Exodus Chapter Twenty-two
The people of God should ever be ready to show mildness and mercy, according to the spirit of these laws. We must answer to God, not only for what we do maliciously, but for what we do heedlessly. Therefore, when we have done harm to our neighbour, we should make restitution, though not compelled by law. Let these scriptures lead our souls to remember, that if the grace of God has indeed appeared to us, then it has taught us, and enabled us so to conduct ourselves by its holy power, that denying ungodliness and wordly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world, Titus 2:12. And the grace of God teaches us, that as the Lord is our portion, there is enough in him to satisfy all the desires of our souls.
── Matthew Henry《Concise Commentary on Exodus》
 If a man shall steal an ox, or a sheep, and kill it, or sell it; he shall restore five oxen for an ox, and four sheep for a sheep.
Five oxen for an ox, and four sheep for a sheep — More for an ox than for a sheep, because the owner, besides all the other profit, lost the daily labour of his ox. If we were not able to make restitution, he must be sold for a slave: the court of judgment was to do it, and it is likely the person robbed received the money. Thus with us in some cases, felons are transported to the Plantations, where only, Englishmen know what slavery is. But let it be observed, the sentence is not slavery, but banishment: nor can any Englishman be sold, unless he first indent himself to the captain that carries him over.
 If a thief be found breaking up, and be smitten that he die, there shall no blood be shed for him.
If a thief broke a house in the night, and was killed in the doing it, his blood was upon his own head. But if it were in the day-time that the thief was killed, he that killed him was accountable for it, unless it were in the necessary defence of his own life.
 If the sun be risen upon him, there shall be blood shed for him; for he should make full restitution; if he have nothing, then he shall be sold for his theft.
For he should make full restitution — This the law determined: not that he should die.
 If the theft be certainly found in his hand alive, whether it be ox, or ass, or sheep; he shall restore double.
In his hand alive — Not killed, nor sold, as Exodus 22:1, so that the owner recover it with less charge and trouble.
 If a man shall cause a field or vineyard to be eaten, and shall put in his beast, and shall feed in another man's field; of the best of his own field, and of the best of his own vineyard, shall he make restitution.
He that wilfully put his cattle into his neighbour's field, must make restitution of the best of his own. The Jews hence observed it as a general rule, that restitution must always be made of the best; and that no man should keep any cattle that were likely to trespass upon his neighbour, or do him any damage.
 If fire break out, and catch in thorns, so that the stacks of corn, or the standing corn, or the field, be consumed therewith; he that kindled the fire shall surely make restitution.
He that designed only the burning of thorns might become accessary to the burning of corn, and should not be held guiltless. If the fire did mischief, he that kindled it must answer for it, though it could not be proved that he designed the mischief. Men must suffer for their carelessness, as well as for their malice. It will make us very careful of ourselves, if we consider that we are accountable not only for the hurt we do, but for the hurt we occasion through inadvertency.
 If a man shall deliver unto his neighbour money or stuff to keep, and it be stolen out of the man's house; if the thief be found, let him pay double.
If a man deliver goods, suppose to a carrier to be conveyed, or to a warehouse-keeper to be preserved, or cattle to a farmer to be fed upon a valuable consideration, and a special confidence reposed in the person they are lodged with; in case these goods be stolen or lost, perish or be damaged, if it appear that it was not by any fault of the trustee, the owner must stand to the loss, otherwise he that has been false to his trust must be compelled to make satisfaction.
 And if a man borrow ought of his neighbour, and it be hurt, or die, the owner thereof being not with it, he shall surely make it good.
If a man (suppose) lent his team to his neighbour, if the owner were with it, or were to receive profit for the loan of it, whatever harm befel the cattle the owner must stand to the loss of it: but if the owner were so kind to the borrower as to lend it him gratis, and put such a confidence in him as to trust it from under his own eye, then, if any harm happened, the borrower must make it good. Learn hence to be very careful not to abuse any thing that is lent to us; it is not only unjust but base and disingenuous, we should much rather chuse to lose ourselves, than that any should sustain loss by their kindness to us.
 If her father utterly refuse to give her unto him, he shall pay money according to the dowry of virgins.
If the father refused, he shall pay money — This shews how ill a thing it is, and by no means to be allowed, that children should marry without their parents consent: even here where the divine law appointed the marriage, both as a punishment to him that had done wrong, and a recompence to her that had suffered wrong, yet there was an express reservation for the father's power; if he denied his consent, it must be no marriage.
 Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.
