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TWENTY-Ninth Day.—MORNING. tion. And hence Jehovah, under the Jewish
dispensation, had frequent occasion to complain • Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. of being robbed of tithes and offerings. His
But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In altars did not receive the allotted and approtithes and offerings. Ye are cursed with a
priate oblations, and his priests and ministers, curse: for ye hare robbed me, even this whole | -—the temple and the synagogues—did not obtain nation,' Mal. iii. 8, 9.
from the produce of the soil the support to which Well may we, like Israel of old, when such a they were entitled. The unbelief and covetousquestion is put, Will a man rob God?' ask, ness of men robbed God of his rightful property. • Who would have the daring to do so, or who, The form under which men rob Him in Christhough sufficiently audacious, would have the tian countries now, may not be precisely the same, power? How is it possible to rob the Universal though in many cases He is robbed in regard to Proprietor and Lord--the All-seeing and Omnipo- tithes, where publicly sanctioned as a means of tent One?
easy to deceive and defraud supporting Christianity; but there are still a the most penetrating of men, but to rob God, how multitude of ways in which professed Christians vain the effort! how monstrous the idea! We apply to their own use what is due to God. Is are assured, however, that ancient Israel, in a there not a too general withholding from His corrupt and degenerate period of her history, did cause both at home and abroad; a meagre
and rob Jehovah; and though not precisely in the same niggardly way of giving to religious objects, which way, yet substantially is he robbed by all men, and strangely contrasts with the profusion which men even his professed church, now and in every age. expend upon themselves, and families, and houses? In one sense indeed, God cannot be robbed-he When it is thought necessary to retrench, are not cannot be deceived, nor can any thing which religious objects the first to suffer, as those which he would retain be taken from him. Still by are so unimportant that they may well be spared their sins do men deprive him of his rights, and on? Are not contributions to the church of God thus constitute themselves the greatest and most often postponed to subscriptions for other interserious of robbers. They are guilty of sacrilege. ests? Do not religious men frequently die more
When God gave to man the earth for his use, wealthy than is creditable to their Christianity? he seems to have reserved a tenth part of the Is it not to be feared that in these, and many other produce for himself; at once as a test of man's ways, God may say, “ye have robbed me, even obedience, an acknowledgment of God's univer- this whole nation ? sal proprietorship, and also as a mean of provid- And what are the consequences? Is it a small ing religious instruction for all classes, particu- matter to rob God, either of his day or his prolarly the poor and destitute. This institution of perty? No. He pronounces upon all such the tithe was recognized under the patriarchal dis- most direful doom, · Ye are cursed with a curse. pensation, and was expressly embodied among the This sin is a national sin, as well as an individual laws of the Jews. Whether or not it was in one, and though it may be little thought of the tended to apply in every country and generation result is appalling. The candlestick is taken may admit of question ; though more can be urged away from the church—the candlestick of sound on the affirmative side, than men in general who doctrine and pure ordinances, and in regard to the have not studied the subject can well imagine. country it is said, the nation and kingdom that But however that may be, there can be no doubt will not serve God shall perish. Men deceive that it is an eminently wise institution, and that themselves in imagining that in withholding or it possesses this singular advantage of rising with alienating from Him what is due, they shall still the progress of improvement, and so with the prosper. It was remarked at the period of the moral and religious necessities of the nation. It Reformation, that the families which robbed the supplies also the people with the means of grace Church—fallen and corrupt as she was—so as and salvation, without provoking, as public grants to alienate the tithes and lands from supportof money are apt to do, the hostility of some ing the preaching of the gospel to which the part of the community, and so in a considerable Reformers were anxious to apply them, did not degree of defeating the very end of a public prosper even for this world, but speedily come to provision for the maintenance of religion. But poverty. It is a true, yea, an inspired saying, of whatever divine wisdom there may be in the the wise man, there is that scattereth, and yet tithe arrangement, it requires more faith in the encreaseth; and there is that with holdeth more word of God, than the covetousness of man than is meet, and it tendeth to poverty. It was generally allows, to permit of its smooth opera- | not without reason, then, that good John Brown,
