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walked more by them than many Christians, will rise up in judgment against many that profess the name of Christ, and yet make so little conscience that way. People must either walk by them, or quit the name of Christians. If they will do neither of them now, Christ will strip them at length out of their player's coat, and make them appear before the world in their proper colours.
2. Ye will never see heaven without it, 1 Cor, vi. 9. If people get to heaven in another way, they must step over all the law and the prophets, Matth. vii. 12. I grant that these will not bring people to heaven; people may walk by them, as some sober heathens have done, and yet go to hell; but without it people will never see it. For though our good works and honest dealings with men will not save us, yet our ill works and unrighteous dealings will damn us, 1 Thess. iv. 6. But to be more particular, we may take up this in five things.
1st, God requires of us that we be careful to prevent our neighbour's skaith and loss, as we have opportunity, Deut. xxii. 1. For the loss we see him get and can prevent, but do it not, is in effect the same as if we downrightly procured it to him. That which we can hinder, and do not, is our fault before the Lord; and in this sense each man is bound to be his brother's keeper.
2dly, That we deal honestly in all matters between man and man. If we would not come under the guilt of stealing from them, we must in all our dealings with them be strict observers of truth, faithfulness, and justice; dealing in simplicity and plainness, Psal. xv, 2, 4. Zech. vii. 4, 10; whether it be in bargains, buying and selling in matters of trust concredited to us, or any thing of his we have under our hands. We must deal with God, as if the eyes of men were on us; and with men as knowing the eyes of God are on us. A Christian indeed will do so. He will be an upright dealer with men, a slave to his word, a man that never wants a quick-sighted witness to his actions. And therefore it will be all one to him whether his party be absent or present, skilful and that will not be cheated, or simple and easily deceived.
3dly, Restitution of goods unlawfully detained from the right owners thereof. This looks especially to two cases. (1.) Things lost and found ought to be restored to the
owners, and not concealed and kept, Deut. xxii. 2, 3 for the keeping up of what is another's against the owner's will, is a sort of theft and injustice, contrary to the rules aforesaid. And therefore it cannot be kept with a good conscience.
(2.) Whatsoever we have wronged our neighbour of, by taking it away from him, ought to be restored, Lev. vi. 2, 4. There is, [1.] The case of trust, wherein a thing committed to him by another is kept up, on some pretence that it is lost or so. [2.] In case of fellowship in trading together, when one puts a thing in his partner's hand, in which case it is easy for one to deceive another. [3.] In case of violence, when it is taken away by robbery, stealth, yea, and oppres sion, 1 Sam, xii. 3. [4.] In case of cheatery, when by fraud and circumvention it is taken away.
Now, in all these cases, and the like, restitution is necessary. It is true, actual restitution is sometimes beyond the power of him that should restore; yet in such a case the party is bound to go all the length he can, as appears from Exod. xxii. 3. But a readiness to restore to the utmost of our power is absolutely necessary; For he does not truly repent of his sin, who is not willing to do all he can to repair the wrong; nor is the love of righteousness and his neighbour in that man, who is not ready to give every one their due. And in this sense the rule holds, Non tollitur peccatum, nisi restituitur, It is remarkable that it is made one of the signs of true repentance, Ezek. xxxiii. 15. If the wicked restore the pledge give again that he had robbed, walk in the sta tutes of life without committing iniquity; he shall surely live, he shall not die.' And said Zaccheus, Luke xix. 8. If I have taken any thing from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold.'
Now, the party obliged to make restitution, is not only the person that took a thing away, but he in whose hand it is found; though he had it not fraudulently, yet upon the discovery of the thing, he is obliged to return it, because the person who (suppose) sold it to him, had no right to it, and therefore could give him none. But particularly the person himself, and his heirs, are bound to restore, Job xx. 10; and that the thing itself, or the value of it, yea, and a reasonable acknowledgement for the loss of it, Lev. vi. 5. Luke xix. 8. The restitution is to be made to the owner, or, if he be dead,
to his heirs; and if neither can be found, to the Lord, Numb. v. 6, 7, 8. Luke xix. 8.
In case the reputation of the party be in hazard, the restitution should be managed with that prudence, that it may not be unnecessarily blasted; for which cause they that are in straits that way ought to consult some prudent person, either minister or Christian, that will be tender of them.
4thly, Charity and justice in the matter of loans. Here, (1.) Lending to our neighbour in his necessity, is a duty we owe him for the welfare of his outward estate, Matth. v. 42; not only lending upon interest, which is lawful, so that it be moderate, Deut. xxiii. 20; but freely, viz. to those that are poor, and require the loan for pressing necessity. In that case we ought to lend them freely such a quantity of money and goods as we can well enough bear the loss of, in case they be rendered incapable to pay it again. And so is that scripture to be understood, Luke vi. 35; ‘Lend, hoping for nothing again."
