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Lecture One Hundred and Forty-seventh

Thus saith Jehovah of hosts, 7171     Both Newcome and Henderson render the verb [אמר] here in the past tense — “Thus spake Jehovah of hosts;” and this seems right, as the reference is made to what the Lord had spoken by the former Prophets, as it appears from the 11th verse. — Ed. saying, The judgment of truth judge, and kindness and mercies show, every one to his brother. We have seen what the Prophet said of fasting, when messengers were sent by the exiles to enquire on the subject. It was a suitable opportunity for handling the question. For, as we then said, the people were so devoted to their ceremonies, as to think that the whole of religion consisted in fasting and in similar exercises. And as we are by nature prone to this evil, we ought carefully to consider what the Prophet has taught us — that fasting is not simply, or by itself, approved by God, but on account of the end designed by it. Having already shown to the Jews their error, in thinking that God could be pacified by ceremonies, he now reminds them of what God mainly requires in his law — that men should observe what is just and right towards one another. It is indeed true that the first part of the law refers to the service due to God; but it is a way which God has commonly adopted, to test the life of men by the duties of the second Table, and to show what this part of the law especially requires God then in this passage, as in many others, does not commend righteousness towards men so as to depreciate godliness; for as this far excels everything in the whole world, so we know that in rightly forming the life, the beginning ought ever to be made by serving God aright. But as the Prophet had to do with hypocrites, he shows that they only trifled with God, while they made much of external things, and at the same tinge neglected uprightness, and the duties of love

We now then understand the Prophet’s object. He had said in the last lecture that he brought forward nothing new, but only reminded them of what had been taught by other Prophets; and here he pursues the same subject — that God made more account of uprightness and kindness than of those legal shadows, which in themselves were of no moment.

The judgment of truth, he says, judge. This could not have been extended indiscriminately to the whole people; but by these words the Prophet indirectly reproved the judges, because they committed plunder, either through favor or hatred, so that they decided cases not in a just and equitable manner. We then learn from the Prophet’s words, that judgments were then given corruptly, so that the judge either decided in favor of a friend, or was bought by a price or a reward. As then there was no truth in the judgments given, but false pretences and colourings, the Prophet here exhorts them to execute the judgment of truth, that is, true judgment, when no respect of persons is shown, and when neither hatred nor favor prevails, but equity alone is regarded.

He then addresses the whole people in common, and says, Show, or exercise, kindness and mercies 7272     Rendered “kindness and mercy” by Henderson, but more correctly “mercy and compassion” by Newcome; or they may be rendered “mercy and sympathies.” The meaning is, “Do acts of mercy and of compassions,” or sympathies. — Ed. every one towards his brother. He not only bids them to abstain from doing any wrong, but exhorts them to show kindness; for it would not be enough to do no harm to any one, except each of us were also solicitous to assist our neighbors; inasmuch as it is the dictate of benevolence to help the miserable when necessity so requires. But we must recollect that a part is given twice for the whole in what the Prophet says: in the first place, he refers only to the second Table of the law, while he includes in general the rule by which our life is to be formed; and in the second place, he enumerates not every thing contained in the second Table, but mentions only some things as instances. It is however certain, that his design was to show that men are greatly deceived when they seek to discharge their duties towards God by means of external rites and ceremonies; and farther, that it is a true and substantial evidence of piety, when and one observes what is just and equitable towards his neighbor. He afterwards adds —

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