in his Catechism for children, places almsgiving important, and is most apt to be misunderstood, among the direct means of getting on in the and in some aspects is frequently and seriously world. The countries which rob God most seri- infringed, we shall confine our attention to it. ously of his day, are not the most prosperous. The general rule is submission, even to the most Britain and the United States of America, which tyrannical governments, and that not merely for keep the sabbath, are far ahead of any nation wrath's sake—the fear of punish ent in the which profane it. Let no professing Christians event of disobedience, but for conscience' sake, then presume to rob God. None would dare because commanded of God who has appointed to do so directly were He visibly present ; let civil government as one of his ordinances for His none do so in spirit and reality. Let them con- own glory, and the good of the world, as truly as sider that it is not for his own sake, for his own he has appointed the Christian church for the happiness or glory, that He requires offerings on same ends. his altar and a day for his worship; that these are Christians are required to render “tribute to demanded solely for their good. Let them con- whom tribute is due, and custom to whom cussider how much they are indebted to Christianity, tom;' in other words, they are to pay their public how much it has done for them, from how many taxes, however many and oppresssive they may expensive vices it has kept them, and how much be. They may use all constitutional means to worldly wealth it has been the means of pouring have them mitigated or abolished, but so long as into their lap, and let them be liberal in their they have the force of law, they are bound, donations to the cause of God in return. Let as Christian men, to render a cheerful payment. them beware of covetousness and unbelief, and They are not entitled to start objections, and say remember that the circumstance, that the laws that the proceeds of the tax are applied in ways of society care little for the robbery of God, if of which they conscientiously disapprove, and that the temporal interests of men be assailed, is just therefore they are released from the obligation of a reason why God guards the sanctity of his paying. This is a false principle, which would own institutions the more carefully, and why speedily prevent the payment of any tax whathis people should fall in with his views the more ever. A Christian's conscience has no responsiunreservedly.
bility in connection with the application of a tax. The moment the money is paid it ceases to be his.
The responsibility belongs to the government or TWENTY-NINTH DAY.--EVENING. nation. It would be hard, indeed, if Christians
were made responsible for the application of Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due ; custom to whom custom; mind. Their divine Master, in great condescension
public taxes. They could never enjoy rest of fear to whom fear ; honour to whom honour,' and kindness, has released them from all such
perRom. xiii. 7.
plexities, by requiring them to pay the tax where The apostle Paul had been describing a very im- the civil authority is competent, and where they portant class of duties, those which Christians owe at the same time may use all legitimate means for to men placed over them in civil authority. This is its abrogation. No man should feel his conscience at all times a matter of delicacy, and was peculiarly invaded, unless the ruling power requires him to do so in the day in which he lived, when the world what it is impossible for him to do without sin. was groaning under despotism, and men in power This never can be the case in paying a public were watchful and jealous of Christianity as a new tax, with the application of which those who pay religion, interfering with their supposed rights. have nothing to do. Our blessed Lord, though But he faithfully taught the Christian's duty for legally exempted, yet cheerfully paid a public all times, it may be to the displeasure of not a tax, lest any should be 'offended’ or stumbled few professed Christians, who would have wished by his refusal, nay, wrought a miracle to obtain for greater latitude in their submission. Pass- the means, though of some parts of its application ing from duty to the civil magistrates, he pro- he doubtless could not approve. ceeds to duty to men in general where invested There is another and a far more frequent error, with authority. Under the general language or rather sin, connected with the public taxes, and of the passage we may comprehend the duties that is, the notion that men may lawfully, or at which children owe to parents, servants to least with little guilt, defraud the revenue. Many masters, pupils to teachers, people to ministers; it is well-known, of ordinary integrity in their in short, duties to superiors: but as the duty transactions with private individuals, think themwhich Christians owe to civil authority is very selves entitled, if able, to appropriate what belongs to the nation. In short, they make a distinction society, and the most devoted patriots of their between public and private property, and think country; that to render to God the heart as there is no harm in cheating revenue officers. his due, and in the first place, is the best way, But scripture recognises no such distinction. On and the strongest motive to render to all men the contrary, it condemns it. We are required their dues; • tribute to whom tribute.' without reserve to pay “tribute to whom tribute is due, and custom to whom custom. And Christ's example, and that of his primitive disciples, are in full harmony. It is a violation of
THIRTIETH DAY.-MORNING. justice, a sinful indulgence of covetousness, and a solemn breach of the eighth commandment.
