Behold, the hire of the labourers who have reaped down your fields - In the previous verses the form of the sin which the apostle specified was that they had hoarded their property. He now states another form of their guilt, that, while doing this, they had withheld what was due from the very laborers who had cultivated their fields, and to whose labor they were indebted for what they had. The phrase “who have reaped down your fields,” is used to denote labor in general. This particular thing is specified, perhaps, because the reaping of the harvest seems to be more immediately connected with the accumulation of property. What is said here, however, will apply to all kinds of labor. It may be remarked, also, that the sin condemned here is one that may exist not only in reference to those who are hired to cultivate a farm, but to all in our employ - to day-laborers, to mechanics, to seamen, etc.
It will apply, in an eminent degree, to those who hold others in slavery, and who live by their unrequited toils. The very essence of slavery is, that the slave shall produce by his labor so much more than he receives for his own maintenance as to support the master and his family in indolence. The slave is to do the work which the master would otherwise be obliged to do; the advantage of the system is supposed to be that the master is not under a necessity of laboring at all. The amount which the slave receives is not presumed to be what is a fair equivalent for what he does, or what a freeman could be hired for; but so much less than his labor is fairly worth, as to be a source of so much gain to the master. If slaves were fairly compensated for their labor; if they received what was understood to be a just price for what they do, or what they would be willing to bargain for if they were free, the system would at once come to an end. No owner of a slave would keep him if he did not suppose that out of his unrequited toil he might make money, or might be relieved himself from the necessity of labor. He who hires a freeman to reap down his fields pays what the freeman regards as a fair equivalent for what he does; he who employs a slave does not give what the slave would regard as an equivalent, and expects that what he gives will be so much less titan an equivalent, that he may be free alike from the necessity of labor and of paying him what he has fairly earned. The very essence of slavery, therefore, is fraud; and there is nothing to which the remarks of the apostle here are more applicable than to that unjust and oppressive system.
Which is of you kept back by fraud - The Greek word here used is rendered defraud, in Mark 10:10; 1 Corinthians 6:7-8; 1 Corinthians 7:5; and destitute, in 1 Timothy 6:5. It occurs nowhere else, except in the passage before us. It means to deprive of, with the notion that that to which it is applied was due to one, or that he had a claim on it. The fraud referred to in keeping it back, may be anything by which the payment is withheld, or the claim evaded - whether it be mere neglect to pay it; or some advantage taken in making the bargain; or some evasion of the law; or mere vexatious delay; or such superior power that he to whom it is due cannot enforce the payment; or such a system that he to whom it is fairly due is supposed in the laws to have no rights, and to be incapable of suing or being sued. Any one of these things would come under the denomination of fraud.
Crieth - That is, cries out to God for punishment. The voice of this wrong goes up to heaven.
And the cries of them which have reaped are entered into the ears of the Lord of sabaoth - That is, he hears them, and he will attend to their cry. Comp, Exodus 22:27. They are oppressed and wronged; they have none to regard their cry on earth, and to redress their wrongs, and they go and appeal to that God who will regard their cry, and avenge them. On the phrase “Lord of sabaoth,” or Lord of hosts, for so the word sabaoth means, see the Isaiah 1:9 note, and Romans 9:29 note. Perhaps by the use of the word here it is implied that the God to whom they cry - the mighty Ruler of all worlds - is able to vindicate them. It may be added, that the cry of the oppressed and the wronged is going up constantly from all parts of the earth, and is always heard by God. In his own time he will come forth to vindicate the oppressed, and to punish the oppressor. It may be added, also, that if what is here said were regarded as it should be by all men, slavery, as well as other systems of wrong, would soon come to an end.
