sometimes of those who are the farthest from deserving it; make them apprehensive continually, that some heavier injury will follow. And, indeed, almost all offenders begin with slight offences. More heinous ones would shock them at first, but if they once allow themselves in lesser faults, they go on without reluctance, by degrees, to worse and worse, till at last they scruple nothing. Always, therefore, beware of small sins. And always remember, what I have already observed to you, that, when any thing is committed to your care and trust, to be dishonest in that, is peculiarly base.

But, besides what every body calls theft, there are many practices, which amount indirectly to much the same thing, however disguised in the world under gentler names. Thus, in the way of trade and business; if the seller puts off any thing for better than it is, by false assertions, or deceitful arts; if he takes advantage of the buyer's ignorance, or particular necessities, or good opinion of him, to insist on a larger price for it, than the current value; or if he gives less in quantity than he professes, or is understood to give; the frequency of some of these things cannot alter the nature of any of them; no one can be ignorant that they are wrong, but such as are wilfully, or very carelessly ignorant; and the declaration of Scripture against the last of them is extended, in the same place, to every one of the rest. "Thou shalt not have in thy bag divers "weights, a great and a small; thou shalt not "have in thine house divers measures, a great "and a small. For all that do such things, and "all that do unrighteously, are an abomination "to the Lord thy God."1

On the other hand, if the buyer takes advan

(1) Deut. xxv. 13–16.

tage of his own wealth, and the poverty or present distress of the seller, to beat down the price of his merchandise beyond reason: or if he buys up the whole of a commodity, especially if it be a necessary one, to make immoderate gain of it; or if he refuses or neglects to pay for what he hath bought; or delays his payments beyond the time, within which, by agreement, or the known course of traffic, they ought to be made; all such behaviour is downright injustice, and a breach of God's law. For the rule is, "If thou sellest aught "to thy neighbour, or buyest aught of thy neigh"bour's hand, ye shall not oppress one another.""

Again, borrowing on fraudulent securities, or false representations of our circumstances, or without intention, or without proper care afterwards to repay; preferring the gratification of our covetousness, our vanity, our voluptuousness, our indolence, before the satisfying of our just debts; all this is palpable wickedness. And just as bad as the contrary wickedness, of demanding exorbitant interest for lending to ignorant or thoughtless persons; or to extravagant ones, for carrying on their extravagance; or to necessitous ones, whose necessities it must continually increase, and make their ruin, after a while, more certain, more difficult to retrieve, and more hurtful to all with whom they are concerned. The Scripture hath particularly forbidden it in the last case, and enjoined a very different sort of behaviour.



thy brother be waxen poor, and fallen in decay "with thee; then shalt thou relieve him; yea,


though he be a stranger, or a sojourner. Thou "shalt not give him thy money upon usury, nor "lend him thy victuals for increase; but fear thy "God, that thy brother may dwell with thee."3 And the Psalmist hath expressed the two opposite

(2) Lev. xxv. 14.

(3) Lev. xxv. 35, &c.

characters, on these occasions, very briefly and clearly: "The wicked borroweth, and payeth "not again; but the righteous showeth mercy, " and giveth."4

Another crying iniquity is, when hired servants, labourers, or workmen of any sort, are ill used in their wages; whether by giving them too little; or, which is often full as bad, deferring it too long. The word of God forbids this last in "Thou shalt not defraud very strong terms. "thy neighbour, neither rob him; the wages of "him that is hired, shall not abide with thee "(meaning, if demanded or wanted,) all night "until the morning. At his day shalt thou give "him his hire; neither shall the sun go down "upon it; for he is poor, and setteth his heart upon it; lest he cry against thee unto the Lord, "and it be sin unto thee."7 Nay, the son of Sirach carries it, with reason, (as I observed to you on the Sixth Commandment) further still.


The bread of the needy is their life; he that "defraudeth the labourer of his hire, is a blood"shedder."8

But, besides all these instances of unrighteousness, there are many more that are frequent, in all kinds of contracts. Driving bargains, that we know are too hard; or insisting rigidly on the performance of them, after they appear to be so; making no abatements, when bad times, or unexpected losses, or other alterations of circumstances, call for them; not inquiring into the grounds of complaint, when there is a likelihood of their being just; throwing unreasonable burdens upon others, merely because they dare not refuse them; keeping them to the very words and

(4) Psalm xxxvii. 21.
(6) For-or when.

(5) Lev. xix. 13.

(7) Deut. xxiv. 15.

(8) Ecclus. xxxiv. 12, 22.

letter of an agreement, contrary to the equitable intention of it; or, on the other hand, alleging some flaw and defect in form, to get loose from an agreement, which ought to have been strictly observed; all these things are grievous oppressions. And though some of them may not be in the least contrary to law, yet they are utterly irreconcileable with good conscience. Human laws cannot provide for all cases; and sometimes the vilest iniquities may be committed under their authority, and by their means.

It is therefore a further lamentable breach of this Commandment, when one person puts another to the charge and hazard of law unjustly or needlessly: or, in ever so necessary a law-suit, occasions unnecessary expences, and contrives unfair delays; in short, when any thing is done by either party; by the counsel, that plead or advise in the cause, or by the judge, who determines. it, contrary to real justice and equity.

Indeed, when persons, by any means whatever, withhold from another his right, either keeping him ignorant of it, or forcing him to unreasonable cost or trouble to obtain it; this, in its proportion, is the same kind of injury with stealing from him. To see the rich and great, in these or any ways, bear hard upon the poor, is very dread. ful; and truly it is little, if at all, less so, when the lower sort of people are unmerciful, as they are but too often, one to another. For, as Solomon observes, "A poor man, that oppresseth "the poor, is like a sweeping rain, which leaveth no food."9 But suppose it be a person ever so wealthy, that is wronged, still his wealth is his own, and no one can have more right to take the least part of it from him, without his consent, than to rob the meanest wretch in the world. Sup


(9) Prov. xxviii. 3.

pose it be a body or number of men; suppose it to be the government, the public, that is cheated; be it of more or less, be it of so little as not to be sensibly missed; let the guilt be divided amongst ever so many; let the practice be ever so common; still it is the same crime, however it may vary in degrees; and the rule is, without exception," that no man go beyond, or defraud his brother in matter." any


It surely scarce needs to be added, that whatever things it is unlawful to do, it is also unlawful to advise, encourage, help, or protect others in doing; that buying, receiving, or concealing stolen goods, knowing them to be such, is becoming a partner in the stealth; and that being any way a patron, assistant, or tool of injustice, is no less evidently wrong, than being the immediate and principal agent in it.

And as the wrongness of all these things is very plain, so is the folly of them. Common robbers and theives are the most miserable set of wretches upon earth; in perpetual danger, perpetual frights and alarms; obliged to support their spirits by continual excesses, which, after the gay madness of a few hours, depress them to the most painful lowness; confined to the most hateful and hellish society; very soon, generally speaking, betrayed by their dearest companions, or hunted out by vigilant officers; then shut up in horror, condemned to open shame, if not to an untimely death; and the more surely undone for ever in the next life, the more insensible they are of their sufferings and their sins in this.

Nor do they, of whose guilt the law can take little or no cognizance, escape a heavy and bitter self-condemnation from time to time; nor usually the bad opinion of the world; which last alone

(1) 1 Thess. iv. 6.

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