* That no man go beyond and defraud his brother And is submission then to civil authority un
in any matter; because that the Lord is the limited? Are there no exceptions? Is resistance
avenger of all such,' 1 Thess. iv. 6. in every case sinful? No! There are important The sum of the second table of the law is, Thou exceptions. In some cases resistance is one of the shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. It obviously highest Christian duties. Happily there are exam results from this, that the rule of obedience laid ples in scripture to guide us in such delicate ques- down in the eighth commandment is, that we tions. It is a duty to disobey magistrates where should have the same regard for our neighbour's they prostitute their power by commanding what property as we have for our own. It seems is contrary to God's law. The midwives of especially necessary to bear this in mind, when Egypt, the faithful Israelites who refused to we come to consider such an injunction as that worship Jeroboam's calves, Mordecai, Shadrach, which has been quoted above. How very difMeshach, Abednego, the prophet Daniel, the apos- ferent is it in its very aspect, from the ordinary tles Peter and John, and many others, are all maxims of worldly morality! How very different examples of divinely approved resistance. The from the ordinary conduct of men in their dealnature and constitution of the Christian church ings one with another! The contrast is espewhere living and pure, also leads to resistance. cially discernible in the busy traffic of a mercantile The men of the world cannot endure its doctrine, community. To a keen observer, the aspect and still less its discipline and government. Hence which there presents itself is not of men who under various pretexts they stir up the civil studiously guard against going beyond their power to interfere with these. This interference brethren in any matter, but of men whose great directly invading conscience of course, creates a study it seems to be to perpetrate this very lawful resistance to civil authority. In such iniquity. If, for example, a merchant has become cases the authority is a usurpation, and resistance possessed of some exclusive information regarding a duty
the state of markets, and while every body else From the views which have been presented, is counting upon a continuance of the same prices, let Christians be led to admire the wisdom of he, from his earlier and better information, can Christianity, which thongh a religion of high calculate most surely upon a sudden rise or fall; principle is so constructed as not to alarm the he avails himself immediately of the opporturulers of this world. Let them admire the wis- nity to become an extensive buyer or seller, aedom with which it strongly enjoins submission to cording to the circumstances, and thus effects : civil authority, and not less the courage with large transfer of capital from the coffers of his which it exhorts to the maintenance of its prin- neighbour into his own. For a man to do this ciples, even to the disregard of that authority is literally to go beyond his brother. Such conwhere it interferes with the claims of conscience duct may be consistent with worldly honour, and and the will of God. Let Christians be eminent for worldly morality; it is expressly denounced in their exact obedience to civil rulers; their meek the Bible, and is inconsistent with the Christian submission to civil authority though oppressive, character. It is a manifest violation of the eighth provided it be competent. Yea, let them be all commandment, which requires us to treat our the more anxiously obedient, that, in some cases, neighbour's property as we would our own, they must refuse subjection, and are the only For no man who expected a rise in prices would persons who have principle enough to do so. Let sell largely, till he was able to obtain the higher them shun a spirit of turbulence and vain-glorious price for his goods. patriotism. In short, let them show the men of The extent to which this sin of going beyond the world, that while living members of a true our brethren prevails, is abundantly indicated by church, they are also the most useful members of the eagerness universally displayed in the micr
cantile world, to get the earliest possible infor- many who bear the Christian name, are as guilty mation regarding the state of markets. Such as the children of this world. They seem to act eagerness can only arise from one or two things. as if the commandment were that they should not Either the merchant is obliged to seek and obtain defraud their brethren in all things, and are conthe earliest information, in order to defend his tented as long as the world looks upon them as property from the encroachments of his covetous honest men. The law of God is against the neighbours, or he is himself anxious to go beyond slightest fraud. Thou shalt not go beyond thy and defraud his brother; and in whatever way we brother in any matter. It may in the eyes of regard it, we are constrained to believe that the men be trivial. No transgression is so in the eye morality of the world lags far behind the morality of God. How watchful then should all Chrisof the Bible. Human laws may not be able to tians be over their every thought and deed, that reach, and they may disregard such transgressions, none of them may suffer as a thief. but the Lord is the avenger of all such. Were The commonness of fraud shows the multitude there but an abiding faith in such a solemn truth, of temptations to the commission of it, and the there would be less over-reaching, less fraud in facility with which the heart yields to them. the world.
