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honesty and loving-kindness, truth, justice, and equity, in all our dealings. The care and the pains taken by our Lord, not only to impress upon the minds of his disciples the duty and necessity of honouring, worshipping, and serving God, as being “ the first and great commandment,” but also particularly to explain and to enforce the precepts of the second table, clearly point out to us the scrupulous strictness, and the conscientious attention which we should give to the keeping of the last six commandments, the fulfilment of our duty towards our neighbour, even “ to love him as ourselves." 4 In more than one instance did our Saviour declare the keeping of the law of the second table an indispensable essential towards the attainment of eternal life. To one who asked of Him that good and hopeful way, the reply was thus emphatic though brief—“If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments :” and being asked for a further explanation of “ which ?" Jesus said,
Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Honour thy father and thy mother; and, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.”5
To call ourselves Christians, and yet to live in the habitual neglect of of these commandments, must be not only a contradiction, but also a dangerous mode of living; for, as St. James writes, “Whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.” 6
Nevertheless, brethren, how is this with ourselves ? Are we all, generally speaking, attentive to keep and to observe " the whole law,” the precepts of the ten commandments, as they are to be spiritually received by us, and brought into practice under the teaching of Christ and his apostles ? Brethren, let us examine ourselves strictly in this matter, , and “ that not lightly, and after the manner of dissemblers with God;" recollecting, further, that these laws, as delivered to us in the Gospel, extend even to the thought and disposition of the heart, to that source whence the first inclination to do this evil or wrong against one's brother originally springs.
5 Matt. xix. 17-19. 6 James ii. 10.
Whilst, therefore, and to come to the more immediate consideration of the commandment, the words of which have been prefixed as our text, we are positively forbidden to steal, we are also, be it remembered, forbidden to covet, “not to covet nor desire other men's goods.”? On the breach of this eighth commandment, and of the guilt of which there can be no doubt, we propose now to say a word ; premising that when this eighth commandment is violated among a description of men, such as are here assembled,*-there is, in addition to the moral guilt, no little cowardice and treachery, alike dishonourable to the profession, and destructive of all brotherly confidence.
7 Church Catechism. * Preached to a regiment in a barrack square.
That the crime of theft should be committed by men, that is, among soldiers, who, together with their other duties, are called upon to watch over the public property of their country, and the private property of others, whose office also it is to preserve the general quietness, peace, and well-being of society,—that any such men should ever be found themselves violating the laws of justice and honesty, is a sad and melancholy proof of the proneness of men to devise, and to commit iniquity. Such men, however, are guilty of aggravated crime. For them the extenuating excuse cannot in reason be urged, that they were impelled by importunate want and unavoidable distress. For all the needful, necessary, and proper things, as well for their bodily sustenance as for their clothing, have been provided for them. And if they through carelessness destroy
or wilfully makeaway with their necessaries, that in itself is a crime, and is doubled by seeking in any way to wrong another, in order that means may be found to supply the deficiency.
Righteously, then, do the laws of our country denounce as amenable to punishment the pilferer and the robber, even those who keep not “ their hands from picking and stealing.” They are enacted to vindicate and to maintain the word of God, and to enforce the prohibitions of the Gospel. The law of God is in our text peremptory,
“ Thou shalt not steal." Thou shalt not defraud “ thy neighbour, nor rob him." And St. Paul to the Ephesians writes, “Let him that stole, steal no more; but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good."9 Dishonesty cannot be excused under any circumstances : that which belongeth to another, we may not take without his permission. The small
8 Ley, xix. 13. 9 Eph. iv. 28.