Witchcraft not only gives that honour to the devil which is due to God alone, but bids defiance to the divine providence, wages war with God's government, puts his work into the devil's hand expecting him to do good and evil. By our law, consulting, covenanting with, invocating or employing any evil spirit to any intent whatever, and exercising any enchantment, charm, or sorcery, whereby hurt shall be done to any person, is made felony, without benefit of clergy; also pretending to tell where goods lost or stolen may be found, is an iniquity punishable by the judge, and the second offence with death. This was the case in former times. But we are wiser than our fore-fathers. We believe, no witch ever did live! At least, not for these thousand years.
 Thou shalt neither vex a stranger, nor oppress him: for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt.
A stranger must not be abused, not wronged in judgment by the magistrates, not imposed upon in contracts, nor any advantage taken of his ignorance or necessity, no, nor must he be taunted, or upbraided with his being a stranger; for all these were vexations.
For ye were strangers in Egypt — And knew what it was to be vexed and oppressed there. Those that have themselves been in poverty and distress, if Providence enrich and enlarge them, ought to shew a particular tenderness towards those that are now in such circumstances as they were in formerly, now doing to them as they then wished to be done by.
 Ye shall not afflict any widow, or fatherless child.
Ye shall not afflict the widow or fatherless child — That is, ye shall comfort and assist them, and be ready upon all occasions to shew them kindness. In making just demands from them, their condition must be considered who have lost those that should protect them: they are supposed to be unversed in business, destitute of advice, timorous, and of a tender spirit; and therefore must be treated with kindness and compassion, and no advantage taken against them, nor any hardship put upon them, which a husband or a father would have sheltered them from.
 If thou lend money to any of my people that is poor by thee, thou shalt not be to him as an usurer, neither shalt thou lay upon him usury.
If thou lend — (1.) They must not receive use for money from any that borrowed for necessity. And such provision the law made for the preserving estates to their families by the year of Jubilee, that a people who had little concern in trade could not be supposed to borrow money but for necessity; therefore it was generally forbidden among themselves; but to a stranger they were allowed to lend upon usury. This law therefore in the strictness of it seems to have been peculiar to the Jewish state; but in the equity of it, it obligeth us to shew mercy to those we have advantage against, and to be content to share with those we lend to in loss as well as profit, if Providence cross them: and upon this condition it seems as lawful to receive interest for my money, which another takes pains with, and improves, as it is to receive rent for my land, which another takes pains with, and improves, for his own use. (2.) They must not take a poor man's bed-clothes in pawn; but if they did, must restore them by bed-time.
 Thou shalt not revile the gods, nor curse the ruler of thy people.
Thou shalt not revile the gods — That is, the judges and magistrates. Princes and magistrates are our fathers, whom the fifth commandment obligeth us to honour, and forbids us to revile. St. Paul applies this law to himself, and owns that he ought not to speak evil of the ruler of his people, no, not though he was then his most unrighteous persecutor, Acts 23:5.
 Thou shalt not delay to offer the first of thy ripe fruits, and of thy liquors: the firstborn of thy sons shalt thou give unto me.
The first-born of thy sons shalt thou give unto me — And much more reason have we to give ourselves and all we have to God, who spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all. The first ripe of their corn they must not delay to offer; there is danger if we delay our duty, lest we wholly omit it; and by slipping the first opportunity in expectation of another, we suffer Satan to cheat us of all our time.
 And ye shall be holy men unto me: neither shall ye eat any flesh that is torn of beasts in the field; ye shall cast it to the dogs.
Ye shall be holy unto me — And one mark of that honourable distinction is appointed in their diet, which was, that they should not eat any flesh that was torn of beasts - Both because the blood was not duly taken out of it, and because the clean beast was ceremonially defiled, by the touch of the unclean.
── John Wesley《Explanatory Notes on Exodus》
22 Chapter 22
If a man steal.
The law of robbery
God made provision not only for the acquisition of property, but for its security. Hence this law, which respects--
I. Theft (Exodus 22:1-4). As the wealth of an Israelite consisted mainly in flocks and herds, the depredations of the thief were directed for the most part against them.
II. Housebreaking (Exodus 22:2-3). Learn--
1. That God’s providence extends to property as well as persons. Both are His gift.
2. That those who endeavour to thwart that providence play a losing game.
3. That the recognition of that providence is not inconsistent with, but demands the use of, means. It is an abuse and perversion of it to tamely submit to wrong when the legitimate prevention of wrong is within our reach.
