The Law of God, as Contained in the Ten
Commandments, Explained and Enforced

By William S. Plumer, 1864

The Eighth Commandment

"You shall not steal." Exodus 20:15

The honor of religion is deeply involved in the course men pursue concerning this commandment, which regulates our labor, our buying, our selling, our expenditures, and our entire civil conduct. We are bound to "provide things honest in the sight of all men." Romans 12:17. We are not at liberty to live in needless poverty and wretchedness, nor to let our dependents suffer. "If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever." 1 Tim. 5:8. Compare Eph. 4:28. This is wholesome doctrine. No pious teacher may keep silent concerning it. The church that disregards it is ruined. Yet we may "not make provision for the flesh, to fulfill the lusts thereof." Romans 13:14. Our attention to our temporal affairs must not minister to our pride, our sloth, our vanity, our sensuality, our love of the world. 1 John 2:16; Proverbs 21:25; Eph. 4:17, etc.

Although man's absolute needs, to be supplied by his personal industry, are not very numerous, nor of long duration; yet they are more than some suppose. And while we ought to be content, yes, and thankful for food and raiment of a simple kind; yet it is lawful, and when practical, it is obligatory on men to secure the comforts of life. Paul exhorts his converts to "This should be your ambition: to live a quiet life, minding your own business and working with your hands, just as we commanded you before. As a result, people who are not Christians will respect the way you live, and you will not need to depend on others to meet your financial needs." 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12.

One of the great obstacles to be overcome in some heathen nations is found in the fact that masses of the people feel their needs to be so few, and so easily supplied, that they spend most of their time in idleness, in gambling, in sauntering about, in listening to foolish songs and stories, in witnessing the feats of jugglers, and in attending on vain processions. The same is true of Roman Catholic countries in the south of Europe. There are so many saints' days, that the laboring classes have not time to earn enough to secure the comforts of life. They become discouraged in the attempt, and extreme poverty and squalid wretchedness are perpetuated from generation to generation.

Everywhere in Scripture, indolence is condemned, and industry commended. Of the virtuous housewife, Solomon says,'She eats not the bread of idleness." "If a man is lazy, the rafters sag; if his hands are idle, the house leaks." Eccles. 10:18. "Sodom's sins were pride, laziness, and gluttony," were among the causes of the ruin of Sodom and the other cities of the plain. Ezek. 16:49. These sins fostered others which provoked the wrath of Heaven beyond forbearance. It is a remarkable fact that Paul himself once addressed a congregation of idlers, who "spent their time in nothing else, but either to tell, or to hear some new thing." Acts 17:21. But so far as we know, not one of them received any spiritual benefit. For "when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked: and others said, We will hear you again of this matter." Acts 17:32. The only people mentioned by name among those who profited by his preaching were a member of the chief court of the city and a woman named Damaris.

Man was not allowed to be idle even in Paradise; and when he apostatized from God, the sentence to which it is wise ever to submit, was, "In the sweat of your face shall you eat your bread, until you return unto the ground." Gen. 3:19.

Let us consider the law of HONESTY. There is hardly a word of more varied classical meaning than the word Honesty; and the Latin word from which it is derived. The same remark is true of the Greek word rendered honesty. In all these the range of meaning is very extended. But when applied to civil affairs, there are two ideas connected with the word, which we may not pass over in silence. One is that of JUSTICE. That which is unjust can never be honest. All injustice ought to be avoided, and is clearly condemned by Scripture. However refined, or countenanced by society or custom, it is still contrary to God's word and will. No human conscience ever aproved of a clear and decided case of injustice.

The other idea inseparably connected with the word honesty, when applied to civil affairs, is that of HONOR, or good repute. Any dishonorable conduct in temporal affairs is not honest; For a Christian to receive a bribe to do what was his obvious duty, or to refuse to do his duty without reward, is dishonest. So, for one to consent to do an odious thing (for instance, to act as hangman, not because his office required it of him, but because he loved gain,) would be dishonorable and so dishonest. A godly man must keep his eye on the things that are lovely and of good report, if he would avoid a stain upon his escutcheon, and a wound on his conscience.

All the ordinary and necessary avocations of life, the culture of the soil, the practice of the learned professions, trade, and the useful and ornamental arts, are honest. That it is not enough barely to satisfy one's own conscience of the honesty of a course, or even to meet the demands of the mere letter of God's word respecting rigid justice, is manifest in many ways. The Scripture abounds in proof: "Provide things honest in the sight of all men," not merely honest in the sight of God, in the sight of yourself, in the sight of some men—your partial friends and neighbors, or those who practice the same things—but in the sight of all men. Let your honesty be above all doubt and suspicion in the eyes of men, who understand what your conduct is. The apostle laid down no more rigid rule for others than he was willing to be governed by himself. He says that he and his helpers provided for honest things, not only in the sight of the Lord, but in the sight of all men. 2 Cor. 8:21.

