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any conveniency of life, they force him to give much more than it is worth, because he stands in the utmost need of it ; or they constrain the seller perhaps to part with some of his most valuable possessions for a trifle, because he is under special necessity and present distress. This was the extortion which Jacob practised upon his brother Esau, when he made him sell his birth-right for a mess of pottage, while he was faint with hunting. And it is the same iniquity when we impose upon the ignorance or known unskilfulness of the persons we deal with ; and especially when we make our advantage of children or servants, or of persons who confess their own ignorance, and leave the choice of the goods or the determination of the price to the conscience of him that sells.
We may indeed set a just value upon our own goods ; but we must not set a price upon any man's pressing necessity, nor raise a tax upon his igno
It can never be certainly determined how much it is lawful for a trader to get by his merchandise ; doubtless he may sometinies make a greater gain of the same things than at another ; and this is often necessary, in order to compensate the losses, the risks or dangers that he passes through. He may lawfully make those advantages which the change of things and the divine providence often puts into his hands; nor is it unlawful for him to take more of some persons than he does of others for the same merchandise; for he may treat some of his customers favourably, though he must deal righteously and justly with them all. But let him see to it that he use ingenuity towards the poor, the necessitous and the unskilful, as well as moderation toward all men. The circumstances of things are so various, that much of the practice of justice must be left to the court of equity in every man's own breast, under the sacred influence of thịs rulę, do
that to others which you think reasonable that others should do to you. It is best in all donbtful and difficult cases to practise what is fair and honourable in the sight of men, and what is safe and innocent in the sight of God; for a good conscience is better than the largest gain ; but where the sacred principles of virtue are overborn by corrupt inclinations, the moral powers of the soul are stretched at first to the lengths of moderate iniquity, and conscience is strained to the indulgence of some smaller unrighteousness; but virtue will die by degrees, and conscience will learn in time to allow bolder injustice. And then, though it may be stupified and senseless for a season, yet let the sinner know that it will have its feeling return again, and the guilt of knavery and falsehood will torture the soul with unknown agonies here or hereafter.
But the wretched influence of this vice of covetousness is not confined only to traffic and merchandise; it spreads its unrighteousness much farther and wider ; it tempts the sons and daughters of men to withhold due honour and necessary supplies from their aged parents, and exposes to great hardships in the latter end of life those to whom we owe our life itself, and the comforts of it in our younger years. It withholds wages from the servant, and salary from him that has earned it. It forbids those who have received benefits to make a grateful return to their henefactors. It will teach a man to stop his ears at the cry of his neighbour in distress, lest it should cost some money for his relief. It refuses an alms to the starving poor, and finds an excuse for the churl, lest he stretch out his hand of bounty to a perishing family. It is so wrapt up in self, that it never con. siders what is due to another; and ventures to break all the rules of righteousness rather than diminish its own estate, or part with any thing it can call MINE. It would suffer a church or a kingdom to sink and perish, and let the public peace be broken, and the nation dissolved, if it might but secure itself and its own possessions in the midst of those ruins. An accursed vice! An iniquity big with misery and desolation ! yet it hides itself too often from conviction and reproof; it runs like a river under ground, and attempts to conceal itself under the specious disguises of frugality and virtuc, while it practises all the mischiefs we have been describing.
II. Pride is another spring of injustice. But having broken up the fountain of covetousness as of a great deep, and traced it in its various streams, the labour of drying them up has employed so much time, that the pursuit of the other springs of unrighteousLiegs must be delayed till a further season.
YMN FOR SERMON III.
GREAT God, thy holy law requires,
To curb our covetous desires,
Thy Son hath set a pattern too,
Amazing justice! Boundless love
Have we no righteous debt deny'd,
Have we ne'er thrown a needless shame,