(2.) Returning or paying again thankfully what is borrowed by us, Exod. xxii. 14; And therefore we are not to borrow more than we are in a probable capacity to pay; which while some have not regarded, they have liberally lived on other men's substance, and in the end have ruined other families, and quite devoured their money, as in another case, Gen. xxxi. 15; for no man has more that he can call his own, than what is over and above his debt, Psal. xxxvii. 21; If the incapacity flow from mere providence, it is their affliction, but not their sin, 2 Kings iv. 1.
Lastly, Giving unto the poor, or those that are in need, according to their necessity and our ability, Luke xi. 41; They are our neighbours, to whose outward estate we are obliged to look; they are to have mercy shewn to them that way. A disposition of soul to help them is requisite in all, even in those that have not a farthing to give, Prov. xi. 25; What people give must be their own, 1 John iii. 17; it must. be thy bread, Eccl. xi. 1; And therefore such as have not of their own, they cannot give what is another's, without the tacit consent and approbation or allowance of the owner; neither will God accept their robbery for burnt-offering. But even people that must work hard for their own bread, must work the harder that they may be able to give, Eph. iv. 28. But they to whom God has given a more plentiful
measure of the world's goods, must be so much the more liberal to the poor; for to whom much is given, of him is much required. In helping of the necessitous, the apostle's rules are to be observed, that special regard is to be had to our relations that may be in straits, 1 Tim. v. 8; and that though all that need are to be helped, yet special respect is to be had to the poor members of Christ, Gal. vi. 10; and the greatest need is to be most regarded and most helped.
This duty is to be managed with these qualities.
(1.) People must give to the poor out of conscience towards God, and a design to honour him, Prov. iii. 9; not out of vain-glory, else the work is lost as to acceptance, Matth. vi. 1, 2.
(2.) With an honourable regard to the poor, either as Christians, and members of the same mystical body of Christ, or at least as of the same blood with ourselves, and not with contempt, and shaming of them, 1 Cor. xi. 22.
(3.) Cheerfully and freely, not grudgingly and as by constraint, 2 Cor. ix. 7.
(4.) According to the measure of what the Lord has given unto us, 1 Cor. xvi. 2; So the more we have, the more we ought to give. The particular quantity cannot be defined, but by wisdom and charity it must be defined by every one for themselves, Psal. cxii. 5.
To engage you to this duty, consider,
[1.] We are not absolute masters, but stewards of our goods. The whole world is God's household; and he has made some stewards to feed others, Luke xvi. 10, 11, 12; We must give account of our stewardship to him, who could have put us in their case, and them in ours.
[2.] It is a duty bound on us with ties of nature and revelation. The law of God requires it, 2 Cor. viii. 9. Nature itself binds it on us, teaching us to do to others as we would be done by, if in their case. Not only Christianity, but humanity calls for it.
[3.] In this duty there is a singular excellency. For (1.) It is a blessed thing by the verdict of our blessed Lord, Acts xx. 35; 'It is more blessed to give than to receive.' (2.) The image and likeness of God shines forth in it in a peculiar manner, Luke vi. 35, 36; Love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again: and your re ward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the High
est: for he is kind unto the unthankful, and to the evil. Be ye therefore merciful as your Father also is merciful.' Though Christ became poor for us, yet he gave to the poor, to commend it to us by his example. (3.) It is particularly taken notice of in the day of judgment, Matth xxv, 34, 35.
Lastly, It is the most frugal and advantageous way of managing of the world's goods. For,
(1.) It is the way to secure to ourselves a through-bear, ing; there is a good security for it, Prov. xxviii. 27; He that giveth unto the poor shall not lack.'
(2.) It is the best way to secure what we have, which is liable to so many accidents, Eccl. xi. 1. Cast thy bread upon the waters: for thou shalt find it after many days.' Lay ing out for God is better security than laying up what God calls for. For so it is put in a sure hand, that will be sure to pay it again. The poor and needy are God's receivers, Prov. xix. 17; He that hath pity upon the poor, lendeth unto the Lord; and that which he hath given, will he pay him again.'
(3.) It is the way to be rich, as the Bible points out the way, Prov. iii. 9; Honour the Lord with thy substance, and with the first fruits of thine increase. Solomon observes the acccomplishment of it, Prov. xi. 24. There is that scattereth, and yet increaseth.'
(4.) It is the way to secure comfort to us in the time when trouble shall overtake us, Psal. xli. 1, 2, 3; Blessed is he that considereth the poor; the Lord will deliver him in time of trouble. The Lord will preserve him, and keep. him alive, and he shall be blessed upon the earth; and thou wilt not deliver him unto the will of his enemies. The Lord will strengthen him upon the bed of languishing: thou wilt make all his bed in his sickness.'
Lastly, God has promised that such shall find mercy, Matth. v. 7; always taking along what is said, ver. 3. • Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.' See Luke xvi. 9. 1 Tim. vi. 17, 18, 19.
II. I come now to shew, what is forbidden in the eighth commandment. It forbids whatsoever doth or may unjustly hinder our own or our neighbour's wealth or outward
The sins forbidden in this command may be reduced to VOL. III, M