Selden says: "those who cry down moral honesty, cry down that which is a great part of religion—my duty toward God and my duty toward men. What care I to see a man run after a sermon, if he deceives and cheats as soon as he comes home? On the other side, morality must not be without religion; for if so, it may change as I see convenient. Religion must govern it. He who has no religion to govern his morality, is not better than my mastiff dog; so long as you stroke him and please him, and do not pinch him, he will play with you, as finely as may be; he is a very good, moral master; but if you hurt him, he will fly in your face."

Let us then look at the great principle of HONESTY, as it ought to enter into our affairs, and see how it may be and often is violated.

1. All robbery, theft, receiving stolen goods, forgery, embezzling, swindling, obtaining goods under false pretenses, and cheating in every shape are contrary to the eighth commandment. Psalm 62:10; Eph. 4:28; Psalm 1:8; Proverbs 29:24; 1 Thess. 4:6; Proverbs 11:1, 20:10; Amos 8:5. These things are more near akin to each other than some suppose. Mark 10:19. As this part of the subject is generally well-understood, and warmly entertained by most who will read this book, it is not necessary to dwell upon it. A few observations, however, will not be amiss. One is, that the law of honesty makes no extenuation of these or like sins—because they are practiced against the rich. It is as dishonest unrighteously to possess the goods of one class as of another. True, in taking unjustly from the poor, we commonly add oppression to dishonesty, and thus perpetrate two crimes. But we are not to grade dishonesty by the worldly estate of him whom we defraud. What if a man is able to bear the loss? If all men should treat him fraudulently, he would soon have nothing. Our sin is against the law of God chiefly and primarily—and not against the man.

Another remark is, that the amounts of our dishonesty are not to regulate our ideas of its criminality. He who unjustly holds a farthing, is as truly dishonest as he who has amassed a fortune by fraud. To pant after the dust of the earth on the heads of the poor, is as strictly forbidden as to covet thrones and empires not our own, Amos 2:7. Ahab was as really wicked and unjust in covetously desiring and violently obtaining Naboth's vineyard, as if he had marched an army against the king of Syria, and taken his possessions from him. Our offence cannot be measured by the amount unjustly secured. With one sentence our Savior forever settled this principle. "He who is faithful in that which is least, is faithful also in much; and he who is unjust in the least, is unjust also in much," Luke 16:10. Compare Matt. 25:21; Luke 19:17.

Another remark is, that corporations and the government of the country in which we reside, sustain to us, in the matter of honesty, the same relations as individuals. He who will cheat a body of men, or his government, is as guilty as if he defrauded his neighbor. He who wrongs a corporation, not knowing or caring who may be thereby affected, shows a wicked principle in general, a malignity against his race. He who will not render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's, who will not pay tax to whom tax is due, is not likely to render unto God the things that are God's. All embezzlement, smuggling, false invoices, and unauthorized perks of office, making the government odious, are thus condemned by this precept. Another remark is, that no man can merge his individual moral responsibility in a corporation. It is sometimes said that "corporations have no souls," and there is painful evidence that some corporators have no consciences, or bad consciences, and do things acting jointly with others, which they would not dare to do acting alone. Such should not forget that he who goes with a multitude to do evil, shall go with a multitude to suffer punishment, Proverbs 11:21.

2. All people are bound to regard the law of honesty in making bargains, or contracts. To be a swindler is to have an unenviable distinction. It is wholly inconsistent with Christian principle. The rule of some—That we may buy as cheap as we can and sell as costly as we can—is liable to so many exceptions, and must receive so many explanations before it ceases to conceal immorality, that it ought not to be received. We may not sell as costly as we can, nor buy as cheap as we can, when we deal with the ignorant, who are no judges of the quality or value of the articles bought or sold. It would make anyone infamous, were it known that he cheated a little child out of his pennies by giving him not half what he should have done. In any such case, one acts as dishonest a part as if he had taken a ten-dollar note from one who cannot read and who supposes it is of a less denomination, and had given him only the change which he expected. Many who wish to buy or sell know almost nothing of the value of the commodity in trade, and are dependent on the superior knowledge of their merchants. To deceive them is dishonest. One cannot say—Their eyes were open; for on this subject they were without eyes and so were blind.

