Deuteronomy 23:1
No man with crushed or severed genitals may enter the assembly of the LORD.
Sermons
Loss of Sacred Privilege a Grievous PenaltyD. Davies Deuteronomy 23:1-6
The Congregation of the Lord Jealously GuardedR.M. Edgar Deuteronomy 23:1-8
The Excluded from the CongregationJ. Orr Deuteronomy 23:1-8


Certain principles underlie these exclusions which it is worth our while to note. It will be seen that, though bars of this kind are done away in Christ, there was a fitness, under the theocracy, in the exclusion of the classes specified from full participation in covenant privilege, such exclusion being in harmony with the idea of "a holy nation" - type in earthly mold of the ideal kingdom of God.

I. THE EXCLUSION OF THE MUTILATED. (Ver. 1.) The idea here is that the preservation of the body in its vigor, and in the entirety of its functions, is a duty which we owe to God; that mutilation of it or dishonor done to it is dishonor done to him - a species of profanity. Those in whom this work of dishonor had been wrought, unfitting them for the discharge of the distinctive functions of their manhood, were barred from entrance to the congregation. The ban is removed under the gospel (Isaiah 56:3-5).

II. THE EXCLUSION OF THE CHILDREN OF INCEST. (Vers. 2, 3.) "To the tenth generation" seems to be a periphrasis for "forever" (Nehemiah 13:1). The rabbins take the term "bastard" to refer to children born of incest or adultery. These were to be excluded through all their generations. This principle, irrespective of the ground stated in ver. 4, would have sufficed to exclude Moab and Ammon. The truth conveyed is that the impure are unalterably debarred from membership in God's kingdom. God's kingdom is a kingdom of purity. In its final form nothing of an impure nature will be found in it. Impurity of heart and life exclude from inward membership in it now, and will do so forever. Known impurity should exclude from Church fellowship on earth (1 Corinthians 5:1, 2). The outward bar no longer exists, and the offspring of impure connection, if children of faith, are welcomed to the spiritual fold. But the tendency of sins of parents still is, as of old, to exclude children from the fellowship of believers. The unchurched little ones grow up outside the pale of ordinances, and tend, in course of generations, to become increasingly estranged from the means of grace. Parents who sin themselves out of Church fellowship thus do their children, as well as their own souls, an irreparable injury.

III. THE EXCLUSION OF THE UNMERCIFUL AND OF THOSE WHO SHOWED HATRED TO GOD'S PEOPLE. (Vers. 4-6.) The principle here is obvious. Christ expressly excludes the unmerciful from all participation in his kingdom (Matthew 25:41-46). And there can be no "peace" and no "prosperity" to those who are actuated by hostility to God's kingdom. So long as they retain this character, we cannot wish it for them. Hostility to Christ's people is hostility to Christ himself (Acts 9:4, 5), and reacts fatally on the soul (Matthew 21:44). It draws upon it God's indignation, and ends in final exclusion from heaven.

IV. THE ADMISSION OF THOSE WHO SHOW KINDNESS TO GOD'S PEOPLE. (Vers. 7, 8.) The Edomite and the Egyptian were not to be abhorred; their children might be admitted in the third generation. The Edomites had not been as friendly as they might have been, but they had at least furnished the Israelites with victuals in their march, while the Egyptians had for a long time shown them kindness and hospitality. For these things they "had their reward." Acts of kindness to God's people do not entitle to admission into God's kingdom, but they show a "nighness" of spirit to it, and are remembered in God's dealings with the doers of them, and may issue in their final salvation (Matthew 10:42). Note: Past kindnesses are not to be forgotten because of a late change of disposition. The Egyptians were kindly remembered, though their treatment of the Israelites had latterly been very cruel. It is to be remarked also that the tone in which Edom is uniformly referred to in this book does not in the least harmonize with the late date assigned to it by many critics. Edom, in the time of the prophets, had become Israel's implacable foe. - J.O.







