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THE EXCLUSION OF THE UNCLEAN
“Now that the nation was regularly organised, the sacred tribe dedicated, and the sanctuary with the tokens of God’s more immediate Presence provided with its proper place and attendants in the camp, it remained to attest and to vindicate, by modes in harmony with the spirit of the theocratical law, the sanctity of the people of God. This accordingly is the general purpose of the directions given in this and the next chapter. Thus the congregation of Israel was made to typify the Church of God, within which, in its perfection, nothing that offends can be allowed to remain” (cf. Matthew 8:22; Revelation 21:27.)—Speaker’s Comm.
In the verses now before us we have the directions for the expulsion of unclean persons out of the camp. The laws as to ceremonial uncleanness are given with considerable minuteness in Leviticus 11:15, Leviticus 11:21, Leviticus 11:22, and Numbers 19:0. But it appears that they are now carried out for the first time.
We shall look at our text in two aspects.
I. As a Sanitary Measure.
A number of rules and regulations for securing the cleanliness and health of the people were promulgated and enforced. Some of the sanitary regulations “seem minute and indelicate to modern ideas, but were, doubtless, intended to correct unseemly or un-healthful practices, either of the Hebrew people or of neighbouring tribes.” Some have asserted that the reason for the expulsion of every leper from the camp was that the disease was contagious. So scholarly and well-informed a writer as Dr. Milman says that “the disease was highly infectious.” But this is extremely doubtful. “All who have looked closest into the matter,” says Archbishop Trench, “agree that the sickness was incommunicable by ordinary contact from one person to another. A leper might transmit it to his children, or the mother of a leper’s children might take it from him; but it was by no ordinary contact communicable from one person to another.… Naaman, the leper, commanded the armies of Syria (2 Kings 5:1); Gehazi, with his leprosy that never should be cleansed (2 Kings 5:27), talked familiarly with the king of apostate Israel (2 Kings 8:5). And even where the law of Moses was in force, the stranger and the sojourner were expressly exempted from the ordinances relating to leprosy; which could not have been, had the disease been contagious. How, moreover, should the Levitical priests, had the disease been this creeping infection, have ever themselves escaped it, obliged as they were by their very office to submit the leper to actual handling and closest examination?” It seems to us indisputable “that, if the disease is contagious, a very rare and critical concurrence of circumstances is required to develop the contagion.” There were special reasons for selecting this disease from all other for exclusion from the camp. “The Egyptian and Syrian climates, but especially the rainless atmosphere of the former, are very prolific in skin diseases.… The Egyptian bondage, with its studied degradations and privations, and especially the work of the kiln under the Egyptian sun, must have had a frightful tendency to generate this class of disorders; hence Manetho (Joseph. cont., Ap. I. 26) asserts that the Egyptians drove out the Israelites as infected with leprosy—a strange reflex, perhaps, of the Mosaic narrative of the ‘plagues’ of Egypt, yet also probably containing a germ of truth. The sudden and total change of food, air, dwelling, and mode of life, caused by the Exodus, to this nation of newly emancipated slaves may possibly have had a further tendency to skin disorders, and novel and severe repressive measures may have been required in the desert-moving camp to secure the public health, or to allay the panic of infection.… In the contact of a dead body there was no notion of contagion, for the body the moment life was extinct was as much ceremonially unclean as in a state of decay. Why, then, in leprosy must we have recourse to a theory of contagion? It would perhaps be nearer the truth to say that uncleanness was imputed, rather to inspire the dread of contagion, than in order to check contamination as an actual process.… On the whole, though we decline to rest leprous defilement merely on popular notions of abhorrence, dread of contagion, and the like; yet a deference to them may be admitted to have been shown, especially at the time when the people were, from previous habits and associations, up to the moment of the actual Exodus, most strongly imbued with the scrupulous purity and refined ceremonial example of the Egyptians on these subjects.”—Smith’s Dict. of the Bible.
In each case mentioned in the text, “every leper, and every one that hath an issue, and whosover is defiled by the dead,”—the person was put without the camp because of ceremonial pollution, not because of contagion. It was the will of God that the people should cultivate the most scrupulous physical cleanliness. In a camp composed of more than two millions of persons cleanliness was of the utmost importance. Dirt is the prolific parent of disease. Wise sanitary measures are the most certain means of insuring bodily strength and safety. (a) Two things in the text show that this sanitary measure was regarded as of great importance by the Lord.
1. The universal application of the rule. “Every leper, and every one that hath an issue, and whosover is defiled by the dead: both male and female shall ye put out.” No one whatever was exempted from its application. When Miriam, the prophetess, and sister of Moses and Aaron, was smitten with leprosy, she “was shut out from the camp seven days.” With strict impartiality the rule was carried out.
2. The sacred reason by which it was enforced “That they defile not their camps, in the midst whereof I dwell.” The Lord is the God of cleanliness and health. All impurity is an abomination to Him. Purity of body, of home, of towns and cities, is well-pleasing to Him. As a condition of the Divine Presence, let us cultivate comprehensive and scrupulous cleanliness. Impurity separates from Him.
II. As a spiritual parable.
Ceremonial uncleanness was intended to illustrate spiritual uncleanness. The ceremonial purity which was insisted upon in the camp of Israel was typical of the spiritual purity which God requires of His people. By enacting that any one who had anything to do with the dead should be regarded as unclean, and put out of the camp, the Lord teaches that sin and death are not from Him, and cannot dwell with Him. And the loathsome and terrible disease of “leprosy was the outward and visible sign of the innermost spiritual corruption, the sacrament of death.” The leper “was himself a dreadful parable of death,”—“a walking grave.” Thus, parabolically, the text represents sin—
1. As a defiling thing. The sinner is morally unclean. Deeply did David feel this when he cried, “Wash me throughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Create in me a clean heart, O God.” Every sin proceeds from the corruption of the human heart, and tends to increase that corruption.
2. As a deadly thing. “The soul that sinneth it shall die.” “The wages of sin is death.” “Sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.” Every sinful act tends to kill some element or power of the spiritual life. The life of the soul consists in truth and trust, righteousness and love, reverence and obedience, etc. Every lie spoken or acted is a blow aimed at the very life of truth in us. Every infidelity of which we are guilty tends to destroy our trust. So in relation to every element of the soul’s life. Sin is deadly in its character and influence.
