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to the nation. In short, they make a distinction | society, and the most devoted patriots of their between public and private property, and think country; that to render to God the heart as there is no harm in cheating revenue officers. his due, and in the first place, is the best way, But scripture recognises no such distinction. On and the strongest motive to render to all men the contrary, it condemns it. We are required their dues; 'tribute to whom tribute.' without reserve to pay tribute to whom tribute is due, and custom to whom custom.' Christ's example, and that of his primitive disciples, are in full harmony. It is a violation of justice, a sinful indulgence of covetousness, and a solemn breach of the eighth commandment.
That no man go beyond and defraud his brother in any matter; because that the Lord is the avenger of all such,' 1 Thess. iv. 6.
THE sum of the second table of the law is, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. It obviously
And is submission then to civil authority unlimited? Are there no exceptions? Is resistance in every case sinful? No! There are important exceptions. In some cases resistance is one of the highest Christian duties. Happily there are exam-results from this, that the rule of obedience laid ples in scripture to guide us in such delicate questions. It is a duty to disobey magistrates where they prostitute their power by commanding what is contrary to God's law. The midwives of Egypt, the faithful Israelites who refused to worship Jeroboam's calves, Mordecai, Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego, the prophet Daniel, the apostles Peter and John, and many others, are all examples of divinely approved resistance. The nature and constitution of the Christian church where living and pure, also leads to resistance. The men of the world cannot endure its doctrine, and still less its discipline and government. Hence under various pretexts they stir up the civil power to interfere with these. This interference directly invading conscience of course, creates a lawful resistance to civil authority. In such cases the authority is a usurpation, and resistance a duty
down in the eighth commandment is, that we should have the same regard for our neighbour's property as we have for our own. It seems especially necessary to bear this in mind, when we come to consider such an injunction as that which has been quoted above. How very different is it in its very aspect, from the ordinary maxims of worldly morality! How very different from the ordinary conduct of men in their dealings one with another! The contrast is espe cially discernible in the busy traffic of a mercantile community. To a keen observer, the aspect which there presents itself is not of men who studiously guard against going beyond their brethren in any matter, but of men whose great study it seems to be to perpetrate this very iniquity. If, for example, a merchant has become possessed of some exclusive information regarding the state of markets, and while every body else From the views which have been presented, is counting upon a continuance of the same prices, let Christians be led to admire the wisdom of he, from his earlier and better information, can Christianity, which though a religion of high calculate most surely upon a sudden rise or fall; principle is so constructed as not to alarm the he avails himself immediately of the opportu rulers of this world. Let them admire the wis-nity to become an extensive buyer or seller, acdom with which it strongly enjoins submission to cording to the circumstances, and thus effects a civil authority, and not less the courage with large transfer of capital from the coffers of his which it exhorts to the maintenance of its prin- neighbour into his own. For a man to do this ciples, even to the disregard of that authority is literally to go beyond his brother. Such conwhere it interferes with the claims of conscience duct may be consistent with worldly honour, and and the will of God. Let Christians be eminent for worldly morality; it is expressly denounced in their exact obedience to civil rulers; their meek the Bible, and is inconsistent with the Christian submission to civil authority though oppressive, character. It is a manifest violation of the eighth provided it be competent. Yea, let them be all commandment, which requires us to treat our the more anxiously obedient, that, in some cases, neighbour's property as we would our own. they must refuse subjection, and are the only For no man who expected a rise in prices would persons who have principle enough to do so. Let sell largely, till he was able to obtain the higher them shun a spirit of turbulence and vain-glorious price for his goods. patriotism. In short, let them show the men of the world, that while living members of a true church, they are also the most useful members of
The extent to which this sin of going beyond our brethren prevails, is abundantly indicated by the eagerness universally displayed in the mer
cantile world, to get the earliest possible information regarding the state of markets. Such eagerness can only arise from one or two things. Either the merchant is obliged to seek and obtain the earliest information, in order to defend his property from the encroachments of his covetous neighbours, or he is himself anxious to go beyond and defraud his brother; and in whatever way we regard it, we are constrained to believe that the morality of the world lags far behind the morality of the Bible. Human laws may not be able to reach, and they may disregard such transgressions, 'but the Lord is the avenger of all such.' Were there but an abiding faith in such a solemn truth, there would be less over-reaching, less fraud in the world.
many who bear the Christian name, are as guilty as the children of this world. They seem to act as if the commandment were that they should not defraud their brethren in all things, and are contented as long as the world looks upon them as honest men. The law of God is against the slightest fraud. Thou shalt not go beyond thy brother in any matter. It may in the eyes of men be trivial. No transgression is so in the eye of God. How watchful then should all Christians be over their every thought and deed, that none of them may suffer as a thief.
