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Some words contain a history in themselves, and are the monuments of great movements of thought and life. Such a word is “home.” With something like a sacramental sacredness it enshrines a deep and precious meaning and a history. That the English-speaking people and their congeners alone should have this word, indicates that there are certain peculiar domestic and social traits of character belonging to them. When we study their history we find that from the very first they have been distinguished, as Tacitus tells us, by the manly and womanly virtues of fidelity and chastity; by the faithful devotion of wife to husband and husband to wife; by the recognised headship and guardianship of the married man as indicated in the old word “husband,” and the domestic dignity and function of the married woman as indicated in the old word “wife,” betokening the presence of those home-making, home-keeping, home-loving qualities of mind and heart which have always belonged to this sturdy race. And when upon these qualities the vitalising, sanctifying influence of Christianity was brought to bear, the outcome has been the building up of the noblest of all the institutions of the Christian life. No man is poor, no matter what storms of ill-fortune have beaten upon him, who can still find refuge beneath its sacred shelter; and no man is rich, no matter how splendid his fortune or his lot, who cannot claim some spot of earth as his home. My purpose, however, is neither philological nor ethnological; it is rather to speak of the function of Christianity in the home. It is upon God’s special enactment that this great institution rests. Its function is to carry out His purposes in training and ennobling men to do His will. Its perfection is the reflection of His love in the majestic order of His Godhead with fatherhood, sonship, life; its beatitude is the maintenance on earth of the peace and purity of heaven. Taking the Christian home as we know it, then, there are certain broad features of its economy, the mention of which will serve to bring out its character.
I. The first of these is its unity of orderly administration, in the supreme headship of one man, the husband; the supreme dignity of one woman, the wife; the providence of parental love in the nurture of children, and the natural piety of children in their reverence and obedience to their parents.
1. First, with reference to the discipline of the home, it is to be remembered that there is a home discipline to which all the members thereof are subject--the father and mother not less than the children. The husband and father, the wife and mother, while they are the source of authority in the home, are themselves under the authority of the God and Father of all, of whose great economy they are the earthly representatives.
2. The only basis, for instance, on which the headship of the husband can securely rest is in its conformity to the headship of Christ over His Church. From Christ he learns that all his true authority is derived from self-surrender, all his real power from self-sacrifice. Nor is the wife, the husband’s consort, exempt from this discipline of self-sacrificing love. Such service, indeed, the fond mother heart of woman is quick to render, and therein lies the hiding of her power. But this service is due not to children only, but to the husband as well. And this is to be shown not only in those gentle ministries of the home which every good wife is glad to render, and in the rendering of which her true queenship lies, but it is to be shown likewise in the reverence which she ought always to feel towards the husband. Whensoever the wife acts on this principle, she calls out what is noblest in her husband. To such parental authority I need not say that children ought to be altogether obedient in all things. Obedience is the crown and grace of childhood, without which no child can learn to be strong and great; without which no child can be lovable or lovely.
II. In the next place, let me speak of three dangers that beset the Christian home--care, worldliness, and passion.
1. First, care. The lives of all earnest men are full of care. Men have to toil and struggle to keep their place while the busy world is moving. There is one thing that can be done, however, and that is, we can keep care away from the sacred precincts of the home.
2. Even more fatal to the peace and safety of the home is worldliness--the worldliness of the husband which takes him away from his home in the calm evenings. But even worse is the worldliness of the wife. No woman is fit to be the queen she ought to be in her own household who does not, no matter what her station may be, find her chief pleasure and count her chief delight in the employments and endearments of her home.
3. And lastly, passion. Not to speak of its darker aspects--the fretful, peevish, ungovernable temper, the hasty word, the harsh unloving look, the little unkindnesses--oh, how often do these break up the peace, and finally desolate the home! Therefore there is need of prayer in the home. Therefore there is need that the fire of sacrifice should be always kept burning on its altars. But when this is so, then we see the blessedness of a Christian home. Beneath its shelter alone can the care-worn toiler and thinker lay his heavy burden down; in its calm haven alone can the weary or storm-tossed spirit find rest. (Bp. S. S. Harris.)