3. As a separating thing. The unclean were to be put out of the camp. Ceremonial uncleanness involved forfeiture of social privileges and of citizenship among the people of God for a time. “The man that shall be unclean, and shall not purify himself, that soul shall be cut off from among the congregation, because he hath defiled the sanctuary of the Lord.” Where sin is cherished God will not dwell.
(1) The openly and persistently wicked should be expelled from the Church on earth. (a) Because of their corrupt influence. “Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump?” 1 Corinthians 5:6-13. (b) Because of the dishonour to God which their presence in the Church involves. He has promised to dwell in His Church, and to manifest Himself to His people as He does not unto the world. Matthew 18:20; John 14:21-23. And He demands that His people shall follow after entire holiness. He demands our entire consecration. “Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?” &c. “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple are ye.” Our Lord “gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from all iniquity, and purity unto Himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.” “A chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people,” etc. Such is the Divine pattern of the Church and people of God: and He is dishonoured when the openly and persistently wicked are allowed to remain in His Church. With such a church HE will not dwell. (b)
(2) The wicked will be excluded from the city of God above. “There shall in no wise enter into it anything that defileth,” etc. Revelation 21:27. All the citizens of that glorious realm “have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” (c)
1. He who demands this purity has provided the means to whereby we may attain unto it. “The blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin.”
2. Let us diligently use the means which He has provided. “Wash you, make you clean,” etc. Isaiah 1:16; Isaiah 1:18. “Purifying their hearts by faith.” “Let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.”
(a) Cleanliness may be defined to be the emblem of purity of mind, and may be recommended under the three following heads; as it is a mark of politeness, as it produces affection, and as it bears analogy to chastity of sentiment. First, it is a mark of politeness, for it in universally agreed upon, that no one unadorned with this virtue can go into company without giving a manifold offence; the different nations of the world are as much distinguished by their cleanliness as by their arts and sciences; the more they are advanced in civilization the more they consult this part of politeness. Secondly, cleanliness may be said to be the foster-mother of affection. Beauty commonly produces love, but cleanliness preserves it. Age itself is not unamiable while it is preserved clean and unsullied; like a piece of metal constantly kept smooth and bright, we look on it with more pleasure than on a new vessel cankered with rust. I might further observe, that as cleanliness renders us agreeable to others, it makes us easy to ourselves, that it is an excellent preservative of health; and that several vices, both of mind and body, are inconsistent with the habit of it. In the third place, it bears a great analogy with chastity of sentiment, and naturally inspires refined feelings and passions; we find from experience, that through the prevalence of custom, the most vicious actions lose their horror by being made familiar to us. On the contrary, those who live in the neighbourhood of good examples fly from the first appearance of what is shocking; and thus pure and unsullied thoughts are naturally suggested to the mind by those objects that perpetually encompass us when they are beautiful and elegant in their kind.—Addison.
It is wonderful how views of life depend upon exercise and right management of the physical constitution. Nor is this, rightly looked at, any cause for perplexity, though it seems so at first; for though you might be inclined to view it as a degradation of our higher nature to find it so dependent on the lower, and hope and faith and energy resultant from a walk or early hours—yet, in fact, it is only a proof that all the laws of our manifold being are sacred, and that disobedience to them in punished by God. And the punishment in one department of our nature of the transgressions committed in the other—as, for instance, when mental gloom comes from uncleanliness or physical inertia, and, on the other hand, where ill-health ensues from envy or protracted doubt—is but one of many instances of the law of vicarious suffering. We are, as it were, two, and one suffers by what the other does.—F. W. Robertson, M.A., Life and Letters.
(b) They are deceived that think it is not necessary to purge out the great and gross offenders. The Church is the City of God, excommunication is the sword; it is the school of Christ, this is the rod, as the Apostle calleth it; it is the Temple of God, this is, as it were, the whip, to scourge out such as abuse it and themselves; it is the body of Christ, this is as a medicine to cure the diseases of it; it is the vine and sheepfold, this serveth to keep the foxes and wolves from it.—W. Attersoll.
(c) How real is that description of sin—“it defileth, it worketh abomination, it maketh a lie!” It is uncleanness, unloveliness, untruth! But it shall “in no wise enter” heaven. There “shall be nothing to hurt and to destroy.” Moral evil cannot for a moment dwell in it. As though the leprosy of sin had struck too inextricably into the abode of man, had even contaminated the habitation of angels, we anticipate a scene purer than earth could afford however it were changed, purer than the heavens from which the angels fell. And when we can conceive of such a state, that which gives to law all its power of sway and yet debars its curse, that is heaven, the highest heaven, the heaven of heavens! We know it by this, we desire it for this, “wherein dwelleth righteousness!”—R. W. Hamilton, LL.D., D.D.
WHERE GOD DWELLS THERE MUST BE PURITY
“Put out of the camp every leper.” God gave the people moral, civil, and sanitary laws. These in the context were partly sanitary. He would teach the people habits of cleanliness, which were essential to the health of the camp. Filth is a child of sin, and the fruitful parent of diseases which decimate mankind. But the text is something more than a sanitary precaution; for it is probable that leprosy was not contagious, and the ordinances respecting it did not apply to the sojourner and the stranger. Why then the injunction of the text? No doubt the great object was to enforce the ideas of purity and holiness, and to teach them that God cannot dwell among the sinful and impure.
Leprosy has ever been considered a striking illustration of sin. For instance,—
1. Sin lite leprosy, is a transgression of law. All evils, physical as well as moral, arise from disregard of some law. Natural laws have their penalties; they cannot be broken with impunity. Cholera, fevers, and other terrible scourges that visit us, are penalties. We call them “visitations from God,” and such they are in the sense of being penalties for breaking the laws that He has imposed on us. Intemperance, vice, etc., breed disease, poison the blood, ruin the body, and become curses to posterity. Leprosy was caused through disregard of the laws of health, and the Bible definition of sin is “the transgression of the law.”
2. Sin, like leprosy, is very loathsome and defiling. Leprosy spreads over the whole body, destroying its beauty and vitality, and rendering it most repulsive in appearance. In this it is a meet emblem of sin, which corrupts, degrades, and defiles the soul of man.
