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Published by glennpease
Exod. xxi-xxii
Exod. xxi-xxii

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Published by: glennpease on Oct 09, 2012
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BYE-LAWSBY JOSEPH PARKER, D.D.Exod. xxi-xxiiAMOGST these bye-laws there are some sayings which maybe considered hard, and on reading them we may ask inalmost plaintive and despairing tones, '' Who is sufficient for thesethings?" There are also ome out-of-the-way responsibilities,which only Divine wisdom and justice could in the then state of society have imposed. We must not permit ourselves to lose thereligious philosophy and the religious benficence of the Mosaiclegislation by going back upon it with our Christian instincts andculture. We must forget all we have ever learned in theChristian school, and think ourselves back into the comparativebarbarism of the age. Then we shall see a light above the bright-ness of the sun, and feel round about us an influence which can-not be satisfactorily explained without taking into account thepossibility of supernatural existence and Divine sovereignty. Weshall lose the whole meaning of ancient writings, so far as theirreligious philosophy is concerned, if we compare them to their dis-advantage with Christian standards and the advanced civilisationof the day in which we live. Critically examined, fibre by fibreas it were, this is not crude legislation ; there is nothing roughand ready in this distribution of offices, duties, and obligations.This legislation is, on the contrary, highly spiritual in its assump-tions, and full of sublime tribute to the nature which is addressed.The dignity of law pre-supposes the dignity of man. Little lawsfor little creatures, great laws for great beings-^that is thephilosophy of the Bible system. Looked at, therefore, narrowlyand critically, we shall find that, however crude in appearancemay be some of these bye-laws, the substance under them, and of which they may be said to be the mere phenomena, is a holyquantity, a Divine substratum, nothing less than God, the EternalCreator and Sovereign.
Exod. xxi. i8, 19.] BYE-LA TVS. 169Without attempting to go through all the bye-laws, we cantouch them here and there with sufficient distinctness andsympathy to understand the whole scheme of which some partsare here quoted"And if men strive together, and one smite another with a ston^ or withhis fist, and he die not, but keepeth his bed : if he rise again, and walk abroad upon his staff, then shall he that smote him be quit : only heshallpay for the loss of his time, and shall cause him to be thoroughly healed"(xxi 18^ 19).Are our little personal strifes noted in heaven ? The answeris : Yes, every one of them. But can men strive together ?Properly looked at, that would seem to be the harder question of the two. G)ming suddenly upon a line of this kind, we shouldexclaim, in surprise, ** The assumption is impossible. We mustbegin our criticism of a statement of this kind by rejecting itsprobability, and, that being done, there is no case lefl. Howcan men strive together? Men are brothers, men are rationalcreatures, men recognise one another's rights, and interests, andwelfare ; society is not a competition, but a fraternal and sacredemulation ; therefore, the assumption that men can strive togetheris a false one, and, the foundation being false, the whole edificetotters down." That would be fine theory, that would be sweetpoetry, it might almost be thrown into rhyme, but there are thefacts staring us in the face. What are those facts ? That all lifeis a strife, that every man in some way or degree, or at some• time, begrudges the room which every other man takes up. Thetragedy of Cain and Abel has never ceased, and can never ceaseuntil we become children of the Second Adam. Great degreesof modification may, of course, take effect The vulgarity of smiting may be left to those who are in a low state of life — whoare, in fact, in barbarous conditions; but they who smite withthe fist are not the cruellest of men. There is a refinedsmiting — a daily, bitter, malignant opposition ; there is a processof mutual undermining, or outreaching, or outrunning, in the
very spirit of which is found the purpose of murder. But mark how beneficence enters into the arrangement here laid down.ot only is the man who smote his brother to pay for the loss of his brother's time ; that would be a mere cash transaction. Thereare men ready enough to buy themselves out of any obligation ;170 THE PEOPLE'S BIBLE. [E-od. xxi. 28, 29.a handful of gold is nothing. Their language is, '^ Take it, andlet us be free." That would be poor legislation in some cases,though heavy enough in others. To some men money has nomeaning ; they have outlived all its influences ; they are so richthat they can bribe and pay, and secure silence or liberty by amere outputting of the hand. But the beneficence is in the nextclause, '' and shall cause him to be thoroughly healed." The manmust be made as good as he was before, therefore he must be in-quired about ; he must be taken an interest in ; he must becomea quantity in the life of the man who injured him, and, howeverimpartial the man who inflicted the injury may become undersuch chafing, the impatience itself may be turned to good accountSome men can only be taught philanthropy by such rough andurgent schoolmasters." If an ox gore a man or a woman, that they die : then the ox shall besurely stoned, and his flesh shall not be eaten ; but the owner of the oxshallbe quit But if the ox were wont to push with his horn in time past, and ithath been testified to his owner, and he hath not kept him in, but thathehath killed a man or a woman ; the ox shall be stoned, and his owneralsoshall be put to death " (xxi. 28, 29}.In the one case provision is made against what we term anaccident, and accidents are treated within their o\^ai narrow limits ;but from accident we pass to purpose. The ox was " wont topush with his horn in time past," — the ox was known to theowner to be an unmanageable ox ; notice had been given to the

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