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From the prohibition of moral uncleanness exhibiting itself in the form of incest and licentiousness, the legislator proceeds to a series of laws and commandments against other kinds of immorality, inculcating piety, righteousness, and kindness. Leviticus 19:1-37 may be regarded as an extension of the previous chapter in this direction, after which the subject of Leviticus 18:1-30, is again taken up in Leviticus 20:1-27. The precepts now given are not arranged systematically, though, as Keil has remarked, "while grouped together rather according to a loose association of ideas than according to any logical arrangement, they are all linked together by the common purpose expressed in the words, 'Ye shall be holy: for I the Lord your God am holy.' " They begin by inculcating (in Leviticus 20:3, Leviticus 20:4) duties which fall under the heads of
(1) the fifth commandment of the Decalogue,
(2) the fourth,
(3) the first,
(4) the second.
These four laws are, in their positive aspects,
(1) the religious law of social order, on which a commonwealth rests;
(2) the law of positive obedience to God's command because it is his command;
(3) the law of piety towards the invisible Lord;
(4) the law of faith, which trusts him without requiring risible emblems or pictures of him.
In Leviticus 20:11, Leviticus 20:14, Leviticus 20:16, 35, 36, obedience is inculcated to the eighth and the ninth commandments, which are the laws of honesty and of truthfulness; in Leviticus 20:12 to the third commandment, which is the law of reverence; in Leviticus 20:17, Leviticus 20:18, 33, 34, to the sixth commandment, which is the law of love; in Leviticus 20:20, 29, to the seventh commandment, which is the law of purity; in Leviticus 20:9, Leviticus 20:10, Leviticus 20:13, the spirit of covetousness is prohibited, as forbidden in the tenth commandment, which is the law of charity. Thus this chapter may in a way be regarded as the Old Testament counterpart of the Sermon on the Mount, inasmuch as it lays down the laws of conduct, as the latter lays down the principles of action, in as comprehensive though not in so systematic a manner as the ten commandments.
Ye shall be holy: for I the Lord your God am holy. The religious motive is put forward here, as in the previous chapter, as the foundation of all morality. It is God's will that we should be holy, and by being holy we. are like God, who is to be our model so far as is possible to the creature. So in the new dispensation, "Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect" (Matthew 5:48). "As he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation" (1 Peter 1:15).
Ye shall fear every man his mother, and his father. The words fear and reverence are in this connection interchangeable. So Ephesians 5:33, "Let the wife see that she reverence her husband," where the word "reverence" would be more exactly translated by "fear." St. Paul points out that the importance of the fifth commandment is indicated in the Decalogue by its being" the first commandment with promise," that is, with a promise attached to it (Ephesians 6:2). The family life is built upon reverence to parents, and on the family is built society. Obedience to parents is a duty flowing out of one of the first two laws instituted by God—the law of marriage (Genesis 2:24). The second law instituted at the same time was that of the sabbath (Genesis 2:3), and in the verse before us observance of the sabbatical law is likewise inculcated, in the words that immediately follow—ye shall keep my sabbaths.
Turn ye not unto idols. The word used for idols, elilim, meaning nothings, is contrasted with Elohim, God. Psalms 115:1-18 exhibits this contrast in several of its particulars. Cf. St. Paul's statement, "We know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is none other God but one" (1 Corinthians 8:4). "If the heart of man becomes benumbed to the use of images of false gods of any kind, he sinks down to the idols which are his ideals, and becomes as dumb and unspiritual as they are" (Lunge). The remainder of the verse forbids the transgression of the second commandment, as the earlier part of the verse forbids the transgression of the first commandment: nor make to yourselves molten gods, as was done by Jeroboam when he set up the calves (1 Kings 12:23).
The unsystematic character of this chapter is indicated by prohibitions under the fifth, fourth, first, and second commandments (Leviticus 19:3, Leviticus 19:4) being succeeded by a ceremonial instruction respecting the peace offerings, repeated from Le Leviticus 7:16-18. The words, ye shall offer it at your own will, should rather be, for your acceptance, as in Leviticus 1:3. In the seventh chapter a distinction is drawn between the peace offerings that are thank offerings, which must be eaten on the first day, and the peace offerings which are vow or voluntary offerings, which may be eaten on the first or second day. In the present resume this distinction is not noticed. Whoever transgresses this ceremonial command is to bear his iniquity and to be cut off from among his people, that is, to be excommunicated without any appointed form of reconciliation by means of sacrifice.
Leviticus 19:9, Leviticus 19:10
The injunction contained in these verses, to not wholly reap the corners of thy field, neither … gather the gleanings of thy harvest, is twice afterwards repeated (Leviticus 23:22; Deuteronomy 24:19-22). In Deuteronomy, the oliveyard is specified together with the harvest-field and the vineyard, and it is added that, if a sheaf be by chance left behind, it is to remain for the benefit of the poor. The object of this law is to inculcate a general spirit of mercy, which is willing to give up its own exact rights in kindness to others suffering from want. The word here used for vineyard covers also the oliveyard. The expression, neither shalt thou gather every grape of thy vineyard, would be more literally rendered, neither shalt thou gather the scattering of thy vineyard, meaning the berries (grapes or olives)which had fallen or which were left singly on the boughs.
Stealing, cheating, and lying are classed together as kindred sins (see Leviticus 6:2, where an example is given of theft performed by means of lying; cf. Ephesians 4:25; Colossians 3:9).
And ye shall not swear by my name falsely. These words contain a positive permission to swear, or take a solemn oath, by the Name of God, and a prohibition to swear falsely by it (see Matthew 5:33).
Cheating and stealing are again forbidden, and, together with these, other forms of oppression although legal. The command to pay labourers their hire promptly—which covers also the case of paying tradesmen promptly—is repeated in Deuteronomy 24:14 (cf. James 5:4).
Thou shalt not curse the deaf. The sin of cursing another is in itself complete, whether the curse be heard by that other or not, because it is the outcome of sin in the speaker's heart. The suffering caused to one who hears the curse creates a further sin by adding an injury to the person addressed. Strangely in contrast with this is not only the practice of irreligious men, who care little how they curse a man in his absence, but the teaching which is regarded by a large body of Christians as incontrovertible. "No harm is done to reverence but by an open manifestation of insult. How, then, can a son sin gravely when he curses his father without the latter's knowing it, or mocks at him behind his back, inasmuch as in that case there is neither insult nor irreverence? And I think that the same is to be said, even though he does this before others. It must be altogether understood that he does not sin gravely if he curses his parents, whether they are alive or dead, unless the curses are uttered with malevolent meaning.'' This is the decision of one that is called not only a saint, but a "doctor of the Church" (Liguori, 'Theol. Moral.,' 4.334). "Whoso curseth his father or his mother, his lamp shall be put ant in obscure darkness," says the Word of God (Proverbs 20:20). Nor put a stumbling block before the blind, but shalt fear thy God. By the last clause the eye is directed to God, who can see and punish, however little the blind man is able to help himself. (Cf. Job 29:15, "I was eyes to the blind, and feet was I to the lame.")
Justice is to be done to all. The less danger of respecting the person of the poor has to be guarded against, as well as the greater and more obvious peril of honouring the person of the mighty. The scales of Justice must be held even and her eyes bandaged, that she may not prefer one appellant to another on any ground except that of merit and demerit. "If ye have respect to persons, ye commit sin, and are convinced of the law as transgressors" (James 2:9).
Thou shalt not go up and down as a talebearer among thy people. For the evil done by mere idle talebearing, see Bishop Butler's sermon, 'Upon the Government of the Tongue,' and four sermons by Bishop Jeremy Taylor, on 'The Good and Evil Tongue; Slander and Flattery; the Duties of the Tongue.' Neither shalt thou stand against the blood of thy neighbour; that is, thou shalt not endanger his life, which is the result of the worst kind of talebearing, namely, bearing false witness against him. Thus the effect of the false witness of the two men of Belial against Naboth was that "they carried him forth out of the city, and stoned him with stones, that he died" (1 Kings 21:13; cf. Matthew 26:60; Matthew 27:4).
On the one side we are not to hate our brother in our heart, whatever wrongs he may commit; but on the other side, we are in any wise to rebuke our neighbour for his wrong doing. So our Lord teaches, "if thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him" (Luke 17:3); and he appoints a solemn mode of procedure, by which this fraternal rebuke is to be conveyed in his Church: "If thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the Church; but if he neglect to hear the Church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican" (Matthew 18:15-17). Therefore St. Paul warns his delegates, Timothy and Titus, "Them that sin rebuke before all" (1 Timothy 5:20). "Reprove, rebuke" (2 Timothy 4:2). "Rebuke them sharply" (Titus 1:13). "Rebuke with all authority" (Titus 2:15). By withholding reproof in a bitter spirit, or from a feeling of cowardice, we may become partakers of other men's sins. Whoever fails to rebuke his neighbour when he ought to do so, bears sin on his account (the more correct and less ambiguous rendering of the words translated in the Authorized Version, suffer sin upon him, cf. Numbers 18:22, Numbers 18:32). God's people are their brothers' keepers (Genesis 4:9).
Revenge and malice are forbidden as well as hatred, and the negative precepts culminate in the positive law. Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, which sums up in itself one half of the Decalogue (Matthew 22:40). "For he that loveth another hath fulfilled the Law. For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the Law" (Romans 13:8-10).
Ye shall keep my statutes. Having arrived at the general conclusion, "Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, in the previous verse, the legislator pauses, and then presents a collection of further laws, arranged as before in no special order. The first is a mystical injunction against the confusion of things which are best kept apart, illustrated in three subjects—diverse kinds of cattle in breeding, mingled seeds in sowing a field, and mixed materials in garments. In Deuteronomy 22:10, a fresher illustration is added, "Thou shalt not plow with an ox and an ass together." The existence of mules, which we find frequently mentioned in the' later history (2 Samuel 13:29; 2 Samuel 18:9; 1 Kings 1:33), may be accounted for by supposing that the positive precept with regard to breeding cattle here laid down was transgressed, or that the mules were imported from abroad (see 1 Kings 10:25). The word used here and in Deuteronomy 22:11 for a garment mingled of linen and woolen, is shaatenez, an Egyptian word, meaning probably mixed. The difficulty raised on this verse by the allegation that the high priest's dress was made of mixed materials, is met by the answer that, if it were of mixed materials (which is uncertain, for wool is not mentioned in Exodus 28:1-43, nor is it quite determined that shesh means linen), the mixture was not such as is here forbidden. The moral meaning of the whole of this injunction is exhibited in the following passages from the New Testament, "Ye cannot drink the cup of the Lord, and the cup of devils" (1 Corinthians 10:21). "Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? and what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? and what agreement hath the temple of God with idols?" (2 Corinthians 6:14-16). "He cannot love the Lord Jesus with his heart," says Hooker, "who lendeth one ear to his apostles and another to false teachers, and who can brook to see a mingle-mangle of religion and superstition' ('Serm.' Deuteronomy 5:7, quoted by Wordsworth).
A distinction is drawn between adultery with a free woman, or a betrothed free virgin, which was punishable with death (Leviticus 20:20; Deuteronomy 22:23), and with a slave betrothed to another man (probably a slave also). In the latter ease a lesser punishment, no doubt that of scourging (according to the Mishna to the extent of forty stripes), was to be inflicted on one or both, according to the circumstances of the ease. The words, she shall he scourged, should be translated, there shall be investigation, followed, presumably, by the punishment of scourging, for both parties if both were guilty, for one if the woman was unwilling. The man is afterwards to offer a trespass offering. As the offense has been a wrong as well as a sin, his offering is to be a trespass offering (see on Le Leviticus 5:14). In this case the fine of one-fifth could not be inflicted, as the wrong done could not be estimated by money, and the cost of the ram seems to be regarded as the required satisfaction. No mention is made of damages to be paid to the man to whom the slave-girl was betrothed, probably because he was himself a slave, and had not juridical rights against a freeman.
The eating of the fruit of young trees by their owners for five years is forbidden, on the principle that such fruit is unclean until it has been sanctified by the offering of a crop as firstfruits to the Lord for the use of the servants of the tabernacle, and a full crop is not to be expected until the fourth year from the time that the trees were planted. The fruit is at first to be counted as uncircumcised, being regarded in a position similar to that of the heathen, that is, unclean, from not having been yet sanctified by the offering of the firstfruits. This sanctification takes place in the fourth year.