3. Sin, like leprosy, is incurable by man. No human skill could help the leper. “Am I God to kill and to make alive?” cried the king of Israel when Naaman came to him. Only God could cure the disease. Sin, in like manner, baffles human skill. God alone can remove this curse and blight from the soul. No human priest, no work of merit, can affect the malady. The stain is too deep for anything but the blood of Christ to wash away. “God can save, and God alone.” Other points might be mentioned; but the above are enough to show that leprosy is a striking type of sin, and to suggest the reason why God should select this “sickness of sicknesses,” as Archbishop Trench calls it, “to testify against that out of which it and all other sicknesses grew, against sin, as not from Him and as grievous in His sight.” We shall take the text as teaching the great fact that where God dwells there must be purity. “Put out of the camp every leper.… in the midst whereof I dwell.” That God insists on purity as the condition of dwelling with us is the emphatic teaching of the whole Bible. What care was manifested to have clean and perfect animals for sacrifice! The Psalmist asks: “Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord?” He replies: “He that hath clean hands and a pure heart,” i.e., whose life within and without is holy. His prayer is: “Create within me a clean heart.” The teaching of the New Testament is the same: “Blessed are the pure in heart; for they shall see God.” “Holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord.” “The wisdom that is from above is first pure.” “Be ye holy; for I am holy.” The grand design of the atonement is described as being “to redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto Himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.” God insists on purity. Why?
I. God Himself is pure, and cannot associate with the impure.
Sin is hateful to Him. His very nature prohibits Him from being on terms of intimacy wish any one living in sin. “God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all.” The God of the Bible is the only pure God. This being His character, purity must distinguish those with whom He associates. Character divides the world—unites or separates men. So it does with God and man. He can only dwell with the pure. Purity attracts Him to us. If discipline is lax, if sin is tolerated by the Church, or by the individual Christian, God departs. It is not the large Church, or the intelligent or the wealthy one, that attracts Him, but the pure one. As the lightning passes by the polished marble and the carved wood to touch the iron or steel, because there it finds something akin to itself, so God passes by those to visit and to dwell with the pure, because in them He finds a character skin to His own.
II. God will not, because He cannot, do any good to the impure.
It would answer no good purpose for Him to dwell with them. The essence of impurity is to love sin; to love sin is to hate God; hating God shuts the door against the possibility of improvement in character. God will not dwell with man unless He can do him good. God with us is always equivalent to God blessing us. He wants us to be perfect as He Himself is perfect. This is His end in dwelling with us. Any one tolerating or living on sin would not appreciate the design of God and accept His blessing; and where He cannot bless, He will not come to dwell. Let us then “put out of the the camp every leper,” everything that defileth; for the presence of God in our midst is of the utmost importance to us as His Church and people. His presence is essential.
1. To our comfort as Churches and Christians. What the shining sun is in nature His presence is with us—our brighness, our joy, etc.
2. To our prosperity. Without God in the midst the camp would have been helpless, would soon have become a prey to its enemies, and been broken up and scattered. God with His Church has been in all ages the secret of its power and success. His presence is the life of the ministry and of all Christian work. Without Him we are, and we can do, nothing. How to secure His presence ought to be the all-absorbing problem. He tells us how: “Put out of the camp every leper.” Let us put from the Church and from our hearts all that is offensive to Him, and let us do His commands, and He will come. He has said so, and He is waiting to bless. God is not with us as we should like: let us search and see if there be any leper in the camp, any sin tolerated, and by His help let us put it out.
If to tolerate the leper was so bad to the camp, what must it have been to be the leper himself! If sin in the Christian is so terrible, what must it be to the altogether sinful! Let us think of it, and seek pardon at once through Christ.—David Lloyd.
GOD DWELLING WITH HIS PEOPLE
“In the midst whereof I dwell.”
I. God is present with His people.
He was with Israel as He was not with the neighbouring nations. The Tabernacle—the Shekinah, etc. He led, supported, defended them, etc. He is everywhere present influentially. See Psalms 139:1-10. “He giveth to all life, and breath, and all things. He is not far from every one of us; for in Him we live, and move, and have our being.” “By Him all things consist.” He is also present with His people sympathetically. They realise His presence, have fellowship with Him, etc. See Genesis 28:16-17; Matthew 18:20; John 14:15; John 14:26; Ephesians 3:16-17; 1 John 1:3.
II. God is present “in the midst” of His people.
The Tabernacle was “in the midst” of the camp. Our Lord Jesus Christ is “in the midst” of His Church (Matthew 18:20). Like the sun in the midst of the planets.
1. As the Centre of union. The true union of the Church is not in oneness of doctrinal system or ecclesiastical polity, but in the vital fellowship of its members with the Lord.
2. As the Source of blessing. Life, light, growth, power, joy, beauty—all good flows from Him.
III. God’s presence in the midst of His people should exert a great and blessed influence upon them.
It should prove:—
1. A restraint from sin. “The subject will do nothing unseemly in the presence of His prince, nor the child in the sight of his father. We are always in God’s eye; He beholdeth all things that are done of us.”
2. An incentive to holiness. It is thus that it is brought forward in this place. Because the Lord dwelt in the camp it was to be kept pure. See also Deuteronomy 23:14; Ezekiel 43:7-9.
3. An encouragement to duty, The presence of so gracious a Master should cheer and strengthen us.
4. An assurance of support in the trials of life. He marks the strain which the spirit feels, and he will either temper its severity, or increase the spiritual strength. “I will fear no evil; for Thou art with me.”
5. An assurance of victory in the conflicts of life. “Through God we shall do valiantly; for He shall tread down our enemies.” See Psalms 118:6-16; Romans 8:31-37.
6. An assurance of perfect salvation. “The Lord is in the midst of thee: thou shalt not see evil any more. The Lord thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; He will save, He will rejoice over thee with joy; He will rest in His love, He will joy over thee with singing.”
FRAUD AND FORGIVENESS
In these verses we have another measure which was instituted to secure the sanctity of the congregation. Wrong done by one man against another is here legislated for in a spirit of just severity. Consider—
I. The sin of fraud.
“When a man or woman shall commit any sin that men commit,” etc. Lit.—“Commit one of all the transgressions of man.” Keil and Del. “Do one of the sins of men,”—one of the sins occurring amongst men. The reference is to sins of dishonesty or fraud. Fraud is here represented—
1. As assuming many forms. “Any sin that men commit.” “One of all the transgressions of man.” Our text is supplementary to the law on this matter as stated in Leviticus 6:2-3, and there various forms of this sin are stated.
(1) Fraud in the matter of goods entrusted to the keeping of another.
(2) In business transactions.
(3) In seizing by force that which belongs to another.
(4) In wronging another by means of deceit.
