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The Law of God required, in accordance with the doctrine which I am urging, that the sun should not be suffered to go down upon the hire of the labourer. The spirit of punctuality here enjoined ought to be found in all men. The engagements, which we make, we are bound, as honest men, to fulfil. . The expectations which we knowingly excite in the minds of those with whom we deal, we are required to satisfy; aud when we fail, either voluntarily or negligently, we are inexcusable.
The last iniquity of this species which I shall mention is the payment of debts with something of less value, than that which we possess.
It has been doubtless observed, that I have, all along throughout this Discourse, chiefly passed over in silence those gross frauds which are the direct objects of criminal prosecution. Such is my intention here. I shall pass by the gross iniquities of passing counterfeit currency; forging obligations and endorsements, and others of the like nature. To reprove these crimes cannot be necessary in this place. I have therefore confined, and shall still confine myself to those which are esteemed smaller transgressions, and are less observed, and less dreaded by mankind.
There are some kinds of currency, whose real value is inferior to that which is nominal. Coin is in some countries, and at some times, alloyed below the common standard. It is also very often worn down below the standard weight. Paper currency is also in many instances subjected to a discount, wherever its true value is understood. Debts are very often paid with this depreciated currency, without any notice given by the debtor of its depreciation.
Debts are paid also to a considerable extent in commodities. In these there are often defects, in kipd or quantity, not readily perceivable by the creditor, and, what is much more unhappy, concealed, or not disclosed, by the debtor.
Often debts are paid by labour and services. These, not unfrequently, are stinted with respect to the time through which the labour ought to extend ; the skill, and thorough execution, which ought to be employed; the care, which ought to be used ; and, universally, the completeness of the service engaged, and therefore justly expected by the creditor. In every case of this nature, it is the design of the debtor to
gain something by the means and mode of paying the debt, which he would not have gained, had he paid it in undebased coin ; and which he would not have gained by a fair, honest fulfilment of the original terms of the contract. Whenever the debtor feels that in discharging his debts he has acquired something from the creditor, not involved in the plain terms of the contract, he may be assured, that his mode of payment has involved in it a fraud, and that he has acted the part of a cheat.
All these may, and often do, seem to the perpetrators crimes of little moment; and it will, perhaps, be no easy matter to convince them of the contrary. I wish such persons to remember the great maxim, taught by the unvarying experience of man ; that he, who allows himself to be dishonest in one thing, will soon be dishonest in all things. I wish them still more solemnly to remember, that God is a witness of all their fraudulent conduct, however it may be concealed from mankind; and that, although they may cheat men, they cannot cheat God.
5. Another enormous class of frauds is composed of breaches of trust.
Upon this unlimited subject my observations must be few, and summary. Frauds of this kind are found in the servant and the monarch, and in all the intervening classes of mankind. They fill with complaints every mouth, and haunt every human concern.
To describe them would demand the contents of a library; to name them would be to recount most of the business of man. As they exist everywhere, so all men are familiarized to them. Of course, it is the less necessary to detail them here. There is also but one opinion concerning them, and concerning their authors. They are all by an universal voice pronounced to be frauds; and their authors to be knaves and villains.
He who assumes an employment, engages in the very assumption to discharge the duties which it obviously involves. If he fails, he fails of his duty; if he negligently or voluntarily fails, he is palpably a dishonest man. The expectations which we knowingly excite in others, we are indispensably bound to fulfil. Nothing less than this will satisfy the commands of God, or the dictates of an unwarped conscience. Nothing less will ever acquire or secure a fair reputation. I
shall only add, that there is no easy or sure method of accomplishing this invaluable object, but to begin early, and to go on with inflexible perseverance.
1. The subject which has been under consideration presents us with a very humiliating and painful specimen of human corruption.