After a repetition of the fundamental ceremonial law against eating things which have the blood in them (the LXX. rendering, ἐπὶ τῶν ὀρέων, "upon the mountains," arises from a mistaken reading), follow prohibitions
(1) to use enchantment, literally, to whisper or mutter after holding communication with serpents (if the word nichesh be derived from nachash, a serpent);
(2) to observe times, or rather, according to a more probable etymology, exercise the evil eye;
(3) to round the corners of your heads, that is, use a sort of tonsure, as was done by some Arabian tribes (Herod; Leviticus 3:3) in honour of their god Orotal, and by the Israelites as a form of mourning (Deuteronomy 14:1; Isaiah 22:12);
(4) to mar the corners of thy beard, a fashion of mourning which accompanied the tonsure of the head (see Le Leviticus 21:5; Isaiah 15:2; Jeremiah 48:37;
(5) to make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, another form of mourning, associated with the two previously mentioned practices (see Jeremiah 21:5; Deuteronomy 14:1; Jeremiah 16:6; Jeremiah 41:3; Jeremiah 48:37);
(6) to print any marks upon you, that is, tattoo themselves in memory of the dead. All these customs were unbecoming the dignity of God's people, and had been connected with idolatrous practices.
Do not prostitute thy daughter. This is a peremptory prohibition, applying to every Jewish maiden, introduced in this place with a primary relation to the sanctification of lust by the dedication of young girls at some heathen temples; but by no means confined in its application to such practices. All legal sanction of the sin of prostitution is forbidden, for whatever purpose it may be given; and the certain result of such sanction is indicated in the final words of the verse, lest the land fall to whoredom, and the land become full of wickedness (cf. Deuteronomy 23:17).
The command in this verse differs from that in Leviticus 19:3 by adding the injunction to reverence my sanctuary to that requiring the observance of the sabbath. It is a matter of experience that where the sabbath is not kept, God's sanctuary is not reverenced, and that that reverence increases or fails away according as the obligation of the sabbatical law, whether in its Jewish form or its Christian form, be more or less recognized. The sabbatical ordinance is necessary as a previous condition of religious worship. Without it, the business and pleasure of the world are too strong to give way to the demands upon time made by the stated service of God. The verse is repeated in Le Leviticus 26:2. "When the Lord's day is kept holy, and a holy reverence for the Lord's sanctuary lives in the heart, not only are many sins avoided, but social and domestic life is pervaded by the fear of God, and characterized by devoutness and propriety" (Keil).
This verse contains a prohibition of all dealings with those that have familiar spirits or are wizards. The punishment of such persons is appointed in the next chapter. Both in the Old and the New Testament, the real existence of evil spirits and their power of communicating with the human spirit is assumed.
Reverence for the old is inculcated as being a part, not merely of natural respect, but of the fear of God. In the East this virtue, implying deference on the part of the strong to the weak, and of the inexperienced to the wise, exists in larger influence for good than in the West, where, however, its place has been, but only partially, supplied by the greater deference paid by man to woman (cf. Proverbs 16:31; Proverbs 20:29).
Leviticus 19:33, Leviticus 19:34
The command already given "neither to vex a stranger, nor oppress him" (Exodus 22:21), on the pathetic ground that "ye know the heart of a stranger, seeing ye were strangers in the land of Egypt" (Exodus 23:9), is broadened in these verses to the positive law, thou shalt love him as thyself. "The royal law of Leviticus 19:18 is expressly extended to the stranger, and notwithstanding the national narrowness necessary to preserve the true religion in the world, the general brotherhood of mankind is hereby taught as far as was possible under the circumstances" (Gardiner).
Leviticus 19:35, Leviticus 19:36
These verses, beginning with the same words as Leviticus 19:15, Ye shall do no unrighteousness in judgment, contain another and wider application of that principle. Leviticus 19:15 prohibited unrighteousness in the judge, or in one who was in the position of a judge; these verses forbid it in merchants and tradesmen. It is the more necessary to condemn dishonesty, in unmistakable terms, as men who make a profession of religion, and therefore would be shocked at stealing, have often less scruple in cheating. Here and in Deuteronomy, where the Law is repeated, a religious sanction is given to the command; "For all that do such things, and all that do unrighteously, are an abomination unto the Lord thy God" (Deuteronomy 25:16). Cf. Proverbs 11:1, "A false balance is abomination to the Lord: but a just weight is his delight;" and Proverbs 20:10, "Divers weights, and divers measures, both of them are alike abomination to the Lord;" see also Micah 6:10, Micah 6:11 and Ezekiel 45:10.
Moral precepts are rested on their right foundation—the command of God and the religious motive.
Morality has a basis of its own.
The moral philosopher, if asked, "Why should I act morally?" replies, "Because it is right for you to do so." If asked further, "Why is it right for me to do so?" he replies, "Because your conscience tells you that it is." If asked why conscience should be obeyed rather than passion, he replies, "Because it possesses greater authority, even if it has less power;" and in proof of this he points to the approval or disapproval which it stamps upon acts according to their character. Morality can be proved to be reasonable, apart from religion.
But it cannot be enforced. If a man denies that his conscience commands him to perform a moral action, the verdict of the general conscience of mankind may be quoted against him as contrary to that of his own, but he can repudiate the authority of that verdict so far as he is himself concerned. He can reasonably maintain that the general conscience may be misled by prejudice or superstition, and that his own conscience is more enlightened than that of the mass. In this manner the philosopher, or any one who regards himself as a philosopher, finds a way of evasion ready at hand.
With the masses, moral teaching, unaccompanied by religions sanction, is still less effectual. The general good of mankind, or the duty of obeying the highest principle of our nature, has never restrained, and never will restrain, the mass of mankind from yielding to the force of strong passion or desire.
In the present chapter we find the moral duties—those of the second table as much as the first—rested upon a religious basis. They are God's commands, whether that command be given by written precept or by an instinct engraven on man's heart. And because they are God's commands in both these ways, they are to be obeyed. Thus there is an appeal from man's mind to something higher than himself, to which man will submit. The effort to preserve morality in a nation without religious sanction and religious motive is like the attempt to keep alive the flame of a fire, when the fuel from which the flame is derived has been withdrawn. One generation may continue moral; the next will certainly be licentious. "I am the Lord" is a basis of morality which never fails.
The laws of submission
(1) to human authority and
(2) to sacred ordinances, for the Lord's sake, are enjoined in this verse.
1. The family is an institution of God's appointment (Genesis 1:28; Genesis 2:24). The command to children to honour their father and mother is distinguished in the Decalogue by a blessing attached to it (Exodus 20:12; Ephesians 6:2); and a special blessing is bestowed on the house of the Rechabites for obeying it (Jeremiah 35:18). St. Paul enjoins the observance of the duty, both as an act right in itself and as positively commanded in God's Law (Ephesians 6:1, Ephesians 6:2). The father's duty is "nurture and admonition of the Lord" (Ephesians 6:4), including guidance, remonstrance, reproof (1 Samuel 2:23). By means of this institution the character of every member of the commonwealth is formed, at the moment when alone it is plastic, by the influence best adapted for turning it to good. Contrast the system adopted by Rousseau for dealing with his children, and the probable results on parents, children, and the State. Cf. the Form of Solemnization of Matrimony: "Marriage was ordained for the procreation of children, to be brought up in the fear and nurture of the Lord, and to the praise of his holy Name."
An analogous position to that of the parent is afterwards held by the civil magistrate in respect to the subject, and by the pastor in respect to a member of his flock. Therefore, in order to carry out the commandment, a man has not only "to love, honour, and succour his father and mother," but also "to honour and obey the queen, and all that are put in authority under her: to submit himself to all his governors, teachers, spiritual pastors and masters: to order himself lowly and reverently to all his betters" (Church Catechism). On the other hand, the authorities in the State and in the Church have their duties also, not now the same as those of the parent towards the child, on account of the changed position of him who was once a child, but nevertheless analogous to them. So in other cases, wherever men stand in a relation to each other similar to that of parent and child, obligations similar to those which bind parents and children arise.
2. Sabbatical observance appears, at first sight, a small thing to place on a level, as here, with the fifth commandment, or, as in the Decalogue, with the first, second, and third commandments; but when we examine into it closely, we find that this disproportion does not exist.
I. ITS INSTITUTION. It shares with the ordinance of marriage alone the characteristic of having been instituted at the creation of the world. "And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made" (Genesis 2:3). Being coeval with creation, the sabbatical law, like the marriage law, is of universal obligation on all mankind.
II. ITS JEWISH FORM. The sabbatical law was observed during the period preceding the Mosaic Law (Exodus 16:22-30). For the Jews it took the form given it in the fourth commandment (Exodus 20:8-11; Deuteronomy 5:12-15) and other Mosaic injunctions (Exodus 31:13, Exodus 31:14; Exodus 35:2, Exodus 35:3; Numbers 15:32-36). To them it commemorated the rest after the Creation and the rest after the toils of Egypt, while it looked forward to the rest of Canaan while they wandered in the wilderness (Psalms 95:11), and, after they had entered Canaan, to the still further rest of the Messianic kingdom (Hebrews 4:8); and it was to be kept with such severity that no work at all was to be done upon it, even to the extent of gathering sticks or lighting a fire.
III. ENDS SERVED BY THE JEWISH FORM.
1. It formed a very noticeable distinction between the Jews and the neighbouring nations, and so it was a preservative from idolatry.
2. It served, like circumcision, as a symbol constantly reminding them that they were God's people, and should live in accordance with their profession. "Moreover also I gave them my sabbaths, to be a sign between me and them, that they might know that I am the Lord that sanctify them" (Ezekiel 20:12).
IV. THE CHRISTIAN FORM. Christ declared his lordship over the sabbath day (Matthew 12:8), but he did not exercise that lordship for the purpose of destroying it as an institution, but merely of adapting the primary law of the sabbath to altered circumstances. The Jewish sabbath, as such (that is, in its peculiarities), ceased to be binding, but the obligation of sabbatical law continued, and the ordinance took a changed form. By apostolic authority, as proved by apostolic practice, the Christian sabbath was kept on the first day of the week—the anniversary of Christ's resurrection—and the severity of its character was abrogated. As God had rested on the seventh day after his labour of creation, so Christ had rested in the grave on the seventh day after his labour of redemption. Why should the seventh day be any longer kept? "The Jewish sabbath died out in the course of the first generation of Christians, as circumcision died out, as the temple, as the Law itself died out The Lord's day was a Divine and more immortal shoot from the same stock. It was rooted in the primitive law of the Creation. It recognized and adopted the old weekly division of time, that perpetual and ever-recurring acknowledgment, wherever it was celebrated in all the world, of the Divine blessing and promises. It had the Divine sanction of the tables of stone—those tables, written by God's own finger, and therefore greatly superior in sanctity and enduring weight to the temporary enactments of the ceremonial law. It took up the old series of commemorations and sacred anticipations. It bade the true Israel of God record with gratitude and keep in mind, by the weekly institution and its recurring festival of rest and praise, the creation of mankind, the deliverance from Egypt, the entrance of the people into the promised land, the return from captivity, the coming of the Messiah; and to look forward under the dispensation of the Holy Ghost to the crowning and final mercy of the long scheme of Providence, the eternal rest in heaven which yet remaineth for the people of God" (Bishop Moberly, 'The Law of the Love of God').
V. THE ENDS OF THE SABBATICAL INSTITUTION.
1. To reserve a certain sufficient part of time free for spiritual interests.
2. To teach the lesson of obedience to positive precept in religious things. The appointment of one-seventh of our time for this purpose is wholly arbitrary. There is no account to be given of it except that it is God's will There is no other account to be given of weeks. Months and years have their reasons in physical nature; not so weeks. God has commanded, and because he has commanded, the weekly rest is observed by those who love God; and not only is the weekly rest observed, but a loving obedience is paid to all religious institutions and ordinances established by lawful authority.
