine. No short swallow-flights of soul will ever carry us to the serene height where God dwells. It is the eagle, with steady, unflagging flaps of his broad pinion, and open-eyed gaze upwards, that rises “close to the sun in lonely lands,” and leaves all the race of short.winged and weak-sighted twitterers far below. (A. Maclaren.)
Worshipping alone is like a solo in music, very beautiful and entrancing, with charms that no chorus can give. Worshipping together is like an anthem with its harmonies sung by a large chorus. There are powers in it and emotions awakened, which no solo, however beautifully sung, can produce. Christians who worship in the house of God in company with other Christians will receive blessings that they would not receive worshipping by themselves.
The sanctuary should always be considered as the home of the people. It is in the sanctuary that human life should be interpreted in all the meaning of its pain and tragedy. Men should be able to say, “Now that we are baffled and perplexed by the things which are round about us in this world, and now that we find ourselves utterly unable to solve the problems which crowd upon our distracted minds, let us go unto the house of the Lord, for there we shall feel upon our souls the breath of eternity, and there we shall hear music which will quiet the tumult which carnal reason can neither explain nor control.” Dark will be the day when men can hear nothing in the sanctuary but words which they cannot understand, references which have no bearing upon immediate agony, and discussions which simply tittilate the intellect and the fancy, but never reach the dark and mortal sorrows of the heart. (J. Parker, D. D.)
Them that have familiar spirits.
Prohibition of traffic with familiar spirits
This verse prohibits all inquiring of them that “have familiar spirits,” and of “wizards,” who pretend to make relevations through the help of supernatural powers. According to 1 Samuel 28:7-11, and Isaiah 8:19, the “familiar spirit” is a supposed spirit of a dead man, from whom one professes to be able to give communications to the living. This pretended commerce with the spirits of the dead has been common enough in heathenism always, and it is not strange to find it mentioned here, when Israel was to be in so intimate relations with heathen peoples. But it is truly must extraordinary that in Christian lands, as especially in the United States of America, and that in the full light, religious and intellectual, of the last half of the nineteenth century, such a prohibition should be fully as pertinent as in Israe! For no words could more precisely describe the pretensions of the so-called modern spiritualism, which within the last half century has led away hum]reds of thousands of deluded souls, and those, in many cases, not from the ignorant and degraded, but from circles which boast of more than average culture and intellectual enlightenment. And inasmuch as experience sadly shows that even those who profess to be disciples of Christ are in danger of being led away by our modern wizards and traffickers with familiar spirits, it is by no means unnecessary to observe that there is not the slightest reason to believe that this which was rigidly forbidden by God in the fifteenth century B.C., can now be well-pleasing to Him in the nineteenth century A.D. And those who have most carefully watched the moral developments of this latter-day delusion will most appreciate the added phrase which speaks of this as “defiling” a man. (S. H. Kellogg, D. D.)
Rise up before the hoary head.
Homage for age
1. Because the aged represent mature wisdom.
2. Because the aged record long years spent in our service.
3. Because the aged demonstrate God’s providential care.
4. Because the aged are solemn admonitions of life’s decay.
5. Because the aged suggest nearness to eternity.
6. Because the aged exhibit the richest fruits of grace.
7. Because the aged mark the line of God’s covenant blessings for descendants.
8. Because the aged represent on earth Him who is the “Ancient of Days.”
Reverence the aged
When you meet them in public places, or they come to where you are, show them reverence.. Infirmity, wisdom, nay, age in itself, have each a claim on us. Age, apart from its qualities, has in it solemnity. The Lord would thus solemnise us in the midst of our pursuits. “Lo! the shadow of eternity! for one cometh who is almost in eternity already. His head and beard white as snow, indicate his speedy appearance before the Ancient of Days, the hair of whose head is as pure wool.” Every object, too, that is feeble seems to be recommended to our care by God; for these, are types of the condition wherein He finds us when His grace comes to save. It is, therefore, exhibiting His grace in a shadow, when the helpless are relieved, “the fatherless find mercy” (Hosea 14:3), “the orphans relieved, and the widow” (Psalms 146:9), and the “stranger preserved.” (A. A. Bonar.)
