A Sabbath of rest unto the land.1. I do not suppose that these sabbatic regulations referred severally to separate and distinct things. The seventh day, the seventh month, the seventh year, and the year of jubilee, as I take them, all express the same great thought, and are related to each other in signification as the different sections of a telescope. They fold into each other. The one is only a repetition of the other on a larger scale. And they all range in the same line to give a focus for gazing the further into the depths and minuter details of one and the same scene. We have sabbaths of days, and sabbaths of months, and sabbaths of years, and septenaries of years, all multiplied in each other with augmenting interest, to indicate the approach of some one great seventh of time when all God's gracious dealings with man shall come to their culmination, and to point the eye of hope to some one grand ultimate sabbath, in which the weary world shall repose from its long turmoil and all its inhabitants keep jubilee.
2. The word "Jubilee" is of doubtful origin and signification. Some derive it from a verb which means to recall, restore, bring back; which would very appropriately designate an arrangement which recalled the absent, restored the captive, and brought back alienated estates. Some trace it to Jubal, the inventor of musical instruments, and suppose that this year was named after him from its being a year of mirth and joy, of which music is a common attendant and expression. Our English word "jovial" may perhaps be traceable to this origin. Others think it a word meant to denote the extraordinary sounding of trumpets with which this particular year was always introduced, some making it refer to the kind of instruments used, and others to the particular kind of note produced. But, after all, it may have been a name invented for the occasion, and intended to, carry its meaning in its sound, or to get it from the nature of the period which it was thenceforward to designate. It is a word which, if not in sound, yet in its associations, connects with the sublimest joys, ushered in with thrilling and triumphant proclamations.
I. First of all, it is to be A SABBATH — a consecrated and holy rest. The year of jubilee was the intensest and sublimest of the sabbatic periods. The Sabbath is the jewel of days. It is the marked and hallowed seventh, in which God saw creation finished, and the great Maker sat down complacently to view the admirable products of His wisdom, love, and power — blessed type of a still more blessed rest, when He shall sit down to view redemption finished, the years brought to their perfect consummation, and the life of the world in its full and peaceful bloom. The jubilee is therefore to be the crown of dispensations, and the ultimate glory of the ages, when the Son of God shall rest from the long work of the new creation, and sit down with His saints to enjoy it for ever and ever.
II. In the next place it is to be THE PERIOD OF RESTITUTION. Everything seemed to go back to the happy condition in which God had originally arranged things. Man, in this present world, is a dispossessed proprietor. God gave him possessions and prerogatives which have been wrested from him. God made him but a little lower than the angels, crowned him with glory and honour, and set him over the works of His hands. All creatures were given to him for his service, and he was to "have dominion over every living thing that moveth upon the earth." But where is all that glory and dominion now? How has the gold faded and the power waned How much are we now at the mercy of what was meant to serve and obey us! Gone, are our once glorious estates. Gone, the high freedom which once encompassed man. Gone, all the sublime dignity which once crowned him. But we shall not always remain in this poverty and disgrace. Those old estates have not gone from us for ever. When the great joyous trump of jubilee shall sound, the homesteads of our fathers shall return to us again, nor strangers more traverse those patrimonial halls.
III. Again, it shall be A TIME OF RELEASE FOR ALL THAT ARE OPPRESSED, IMPRISONED, OR ROUND. The year of jubilee struck off the bonds of every Jewish captive, and threw open the prison doors to all who had lost their liberty. We are all prisoners now. Though the chains of sin be broken, the chains of flesh and remaining corruption still confine us and abridge our freedom. Even those pious ones who have passed away from earth are still held in the power of death. Their souls may be at rest, but their bodies are still shut up in the pit of the grave. There still is groaning and "waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body." But when the great trump of jubilee shall sound these groanings shall cease and these fetters all dissolve.
IV. Another feature of that happy time is, THAT IT SHALL BE A TIME OF REGATHERING FOR THE SCATTERED HOUSEHOLD. It is not possible in this world for families to keep together. A thousand necessities are ever pressing upon us to scatter us out from our homes. The common wants of life, to say nothing of aims and enterprises for good, honour, or distinction, operate to drive asunder the most tenderly attached of households. And if we should even succeed in overcoming dividing forces of this kind, there are others which do their work in a way which we cannot hinder. Death comes, and, one by one, the whole circle is mowed down, and sleep in separate graves, mostly far apart. But there cometh a day when all the households of the virtuous and good shall be complete. The year of jubilee shall bring back the absent one. For when the Son of man shall come, "He shall send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together His elect from the four winds, from the one end of heaven to the other." Not one shall be overlooked or forgotten.
V. But there is still another feature of this blessed time to come to which I will refer. The sounding of that trump shall be THE SUMMONS TO A SACRED FEAST UPON THE STORES LAID UP BY THE INDUSTRY OF PRECEDING YEARS. Though no sowing or gathering was to be done in the year of jubilee, Israel was to have plenty. The bountiful hand of Heaven was to supply them. Years going before were to furnish abundance for all the period of rest. The Sabbath of the land was to be meat for them. Now is our harvest-time. The fields are waving with beautiful golden products which God means that we shall gather and store for our jubilee. Industry and toil are required. We must thrust in the sickle, and gather the blessed sheaves, and lay up for ourselves treasures in heaven. It will not do to play the sluggard while that ripe vintage is inviting us to gather. We must work while we may, and lay up while it is within reach. When once the trumpet sounds it will be too late to begin to lay up for the year of rest.
(J. A. Seiss, D. D.)
I. ONE OF THESE WAS THE UNIVERSAL EXTINCTION OF DEBT. Here is a man who has inherited from his ancestors a narrow strip of land on the rocky slopes of Mount Ephraim. He cultivates a small vineyard on the hillside, sows a few patches of wheat and barley, and has a few cows and bullocks grazing in his little meadow. With health and good seasons he could supply the modest wants of his household, and escape the necessity of debt. But calamities have befallen him. Under the pressure of his needs he has been compelled to contract debts, hoping that more auspicious days would enable him to discharge them. But those days come not. His creditors grow stern and exacting, demand immediate payment, and threaten to eject him from his heritage, cast him into prison, and sell his children into slavery. Still he struggles on. Yet, toil as he may, he cannot master the difficulties that environ him. The encumbrance is too heavy, the danger too near and too pressing. But just as he is on the point of giving up all further effort and resigning himself to despair, the morning of the jubilee breaks over the land. The joyful acclamations that welcome its coming swell out on the air and reach him among the hills. Blessed sounds are they to him! They tell him that his trials are ended, his home secure; and that, by the benign decree of Israel's God, he may now go forth to his daily labour, safe from the peril that has menaced him so long. Go with me to the debtor's gaol in Jerusalem, and look at another on whom adversity has dealt blows still more terrible. Liable to claims which he could not meet, he was stripped of all that he possessed. There was no kinsman rich enough, or generous enough, to redeem his property or become surety for his person, and his creditors, having the power, shut him up in prison. Many years have passed since then. He has lost all reckoning of time — has forgotten to note the slow years, as they drag wearily by him — forgotten that the hour of deliverance is drawing nigh. The Day of Atonement dawns in the heavens, but he knows it not. He hears the loud trumpets proclaiming the year-sabbath without any thought of their meaning. The door of his cell is thrown open; he is told that the jubilee has come, and that he is free. Rising listlessly from his bed of straw, he looks round amazed and stupefied. The truth at last flashes upon him, and with a low, trembling cry of thanksgiving, he goes forth to tread the green earth once more, to feel the soft breath of spring, and exult in the bright sun and sky. Call to mind how many cases, analogous to those now supposed, there must have been in Israel at each recurrence of the year of release, and you will be able to form some conception of the blessings connected with that sacred season. Nor can you fail to perceive with what force and beauty the feature which we have considered illustrates the grace of the gospel. By our numerous and aggravated sins we have come under tremendous liabilities to the justice of God, and have incurred an amount of obligation which no human arithmetic can compute, and no human efforts can liquidate. Judgment has been entered against us in the court of heaven, execution issued; and the stern messenger, Death, only awaits the Divine signal to bear us away to the dungeons of hell. But in this fearful exigency the Saviour has interposed for our rescue. By faith in His atoning sacrifice our mighty debt is cancelled; the uttermost farthing is paid; the demands of the law are satisfied; and through the suretyship of Him who died for us, we stand exonerated before the tribunal of Infinite Holiness.
II. IN THE YEAR-SABBATH THERE WAS AN END OF BONDAGE. See that slave delving and sweltering in the hot cane-fields of Jericho, condemned to toil through the long summer day under a burning summer sun, without rest, and without reward. His childhood was passed on the breezy heights of Carmel, among babbling brooks, the singing of birds, and the odour of flowers. There he grew up, a bold, free-hearted youth, erect and tall, with an eye keen as a falcon's and a foot fleet as the roe which he chased on the mountain-side. But misfortune, swifter still, overtook him. A ruthless claimant, to whom his parents were indebted, seized him, and doomed him to bondage. Look at him now. Slavery has bowed his strong frame, and stiffened his elastic limbs, and on the brow, once so joyous, sits hopeless gloom. As he bends to his task, what sad memories are busy within him! He thinks of the dear ones far away — of his happy boyhood — of all that he might have been — of the hard lot that has been his instead — and tears, bitter tears, are on his bronzed cheek. But while he thus muses and weeps his ear catches the distant note of a trumpet. Now it is nearer, louder. It comes rolling down the gorges of the wilderness in the way toward Jerusalem, bounding from cliff to cliff, and pouring its jocund waves upon the plain below. Others take up the strain, and send it from wall and housetop, from crag and valley, till the very air seems alive with it. For a moment he listens uncertain; then shouting, "The jubilee, the jubilee!" tears off the badge of his servitude — stands up a freeman — and with the stride of a giant, journeys back to the scenes where his heart has ever been. By nature we are all the subjects of a moral thraldom as grinding as it is criminal. We are the slaves of our own depravity, "sold under sin," and "led by the devil at his will." But the Cross of Christ touches our chains, and they are shivered into fragments; His grace rends the serf-livery from our spirits, and we walk forth in the joy of a blessed emancipation.