(5) In the finder of lost property injuring the loser by falsehood. And in our own age fraud assumes many forms, and is widely prevalent. The employer who does not pay just wages to those in his service is guilty of it. (Proverbs 22:16; Isaiah 3:14-15 : Colossians 4:1; Isaiah 5:4.) So also is the servant or workman who squanders the time for which his employer pays him; in so doing he defrauds his employer. The trader who takes an unfair advantage of his customer, which he calls by some specious name, e.g., “practice of the trade,” etc.; the broker or speculator or manager who induces persons to invest their money in unreliable or doubtful enterprizes; the person who contracts a debt without the sincere intention and reasonable prospect of paying it—all these, and others, are guilty of fraud. (a)
2. As a wrong done to God. “To do a trespass against the Lord.” Keil and Del.: “To commit unfaithfulness against Jehovah.” He who is guilty of any act of fraud against his neighbour commits sin against God. All sin is against Him. When Joseph was tempted to sin against Potiphar, his master, he said, “How can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?” And David after he had committed the blackest injuries against Uriah the Hittite and others, when brought to repentance cried, “Against Thee, Thee only, have I sinned; and done evil in Thy sight.” As viewed in their social relations, he was deeply sensible of the greatness of his crimes; but so overwhelming was his sense of their enormity as committed against God, as to render the former view of them comparatively unimportant. (b) How grievous a thing, then, is dishonesty of any kind! Let us strive to be utterly free from it. (1 Thessalonians 4:6.) Let us cultivate the most thorough uprightness in all our relations and dealings with each other.
II. The conditions of its forgiveness.
1. Consciousness of guilt. “The expression, ‘that person be guilty,’ does not merely refer to his actual criminality; but to his consciousness of guilt respecting it: for this case must be distinguished from that of a person detected in dishonesty which he attempted to conceal.”—Scott. Without the consciousness of guilt the other conditions of forgiveness could not be truly complied with.
2. Confession. “Then they shall confess their sin which they have done.” This is an essential condition of forgiveness. (Psalms 32:5; Proverbs 28:13; 1 John 1:9.) To be of any avail confession must be sincere, must proceed from the heart. It is the natural expression of penitence. Where true penitence is, hearty confession will be welcomed as a relief, not shunned as a burden or regarded as an exaction. And without true penitence forgiveness of sin is a crime, an injury to society and even to the offender himself. Sincere penitence must utter itself in confession. Such confession is not the wail of despair, but the cry of sorrow and of hope. In itself it relieves the burdened and troubled soul, and it leads to the joy and peace of forgiveness. (c)
3. Restitution. “And He shall recompense his trespass with the principal thereof, and add unto it the fifth part thereof, and give it unto him against whom he hath trespassed. But if the man have no kinsman to recompense the trespass unto, let the trespass be recompensed unto the Lord, to the priest.” Restitution is an act of justice by which we restore to another that of which we have deprived him, or make him adequate compensation for the same. In this law it is enacted that the sum of which any one has been defrauded shall be restored, with the addition of one-fifth of its value. Restitution is essential to remission of sin; for where restitution is not made it is evident that sincere repentence is absent. See Ezekiel 18:7; Ezekiel 18:9; Ezekiel 18:12-13; Ezekiel 33:15. The true penitent will find it an unspeakable relief if he is able in any degree to repair the wrong which he has done. There was no exemption or escape from this law. If the person defrauded were deceased, restitution must be made to his kinsman (Heb. Goël); and if there were no kinsman, to the priest as the representative of Jehovah. The priests were the Lord’s receivers. In every case the property which was dishonestly acquired must be given up, restitution must be made, or the sin would not be forgiven. And this is still true. If we have acquired anything by dishonest means let us make full and speedy restitution for the same, even if by so doing we should be reduced to utter penury. Better extreme poverty in our circumstances with a clear conscience and an approving God, than the greatest wealth with a guilty conscience and a condemning God. “What is not our property will never be our profit.” And restitution should be made promptly. Every minute of unnecessary delay increases the guilt of the wrong-doer. (d)
4. Sacrifice. In addition to making restitution the offender was commanded to offer “the ram of the atonement, whereby an atonement shall be made for him.” He who was guilty of fraud wronged not only his fellow-man, but God also; and therefore, in order that he might be forgiven, he must draw near to God with a sacrifice, and so make atonement for his sin. The man was for the “trespass-offering,” which differed from the sin-offering. In each offering the victim was a ram; but “the sin offering looked more to the guilt of the sin done, irrespective of its consequences, while the trespass-offering looked to the evil consequences of sin, either against the service of God or against man, and to the duty of atonement, as far as atonement was possible.” This arrangement would tend to set forth the great evil of sin as an offence to God Himself. It would also meet a great need of the penitent heart, which cries out for atonement for its sin. When all these things were accomplished the offender was held to be cleared from the guilt of his offence, as is stated in Numbers 5:8—“whereby an atonement shall be made for him,” Lit. “which shall clear him of guilt as to it,” i.e., as to the trespass. For us the One Offering has been made which perfects all others. And if we have wronged or defrauded any one, and are conscious of our guilt, we have but to make confession and restitution for the same, with faith in the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ, and full forgiveness will be ours.
1. Let those who have injured others make speedy and full confession and restitution.
2. Let us all cultivate the most thorough integrity and uprightness in our whole life and conduct. “All things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.”
(a) The rules which God has given us forbid every wish, much more every attempt, to defraud, or deceive our neighbour. They render it highly criminal for the seller to take the smallest advantage of the ignorance, inexperience, or simplicity of his customers; or to conceal any defect which he may have discovered in the article of which he wishes to dispose. They render it equally criminal for the buyer to wish or attempt to take any advantage of the seller, either by exaggerating the defects of his merchandise, or by falsely pretending that he does not wish to purchase. They render it highly criminal for any one to contract debts, when he has no sufficient reason to believe that he shall be able to discharge them; or to persuade another to become responsible for his debts, when he has reason to suspect that his sponsor will in consequence suffer loss. In a word, they require us to put ourselves in the place of our neighbour, to be as willing to defraud him as to be defrauded ourselves; to be as careful of his property and interest, as of our own; to think no more of enriching ourselves at his expense, than we should think of robbing our left hand with our right. They require us, in all our transations, to act as we should do if our fellow creatures could see our hearts; for though they cannot see them, yet God can, and does see them; He is both witness and judge between us and our neighbour in every transaction, and surely His eye ought to be as effectual in regulating our conduct as would the eye of our fellow creatures, could they, like Him, search the heart.… These rules evidently forbid us to take any advantage of the necessities or imprudence of those whom we employ, and require us to give them a prompt and adequate compensation for their services; and on the other hand, they make it the duty of all who are employed, to be as faithful to the interests of their employers as to their own, and to avoid defrauding them of any portion of their time by idleness, or of their property by negligence, as they would avoid theft or robbery.—E. Payson, D.D.
