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LEVITICUS, Xxiii. 22.
And when ye reap the harvest of your land, thou shalt not make clean riddance of the corners of thy field when thou reapest, neither shalt thou gather any gleaning of thy harvest thou shalt leave them unto the poor, and to the stranger: I am the Lord your God.
THE custom of gleaning is very ancient, and may justly be defined, the gathering or picking up the ears of corn, left behind after the field has been reaped and the corn carried home.
The benevolent provision made in our text, for the poor and stranger, proclaims its author; even God, whose tender mercies are over all his works, who is the friend of the friendless, and has enjoined
that even fragments are to be gathered, that nothing may be lost.
This humane regulation is embodied in the common law and custom of England, which allow the poor to enter and glean upon another's ground after the harvest, without being guilty of trespass.
That this permission has been disputed, and in some cases denied the poor, may be traced to the sad abuse of gleaning among the sheaves, and too often from them. But the remedy pronounces itself to be human, imperfect, inefficacious; abolishing the custom, rather than attempting a cure: as in matters of far greater importance, the abuse of what is right and excellent, has been adduced as an argument against the fair and legitimate practice. Scripture has been perverted by the unlearned to their own destruction; earthly wisdom immediately says, "Suffer not the poor and illiterate to "have the Bible." Wine and every social satisfaction have occasioned evil; hence have proceeded those "doctrines of devils" which prohibit marriage, and forbid meats, and command abstinence from wine, which God hath ordained and created to be received with thanksgiving. No, let none attempt to abrogate a custom, which has its origin in the divine precept; which has been sanctioned every country and by every eye; and which, if
it does not tend materially to improve the pocket of the poor, is certainly beneficial to their health, and productive of much comfort in their feelings.
Can it justly be considered as beneath the solemnity of the pulpit, or apart from the sanctity of the day, to address some advice on this subject both to those whose fields are gleaned and the gleaners themselves? Let it be remembered, our text is both a scriptural warning, and a model for such a practice; that religion, when possessed, will pervade every part of our conduct; that the Bible represents vital godliness, not as an external garment occasionally worn, but as an implanted nature; and finally, while principles are given for our general behaviour, detailed directions are afforded as to the most minute particulars of our conduct.
Primarily. Let such as have fields to glean, pay attention to the letter and the spirit of this injunction, together with the motive on which obedience is enforced.
1. The letter of this benevolent precept establishes the propriety of permitting persons to glean in your lands, but it does not prohibit clearing your fields of all the sheaves, and carrying them not only to a place of safety, but out of the way of temptation to the gleaners. Is not this evidently implied
in the following explanatory directions of the law: "When thou cuttest down thine harvest in thy
field, and hast forgot a sheaf in the field, thou "shalt not go again to fetch it: it shall be for the stranger, for the fatherless, and for the widow; "that the Lord thy God may bless thee in all the "work of thine hands,"* where not taking away the entire crop is imputed to inadvertence, rather than intention.
It does neither forbid the judicious exercise of this permission as to the persons who may glean, as is clear from the history of Ruth. It rested with the proprietor or occupier of the land to grant or deny the privilege to certain individuals.
Yet the command strictly enjoins the duty of leaving what is not thus carried for the poor and strangers, and frowns on the inhuman and selfish practice of turning cattle of any description into the fields until some reasonable time for the gleaning, has been allowed to elapse.
* Deuteronomy, xxiv. 19.
+ "And she went, and came, and gleaned in the field after the reapers and her hap was to light on a part of the field belonging to Boaz, who was of the kindred of Elimelech. And she said, "I pray you, let me glean and gather after the reapers among the "sheaves: so she came, and hath continued even from the morning “ until now, that she tarried a little in the house."
In some foreign countries the law specifies twenty-four hours after the crop has been carted, but circumstances and conscience must decide for each farmer.
2. We have however less to do with the letter than the spirit of this precept. Does it not breathe kindness to the poor, pity to the needy, and cherish the disposition to let fall purposely a few ears of corn, rather than collect all, with extreme exactitude?
Right, too rigid, hardens into wrong. The sentiment of this direction should transfuse itself into every part of our conduct, and pervade all our transactions with the poor. If unable to relieve their wants, by this mild and generous temper, we shall mitigate the pressure of their woe, and teach them contentment, where we cannot satisfy their wishes.
The ingratitude and rude insolence of some poor persons will perhaps induce you to say this is bad policy, betrays an ignorance of human nature, and is difficult almost to impracticability :-remember
3dly. The motive subjoined for your obedience: I am the Lord your God." God who raiseth up one and putteth down another, who maketh the