VI. EFFECT ON THE INDIVIDUAL CHRISTIAN'S LIFE. "The Christian man, desirous of loving God with all the affection of his heart, with all the rational intelligence of his mind, with all the devotion of his life, with all the energy of his strength, in the love taught him under the fourth law, will yield himself up gratefully and religiously to obey all duly ordered positive laws of the Church of God. The Sunday and its sacred observance will be to him the center, and furnish, so to speak, the form of his own way of life, and that of all his family and dependents. He will regard it every time it returns as God's holy day of rest, the weekly commemoration of the primeval rest of God and of all the signal mercies of the elder covenant. Knowing himself to be of the true Israel of God, he will not forget the blessings connected by God himself with the sabbatical institution, vouchsafed to his fathers in the faith. He will celebrate it weekly as the feast of the Lord's resurrection, and all the blessings of that resurrection; as the feast of the Holy Ghost the Giver of peace and rest in the Church, as the weekly antepast of that glorious and unending rest in the presence of God which still remaineth for the people of God. It will be to him a day of rest, peace, prayer, praise, and holy joy; no mournful and austere time, but on the contrary, a thankful happy time. He will remember his Lord's injunction not to forbid or refuse works of necessity or mercy on that day. He will gratefully shut up the records of the cares, the interests, and the occupations of the week, and give that holy day to God; not discharging himself of his duties of worship by an attendance in God's house or holding himself at liberty to make his own convenience or inclination the rule of obedience; but faithfully, dutifully, and completely sanctifying that day to rest, worship, and the thought of God and heaven. And the other days, the train of Sunday, will borrow of its light; each having its own sacred, special commemoration belonging to it, and each reflecting some of the brightness of the Sunday just preceding and catching more—and more from that which follows (Moberly, 'The Law of the Love of God').
VII. RESULTS OF ITS NEGLECT.
1. To the individual:
(1) an unloving spirit arising from a consciousness of disobedience to a command;
(2) a habit of refusing to submit to positive injunctions, and, growing out of that, a habit of choosing which of God's commandments he will obey;
(3) a loss of religious opportunities, and consequently a gradual falling away from the habit of public worship, and therefore from the spiritual life;
(4) a sense of being overwhelmed by the business and worries of life which continue without cessation, and thence a want of calm peacefulness and cheerfulness.
2. To a nation:
(1) growth of ungodliness and irreligion;
(2) increase of self-indulgence and mere amusement-seeking;
(3) growing oppression of the poor, who are made to serve the amusements or requirements of the rich instead of enjoying their weekly rest and refreshment of body and mind and soul;
(4) the displeasure of God, whose primeval law is disobeyed.
This verse contains the laws of piety and of faith. "Turn ye not unto idols" forbids the worship of false gods; "nor make to yourselves molten gods" forbids in addition the sin of worshipping the true God under the form of a molten shape.
I. The great temptation to the Jews down to the time of their captivity appears to have been that of taking the gods of the nations round about them as their gods; Baal, Ashtoreth, Molech, Chemosh, drew off their affections from Jehovah. They did not desire apparently to give up the worship of God altogether, but to combine the worship of false gods with it, that is, to transfer a part of the religious affections which were due to God to some other object. This is done in the present day,
(1) by the Roman Catholic Church, which sanctions the transference of worship which ought to be confined to God, from him to St. Mary and other saints; and the moral and religious regard, which is due to God alone, not only to saints, but to a living man, who has been called the idol of the Vatican;
(2) by worldly men, who occupy their thoughts and feeling to such an excessive degree with the things of sense as to shut out Divine and spiritual things;
(3) by sophists, who, by the exercise of a subtle intellect in a presumptuous spirit, shut out God from their ken, and worship the universe, or humanity, or nothing.
II. The Jews were also guilty of the kindred sin of worshipping Jehovah under the form of an idol. This was the sin of Aaron's calf, which represented, not any strange god, but Jehovah himself (Exodus 32:5), and this was the case with Jeroboam's two calves of gold (1 Kings 12:26-33). This offense is committed by any Christians who adore a representation of the Deity, sculptured or painted, or any sign or symbol of him, of whatever material or appearance it may be. It is the sin of men or Churches which have faith to believe that there is a God, but so feeble a faith that they require visible symbols of his presence instead of bravely trusting in the Unseen. The Israelites said to Aaron, "Up, make us gods, which shall go before us; for as for this Moses, the man that brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we wet not what is become of him." When they could not see Moses, the servant of God, they required a visible image of God. They could not trust him unseen; they required proof of his nearness; and this craving of a feeble faith led them to prefer the symbol of "a calf that eateth hay" (Deuteronomy 4:15) to no similitude at all. "Other nations, surrounding the Jews on every side, had their visible objects of worship, making their task of Divine duty and faith more easy. But to acquiesce in their unseen God, I am; to obey without immediate continual consciousness of his nearness; to trust in his protection at times when they had no sensible aid to help them to realize to their imagination his power; to let loose, as it were, their prayers into the air, without having some representative figure, or emblem, at the least, at which to point them;—all this was too difficult a task for a feeble faith in things invisible and spiritual" (Moberly, 'The Law of the Love of God').
The same feebleness of faith has produced the worship of images in the Christian Church. It was not till the seventh century that they crept into use for aids in worship, and when they were approved in the eighth century by the second Council of Nicea, that Council was at once rejected, and its doctrine of images was repudiated by the Council of Frankfort and the bishops of Charlemagne's empire.
In like manner, a feeble faith craves for full light, for demonstration, for infallibility, where God has only given twilight moral certainty, and an authority which is not absolute. It craves for immediate resolution of spiritual difficulties where God demands a patient dealing with them; it asks after a sign where no sign is to be given; it seeks out for itself mediators instead of going straight to God.
Not only does the use of images in worship arise from a feeble faith, but it makes that faith feebler and feebler, and thus leads to materialism. After a while the symbol becomes substituted for the thing symbolized by it, and the affections which the emblem was intended to excite toward an unseen object, do not pass beyond the external sign. Materialism and weakness of faith are the spiritual effects of worshipping images and craving after visible symbols.
"A brave contentment with an invisible God, showing itself in faithful and strong-hearted maintenance of piety in the absence (if it should so please God) or the apparent scantiness of signs, tokens, miracles, and other visible indications of the presence and protection of the Omnipresent and Omnipotent, and a like courageous and faithful abstinence from making to themselves unauthorized images, symbols, and emblems of him who communicated with the people without similitude, must be the particular quality or part of Divine love enjoined under the second law. The peculiar affection enjoined is the brave, trusting, spiritual faith in God invisible, spiritual, absent to our sense, dim in his tokens, obscure sometimes in his providences, not demonstrable in his evidences, not invariable in his benefits.… Possessed of this spiritual faith in the Unseen, a man walks along his narrow path of life with a confidence, security, and cheerfulness which establish at once his comfort and his safety" (Moberly, 'The Law of the Love of God').
Leviticus 19:9, Leviticus 19:10
The law of kindness is a necessary complement to the other laws,
to make up the perfect character. A stern, just man is not the Christian ideal. The mercy and loving-kindness of God must be our model, as well as his other qualities.
"The quality of mercy … is twice blessed:
It blesseth him that gives, and him that takes."
The man who leaves something for others that he might have taken for himself, such as the gleanings of his field, rises from the level of justice to that of generosity, and is educated to understand the noble impulses of a liberal heart and the blessedness described in the one saying of our Lord that is not recounted in the Gospels, "It is more blessed to give than to receive."
Leviticus 19:11, Leviticus 19:13, Leviticus 19:35, Leviticus 19:36
Stealing is forbidden by the law of man, and by the Law of God.
It is forbidden by the law of man in order to prevent injury being done to a citizen, and its sanction is fear of punishment. Remove the fear of punishment, and the goods of another will no longer be respected. It is forbidden by the Law of God because it is displeasing to God; because honesty and uprightness are in themselves right; because to defraud another is in itself wrong. Take away the fear of punishment, and there will remain as scrupulous a care not to trespass on the rights of another as before. The law of honesty, as inculcated by God, has a dominating power and influence in all conditions of life.
Cheating is to stealing as equivocation is to lying. Both are equally immoral. Cheating and equivocating only differ morally from stealing and lying by being more mean and cowardly. The law of man cannot prevent cheating. It can indeed send inspectors to see that there are 'just balances, just weights, a just ephah, and a just him;" but that is not enough to prevent cheating. The only thing that will do this is the fear of the Lord and the consciousness that the unjust appropriation of anything, however small, is contrary to the will of God. Hence we may see the infinite importance for the well-being of a country that the moral teaching of children in public schools be rested upon a religious basis. The precept is reproduced in the New Testament: "Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth" (Ephesians 4:28).
Lying is joined with stealing and cheating, not only because it may be used as a means of cheating (Leviticus 6:2), but because it is a fraud in itself and a sin against uprightness and honesty. The essence of the sin consists in deceiving our neighbours. "Men, as men," says Bishop Taylor, "have a right to truth;" "for there is in mankind a universal contract implied in all their intercourses, and words being instituted to declare the mind, and for no other end, he that hears me speak hath a right in justice to be done him that, as far as I can, what I speak be true; for else he by words does not know your mind, and then as good and better not speak at all" ('Ductor Dubitantium,' 3, 2, 5). There are certain classes of men who have not a right to truth, such as madmen, and sick persons under special circumstances; and in these cases it is justifiable to say to them what is best for them, whether true or not; and in case of declared war the right to truth ceases, and is known to cease, so that no immoral deception takes place when false news is spread or stratagems adopted. But in time of peace and in ordinary cases, "Thou shalt not deceive thy neighbour" is the rule of conduct. Whether this deception takes place by means of a lie, or of an equivocation, or era mental reservation makes no difference in the morality of the act. The defense of equivocation rests upon a confusion of two things totally different—material truth and moral truthfulness. The statement that the sun uses or sinks is materially false, because it remains stationary. But the man who makes such a statement is morally truthful, if he makes it not intending to deceive his neighbour and knowing that he will not be deceived. A statement that the sun had not risen (in the morning) or gone down (in the evening), if made with the purpose of deceiving the person addressed, and with an ulterior object on the part of the speaker, although materially true, would imply moral untruthfulness on the part of the speaker, and therefore is a lie. Bishops Taylor and Sanderson were some of the first theologians who, recurring to the severer morality of Augustine and the early Fathers, cast away with scorn the puerile confusion between moral truthfulness and material truth on which the system of modern Roman casuistry in this department rests. "He that tells a lie," says Bishop Taylor, "and by his mental restriction says he tells a truth, tells two lies" ('Ductor Dubitantium,' 3:28). On the other hand, the Church of Rome teaches that the person addressed may be deceived to any amount, provided that the deception is effected by a form of words which is true in some sense apprehended by the speaker, though untrue in the sense understood by the other party. Accordingly, it is taught by an authority that may not be gainsaid by any member of that communion, that if a man prefixes the words" I say that" to a sentence, he may with a good reason make any false statement that he pleases, because in his own mind he means only to declare that he is making use of the words following that prefix, not that he is asserting their truth, as the person that he addresses supposes him robe doing (S. Alfonso de' Liguori, 'Theol. Moral.,' 4:451). Contrast with this the injunctions of the apostle, "Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour: for we are members one of another" (Ephesians 4:25); "Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds" (Colossians 3:9); and the command of the prophet, "Speak ye every man the truth to his neighbour; execute the judgment of truth and peace in your gates: and let none of you imagine evil in your hearts against his neighbour; and love no false oath: for all these are things that I hate, saith the Lord" (Zechariah 8:16, Zechariah 8:17); and the teaching of the early Church, "A man lies when he thinks something to be false and says it as though true, whether it be true or false. Mark the addition that I have made. Whether it be really true or false, yet, if a man thinks it false and assert it as true, he lies, for he is aiming to deceive His heart is double, not single; he does but bring out what he has there"; and the teaching of the reformed Church, "Our result is that the party swearing after this manner both sinneth in his equivocal oath, and is notwithstanding that tacit equivocation bound in conscience unto the performance of his promise in that sense which the words yield of themselves, and are, without constraint, apt to beget upon the minds of others. Unless he act accordingly, he is not guiltless of perjury" (Sanderson, 'Obligation of Oaths'). In the Book of the Revelation we read, "But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone" (Revelation 21:8).
