Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
Matthew 19:8). Divorce was one of these. It was permitted on grounds of strong personal dislike (ver. 3). The Law was inapplicable to adultery, that being judged a capital offense. While permitting divorce, Moses obviously aims at restricting it, and shows, by his modes of expression, how alien this rupture of the marriage bond is to the original institution. We may learn -
I. THAT THE RIGHT OF DIVORCE IS ONE TO BE STRICTLY GUARDED. Divorce, even where most justified, is a great evil. It is the rupture of a tie intended by the Creator to be indissoluble. Adultery warrants it, but it must be deemed not the least part of the evil that so unhappy a cause for the dissolution of marriage should exist. The revelations of the divorce courts are most injurious to public morality. Facilities for divorce, such as some advocate, would lead to serious mischiefs. Besides being wrong in principle, they would create inconstancy, lead to domestic unhappiness, inflict hardship on children, prevent efforts being made to mend matters by forbearance and. compliance. Frequent divorces blunt the sense of the sacredness of the marriage union, and so lead to licentiousness. "At the time when divorces were most frequent among the Romans marriages were most rare; and Augustus was obliged, by penal laws, to force men of fashion into the married state" (Hume). Moses restrains divorce thus far that he requires it to take place:
1. By means of a legal document.
2. For reason given.
3. He debars the man divorcing from remarrying the woman divorced if, in the interval, she has been married to another. The Christian law recognizes no legitimate ground of divorce save adultery (Matthew 5:32).
II. THAT RIGHT VIEWS ON DIVORCE ARE CONNECTED WITH A SENSE OF THE INHERENT SACREDNESS OF THE MARRIAGE RELATION. This is suggested by the terms employed in ver. 4. A husband is prohibited from remarrying his divorced wife if in the interval she has been the wife of another, and the ground given for the prohibition is that "she is defiled." But why "defiled?" The expression could not have been used had the first marriage been regarded as perfectly nullified by the legal divorce. The statement that a divorced woman, remarrying, is "defiled," implies that deep view of the marriage relation given in Genesis (Genesis 2:24), and reiterated by Christ (Matthew 19:3-10). And it will be found, in practice, that light views of the sacredness of the marriage relation invariably work in the direction of increasing facilities for divorce. "The skeptical party in France not long ago proposed to make marriage dissoluble at the pleasure of the parties whenever the woman had passed the age at which child-bearing was no longer to be expected" (R. H. Hutton, in Expositor, January, 1881). The writer just quoted ably argues that strict views on marriage, and divorce, are not possible, save under the sanction of a supersensual morality. - J.O.
a written divorce. Among other nations an oral divorce was sufficient, and so a divorce might be from the flimsiest caprice. Again, Moses forbade any coming together as man and wife again, a custom which prevails among the Arabs when the oral divorce is so lightly undertaken. Hence we notice in this law given by Moses -
I. THE DIVORCE OF THE WOMAN MUST BE DELIBERATE AND FINAL. Woman was not to be the toy of man's caprice; she was not to be lightly sent away, and, when sent away by the husband after deliberately writing her divorce, she was never to be taken back again. In this way Moses really consulted the rights of women. They had a right to a deliberate statement of the grounds of their divorce; they had also a right to be protected from further interference on the part of their former husbands. It was a wise expedient considering the degeneracy of the time. It is an improvement assuredly on the arrangements of Mahomet. Our Lord still further secured the rights of women in ordaining that nothing but infidelity on the part of the wife should dissolve the marriage union (Matthew 5:32).
II. WAR MUST NOT ROB A NEWLY MARRIED WIFE OF HER HUSBAND; SHE HAS A RIGHT TO HIS SOCIETY FOR A YEAR WITHOUT MOLESTATION. This was placing the interests of a single woman above the interests of the State. This was exalting the bride to a throne of highest honor surely. Other systems and the world as well may degrade woman, but God's Law elevates her and enthrones her.