(b) All sin is against God. There are some sins which are exclusively against God; there are others which are against man, but no sin can be exclusively against man. This point is fraught with the most profound significance. Let us put it in this form: Whoever sins against man sins against God. Then how sacred are all human interests! How solemn are all human relations! You cannot harm a widow’s child without sinning against God; you cannot sneer at a good man without touching the sensibilities of your heavenly Father; you cannot injure your wife or husband or friend without, in the degree of that injury, insulting Him who is the Creator and Redeemer of human kind. Let it be known then, in all the breadth and force of its significance, that every blow struck against humanity is a blow struck against God! It will be a token of solid progress when man has more respect for man. We have held manhood too cheaply. We have not sufficiently pondered the great fact that every man sustains a vital relation to the great Creator of all life, and that everything which appertains to man has also an immediate relation to God. Would that we could thunder these doctrines into the ear of all despotism; they would make the throne of tyranny tremble at its foundations; they would blanch every tyrant’s cheek, and wither the power of every despot. This they will assuredly attain. As Christianity is developed, the true feeling of Christianity will be more and more understood; and they who once saw no image higher than human on the countenance of mankind, shall on that same countenance see the image and super cription of Him who is infinite in pity and infinite in love.—Jos. Parker, D.D.
(c) The confession of sin against a brother is a reasonable condition of receiving a brother’s forgiveness. The confession of sin to God is of the essence of repentance and faith, and this does not interfere with the grand truth that a man is justified by faith only. It is a sign that momentous spiritual changes are going on in a man when he can bring his sin into the presence of the Holy God, and see it in the light of perfect law and perfect sacrifice. The effort to do so tears up the roots of evil desire, and crucifies the world with its affections. It is the sublime peculiarity of Christianity that a sinner can take his sins to God and find mercy, even amid the burning light of that most Holy Presence. More than this, one man may help another to make this confession, to see himself and judge of himself more accurately than he would do, in the solation and awfulness of his own repentance. The danger of self-deceit and self-flattery is great. The experience of the devout and impartial Christian who knows something of human nature, and has realised the full assurance of faith, may be found of the greatest avail in the struggle of the soul heaven wards. All Churches and all Christians admit this great advantage.—H. R. Reynolds, D.D.
(d) He must bring forth fruits meet for repentance. In other words, he must make restitution to every one whom he has injured, or defrauded, so far as he can recollect who they are—this in indispensable. There is no repentance, and, of course, no forgiveness without it. How can a man repent of iniquity, who still retains the wages of iniquity? It is impossible. If he feels any sorrow, it is occasioned, not by hatred of his sin, but by fear of the consequences. Restitution, then, must be made, or the offender must perish. If thou bring thy gift to the altar, says our Saviour, and there rememberest that thy brother has aught against thee, that is, any reason to complain of thee, go thy way, first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift. The altar was then the place to which the worshippers of God brought their thank-offerings, gifts, and sacrifices for sin. Christ, we are told, is now our altar, and to this altar we must bring our prayers, our praises, our services. But he plainly intimates that he will accept no gift of us, receive no thanks from us, listen to none of our prayers, so long as we neglect to make satisfaction to those whom we have injured. And in vain shall we attempt to atone for neglecting this duty, by performing others, by contributing to the promotion of religious objects, or by liberality to the poor; for God has said, I hate robbery for burnt offering; that is, I hate, I will not receive an offering, which was unjustly acquired. There is, then, no way but to make restitution; and this every real Christian will make to the utmost of his ability. Agreeably, we bear Zaccheus, the publican, saying as soon as he became a Christian, “If I have wronged any man. I restore him fourfold” I am aware that this is a most disagreeable duty. Nothing can be harder, or more painful to our proud hearts. But it will be far easier to perform it, than to suffer the consequences of neglecting it. If it is not performed, our souls must perish, as sure as the Word of God is true; and in consequence of indulging a false shame, we shall be overwhelmed with shame and everlasting contempt. Even as it respects our interest in this world only, we had better, far better, put a blazing fire-brand into the midst of our possessions, than retain among them the smallest particle of gain, which was not fairly obtained; for it will bring the curse of God upon us, and upon all the works of our hands.—E. Payson, D.D.
THE MAINTENANCE OF THE MINICTRY
In the preceding verses it was enacted that, in case of fraud, restitution should be made to the injured person, and, if he were deceased, to his Goël, and, if there were no Goël, to the priest, who should offer the trespass offering for the wrong-doer. The restitution in this case belonged to the priest. And in these verses other perquisites of the officiating priests are mentioned. In this and other ways provision was made for their temporal support. It was of the first importance that such provision should be made; for the proper discharge of their duties precluded them from engaging in the ordinary activities of life. “At first,” says Professor Plumptree, “the small number of the priests must have made the work almost unintermittent, and even when the system of rotation had been adopted, the periodical absences from home could not fail to be disturbing and injurious, had they been dependent on their own labours. The serenity of the priestly character would have been disturbed had they had to look for support to the lower industries. It may have been intended that their time, when not liturgically employed, should be given to the study of the Law, or to instructing others in it. On these grounds, therefore, a distinct provision was made for them. This consisted
(1) Of one-tenth of the tithes which the people paid to the Levites, one per cent., i.e., on the whole produce of the country (Numbers 18:26-28).
(2) Of a special tithe every third year (Deuteronomy 14:28; Deuteronomy 26:12).
(3) Of the redemption money paid at the fixed rate of five shekels a head, for the first-born of man or beast (Numbers 18:14-19).
(4) Of the redemption money paid in like manner for men or things specially dedicated to the Lord (Leviticus 27:0).
(5) Of spoil, captives, cattle, and the like, taken in war (Numbers 31:25-47).
(6) Of what may be described as the perquisites of their sacrificial functions, the shew-bread, the flesh of the burnt-offerings, peace-offerings, trespass-offerings (Numbers 18:8-14; Leviticus 6:26; Leviticus 6:29; Leviticus 7:6-10), and, in particular, the heave-shoulder and wave-breast (Leviticus 10:12-15).
(7) Of an undefined amount of the first-fruits of corn, wine, and oil (Exodus 23:19; Leviticus 2:14; Deuteronomy 26:1-10).