Name of thy God,
contains three injunctions: First, a command that on due occasions we are to make appeal to God by solemn oath; secondly, a prohibition of perjury; thirdly, a command to reverence God's Name.
I. TO SWEAR BY GOD'S NAME IS COMMANDED, AS BEING A RECOGNITION OF HIM AS SUPREME LORD. Thus in Deuteronomy we read, "Thou shalt fear the Lord thy God, and serve him, and shalt swear by his Name" (Deuteronomy 6:13); in the Psalms, "Every one that sweareth by him shall glory (or be commended)" (Psalms 63:11); in Isaiah, "He that sweareth in the earth shall swear by the God of truth" (Isaiah 65:16); in Jeremiah, "Thou shalt swear, The Lord liveth, in truth, in judgment, and in righteousness" (Jeremiah 4:2); "Thy children have forsaken me, and sworn by them that are no gods" (Jeremiah 5:7); "And it shall come to pass, if they will diligently learn the ways of my people, to swear by my Name, The Lord liveth; as they taught my people to swear by Baal; then shall they be built in the midst of my people" (Jeremiah 12:16).
II. GOD SWEARS BY HIMSELF. "By myself have I sworn, saith the Lord, for because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only son: that in blessing I will bless thee" (Genesis 22:16, Genesis 22:17). "I have sworn by myself, the word is gone out of my mouth in righteousness, and shall not return, That unto me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear" (Isaiah 45:23). "For when God made promise to Abraham, because he could swear by no greater, he sware by himself, saying, Surely blessing I will bless thee, and multiplying I will multiply thee … Wherein God, willing more abundantly to show unto the heirs of promise the immutability of his counsel, confirmed it by an oath: that by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation" (Hebrews 6:13-18).
III. GOD'S COMMAND MADE OF NONE EFFECT BY JEWISH TRADITIONS. These are summed up in the following passage of Philo Judaeus:—"Let the word of the good man be a firm oath, immovable trust, free from falsehood, based on truth. But if this be not sufficient, and necessity compel him to swear, he should swear by the health or sacred age of his father or mother if they are alive, or by their memory if they are dead. For they are images and representations of Divine power, inasmuch as they brought into being those that did not exist before. They too deserve praise who, when they are compelled to swear, suggest the thought of reverence both to the bystanders and to those who impose the oath by the limitation and unwillingness which they show. For, saying aloud, 'Yes, by …,' and, 'No, by,' and adding nothing, under the appearance of sudden interruption, they show that they do not swear a complete oath. But let a man add thereto what he pleases, such as the earth, the sun, the stars, the heaven, the whole world, provided he does not add the highest and most awful Cause" ('De Special. Legibus').
IV. CHRIST FORBIDS SWEARING. "Ye have heard that it hath been said by them of old time, Thou shalt not forswear thyself, but shalt perform unto the Lord thine oaths: but I say unto you, Swear not at all; neither by heaven; for it is God's throne: nor by the earth; for it is his footstool: neither by Jerusalem; for it is the city of the great King. Neither shalt thou swear by thy head, because thou canst not make one hair white or black. But let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil" (Matthew 5:33-37). Nearly the same words are repeated in James 5:12.
V. CHRIST'S COMMAND LIMITED IN ITS EXTENT. His prohibition refers to ordinary swearing, not to solemn oaths taken in courts of justice or under similar circumstances. This is plain by the fact that at his own trial he replied to the adjuration of the high priest, which adjuration was the Jewish manner of taking an oath in a court of justice, "Jesus held his peace. And the high priest answered and said unto him, I adjure thee by the living God, that thou tell us whether thou be the Christ, the Son of God. Jesus said unto him, Thou hast said" (Matthew 26:63, Matthew 26:64). Because the high priest's words were "the voice of swearing" (James 5:1), Jesus broke his silence and spoke in obedience to the adjuration; and oaths are spoken of with approval in the Epistle to the Hebrews (Hebrews 6:13-18).
VI. WHAT AS OATH IS. It is an appeal to the tribunal of God, the person swearing (or adjured) calling God to witness to the truth of his words. Its purpose is "an end of all strife" (Hebrews 6:16). When no circumstantial evidence is forthcoming, the only means of arriving at truth is the awe of God solemnly invoked by an oath, and the dread of offending him by perjury. Where either sophistical casuistry or a secret—still more an open—skepticism undermines or destroys the sense of the obligation of oaths in a nation, that nation is hurrying on its way to destruction.
VII. PERJURY. The more solemn an oath is, the greater is the sin of perjury. If to swear by God's Name is a method of arriving at truth appointed by God himself, to swear by his Name falsely subverts the purpose of the command and insults the majesty of God.
VIII. IRREVERENCE. Not only deliberate perjury but any kind of irreverence is forbidden by this injunction. "The Christian man … will endeavour to recognize with faithful respect that holy Name wherever it meets him in his walk of life. As it is an appellation of the most high God, he will never utter it hastily or thoughtlessly. He will surely not use it at all except he have occasion to speak of it seriously and carefully. It is needless to say how totally he will refrain from such wanton profanation as that of garnishing his common speech by using the Name or referring to the doings of the Most High; still less how impossible it would be for him to allege the sacred Name, literally or by implication, in support of falsehood; nay, how impossible it would be that he should assert what is false at all, seeing that the Name of God is all around him, and that the most secularly sounding asseverations are nothing else than allegations of that Name. He will be much on his guard in prayers, lest, while he utters the sacred Name and the words which belong to it, his mind should wander away from the thoughts which ought to accompany it, and he should break the commandment. He will not shrink from the seemly reverence which the Church orders to be paid to the Name of Christ' (Moberly, 'The Law of the Love of God').
Leviticus 19:18, Leviticus 19:34
We have the testimony of our Lord (Matthew 22:9) and of the Apostle St. Paul (Romans 13:9; Galatians 5:14) that to obey the injunction, "Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself," is to fulfill all the commandments of the second table of the Law; and for that reason St. James calls it a royal law (James 2:8). Here, therefore, the Levitical Law culminates in its highest point, so far as our duties towards men are concerned. Lest the Jew should confine the idea of thy neighbour to his own kindred and race, an equal love is specifically commanded for the stranger that dwelleth with you. Not only, Thou shalt love thy Jewish neighbour as thyself, but also Thou shalt love the stranger that dwelleth among you as thyself. The force of the comparison, as thyself, may be studied in Bishop Butler's sermon 'Upon the Love of our Neighbour.'
But though the Law. culminates in the two kindred commands, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God;" "Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself;" Christianity does not. Christianity goes beyond the highest point to which the Law soars. Not only does it name the neighbour and the stranger as those whom we are to love, but also the enemy. "Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven" (Matthew 5:43-45). The motive in the gospel is also higher than the Law. In the Law the motive in the case of the stranger is human sympathy arising from common suffering, "for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt." In the gospel it is the desire to be like God in his dealings with men, "for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust" (Matthew 5:45), "for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil. Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful" (Luke 6:35, Luke 6:36).
The moral meaning of the command, "Thou shalt not sow thy field with mingled seed," receives an illustration from the parable of the "man which sowed good seed in his field: but while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way. But when the blade was sprung up, and brought forth fruit, then appeared the tares also" (Matthew 13:24-26). God's servant must sow of the best; if the tares are mixed with the good seed, it must be the enemy's doing, not his. One of the preparations made by the Jews for an approaching Passover was to go over the fields near Jerusalem, and root up plants that had grown from mingled seeds. But in the spiritual sphere this is not to be done. If the enemy has succeeded in introducing the tares, they are for the sake of the wheat to be let to grow together until the harvest (Matthew 13:30).
Respect for old age
is not only inculcated as a preservative against the rule of brute force, but as a part of the fear of God, the parent's relation to the child representing that of God to his creature.
Moral commandments have a double sanction.
They are to be obeyed
(1) because they carry their own sanction with them,
(2) because they are commanded.
In the latter respect all Divine injunctions stand on a level. All transgressions of what is commanded are equally sin, but they are not equal sins. A man who steals is not guilty of an equally heinous sin with the man who commits murder, but he is equally guilty of sin, because both murder and theft are forbidden. All God's statutes, and all his judgments are to be observed without exception, in order to be righteous according to the righteousness of the Law. "For Moses describeth the righteousness which is of the Law, That the man which doeth those things shall live by them" (Romans 10:5). "This do, and ye shall live" (Luke 11:28).
HOMILIES BY W. CLARKSON
Leviticus 19:1, Leviticus 19:2, Leviticus 19:4, Leviticus 19:5, Leviticus 19:12, Leviticus 19:26-28, Leviticus 19:30-32, Leviticus 19:36, Leviticus 19:37
Religion and superstition.
It is not always easy or even possible to distinguish between religion and superstition. We may fall into the latter when we are seeking to practice the former; or we may, from undue fear of the latter, neglect the former. In this chapter the Jews were taught (and we are thereby encouraged) to avoid the one, and to perfect the other in the fear of God.
I. THE SUPERSTITION WHICH WAS TO BE SHUNNED.
1. Clearly and decisively everything that was in any way idolatrous was condemned; "turn ye not unto idols" (Leviticus 19:4).
2. All that was distinctively or closely connected with heathen worship was also forbidden: the use of enchantments, the superstitious observance of lucky or unlucky times, also superstitious cutting of the hair or of the flesh (Leviticus 19:26-28); resorting to wizards, etc. (see 1 Chronicles 10:13). There is amongst us much adoption of practices which are idle and vain, not warranted in Scripture nor founded on reason. Such things are to be deprecated and shunned, They are
(2) harmful, as taking the place in our thought which belongs to something really good and wise;
(3) displeasing to the God of truth.
II. THE RELIGION WHICH WAS TO BE CULTIVATED AND PRACTISED. The Jews were to cherish and cultivate, even as we are,
(1) sanctity like that of God himself (Leviticus 19:2), entire separateness of spirit and so of conduct from every evil thing;
(2) reverence for his holy Name (Leviticus 19:12), and consequent abstention from everything bordering on profanity;
(3) regard for divinely appointed ordinances—the sabbath and the sanctuary (Leviticus 19:30);
(4) gratitude for his redeeming mercy (Leviticus 19:36), "I am the Lord your God, which brought you out of the land of Egypt;"
(5) spontaneous dedication to his service (Leviticus 19:5). "At our own will" we must bring ourselves and our offerings to his altar;
(6) daily, hourly consultation of his holy will, "Therefore shall ye observe all my statutes, and all my judgments, and do them" (Leviticus 19:37).—C.
Leviticus 19:3, Leviticus 19:32
Honour to whom honor.
It is uncertain whether we shall receive the honour which is due to us. Possibly we may be denied some to which we are entitled; probably we have experienced this wrong already, in larger or smaller measure, and know the pain of heart which attends it. Let us, therefore, resolve that we will give that which is due to others. The two passages connected in the text remind us that we should pay deference to—
I. THOSE WHO CARRY THE WEIGHT OF YEARS. "Thou shalt rise up before the hoary head, and honour the face of the old man." "Respect the burden, madam," said Napoleon, inviting a lady to move out of the way of one who was carrying a heavy weight. Those who have traveled far on the rough road of life, and are worn with many and sad experiences, on whom the privations of age are resting,—these carry a heavy weight, a burden we should respect. They are as wounded soldiers on whom the battle of life has left its scars, and these are marks of honour that demand the tribute of youth.
II. THOSE WHO HAVE ATTAINED TO WISDOM. The young are apt to think that they can reach the heights of wisdom without laboriously climbing the steeps of experience. They find that they are wrong. Time proves to each generation of men that wisdom, whether it be that of earth or of heaven, is only gained by the discipline of life. There are men who pass through human life and learn nothing in the passage; the folly of youth cleaves to them still. Such men must be comparatively unhonoured, receiving only the respect which is due to old age as such. But when men have gathered the fruits of a long and large experience—and especially when men of intelligence and piety have stored up the truth which God has been teaching them as he has led them along all the path of life—they are worthy to receive our sincerest honour, and we must know how to "rise up before the hoary head" in their case. With all and more than all the respect we pay to the learned, we should receive men whom God has been long teaching in his school—those who have learnt much of Jesus Christ.
