Keep the Passover.Leviticus 23, meaning, the one "holy convocation," the other "festival"), showing that the people with deepest religious feelings are, after all, the happiest people. The three great yearly feasts were —
1. The Passover, in the middle of Abib (nearly our April);
2. Seven weeks after, Pentecost, or the Feast of Weeks; and
3. The Feast of Tabernacles, or of Ingathering, in the end of autumn (October). Notice of all three —
I. THEIR ORIGIN. They have their root in the weekly Sabbath. The Sabbath itself is the first of the feasts (Leviticus 23:2, 3), in which respect it also is a joyful day (Psalm 18:24; Isaiah 56:7; Isaiah 58:14). And the great feasts are framed upon its model. They are ruled by the sabbatical number, seven. They begin and generally end on the seventh day. Two of them last for seven days each, and there are seven days of "holy convocation" in the year. Pentecost takes place seven weeks — a sabbath of weeks — after the Passover. The seventh month is specially distinguished (vers. 23-36). Moreover, every seventh year is of the nature of a Sabbath, and seven times seven years bring the Jubilee. Smaller festivals formed connecting links between the Sabbath and the yearly feasts. There was the Feast of Months, distinguishing the first Sabbath of each month with special sacrifices (Numbers 28:11), and with blowing of trumpets (Numbers 10:10), which trumpets were used again on the first day of the seventh month — the "Feast of Trumpets" (Leviticus 23:24, 25). Our Sabbaths, like those of the Jews, form the backbone and safeguard of our own national festivities.
II. THEIR PURPOSE. They accomplished on a larger scale what was already aimed at by the weekly Sabbath.
1. They called away from the round of yearly duty to the public recognition of God. In spring and summer and autumn they presented anew to the people's conscious. ness, through the most impressive vehicle of national festivals, their covenant relation to Jehovah.
2. They had a most important educational function. They were a compendium in dramatic form of early Israelitish history, "What mean ye by this service?" (Exodus 12:26.) Moreover, they gave opportunity for special religious instruction. (Josiah's Passover, 2 Chronicles 34:29ff.; and Ezra's Feast of Tabernacles, Nehemiah 8.)
3. They subserved important ends not directly religious. They promoted the national unity of the Israelites, stimulating their patriotism. (See the action of Jeroboam, 1 Kings 12:26.)
III. THEIR REGULATIONS.
1. The males from all parts of the country must assemble to the three feasts (Deuteronomy 16:16); for which purpose all ordinary labour ceases.
3. The people are to rejoice in their feasts. So Leviticus 23:40 commands for the Feast of Tabernacles, and Deuteronomy 16:11, 15 for the Feasts of Pentecost and Tabernacles. Ezra tells of the joy at the Feast of the Passover (Ezra 6:22); and Nehemiah of the "very great gladness" at the Feast of Tabernacles (Nehemiah 8:17). But where is happiness to be found if not in the recognition of God's relation to us? Special protection was promised during the celebration of the feasts. There are frequent promises that the fruits of the earth will not suffer, as Deuteronomy 16:15. And it was specially promised that the absence of its defenders would not expose the country to invasion (Exodus 34:24). In short, Israel's compliance with God's will here as everywhere was to be to the advantage even of his worldly prosperity. A truth for all times and all peoples (Psalm 1:3; Psalm 92:13-15).
(W. Roberts, M. A.)
1. A present meaning in nature;
2. A retrospective meaning in history; and
3. A prospective meaning in grace.Moreover, in each of these three respects the three feasts stand in progressive order: the Passover, the first at once in nature, history, and grace; the Pentecost, in all three respects the second or intermediate; and the Tabernacles, in all three respects the consummation of what has gone before.
