« PreviousContinue »
* tioned. Let but these things be resolved upon and per• formed, and the controversy is removed: the difference is • reconciled and made up: the wrath of God is appeased, . and he will show you favour, and bless and prosper you.'
This matter is also farther illustrated in the remaining part of the chapter. “ Are there yet the treasures of wickedness in the house of the wicked, and the scant measure that is abominable ? Shall I count them pure with the wicked balances, and the bag of deceitful weights ?” ver. 10, 11. • It is in vain to think I should be reconciled to those ' who continue to practise fraud and injustice: or that I
should approve of and bless those who persist in their • idolatrous worship.' And thus the chapter concludes: “ For the statutes of Omri are kept, and all the works of the house of Ahab. And ye walk in their counsels, that I should make thee a desolation, and the inhabitants thereof a reproach," ver. 16. That is, the ordinances and practices of Omri and Ahab, two of the most wicked of their kings, were still observed and followed. And it is plainly declared, that if they persisted therein, their ruin was inevitable.
Such is the context: and in this way, I think, the coherence appears clear and easy. I now proceed to explain the words of the text.
After which I shall add a reflection or two by way of application, and conclude.
I. I begin with a distinct explication, of the several particulars in the text.
“ He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good.” This some understand, as if the prophet said: “ I will show you," or “ God will now show you by me," giving the following answer to your inquiry.
Others understand the original expression exactly as here rendered in our translation : “ He hath shewed thee, O man." Whoever amongst you make this inquiry, if you think and consider, may perceive, that God has already taught you what are the services he requires, and what things are the most acceptable to him. He teaches you by your own reason, if you will use it. He has also showed you this in his word, in the law, and in all the revelations he has made unto you.
So in the law of Moses : “ And now, Israel, what does the Lord thy God require of thee, but to fear the Lord thy God, to walk in all his ways, and to love him, and to serve the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul : to keep the commandments of the Lord, and his statutes, which I command thee this day, for thy good ?” Deut. x. 12, 13. Again : “ For this commandment, which I com. mand thee this day: it is not hidden from thee, neither is it afar off. It is not in heaven, that thou shouldst
Who shall go up to heaven for us, and bring it to us ? --But the word is very nigh unto thee, in thy mouth, and in thy heart, that thou mayst do it. See I have set before thee life and death," ch. xxx. 11, 12.
And the particulars, here insisted on, are but the sum and substance of the ten laws, or precepts, delivered with so much solemnity at mount Sinai.
And many of the prophets speak in perfect agreement the same with what is here said in Micah. So in Isaiah : “ Wash ye, make you clean: put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes. Cease to do evil, learn to do well. Seek judgment, relieve the oppressed -Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord. Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be white as snow: though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool," Is. i. 16, 17. And in Hosea : “ I desired mercy, and not sacrifice: and the knowledge of the Lord more than burnt-offerings,” Hos. vi. 6.
Therefore what is here said had been before, and often taught, and shown to this people by reason, and by other prophets and messengers. But God now reminds them of it, and shows it them again by this prophet.
“ He hath shewed thee what is good," or right: what is in itself reasonable and excellent, useful and profitable.
“ He hath shewed thee, O man,” whosoever thou art, that makest this inquiry, and art desirous of satisfaction, “ what is good.” “ And what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God ?”
These particulars need not to be much enlarged upon. You have often heard them discoursed of. A brief explication therefore of these words, reminding you of what you know already, will suffice.
The several branches of our duty are sometimes reduced in scripture to the “ love of God, and our neighbour.” At other times they are ranged under three general heads. St. Paul says: “ The grace of God has appeared to all men,
: teaching us, that we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world,” Tit. ii. 12.
The order, likewise, in which these general branches are mentioned, is varied. Our Lord says, that the love of God is the “ first and great commandment.” And in the law of Moses, written on two tables, the duties immediately respect
ing God are first placed. But in this text it is first said, we should “ do justly, and love mercy :" then, " walk humbly with God.” And in the place just cited from Paul, living godly” is mentioned last.
But the order is of little moment. For these several branches of duty can never be separated, And our Saviour having said, that “ to love the Lord our God with all the heart and with all the soul is the first and great commandment,” presently adds: “ and the second is like unto it: thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself,” Matt. xxii. 37–39. And St. John says: 66 He that loveth not his brother, whom he hath seen; how can he love God, whom he hath not seen? And this commandment have we from him: that he who loveth God, love his brother also," 1 John iv, 20, 21.
The duty of sobriety is not particularly mentioned in this text of Micah: it is also omitted elsewhere, when our duty is summarily comprehended in the love of God and our neighbour. But it is always supposed or implied, though not expressly mentioned. For without it we cannot perform any part of worship and service to God in a reasonable and acceptable manner. And divers instances of intemperance are social, and directly injurious to our neighbour: and others lead to unrighteousness. A prevailing love of this world, an inordinate affection for earthly things, covetousness, and ambition, are inconsistent both with the love of God, and our neighbour.