III. THOSE WHO HAVE LAID US UNDER SPECIAL OBLIGATION.
1. Aged men who have lived a faithful life have done this. For they have lived, not only for themselves, but for their kind. They have wrought, struggled, suffered in order that they might help us and others to walk in the light, to enter the kingdom, to enjoy the favour of God; and they have earned our gratitude by their faithful service.
2. Our parents have done this also. "Ye shall fear every man his mother, and his father." What benefits our parents have conferred on us, what kindnesses they have rendered us, what sacrifices they have made for us, what anxious thought and earnest prayer they have cherished and offered on our behalf,—who of us shall reckon? The debt we owe to them for all they have done for us is the heaviest of all, next to that supreme indebtedness under which we stand to God. But it is not only the obligation we have thus incurred which demands our filial reverence; it is the fact that our parents arc—
IV. THOSE WHO STAND IN A SPECIAL RELATIONSHIP TO US.
1. We should remember that fatherhood is the human relationship which most closely resembles and most fully reveals that in which God himself stands to us all. Christ came to reveal the Father unto man as the Father of souls. Therefore it is to be highly honoured.
2. Fatherhood (parenthood, for the mother is not to be left out of our thought) in the best state of human society has received the largest share of honour. We may gather from this fact that it is a divinely implanted instinct, only absent when the race has miserably degenerated under sin.
3. Honour given to parents as such is imperatively required by God. It was a patriarchal and Jewish, as it is now a Christian, virtue. After the injunction stand these significant words, "I am the Lord." "Children, obey your parents in the Lord" (Ephesians 6:1). Filial disobedience and unkindness are grievous sins in his sight. Filial love, honour, and considerateness are well-pleasing unto the Lord.—C.
Leviticus 19:9, Leviticus 19:10, Leviticus 19:13, Leviticus 19:14, Leviticus 19:33, Leviticus 19:34
We gather from these verse—
I. THAT THE FEAR OF GOD WILL SURELY LEAD TO THE LOVE OF MAN. That piety which begins and ends in acts of devotion is one that may be reasonably suspected: it is not of the scriptural order. True piety is in consulting the will of the heavenly Father (Matthew 7:21), and his will is that we should love and be kind to one another (Ephesians 4:32). Philanthropy is a word which may not have its synonym in the Old Testament, but the Hebrew legislator was not ignorant of the idea, and the Hebrew people were not left without incitement to the thing itself. Hence these injunctions to leave some corn in the corners of their fields, and the scattered ears for the reaping and gleaning of the poor (Leviticus 19:9); to leave also some clusters of grapes which had been overlooked for needy hands to pluck (Leviticus 19:10); to take no advantage of the weaker members of their society, the deaf and the blind (Leviticus 19:14); and to show kindness to the stranger (Leviticus 19:34).
II. THAT CONSIDERATENESS IS A GRACE WHICH IS PECULIARLY PLEASING TO GOD. The Jews were expressly enjoined to
(1) show kindness to the poor (Leviticus 19:10);
(2) to be careful of those who suffered from bodily infirmity (Leviticus 19:14);
(3) to interest themselves in the stranger (Leviticus 19:33, Leviticus 19:34).
There is something particularly striking in the commandment that they were to refrain from cursing the deaf. Even though there might be no danger of giving positive pain and exciting resentment, yet they were not to direct harsh words against any one of their more unfortunate brethren. This legislation for the weak and the necessitous presents a very pleasant aspect of the Law. It also reminds us of some truths which come home to ourselves. We may observe:
1. That power is apt to be tyrannical. The history of nations, tribes, individuals, is the history of assertion and assumption. The strong have ever shown themselves ready to take advantage of the weak. Hence the oppression and cruelty which darken the pages of human history.
2. That God would have us be just to one another. In most cases, if not in all, we can take no credit for our superior strength, and build no claim on it. In many cases, if not in most, we can impute no blame to others for their weakness: the unfortunate are not necessarily the undeserving, and we have no right to make them suffer.
3. But beyond this, God would have us be specially kind to the necessitous because they are reedy. Here are these statutes in respect of the poor, the afflicted, and the stranger. The devotional Scriptures speak more fully of this sacred duty (Psalms 41:1, Psalms 41:2; 62:13; Psalms 112:9, etc.). The prophets utter their voice still more forcibly (Isaiah 58:6-8; Ezekiel 18:7; Nehemiah 5:10-12; Jeremiah 22:16; Amos 4:1, etc.). Our Lord has, with strongest emphasis, commended to us considerateness toward the weak and helpless (Matthew 10:42; Matthew 18:6, Matthew 18:10, Matthew 18:14; Matthew 25:34-40, etc.). His apostles spoke and wrote in the same strain (Romans 12:15; 1 Corinthians 12:26, etc.). But that which, above everything, should lead us to be considerate toward the poorer and weaker members of our community is the thought that to do so is so truly and emphatically Divine. God himself has ever been acting on this gracious principle. He interposed to save the children of Israel because they were weak and afflicted. Again and again he stretched out his arm of deliverance, saving them from the strong and the mighty of the earth. On this Divine principle he deals with us all. He "knows our frame, and remembers that we are dust." "Like as a father pities his children, so he pities them that fear him." Our Saviour dealt with exquisite considerateness in all his relations to his undiscerning and unappreciative disciples; and now he is dealing with gracious forbearance toward us in all the weakness, poverty, shortcoming of our service. We are never so much like our merciful Master as when we speak and act considerately toward those who are poorer, weaker, and more helpless than ourselves.—C.
Leviticus 19:11, Leviticus 19:13, Leviticus 19:15, Leviticus 19:16, Leviticus 19:35, Leviticus 19:36
The Jews have always been considered a cunning and crafty race; they have been credited with a willingness to overreach in business dealings. Men would rather have transactions with others than with them, lest they should find themselves worsted in the bargain. This suspicion may be well founded; but if it be so, it ought to be remembered that it is the consequence of the long and cruel disadvantages under which they have suffered, and is not clue to anything in their own blood or to any defect in their venerable Law. From the beginning they have been as strictly charged to live honourable and upright lives before man as to engage regularly in the worship of God. They have been as much bound to integrity of conduct as to devoutness of spirit. In these few verses we find them called to—
I. INTEGRITY IN DAILY TRANSACTIONS—HONESTY. "Ye shall not steal, neither deal falsely" (Leviticus 19:11). "Thou shalt not defraud thy neighbour, neither rob him" (Leviticus 19:13; see Leviticus 19:35, Leviticus 19:36). Nothing could be more explicit than this, nothing more comprehensive in suggestion. No member of the Hebrew commonwealth could
(1) deliberately appropriate what he knew was not his own, or
(2) rob his neighbour in the act of trading, or
(3) deal falsely or unrighteously in any transaction or in any relation, without consciously breaking the Law and coming under the displeasure of Jehovah.
The words of the Law are clear and strong, going straight to the understanding and to the conscience. Every man amongst them must have known, as every one amongst us knows well, that dishonesty is sin in the sight of God.
II. INTEGRITY IN OFFICIAL DUTY—JUSTICE. (Leviticus 19:15.) It is a pitiful thought that, in every nation, justice has been open to corruption; that men placed in honourable posts in order to do justice between man and man have either sold it to the highest bidder or surrendered and betrayed it from craven fear. God's clear word condemns such rank injustice, and his high displeasure follows the perpetrator of it. He who undertakes to judge his fellows must do so in the fear of God, and if he swerves from his integrity in his public acts, he must lay his account with heaven if not with man.
III. INTEGRITY IN WORD—TRUTH. "Ye shall not lie one to another" (Leviticus 19:11).
This, too, is a universal sin. Some nations may be more prone to it than others, The weak and the oppressed are too ready to take refuge in it; it is the resort of the feeble and the fearful But it is also used with shameful freedom and shocking unconcern, as an instrument of gain and power. God has revealed his holy hatred of it. "Ye shall not lie." "Lying lips are abomination to the Lord;" "the Lord hateth a lying tongue" (Proverbs 12:22; Proverbs 6:17). Under the gospel of Christ, we are earnestly warned against it (Ephesians 4:25; Colossians 3:9). We are reminded that it is
(1) a wrong done to our fellow-men ("we are members," etc.), and
(2) closely associated with heather habits (the "old man," etc.); and we may remember that it is
(3) a habit most demoralizing to ourselves, as well as
(4) something which utterly separates us from our Lord, being so contrary to his Spirit and so grievous in his sight.—C.
Leviticus 19:17, Leviticus 19:18
Love-its root and its fruit.
Two things lend a special interest to this passage.
1. It was twice quoted by our Lord (Matthew 19:19 and Matthew 22:39).
2. It shows us the Law as closer to the gospel than we are apt to think; it proves that, under the old dispensation, God was not satisfied with a mere mechanical propriety of behaviour, that he demanded rightness of feeling as well as correctness of conduct. We have—
I. THE BROAD PRINCIPLE OF GOD'S REQUIREMENT. Man is to "love his neighbour as himself" (Leviticus 19:18). No man, indeed, can
(1) give as much time and thought to each of his neighbours as he does to himself, and no man
(2) is so responsible for the state of others' hearts and the rectitude of their lives as he is for his own. But every man can and should, by power of imagination and sympathy, put himself in his brother's place; be as anxious to avoid doing injury to another as he would be unwilling to receive injury from another; and be as desirous of doing good to his neighbour who is in need as he would be eager to receive help from him if he himself were in distress. This is the essence of the "golden rule" (Matthew 7:12).
II. THE ROOT FROM WHICH THIS FEELING WILL SPRING. How can we do this? it will be asked. How can we be interested in the uninteresting; love the unamiable; go out in warm affection toward those who have in them so much that is repulsive? The answer is here, "I am the Lord." We must look at all men in their relation to God.
1. God is interested, Christ is interested in the worst of men, is seeking to save and raise them; do we not care for those for whom he cares so much?
2. They are all God's children; it may be his prodigal children, living in the far country, but still his sons and daughters, over whom he yearns.
3. The most unlovely of men are those for whom our Saviour bled, agonized, died. Can we be indifferent to them?
4. They were once not far from the kingdom, and may yet be holy citizens of the kingdom of God. When we look at our fellow-men in the light of their relation to God, to Jesus Christ, we can see that in them which shines through all that is repelling, and which attracts us to their side that we may win and bless them.
III. THE FRUITS WHICH HOLY LOVE WILL BEAR. There are two suggested in the text.
1. Forbearance; "not hating our brother in our heart," "not avenging or bearing any grudge against" him. Without the restraints and impulses of piety we are under irresistible temptation to do this. Unreasonable dislike on our brother's part, injustice, ingratitude, unkindness, inconsiderateness, features of character which are antipathetic to our own,—these things and such things as these are provocative of ill will, dislike, enmity, resentment, even revenge on our part. But if we remember and realize our brother's relation to the common Father and Saviour, we shall rise to the noble height of forbearance; we shall have the love which "beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things" (1 Corinthians 13:7).
2. Restoration by remonstrance, Thou shalt in any wise rebuke thy neighbour, and not suffer sin upon him." Instead of nursing and nourishing our indignation, allowing our brother to go on in the wrong, and permitting ourselves to become resentful as well as indignant, we shall offer the remonstrance of affection; we shall "reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering" (2 Timothy 4:2). We shall try to win our brother back to that path of truth or righteousness which he has forsaken; so shall we "gain our brother" (Matthew 18:15), instead of "suffering sin upon him." This is the conquest of love, the crown of charity.—C.
Aids to purity.
We shall first consider—
I. WHAT WAS THE PRIMARY PURPORT OF THIS TRIPLE LAW. We need not be surprised if we find here another aid to purity of heart and life, another fence thrown up against immorality. Idolatry and immorality, both of the very worst description, had covered and dishonoured the land of Canaan. It was of the last importance that the people of God should be guarded in every possible way against infection and guilt. Therefore the wise and holy Lawgiver instituted various measures by which his people should be perpetually reminded that they must be absolutely free from these heinous crimes. And therefore precepts which intimated the will of Jehovah in this matter were bound up with their daily callings and their domestic life. Our text is an illustration. In the management of their cattle, in the cultivation of their fields, in the making and wearing of their clothes, God was whispering in their ear, "Be pure of heart and life." Everything impressed upon their minds—these precise injunctions among other statutes—that there must be no joining together of that which God had put asunder, no mingling of those who should keep apart, no "defilement" (see Deuteronomy 22:9), no "confusion" (Leviticus 20:12). By laws which had such continually recurring illustration they would have inwrought into the very texture of their minds the idea that, if they wished to retain their place as the people of God, they must be pure of heart and life.