III. NOR IS SHE THROUGH HER HUSBAND'S DIFFICULTIES TO LOSE EITHER OF HER MILLSTONES FOR THE GRINDING OF THE CORN. Here was another right of the housewife. No legal distraint could reach the little mill which ground the corn at home and kept the wolf from the door. Thus in her sorrows and in her joys God stood her Friend, and insisted on her rights. A similar shield should be thrown over her still. It is by securing her in her rights at home that woman's cause shall he advanced. She is intended to be a queen in the household. Everything that makes her position there more secure, everything that makes the home sacred even from the intrusion of a national war at certain times, everything that makes her feel the foundation firm below her, - is in the interests of public weal. But if she is carelessly thrown into the competition with the stronger sex, she will get deteriorated. The rights of women constitute a much longer subject than even Mr. Mill has made it. May the interpreter in due season appear! - R.M.E.
Deuteronomy 20:5-8. It provides that the newly married man shall be left free to enjoy the relation into which he has entered for a whole year, not being required to serve in war, and not being liable to be called from home on public business. It may be inserted here as tending to prevent divorces. We learn:
1. That it is the duty of the husband to love and cherish the wife (Ephesians 5:29).
2. That it is the interest of the State to do what it can to endear the marriage relation.
3. That laws should be framed in a spirit of kindness, and with consideration for the happiness of the subjects. This law shows kindly consideration for the wife,
(1) in not depriving her of the husband of her youth in the months of their early love;
(2) in allowing time for the husband's affections to become securely fixed, so preventing inconstancy. - J.O.
I. NUPTIAL JOY IS A CARE OF GOD. In every act of Jesus Christ's earthly life, he could have said, "He that hath seen me hath seen the Father." Thus, when he became a guest at the marriage feast at Cana, he appeared and spake and acted as his Father's Representative. His miraculous deed was the expression of his Father's pleasure. On every honorable marriage the sunshine of Jehovah rests. In all the beginnings of human life God's fatherly interest centers. That human life may be full of joy is his main concern.
II. NUPTIAL JOY IS SUPERIOR EVEN TO CARES OF THE STATE. The marriage union is the spring-time of a man's life; let no rough wind of war blast it! To spoil the nuptial joy is to spoil a man's life. Other things can wait; this fleeting season of a man's history cannot be recalled. Others can fight the battles of his country better than can he; for at such a time his heart will be elsewhere than the battle-field. To send such as he is to invite defeat. It is not simply a permissive law; it is obligatory: he shall not go. To be pressed into military service on his marriage day might sour his temper, exasperate his feelings, dissipate his young love, ruin his earthly home, and blast his domestic prospects. Pious homes are the nursery grounds for God's kingdom.
III. NUPTIAL JOY HAS ITS LIMITATIONS. Such exemption prevailed for a year: then it ceased. The fresh and fragrant spring must give way to fruit-bearing autumn. Joy is a preparation for arduous service. It is worse than useless, if it begets only indolence. It is the parent of new exertion. It recreates the mind. It braces and vitalizes all the active energies. As sleep prepares for labor, so pleasure equips us for higher attainments. We need the spirit of wisdom to use our joys to advantage. - D.
I. THAT THE NECESSARIES OF LIFE ARE NOT TO BE TAKEN FROM HIM. The millstone (ver. 6). His raiment, which if taken in pledge is to be restored by nightfall (vers. 12, 13). These are considerate provisions. It is the excess of cruelty to press law against a man to the extent of depriving him of the necessaries of life. This would apply to needful clothing, to a bed, to cooking utensils, to the tools by which he earns his bread. It is nearly as bad to receive and keep these things in pledge or pawn. Help, free and ungrudging, should be forthcoming to all honest persons in need, without driving them to such straits. If men will not work, neither should they eat (2 Thessalonians 3:10), but while this may be a reason for refusing to support them in their indolence, it can be no reason for helping them to strip themselves of the necessaries of their existence. Instead of taking a man's tools from him, he should rather he encouraged to retain and ply them, "working with his hands the thing that is good," that he may both support himself and "have to give to him that needeth" (Ephesians 4:28).
II. THAT HIS PERSONAL FREEDOM IS TO BE RESPECTED. (Ver. 7.) No strong or rich neighbor was to be allowed to steal, enslave, or sell him. The stealing of a man was punishable with death. And the spirit of the Law carries us beyond its letter. It requires that we respect the poor man's freedom in all the relations of his life. Whatever the degree of his dependence, it does not entitle another to force his convictions, or do aught that would interfere with the exercise of his rights as man or citizen. Yet how often is compulsion and intimidation applied to those in dependent situations to compel them to act, not as their consciences approve, but as their superiors desire! He who takes advantage of a man's weakness to do anything of the kind is a "man-stealer" in principle and at heart.