If everywhere the workman was fairly paid for his earnings; if the poor slave who cultivates the fields of the rich were properly compensated for his toil; if he received what a freeman would contract to do the work for; if there was no fraud in withholding what he earns, the system would soon cease in the earth. Slavery could not live a day if this were done. Now there is no such compensation; but the cry of oppressed millions will continue to go up to heaven, and the period must come when the system shall cease. Either the master must be brought to such a sense of right that he will be disposed to do justice, and let the oppressed go free; or God will so impoverish the lands where the system prevails as to make all men see that the system is unprofitable and ruinous as compared with free labor; or the oppressed will somehow become so acquainted with their own strength and their rights that they shall arise and assert their freedom; or under the prevalence of true religion better views will prevail, and oppressors, turned to God, shall relax the yoke of bondage; or God will so bring heavy judgments in his holy providence on the oppressors, that the system of slavery will everywhere come to an end on the earth.
Nothing is more certain than that the whole system is condemned by the passage of Scripture before us; that it is contrary to the genuine spirit of Christianity, and that the prevalence of true religion would bring it to an end. Probably all slaveholders feel that to place the Bible in the hands of slaves, and to instruct them to read it, would be inconsistent with the perpetuity of the system. Yet a system which cannot survive the most full and free circulation of the sacred Scriptures, must be founded in wrong.
The hire of the laborers - The law, Leviticus 19:13, had ordered: The wages of him that is hired shall not abide with thee all night until the morning, every day's labor being paid for as soon as ended. This is more clearly stated in another law, Deuteronomy 24:15; : At his day thou shalt give him his hire; neither shall the sun go down upon it; - lest he cry against thee unto the Lord, and it be sin unto thee. And that God particularly resented this defrauding of the hireling we see from Malachi 3:5; : I will come near to you in judgment, and will be a swift witness against those who oppress the hireling in his wages. And on these laws and threatenings is built what we read in Synopsis Sohar, p. 100, l. 45: "When a poor man does any work in a house, the vapor proceeding from him, through the severity of his work, ascends towards heaven. Wo to his employer if he delay to pay him his wages." To this James seems particularly to allude, when he says: The cries of them who have reaped are entered into the ears of the Lord of hosts; and the rabbins say, "The vapor arising from the sweat of the hard-worked laborer ascends up before God." Both images are sufficiently expressive.
The Lord of sabaoth - St. James often conceives in Hebrew though he writes in Greek. It is well known that צבאות יהוה Yehovah tsebaoth, Lord of hosts, or Lord of armies, is a frequent appellation of God in the Old Testament; and signifies his uncontrollable power, and the infinitely numerous means he has for governing the world, and defending his followers, and punishing the wicked.
Notwithstanding the rage of persecution, a calm, devout, earnest, patient protest against the prevailing corruption of religious faith continued for centuries to be uttered. The Christians of that early time had only a partial knowledge of the truth, but they had learned to love and obey God's word, and they patiently suffered for its sake. Like the disciples in apostolic days, many sacrificed their worldly possessions for the cause of Christ. Those who were permitted to dwell in their homes gladly sheltered their banished brethren, and when they too were driven forth they cheerfully accepted the lot of the outcast. Thousands, it is true, terrified by the fury of their persecutors, purchased their freedom at the sacrifice of their faith, and went out of their prisons, clothed in penitents’ robes, to publish their recantation. But the number was not small—and among them were men of noble birth as well as the humble and lowly—who bore fearless testimony to the truth in dungeon cells, in “Lollard towers,” and in the midst of torture and flame, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to know “the fellowship of His sufferings.” GC 95.1
The papists had failed to work their will with Wycliffe during his life, and their hatred could not be satisfied while his body rested quietly in the grave. By the decree of the Council of Constance, more than forty years after his death his bones were exhumed and publicly burned, and the ashes were thrown into a neighboring brook. “This brook,” says an old writer, “hath conveyed his ashes into Avon, Avon into Severn, Severn into the narrow seas, they into the main ocean. And thus the ashes of Wycliffe are the emblem of his doctrine, which now is dispersed all the world over.”—T. Fuller, Church History of Britain, b. 4, sec. 2, par. 54. Little did his enemies realize the significance of their malicious act. GC 95.2
