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wound to religion itself, Rom. ii. 22. 24. And indeed that religion which does not make men just neighbours to deal with, can hardly be thought to make them faints. That craft, eunning, and fraud, used by many, how inconsistent is it with Christian fimplicity, the fear of an all-feeing God, and contempt of the world, which religion teaches.
4. How opposite is it to the nature of God, who is just and righteous, and whom we must follow as dear children? The unjust stand in direct opposition to him who cannot but do right. God has a special love to righteousness, Psal. xi. ult. and all injustice is an abomination to him.
him. He has fet a particular mark of abhorrence on it, Micah vi. 10, 11. “ Are there yet the treasures of wickedness in the houfe of the wicked, and the fcant measure that is abominable? fhall I count them pure with the wicked balances, and with the bag of deceitful weights ?" And he has also set a particular delight in just dealing, Prov. xi. 1. “ A just weight is his delight."
5. It brings a blasting curse along with it, Prov. xii. 11. * Wealth gotten by vanity, shall be diminished.' And although it may profper for a while, it will have a foul hinder end, Prov. xx. 21. « The end thereof fhall not be blessed." It is as a moth in the man's own labours, and sometimes eats away his substance, makes wings to it that it leaves him, and often hurries him away from it. That is a heavy word, Jer. xvii. 11. “ He that getteth riches, and not by right, fhall leave them in the midst of his days, and at his end fhall be a fool."
6. It leaves a sting in the conscience, which will be felt to sinart sooner or later Conscience is the deputy of a just God in the foul, which will be able fometimes to act its part, and both accuse, convince, condemn, and torment the unjust dealer, fo that he will be ready to throw away his unjust gain, as willingly as ever one ready to be burnt did live coals out of his bosom, and as Judas did his thirty pieces of filver, though perhaps it may be out of time. A Pythagorean bought a pair of shoes upon trust: the shoemaker dies : the philosopher is glad, and thinks them gain: but a while after his conscience twitches him : he repairs to the house of the dead, cafts in his money with these words, “ There, take thy “ due ; thou liveft to me, though dead to all besides."
7. Lastly, It will exclude you out of heaven. There is a bar drawn on all unrighteous persons, that they cannot come there, 1 Cor. vi. 9. The treasures of eternal glory are loft by unrighteous dealing in the world, Luke xvi. 11.' Where then is the profit, though a man gain the whole world ? It is fad gain where a thousand times more is loft by it. Peace with God and conscience is lost by it; the soul is lost by it, and that for ever. And they who walk not by the rules of justice in the world, shall lie under the strokes of divine jus. tice eternally.
The occasions that ensnare men into stealing might be repeated here, as occasions of other pieces of injustice. But to fence you against this evil, I offer these things.
1. Consider your unrighteous nature, and carry it to Christ to be healed by him. When Adam's nature, and ours in him, was corrupted, it was wholly so, not only with respect to the first, but the second table. There is need, then, that the plaister be as wide as the wound, Eph. iv. 24. And he that would remove the bitter streams, must apply to get the fountain sweetened.
2. Accustom yourselves to acknowledge the Lord in your civil actions, Prov. iï. 6. The want of this betrays men into much unfair dealing; for where there is so little of God, there must be much of the devil.
(1.) Eye God in these matters, as he who is your witness, and will be your judge in them. Set the Lord before you in your business, and you will fear to step wrong. May be thou canft wrong thy neighbour, and he shall not know it. But God knows it, and it cannot be hid from him. May be he cannot right himself for want of witnesses; but pray remember, that God and thy own conscience are witnesses to all that pafleth betwixt you and others.
and others. And though ye may think it is long to that court-day, yet remember that awful declaration, Mal. üi. 5. “ I will come near to you to judgment, and I will be a swift witness against the forcerers, and against the adulterers, and against false fwearers, and against those that oppress the hireling in his wages, the widow and the fatherless, and that turn aside the stranger from his right, and fear not me, faith the Lord of hosts." May be thou canst bear him down from his right, but mind the wronged party has a strong avenger, 1 Theff. iv. 6. O how well might it
go, if men in all their bargains, work, neighbourhood, &c. would set God thus before them!
(2.) Eye God in these matters as the fountain of strength. Alas! most men have no diffidence in themselves in these af. fairs, but trust themselves as in no hazard there, and thus are the betrayers of themselves, Prov. xxviii. 26. The least of duties are too much for us alone, and in the plainest way we will go wrong,
if we be not led right. Satan has fnares laid for us in these things; and therefore we have need of strength from the Lord to resist them.