III. THAT HIS DWELLING IS NOT TO BE INVADED. (Vers. 10, 11.) The fine sense of justice, the delicacy of feeling, in these precepts, is certainly remarkable. The poor man's house is to be as sacred from invasion as the house of the wealthy. Even his creditor is to wait outside, and let the man fetch as his pledge what he can best spare. We are taught a lesson of respect for the domiciliary and proprietary rights of the poor. Many act as if the homes of the poor were not entitled to have their privacy respected in the same way as the homes of the rich, The Law of God teaches otherwise. We owe it to God, and we owe it to the humanity which is in our poorer brethren as well as in us, that we treat them and their belongings with precisely the same amount of respect that we would show to persons in a better social position.
IV. THAT HIS WAGES ARE TO BE PAID WITH REGULARITY. (Vers. 14, 15.) Every day, the text says, and in the East this was necessary. During the Indian famines it was found that the persons engaged on the relief works had to be paid in this manner. Great suffering was sometimes experienced from the neglect of the rule. The law extends to hired service of all kinds, and enjoins in principle regularity in payment of wages. A like principle applies to the payment of tradesmen's accounts. We have heard tradesmen complain bitterly of the inconvenience to which they were subjected from the singular want of consideration displayed by wealthy families in this particular. Accounts are allowed to run on, and payment is withheld, not from want of ability to pay, but from sheer indolence and carelessness in attending to such matters. While to crave payment would, on the tradesman's part, mean the forfeiture of custom. - J.O.
I. A SEASONABLE LOAN IS A PRICELESS SERVICE, Men can render service one to another in a thousand different forms. Redundance of possession on the part of one may serviceably supply the deficiencies of another. One man has riches which he cannot profitably employ, another has trade for which his money capital is insufficient. One man has accumulated experience, another has penetrative wisdom, another has technical knowledge. All this is equipment for useful service. So, in the spiritual kingdom, one has tender feeling, another has gift of prayer or gift of speech, another has extended influence. All human endowments are a common fund to be distributed for the benefit of all. There are occasions in human life when a loan is more useful than a gift. Temporary exigencies sometimes arise, for which loan, on fitting security, is the wisest alleviation.
II. FOR LOANS SUITABLE PLEDGES SHOULD BE TAKEN.
1. This serves as a check upon facile borrowing. If loans are granted on too easy terms, we may encourage a man in reckless commercial speculation, or destroy the natural checks on personal extravagance.
2. This serves to prevent strife. Borrowers have oftentimes a short memory for liabilities. While human nature has its imperfections and society its scoundrels, it is wiser to have solid guarantee for the redemption of loans, and honest borrowers will not object to give suitable pledges for honesty.
3. Pledges are needed on the ground of uncertain mortality. "We know not what a day may bring forth."
III. PLEDGES WHICH TOUCH A MAN'S LIFE ARE PROHIBITED. Money-getting is never to be so pressed as to impinge on the domain of life. Human life is a sacred thing, and must not be trifled with. It has latent capabilities, and may yet become a source of blessing to myriads. Gain becomes as the small dust, an inappreciable thing, when placed in the balance against a human life. The gold of a continent is a bubble in comparison with a man's soul.
IV. GENEROUS SURRENDER OF POVERTY'S PLEDGES AN ACT OF PIETY. Pledges are telltales of common dishonesty. If truthfulness and honor were as prevalent as they ought to be, no pledge would be needed. A man's word ought to be as good as his pledge. It often does a man good if we make his honor the only pledge. He is ennobled by our confidence. He rises in self-respect. Debts of honor are often paid prior to those which have material security. If we form a high estimate of men, they will often strive to reach the ideal. Generous treatment of the poor secures their warmest interest on our behalf. The poorest of the poor has still access to the audience-chamber of the heavenly palace. Their simple suit on our behalf will sometimes secure blessings which no arithmetic can measure. Deeds of kindness done to the indigent are done to God, for God identifies himself with them. "He that giveth to the poor lendeth to the Lord." If the concession he an act of sterling love, pure from the alloy of selfishness, it is an act of righteousness - the fruit of the Divine Spirit's grace. This is not self-righteousness, for genuine love to men is a gracious affection. It does not begin with self; it does not terminate in self. God is its object; hence it shall be counted for righteousness. As Abraham's faith counted for righteousness, so does also genuine love. - D.
prevention, which is better still. For man-stealing and man-selling are the origin of slavery, and the Lord attaches to this the penalty of death. As Cheerer said of it, "God be praised for this law! It strikes through and through the vitals of this sin."
