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signification of the term, requires at his hands, out of mere policy; because he sees plainly that no person would knowingly deal with him if he did not. If he is to draw an advantage from any kind of business, he must observe the rules by which business is regulated. To see this, is only to see his own interest, and is a case rendered so plain by daily and constant experience, that few persons, in fact, miss of seeing it. Yet there may be no principle at the heart all this while. There may be regularity in his transactions, yet no principle at his heart.
A third finds, what it is impossible to live in the world without finding very soon, the numerous advantages of a good character; and that character is deeply concerned in the precision and punctuality of his dealings. He looks steadily to his reputation in business. That he knows to be essential to his success: his prospects, his fortune, depend upon it. He goes something farther than the rest. He does not look to the law, or the terrors of the law: he never intends to let the matter come to that. He does not merely take care so to deal with others, as that others will continue to deal with him, but he is anxious to establish a character for honesty,— knowing how serviceable, how important, and how valuable a possession such a character may prove. But though he may carry his conduct somewhat farther than the others, he may be as destitute as they of either moral or religious principle.
The truth is, in all those acts which fall under the
meaning of this term honesty, especially pecuniary honesty, there are so many external motives which bear upon our conduct and direct it, that it is impossible almost to know in others, and not very casy to know in ourselves, whether what we do springs from virtuous and religious principles or not. Yet a vast deal depends upon that difference, when the character is to be estimated in a religious view; or even when the general question is to be resolved whether honesty itself be a virtue or not.
All that a teacher can do (and, so far as he can do it, it may be important), is to point out some of the tests by which a man may satisfy his own conscience, how far the integrity which he observes in his dealings-his honesty, in a word-be the fruit of a right and religious disposition, or be the effect of mere worldly considerations.
Now one of these tests is, when a transaction is of a nature to be perfectly secret-when the truth of it is known only to ourselves, all others who were privy to it being dead or absent-when if we do what is right, we acquire no reputation; if we do what is wrong, we incur no censure, because the whole world except ourselves are in ignorance of what is either right or wrong in the business. When this happens, as it sometimes does to almost every man who is engaged much in the affairs of the world, then to act with complete fidelity, and with as scrupulous a regard to justice and equity, as if we were acting in the face and under the direction of a court of
justice, fully informed in all the facts and circumstances of the case ;-I say, so to act, and to be conscious of having so acted, forms a fair presumption that our honesty is honesty upon principle.
Secondly; merely to render what is due to those who can claim and assert their right is, as we have said, an equivocal proof of principle; because a man of no principle whatever, if he were possessed of common prudence, would do the same: but when we deal equitably and justly with those who must take what we choose to give them; who must sit down under our determination, be that determination what it will to deal, I say, with those at least as amply and liberally as we should do either with a superior who could command justice, or with an equal who could enforce it-this again I acknowledge to be a proof of honesty upon principle.
Now many persons may stand in this relation to us; and they often do so, for different reasons.
It is the case with those who are too poor to vindicate their pretensions. The benefit of the laws, in many cases, cannot be obtained easily. If you will have justice, you must pay for it. When such men, therefore, taking advantage of this difficulty, withhold your right under colour of referring it to the law, they rob; when, under protection of their own wealth and ability to maintain a contest, they refuse or but delay to comply with equitable obligations, they steal.
But, secondly; the person with whom we have
to do may not be absolutely poor, but may be dependent upon us in some other way. Now, whenever we make this dependency a reason for curtailing him, in any respect whatever, of his full and just rights, we show evidently that our honesty, even when we do act honestly, is not an honesty upon principle. He must be silent, even though oppressed. He must not complain, however injured. But if we be honest upon principle, we shall either lay this situation of his with respect to us entirely out of our consideration, or, if we do consider it, we shall make it a reason for conducting ourselves towards him with more attention to all his claims, and with a strict regard to the justice and honesty of the particular case now under our view; without reference to any other case, or any other transaction, which may have passed between us. He must not remind us of our duty: therefore we should be more careful and anxious not to forget it ourselves--both to recollect it and to discharge it. We may have been bountiful, we may have been generous towards him upon former occasions, but that is not to be made a reason for doing him injustice upon the present. It may stop his mouth; we shall hear of no remonstrance from him; but it ought not to induce us to subtract the smallest particle of his right or his claims. This is one case in which honesty is put to the test. Nor will it vary the case, whether the person with whom we have to deal be obliged to us
by former favours, or be dependent upon us for future expectations.
Exceedingly plain cases need not come in question; that is, when a demand is precise and positive, exact and clear, both in its amount and in the right. These are not the sort of cases upon which honesty is called upon to do its duty, or to manifest its principle. There is another class of cases, and that is of those in which there is some degree of doubt or latitude. These are the cases for an honest man to show his character in most especially when they are conjoined with the circumstances of the former case, namely, that whatever we do cannot be questioned; that in fact we have the making of both sides of the bargain-the adjudication of our own cause in our own breast, and that cause not without grounds of doubt and question,-then is the time to give evidence of the sincerity and the reality of a moral principle within us.
If in cases like these we do not lean, not even a little, towards our own side; if we attend to the whispers of equity without any one to admonish us; if we be advocates, not for ourselves, but with ourselves for every one who has a claim upon us; if we see our own cause with the same eye with which we look upon that of another-our own reasons not made greater than they are by self-interest-another person's reasons not made less than they are because he is unable to maintain them; if we impose no