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trate or the parent, Deut. xvii. 12, was punished with death : it was treason under the Mosaic system. As to disobedience towards parents, the laws of the heathens gave fathers arbitrary power over their children; they might put them to death, or sell them for slaves, with or without reason, at their own will. Not so the provisions of the Jewish law : cause must be shown, and the death, if deserved, was to be solemnly and legally inflicted. Deut. xxi. 18–21. There is, indeed, no record that any such case actually occurred. Possibly the dread of the punishment might have proved a sufficient restraint.

Offences against the property of others were forbidden by the eighth commandment. Here the Mosaic law was far milder than those of ancient or modern lawgivers. No injury against property was punished by the death of the offender. Surely the Jewish law adjusted its punishments more suitably to the real degree of depravity than some modern codes, which permit atrocious instances of moral guilt to pass with trivial punishments, or none at all, while they inflict ignominious death upon slight invasions of property, which in the Jewish law were punished by the requirement of restitution, or by a fine.

In passing from the consideration of those heavier crimes that more directly affect the well-being of society, to others wherein property is the object immediately in view, we may seem to be descending to matters of less importance ; but in reality they are not such. The distribution of property has much to do with the general happiness and welfare of a people, and in a state of society which does not possess the means of self-adjustment, direct legislation is needful. In the early states of society there was more necessity for this direct system of enactment than there is at the present day. In those ancient nations, where the welfare of the lower classes was considered to be an object of care, there were legislative provisions in their behalf. But these were at best imperfect. In Rome, the attempts to secure this balance only tended to promote civil discord. At Sparta, they caused the creation of a still more degraded race—their slaves, or helots ; and instead of inducing their citizens to be contented, they eagerly devoted themselves to warfare, and thus caused the destruction of their own institutions.

The book of Numbers has especial reference to the inheritance and allotments of the tribes, ch. xxvi. 53 ; xxvii. 8, etc. A particular law was made on account of female orphans, and though the Jewish traditional writers say that the law was made in reference to that period alone, yet the Christian may, as a recent author has observed, see cause to attribute to this law the position of the women among the Hebrews, as well as the social rank which woman takes in all the countries of Christendom, in which the Bible is known and read, as compared with countries that are not Christian. And the position of woman, in any nation, is a very clear and decided test of the civilization of the nation.

A provision was made for the division of the promised land, as soon as the nation came into possession. Taking the number of the families as 600,000, and the area of Judea, fertile for the most part, at least 11,000,000 of acres. Some, indeed, think it to have been far larger. After all necessary deductions, it would leave from sixteen to twentyfive acres for each family. This portion was secured to each by what might be termed, an Agrarian law, which is expressed, Levit. xxv. 43.

Thus that arrangement was made, which is most likely to promote general happiness, namely, to place and keep all in a state above want, and yet free from luxurious indolence. But this state was not only directed by the express enactments of the law, it was further provided for and arranged by other wise and salutary measures, without which the direct precept would have been of little avail. Nor was this all, the lav never sought to stop the usual course of Providence, according to which, while some attain property, others lose, or vainly struggle to gain. The poor shall never cease out of the land, Deut. xv. 7-11. It was evident that some would have to part with their little estates, and others be able to acquire additions to their own ; plan for self-adjustment was devised All debts were cancelled at the end of

year ;


seventh sabbatical year, even land reverted to its original owner or his descendants. Fifty years was the time allotted, beyond which the descendants of the original possessor could not forfeit it. This is fully stated in Leviticus, chap. xxv.

But the levelling principle of socialism was equally guarded against. Property in houses and effects was not thus protected : of these, a man might gain possession without limitation, though the adding of field to field, in order to dwell alone, was forbidden. How long these habits of simplicity subsisted, is not expressly stated, but the de

but a

parture from them was evidently one of the causes why the land was brought under the Assyrian yoke—that it might enjoy its sabbaths. When the sabbatical year was forgotten, there could be no restitution of inheritances, 2 Chro. xxxvi. 21. Yet the indelible character of these laws was recognised to the last : even when Jerusalem was betrayed, the prophet Jeremiah, then in prison, became a party to a transaction of this nature under one branch of these laws—the right of preemption, or purchasing in anticipation, which every one possessed in the land of his kindred : see Jer. xxxii. So long as these arrangements continued, there seems to have been no facility for the assumption of power by others, than those who were appointed to be their leaders, Deut. xxix. 10.