No man shall take the nether or the upper millstone to pledge.
The law respecting millstones
The Jewish law was important to that people as their national code. Its enactments were wisely adapted to their condition and the land they inhabited, and were calculated to secure their prosperity. But these considerations alone would not have justified its adoption in the Word of God. The Divine mind aims at higher objects than those which are included in this world’s prosperity. Who can imagine, with a worthy idea of infinite wisdom, the laws of this and the two foregoing chapters to have come from God, unless besides the letter in which they served the Jews, they have some deeper import by which they can give wisdom to Christians? Before proceeding further with the subject before us, let me remind you of that most important fact, which is equally true in vegetable growth and in the growth of religion, that all progress is gradual. It is “first the blade, then the ear, and then the full corn in the ear.” But corn, before it is fit for human food, must be brought to the mill and ground; and this operation is more especially connected with the subject before us.
I. The use of grinding is two fold: first, the separation of the husk and less nutritious portion from the richer interior substance of the corn; and secondly, the trituration and pulverising, which reduces the grain to flour and thus presents it fully prepared for the sustentation of man. Both these essential services are done by the mill. In ancient times each family had its own mill, and the flour for daily use was ground each day. The mill was composed of two circular flat stones; one the upper, the other the lower. In the upper one there was a hole, in which a wooden handle was fixed, by which it was made to go round. The persons grinding sat to their work, and frequently when women did it there would be two, and one passed the handle round to the other, and so the work went on. To this our blessed Lord alludes when He says, at the end of the Church, meant by the end of the age, or world: “Two women shall be grinding at the mill, the one shall be taken and the other left” (Matthew 24:41). These circumstances all guide us to the correspondence. Corn corresponds to the good in life to which truth leads. The virtues which our views of religion open up to us are a harvest of graces; but, as general principles, they are not quite ready for daily use. They require to be rationally investigated, to be stripped of the forms in which we learned them, and to be accommodated to our own wants and circumstances. This is one of the works of the rational faculty in man. In this respect it is a spiritual mill. To know and understand the truth, that we may love and practise it, this is the spirit in which to read and hear the Word. The wisdom we understand enters into the mind, the wisdom we love enters into the heart. “The opening of Thy words giveth light, it giveth understanding unto the simple” (Psalms 119:130). The words which remain in the memory, and do not enter the intellect, leave us, and have left the world, unenlightened and unedified. The grand use of the rational faculty, then, as a spiritual mill is evident. May we never surrender it, or barter it away. But the mill had two stones, an upper and a nether millstone. Stones represent truths of doctrine, especially in relation to the firmness they afford as a foundation and a defensive wall to our faith. In this sense stones are constantly employed in the Word (Isaiah 28:16; Matthew 7:24-25; Luke 20:17; 1 Peter 2:5). The two stones of which the mill consists represent the two grand truths into which the whole Word divides itself: those which teach love to God and love to man. The upper stone is the symbol of the first and great commandment. Our Lord refers to this when answering the question, “Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind” (Matthew 22:36-38). The two tables of stone, upon which the Ten Commandments, the first and the essential principles of all the Divine Word, were written, were intended to represent the same two-fold division of all heavenly lessons. The mill, then, with its two stones, represents the rational faculty when it is furnished with these two grand truths. With these two universal principles it can do, and is intended to do, the utmost service to man. Everything that enters the mind should be submitted to its inspection and action. Whatever is taught in relation to God which is inconsistent with love to God and love to man should be rejected; whatever is in harmony with both should be received. All that love would do God will do, for God is love; all that love would reject, God will reject, for God is love. So in relation to man. Our duty in all things is to measure our conduct by the great law, “Whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them; for this is the law and the prophets” (Matthew 7:12). Such is the spiritual mill, and such is its operation. What a wide field of use it has; and how essential is that use! To try to sift, to discriminate, to adapt all that we learn, so that fallacy and mere appearance may be rejected, and only what is really conducive to salvation and blessing be retained: “What is the chaff to the wheat? saith the Lord.”
