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same sort of injustice as the thief. And to take advantage of sanctuaries, or privileged places; or of the laws in favour of Members of either House of Parliament, to screen one's felf, or others;
or by any other means to evade, or allift others in evading, the payment of just debts, where it is in the debtor's power to make payment, is the very fame species of iniquity as theft, with the aggravation of the abuse of law, and the baseness of taking an advantage of the wcaker.
Nor is the absolute refusal of a just debt, only injustice ; but even the delay of payment beyond a reafonable time, if at all in one's power to make payment, is injurious and iniquitous. And all the prejudice suffered by the creditor, by loss of interest of money, or by inconveniences in his allairs, though want of what he has a juft title to, is justly to be laid to the charge of the debtor.
All breach of trust, whether through careless neglect or voluntary embezzling of what is committed to one's care, in the capicity of an exccutor of the will of the dead, of an aflignee, steward, factor, deputy; all proceedings of this kind, which are different from the conduct one would pursue in the management of his own concerns, or might in reason expect another to do for him, are deviations from rectitude, and the great rule of loving our neiglabour with the fame measure of affection as ourselves.
In commerce and traffic, all advantages taken by dealers, againti one another, beyond what the one, if he were in the other's place, would think just and reasonable; are iniquitous. Of this kind are all deceits in goods, as putting them off for somewhat better than they are, whether that be done by concealing their real faults, or by giving them counterfeit advantages. Overrating of commodities; that is, felling them at such a price, as will yield an exorbitant profit to the seller, to the prejudice of the buyer, which shews in a very bad light all monopolies, cspecially of such articles of commerce as are necessary in trade, or in life. All advan| tages taken by traders possessed of large capitals, to the þurt of persons in narrower circumstances. All advan
tages taken by the knowing, against the ignorant. Advantages taken by the buyer against the seller, whether of his ignorance or necessity. And those moft flagrant iniquities of false weights, measures, or coins ; with whatever else in general, may be the means of transferring to one person the property of another in any manner, which he who is the gainer would think an injustice and hardship, if he were in the case of the loser; all such arts of commerce are iniquitous and unjustifiable.
Reader, if thou art wife, thou wilt stop here, and examine thy heart, and thy life. If thou hast ever defired, or effected, the prejudice of thy neighbour in his property, whether by means of power or craft, as thou lovest thy soul, do not delay one day to repent, and reform thy fault, and to make ample reftitution, to the injured person, to his heirs, or if these cannot be found, to the poor. If thou goeft down to the grave loaded with the spoils of injustice, they will sink thy foul to the bottomless pit. For the Judge of the world is of infinite purity and justice; and will shew no mercy to the impenitent offender against unchangeable and eternal rectitude.
Men being drawn to make encroachments upon the property of others, through avarice; it is evidently the duty of every man to look into his own heart, and find out whether the love of riches takes up too much room in it. And if he finds, what I doubt most men will find, that he loves riches better than he does his neighbour, that he has a greater defire to gain wealth than to be of service to his fellow-creatures, it is his undoubted duty to conquer the fordid pallion, and strengthen the generous one. To this purpose it will be his wisdom to set himself in earnest to deep consideration on the evil of avarice, and the excellence of justice; to earnest prayer to heaven for assistance in the conquest of this vicious disposition; and to avoid extravagance and profufion, which are often the cause of the most rapacious and insatiable avarice.
Every man has a right to be thought and spoken of according to his real character. Consequently, whoever, by any means, direct or indirect, is the occasion of his neighbour's being worse thought, or spoken of, than he deserves, is guilty of injuring his neighbour; and all injurious treatment of a fellow-creature is contrary to rectitude, and inconsistent with the love we ought to have for our neighbour, which ought to be equal to that with which one loves himself.
The most atrocious injury against our neighbour's reputation is, false witness before a judge. The laws of ieveral nations have condemned the guilty of this crime to suffer the same punishment, to which the law exposed the person sworn against. But I know no punishment too severe for a crime of so black a nature, and which draws along with it such horrid consequences. To take the eternal God of truth to witness to a known falfehood; to defeat the very intention of an oath, which is often the only possible means for the discovery of truth; to render all human testimony suspicious; to ftop the course of justice, and open a door to all manner of iniquity and violence; to blast the character of an innocent person in the most public manner, and in the manner the most effectual for ruining it, as being the most likely to gain belief to his prejudice; to violate his property, perhaps to reduce himself and his family to beggary; or to be the cause of passing upon him a sentence of death for what he never was capable of çommitting; to take a false oath against a person before a court, is to be guilty of such black and complicated crimes as these : And for this our law inflicts a punisie ment, which a little money given the constables makes almost no punishment !
