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aid to one another in emergencies. It is instructive and beautiful to witness this sympathy with the class they belong to. With plentiful means and resources they can wall each other in from the blow of adversity. They can carry assistance to a great degree, too. But in respect of mortality they are even as the poor. None of them can by any means redeem his brother, nor give to God a ransom for him that he should still live for ever and not see corruption. No ransom is allowed in this warfare. It will edify us to take notice of cases in which ransom was of avail for the temporary extension of life.
In military affairs ransom comes into play. It stays the havoc of death on the field of battle. The soldier who has advantage of his antagonist, and is on the point of fleshing his sword in his body, will forbear in the prospect of ransom. So dear is life that a man in mortal danger from another man will offer large sums of money for his life to be spared. And he will do so even if age has already set on him the print of wrinkles, and other decided tokens. A thousand pounds for life, even though it cannot run more than four or five additional years ! “ Skin for skin, all that a man hath will be give for his life.” Job ii. 4. And so strong is the love of money that the offer of a princely sum would almost soften enmity itself. The deadliest rancour would feel itself checked by the offer of a handsome gift of money. The ransom of a man's life are his riches." Prov. xiii. 8. “ But ten men were found among them that said unto Ishmael, Slay us not, for we have treasures in the field, of wheat, and of barley, and of oil, and of honey. So he forbare, and slew them not among their brethren.” Jer. xli. 8. His forbearance had to be paid for by a large share of the secret treasures which they knew of.
In some criminal affairs, where life was under forfeit, money was taken instead. In Jewish jurisprudence great care was taken to guard the precious life of a human being. In case of life being wantonly, wilfully, and wickedly taken away no privilege of ransom was allowed to the delinquent. Die he must, and money was not allowed to shield him from the penalty. “Ye shall take no satisfaction (money) for the life of a murderer which is guilty of death; but he shall be surely put to death.” Num. xxxv. 31. In some other cases, clearly shaded off by qualifying circumstances, ransom took place. If the reader will turn up the twenty-first chapter of Exodus, and read from the twenty-eighth to the thirty-second verse, he will see the direction given to the judges in a serious instance. The furious ox that had gored any one to death was to be put to death. But what about its proprietor? If it could be proved that he was cognisant of the goring propensity of his animal and had not kept it within safe limits, the sentence of death passed on him as well as on his ox, only such a sentence was not absolute,
like that for wilful murder; it could be commuted. The case was met by a fine of greater or lesser value, answerably to the rank of the person
who had been killed. Of course there would never be any hesitation about the alternative of death or ransom.
A man would
the ransom and save his life. Now observe that these ransom-prices were not paid to free men from ever dying at all, but to free them from dying at such particular times. The common sentence of mortality, uttered on the entrance of sin into the world, stood in full force still. Temporary ransoms did not affect it; they only affected a man's dying at an earlier time or at a later, and could not put death off altogether.
These payments for the extension of life were made to men whose right and power in relation to the lives of the parties concerned were merely accidental and temporary. We have now to draw attention to another ransom, which in the times of the commonwealth was paid to God, who has absolute power in life and death. We may call this a ransom of acknowledgment. Sordid desire actuated men in accepting ransom. Money was a consideration to them. They spared the lives of their fellow-men from the love of gain. No such motive can be supposed to influence the living One, who gives life and breath to all things that breathe. Independent and self-sufficient as he is, he needs not to make gain of his creatures. He thought fit, nevertheless, to be recognised as the source of life and the Sovereign of men, and appointed the payment of a sum of money as an acknowledgment that life was heid of him. The sum was small, as acknowledgments are generally, being understood as having no proportionate relation to what they are paid for. The half-shekel, paid at certain times (how often we are not aware), was a sign between God and the sons of Israel that he was the God of their life, and interposed his power to shield them from plague or pestilence. The nobility and the peasantry were made equal. The rich did not pay for the poor, neither in whole nor in part. No man, however rich, was to give a doit more than the half-shekel, and no one, however poor, was to present less. This was to intimate that the life of one man was as dear to God as the life of another, and that the opulent were just as dependent on him as the most indigent. See the law on this matter in Exod. xxx. 12-16.
As we remarked before, we may say again, this half-shekel ransom did not touch the common sentence of mortality. Neither did it affect God's right to shorten men's lives by special judgment for notable sins. Every man that lives is under a sentence of death, which cannot be revoked, and which will certainly take effect. This sentence is prior to and irrespective of our personal sin. This Adam brought on us all, and it will come on all, on his account, on all that are related to him, and who derive from bim. In Adam all die. Those who sin the least, the fewest sins, the simplest sins, must, notwithstanding their comparative harmlessness of character, meet the penalty which their public man drew on them. We do not say that their personal sin is not of turpitude sufficient to deserve death. But their death traces further back for its cause, as it is in Adam that all die. Hence the death of infants, of which personal sin cannot be the cause. The first sin of all brought death upon all. Besides this, we observe that certain persons hurry on this common sentence to an execution speedier than it would have by doing provoking sins, which determine their hourglass to stop its running in the very middle; see Ps. lv. 23; Prov. X. 27; Eccles. vii. 17. Now, though the Lord of life took money of the children of Israel in relation to life, it was neither to touch the common sentence nor to affect his right of visiting with death presumptuous offenders who challenged the common sentence, and plucked it down on themselves by eager and extraordinary sin. Elihu spoke correctly when he said, “ Because there is wrath, beware lest he take thee away with his stroke; then a great ransom cannot deliver thee. Will he esteem thy riches ? No, not gold,
. nor all the forces of strength.” Job xxxvi. 18-19. Life may end
” sooner than it ought; death may be set farther off than a given point, but it never can be set aside entirely. This is the thing affirmed. None can give a ransom to annul the necessity of dying; means may be contrived to get a man to live a little longer than a specified period, but not “ that he should still live for ever and not see corruption.' 66 What man is he that liveth and shall not see death ? Shall he deliver his soul from the hand of the grave ? ” Ps. lxxxix. 48.