III. THE JUBILEE BROUGHT WITH IT THE RESTORATION OF PROPERTY. Picture to yourselves an Israelite thrust out by adversity from the inheritance of his ancestors. He has struggled hard to keep the old home; but losses have fallen heavily upon him and he must depart. The roof beneath which he was born, the streams by which he has walked, the fields he has tilled, the trees in whose shade he has reclined, the graves where his fathers sleep, all must be left, and left, alas I in the keeping of strangers. He casts one long, farewell look on the scene which he loves so well, and then, with wife and little ones, goes forth an exile. Years pass on. Farther and farther he wanders, finding no resting-place, and "dragging at each remove a lengthening chain." But, hark I a trumpet-blast breaks upon the air. It is caught up and repeated from city and hamlet, from hill-top and glen, from highways and byways, till the whole land rings with the joyous echo. The wanderer hears it. His heart knows and feels it. It is the jubilee signal. Oh, with what rapture does he now hasten back to the home once more his own! Old friends greet his return; old familiar faces smile upon him; hands that he grasped in youth now grasp his in happy welcome. The days of his exile are over. He is among his kindred again. And what an image is there here of our own restoration by the gospel to the heritage which we have lost! Our condition, as fallen creatures, resembles that of the beggared Jew driven out from his birthright. Our sins have stripped us of cur all. The original holiness of our nature, the likeness and favour of God, our kindred with angels, our title to a blessed immortality, are gone, and gone beyond our power to recover. But the mercy of God has provided for us a jubilee. By believing in His only-begotten Son we receive back, aye, more than receive back, our alienated inheritance. We are again invested with a glorious property, and made rich with a wealth which empires could not bestow.
IV. THE YEAR-SABBATH WAS INTENDED TO BE A SEASON OF HARMONY AND REPOSE. During its continuance the land was to rest, the implements of husbandry to be put away, and labour to cease, that social intercourse and kindly feeling might be cultivated without restraint. There was to be no strife, no oppression; all disputes were to be laid aside, all contentions abandoned; and society in every rank was to present one unbroken scene of brotherhood and peace. How beautifully does this feature of the sacred year prefigure the results which Christianity contemplates. Its design is to impart to all who truly embrace it a peace which comes from heaven, and is the earnest of heaven, and then to unite them to each other in one harmonious and holy fraternity. All its elements, all its tendencies, are those of union and love. Mankind shall become one great family. Public and private animosities, the jar of conflicting interests, the opposition of classes, the insolence of the rich, the overbearing of the strong, shall be remembered only to excite wonder that they could ever have been. Then will be the jubilee of the creation, the great Sabbath of the world. Over the face of humanity, long agitated by wrong, and struggle, and sin, shall come a holy calm; like the quiet of a still eventide after the turmoil of a tempestuous day, when the winds have gone down, and the clouds disappear, and the blue sky breaks forth, and the setting sun sprinkles gold over the smiling land and the sleeping waters. And this universal peace on earth will be the prelude of everlasting peace in heaven.
V. One more evangelic analogy of the year-sabbath may be traced in THE EXTENT AND FULNESS GIVEN TO ITS PROCLAMATION. "Ye shall make the trumpet sound throughout all your land." The manner in which this was done was very interesting and suggestive. As the time for proclaiming the jubilee drew on a company of priests was stationed at the door of the Tabernacle or Temple, each with a silver trumpet in his hand. The Levites in the cities and towns, and every householder in the nation, were also furnished with silver trumpets. When the hour had arrived, the company of priests sounded the appointed signal. Those in their immediate neighbourhood repeated it. It was answered by the Levites and the inhabitants of the next town. And thus it was sent on from dwelling to dwelling, from city to city, from mountain to mountain, from tribe to tribe, till the farthest borders of the land echoed and re-echoed with the glad music. The sounding of the silver trumpets was unquestionably a symbol of the proclamation of the gospel. The ministers of Christ are commanded to publish redemption by His blood, and to invite the disinherited and the ruined to return to their Father's house. And in the work of spreading this message all the people of God are to bear part. The tidings of mercy announced by the priests and Levites are to be taken up by private Christians and carried out into all the walks of life. At the fireside, in the Sabbath-school class, in the social circle, in the resorts of business, the trumpet is to be sounded. Neighbour should sound it to neighbour, village to village, city to city, land to land, until the most distant and secluded spot on the globe has been penetrated by the joyful summons. And the hour is at hand when this blessed consummation shall be realised. Peal out, O trumpet of redemption l along our storm-swept skies, ringing over land and sea, proclaiming the end of sin, the end of travail, and heralding the birth of the new spiritual creation in which dwelleth righteousness.
(M. M. Kalisch, Ph. D.)
I. DIVINE OWNERSHIP IN THE SOIL
II. MAN'S HIGHEST INTERESTS ARE NOT MATERIAL AND EARTHLY.
III. NEIGHBOURLINESS AND BENEVOLENCE SHOULD BE CULTIVATED.
IV. RELIANCE ON GOD, IN IMPLICIT OBEDIENCE TO HIS WILL. To desist from effort to provide for their own maintenance would —
1. Elicit their faith in the fatherly care of God.
2. Summon them to a religious use of the time which God had set free from secular toils.
3. Incite them to grateful thoughts of God's dealings with them as His people, and win them to a renewed recognition that they were "not their own," but His, who had redeemed and still cared for them.
V. SABBATIC REST: HEAVEN'S GRACIOUS LAW FOR EARTHLY TOILERS, Man needs the Sabbath pause, in order to realise —
1. That higher possibilities are opened to him by God's grace, than to be a servant of the soil on which he dwells.
2. That God desires of men the devotion of fixed seasons, and leisurely hours for sacred meditation and fellowship with the skies.
(W. H. Jellie.)
1. Palestine was designed and arranged by God, when He laid the foundations of the earth and divided to the nations their inheritance, to be a natural fortress for the preservation of religious truth and purity; a home in which a covenant people might be trained and educated, in the household of God and directly under His eye, to be zealous of good works themselves, and to be a royal priesthood to mankind — to carry out in their history God's promise to the founder of their race, that in him should all the families of the earth be blessed. And therefore God surrounded it with natural fortifications which kept it separate and secluded — even although placed in the very midst of the most concentrated populations of the world, in the very focus towards which their intercourse with one another radiated — until the objects of the hermit training and discipline of its inhabitants were accomplished.
2. The Jews could not help being a nation of farmers. As a new seed of Adam, subjected to a new trial of obedience, they were placed in this new garden of Eden, to dress and keep it, in order that through their tilling of the ground the wilderness and the solitary place might be made glad, and the desert to rejoice and blossom as the rose. Their thoughts, bounded on every side by impassable walls, were turned inward upon their own country for the development of patriotism and the formation of a more compact and concentrated national life. Their energies were employed exclusively in the cultivation of the soil, and in developing to the utmost the resources of the land. And very rich and varied were these resources. No other country in the world presented, within a similar limited area, such diversities of soil and climate.
3. It was in beautiful accordance with all these natural provisions of the country for the isolation of the people during the ages of their discipline under God's special care to be the benefactors of mankind, that the remarkable arrangements of the seventh or sabbatical year were Divinely instituted. Every seventh year was holy unto the Lord, as well as every seventh day. During that whole year the entire nation kept holiday. The people were not, indeed, absolutely idle; for that would have proved demoralising, and neutralised the beneficent nature of the whole arrangement. Much of their time was spent in religious observances, and in hearing and studying the law of God. Their attention was directed from their ordinary material affairs to their spiritual concerns. And although all cultivation of arable land was strictly forbidden, they had still to look after their sheep and cattle, and to tend with more or less care their gardens anti orchards
; while, doubtless, a good portion of their leisure would be occupied with the repair of their houses, implements of husbandry and domestic furniture, and in weaving and the various other economical arts. At the end of a week, or seven of these sabbaths of the years — or after the lapse of forty-nine years — the sabbatical scale, beginning with the seventh day and going on to the seventh month and the seventh year, received its completion in the year of jubilee. This was the great political sabbath of the people and of the land. The sabbath day was the rest of the individual; the sabbath year was the rest of each farm and household; while the jubilee was the rest of the whole commonwealth, for it was only as a member of the state that each Israelite could participate in its provisions.