The same exception holds in regard to the credulous, who are children in understanding. They are easily persuaded to buy or to sell at the price others may fix. To take advantage of their feeble minds or optimistic temperaments, is fraud. Nor may we buy as cheap, nor sell as costly as we can, when we deal with those who are in distress. The pressing poverty of another does not make our goods any more valuable in fact. To avail ourselves of his necessity, therefore, is to rejoice in his calamity, because it may be profitable to us. Such conduct shall not go unpunished, Proverbs 17:5. To a drowning man, the end of a rope might be worth a whole estate. Shall one therefore sordidly bargain for a great reward before he extends assistance? Proverbs 24:11, 12. One may say, I put him not in the water; I brought him not into his present distress. But this alters not the case.

The same is as true of the man who is hard pressed in his worldly affairs. Nor may we buy as cheap nor sell as costly as we can, when by heightening the defects of what we would buy, or by magnifying the value of what we would sell, we lead others into error. Such artifices are as old as trade among men, and are condemned in the Bible. "The buyer haggles over the price, saying, "It's worthless," then brags about getting a bargain!" Proverbs 20:14. This practice is not only odious, but soon ceases to gain its end.

A. B. is a respectable Christian man. He is worth a handsome estate. He lives in a small city. Not a shop-keeper is ignorant that he never gives what is first asked by his merchant. The consequence is, that when he prices an article, everyone asks more than he is willing to take. But the very entrance of this godly man into a shop awakens significant hints and looks.

It sometimes occurs even in free governments that a state of things very much like a monopoly exists, putting much in the power of one man or of a few men. A fire, a drought, a storm, or a war, may leave one man, or a few men, in possession of an article of no great value in itself, yet much needed by their neighbors or others. Then to sell as costly as we can, is dishonest. "He who witholds corn, the people shall curse him; but blessing shall be upon the head of him that sells it," Proverbs 11:26. Nor is it honest to buy as cheap or sell as costly as we can, when threats or deceitful promises, or flattery, or any such are is employed to influence the minds of those with whom we deal. Here it may be observed that in trading generally, men are apt to use too many words. They say more than is good. They do not fix their prices or make their offers at what is right or fair, and then abide by it. There is a great deal of lying in the world in the driving of bargains. Self-interest is in all ages the most powerful principle at work in the commercial world. From the influence of it even good men are not wholly free. If one feels doubtful, therefore, let his neighbor have the benefit of his doubts; for the uncertainty probably arises from a conflict between selfishness on the one hand and conscience on the other. Let every man keep fairly and. unquestionably within the bounds of justice and honor.

Sometimes it occurs with the poor that in making bargains, they habitually or with indecent frequency and urgency plead their poverty, in favor of terms advantageous to themselves. Such seldom succeed for a long time, and even then with the loss of character. Such a practice is unmanly and so is dishonest. If any really needs charity, let him ask charity; but in trade, let justice and honor hold the scale.

3. As but few things have any real intrinsic value in trade, we still need a rule, by which to be governed. Perhaps this is as safe a maxim as any other. In all buying and selling, a fair equivalent according to the general and regular tenor of things ought always to be given or received. There is a fair market price for everything in common use. Men having no interest in the purchase or sale, and knowing the facts in the case would seldom disagree respecting it. Articles of a rare quality, intended merely for luxury or ornament, and obtained at very great risk of loss, may be unsettled in value, and more scope may be left for the exercise of a general discretion. But of most things bought and sold, it is possible for us to ascertain the fair market price, and that ought to be given or received, no more and no less. It is true that in merchandizing, on some things there will necessarily be loss. This ought to be met by increased profit on others. But then no price should be exorbitant. All extortion is forbidden, Ezek. 22:12; Matt. 23:25.

It is also true that he who sells only for an equivalent in hand, may sell cheaper than he who runs the risk and incurs the delay of a credit. But to charge two prices to him who has not the means of ready payment, but who may reasonably expect to have them in possession, is unjust, and so is dishonest. If he who buys on credit knew how much more he was charged than his neighbor who buys for cash, he would deal no more there. "Do unto others as you would that they do unto you."

4. When bargains contain promissory engagements, let every man adhere to his word, cost what it may. One description of a godly man is, that "he swears to his own hurt and changes not." Psalm 15:4. Domat: "In all sorts of engagements, whether voluntary or involuntary, it is forbidden to use any infidelity, double dealing, deceit, knavery, and all other ways of doing hurt or wrong." "The getting of treasures by a lying tongue is a vanity tossed to and fro of them that seek death." Proverbs 21:6. Is there not a lamentable lack of veracity manifested in many contracts? What could more painfully afflict a virtuous mind, than the ten thousand rash promises made respecting the fulfillment of contracts?

