You shall not eat of anything that dies of itself: you shall give it to the stranger that is in your gates, that he may eat it…
I. That which commentators upon Scripture have found intricate and uncertain, WRITERS OF A MORE SECULAR CHARACTER HAVE SEIZED UPON AND READ RIGHTLY. Some of you may remember the use made of it in one of those classical works of fiction of which Englishmen are so justly proud; where the intended victim of a deep-laid plot is lured to her destruction by an imitation of her husbands signal, and one of the conspirators says to his more guilty accomplice, "Thou hast destroyed her by means of her best affections. It is a seething of the kid in the mother's milk!" A just and thrilling application of the inspired charge; of which the simplest meaning is the true one. Thou shalt not blunt thy natural feelings, or those of others, by disregarding the inward dictate of a Divine humanity: human nature shrinks from the idea of using that which ought to be the food of a newborn animal, to prepare that animal to be man's food; of applying the mother's milk to a purpose so opposite to that for which God destined it: harden not thy heart against this instinct of tenderness on the plea that it matters not to the slain animal in what particular way it is dressed, or that the living parent, void of reason, has no consciousness of the inhumanity: for thine own sake refrain from that which is hardhearted; from that which, though it inflicts not pain, springs out of selfishness, indicates a spirit unworthy of man and forgetful of God, and tends still further to blunt those moral sensibilities which once lost are commonly lost forever, and with them all that is most beautiful and most attractive in the human character.
II. The text seems to teach us most of all THE WICKEDNESS OF USING FOR SELFISH OR WRONG PURPOSES THE SACRED FEELINGS OF ANOTHER; of availing ourselves of the knowledge of another's affections to make him miserable or to make him sinful; of trifling, in this sense, with the most delicate workings of the human mechanism, and turning to evil account that insight into character with which God has endowed us all, in different degrees, for purposes wholly beneficent, pure, and good.
III. In proportion as you learn and practise early that regard for others' feelings which is almost synonymous with Christian charity, in that same degree will you become, not effeminate, BUT IN THE BEST OF ALL SENSES MANLY; having put away childish things, and anticipated the noblest qualities of a Christian maturity. We pray in the Litany, "From hardness of heart, good Lord, deliver us." Hardness of heart has two aspects; towards man, and towards God. Towards God it is brought about by acts of neglect, leading to habits of neglect; by a disregard of His word and commandments, issuing in what is called in the same petition, a "contempt" of both. Towards man, it is produced in us in a similar way; by repeated acts of disregard, leading to a habit of disregard; by blinding ourselves to others' feelings, and saying and doing every day things which wound them, till at last we become unconscious of their very existence, and think nothing real which is not, in some manner, our own. That is hardness of heart in its full growth; selfishness unrestrained and unlimited. Many people are walking about in that state; with a heart hardened utterly both towards man and towards God. And they pass for respectable men too: in them religion and charity, worship and almsgiving, have become alike workings of selfishness regulated by calculations of self-interest, and never looking beyond earth for their reward. That you may not become thus seared, you must watch and pray, while you can, against hardness of heart. You must practise its opposite. Try to think more than you do of others, and less than you do of yourselves. Enter into the feelings one of another. Think not only what is your right, or what you can get, or what you are used to, in such and such a matter; but also what others would like, what would give pleasure, what would make their life happy, in small things or great; and sometimes do that; form the habit of doing that.
Parallel VersesKJV: Ye shall not eat of any thing that dieth of itself: thou shalt give it unto the stranger that is in thy gates, that he may eat it; or thou mayest sell it unto an alien: for thou art an holy people unto the LORD thy God. Thou shalt not seethe a kid in his mother's milk.
WEB: You shall not eat of anything that dies of itself: you may give it to the foreigner living among you who is within your gates, that he may eat it; or you may sell it to a foreigner: for you are a holy people to Yahweh your God. You shall not boil a young goat in its mother's milk.