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live in credit and respectability, as ye would enjoy with a clear conscience that with which God has blessed you, as ye would be accounted worthy of higher trust and confidence, "keep your hands" from the remotest tendency to pilfering and stealing. "Do violence" to no man's property," and be content with your wages." This, you may recollect, was the precept of John the Baptist to the soldiers of his day and be it your care to attend unto, and obey the injunction. Depend upon it, that in the long-run you will find even your worldly welfare and prosperity best promoted by a stedfast adherence to the christian principles of honesty and fair dealing in all things. "All things, whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them." And with respect to this eighth commandment, conscientiously and impartially put yourselves in the situation of the other man, whose property may be
6 Luke iii. 14.
in your power, and if you would be unwilling to part with, or to lose your own, touch not, to deprive him of, the smallest thing which belongs to him.
As soldiers, let honour forbid it; as reasonable men, let your sense of common justice forbid it; as Christians, let the word of God keep you from every such crime. "Fear God and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man," remembering well the end, and the account hereafter, as it is added, in conclusion of the foregoing scriptural advice, "For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil."7
7 Eccl. xii. 13, 14.
THE GUILT OF COVETOUSNESS.
ROMANS xiii. 9.
"Thou shalt not covet."
THE apostle, in enumerating, as in the chapter of our text, the commandments of the law as the rule and principle of the christian life, appears to lay peculiar emphasis on this, the concluding precept of those righteous and holy words, which the Almighty was pleased himself to deliver audibly from Mount Sinai amidst the reverential attention of the whole congregation of Israel. And in truth these words, "Thou shalt not covet," brief as they are,
and simple, yet are they full of instruction, and well calculated in their honest observance to realize that " earth, and goodwill," which was proclaimed from, and sung in heaven, as essentially belonging to the birth and manifestation of Jesus Christ. In this, the great excellency and surpassing worth of the Gospel of Christ are to be gratefully acknowledged: for not only do we find therein the sure hope and promise of
glory and honour and immortality" in the realms beyond the grave; but the conditions imposed upon us now, the duties now enjoined for our observance, the precepts and the advice now given, are beautifully and eminently calculated to advance our present comfort, to keep sin and sorrow away from our dwellings, and to make this life, even this vale of uncertainty, of clouds and sunshine, a foretaste of the happiness which shall hereafter be the portion of those who, under Divine grace, become "wise as to
that which is good, and simple concerning evil.”1
When, my brethren, we are commanded
not to covet," we are solemnly warned and told where to place the first stop, how to conquer those unquiet appetites, those insidious wishes, which are, alas! now to be found, more or less, in the breast of every man born into the world. And these shall work with increasing and deadly effect-these shall from small beginnings prevail to the destruction of man's " peace on earth," and of his hopes in heaven, unless they be nipped in the bud, unless they be opposed and put down by the principle herein inculcated, and enforced on authority undeniable, "Thou shalt not covet." "Keep thy heart," saith the wise preacher of Israel, "with all diligence, for out of it are the issues of life.”2 There, brethren, even there, must the watch be set; and as we would not carry a traitor within our own
1 Rom. xvi. 19.
Prov. iv. 23.