I. THE FEAST OF THE PASSOVER, occurring about the beginning of April.
1. Its natural meaning was necessarily an afterthought or addition of the wilderness legislation. Looking forward to the settlement in Canaan, and placed at early harvest, it marked the beginning of a people's enrichment in the fruits of the earth, and recognised in that the gift of a covenant God. Its place was "when thou beginnest to put the sickle to the corn" (Deuteronomy 16:9). And hence the special provisions of Leviticus 23:10-14.
2. What was first in nature was also first in history. The Passover night marked the beginning of Israel's national life. The month in which it occurred was henceforth to be the first of the year (Exodus 12:2), and to be permanently observed (Exodus 12:14; Deuteronomy 16:1). Some modifications necessarily arose in the permanent observance of the Passover; the blood was now to be sprinkled on the altar; and the lamb was to be slain in the one place of sacrifice (Deuteronomy 16:5-7; 2 Chronicles 30:15, 16). The eating with unleavened bread and bitter herbs remained, as pointing to —
3. The prospective and spiritual reference of the Passover. The observance of the Passover touched closely the spiritual welfare of the Israelites. It distinguished the reigns of Josiah and Hezekiah and the return of the Jews from captivity. And here we have the third and greatest beginning, the beginning of the kingdom of God, in the world's deliverance from sin. And we must deal with Christ as the Jews with the Paschal Lamb, taking Him — "eating" Him, as He Himself puts it — in His entireness as a Saviour, with the bitter herbs of contrition and the unleavened bread of a sincere obedience.
II. THE FEAST OF PENTECOST — called also the Feast of Weeks, inasmuch as seven weeks were to be reckoned between Passover and Pentecost. And this distance of a Sabbath of weeks rules in all three meanings of this feast.
1. Its natural reference was to the completion of the harvest. It was the "Feast of harvest." Now, two loaves baked of the first-fruits are to be waved before the Lord, with accompanying offerings (Leviticus 23:17-20). In addition to which, a free-will offering, in recognition of God's blessing, is to be brought, and the people are called on specially to rejoice (Deuteronomy 16:10, 11).
2. Its historical reference is a matter of inference. The seven weeks between Passover and Pentecost are paralleled by the seven weeks actually occurring between the deliverance from Egypt and the giving of the law from Sinai; and as the Passover commemorates the first, it is reasonable to infer that Pentecost commemorates the second. Moreover, the fulfilment which in nature Pentecost gives to the promise of the Passover is paralleled by the fulfilment which the Sinaitic law actually gave to the promise of the Exodus. For God's first object and promise was to meet His people and reveal Himself to them in the wilderness. And this connection becomes greatly more remarkable when we notice —
3. The prospective meaning of this feast in the realm of grace. Under the Christian dispensation Pentecost has become even more illustrious than the Passover. Again God numbered to Himself seven weeks, and signalised Pentecost by the gift of the Spirit. And what the Pentecost was to the Passover, that the gilt of the Spirit is to the atonement of Christ. Look at the natural meaning of the two feasts. In the sheaf of corn the Passover furnished the material for food; in the wave loaves Pentecost presented God's gift in the shape in which it could be used for food. So the Passover atonement furnishes a material for salvation which becomes available only through the gift of the Spirit. Or look at the historical meaning of the feasts: the Passover atonement came to effect spiritually and for the world what the Paschal Lamb effected for the Jewish nation. And the Holy Spirit came to do for the dead law what Christ in His atonement did for the Paschal Lamb. He came to write universally on men's hearts what of old had been written for the Israelites on stone (Hebrews 8:8, 10; 2 Corinthians 3:3). As the end of harvest was the fruition of its beginning, and the law the fruition of the exodus, so the pentecostal Spirit was the fruition of the atonement. Should not we who live under the dispensation of the Spirit maintain our pentecostal joy?
