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unthriftiness and wastery; for readily they that have no hands to gather, have two to scatter; and they that can do no good to get, are active at putting away. Thus they not only misapply what God has given them, but take the high way to poverty and stealing.
5. By rash engaging in such things as may ruin our wealth and outward estate, as unnecessary inveigling ourselves in law pleas, whereby the contentious humours of some have made them like the ass in the fable, that seeking his horns, lost his ears, 1 Cor. vi. 6, 7, 8; as also cautionary, which although it be duty in some cases, as giving and lending is, yet if it be not managed with prudence and discretion may prove but a plucking the bread out of the mouths of our own, to put it in the mouths of strangers, Prov. xi. 15. and vi. 1, &c.
6. By distrustful and distracting care in getting and keeping of worldly things, Matth. vi. 31. Can that man be wealthy indeed, who, have what he will, never has enough, and whose abundance suffereth him not to sleep? Eccl. iv. 8. This keeps him from the comfort of what he has, that he robs himself of, which is the only valuable thing in worldly enjoyments, Prov. x, 22,
7. Lastly, By sordidness, which is when a man has no power to enjoy the gift of God, Eccl. vi. 1, 2.
We can scarcely say, have what they will, that they have it, but it has them; for they have not the convenient decent use of it. They are of no use but to be serviceable to people’s necessities and conveniencies ; so that where that is wanting, it is as good as if they had them not.
To conclude this: Let us walk conscientiously in these things, knowing that we are accountable to God in them. We are not at our own disposal, but must lay out ourselves as God calls us. Neither may we do with our own what we will; for we are but inferior lords of them, and must use them agreeably to the will of the great Proprietor.
SECONDLY, Whatsoever doth or may unjustly hinder our neighbour's wealth or outward estate, is forbidden here as theft in God's account. Whatsoever way we wrong o. thers in their outward estate, comes under this notion of stealing. So this command says, Thou shalt not steal from others. In respect of our neighbour, this command is broken two ways: First, By direct stealing, which is the taking away of what is our neighbour's against his will, to his hurt and loss. I it be done secretly, without the knowledge of the owner, it is called theft ; if it be by violence, it is robbery, whether by sea or land. There are two sorts of it.
1. Stealing, of persons, called man-stealing, 1 Tim. i. 9. 10. It was the stealing away of men, women, or children, either to use them or sell them for slaves. Slavery having mo place among us, there is no practising of it with us, so far as I know. But there want not other sinful practices participating of the nature of this sin, such as running away with persons for marriage, whereby their parents are robbed of what is their own; enticing away of other people's servants, to the prejudice of their masters ; and seducing of people's children to vicious and lewd practices. All which are contrary to the golden rule of justice, - Whatsoever ye would that inen should do unto you, do ye even so unto them.'
(2) Stealing of substance. Whereof there are three kinds, (1.) Stealing from the public or cominonwealth, whereby the magistrate and nation are wronged. (2.) Stealing from the church, taking away of what is devoted for pious uses, for maintaining the service of God and the poor. It is call. ed sacrilege, Rom. ii. 22. These are the worst kinds of theft in regard of the relation these things have to God. (3.) Single theft, whereby private persons are wronged in their private substance. Whether the thing stolen be little or great, he that takes it way, is a thief, and is therefore excluded out of the kingdom of heaven, 1 Cor. vi. 9, 10. Ą man may lose his soul by the unlawful getting of what is not worth a penny, as well as of what is worth a thousand, Did men and women believe the curse of God which they take up with the thing they take away from others, they would see they had a sad bargain of it, Zech. v. 3, 4,
Secondly, By indirect stealing, which, though not account, ed theft among men, yet it is so in the sight of God. And of this there are a great many ways, all here forbidden. People are thus guilty of theft, and break this command.
1. In their hearts, by nourishing those lusts that have a tendency thereto ; for as there is heart-adultery, so there is heart theft. And this especially lies in these three things: (1.) Discontent with our condition, Heb. xiii. 5. This lays people open to the worst of snares. (2.) Envying and grudging at the good of others. This is the evil
which devours the substance of others. (3.) Covetousness. A covetous heart is that which stretches out the hand to steal.
2. In their conversation, by taking such ways as tend to the wronging of others in their outward estate, and really do wrong them, and take from them unjustly. This command is broken,
1st, By the idleness and sloth of those that are not able otherwise to maintain themselves. Every one is bound by this command to have a calling, and be diligent in it, if they be able. Therefore it is a sin for such to give up themselves to idleness, and live without a calling, or to be lazy in it, Eph. iv, 28. 2 Thess. iii. 10, 11. Hence it is evident,
(1.) That sturdy beggars are not to be tolerated; and no person being able to work for their maintenance can with a good conscience make a trade of begging. They that are able to work, but are not willing, ought to be compelled to it; and it is the sin and shame of the government that it is got so. For they directly set themselves in opposition to God's ordinance, Gen iü. 19. They carry not themselves either as subjects or church-members, and dispose themselves that way to all manner of wickedness without controul.