4. That providence protects even the life of the wrong-doer, and no man must wantonly interfere with that protection. (J. W. Burn.)
Actual and virtual criminality
I. Men must suffer for crime.
II. Men must suffer, unavenged, the extreme consequences of criminal conduct.
III. Men must learn, by degrees of suffering, that there are degrees of criminality.
IV. Men must learn that property has rights.
V. Men must learn to consider the welfare of their neighbours. (W. Burrows, B. A.)
How to get at a thief
This is the only way of getting at a thief. You cannot reason with him. He dismissed his reason before he committed his felony. He had first to strangle his reason; he committed murder in the sanctuary of his soul before he committed theft in the fields of his neighbour. What, then, is to be done with him? “He must be made to feel the folly of theft; he must be made to feel that theft is a bad investment; he must be made to feel that he has played the fool even in the excess of his cleverness. The thief would be made to know what dishonesty is, when for the one ox he must pay five in its place. He could have evaded an argument; he could have doubled upon a covenant, and have quibbled about the ambiguity of its terms; but he could not shuffle out of this four-square arithmetical arrangement. Five oxen for an ox, four sheep for a sheep; and by the time the thief had played at that game two or three days, he would have put on the garb, at least, of an honest man! (J. Parker, D. D.)
A coal merchant in one of our American cities was approached by a minister in regard to the salvation of his soul. The merchant declared it an impossibility for him ever to become a Christian. He gave as a reason his mode of business. For a long term of years, he had, according to a too general custom, given short weight. He had thus grown rich, and now felt the inconsistency of seeking religion without restitution. This was impossible: many of his customers were dead, others beyond his knowledge. The thought of the poor who had paid for coal they had never received rested heavily on him. He asked the minister if he thought the substitution of a gift to the poor would be acceptable to God. The minister advised him to try it. A large donation, more than equal in amount to his unjust gains, was made, and the merchant sought God in earnest. He was happily converted, and is to-day a prominent member of the church.
As a gentleman in London entered his house, he found a well-dressed female sitting on the stairs, who asked pardon for the liberty she had taken, saying that, hearing the alarm of a mad dog, she had taken refuge in his house. On hearing her story, he gave her some refreshment; and she left, thanking him for his civility. In the evening his lady missed her gold watch; and it was concluded the female was the thief. Fifteen years afterwards, the watch was returned, with a note from this woman, saying the gospel had changed her heart, and she desired to return the watch to its rightful owner.
What a shame then is this to Christians, who minding nothing less than restitution, make ex rapina holocaustum: out of a world of ill-gotten goods, they cull out some small fragments to erect some poor hospital; having cheated thousands, build alms-houses for some few, and then set a glorious inscription in front, whereas this one word, Aceldama, would be far more proper. (J. Spencer.)
Compensation for damage
A man in New Jersey told me the following circumstances respecting himself and one of his neighbours. “I once owned a large flock of hens. I generally kept them shut up. But one spring I concluded to let them run in my yard, after I had clipped their wings so that they could not fly. One day, when I came home to dinner, I learned that one of my neighbours had been there full of wrath, to let me know that my hens had been in his garden, and that he had killed several of them, and thrown them over into my yard. I determined at once to be revenged. I sat down and ate my dinner as calmly as I could. By the time I had finished I thought that perhaps it was not best to fight with my neighbour about hens, and thereby make him my bitter enemy. I concluded to try another way, being sure that it would be better. After dinner, I went to my neighbour’s. He was in his garden. I went out and found him in pursuit of one of my hens with a club, trying to kill it. I accosted him. He turned upon me, his face inflamed with wrath, and broke out in a great fury, ‘You have abused me. I will kill all your hens, if I can get them. I never was so abused. My garden is ruined.’ ‘I am sorry for it,’ said I: ‘I did not wish to injure you; and now see that I have made a great mistake in letting out my hens. I ask your forgiveness, and am willing to pay you six times the damage.’ The man seemed confounded. He did not know what to make of it. He looked up to the sky, then down at the earth, then at his neighbour, then at his club, then at the poor hen he had been pursuing, and said nothing. ‘Tell me now,’ said I, ’what is the damage and I will pay you six-fold; and my hens shall trouble you no more. I will leave it entirely for you to say what I shall do. I cannot afford to lose the love and goodwill of my neighbours, and quarrel with them, for hens or anything else.’ ‘I am a great fool!’ said my neighbour; ‘the damage is not worth talking about; and I have more need to compensate you than you me, and to ask your forgiveness than you mine.’” (Mrs. Child’s Letters from New York.)