Make a battlement for thy roof.
A careful study of the tone and teaching of Deuteronomy can hardly fail to impress the reader with its profound ethical and religious spirit. What an emphasis is laid upon the unity and the uniqueness of the Godhead! What an insistence upon the love of God as the motive of all actions! Humanity, philanthropy, and benevolence are insisted upon. Forbearance, equity, and forethought underlie all regulations. The preceding precept as to the bird's nest and the sitting dam are a striking example of the humanity of the Jewish law. When a man built a new house, a battlement or, as we should say, a parapet was an almost necessary protection. It would prevent accidents. Some through carelessness or foolhardiness, others through short-sightedness or a slip of the foot, might fall off; such a tumble would certainly fracture limbs, and in some cases be fatal to life. A selfish man might say, "I shall always remember that there is no battlement, and keep well away from the sides. It is very unlikely that any will fall over if I leave the sides unprotected. If any accident should occur it can only be through gross carelessness. I see no reason why I should be put to this expense." The superior person might say, "I will have no battlement on this roof." I have nothing but contempt for fashion. Why should I do a thing because other people do it? I will leave my roof unprotected, if only to show my superiority to the caprice and tyranny of custom. Now, the spirit of this law is recognised in all civilised communities. Private tastes and individual eccentricities are not allowed to imperil public safety or destroy public comfort. Private persons cannot build houses without public authorities approving the plans. So this precept of the Jewish law is found, in spirit at least, in our modern legislation. We are to be alive to a sense of danger, we are not to forget the duty of prudence, we are to take all reasonable precautions against injury to ourselves and others. But there is a sense in which we are builders. We found families, we make fortunes, we acquire reputations, we form friendships, we embark on undertakings, we profess moral principles, we hold religious views — in regard to all it is well for us, nay, for all Christians it is a duty, to make a battlement to their roof. Let us in imagination walk round the house.

1. First of all here is the economic wing. In the economic management of life, a battlement to the roof is a duty. We build our houses, we settle in life, we make a home for ourselves, we set up an establishment. Of course, it must bear some proportion to our means. But how many do it on such an imprudent, not to say extravagant scale, that there is nothing left for a battlement! They spend all that they have. They are the victims of expensive habits and large ideas of things. They burn incense to the demon of respectability. They sink their all in building up the roof line, and leave no margin for prudent provision against possible misfortune or untimely death. How many have brought blood upon their houses, how many have inflicted suffering on their own children and loss on others, by neglecting to build a parapet of thrift out of the materials of simplicity of taste, moderation in appetite, and prudence in management! Thrift is the very gospel that some people need, and some, too, who bear the Christian name, and aspire after a Christian reputation. What renders this a matter of really spiritual concern is that often the battlement goes unbuilt from causes that are not only irreligious but antichristian: a thirst for social distinctions, for recognition and patronage by some more highly placed than ourselves.

2. But we pass to another wing. How necessary it is for Christian people in their social life to make a battlement to the roof. The power of social influence is immense, you can hardly over-estimate it. No character can defy the subtle influences that flow in upon them from others. No man is absolutely impervious to social pressure. Therefore this is one of those points on which Christian people should exercise conscientious care and prudence. They will erect a battlement to their social life by choosing friends from those who will be a help rather than a hindrance to a godly life. In this we think not of ourselves only, but of our children. We may be able to run risks with comparative immunity, because our principles are strong and our characters fixed. We can walk on the unprotected roof with safety. But are not our children very liable to fall Surely the prime duty of Christian parents in the culture of their children's minds and hearts, and the discipline of their habits, is to deepen in them a sense of the inviolable sanctity of goodness. "The friendship of the world is enmity with God." The world puts gentility before character. It does not inquire too closely into the morals of those who have birth and wealth. If we are wise and faithful we shall rightly estimate the importance of social forces. We shall discriminate between those fighting on Christ's side and those that are fighting against Him. We shall leave no one in doubt as to our affinities and alliances. We shall put up a battlement to the roof of our social life. There is a kind of separation from the world which is as impracticable as it is undesirable; there is another which is simply essential if we are to save our own souls and help to save others. A battlement to the roof of our social life fortifies the sanctity and simplicity of our homes.

3. But there is another wing to this house. It is the moral, it is the sphere of character. He who builds well and wisely, sees that the roof hero has a battlement, namely, the battlement of religion. "By the fear of the Lord men depart from evil." When the heart has been touched by the love of God in Christ, when the Lord Jesus Christ has been admitted to its throne, there is a defence and proof against the assaults of the evil one. It is just here that some question the need of a battlement. They are building the structure of character, they are morally sensitive, they are anxious and careful in doing what is right, but they have no religion, no personal concern for or interest in the redemption of Jesus Christ, They have builded their house, but there is not a battlement to the roof. Now, far be it from us to shut our eyes to the fact that even those who have the battlement do sometimes fall. The parapet itself may be out of repair, the stones may have fallen out and not been replaced. Now, a battlement out of repair may be more dangerous than to have none. But these cases are the exception and not the rule. There was one Judas among the twelve apostles. But what candid and fair-minded man will deny that the fear of God is the greatest of all restraints from evil? "The fear of the Lord is the treasure of the godly," for "He is able to keep us from falling, and to present us faultless before the throne of His glory, with exceeding joy."

