Verses 11–18

We are taught here,

I. To be honest and true in all our dealings, Lev. 19:11. God, who has appointed every man’s property by his providence, forbids by his law the invading of that appointment, either by downright theft, You shall not steal, or by fraudulent dealing, “You shall not cheat, or deal falsely.” Whatever we have in the world, we must see to it that it be honestly come by, for we cannot be truly rich, nor long rich, with that which is not. The God of truth, who requires truth in the heart (Ps. 51:6), requires it also in the tongue: Neither lie one to another, either in bargaining or common converse. This is one of the laws of Christianity (Col. 3:9): Lie not one to another. Those that do not speak truth do not deserve to be told truth; those that sin by lying justly suffer by it; therefore we are forbidden to lie one to another; for, if we lie to others, we teach them to lie to us.

II. To maintain a very reverent regard to the sacred name of God (Lev. 19:12), and not to call him to be witness either, 1. To a lie: You shall not swear falsely. It is bad to tell a lie, but it is much worse to swear it. Or, 2. To a trifle, and every impertinence: Neither shalt thou profane the name of thy God, by alienating it to any other purpose than that for which it is to be religiously used.

III. Neither to take nor keep any one’s right from him, Lev. 19:13. We must not take that which is none of our own, either by fraud or robbery; nor detain that which belongs to another, particularly the wages of the hireling, let it not abide with thee all night. Let the day-labourer have his wages as soon as he has done his day’s work, if he desire it. It is a great sin to deny the payment of it, nay, to defer it, to his damage, a sin that cries to heaven for vengeance, Jas. 5:4.

IV. To be particularly tender of the credit and safety of those that cannot help themselves, Lev. 19:14. 1. The credit of the deaf: Thou shalt not curse the deaf; that is, not only those that are naturally deaf, that cannot hear at all, but also those that are absent, and at present out of hearing of the curse, and so cannot show their resentment, return the affront, nor right themselves, and those that are patient, that seem as if they heard not, and are not willing to take notice of it, as David, Ps. 38:13. Do not injure any because they are unwilling, or unable, to avenge themselves, for God sees and hears, though they do not. 2. The safety of the blind we must likewise be tender of, and not put a stumbling-block before them; for this is to add affliction to the afflicted, and to make God’s providence a servant to our malice. This prohibition implies a precept to help the blind, and remove stumbling-blocks out of their way. The Jewish writers, thinking it impossible that any should be so barbarous as to put a stumbling-block in the way of the blind, understood it figuratively, that it forbids giving bad counsel to those that are simple and easily imposed upon, by which they may be led to do something to their own prejudice. We ought to take heed of doing any thing which may occasion our weak brother to fall, Rom. 14:13; 1 Cor. 8:9. It is added, as a preservative from these sins, but fear thou God. “Thou dost not fear the deaf and blind, they cannot right themselves; but remember it is the glory of God to help the helpless, and he will plead their cause.” Note, The fear of God will restrain us from doing that which will not expose us to men’s resentments.

V. Judges and all in authority are here commanded to give verdict and judgment without partiality (Lev. 19:15); whether they were constituted judges by commission or made so in a particular case by the consent of both parties, as referees or arbitrators, they must do no wrong to either side, but, to the utmost of their skill, must go according to the rules of equity, having respect purely to the merits of the cause, and not to the characters of the person. Justice must never be perverted, either, 1. In pity to the poor: Thou shalt not respect the person of the poor, Exod. 23:3. Whatever may be given to a poor man as an alms, yet let nothing be awarded him as his right but what he is legally entitled to, nor let his poverty excuse him from any just punishment for a fault. Or, 2. In veneration or fear of the mighty, in whose favour judges would be most frequently biased. The Jews say, “Judges were obliged by this law to be so impartial as not to let one of the contending parties sit while the other stood, nor permit one to say what he pleased and bid the other be short; see Jas. 2:1-4.