If fire break out.
Responsibility for actions
In the twenty-second chapter of Exodus the rights of property are defended, and the text before us may be considered as the law of fire insurance under the Mosaic dispensation. The law was a constant lesson to the people on their vast responsibility for the consequences of their conduct. God’s law thus showed that Omnipotence identified itself with every just claim, and would insist on compensation for every wrong inflicted.
I. This ancient law brings into view the general doctrine of liability for the consequences of our actions and neglect. Nothing is more difficult than to raise in most men’s minds a vivid sense of the widespreading results of their own character and conduct. They readily acknowledge the responsibility of others, but not their own. Men never take so modest a view of their own individuality, as when the object is to set forth the insignificance of their own contribution to “the evil that is in the world.” But such calculations are founded on a gross delusion. The most commonplace sinner has a power of mischief in him which might sadden the blessed as they look at it.
II. The dormant sense of liability for the consequences of our conduct ought surely to be awakened by considering how we hold other men responsible in common life.
II. The right conception of judgment to come is the bringing to the consciousness of the finite the knowledge of the infinite in this regard. “This, hast thou done.” He who subverts the faith or the conscience of one soul subverts in effect the faith and conscience of all souls, and “their blood will I require at the watchman’s hand.”
IV. These considerations should impress the mind with a new sense of the infinite bearings of our thoughts, words, and actions; and should make us “swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath.” Let to-day be the day of salvation by becoming the day of judgment, for “if we would judge ourselves, we should not be condemned with the world.” (E. White.)
The penalty of carelessness
1. To be careful of your neighbour’s material, intellectual, and spiritual interests, and do not damage them by a careless word or action.
2. In order that these interests may not be invaded, put a strong check on those loose and vagrant so-called interests of your own.
3. In order to prevent any possibility of the transgression of these interests, see that those passions of avarice, envy, and revenge which cause so much mischief in the world, are quenched.
4. If these interests are invaded, render a frank, manly, and ample restitution.
No trifling with bread
This is right. The Bible really builds upon granite bases; there is nothing merely fanciful in this legislation. This is sound common-sense, and common-sense in the long run wins the esteem and confidence of the world. No man may trifle with bread. Bad enough to burn down any kind of property; but to consume stacks of corn is to commit murder with both hands; to light the standing corn when it waves in the fields is to thrust a knife, not into one heart, but into the very life of society. How can restitution be made? It cannot be made. You cannot replace corn; money bears no relation to corn; corn is not an arithmetical quantity. Destroyed bread is destroyed life. Who destroys bread? He who makes poison of it; he who turns it into a drink that takes away the reason and deposes the conscience of men. He who holds back the bread-stuff until the time of famine that he may increase his own riches by an enhanced market value is not a political economist, unless, under such circumstances, a political economist is a heartless murderer. And if it is wicked to set fire to corn, is it a light or frivolous matter to set fire to convictions, faiths--the bread-stuff of the soul? Is he guiltless who takes away the bread of life, the bread sent down from heaven? Is he a pardonable incendiary who burns down the altar which was a stairway to the light, or reduces to ashes the Church which was a refuge in the day of storm? (J. Parker, D. D.)
Who kindled the fire
This statute had a peculiar necessity in such a hot, dry country as Palestine, where there was a peculiar danger from accidental conflagrations. If a man burned over his stubble field, it was necessary, before the dry grass was lighted, to see that the wind was in the right quarter, and every precaution taken that the flames should not kindle upon the property of a neighbour. The sound principle that underlies this law is that men must suffer for the evil they do through thoughtless recklessness, as well as for what they do with malicious intent.
1. If I invite a group of young men in my house to surround a card-table, I may simply design to furnish them an hour’s amusement. But perhaps a lust for gambling may lie latent in some young man’s breast, and I may quicken it into life by my offer of a temptation. There is fire in that pack of cards. And I deliberately place that fire amid the inflammable passions of that youthful breast. On me rest the consequences of that act, as well as upon him whom I lead into temptation. The motive does not alter the result by one iota.