I. LIBERTY MUST BE MAINTAINED UNDER THE PENAL SANCTION OF DEATH TO HIM WHO INVADES IT. The ruffian who would steal and sell a brother deserves to die. His treason against the liberty of his fellow is an unpardonable sin against society, and he should get no quarter. No wonder men have fought and died for liberty when God surrounds it with such tremendous sanctions.
II. HOW MUCH GREATER THE CRIME OF BRINGING MEN INTO SPIRITUAL BONDAGE. And this is done daily. What is the meaning of the power exercised by superstitious priesthoods over their devotees? Is it not "spiritual despotism?" And should not the crime of man-stealing awake a suspicion in such hearts that their procedure is the exact analogue in the spiritual sphere? It should be combated and resisted unto the death, as destroying that heritage of liberty with which the Lord has endowed all men. - R.M.E.
I. LIBERTY IS ESSENTIAL TO MAN'S FULLEST LIFE. Any form of bondage is a curtailment of life, a mutilation of the man. His outward condition may be bettered. He may have more food and warmer clothing and a healthier home, but the real man is injured. He is not fully susceptible of self-development. The springs of life are poisoned. He learns to despise himself, and to despise oneself is a step on the slippery road to ruin. Yet liberty is a human right not well understood. It must be distinguished from license. True liberty has its limits and its checks. A man is at liberty to part with his liberty for a time. Every man who toils for his bread is compelled to do this. Yet even this temporary cessation of his liberty must be voluntary.
II. TO DEPRIVE A MAN FORCIBLY OF HIS LIBERTY IS TO DEPRIVE HIM OF HIS LIFE. The life of the body is not the whole of a man's life. The intellect, affections, choice, will, have a life more precious than the life of the body. To steal a man or to kidnap a child is to interfere, wantonly and injuriously, with the proper life of the person. The outward conditions of training and probation are not such as God ordained. The man's eternal prospects, as well as his earthly possibilities, are blighted. And all this moral damage is done for paltry gain. The man who can lend himself to such a business as slave-mongering is lost to all goodness, lost to shame. He is a disgrace to the human species - a tool of Satan.
III. FOR SUCH A CRIME THE GOD-APPOINTED PENALTY IS DEATH. No heavier penalty is imposed by the civil magistrate, because no heavier penalty is possible. Such a monster must be removed from the scenes of human society, because his presence is pestilential, demoralizing, deadly. Where human judgment ends, God's judgment begins. Such a one is hurried before the higher court of heaven, is arraigned before the great white throne of the Eternal, and fullest justice will here be meted out. My soul, be thou free from such taint as this! - D.
I. A JUDGMENT TO BE DREADED. Leprosy is viewed here, as usually in Scripture:
1. As a stroke of Divine judgment. It was not always such (Job 2.). Nor did the stroke of Divine judgment always take this form (Uzzah, Jeroboam, Ananias, etc.). But it was a frequent form of punishment for sins of a theocratic nature (Uzziah, Gehazi, etc.). It is seldom safe to interpret judgments (Luke 13:1-6), but we may expect God's stroke in some way to fall upon ourselves if we persistently despise his laws.
2. As a symbol of spiritual corruption. The worst penalty with which God can visit any one is to smite him with soul leprosy, to leave sin to have its natural dominion over him, to allow its corruption to work and spread through his inner man.
II. A WARNING TO BE PONDERED. They are bid remember the case of Miriam. We do well to lay to heart the instances we have known of sin working out punishment and death. Miriam's case suggests the additional thought of pardon on repentance, and of the prevalence of intercession in obtaining forgiveness for offences (Numbers 12:9-16). - J.O.
