« AnteriorContinuar »
these two heads: whatever doth or may hinder our own wealth unjustly; and whatever doth or may unjustly hinder our neighbour's wealth or outward estate.
FIRST, Whatsoever doth or may hinder our own wealth unjustly. This is necessarily understood: for we may neither do a sinful thing to procure our own wealth, nor yet to preserve it. But when there are lawful means which Providence calls us to the use of, and we do not use them, we sin against God and ourselves. Thus this command says to each of us, in the first place, Thou shalt not steal from thyself. Thus we are guilty,
1. By idleness, when people that are able do not employ themselves in some honest calling or work according to their ability, 2 Thess. iii. 11; The idle man wrongs himself, while he exposes himself to poverty, and so to a snare, by his not using means to preserve and improve his substance. And he sins against God, who has appointed, that in the sweat of his face man shall eat bread, Gen. iii. 19; And this is so although he have enough of his own, and needs not be burdensome to others, Ezek. xvi. 49; He makes himself a waif for Satan to pick up.
2. By carelessness, sloth, and mismanagement in our calling, Prov. xviii. 9; Carelessness lets occasions of furthering our own wealth slip; and slothfulness in business is next to doing nothing at all. And they that cannot put down their hands to work diligently, will hardly miss some time or another to put out their hand to steal. Careless and slothful management of business by one hand in a family, may do more mischief than many diligent hands can remedy, Prov. xiv. 1. Religion does not allow either men or women to be drones in their family, good for nothing but to make a noise, take up room, and feed on the product of the diligence of their relatives, Rom. xii. 11.
3. By not owning God in our business, and so slighting his blessing, who gives man power to get wealth, Deut. viii. 18; It is he that gives rains and fruitful seasons, that makes the cattle to thrive or to be diminished, and that prospereth the work of our hands. Do they not then stand in their own light that acknowledge him not in these things?
4. By wastefulness and prodigality, whereby people foolishly spend and lavish away what God has brought to their hands, Prov. xxi. 17; And indeed these two ordinarily go together,
unthriftiness and wastery; for readily they that have no hands to gather, have two to scatter; and they that can do no good to get, are active at putting away. Thus they not only misapply what God has given them, but take the high way to poverty and stealing.
5. By rash engaging in such things as may ruin our wealth and outward estate, as unnecessary inveigling ourselves in law pleas, whereby the contentious humours of some have made them like the ass in the fable, that seeking his horns, lost his ears, 1 Cor. vi. 6, 7, 8; as also cautionary, which although it be duty in some cases, as giving and lending is, yet if it be not managed with prudence and discretion may prove but a plucking the bread out of the mouths of our own, to put it in the mouths of strangers, Prov. xi. 15. and vi. 1, &c.
6. By distrustful and distracting care in getting and keeping of worldly things, Matth. vi. 31. Can that man be wealthy indeed, who, have what he will, never has enough, and whose abundance suffereth him not to sleep? Eccl. iv. 8. This keeps him from the comfort of what he has, that he robs himself of, which is the only valuable thing in worldly enjoyments, Prov. x, 22,
7. Lastly, By sordidness, which is when a man has no power to enjoy the gift of God, Eccl. vi. 1, 2. We can scarcely say, have what they will, that they have it, but it has them; for they have not the convenient decent use of it. They are of no use but to be serviceable to people's necessities and conveniencies; so that where that is wanting, it is as good as if they had them not.
To conclude this: Let us walk conscientiously in these things, knowing that we are accountable to God in them. We are not at our own disposal, but must lay out ourselves as God calls us. Neither may we do with our own what we will; for we are but inferior lords of them, and must use them agreeably to the will of the great Proprietor.
SECONDLY, Whatsoever doth or may unjustly hinder our neighbour's wealth or outward estate, is forbidden here as theft in God's account. Whatsoever way we wrong others in their outward estate, comes under this notion of stealing. So this command says, Thou shalt not steal from others. In respect of our neighbour, this command is broken two ways.
First, By direct stealing, which is the taking away of what
is our neighbour's against his will, to his hurt and loss. If it be done secretly, without the knowledge of the owner, it is called theft; if it be by violence, it is robbery, whether by sea or land. There are two sorts of it.
1. Stealing of persons, called man-stealing, 1 Tim. i. 9. 10. It was the stealing away of men, women, or children, either to use them or sell them for slaves. Slavery having no place among us, there is no practising of it with us, so far as I know. But there want not other sinful practices participating of the nature of this sin, such as running away with persons for marriage, whereby their parents are rob bed of what is their own; enticing away of other people's servants, to the prejudice of their masters; and seducing of people's children to vicious and lewd practices. All which are contrary to the golden rule of justice, Whatsoever ye would that men should do unto you, do ye even so unto them.'