2. Among social virtues none is more popular than that of hospitality. When bountifully practised toward the needy, it rises to the dignity of a Christian grace. And ordinary hospitalities may be set to the credit of a generous spirit. But here is the master or mistress of a house who spread their table with a lavish provision for the entertainment of their evening guests. Among the abundant viands of that table the lady of the house places the choicest brands of Madeira wine, and on a side-board she sets out a huge bowl of inviting punch. And among the invited guests of the evening comes a man who has promised the wife of his early love that be will never again yield to his awful appetite, and turn their sweet home into a hell. He sees the tempter in that accursed punch-bowl, and is pressed very courteously to “take a glass.” The fire “catches in the dry thorns” in an instant. He drinks. He goes reeling into his own door that night, and his whole household is in a flame of excitement and terror, and agony and shame. Now, who kindled that fire? Let her who put the bottle to her neighbour’s lips make answer.
3. The artillery of this Divine law against incendiarism has a wide range. It is pointed against that social nuisance, the slanderer. “Behold how great a matter his little fire kindleth.” The utterance of evil reports may be well likened to playing with fire.
4. This law against incendiarism applies to every utterance of spiritual error and infidelity. He who utters a devilish suggestion to corrupt the innocence of chastity sets fire to passion, and becomes the incendiary of a soul. He who scatters a pernicious literature comes under the same condemnation. He who sows scepticism, by tongue or pen, sets fire to the “standing corn” of righteous opinion. Beware how you play with the sparks of falsehood. Beware how you play with the fire of wicked suggestion, that may kindle a blaze of sin in another’s heart. (T. L. Cuyler, D. D.)
If a man shall deliver unto his neighbour money or stuff to keep.
The law of trusts
1. God’s law provides strictly to keep men faithful to their trusts by men.
2. Theft may abuse and frustrate the trust of the most faithful men.
3. Such theft discovered is punished with double restitution by God.
4. In theft undiscovered and upon suspicion, trustees are bound to clear themselves by oath.
5. A right oath as it terminates upon God, so ought in some cases to be taken before magistrates (Exodus 22:8).
6. In doubtful cases about trust, civil powers are enabled to try men, and judge by oath.
7. The falsifier of trust convicted must restore double (Exodus 22:9).
8. Living stuff trusted to any and dying, none knowing how, the trustee’s oath must clear him (Exodus 22:10-11).
9. Living goods trusted to keeping upon consideration if stolen, must be made good by the keeper (Exodus 22:12).
10. No law binds men to restore what Providence takes away from men by wild beasts (Exodus 22:13). (G. Hughes, B. D.)
If a man borrow.
1. God in His law provideth against hurting our neighbour’s goods by borrowing.
2. Hurt and death may come to things borrowed without the sin of the borrower.
3. In case of the borrower’s faultlessness in hurt, no restitution doth God award.
4. In case of wilful hurt and spoil the borrower by God’s law must make it good.
5. Things wilfully hurt which are borrowed by hire must be satisfied by God’s law.
6. Perishing of such in a lawful use of them, God’s law accounts satisfied by their hire (Exodus 22:14-15). (G. Hughes, B. D.)
1. On the one hand--
2. On the other hand--
If a man entice a maid.
1. Providence may suffer men through strength of lust to entice and defile virgins.
2. Such enticing and polluting is grievous sin against God and man abhorred of the Lord.
3. In case of such sin God hath judged recompense to men, as He executeth vengeance for Himself. (G. Hughes, B. D.)
Want of wariness
Flamingoes are very shy and timid birds, and shun all attempts of man to approach them; the vicinity of animals, however, they disregard. Any one who is acquainted with this fact can take advantage of it so as to effect the slaughter of these beautiful animals by dressing himself up in the skin of a horse or an ox. Thus disguised, the sportsman may get close to them and shoot them down at his ease. So long as their enemy is invisible they still remain immovable, the noise of the gun only stupefying them, so that they refuse to leave, although their companions are dropping down dead around them. They are taken in by appearances; and so long as the man is disguised they accept him as the creature which he pretends to be, even though his actions clearly indicate that he is something else. Shy, beautiful, and harmless, the unfortunate bird meets destruction simply for want of wariness. Many a lovely human being with the like qualities has met her doom for want of that same trait. (Scientific Illustrations.)
Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.
The Bible regards witchcraft--
3. As sometimes trickery and imposture (Isaiah 8:19), “that peep and mutter” (probably ventriloquise. See art. Pythoness, Smith’s Dic. Bible).
4. As filthy defilement (Leviticus 19:31).
5. As deserving death (Leviticus 20:6. cf. text).
6. As one of the crimes for which the Canaanites were destroyed.
7. As inconsistent with a trust in God (Isaiah 8:19).
8. As frustrated by God (Isaiah 44:25).
9. As a power from which the godly have nothing to fear, for there is no solitary prayer in the whole Bible to be protected from its enchantments, and no thanksgiving for deliverance from them. In this country we only meet with it now in the form of spiritualism, and as such--
I. It is dangerous.
1. Because it destroys all faith in the person and providence of God, and hence imperils the hopes, aspirations, and safety of the soul.