4. What was the design of these remarkable sabbatical years, confining our attention solely to their agricultural relations, and leaving out of sight their other provisions? Why were these sabbaths of the fields instituted? The first reason must obviously have reference to the soil itself; for the ladder of all the human relations, social, political, and religious, necessarily rests upon the tilling of the ground. It was to benefit the land itself in the first instance, that the sabbaths of the fields were ordained. The whole arable land of the country was to lie fallow a whole year at fixed recurring intervals, so that during these long periods of rest it might acquire, from the atmosphere, from the operations of the elements and of animal life, and from the decay of the plants which it spontaneously produced, the fertile substances which it had lost. More than most soils, that of Palestine needed this complete periodical rest. Being principally composed of disintegrated limestone, and very loose, light, and dry in its texture, it parted, under the influence of an arid climate, very easily with its phosphates and other fertilising materials. But upon this physical reason there were based very important moral reasons for the sabbaths of the fields. It was required that the whole land should rest periodically, not only that its fertility might be preserved, but also in order to limit the rights and check the sense of property in it. The earth and all the fulness thereof are indeed the Lord's, as the Creator and Preserver of all things; but, in a very special sense, the Land of Promise was His property. He let out His vineyard to husbandmen who should render unto Him the spiritual fruits thereof; and the rent which He required as Superior was. that one year in seven, and one year in forty-nine years, the land should lie fallow — should pass from the yoke of man to the liberty of God — should be offered up a sacrifice, as it were, unto Him upon the great mountain-altar of Palestine. The very abstinence from agricultural work during the sabbaths of the fields — the self-denial in refraining periodically for a whole year to till the ground — the trustfulness needed in looking to God for bread during so long a period of enforced rest — the confidence that He would in previous years secure from the land an increase adequate to meet the strain which the law of the sabbatical year laid upon its productive energies — all this was but a repetition of the conditions annexed to the possession of Eden, namely, that Adam should abstain from eating the forbidden fruit. The sabbaths of the fields were a trial of the faith of the Israelites, a test of their obedience. Only so long as they kept these sabbaths, abstained from eating the forbidden fruit of their fields, did the land yield to them its abundance, and nourish them with its fruits of life. "The land is Mine," said God, when enacting this sabbatical law; "for ye are strangers and sojourners with Me." The Israelites were living as truly a tent life — a life of pilgrims and strangers on earth amid their settled possessions in Canaan — as they had been in their wanderings in the wilderness. But, further still, the sabbaths of the fields connected, in a most beautiful and interesting manner, the agriculture of the Israelites with the institutions of their religion. The law enacting them was given in words corresponding to those of the fourth commandment: the one was only an extension of the other. The natural, social, and spiritual uses of the sabbath day suggested those of the sabbath year. The same sacredness and Divine obligation attached to the one as to the other. Under the theocratic government of Israel, the sanctuary and the farm lay within the same circle of holy influences. But perhaps the most interesting of all the aspects of the sabbaths of the fields was their relation to the future — their prophetic character. As the sabbath day pointed forward to the true and final rest that remaineth to the people of God, so the sabbatical year and the year of jubilee pointed forward to the jubilee of the world — the times of refreshing and the restitution of all things spoken of by all the prophets — the regeneration and the glorious kingdom to be inherited by the true Israel of God when they shall receive back an hundredfold all that they have lost. The sabbath day commemorated the relief of man from the burden of toil imposed upon him because of his sin; the sabbaths of the fields the relief of nature from the curse on the ground for man's sake. The year of rest for worn-out nature was a prefiguration of the change which is in store for the outward world, when every wilderness shall become a fruitful field, and instead of the thorn shall come up the fir-tree, and out of which it shall issue as a new heaven and a new earth wherein dwelleth righteousness.
5. But, alas! beneficient as it was, a law so peculiar, and requiring so much faith and self-denial, was not thoroughly and uninterruptedly observed. After four centuries of obedience, during which the land preserved its primitive fertility, and there were no famines arising from impoverishment of the soil, but only from unusual droughts and other atmospheric causes, the people ceased to keep the fallow year, not only through want of trust in God's providence amid so peculiar a mode of living, but also through the moral corruption of the times. Then the land, originally the most fertile in the world, became one of the most capricious and uncertain; the store of fertilising materials was rapidly used up by incessant cultivation; and that state of things which Moses foretold took place — "And your strength shall be spent in vain, for your land shall not yield its increase." Famine after famine, some of them of excessive severity and long continuance, arising from the overdriving and exhaustion of the soil, swept over the land and decimated the people. Henceforth the disregard of the sabbatical year became the burden of every prophetical denunciation, and "the voice of historian and prophet was one continual wail of famine." In this painful extremity of the country's fortunes, the judgment threatened by Moses against the violation of the fallow year was inflicted — "And I will scatter you among the heathen, and will draw out a sword after you, and your land shall be desolate and your cities waste. Then shall the land enjoy her sabbaths as long as it lieth desolate, and ye be in your enemies' land; even then shall the land rest and enjoy her sabbaths. As long as it lieth desolate it shall rest, because it did not rest in your sabbaths when ye dwelt upon it." Throughout the Babylonish captivity there was a continuous fallow of seventy years. During all that long period the fields of Palestine lay desolate, were neither sown nor reaped; and by this timely and much-needed rest the land recovered a large portion of its old fertility. And thus God graciously mingled mercy and judgment; combined the punishment of His people with the renovation of their inheritance. Weary, footsore, in tears, the saddened exiles returned to their native land, taught by their own experience that it is an evil and a bitter thing to sin against God.
(H. Macmillan, D. D.)
I. THAT THE LORD WAS THE SOLE PROPRIETOR OF THE LAND.
II. THAT THE LAND HAD RESTING UPON IT, CONTINUALLY, THE FAVOUR OF THE LORD.
III. THAT THE DIVINE FAVOUR PROVIDES FOR THE WELL-BEING OF EVERY LIVING THING.
IV. THAT OF EVERY LIVING THING, MAN IS THE NEAREST AND DEAREST TO THE GREAT CREATOR.
V. THAT THE GREAT CREATOR TEACHES MORAL TRUTHS TO MAN BY MEANS OF WORKS OF NATURE.
(F. W. Brown.)
The year of jubilee.I. THE CHRISTIAN DISPENSATION OF GOSPEL LIBERTY AND REST (see Luke 4:18-21).
IV. THE HEAVENLY STATE OF ETERNAL SECURITY AND SERENITY (see 2 Peter 3:13; Revelation 14:13; Revelation 21:4). In the application of the jubilee incidents to each of these grand fulfilments of its symbolism, the following facts stand out clearly: —
1. Bounty. God gave a supernatural abundance the year preceding the jubilee, that in the enjoyment of vast supplies there should be no necessity for toil, no occasion for care (see ver. 21). And assuredly there is(1) Bounty in the provisions of the gospel (1 Timothy 1:14).(2) Fulness of grace for the believer in Jesus (2 Corinthians 4:15; Titus 3:6).(3) Abundance of good to be enjoyed in the millennial age (Psalm 72:7).(4) Limitless bliss in the heavenly land (Psalm 16:2),
2. Rest. That sabbatic year was to be consecrated to repose; the land was to be allowed to rest; the toiler was to cease from toil. Every want was supplied without the weariness of labour. Equally true of the —(1) Gospel rest which Christianity announces (Matthew 11:29).(2) Believer's rest which faith secures (Hebrews 4:3).(3) Millennial rest for a wearied Church (Revelation 20:2, 3).(4) Heavenly rest for Christ's redeemed followers (Revelation 14:13).
3. Liberty. All bondservants were set free the moment the jubilee trumpet sounded (vers. 39-44). And assuredly this finds verification in the —(1) Liberty which Christ proclaimed to souls enslaved in sin and fear (Luke 4:18; Hebrews 2:15).(2) Spiritual freedom realised by faith (Romans 8:15; John 8:36).(3) Emancipation from thraldom which shall distinguish the millennial reign (Isaiah 49:8, 9).(4) Glorious liberty of the children of God in heaven (Romans 8:21; Revelation 21:24, 25).
4. Restitution. If the Israelite had parted with his inheritance, its possession was restored to him in the year of jubilee, and that without payment (vers. 25-37). So —(1) The redemption of Christ recovers for man all that sin had forfeited.(2) Believers in Jesus regain all the virtue, happiness, and hopes which the fall had ruined.(3) The weary and wronged world would enjoy paradisal gladness through Christ's millennial sway.(4) Heaven will realise all which on earth had been desired, and restore all which death had desolated.
V. Let it be marked that the jubilee, with all its blessings, was CONSEQUENT UPON ATONEMENT. Not till the blood of expiation had been shed, and the living goat had borne into the land of oblivion the sins which (ceremonially) had been transferred to it, did the silver trumpets peal forth their exultant notes, proclaiming liberty and rest, restitution and rectitude for the people. And it is because of Christ's atonement that —(1) Christianity has come to sinful man, with all its tidings of good and wealth of salvation (John 1:29; Ephesians 1:6).(2) Spiritual blessings are inherited by the believer in Jesus (Romans 5:11).(3) The Church will enjoy the sabbatic millennial glory (Revelation 19:11-14).(4) Heaven will be the eternal possession of the redeemed (Revelation 8:14-17).
(W. H. Jellie.)
