Page images

suing an unlawful calling is a sinful way of acquiring an estate. By unlawful callings are meant such, as necessarily lead to a neglect of required duties, or a breach of God's commandments. Pursuing a lawful calling in an unlawful manner is also an improper way of acquiring property. This is very frequently done, as for instance, by those, who are so intent on their secular business, that they cannot find time to attend to the duties of the closet, the family, and the sanctuary, in their proper seasons; and by those who pursue their worldly business, either themselves, or by those in their employ on the Sabbath day. Property is also sometimes acquired by dishonesty, oppression, extortion, usury and theft. By such practices, persons sin, both in relation to their own estate, and the estate of others.

I mention one other sinful way of acquiring property, which is frequently taken, and that is gaming or gambling in all its different forms. Several reasons may be offered to show that this practice is sinful. In all games of chance as they are called, there is the use of the lot, which is an implicit appeal to Providence,who is the disposer of the lot. And it is sinful on a trifling occasion, and in such anirreverent manner to make an appeal to providence. Besides, gambling excites the sinful passion of avarice, irritates the temper, provokes to other crimes such as profaneness, and fraud, and sometimes leads to suicide.

But what more especially belongs to our present subject is that it is a sin against the eighth commandment. Gamblers who win, thereby injure their neighbour's property, and perhaps ruin him, and his family also, if he has one. And they who lose, thereby injure their own property, and not unfrequently ruin themselves, and render their families wretched. Another evidence of the wickedness of this practice is, the character in a moral and religious respect of the whole tribe of professed gamblers. Let all beware of this practice in all its forms. And if there be any present addicted to it, let them forsake it as they regard the favour of God and their own happiness.

Thus I have pointed out some improper ways of enriching, or of endeavouring to enrich ourselves. I would further remark, that we break this commandment, by an improper use of our estate when we possess it. A prodigal

use of it is wrong; and so also is a using it as a means of oppression; and further we sin by a miserly hoarding it up; denying ourselves and families the comforts of life; and refusing to assist the poor and needy: and to promote objects of benevolence, public utility, and religion. We proceed to the

III. Class of sins against this commandment, viz. those practices which do or may unjustly hinder our neighbour's wealth or outward estate. And,

1. Theft. By this is meant secretly taking what belongs to another, with a view to devote it to our own use. If violence be used the act becomes robbery. Theft is against the express letter of this commandment, "Thou shalt not steal.". This is a peculiarly disgraceful sin among men. A more disgraceful character in the opinion of the world can scarcely be given to a person, than that he or she is a thief. This sin is frequently forbidden in the Scriptures under heavy penalties. Under the Mosaic law the thief was required to make heavy restitution.God by the mouth of his prophet Zechariah pronounced a curse against the thief," Behold a flying roll-This is the curse that goeth over the face of the whole earth; for every one that stealeth shall be cut off as on this side according to it. I will bring it forth saith the Lord of hosts, and it shall remain in the midst of his house, and shall consume it with the timber thereof and the stones thereof;" Zech. v. 1, 3, 4. Paul includes thieves, in that catalogue of characters, which he excludes from the kingdom of heaven. Theft therefore of every kind is a very heinous sin. It is disgraceful among men; it exposes to human punishments; and it is very offensive to God, and will, unless repented of and forsaken, exclude from the happiness of heaven. Therefore, in the words of the Apostle, "Let him that stole, steal no more ;" Eph. iv. 28.

On this subject, I would further observe, that the worst kind of theft is that which is denominated man-stealing. This by the Mosaic law was punished with death. As we read, Ex. xxi. 16; "He that stealeth a man, and selleth him, or if he be found in his hand, he shall surely be put to death."

We may observe again while on the subject of theft, that, as it is a br of this commandment to steal, so is it also, knowing eceive that which has been stolen,


The receiver is partaker with the thief in his crime. In the charge which the Lord makes against the wicked in Psalm L. 16. we have these words, "When thou sawest a thief, then thou consentedst with him." And Prov. xxix. 24, we read, "Whoso is partner with a thief hateth his own soul."

2. Another sin in reference to our neighbour's estate, forbidden in this commandment, is removing our neighbour's land mark. Thus we read, Prov. xxiii. 10; " Remove not the old land-mark; and enter not into the fields of the fatherless." Deut. xix. 14; "Thou shalt not remove thy neighbour's land-mark, which they of old time have set in thine inheritance." And Deut. xxvii. 17; cursed be he that removeth his neighbour's land-mark; and all the people shall say, Amen."