Reverence for superiors
The institutions of Sparta have everywhere been praised for the encouragement which they gave to the duty of showing respect for the aged, but the language of the Jewish lawgiver is much more emphatic: “Thou shalt rise up before the hoary head, and honour the face of the old man.” Beautiful examples are recorded in the Bible, as patterns for our imitation, in this important particular of filial reverence and obedience. The behaviour of Isaac towards Abraham, and that of Jacob to both father and mother; Joseph’s deference to his aged father, even when he himself was surrounded by the splendours of the Egyptian Court; Ruth with her mother-in-law; Solomon in the grandeur of royalty, paying respect to his mother; and, more than all, our blessed Saviour’s tender care for His mother in the hour of His dying agonies--all afford suggestive lessons to us. It is, however, not merely concerning reverence to parents that the text would lead us to speak. The very appearance of age is calculated to soften our hearts and to call forth our respect. No snow falls lighter than that which sprinkles the head in advancing years; and yet none is really heavier, because it never melts. Vale and mountain-top are covered alike with the white flakes which winter scatters broadcast and with unstinted hand, but the cheerful sun will soon cause them to disappear. There is no returning spring whose genial warmth can penetrate the eternal frost of age. The decrepitude of age can claim neither enterprise nor courage. “He is afraid of that which is high, and fears are in the way,” and with the load of infirmities which press him down, the additional weight of a “grasshopper” would be burdensome. “Desire has failed,” and ambition can no longer tempt him to put forth ventures and submit to toil. Only one wish remains to be fulfilled--to depart from this weary life. With this vivid picture before him, who can help feeling a sympathy for the old? It must be confessed that the present generation are sadly unmindful of the lesson taught us in the Catechism, “To submit myself to all my governors, teachers, spiritual pastors, and masters; to order myself lowly and reverently to all my betters.” “Betters,” indeed! Verily, the young people of this age have no “betters”! Some years ago Governor Everett, of Massachusetts, was riding out of Boston in a sleigh, with another gentleman of high social position, when they approached a school-house, from which a score of noisy boys rushed forth to enjoy their afternoon’s recess. The governor said to his friend, “Let us observe whether these lads show the marks of politeness to us which we were taught to practise fifty years ago.” At the same time he expressed his fears that the habits of civility were not much thought of in later times. As the sleigh passed the school-house all doubt on the subject was instantly dispelled, for the rude lads did their best at pelting the dignitaries with snowballs as they drove rapidly along the way. Every right-minded person must acknowledge that such conduct was outrageous and inexcusable. We ought, however, to go behind this astonishing act of boorish rudeness, and remember what long-continued neglect of proper instruction and training, on the part of parents and teachers, had suffered such a shocking state of manners to grow up in a civilised land. There never was anything quite equal to the presumption of the young or the meekness and acquiescence of the old in this matter. A shrewd observer remarked, not long ago, to a friend, “If, as you are going down town, you should approach a dozen boys playing on the sidewalk, so that no room was left for you to pass, which would you do? would you say, ‘Boys, you must not block up the walk in this way!’ or would you get down into the muddy street and go round?” The prompt answer was, “Go round, of course!” This reply shows the shameful pass to which things have come. Men of mature years must abdicate all rights, and truckle under with cowardly submission, lest they provoke the ill-will of boys! Parents and teachers! it is your bounden duty to correct this evil, cost what it may. The “Church Catechism” must again be made what it was in past generations when the young showed respect to their “betters,” a text-book in our families and schools. I trust that the young persons who bear me will not only be convinced by what has just been said of the imperative duty of honouring their parents, but that the kindred obligation of showing respect to old age will be much more thought of and observed. If your lives are spared, it will not be many years before you will be old yourselves, and you will need the sympathy and consideration which I am now recommending you to practise. The rules of ordinary politeness would require you to attend to this matter, but the duty rests on much higher ground. It is God Himself who gives the command, “Thou shalt rise up before the hoary head, and honour the face of the old man.” (J. N. Norton, D. D.)
