Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

will frequently do them more harm, than any unfair practices will do them good. But especially this holds in the middle and lower, which is vastly the larger, part of mankind, Their livelihood depends chiefly on their character; and their character depends on their honesty. This will make amends for many other defects; but nothing will make amends for the want of this. Deceitful craft may seem perhaps a shorter method of gain, than uprightness and diligence. But they, who get wickedly, spend, for the most part, foolishly, perhaps wickedly too; and so all that stays by them is their guilt. Or let them be ever so cunning, and appear for a while to thrive ever so fast; yet remember the sayings of the wise king: "An inheritance may be gotten hastily at "the beginning; but the end thereof shall not "be blessed.2 Treasures of wickedness profit "nothing; but righteousness delivereth from "death. Wealth, gotten by vanity, shall be di“minished; but he that gathereth by labour shall "increase."4 Or, should the prosperity of persons, who raise themselves by ill means, last as long as their lives; yet their lives may be cut short. For what the Prophet threatens, often comes to pass, and is always to be feared: "that getteth riches, and not by right, shall leave "them in the midst of his days, and at his end "shall be a fool." But should his days on earth be extended to the utmost; yet "the sinner, an "hundred years old, shall be accursed. "the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom "of God: but the Lord is the avenger of all "such."8

"He

For

5

Let every one therefore consider seriously, in the first place, what this Commandment forbids,

(2) Prov. xx. 21. (5) Jer. xvii. 11.

(3) Prov. x. 2.
(6) Isa. lxv. 20.
(8) 1 Thess. iv. 6.

(4) Prov. xiii. 11. (7) 1 Cor. vi. 9.

and abstain from it. Though he fare more hardly; though he lay up less; though he be despised for his conscientiousness, provided it be a reasonable one; surely it is well worth while to bear these things, rather than injure our fellow-creatures, and offend our Maker.

But let us now proceed to consider,

.II. What the Commandment before us, by consequence, requires. And,

1. It requires restitution of whatever we have, at any time, unjustly taken or detained. For, that being in right not our own, but another's; keeping it is continuing and carrying on the injustice. Therefore the Prophet Ezekiel makes it an express condition of forgiveness: "If the "wicked restore the pledge, and give again that "he hath robbed; then he shall surely live, he "shall not die."9 Nor was it till Zaccheus had engaged to restore amply what he had extorted from any one, that our Saviour declared, "this 66 day is salvation come to this house."1 So that to think of raising wealth by fraud, and ther growing honest, is the silliest scheme in the world; for till we have returned, or offered to return, as far as we can, all that we have gotten by fraud, we are not honest. Nay, suppose we have spent and squandered it, still we remain debtors for it. Nay, suppose we got nothing, suppose we meant to get nothing, by any wicked contrivances, in which we have been concerned; yet if we have caused another's loss, any loss for which money is a proper compensation; what we ought never to have done, we ought to undo as soon and as completely as we are able, however we straiten ourselves by it; otherwise we come short of making the amends, which may justly be expected from us; and while so important a part important a part of repentance is

(9) Ezek. xxxiii. 15.

(1) Luke xix. 8, 9.

wanting, to demonstrate the sincerity of the rest, we cannot hope to be accepted with God.

2. This Commandment also requires industry, without which, the generality of persons cannot maintain themselves honestly. Therefore St. Paul directs: Let him that stole, steal no more; but "rather let him (and certainly, by consequence,, "every one else that needs,) labour, working "with his hands the thing which is good."2 And each of them is to labour, not only for himself, but his family also, if he hath one; both for their present, and, if possible, their future maintenance, in case of sickness, accidents, or old age. For, as they who belong to him have, both by nature and by law, a claim to support from him, if they need it, and he can give it ; neglecting to make due provision for them is wronging them; and throwing either them or himself upon other's, when he may avoid it, or, however, might have avoided it, by proper diligence, is wronging others. For which reason the same Apostle commanded likewise, "that if any one would not "work, neither should he eat."

"For

In order to be just, therefore, be industrious; and doubt not but you will find it, after a while at least, by much the most comfortable, as well as Christian way of getting a livelihood. It is a way that no one ought to think beneath him. "better is he that laboureth, and aboundeth in "all things, than he that boasteth himself, and "wanteth bread." 994 It is the best preservative that can be, from bad company and bad courses. It procures the good will and good word of mankind. It exempts persons from the contempt and reproach of which those have bitter experience, who make a dependant state their choice." Beg

66

ging is sweet in the mouth of the shameless; (2) Eph. iv. 28. (3) 2 Thess. iii. 10. (1) Ecclus. x. 27.

"but in his belly there shall burn a fire." Very different from this is the case of the industrious. Their minds are at ease; their bodies are usually healthy; their time is employed as they know it should; what they get, they enjoy with a good conscience, and it wears well. Nor do only the fruits of their labour delight them; but even labour itself becomes pleasant to them.

And though persons of higher condition are not bound to work with their hands, yet they also must be diligent in other ways; in the business of their offices and professions; or if they have none, yet in the care of their families and affairs. Else, the former will be ill-governed, wicked and miserable; and the latter soon run into such disorder, as will almost force them, either to be unjust to their creditors, and those for whom nature binds them to provide; or to he guilty of mean and dishonourable actions of more kinds than one, to avoid these and other disagreeable consequences of their supineness. Besides, as the upper part of the world are peculiarly destined by providence to be in one way or another extensively useful in society; such of them as are not, defraud it of the service they owe it, and therefore break this Commandment. But,

3. To observe it well, frugality must be joined with industry, else it will be all labour in vain. For unwise expensiveness will dissipate whatever the utmost diligence can acquire. But if idleness be added to extravagance, that brings on quick ruin. And if intemperance and debauchery go along with them, the case is then come to its extremity. Every one, therefore, who desires to approve himself honest, should be careful to live within the bounds of his income, so as to have

(5) Ecclus. xl. 30.

something in readiness against the time of inability, and unforeseen events. But they who have, or design to have, families, should endeavour to live a good deal within those bounds. And whoever spends upon himself, or throws away upon any other person, or thing, more than he can prudently afford, (whatever false names of praise, as elegance, generosity, good-nature, may be given to this indiscretion) will be led, before he is aware, to distress himself, perhaps many more, and be, too probably, driven at last to repair, as well as he can, by wickedness, the breaches which he hath made by folly.

4. This Commandment requires, in the last place, that we neither deny ourselves, or those who belong to us, what is fit for our and their station, which is one kind of robbery; nor omit to relieve the poor according to our ability, which is another kind. For whatever we enjoy of worldly plenty is given us in trust, that we should take our own share with moderation, and distribute out of the remainder with liberality. And as they, who have but little, will, most, or all of them, at one time or another, find those who have less; very few, if any, are exempted from giving some alms. And whoever either penuriously, or thoughtlessly, neglects his proper share of this duty, is unjust to his Maker, and his fellow-creatures too. For the good, which God hath placed in our hands for the poor, is undoubtedly, as the Scripture declares it, their due. He hath given them no right to seize it; but he hath bound us not to withhold it from them.

And now, having finished the two heads proposed, I shall only add, that, by observing these directions from a principle of Christian faith, and teaching all under our care to observe them

(6) Prov. iii. 27.

« VorigeDoorgaan »