3. Another sin included in this commandment in re-. gard to the estate of others is dishonesty. This sin includes a great many particulars. In general it is a breach, in our commerce with the world, of the following rule given by our Saviour; "All things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them;" Mat. vii. 12. Whenever we transgress this rule, in our dealings with men, we act dishonestly. To mention some partic ulars. He is a dishonest man, who takes advantage of another's credulity or ignorance, to purchase his commodities beneath their value, or to sell his own goods above their price. False weights and measures, and all deception in trade, are dishonest. He is a dishonest man who buys or borrows with an intention never to pay, or when he knows it is very doubtful whether he ever will be able to pay. He is a dishonest man who puts his property out of his hands, to prevent the payment of his just debts. He is a dishonest man, who in drawing any. contract in writing, purposely omits or inserts a clause, of which advantage may be taken in law to the detriment of the other party. And all taking advantage of forms of law, to withhold or wrest from another his right, is dishonest; and so also is all unfaithfulness to the trusts re posed in us. These are some of the instances in which dishonesty is practised. There are a great many more. A good rule by which to determine in particular cases, whether an action be dishonest or not, is to ask ourselves, whether we would judge it to be strictly right in our

neighbour to act towards us in this manner. All deceit and fraud and unrighteousness are frequently condemned in the Scriptures, and the contrary is required. It is unnecessary to point you to particular passages. Dishonesty in a greater or less degree is a common sin. But it is a sin which is injurious to the well-being of society, offensive to Godd destructive to the souls of men. The habitual practice of this sin is inconsistent with the christian character and in vain do any pretend to religious experiences and joys, and make a great profession of sanctity, while they can over-reach and deceive their neighbours in their dealings with them.

The consideration of the remaining sins against this commandment, which were mentioned, viz. oppression, extortion, and usury, must be postponed until another opportunity.

In the conclusion of this discourse, I would exhort you, and charge mine own soul, while we attend to an illustration of the commandments of God, to examine ourselves, and compare our hearts and lives with what the holy law of God requires; and we shall undoubtedly find, that in many things we all offend. Let us remember that the law is spiritual. Let us admit conviction of sin where we are guilty. Let us remember that the law pronounces, "Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them;" Gal. iii. 10. Let this teach us that we are condemned by the law, and stand in need of a Saviour. Let a knowJedge of ourselves in contrast with the divine law, drive us to Christ, who is the end of the law for righteousness, to every one that believeth, that we may be justified, through his perfect righteousness. And let us never forget that although by the deeds of the law no flesh living can be justified, nevertheless, the law continues to be the rule of duty; that "he that doeth righteousness, is righteous ;" 1 John iii. 7. And that without "holiness," or a sincere obedience to the divine commandments, "no man shall see the Lord;" Heb. xii. 14.

[ocr errors]




"Thou hast taken usury and increase, and thou hast greedily gained of thy neighbours by extortion.”

In this chapter the prophet gives a catalogue of the sins of the Jews, which had provoked the heavy judgments of the Lord. In this catalogue are contained, the sins mentioned in our text, viz. extortion and usury.

In the last discourse on the eighth commandment, a number of sins against this commandment, were mentioned all of which were then considered, except the sins of oppression, extortion, and usury. The object of this discourse is to treat of these sins.

Oppression and extortion are nearly allied, and may be reduced to the same head. Extortion is by civilians defined to be, "an abuse of public justice, by any officer's unlawfully taking under colour of his office, from any man, any money or thing of value that is not due to him, or more than is due, or before it is due."* But the Scriptures seem not thus to restrict the term; but to extend it to persons not in office, as well as to those who are. Thus in our text not only the rulers, but the inhabitants generally of the city of Jerusalem, are charged with extortion. Extortion in a Scriptural sense appears to be, wresting our neighbour's property from him, either by fraud or by force. Oppression includes extortion, but it goes further; for we may oppress our neighbour, by withholding his right from him, as well as by taking it a


We shall in treating of these sins, consider them together; and as oppression includes extortion, shall make use of the former term.

Taking advantage of our neighbour's necessities, to compel him to give an exorbitant price for what he pur


« PreviousContinue »