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Now, that they had his warrant for borrowing or demanding these things of the Egyptians, appears from the second
(2.) The reason why God ordered them to do this, if we look beyond his absolute sovereignty, was, because the Israelites deserved them as wages, for their hard service; and this might be reckoned a reward of the good offices that Joseph had done to that kingdom; which had been long since forgot
(3.) As to what concerns the Israelites, it is probable, they expected nothing else but to return again, and restore to the owners what they had borrowed of them, after they had sacrificed to God in the wilderness; at least, they were wholly passive, and disposed to follow the divine conduct, by the hand of Moses. And when they were in the wilderness, they could not restore what they had borrowerl, since the owners thereof, as is more than probable, were drowned in the Red Sea, whose revenge and covetousness, as well as Pharaoh's orders, prompted them to follow them. Or if some of the owners might have been heard of, as yet surviving, their right to what was borrowed of them, was forfeited, by reason of the hostile pursuit of Pharaoh and his hosts, which put them into a state of war.
This may lead us farther to enquire, what judgment we may pass on the many ravages and plunders that are generally made by armies engaged in war; whether they may be reckoned a breach of this Commandment? And,
[1.] It is beyond dispute, that, if the war be unjust, as all the blood that is shed, is murder, or a breach of the sixth Commandment; so all the damage that is done by burning of houses, or taking away the goods of those against whom it is carried on, is a breach of this Commandment. But,
[2.] If we suppose the war to be just, and the damage done only to those who are immediately concerned in it, and that it is an expedient to procure peace; it is unquestionably lawful, and no breach of this Commandment. Thus when the Israelites were commanded to destroy the inhabitants of the land of Canaan, as criminals, they were admitted to seize on the spoil of other nations, who were remote from them, Deut. xx. 14, 15. when conquered by them.
[3.] As for those plunders and robberies which are committed on private persons, who are not concerned in the war any otherwise than as subjects of the government, against which it is undertaken; and especially, if their loss has no direct tendency to procure peace; this can hardly be justified from being a breach of this Commandment.
IV. This Commandment is also broken by oppression; whereby the rich may be said to rob, and even swallow up the VOL. IV.
poor, Psal. xiv. 4. Psal. x. 9. Micah iii. 2, 3. Now there are various ways by which persons may be said to oppress others.
1. By engrossing those goods which are necessary for food or clothing, thereby to enhance the price thereof, whereby the poor are brought into great extremities.
2. When persons enrich themselves out of the unmerciful labour exacted of their servants, whom they will hardly suffer to live, to eat the just reward of their service. Such a master was Laban to Jacob, Gen. xxxi. 41, 42.
3. When landlords turn their tenants out of their houses or farms, when they find that they get a comfortable subsistence by their industry, taking occasion from thence, to raise their rent, in proportion to the success God gives them therein.
4. When the rich make the poor suffer by long delays, to pay their debts, that they may gain advantage by the improvment of that money which they ought to have paid them.
V. A person may be said to break this Commandment, by engaging in unjust and vexatious law-suits. However, it is to be owned, that going to law is not, at all times, unjust; for it is sometimes a relief against oppression; and it is agreeable to the law of nature for every one to defend his just rights; and for this reason God appointed judges, (to determine suchlike causes) to whom the people were to have recourse, that they might shew them the sentence of judgment, Deut. xvii. 8, 9. Nevertheless, we must sometimes conclude law-suits to be oppressive; as,
1. When the rich make use of the law, to prevent, or prolong the payment of their debts, or to take away the rights of the poor, who, as they suppose, will rather suffer injuries than attempt to defend themselves.
2. When bribes are either given or taken, with a design to pervert justice, 1 Sam. viii. 2. And to this we may add, that the person who pleads an unrighteous cause, concealing the known truth, perverting the sense of the law, or alleging, that for law or fact, which he knows not to be so; and the judge who passes sentence against his conscience, respecting the person of the rich, and brow-beating the poor; these are all confederates in oppression; and such methods of proceeding, are beyond dispute, a breach of this Commandment.
Ouj. Our Saviour forbids going to law, though it were to recover our just rights; when he says, If any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloke also, Matt. v. 40.
Answ. To this it may be replied; that some things may be omitted for prudential reasons, which would not otherwise be unlawful to be done. Our Saviour does not forbid using our endeavours, in a legal way, to recover our right in all cases;
but more especially at that time, when his followers could hardly expect to meet with justice. And, it may be, they were oppressed by fines, or distress, laid on them, for their embracing Christianity; in this case he advises them, patiently to bear injuries, when they could hardly expect relief from their unjust judges.
VI. This Commandment is broken by extortion, or oppressive usury. Thus it is said of the righteous man, He putteth not out his money to usury, Psal. xv. 5. The word* signifies biting usury; which is, beyond dispute, unlawful. We have elsewhere considered in what cases the Israelites might take usury, and when not. And, upon the whole, it is certainly unlawful, to exact more than the legal rate or worth of the loan of money; or to exact any usury of the poor; espe cially for that which was borrowed to supply them with the necessaries of life.