II. With this view of the important objects and indispensable character of the millstones, seen in their correspondence, we shall be prepared to see in spiritual light the reason of the command in our text: “No man shall take the nether or the upper millstone to pledge: for he taketh a man’s life to pledge.” The rational faculty, and its two grand essential principles, must never be parted with, nor even be placed in abeyance. Oh! that this great truth that we ought never to suspend, never to forego the use of this grand principle, our rational faculty, were engraven on every heart. In this sublime portion of our nature the essential means of manhood reside. He will never become a man who never thoughtfully dares to reason for himself; who never strives to penetrate the appearances of things, and see with a single eye Divine realities. Here is the judgment seat for each mind. How poor a being he becomes who fears to use this glorious capability, let degenerate millions answer. He has not the fixed instincts of brutes and their obedience to the laws of their order, and while he is born with debased affections, he does not use this grand means of rising forever higher. Without that we cannot free ourselves from our own passions and prejudices, much less from the domination of other men. Without that we cannot rise to the freedom of citizens of heaven. We are things, not men. Let, then, no man take your mill; it is your life. But neither the lower nor the upper millstone must be taken. The two grand essential truths, upon which all others hang, must neither of them be given up. Whatever is not in harmony with them ought not to be received. Whatever is unworthy of our love to God, whatever would lessen our love to man, should be rejected at once. How great a source of elevation should we constantly have, if in all our hearing and reading we should bring our spiritual corn to the mill, furnished with these spiritual stones!
III. Finally, let me earnestly impress upon you all the importance of using the mill. There is no possibility of true manhood being attained without a conscientious use of reason in receiving the things of God. Have no fear in employing the glorious faculties Divine mercy has blessed you with Oh! that men would, rise manfully to the dignity of their, high character as rational and immortal beings capable of reserving the truth, judging of it, loving it, and making it their own by practice. Reject every attempt to place this heavenly mill in pledge, for it is your real manhood, your life, that is wished to be taken, when you are told to forego the use of your reason. Above all, let us see well that our mill is ever, in good condition, the nether and the upper stones. Let us receive no instruction that is inconsistent with love to our neighbour, the spiritual nether millstone. Let no sectarian sentiments, no idea that heaven was made just for this small party who think with us, or that gain our assent. Let us unite with men of love and virtue, of every name, assured that “of such is the kingdom of heaven.” Let not the upper millstone go into pledge. Let us unceasingly try every sentiment proposed to us as true by the great supreme law of love to God above all things. (J. Bayley, Ph. D.)
Thou shalt have a perfect and just weight, measure.
The Christian in commerce
I. Endeavour to point out what Christianity requires of a man in his dealings in business with his fellow men.
1. The most rigid adherence to the principles of moral integrity. Truth. Honesty.
2. The exercise of love and kindness.
3. That a man should preserve his soul in peace and patience.
4. That commerce be consecrated and elevated by the spirit of holiness.
II. Having described what a Christian should be in commerce briefly show why he should be it. All considerations by which religion and morality are commended and enforced are applicable here. The course pointed out is right in itself, what we owe to God and connected with eternal destiny. It is necessary to inherit the kingdom of heaven. It is presented to us in the example of Christ, whom all disciples should imitate. In one word, Christianity requires it; all its precepts, principles, blessings, and prospects require it. (A. J. Morris.)