III. THE FEAST OF TABERNACLES, in the seventh month, or our October — called also the Feast of Ingathering.
1. Its natural meaning. It came after the harvest of the vineyards and olive yards. It marked the close of the year's labours and their cumulative results, and was therefore the most joyous of the feasts (Leviticus 23:40; Deuteronomy 16:14); but —
2. The historical meaning of the feast gives us deeper insight into its joy. There is a special provision made in view of the coming settlement in Canaan, and made in order that the hardships of the wilderness may be kept fresh in the people's memory (Leviticus 23:40, 42, 43). That memorial was to emphasise God's goodness in the protection of the fathers and in the settlement of their posterity. The Feast of Tabernacles therefore marked the consummation of God's covenant, and called for highest gratitude and joy. Specially interesting is the celebration of this feast by the Jews on their return from Babylon, where God's goodness in bringing their forefathers through the wilderness had been a second time, and no less wondrously, manifested to them (Nehemiah 8:13-17; Psalm 126:1.) But —
3. The fullest meaning of the Feast of Tabernacles is in the kingdom of grace. The wonder of God's goodness finds last and highest manifestation in the final home-bringing of His universal Church. The anti-type is the ingathering of God's good grain into the heavenly garner. Canaan after the wilderness, Jerusalem after Babylon, are paralleled and fulfilled in the multitude that have come out of great tribulation.
(Walter Roberts, M. A.)
I. THE FACTS OF THE CASE ARE THESE:(1) The Hebrew people and the ancient Hebrew books now exist, and they throw light on one another.(2) Wherever the Jewish people exist they celebrate in the spring the festival of the Passover, which they universally regard as a historical memorial of the deliverance of their forefathers from Egypt, about fourteen hundred years before Christ, by the supernatural intervention of God the Almighty.
II. In the same manner, the feast of Pentecost, or the festival of the wheat harvest, fifty days after the Passover, came to be regarded as A MEMORIAL OF THE GIVING OF THE LAW ON MOUNT SINAI on the fiftieth day after the Exodus. In like manner, the autumnal festival of Succoth, or Booths, called "The Feast of Tabernacles," is now celebrated just as universally as the Passover in the spring, as a memorial of the children of Israel dwelling in huts or booths. These festivals and commemorations have been celebrated now for more than three thousand years.
III. The rule is that NATIONAL CELEBRATIONS AND PUBLIC MONUMENTS MAINTAIN THE REMEMBRANCE OF REAL EVENTS IN PAST AGES. It may be objected that if Athens, with all its wisdom, could celebrate the fictitious history of Minerva why may we not believe that the Jews were capable of commemorating things that happened only in the imagination of later writers and poets? To this we answer:(1) that even in the festivals of mythology there has been a strange interweaving of historical truth and a constant tendency to give this element prominence in the lapse of time;(2) that the Jews were utterly destitute of the dramatic imagination of the Greeks: to them the origination of a myth like that of the Exodus, if it were a myth, would be an uncongenial exercise, its adoption as history an impossibility.
(J. Parker, D. D.)
1. First, Christ; for He is the believer's food. The unleavened bread sets forth Christ in one aspect, as much as the lamb sets Him forth in another. In the Israelite feeding upon unleavened bread, we have presented to us the believer drawing his strength from Jesus, the spotless and Holy One — the unleavened bread. "I am the bread of life."
2. But there is another meaning of the unleavened bread, and that is holiness, uprightness, singleness of eye. Just as the bread was not the main staple of the Passover feast, but the lamb, so holiness is the accompaniment rather than the principal portion of the Christian feast. In the case of every believer the unleavened bread must accompany feeding upon Christ as the lamb. God has joined these two things together, let us not put them asunder. If we are redeemed by the blood of the lamb, let us live upon the unleavened bread; let us show forth the sincerity and truth which God requires in our life. "For even Christ our passover was sacrificed for us; therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth" (1 Corinthians 5:7).
(S. A. Blackwood.)
Keep the feast of weeks.
I. THE SACRED CHARACTER OF THE HARVEST. Indicated by time appointed for it — fiftieth day after Passover. As God hallowed the seventh day, so He hallowed the harvest fields of the world.
