ON THOU SHALT NOT STEAL
Consider first, that by this commandment God forbids all manner of wrong to our neighbour, in his goods, rights, or worldly possessions; whether by open violence or by fraud; by stealing or by overreaching; by cheating in buying or in selling, or in any other bargain; by keeping from him what is his, or not giving him his dues, or not paying just debts; or by any extortion whatsoever, or any usury in the loan of money, or other things; or by putting him to any unjust charges; or by spoiling or damaging what belongs to him. In all these cases there is an injustice committed, which is not only condemned in this divine precept, but by the natural and eternal law, written from the beginning in the heart of man, and by that great principle of morality which forbids us to do to any other what we would not have done to us. And yet how many ways are poor mortals daily guilty of breaking through this divine and eternal law, for the sake of this wretched mammon of worldly interest, the great god of this world; and that in spite both of law and gospel, honour and honesty, conscience and religion. And how often do they affect to deceive themselves herein with vain pleas and pretexts, intended on purpose to cloak their guilt, and to hide it, if possible, not only from others, but also from their own consciences; that so they may go on without disturbance in the way that leads to death, by persuading themselves that all is right. But God is not to be deceived, who has declared that 'the unjust shall never possess his kingdom,' 1 Cor. vi.9. O! examine yourselves, Christians, impartially upon this head of justice in your dealing with your neighbours; for there is nothing more easy than for you to deceive yourselves herein; the consequences of which would be most dreadful to your souls.
Consider 2ndly, that every breach of this commandment, by any one of these ways of wronging one's neighbour, is always followed by the strict obligation of making restitution or reparation the crime will never be forgiven. And how few think of this! Alas! how many of these restitutions will be yet to be made when time shall be no more, and when that which has been neglected on earth shall be exacted in hell. Ah! sinners, what a load then have you charged upon your own shoulders by your injustices! And how is it possible you should think so little of discharging it! O do not be too easy in persuading yourselves you have it not in your power to make this restitution; you cannot deceive the all-seeing eye of him who clearly discerns how much you might do, if you would but retrench all superfluities in your expenses, would truly take to heart this necessary duty of satisfying justice in the first place, and would use all possible industry and labour for that end.
Consider 3rdly, that though all injustice in general be hateful in the sight of God, there are some branches of it in particular which more loudly cry to heaven for vengeance; and more especially such as tend to oppress the poor by usury or extortion, or by making a handle of their necessity, to raise to them the price of the things they want, or by defrauding them of their wages or hire; or otherwise taking or keeping from them that which belongs to them. O how heinous are all these sins in the eyes of him who is the Father of the poor! They are like murder in his sight. There is a curse entailed upon all such substance as is gathered together by oppressing his children. And so there is upon all sacrilegious rapines, by which the church or temple of God, or his ministers, are defrauded of what is their due; or by which pious foundations or donations are diverted from the purposes of religion to profane uses. In all such cases God looks upon the wrong as done to himself, and will certainly revenge it both here and hereafter. All that gold which is brought into the coffers by robbing either the poor or the church, shall not only moulder away itself, but shall consume all the rest it shall find there, together with the master of it.
Conclude to beware of all manner of injustice, and to keep off at the greatest distance possible from it, as a mortal enemy, both to thy temporal and eternal welfare. Take heed lest the love of that idol mammon should at any time impose upon thee in this regard - thou are never secure from danger, as long as that idol is not cast out of thy heart. For as the wise man assures us, Ecclus. x. 10. 'there is not a more wicked thing than to love money, for such a one setteth even his own soul to sale.'