(8) On their settlement in Canaan the priestly families had thirteen cities assigned them, with “suburbs” or pasture grounds for their flocks (Joshua 21:13-19). These provisions were obviously intended to secure the religion of Israel against the dangers of a caste of pauper priests, needy and dependent, and unable to bear their witness to the true faith. They were, on the other hand, as far as possible removed from the condition of a wealthy order.” In the foregoing sources of emolument, only the chief ones are given. The “offering” mentioned in the text is given in the margin as “heave-offering.” The Hebrew is תְּרוּמָה an oblation, used here, says Fuerst, “of holy gifts generally.” “The reference is to dedicatory offerings, first-fruits, and such like.”—Keil and Del. These were to be the property of the officiating priests. These arrangements suggest the obligation of the Church to adequately support its ministry. We rest this obligation—
I. On the ground of honesty.
The physician and the solicitor are paid, and that handsomely, for their attention and counsel, as a matter of duty. The Christian minister has equally a claim that his services shall be remunerated by those who have the benefit of them. Yet professedly Christian people are far lass conscientious in paying for ministerial than they are for legal and medical services. The testimony of our Lord and of His apostles as to this obligation is unmistakeably clear. (See Matthew 10:9-10; Luke 10:7; 1 Corinthians 9:7-14; Galatians 6:6; 1 Timothy 5:17-18.) (a)
II. On the ground of interest.
The Christian congregation that does not adequately support its minister is not wisely mindful of its own best interests.
1. The services of the true minister of Christ are of the greatest benefit to the Church and to the world. His ministry tends to quicken thought on the most important and sublime subjects, to educate the conscience aright, to arouse the will to true and earnest action, and to lead the soul to the great Source of life and light.
2. The adequate maintenance of the ministry is indispensable to its efficiency. When his mind is harassed with temporal anxieties, or when much of his time is occupied with matters not pertaining to his ministry, in order to provide for the wants of his family, the minister is prevented from rendering the highest service of which he is capable. The ministry should be the great business of his life, and his mind should be free to prosecute it. Hence—
3. If Christians consult their own interests they will see to it that their ministers are adequentely maintained. The money which is so spent will prove a most remunerative investment. (b)
1. Let Churches recognise their interest and heartily do their duty in this respect.
2. Let ministers recognise the importance of their duties, and endeavour to faithfully perform them. “It is great reason that he which looketh for his hire should do his work; and that he which intendeth to live of the Gospel of Christ, should preach to others the Gospel of Christ.” Let us strive to be “scribes instructed unto the kingdom of heaven,” etc. (Matthew 13:52). “Study to show thyself approved unto God,” etc. (2 Timothy 2:15).
(a) No true minister will ever preach with an eye to secular results. All mercenary considerations will be borne down and engulfed by the ever-deepening current of spiritual sympathies and aims. His main purpose will he not to acquire wealth, but to win souls. Still, in common with all men, he has his physical and domestic wants. Food, raiment, and a home, are as necessary to his existence as to that of any man; and according to the present arrangements of society, these are only supplied by money. Whence is he to receive this? As a general rule, it comes only as the reward of labour. He labours. The office of a true minister is no sinecure; there is no work so arduous as his; it is the labour, not of limbs, but of brain and heart; it is a constant draw upon the very fountains of nervous energy. Nor is there any work so useful to society. In the reason of things, therefore, has any worker a stronger claim to secular support than he? If his labour is the most arduous and the most useful, ought it not to secure the most ample secular returns? Paul recognises and enforces this natural and common-sense claim. (1 Corinthians 9:7; 1 Corinthians 9:9; 1 Corinthians 9:11; 1 Corinthians 9:14.)
There are men who receive and expect large services from their minister, and who make little or no return. For a paltry pound or two per annum, he must preach to them thrice per week, pay them frequent pastoral visits, or else they set up their complaints against him, and seek to spread a spirit of dissatisfaction through his sphere. There are families in connection with congregations who spend more on perfumery, or on toys for their children, than to support the man who is giving the best energies of his cultivated mind to save their souls. A man takes a pew in a church, pays his five or six pounds per annum,—a less sum than be pays his scullery-maid,—and for that he expects twelve months’ preaching, and great pastoral attention. What is still worse—still more unreasonable, he regards the paltry sum he subscribes rather as a charity than a debt. Charity, indeed! Call the money you pay to your grocer, draper, physician, or landlord, charity; but in the name of all that is true in reason and justice, don’t call what you tender to the man to whom you owe your best ideas, your holiest impressions—who gives to you the choicest products of his educated and sanctified intellect, charity. It is he that shows charity, not you; your gold is a miserable compensation for the results of his sweating brain and ever-anxious heart.—D. Thomas, D.D.
(b) As the Church dependeth upon them for their allowance, so they depend upon her for their maintenance. Thus the Pastor and the people do feed one another, as a flock of sheep nourisheth the shepherd, who eateth the milk of them, and clotheth himself with the wool of them; and again the shepherd coucheth them into green pastures, and leadeth them by the still waters. The people feed him with the bread of this life; he feedeth them with the bread of everlasting life. They minister to him in carnal things; he to them in spiritual things. They cannot lack him in regard of their souls; he cannot be without them in regard of his body. Thus then they do feed one another, or at least ought to do. If he receive food of them, and give none unto them again, he robbeth them of their goods, and murdereth their souls. If they on the other side receive food of him, so that they be taught of him, and yet make him not partaker of a part of their goods, they rob him, and cause him to depart from them, and so become murderers of their own souls, as if they did lay violent hands upon themselves, or rather as if they did famish themselves by refusing bread provided for them; inasmuch as “where vision ceaseth, there people perish.” (Proverbs 29:18.)—W. Attersoll.
