« PreviousContinue »
this way defraud others of their property, and by which he may irrecoverably alienate it, forms an additional reason why a severe punishment should be affixed to the crime.
Any alteration in the laws, which could distinguish the degrees of guilt, or convert the services of the insolvent debtor to some public profit, might be an improvement; but any considerable mitigation of their rigour, under colour of relieving the poor, would increase their hardships. For whatever deprives the creditor of his power of coercion, deprives him of his security; and as this must add greatly to the difficulty of obtaining credit, the poor, especially the lower sort of tradesmen, are the first who would suffer by such a regulation. An advocate, therefore, for the interests of this important class of the community, will deem it more eligible, that one out of a thousand should be sent to gaol by his creditors, than that the nine hundred and ninety-nine should be straitened and embarrassed, and many of them lie idle by the want of credit."
CONTRACT RELATING TO PERSONAL SERVICE.
There is a species of contract which deserves a separate and particular notice, on account of the associations to which it gives rise, and the duties involved in it,-I mean that which relates to personal service. In the land of free men all service is of course performed
by voluntary contract. There is a bartering of time, and liberty, and stipulated labour, for maintenance and a pecuniary recompense. The master and servant become morally bound to discharge to each other the peculiar offices which they engaged to perform.
While in every case the master is bound to treat his servants with justice and humanity, their treatment as to diet, accommodation, the quantity of work required, and general indulgence, must be regulated, somewhat at least, by custom. This much is implied in the contract by which the one has become bound to the other. But on no account are they at liberty to allow immorality and irreligion among their servants. On the contrary, it is their duty to use the power which is intrusted to them for the moral and religious improvement of those whom Providence has placed so near them, and on whose fidelity their comfort so greatly depends. Will they not view with esteem and moral regard persons who may have rendered them more than they stipulated for,—who have given them, not merely a faithful, but an affectionate service,—who have wept for their distresses, watched them in sickness, and rejoiced in their prosperity ? All this may reasonably be expected from them in consequence of the operation of natural affection, and a reverential obedience to the law of God; who assures them that all, whatever be the rank which they hold in society, stand in the same relation to him, and that the offices which they are required in their various spheres to perform, are to be regarded as done to him. Servants, be obedient to them which are your
masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling; in singleness of your heart as unto Christ; not with eye-service, as men-pleasers, but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart; with good will doing service as to the Lord, and not to men; knowing that whatsoever good thing any man doeth, the same shall he receive of the Lord, whether he be bond or free *."
But if this affectionate and dutiful conduct may reasonably be expected from our domestics, though not expressed in the contract, there are duties also devolving on masters which are not discharged when they have given the diet, lodging, and pecuniary recompense for which they stipulated. These, it may not be very easy to define; nor is it necessary to those who bear in mind the great christian rule of duty, and who make it their study to act upon it.
“ All things whatsoever ye
would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them.” They are like us, rational and accountable creatures, who stand in the same common relation with ourselves to the Creator and moral governor of the universe, who are susceptible of the pleasures and pains of humanity, and who, after this fleeting life has passed away, are to begin an immortal existence.
We owe them, then, as much indulgence as is compatible with their virtue, and our reasonable expectation of service from them ;-forgiveness of their imperfections, remembering our own frailty and liability to err ;-encouragement when it is obviously their aim to please us ;-but above all, we owe them
Eph. vi. 5–9. VOL. II.
moral and religious instruction, and such an example as will cherish and not check their virlues.
“He who, after living under the same roof with us for years, quits our door without the amiable qualities with which he first entered it,-every pure wish polluted, and new habits of licentiousness formed, while all that remains of early habits is a little remorse, that is soon overwhelmed in the turbulence of vulgar dissipation,quits us poorer, and as a mere human being, far lower in the scale of dignity, than when, with all his clownish awkwardness, he had virtues which it has been our misfortune, or rather our guilt, to destroy*.”
In proportion to the importance of truth to the confidence, virtue, and happiness of intelligent beings, is the criminality of lying, or of falsehood.
A lie is a wilful violation of the truth, or a false declaration of facts voluntarily made. Of course, he incurs the guilt of falsehood, who, in his statement, intends to deceive, though in the end his declaration may be found accordant with truth; on the other hand, he must be considered innocent, who, after impartial examination, states what he believes to be true, though his statement should turn out to be without foundation.
* For a fuller view of the Duties of Masters and Servants, see Personal and Family Religion, chap. iii.
We are guilty of falsehood when we rashly declare what is not true; though our ignorance of its falsehood arises from sinful inattention. We ought to have had a deeper impression of the importance of truth, and we should have given the subject a more full investigation before we had ventured to affirm any thing respecting it. Our erroneous averments may, in their consequences, be as injurious as deliberate falsehoods.
We are also chargeable with lying when, with an intention to deceive, we profess to give the whole truth, but at the same time conceal a part of it. That we are influenced by the spirit, and incur the guilt of falsehood, in this case, when the party to whom the communication is made has a right to know the whole truth, will not be doubted. Or, even though the person to whom the declaration is made should have no moral or legal right to know the whole truth, if we profess to give the whole, we, by our profession, bind ourselves to act accordingly.
Should we, in our declarations or narratives, intentionally misrepresent, or, though our misrepresentation should be merely the effect of a biassed and partial examination of the facts, we are justly chargeable with falsehood. Controversialists and historians are, in this way, blameable, when, to serve a purpose, they give such a view of facts, and decorated with such embellishments, as must necessarily convey an erroneous impression to the mind of the reader. The criminality incurred by such conduct, appears to me to be of a nature more aggravated than that of common lying, both because the persons to whom it relates are