II. THE GREAT TROUBLE GOD TOOK TO IMPRESS HIS PEOPLE WITH THE SIGNIFICANCE AND MEANING OF COMMON THINGS. We walk along streets of gold, set with jewels, as though they were granite cubes. In the hand of Him who saw the kingdom of God everywhere and in everything, a grain of corn contained in its suggestiveness the deepest mysteries of the kingdom.
III. THIS FEAST WAS A PROVIDENTIAL MIRROR IN WHICH TO SEE AGAIN ALL THE WAY IN WHICH THE LORD THEIR GOD HAD LED THEM. Happy, thrice happy, is the man who, in the land of plenty, has a wilderness history on which to look back. There is nothing more sublime to the mariner in the haven of rest than the conflicts with the tempests in mid-ocean through which he passed.
IV. THIS FEAST WAS A NEW BOND OF BROTHERHOOD FORGED IN THE FIRES OF THE EVER-NEW AND NEVER-CEASING LOVE OF GOD. They were to call the Levite, the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow. Plenty in some natures petrifies, but this is not its legitimate effect. It should enlarge the heart, and broaden and deepen the sympathies of a man.
V. THIS FEAST WAS TO BE A TIME OF GREAT MORAL AND SPIRITUAL RECTIFICATION ON THE PART OF THE PEOPLE. Repentance. Thanksgiving.
(H. Simon, Ph. D.)
Homilist.Harvest to the Jews was an event of great and general interest. It was the occasion of one of their grand national festivals. This feast was called by different names — the Feast of Weeks, the Feast of Harvest, and the Feast of First-fruits. From commencement to close, their harvest festivities included seven weeks.
I. THE HARVEST HOME WAS A SEASON FOR NATIONAL GRATITUDE. What they offered conferred no favour on God, it was His own; but it expressed the sense of their obligation and the depth of their gratitude. Three things are necessary to the very existence of gratitude towards the giver.
1. That the gift should be felt to be valuable.
2. A belief that the favour is benevolently bestowed.
3. A consciousness that the favour is undeserved.
II. THE HARVEST HOME IS A SEASON FOR NATIONAL REJOICING. Where there is gratitude, there is joy, will be joy; gratitude is praise, and praise is heaven. The revelation of the Creator in the harvest field may well make human hearts exult. The God of the harvest there appears, mercifully considerate of the wants of His creatures; as a loving Father, with a bountiful hand, furnishing the table with abundant supplies for His children. There He appears punctual to the fulfilment of His promise. There He appears rewarding human labour.
III. THE HARVEST HOME IS A SEASON FOR NATIONAL PHILANTHROPY (see Deuteronomy 24:19-21).
1. Where God gives liberally, He demands liberality.
2. The liberality demanded is to be shown to the poor. God has planted the poor amongst all peoples, in order that the benevolence of the rich may have scope for development.
Rejoice before the Lord thy GodI. We may be thankful for this day of thanksgiving, ON ACCOUNT OF ITS HAPPY RELIGIOUS INFLUENCE. It is a day which, in all its appropriate exercises and enjoyments, presents to us our life as a blessing, and our God as a Benefactor; the seasons as a circle of elemental adaptations to our comfort, and the Regulator of the seasons as the Almighty Being who takes care for our varied good; the course of our rolling days, as a series of lessons and opportunities, and the Everlasting and Uncreated One as the Friend who crowns our days with His loving kindness. Thus a great deal is done every year, by a common and hearty expression of thankfulness, to break up, or at least to modify the alliance brought about by several causes in many minds, between religion and great strictness and gloominess. We find that "it is a good thing to give thanks unto the Lord; yea, a joyful and a pleasant thing it is to be thankful"; for when we dwell on the causes of thankfulness, our gratitude must needs flow naturally and spontaneously out of our bosoms, and go to swell the general stream of praise and gladness which spreads over the land. And we find that it is not at all inconsistent with thankfulness to God for the bounties of His providence, that we should enjoy those bounties freely and honestly and smilingly.
