« السابقةمتابعة »
of the law of bankruptcy is to give unfortunate debtors an opportunity of doing justice to their creditors. Therefore he who takes the advantage of his being cleared by the statute of bankruptcy, and refuses to make complete payment of his whole debts, when it comes afterwards to be in his power, is guilty of the 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 houses of parliament, to screen one's self, or others; or by any other means to evade, or assist others in evading, the payment of just debts, where it is in the debtor's power to make payment, is the very same species of iniquity as theft, with the aggravation of the abuse of law, and the baseness of taking an advantage of the weaker.
Nor is the absolute refusal of a just debt, only injustice; but even the delay of payment beyond a reasonable 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 affairs, through want of what he has a just title to, is justly to be laid to the charge of the debtor.
All breach of trust, whether through careless neglect or voluntary embezzleing of what is committed to one's care in the capacity of an executor of the will of the dead, of an assignee, 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 neighbour with the same measure of affection as ourselves.
In commerce and traffic, all advantages taken by dealers, against 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. Over-rating of commodities; that is, selling them at such a price as will yield an exorbitant profit to the seller, to the prejudice of the buyer, which shows in a very bad light all monopolies, especially of such articles of commerce as are necessary in trade, or in life.
All advantages taken by traders possessed of large capitals, to the hurt of persons in narrower circumstances. All advantages taken by the knowing, against the ignorant. Advantages taken by the buyer against the seller, whether of his ignorance or necessity. And those most 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 wise, thou wilt stop here, and examine thy heart, and thy life. If thou hast ever desired, 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 restitution to the injured person, to his heirs, or if these cannot be found, to the poor. If thou goest down to the grave loaded with the spoils of injustice, they will sink thy soul to the bottomless pit: for the Judge of the world is of infinite purity and justice: and will show 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 desire to gain wealth than to be of service to his fellow-creatures, it is his undoubted duty to conquer the sordid passion, 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 profusion, which are often the cause of the most rapacious and insatiable avarice.
Every man has a right to be thought and spoken of aecording 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 e deserves, is guilty of injuring his neighbour; and all injurious treatment of a fellow-creature is contrary to rec titude, 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 several 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 falsehood; 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 stop 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 committing; 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 punishment, which a little money given the constable, makes almost no punishment!
To spread a false report against any person, is contrary 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 be a mere surmise or suspicion. To invent a lie, or propagate a known falsehood, to the prejudice of any person's character, is taking up the office of Satan himself, who is styled, 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 re
flect upon the uneasiness it gave him, if ever he suffered regin 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 person, 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 peculiarly 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 commonly 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 assassin 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 makest it thy practice to divert thyself with mischief, or to strive to build thyself an ill-founded reputation upon the ruins of thy neighbour's, or thinkest, 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 comest to be judged for thy idle words. The ill-gotten advantages thou mayest reap from thy base treachery to thy brother, if thou shouldest 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 seats of future bliss. If thou thinkest to be
hereafter a companion of angels and spirits of good men, resolve in time to form thy mind to universal 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 irrecoverable, and if recoverable, again a fit object for thy love; for 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 real 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 him 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 knowest 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 shouldst 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 hast been so wicked as basely to stab 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 so great, whose ear thou hast abused, be set right with respect to the character of the innocent. If those, whose minds thou hast poisoned, have communicated the venom to others, be sure to trace the wicked lie, the spawn of thy own foul tongue, through all its doublings, and destroy it, that it may spread its deadly influence no farther. Take shame to thyself, and do justice to innocence. Thou hadst better suffer shame now, than hereafter before God, angels, and men.
It is plainly contrary to the benevolent affection we ought to have for our fellow-creature, to put him to any pain or distress of body, as by beating, wounding, or maiming, unless in self-defence, when unjustly attacked; in lawful war; or in case of his having deserved corporat