To spread a false report against any person, is conțrary to the love we ought to have for our neighbour, and to justice, whether it be known to be such, or invented for the purpose by the publisher, or whether it
a mere surmise or suspicion. To invent a lie, or propogate a known falsehood, to the prejudice of any person's character, is taking up the office of Satan himfelf, who is ftyled in Scripture the Accuser. But, that even insinuations, and whispers, or nods and shrugs, by which an innocent character may be blasted or ruined, are wicked and cruel, every man's conscience will tell
him, if he will put it to himself, how he should like to be so used, or reflect upon the uneasiness it gave him, if ever he suffered in the same manner,
If by sneering and ridicule, upon an innocent infirmity, a person may be laughed out of the respect and esteem, which every worthy character deserves, it is evident, that such wantonly mischievous mirth is highly unjustifiable.
The cruelty of all practices, which tend to lessen the reputation of an innocent perfon, appears plainly from the value of reputation; which is always dear to great and worthy minds; and the loss of which is in some cases peculiar fatal. The characters of a clergyman, a governor of youth, a trader, or a virgin, are more delicate than those of other persons. And whoever is capable of wantonly attacking such characters, must be wholly void of sentiment for his fellow-creatures.
There is a peculiarity in the vice we are now treating of, which renders this more atrocious, than that of invading our neighbour's property. It is, that often the injured person is robbed of what is to him of inestimable worth, and the cruel spoiler not enriched by the rapine. For the defamer conimonly reaps neither profit, honour, nor pleasure, unless the indulgence of malice can be called a pleasure,—which if it is, Satan must be a very happy being.
The defamer is as much more infamous than the open railer, as the dark asfasiin is more to be dreaded than the fair challenger. And the defamer and assassin resemble one another, in that the wounds which both give, prove often incurable.
Reader, if thou makeft it thy practice to divert thyfelf with mischief, or to strive to build thyself an illfounded reputation upon the ruins of thy neighbour's, or think'st, by undermining him, to get thyself into the advantages he now enjoys; remember I have told thee there will be no triumph hereafter, when thou comeft to be judged for thy idle words. The ill-gotten advantages, thou mayst reap from thy base treachery to thy brother, if thou should it be successful, which is seldom the case, will bring a curse along with them, a canker worm, that will destroy both them and thee. And take notice, no malicious, envious, or cruel disposition will find any admittance into the feats of future bliss. If thou think'st to be hereafter a companion of angels and spirits of good men, resolve in time to form thy mind to univerfal benevolence. Learn to consider even the abandoned offender as still a human creature, the production of the same goodness which made thyself; as not yet out of the reach of the Divine Grace, and therefore not to be given up as absolutely irrecoverablc; and, if recoverable, again a fit object for thy love ; fur thy Maker's love. Do not therefore dare in thy mind to hate or despise, nor in thy conversation to reflect, but with pity and humanity, upon even the rcal vices of thy fellow-creature, much less to blacken his unspotted reputation. The day will come, when thou shalt stand before the same judgment seat with him. He is not thy | creature, but God's. Leave himn to God.
Leave himn to God. Is a fellow-! creature guilty of a fault? So art thou. It is no part of thy duty to inquire into his faults, or to lay them open to others, unless to prevent the mischief thou knoweft he is preparing to do another. If thou art not sure of a superior good to be gained by discovering thy neighbour's faults, why shouldīt thou take upon thee the character of an informer? If thy neighbour is really guilty, why shouldst thou be ambitious of the office of an executioner, or delight in lashing offenders? If thou haft been so wicked as basely to Itab the reputation of thy innocent fellow-creature, I charge thee, as thou lovest thy soul, that thou endeavour to heal up the wound thou hast made. Take care, that every single person, be the number ever fo great, whose ear thou haît abused, be set right with respect to the character of the innocent. If those, whose minds thou hast poifoned, have communicated the venom to others; be sure to trace the wicked lie, the fun of thy own foul tongue, through all its doublings, and defroy it, that it may spread its deadly influence no farther. Take shame to thyself, and do jufice to innocence. Thon had it better fuffer shame now, than hereafter before God, angels, and men.