I. LET US LOOK AT THE GOSPEL AGE AS THE WORLD'S JUBILEE. And notice particularly that the jubilee year was ushered in on the Day of Atonement. Now, how is it with our jubilee? Was it not also ushered in by atonement? The prophets foretold the coming of the acceptable year, but there was no jubilee Until Christ came, and there was no true trump of jubilee until after Christ had died. Three clays He lay in the grave, and the third day He rose again, and then after forty days He ascended, the Great High Priest, and entered into the Holiest Place, bearing there His own blood. Then, the atonement having been made, He sends down the Spirit on the day of Pentecost, and His servants go forth everywhere preaching the jubilee that had come in — a jubilee based upon an infinite atonement. Now, it is equally true that the atonement of Christ must usher in all gospel proclamations. There is no gospel without the atonement, any more than there was any trump of jubilee without first the atonement day. A bloodless gospel is no gospel, but hell's choicest weapon. A gospel that ignores the Lamb slain is worse than no gospel at all, for it not merely leaves men in their original ignorance, but stupefies and chloroforms them with a fresh lie. Let us look for a moment at a few of the chief things included in gospel preaching, and see how they are all connected with the great day of Christ's atonement.
1. Certainly, peace must be classed among the first and chiefest notes. The gospel, like an angel, flies through the world, crying, "Peace! — Peace! — Peace!" Methinks, this is one of the sweetest notes in the whole of gospel harmony. But what kind of peace is the gospel peace? It is peace that is based on blood!
2. If peace be one of the chief notes in the gospel, surely we may place by its side remission of sins. Oh, let us tell it out that God can forgive all sin, though He cannot overlook one. By all means tell it out that God can remit all iniquity — that there is no sinner so wicked that God cannot forgive him, no sin so heinous that it cannot be pardoned; but remember, remission of sins, like peace, is based on the blood.
3. Cleansing is also one of the most sounded notes of the gospel, and it is a blessed thing to be able to tell a sinner that however sin-stained he is he can yet be purified, and that the soul that is black as perdition can be made as white as wool, and that the soul that is crimson dyed with iniquity may yet be so cleansed that even the driven snow shall look black in comparison. But remember that it is the blood that cleanses. Now, notice next, that the jubilee was proclaimed with trumpet-note.The atonement has been made, and from every hill-top the note is heard.
1. And who blows the trumpet? Why, man. It must have been joyous work to him. No angel but would have coveted the honour, but it is man that receives the commission for the work, and surely, he will blow it best, for as he blows he says, "I am blowing good news unto myself." Perhaps the man on yonder hill-top owed a debt and knew not how to pay. Oh, with what right good will would that man blow the trumpet! Says he, "I am blowing my own debt away." Or perhaps that other man had a boy that was in prison. Says he, "I will blow a blast that shall be heard far and wide, for I am blowing a note that will open the prison doors to my own boy." He had got an exile, perhaps, afar off, and for family reasons that boy had been unable to return home. "The moment this note is heard," says the trumpeter, "the exiled one will be able to come back again." So the man blows, ay, as no angel or seraph could have blown. So no angel could preach the gospel like the man who is himself saved by the gospel. When we preach Christ we may well preach Him with a holy ecstacy, for we preach that which saves us; and when me are telling the tale of atonement made we may tell it out with all the whole soul. The trumpets were blown by man.
2. And then observe, they were blown everywhere. This is what you and I have to do. We have to help to sound the trumpet throughout all the land. Go, blow it amongst the great ones of the earth, and tell kings and potentates that they must be born again. Go and blow the note amongst the humblest and the poorest that fill our mission halls and theatres and tell how Christ can save the vilest. Go and be Christ-like, and proclaim to the perishing everywhere that the acceptable year of the Lord is come, and that He is willing to bind up broken-hearted ones, and to open the prison-doors unto all captives.
3. We notice further that the notes of the jubilee trumpet and the notes of the gospel are identical. What was it that that trumpet proclaimed? First and foremost it proclaimed a return to all exiles and to all who were banished from their homes. I think I see the father when that trumpet sounds; he pulls the bolt back and takes the chain down and says, "My boy will be back soon. For years he has been shut out of the home. We did not care to have him in." That boy perhaps had offended in something, and did not care to show his face in the neighbourhood, so for many a long year the father had sighed to see his face again. But the moment he heard that note he says, "See that the door is not fastened till he comes back. My boy has heard the note as quickly as I have. Depend upon it that by this time his face is turned homeward." The trumpet sounded "home sweet home," to all banished ones. There was a pale captive in a dungeon; but the trumpet note found its way between the iron bars, and I think I see him as he says, "Now jailor, off with these fetters I and off with them quickly! You have no power to keep me in durance vile a moment longer." See how he flings the shackles down on the floor and stretches his unfettered arms with ecstacy! That trump said to him the one glorious word "Liberty!" These were some of the notes that the trumpet of jubilee sounded; but, oh, does not the gospel trumpet sound not merely the same notes, but the same notes pitched to a higher "Selah," still.
II. NOW WHEN DOES THE SOUL RECEIVE ITS JUBILEE? I can imagine one saying, "Well, my case is a very bad one indeed. It is all very well to be talking about a jubilee age, but that and a jubilee heart are two different things." I know it, and I think I can understand you. Do I not express your feelings when I put the matter thus: — "I am everything that you have spoken about, I am an exile far from my Father's house, I am a captive, and the iron eats into my soul. I am a debtor, and I feel that I owe that which I can never pay. I am over head and ears; I am drowned in debt. I am a miserable bankrupt. I cannot pay a farthing in the pound. I am a lost man. How am I ever to have a jubilee?" Why, I tell thee, thou wilt have a jubilee the very moment thou believest the report of the jubilee trumpet. Thank God, the jubilee of the soul can come any day. It is not once in fifty years, or once in fifty days, or once in fifty hours, or once in fifty minutes. God is willing to give salvation any moment. The moment thou acceptest Christ, the moment thou believest the report of the gospel, that moment shall thy jubilee come. Remember, that it is not enough to have the gospel preached all round about you. It is not enough to live in a gospel age. There must be a personal reception of the truth.
(A. G. Brown.)
Homilist.I. THE TENDENCY OF SOCIETY TO GO WRONG. The evils remedied by the jubilee were —
4. Exhausting toil.
II. THE CONSTANT INTERPOSITION OF GOD TO PUT SOCIETY RIGHT.
I. MAN'S NEED OF OCCASIONAL BEST FROM TOIL. The Hebrew system was remarkable for the number and variety of its provisions for this. By the emphasis thus given to rest, God hallowed it as being both a duty and privilege. It is needful in this age of excessive labour, when the struggle for wealth consumes men's energies so fast, and makes them so weary and prematurely old and broken. We can think of many who ought to take a sabbatic year of rest, and then add to it a year of jubilee.
II. ALL MEN ARE ENTITLED TO A SHARE OF GOD'S BOUNTY. Men were not allowed in the jubilee year to store up aught of what grew in the fields. God was manifestly the sole author of it. It was to be distributed, therefore, like the other pure bounties of His hand, like the rain and the sunshine, to all alike. This happened every sabbatic year, as well as in the jubilee. Christian faith endorses this. The fact of holding a title to a piece of land does not warrant one in engrossing to himself all that it yields. Christian charity says, "Distribute the benefit of it."
III. THE WELFARE OF SOCIETY IS IMPERILLED BY THE ACQUISITION OF GREAT LANDED ESTATES. The operation of the jubilee was to prevent the accumulation of land in the hands of a few. If in the course of fifty years such an accumulation occurred, the jubilee redistributed it. The public good demanded its general division among the people. Great Britain suffers greatly from excessive concentration in the ownership of land. The principle of charity, if given full operation, would restrain excessive accumulation.
IV. THE DIGNITY OF MAN VIEWED AS A RANSOMED CHILD OF GOD IS ANOTHER IDEA EMBODIED IN THE JUBILEE (ver. 42).
(A. H. Currier.)
I. ITS ORIGIN. It stands connected with two of the leading Jewish institutions.
1. With the weekly sabbath. It comes from the sabbath by two steps; first, by the institution of a sabbath for the land, falling on every seventh year; and secondly, by the conferring of a special sanctity on the seventh of these land sabbaths.
2. With the Day of Atonement.
II. ITS PROVISIONS. Restoration —
1. Debtor released from debts.
2. Slave released from bondage.
3. Exile restored to inheritance.
III. ITS LESSONS FOR OURSELVES.
1. The coming of Christ was the inauguration of a greater jubilee, bringing world-wide and lasting blessings. We too are debtors, debtors to the law in the whole round of its requirements; we are slaves to sin and Satan; we have forfeited our fair inheritance of innocence and heaven. But hear how Christ ushers in His ministry (Luke 4:16-21).
2. With us as with the Jews it is still on the Day of Atonement that the jubilee trumpet sounds. Our liberty and restoration have been dearly won (1 Peter 1:18, 19). With the Jews the neglect of the Day of Atonement led to the loss of the jubilee. And if the atonement of which we speak so much has never yet been anything to us, in our sense of the need of it, in our quest after the blessing of it, to us there has been no jubilee — we are yet in our sins. Will we be less in earnest than the debtor or the slave when we have so much more need to be in earnest?
(Walter Roberts, M. A.)
I. ITS PECULIAR FEATURES.
1. It was a great boon to all sorrowing ones.
(1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6) 2. All this was intimately connected with the Day of Atonement. 3. It was to be a year of perfect freedom from toil. 4. Every business transaction had reference to the year of jubilee. II. ITS TYPICAL MEANING. 1. It has special reference to the millennial glory of Israel in the land which Jehovah keeps for them through all generations.(1) God claims Canaan as He does no other.(2) God has honoured Canaan as He has no other. (a) (b) (c) (d) 2. It is a beautiful and correct type of heaven.(1) Where every believer will enter upon his inheritance, and enter into his perfect rest.(2) Where all exile, captivity, separation, poverty and oppression will for ever cease. (D. C. Hughes, M. A.)