THE TRIAL OF THE SUSPECTED WIFE
We have here another law intended to secure the sanctity of the Israelites, by maintaining fidelity in conjugal relations, and removing even the suspicion of adultery from amongst them. “The chastity of females,” says Dean Milman, “was guarded by statutes, which, however severe and cruel according to modern notions, were wise and merciful in that state of society. Poems and travels have familiarised us with the horrible atrocities committed by the blind jealousy of Eastern husbands. By substituting a judicial process for the wild and hurried justice of the offended party, the guilty suffered a death, probably, less inhuman; the innocent might escape. The convicted adulterer and adulteress were stoned to death. Even the incontinence of a female before marriage, if detected at the time of her nuptials, which was almost inevitable, underwent the same penalty with that of the adulteress. Where the case was not clear, the female suspected of infidelity might be summoned to a most awful ordeal. She was to be acquitted or condemned by God Himself, whose actual interposition was promised by His daring law-giver.… What guilty woman, if she had courage to confront, would have the command of countenance, firmness and resolution, to go through all this slow, searching, and terrific the process, and finally expose herself to shame and agony, far worse than death? No doubt, cases where this trial was undergone were rare; yet the confidence of the legislator in the Divine interference can hardly be questioned; for had such an institution fallen into contempt by its failure in any one instance, his whole law and religion would have been shaken to its foundation.” “We do not read of any instance in which this ordeal was resorted to; a fact which may be explained either (with the Jews) as a proof of its efficacy, since the guilty could not be brought to face its terrors at all, and avoided them by confession; or more probably by the licence of divorce tolerated by the law of Moses. Since a husband could put away his wife at pleasure, a jealous man would naturally prefer to take this course with a suspected wife rather than to call public attention to his own shame by having recourse to the trial of jealousy. The Talmud states that the trial lapsed into disuse forty years before the destruction of Jerusalem; and that because the crime of adultery was so common amongst men that God would no longer inflict the curses here named upon women (cf. Hosea 4:14).—Speaker’s Commentary.
A critical examination and exposition of the details of the process of trial will be found in Keil and Del., in loco. Let us consider the principal moral truths which are here illustrated.
I. Confidence in conjugal relations is of great importance.
This awful ordeal was instituted for cases where this confidence was lost, and the proof of guilt was lacking. Suspicion and jealousy are terrible evils. “Suspicion,” says Babington, “is the cut-throat and poison of all love and friendship.” And in proportion to the intensity of the love will be the anguish of suspicion in respect to the object of the love.
“Where love is great, the littlest doubts are fear;
Where little fear grows great, great love is there” Shakespeare.
“Jealousy, each other passion’s calm,
To thee, thou conflagration of the soul!
Thou king of torments! thou grand counterpoise
For all the transports beauty can inspire.” Young.
And Hannah More:
Thou ugliest fiend of hell! thy deadly venom
Preys on my vitals, turns the healthful hue
Of my fresh cheek to haggard sallowness,
And drinks my spirit up.” (a)
“Jealousy,” says Solomon, “is the rage of a man.” “Jealousy is cruel as the grave; the coals thereof are coals of fire, a most vehement flame.” This dread ordeal was intended as a remedy for suspicion and jealousy. And no one can examine it without perceiving that, if it was severe, it was also calculated to be thoroughly effective. See how searching, solemn, and stern it is.
1. The whole trial was to take place in the sight of God (Numbers 5:16).
2. The dread appeal was made to the Omniscient and Almighty (Numbers 5:21).
3. The appeal was weighted by the most terrible imprecations (Numbers 5:21-22).
4. It was solemnly declared in the law that if the woman were guilty these imprecations would be fulfilled (Numbers 5:27).
5. The appeal was to be solemnly ratified by the suspected woman. “The woman shall say, Amen, Amen.” “Twice,” says Trapp; “to show the fervency of her zeal, the innocency of her cause, the uprightness of her conscience, and the purity of her heart.” Surely, if any suspected wife went, through so solemn and terrible an ordeal, the effect would be completely to clear the mind of her husband from the least taint of suspicion, and to restore the brightness of her reputation. The seernness of this ordeal for the removal of suspicion impressively sets forth the importance of confidence between husband and wife. Destroy this confidence; and what ought to be one of the holiest and most lasting bonds is snapped asunder, the helpfulness and peace of the family are banished for ever, and, if the evil prevail to any considerable extent, the foundations of the civil commonwealth will be gradually but certainly undermined.
II. Adultery is a sin of the greatest enormity.
This dreadful ordeal, which was intended to prevent it, shows how great was its heinousness in the Divine estimation. This is expressed—
1. In the abasement of the suspected woman. The “barley meal” of which the offering was composed, the “earthen vessel” which contained the water, and “the dust” that was put into the water, indicate a state of deep humiliation and disgrace. The absence from the offering of oil, the symbol of the gifts and graces of the Holy Spirit, and of frankincense, the symbol of prayer, also proclaimed her questionable repute and the suspicion with which she was regarded. In like manner the “uncovering of the woman’s head” was indicative of the loss of woman’s best ornament, chastity and fidelity in the marriage relation.
2. In the terrible punishment which came upon the guilty. “If she be defiled, and have done trespass against her husband, the water that causeth the curse shall enter into her, and become bitter, and her belly shall swell, and her thigh shall rot: and the woman shall be a curse among her people.”—Keil and Del. translate, “her hip vanish.” And Adam Clarke: “her thigh fall.” This ordeal was made so terrible that the dread of it might effectually prevent the wives in Israel from the least violation of their fidelity to their husbands. It remains as an impressive proclamation of the utter abhorence with which God regards the sin of adultery. It is a sin against God; it inflicts the most grievous and intolerable injury upon the husband; it is an unmitigated blight and bane upon the family; and it is a wrong to society generally. The most terrible condemnations are pronounced upon it in the Sacred Word. (See Leviticus 20:10; Malachi 3:5; 1 Corinthians 6:9-10; Hebrews 13:4.)
III. The punishment of sin is closely related to the sin itself.
“It cannot be determined with any certainty what was the nature of the disease threatened in this curse.… At any rate, the idea of the curse is this: Δἰ ὧν γὰρ ἡ αμαρτία διὰ τούτων ἡ τιμωρία (‘the punishment shall come from the same source as the sin,’ Theodoret). The punishment was to answer exactly to the crime, and to fall upon those bodily organs which had been the instruments of the woman’s sin, viz., the organs of child-bearing.”—Keil and Del. The punishment came in those portions of her body which she had abused. “David sinned in committing adultery with the wife of Uriah, his faithful servant, and destroyed him with the sword of the Ammonites; he is paid home, and punished in his own kind; for God, by way of rewarding him and serving him as he had served others, as a just judge, doth raise up evil against him out of his own house. His own sons break out into the same sins, and he kindleth such a fire in his own family, that they rise up against him, and one against another. Absalom spreadeth a tent, and lieth with his father’s concubines, in the sight of all Israel. Ammon deflowereth his sister Tamar; to revenge this, Absalom killeth his own brother.”—Attersoll. (See Judges 1:6-7; Esther 7:10; Matthew 7:1-2.) “Whatsoever a man soweth that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption.” (b)
IV. God will bring to light the secret sins of men.
If the suspected woman were guilty, after this ordeal her guilt would be made manifest. All sins are known unto Him. “For His eyes are upon the ways of man, and He seeth all his goings. There is no darkness, nor shadow of death, where the workers of iniquity may hide themselves.” “Thou hast set our iniquities before Thee, our secret sins in the light of Thy countenance.” Sometimes hidden sins are strangely discovered in this life and world, (c). The great day will reveal all. “For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.” “The day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ.” In that day the dark secrets of evil will be all brought to light.