5. The Bible opposes the system of debt and credit, at least when carried to such lengths as we sometimes see. "Owe no man anything, but to love one another." Romans 13:8. If the debtor is honest, he is to a painful extent servant to the creditor. The spirit of many a man is crushed out by a sense of his indebtedness to others. His goods are distrained for rent; the peace of his mind or of his family is impaired; he finds himself avoiding particular walks lest he should meet the man to whom he owes money. Every loan puts him in anguish or irritates his mind. We have no reason to believe that Paul ever resorted to borrowing as a means of relieving his needs. In fact, we do know that when he was destitute of means, he went to tent-making. Acts 18:3, 20:34. An honest mechanic or laborer may sleep sweetly and walk abroad composedly. But what is social position worth, when appearances are preserved only in the face of most painful facts respecting one's worldly estate?

Debts may not be honestly contracted under the following circumstances.

1. When we have no reasonable prospect of paying them. In such cases it is swindling and robbery to take another man's property out of his hands. This is remarkably the case when the commodity received is of a perishable nature and is likely to be consumed before the day of payment arrives. A reasonable prospect of payment is something not very precarious, something better than the prospect of a prize in a lottery, or of profit from a daring speculation.

2. He who is so careless of the condition of his own affairs as not to know how they stand, and yet goes forward and contracts new responsibilities, violates the law of honesty. No man has a right to live in such ignorance of his worldly estate as not to be sure, when he receives a neighbor's goods, that he will in the ordinary and regular course of business be able to pay him; and that too,

3. At the time agreed upon. Many, who are in the main upright men, and on the whole sustain a fair reputation, are always so far behind their engagements as to require the most charitable construction of their conduct by friends and foes, to keep them from falling into disrepute. A delay in payment, especially to the poor, and often to the rich, is as real, if not as great an injury as absolute failure to pay. It was a part of the code of Moses that the sun should not go down upon the hire of the laborer. Compare Deut. 24:14, 15.

4. The Scriptures give no countenance to the practice of those who go on heedlessly and recklessly in their affairs, until insolvency ensues, and then compound with their creditors for five or ten shillings in the pound; and even if able afterwards, do not pay the full sum due. Voluntary relinquishment of creditors in order to give further opportunity to acquire the means of payment may be accepted. But if ever the whole can be paid, let the bona fide offer be made, with money in hand. Once a debt, always a debt—unless freely forgiven, is a sound maxim. Romans 13:8. If we had honest debtors and merciful creditors, we would need no bankrupt laws.

6. On the whole subject of our business affairs, these maxims, duly regarded, would save a world of trouble. 1. Never engage in a business you do not understand, however inviting the prospect of gain. Proverbs 14:8.

2. Let not young men, who are in the way of acquiring a thorough knowledge of business, be hasty in setting up for themselves. Let them be patient.

3. Avoid all highly hazardous speculations, even in a lawful business, except where they involve no more than you are able to lose without injury to your creditors or your family. You may not needlessly jeopard in wild adventures the rights of others.

4. Always prefer a regular business to any new and striking scheme of making money. The latter may beget many beautiful dreams. The former is sustained by the usual course of divine providence. "The hand of the diligent makes rich." Proverbs 10:4. "See a man diligent in his business? He shall stand before kings; he shall not stand before mean men." Proverbs 22:29.

5. Be not anxious to grow rich all of a sudden. "He who makes haste to be rich shall not be innocent." Proverbs 28:20.

6. Beware whom you admit as partners in business. Partners ought to have a congeniality in views, in temper, and in all the leading principles of business. Proverbs 22:24; Amos 3:3.

7. If you have any regard for your peace and comfort, avoid all suretyships, which exceed the amount you are able and willing to lose for your friend. "He who puts up security for another will surely suffer, but whoever refuses to strike hands in pledge is safe." Proverbs 11:15. It may be safely said that he is the only man that is safe. "Do not be a man who strikes hands in pledge or puts up security for debts; if you lack the means to pay, your very bed will be snatched from under you." Proverbs 22:26, 27. See also, Proverbs 6:1, 17:18, 20:16, 27:13.

8. Practice no deceptions. Let "no man go beyond and defraud his brother in any matter; because that the Lord is the avenger of all such, as we also have forewarned you and testified." 1 Thess. 4:6. Never resort to false weights and measures. They are an abomination to God. Lev. 19:36; Deut. 25:13; Proverbs 16:11, 20:10, 23; Hos. 12:7 Amos 8:5; Micah 6:11. Never adulterate goods. Always send the precise quality that was sold. Beware of all flthy lucre, that is, of all gain obtained in any manner dishonorable.