4. But there is yet one other wing to the house. Here the social and religious wings join. Our religious life itself needs a battlement. Here is a word for those who are giving their heart to God, who are determining the great ends and principles that are to rule their life. "When thou buildest a new house, then thou shalt make a battlement for thy roof." Now, the Episcopalian contends that in order to be completely furnished unto all good works our religious life needs something in addition to God, the Bible, and Christ Himself, namely, the Church. We entirely agree with him. Until a man is in the Church he has not built a battlement to his house. It brings individual believers into actual and visible association with those who have taken the same holy vows and enlisted in the same holy warfare. It will be good for the Church that he shall do so, but will it not be good for him? Will he not be a stronger and better Christian if he "stir up the gift of God" that is in him, and add it to the totality and variety of the spiritual forces that operate in the world? Will he not be encouraged by the fellowship of others? We contend that the Church is the battlement of the religious life, not its foundation, "other foundation can no man lay than hath been laid, Jesus Christ." By some it is regarded as putting a restraint and imposing a limit. So it does. The purpose of a parapet or battlement is to prevent you falling over. If your foot slips on the edge of a precipice, what you want is something to catch hold of. But remember, anything that is inconsistent in the Church member is equally so in the Christian, though he be outside the Church. If you are holding back from a duty to Christ for the sake of liberty to do things inconsistent with Church membership, you are imperilling your soul by doing them now.

(R. B. Brindley.)

To understand the primary significance of these words, you have simply to remember two things. First, that the houses referred to were covered with flat roofs, and, secondly, that on these roofs amusements, business, conversation, and worship were frequently carried on. There is the suggestion of great principles — principles which abide.

I. WHAT ARE THESE PRINCIPLES?

1. One is, the sacredness of human life. The great reason assigned in the text for the building of the balustrade round the roof was this: "that thou bring not blood upon thine house." If human life were a thing of no account, no battlement would be necessary — let a man or a child fall over, what matters it? Now, that is a principle which in a general way we all recognise, but which in our commercial life is continually violated by that which calls itself "the trade" preeminently.

2. But another principle underlying the text is this, the inhumanity of selfishness. Observe, the builder of a house might have reasoned thus with himself: "Why should I make a parapet about the roof of my house? I am in no danger of falling over, and when my friends and neighbours come to see me, let them take care of themselves." Every man for himself! Is that the principle on which society can hold together? If I am a man, nothing that is human will be alien to me. If I consult only my own safety and comfort and well-being, I am worse than a brute!

3. For another principle suggested here, closely allied to that of which I have just spoken, is, our responsibility in relation to others. If any man fell, the blood was upon the owner's house. They could not say — "It was the man's fault who met with the accident. He should have been more careful. He ought to have kept away from the edge of the roof." Yes, perhaps so, but that was no excuse for him who had failed to set up the balustrade.

II. Now, having set before you, in a general way, the principles underlying this text, I want to look at its TEACHING AS IT APPLIES MORE PARTICULARLY TO THE BOYS AND GIRLS OF OUR HOMES AND OF THE COMMUNITY AT LARGE. The making of the battlement is not to be an after consideration; it must be part of the original plan. The house is not complete without it. There is to be no waiting until someone has fallen over. The building of the battlement is intended to be preventive of harm from the very beginning. And is not that the line on which we work when we seek to train our boys and girls in the principles of total abstinence?

1. And will you allow me to say that one of these protections — a battlement for their safety — is the protection of the law.

2. Then another battlement to be reared about the young life of our country may perhaps be summed up in the word education.

3. But I come back to the home again, and I say that around your own household, you, father, mother, must rear the balustrade of your own example.

(Josiah Flew.)

Many are building homes which immortal souls are filling. Are the homes made safe?

1. Our homes ought to have every moral and spiritual safeguard that God's Word and the best experience suggests.

2. The guards are most needed where there are pleasant places, the heights from which it is so easy to fall.

3. When evil comes through neglect of these safeguards, the builder's soul is stained with blood. Builder of a home, do your duty, let not the blood of dear ones stain your soul.

(F. W. Lewis.)

We are all builders — building character, building for eternity. The text gives an important principle — that prevention is better than cure. Better put up the barrier above, than have to pick up the mangled body from the pavement below. Better prevent the formation of bad habits than attempt their eradication later in life.

I. NOTICE SOME OF THE BATTLEMENTS WHICH NEED TO BE REARED ABOUT OUR SOUL LIFE AND ABOUT THE LIFE OF SOCIETY.

1. The Christian Sabbath, one of the oldest balustrades reared for man's protection. A week without a Sabbath is a year without a summer, a summer without flowers, a night without a morn.

