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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. ü. 19.
4. We are to take the moderate comfortable use of the product of our diligence, using and disposing of it for our necessity and conveniency, according to our condition in the world, Eccl. x. 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, so as, (1.) People do not cast out their substance on trifles that are for no good purpose, but on such things as there is some solid use of, Ir. lv. 2.; and amongst these are to be reckoned extravagant furniture for back and belly, in which people can. not 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 to. wards God, that we abuse not his benefits, and take care to do good by what is spared to ourselves or to others, though it were even to beasts. Lastly, True frugality will be effectual to make us ready to lay out for God on pious uses, to the poor and otherwise, as the best way to fave, Prov. xi. 24.
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 unnecessary pleas and law-suits, 1 Cor. vi. 1.-8.; rash cautionry, Prov. xi. 5. whereby sometimes men ruin themselves and families, and so fin against God, themselves, and their house. Of this sort 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 judgment
about them, that we put not too high a value and esteem on them, 1 Tim. vi. 17. (2.) We must 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, ver. 10.; for the covetous heart will not stick at undue means. We must moderate our care about them, resting in God's promise, and depending on his providence, Matth. vi. 25, 26.; and be content with our lot, Heb. xii. 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 command, that we, by lawful means, procure and further the wealth and outward estate 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 offenfive 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.
First, 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 them, or steal from them. So God will reckon, and so will men's consciences reckon at last. In whatever relation ye stand to them as masters, servants, 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 ourselves, we must not do to him what we would have no body 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: so if ye do so to them, ye must 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 deAtroy, but to confirm, Tit. i. 12. And the Heathens, who in their Pagan darkness saw these rules of righteousness, and
walked more by them than many Christians, will rise judgment against many that profess the name of Christ, and yet make so little conscience that way. People must 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 player's coat, and make them appear before the world in their proper colours.
2. Ye will never fee heaven without it, 1 Cor. vi. 9. If people get to heaven in another way, they must step 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 fome fober heathens have done, and yet go to hell; but without it people will never fee it. For though our good works and honest dealings with men will not save us, yet our ill works and unrighteous dealings will damn us, 1 Thess. iv. 6. But to be more particular, we may take up this in five things.
1st, God requires of us that we be careful to prevent our neighbour's skaith and loss, as we have opportunity, Deut. xxii. 1. For the loss we see him get and can prevent, but do it not, is in effect the same 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 observers of truth, faithfulness, and justice; dealing in fimplicity and plainness, Psal. 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
A Christian indeed will do so. He will be an upright dealer with men, a slave to his word, a man that never wants a quick-lighted witness to his actions. And therefore it will be all one to him whether his party be absent or present, 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 loft 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 will, is a sort of theft and injustice, contrary to the rules aforefaid. And therefore 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 loft or so. [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 and circumvention it is taken away.
Now, in all these cases, and the like, restitution is necessary. It is true, actual restitution is sometimes 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 restituitur. It is remarkable that it is made one of the signs 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, he shall not die.” And faid 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) fold it to him, had no right to it, and therefore could give him none. But particularly the person himself, and his heirs, are bound to restore, Job xx. 10.; and that the thing itself, or the value of it, yea, and a reasonable acknowledgement for the loss of it, Lev. vi. 5. Luke xix. 8. The reftitution is to be made to the owner, or, if he be dead,
to his heirs; and if neither can be found, to the Lord, Numb. v. 6, 7, 8. Luke xix. 8.
In cafe the reputation of the party be in hazard, the reftitution should be managed with that prudence, that it may not be unneceffarily blasted; for which cause they that are in straits that way ought to consult fome prudent perfon, either minister or Christian, that will be tender of them.
4thly, Charity and justice in the matter of loans. Here,
(1.) Lending to our neighbour in his necessity, is a duty we owe him for the welfare of his outward estate, Matth. v. 42. ; not only lending upon interest, which is lawful, so that it be moderate, Deut. xxiii. 20.; but freely, viz. to those that are poor, and require the loan for pressing necessity. In that case we ought to lend them freely such a quantity of money and goods as we can well enough bear the loss of, in case they be rendered incapable to pay it again. And so is that scripture to be understood, Luke vi. 35. “ Lend, hoping for nothing again.” (2.)
Returning or paying again thankfully what is bore rowed by us, Exod. xxii. 14.
And therefore we are not to borrow more than we are in a probable capacity to pay; which while some have not regarded, they have liberally lived on other men's fubstance, and in the end have ruined other families, and quite devoured their money, as in another case, Gen. xxxi. 15.; for no man has more that he can call his own, than what is over and above his debt, Pfal. xxxvii. 21. If the incapacity flow from mere providence, it is their affliction, but not their fin, 2 Kings iv. 1.
Lastly, Giving unto the poor, or those that are in need, according to their neceflity and our ability, Luke xi. 41. They are our neighbours, to whose outward estate we are obliged to look ; they are to have mercy shewn to them that way. A disposition of foul to help them is requisite in all, even in those that have not a farthing to give, Prov. xi. 25. What people give must be their own, 1 John iii. 17.; it must be thy bread, Eccl. xi. 1. And therefore such as have not of their own, they cannot give what is another's, without the tacit confent and approbation or allowance of the owner ; neither will God accept their robbery for burnt-offering. But even people that must work hard for their own bread, must work the harder that they may be able to give, Eph. iv. 28. But they to whom God has given a more plentiful Vol. III. No. 23.