9. Never buy anything because it is cheap. What you do not need is costly at any price.

7. Are you already involved in debt? Inquire whether you cannot in some important respects cut back your usual expenses. Scorn to live in luxury, to roll in affluence or glitter in splendor, while you are unable to pay your debts. Your wife, if a prudent and honorable woman, will cheerfully submit to great self-denial. You will also find it useful to ascertain precisely how much you owe, and to keep the matter continually before you in memorandum. Be not afraid to know the state of your own affairs. Never avoid a creditor. Go to him with the manliness and fearlessness of uprightness. Tell him precisely how the case stands. Do not deceive him by plausible statements and fair promises. Tell him your real prospects, and how you are laboring to meet your liabilities. Remember that your charities ought not to be bountiful, while you are in debt; because in giving away, you rather dispose of the goods of others than of your own. Yet, be not hard-hearted. Without money, you may do a little to help the deserving poor. Also settle it in your mind that you will never make over your estate to some who will hold it for your benefit or that of your family, in order to keep your creditors from getting it.

Never ask your wife to relinquish her rights of property, which was hers before your indebtedness. Never begin the ruinous practice of paying high interest. Exercise rigid economy. Work day and night at your lawful and honest calling. Observe with regularity seasons of devotion in secret, in the family, and in the house of God. Never allow your mind to be annoyed with worldly affairs on the Lord's day. Maintain a cheerful and inflexible resolution to bear up like a man and a Christian under your great afflictions. Resist melancholy. As you acquire even a little, hand it over to your creditors. Beware of needlessly expending small sums. Cry to God for deliverance. Think not that he will scorn your humble, fervent petitions.

To a young man in debt, Dr. Franklin gave the following advice: "Make a full estimate of all you owe, and of all that is owing to you. Reduce the same to note. As fast as you can collect, pay over to those you owe. If you cannot, renew your note every year, and get the best security you can. Go to business diligently and be industrious; waste no idle moments; be very economical in all things; discard all pride; be faithful in your duty to God, by regular and hearty prayer morning and night; attend church and meeting regularly every Sunday; and do unto all men as you would that they should do unto you. If you are too needy in circumstances to give to the poor, do whatever else is in your power for them cheerfully, but if you can, help the poor and unfortunate. Pursue this course diligently and sincerely for seven years, and if you are not happy, comfortable and independent in your circumstances, come to me and I will pay your debts."

8. In matters of trust, observe the utmost exactness. Are you a treasurer of any institution? You cannot be too careful in your accounts, nor too cautious in the disposition of funds. Are you an agent, and so entrusted with money? Never spend it for your own convenience or comfort. Many a man has gone to his grave with a wounded reputation and an aching heart, because he had spent money which did not belong to him. He hoped indeed soon to replace it; but his expectation was like the mirage of the desert. Paul's example in this behalf is worthy of close imitation. He raised many collections and distributed them. But he tells us that "We want to avoid any criticism of the way we administer this liberal gift." 2 Cor. 8:20. Are you a guardian of such as are not able in law to represent themselves? The courts of the land will very properly hold you to a strict account. Carelessness and mismanagement will almost certainly bring terrible exposure and anguish. But the sin of such conduct is worse than the shame. It is in the teeth of the eighth commandment. In all fiduciary matters, keep your behavior on the highest key of morality. The class of offences against this precept entitled breaches of trust is very numerous. Many have expressed wonder that they are not punished as felonies.

9. Not a little sin is committed in borrowing. Sometimes indeed it is necessity. "From him that would borrow of you, turn not you away." Matt. 5:42. But as little borrowing as possible ought to be resorted to. For,

1. "The borrower is servant to the lender."

2. Men are often tempted not to return, at least with promptness, what they have borrowed. Some yield to this temptation. Psalm 37:21.

3. That which we borrow may be lost, and we may be unable to replace it; and then our position is truly distressing. 2 Kings 6:5. The law of Scripture is, "If someone borrows an animal from a neighbor and it is injured or killed, and if the owner was not there at the time, the person who borrowed it must pay for it." Exodus 22:14, and this sometimes he is quite unable to do. Then hard thoughts and speeches are apt to ensue, and the peace of the neighborhood is broken. Some have attempted to justify borrowing without any intention of returning, (if they think they have been injured) by citing the case of the Israelites' borrowing jewels from the Egyptians. Exodus 12:35, 36. In that passage, the words borrowed and lent are found; and the original words may be so rendered. But it is now generally conceded that the translation is wrong. It would be better, and the Hebrew would bear it, to render the words asked and gave; for this is doubtless the sense. The text confirms this view, by saying that God gave the people favor in the sight of the Egyptians, that is, for a little while, being crushed by plagues and having their hearts touched by God's Spirit, a sense of justice and of kindness prevailed. Josephus expresses it; "They honored them with gifts." So that this passage gives no countenance to the bad morals taught in some books of Romish Theology, that a servant may defraud his master to the amount of what he supposes is his due. Borrowing may be and often is so conducted as to be in effect the same as theft. When it is proper to lend, it should be done heartily and freely. Deut. 23:20; Luke 6:35. Many a time the best charity is not a gift, but a loan without interest.