2. Family prayer. Some are ready to talk in meeting, whose lips are dumb in prayer at home. The devoutness of heathen rebukes such prayerlessness. Pericles, before an oration, used to plead with the gods for guidance, and Scipio, before a great undertaking, went to pray in the temple of Jupiter.

3. Reverence for God's Word. Men of real culture, though not believers, well know that all that is noblest in art, sweetest in song, and most inspiring in thought, had its source in this volume.

4. Gospel temperance. Guard the young. Keep them pure. Even the blood of Christ cannot wash out the memory of sin. It mars and pollutes the soul.

5. The all-inclusive battlement is personal faith in Jesus Christ.

II. The battlement of old was FOR ORNAMENT AND FOR PROTECTION. Through the lower part an arrow could be shot, and in later years a bullet. So religion serves this double purpose. See to it that your house is thus built, and when this earthly tabernacle is taken down, you will have another, not built with bands, eternal in the heavens.

(R. S. McArthur, D. D.)

Not only is this an extraordinary instruction, it is the more extraordinary that it appears in a hook which is supposed to be devoted to spiritual revelations. But in calling it extraordinary, do we not mistake the meaning which ought to be attached to the term "spiritual revelations"? Are not more things spiritual than we have hitherto imagined? This instruction recognises — the social side., of human life, and that side may be taken. As in some sense representative of a Divine claim; it is not the claim of one individual only, but of society; it may be taken as representing the sum total of individuals; the larger individual — the concrete humanity. Socialism has its beneficent as well as its dangerous side. Socialism, indeed, when rightly interpreted, is never to be feared; it is only when perverted to base uses, in which self becomes the supreme idol, that socialism is to he denounced and avoided. The social influences continually operating in life limit self-will, develop the most gracious side of human nature, and purify and establish all that is noblest and truest in friendship. There are certain conditions under which an instruction such as is given in the text may excite obvious objections. Suppose, for example, that a man should plead that his neighbour calls upon him only occasionally, and should upon that circumstance raise the inquiry whether he should put up a permanent building to meet an exceptional circumstance. The inquiry would seem to be pertinent and reasonable. On the other hand, when closely looked into, it will be found that the whole scheme of human life is laid out with a view to circumstances which are called exceptional. The average temperature of the year may be mild, for most of the twelve months the wind may be low and the rain gentle; why then build a house with strong walls and heavy roofs? Our neighbour may call tomorrow — see then that the battlement be ready! But ought not men to be able to take care of themselves when they are walking on the roof without our guarding them as though they were little children? This question, too, is not without a reasonable aspect. It might even be urged into the dignity of an argument, on the pretence that if we do too much for people we may beget in them a spirit of carelessness or a spirit of dependence, leading ultimately to absolute disregard and thoughtlessness in all the relations of life. We are, however, if students of the Bible, earnestly desirous to carry out its meaning, bound to study the interests even of the weakest men. This is the very principle of Christianity. "Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself." By thinking of one another we lay claim upon the affection and trust of neighbour and friend. We are not to reason as if this action were all upon our own side. Whilst we build our battlement for the sake of another man we must remember that that other man in building his house builds a battlement for our sake. All services of this kind are reciprocal; no man, therefore, is at liberty to stand back and decline social responsibilities: in every sense, whether accepted or rejected, no man liveth unto himself. The Christian application of this doctrine is clear. If we are so to build a house as not to endanger the men who visit us, are we at liberty to build a life which may be to others the very snare of destruction. Is there not to be a battlement around our conduct? Are our habits to be formed without reference to the social influence which they may exert? Remember that children are looking at us, and that strangers are taking account of our ways, and that we may be lured from righteousness by a licentiousness which we call liberty. Is the Christian, then, to abstain from amusements and delights which he could enjoy without personal injury lest a weaker man should be tempted to do that which would injure him? Precisely so. That is the very essence of Christian self-denial. How many life houses there are which apparently want but some two or three comparatively little things to make them wholly perfect! In one case perhaps only the battlement is wanting, in another case it may be but some sign of spiritual beauty, in another case there may be simply want of grace, courtesy, noble civility, and generous care for the interests of others. Whatever it may be, examination should be instituted, and every man should consider himself bound not only to be faithful in much, but faithful also in that which is least; and being so he will not only see that there is strength in his character but also beauty, and upon the top of the pillars which represent integrity and permanence will be the lilywork of grace, patience, humbleness, and love.

(J. Parker, D. D.)