“ What does the Lord require of thee, but to do justly ?” This comprehends every thing that is fair and equal between man and man, according to the relations they bear, or the obligations they are under to each other.
In this chapter, presently after the text, God by his prophet reproves divers things contrary to this branch of duty : without amending of which unrighteous conduct, they could never hope to be accepted of him. “ Are there yet the treasures of wickedness in the house of the wicked, and the scant measure that is abominable? Shall I count them pure with the wicked balances, and the bag of deceitful weights? For the rich men thereof are full of violence, and the inhabitants thereof bave spoken lies, and their tongue is deceitful in their mouth."
We are to be just in our dealings with men, without imposing on their ignorance or credulity by unfair artifices or falsehood.
As in our common traffic with men we are to observe truth in our words, so upon all other occasions are we to
regard the truth of things: not saying any thing falsely to the disparagement of our neighbour, which would be as manifest an injustice as the most injurious action.
We are also sincerely to purpose and design what we promise: and should to the utmost of our power endeavour to be as good as our word.
We are to be faithful in all the trusts reposed in us, according to the tenour of them, and the will and intention of those who confide in us.
We should likewise diligently and prudently provide for those who are under our care, and depend upon us: as we ought cheerfully and honestly to yield subjection, and obedience, and all fidelity to our superiors and governors, who afford us maintenance, or protection and security.
It follows next, “ and to love mercy,” or goodness, and beneficence. When the duty owing to our neighbour is summarily described by loving him, then both justice and mercy are summarily included in that one word. Here they are mentioned separately, and distinctly: and in like manner elsewhere: “ Therefore turn thee to thy God. Keep mercy and judgment, and wait on thy God continually, Hos. xii. 6. Our Lord pronounceth a woe on the pharisees who had omitted judgment, mercy, and faith, or fidelity:
Indeed, showing mercy is doing no more to others, than what we in like circumstances would that others should do unto us.
However, it takes in several things, which do not immediately appear to be binding in point of strict justice : as providing for, or relieving not only our own relatives, or friends, or such as have laid us under obligations, but strangers likewise, if we have power to do it.
Herein is included not only doing what men can strictly claim of us, but something more than that: some acts of kindness and beneficence: foregoing and quitting our right: and not exacting rigorously our whole due.
It includes the guiding and counselling such as are unexperienced, and setting out in the world : accommodating them out of our substance, that they may enlarge their dealings, and better secure a comfortable maintenance for themselves and their families, and live with credit, and be useful in the world : giving time to those who are indebted to us : speaking favourably of other men, and not aggravating every instance of imprudence, or misbehaviour, into an act of heinous, wilful, and premeditated wickedness : pitying and helping those who are in straits, according to the best of our power: though their straits are not entirely
owing to unforeseen accidents, or to the violence or unrighteousness of others, but partly to their own indiscretion, or negligence, or even extravagance.
It is also a part of mercy to extend our views of usefulness, and to plead the cause of the injured and oppressed : and endeavour to deliver them out of the hands of such as are mightier than they, who have greater power and influence, or more art and management, than most of their neighbours.
These, and many other instances of mercy there are, which we may be called to. And to neglect, or omit them, when they are in our power, and we have an opportunity of being serviceable to the injured, is very unkind: it is unmerciful, it is not doing as we would be done unto.
When Job vindicates himself from the charges brought against him, he insists not only upon his innocence, but alleges likewise instances of generosity and usefulness to others. “I delivered the poor that cried, and the fatherless, and him that had none to help him. I was eyes to the blind, and feet was I to the lame. The cause which I knew not I searched out, I brake the jaws of the wicked, and plucked the spoil out of his teeth,” Job xxix. 12, 15, 16.
And you know, that there are many such exhortations propounded to christians in the New Testament: that“
every man should look not on his own things only, but on those of others also : that they should rejoice with them that rejoice, and weep with them that weep: that they should bear one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ."
But I shall not further multiply precepts and directions of this kind, nor instance in
which the course of things will present to us; and he who is of a merciful and generous disposition will take notice of, and act accordingly. I shut up this article therefore with those words of Isaiah containing a description of the different temper and conduct of base and narrow, indeed wicked minds, and of such as are truly generous, and public spirited. “For the vile person will speak villany, and his heart will work iniquity, to practise hypocrisy, and to utter error against the Lord,” that is, to pronounce false judgments, which are contrary to the express command of God in his law: “ to make empty the soul of the hungry, and to cause the drink of the thirsty to fail. The instruments also of the churl are evil. He deviseth wicked devices, to destroy the poor with lying words, even when the needy speaketh right. But the liberal,” the merciful, the generous, the bountiful “ man, deviseth liberal
any other cases,