10. We may never steal. There is an impression among some that dependent people, or the poor, may take that which belongs not to them, provided it is merely to satisfy the demands of hunger or to meet necessary wants. Even Solomon says, "Men do not despise a thief, if he steals to satisfy his soul when he is hungry." Proverbs 6:30. And Agur prayed that he might not be poor, lest he should steal. Proverbs 30:9. But all such taking what belongs to others is dishonest. Man's standard of ethics, especially when drawn from his appetite, is very low. The word of God makes no such allowance. In this very case it says, "If the thief be found, he shall restore seven-fold; he shall give all the substance of his house." Proverbs 6:31. Hopkins: "Though his necessity and hunger may take off somewhat from the shame, yet it shall not from the punishment of his offence, but he shall restore that which he has stolen seven-fold. Not that the restitution should be seven times as much as the theft, for the utmost that the law requires was but a five-fold restitution, Exodus 22:1; but as the word seven-fold is most frequently used in Scripture to signify that which is complete and perfect, so is it here, 'he shall restore seven-fold,' that is, he shall make a full and satisfactory restitution."

11. Restitution. The closing remark of the preceding paragraph suggests this important matter. Why should not men restore that which they have wrongfully withheld or taken away, or that which they may not longer lawfully hold? Common justice demands it. The law of Moses required it. David's sentence against him that took the poor man's lamb, was this: "The man that has done this thing shall surely die; and he shall restore the lamb four-fold, because he did this thing, and because he had no pity." 2 Sam. 12:5, 6.

Zaccheus understood that he lived under the same law. "If I have taken anything from any man by false accusation, I restore him four-fold." Luke 19:8. Domat: "It is a natural law, that he who has been the author of my damage ought to repair it." "Unjust possession is a continued and prolonged theft, and certainly repentance can never be true, nor sincere, while we continue in the sin of which we seem to repent; and your repentance not being true, pardon will never be granted you." God's word is very explicit: "if he gives back what he took in pledge for a loan, returns what he has stolen, follows the decrees that give life, and does no evil, he will surely live; he will not die." Ezek. 33:15. And if the person to whom restitution was at first due, is dead, payment can be made to his heirs. But if neither he nor they can be found, then it is to be made to the Lord. Num. 5:6-8.

Surely the law of good neighborhood requires us no less to restore that which has strayed from its owner or has been lost by him. Deut. 22:1-3. Nor would high-toned honor consent to receive a reward for returning that which had been lost, unless time or money had been expended for its recovery. The law of Moses very fitly required that a man who injured another in a fight, if he did not die, should pay him for the loss of his time, and cause him to be thoroughly healed. Exodus 21:19.

12. Begging. This is a sad evil in many parts of the world. In some portions of Europe and in the large cities of America, it is a great sore on the body politic. What legislation can do in the matter, statesmen must decide. But let the conscience of each one settle it that beggars who could get employment, and who are able to work for a livelihood, ought not to be countenanced. The law of Scripture and the law of nature are clear upon this point. "In the sweat of your face shall you eat your bread." Gen. 3:19. "Even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat." 2 Thess. 3:10. Compare verses 11, 12. Every man ought to set his face steadfastly against a system of mendicity. Everywhere the Scriptures pronounce against the slothful. Proverbs 12:27, 15:19, 18:9, 19:24; Romans 12:11. So far, therefore, as beggary is the result of indolence persisted in, the duty of those who have means is to refuse assistance.

13. Frugality consists in avoiding needless expenditures which we are not able to afford. "Frugality may be termed the daughter of Prudence, the sister of Temperance, and the parent of Liberty." It is essential to the peace of our lives. The lack of it brings on a world of wretchedness; while its exercise greatly conduces to our happiness. Proverbs 21:20.

14. Poverty. There may be virtuous poverty, though often we find wicked poverty. Poverty is a disgrace when it is the result of indolence, slothfulness, carelessness, or extravagance. Proverbs 6:10, 11. But it is no discredit to any man when he was born poor; or when he has made himself poor for the benefit of others; or when after careful industry and all lawful exertion and prudence, God leaves him without ample means. In that case, we should be content with those things we have. Heb. 13:5. Abject poverty is a great misery and a source of much temptation. Proverbs 30:9. Yet God may have great ends to answer in the world by keeping some of his best people in great straits. The poor are in danger of hardening their hearts against one another. No less than the rich, they ought to believe that "it is more blessed to give than to receive." No man has ever practiced on this precept without finding it true. It is as true now as ever, that "he who has pity upon the poor lends unto the Lord; and that which he has given, will he pay him again." No man is in the end a loser for any willing sacrifice or self-denial practiced for the good of others. He enjoys life far better than the selfish man. He has a vast storehouse of good laid up for him. To him the promises are many and wonderful. "The Lord will preserve him and keep him alive; and he shall be blessed upon the earth: and you will not deliver him to the will of his enemies. The Lord will strengthen him upon the bed of languishing: you will make all his bed in his sickness."