II. We have reason to rejoice in our feast, on account of ITS HAPPY DOMESTIC INFLUENCE. The day is peculiarly a domestic day; a day for the reunion of families. The houses of the land are glad on this day.
III. Our festival is to be honoured, ON ACCOUNT OF ITS HAPPY POLITICAL INFLUENCE. If it exerts a happy influence on our religions sentiments and on our domestic relations, it cannot but act with a benign power on those relations which hold us all together in one community. A genial nationality is fostered by that mingling together of prayers, and common interests, and pleasant hospitalities, which occurs on this day. And so far as our nationality is brought about in this manner, there is nothing repulsive or exclusive in it.
(F. W. P. Greenwood, D. D.)
Thou shalt observe the feast of tabernacles seven days, after that thou hast gathered in thy corn and thy wine.
I. These festivals are OCCASIONS OF HOSPITALITY AND OF REUNION. A selfish life is an unchristian life. A man might possibly remember God in solitude, a monastery has ere now fostered devotion: but there is one virtue which cannot be practised in seclusion — charity; the Gospel virtue — without which we are nothing. The very exertion which it costs some men to come out is salutary. If some are made frivolous by the love of society, some are made selfish by isolation from their kind.
II. Two things were especially required of the Israelites when they assembled for their three annual feasts: first, that THEY SHOULD NOT APPEAR BEFORE THE LORD EMPTY; secondly, that CHILDREN AND SERVANTS, THE LEVITE AND THE STRANGER, THE FATHERLESS AND WIDOW, SHOULD BE ALLOWED TO REJOICE WITH THEM. The feast only becomes a blessing when it remembers God, and remembers man.
III. THE LAW OF GOD WAS READ OVER, once in seven years, to the assembled Israelites at their Feast of Tabernacles. If there be a time when we remember duty, surely it should be when our hands are full of gifts. A time of feasting, nay, a time of prosperity, nay, a time of unmarked, of average sufficiency, brings its own peculiar risk of practical ungodliness.
IV. Yet we recognise in this festival THE COMFORTING SIDE OF TRUE RELIGION. God's voice never comes to make us miserable. If it condemns, it is that we may rise out of condemnation into a state altogether joyous. A harvest home is a glimpse of the love and of the peace and of the joy of the Gospel.
V. It is also a MEMENTO OF THE PLACE OF THANKFULNESS IN THE GOSPEL. Is there any test so condemning as that which touches us on the point of gratitude? Who really gives God thanks for life, for health, for motion, for speech, for reason? Well may we have one day in the year set apart for the work of simple praise.
VI. Recognise in this celebration THE IDENTIFICATION OF THE GOD OF NATURE AND PROVIDENCE WITH THE GOD OF REVELATION AND OF THE GOSPEL. The things that are seen become a very sign and sacrament of the things that are not seen. The harvest of the natural world indicates to us, by its marvellous yet now familiar phenomena, the working of the same power which alone can melt the heart of stone, and impress upon a trifling soul the realities of a life and a home in heaven. VII. Finally, let the service which gives thanks for an earthly harvest carry your thoughts to that GREAT "REAPING AFTER SOWING," which is before every one of us, in the resurrection of the body and in the eternity which is yet beyond (Matthew 13:39; Galatians 6:7, 8). God grant us all a place in that ingathering, the close of a world's labour, the inauguration of a heavenly rest!
Three times in a year.
I. THE WORK OR ACTION ENJOINED — to appear before the Lord. God condescended to take upon Him the government of the Jewish nation, and is here represented as their King; and they, as dutiful subjects, and required to come and salute Him, and present themselves before Him at certain times. The same respect which other nations showed to their princes, the Jews were to show to God, as He was their King. Thus far it was a civil or political duty. But as their King was also the Almighty, to appear before Him was a religious duty; it was to serve and worship Him in a public manner; and herein this law is moral, universal, and everlasting.