The parenthetical verse which we slipped loose for the sake of getting more easily at the sense, merits notice: (verse 8) “ For the redemption of their soul is precious, and it ceaseth for
.." The explanation of this verse is quite easy if we follow the context. The meaning then is that these rich men cannot be redeemed frorn dying, that no price will be accepted for such a purpose, and consequently none is offered. Their soul or life, as that word almost always means in the Old Testament, cannot be preserved in perpetuity for any money which they can offer.
This verse has been obscured to many by the fact that some preachers select it for a text and explain it of the great redemption, the redemption of the soul by Christ. We doubt the propriety of doing so. It is remote from the obvious meaning of the passage. No one should use it for such a purpose without first entering a serious protest against his own utterances.
As redemption is a theme of surpassing interest, if the reader please to follow us we will add a few lines here on the subject.
There is a brother whose office it is to recover our lost souls. But then he is brother to the whole race of man. He is brother to the poor as well as the rich. By assuming human nature he touches the extremes of the social scale, and is of kin to all men. He is the poor man's brother by an additional circumstance-by his choice of poverty. “ Ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich.” 2. Cor. viii. 9. He gave to
9 God a ransom for us so precious that there never was such another. It was not a ransom for the purpose supposed in the passage under consideration, for the life of the body, but for the soul itself properly understood. It was a ransom from sin and its sad consequences. This was indeed a precious ransom, and costly. It cost “the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.”
It is worthy of observation that he who effected this redemptionwork was not liable to death on his own account, and for that reason was able to die for us, and after temporary death to take up his
proper immortality again. His death was not as ours is. It was real, but it was voluntary and brief. He quickly disengaged himself from the grasp of death and walked forth of his dominions. He still lives for ever, and he saw no corruption. This was very proper. He who has to redeem bis saints from death and the grave, though he touched at both, behovedto triumph over them both. This he did by remaining so short a time under their power. Prophecy in its foresight predicted this: "For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell ; neither will thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption.” Ps. xvi. 10. Peter and Paul both dwell on this circumstance, and make it a point of powerful argument in relation to Christ. See Acts ii. 29-32, and xiii. 34-37. On the body of Jesus no offensive change ever took place. He forestalled the time when corruption takes effect, and left the tomb before he had been two full days dead. Four days were too long for a dead body to remain sweet (John xi. 39.) Early on the third day Jesus left his place, and death has never been able to reclaim him as he did some others who escaped him. “Death hath no more dominion over him.”
It is a curious circumstance, too, that the terms of the scripture we have before us are capable of being predicated of the redemption Christ wrought out, “it ceaseth for ever.” And how does it cease for ever? In the sense of never being repeated. And why does it cease for ever? Because it is satisfactory and complete. Once offered there was such virtue in it that no repeat was necessary. In this respect it stands in edifying contrast to the sacrifices of the old economy. They did not cease till the true sacrifice put a stop to them. Devoid of efficacy as they were, the priests found it needful to renew them and spread them over the whole year in a perpetual circle day after day, through many centuries. See Heb.
x. 1, 2, 3, 11, 12. Once done, the atoning sacrifice needed to be done no more. “ For in that he died, he died unto sin once.” Rom. vi. 10.
The last three paragraphs we have put in gratuitously, thinking they might be pleasant to the pious reader, but perhaps they will be an offence to the critic, as disturbing the unity of the piece. We are of the critic's opinion, but Christ is precious either to write of, or to read of, or to muse on. We complete our exposition by taking up verse 10: “For he seeth that wise men die, likewise the fool and the brutish person perish, and leave their wealth to others.”
We will perhaps be correct if we say that good men are the wise and that bad men, especially bad rich men, are those denominated fools and brutish. We know that these terms are usually so applied except when irony or some other rhetorical figure reverses or disturbs the order, which we do not suppose is the case here. Good men deserve to be accounted wise, since they pursue the worthiest ends, even if they do not always make choice of the best means, nor follow them with an ardour correspondent to their worth. And wicked men are fools, however well contrived their devices are to compass the trivial and unworthy ends for which they live. There is a special respect had here to rich fools, who consecrate themselves to mammon and make accumulation, either by right means or by wrong means, their object. Not once, nor twice, but often, the scripture calls rich men fools. See Jer. xvii.11; Luke xii. 20. They certainly are so for the moral reason that the Scripture so denominated them. And not unfrequently they are deficient, in the common sense the word is taken in, since the strength of their mind is prostituted to such low purposes. Men of humbler standing quite eclipse them. “ The rich man is wise in his own conceit; but the poor that hath understanding searcheth him out.” Prov. xxviii. 11.
A charge of brutishness is preferred against the fool. “ The fool and the brutish person perish.” The grammatical construction seems to make the fool one person and the brutish person another. We prefer, however, to think that folly and brutishness are both predicated of the same person, and the phrase means one who lives a life approximating that of a beast, that is, not ruled by reason nor capable of the hope of another life. Our reason for wishing to combine these properties in one person is, that we so often find the fool and the brute joined together in other places of Scripture. “So foolish was I, and ignorant, I was as a beast before thee.” Ps.
I lxxiii. 22. “A brutish man knoweth not, neither doth a fool understand this.” Ps. xcii. 6. “Understand, ye brutish among the
. people, and ye fools, when will ye be wise?” Ps. xciv. 8. they are altogether brutish and foolish; the stock is a doctrine of vanities.” Jer. x. 8.
“ He seeth that wise men die.” Who seeth this? The rich