Here is, I. A law against extortion in lending. 1. They must not receive use for money from any that borrowed for necessity (Exod. 22:25), as in that case, Neh. 5:5, 7. And such provision the law made for the preservation of 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, and therefore it is generally forbidden among themselves; but to a stranger, whom yet they might not oppress, 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 obliges us to show mercy to those of whom we might take advantage, and to be content to share, in loss as well as profit, with those we lend to, 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, but runs the hazard of, in trade, as it is to receive rent for my land, which another takes pains with and improves, but runs the hazard of, in husbandry. 2. They must not take a poor man’s bed-clothes in pawn; but, if they did, must restore them by bed-time, Exod. 22:26, 27. Those who lie soft and warm themselves should consider the hard and cold lodgings of many poor people, and not do any thing to make bad worse, or to add affliction to the afflicted.
II. A law against the contempt of authority (Exod. 22:28): Thou shalt not revile the gods, that is, the judges and magistrates, for their executing these laws; they must do their duty, whoever suffer by it. Magistrates ought not to fear the reproach of men, nor their revilings, but to despise them as long as they keep a good conscience; but those that do revile them for their being a terror to evil works and workers reflect upon God himself, and will have a great deal to answer for another day. We find those under a black character, and a heavy doom, that despise dominion, and speak evil of dignities, Jude 1:8. Princes and magistrates are our fathers, whom the fifth commandment obliges 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 the ruler was then his most unrighteous persecutor, Acts 23:5; see Eccl. 10:20.
III. A law concerning the offering of their first-fruits to God, Exod. 22:29, 30. It was appointed before (Exod. 13:1-22), and it is here repeated: The firstborn 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. Let not young people delay to offer to God the first-fruits of their time and strength, lest their delays come, at last, to be denials, through the deceitfulness of sin, and the more convenient season they promise themselves never arrive. Yet it is provided that the firstlings of their cattle should not be dedicated to God till they were past seven days old, for then they began to be good for something. Note, God is the first and best, and therefore must have the first and best.
IV. A distinction put between the Jews and all other people: You shall be holy men 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 (Exod. 22:31), not only because it was unwholesome, but because it was paltry, and base, and covetous, and a thing below those who were holy men unto God, to eat the leavings of the beasts of prey. We that are sanctified to God must not be curious in our diet; but we must be conscientious, not feeding ourselves without fear, but eating and drinking by rule, the rule of sobriety, to the glory of God.
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