It was through the writings of Wycliffe that John Huss, of Bohemia, was led to renounce many of the errors of Romanism and to enter upon the work of reform. Thus in these two countries, so widely separated, the seed of truth was sown. From Bohemia the work extended to other lands. The minds of men were directed to the long-forgotten word of God. A divine hand was preparing the way for the Great Reformation. GC 96.1Read in context »
In many cases means which should be devoted to the missionary work is diverted into other channels, from mistaken ideas of benevolence. We may err in making gifts to the poor which are not a blessing to them, leading them to feel that they need not exert themselves and practice economy, for others will not permit them to suffer. We should not give countenance to indolence, or encourage habits of self-gratification by affording means for indulgence. While the worthy poor are not to be neglected, all should be taught, so far as possible, to help themselves. CS 166.1
The salvation of souls is the burden of our work. It was for this that Christ made the great sacrifice, and it is this that specially demands our beneficence.—Historical Sketches of the Foreign Missions of the Seventh-day Adventists, 293. CS 166.2Read in context »
I saw that the slave master [see Appendix.] will have to answer for the soul of his slave whom he has kept in ignorance; and the sins of the slave will be visited upon the master. God cannot take to heaven the slave who has been kept in ignorance and degradation, knowing nothing of God or the Bible, fearing nothing but his master's lash, and holding a lower position than the brutes. But He does the best thing for him that a compassionate God can do. He permits him to be as if he had not been, while the master must endure the seven last plagues and then come up in the second resurrection and suffer the second, most awful death. Then the justice of God will be satisfied. EW 276.1
I saw angels hurrying to and fro in heaven, descending to the earth, and again ascending to heaven, preparing for the fulfillment of some important event. Then I saw another mighty angel commissioned to descend to the earth, to unite his voice with the third angel, and give power and force to his message. Great power and glory were imparted to the angel, and as he descended, the earth was lightened with his glory. The light which attended this angel penetrated everywhere, as he cried mightily, with a strong voice, “Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and is become the habitation of devils, and the hold of every foul spirit, and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird.” The message of the fall of Babylon, as given by the second angel, is repeated, with the additional mention of the corruptions which have been entering the churches since 1844. The work of this angel comes in at the right time to join in the last great work of the third angel's message as it swells to a loud cry. And the people of God are thus prepared to stand in the hour of temptation, which they are soon to meet. I saw a great light resting upon them, and they united to fearlessly proclaim the third angel's message. EW 277.1Read in context »
The youth educated in large cities are surrounded by influences similar to those that prevailed before the flood. The same principles of disregard for God and His law; the same love of pleasure, of selfish gratification, and of pride and vanity are at work at the present time. The world is given up to pleasure; immorality prevails; the rights of the weak and helpless are disregarded; and, the world over, the large cities are fast becoming hotbeds of iniquity. FE 422.1
The love of pleasure is one of the most dangerous, because it is one of the most subtle, of the many temptations that assail the children and youth in the cities. Holidays are numerous; games and horse-racing draw thousands, and the whirl of excitement and pleasure attracts them away from the sober duties of life. Money that should have been saved for better uses—in many cases the scanty earnings of the poor—is frittered away for amusements. FE 422.2
The continual craving for pleasurable amusements reveals the deep longings of the soul. But those who drink at this fountain of worldly pleasure, will find their soul-thirst still unsatisfied. They are deceived; they mistake mirth for happiness; and when the excitement ceases, many sink down into the depths of despondency and despair. O what madness, what folly to forsake the “Fountain of living waters” for the “broken cisterns” of worldly pleasure! We feel to the depth of the soul the peril that surrounds the youth in these last days; and shall not those who come to us for an education, and the families that are attracted to our schools, be withdrawn, as far as possible, from these seductive and demoralizing influences? FE 422.3Read in context »