« AnteriorContinuar »
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 doctrine of God our Saviour in all things,
Titus ii. 9, 10.
the threshold, and with it all happiness, and that tress of comfort, is converted into a scene for the place which ought to be the very refuge and fordisplay 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
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.
THIS text is very comprehensive in its directions
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.
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. The injustice and cruelty of such conduct is made to appear 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
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 the ground. The master owes his present abun
dance to the labours of those very men whose hire he keeps back, and every enjoyment he may be able to command should be poisoned with the consciousness of ingratitude.
The instance here adduced furnishes a wholesome admonition to all who employ labourers. Even when the hire of labourers is justly paid, there is between them and their employers a mutual obligation of gratitude. While the servant could not subsist without the hire received for his labours, his employer would be put to almost equal inconvenience without the aid of his services. There should, therefore, be between them an exercise of mutual kindness and forbearance. Let masters remember the comforts and conveniences they can command and enjoy, from the willing and faithful services of those whom they employ. Let them remember, also, that as the weaker and more defenceless members of society, their higher influence and authority should be exerted to protect and defend them. Above all, let them remember that by keeping back the just hire of their labourers, they deprive them of that which is their life, and expose themselves to the just indignation of God.
There are various ways in which a master may defraud his servant. Let him watch against, and spurn them all. He may delay unduly the payment of his servant's hire. Let him be punctual in his terms of payment. The necessities of a servant's condition require this. It is seldom that the term for payment of his hire comes round, but he stands in immediate need of some essential article of comfort, and his hire should not be withheld from him for a day. Let mas
ters, also, beware of imposing upon their servants more labour than they bargained for. This is virtually to deprive them of their hire, because for more onerous duties higher wages are received, and to pay small wages, and exact heavy burdens, is the most grievous of all ways of defrauding a servant. The same thing is true of masters. requiring labourers to work longer hours than their agreement warrants. This is equivalent to a master paying the hire of one year for the services of two.
It must be obvious from these remarks that in many respects, as regards the just payment of hire, servants are very much in the power of their masters; that in this as well as in all the relations of human life, many acts of injustice and fraud may be perpetrated for which there is no remeed in human law, and on which no human judge could give an award. But there is a Judge before whom masters and labourers must at last appear, by whom every act of oppression, injustice, and deceit will be weighed in an even balance. He heareth the cry of the oppressed one, and if we, by our conduct, cause that cry to be uttered, we may justly fear an awful retribution. Let us, then, set the Lord always before us. Let us live in remembrance of his righteous judgment. He will redress all wrongs, and servants who are wronged and oppressed, who may have appealed to our sense of justice in vain, and who may vainly have sought redress from men, have a solemn appeal to the Judge of all the earth, and an assurance that their appeal shall not be disregarded, but that their cry shall enter into the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth.
'Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour,' Exod. xx. 16.
THE former commandment had for its object to secure justice between man and man; the object of this commandment is to maintain and establish truth. In the relations of human life, it is obvious that the importance of a strict observance of this commandment can scarcely be over estimated. Truth is the basis of all fellowship, because the basis of all confidence. Without it man must stand isolated and alone-without
confidence or stay upon the earth-his natural affections sealed up in their fountains.
Truth is made the basis of our confidence in God. Unless we trusted in his truth, we could have no faith in him, and in his word he has often condescended to assure us of his truthfulness. That we may be led to repose confidence in him, how often does he remind us of his past faithfulness in the fulfilment of his promises. He assures us that he is not a man that he should lie, neither the son of a man that he should repent. He is known as the God who keepeth covenant, whose faithfulness endureth throughout all generations.
He is not slack concerning his promise, but will ointment, is blighted and destroyed; he labours in accomplish all his purposes which he hath declared.
his ministry as a suspected man, and his labours are fruitless. Falsehood strikes down the loftiest The prominence with which this attribute of and the most beautiful-converts respect and God is set before us in the Bible, is enough to esteem into distrust and contempt-and turns arrest our attention, and to convince us of the love into loathing and hatred. It bursts the ties infinite excellence and value of truth. And as it of the fondest relationships, creates distrust where is the very object of the revelation of his grace there should be nothing but confidence, and conthrough Christ, to renew men after his own like- verts the most peaceful and lovely scenes in the ness, we may learn how utterly vain are all our moral world into an arid and howling wilderness. professions of religion, if we have not been taught It may be met, encountered, and overcome, by it to speak and to maintain the truth. So when it appears in the shape of a definite accusalong as we deceive and lie one to another we are tion, but the insinuated calumny it is impossible not only unlike God, but manifest a spirit which is to grapple with. It is whispered from mouth to the very reverse of his, and possess a character mouth, as if men were afraid or ashamed to utter uninfluenced by his law. The faithfulness of God it aloud. But it obtains a place in every one's teaches us the criminality of falsehood, as well as mind, and exerts its pernicious power without the preciousness of truth. To be guilty of false- hope of remedy. Like some of those diseases hood is the highest dishonour we can cast upon which assail the human frame, and which are the God of truth. It is to exhibit the character almost insensible in their approaches, but which of him who has been a liar and a deceiver from are the most fatal in their results, it, cannot be the beginning, and there is no kind of crimin- guarded against nor overcome. A raging fever ality by which we can more decidedly manifest is immediately met by active remedies, and may that we are the children of the devil and his be subdued, but who can resist the unseen apwilling servants, than by following in his foot-proaches of consumption? A man of ruined forsteps as a liar and deceiver. Our destiny also shall be the same as his, for all liars shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone; which is the second death.
tune may work his way in the world, and regain what he had lost, not so a man of ruined fame. He whom falsehood has blighted, is ruined hopelessly.
