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blinded by his own avarice. He perfectly knows that his neighbour would not buy nor sell on these terms, except from his ignorance ; and that the advantage which he gains, is gained only from his neighbour's misapprehension of the commodities in question. Can an honest man take this advantage? Would any man of reputation justify himself in taking it of a child ? Why not of a child, as well as of a man? Because, it will be answered, the child knows not the worth of what he buys, or sells. Neither, in the case specified, does
Would he who takes this advantage be willing that his neighbour should take it of him? The answer to this question needs not to be given. It is plain, then, that the conduct referred to is unjust and fraudulent.
There are many other persons, who directly misrepresent the market price. These men feel satisfied, if they do not palpably lie; if, for example, they report what this price has lately been; what they have heard somebody declare it to be; or what price has been given by an individual, who has sold at a high, or bought at a low price ; both, very different from the general one. All these are mere fetches, used by a dishonest mind to deceive itself, and to defraud others.
Another palpable fraud of this class is the use of false weights and measures. These are often used when they are known, and often when they are suspected, to be false ; and more frequently still when they are suffered to become defective through inattention. In this, the man is apt to feel himself excused, because he is not intentionally fraudulent: not remembering, that, whenever it is in his power, God has required bim to do justly, and not merely not to design to do unjustly. He has given bim no permission to sin through negligence. Weights and measures are often formed of such materials as to ensure decay and diminution. Whenever this is known to be the case, the proprietor is unpardonable, if he does not by frequent examinations prevent the injustice. The wrong he cannot but foresee ; and the remedy is always and entirely io bis power. If we love justice as we ought, we sball take all those measures which are necessary to accomplish it. He who is resolved to do to others what he would that others should do to bim,' will never suffer it to remain undone for want of exertions, which demand so little self-devial. Whevever a man begins to do wrong through negligence, he will soon do it through design. Indifference to sin is the next step to the love of it. The only safety in this case, and all others of the like nature, is to ' resist the beginnings of evil.' If our opposition to it be not begun here, it will never be begun. Every smaller transgression prepares the way for a greater. Every gross villain has become such by small beginnings. “ No man,” says the Latin proverb, “ becomes abandoned at once.” He who begins to backslide without compunction, will find bis remaining course only downward ; and will descend with continually increasing velocity to the bottom.
Another prominent iniquity of this class is selling commodities which are unsound and defective, under direct professions that they are sound and good. This is sometimes done with palpable lying, sometines with indefinite and hypocritical insinuations. Agents, and men who buy to sell again, often assert their wares to be good, because those of whom they received them have declared them to be good. These declarations are often believed, because the agent professes, or at least appears, to believe them ; while, in truth, he does not give them the least credit.
One of the grossest impositions of this nature is practised upon the public in advertising and selling nostrums as safe and valuable medicines. These are ushered into newspapers with a long train of pompous declarations, almost always false, and always delusive. The silly purchaser buys and uses the medicine, chiefly or only because it is sold by a respectable man, and under the sanction of a splendid advertisement, to which that respeetable man lends his countenance. Were such men to decline this unfortunate and indefensible employment, the medicines would probably fall into absolute discredit; and health, and limbs, and life would in many instances be preserved from unnecessary destruction.
Another specimen of similar fraud is practised in concealing the defects of what we sell. This is the general art and villany of that class of men, who are customarily styled Jockies ; a class unhappily comprehending multitudes who would receive the appellation with astonishment and disdain. The common subterfuge of these men is this, that “ they give no false accounts concerning their commodites ; that the purchaser has eyes of his own, and must judge for himself." No defeuce
can be more laine and wretched; and scarcely any more impudent. A great proportion of vendibles are subject to defects which no purchaser can descry. Every purchaser is therefore obliged to depend on the seller for information concerning them. All this the seller perfectly knows; and, if he be an honest man, will certainly give the information to the purchaser ; because in the same situation be would wish it to be given to himseif. At the same time, no purchaser would buy these articles if he knew their defects, unless at a diminished price. The actual purchaser is therefore, in colloquial language, taken in; and taken in by palpable villany.
Another specimen of the same nature is furnished by the practice of depreciating the value of such commodities as we wish to buy. It is naught, it is naught, saith the buyer ; but when he bath gone bis way, he boasteth.' Such was the conduct of men in the days of Solomon. We have ample proof that human nature now, is not in this respect altered for the better. The ignorant, the modest, and the necessitous, persons who should be the last to suffer from fraud, are in this
often made its victims. A decisive tone and confident airs, in men better dressed, and supposed to know better than themselves, easily bear down persons so circumstanced, and persuade them to sell their commodities for less than they are plainly worth. The purchaser, in the mean time, as soon as they are out of hearing, boasts of his gainful bargain ; and trumpets, without a blush, the value of the articles which he had before decried.