VI. We are all forbidden to do any thing injurious to our neighbour’s good name (Lev. 19:16), either, 1. In common conversation: Thou shalt not go up and down as a tale-bearer. It is as bad an office as a man can put himself into to be the publisher of every man’s faults, divulging what was secret, aggravating crimes, and making the worst of every thing that was amiss, with design to blast and ruin men’s reputation, and to sow discord among neighbours. The word used for a tale-bearer signifies a pedlar, or petty chapman, the interlopers of trade; for tale-bearers pick up ill-natured stories at one house and utter them at another, and commonly barter slanders by way of exchange. See this sin condemned, Prov. 11:13; 20:19; Jer. 9:4; Ezek. 22:9. Or, 2, In witness-bearing: Neither shalt thou stand as a witness against the blood of thy neighbour, if his blood be innocent, nor join in confederacy with such bloody men as those described,” Prov. 1:11, 12. The Jewish doctors put this further sense upon it: “Thou shalt not stand by and see thy brother in danger, but thou shalt come in to his relief and succour, though it be with the peril of thy own life or limb;” they add, “He that can by his testimony clear one that is accused is obliged by this law to do it;” see Prov. 24:11, 12.

VII. We are commanded to rebuke our neighbour in love (Lev. 19:17): Thou shalt in any wise rebuke thy neighbour. 1. Rather rebuke him than hate him for an injury done to thyself. If we apprehend that our neighbour has any way wronged us, we must not conceive a secret grudge against him, and estrange ourselves from him, speaking to him neither bad nor good, as the manner of some is, who have the art of concealing their displeasure till they have an opportunity of a full revenge (2 Sam. 13:22); but we must rather give vent to our resentments with the meekness of wisdom, endeavour to convince our brother of the injury, reason the case fairly with him, and so put an end to the disgust conceived: this is the rule our Saviour gives in this case, Luke 17:3. 2. Therefore rebuke him for his sin against God, because thou lovest him; endeavour to bring him to repentance, that his sin may be pardoned, and he may turn from it, and it may not be suffered to lie upon him. Note, Friendly reproof is a duty we owe to one another, and we ought both to give it and take it in love. Let the righteous smite me, and it shall be a kindness, Ps. 141:5. Faithful and useful are those wounds of a friend, Prov. 27:5, 6. It is here strictly commanded, “Thou shalt in any wise do it, and not omit it under any pretence.” Consider, (1.) The guilt we incur by not reproving: it is construed here into a hating of our brother. We are ready to argue thus, “Such a one is a friend I love, therefore I will not make him uneasy by telling him of his faults;” but we should rather say, “therefore I will do him the kindness to tell him of them.” Love covers sin from others, but not from the sinner himself. (2.) The mischief we do by not reproving: we suffer sin upon him. Must we help the ass of an enemy that has fallen under his burden, and shall we not help the soul of a friend? Exod. 23:5. And by suffering sin upon him we are in danger of bearing sin for him, as the margin reads it. If we reprove not the unfruitful works of darkness, we have fellowship with them, and become accessaries ex post facto—after the fact, Eph. 5:11. It is thy brother, thy neighbour, that is concerned; and he was a Cain that said, Amos I my brother’s keeper?

VIII. We are here required to put off all malice, and to put on brotherly love, Lev. 19:18. 1. We must be ill-affected to none: Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge; to the same purport with that Lev. 19:17; Thou shalt not hate thy brother in thy heart; for malice is murder begun. If our brother has done us an injury, we must not return it upon him, that is avenging; we must not upon every occasion upbraid him with it, that is bearing a grudge; but we must both forgive it and forget it, for thus we are forgiven of God. It is a most ill-natured thing, and the bane of friendship, to retain the resentment of affronts and injuries, and to let that word devour for ever. 2. We must be well-affected to all: Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. We often wrong ourselves, but we soon forgive ourselves those wrongs, and they do not at all lessen our love to ourselves; and in like manner we should love our neighbour. Our Saviour has made this the second great commandment of the law (Matt. 22:39), and the apostle shows how it is the summary of all the laws of the second table, Rom. 13:9, 10; Gal. 5:14. We must love our neighbour as truly as we love ourselves, and without dissimulation; we must evidence our love to our neighbour in the same way as that by which we evidence our love to ourselves, preventing his hurt, and procuring his good, to the utmost of our power. We must do to our neighbour as we would be done to ourselves (Matt. 7:12), putting our souls into his soul’s stead, Job 16:4, 5. Nay, we must in many cases deny ourselves for the good of our neighbour, as Paul, 1 Cor. 9:19 Herein the gospel goes beyond even that excellent precept of the law; for Christ, by laying down his life for us, has taught us even to lay down our lives for the brethren, in some cases (1 John 3:16), and so to love our neighbour better than ourselves.