3. Remember ye are not only to seek your own, but your neighbour's welfare, Phil. ii. 4. Selfishness is the cause of much unfair dealing. “ Lovers of themselves more than God,” and exclusively of our neighbour, are in bad condition. For a man to build up himself on another's ruins, is contrary to that love which we owe to our neighbour, as fellow-partakers of the human nature, and as members one of another as Christians, Eph. iv. 25. The goodness that is most diffusive and communicative, is most like God.
4. Consider the vanity of the world. It is an overvaluing of earthly advantages that leads people aside into unrighteous ways, Hof. xii. 8. A due impression of the vanity and emptiness thereof, would let you see that they are not worth a man's going off his way for them. It is not long till very little will serve us; death comes, and we have no more to do with it, a coffin and a winding-sheet, and a little room in the heart of the earth, which none will grudge us, will be all we will need. What madness is it, then, to wound the conscience for such a pitiful business? All the gains of unrighteousness will never quit the cost.
5. Labour to mortify the lust of covetousness, which being indulged, the conscience will get fore stretches to satisfy it, Heb. xiii. 5. It cannot miss to pierce people through with many sorrows. Therefore “ love not the world,” i John iii. 15.; for whoso follow it too closely at the heels, it will dash out their brains at last.
6. A little well gotten is more worth than much other. wife, Prov. xvi. 8. There is a blessing in the one, a temporal one at least; but there is a curse in the other. A man may use the one with a good conscience; the other is with an ill conscience, and that is a sad sauce to the meal. The one a man has on free cost, having nothing to pay for it; the sweet of the other is squeezed out by a dear reckoning following
7. Lastly, Remember the day is coming wherein all wrongs are to be righted, secret things brought to light, and open violence reckoned for. If men were to have no afterreckoning for these things, they might do in them as they lift; but thou shalt be countable for the least farthing. The Judge is infinitely wise, and the most cunning and tricky will not get him outwitted nor shifted. He is omnipotent, and they who force their way now through all bands of juftice, shall not be able to make head against him. In all temptations that way, then awe your heart with that meditation, " What then shall I do when God riseth up? and when he visiteth, what shall I answer him?” Job xxxi. 14.
OF THE NINTH COMMANDMENT.
Exod. xx. 16.-Thou Malt not bear false witness against thy
THE scope of this command is the preservation of truth
amongst men, which is a necessary bond of human society. And forasmuch as all the commands of the second table relate to ourselves as well as others, the meaning of this is, Thou shalt not bear false witness either against thyself or thy neighbour, and so neither wrong thy own nor thy neighbour's good name.
The positive part of this command is implied in the negative, viz. Thou shalt bear real and foothfast witness (as our law terms it) for thyself and thy neighbour, and so maintain thy own and thy neighbour's good name, fo far as truth will allow. This witnessing is to be understood not only of judicial, but extrajudicial witnessing.
Queft. “ What is required in the ninth commandment ?" Anf. « The ninth commandment requireth the maintaining and promoting of truth between man and man, and of our own and our neighbour's good name, especially in wit. ness-bearing."
I shall consider this commandment, as it relates,
I. To truth betwixt man and man in general ;
1. As it relates to truth betwixt man and man in the general. Truth is a sacred thing, which we are to cleave to as we would to God, who is true essentially, and therefore called truth itself. It was a notable saying of a philosopher, that truth is so great a perfection, that if God would render himself visible, he would chuse light for his body, and truth for his soul. He was not far out, for the scripture tells us of Christ, in whom the fulness of the Godhead dwells bodily, that he is the light, and the truth. And, on the other hand, it holds out Satan as the prince of darkness and father of lies. And there is a mighty affinity betwixt light and truth, darkness and lies. Truth is to the soul as light to the body; and they that walk in the light, will walk in truth. Now, this command requires the maintaining of truth. We may take up this in these two things.
1. We must speak truth at all times when we speak, Eph. iv. 25. “ Speak the truth every man with his neighbour.” I say when we speak, for we must not be always speaking. Nature having drawn a double bar on our tongues, teaches that our tongues must not be in our mouths as a loose window in the wind, ever clattering. And if discretion keep the key of the door of our lips, we will not be of those that cannot rest till all the truth that is in be out, Prov. xiv. 33. But we must never speak any thing but truth.
What is truth? Pilate asked the question at Christ, but did not stay for an answer, John xvii. 38. Truth is a harmony, a double harmony. Anatomists observe, that the tongue in man is tied by a double string to the heart
. To speaking of truth is required, (1.) A harmony of the tongue with the heart. (2.) A harmony of the tongue with the thing itself.
(i.) If we think not as we speak, we do not speak truth; the discord betwixt the tongue and the heart mars the harmony, Pfal. xv. 2. We must speak as we think, then, and the tongue must be a faithful interpreter of the mind, otherwise it is a false tongue. So truth may be spoken by a man, and yet he be a falle speaker, because he thinks not as he speaks.