4. Another class of frauds is connecied with the contraction and payment of debts.
The first transgression of this nature which I shall mention, is, the contraction of debts, with clear conviction, that we possess no means of discharging them ; and that we shall, in all probability, possess no such means hereafter ; at least, within any reasonable period of payment.
Multitudes of persons covet enjoyments in the possession of others, to such a degree, that they are willing to acquire them, if they can, without troubling themselves about paying for them. Such persons are often professed cheats, and triumph in the success of their impositions. But there are others, who regard themselves as honest men, and would be not a little surprised, as well as wounded, at the suspicion of fraudulent
designs in their conduct. Most or all of these men form some loose, indefinite design of paying their debts; but, instead of providing the necessary means for this purpose, trust to some future casualty. They will tell the creditor who charges them with dishonest conduct, that, although they did indeed know themselves to be destitute of property, and of any rational expectations of future property when the debt was contracted, yet they hoped that in the course of events they should, in some manner or other, become able to discharge it. In this case, they will add, they should have discharged it, both willingly and faithfully. What they thus allege is, probably, in many instances true. The persons in question do not form a direct intention to defraud their creditors. Thus far their honesty goes. But here it stops. They form no design, direct or indirect, to take effectual measures to do their creditors justice. They do not conscientiously abstain from contracting debts until they know that they shall be able to cancel them by fair payment. On the contrary, they contract them when they know themselves to be unable, and to be unpossessed of any fair probable means of being able at a future time. In all this they are, although often without suspecting it, grossly dishonest.
Another sin, very nearly akin to tbis, is contracting debts, without perceiving any means of payment to be in our power. Those who transgress in this manner feel satisfied if they do not know themselves to be unable to pay. Were they evangelically honest, they would take effectual care to see whether they were able, or not. Often, by overrating their property, their efforts, or the markets, they feel a loose conviction, that they shall possess this power; but take no pains to render the fact certain, or even probable. Such morality can result only from absolute insensibility of mind to the great duty of doing justly, an entire ignorance of what it demands, and a total forgetfulness of exposure to the Divine indignation. We are bound, before we receive, before we become willing to receive, our neighbour's property, to know that we have means clearly probable of paying him ; otherwise, we wantonly subject him to the loss of it; and differ very little, as moral beings, from thieves and robbers. If we are in doubt concerning either the probability or the sufficiency of these means, it is our duty to detail them fairly to the person with whom we are dealing. If, in this case, he is disposed to entrust us with his property, and we afterwards make faithful efforts to cancel the debt, I do not see, that we are chargeable with fraud, although we should fail. He who contracts a debt, without discerning that he has probable means of discharging it, differs in no material respect from a swindler. He plunders his neighbour from indifference to justice ; the swindler from contempt of it. In the view of common sense, in the sight of God, the moral character of both is essentially the same.
Another transgression, of the same general nature, is nege lecting to pay our debts at the time. There are many persons, whose general character, as honest men, is fair; who yet, in this respect, are extremely deserving of censure. They contract debts, which they engage to discharge within a given time. This time is therefore a part of the contract; a ground
. on which the bargain is made; a condition, on which the price was calculated. This obvious truth is understood by all men, and makes a part of the language of every bargain in which credit is given. To the expectation formed by the creditor of receiving his debt at the time specified, the debtor has voluntarily given birth. It is an expectation therefore which he is bound to fulfil. If he does not take every lawful measure in his power, to enable himself to fulfil it, or if he does not fulfil it when it is in his power, he is guilty of fraud; of depriving his neighbour, not perhaps of design, but by a guilty negligence, of a part of his property.
The delay of payment beyond the appointed time is in almost all instances injurions, and in some almost as injurious to the creditor, as an absolute refusal to pay would originally have been. The real value of a debt, where the security is sufficient, is among men of business estimated according to the time when the payment is reasonably expected. Thus potes, bonds, and other obligations for money, when given by men known to be punctual in the discharge of their debts, pass in the market for their nominal value ; and are received in payments with no other discount than that which arises from the distance of the period when they become due. Those given by negligent men are, on the contrary, considered as depreciated from the beginning; and that, exactly in proportion to the negligence of the signer. Of this sum, be it what it may, the negligent man defrauds his creditor.