(2) (3) (4) (5) (6) 2. All this was intimately connected with the Day of Atonement. 3. It was to be a year of perfect freedom from toil. 4. Every business transaction had reference to the year of jubilee. II. ITS TYPICAL MEANING. 1. It has special reference to the millennial glory of Israel in the land which Jehovah keeps for them through all generations.(1) God claims Canaan as He does no other.(2) God has honoured Canaan as He has no other. (a) (b) (c) (d) 2. It is a beautiful and correct type of heaven.(1) Where every believer will enter upon his inheritance, and enter into his perfect rest.(2) Where all exile, captivity, separation, poverty and oppression will for ever cease. (D. C. Hughes, M. A.)
(3) (4) (5) (6) 2. All this was intimately connected with the Day of Atonement. 3. It was to be a year of perfect freedom from toil. 4. Every business transaction had reference to the year of jubilee. II. ITS TYPICAL MEANING. 1. It has special reference to the millennial glory of Israel in the land which Jehovah keeps for them through all generations.(1) God claims Canaan as He does no other.(2) God has honoured Canaan as He has no other. (a) (b) (c) (d) 2. It is a beautiful and correct type of heaven.(1) Where every believer will enter upon his inheritance, and enter into his perfect rest.(2) Where all exile, captivity, separation, poverty and oppression will for ever cease. (D. C. Hughes, M. A.)
2. All this was intimately connected with the Day of Atonement. 3. It was to be a year of perfect freedom from toil. 4. Every business transaction had reference to the year of jubilee. II. ITS TYPICAL MEANING. (D. C. Hughes, M. A.)
2. All this was intimately connected with the Day of Atonement.
3. It was to be a year of perfect freedom from toil.
4. Every business transaction had reference to the year of jubilee.
II. ITS TYPICAL MEANING.
(D. C. Hughes, M. A.)
Homilist.I. THE DEGENERATIVE FORCES OF SOCIETY ARE IN ITSELF. Debt. Slavery. Poverty. Materialism.
II. THE CORRECTIVE FORCES OF SOCIETY ARE FROM GOD.
1. Man is superior to property. The violation of this truth is the ruin of society, and it is violated every day.
2. God is the disposer of property. "The earth is the Lord's, and the fulness thereof."
3. Society has higher wants than property. Spiritual services.
I. IN THE BLESSINGS IMPARTED.
1. Remission of debts (see Acts 13:38).
2. Liberation from bondage (see Romans 6:22).
3. Restoration of forfeited possessions (see 1 Peter 1:4).
4. Freedom from toil (see Hebrews 4:3).
5. Abundant provisions and universal joy (see 1 Peter 1:8).
II. THE JUBILEE WAS TO BE PROCLAIMED ON A PARTICULAR DAY AND IN A PECULIAR WAY.
1. On the Day of Atonement (ver. 9; see Luke 24:46, 47).
III. THE BLESSEDNESS OF THE GOSPEL DISPENSATION AS EXPERIENCED BY BELIEVERS,
(1) (2) (3) 2. The realisation of rest (see Isaiah 14:3). (1) (2) (3) (4) 3. The possession of abundance (see Romans 5:20, 21). (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) 4. The enjoyment of salvation (see Isaiah 12:2). (1) (2) (3) (T. B. Baker.)
(2) (3) 2. The realisation of rest (see Isaiah 14:3). (1) (2) (3) (4) 3. The possession of abundance (see Romans 5:20, 21). (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) 4. The enjoyment of salvation (see Isaiah 12:2). (1) (2) (3) (T. B. Baker.)
(3) 2. The realisation of rest (see Isaiah 14:3). (1) (2) (3) (4) 3. The possession of abundance (see Romans 5:20, 21). (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) 4. The enjoyment of salvation (see Isaiah 12:2). (1) (2) (3) (T. B. Baker.)
2. The realisation of rest (see Isaiah 14:3).
3. The possession of abundance (see Romans 5:20, 21). 4. The enjoyment of salvation (see Isaiah 12:2). (2) (3) (T. B. Baker.)
3. The possession of abundance (see Romans 5:20, 21).
4. The enjoyment of salvation (see Isaiah 12:2).
(2) (3) (T. B. Baker.)
(3) (T. B. Baker.)
(T. B. Baker.)
Joshua 6:5). There the verse would read, rendered literally, "as they draw out with the horn of jubilee." The meaning seems to be, that this name of "jubilee" was not given to the instrument exactly, but to the note it uttered — the peculiar clanging, continuous, vibrating sound of a horn. The word most likely represents the prolonged, quick-rushing, far-reaching, deeply penetrating blast of the trumpet as it swept across the whole land. As we press into the investigation of this most interesting portion of Hebrew history, we must pause long enough at the beginning to insist on the connection of the great Day of Atonement with the great Day of Jubilee. It came right after it in date. It appears right after it in the record of institution; and in spiritual teaching it is indispensably associated with it. There can be no jubilee in God's universe till atonement for sin is completed.
I. THE TYPE.
1. What was the design of the jubilee year as God gave it? A necessary question this is, but the answer will not be difficult if we take into consideration the entire story of the institution. In general, it appears to have been placed in the midst of human life as a barrier against the three greatest ills humanity is heir to. It insisted on relief from overwork. One grand idea of the ordinance was rest — rest to the soil, rest to the toilers upon it. The jubilee also demanded deliverance from oppression. There will be found reward for the closest study in just searching out in detail the skilful provisions made to relieve the weight of every kind of bond-service permitted in those times. A consideration for such exigency is inserted in the commandment. There is one for the "brother," and one for the "stranger," and one for the "sojourner." All servants are here declared to be God's servants, as the whole land is declared to be God's land. And in this great year of grace the time has come for all slaves to go free — free for ever. The jubilee likewise ordered release from obligation. Among all the weights and worries of human life surely one of the cruellest is debt. "Do not rich men oppress you, and draw you before the judgment seats?" It is only natural that they should; for human nature knows little change. The wisest man in the world once said plainly: "The rich ruleth over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender." Here again is an intervention from heaven in behalf of distressed debtors. The law made provision for the restoration of estates, and clearance from usury at the end of the fiftieth year.
2. What was the welcome of the jubilee as the people gave it reception? There can be but one answer: A great glad day of universal rejoicing it was through the length and breadth of the land.
II. THE ANTITYPE. In general, it may be said that the sound of those trumpets was the symbol of the proclamation of Christ's gospel over all the earth. The purpose of this gospel was to check the deteriorating forces in human society; to set up principles which would deliver men from all weights and oppressions of sin and sinners.
1. So there is such a thing as a jubilee in the heart. When the bondage of corruption is broken, the debt of transgression paid, the handwriting that was against us (Colossians 2:14) taken away and nailed to the Cross, the soul freed indeed because freed by the truth, our Redeemer surely coming (Job 19:25) and certain to stand on the earth — then it is that there seems to sound a great joy of deliverance through all the nature of the regenerate man I
2. There is such a thing as a jubilee in the Church. Times have been in history when piety was low, and godly men failed; the ways of Zion mourned, the city sat solitary, the fires on the altars were dim in the ashes. Then came a rushing sound of spiritual presence, almost like a pressure, and a blast of silver trumpets, calling to activity, to penitence, to singing, and to religious life again. The Redeemer came to Zion (Isaiah 59:20), and unto them that turned from transgression in Jacob.
3. There is such a thing as a jubilee in the state. Poets are singing about, "the good time coming"; but it has not yet arrived. Still, it is promised (Isaiah 61:1, 2).
4. There is such a thing as a jubilee in the world. This is the final restitution, the day of all days on the earth. Of course, the blessing will come through the Church; but the whole race will share something of its vast benediction.
(C. S. Robinson, D. D.)
I. ITS PRIMARY PURPOSE.
1. Kind and benevolent.
2. Wise and politic.
3. Good and beneficial.
II. ITS TYPICAL REFERENCE.
1. The jubilee of grace.
2. The jubilee of glory.
III. ITS JOYFUL COMMENCEMENT (Psalm 89:15).
I. The first element of jubilee gladness, common to the Jew of old and the Christian amid the celebrations of the gospel age, is THE JOY OF DISTINCTION OR OF PRIVILEGE. There was not a single memorial of blessing or promise, temporal or spiritual, which the jubilee did not recall, and hold up before the eyes of that most favoured nation, so that it was on God's part an impressive reiteration of His covenant, and on their part a grateful recognition that they were indeed a "chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a peculiar people." The Christian Church, and we as members of it, are privileged —
1. As to safety.
2. As to character.
3. As to work.
4. As to suffering.
II. The second great element of the gladness of jubilee is THE JOY OF STABILITY AND PROGRESSION. Traces of progress are to be found in every leading country of the Christian world. The last half century has seen the cause of missions pass through all its phases, and encounter all its perils from ridicule, neglect, hope deferred, till now it ranks perhaps as the most distinctive and glorious feature of our age.
III. The third element in the jubilee gladness is THE JOY OF ANTICIPATION OR CONSUMMATION. We believe that faith and hope shall in God's own time effect a marvellous conquest of this long-revolted earth, and that love, working in a united and purified Church, shall through great periods gather up and treasure the spoils of victory. But it is to Christ's coming that we look forward and hasten, as the crown and consummation of Christian hope.