Another enactment directed the daily payment of labourers, Levit. xix. 13, Deut. xxiv. 14, 15. See Matt. xx. 8. In later times this was neglected, Jer. xxii. 13, Jas. v. 4. Especial consideration was shown to the feelings of the poor, as well as their wants, as Graves remarks on Deut. xxiv. 10, “When thou dost lend thy brother anything, thou shalt not go into his house to fetch his pledge.” “No: says the law, the hovel of the poor must be sacred as an holy asylum ; the eye of scorn and the foot of pride must not dare to intrude; even the agent of mercy must not enter it abruptly and unbid, without consulting the feelings of its wretched inhabitants.”

In the directions respecting harvest, a grasping spirit was especially forbidden, Deut. xxiv. 19-21; Levit. xix. 9, 10 ; xxiii. 22. All these provisions and many more went to guard against a spirit of covetousness, and to foster the habit of readiness to distribute. This tended to check the desire for undue acquisitions; and surely it was the best way to guard against theft, and to promote the observance of the tenth commandment. The ninth commandment was no less protected by these enactments concerning property. The chief temptations to falsehood and perjury are ever found in connexion with theft and covetousness.

How far more simple and forcible were these precepts than the boasted regulations of Sparta, which have been highly praised by many worldly wise men, whilst despising their Bibles ! “ Is not such a scheme of government (as the Jews) worthy of the Divine Author to whom it is ascribed ? And does not its establishment at so early a period, and among a people so apparently incapable of inventing it, attest its heavenly original !”

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Most of the servants in ancient times were slaves ; that is, persons who were the property of others—the same as their horses, or cows, and other animals—who must do every thing that they were ordered, whether right or wrong, and could not leave their masters. This kind of service, or slavery, as it is called, is very ancient, and exists even now among many nations. The slaves among the Jews, and other ancient nations, were also the property of their masters, but they were instructed in religion, and treated far more kindly than negro slaves in modern times.

People were made slaves in different ways. 1. When prisoners were taken in war, they became the slaves of the conquerors, Gen. xiv. 14; Deut. xx. 14; 2 Chron. xxviii. 8; Dan. i. 4; and many other places might be referred to. 2. Offenders, such as had committed thefts or other offences, were sold for slaves, Exod. xxii. 3. 3. Also for debt. When

persons owed more than they could pay, they became slaves to those to whom they were indebted, or they were sold to other people, 2 Kings iv. l; Neh. v. 4, 5; Matt. xviii. 25. 4. Others were kidnapped, or seized without any cause ; such, in fact, was the case with Joseph. 5. Some were the children of slaves, and born in the master's family, Gen. xiv. 14; xv. 3; xvii. 23; xxi. 10; Psa. lxxxvi. 16 ; cxvi. 16 ; Jer. ii. 14. Slaves of this latter class were generally treated with more kindness than"the others; but there was a great difference between them and the sons of the family, as the apostle describes, Rom. viii. 15; Gal. iv. 6. Yet their masters put confidence in them, and we find they were often armed in their service : see Gen. xiv. 14 ; xxxii, 6; xxxiii. 1. From the words of Job, xxxi. 13, we may learn that there were masters who treated their slaves kindly; soine such we hope there are even now, but it is to be feared that many act far otherwise. The honours bestowed upon Joseph and Daniel show that slaves were sometimes advanced to great authority; and it is singular to remark, that in Egypt, at the present day, the beys, who rule that country, for the most part have been slaves.

In the law of Moses there are many precepts respecting the treatment of slaves, which show that the Divine law was a law of mercy for them : see Exod. xx. 10; xxi. 20; 26, 27; Deut. v. 14; xii. 18; xvi. 11, etc. Yet these precepts also show us that, after all, the state of slavery is a hard bondage, and that slaves were often treated unkindly, or such laws would not have been needed.

Hebrews who had been compelled to become slaves, were to be set free at the seventh year, unless they chose to continue in the service of their master, Deut. xv. 12 ; and, from Jer. xxxiv. 9, etc. we find that the neglect of this command was one reason why the Lord delivered the Jewish nation into the hands of their enemies, ver. 20.

The strict obedience required from servants in ancient times was referred to by the centurion, Matt. viii. 9. “I say to my servant, 'Do this,'and he doeth it.” Thus a captive chief being asked why he had been found in arms against the English, answered, “ My master sent me.

He says to his people, to one, “Go you to Ghurwal.' To another, “Go you to Cashmire.' My lord, thy slave obeys : it is done. None ever inquires into the reason of an order of the rajah.”

The condition of slaves among the Greeks and Romans was far worse than among the Jews. Their masters could treat them as they pleased, just as a cruel person may now

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