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bour's happiness; and thereby, through God's mercy, we humbly trust to save our own souls, whether they hear or whether they forbear.
As an introduction to the subject of this particular Lecture, I would first observe to you, my brethren, that, though it is most certain, every building, however pleasing to the eye, unless the foundation be good (and which argues the necessity of laying it both deep and sound), will be in continual danger of decay; so in our religious progress, not only respect to the written law, but even our fairest works, will finally profit us nothing, unless they proceed from the only principle that can render them acceptable to God, which is faith in Jesus Christ, and grateful love for what he has done for us.
He is the cause, the only mover of any real virtue in a fallen creature, both to rescue him from the burden as well as the punishment of sin, and to enable him so to work as to secure his salvation. He is, beyond all doubt, the chief corner-stone of every religious building, however the foolish builders may reject him. Indeed, on this foundation I continually recommend you to build, because none other can be laid but what will certainly deceive us in the end, when the work comes to be tried as by fire; yet, notwithstanding this truth is indisputable, we find, by the further illustration of it, in the figure our blessed Lord himself has chosen of a
building and its foundation, that some edifice is expected to be raised. Laying the foundation only, however valuable in itself, would answer as little purpose in a religious course, as, in an earthly fabric, we should be as little sheltered, or warmed, or comforted, by merely boasting of the rocky foundation we had secured for our mansion, as St. James asserts, the perishing disciple would be benefited by that faith which saith, Be ye warmed and filled, without giving those things that are needful for the body. In truth, the advantage of our wise choice would never appear, if we proceeded no further than laying the first stone; and, indeed, this the Apostle expressly asserts in Heb. vi. 1: Therefore, leaving the PRINCIPLES of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on (says he) to perfection, not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works (that is, by continuing in sin, in order hereafter to repent), and of faith towards God, but to show our faith by our works. Again, in the second verse he intimates, that we should not always be merely discoursing of the doctrines of baptism, and laying on of hands, and of the resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment. In other words, let us not always be dwelling upon the sufficiency of the cause, without being able to show any good effect from our doctrines ; but let us so labour as to prove, that the first cause or principle is actu
ally alive in us. In pursuance of this direction, I am anxious that you should all produce a Christian edifice that is worthy of the principle laid down by our chief Masterbuilder ; that you should not be content to talk about faith, but show that it dwells in you. And as Christ came not to destroy but to fulfil the law, and positively asserts, that not the hearers, but the doers of the law shall be saved, and that he only loveth him who keepeth his commandments, it is assuredly as incumbent, and as serviceable, to enforce the necessity of keeping the commandments, as to point out and establish the principles that will help you to do it. Wilt thou tuke my covenant in thy mouth (saith God to the wicked), and cast my words behind thee? (Psalm 1. 16, 17.) Wilt thou presumptuously profess saving faith, whilst thou livest in any wilful act of injustice? To preach Christ therefore, without obedience, to preach faith without works, and to boast of a foundation without a superstructure, are all one and the same inconsistent and unprofitable thing. Now, the commandment before us, is not only of the greatest importance to civil society, to be sacredly observed, but it is positively indispensable in every true disciple of Jesus Christ ; and vain will be the boast of your having him for your Lord and Saviour, impossible indeed it is you can be under his direction or influence (without which you can do nothing good), while you wilfully live in the transgression of this law, Thou shalt not steal. In a discourse, therefore, on God's holy commandments, necessity is laid upon us to prove, they are just and good, and to enjoin due reverence to their positive precepts; to exhort against every growing sin of the land, of which more, it is to be feared, are guilty, than perhaps they are willing to believe themselves.
The proper way of dealing with rational creatures is, to convince the understanding, in order more effectually to awaken the conscience. The method, therefore, I shail take in treating on this eighth commandment will be,
1. By giving you a just notion of the crime of stealing, by touching on all its different branches, and showing what it forbids, what it includes, and what it requires.
2. I shall show the dreadful consequences of it, both to individuals and the community:
3. By tracing the causes of it, endeavour at checking its increase. And that no one may plead ignorance of the true signification of this sin, and of the condemnation that will inevitably attend the practice of it, it will be proper to begin with showing how very general it is as to its evil principle, how injurious in 'its effects, and, consequently, how necessary to be discouraged in society. The tendency, in truth, is
so baneful, that, without the wisest and severest laws against it, neither order, peace, nor property, could be preserved in the world; wicked men, who, of course, are unbelievers, are yet so selfish, that they will be often restrained by immediate punishment, though they are regardless of him who can destroy both body and soul in hell.
To steal, does not only signify to take away secretly and fraudulently what belongs to another person, but all kind of unlawful gain, or the keeping back of any thing whereby another is injured or oppressed, and which of right belongs, or ought to belong to him. And this general definition of the sin is confirmed in the repetition of sundry laws in Levit. xix. 11–13. Ye shall not steal, neither deal falsely, neither lie one to another. Thou shalt not defraud thy neighbour, nor rob him. The wages of him that is hired, shall not abide with thee all night until the morning. By which last clause it appears, that the least possible injury of this kind to our neighbour, is positively forbidden. Retaining the just earnings of the labourer, even for so short a time, may prove prejudicial to the comforts of himself and family, and therefore it is a degree of oppression and wrong to which we may suppose St. James alludes in Ep. v. 4: Behold, the hire of the labourers who have reaped down your fields, which is of you kept