I. GOD HAS BATTLEMENTED HIS OWN HOUSE. There are high places in His house, and He does not deny His children the enjoyment of these high places, but He makes sure that they shall not be in danger there. He sets bulwarks round about them lest they should suffer evil when in a state of exaltation. God in His house has given us many high and sublime doctrines. Timid minds are afraid of these, but the highest doctrine in Scripture is safe enough because God has battlemented it. Take the doctrine of election. God has been pleased to set around that doctrine other truths which shield it from misuse. It is true He has chosen people, but "by their fruit ye shall know them." "Without holiness no man shall see the Lord." Though He has chosen His people, yet He has chosen them unto holiness; He has ordained them to be zealous for good works. Then there is the sublime truth of the final perseverance of the saints. What a noble height is that! A housetop doctrine indeed! "The Lord will keep the feet of His saints." "The righteous also shall hold on his way, and he that hath clean hands shall be stronger and stronger." It will be a great loss to us if we are unable to enjoy the comfort of this truth. There is no reason for fearing presumption through a firm conviction of the true believer's safety. Mark well the battlements which God has builded around the edge of this truth! He has declared that if these shall fall away, it is impossible "to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put Him to an open shame." Take another view of the same thought. The Lord has guarded the position of His saints if endowed with wealth. Some of God's servants are, in His providence, called to very prosperous conditions in life, and prosperity is fruitful in dangers. Yet be well assured that, if God shall call any of you to be prosperous, and place you in an eminent position, He will see to it that grace is given suitable for your station, and affliction needful for your elevation. That bodily infirmity, that want of favour with the great, that sick child, that suffering wife, that embarrassing partnership — any one of these may be the battlements which God has built around your success, lest you should be lifted up with pride, and your soul should not be upright in you. Does not this remark cast a light upon the mystery of many a painful dispensation? "Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now have I kept Thy word." The like prudence is manifested by our Lord towards those whom He has seen fit to place in positions of eminent service. You may rest assured that if God honours you to win many souls, you will have many stripes to bear, and stripes you would not like to tell another of, they will be so sharp and humbling. Do not, therefore, start back from qualifying yourself for the most eminent position, or from occupying it when duty calls. He will uphold thee; on the pinnacle thou art as secure as in the valley, if Jehovah set thee there. It is the same with regard to the high places of spiritual enjoyment. Even much communion with Christ, though in itself sanctifying, may be perverted, through the folly of our flesh, into a cause of self-security. Lest a soul should be beguiled to live upon itself, and feed on its frames and feelings, and by neglect of watchfulness fall into presumptuous sins, battlements are set round about all hallowed joys, for which in eternity we shall bless the name of the Lord. Too many of the Lord's servants feel as if they were always on the housetop — always afraid, always full of doubts and fears. They are fearful lest they shall after all perish, and of a thousand things besides. To such we say you shall find when your faith is weakest, when you are just about to fall, that there is a glorious battlement all around you; a glorious promise, a gentle word of the Holy Spirit shall be brought home to your soul, so that you shall not utterly despair.

II. From the fact of Divine carefulness we proceed by an easy step to the consideration that, as imitators of God, we should exercise the like tenderness; in a word, WE OUGHT TO HAVE OUR HOUSES BATTLEMENTED. A man who had no battlement to his house might himself fall from the roof in an unguarded moment. Those who profess to be the children of God should, for their own sakes, see that every care is used to guard themselves against the perils of this tempted life; they should see to it that their house is carefully battlemented. If any ask, "How shall we do it?" we reply —

1. Every man ought to examine himself carefully whether he be in the faith, lest professing too much, taking too much for granted, he fall and perish. Lest we should be, after all, hypocrites, or self-deceivers; lest, after all, we should not be born again, but should be children of nature, neatly dressed, but not the living children of God, we must prove our own selves whether we be in the faith.

2. Better still, and safer by far, go often to the Cross, as you think you went at first.

3. Battlement your soul about well with prayer. Go not out into the world to look upon the face of man till you have seen the face of God.

4. Be sure and battlement yourself about with much watchfulness, and, especially, watch most the temptation peculiar to your position and disposition.