Reverence due to age
This is one of those duties which are derived from the instinctive feelings of the heart. The old man was honoured before the reasonableness of the obligation was considered or the benefit of it understood. From that sensibility with which the Almighty Father has impressed the human soul, men often feel before they think, and act before they have considered their motives of action. From the same source many of the most refined pleasures of life originate. Ask the contemplative man why he delights to view the fragments of antiquity--the hanging arch, the mutilated column, the moss-grown tower! Ask him why he sometimes watches the closing twilight, wanders through the gloomy valley, or listens with peculiar pleasure to the distant murmur of the sea! He will find it difficult, perhaps, to account for his sensations, to analyse his satisfactions, or to trace them to their cause; but he will tell you that he felt and enjoyed them before he knew why or considered wherefore. In the same manner those who can contemplate the hoary head without some prepossession of respect and tenderness want the essential requisite of nature for performing their duty to the aged as they ought. But if they wish to discover other motives, such may be found in abundance. It is to the pious aged that the young are to look for superior knowledge and conspicuous virtue. They have enjoyed the benefits of experience, and are therefore qualified to act as monitors and guides. They may be considered, too, as oracles, who speak to the serious and well-disposed with overwhelming authority. They have encountered the temptations and difficulties which yet await their younger brethren, and can point out to others the way by which they escaped. They, probably, have been exposed to trials from which our fortitude would shrink in terror, and have mortified those evil dispositions of nature which might be preparing for us disappointments, misery, and guilt. To render our veneration more personal and endearing we should consider them, also, as dead to those pleasures and enjoyments which we regard as our chief felicity, and labouring with those infirmities under which we must one day sink. Besides, therefore, the precepts of religion and the arguments of reason, there are other motives arising from sensibility and the humane affections of the heart, which render it an indispensable duty in the young to reverence the old.
On the relative duties of the young to the aged
Let us consider the motives for honouring “the hoary head,” as they are deprived from the principles and connected with the duties of Christianity. But we must remember it is not merely to age that this reverence is due, but to the hoary head only “when it is found in the way of righteousness.” From its very nature this must be one of the relative duties of the young, and its obligations are founded on the genuine sentiments of the heart, on the deductions of reason, as well as the precepts of religion, and on the peculiar advantages resulting from it. The gospel of Christ strongly inculcates the principles of general deference and humility. “In lowliness of mind,” says the apostle, “let each esteem other better than himself,” and to the exhortation of being “kindly affectioned towards our fellow-creatures,” is added the precept of “preferring one another in honour.” The young, considered in their relation to the aged, have many additional reasons for showing this deference and honour; and farther, the sentiments of reverence should be accompanied with tenderness and affection. It is to them that the young are to look for superior knowledge, and, in general, superior virtue. They have enjoyed the benefits of experience, as well as reflection, and are therefore qualified to be our monitors and guides. The claims to deference arising from the distinctions of birth and fortune, when compared to these, are trifling and inconsiderable. If reverence be due from one human being to another it can never be offered with more propriety than as the price of knowledge from the ignorant to tile wise. The aged may be considered, in this respect, as oracles that speak to the serious and the well-disposed with such conviction as they can nowhere find but in their own experience. They are a sort of living chronicles, that impress the memory and imagination with all the energy of truth. Let us consider them as having husbanded and improved the talent well, which we perhaps shall squander away, and as preparing, with humble confidence, to “enter into the joy of their Lord.” But let me observe that these observations relate only to “the hoary head,” when crowned with wisdom, virtue, and piety. Viewed in this light, the aged cannot but impress us with the deepest sense of reverence and honour. They have encountered difficulties and temptations, in which we perhaps shall be enthralled, and can point out to us the means by which they escaped. They have been exposed to trials from which our fortitude would shrink with terror, and have mortified those evil dispositions of nature which might be preparing for us disappointment, misery, and guilt. To the hero who has retired from the field, crowned with the wreath of fame, men look up with admiration and applause; and shall we withhold our reverence from Him who has fought the good fight of “Christian faith,” and obtained a victory over the temptations of the world? But as every human being is subject to sin, we should be careful, in all the examples that are set before us, to avoid the evil and to imitate the good. In short, let us joyfully embrace every means in our power of improving that inestimable talent which is entrusted to our care, and by which alone we can “grow wise unto salvation.” (J. Hewlett, B. D.)