Let us all then be watchful with prayer, that It is even possible that a right view of the grace may be given us from on high. Let the detestable character of the crime itself, might pre- fear of the Lord be continually before our eyes, vent many from indulging in it. It is frequently that the terrors of his wrath may persuade us. because men dress out their sins in a comely ves- · He is the avenger of every fraud,' and what will ture, that they are able to reconcile their con-our-ill got gains avail us in the day of vengeance? sciences to the commission of them. But let us His righteous judgments are especially threatened see wherein he who goes beyond, or defrauds his against such offences as human laws cannot reach. neighbour, differs from the robber or the thief. The commands to avoid such offences are the tests Awed by the fear of the law, the thief and rob- of obedience to God, and it would be better that ber seek the covert of darkness to perpetrate we renounce the Christian name, than under it their crimes, and bring to their aid all the watch to make the world's laws the rule of our obediful cunning which may secure them against ence. The temptation to get gain may be great. detection. But they profess no friendship for the This one sentence is enough to subdue it : "What victims of their crime, and society is on its guard shall it profit a man if he shall gain the whole against them. “He who goes beyond and de- world, and lose his own soul ? or what shall a frauds his brother,' is not recognized as an enemy. man give in exchange for his soul?' He goes forth in the broad light of day—he wears the aspect of kindness—he deceives his brother, while he wears a brother's face. All the ordinary defences whereby property is guarded, are
TAIRTIETH DAY.-EVENING. overleaped by him. He occupies his place within them all, and deprives you of your property,
· Thou shalt not have in thy bag divers weights, under the guise of friendship and favour. Such
a great and a small. Thou shalt not have in
thine house divers measures a great and a small. a man possesses a character more detestable than that of the common thief. He wears the mask
But thou shalt have a perfect and just weight, of honesty, and believes—and often believes truly
a perfect and just measure shalt thou have: —that men will not be able to look beneath it.
that thy days may be lengthened in the land And thus it is too, that such a man reconciles
which the Lord thy God giveth thee. For all himself to his low cunning and fraud. He soon
that do such things, and all that do unrightelearns to look upon himself with the same eye
ously, are an abomination unto the Lord thy
God, Deut. xxv. 13-16. as society does. He forgets all the while that there is One who seeth not as man seeth—who The law of the Lord is perfect, and it is the only discerns the fraudulent purpose in the heart, and perfect law. It takes cognisance of every thought, observes all its out-goings in action—One whose it prescribes a perfect rule of action. There are justice and truth is unswerving, and who will one none of the dealings of men, amid all the varied day call him to an awful reckoning.
relations in which they stand to one another, in It might not be surprising that men who do which the law of God does not lay down, with not own God, and who profess not the knowledge all clearness and simplicity, the manner in which ways,
should go beyond and defraud their they are to be conducted. The laws of men vary brethren. But it is lamentable to think that according to the circumstances in which they are
placed. And even in their best forms they are evil deeds. They are held in everlasting rememfelt, by the framers of them, and known by those brance by him who is to judge us. And O what subject to them, to be inadequate.
