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ness of the thing taken, and though the thing might possibly not be missed, nor wanted, matters not. It is not ours, and we may not without sin take it to ourselves.
If we once allow ourselves to trespass in little matters, the time may not be far distant when we shall be able, and without remorse, to commit more heinous acts of dishonesty and fraud. He,” as we are told,“ that contemneth small things, shall fall by little and little.”1 And the boy, for instance, who begins by pilfering at home, or with cheating his fellows at play, is not unlikely to grow up into the experienced thief, the armed robber, and the midnight marauder. Against such, however, we are on the watch, and the terrors of the laware in force,—dangers beset them in the very attempt. But the villany and the cowardice and the baseness of thieving are combined, when a man turns his hand against his comrade, perhaps his confiding friend; when he takes and pilfers not only what belongs to another, but when
1 Ecclus. xix. 1.
that other unsuspecting individual lives perhaps under the same roof, and eats perhaps at the same table; and advantage is taken of his temporary absence, possibly on duty; and his little property, sacred and valuable to him, is, with the most unchristian treachery, ransacked and pillaged. O! it is base and vile, it is an unmanly and a dastardly thing, for a man thus to wrong his neighbour, to take advantage of his comrade's confidence, and to betray and violate the security which one soldier should ever have on the honesty and honour of another. Surely, contempt and scorn shall eventually fall on the head of the pilfering scoundrel; and the curse also of God shall surely await him. For “know ye not,” as the apostle demands, “ that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God ?” and among whom are included “thieves, and covetous men, drunkards, revilers, and extortioners.” 2 - Woe unto him,”
2 1 Cor. vi. 10.
saith the prophet,
66 that buildeth his house by unrighteousness, and his chamber by wrong
“ A poor man that oppresseth the poor, is like a sweeping rain, which leaveth no food.” It is, we repeat, theft and deceit, cruelty and baseness, combined. There has been one general and sufficiently clear rule laid down, in regard to what constitutes a breach of the eighth commandment, and to which it were well if men would conscientiously attend, namely, that that cannot be honestly taken, which we would not take, if the owner were present, and strong enough to resist our at. tempt. And again, false and abominable is the plea, that because we have been defrauded and wronged by others, therefore we may retrieve our own individual loss by stretching forth our hands, and helping ourselves from the property of our neighbours. Were this the admitted practice, soon would this world be despoiled even of its present portion of tranquillity and happiness; and its inhabitants would soon 3 Jer. xxii. 13.
4 Prov. xxviii. 3.
become “wild men, their hands against every man, and every man's hand against them." 5
No, my brethren, the Almighty in his goodness and wisdom hath ordained it otherwise. As he hath himself issued the command, “ Thou shalt not steal,” so are certain laws of society framed with reference thereto; and dishonesty, fraud, and cheating, and theft are punishable wherever, and as often as, the crime can be brought home to the individual offender. He also, be it recollected, who knowingly connives at the theft of another, who, although he may not have been an actual participator, yet does not his utmost to prevent the commission of the crime, or afterwards wilfully holds back from bringing the offence to light, is so far to be accounted as involved in the guilt.
- When thou sawest a thief,” saith God, reproving in the 50th Psalm, is thou consentedst unto him.” Countenance and impunity are thereby given to a positive act of wickedness, and numbers become enlisted in the guilty pursuit of unlawful gain. To be cowardly and backward in doing one's duty, not to stand up for the right, not to prevent the wrong, not to bear testimony in vindication of the oppressed, is to disgrace the name and the character of a christian man, of a trustworthy and diligent soldier. The actual thief, or the sneaking pilferer, has already forfeited those honourable titles which belong to the profession of
5 Gen. xvi. 12,
He has voluntarily incurred suspicion, and trouble must needs be his portion. And surely that life cannot be an enviable one, against which the finger of warning is pointed, and the eye of distrust directed. And though a once convicted thief or pilferer may repent, and come to a better mind, though he may happily be reclaimed from the evil of his way, yet many years must elapse, ere the foul stigma shall be wiped away from his character.
As therefore, my brethren, ye would