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for want of the necessaries of life, or who have not its comforts? What is the cause of this? Is it through your neglect or misconduct ? Or while you are making every proper effort, does Providence render all your attempts abortive? This last may sometimes, but we have reason to believe, very seldom, be the cause.
The fault generally lies in the persons themselves. They are idle, or they want frugality, or they are destitute of economy, or they have made, or keep themselves poor by improper litigations, or suretiships, or in some such way.
Let idle drones, who are lounging away their time, while their families suffer, unless the industrious and benevolent assist them; let those who neglect the duties of frugality and economy at home, and perhaps not only this, but spend abroad what little they get, while their families are suffering ; and let all whose families are deprived of comforts, or suffer through their fault, remember, that their conduct is very criminal in the sight of God, who has declared, “ If any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the aith and is worse than an infidel.”
DUTIES OF THE EIGHTH COMMANDMENT,
MICAH IV. 8. MIDDLE CLAUSE.
“ To do justly and to love mercy."
The Lord had a controversy with the people of Israel for their sins. This the prophet had made known to them in the beginning of the chapter. Hence the Israelites, probably because they were alarmed at this declaration, inquired how they might avert the wrath, and obtain the favour of God: “Wherewith shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before the high God? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves of a
year old ? Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, or with ten thousands of rivers of oil ? Shall I give my first-born for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?” To these questions the prophet replied ; “ He hath shewed thee, O man what is good ; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God ?" "These words embrace the sum of revealed religion.
They teach us to render to God and man their just due, to be kind towards our fellow-men, and with humility, sensible that we are sinners, to walk with God in all his commandments.
The part of the verse which has been chosen as our text, viz. “ to do justly, and to love mercy,” embraces the duties required in the eighth commandment, in relation to the outward estate of others.
“ The eighth commandment requireth, the lawful procuring, and furthering the wealth and outward estate of ourselves and others."
We have illustrated the duties of this commandment in relation to our own wealth and outward estate. We come now to consider the duties of the same commandment as they regard the wealth and outward estate of others.
These duties are divided into those of justice and mercy.
1. Justice. The eighth commandment requires that we do justly. Justice, as it relates to the estate of others, may be considered the same as honesty. A christian must be a just or honest man; and although honesty can never save us, as many vainly suppose, yet we cannot be saved without it. And although it may exist, without a saving faith in Christ, and therefore in a person who is still under condemnation, and a child of wrath ; yet where there is true faith in Christ, there will be honesty or justice in our dealings, as its fruit. And that man's religion is vain whatever be his professions, who is unjust or dishonest in his dealings with his fellow-men.
Let us describe the character of the honest man; and then show that honesty is a part of true religion. The rule of the strictly honest man is, always in his dealings with mankind, to do to others, as he would that they in exchange of circumstances should do to him. Following this rule, when he purchases commodities, he does not endeavour to sink them in the estimation of the owner, that he may take advantage of his credulity, and get them below their value. Neitber when he wishes to purchase, does he take advantage of another's ignorance or necessity, to procure his commodities at a price beneath their value. He does not deceive others in selling, by crying up his goods above their value, or concealing their defects. He does not keep false weights and measures.He does not buy or borrow, with a view never to pay; or when he knows it is very doubtful, whether he ever will be able to pay, while at the same time he conceals his situation from his creditors. He is faithfulto the trusts reposed in him, and does not take advantage of forms of law, to withhold from his neighbour his just due. He does not dispute the debts which he knows to be just. He does not, when he is able to pay his just debts, delay payment, to the disappointment, and injury of his creditors ; or put them to the trouble and expense of a law-suit to recover their just due. In short, in all his dealings with others, that rule already quoted is his guide, to do to others, as he would that others should do to him.