The eye of age looks meek into my heart; the voice of age echoes mournfully through it; the hoary head and palsied hand of age plead irresistibly for its sympathies. I venerate old age; and I love not the man who can look without emotion upon the sunset of life, when the dusk of evening begins to gather over the watery eye, and the shadows of twilight grow broader and deeper upon the understanding. (Longfellow.)
Respect for the aged
One day (Cicero tells the story in his treatise on “Old Age,”) an aged Athenian came into the theatre, but not one of his fellow-citizens in that immense crowd would incommode himself to make room for him. As, however, he approached the ambassadors from Lacedaemon, who had their own special seat, they all rose to receive him into their midst. The whole assembly burst into applause, whereupon somebody said, “The Athenians know what is good, but they will not practise it.” Many people know what is right but turn a deaf ear to conscience, and neglect their duty, although it has been made clear to them what that duty is. (S. S. Chronicle.)
Reverence of old age
God hath put a signal honour upon it by styling Himself the “Ancient of Days,” and He threatens it as a great judgment upon a people (Isaiah 3:5), that the children shall behave themselves proudly against the ancients. A reverent awe before them is not only a point of manners, but a part of a moral and express duty; and therefore it is said of Elihu (Job 32:4), that he waited till Job had spoken because he was elder than he, and in verse 6 he saith, “I am young and ye are very old: wherefore I was afraid and durst not show you mine opinion.” (Bp. E. Hopkins.)
., shall be . . . as one born among you.
I. The danger apprehended. The fear was lest they should grow too inclusive and haughty, and begin to despise and oppress the individual foreigners that should remain in the land or might enter it for a settlement. The invitation to the stranger might be like that of the spider to the fly--a siren’s voice luring to destruction. This is the very fate that has befallen the Jews in mediaeval and modern Europe. To prevent such usage the command of the text was issued. There arises a clashing of commercial interests; to see foreigners flourishing in the midst whilst home interests suffer, has often led to riot and persecution.
II. The principles oh which the command of the text is raised.
1. There is a recognition of the brotherhood of man. “He shall be unto you as one born among you.” This doctrine of the unity of the race was brought eminently to light by Jesus Christ.
2. There is a recognition of the royal law of love, both as to its extent and as an instrument of obedience. For
Without affection, the strictest rules are in vain. To guide the ship by its helm is easier than by any external attachment of ropes. Better is it for a man to be impelled towards the goal by inward desire than to be pushed and dragged by the hands of others, tugging him now on this side, now on that.
3. It is instructive to discern in the law predictions of the gospel. Here are the germs that developed into trees laden with richest fruit.
III. The memories by which observance of the command is enforced.
1. By a remembrance of their own condition in former days. Christians! your time of bondage should make you compassionate to those still in darkness. Will you shun them as evil, or let praying and working on their behalf go hand in band?
2. By a remembrance of their relationship to God. After nearly every precept comes this solemn reminder, “I am the Lord thy God.” He was the covenant God to whom the Israelites had dedicated themselves, being sprinkled with sacrificial blood. If they entertained a proper sense of the authority of God, they would attend to this particular statute. Stand on the monument, and it is difficult to tell which is the giant and which the dwarf below in the streets. So before the majesty of God all earthly distinctions of race disappear. Love the stranger! God hath made all of one blood. (S. R. Aldridge, B. A.)
Courtesy to strangers
I. We ourselves are strangers on the earth. “For ye were strangers in the land” (Leviticus 19:34).
1. Dependent on other care than our own; human and Divine.
2. Transient, soon to leave, resting but a little while on earth. Observe: it is good to see in the case of others an analogy with our own; it will foster sympathy and helpfulness.
II. Courtesy should root itself in generous love. “Thou shalt love him as thyself.”
1. Acting to the stranger as if the service were being rendered to us. This will teach us what to do, and how to show kindness.
2. Recognising that we may perchance be in the stranger’s position. As thus needing kindness, let us now exhibit it.
3. Opening our hearts in ungrudging benevolence. “Love” gives lavishly. Courtesy should not be meagre and superficial.
III. Gratitude to heaven prompts us to generous kindness. “Ye were strangers in the land of Egypt; I am the Lord your God.”