The commonness of fraud shows the multitude of temptations to the commission of it, and the facility with which the heart yields to them. Let us all then be watchful with prayer, that grace may be given us from on high. Let the
that the terrors of his wrath may persuade us. 'He is the avenger of every fraud,' and what will our-ill got gains avail us in the day of vengeance? His righteous judgments are especially threatened against such offences as human laws cannot reach. The commands to avoid such offences are the tests of obedience to God, and it would be better that we renounce the Christian name, than under it
It is even possible that a right view of the detestable character of the crime itself, might pre-fear of the Lord be continually before our eyes, vent many from indulging in it. It is frequently because men dress out their sins in a comely ves-ture, that they are able to reconcile their consciences to the commission of them. But let us see wherein he who goes beyond, or defrauds his neighbour, differs from the robber or the thief. Awed by the fear of the law, the thief and robber seek the covert of darkness to perpetrate their crimes, and bring to their aid all the watch-to make the world's laws the rule of our obediful cunning which may secure them against detection. But they profess no friendship for the victims of their crime, and society is on its guard against them. He who goes beyond and defrauds his brother,' is not recognized as an enemy. He goes forth in the broad light of day-he wears the aspect of kindness-he deceives his brother, while he wears a brother's face. All the ordinary defences whereby property is guarded, are overleaped by him. He occupies his place within them all, and deprives you of your property, Such under the guise of friendship and favour. a man possesses a character more detestable than that of the common thief. He wears the mask of honesty, and believes-and often believes truly -that men will not be able to look beneath it.
And thus it is too, that such a man reconciles himself to his low cunning and fraud. He soon learns to look upon himself with the same eye as society does. He forgets all the while that there is one who seeth not as man seeth-who discerns the fraudulent purpose in the heart, and observes all its out-goings in action-One whose justice and truth is unswerving, and who will one day call him to an awful reckoning.
It might not be surprising that men who do not own God, and who profess not the knowledge of his ways, should go beyond and defraud their brethren. But it is lamentable to think that
ence. The temptation to get gain may be great. This one sentence is enough to subdue it: What shall it profit a man if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?'
'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. But thou shalt have a perfect and just weight, a perfect and just measure shalt thou have: that thy days may be lengthened in the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee. For all that do such things, and all that do unrighteously, are an abomination unto the Lord thy God,' Deut. xxv. 13—16.
THE law of the Lord is perfect, and it is the only perfect law. It takes cognisance of every thought, it prescribes a perfect rule of action. There are none of the dealings of men, amid all the varied relations in which they stand to one another, in which the law of God does not lay down, with all clearness and simplicity, the manner in which they are to be conducted. The laws of men vary according to the circumstances in which they are
placed. And even in their best forms they are felt, by the framers of them, and known by those subject to them, to be inadequate. But even though they were competent to meet, to check, to punish every crime as it arises, all codes of human law partake of the errors to which human nature is subject. At the best they are a transcript of a depraved nature. The law of the Lord stands out in admirable contrast to all of them. It is perfect in the cognizance it takes of every crime. It is perfect as a directory to the discharge of every duty. It leaves no case unprovided for, and its purity is perfect. It is a transcript of the mind of Him who is righteousness and truth. It manifests its own divine origin. It bears this attestation to all, that its framer was not blinded, depraved man, but the righteous and unerring Jehovah. Conscience within us bears witness to this fact. Look to the testimony it bore to the divine morality of the bible, in the breast of a young Hindoo, as briefly recorded by Dr Duff. The testimony was elicited by the view of morality presented in the sermon on the mount. After hearing its precepts read, the young Hindoo perceived that 'there was something in them of such an overwhelmingly attractive moral loveliness; something which contrasted so luminously with all that he had been previously taught to regard as revealed by God that he could not help crying out in ecstacy: "O how beautiful, how divine! Surely this is the truth, this is the truth, this is the truth!" Such is the reluctant testimony of depraved nature to the divine, and perfect, because divine, morality of the bible. It is a testimony as striking and as valuable as that which the centurion was constrained at the foot of the cross to give when he exclaimed, 'Surely this man was the Son of God.'
It is more easy, however, to admire and to commend the far-reaching and pure morality of the bible, than to bear in mind that it is a reflection of the perfect righteousness of God, who is our witness, and who will be our judge. It is by this holy law we must be tried, and if God has displayed his righteousness in giving forth such a law, he will also display his truth and faithfulness in adhering to its declarations. It were well that we could bear in mind this solemn and momentous truth, in all our conversation, and that we should daily live in the consciousness that the righteous God is our witness. He searches and knows us. He knoweth our downsitting and our uprising. He is familiarly acquainted with all All things are naked and open to the eyes of him with whom we have to do. His memory is unfailing. We may forget our own
evil deeds. They are held in everlasting remembrance by him who is to judge us. And O what a dark record that will be, on which is inscribed every short-coming, and every transgression of that law which is holy, and just, and good, and which characterizes even our righteousness as filthy rags.