Fluctuation of trade
Trade is a fluctuating thing; it passed from Tyre to Alexandria, from Alexandria to Venice, from Venice to Antwerp, from Antwerp to Amsterdam and London--the English rivalling the Dutch; the French are now rivalling both. All nations, almost, are wisely applying themselves to trade, and it behoves those who are in possession of it to take the greatest care that they do not lose it. It is a plant of tender growth; it requires sun and soil and fine seasons to make it thrive and flourish. It will not grow like the palm tree, which, with the more weight and pressure, rises the more. Liberty is a friend to that, as that is a friend to liberty. But the greatest enemy to both in licentiousness, which tramples upon all law and lawful authority, encourages riots and tumults, sticks at nothing to support its extravagance, practises every art of illicit gain, ruins credit and trade, and will ruin liberty itself. Neither kingdoms, commonwealths, public companies, nor private persons, can long carry on a beneficial and flourishing trade without virtue and what virtue teaches--sobriety, industry, frugality, modesty, honesty, punctuality, humanity, charity, the love of our country, and the fear of our God. (Bp. Newton.)
From these specific instances of justice let us extend our views to justice in general; let us consider its true nature and importance to human society; the obligations we are under to adhere to it inviolably; and the fatal consequences of every deviation. Justice is that virtue which teaches us to respect the rights of others, and to refrain from all injurious acts or purposes.
1. Some rights men are born to--such as the use of their own limbs, the free and uncontrolled exercise of their faculties of body and mind--these faculties, derived from the Author of life, sufficiently speak the intention of the Giver--that they should be freely, but at the same time innocently used--this is the equal birthright of every man.
2. Again, if every human being that God has made has a right to live, to breathe, to move, to think--he must also have a just claim to the product of his labour and his thought.
3. Another source of right springs from mutual, voluntary engagements--expressed, or implied--which ought all to be candidly interpreted, and conscientiously fulfilled.
4. Of all obligations the most binding and indispensable is to do no wrong to any; to hold the rightful claims of our fellow creatures sacred. First, all restraint upon personal liberty exercised by one man upon another--uncompelled by previous aggression--tends wantonly to defeat man’s whole destination; and is therefore a daring outrage against the Author of his being. Equally, or rather more unjust and more criminal is it, to forge chains for the mind--to prohibit the use of reason--to compel men to violate their conscience. Next to the undisturbed use of our bodily and mental faculties, the fruits of their exertion, justice maintains inviolable--and consequently enjoins--the exact observance of those civil laws by which the disposal of property is regulated, “not merely for wrath, but for conscience sake.” Moreover, independently of government and laws, that those contracts which are entered into for mutual aid and benefit, and without which mankind could not act collectively and in concert, are to be formed on fair and upright principles, and fulfilled with punctuality--is as evident as that man was created to be a social being, and that no one should undermine that mutual confidence and that willingness to combine and to cooperate together, on which the common good so manifestly depends. Nor do commercial or pecuniary concerns form the only province of justice. She is equally solicitous to render unto all their dues of every kind. She abstains as carefully from violating another’s reputation as his property; of which, indeed, it often constitutes the most valuable part; and as scrupulously shuns taking any unfair advantage in the most secret transaction, as in the sight of all the world. Who is not sensible of the discordant and tumultuous state into which mankind would fall were justice to take her flight? Selfishness and rapine on all sides prevailing in a short time little would remain for the one to covet or the other to prey upon and monopolise. Justice is essential not only to the comfort, but to the subsistence of the species. But where neither the eye of man can penetrate, nor the hand of man can reach--there the claims of justice are felt by the truly upright; the reasonable expectations of their fellow creatures weighed in an impartial scale, and answered with the same conscientious care and unswerving rectitude, as if they were defined by the strictest statutes, and enforced by the severest penalties. Far beyond all formal compacts, all legal obligations, is the demand of reason and conscience on the just man. In comparing his own rights with those of others, his justice stretches into the domain of generosity; in comparing the claims of others between themselves his generosity never deviates from impartial justice. So imperceptible are the shades of difference that separate justice from generosity--whether we consider their motives, obligations, or effects--that, amongst the ancient philosophers justice was the common name assigned to both; and denoted the general principle of all the social virtues--and our Saviour comprehends all that is equitable and all that is kind and disinterested in one and the same precept--“Do unto others, as ye would that they should do unto you.” I shall only add, that as justice is that virtue which is most essential to every social state, and that state which is reserved for the spirits of the just will be preeminently social; so the habits of justice, which have in this world been interwoven with all their sentiments and actions, must there attain their highest perfection and produce the happiest issue. (P. Houghton.)