III. As each man ought to battlement his house in a spiritual sense with regard to himself, so OUGHT EACH MAN TO CARRY OUT THE RULE WITH REGARD TO HIS FAMILY. In the days of Cromwell it is said that you might have gone down Cheapside at a certain hour in the morning and you would have heard the morning hymn going up from every house all along the street, and at night if you had glanced inside each home you would have seen the family gathered, and the big Bible opened, and family devotion offered. There is no fear of this land if family prayer be maintained, but if family prayer be swept away, farewell to the strength of the Church. A man should battlement his house for his children's sake, for his servants' sake, for his own sake, by maintaining the ordinance of family prayer. We ought strictly to battlement our houses, as to many things which in this day are tolerated. I shall not come down to debate upon the absolute right or wrong of debatable amusements and customs. If professors do not stop till they are certainly in the wrong, they will stop nowhere. It is of little use to go on tilt you are over the edge of the roof, and then cry, "Halt." It would be a poor affair for a house to be without a battlement, but to have a network to stop the falling person half-way down; you must stop before you get off the solid standing. There is need to draw the line somewhere, and the line had better be drawn too soon than too late.

IV. The preacher would now remind himself that this church is, as it were, his own house, and that he is bound to BATTLEMENT IT ROUND ABOUT. Many come here, Sabbath after Sabbath, to hear the Gospel. Ah! but it is a dreadful thing to remember that so many people hear the Gospel, and yet perish under the sound of it. Now, what shall I say to prevent anyone falling from this blessed Gospel — falling from the house of mercy — dashing themselves from the roof of the temple to their ruin? What shall I say to you? I beseech you do not be hearers only. Be dissatisfied with yourselves unless ye be doers of the word. Rest not till you rest in Jesus. Remember, and I hope this will be another battlement, that if you hear the Gospel, and it is not blessed to you, still it has a power. If the sun of grace does not soften you as it does wax, it will harden you as the sun does clay. Do not die of thirst when the water of life is before you! Let me remind you of what the result will be of putting away the Gospel. You will soon die; you cannot live forever. The righteous enter into life eternal, but the ungodly suffer punishment everlasting. Oh, run not on in sin, lest you fall into hell! I would fain set up this battlement to stay you from a dreadful and fatal fall. Once more. Remember the love of God in Christ Jesus. He cannot bear to see you die, and He weeps over you, saying, "How often would I have blessed you, and you would not!" Oh, by the tears of Jesus, wept over you in effect when He wept over Jerusalem, turn to Him. Let that be a battlement to keep you from ruin.

( C. H. Spurgeon.)

There is a most lamentable waste of power in the Christian Church; in fact, among the best elements of society. This waste arises from misdirection. The power is applied at the wrong time and in the wrong quarter. Instead of being applied in the way of prevention, which would commonly be certain, it is applied in the effort to reform and restore, which is always difficult, and often impossible. An ounce of prevention is worth a ton of cure. This principle is happily illustrated in an ancient regulation among the Jews. The regulation was this: "When thou buildest a new house, then thou shalt make a battlement [or 'parapet'] for thy roof, that thou bring not blood upon thy house if any man fall from thence." No intelligent reader need be told that the roofs of Oriental houses are perfectly fiat, and that they are constantly used for promenading, for rest, for drying fruits, for sleeping, and often (as in Peter's case) for religious devotions. It required but small expenditure of time and money to build the parapet. When that measure of precaution has been taken, the little children may romp there with impunity; good old grandfather may walk there, without danger of stumbling over, through dimness of vision. But if the inviting roof was left unprotected, and even a single child was pitched into the street below, what skill could restore the mangled form? This Oriental law of the parapets teaches that prevention is well-nigh certain, but cure is exceedingly difficult. Often all attempts in that direction are well nigh hopeless. The percentage of inebriates who are reformed by any method is pitiably and painfully small. "Inebriate asylums" do not cure one half of those who are sent there. Of the converted drunkards who are received into our churches, nearly all have had one or more temporary lapses into drinking, and every man of them is in constant danger to their dying day. Such men as Gough, and Sawyer, and McAuley are only upheld by the omnipotent grace of God. Yet all the multitudes of victims of the bottle who have gone down to darkness and their doom might have been saved by the very simple process of prevention. If one-twentieth part of the effort which is put forth in attempted reformation of the dissipated had been spent in persuading them never to drink at all, how different would have been the result! The right time to put up the parapet of total abstinence is in childhood or early youth. The right place to plant the parapet is at home and in the Sabbath school.

1. But there are other lessons taught by the Jewish battlements besides those which apply to the bottle. One lesson is that wilful neglect is as fatal as wilful crime. Not-doing is twin brother to wrong-doing. Many a father and mother have had their hearts broken by the disgraceful sins of a son; and yet the blame of the boy's ruin rested on themselves. They had either set him a most pernicious example, or else they had left him to drift into bad practices unrestrained. Building battlements after our children have broken their own necks and our hearts is a sort of posthumous precaution that comes to nothing.