Let us look at our conduct in the mirror of this particular law which we have quoted. It expressly prohibits the keeping of unjust weights or measures, and enjoins a perfect and just weight, and a perfect and just measure, but in its spirit it obviously reaches all our dealings, and tests their integrity. It is quite possible, for example, that in any article we sell by measure, we may give the full and just measure. Were we not to do so our crime would soon be detected; we would be exposed to disgrace and punishment, and the article we sold would be returned. Therefore we do not frequently find a literal violation of this injunction. But does it not amount to the same thing; does it not show the purpose of the crime existing in the heart, and is it not in reality a transgression of the law, if we ask a higher price for the article we sell than it is really worth, and obtain our price by representing it as more valuable than it really is? How many are there who durst not keep a small measure, who are ready to take advantage, in this way, of the ignorance of the buyer. A person enters the shop of such a dealer, and the first experiment that is made is upon his knowledge. If he be a judge of the article he buys, and knows the price of it, he is able to make a just bargain; if not, he is dealt with in the same way as if he received small measure, or a small weight. And yet the greater number of dealers seem to look upon such a practice as if it were no sin. Else why should it be necessary, when we want any article, that we should be obliged to ask the assistance of those who have knowledge and experience to enable us to make a just bargain? Why do we find shopkeepers asking a high, and taking a lower price? All such practices are forbidden by God. They are equivalent to the keeping of unjust measures and unjust weights.
It is worthy of observation and reproof, that the selfishness of human nature which leads to the transgression of this law is very early manifested. It is common enough to see children in their little dealings, acting the part of more mature wickedness. If they have to exchange, or wish to sell any article they possess, how apt are they to represent it as better and more valuable than they know it to be, that they may impose on the ignorance of their companions, and effect a good
bargain. Let them remember that the eye of God, of the God of justice, is upon them. If they wish to part with any article, the likelihood is, that it has some fault, which in the bargaining they are anxious to conceal. Let them act justly. Let them tell the real value of the article. If it have any defect, let them openly show it, and then let them make their bargain.
reproved for negligence. If instead of receiving such instructions with meekness, they answer again in anger, the likelihood is that they will excite the same passion in the heart of their masters. From the want of temper and meekness, servants bring upon themselves a double evil. They first of all make it certain that every duty they discharge will be a burden to them. For if they are angry with their masters when they receive a command, they will execute it grudgingly, and if they have, by answering again, excited angry feelings in the breasts of their masters, any order which is given will be uttered in such a tone and spirit as to destroy all comfort in the
'Exhort servants to be obedient unto their own masters, and to please them well in all things; not answering again; not purloining, but show-execution of it. Thus peace is driven beyond ing all good fidelity; that they may adorn the the threshold, and with it all happiness, and that doctrine of God our Saviour in all things,' place which ought to be the very refuge and for
Titus ii. 9, 10.
THIS text is very comprehensive in its directions to the class of persons to whom it is addressed, and like all the other divine commandments, it will be found that in the keeping of it there is a great reward. Servants cannot do any thing more adverse to their own happiness and comfort, than acting contrary to the spirit and letter of the law which is here laid down, and the grievances of the hardest bondage would be softened and alleviated by the faithful obedience of it. Every service, however easy and light it may be in its own nature, will be galling to those who render it, if it be done grudgingly. The hardest service, on the other hand, becomes not only easy but pleasant, when it is rendered from the heart. The truth of this is abundantly manifested in the self-denying sacrifices which affection frequently demands from those who are nearly related to each other, and which are made not only with unyielding constancy, but with heartfelt delight. If servants truly loved and respected their masters, they would experience the same kind of satisfaction in the discharge of their duties. Such services as they had to perform would become pleasant to them, and masters would generally be more gentle, and kind, and forbearing, when they saw that their servants were anxious to please them in all things. In order to secure this mutual forbearance and kindness, it is of prime importance that servants should refrain from answering again. It will probably happen in the experience of even the most faithful servants, that they will need admonition and reproof for the neglect of duty, and it will certainly happen that those who are less faithful, and less skilful, will need to be instructed in better methods of performing their services, and to be
tress of comfort, is converted into a scene for the display of hateful passions.