II. SECONDARY TRUTHS WHICH THIS LAW SUGGESTS.
1. It suggests simplicity in worship; there may be such an admixture of the divinely appointed and the humanly imported, of the spiritual and the artistic, of the heavenly and the worldly, that the excellency and the acceptableness will be lost and gone.
2. It suggests sincerity in service; in the service of the sanctuary or the sabbath school, or in any sphere of sacred usefulness, there may be such a mingling of the higher and the lower motives, of the generous and the selfish, of the nobler and the meaner, that the "wood, hay, and stubble" weigh more than the "gold, silver, and precious stones" in the balances of heaven, and then the workman will "lose his reward."
3. It suggests also the wisdom of taking special securities against specially strong temptations. God gave his people very many and (what seem to us) even singular securities against the rampant and deadly evil which had ruined their predecessors and might reach and slay them also. The circumstances and conditions of the time demanded them. Exceptional and imperious necessity not only justifies but demands unusual securities. Let those who are tempted by powerful and masterful allurements to
take those special measures, lay upon themselves those exceptional restraints which others do not need, but without which they themselves would he in danger of transgression.—C.
The range of sin and the rule of God.
There is much uncertainty as to the intention of the Lord in this prohibition. I regard it as a lesson concerning—
I. THE DEPTH AND BREADTH OF THE TAINT OF SIN. The Israelites were to regard the very soil of Canaan as so polluted by the sins of its former inhabitants that the fruit which came from it must be treated "as uncircumcised" (Leviticus 19:23). Idolatry and impurity—the two flagrant sins of the Canaanites—are evils which strike deep and last long in the taint which they confer. Their consequences are penetrating and far-spreading. So, in larger or lesser degree, is all sin. It leaves a taint behind; it pollutes the mind; it mars the life; it makes its fruit, its natural growth and outcome, to be "as uncircumcised," to be unholy and unclean. And this is to an extent beyond our human estimate. If the Israelites had concluded that the iniquities of the Canaanites were to be regarded as polluting the very soil, they would not have reckoned that three years would be required to free the land from the taint of evil. But God made the purifying process extend over this protracted time. He knows that the stain of sin goes deeper and lasts longer than we think it does. What an argument this for expelling the idolatrous and unclean from our heart and life, for cultivating and cherishing the holy and the pure!
II. THE RANGE OF GOD'S CLAIMS. (Leviticus 19:24.) Jehovah claimed the firstfruits of the land when the soil was cleansed: "all the fruit thereof shall be holy to praise the Lord." It was to be given (probably) to the priests. Thus God reasserted and confirmed his claim to all the produce of the land. This law would remind them that the whole soil was his, and that he had sovereign right to dispose of it as lie willed, everything being of him and belonging to him. God claims all as his; and his claim is righteous. For we have nothing but that which we have received from him; we are nothing but that which he has created and preserved. "All our springs are in him," and all that we hold and occupy is his property. When we forget our derivation from him and our dependence upon him, he reminds us, by some providential privation, that we are failing from the spirit of reverence, gratitude, and submission which is the very life of our soul. And it is well for us voluntarily to set aside to his service the firstfruits of our labour, that we may be thus powerfully and practically reminded that we owe our very being and our whole substance to his bounty and his grace.
III. THE BENEFICENCE OF THE DIVINE RULE. By this provision God sought, as he is ever seeking,
(1) spiritual well-being and
(2) temporal prosperity.
By teaching them the truths which this abstinence suggested, and by requiring of them the patient waiting and the childlike obedience involved in the fulfillment of his will, he was disciplining and perfecting their spiritual nature. By giving them leave to pluck and partake for themselves after the fourth year, he provided for their bodily wants and appetites. These two ends God has continually in view in all his providential dealing with ourselves. He seeks our present satisfaction, and also—and far more—our spiritual well-being; our pleasure as children of time and sense, and our perfection as children of the Father of spirits, as followers of the righteous Leader, as temples of the Holy Ghost.—C.
Three helps to spiritual progress.
"There are many adversaries," it is true; many drawbacks, hindrances, difficulties in the way of spiritual advancement. But there are these three powerful aids.
I. ONE SACRED DAY IN EVERY SEVEN. "Ye shall keep my sabbaths." God has wrested from an exacting, rapacious world one-seventh of human life, and given it to us for the culture of the soul, for spiritual growth, for sacred usefulness. The observance of the sabbath is an act of
(1) filial obedience to God, and
(2) wise regard for our own true welfare.
II. A PLACE FOR SOCIAL WORSHIP. "Ye shall reverence my sanctuary." We have all the advantage of social influences, the impulse which comes from association, to impress, to direct, to establish the soul in heavenly wisdom. We should worship regularly at the sanctuary, because
(1) we should not draw so near to God elsewhere, or gain in any other place such spiritual nourishment;
(2) worship there helps to devotion everywhere.
III. DEVOTEDNESS OF HEART TO X DIVINE BEING-. "I am the Lord." Not the ineffectual endeavour to fill and feed, to nourish and strengthen the soul with admirable abstractions; but holy thought and sanctifying feeling gathered round a Divine One: directed toward him who says, "Trust me, love me, follow me, exalt me."—C.
HOMILIES BY R.M. EDGAR
cf. Matthew 22:35-40; Romans 12:1-21; James, passim. From the primary principle of unworldliness, we now have to proceed to sundry details about social morality. Although these details are given indiscriminately, it is yet possible to discern certain great principles among them. And—
I. ALL SOCIAL MORALITY IS MADE TO REST ON OUR RELATION TO GOD HIMSELF. In the Decalogue we have social morality, that is, our duty to man, based upon our duty to God; the "second table" rests upon the first. It is the same here. God brooks no rival (verse 4). He sets himself as our model of holiness (verse 2). He calls man to fellowship through the peace offering (verses 5-8). His Name must be subjected to no profanation (verse 12), and the sabbaths are to be strictly kept (verse 30). In other words, we have the four commandments of the first table strewn up and down these details, and exhibiting the fountain-head of social morality in faithfulness to God.
It is significant that all the efforts to make out an "independent morality" by the elimination or ignoring of God are proving failures. He is, after all, the sine qua non of real morality as well as of salvation. It is when his Name is feared and reverenced as it ought to be that man acts aright in his various relations.
II. COMPASSION FOR THE POOR AND AFFLICTED RESULTS, OF NECESSITY, FROM A DUE REGARD FOR GOD. For God is compassionate, and so should his people be. Hence the exhortation of verses 9, 10, about leaving in harvest-time what would be a help to the poor and the stranger. This is grounded upon the great fact, "I am the Lord your God." Hence also the warning not to curse the deaf, nor to put a stumbling-block in the way of the blind, but" thou shalt fear thy God" (verse 14). This consideration for the afflicted and for the poor is a most important element in social morality. Our asylums for the deaf, the dumb, and the blind are embodiments of this great social duty. The poor-law system, if a little more Christian sympathy were engrafted upon it, is a noble tribute to a sense of national obligation towards the poor, better organizations even than these will yet be the fruit of the religious spirit. How to apply the principle that "he that will not work shall not eat," and at the same time show the due measure of compassion, is a problem demanding most careful solution.
III. MERCANTILE MORALITY IS STRICTLY ENJOINED. All stealing, lying, and dishonest dealing is denounced (verse 11). No advantage is to be taken of a neighbour or of a servant (verse 13). All arbitration is to be without respect of persons (verse 15). Weights, measures, and balances are all to be just and true (verses 35, 36). This branch of social morality requires the strictest attention from the Lord's people. It is here that continual contact goes on between them and the world. If religion, therefore, do not produce a higher type of mercantile morality than the world, it will be discredited. Nothing injures religion so much as the mercantile immoralities of its professors. Fraudulent bankrupts, dishonest tradings, overreachings,—these are what go to lessen the influence of religion among men. It is just possible that we may, in our eagerness to be always presenting the truth of the gospel to our fellow-men, have failed to enforce sufficiently the morality which must be the great evidence of our religious life. At present, in this peculiarly mercantile age, this department of morality needs most earnest attention.
IV. PURITY IS TO BE CULTIVATED IN ALL SOCIAL RELATIONS. Not only was immorality discountenanced (verse 29), and punishment and trespass offerings directed in cases where immorality had occurred (verses 20-22), but the very cultivation of the land, the rearing of cattle, the making of garments, and, in a word, all their associations were to be pervaded by the principle of purity (verses 19, 23-25). For the use made of cattle, and of seed, and of raw material, might be prejudicial to purity in idea. Thus carefully does the Lord fence round his people with precautions.
V. SUPERSTITION IS TO BE DISCOURAGED, NO enchantment was to be used, nor were they to round the corners of their heads or beards; they were to make no cuttings in their flesh for the dead, or print marks upon themselves (verses 26-28). Nor were they to have recourse to familiar spirits or wizards, to be defiled by them (verse 31). God treats his people as intelligent, rational beings; and so he discourages all resort to unmeaning and pretended inspirations.
VI. IT IS CLEARLY SHOWS THAT LOVE IS THE ESSENCE OF ALL SOCIAL MORALITY. Vengeance is discouraged (verse 18)—it is the outcome of hatred, which is unlawful when borne towards a brother (verse 17). The form of blood-feud (verse 16), which existed and exists among the Oriental and wandering tribes, is denounced. In fact, the Law is brought to this simple issue," Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself" (verse 18). It is upon this that our blessed Lord seizes as the essence of the Divine Law (Matthew 22:35-40). Paul also brings this out clearly and emphatically (Romans 13:9, Romans 13:10). And this suggests—
1. That there is a legitimate self-love. There is a "better self" which it is our duty to love and cherish, just as there is a "worse self" which it is our duty to detest and mortify. When we consider this "better self," we do not suffer sin upon it, we try to keep it pure and subject unto Christ. We try to be faithful with ourselves. We foster what is good and holy within us. All this is most distinct from selfishness. The selfish man is his own worst enemy; the man who cultivates proper self-love is his own best friend.
2. This self-love is to measure our love to our neighbour. Now, our Lord brought out, by the parable of the "Good Samaritan," who is our neighbour. Every one to whom our heart leads us to be neighbourly. Neighbourhood is a matter of the heart. We must cultivate it. We shall have no difficulty in discerning the objects of our love. Let us then love them as we do ourselves. The golden rule is the essence of the Divine Law, "Do unto others as ye would that they should do unto you."
It is evident from this that Judaism was not intended to be an exclusive and selfish system, so far as outsiders were concerned, Men did not work it out properly, and this was why it became so narrow and selfish.—R.M.E.
HOMILIES BY J.A. MACDONALD
Purity in worship.
The laws set out in this chapter were before communicated to Aaron and his sons; now they are given to the people (Leviticus 19:1, Leviticus 19:2). It is the privilege and duty of God's people to acquaint themselves with his will. They should learn the Law from the lips of Moses. They should learn the gospel from the lips of Jesus. It is a maxim of antichrist that" Ignorance is the mother of devotion" The mother of devotion, viz. to superstition, it is (see 1 John 2:20, 1 John 2:21).
I. THE PEOPLE OF THE HOLY GOD MUST BE HOLY. (Leviticus 19:2.)
1. They must be separate from sinners.
(1) The people of God are distinguished by purity of heart. Of this God alone can take full cognizance.
(2) Also by purity of life (Titus 2:14). This is witnessed both by God and man.
2. They must be separated to God.
(1) This is implied in the reason, viz. "for I am holy" (see Peter Leviticus 1:15, Leviticus 1:16). Our Lord puts it strongly: "Be ye perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect" (Matthew 5:48). This cannot be understood absolutely. It must be interpreted relatively, viz. that as in his relations to us God is perfect, so are we to be perfect in our corresponding relations to him. But what are these?