I. LEPROSY HAD A RELIGIOUS CHARACTER. More was meant by the infliction than was seen by the bodily eye. It was mysterious in its origin, and irresistible in its progress. It gradually spread and covered the whole man. It touched and injured every faculty. The intention was salutary, viz. to lead the sufferer's thoughts to the discovery of a deeper malady, and to awaken desire for a more enduring cure. The outward is an index of the inward. Leprosy is a type and picture of sin.
II. LEPROSY REQUIRED RELIGIOUS TREATMENT. It was vain to seek the offices of an ordinary physician. Earthly remedy was and still is unknown. The sufferer was required to visit the priest. Direct application to God was to be made. Meanwhile, the leper was to be completely isolated. He might not consort with his fellows. Hereby he might learn the disastrous effects of sin, viz. in disintegrating society; and hereby he might in solitude mourn over sin, and seek its cure. The only possibility of the removal of leprosy was in religious obedience. Every part of the prescription was furnished by God, and was to be applied by God's ministers. Completest submission was a condition of cure.
III. LEPROSY, IN ITS CAUSE AND CURE, HAD AN HISTORIC TYPE. This type was furnished by Miriam. Her specific sin was known; it was insubordination to authority. Her chastisement was sudden. It came direct from God in the form of leprosy. The injured man became her intercessor. God graciously responded to the suit of Moses. Temporary separation and strict seclusion were the method of cure. Golden lessons lie here. Every leper may confidently follow this indication of God's will. If he healed Miriam, can he not also heal me?
IV. LEPROSY HEALED WAS CHARGED WITH RELIGIOUS OBLIGATIONS. As a healed man will cheerfully recompense the physician for his pains, so God required the restored leper to express his gratitude in the form of animal sacrifice. His gratitude could not be expressed in empty words. He was not permitted to bring that "which cost him nothing." In the slaughter of the devoted victim, the grateful man would confess that he himself had deserved to die, and that God had permitted a substitute. If the man were fully penitent, the sight of the dying substitute would vividly impress his heart with a sense of God's mercy. In every arrangement which God made, the good of man was sought. The method will often seem strange to our dim vision, but respecting the beneficent end there can be no question. - D.
I. THE GENEROSITY INCULCATED BY THE LAW MADE IT A MESSAGE OF MERCY TO ALL MEN. For even suppose no sacrificial system preached, typically, the Divine pardon and love, the mercy enjoined upon others argued mercy in the Lawgiver himself. He could not have commanded so much mercy, and manifested none.
II. THE POOR WERE SAVED FROM UTTER MENDICANCY BY THE LIBERALITY OF THE LAW. They got their need supplied by working for it. It was better to glean than to have it laid without any cost or trouble to them at their feet. They were free, and had to bestir themselves; thus self-respect was fostered, and real, wholesome work prescribed. No wonder that mendicancy was unknown. But nowadays things are made too easy for the "ne'er-do-wells," and a laziness that sacrifices self-respect and liberty on its altar is the blessed result! - R.M.E.
I. WE HAVE HERE A CASE OF OBLIGATION FULLY MATURED.
1. The rich is debtor to the poor. Obligation between the several ranks of society is equal. The rich rely for many services upon the poor. The king depends upon the cook. The laborer gives his strength, the employer contributes his money. There is as much obligation on the one side as on the other.
2. At a fixed point of time the obligation is matured. Henceforth the neglect of the obligation becomes sin. My obligations today differ from those of yesterday. The element of time plays an important part. Obligations grow.
3. Obligations are implied as well as expressed. Custom is unwritten law. Riches carry with them no warrant for arrogance. Riches have cursed the man if they have made him churlish.
II. NEGLECTED OBLIGATION ENTAILS UNKNOWN MISERY. We cannot follow the effects of thoughtlessness into all their intricate ramifications and to their utmost issues. What would be regarded as a trivial disappointment on the part of one man may be an agony of pain to another. Wages expected and deferred may mean to a needy laborer pinching hunger, not only to himself, but to feeble wife and to helpless babes. A gloomy and sleepless night may follow. Bitter and angry feelings may be engendered. Faith in human integrity may be lost. Self-restraint may vanish. For want of a nail a shoe was lost, a battle was lost, ay, an empire fell!