2. Because it tends to debase man’s moral standards, and to obliterate the fact of sin.
3. Because its direct aim is to subvert Christianity, and to abolish the Word of God.
4. Because it comes before the imagination and the affections with plausible appeals.
II. It shuns the light.
1. Its performances, like the old witchcraft, take place in the dark, and under circumstances the force of which requires the exertions of the strongest will. On the contrary, the grand facts of both Old and New Testaments were “not done in a corner,” but in the light of day.
2. It is chary of the open exhibition of its credentials to the critic and the unbeliever; this privilege is reserved for those who first believe in the magician and in his powers. The miracles and other credentials of the Bible--court scrutiny--were mainly for the conviction of those who disbelieved.
3. And why does it shun the light? For the old reason (John 3:19-21).
III. It is unlawful..
1. Because expressly forbidden in the Word of God. Christ and His apostles meet the spirits not in darkened cabinets but with open exorcism.
2. Because of its avowed mission to pry into and traffic with the unrevealed matters of the spirit-world. God has emphatically set His face against this (Deuteronomy 29:29).
3. Because it is “another gospel” (Galatians 1:8).
IV. It is partly gross imposture.
1. Spiritual realities are solemn and imposing, and worthy in every way of the high source from which they emanate. When God communicated to the prophets and apostles we do not hear that it was on dancing tables, illegible inscriptions on slates, or through books made luminous by phosphoric oil. We do not hear of angels or spirits, whether in Old Testament or New, pulling men’s hair, scattering sweetmeats, rapping on walls, hurling bed pillows, appearing in regimentals, or handling hot coals.
2. Spiritual realities in the Bible were never discovered to be small tricks.
3. Spiritual realities in the Bible have never been explained by natural phenomena as have much of the legerdemain of modem magic.
V. It is uniformly useless.
1. For harm (Isaiah 8:19), when there is a firm trust in God.
2. For good (Luke 16:27-31), when there is no such trust. (J. W. Burn.)
Neither vex a stranger.
The spirit of the Hebrew law was broader than race, or country, or kindred. Among the ancients generally a foreigner had no rights in any country but his own. In some languages the very word “stranger” was synonymous with enemy. Against these race hatreds Moses set up this command. Not only were foreigners to be tolerated; they were to receive the fullest protection (see Leviticus 24:22). (H. M. Field, D. D.)
This was not only a humane law; but it was a sound policy. Do not wrong a stranger; remember ye were strangers. Do not oppress a stranger; remember ye were oppressed. Therefore do unto all men as you would they should do to you. Let strangers be well treated among you, and many will come among you, and the strength of your country will be increased. If refugees of this kind be treated well, they will become proselytes to your religion, and thus their souls may be saved. (A. Clarke, D. D.)
She was a stranger
A missionary was requested to go out to a new settlement to address a Sabbath-school. He had preached in the morning, and was wearied and felt quite unfitted for the task, but reluctantly consented to go. When he found himself at the spot, he looked round the assembly with great misgivings, not knowing what to say to them. He noticed a little girl, shabbily dressed and barefooted, shrinking in a corner, her little sunburnt face buried in her hands, the tears trickling between her small brown fingers, and sobbing as if her heart would break. Soon, however, another little girl, about eleven years old, got up and went to her, whispered kindly to her, and taking her by the hand, led her toward a brook, then seated her on a log, and kneeling beside her she took off her ragged sun bonnet, and dipping her hand in the water, bathed her hot eyes and tear-stained face, and smoothed her tangled hair, talking in a cheery manner all the while. The little one brightened up, the tears all went, and smiles came creeping around the rosy mouth. The missionary stepped forward and said: “Is that your little sister, my dear?” “No, sir,” answered the noble child, with tender, earnest eyes, “I have no sister, sir.” “Oh, one of the neighbours’ children,” replied the missionary; “a little school-mate, perhaps?” “No, sir; she is a stranger. I do not know where she came from; I never saw her before.” “Then how came you to take her out and have such a care for her if you do not know her?” “Because she was a stranger, sir, and seemed all alone, and needed somebody to be kind to her.” “Ah,” said the missionary to himself, “here is a text for me to preach from--’Because she was a stranger, and seemed all alone, and needed somebody to be kind to her.’” The words came to him, “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these My brethren, ye have done it unto Me.” So, taking the little girls by the hand, he went back to the school-room and told the people the simple story; then spoke of the great love that all should bear to one another, even as the dear Saviour sought out those who were humble and of low estate, making them His peculiar care. The missionary forgot his weariness, and felt that God had put good word in his mouth.