The duty of rendering justice to our neighbour, is one of the plainest dictates of the law written on the hearts of men, one of the first demands of conscience, one of the prime injunctions of God. Accordingly, no duty has been more readily, universally, or absolutely acknowledged or demanded by mankind. The bounds also which separate justice from injustice, are often defined with mathematical exactness, almost always clearly known, and rarely capable of being mistaken. Yet in how many ways, forms, and varieties is this duty violated ! By how many individuals! Of bow many classes ! Who, however wise, honourable, or excellent, however reverenced, or beloved, is not at times the victim of fraud, and the dupe of cunning! The known instances are innumerable. What endless multitudes are probably unknown, except by the omniscient eye! How great a part of human time and talents has been employed only in fraud! One hundred and twenty thousand persons, in the city of London alone, are declared by the judicious Colquboun to derive the whole, or the chief part, of their subsistence from fraudulent practices. Here, villany of this nature has become a science; and is pursued, not merely without remorse, but with system ; with a coolness, which laughs at morality ; an ingenuity, which baffles detection; an industry, which would do honour to virtue ; and a success, which overwhelms the mind with amazement. All these things exist in the capital of that country, which has been more distinguished than
any other for knowledge, morality, and religion. But London is not alone concerned in this iniquity. It prevails wherever rights are claimed, or property exists. In our own country, so young, and distinguished beyond most others for the moral character of its inhabitants, it prevails in a manner which ought to cover us with shame and sorrow. Frauds of all the kinds which have been mentioned are not only practised, but avowed. Nay, many of them have ceased to wear the name of frauds. Oppressive bargains are customarily styled by those who make them, good bargains ; and boasted of as specimens of ingenuity, skill, and success. Debts, in multiplied instances, are contracted without honesty, and withholden by mere fraud. Even the settlement of estates furnishes often gross exbibitions of oppression and cheating, and the widow and the fatherless are made a prey. Why is this done ? Because the deceased is gone, and cannot detect the iniquity : because those whom he has left behind are without defence, and without remedy.
A great part of the business of legislators is the prevention of fraud. To detect and punish it is the chief employment of judicial tribunals. How immense have been the labours of both; and to how vast an extent have they laboured io vain !
How frequently do we ourselves see character, safety, and the soul, all hazarded for a pittance of gain, contemptible in itself; and of no consequence to him who cheats bis neighbour, and sells bimself, to acquire it! With what unceasing toil, and under what hard bondage, docs the miser wear and waste his life, to filch from those around him little gleanings of property, merely to bury it in his chest, and without daring to use it for himself or his family! How frequently do swindlers and gamblers, like the troubled ghosts of antiquity, haunt places of public resort; and stare in open day, and in circles of decent men, until the hour of darkness arrives, when they may again, like their kindred vampyres, satiate themselves upon rottenness and corruption !
How often is war made, how often are oceans of blood spilt, lives destroyed in millions, and immense portions of human happiness extinguished, merely to plunder others of their property!
To all these evils, instruction, example, laws, punishments, conscience, the word of God, and the prospect of damnation, oppose their force and terror in vain. Prudence and policy contend against it with as little success. All nations have pronounced honesty to be more profitable than any other conduct. Poverty on the one hand, and infamy on the other, bave
ever threatened the intentional knave with a whip of scorpions. Still, he walks onward coolly and steadily, unmoved either by the remonstrances of earth and beaven, or the dangers of hell.
2. These observations show the vast importance of fixing in our own minds, and in the minds of our children, the strongest sense, and the most vigorous habits of exact, evangelical integrity.
He who wishes to live well here, and to be happy hereafter, must in all his intentional dealings ask, as an all-controlling question, What is right? and make all things bend to the answer. “ Fiat justitia ; ruat coelum !” ought to be the governing maxim of private as well as public life. Of all virtues, justice and truth are the first in order, the first in importance. To them every thing ought to give way. If they are permitted to rule, man cannot fail to be virtuous, amiable, and happy.
But every moral truth, and every moral precept, is of more consequence to children, and may be made of more use to them, than it can be to others. Good seed, sown in the spring time of life, cannot ordinarily fail to produce a harvest; which will be vainly expected, if it be sown in the autumn. The parent who values the comfort, character, or salvation of his child, will impress on his young and tender mind, in the most affecting manner possible, the incalculable excellence and importance of integrity, and the inestimable worth of an unblemished character, and an unsullied life. At this hopeful period, the parent should inweave into the mind of his child, as a part of his constitutional thinking, a strong conviction, that property itself, according to the usual dispensations of God, is to be acquired only by uprightness of conduct; and that fraud is the highway to beggary, as well as to shame. Peace of conscience, he should be taught from the first, can never dwell in the same soul with injustice ; and without peace of conscience, he should know, the soul will be poor and miserable. Habitually should he remember, that the eye of God looks alway upon the heart; and that every dishonest design, word, and act is recorded in that book, out of which he will be judged at the great day. Finally, he should learn the unvarying fact, that one fraud generates another of course ; and that thus the dishonest man