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When speaking of slavery, it should be mentioned that among the Jews, parents had the power to sell their children. That this was sometimes done we may con. clude from Isaiah 1. 1, and Neh. v. 5. This is still the case in eastern nations, and persons who have travelled or lived among them, tell us of instances in which pa. rents have brought their children for sale, particularly in times of famine, as was the case in the days of Ne. hemiah.
The severe manner in which slaves were punished is also alluded to in scripture; they were often confined in dark dungeons or sent to labor in the mines, either of which may explain the words of our Lord, Matt. viii. 12. xxii. 13. In Luke xii. 45, 47. our blessed Lord seems to have referred to the case of a slave who had been raised to authority, but proved to be a hypocrite, and deceived his master, who at length detecting his wicked conduct ordered him to be cut to pieces. Ano. ther cruel punishment inflicted upon slaves, and the worst malefactors, was crucifixion. It was a punish. ment in particular for worthless slaves. St. Paul refers to this circumstance when he speaks of our Lord taking upon him the form of a servant, and becoming subject to death, even the death of the cross, Phil. ii. 7, 8. and in Heb. xii. 2. he speaks of our blessed Lord, “ who for the joy set before him endured the cross, de. spising the shame.” This explains why the apostle speaks of the preaching of the cross being foolishness to the Gentiles, 1 Cor. i. 23. and of glorying in the cross. Worldly minded men rejected the idea of receiving as their Lord and Saviour one who had suffered the death usually inflicted upon slaves and malefactors. This is what St. Paul means when he speaks of the offence of the cross, Gal. v. 11. In our times the same prejudice does not precisely exist, yet how many there are who take offence at the truths of the gospel. This will always be the case, for those that love the world are not inclined to love the truth. But let us remember, our Lord requires us to take up our cross and follow him; that is, to show that we belong to him, and to live to the praise of the glory of his grace, without minding the perishing vani. ties and fashions of this world, which must pass away, 1 Cor. vii. 31. nor should we care for its contempt. There were hired servants as well as slaves
the Jews. The law of Moses ordered that they should be treated kindly, and expressly directed that their wages should be paid every day before sun-set, Lev. xix. 13. Deut. xxiv. 14, 15. From the parable of the laborers in the vineyard, Matt. xx. we find that they stood in the market place to be hired; that their daily wages at that time were a denarius,orabout sevenpence halfpenny Eng. lish money; also that they left work about six o'clock in the evening, and then were paid their wages.
When Morier was in Persia, a few years ago, he stayed some time in the eity of Hamadan. He saw every morning before sun-rise a great number of persons assemble in a large open square, with their spades in their hands, waiting to be hired. Some of them, as in the pa. rable, remained till late in the day without being hired, and on asking them in the words of scripture, “ Why stand ye here all the day idle ?” he received the answer mentioned in the parable, though they had never heard of it. They replied, “Because no man hath hired us.' In many parts of England, and even in London, laborers assemble in the morning and stand to be hired.
In other parts of the Bible we find strong injunctions to deal kindly with hired servants, as Mal. iii. 5. James v. 4. Job xxiv. 10, 11. Jer. xxii. 13. I dare say my readers will recollect the words of the prodigal son, when he reflected upon the plenty which the hired ser. vants of his father enjoyed, and compared it with the scanty fare which his master, probably a heathen, allow. ed him.
The first mention of physicians in the Bible is Gen. l. 2. where we find that Joseph commanded his servants, the physicians, to embalm his father; that is, to wrap up the dead body with spices and various medical prepa. rations, which would prevent it from decaying in the na. tural manner. This was in Egypt, and the physicians were Egyptians. Indeed, from the simple, plain, and healthy manner in which the patriarchs lived, it is pro. bable that they had not much occasion for medicine.
In the later times of the Jews we find little reason to suppose that they knew much of what is called the me. dical art. Their knowledge probably did not extend far beyond binding up a broken limb, or healing a wound. As for other diseases, they appear to have regarded them as immediate effects of the anger of God. Job's friends thought so. Therefore good people generally consulted the prophets or other ministers of God; while evil and wicked men consulted the idolatrous priests, or people who pretended to be magicians or sorcerers; and the heathen nations do so still.