III. NEGLECTED OBLIGATION MAY BRING HEAVY CURSE UPON THE CULPRIT. It is not safe to treat any human being with contempt, especially the poor. God is the avowed Champion of such. The command, "Honor all men," is as binding as "Thou shalt not steal." The cry of the injured man in his distress is sure to pierce the skies. The ear of God is specially attent to his children's suffering cry, even as a mother catches the plaintive wail of her firstborn infant. Swiftly God attaches himself to the side of the oppressed, and takes upon himself the burden. The injustice done to the man becomes an insult done to God. The deed alters in its character, intensifies in its immorality, becomes heinous sin. Vials of wrath are preparing for the head of the unthinking transgressor. It will be as the sin of blasphemy or of murder unto them. - D.
I. EACH SOUL IS TO BEAR ITS OWN SIN. (Ver. 16.) This verse lays down the rule of human jurisprudence. Loss and suffering to the innocent, as a result of the course of justice inflicting punishment on the guilty, cannot always be avoided. But this is an incidental, not a designed result. With those wider movements of Divine justice, which seem to turn on the federal constitution of the race, and involve different principles, human justice has nothing to do. The rule for us is that the punishment of crime, with loss and suffering resulting therefrom, is to be confined as much as possible to the guilty person.
II. JUSTICE IS TO BE DONE TO THE WEAKEST. (Vers. 17, 18.) The stranger and fatherless and widow are again taken under the Law's protection. Their right is not to be perverted. The widow's raiment is not to be taken in pledge. There should need no inducement to do what is right, but Moses reminds the Israelites of their own past condition as bondmen. Oppression is doubly disgraceful when those guilty of it are persons who have themselves tasted its bitterness, or who have themselves been mercifully dealt with (Matthew 18:23-35). We cannot sufficiently admire the combined justice and tenderness of these Mosaic precepts.
III. PROVISION IS TO BE LEFT FOR THE NEEDY. (Vers. 19-22.) These are beautiful rules. The Jews were under the Law, but it was a Law the fulfilling of which was "love." The variety of ways in which the Law seeks to instill love into the hearts of the chosen people would form a study eminently suitable for the pulpit. The poor we have always with us, and they should be often in our thoughts. (Southey's poem, 'The Complaints of the Poor.') In the cornfield, among the olives, in the vineyard, they were to be remembered. When the wealthy are gathering in their abundance, then is the time for remembering the needy. Thus will the heart be kept warm, covetousness checked, our own happiness best secured, the wants of the poor supplied, their blessing obtained, a treasure laid up in heaven. "There is that scattereth, and yet increaseth" (Proverbs 11:24). - J.O.
I. HUMAN JUDGMENTS MUST BE FINAL IN THIS WORLD SO FAR AS THE JUDGING IS CONCERNED. Men do not get the chance of setting matters right in another world. They judge once for all, and if they execute the innocent, they have no reparation in their power.
II. GOD'S IMPERFECT JUSTICE IN THE PRESENT WORLD IS THE CLEAREST INDICATION TO CONSCIENCE THAT THERE WILL BE A JUDGMENT IN THE OTHER WORLD. Were his justice here perfect, or were there no judgment at all, men would say there is nothing to arrange in another world. But now there is enough to show God reigns, and enough left over to indicate a judgment to come.
III. GOD'S PREROGATIVE OF TRANSFERRING RESPONSIBILITY IS THE SECRET OF OUR SALVATION. For he has laid on Jesus, the Innocent One, the iniquity of us all. He has visited the iniquity of the children upon him who is called our "Everlasting Father." The consequence is we are saved, and in salvation there is ample compensation for all who have to all appearance suffered unjustly here. - R.M.E.
I. THE MAGISTRATE'S TEMPTATION. Human nature, at its best, is accessible by temptation; and it is well that from the eyes of the nation a fierce light beats upon the judicial bench. If only the ear of the judge be open to the fascinating voice of self-advantage, if his hand be open to a bribe, wickedness will put on the most ravishing charms to deflect him from his duty. Because he occupies a seat so conspicuous, temptation selects him as a special target for her poisoned arrows. Yet even for temptation he may rejoice, for according to his trials should be his moral triumphs. Avarice may tempt him. Love of ease may tempt him. His own tastes and predilections may tempt. The praise of the powerful may tempt. He will become either the stronger or the weaker for the discipline, will grow in moral courage or in cowardice.