1. Memory of God’s rescue should constrain us to care for others.
2. God’s relationship to us requires that we illustrate His lovingkindness.
3. His commands to courtesy cannot be evaded with impunity. (W. H. Jellie.)
Unkindness to a stranger
Philip of Macedon, hearing of one in his kingdom that refused most unthankfully to receive a stranger, of whom he had been formerly succoured in a time of extreme need, as having lost all he had by a wreck at sea, caused him to be worthily punished, by branding in his forehead these two letters I. H., i.e., Ingratus Hospes, The Unthankful Guest. Now, if every unthankful man were thus used, there would be many a blistered forehead amongst us. Oh the unthankfulness that we show unto God, who, when we were strangers to Him, shipwrecked even in an ocean of sin, sent His Son Christ Jesus to deliver us, yet we refuse to receive Him, to relieve Him in His distressed members, and to be obedient to His blessed commands I And then our ingratitude to one another is such that though we come off with smooth fronts here in this world, yet such characters of shame and confusion are engraven on our souls that men and angels shall read them with amazement when the books shall be laid open (Daniel 7:10). (J. Spencer.)
Just balances, Just weights shall ye have.
I. Social life is based upon commercial contracts. Each bringing to the other some product of skill or toil. We cannot supply a fraction of our own wants, we must buy; and we have also in turn something to sell. Business is the outcome of this reciprocal dependence. Each can, each must help the other, or social and civic life would be impossible.
II. Dishonesty is subversive of the very basis of social life. It breaks confidence, alienates intercourse; closes friendly relationships, substitutes roguery for righteousness, and wrecks all goodwill. Pleasant to reflect--
1. How much trade honour there is among men.
2. How surely trickery brings discovery, and therefore penalty, on rogues.
3. How honesty is ever winning respect and reward.
III. Justice sits observant of all deceitful deeds. “I am the Lord.” He sees all secrecies; weighs all balances; hates all dishonesties; will requite all deceits. (W. H. Jellie.)
Honesty in small things
A young American aspirant for office in the State of Iowa drove up to an hotel, alighted, and engaged a room. He desired his trunk to be taken to his room, and, seeing a man passing whom he supposed to be the porter, he imperiously ordered him to take it up. The porter charged him twenty-five cents, which he paid with a marked quarter worth only twenty cents. He then said, “You know Governor Grimes? Oh, yes, sir.” “Well, take my card to him, and tell him I wish an interview at his earliest convenience.” “I am Governor Grimes, at your service, sir.” “You--I--that is, my dear sir, I beg--a--a thousand pardons!” “None needed at all, sir,” replied Governor Grimes. “I was rather favourably impressed with your letter, and had thought you well suited for the office specified; but, sir, any man who would swindle a working man out of a paltry five cents would defraud the public treasury had he an opportunity. Good evening, sir.”
An unfair judgment
A judge in New Orleans has recently set aside a jury verdict on somewhat unusual but certainly good grounds. A man was on trial for murder. After the case had been given to the jury they retired for consultation for verdict, and spent the hours in drinking whiskey and playing cards. They found the prisoner guilty; but the next day, in setting aside their verdict, Judge Baker said: “Twelve men, supplied with a quart bottle of whiskey and a deck of cards, who played poker from twelve o’clock at night till four in the morning, and holding a man’s life in their hands, could not possibly give the prisoner a fair trial. As long as I preside over this court I cannot sanction such a thing, and therefore I grant the prisoner a new trial.” (S. S. Chronicle.)
Rev. John Miller, writing in the New York Independent the reminiscence of an interview with the late A. T. Stewart, the millionaire storekeeper of New York, tells us that on one occasion in reply to his visitor’s question, “What is the secret of this enormous business?” Mr. Stewart replied: “The only secret I know is that I started with the idea of becoming professionally and actually a merchant. I saw lawyers and doctors become rich by making themselves precious to those they worked for. Hence certain rules. I had only one price.’ Ladies who come in their cushioned carriages don’t want to be fevered by the idea of beating down. Again, perfect goods! I bought and sold nothing damaged. And in a third of a century people got to buying of me with the luxury of an easy mind. I allowed no deceit. A youth who would misrepresent anything I would discharge. I forbade ladies to be allowed to deceive each other in talking of my goods, and salesmen were ordered to correct buyers who were standing by the goods, who said they would wash, for example, if they would not. You have no idea what comfort this would give in shopping through a long course of years and the business would grow, under this entire freedom from complaint, in a way that neither the storekeeper nor the buyer at the time might quite remark or understand. This is my secret,” said he, “as far as I can conceive. I have demanded full profits, but then I have bought with uniform care, and sold correctly and with absolute truth all my time.” “Poor humanity may have only one good side,” adds Mr. Miller, “but, certainly, that is worthy of a record.”