Remember that thou wast a bondman in Egypt.
The admonition may seem needless, but we are prone to forget God’s works and wonders. We have need to be stirred up to remembrance for four purposes.
1. For the purpose of humility. We think more highly of ourselves than we ought to think. With the lowly is wisdom. If wise, we were once foolish; if justified, we were once condemned; if sons of God, we were once servants of sin. Look to the rock from whence hewn.
2. For the purpose of gratitude. If affected by kindness flora our fellow creatures, should we overlook our infinite Benefactor? We have no claims upon Him and should be thankful for all His benefits. But herein is love. Blessed be the God of Israel, for He hath visited and redeemed His people.
3. For the purpose of confidence. David argued from the past to the future. Because Thou hast been my help, therefore under the shadow of Thy wings will I rejoice. Here we have peculiar reason for encouragement. What were we when He first took knowledge of us? Was the want of worthiness a bar to His goodness then? Will it be so now? Is there variableness or shadow of turning with Him? Is there not the same power in His arm and the same love in His heart? Did He pardon me when a rebel, and will He cast me off now that He has made me a friend? “He that spared not His own Son but delivered Him up for us all,” etc.
4. For the purpose of piety and zeal. How many round about you in the gall of bitterness and in the bond of iniquity ready to perish? You know the state they are in, and the blessedness of deliverance from it. You are witnesses of what God is able and willing to do. Invite the prisoners of hope to turn to Him--you can speak from experience. (W. Jay.)
Remembrance of the past
I. The exercise of mental activity.
II. The particular object of consideration.
1. Our original state.
2. Our redeemed condition.
III. The especial gain to be derived from this consideration.
1. It will make us humble.
2. It will render us grateful.
3. It should give us confidence and faith.
4. It should kindle our piety and zeal. (Homilist.)
The necessary remembrance
I. The Christian’s original state.
II. The Christian’s happy deliverance. “Redeemed.” God redeemed Israel by His mighty arm. Our redemption, like theirs--
1. Originated in God’s free compassion. Without claim or merit. He saw our self-procured ruin, and exercised His infinite mercy towards us.
2. Was effected by the mission and work of His Son.
3. Is connected with faith and obedience to our great Deliverer.
III. The Christian’s obligation to remember his redemption. But can we forget? Why, the Israelites did. Our own hearts are prone to forget; the cares of the world choke the soul, and cause us to forget God. Satan, by his temptations, would seduce us from this remembrance.
1. We should remember it with intentness of soul and gratitude of heart. Such love and goodness should never be obliterated. A lively remembrance will keep the flame of gratitude burning on the altar of our hearts.
2. We should remember it with feelings of humility and contrition. If self-righteousness would spring up, if we would glory at all in ourselves, this remembrance will lead us back to our original state, and then all boasting will be slain.
3. We should remember that we may feel for those around who are still in the gall of bitterness and the bonds of iniquity. The love of Christ to us should fill us with love to our fellowmen.
4. We should especially remember, when in the means of grace, and at the table of the Lord. (J. Burns, D. D.)
The memorable deliverance
I. The deliverance obtained.
1. From the curse of the law.
2. From the bondage of sin.
3. From the tyranny of Satan.
4. From the evils of the world.
II. The deliverer described.
1. Redemption originally proceeds from the mercy and love of God.
2. Redemption is meritoriously procured by the Lord Jesus Christ.
3. Redemption is personally realised by the power of the Holy Ghost.
III. The remembrance enjoined. This command is applicable to the people of God in every age, and extends to all the blessings we receive. As it regards our redemption, we must cherish--
1. A grateful remembrance. We should frequently call to mind the deplorable state from which we are redeemed, the inestimable privileges with which we are honoured, and the ineffable felicities to which we are entitled. Such pious reflections will always be profitable, and associated with deep humility, devoted admiration, unfeigned gratitude, and fervent praise (Psalms 103:1-4; Isaiah 12:1).