II. THE PERSONS WHO WERE TO APPEAR at these solemn feasts. "All thy males shall appear before the Lord." These words are to be understood not as excluding the females from being present at these assemblies, but as giving them leave of absence, and intimating that it might sometimes be more proper for them to stay at home. The reasons for which the females had an exemption from this solemn duty seem to have been these first, the weakness of the sex, not so fit to bear the fatigue of these frequent journeys; secondly, the care of their children and families, which could not be thus wholly abandoned; and, thirdly, the dangers to which they would be exposed in such a numerous and mixed assembly. The Egyptians, when they repaired to the feasts, sailed together upon the river Nile in large companies, men and women, and many indecencies were committed, which this law seems to have been intended to prevent. Thus were they excused from these religious journeys when it was inconvenient. But at other times, and on other occasions, they frequented the places appointed for instruction and for the worship of God; as we may conclude from such examples as are recorded in Scripture, and from that piety and gratitude which are usually more observable in them than in the other sex.
III. THE PLACE WHERE THE MEN WERE TO APPEAR — in the place which the Lord shall choose, namely, in the place where the ark and the tabernacle of God should be, which at the first was at Shiloh, in the country of Samaria and tribe of Ephraim, and afterwards at Jerusalem in the tribe of Judah, where David erected a tabernacle, and Solomon built a magnificent temple. One reason for which these festivals were appointed, and appointed at one place, was to keep up peace and friendship and unity, both in Church and State. Nothing is more likely to conduce to this end than a religious association and intercourse, and a participation of the same sacred rites.
IV. THE TIME WHEN THE JEWS WERE TO MEET TOGETHER — it was thrice in the year; in the Feast of Unleavened Bread, in the Feast of Weeks, and in the Feast of Tabernacles. From these religious institutions it may he observed that the hallowing unto God more days in the week than one is not, as some have fancied, against the design and meaning of the Fourth Commandment. For by these three solemn feasts, which were each of them of a week's continuance at least, it is manifest that "Six days thou shalt labour" was no commandment, but expressed only an ordinary permission of working; and to think that God would contradict His own law by a contrary ordinance is inconceivable. As, therefore, when He commanded the Jews to give Him the tenth part of their increase, He forbade not free-will offerings; so, when He enjoined them to keep holy one day in seven, this hindered not but that they might hallow unto Him other days even of the six. Hence it is concluded that the Christian Church hath likewise a power to set apart days for the more solemn service of God. But this should be done sparingly, discreetly, and cautiously; it should rather be recommended than required, and never without manifest reasons.
V. A PARTICULAR DUTY REQUIRED of all the people when they came to worship God at these feasts, namely, not to appear empty. It was a custom in those parts of the world when subjects came before their king, to make him a present; and even a little fruit, or a single flower, was favourably accepted from one who was not in circumstances to offer more. The Jews were commanded to bring a present; not a burnt offering or a sacrifice by fire; for these, though at the same time they were also required, yet were of another nature, and for another end; but a heave offering, a freewill offering, which was a tribute of thankfulness to God, and likewise an acknowledgment of His supreme lordship and dominion over all.
(J. Jortin, D. D.)
They shall not appear before the Lord empty
I. A leading feature, the leading feature of the Old Testament revelation is, THAT LIFE AND ALL THAT CROWNS IT — its crown of blessings — IS THE GIFT OF A LIVING INTELLIGENT BEING, AND COMES TO US BEARING THE SEAL OF HIS LOVE, The Jews were separated to this end, that God's methods and purposes with all men might be laid bare; that for once the Hand might be clearly manifest which is busy about every life.
II. THE MOTIVE WHICH IS PLEADED FOR ALL THE NOBLEST HUMAN EFFORT IS GOD'S EXAMPLE. God has done thus and thus for you: "Go ye and do likewise" for your fellow men. It is the plea which is constantly urged in the Old Testament, which we accuse of low and material views, both of man and of God. It is the highest witness to man's essential God-likeness which can be conceived. Man's nature only finds free, that is joyful play, when it is doing God-like things, when it is striving to think, will, and act like God. The only complete form of man's life is the life which is also Divine.