2. It is from the neglect of the cultured, influential classes in our towns that the terrible harvests of the streets (in the shape of thieves, rioters, and criminals) are constantly reaped. If tenement houses reek with filth and debauchery, if the young are unreached by any mission school or church, or any kind of purifying agency, what else can we expect than wholesale demoralisation among "the masses"? Prisons, pauperism, and gibbets are God's assessments upon society for neglecting the children. If society fails to put up parapets, society must "foot the bill." These are the very times for parapet building. The Bible furnishes plenty of good precepts with which to build parapets. The Fifth Commandment and the Eighth are peculiarly good timber. Happy is the man whose daily life is walled around with a Bible conscience. His religion is a prevention. Half of his life is not lost in attempting to cure the effects of the other half.

(T. L. Cuyler.)

There is a mixture here of the temporary and the permanent. The symbol is temporary and local; but the principle symbolised is eternal and universal. "When thou buildest a new house." It is not to be an afterthought; the battlements are to be in the original plan. The man is not to wait until an accident occurs and the necessity for the battlements is proved, but he is to take precautionary measures. He has to do with human life, which is too sacred to be experimented with in order to find out the percentage of probabilities. But I can imagine the selfish man saying, "Nay, I will not build battlements to my house. I can walk the flat roof of my house without any danger of falling, and why should I provide for others? I am perfectly safe." The same argument is used with regard to abstinence. "Erect battlements so that others may not fall over? Nay," says one, "I am in no danger. I can take my glass of beer or wine, and feel perfectly safe; and why should I abstain for the sake of those who know not how to control their appetites?" Now just look at that. By the law of self-preservation the man would build battlements to prevent danger to himself; as there is none for him he will not build those battlements; so that, after all, the highest impulse in that man's life is just this — self-preservation. Are you prepared to say, "Nay, I will not abstain from intoxicating drinks, and thus erect a battlement, a balustrade, simply because I know I am perfectly safe myself"? If there is any danger to another, and it is in your power, by your example, to erect a barrier which shall prevent the fall of another, then it is your evident duty to do it. But the cynic comes forward and says, "Yes, I know it is possible for a man to fall over, but it must be through culpable neglect or very exceptional weakness, and am I to conform to such conditions? Am I to build a balustrade or abstain from intoxicating drinks merely because of the weaklings by whom I am surrounded? Am I to take account of them!" God's law does, and human law, in so far as it is Christian, does. It is the duty of the strong to deny themselves for the sake of the weak; we who are strong ought not to please ourselves Now the question is not whether you can with safety to yourself indulge in intoxicants, but whether by taking your glass you encourage another who is weaker to take his glass also, and who in due time may become a drunkard and a prey to the passion from which you are happily free...but there is the self-assertive man who says: "I am not going to give up my liberty; it is a limitation to my personal liberty." That cry is as fallacious as it is selfish. Personal liberty must ever ran parallel with the well-being of the community.

(D. Davies.)