Good name, in man and woman,
Is the immediate jewel of their souls.
Who steals my purse, steals trash; 'tis something,
'Twas mine, 'tis his, and has been slave to thousands:
Even in this world men's interests have taught them to hate and to shun the liar, and by the pernicious consequences which result from falsehood, God is teaching us, in his providence, with what abhorrence he looks upon the crime. Detected falsehood suffers immediate retribution. The liar is shunned by his fellow-men-excluded from their confidence-an object of just contempt By the pernicious consequences which result -the friend of none. He is deprived of all the from falsehood in this world, God is emphatically enjoyments which men most highly prize. He teaching us with what abhorrence he regards the cannot be trusted. His real grievances are crime, and is reminding every liar of the certain slighted. He is recognized as a dangerous enemy, punishment which awaits him in eternity. He and is shut out from the sympathies of all man- who has so well done the work, and so well imikind. The consequences of some sins, so far at tated the character of Satan in this world, as the least as they are manifested in the world can be liar, who by his falsehood goes far to anticipate fully estimated, but it is impossible to estimate upon earth the miseries of hell, cannot escape the result of falsehood. No reparation can be the awful retribution of the judgment of the great made for it. It cannot be recalled, and can- day. It is a day for the final triumph—the celled. It walketh abroad like the deadly pesti- complete establishment-the exhibition of the lence, striking down its helpless victims. No glory and excellence of truth; and it must be a bulwark can be erected against it, no defence is day of vengeance, of eternal punishment, for falsestrong enough to resist it. It aims at the mer-hood. chant, gives forth its whisper that his credit is not good, and his business is destroyed-he becomes a ruined and broken man. It points its venomed dart against the minister of the gospel-and that good name which was better to him than precious
When we approach the throne of grace in prayer, let us be upon our guard against confessing sins
‘Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward parts,' of which we are not conscious and of which we
Psal. li. 6.
THE law of God has not been given forth merely for the regulation of the outward conduct. His commandments reach the very thoughts of the heart. The purpose of transgression is a sin, although no outward act should follow upon it. He cannot be satisfied with a mere outward observance of his commandments. He desires the willing obedience of the whole heart. He requires us not merely to refrain from doing injury to the good name of our neighbour by the utterance of falsehood, but he desires truth in the inward parts. Without this we cannot fulfill the requirements of the ninth commandment. Unless we have truth in the inward parts, our obedience to it will be like the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees. It requires not only that we should refrain our lips from speaking guile, but that we should have a real and heartfelt love of the truth. God himself is emphatically a God of truth. He hates falsehood under every form. He knows the deceitful purpose in the heart, as well as the false utterance of the lips. He regards all guile and hypocrisy with abhorrence. Having an infinite love of truth himself, he desires that men also should possess it, and that they should shun and abhor all manner of guile. It may serve its purpose among men to assume an unreal character-to pretend to hold opinions we do not sincerely believe-and follow a course of conduct most opposite to our secret inclinations. But with him who searches the heart all such hypocrisy is as vain as it is wicked. He knows when spoken, whether it be uttered in sincerity and from faith. With him all deception is vain. In his view men appear as they really are. His eye penetrates the closest disguises, and looks upon the hidden mechanism within which guides and actuates men in all their deeds and declarations. No matter therefore how successful we may be in imposing upon our fellowmen by fair pretences, we shall gain nothing by such falsehood at the last. No matter though we escape the guilt of uttering falsehood to the injury of others, we shall not escape the condemnation of the false-hearted. It is truth in the heart-the love of it there-the hatred of guile, which God requires. And how urgently should such a requirement come home to us, when proceeding from him who is the truth, and who looketh upon the heart. In all our dealings and communion both with God and man, let us strive after the attainment of truth in the inward parts.
do not feel the guilt, against asking for blessings which we have no real desire to enjoy, and against expressing thanks for favours which we are not sensible of having received. To act in this way is to sin against our own souls, to lie unto God. It is an insane effort to destroy every vestige of truth in the inward parts. For as, on the one hand, we know nothing which so much tends to produce and to strengthen a guileless simplicity of character, as the maintenance of those solemn acts of devotion in which the heart seeks to unveil itself, and reveal all its secret sins and its secret wants to him who searcheth all things; so on the other hand, we know no habit which so surely establishes a man in all the arts and wiles of hypocrisy as to practise it as it were in the very presence-chamber of God. In all the communion then which we maintain with God let us study earnestness and sincerity, and he will in his mercy show unto us our secret faults, and deliver us from the snares of falsehood. What has been said of prayer applies to all acts of worship. God looks upon the heart of him who performs them, and when the heart is not in them they are not only vain but sinful. Do we, for example, engage in reading the Bible? We declare by the very act that we are seeking counsel from God, and that we are willing to be guided by it. Yet how very often is there no such purpose in our hearts. And if so, are we not guilty of falsehood? Again, do we assemble ourselves in the sanctuary on the Lord's day? We thereby publicly declare, that we have come to unite with our brethren in celebrating God's praises, in supplicating his grace, in listening to his word. How fearfully would such declarations be belied, and what an aweful spectacle of depravity would be presented, were the hearts of all the worshippers unveiled, and their hidden thoughts made manifest! It is very wonderful that the mercy of God should be able to bear with all the guile and hypocrisy of his professing worshippers, when we consider that he desireth truth in the inward parts.
As in these dealings with God we are enjoined to be truthful, so also are we enjoined to be truthful in all our intercourse one with another. We must make no professions which we are not prepared to act upon-pretend no friendships which we do not feel-avow no sentiments which have not a place in our heart. The religion which we profess is eminently spiritual. It spurns and rejects mere bodily service. In the injunctions it gives forth for our