III. THE EXHORTATIONS OF THE SCRIPTURE ARE AMPLY SUSTAINED BY OUR OWN EXPERIENCE OF LIFE. There is no joy that fills man's heart which is comparable with that which he shares with God. He who does a deed purely unselfish, who yields free play to the most generous, heavenly impulses.
IV. Part of this God-like duty finds expression in the text. "NONE SHALL APPEAR BEFORE THE LORD EMPTY." The Lord has filled you with good; you are "fearfully and wonderfully made," and in fearful and wonderful harmony with the world. Your organs, exquisitely fashioned, and all the beauty and splendour of the creation, form a concord which at once expresses God's loving kindness, and is to you a fountain of intense delight. And there is an inner harmony which He is striving to develop by uniting your heart to fear His name, which will make this great universe a Father's house, and the awful future all eternal home. Help God, for His great mercy's sake, to help the world.
V. Another great thought of the Old Testament is THE HELP WHICH IT IS IN MAN'S POWER TO RENDER TO GOD. His ends can never be reached without us, in the way in which His wisdom has ordered the world. He might have ruled as a despot; He has chosen to seek rather to rule — as the Bishop of Argyll has happily phrased it as a constitutional king.
(J. B. Brown, B. A.)
I. EVERY INDIVIDUAL IS ADDRESSED.
1. All have been blessed; all are under obligations to recognise this fact by giving. Everyone should help. It is the mites that make the great aggregations.
2. Giving in accordance with God's command is husbanding — it is investing. Said a great millionaire when asked, "Where can I safely invest my money?" "Give to God's cause, where I have put uncounted thousands, and I find that the interest due is always promptly paid, and the investment is perfectly safe. I shall meet it beyond the river, laid up in heaven, and shall enjoy it forever."
II. THIS COMMAND REQUIRES US TO GIVE AS NECESSITY REQUIRES AND ACCORDING to blessings received. Give, because you have received. Bless, because you have been blessed. Love, because you have been loved. Help, because you have been helped. Be liberal, because you thus glorify your Benefactor. The great giver is a great gatherer. He gathers love, power, influence, and revels in the smile of God.
(J. D. Fulton, D. D.)
Christian Age.A minister was about to leave his own congregation for the purpose of visiting London, on what was by no means a pleasant errand — to beg on behalf of his place of worship. Previous to his departure he called together the principal persons connected with his charge, and said to them, "Now, I shall be asked whether we have conscientiously done all that we can for the removal of the debt. What answer am I to give? Brother So-and-so, can you in conscience say that you have given all you can?" "Why, sir," he replied, "if you come to conscience, I don't know that I can." The same question he put to a second, and a third, and so on, and similar answers were returned, until the whole sum required was subscribed, and there was no longer any need for their pastor to wear out his soul in going to London on any such unpleasant excursion.
Thou shalt not respect persons, neither take a gift.
Homiletic Monthly.I. SOME FACTS AND TENDENCIES IN LEGAL ADMINISTRATION.
1. The sentence pronounced against a poor man is often very heavy, and that against a rich man very light. In New Jersey a poor man was sentenced to five years of hard labour in prison for stealing a ham; in the same court a rich banker, who had ruined two banks and stolen the money of hundreds of people, received the same sentence.
2. After conviction rich convicts receive favours. In the case just cited the poor man and the rich man went to the same prison. But the poor man was put at hard labour; the rich man was made clerk in the prison library.
3. Rich men have an unfair advantage over poor men when brought to trial. The big fee that hires the eloquent pleader "buys out the law."