The proofs in Scripture that justice or honesty is a christian duty, and necessary to the christian character are numerous. We shall quote some of them. In the Mosaic law we read, “ Thou shalt not defraud thy neighbour. Ye shall do no unrighteousness in judgment, in mete-yard, in weight, or in measure. Just balances, just weights, just ephah, and a just hin, shall ye bave;" Lev. xix. 13, 35, 36. “ Thou shalt not have in thy bag divers weights, a great and a small. Thou shalt not have in thine house divers measures, a great and a small. But thou shalt have a perfect and just weight, a perfect and just measure shalt thou have. For all that do such things and all that do unrighteously, are an abomination unto the Lord thy God;" Deut. xxv. 13-16. The wise man in his Proverbs tells
US, “ To do justice, is more acceptable to the Lord, than sacrifice;” Prov. xxi. 3. “A false balance is abomination to the Lord; but a just'weight is his delight;"Prov. xi. 1. “ Divers weights, and divers measures, both of them are alike abomination to the Lord. Divers weights are an abomination to the Lord : and a false balance is not good;" Prov. xx. 10, 23. And he condemns the too common practice of depreciating things that we wish to
buy that we may get them below their value. « It is naught, it is naught, saith the buyer: but when he is
gone his way, then he boasteth;" Prov. xx. 14. The prophet Micah declares in our text, that one of the principal things which God requires of us, is “to do justly.” And in some following verses of the same chapter, we hear the Lord asking, “ Are there yet the treasures of wickedness in the house of the wicked, and the scant measure that is abominable? Shall I count them pure with the wicked balances, and with the bag of deceitful weights?” In the prophecy of Malachi the Lord says, “ I will come near to you to judgment, and I will be a swift witness against those that oppress the hireling in his wages, the widow and the fatherless, and that turn aside the stranger from his right;” Mal. ij. 5. Our Saviour directed, “ All things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them;" Mat. vii. 12. And Paul in his epistles, frequently spoke on this subject. Thus he directed the Romans, “ Provide things honest in the sight of all men;" Rom. xii. 17. “Let us walk honestly as in the day;" Rom. xii. 13. To the Corinthians he wrote, blaming some of them, “ You do wrong, and defraud;" 1 Cor. vi. 8. And he exhorted the whole church,“ providing for honest things, not only in the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight of men ;" 2 Cor. viii. 21. The Philippians he exhorted, “Whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just—think on these things;" Phil. iv. 8. And he cautioned the Thessalonians, “ that no man go beyond and defraud his brother in any matter : because that the Lord is the avenger of all such ;" i Thes. iv. 6.
From all these passages, we must be convinced of the importance of justice or honesty, in all our dealings with others; and that the religion of a dishonest man is vain,
But here it may be important to caution against a dangerous error, which some entertain. Many make the whole of religion to consist in honesty, and on this foundation build their hopes of future happiness. This is a most dangerous error. Faith in Christ, which is the act of a renewed heart, and by which Christ is received and rested upon, for pardon and acceptance, as he is offered in the gospel, is indispensably necessary to salvation. Without this faith, according to the Scriptures, a man must perish. Now a man may be honest in his dealings with
the world, and yet be destitute of this faith ; and therefore a man may be honest, and yet perish. But at the same time, we must remark, that although a man may have honesty without true faith, he cannot have true faith without honesty. Faith will produce this fruit ; for faith without works is dead. But while the true believer is an honest man, he will renounce all dependence on his honesty, as the ground of his acceptance with God, and depend solely on the merits of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Under the head of justice in our dealings with others, is also included restitution of property, which of right belongs to another. Reason teaches that we should render to every man his own. And the duty is frequently taught in the word of God, as in the following passages; Ex. xxii. 1, &c. ; " If a man steal an ox, or a sheep, and kill it, or sell it; he shall restore five oxen for an ox; and four sheep for a sheep. If the theft be certainly found in- his hand alive, whether it be ox, or ass, or sheep; he shall restore double. If a man shall cause a field or vineyard to be eaten, and shall put in his beast, and shall feed in another man's field : of the best of his own field, and of the best of his own vineyard shall he make restitution. It fire break out, and catch in thorns, so that the stacks of corn, or the standing corn, or the field be consumed therewith; he that kindled the fire shall surely make restitution. For all manner of trespass, whether it be for ox, for ass, for sheep, for raiment, or for any manner of lost thing, which another challengeth to be his ; the cause of both parties shall come before the judges; and whom the judges shall condemn, he shall
pay double unto his neighbour.” The same duty of restitution is enjoined, Lev. vi. 2-5 ; “ If a soul sin, and commit a trespass against the Lord, and lie unto his neighbour in that which was deliverered him to keep, or in fellowship, or in a thing taken away by violence, or hath deceived his neighbour ; or have found that which was lost, and lieth concerning it, and sweareth falsely; in any of all these that a man doth sinning therein: Then it shall be because he hath sinned and is guilty, that he shall restore that which he took violently away, or the thing which he hath deceitfully gotten, or that which was delivered him to keep, or the lost thing which he found, of all that about which he hath sworn falsely ; he shall even