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of peats, then a quantity of fodder, and then a sheep, and so on till they come to the gallows here, and to hell hereafter.
6. The difficulty there is in finding it out. It is a work of darkness, which there use not to be witnesses to, and so the man or woman defies the world to make out any such thing against them; and so they go on without controul, boasting like Ephraim, He is a merchant, the balances of deceit are in his hand: he loveth to oppress. And Ephraim said, yet I am become rich, I have found me out substance: in all
labours they shall find none iniquity in me, that were sin,' Hos. xii. 7, 8.
But what avails that? Will ye defy the God of heaven, and your own conscience, to make it out before the tribunal? and then ye say something. Till then thou art a criminal before God, and dreadful shall thy doom be. But take heed, they have been discovered that thought themselves sečure because no eye saw them. When a man's day comes to fall in such a course, God can infatuate him, that he guides not his matters with common sense.
7. Lastly, Bearing with them. I will not meddle with them, says one; and I will not meddle with them, says another; let them fall in another's hand, and so on it goes. Justice, is neglected, neighbours are robbed, the souls of the guilty are ruined, and others involved in their sin, that might prevent the progress of it, and will not. It is marked of that Laish, that there was none in it to put it to shame. Judg. xviii. 7. Respect to men's credit more than to their consciences, is like the tender mercies of the wicked, that are cruel.
THIRDLY, I come now to point out some remedies against this sin.
1. Lét the guilty flee to the Lord Jesus Christ, for his blood and Spirit, to wash away their guilt, and take away their sin. They are no more beyond the reach of mercy than other gross sinners are. In the catalogue of the Corinthian sinners, were thieves; and yet we are told, that they weré washed, and sanctified, and justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God, 1 Cor. vi. 10, 11, Put the covetous heart in his hand, that he may take it away.
2. Labour to awe your hearts with the dread of the allteing God, whose eye is ever on you; and remember, that
for all these things ye do God will bring you into judga ment.
3. Labour to be content with your lot, Heb, xiii. 5; Be content with little, if it be your lot. A little will serve nature, grace will be content with less; but lust will never have enough.
4. Lastly, Lay more stress on the quality than the quantity of what ye have. A little with God's favour, in a righteous way, is better than much with the wrath and curse of God.
SECONDLY, I would dehort from all injustice and unrighteous dealing whatsoever, in all the ways I have shewn that the eighth commandment may be broken, besides by direct stealing, and any other way whatsoever. Be precisely upright and just in all you do, and do nothing to others that ye would not have done to you. For motives consider,
1. Whatever you gain by any unjust way, it is indirectly stolen, it is stolen in effect. Therefore God forbids all these, under the name of stealing. And there is good reason for it; for no right can be founded in wrong. Injustice can give no man a title to what is his neighbour's before God , and therefore what you have of him unjustly, is still his, and ye are fraudulent and wrongous possessors of it, as well as if ye had directly stolen it.
2. Just and upright dealing is necessary to prove you to be saints, Psal. xv, 1, 2. It is true, it will not prove it alone ; men may be just to their neighbours, and yet be no saints. But he can be no saint that makes not conscience of it, be his profession and practice in religion otherwise what it will. This is clear, if you consider,
(1.) Righteousness towards men is an essential part of the image of God, Eph. iv, 24, 25; And as the half-image is no image, so piety without righteousness is not God's image, nor true piety. Will God ever regard what we give him, when we make no conscience what we take from our neighbour ?
(2.) Without it our service to God is but half-service, Luke iv. 74, 75; and that can never be sincere, Psal. cxix, 6; In regeneration, God writes his law on the heart, and not shreds here and there of the first table: so that where righteousness, a principal duty of the second table, is not, the law of God is not written there. %. Thật injustice in professors of religion gives a deep wound to religion itself, Rom. ii. 22, 24; And indeed that religion which does not make men just neighbours to deal with, can hardly be thought to make them saints. That craft, cunning, and fraud, used by many, how inconsistent is it with Christian simplicity, the fear of an all-seeing God, and contempt of the world, which religion teaches.
4. How opposite is it to the nature of God, who is just and righteous, and whom we must follow as dear children? The unjust stand in direct opposition to him who cannot but do right. God has a special love to righteousness, Psal. xi. ult. and all injustice is an abomination to him. He has set a particular mark of abhorrence on it, Micah vi. 10, 11. 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 with the bag of deceitful weights ?' And he has also set a particular delight in just dealing, Prov. xi. 1; ' A just weight is his delight.'
5. It brings a blasting curse along with it, Prov. xiii. 11; • Wealth gotten by vanity, shall be diminished.' And although it may prosper for a while, it will have a foul hinder end, Prov. xx: 21; • The end thereof shall not be blessed.' It is as a moth in the man's own labours, and sometimes eats away his substance, makes wings to it that it leaves him, and often hurries him away from it. That is a heavy word, Jer. xvii. 11; He that getteth riches, and not by right, shall leave them in the midst of his days, and at his end shall be a fool.'