4. Even judges are sometimes corrupt.
5. Juries are accused of taking bribes.
II. THE PERILS OF THESE FORMS OF INJUSTICE.
1. They threaten the property and lives of the poor.
2. They weaken the spirit of obedience (Numbers 22:23).
3. They develop the communistic spirit of destruction.
4. We are all unsafe when one poor wretch is unsafe only because he lacks money or friends.
III. THE REMEDIES FOR EXISTING EVILS.
1. More and better teaching, in home, school, and church, on God's law of equality.
2. Wiser conversation on such matters when citizens meet together. It is dangerous and unpatriotic to treat the miscarriage of justice as a jest.
3. A sound public opinion should be cultivated by press, pulpit, and platform.
4. Our social power may be used to condemn a triumph over the law.
5. Seek to associate in all minds the idea of obedience to God with that of just judgment.
(Memoir of General Gordon.)
That which is altogether Just shalt thou follow.
I. JUSTICE IS IMMEDIATELY CONNECTED WITH THE END OF THAT OFFICE WHICH MAGISTRATES, JUDGES, AND RULERS BEAR. The exercise of justice itself is the proximate means of answering the purposes of government and judgment. One of the principal ways in which other virtues promote these purposes is by contributing to the steady and vigorous exercise of incorruptible justice. Injustice, directly and of itself, defeats these purposes, and is in every instance absolutely inconsistent with them. Other vices obstruct them sometimes very strongly, but always more remotely and indirectly, often by preparing the way to injustice.
II. RULERS AND JUDGES HAVE, FROM THEIR OFFICE, OPPORTUNITY FOR MANY EXERTIONS OF JUSTICE WHOLLY PECULIAR TO THEMSELVES. On this account also justice may be considered as in a special manner the virtue of their character and station. The poor man, who cannot himself resist the oppression of the great; the peaceable man, who is harassed by the encroachments of the man of violence; the orphan, whose rights are invaded by him that hath no bowels, claim the protection of the judge, and can obtain redress only by brining their cause under his cognisance. Differences arising from the ignorance or the self-partiality of persons well disposed can be determined only by the superior knowledge and unbiassed justice of the judge. When individuals are injured or the public disturbed by crimes, it is to the integrity of the judge that they must look up for help. How extensive, then, is the sphere of public justice which is peculiar to the ruler and the judge! In every instance of public justice he must make conscience of doing what is right, else he forfeits the character of a just and honest man, in the very same way as another person would forfeit it by being convicted of a transgression of private justice.
III. Justice may be considered as in a peculiar manner belonging to rulers, judges, and magistrates because THEY ARE UNDER PECULIAR OBLIGATIONS TO IT. Every act of injustice brings positive hurt on the person who is affected by it; but an unjust judgment hurts with the cutting aggravations of its being done under form of law, and of its impeaching the person whom it injures, as if he had been injurious. Private persons are connected only with a few, and therefore only a few can be hurt by their injustice; but the injustice of a judge is of more extensive consequence, it hurts all who are subject to his jurisdiction. Private injustice may be checked or redressed by the righteousness of the judge; but if the judge be unrighteous, by whom shall his injustice be restrained?
(Alex. Gerard, D. D.)
Thou shalt not plant thee a grove.I. IDOLATRY IS ENTICING. This on many accounts.
1. By its prevalence. In some form or other it is the most popular religion in the world. Men bow down to the idols of luxury, ambition, pleasure, and avarice. "For all people will walk everyone in the name of his god" (Micah 4:5).
2. By its use. We naturally forsake God and cling to sin. Evil inclination leads to wrong choice, and men choose darkness rather than light.
II. IDOLATRY IS TREASON AGAINST GOD. God is the sum of all moral qualities, the proprietor of all resources, and the giver of all existences. What more rational than to worship Him? Nothing belies God nor degrades man like the worship of images and statues.
III. IDOLATRY MUST BE UTTERLY FORSAKES. We must neither join the worshippers nor sanction the worship. Plant no grove of trees, for truth loves light and reproves darkness.
Neither shalt thou set up any image
(J. Parker, D. D.).