Still further, the text warns servants against purloining, and enjoins them to show all good fidelity. This warning and injunction points to two kinds of crime which there is reason to believe are very prevalent. Servants are hereby exhorted to abstain from purloining—from appropriating the property of their masters to their own uses, or disposing of it to their friends and acquaintances. They are not merely warned against the more extensive and glaring robberies which are sometimes perpetrated by their hands or with their connivance, but also against the very least intermeddling with their master's property. In the law of God, criminality is not measured by the amount, but by the fact of transgression. He who purloins a farthing is just as guilty as he who commits the most extensive robbery.
But there is deep criminality also incurred by servants in a way in which there is reason to believe they scarcely suspect it. Every servant is necessarily invested with considerable power over his master's property. To some extent at least, the use of a master's property is committed as it were in trust to the servants he employs. Now servants are enjoined to be faithful to this trust; they are to be as careful of their master's property as if it were their own-to put it to the best uses which their skill and prudence can suggest-and to guard in every way against the waste and abuse of it. There are many servants who would abhor the crime of purloining, who seem to be insensible to the equally heinous crime of wasting and destroying their master's goods. Yet on reflection, it will appear to be an offence of the same kind needlessly to waste, as it is without authority to dispose of their master's
goods. In either case the property is lost to the their masters; and the other arising from their master, and a transgression is committed against poverty, which renders the due and full payment the spirit of the eighth commandment. Such of their hire almost essential to their existence. offences become all the more heinous in servants It is recognized as a maxim, even in the common from the trust necessarily reposed in them. morality of the world, that the strong should not Against the thief and robber we can lock our trample upon and oppress the weak; and how doors, and guard against their encroachments. much more in the purer morality of the gospel Our houses are constructed as well to keep out which, in various ways, enjoins that power and thieves, as to obtain the comfort of shelter and strength should be exercised in defence of the warmth. But when servants purloin their helpless and defenceless. What a reproof, for master's property, and are faithless to their instance, to unjust and tyrannical masters, does trust, the ordinary defences are of no avail. They the whole conduct of Christ administer! He was occupy their place within the house, and from possessed of infinite power; and how was it exertheir very position acquire facility for the perpe- cised? It was in aid of those who had no other tration of crime. This enhances their guilt, and help or stay. And surely whenever we find renders every act of theft or faithlessness doubly power exercised by men for the oppression of the criminal. weak and helpless, we are entitled to conclude that they are animated by another spirit than that which dwelt in Christ, and that they have no right to call themselves by his name. It may be that by the forms of human law, servants are unable to secure themselves against oppression. But let masters remember that they also have a Master in heaven, whose eye is in every place beholding the evil and the good, and let them beware lest the cry of the oppressed should enter into the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth.
It were well that in the discharge of all their offices, servants would remember not only that the eye of the righteous Lord is upon them to note and to avenge their evil deeds, but that it is incumbent on them, in the station they occupy, to adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things. In a Christian household, masters and servants are fellow-heirs of the same glorious inheritance-knit together by bonds, the sacredness and strength of which should be ever felt. And if in such circumstances it be the master's part to love the servant as a brother, it is the part of the servant to strengthen such a bond by showing all good fidelity. The spirit of him who is the Lord of all should animate them in all their labour, and while in meekness and fidelity they discharge their offices, however humble, they will adorn the doctrine they profess to believe, and ennoble and dignify their calling, by manifesting the power of faith to overcome the world, and to produce those graces which adorn and exalt our nature.
'Behold, the hire of the labourers which have reaped down your fields: which is of you kept back by fraud, crieth: and the cries of them which have reaped are entered into the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth,' Jam. v. 4.
If it be a deep crime in servants to betray their trust, and abuse or purloin the property of their masters, it is a more aggravated sin, still, in masters to defraud their servants of that which rightfully belongs to them. The aggravations of this sin are two-fold: the one arising from the comparative weakness and helplessness of servants to defend themselves against the unjust tyranny of
In the passage before us the inexpressible meanness and injustice of the second aggravation, we have noticed, is very strongly set forth. The case exhibited by the apostle is that of a man who keeps back the hire of those labourers he has employed to reap his harvest. In such a case the master is represented as keeping back the hire of his servants in circumstances which admit of no palliation or excuse. He is in the enjoyment of all the fullness which a plentiful harvest brings. His crops have been cut down, and the riches of his fields gathered into his garner. Yet he grudges the hire of those servants whose labours have enriched him. He refuses to fulfil his engagement with them. He defrauds them of their hire. They, on the other hand, are dependent on what they have earned for their subsistence. With the hire, for which they had laboured, they could have procured from his abundant stores sufficient to supply their wants. Without it, they must starve. cruelty of such conduct is made to appear in a yet stronger light when we consider, more particularly, that those who are thus represented as defrauded of their just earnings are the reapers. Had they employed themselves in some other way, and refused to enter the harvest field, the rich treasures of the earth would have rotted on the ground. The master owes his present abun
The injustice and