a dark record that will be, on which is inscribed though they were competent to meet, to check, to every short-coming, and every transgression of punish every crime as it arises, all codes of human that law which is holy, and just, and good, and law partake of the errors to which human nature which characterizes even our righteousness as is subject. At the best they are a transcript of a filthy rags. depraved nature. The law of the Lord stands Let us look at our conduct in the mirror of out in admirable contrast to all of them. It is this particular law which we have quoted. It perfect in the cognizance it takes of every crime. expressly prohibits the keeping of unjust weights It is perfect as a directory to the discharge of or measures, and enjoins a perfect and just weight, every duty. It leaves no case unprovided for, and a perfect and just measure, but in its spirit and its purity is perfect. It is a transcript of the it obviously reaches all our dealings, and tests mind of Him who is righteousness and truth. It their integrity. It is quite possible, for example, manifests its own divine origin. It bears this attes- that in any article we sell by measure, we may tation to all, that its framer was not blinded, give the full and just measure. Were we not to depraved man, but the righteous and unerring do so our crime would soon be detected; we would Jehovah. Conscience within us bears witness to be exposed to disgrace and punishment, and the this fact. Look to the testimony it bore to the article we sold would be returned. Therefore we divine morality of the bible, in the breast of a do not frequently find a literal violation of this young Hindoo, as briefly recorded by Dr Duff. injunction. But does it not amount to the same The testimony was elicited by the view of mor- thing; does it not show the purpose of the crime ality presented in the sermon on the mount. existing in the heart, and is it not in reality After hearing its precepts read, the young Hindoo transgression of the law, if we ask a higher price perceived that “there was something in them of for the article we sell than it is really worth, and such an overwhelmingly attractive moral loveli-obtain our price by representing it as more valuness; something which contrasted so luminously able than it really is? How many are there who with all that he had been previously taught to durst not keep a small measure, who are ready regard as revealed by God that he could not help to take advantage, in this way, of the ignorance crying out in ecstacy: “O how beautiful, how of the buyer. A person enters the shop of such divine! Surely this is the truth, this is the truth, a dealer, and the first experiment that is made this is the truth!” Such is the reluctant testi- is upon his knowledge. If he be a judge of the mony of depraved nature to the divine, and per- article he buys, and knows the price of it, he is fect, because divine, morality of the bible. It is able to make a just bargain; if not, he is dealt with a testimony as striking and as valuable as that in the same way as if he received small measure, which the centurion was constrained at the foot of or a small weight. And yet the greater number of the cross to give when he exclaimed, “Surely this dealers seem to look upon such a practice as if it man was the Son of God.'
were no sin. Else why should it be necessary, It is more easy, however, to admire and to when we want any article, that we should be commend the far-reaching and pure morality of obliged to ask the assistance of those who have the bible, than to bear in mind that it is a reflection knowledge and experience to enable us to make of the perfect righteousness of God, who is our a just bargain? Why do we find shopkeepers witness, and who will be our judge. It is by this asking a high, and taking a lower price? All holy law we must be tried, and if God has dis- such practices are forbidden by God. They are played his righteousness in giving forth such a equivalent to the keeping of unjust measures and law, he will also display his truth and faithful- unjust weights. ness in adhering to its declarations. It were It is worthy of observation and reproof, that well that we could bear in mind this solemn and the selfishness of human nature which leads to momentous truth, in all our conversation, and the transgression of this ļaw is very early manithat we should daily live in the consciousness fested. It is common enough to see children in that the righteous God is our witness. He searches their little dealings, acting the part of more mature and knows us. He knoweth our downsitting and wickedness. If they have to exchange, or wish our uprising. He is familiarly acquainted with all to sell any article they possess, how apt are they our ways. All things are naked and open to the to represent it as better and more valuable than nyes of him with whom we have to do. His they know it to be, that they may impose on the memory is unfailing. We may forget our own ignorance of their companions, and effect a good