Obviously the letter of this precept applies only to the flat-roofed houses of the East. There the housetop has always been a place of resort. Rahab took the scouts to the top of her house in Jericho, where her flax was spread out, and hid them there. King David walked on the housetop at the hour of evening. Our Lord spoke to the Twelve of preaching upon the housetops. It is not improbable that even in our climate more use may hereafter be made of the housetops than heretofore. The pressure of crowded cities may lead to this. Already the plan of having recreation ground for children on the flat roof of a school house has been tried, where a playground could not otherwise be obtained; and it has been found to answer well. In any such case the need of a strong balustrade is, of course, as imperative as it was in Palestine. God requires that human life shall not be trifled with. Precaution should be taken that it be not, even through inadvertence, sacrificed. And this principle belongs peculiarly to our holy religion. Other forms of religion have breathed a cruel spirit, and a contempt for human life. We can imagine an Israelite chafing at such a command as this. "Religion," he might say, "is religion. Sacrifice is sacrifice. Prayer is prayer. But business also is business, and has its own necessities. May not a man build a house as he likes with his own money?" But he might be answered thus: "There is no such separation as you desire between piety and conduct. Religion does not consent to be shut up in tabernacle, temple, or synagogue. It must come out into the streets and highways, a witness for righteousness and love. It absolutely denies your right to build or to do anything whatever just as you like. The question is not what you choose, but what you ought to do." That God of order and of mercy who gave directions about stray sheep, an ox or ass that had fallen by the way, and even about the egos in a bird's nest, did not omit to legislate against fatal accidents to men, women, and children. Now, this is our God; and what He deemed worthy of His notice, and even of His legislation in the time of Moses, is certainly not forgotten or disregarded by Him now. He will not hold any man guiltless who builds a house, whether for his own residence or to be let or sold to another, and does not in the building guard against whatever is perilous to human life. A house built, or run up with defective supports, damp walls or bad drainage, violates this law. It is a structure unsafe or pernicious for man, and therefore displeasing to God. Let the owners of house property look to it. The spirit of the enactment suggests other and wider applications. Religion has something serious to say to those who possess and those who manage mines and railways, and those who send ships to sea. Calamities will happen even in the most carefully excavated and managed mines, on the most skilfully built and regulated railways, and in the stoutest and best found ships; but when they occur through parsimony, or through recklessness, the parties who are really responsible, whether or not made answerable to human justice, incur the heavy displeasure of God. He requires that all precautions which are possible shall be taken to prevent a wanton sacrifice of life. Precaution is not an interesting word. It has not a heroic sound; but it denotes a thing that is wise and that pleases God. A dashing rescue of men out of deadly peril attracts more admiration; but he does well who prevents them from falling into the danger. Neglect of due precaution is, in fact, the mother of all sorts of mischief. No harm is intended, but a little indolence or heedlessness grudges the trouble, or parsimony grudges the expense of preventive measures; and so harm is done, which no skill can remedy. The watertight doors between the compartments of the ship are left open on the very night when she is struck, and it is too late to close them when the water rushes from stem to stern and she begins to settle down into the hungry sea. Often a man falls short in his precautionary duty through overmuch confidence in himself. He needs no parapet to protect him. It is thus that men ungenerously disregard the moral safety of others. One has what is called a "strong head." Whether it be from strength or sluggishness, he can drink much wine or strong drink with apparent impunity; and on this account he laughs at abstinence. But his own son may be unable to govern himself. Far be it from us to disparage the remedial efforts that in any measure bless the world. The Gospel itself is the announcement of a Divine remedy for human sin and woe; and men act in the spirit of the Gospel when they bring cleansing and healing to those who have fallen. But what folly it is to let things go wrong in order to right them again! Surely the first duty is to prevent preventable evils. Towards such objects a good deal has been done by modern English legislation, and by the action of philanthropic societies and institutions. The influence of the Christian family, of Church, and of Sunday school ought to form a still better parapet to guard the youth of England. Is the relation to the Lord which is implied in their baptism seriously and intelligently explained to children? Are the claims of the Saviour on their love and allegiance unfolded to them? Without any premature strictness being forced upon the young, a moral parapet might be quietly and insensibly raised around them by the prayer of faith, the charm of good example, and a careful, patient training in upright speech and conduct. Alas! there are those who will, in their infatuation, leap over every such battlement and throw their lives away. But it is none the less desirable that the battlement should be there. It will save some, though not all. It is a check, though not a panacea. It gives time for reason, for conscience, for reflection, for self-respect; above all, for the grace of God, to act, and preserve men from moral self-destruction. Possibly some of you have fallen and are broken. No parapet was placed round their heedless youth, or if there was a battlement, they laughed at it and jumped over. They had taken their own way, done their own will and pleasure, ridiculed the scruples of their best friends; and let us hope they at last begin to recognise their own folly, and are bruised, and sore, and self-vexed. The mercy of God is for them. They have destroyed themselves, but in Him is their help. Jesus Christ, the Son of the Highest, is the Good Physician. He has come to heal the broken and to save the lost.

(D. Fraser, D. D.)

I. THE SACREDNESS OF HUMAN LIFE. Of all the earthly blessings which man enjoys, he considers life the greatest. So highly does he appreciate it that he will part with all things else in order to retain it. Yet notwithstanding these facts there seems to be a growing disregard for human life.

II. THE IMPORTANCE OF FAMILY LIFE. The Jews were a nation of homemakers and home lovers. If the family was an important institution among the Jews, it is no less important to us as a nation. No one doubts that the State is necessary to our welfare as a people. We must have laws, and we must have them executed, if we maintain a civil government. And no one doubts that the Church is necessary unto our national existence. But important as are the State and the Church, it is generally conceded that the family is more important than either. It has to do with the physical, the social, the moral, and the spiritual well-being of each member of the household. In view of the fundamental position and character of the family, arid in view of its vast importance, it becomes us more highly to appreciate it, and more earnestly to strive for its preservation and perpetuity.

III. SOME SAFEGUARDS WHICH SHOULD BE PLACED ABOUT THE HOME. Natural instinct, parental love, and the Divine Word demand this of them.

1. One such means is good reading in the homes.

2. Another safeguard to the family is making the home pleasant: making it the happiest place on earth. Seemingly the trend of modern life is away from the home.

3. Another safeguard to the family is religious instruction.

(R. L. Bachman, D. D.)

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