(2.) That no person can with a good conscience lay the burden of their maintenance on others, further than what they cannot prevent by their own utmost diligence in labour, ing for themselves. And therefore those that will rather seek than work, though they be able, are reckoned in God's account to steal it, though they think not so.
Idle and lazy persons are guilty of stealth two ways. They wrong them that have, being without necessity a burden to them. They wrong others that are really poor and unable to help themselves; for they rob them at least in part of what they should get; and whereas they ought to labour to help them, they do it not, Eph. iv, 28.
2dly, By unlawful, base, and unwarrantable ways of geting gain." This the Spirit calls filthy lucre. For men must not only work, but work that which is good, that they may gain a maintenance. And if they take sinful ways to obtain it, it is theft in the sight of God.
(1.) Using unlawful arts or trades, Acts xix. 19, 24, 25. Such are not working the thing that is good, but in itself eyil, and tending to the debauching of mankind.
(2.) By raking together gain by our own sin, or the sin of others, as for gain to play the whore, or to do or help others to any sinful thing. Of this sort is the selling drink to those that go to excess in it, where people are insrumental in the ruin of the souls, bodies, and means of others, for their own filthy gain. Of this sort also are your set drinkings to help people to some stock; which is an occasion of much sin and excess. It must needs be base gain that is made that way, as being no way warranted by the word of God of helping them that are in need; and ordinarily it is seen to be blasted, so that it does little good. Must men be obliged to abuse themselves, and God's good creatures, to help others? Is that a way becoming Christian gravity and sobriety for helping those that need? But they will cast out their money liberally that way, that will not part with a penny to a poor object
, Let those that need ply their hands well; and if that will not do to help them, let them take Christian methods for their help otherwise, and not run themselves on the sword, point of the curse denounced against such base gain, Hab. ii. 15. - Wo unto him that giveth his neighbour drink: that puttest thy bottle to him, and makest him drunken also.' And let men of gravity and sobriety discourage those ways, and not partake of other men's sins.
(3.) By making merchandise of things that ought not to be sold or bought. If they be spiritual things, as sacraments and church-offices, it is Simony, Acts viii. 20. If it be of justice, it is bribery, Job xv. 34. Or whasotever it is that people make merchandise of, which ought neither to be bought nor sold.
(4.) It is a base gain that is made by your penny-weddings, as they are commonly managed, being condemned both by the laws of the land and of the church. And for people to begin the world with treading upon the laudable laws of the state, and constitutions of the church, for a little base gain, cannot be but a sinful way, being offensive and disorderly, 1 Cor. x. 32. 2 Thess. jii. 6. Our church, by act of Assem. bly, has declared them to be fruitful seminaries of all lasci, viousness and debauchery, as well by the excessive number of people convened thereto, as by the extortion of them therein, and licentiousness thereat, to the great dishonour of God, the scandal of our Christian profession, and the prejudice of the country's welfare. And I appeal to your own consciences,
if it be not a just character of them. The drinkings, dancings, exce'sses, and quarrelings that accompany them, are they suitable to the rules of Christianity? They are generally reckoned oppression, and a gentle way of begging; but I fear God will reckon them stealing, as a way of base gain. But we have such fresh experience of your respect to warnings from the Lord's word, that I need not doubt but if ye had occasion, we should have a penny-wedding next Tuesday, Hos. iv. 4.
(5.) It is base gain that is made by playing at cards and dice, or any such game of hazard. For the lot being an appeal to God, it is dangerous to make a play of it. They occasion much sin of blaspheming God's providence, under the name of ill luck when people lose, commending their good luck when they win, mispending of time through a bewitching in the matter, whereby they cannot give over, the winners hoping to win more, and the losers hoping for better. Surely it is no working of that which is good, Eph. iv. 28. A Popish doctor, in a treasise of his on plays, tells us, that all games of hazard are condemned by Pagans, the fathers, the most able Popish and Protestant doctors, and that even Jesuit casuists find a mortal sin in playing at cards.
(6.) It is base gain when people stand at nothing, whether credit or conscience, if they can but reach it. Thus many reckon gainsweet, whatever way they can get it. They will debase themselves to the meanest things to win a little thing, without any necessity. They will toil themselves excessively for what is very inconsiderable ; and if charity and gifts be going, they will without necessity put in for their share, to the great prejudice of those that are truly needy, and cannot help
mselves. These and all other ways of base gain are forbidden here as stealing.
3dly, This command is broken by family-frauds and robbery. For in this case one's enemies may be those of their own house. These family-frauds are committed.
(1.) By the husbands spenaing and wasting their money or goods, to the detriment of their wives and children. It is abominable robbery for men to ware that on their lusts, which should serve the necessities and conveniences of their families, as it falls out in the case of drunkards, adulterers, and mismanagers. But worst of all, while they themselves