We find that when king Asa had the gout and trusted to his physicians for a cure, without seeking God's blessing on the means used, he was reminded that this was wrong, 2 Chron. xvi. 12. When Jeroboam's son was ill, he sent his wife to the prophet Abijah, to inquire respecting the event of his illness, 1 Kings xiv. Hezekiah, when almost at the point of death, was recovered by means directed by Isaiah, 2 Kings xx. 7. For the leprosy in particular, no medicine seems to have been used. It is generally thought to have been considered as an especial mark of divine displeasure, and the priests were directed particularly to watch the progress of the disease, and to keep all persons afflicted with it by themselves. Naaman came to consult Elisha for a cure of his leprosy ; but the prophet would not even see him, thus show. ing that his cure was to proceed wholly from God; 2 Kings v. and when Benhadad, king of Syria, was dan. gerously ill, he also sent to Elisha, 2 Kings viii. 7, 8. Ahaziah, king of Israel, who was a wicked man, sent to the idol Baalzebub at Ekron, to ask of the priest respect. ing bis illness. But still it is evident that there were physicians, and that they used medicine ; thus the pro. phet Jeremiah inquires, “ Is there no balm in Gilead ; is there no physician there? why then is not the health of the daughter of my people recovered ?” Jer. viii. 22. This text shows that there were physicians and medicines, although the words were used by the prophet to point out the great physician of souls, the Lord Jesus Christ, who alone can heal our souls, which are full of evil, as the body of a sick person is full of disease. Our Lord spoke thus of himself when he said, “ They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick," Matt. ix. 12. And remember, that our Lord here re. proved those who fancied themselves free from sin, and therefore despised his salvation, just as sick people sometimes think that they are well. But, my readers, remember you are not well in this sense, but that your souls are full of disease, as the prophet Isaiah says; Isa. i. 6. and beware of acting like the pharisees or the people of Laodicea, Rev. iii. 17. O reject not this great salvation which is so fully and so freely offered to you.
The woman healed by our Lord, see Mark v. 26. had suffered many things of physicians. St. Luke, the evangelist, who wrote one of the gospels and the Acts, was a physician, Col. iv. 14. As for medicine, we read Prov. xvii. 22. that “a merry heart doeth good like a medi. cine.” This of course does not mean foolish merriment; but a cheerful disposition often adds to health and strength. The balm already mentioned was a healing balsam or gum, which was highly valued, the best was found in Gilead. The merchants to whom Joseph was sold were carrying this balm to Egypt, and Jacob sent some as a present to the ruler of Egypt, Gen. xxxvii. 25. xliii. 11.
I am not going to write about the different kinds of diseases; some were like those with which people are afflicted at the present day, others were different. But all were proofs of the displeasure of God against sin. It was by sin that death entered into the world, Rom. v. 12. and diseases are the means whereby the life of man usually is shortened. In Exod. xv. 26. and Deut. vii. 15. we find that Moses was commanded to tell the Israelites, that if they kept the law of God he would put none of the evil diseases of Egypt upon them; and we know that the Lord often chastises a nation or a people for their sins, by sending them diseases ; this is mentioned in many places in the scripture. In the New Testament there is frequent mention of persons being possessed with devils. Their conduct in some respects resembled that of maniacs, or mad people now, but evidently it was in many respects different, and was produced by the immediate influence of evil spirits. Such cases, however, have long ceased to exist. The diseases of the body also frequently refer to the sickness or disease of the soul from sin, as already mentioned ; thus, many ex. pressions of the psalmist, and other passages in scripture, doubtless refer to the soul.
My reader, whether young or old, your soul is thus afflicted. O then seek the true Physician, him who is able to save to the uttermost, and who showed by his miraculous cures of the bodies of men, that he is able in like manner to heal their souls.