V. God will assuredly vindicate the innocent who have suffered from suspicion or slander.
In this case the vindication was most complete. “If the woman be not defiled, but be clean: then she shall be free, and shall conceive seed.” “If not guilty after such a trial,” says Adam Clarke, “she had great honour; and, according to the rabbins, became strong, healthy, and fruitful; for if she was before barren, she now began to bear children; if before she had only daughters, she now began to have sons; if before she had hard travail, she now had easy; in a word, she was blessed in her body, her soul, and her substance.” Thus to the innocent there was no terror in this stern ordeal. It was rather a blessing to them, if by any means they had come to be regarded with suspicion by their husbands; for by means of it such suspicions would be removed, and their fidelity and honour vindicated and exalted. And God will, sooner or later, splendidly vindicate all who suffer from misrepresentation, slander, or false accusation.
“We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ,” etc. Let us seek by the grace of God to be ready for that great and awful tribunal.
(a) Jealousy is the bane and poison of marriage, and maketh that sociable life to be uncomfortable, and mingleth it with worse than gall and wormwood. Jealousy, therefore, is a grief of mind, arising from hence, that another is judged to enjoy that which we desire to have wholly and properly as our own, and none beside us to possess any part with us. Here, then, we cannot abide any community, but hate it as our enemy and the right cause of this jealousy. Or we may describe it otherwise on this manner: It is an affection proceeding from fear to have that communicated to another, which we challenge and covet to retain as peculiar and proper to ourselves alone. From hence it appeareth, farther, what the nature of jealousy is to wit, that it is mixed and compounded, partly of love, partly of fear, and partly of anger. Of love, which admitteth no fellow-partner in the thing he loveth: for as the king will suffer no companion to be equal unto him, or partaker with him in his kingdom, so will the husband suffer no co-rival to mate him in his love. Of fear, lest another enjoy the use of that which we cannot abide or suffer he should enjoy. Of anger, whereby it cometh to pass, that he is ready to break out to seek revenge and punishment upon him that hath offended him that way.—W. Attersoll.
Yet is there one more cursed than they all,
That canker worm, that monster, Jealousy,
Which eats the heart and feeds upon the gall,
Turning all love’s delight to misery,
Through fear of losing his felicity.
Nor ever is he wont on aught to feed
But toads and frogs (his pasture poisonous),
Which, in his cold complexion, do breed
A filthy blood, or humour ancorous,
Matter of doubt and dread suspicious,
That doth with cureless care consume the heart,
Corrupt the stomach with gall vicious,
Cross-cuts the liver with eternal smart,
And doth transfix the soul with death’s eternal dart.
(b) The punishment of sin is not an arbitrary infliction, but it is a necessary law. Penalty is not a direct interference, but a genuine child of the transgression. We receive the things that we have done. There is a dreadful coercion in our own iniquities. There is an inevitable congruity between the deed and its consequences. There is an awful germ of identity in the seed and in the fruit. We recognise the sown wind when we are reaping the harvest whirlwind. We feel that it is we who have winged the very arrows that eat into our hearts like fire. It needs no gathered lightnings—no Divine intervention—no miraculous messenger to avenge in us God’s violated laws; they avenge themselves.… Take disease as one form of the working of this inevitable law—not always, of course, the direct result of sin; yet how much of disease is directly due to dirt, neglect, folly, Ignorance—the infected blood, the inherited instincts of this sad world. But are there not some diseases, and those the most terrible which I have known, which do spring directly, immediately, exclusively, solely, from violence of God’s law? Is not madness very often such a disease? Is there not at this moment many a degraded lunatic who never would have been such but for repeated transgressions of God’s known will? Is there not in the very life-blood of millions, a hereditary taint blighting the healthy, poisoning, as with a fury’s breath, the flower of their happiness, and breaking out afresh in new generations, which has its sole source and origin in uncleanliness? Is there not, too, an executioner of justice which God has told off to wait upon drunkenness, which would cease if drunkenness ceased to exist? It is God’s warning against that fearful intemperance against which senates will not fight, and against which they who love their fellows fight as yet in vain.—F. W. Farrer, D.D.
(c) When Dr. Donne, afterwards Dean of St. Paul’s, took possession of the first living he ever had, he walked into the churchyard as the sexton was digging a grave; and on his throwing up a skull, the doctor took it into his hands to indulge in serious contemplation. On looking at it, he found a headless nail sticking in the temple, which he secretly drew out, and wrapped in the corner of his handkerchief. He then asked the grave digger, whether he know whose skull it was? He said he did; adding, it had been a man’s who kept a brandy shop; a drunken fellow, who, one night, having taken two quarts of ardent spirits, was found dead in his bed the next morning. “Had he a wife?” “Yes.” “Is she living?” “Yes.” “What character does she bear?” “A very good one; only her neighbours reflect on her because she married the day after her husband was buried.” This was enough for the doctor, who, in the course of visiting his parishioners, called on her; he asked her several questions, and, among others, of what sickness her husband died. She giving him the same account, he suddenly opened the handkerchief, and cried, in an authoritative voice, “Woman, do you know this nail?” She was struck with horror at the unexpected question, instantly acknowledged that she had murdered her husband; and was afterwards tried and executed.—Biblical Museum.
HINTS ON THE LAW OF JEALOUSIES
Describe trial by ordeal. This existed among all primitive nations, and modern ones that are yet in a primitive state. Nations have their infancy; this belongs to that state in their existence. Israel had seen this in Egypt. God permits them to use it; only stipulating that water only should be used, so that no innocent one should suffer, and that all should see that the guilty was detected by Him. Why should He permit this?
1. To show the importance He attaches to domestic morality.
2. To teach them that He was looking on and knowing their most secret sins.
3. To train them to cultivate a tender conscience, and to acknowledge its authority.
4. To restore confidence between husband and wife where it was wrongly shaken.
5. Though this custom is done away with, God is still the same, and will bring all secret sin into the light.—David Lloyd.
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Numbers 5". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 14 / Ordinary 19