Page images

men that they labour to be skilful in it, and not bunglers at what they take in hand, Prov. xiv. 8. and he allows men to look to himself for that end, If. xxviii. 26. and likewise that they be diligent and industrious in it, and not loiterers, Prov. X. 4. for laziness will make a thief either directly or indirectly. And this is quite opposite to God's appointment, Gen. iii. 19.

4. We are to take the moderate comfortable use of the product of our diligence, using and dispofing of it for our necessity and conveniency, according to our condition in the world, Eccl. iii. 12. 13. For to what end do men get wealth, if they have no power comfortably to use it? As good want it, as not to have the necessary and convenient use of it. Such steal and rob (in the sense of this command) from their nearest neighbour, that is, themselves.

5. Withal God requires men here to be frugal and honestly sparing, i. e. to keep a due medium betwixt lavishness and niggard pinching, Prov. xxi. 20. This frugality directs to the right managing of what God has given, fo as (1:) People do not caít out their substance on trifles that are for no good purpose, but on such things as there is some folid use of, Ir. lv. 2.; and amongst these are to be reckoned extravagant furniture for back and belly, in which people cannot satisfyingly to conscience answer the question, What needs all this waste? (2.) That of those things which may be useful there be nothing lost. When Christ had provided bread enough, he gives particular orders to gather up the fragments, John vi. 12. (3.) That this care proceed not from carnal affection to the world, but from conscience towards God, that we abuse not his be. nefits, and take care to do good by what is fpared to ourselves or to others, though it were even to beaits. Lastly, True frugality will be effectual to make us ready to lay out for God on pious usęs to, the poor and otherwise, as the best way to save, Prov. xi. 242

6. Careful avoiding of whatsoever may embarrass our affairs, and wrong our own wealth and · outward estate. Thus God requires men to take heed that they do not inveigle themselves in unne. cessary pleas and law-suits, i Cor, vi. 1.--8. rash cautionry, Prov, xi. 15. whereby sometimes men ruin themselves and families, and so fin against God, themselves, and their house. Of this fort may be reckoned people's rash and foolish engaging in things that they are in no probable case rightly to manage, stretching farther than they can well be supposed able to reach.

7. Lastly, Moderation of heart with respect to worldly goods, Phil. iv. 5. (1.) We must moderate our judgement about then, that we put not too high a value and esteem on them, i Țim. vi. 17. (2.) We muft moderate our wills about them, that we be not among those that will be rich; for that will carry us over this hedge, ver. 9. (3.) We must moderate our affections to them. We must beware of love to them, yer. 10, ; for the covetous heart will not stick at undue means. We must moderate our care about them, resting in God's proinise, and depending on his providence, Matth. vi. 25. 26. and be content with our lot, Heb. xiii. 5. For they that are not content, have what they will, are always poor, and their eye will be evil towards others also.

SECONDLY, God requires in this cominand that we by lawful means procure and further the wealth and outward eftate of others. We are not born for ourselves, nor must we live for ourselves. We are members one of another as, men, and much more as Chriftians; and selfishness is offensive to God, and destructive to society. We may reduce this to two general rules of practice, founded on the light of nature, and confirmed by the word,

Firf, Give every one their due.' The natural


conscience dictates this, however little it is regarded; and God's word confirms it, Rom. xiii. 7. If ye do it not, ye rob thern, or steal from them. · So God will reckon, and so will mens consciences reckon at last. In whatever relation ye stand to them as masters, Nrvants, neighbours, or under any particular bargain with them, or obligation to them, give them what is due to them.

Secondly, Do as ye would be done to. This also a natural conscience dictates, and the word confirms, Matth. vii. 12. If we must love our neighbour as our ourselves, we must not do to him what we would have no body to do to us. If ye do otherwise, ye steal from them, ye wrong them, your own consciences being judges. For if they would do fo to you, ye declare they are unjust to you: fo if ye do fo to them, ye muft either find out a law for them, which ye are not under, or else your own consciences will condemn you as breakers of the law of God, which is common to both. To move you to walk by these rules, consider,

1. In vain will ye pretend to Christianity without it. This is natural religion, which revelation came not to destroy, but confirm, Tit. ii. 12. And the Heathens who in their Pagan darkness saw these rules of righteousness, and walked more by them than many Chriftians, will rise up in judgement against many that profess the name of Christ, and yet make so little conscience that way. People mult either walk by them, or quit the name of Christians. If they will do neither of them now, Christ will strip them at length out of their players coat, and make them appear before the world in their proper colours.

