Page images

hands of God the eternal treasures of heaven and glory ; has not this blessed consideration force enough to guard us against temptations tò injustice ? Shall a Christian break the rules of equity, and steal, or cheal, or plunder his neighbour to gain money or merchandise, who has the promises of God for his support in a way of diligence and humble faith? Shall we sully our consciences and defile our souls 5,2 with knavery and injustice for a little of the pelf of 3 this world, when we have the unsearchable riches of Christ made over to us in the gospel, and the inheritance of heaven in reversion ?

IV. Let us consider the very nature and design of the gospel of Christ, it is to make sinners holy, to inake the unjust righteous; the new man of Christianity must be created in righteousness and true holiness. Therefore are we purchased with the blood of Christ, that we might be a peculiar people, zealous of good works, Tit. ii. 14.

It is a shame and scandal to the Christian name, when one who wears it is unrighteous or dishonest: An unjust Christian, what a contradiction is it in itself, and how it disgraces the profession of the gospel! Hear how the great apostle treats his Corinthian disciples when such sort of sins were found amongst them; I Cor. vi. 7,8. Dare any of you, having a matter against another, go to law before the unjust and the infidel? Dare any of you injure your neighbour, your fellow Christians ? I speak this to your shame. Brother goes to law. with brother, and ye injure one another. Why do you not rather suffer wrong? nay, you do wrong and defraud, and that your own brethren. But what is the consequence? Such wretches as these are, shall never inherit the kingdom of God.

“ The grace of God that brings salvation,” Titus ii. 9, 10. teaches us to deny all ungodliness and worldly lusts, and to live soberly, and righteously,

and religiously in this present evil world. It teaches us righteousness towards men, as well as sobriety among ourselves, and godliness towards the king of heaven. But how hath this divine religion been scandalized for want of justice in the professors of it? Scandalized among heathen kingdoms, among Turks and unbelievers! And Christianity in our own land, how hath it been dishonoured by the practices of those that pretend to that holy name! How bath the conversion of the wild heathens in the Indian nations been hindered by the injustice and fraud of Christian merchants and traders there, or by merchants who call themselves Christians: I have heard it said by persons whom I could fully credit, that a Turk when he is suspected of fraud and cheating, will reply, what, do you think I am a Christian! O! how hath the gospel of the lovely Jesus been rendered odious by the abominable practices of those that pretend to honour him? What falsehood, what lying, what perjury, and cheating, and deceit, and violence have been practised by our traders in foreign lands? Thus there have been an ill savour of our holy Christianity carried beyond the seas, by those perhaps who have pretended to convert the infidels. And many in our own nation, who have begun to set their faces toward heaven, have been sorely disguised at the knavish practices of professors, and been tempted to think that all religion is a jest, and to abandon the ordinances of the gospel. But when souls stumble, and fall, and perish by such discouragements, woe to him that gave the offence, and Jaid this stumbling-block of iniquity in their way. How heavy must the blood of souls lie upon such sinners!

Surely there has been enough said on this head to discourage oppression, deceit, and injustice in the professors of Christianity, if argument, and shame, and terror can have power and prevalence over sin and temptation. O may almighty grace attend inis discourse of justice, and work the sacred love of it in the hearts of men !

Now if ye are made willing to walk by the rules of equity and justice, instead of proposing particular directions for this end, I shall proceed

In the fifth and last place, to point out the various springs of injustice, that ye may avoid them. .

The great and general spring of injustice to our neighbour is a criminal and excessive love to ourselves. For since the comprehensive notion of justice lies in this, to give to every one that which is due, it follows, that the general notion of injustice consists in taking to ourselves more than is due, or in giving less than is due to our neighbour.

There are a thousand instances of this unrighte, ousness among men, in reference to their bodies, their souls, their good name, or their possessions in the world. This general term of injustice is so extensive, that it includes a great part of the sins forbidden in the second table. Disobedience to parents and governors, rebellion, treason, murder, adultery, theft, violence and plunder, cheating, and deceit, and slander, with all sinful desires to possess what belongs to our neighbour, may be justly ranked under the head of unrighteousness; and they spring from this one fountain, namely, an excessive regard to self. It is to this natural and exalted idol that we sacrifice the peace and the property, the good name, and even the life of our fellow-creatures, Nor will any method be effectual to secure us from the practices of injustice, till we learn to degrade self a little in our own esteem, and to judge of our neighbour, and of the things that are his due, by the same rule and measure by which we take an estimate of ourselves, and of what is due to us. Let us put our neighbour in the place of self, and judge how he ought to be treated.

But that we may more effectually guard ourselves from the temptations of injustice, let us descend to particulars, and we shall find that almost all the unrighteous practices of men spring from some of these six principles ; viz. Covetousness, pride, luxury, sloth, malice against men, or distrust of God.

I. Covelousness is a great spring of injustice. This consists in an immoderate desire of possessing ; and we are told by the apostle, that the love of money is the root of all evil, which, while some have coveted after, they have not only erred from the faith, but they have ventured upon many sins, as well as pierced themselves through with many sorrows. For they that will be rich, fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition; 1 Tim. vi. 9, 10. Solomon is of the same mind, Prov. xxviii. 20, 22, He that maketh haste to be rich, shall not be innocent, for he hath an evil eye upon the possession of his neighbour.

It is from this cursed root of covetousness that a multitude of bitter fruits proceed. It is by this vicious principle working within us, that we are tempted to take what is not our due, either by craft or by violence. Hence it is that men cheat each other in their daily commerce, they defraud and over reach their neighbour, if they can, in every bargain they make, and try all the arts of subtle knavery, in order to enrich themselves. They divest their souls of truth and virtue, and put off conscience and shame to load themselves with thick clay.

It is covetousness that teaches the sons of men to practise upon their dealers with a false balance and a deceitful beam. They shorten their measures, and lessen their weight by which they sell their goods ; but when the case alters, and they buy any thing for themselves, they will, if possible, take

another sort of weight, or use a different measure ; all which are an abomination to the Lord.

It is the same evil and unrighteous principle that persuades the seller to put off corrupt and damaged wares for good and sound, and to cozen his neighbour with merchandise that is by no means such as he reasonably expects. It is this principle that persuades the buyer also to cheat his neighbour with corrupt and false money, which he knows to be unlawful coin. For corrupt merchandise and corrupt money, false balances, light weights, and scanty measure, seem all to stand in the same rank of deceit; these are all weapons of craft and knavery to give a secret wound to their neighbour's estate, they all belong to the armoury of fraud, and the magazine of unrighteousness.

It is this covetous humour that templs the tongues of men to speak flattering falsehoods in their daily dealings, and some of them make an hourly sacrifice of truth to the gain of a penny. It is from this principle that they break their promises of payment; they withhold the money that is due to their neighbour beyond all reasonable time, and that for no other reason hut to gain by the loan of it; they delay the payment of their poor creditors for many months, or perhaps for years, and put the advantage which they make of this delay into their own purse. This is a frequent, but an unrighteous practice in our day; for the profit that accrues by the detaining of money that is due to another beyond the customary or contracted time of payment, should doubtless be given to the person to whom the principal money was due ; or at least he should have such a valuable share of it as may compensate the damage or loss he sustains by the delay.

It is a covetous desire of gain that tempts men to practise extortion, and to prey upon the necessities of those they deal with When the buyer wante

« PreviousContinue »