(2) As his servants.
(a) We have our work assigned by his appointment.
(b) He pays us our wages. In this life. In that to come.
(3) As his children.
(a) We have assurance of our adoption (Romans 8:16; Galatians 4:6).
(b) Consequently also concerning our heirship (Romans 8:17; Galatians 4:7).
(c) We have also blissful fellowship (John 17:21; 1Co 1:9; 1 John 1:3, 1 John 1:7).
3. Grace makes us to differ.
(1) This was ceremonially described in the Law. In order to partake of the holy things, the people must be made ceremonially holy by ablutions.
(2) The truth of this is seen in the promise of the gospel. Before we can have spiritual communion with God we must be sanctified at the laver of regeneration, viz. by the renewing of the Holy Ghost.
II. THEIR HOLINESS WILL BE EXPRESSED IN PURE WORSHIP.
1. They keep the sabbaths of the Lord.
(1) They cease from the toil of the world. So far the observance is outward. They also rest from the labour of sorrow and sin. This is an inward and spiritual observance.
(2) They appear in the convocations of God's people. This worship may be public without any corresponding beauties of spiritual holiness. But the true worshipper mingles with the spiritual and heavenly portions of the Church as well as with the visible congregation (see Ephesians 3:15; Hebrews 12:22-24).
(3) Parents are held responsible for instructing their children in the due observance of the sabbath. So in the fourth commandment in the Decalogue, "Thou, and thy son, and thy daughter."
(4) Hence in the text (Leviticus 19:3), the injunction to keep God's sabbaths is associated with another touching the respect due from children to parents (comp. Exodus 20:8-12). Parents are God's representatives to their children.
(a) In their paternity.
(b) In the providence they exercise during the helplessness and dependence of infancy and youth.
(c) In their authority.
This is from God, and it should be religiously maintained. Those who are allowed to break God's sabbaths will disobey their parents.
2. They keep themselves from idols.
(1) They will not "turn" to them. We are so surrounded by them, that we cannot turn from the true worship without encountering them.
(2) They will not "make" to themselves "molten gods." The allusion here is to Aaron's calf, which he intended to represent Jehovah Elohim. But in our godly parents, the work of God's hands, we have truer representations of the living Father than can possibly proceed from our own hands.
(3) Idolatry is folly. Idols are nothings.
3. They serve God with reverence.
(1) They fear God, but not as slaves. They offer peace offerings to him which are offerings of friendship. They offer these also "at their own free will" (Leviticus 19:5). A constrained is an imperfect service. "God loveth a cheerful giver."
(2) They worship him in faith. They will eat the peace offering the same day on which it is offered. They recognize the privileges of an early communion. What remains over on the second day they will eat. The dispensations of the types are two, viz. the patriarchal and Mosaic. But if any remain to the third day, this they burn with fire. Thus they express their faith in the Christian dispensation which should abolish the types by fulfilling them, and which should bring in better hopes.
(2) To return to the legal dispensation is now to provoke the anger of the Lord. Cyril of Alexandria argues that those who fail to see any spiritual meaning in the Law are still bound to keep it in the letter. But even that could do them no good, for according to the text, "If it be eaten at all on the third day, it is abominable; it shall not be accepted. Therefore every one that eateth it shall bear his iniquity," etc. (Leviticus 19:7, Leviticus 19:8). To rejecters of the gospel now there is nothing but hopeless excision.—J.A.M.
In the earlier portion of this chapter purity of worship, with its associated reverence for the authority of God, in his representatives, viz. natural parents, and his institutions, as the sabbath, are enjoined. In the verses following our duties towards our fellows come more prominently before us, and in the text that class of those duties whose spirit is kindliness. Charity is sister to piety. We have here enjoined—
I. A GENEROUS CONSIDERATION FOR THE POOR.
1. The needs of the gleaner are to be respected.
(1) In reaping the harvest, owners are instructed to spare the corners of their crops for the poor. What fails from the hand of the reaper is not to be gathered up again, but left to the gleaner. So in gleaning the vintage, the loose branches must be left to the poor and the stranger.
(2) We must not consider that to be wasted which goes to the poor.
(3) The harvest and vintage are seasons of joy. Such seasons should be seasons also of charity. Kindliness purifies and so heightens joy.
2. The authority of God must be remembered.
(1) "I am Jehovah thy Elohim." This gives the poor and the stranger a Divine right in the gleanings, which now to disregard becomes impiety and injustice. Those who refuse their rights to the poor will have to answer for it to God (Psalms 9:18; Psalms 12:5; Psalms 82:1-8.; Isaiah 10:1-4).
(2) The Divine example should inspire and guide us. "He openeth his hand, and satisfieth every living thing." Man must not attempt to close the hand of God by refusing to the poor their due.
(3) The blessing of God is promised to those who consider the poor (see Deuteronomy 24:19; Psalms 41:1; Proverbs 14:21).
II. A CAREFUL AVOIDANCE OF INJUSTICE.
1. Wrong must not be practiced stealthily.
(1) "Ye shall not steal"—ye shall not injure your neighbour in a concealed way. To reap the harvest too narrowly would be to filch from the poor his due.
(2) "Neither shall ye deal falsely." Thus there must be no concealing of faults in articles offered for sale. There must be no false representation of values either in vending or purchasing.
2. Lies must not be uttered.
(1) "Neither lie one to another." When a lie is acted in false dealing, the next thing is to utter a lie to cover the wrong. One falsehood calls up another to keep it in countenance.
(2) "And ye shall not swear by my Name falsely." Upon the principle that lies are called in to countenance the concealment of a wrong, oaths are suborned to countenance lies. Thus sin begets sin; and sin, in its offspring, becomes increasingly degenerate.
(3) This last is frightful wickedness. "Neither shalt thou profane the Name of thy God." It is appealing to the God of truth to confirm a lie!
3. Nor must wrong be openly perpetrated.
(1) "Thou shalt not defraud thy neighbour, neither rob him." Power must not be abused in oppression. Many of the forms in which this was done are described by Job (Job 24:1-25).
(2) "The wages of him that is hired shall not abide with thee all night until the morning." It is the means of his living; and once earned, no more belongs to the employer than does the property of any other person. Huge injustice is practiced by those who take long credit from tradesmen, who thereby are put to the utmost straits to meet their business claims and those of their families.
III. A TENDER RESPECT FOR THE CONDITION OF THE AFFLICTED.
1. "Thou shalt not curse the deaf."
(1) Thou shalt not be enraged should a deaf man be unable to render the service of one who has his hearing. So it is unreasonable to blame for not having rendered service those who were not informed that such service was expected.
(2) Thou shalt not curse, in his presence, a man that is deaf, because he is deaf and cannot hear it. So neither in his absence must a man be cursed, who is in the same case with the deaf, and cannot defend himself.
2. "Nor put a stumblingblock before the blind."
(1) To do this literally would be a wanton cruelty.
(2) Traps must not be laid for the unwary to their hurt, viz. in things material or in things spiritual (see Romans 14:13).
3. "But thou shalt fear thy God."
(1) Afflictions do not spring from
the dust. They come from God or are permitted by him. To take advantage of them or to trifle with them is therefore to tempt the Lord.
(2) The tear of the retributive justice of Heaven should restrain (see Luke 17:1). Biblical history abundantly proves that the law of retaliation is a law of God.—J.A.M.
As charity is sister to piety, so is justice related to both. This virtue is enjoined upon us—
I. IN RESPECT TO CONDUCT.
1. In judgment justice should be impartial.
(1) Pity for the poor is, in the abstract, good. Yet must it not lead us to favour them against the right (Exodus 23:3).
(2) Respect for those who enjoy rank and station is not only lawful but laudable. But this must not lead us to favour them in judgment (see James 2:1-4).
(3) The balances of justice are those of the sanctuary. They are true. They must be held by an impartial hand. It must not tremble under the excitement of pity, or of hope, or fear.
2. In dealings justice should be strict.
(1) "Thou shalt not go up and down as a talebearer among thy people." Pedlaring is the vice here interdicted. This is rather the meaning of the word (רכיל) rendered "talebearer." Tramps, who have no settled residence, are oftentimes dishonest, and otherwise so dangerous to society, that every nation has its vagrant acts to control them.
(2) The Jews in their dispersion are much given to pedlaring. It has been to them a necessity owing to the unfriendly laws of the nations with respect to them. How dreadfully their sin has been visited upon their head when their necessities urge them to violate their law!
(3) Pedlars have, amongst other evils, been notorious tale-bearers. By the slanders they have circulated not only has the peace of families been invaded, but communities and nations have been embroiled. The Jews say, "One evil tongue hurts three persons—the speaker, the hearer, and- the person spoken of" (see Proverbs 11:13; Proverbs 20:19).
3. The evils of injustice are serious.
(1) "Neither shalt thou stand against the blood of thy neighbour.' Some are wicked enough of purpose to compass the blood of the innocent by falsehood (Proverbs 2:11, Proverbs 2:12; Ezekiel 22:9).
(2) Slander may have this result without the intention of the slanderer. Who can control a conflagration? (see James 3:6)
II. IN RESPECT TO MOTIVE.
1. "Thou shalt not hate thy brother in thine heart."
(1) He is thy brother. He has a common fatherhood with thee in God. He has a common nature with thee.
(2) He is therefore amenable with thee to the same tribunal. God, the Judge of all, surveys not the conduct only, but also the motive.
2. "Thou shalt in any wise rebuke thy neighbour."
(1) Not to reprove his sin is to hate him. This is eminently so when he hath trespassed against thee. To conceal it in such a case is to nurse wrath against the opportunity for revenge (2 Samuel 13:22). Such conduct is utterly at variance with the spirit of the gospel (see Matthew 18:15; Luke 17:3).
(2) To "suffer sin upon him" is to be an accomplice in his sin. The words may be construed, "nor bear his sin." This suggests that the accomplice, with the guilt, is also obnoxious to the punishment of the sinner. Men wreak their vengeance upon themselves.
(3) In rebuking we should remember that the sinner is our "neighbour." It should be done in a neighbourly way. Thus, as far as practicable, privately. "Charity covereth a multitude of sins," viz. from others, though not from the sinner. And kindly. It is thus more likely to be well received, as it ought to be (see Psalms 141:5; Proverbs 27:5, Proverbs 27:6).
3. The root of justice is love.
(1) "Thou shalt not avenge." This is another way of saying, "Thou shalt forgive." With the spirit of vengeance there can be no peace in the world. God says, "Vengeance is mine ;" he claims the right to avenge because he alone is superior to all retaliation.
(2) "Nor bear any grudge." Thou shalt not insidiously watch the children of thy people. How the Jews violated this law in their malignity against Jesus!.
(3) Contrarywise, "Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself." This is the spirit of the Law as well as of the gospel. The same Holy Spirit of love is the author of both (see Matthew 7:12; Matthew 22:39; Romans 13:9, Rom 13:10; 1 Corinthians 9:19; Galatians 5:14).—J.A.M.
Fidelity to God.
In the verses before us we note the injunction—
I. THAT THE STATUTES OF THE LORD MUST BE KEPT. These require:
1. That there be no unnatural mixtures.
(1) For the examples furnished, sound economic and hygienic reasons may be given (Leviticus 19:19).
(a) Cattle which God ordered "after their kind" (Genesis 1:25), are not to be let to gender with diverse kinds. Hybrids are degenerated creatures; they are monsters; and they are withal unfruitful.
(b) Mingled seed must not be sown in the field. The plants of both kinds in such a case are found to be inferior (Deuteronomy 22:9). The land also is impoverished.
(c) Garments of mingled flax and wool are not to be worn. The mixture would induce electrical disturbances impairing to health.
(2) But the spirit of the law is moral. The people of God are taught by it to avoid everything that would compromise their simplicity and sincerity (2 Corinthians 6:14). They must avoid marriages with the ungodly. In business they must be careful not to join in ungodly partnerships. In friendships they must choose those who are of the household of faith (James 4:4).
2. That atonement be made for sin.
(1) The case (Leviticus 19:20) is that of a slave dishonoured and stilt held in bondage, who, through a subsequent offense, which, if she were free, would merit death (see Deuteronomy 22:24), is now punished with scourging. The degree of guilt is modified by circumstances; and punishment is moderated accordingly (Luke 12:47, Luke 12:48).
