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Malt not defraud thy Neighbour, neither rob him : the Wages of him that is hired, hall not abide with thee, meaning, if demanded or wanted, all Night until the Morning . At his Day shalt thou give him his Hire; neither thall the Sun
down upon it; for f he is poor, and fetteth his Heart upon it: left be cry against thee unto the Lord, and it be Sin unto theeb. 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 .
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 infifting 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 Complaints, when there is a Likelihood of their being just: throwing unreasonable Burthens upon others, merely because they dare not refuse them: keeping them to the very Words and Letter of an Agreement, contrary to the equitable Intention of it; or, on the other Hand, alledging fome Flaw and Defect in Form, to get loose from an Agreement, which ought to have been strictly observed : all these Things are grievous Oppreflion. 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 vileft 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
e Lev. xix. 13. * Ecclus, xxxiv, 21, 22.
& Deut. xxiv. 156
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 Perfons, by any Means whatever, withhold from another his Right; either keeping him ignorant of it, or forcing him to unreasonable Coft 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 dreadful: and truly it is little, if at all, lefs 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 opprefith the poor, is like a sweeping Rain, which leaveth no Foodi But if it be a Person ever so wcalthy, 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, Suppose 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 miffed ; let the Guilt be divided amongít ever so many ; let the Practice be ever fo common; ftill it is the famę Crime, however it may vary in Degrees: and the Rule is without Exception, that no Man go beyond, or defraud bis Brother in any Matter k.
It surely scarce needs to be added, that whatever Things it is unlawful to do, it is also unlawful to advisc, 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, Affiftant, 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 Thieves are the most miserable Set of Wretches upon
Prov. xxviii. 3.
I Thefi, iv, 6.
Earth: in . perpetual Danger, perpetual Frights and Alarms; obliged to support their Spirits by continual Excefles, which, after the gay Madness of a few Hours, depress them to the most painful Lowners; confined to the inoft 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 O inion of the World; which last alone 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 Characier; 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 fall not be blessed'. Treasures of Wickedness profit Nothing : but Righteousness delivereth from Death m Wialth, gotten by Vanity, Mall be diminished: but he that gathereth by Labour, fhall increase". Or, should the Prosperity of Persons, who raise themselves by ill Means, laft 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
Prov. XX. 21.
m Prov. X, 2
o Prov, xiii. 11.
feared : He that getteth Riches, and not by Right, Mall leave them in the Midst of his Days, and at his Eid Mhall. be a Fool'. But should his Days on Earth be extended to the utmost; yet the Sinner, an hundred Years old, thall be accursed. For the unrighteous shall not inherit the Kingdom of Godo; but the Lord is the Avenger of all juch'.
Let every one therefore confider seriously, in the first Place, what this Commandment forbids; and abstain from it. Though he fare more hardly; thoegh 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 Reftitution of whatever we have, at any Time, unjustly taken or detained. For, that be. ing 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 had robbed; then he shall surely live, he jhall not die. Nor was it till Zaccheus had engaged to reitore amply what he had extorted from any one, that our Saviour declared, This Day is Salvation come to this House'. So that to think of raising Wealth by Fraud, and then growing honest, is the filliest Scheme in the World: for till we have returned, or offered to return, as far as we can, all that we have got by our Fraud, we are not honeft. Nay, suppose we have spent and squandered it, ftill we remain Debtors for it. Nay, suppose we gat 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 Lars for which Money is a proper Compensation; what we
ought never to have done, we ought to undo as foon 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 of Repentance is wanting, to. demonstrate the Sincerity of the rest, we cannot hope to be accepted with God.
2. This Commandment also requires Induftry: with out which, the Generality of Persons cannot maiustain themselves honestly. Therefore St. Paul directs : Let him that flole, 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 u. And each of them is to labour, not only for himself, but his Family also, if he hath one: both for their prefent, and, if possible, their future Maintenance, in Care 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 others, when he may avoid it, or however might have avoided it, by proper Diligence, is wronging Chers. For which Reason the same Apostle commanded likewise, that if any one would not work, neither should be
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. For better is he that laboureth, and aboundeth in all Things; than he that boasteth himself, and wanteth Bread x. 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,