2. Ye will never fee heaven without it, i Cor. vi.

9. If people get to heaven in another way, they must itep over all the law and the prophets, Matth. vii. 12. I grant that these will not bring people to heaven; people may walk by them, as some sober Heathens have done, and yet go to hell; but without it people will never see it. For thos our good works and honest dealings with men will not save us, yet our ill works and unrighteous dealing will damn us, i Theff. iv. 6. But to be more particular, we may take up this in five things.

if, God requires of us that we be careful to prevent our neighbour's skaith and loss, as we have opportunity, Deut. xxii. r. For the loss we see him get and

can prevent, but do it not, is in effect the dame as if we downrightly procured it to him. That which we can hinder and do not, is our fault before the Lord. And in this sense each man is bound to be his brother's keeper.

2dly, That we deal honestly in all matters between man and man. If we would not come under the guilt of stealing from them, we must in all our dealings with them be strict obseryers of truth, faithfulness, and justice; dealing in fimplicity and plainness, Pfal. xv. 2. 4. Zech. vii. 4. 10. whether it be in bargains, buying and selling; in matters of trust concredited to us, or any thing of his we have under our hands. We must deal with God, as if the eyes of men were on us; and with men, as knowing the eyes of God are on us. A Chriftian indeed will do so. He will be an upright dealer with men, a flave to his word, a man that never wants a quickfighted witness to his actions. And therefore it will be all one to him whether his party be absent or prefent, skilful and that will not be cheated, or simple and easily deceived.

3dly, Restitution of goods unlawfully detained from the right owners thereof. This looks especially to two cases.

(1.) Things lost and found ought to be restored to the owners, and not concealed and kept, Deut. xxii. 2. 3.: for the keeping up of what is another's against the owner's wil is a fort of theft and injuluce, contrary to the rules aforesaid. And there. fore it cannot be kept with a good conscience.


(2.) Whatsoever we have wronged our neighbour of, by taking it away from him, ought to be restored, Lev. vi. 2.4. There is, 1.) The case of trust, wherein a thing committed to him by another is kept up, on some pretence that it is lost or fo. 2.) In case of fellowship in trading together, when one puts a thing in his partner's hand, in which case it is easy for one to deceive another. 3.) In case of violence, when it is taken away by robbery, stealth, yea and oppression, 1 Sam. xii. 3. 4.) In case of cheatery, when by fraud aud circumvention it is

taken away

Now, in all these cases and the like reftitution is necessary. It is true, actual restitution is fometimes beyond the power of him that should restore; yet in such a case the party is bound to go all the length he can, as appears from Exod. xxii. 3. But a readiness to restore to the utmost of our power is absolutely necessary. For he does not truly repent of his sin, who is not willing to do all he can to repair the wrong ; nor is the love of righteousness and his neighbour in that man who is not ready to give every one their due. And in this sense the rule holds, Non tollitur peccatum nisi reflituitur. It is remarkable that it is made one of the ligns of true repentance, Ezek. xxxiii. 15. If the wicked restore the pledge, give again that he had robbed, walk in the statutes of life without committing iniquity; he shall surely live, be shall not die. And said Zaccheus, Luke xix. 8. If I have taken any thing from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold.

Now, the party obliged to make restitution, is not only the person that took a thing away, but he in whose hand it is found ; though he had it not fraudulently, yet upon the discovery of the thing he is obliged to return it, because the person who (suppose) sold it to him had no right to it, and there. fore could give him none. But particularly the perfon himself and his heirs are bound to restore, Job VOL. III,


« PreviousContinue »