(T. T. Munger.)
(T. Guthrie, D. D.)
2 Timothy 2:26). He tempts men to commit sins, and then binds them in the chains of those sins; and in this way they are made his prisoners or captives. And when Jesus seeks a poor sinner, and converts him by His grace; when He delivers him from the power of his sins, changes his heart, and helps him to lead a new life, then it is that He is blessing that man by giving liberty to the captive. But there are no chains that Satan makes for men so strong as those which he fastens on the soul of the poor drunkard. He is bound hand and foot. The prison in which he is made captive has walls so thick, and doors so strongly bolted and barred, that he never can get out by any efforts of his own. But Jesus is able to break the strongest chain by which any poor drunkard was ever bound, and to open the prison door in spite of all the bolts and bars that may secure it. Here is an illustration of this statement, which I know to be true. One day, while Mr. Moody was preaching in our city, I received a letter written by a person who signed himself "A Reformed Drunkard." He wished me to read this letter in the noonday meeting for the encouragement of those who were trying to break loose from the chains by which the drunkard is bound. And I did read it there. The writer of this letter called to see me before I read it in public, that I might be sure it was all right. I was surprised at his appearance when I saw him. He was as fine-looking, gentlemanly a man as I had ever seen. He was intelligent and well educated. This was his story, as briefly as I can give it. "My family," he said, "is one of the most respectable in Philadelphia. They belong to the Society of Friends. My mother, now in heaven, was formerly a preacher in the Society. For seven years I had been a confirmed drunkard. By this terrible evil I had lost my money, my business, my character, my health, my friends, and my self-respect. It had even separated me from my wife and family, and made me an outcast from society. I was lost to all that was good. I had tried again and again to stop drinking, but in vain. I had taken different medicines, and had signed the temperance pledge a number of times, but without any benefit. Everybody said my case was hopeless. At last, when I was in a public hospital, sick with that dreadful disease which drunkenness causes, called delirium tremens, and was given up to die; then, as I believe, in answer to the prayers of my sainted mother, I was led to look to Jesus. I called on Him for help. He heard my cry, and helped me. By the power of His grace He broke the strong chains of that dreadful sin by which I had been bound, and which nothing but the grace of God can break. I rose from my sick bed a changed man. By the help which Jesus gave me I was able to stop drinking. And now for months I have been a sober man. I am restored to health, to happiness, and usefulness, to my friends and to my family, and am on the way to heaven, where I hope to meet that beloved mother through whose prayers I have been saved. "Such was this man's story. Here we see how Jesus gives deliverance to the captives. And what He did for this poor prisoner of sin and Satan He is able and willing to do for all who call upon Him. And if He has power to help men in this way, then it may well be said that He was "sent to bless them."
(Richard Newton, D. D.)
ukase, to the serfs of Russia, that they were free for ever. It spread through the empire, and a shout went through the nation, "The men born in slavery are set free!" They had found one that had set them free. Wasn't that good news? But here is the news of the gospel, that every man born in sin, and taken captive by Satan, can be set free through the power of the Lord Jesus.(T. De Witt Talmage.)
Christian Age.The great Henry Clay was once placed in a position where he could not refuse a favorer, and yet where he would not have credited himself with doing anything to earn the release he received. He owed £2,000 at the Northern Bank of Kentucky, and his note for that amount had been renewed from time to time, in spite of all his efforts to contrive a way to meet it — until the debt became a source of almost hopeless .anxiety to him. The thought of it intruded upon him everywhere, and embarrassed his work, and worried his rest. The day for payment would come again, and find him as helpless as ever. He chafed like a lion in a net. Whether or not he ever betrayed his uneasiness, there were at least a few who came to know its secret — and with results such as he was the last man to expect. He went into the bank one morning on the old errand. "I have called to see about my debt." The cashier replied, "It has been paid; you don't owe us anything." He was struck with amazement, and, under strong emotion, he turned and went out. Those men who paid the embarrassed statesman's debt did it because they loved him. Christ Jesus loved us so well that He died to release us from the sins of the past, and became Surety Himself for our debt to God's broken law which we never could pay. We never earned such a boon. It was only His love that gave it.
YeI. THE OPPRESSION WHICH NOW EXISTS, AND WHICH IT IS OUR DUTY TO REMOVE. There can be no doubt that there is a fierce spirit of competition abroad — a spirit which pervades every trade, which enters every profession, which stalks about our exchange, sits by the merchant and the banker at their desks, opens the shop early and closes it late, excites angry feeling and envy, makes the man of business anxious and excited abroad, sullen or fretful at home, which unfastens the restraints of religion and honour, interposes between neighbour and neighbour, friend and friend, relation and relation: it suggests enterprises which are rash, bargains which are hard, speculations of doubtful morality, and acts which once would have made the honest cheek to glow with the blush of shame. This spirit it is which leads to fearful embarrassments, unlawful expedients, a wretched parsimony, a false appearance, a costly display, a feverish existence, an untimely end. Oh! if there be a people to whom it is a duty to sound this warning, "Take heed and beware of covetousness," that nation is our own. It has been most truly said, that the "desire of accumulation is the source of all our greatness and all our baseness. It is at once our glory and our shame. It is the cause of our commerce, of our navy, of our military triumphs, of our enormous wealth, and our marvellous inventions; and it is the cause of our factions and animosities, of our squalid pauperism, and the worse than heathen degradation of our population." This spirit has burst forth with such a fearful wide-spreading influence that men begin to look aghast, and wonder what it will lead to. Poets have sung of such a time; the Word of God has warned us against it; statesmen are meditating upon it; the press is thundering against it; and very late — alas! too late!-the pulpit is giving utterance to the wise, loving counsels of One who said, "A man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesses." Now, before I proceed to place before you the oppression which prevails, and the serious consequences which are resulting from it, let me ask, however this question may affect yourself, whether you would wish such a state of things to go on unchecked and unrebuked? Would you wish the fever of speculation, of competition, to increase? Would you wish the spirit of dissatisfaction amongst the working classes to strengthen? There can be no question that whilst many schemes of Christian benevolence and piety have been started and carried out, having reference to other lands, there has prevailed amongst ourselves a wretchedness and depth of suffering which ought long ago to have been investigated and relieved. This misery has been unheeded, not because other objects have enlisted sympathy and received attention — for that would be a foul libel upon that charity which "never faileth," and can alike stretch forth its arms to succour the African slave and bend down to whisper comfort and advice to the miserable at home — but there has grown up so silently and gradually a monster evil, that even the victims themselves have been slow to discern its character, and slower still to suggest a remedy. The human frame is limited in its power of enduring fatigue; and when we consider that there are thousands who are employed in constant labour for more than twelve hours, often, too, in an unwholesome atmosphere and in a constrained position, you will be prepared for the statement, made upon medical testimony, that impaired, exhausted frames, and often an untimely death, are the fruits of this system. Oh! think, I pray, of these bitter wrongs; think of the agony of spirit, the long-protracted hopeless effort, the attenuated frame, the hollow cheek, the chilled eye, the tottering limbs, the constant heart weight, the cheerless room, the sleepless night, the voiceless, gnawing feeling of despair; yes, think of this occurring in London, with its churches, and Houses of Parliament, and Exeter Hall meetings, and greetings to Crimean heroes, and running to help some sturdy vagabond beggar, and then remember, with shame and confusion of face, that it has been written, "Ye shall not therefore oppress one another; but thou shalt fear thy God: for I am the Lord your God."
II. It would not be of any use if we were to content ourselves with sighing over all these miseries, instead of inquiring WHAT STEPS MAY BE TAKEN TO ALLEVIATE AND REDRESS THEM. I have, therefore, drawn your attention to that painful subject in the hope of inducing you to sympathise with the efforts which are now made, especially by the Early Closing Association, to ameliorate the condition of the working classes. It is very satisfactory, then, and encouraging to feel, that the interests of the employer and the employed are in this respect identical; for it is evident that it cannot be for the advantage of the employer that, the health, and energy, and spirit, and moral principle of those he employs should be undermined. The manufacturer would soon suffer if the quality of his raw material became deteriorated; and if the stamina of England's working men became weakened, her producing power would necessarily become less. Now it is encouraging to find that the employers of labour are themselves becoming more alive to the necessity of something being done. I could easily multiply instances of employers who are alive to the duty as well as advantage of taking steps to improve the condition of the employed. And what are these steps? The closing earlier every day, the payment of wages on Thursday or Friday, or, at all events, at an early hour on Saturday, and the Saturday half-holiday. Are these inconsistent with the interests of employers? Far from it. We have ample testimony to prove that the labourers so relieved will apply themselves with increased alacrity to their work, animated with gratitude to their employers, and stimulated by a new-found hope. Then will the English home resume its cheerfulness; then will the husband and father taste the delights which purify and soften, and then, too, will the Sabbath dawn on many who will spring forth to perform its hallowed duties, to feel its soothing influence, and to worship in the courts of Him who hath said — "Ye shall not oppress one another; but thou shalt fear thy God: for I am the Lord your God."
(C. F. S. Money, M. A.)