2. An affectionate remembrance. A consciousness of the unspeakable love of God to us should deeply interest and inspire our souls with a reciprocation of love to Him. Our love to God must be supreme, vigorous, manifest, and progressive. It must be the ruling principle of the heart, and the actuating motive of the life (Matthew 22:37-38; Rom 5:5; 1 John 5:3; 1 John 5:5).
3. An obedient remembrance. This is the specific argument of the text: “Thou shalt remember, therefore I command thee to do this thing.” Their obedience was demanded on the ground of Divine goodness.
4. A perpetual remembrance. Redeeming grace deeply involves our immortal interests, and therefore should never be forgotten. (Sketches of Four Hundred Sermons.)
It shall be for the stranger.
Care for others
This beautiful passage speaks of the harvest, of the olive, and of the grape. You say, “Well, I am not a farmer, I know nothing of the harvest. Olives do not grow in this cold country. And it is only a few people in England who can grow grapes. What is the meaning of this?” I will tell you what it means, because when God tells us to deal in this way with the stranger, and the fatherless, and the widow, He means us to do it. You know what the harvest means. It was the in-gathering of the corn, and you know what that was for--to be made into bread. And you know what bread was for--to give strength. The olive was a symbol of fruitfulness, and the grape typified joy. So that the three things God teaches us here to do, are to give strength and peace and joy to the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow. How can we do that? Turn to Proverbs 12:25, and let us see how we can do it for the Master. (I am going to take the very lowest thing it is possible for a child of God to do. I am not going to speak to those who can give their hundreds and thousands of pounds and be none the poorer; but let the very poorest of us here today see if we cannot be the means of bringing strength and peace and joy to those who need it.) “Heaviness in the heart of man maketh it stoop.” We all know that is true. What is going to make it glad? A fifty-pound note? No! “But a good word maketh it glad.” It is not only the wealth or the riches that God speaks about. Here it is a kind, loving word, “a good word,” that makes the heart glad. I was thinking only today about the words of the Lord Jesus Christ, and about the works, the miracles of Christ. Why, the Lord Jesus accomplished more by His words than by His miracles. And He wants us to be imitators of Him. When He was here He had no long purse, but He had a kind word for everybody except the self-satisfied, the self-righteous, the Scribes and Pharisees. We too can give these and be none the poorer for it. Turn to Isaiah 50:4 : “The Lord God hath given me the tongue of the learned, that I should know how to speak a word in season to him that is weary.” Perhaps you say, “Oh, I would like to have the tongue of the learned to show people how clever I am! The Lord Jesus had “the tongue of the learned” for one purpose, and that was to know how to speak a word in season to him that was weary. Here again it is the word; it is not the power or the miracle. Read also in Colossians 3:17 : “Whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by Him.” Has it ever struck you that this is a very strange way of putting it, “Whatsoever ye do in word or deed? We may be disposed to think it ought to have been, “Whatsoever ye say in word or do in deed.” But it is not so: “Whatsoever ye do in word or deed.” As if God said, “Every word you speak for Me is a good work.” And what we want is to have “the tongue of the learned,” to know how to speak a word to those that are weary. If we want to be happy, if we want to be joyful and glad, let us try to make others glad. Let us try to give them strength and peace and joy. The most miserable man here today is the man who lives for self; the happiest man is the one who forgets self, and lives for others. What a sweet thing it is to know that God has told us, “Whatsoever ye do in word.” Up yonder He is keeping a record of it. (H. Moorhouse.)
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Deuteronomy 24". The Biblical Illustrator. https://studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 20 / Ordinary 25