Ye shall not afflict any widow, or fatherless child.
God’s care for the widow and fatherless
I. That widows and orphans have claims upon our regard.
1. They have claims upon our sympathy. Their stay, comfort, defence is gone. What state can be more sorrowful and helpless!
2. They have claims upon our protection and help. Our resources are only held in stewardship for God’s purposes, and to what better purpose could they be applied, both as regards its intrinsic merits and the Divine will concerning it.
II. That widows and orphans have special privileges.
1. God has legislated for them. Not in the dry and hard manner in which penal and ceremonial codes are obliged to be enacted, but in a way which throws them on the broad and better principles of humanity and love.
2. God stands in a peculiar relation to them (Psalms 68:5). In the absence of their natural guardians He takes them under His wing.
III. That any oppression of the widow and fatherless will be rigorously punished (Exodus 22:24).
1. The oppressor is left to the righteous judgment of God, who will surely avenge His own (Luke 18:7).
2. The oppressor is left to the terrible retribution of a hard and cruel heart, which inflicts as much punishment on the subject as on the object.
3. The oppressor is left to the certain contempt and execration of his fellow-men.
Husbands and fathers, learn--
1. To provide for the wants of those whom you may leave behind to mourn your loss.
2. Then, having made a proper use of means, leave them with calm faith in the power and goodness of their “Father in heaven.”
3. Help the widow and the orphan, as your wife may be left a widow and your children fatherless. (J. W. Burn.)
Verse 25-27. Any of My people that is poor.
Judgment on an usurer
There was once in this church a poor widow, and she wanted £20 to begin a small shop. Having no friends, she came to me, her minister; and I happened to know a man--not of this church--who could advance the money to the poor widow. So we went to this man--the widow and I--and the man said he would be happy to help the widow. And he drew out a bill for £20, and the widow signed it, and I signed it too. Then he put the signed paper in his desk, and took out the money and gave it to the widow. But the widow, counting it, said, “Sir, there is only £15 here.” “It is all right,” said the man; “that is the interest I charge.” And as we had no redress, we came away. But the widow prospered. And she brought the £20 to me, and I took it myself to the office of the man who lent it, and I said to him, “Sir, there is the f20 from the widow.” And he said, “Here is the paper you signed; and if you know any other poor widow, I will be happy to help her in the same way.” I said to him, “You help the widow! Sir, you have robbed this widow, and you will be damned!” And, my friends, I kept my eye on that man. Before six months were over God smote him, and he died. (Wm. Anderson, D. D.)
Regard for the poor and needy
While General Grant was President of the United States, he was at one time the guest of Marshall Jewell, at Hartford, Conn. At a reception tendered him by the Governor, where all the prominent men of the State were gathered, a roughly-pencilled note, in a common envelope, signed by a woman, was handed him. It was put into his hands by a young politician, who thought it a good joke that “an old woman in tatters” should presume to intrude upon the President at such a time. “You need not bother about her; I sent her away--told her you were not here to be bored,” the young man said to Grant. The President’s answer much surprised the politician. “Where is this woman; where can I find her?” he inquired, hurrying from the room. The letter he held in his hand, written poorly in pencil, told a sorrowful story. It said in substance: “My son fought in your army, and he was killed by rebel bullets while fighting for you. Before he died he wrote me a letter which told how noble a man you were, and said you would look out for his mother. I am poor, and I haven’t had money or influence to get anybody interested in me to get a pension. Dear General, will you please help me for my dead boy’s sake?” Sadly the woman had turned away from the mansion, her last hope dead. A servant pointed her out to President Grant, walking slowly up the street. The old soldier overtook her quickly. She was weeping, and turned towards him a puzzled face as he stopped her and stood bareheaded in the moonlight beside her. The few words the great, kind man spoke turned her tears into laughter, her sorrow into joy. The pension before refused her came to her speedily, and her last days were spent in comfort. (Christian Age.)
Take care of the poor
“Take care of the poor, and the Lord will take care of you,” was the wise counsel of a bishop to a candidate for ordination.