Hom. Review.It is said that John Wanamaker, when a girl told him that she could not possibly live on the three and a half dollars a week that he offered her, replied: "I know it, but the fact is that I am overrun with applications from girls, daughters of mechanics, tradesmen, &c., who have their homes already, and use their wages merely for dress, and they set the scale. "The story of the employer who coolly told a girl who came with the same complaint: "Most of our girls have gentlemen friends who provide for them; you had better do the same," has been not only widely told, but widely believed. A gentleman went to a wealthy importer on Broadway to ask for a situation for a friend, and received the reply: "He had better not come here. The fact is, all our men are underpaid, but we can get all we want at present wages. Why should we pay any more?" It is notorious that an immense amount of the "piecework" done by women for the great stores and manufactories is done by those who merely wish to provide themselves with some additional comforts. So instances innumerable might be given of the fact that the wage-earners suffer most from the competition of those who are, at least in a measure, independent. That this is wrong and unjust will be acknowledged at once by all right-minded people. The remedy, however, is not so easily recognised. As a rule, it has been supposed to lie with the employed themselves. It is said that these others have no right to work at such low terms. Undoubtedly, if all were unselfish, there would result much alleviation of the difficulty. There is, however, another phase of the case to which we would call attention, and that is the responsibility of the employer. How far is it right for a man to accept of service for which he does not pay a fair price — i.e., a price such that the one who receives it can live upon it fairly and comfortably? There are, of course, limitations. No iron rule can be laid down. Inexperience cannot claim the same as experience, extravagance should not lay down the law for economy. Yet, after all, every employer knows perfectly well whether or not he is paying what are called "living wages." It is much the fashion to decry the Mosaic laws as belonging to a period and state of society entirely foreign to modern needs. No one, however, who carefully studies those laws can fail to recognise the fact that they touch very closely upon the demands that we hear on every side for a more equal distribution of property, a more just relation between employer and employed. The German Empire has already endorsed the same principle in stating clearly the obligation of the community to provide for its individual member's. The Occident is not the Orient. Anglo-Saxons are not Semites; but the fundamental law that one man shall not oppress another, by taking advantage of his necessities is just as true now and here as it was in the desert of Arabia many centuries ago.
I. Let us first LISTEN TO THE QUESTION. "What shall we eat the seventh year?" Now this was a question of mere nature. Grace had nothing to do with it. It is man trusting in his own native strength, man who judges all things by his own reason, man who goes no further in his belief than what he can see and what he can understand. Human nature can understand ploughing and reaping. Nature can comprehend scattering the seed. Nature can believe in a self-dependent life, but nature cannot understand renouncing all human activity and living absolutely on Jehovah's blessing, and, therefore, in a spirit of querulous unbelief, it asks, "But what shall we eat?" Asking this question is virtually to arraign God at the bar of Reason, and say, "It is all very well to tell us that we are not to plough, and not to gather, and not to reap; but what shall we eat? We shall starve if we are only to feed on what Thou givest us. If we do this thing we shall have empty barns, and empty barns will mean empty mouths, and empty mouths will mean national ruin and death." Thus blinded nature always argues, and will not trust for more than it can see. A plough that can be beheld is valued far before a God that can only be believed. Now is not this a question continually being asked in the present day? Is it not being put by some here this morning? There is one yonder asking it in this wise: If I do all that God tells me, how shall I get on in life or make my way? If I conduct my business according to high Christian principles, if I give absolute and complete obedience to all the commands of Scripture, if I keep my fingers clean of those things that defile the world's hands, and if I maintain my integrity, and refuse to stoop to all the petty little meannesses that I find common in the business of the world, well, then, what shall I eat? May I not as well put up the shutters at once? This very matter was brought before me only yesterday by a professing Christian. Said he, "Sir, it is all very well for you to talk as you do, and right you should, but if we don't do these little things, our children will have to suffer for it. We are living in the world, and we have to do in a measure as the world does, for if we don't, what shall we eat?" Thus unbelief steps in, and says, "Perfect obedience to God means starvation." Whilst on the other hand faith replies, "Perfect obedience means a feast on blessing." Faith cares not from whence the supply may come; faith troubles not about probable results; it obeys God's commands, asks no questions, and raises no objections. Let us not, however, be too hard on these persons, for this question is often asked more in a spirit of anxiety than a disposition to cavil. A timid believer, with no thought of limiting the Holy One of Israel, may put the question in some such form as this: "Well, sir, it is all very true what you say, and God forbid I should doubt His providence, but supposing I should be sick during this year — supposing I should have a long, weary illness, that keeps me from work for weeks! What should I do? Facts are stubborn things, and if I cannot earn a penny, how am I to purchase anything for the family? If there is to be a long cessation from employment, what shall we eat?" Or, it may be, there are some already in this position, who are saying, "It is easy, sir, for you to stand up on that platform and talk, but you would alter your language if you were in my place. Look! When I scan the horizon, I cannot see one harvest-field that I am likely to reap this year. If I go to all my barns I find them empty; if I go to my trees I find them stripped. Humanly speaking, I can see no hope of anything but hardship and privation, and the question of my heart this morning is, 'What shall we eat this year?' and though I have asked it a hundred times, I seem no nearer the solution of the problem." Well, dear friend, you have my heart's truest sympathy, and I would that I could help you, and all like you, but yet I must say, "Trust in God and do the right." "I will command My blessing," is God's answer to your question of anxiety. Sometimes, however, the question is asked more from curiosity than even anxiety. It is in such spirit that we ask the question this morning, "What shall we eat?" It is not a question whether God will give us food or not; we know He will; but we should like to know what manner of food it is He will put into our mouths this seventh year. Will it be the same as last year or better? Will there be a new flavour about it, or a repetition of the old savour? Shall it be fruit from a new tree, or new fruit from an old tree? What shall be our kind of experience during this year? Shall we, during its months, eat of the fruit of Canaan, or shall we be satisfied with the manna of the wilderness?
II. Well, we will try now TO GIVE YOU THE ANSWER as you have it in the text. We shall live on the blessing of our God. Israel had to learn one truth, and that one truth was this — that God's blessing was worth more than all their own efforts; that if God spake a word of commanding blessing, it was worth more to them than all their ploughs and agricultural labour. Beloved, is not this true for you? Have not you in three ways to learn the lesson that the Lord will provide? It will be true this year in your life as far as temporal matters are concerned. It is not the expenditure of brain power, or the employment of arm muscle that will win you your bread; it is the blessing of God resting on you. There is nought apart from that; and we pray that you may acknowledge the precious truth, and at the end of this year say, concerning your gettings, "It is because Jehovah has commanded His blessing." But there is a higher life you and I have to live, and that is soul life. How will that be maintained this year? I answer — By the blessing of God. No man has power to keep the fire within his own soul aglow; no man has might sufficient to keep his own faith from staggering; no one has self-contained ability to keep his own heart from wandering. And how true will it be in reference to us as a Church! The preacher this year must look to God for his texts. "The Lord will provide" must be recognised even in that. It is not the service, it is the blessing on the service. It is not the word, it is the blessing on the word. It is the dew that is on the manna that makes it so refreshing; it is Jehovah's benediction that alone satisfies; and though we may drive our own plough, and though we may try and scatter the seed broadcast on every hand, yet if you obtain one spiritual feast this year, the speaker steps back and says it is not of him. If God makes him a means of blessing unto one soul, it is neither he nor his sermon, it is the Lord's commanded blessing that has refreshed the heart. Had we time, we might show you how this applies to everything in connection with the Church. Our schools will prosper just as Heaven's blessing is their portion. There is one other thought which arises naturally out of the subject; it is this, that the answer to the question, "What shall we eat the seventh year" is "Exactly the same as you had on the sixth year," because you will observe, if you look at the context, that God gave them a double blessing on the sixth year, so that the trees yielded twice their wont — treble rather — and the fields a threefold harvest. So that on the seventh and eighth years they had no new kind of fruit to that they had on the sixth. It was the same fruit, and of the same flavour.
(A. G. Brown.)
The land is Mine; for ye are strangers and sojourners with Me.I. The first and fundamental principle of the land system prescribed to the chosen people who were to inhabit this typical land was, THAT THE LAND BELONGED TO JEHOVAH, AND WAS TO BE HELD BY THE PEOPLE IMMEDIATELY OF AND UNDER HIM, AS THEIR SOVEREIGN AND PARAMOUNT SUPERIOR AND LORD.
II. Flowing naturally — indeed, one might say logically — from the principle of the Divine ownership of the soil, and its possession by the Israelites as the Lord's chosen people, is the next feature of the Israelitish land system — viz., THE EQUAL PARTITION OF THE LAND AMONG THE WHOLE FAMILIES CONSTITUTING THE NATION (see Numbers 26.). It is to be noticed that, in the actual division of the land, each tribe was to receive its allotment in proportion to its numerical extent, distinct from the others; and that the tribal allotment was thereafter to be apportioned among the whole families composing the tribe, so that each should have its own definite share. Besides, it was subsequently provided that an allotment in the territory of one tribe should never become the possession of any member of a different tribe, so that heiresses or heiress-portioners, could marry only "in the family of the tribe of their father." These subsidiary enactments, doubtless, had reference specially to the peculiar character and aims of the Israelitish constitution. They tended to preserve and perpetuate family and tribal traditions and sentiments; they facilitated the keeping of accurate genealogical records; they provided a basis for the practical operation of the law of jubilee; they promoted the self-government of the people by the graduated judicatories of the family and the tribe; and they, at the same time, welded the people into one compact commonwealth, by the bonds of an equal interest in the soil. It is, of course, impossible here even to glance at the much-discussed question of the relative merits of an aristocratic or a peasant proprietory, of large or small landowners, of extensive or limited farms. But it is interesting to notice that, in the Israelitish land legislation, we have precisely and practically that system of peasant proprietory which we find existing and flourishing in many countries, and to which not a few of those who have given the most independent and thoughtful and earnest attention to the matter, look for the solution of the difficulties which are gathering around the subject in our own land.