Nor should anyone regard himself as too poor to do something. The reason why the small gift of the poor woman was greater than that of all the rich was, that she gave "all her living," and they did not. She had to practice self-denial to give anything. They only cast in of their abundance. He who shall finally reward the giving of a cup of cold water, will not be unfaithful to forget any work of faith or labor of love.

In Stevenson's Exposition of the twenty-third Psalm, we have this little narrative: "The long-tried and consistent piety of the wife of a poor laborer had attracted the regard of her wealthier neighbors. She was one of those happy Christians whose holy cheerfulness of manner adorns their profession of the gospel. She 'rejoiced and wrought righteousness,' and 'remembered the Lord in his ways.' She had gained the esteem of all who knew her, and now that a slow but sure decline rendered her incapable of contributing to her own support, some pious friends agreed together to provide her regularly with those little comforts which were so necessary to her sinking condition. The Lord thus met her necessity by their instrumentality. But she knew not that he had awakened this thought within the hearts of any of them. Her own heart was stayed upon the heart of her God. As she stood one afternoon in her humble doorway to breathe the balmy air, she observed, three objects of misery soliciting alms in the street. Her heart pitied the famished mother and her two tattered children, but all the money that she possessed was her last and only sixpence. Every article of provision in the house had been already consumed. Without delay or hesitation, however, she drew from her pocket the little coin which was needed for her own necessities, and freely bestowed it on the widow and the fatherless. She considered that all her own wants for the day had been supplied, and that 'she ought not to be distrustful for the morrow.' 'I have a heavenly Friend,' she said within herself, 'to provide for me, and perhaps this poor woman does not know the God that is above. I have no one to think of; she has these two children to struggle for. I know my own need, but they are more needy than I.'

That very evening the individual deputed by her unknown friends visited her dwelling to inform her of their kind determination; and great was her astonishment and gratitude to hear that a sum double the amount she had that day given to the poor wanderers, was to be her daily allowance during the remainder of her life. It pleased the Lord to spare her two years, as she declared, 'in plenty and comfort.'" So in every case God will be as good as his word, as gracious as he has promised to be. All the promises are yes and amen.

15. Money. The Bible says nothing against money. It admits that it is a defense, and answers all things, Eccles. 7:12, 10:19. After Job's restoration to prosperity, "every man gave him a piece of money," Job 42:11. What the Scriptures warn us against is the abuse of that which is good.

1. We must not set our hearts upon it; nor be distracted with the care of it. "The love of money is the root of all evil," 1 Tim. 6:10; Matt. 6:21.

2. We must not employ it for purposes of sinning, Acts 8:20.

3. We must not rely upon it, 1 Tim. 6:17.

4. We must not hoard it up with greediness, James 5:1-3. 5. We must not use it to make ourselves wanton in life, James 5:5.

6. We must not needlessly squander it, Isaiah 55:2.

7. We must not use it for purposes of oppression, Lev. 25:37; Deut. 23:19; Psalm 15:5.

8. We must not be led by a regard to it to disobey any of God's commands, 2 Chron. 25:9.

9. We must give to the poor, and thus lay up treasure in heaven, Luke 12:33, 34. And we ought to give for conscience sake, because we thus desire to honor God, Proverbs 3:9. Our alms ought to be cheerful and according to our ability, 1 Cor. 16:2; 2 Cor. 9:7. Our liberality ought also to be unostentatious. Our Lord settled this matter in his Sermon on the Mount, Matt. 6:2-4. All the reasons of this command we may not know; but we do know two reasons, either of which is sufficient.

1. We ought, as far as possible, to save the feelings of those who are profited by our kindness, Ruth 2:16.

2. All vanity and ostentation in religion is very disgusting to well-balanced and well-instructed minds. Our liberality should be abundant towards the truly needy. In particular they should never be forgotten in days of unusual gladness, Neh. 8:10. Our liberality should be out of our own funds. Eccl. 11:1; 1 John 3:17. Durham tells us the story of Selymus, the Turkish emperor, a most bloody man, that when he was a dying, one of his Bashaws desiring him to build a hospital for relief of the poor with the wealth taken from the Persian merchants, he replied thus, "Would you, Pyrrhus, that I should bestow other men's goods, wrongfully taken from them, on works of charity and devotion, for mine own vain-glory and praise? assuredly I will never do it; nay, rather that they be bestowed on the right owners again; which was accordingly done."