II. THE MAGISTRATE'S QUALIFICATION. The qualification for the judicial throne is ardent love of justice. As only a wise man can be a teacher, so only a just man can be a true judge. No matter what may be the nationality of the litigants, no matter what their color, social rank, or sex, every one has an inherent claim on public justice. To pervert judgment is to arouse all the elements of wrath in heaven and earth. The judge is the visible exponent of justice; he wears the garb of justice, and if in him there dwells not the soul of justice, he is a sham and a pretence. Heart devotion to public justice is the only anchor that can hold him fast amid those currents and whirlpools of evil influences which ever surge around him. Things unseen are the most potent.
III. THE MAGISTRATE'S RULE OF ACTION. This is clearly made known to him by God, viz. that punishment is to be personal, not corporate. The child is not to die for the father. Where there is corporate guilt there must be corporate punishment. But this is no contravention of the rule. The inducement is often great to release oneself from the pains of unraveling a complicated suit; or, if relatives of the accused seem to be accessories to an evil deed, a judge is often tempted to embrace all the suspected family in one punishment. The light of truth is to be his only guide; love of justice his compass; the revealed will of God his chart. To him human life is to be held a sacred thing; not one life is to be needlessly sacrificed. It is a sad fact that judges have been amongst the greatest criminals; they have slain many innocent men.
IV. THE MAGISTRATE'S INSPIRING MOTIVE. Many motives may wisely influence him. He, too, must appear before a higher tribunal, and submit his whole life to judicial light. But the motive here pressed upon him is gratitude derived from past experience. The history of his nation is to mold his character and to teach him the value of human justice. He is expected to sympathize with the oppressed, to enter into their griefs, because he is a part of a nation that has felt the sharp scourge of oppression. He has learnt by national experience that, when justice by man is denied, God appears in court and champions the cause of the oppressed. He is the representative of a nation that has been redeemed. He himself is a ransomed one, and is under peculiar obligation to serve his Deliverer. His time, his capacity, his legal knowledge, his influence are not his own; he is redeemed, and belongs to another. Past deliverances are not to be lost upon us, or we are lost. To forget the lessons of the past is self-injury, yea, is heinous sin. In every station and office fidelity is demanded. - D.
I. WE HAVE HERE A FITTING OCCASION FOR GENEROSITY. God supplies us with fitting seasons for getting good and for doing good. It is not always autumn. We cannot gather corn and olives when we please. We have to wait the arrival of the season, and this season is God's provision. We must gather then or never. Opportunity can never be trifled with. If abundance has been put into our bands, let us forthwith use it well, or it may be suddenly taken from us. If an unusual generous impulse be upon us, it is wisest to respond to it freely, to give it largest scope, for this is a visit of God to us for good.
II. FITTING OBJECTS FOR GENEROSITY ARE PROVIDED. Were it not for the existence of the poor, there would be no outlet for generosity in a practical and material form. There would be no discipline for the best part of our nature. It would be a pain and a loss to us if the instinct of benevolence within us found no field for its exercise. Thankful ought we to be that the poor shall not cease out of the land. The fatherless and the widow come to us as the sent of God, to loosen the sluices of our generosity, and to do us good. We are almoners of God's royal bounty.
III. DELICATE PLANS FOR CONVEYING GENEROSITY. The finer forces of our bodily nature are conveyed to every part by most delicate, almost invisible, ducts. Nerve-power is distributed from the center to the circumference by minutest channels. So, too, should we employ the most refined delicacy in relieving the necessities of the poor. Let not our gift be spoilt by any assumption of superiority, nor by any arrogant rudeness. It is a noble thing to respect the manly feelings of the poor, and to touch with fairy finger the sensibilities of the suffering. We are to study, not only how much we can give, but especially how best to give it. From the harvest-field and the olive-grove we may learn this delicacy of kindness. Both the quantity and the quality of our service are important in God's esteem.
IV. THE POTENT MOTIVE TO GENEROSITY. Remembrance of their own redemption was the mighty motive for all good deeds. This is the constant refrain of God's message. As God is not wearied in reiterating the lesson, neither should we be wearied in hearing it. We are the objects of God's tenderest love. He has set in motion his most prodigious energies to rescue us from misery. He has emptied his treasury of blessings so as to enrich us, and the end for which he has enriched us is that we may enrich others. Ye have been ineffably blessed, do you bless in return. - D.