III. The next feature of the Israelitish land system is, THAT THE RETURN TO BE MADE BY THE PEOPLE FOR THEIR LANDS WAS PRECISELY THE SAME AS THAT WHICH JOSEPH FIXED TO BE PAID BY THE EGYPTIAN CROWN TENANTRY — VIZ., ONE-FIFTH OF THE GROSS ANNUAL PRODUCE. In the case of the Israelites, however, this fifth was divided into two-tenths, and its payment was prescribed in a form breathing the spirit rather of grateful religious acknowledgment than of strict legal exaction.
IV. The next characteristic of the Israelitish land system is, THAT THE LAND THUS ALLOTTED TO THE PEOPLE, AND HELD BY THEM AS THE VASSALS OF THE LORD, WAS INALIENABLE. "The land shall not be sold for ever, for the land is Mine, saith the Lord." It was clearly requisite, for the maintenance of the essential characteristics of the Israelitish constitution, and for the realisation of the national destiny, that the land should be inalienable. A system which permitted of the aggregation, more or less rapidly, of the land of the country into the hands of the few; and of the consequent detachment, more or less extensively, of the population from the soil, would have been fatal to the preservation of the national existence and to the realisation of the national destiny. The law distinctly and absolutely forbade the sale or alienation of the land, and fortified the prohibition by the enactments against usury or interest. The successive landholders had, therefore, in reality, only a different interest in it; and it was equitable and conceivably beneficial that they should possess the power of disposing of this limited interest. Innocent misfortune might compel, or other causes might induce, them to part with it. And this the law of jubilee enabled them to do. By that law the landholder was enabled to dispose of the usufruct — the right to the fruits — of the land for a period not exceeding, at its ultimate possible limit, the interval between the age of twenty, when a male Israelite attained full majority, and seventy, the estimated end of a normal human life. All that the landholder was empowered to dispose of was his own liferent interest. But neither the seller nor the purchaser knew what would be the certain duration of that interest; and in these days actuarial tables, exhibiting the average expectation of human life, did not exist. The law of jubilee therefore stepped in and converted each liferent interest into an interest terminating at the next jubilee; and the purchaser paid for it a price corresponding to the number of years intervening between the sale and the jubilee, under deduction of the sabbatic or fallow years. But the disposal even of this limited interest in the soil was not an absolute or irredeemable one. The power to sell it at all was a concession to human frailty or necessity. It was not to be presumed that a true-hearted Israelite would alienate his interest in the soil of the covenanted land except under the severe pressure of adverse circumstances. Indeed, so strong do we find this attachment to the soil that even in the troublous times of Ahab, Naboth repels the overtures of the king for his land with the exclamation, "The Lord forbid it me that I should give the inheritance of my fathers unto thee" (1 Kings 21:3). And so, to afford an opportunity for the redemption of the land, if the circumstances of the seller should improve, or a kinsman be willing to take his place, the law of jubilee provided that the seller or his kinsman should at any time be entitled to redeem the liferent by paying to the purchaser the value of the usufruct for the period still to elapse between the redemption and the jubilee, calculated on the basis of the original price. It is only to be noticed further that the prohibition to alienate did not extend to dwelling-houses in walled cities. As these were not in any way connected with the agricultural occupancy of the land they might be sold in perpetuity; but to prevent coercion, or thoughtless disposal, or hardship from other causes, the law provided a species of annus deliberandi, so that the house could be redeemed at the stipulated price at any time before the expiry of a year from the day of sale, after which it became irredeemable. The law of jubilee had, of course, a national as well as an individual purpose, a religious as well as a secular significance. It was part of that great system of types which ran through the whole of Mosaism. It made provision for the periodical removal or modification of the inequalities which sprang up among the people in the course of years. It prevented families being permanently impoverished through the incapacity, the profligacy, or the misfortune of an individual member. It periodically restored all diverted lands to their true owners, freed of all encumbrances and trammels. It was a national rejuvenescence, a periodical restoration and renewal of the original constitution of the commonwealth, and an infusion of fresh life and spirit into the whole community!
V. The only other portion of the Israelitish land system that remains to be noticed is THE LAW OF SUCCESSION. The Israelitish law of inheritance is expressed in Numbers 27:8-11. The Mosaic law makes no provision regarding the testamentary disposal of property; and the idea of such a power is excluded both by its fundamental principle, to which we have adverted, and by the system of heritable succession which it expressly prescribes. The principle that the land was the Lord's and that the successive generations of Israelites were merely "strangers" temporarily "sojourning" upon it, necessarily excluded the power of posthumous settlement no less than that of alienation during life.
Homilist.The institution of the jubilee year had more than one purpose. As a social arrangement it tended to prevent extremes of wealth and poverty. As a ceremonial institution it was the completion of the law of the sabbath. It was appointed to enforce, and to make the whole fabric of the national wealth rest upon, this thought contained in the text. The land was not theirs to sell — they had only a beneficial occupation. They were only like a band of wanderers settling for a while, by permission of the Owner, on His estate.
I. HERE IS THE LESSON OF GOD'S PROPRIETORSHIP AND OUR STEWARDSHIP. "The land is Mine."
1. This thought should nurture thankfulness. The darkest night is filled with light, and the loneliest place blazes with angel faces, and the stoniest pillow is soft to him who sees everywhere the ladder that knits earth with heaven, and to whom all his blessings are as the messengers that descend it on errands of mercy and lead up the heart to the God from whom they come.
2. This thought should bring submission. We should not murmur, however we may regret, if the Landowner takes back a bit of the land which He has let us occupy. He does not take it away for His advantage, but "for our profit" — that we may be driven to claim a better inheritance in Himself than we can find even in the best of His gifts.
3. This thought should produce a sense of responsibility in the use of all we have.
II. HERE IS THE LESSON OF THE TRANSIENCY OF OUR STAY ON EARTH. "Ye are strangers and sojourners."
1. The contrast between the external world and our stay in it
2. The constant change and progression of life.
3. The true and only permanent home. Use the transient as preparation for the eternal.
III. HERE IS THE LESSON OF TRUST. "With Me." We have companionship even when most solitary. Whoever goes, God abides.
(M. M. Kalisch, Ph. D.)
And if thy brother be waxen poor.Good Words the cases of mendicancy which he saw appear before the Jewish Board of Guardians, tells of a Prussian Jew, quite blind, who was led into the room by a child of one of the lodgers of the house he lived in. He informed the Board that he had been some weeks in England, and was utterly destitute. On being asked how he had contrived to live, he replied that the poor Jews in Petticoat Lane had made a subscription for him, and he had received about eight shillings a week from the pence they had subscribed.
If thy brother... be sold unto thee.
I. TEXTS RELATING TO SLAVES.
5. Strangers, under certain restrictions (ver. 45).
6. Foreigners, might be purchased (ver. 44).
8. Thieves were sold (Exodus 22:3).
9. Israelites to be kindly treated (vers. 39, 40, 46), and to be liberated after six years (Exodus 21:2; Deuteronomy 15:12); or if they refused to be free, then (Exodus 21:5, 6; Deuteronomy 15:16, 17), when sold to foreigners might be redeemed (vers. 47-55), or be free at the jubilee (vers. 10, 40, 41, 54), but could not demand wife and child procured during bondage (Exodus 21:3, 4); were to be furnished liberally on regaining liberty (Deuteronomy 15:13, 14).
11. If ill-treated by masters, to be set free (Exodus 21:26, 27).
12. Laws respecting killing slaves (Exodus 21:20, 21).
13. If they ran away, not to be delivered up (Deuteronomy 23:15).
II. NOTE ON THE ABOVE TEXTS. Consider —
1. The nature of slavery as practised by the heathen world (the treatment of Israelites by Egyptians).
2. The restraint laid upon these Israelites in their conduct to foreign bondsmen. But for these laws how might these people — who had been slaves of foreigners themselves — have treated foreigners when in their turn they became masters?
3. The relation of Israelitish slaves to Israelitish masters, with their privileges (social and religious), and certain freedom.
4. The causes for which alone they might become slaves.
5. Especially consider that while these laws ameliorated the condition Of slavery as it then existed — eliminating the elements of cruelty, &c., leaving, in fact, nothing of bondage but the name — they paved the way, by the training of justice and mercy, for the total extinction of slavery.
6. Christianity in spirit, precept, and practice against slavery.(1) Asserts that there is no bond or free, but that all are one in Christ.(2) Teaches the fraternity of the race. "God hath made of one blood," &c. "All we are brethren."(3) Strikingly illustrates this by the case of a runaway slave — Onesimus — whom Paul sent back to his master, whom in some way he had wronged, not as a slave, but as a brother beloved (Philemon). Learn:
1. No warrant for modern slavery in the Word of God (Isaiah 58:6).
2. Spiritual slavery the worst form (2 Timothy 2:26).
(J. C. Gray.).