6. It leaves a sting in the conscience, which will be felt to smart sooner or later. Conscience is the deputy of a just God in the soul, which will be able sometimes to act its part, and both accuse, convince, condemn, and torment the unjust dealer, so that he will be ready to throw away his unjust gain, as willingly as ever one ready to be burnt did live coals out of his bosom, and as Judas did his thirty pieces of silver, though perhaps it may be out of time. A Pythagorean bought a pair of shoes upon trust : the shoemaker dies: the philosopher is glad, and thinks them gain : but a while after his conscience twitches him: he repairs to the house of the dead, casts in his money with these words, “There, take thy due; thou livest to me, though dead to all besides.'
7. Lastly, It will exclude you out of heaven. There is a bar drawn on all unrighteous persons, that they cannot come there, 1 Cor. vi. 9. The treasures of eternal glory are lost by unrighteous dealing in the world, Luke xvi. 11. Where then is the profit, though a man gain the whole world? It is sad gain where a thousand times more is lost by it. Peace with God and conscience is lost by it; the soul is lost by it, and that for ever. And they who walk not by the rules of justice in the world, shall lie under the strokes of divine justice eternally.
The occasions that ensnare men into stealing might be repeated here, as occasions of other pieces of injustice. But to fence you against this evil, I offer these things.
1. Consider your unrighteous nature, and carry it to Christ to be healed by him. When Adam's nature, and oursin him, was corrupted, it was wholly so, not only with respect to the first, but the second table. There is need, then, that the plaister be as wide as the wound, Eph. iv. 24. And he that would remove the bitter streams, must apply to get the fountain sweetened.
2. Accustom yourselves to acknowledge the Lord in your civil actions, Prov. iii. 6. The want of this betrays men into much unfair dealing; for where there is so little of God, there must be much of the devil.
(1.) Eye God in these matters, as he who is your witness, and will be your judge in them. Set the Lord before you in your business, and you will fear to step wrong. May be thou canst wrong thy neighbour, and he shall not know it. But God knows it, and it cannot be hid from him. May be he cannot right himself for want of witnesses ; but pray remember, that God and thy own conscience are witnesses to all that passeth betwixt you and others. And though ye may think it is long to that court-day, yet remember that awful declaration, Mal. iii. 5. I will come near to you to judgment, and I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, and against the adulterers, and against false swearers, and against those that oppress the hireling in his wages, the widow and the fatherless, and that turn aside the stranger from his right, and fear not me, saith the Lord of hosts.' May be thou canst bear him down from his right, but mind the wronged party has a strong avenger, 1 Thess. iv. 6. O how well might it go, if men in all their bargains, work, neighbourhood, &c. would set God thus before them!
(2.) Eye God in these matters as the fountain of strength. Alas! most men have no diffidence in themselves in these af. fairs, but trust themselves as in no hazard there, and thus are the betrayers of themselves, Prov. xxviii. 26. The least of duties are too much for us alone, and in the plainest way we will go wrong, if we be not led right. Satan has snares laid for us in these things, and therefore we have need of strength from the Lord to resist them. 3. Remember ye are not only to seek your own, but
your neighbour's welfare, Phil. ii. 4. Şelfishness is the cause of much unfair dealing. Lovers of themselves more than God,' and exclusively of our neighbour, are in bad condi, tion. For a man to build up himself on another's ruins, is contrary to that love which we owe to our neighbour, as fellow-partakers of the human nature, and as members one of another as Christians, Eph. iy. 25. The goodness that iş most diffusive and communicative, is most like God.
4. Consider the vanity of the world. It is an overvaluing of earthly advantages that leads people aside into unrighte, ous ways, Hos. xii. 8. A due impression of the vanity and emptiness thereof, would let you see that they are not worth a man's going off his way for them. It is not long till very little will serve us; death comes, and we have no more to do with it, a coffin and a winding-sheet, and a little room in the heart of the earth, which none will grudge us, will be all we will need.' What madness is it, then, to wound the conscience for such a pitiful business ? All the gains of unrighte, ousness will never quit the cost.
5. Labour to mortify the lust of covetousness, which being indulged, the conscience will get sore stretches to satisfy it, Heb. xiii. 5. It cannot miss to pierce people through with many sorrows. Therefore 'love not the world,' 1 John iii. 15; for whoso follow it too closely at the heels, it will dash out their brains at last.
6. A little well gotten is more worth than much other, wise, Prov. xvi. 8. There is a blessing in the one, a temporal one at least ; but there is a curse in the other. A man may use the one with a good conscience; the other is with an ill conscience, and that is a sad sauce to the meal. The one a man has on free cost, having nothing to pay for it; the sweet of the other is squeezed out by a dear reckon. ing following