(2) Stealing of substance. Whereof there are three kinds, (1.) Stealing from the public or commonwealth, whereby the magistrate and nation are wronged. (2.) Stealing from the church, taking away of what is devoted for pious uses, for maintaining the service of God and the poor. It is called sacrilege, Rom. ii. 22. These are the worst kinds of theft in regard of the relation these things have to God. (3.) Single theft, whereby private persons are wronged in their private substance. Whether the thing stolen be little or great, he that takes it way, is a thief, and is therefore excluded out of the kingdom of heaven, 1 Cor. vi. 9, 10. A man may lose his soul by the unlawful getting of what is not worth a penny, as well as of what is worth a thousand, Did men and women believe the curse of God which they take up with the thing they take away from others, they would see they had a sad bargain of it, Zech. v. 3, 4.
Secondly, By indirect stealing, which, though not accounted theft among men, yet it is so in the sight of God. And of this there are a great many ways, all here forbidden. People are thus guilty of theft, and break this command.
1. In their hearts, by nourishing those lusts that have a tendency thereto; for as there is heart-adultery, so there is heart theft. And this especially lies in these three things: (1.) Discontent with our condition, Heb. xiii. 5. This lays people open to the worst of snares. (2.) Envying and
grudging at the good of others. This is the evil eye, which devours the substance of others. (3.) Covetousness. A covetous heart is that which stretches out the hand to steal.
2. In their conversation, by taking such ways as tend to the wronging of others in their outward estate, and really do wrong them, and take from them unjustly. This command is broken,
1st, By the idleness and sloth of those that are not able otherwise to maintain themselves. Every one is bound by this command to have a calling, and be diligent in it, if they be able. Therefore it is a sin for such to give up themselves to idleness, and live without a calling, or to be lazy in it, Eph. iv. 28. 2 Thess. iii. 10, 11. Hence it is evident,
(1.) That sturdy beggars are not to be tolerated; and no person being able to work for their maintenance can with a good conscience make a trade of begging. They that are able to work, but are not willing, ought to be compelled to it; and it is the sin and shame of the government that it is not so. For they directly set themselves in opposition to God's ordinance, Gen iii. 19. They carry not themselves either as subjects or church-members, and dispose themselves that way to all manner of wickedness without controul.
(2.) That no person can with a good conscience lay the burden of their maintenance on others, further than what they cannot prevent by their own utmost diligence in labour, ing for themselves. And therefore those that will rather seek than work, though they be able, are reckoned in God's account to steal it, though they think not so.
Idle and lazy persons are guilty of stealth two ways. They wrong them that have, being without necessity a burden to them. They wrong others that are really poor and unable to help themselves; for they rob them at least in part of what they should get; and whereas they ought to labour to help them, they do it not, Eph. iv. 28.
2dly, By unlawful, base, and unwarrantable ways of geting gain. This the Spirit calls filthy lucre. For men must not only work, but work that which is good, that they may gain a maintenance. And if they take sinful ways to obtain it, it is theft in the sight of God.
(1.) Using unlawful arts or trades, Acts xix. 19, 24, 25. Such are not working the thing that is good, but in itself evil, and tending to the debauching of mankind.
(2.) By raking together gain by our own sin, or the sin of others, as for gain to play the whore, or to do or help others to any sinful thing. Of this sort is the selling drink to those that go to excess in it, where people are insrumental in the ruin of the souls, bodies, and means of others, for their own filthy gain. Of this sort also are your set drinkings to help people to some stock; which is an occasion of much sin and excess. It must needs be base gain that is made that way, as being no way warranted by the word of God of helping them that are in need; and ordinarily it is seen to be blasted, so that it does little good. Must men be obliged to abuse themselves, and God's good creatures, to help others? Is that a way becoming Christian gravity and sobriety for helping those that need? But they will cast out their money liberally that way, that will not part with a penny to a poor object, Let those that need ply their hands well; and if that will not do to help them, let them take Christian methods for their help otherwise, and not run themselves on the swordpoint of the curse denounced against such base gain, Hab. ii. 15. Wo unto him that giveth his neighbour drink: that puttest thy bottle to him, and makest him drunken also.' And let men of gravity and sobriety discourage those ways, and not partake of other men's sins.
(3.) By making merchandise of things that ought not to be sold or bought. If they be spiritual things, as sacraments and church-offices, it is Simony, Acts viii. 20. If it be of justice, it is bribery, Job xv. 34. Or whasotever it is that people make merchandise of, which ought neither to be bought nor sold.
(4.) It is a base gain that is made by your penny-weddings, as they are commonly managed, being condemned both by the laws of the land and of the church. And for people to begin the world with treading upon the laudable laws of the state, and constitutions of the church, for a little base gain, cannot be but a sinful way, being offensive and disorderly, 1 Cor. x. 32. 2 Thess. iii. 6. Our church, by act of Assem bly, has declared them to be fruitful seminaries of all lasci viousness and debauchery, as well by the excessive number of people convened thereto, as by the extortion of them therein, and licentiousness thereat, to the great dishonour of God, the scandal of our Christian profession, and the prejudice of the country's welfare. And I appeal to your own consciences,