16. When God gives us good things richly, it is that we may enjoy them. 1 Tim. 6:17. It is a great reproach to religion when God opens his hand liberally and supplies our wants, that we should stingily withhold them from ourselves and our dependents. "He has made everything beautiful in his time.... I know that there is no good in them, but for a man to rejoice, and to do good in his life. And also that every man should eat and drink, and enjoy the good of all his labor; it is the gift of God." Eccles. 3:11-13. Compare Eccles. 4:8, 6:1, 2.

17. One species of sin against this commandment is common in all ages and countries. It relates to boundary lines between neighbors. The forms in which this sin is committed are exceedingly numerous, but they are all forbidden under the general prohibition to alter land-marks. Deut.. 19:14, 27:17; Job 24:2; Proverbs 22:28, 23:10.

18. A sin kindred to the last mentioned is greed for land beyond our necessities, and a desire to hold it for its own sake. There is no little of this spirit in some parts of the world; and yet there is no mode of violating this commandment more strictly forbidden. "Woe unto them that join house to house, that lay field to field, until there be no place, that they may be placed alone in the midst of the earth." Isaiah 5:8. Compare Micah 2:2.

19. The Scriptures do not require a community of goods. "The Most High has divided to the nations their inheritance." Deut. 32:8. He divided to the tribes of Israel and to each family in every tribe a separate portion. He takes also the desolate and sets him in families. It is true indeed that when the church was in her infant state in Jerusalem, and had great numbers of poor and suffering members, God poured out a spirit of liberality, according to the exigencies of the case, and "all that believed were together, and had all things common; and sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need." Acts 2:44, 45. But this was wholly a voluntary and temporary arrangement. In addressing Ananias, Peter expressly said, that there was no law on the subject binding any man, "While it remained, was it not your own? and after it was sold, was it not in your own power?" Acts 5:4.

20. What shall we say of law-suits? It is very clear that litigiousness is contrary to the spirit of the gospel. Our Savior said, "As for the one who wants to sue you and take away your shirt, let him have your coat as well." Matt. 5:40. This passage has been uniformly understood as a call upon us to repress that natural desire for insisting upon our legal rights before courts. Paul also warns his Corinthians to abstain from all litigation before heathen magistrates. 1 Cor. 6:1-7. Let no man go to law for a mere tiifle, involving no principle. "A bad settlement is better than a good lawsuit." Avoid a law-suit, if you can, without wrong to someone.

21. Perhaps one of the most common errors respecting property is the neglect of hearty prayer to God on that subject. "Then shall you remember the Lord your God: for it is he who gives you power to get wealth." Deut. 8:18. "Feed me with food convenient for me." Proverbs 30:8. "In all your ways acknowledge him." Proverbs 3:6. "Give us this day our daily bread." Matt. 6:11.

22. Sometimes theft and robbery are committed directly against God. He is the rightful proprietor of all things. Whatever therefore he claims as proper for his worship, our time, the time of our servants, our property and our affections, should be sincerely rendered to him. "Will a man rob God? Yet you rob me. "But you ask, 'How do we rob you?' "In tithes and offerings. You are under a curse--the whole nation of you--because you are robbing me" Mal. 3:8, 9. Compare John 10:1. Sacrilege is a heinous sin. "It is a snare to the man who devours that which is holy." Proverbs 20:25. The sin that filled up the measure of the iniquity of the haughty monarch of Babylon was taking the vessels of God's house, and thus lifting himself up against the Lord of heaven. Dan. 5:23. X13:It should greatly deter us from any and every violation of this precept that God visits solemn judgments upon those who transgress it. "The robbery of the wicked shall destroy them." Proverbs 21:7. "As the partridge sits on eggs, and hatches them not, so he who gets riches, and not by right, shall leave them in the midst of his days, and at his end shall be a fool." Jer. 17:11. Compare Psalm 55:23; Proverbs 22:23; Hab. 2:6-13; Zeh. 5:3, 4; 1 Cor. 6:10; James 5:1-6.

24. On the other hand an exceedingly rich blessing is surely promised to those who obey this commandment. "A little that a righteous man has is better than the riches of many wicked." Psalm 37:16. Compare Proverbs 16:8; Matt. 6:9-34; Matt. 25:31-44; 1 Tim. 6:17-19.

CONCLUSION. Never in any wise be an instrument of sowing the seeds of enmity between the rich and the poor. If you are poor, beware of envying the rich. If you knew their crosses and their miseries—you would probably think them heavier than your own. James 5:9; Ecc. 5:12. If you are rich; beware of despising the poor. In so doing you reproach your Maker. Proverbs 17:5.