« PreviousContinue »
Recollecting that, in their official capacities and functions, they represent God, who is the ordainer of government, and to whom every one entrusted with any part of it stands accountable, they will feel constrained to a fearless discharge of their duty, with the utmost fidelity. The command of God is peremptory and binding on all, whose province it is to enforce the laws:-" Ye shall do no unrighteousness, saith the Lord, in judgment. Thou shalt not respect the person of the poor, nor honour the person of the mighty; but in righteousness shalt thou judge thy neighbour."
They, too, who exercise supreme dominion over men in imitation of Christ, the Prince of Peace, must be just, ruling in the fear of God; and they shall be as the light of the morning when the sun riseth, even a morning without clouds; as the tender grass springing out of the earth by clear shining after rain."
3. The same regard to justice and uprightness in our dealings and conduct towards each other, is enjoined by God upon us all. And we cannot live in the wilful allowed neglect of this duty, without being subject to his displeasure.
Practise the most scrupulous honesty, in all your intercourse and business with others. Take no undue advantage of any man's ignorance, to overreach or circumvent him in a bargain. Neither give short weight, nor keep unjust measures. Derive no exorbitant gain from what you sell, but be contented with a fair and reasonable profit. Neither impose on the confidence of a customer, by giving him bad for good commodities. Never unjustly praise, nor studiously conceal the faults and
Lev. xix. 15. ↑ 2 Sam. xxiii. 3, 4.*
defects of an article, lest the buyer should have reason to complain of being deceived in his purchase.
It might be contended, in opposition to these directions for the conducting of trade, that it is difficult, if not impossible, always to act thus honestly; because there is so much cheating and fraud in the world, that one, who made a conscience of dealing justly, would fall a prey to the artifices of the dishonest, and lose his substance.
This plausible, though false reasoning, will have no weight to deter a Christian from being a truly honest man. Though iniquity in traffic is become so universal, yet a man who fears God must not be led away, by the torrent of corrupt custom, to wound his conscience by acts of knavery and injustice. He will ever remember, that no unrighteous gains can compensate the loss of God's favour, or, indeed, eventually prove any acquisition to his property. Ill-gotten wealth has the curse of Heaven, both on it and its owner. "Woe unto him that buildeth his house by unrighteousness!" "Are there yet the treasures of wickedness in the house of the wicked, and the scant measure which is abominable? Shall I count them pure with the wicked balances, and with the bag of deceitful weights?" "He that getteth riches, and not by right, shall leave them in the midst of his days, and at his end shall be a fool."
To encourage the strictest observance of justice amongst men, God, who is sole proprietor of all things, pledges his word and honour for the maintenance and prosperity of them that deal uprightly. "Thou shalt not have in thy bag divers weights, a great and a small, (the one to buy, the other to sell with) thou shalt not have in thine house divers Jer. xxii. 13.. * Micah vi. 10, 11. Jer. xvii. 11.
measures, a great and a small; but thou shalt have a perfect and just weight, a perfect and just measure shalt thou have; that thy days may be lengthened, in the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee."
It is self-evident, that, the moment our true interest is weighed in the scales of religion," honesty is always the best policy;" for the breach of it, under any circumstance, is sure to make us obnoxious in the sight of a holy God.
After the positive commands and threatenings of the Lord against all unrighteousness, we can never sanction, by word or deed, the frauds so common in trade, nor do any thing unjustly; unless we are willing to bid farewell to peace of conscience, and to that sweet communion with God which is the greatest comfort in life; and unless we consent to exchange the pleasing hope of heaven for self-condemnation, and a certain dread of judgment to come. "To him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin."
4. Again; display an equitable temper towards all mankind, by giving to every one his just due. Defraud no man, by refusing the payment of debts lawfully contracted; but punctually settle your accounts, that your tradesmen may be able to live as well as yourselves.
That extravagance, by which so many expend large sums of money, in furniture, dress, and the luxuries of life, for which they never pay, is a species of robbery which you will ahhor. Rather than gratify pride at the sacrifice of honesty, let your expenses be kept within moderate bounds, that your creditors may not become bankrupts through your prodigality. 5. As a master, or an employer of the poor, it is a * Rom. xiii. 7, 8.
Deut. xxv. 13-16.
duty incumbent on you to give your labourers and servants that which is just and equal. You ought not to prevaricate with them, nor withhold their wages when due. Lay upon them no heavier burthen than they are able to bear, nor exact any hard or unreasonable labour. In case of a slight failure or omission of duty, do not load them with abuse, nor provoke them to anger by threatening language. Whenever you observe them diligent and faithful in your service, shew your approbation of their conduct, by giving them suitable encouragement. The command of God secures the exercise of justice to servants :-"Thou shalt not oppress an hired servant that is poor and needy, lest he cry against thee to the Lord, and it be sin unto thee".'
6. As a subject, owing a dutiful obedience to the King, you will deem it just to pay his officers the taxes imposed by law, to defray the charges of government, and for the defence of the kingdom against its enemies. The command of God sanctions this right: "Render, therefore, to all their dues; tribute, to whom tribute; custom, to whom custom is due'.'
Christ has set us an example in this respect. He wrought a miracle to pay the tax demanded of him and his disciple". Thus, by " rendering unto Cæsar the things which are Cæsar's," he clearly condemns the injustice of those who evade the payment of taxes, and leave their neighbour to bear a disproportionate part of them.
7. The practice of smuggling is illegal and injurious. "Whilst it defrauds the public treasury, it hurts the fair trader, and encourages an infamous set
b Deut. xxiv. 15, 16.
Matt. xvii. 25-27.
1 Rom. xiii. 6, 7.
of men to obtain their livelihood in open defiance of the law." Those who follow this disgraceful calling often live in riot and drunkenness, and, through the violence of their conduct, sometimes keep a whole neighbourhood in a state of confusion and alarm.
We cannot, knowingly, purchase contraband goods from any persons concerned in this dishonest traffic, without being sharers in their crime.
8. Restitution to those whom we have injured, by act or word, is an indispensable part of justice. Have you betrayed any one into pernicious errors in religion, or tempted him to sinful practices? Repenting of the serious injury which you have done to his soul, seize the earliest opportunity of trying to repair it, by making him sensible of the condition in which you have placed him, and by inducing him to reform his wicked life.
Have you defrauded any man of his property; or withheld from him what is justly due? Lose not a moment in making full restitution, to the utmost of your power. Let not conscience reproach you with the guilt of living dishonestly on property which belongs not to you; for, to act in this scandalous way, is to violate the golden maxim of Christ, "Whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them; for this is the Law and the Prophets."
Have you done an injury to your neighbour, by calumny, or by propagating a falsehood to the discredit of his character? As the reputation of a good name is preferable to riches, if, through malicious resentment, or any other evil passion, you have aimed a blow at the fame or character of another, justice to the person whom you have thus dishonoured demands a full and open retractation of the falsehood. This reparation cannot be refused, without the