Honesty in common dealing
The idea running through this passage is manifestly that of an inward, solid, living truthfulness of mind, as opposed to all surface-virtue or sham, or to any mere keeping up of appearances or putting on of an outside for the avoiding of scandal or damage or disrepute. It is that of a heart entire and direct with itself: a heart without any doubleness or intricacy or prevarication; a heart that keeps itself clean of the dust and cobwebs that gather in the darkness of close designs, oblique arts, and snaky thoughts; and that rejoices to have its chambers all open, its passages clear, and full of light, and fresh and sweet with Heaven’s own breath. (Norman Hudson.)
In whatever we do or say let us by all means be faithful and true: deceiving no man; beguiling no man to his damage; punctual to our word and promise; firm and constant to our just engagements; honest and fair in all our dealings. Last, not least, let us be sure that we not only propose to ourselves good and laudable ends but that we also pursue them by no means but what are just and pure; remembering that--
“Him, only him, the shield of Heaven defends
Whose means are fair and spotless as his ends.”
A popular pastor preached once on the immoralities of trade. At the close of the service two of the prominent members of his church, both successful business men, came to him. Said the first: “Dominie, there is no use in preaching such a sermon. That sort of thing is never practised by honourable houses or by such men as compose this congregation.” The other called the preacher aside and said, “Dominie, there is no use in preaching such sermons. The practices you speak of are so universal that they have ceased to merit your characterisation of them. Every business house in this city does just that thing, my own amongst the rest. It is not worth while to preach against it.” (Hom. Review.)
It is not Israel alone which has needed, and still needs, to hear iterated this command, for the sin is found in every people, even in every city, one might say in every town, in Christendom; and--we have to say it--often with men who make a certain profession of regard for religion. All such, however religious in certain ways, have special need to remember that “without holiness no man shall see the Lord”; and that holiness is now exactly what it was when the Levitical law was given out. As, on the one side, it is inspired by reverence and fear toward God, so, on the other hand, it requires love to the neighbour as to one’s self, and such conduct as that will secure. It is of no account, therefore, to keep the Sabbath--in a way--and reverence--outwardly--the sanctuary, and then on the week-day water milk, adulterate medicines, sugars, and other foods, slip the yard-stick in measuring, tip the balance in weighing, and buy with one weight or measure and sell with another, “water” stocks and gamble in “margins,” as the manner of many is. God hates, and even honest atheists despise, religion of this kind. Strange notions, truly, of religion have men who have not yet discovered that it has to do with just such commonplace, everyday matters as these, and have never yet understood how certain it is that a religion which is only used on Sundays has no holiness in it; and therefore, when the day comes, as it is coming, that shall try every man’s work as by fire, it will, in the fierce heat of Jehovah’s judgment, be shrivelled into ashes as a spider’s web in a flame, and the man and his work shall perish together. (S. H. Kellogg, D. D.)
Commercial justice in other nations
The Hindoo law imposes the highest fines not only upon those who falsify scales or measures, but upon official examiners of coins who pronounce a good piece bad or a bad piece good; it inflicts heavy penalties, and partially corporeal chastisement, upon those who overreach customers, give short measure or light weight, adulterate goods, or try to give them a deceptive appearance; and with respect to a trader in counterfeited gold, it enacts that “by order of the king he must be cut in pieces with razors,” or that “he must at least lose three limbs of his body and pay the highest fine.” In Egypt, false coiners and the manufacturers of false weights were condemned to have both their hands cut off; and fraudulent practices of this kind were held in equal detestation by other nations, and were visited with similar punishments. (M. M. Kalisch, Ph. D.)
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Leviticus 19". The Biblical Illustrator. https://beta.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 20 / Ordinary 25