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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 Şam, xii. 3. [4.] In case of cheatery, when by fraud and circumvention it is taken away.
Now, in all these cases, and the like, restitutionis 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 loye of righteousness and his 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.
Athly, 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 bora rowed 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 li. beral 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 to wards 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 re. velation. The law of God requires it, 2 Cor. viii
. 9. Na. ture 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 reward 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.
Lastiy, 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 untu 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.' Laying 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, lendetb 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 estate.
The sins forbidden in this command may be reduced to VOL. III,
these two heads: whatever doth or may hinder our own wealth unjustly; and whatever doth or may unjustly hinder our neighbour's wealth or outward estate.
FIRST, Whatsoever doth or may hinder our own wealth unjustly. This is necessarily understood: for we may neither do a sinful thing to procure our own wealth, nor yet to preserve it. But when there are lawful means which Providence calls us to the use of, and we do not use them, we sin against God and ourselves. Thus this command says to each of us, in the first place, Thou shalt not steal from thyself. Thus we are guilty,
1. By idleness, when people that are able do not employ themselves in some honest calling or work according to their ability, 2 Thess. iii. 11; The idle man wrongs himself, while he exposes himself to poverty, and so to a snare, by his not using means to preserve and improve his substance. And he sins against God, who has appointed, that in the sweat of his face man shall eat bread, Gen. iii. 19; And this is so although he have enough of his own, and needs not be burdensome to others, Ezek. xvi. 49; He makes himself a waif for Satan to pick up.
2. By carelessness, sloth, and mismanagement in our cal. ling, Prov. xviii. 9; Carelessness lets occasions of furthering our own wealth slip; and slothfulness in business is next to doing nothing at all. And they that cannot put down their hands to work diligently, will hardly miss some time or another to put out their hand to steal. Careless and slothful management of business by one hand in a family, may do more mischief than many diligent hands can remedy, Prov. xiv, 1. Religion does not allow either men or women to be drones in their family, good for nothing but to make a noise, take up room, and feed on the product of the diligence of their relatives, Rom. xii. 11.
3. By not owning God in our business, and so slighting his blessing, who gives man power to get wealth, Deut. viii
. 18; It is he that gives rains and fruitful seasons, that makes the cattle to thrive or to be diminished, and that prospereth the work of our hands. Do they not then stand in their own light that acknowledge him not in these things ? •
4. By wastefulness and prodigality, whereby people foolishly spendand lavish away what God has brought totheir hands, Prov. xxi. 17; And indeed these two ordinarily go together,