The profit of helping the poor
The welfare of the lowest is bound up with that of the highest, so that the “injury done to the meanest subject is,” as Solon said, “an insult upon the whole constitution,” and a blow at the prosperity of all. Sir Robert Peel gave his daughter, on her birthday, a splendid riding-habit, and rode by her side for an airing in the park, his heart swelling with pride that be could call such a maiden daughter! At once, however, she fell sick of the most malignant type of typhus fever, and despite all medical skill and parental care died. A careful inquiry as to the source of the germs of the fatal disease revealed the fact that the poor seamstress, who had embroidered that robe in a wretched attic, had been compelled to use it to cover her husband when he shivered with the chills of the deadly fever. And from that garret of poverty the infection of death passed into the mansion of the Premier. Society has her own ways of avenging our neglect of her poorest and neediest children. In one bundle are we all bound up, for weal or woe. We give, though we do not always know it, to save ourselves, not alone to save others. Ignorance and idleness are handmaids of vice, as intelligence and industry are handmaids of virtue. God sees that no one is so much profited as ourselves by those gifts to His poor, which are corrective of self-indulgence, expansive of our noblest sympathies, educative of our highest nature, and which, while they help to lift humanity to a higher level, as surely lift ourselves with the rest. (Christian Age.)
I have no legacy to leave my children but pious poverty, God’s blessing, and a father’s prayers. (R. Prideaux.)
The ruler of thy people.
The Divine right of magistrates to respect
II. That magistrates must re treated with respect, both their persons and their decisions (Joshua 1:16-18).
1. Because they administer that which, when it is law at all, is based on the will and authority of God (Romans 13:2).
2. Because they administer that which is the bulwark of national stability and personal safety (Romans 13:3).
III. That magistrates must receive respect, irrespective of the effect of their decision (Proverbs 17:26).
1. Because they are but the servants of the law.
2. Because if through human infirmities, justice should occasionally miscarry, it is better to suffer than to bring the law into disrepute (Proverbs 24:21-22).
1. Fear will warp the judgment.
2. Fear will divert the course of justice.
VI. That disrespect to magistrates is severely condemned (Jude 1:8). Let magistrates, all who are in authority and all who administer law whether civil or domestic, whether in law courts, homes, or houses of business, remember--
1. That they are responsible to God (2 Samuel 23:3). Let them see
2. That they are responsible to man. Upon their decisions depend the well-being of the citizen, and the stability of the realm.
3. That their title to sympathy and veneration is recognized by the people at large. (J. W. Burn.)
First fruits to God
God asks for nothing that we have not to give. He asks that we will give to Him of what He has given to us, that we will put to its true and highest use what He for that end has bestowed. We cannot give fruit that we do not bear, or that is green and unripe, but only that which is fresh and mature, waiting to be gathered in.
I. God asks for the first ripe fruits of our education. The wise man’s education is never finished. To cease to learn is to cease to grow; to cease to grow is to decay in force and faculty. Yet there is a special sense in which education ceases. The youth leaves school, the scholar the university, the apprentice is “out of his time.” Then we have to think and act for ourselves, and use the knowledge we have acquired. We have to face the great questions that concern man’s life and destiny. Then God asks from us the first ripe fruits of our education in the use of our intelligence and feeling and conscience. He asks us to face these great questions; to think soberly and ponder the path of our feet.
II. God asks from us the first ripe fruits of our toil. The Jews gave this in kind--from flock, vineyard, or field. We give an equivalent--money. The first money earned is the first-fruits of toil. From that lay by something for God.
III. God asks from us the first ripe fruits of our conversion. I have often seen a child so overcome with an unexpected gift that he has forgotten to say “Thank you,” but surely Christ does not expect such forgetfulness from those whom He has snatched from the burning.
IV. Then there are some first-fruits of experience which God commands us to offer to Him. “I have learned by experience” is the confession sometimes of self-convicted folly, sometimes of grateful wonder. How near have we been to spiritual death! How well hidden the pitfalls under our feet! How strong the arms that have held us up! How wonderful the consolations! How sweet the grace of the Divine! So experience enriches the soil in which we are planted to produce a lustier and richer growth. Now to offer to God the first ripe fruits of experience is surely to learn and profit by its lessons. It is to remember; to take warning; to know our own selves--our peculiar weaknesses and danger; it is to trust God more and self less; to look for larger answers to prayer, and more wonderful vindications of faith.
V. Does not God want those lovely and precious fruits which grow on the household vine? The only true dedication of children to God is that Christian nurture which leads to their dedicating themselves. (R. B. Brindley.)
──《The Biblical Illustrator》