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so gradual and silent as not to be perceived. But every wise observer must know that causes which go to form public opinion, like the drops of rain, though of small account when taken separately, yet lead to immense results when acting in their aggregate power. In this view of them, you find the wisdom of many laws given to the Hebrews, some of which might otherwise appear strange, if not Iudicrous. We should remember that previous to the time of which we are now speaking, the Hebrews had been an enslaved, and, in many respects, a degraded people. To meet their case, and to promote their improvement in mind and manners, the Most High not only ordained for them a system of intellectual training, which we will hereafter consider, but he also gave them laws like the following:— “If a bird’s nest chance to be before thee in the way, in any tree or on the ground, and the dam sit. ting upon the young or upon the eggs, thou shalt not take the dam with the young: but thou shalt in any wise let the dam go, and take the young to thee, that it may be well with thee, and that thou mayest prolong thy days.” It should be observed that the reason annexed to this statute is the same which we find added to the fifth command of the
Decalogue, “Honor thy father and thy mother.”
The argument used to enforce both the precepts, is, “that it may be well with thee, and that thou mayest prolong thy days;” thus showing that there must be some intimate connection between the two. And if any of us have seen the distress of a bird, “the dam,” when her nest is rifled of her young, her maternal tenderness rendering her an easy prey as she rushes within the grasp of the spoiler; you can see the beautiful moral to be found in the law forbidding the Hebrew to take “the dam” when he is carrying away her young from the nest; and how it bears on the obedience to be rendered to the command, “Honor thy father and thy mother.” It was designed to cultivate a high regard for parental feeling. No advantage must be taken of it, says God; it must always be treated with a tender respect, though it be the maternal anxiety of a bird of the air when distressed for her offspring. A man who can sport with parental sympathy gives sure proof of a hard and corrupted heart. We can all remember how we have abhorred the tyrant Gessler in the unnatural task which he laid on the patriot William Tell. The hero was required as the ransom for his own life, to place an apple on the head of his son; and then standing at the utmost
distance of a bowshot, to cleave the apple in two with an arrow. The feat was performed; and when Gessler perceived that another arrow remained in the hand of the father, and inquired for what purpose it was intended, he was told, “Sir, the second arrow was for your heart, if the first had even touched my dear boy.” And had this been the issue, few would have mourned the fate of the tyrant after he had thus wantonly outraged the affection of a father.
* Note I.
There is a wrong mode of doing even that which is right and which may convert it into a positive evil. Charity is sometimes bestowed on the poor with a manner that renders the gift not only offensive in the sight of God, but a source of more bitter pain to the receiver than the pinchings of want. To cherish a suitable and right spirit in deeds of benevolence, it was commanded, “When ye reap the harvest of your land, thou shalt not wholly reap the corn out of thy field, neither shalt thou gather the gleanings of thy harvest. And thou shalt not glean thy vineyards, neither shalt thou gather every grape of the vineyard; thou shalt leave them for the poor and the stranger. I am the Lord your God.” This precept was to remind the Hebrews, that the poor should be allowed to share in the comforts as well as in the absolute necessaries of life, inasmuch as a share in the produce of both the “vineyard” and
“field” must be allowed to them ; and that, as poverty has its feelings of delicacy as well as wealth, instead of obliging the destitute to come and confess to us their need, and receive alms at our hands and in our sight, they should be allowed the opportunity of gaining relief when no eye would be upon them but the eye of God, and, in a way that seemed
to render it in part the reward of their own labor.
In close alliance with this, is another commandment. “No man shall take the upper or the nether mill-stone to pledge; for he taketh a man's life to pledge.” Here the principle is established which is recognized in all civilized and Christian nations, that a man cannot be deprived of a necessary means of sustaining life for himself and his family, by distraint for debt. But see also what is added as to pledges that might be taken for payment. “When thou dost lend thy brother any thing, thou shalt not go into his house to fetch his pledge; thou shalt stand abroad, and the man to whom thou dost lend, shali bring out the pledge abroad unto thee.” Want must have been sorely felt before a man will pledge that which properly belongs to, and forms a part of his home. Hence the Hebrew was told, you must not go into his house, to pain his feelings and the feelings of his family, by witnessing the tokens of their destitution, or the distress they may suffer at parting
with some long possessed and much valued article of their furniture. No, said the law, you must stand without, till the man bring abroad to thee whatever is pledged, that the hardship may be as little felt as the nature of the case will admit. Again, it is ordained, “Thou shalt not oppress a hired servant that is poor and needy, whether he be of thy brethren, or of the strangers that are within thy gates. At his day thou shalt give him his hire, neither shall the sun go down upon it, for he is poor and setteth his heart upon it.” There is a principle of mingled kindness and justice involved in this ordinance, which many masters in our day would do well to remember. Too often are the feelings of servants exasperated, and their interests made to sus. fer, not by ultimately wronging them out of their wages, but by vexatious delays to pay them what has been earned by their faithful labor. To induce the master both to respect the anxieties, and satisfy the just claims of his servant, it is here commanded, “At his day thou shalt give him his hire, for he set. teth his heart upon it.” To give a few more examples: it furnishes certain evidence of high moral sentiment, and is a most efficient means of promoting it, when all classes in a community evince due respect for age. Hence the command, “Thou shalt rise up before the hoary head,