Having considered in what instances this Commandment is broken, we proceed to shew, what a person ought to do, who has been guilty of the breach thereof, in any of the forementioned instances, in order to his making restitution for the injuries he has done to his neighbour. This ought always to attend the exercise of sincere repentance in those who have been guilty of this sin, of which we have an instance in Zaccheus, Luke xix. 8. and the neglect hereof will be like a worm at the root of ill gotten estates, and will be little better than a continual theft.
Obj. 1. To this it is objected, that this may be a prejudice to our reputation, by making our crime public, which before was only known to ourselves.
Answ. To this it may be replied;
1. That, what we do in this matter, is not really a reproach, but an honour; and it is hardly to be supposed, that he, to whom we perform so just and unexpected a duty, will be so barbarous as to divulge or improve this against us, to our disadvantage.
2. There are private ways of retaliation, whereby the injured party may receive what is sent to him, in a way of restitution, and not know from whom it comes; or, good turns may be done to him, in a way of compensation for the damages he has received, and he not know, that they are done with this design; and, by this means, we disburden our consciences, perform a necessary duty, and, at the same time, prevent the supposed ill-consequences that might attend it.
Obj. 2. It is farther objected, that sometimes the making restitution is impracticable; as when the person injured is
See 3 vol. p. 423.
dead, and we know of none that has a right to receive it. And sometimes we may have been guilty of so many instances of fraud and oppression, and, that to such a great number of persons, that it is next to impossible, to make restitution.
Answ. To this it may be replied; that when it is impossible for us to make restitution to those whom we have injured; or, when we know of none that survive them, who have a right to receive it, the best expedient, I apprehend, we can make use of, is, to give it to the poor; for, since it is not, in justice, our own, we do, as it were, hereby give it to the Lord, who is the original proprietor of all things.
QUEST. CXLIII. What is the ninth Commandment?
ANSW. The ninth Commandment is, [Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour.]
QUEST. CXLIV. What are the duties required in the ninth Commandment?
ANSW. The duties required in the ninth Commandment are, the preserving and promoting of truth between man and man, and the good name of our neighbour as well as our own. Appearing, and standing for, and from the heart, sincerely, freely, clearly, and fully, speaking the truth, and only the truth, in matters of judgment and justice, and in all other things whatsoever; a charitable esteem of our neighbours; loving, desiring, and rejoicing in their good name, sorrowing for, and covering of their infirmities; freely acknowledging their gifts and graces; defending their innocency; a ready receiving of a good report, and unwillingness to admitt an evil report concerning them, discouraging tale-bearers, flatterers, and slanderers; love and care of our own good name, and defending it when need requireth, keeping of lawful promises, studying and practising of whatsoever things are true, honest, lovely, and of good report.
QUEST. CXLV. What are the sins forbidden in the ninth Commandment?
ANSW. The sins forbidden in the ninth Commandment, are,
all prejudicing the truth, and the good name of our neighbours as well as our own, especially in public judicature, giving false evidence, suborning false witnesses, wittingly appearing and pleading for an evil cause, out-facing and over-bearing the truth, passing unjust sentence, calling evil
good, and good evil, rewarding the wicked according to the work of the righteous; and the righteous according to the work of the wicked; forgery, concealing the truth, undue silence in a just cause, and holding our peace when iniquity calleth for either a reproof from ourselves, or complaint to others; speaking the truth unseasonably, or maliciously to a wrong end, or perverting it to a wrong meaning, or in doubtful and equivocal expressions, to the prejudice of truth or justice, speaking untruth, lying, slandering, back-biting, detracting, tale-bearing, whispering, scoffing, reviling, rash, harsh, and partial, censuring, misconstruing intentions, words, and actions, flattering, vain-glorious boasting, thinking or speaking too highly or too meanly of ourselves or others, denying the gifts and graces of God, aggravating smaller faults, hiding, excusing, or extenuating of sins when called to a free confession, unnecessary discovering of infirmities, raising false rumours, receiving and countenancing evil reports, and stopping our ears against just defence, evil suspicion, envying or grieving at the deserved credit of any, endeavouring or desiring to impair it, rejoicing in their disgrace and infamy, scornful contempt, fond admiration, breach of lawful promises, neglecting such things as are of good report, and practising or not avoiding ourselves or not hindering, what we can in others, such things as procure an ill name.
N this Commandment we are to consider,
I. What are the duties required? These are,
1. Our endeavouring to promote truth in all we say or do ; and that, as to what either concerns ourselves, or others. As to what concerns ourselves, we are to fence against every thing that savours of deceit or hypocrisy; and, in our whole conversation, endeavour to be what we pretend to be; or to speak nothing but what we know, or believe to be true, upon good evidence, the contrary whereunto is lying. As to what concerns others, we must not neglect to reprove sin in them, how much soever our worldly interest may lie at stake. Thus Azariah reproved Uzziah, 2 Chron. xxvi. 18. and Elijah, Ahab; though this could not but be an hazardous attempt in each of them. Moreover, we must endeavour to undeceive others, who are mistaken; especially if the error, they are liable to, be of such a nature, that it endangers the loss of their salvation. We are also to vindicate those who are reproached by others, to the utmost of our power, according as the cause will admit of it.
2. This Commandment obliges us, to endeavour to promote our own, and our neighbour's good name.