(2) But before the man can be forgiven he must confess his sin over a guilt offering. He must bring a ram. This was a well-known type of Christ, without whose atonement, no matter what scourging our sin may have brought upon us, there can be no forgiveness.
3. That the fruit of a tree uncircumcised must not be eaten.
(1) For this law there are good economic reasons. It hurts a young tree to let the fruit ripen upon it; and therefore to circumcise it, or pinch off the blossoms of the first three years, will improve the quality of its fruit. In the fourth year, then, the fruit will be in perfection.
(2) But the spirit of this law also is moral.
(a) Trees are taken as emblems of men (Psalms 1:3; Matthew 3:10; Isaiah 61:3; Jud Isaiah 1:12).
(b) First thoughts and forward desires are vanity, and must be rejected as coming from the flesh (see Genesis 2:11). To let them ripen is to injure the character.
(c) In the fourth year, when the fruit is in perfection, it is consecrated to God as the "firstfruit," which therefore is not always that which comes first in order of time, but the best. The service we render to God after the removal of inordinate desire by converting grace, is our firstfruit, or best service.
(d) As to the fourth year, Christ who is the "Firstfruit" and "Firstborn of every creature," or Anti-type of the firstborn of every kind of creature, appeared amongst us in the fourth millennium of the world. And when he comes again it will be to introduce the fourth dispensation, viz. the millennial. The three dispensations preceding we need scarcely specify to be the Patriarchal, Levitical, and Christian.
(e) In the fifth year and thenceforward, the fruit was sanctified to the use of the owner. The consummation of our felicity will be in that glorious state to succeed the millennium, the "new heavens and new earth wherein dwelleth righteousness." We note—
II. THAT THE CUSTOMS OF THE HEATHEN MUST NOT BE FOLLOWED.
1. Nothing must be eaten with the blood.
(1) At the time when animal food was granted to man the blood was reserved. The reservation corresponded to that of the tree of knowledge of good and evil when vegetable food was granted. In each instance the prohibition was given to common progenitors of the race, and therefore universally obligatory. Noah stood to the "world that now is" in a similar relation to that in which Adam stood to mankind at large.
(2) The Noachian precepts in general were violated by the heathen, and in particular this precept respecting blood. The psalmist refers to the custom amongst the Syrians when he says, "Their drink offerings of blood will I not offer" (Psalms 16:4). And in these words there is a prophetic abhorrence of antichrist, who not only sets aside the Law of God by authorizing the eating of blood, but professes to drink the very blood of Jesus in the cup of the Mass.
(3) The penalties of this abomination are tremendous. As in Eden the eating of the forbidden fruit became death, so in the Noachian precept God requires the blood of the lives of those who will eat flesh with the life thereof which is the blood (Genesis 9:4, Genesis 9:5). Babylon who is also "drunk with the blood of the saints and martyrs of Jesus," is therefore doomed to drink blood, for that she is worthy (Revelation 17:6; Revelation 16:3-6).
2. Superstition must be shunned.
(1) Thus augury is to be discouraged (Leviticus 19:26). This (נחש) nachash, or divining, may have been by fire or serpents. "Nor observe times," nor consult the clouds. The heavens were their gods, and the clouds they naturally regarded as their aspects toward men, as indicating their intentions. The revealed word of the true God is sufficient for all lawful purposes of sacred knowledge.
(2) Distractions for the dead are to be discouraged. The heathen customs of cutting the hair and the flesh evinced the insanity of idolatry. Where the faith of a true religion is we have no need to mourn for the dead as those who have no hope.—J.A.M.
The fear of God.
Of this excellent things are spoken by Solomon. It is the "beginning of knowledge," "hatred to evil," "strong confidence," a "fountain of life," "prolongs days," and "gives riches and honour." So here—
I. IT IS A SOURCE OF PURITY.
1. To the family.
(1) There is a connection between Leviticus 19:29 and Leviticus 19:30. Those who keep God's sabbaths will not profane their daughters either to idolatry or for gain. The fear of God nourished by the one will prevent the other.
(2) In keeping God's sabbaths his sanctuary is reverenced. This furnishes an additional motive to social purity. For the sanctuary, whether it be composed of canvas, or of stone, or of flesh and blood, is the temple of the Holy Ghost. Who then can properly reverence it under one form and desecrate it under another? (see 1 Corinthians 3:16, 1Co 3:17; 1 Corinthians 6:18, 1 Corinthians 6:19; 2 Corinthians 6:16)
2. To the nation. "Lest the land," etc. (Leviticus 19:29).
(1) The family is the root of the nation. All nations extant are sprung from the family of Noah.
(2) Nations are blessed or cursed in their families.
(3) God asserts himself here, "I am Jehovah" (Leviticus 19:30). The character of God is seen in his laws. It is pledged to maintain them.
II. IT ARMS AGAINST THE POWER OF DEVILS.
1. Familiar spirits are more than myths.
(1) Their existence is not here challenged, but admitted (Leviticus 19:31; see also Acts 16:16, where the fact is put beyond question).
(2) Pretenders to the unenviable distinction, as well as persons actually possessed of such devils, are here held up to reprobation.
2. The fear of the Lord will preserve us from them.
(1) Their power is greatest over the "children of disobedience." The desperately wicked are given over by God to Satan (Ephesians 2:2; 1 Timothy 1:20). Such persons may seek wizards, or wise ones.
(2) But godly persons will avoid them. They could not so reflect upon the wisdom and goodness of God that he should leave anything for our advantage to be communicated by wicked spirits. Spiritualism is a devilish delusion. Pride and selfishness will lead men into the snare.
(3) In this prohibition God asserts himself, "I am Jehovah thy Elohim." He is our covenant Friend, who will so fully satisfy our lawful desires that we shall not need recourse to wicked expedients. He will also be our defense against the devices of the devil.
III. IT INSPIRES COURTESY.
1. Respect for age (Leviticus 19:32).
(1) With age there should be the wisdom of experience, and this should be honoured by youth. Caryl well says, "He that wears the silver crown, should be honoured in his capacity as well as he that wears the golden crown."
(2) In respecting age we are to "fear Jehovah Elohim," our covenant God, whose blessings are from father to son and from generation to generation (Genesis 17:7; Isaiah 51:8; Luke 1:50). In the aged mart we should see the representative of the "Ancient of days" (Daniel 7:22).
(3) It is a sad sign of the degeneracy of a nation when the child behaves himself proudly against the ancient (Job 30:1, Job 30:12; Isaiah 3:4, Isaiah 3:5).
2. Civility to strangers.
(1) "Thou shalt not vex," or oppress, "him;" but treat him as though he were a native. "Thou shalt love him as thyself." How tradition obscured this law when the question was prompted, viz. "Who is my neighbour?"
(2) The Hebrew is reminded, in connection with this injunction, how bitterly he suffered in the land of Egypt from the operation of the opposite principle. He is also reminded how odious to God was that cruel oppression from which he brought him out, and therefore how, if he would conciliate his favour, he must act from a different principle.
IV. IT PROMOTES JUSTICE.
1. In judgment.
(1) In the administration of law.
(2) In arbitration.
2. In dealings.
(1) Measures and weights must be true to the standards. These were kept in the tabernacle, and afterwards in the temple (Leviticus 27:25; 1 Chronicles 23:29). Religion and business must not be divorced.
(2) To use false balances, or weights, or measures is worse than open robbery. It is abominable hypocrisy. It is robbing under the very colour of equity.
God claims the authorship of these laws (Leviticus 19:36, Leviticus 19:37).
1. They are worthy of him. He must be infatuated with ignorance or wickedness who would laud the "Roman virtue" in opposition to the "narrow spirit" of the Mosaic code.
2. They were eminently calculated to secure the happiness of the nation at home, and to promote its credit abroad.
3. Let us "observe" the Law of God to understand it, and, understanding, "keep" it. Then happy shall we be.—J.A.M.
HOMILIES BY R.A. REDFORD
Leviticus 19:1, Leviticus 19:2
Ye shall be holy: for I the Lord your God am holy. Holiness.
I. THE UNIVERSAL REQUIREMENT. "Speak unto all the congregation," etc.
1. No exception. "All have sinned."
2. The nature of man requires him to be holy. The relation between man and God. The laws of God not mere arbitrary decrees, but the expression, in positive relation to the freedom of man, of the Eternal Reality of the universe.
3. The universality of revelation is the universality of responsibility. "Their line is gone out in all the earth." "Having not the Law, they are a law unto themselves." What was said. to the Jews was said. to the world. The blessedness of humanity is the realization of the Divine image. A holy God, a holy universe.
II. THE UNIVERSAL MOTIVE. "For I am holy."
1. Dependence upon God the root of religion, not as mere blind dependence, but that of the children on the Father.
2. Gratitude the constant appeal of the heart. The Lord your God, who has done so much for you, requires your holiness.
3. The Divine command is related to and blessed with the Divine provision of grace in a specific system of holiness, in which the people of God are held up. Be holy, for I have prepared for your holiness. We are "created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them" (Ephesians 2:10). Work out salvation, for God worketh in you.
III. THE MEDIATING MINISTRY. "The Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto all the congregation."
1. Here is the gracious method by which our holiness is made possible. The holy God speaks. The holy men of God speak as they are moved by the Holy Ghost. The holy Word speaks, everywhere and always. The holy life is maintained among the holy people.
2. The holiness of humanity will be achieved as a fact through a holy ministry of the people of God to the world at large; of the consecrated few to the many. The hope of a revived Church, in a revived ministry. The spiritual leaders should feel their responsibility, both in teaching and in example.
3. Personal holiness must underlie all other. The purification of temples and services is not the sanctification God requires. He says not, "Be ye punctilious in worship and profuse in ritual;" but "Be ye personally holy, let your holiness be a transcript of mine, which is the holiness of will, of work, of thought, of character.—R.
The holy Law in the holy life.
I. REVERENCE FOR PARENTS. True religion is seen in common, everyday life. If we love God, we love man. Family peace and order is best preserved by appeal to deep, religious motives. Natural affection is not sufficient against fallen human nature. "God says, Thou shalt," must be the support of natural feeling.
II. SABBATH KEEPING. Not as a Jewish regulation, but as both the demand of physical nature and the gracious provision of God for us. "The Son of man is Lord of the sabbath;" therefore, while preserving it from abuse to the oppression of human liberty, sanctifying it for the higher place it occupies in the Christian scheme.
III. ABSOLUTE SEPARATION FROM IDOLATRY and all heathenism. Holy religion.
IV. WILLINGHOOD IN RELIGION. Leviticus 19:5, "At your own will," or "that you may be accepted," i.e; do it as unto God, by his Word, for his glory, in dependence on his grace, with hearty resignation of self to him.
V. PHILANTHROPY AND COMPASSION FOR THE POOR. The true charity is a practical remembrance of the needy and suffering, beginning at home, from our own personal possessions. God is the Lord of all. All are brethren.
VI. HONESTY OF DEALING is only to be maintained by religion. Mere social considerations and political economy will never purify trade and sanctify men's intercourse with one another. Truth is safe in no keeping but that of the sanctuary.
VII. PROFANITY in speech and in act is an evil to be cured by positive religion.
VIII. THE JUSTICE OF THE LIPS is the justice of the heart in expression. The law that is kept sacred within will be honoured without respect of persons, and not by mere negation, but in active benevolence.
IX. REAL NEIGHBOURLINESS IS LOVE OF MAN PROCEEDING FROM LOVE OF GOD. No injury must be done either by word or deed, either by neglect of another's interests or unholy wrath against another or encouraging him to sin by withholding due rebuke. All summed up in the positive precept, "Love thy neighbour as thyself." All the various prescriptions of the Jewish law, both negative and positive, regard the pure and holy development both of individual and national life. Religion is the root, social morality is the blossom or the plant, national prosperity is the precious fruit, of which, if we would preserve the seed and perpetuate the blessing, we must see to it that we find the very inmost center and kernel, which is the love of God as the Father of all, and the love of men as the brethren of the same Divine family.—R.
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Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Leviticus 19". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Christ the King / Proper 29 / Ordinary 34