« PreviousContinue »
considering. But there are others, whose SERM. transgressions against this precept are not
XII. so general, whose guilt is confined to a few
cases, or perhaps only to one, who are far from-suspecting that they are culpable at all, and would be indignant at the most remote suspicion of it. Let me bespeak their
attention whilst I enumerate a few instances : of unfair dealing, which are much too common, and then let them ask their own conscience, if it can with impartiality acquit them.
The first frauds, I shall mention, are those which are committed against government; to express the matter plainly, those which people are guilty of, when they do not pay all the taxes and duties which the law enjoins. Now it is wonderful how many there are, even of those who are well disposed, and think themselves exactly honest in every other respect, who make no scruple of offending in this : they will even
SER M. argue on the propriety of it, and ridicule
doubts of its rectitude.--Permit me to state this affair clearly, and perhaps the defrauding of government may appear in a different light. When a tax is laid, it is always calculated that it will produce a certain sum; if it does not, another must be invented to supply its deficiency: now the most probable method of making it fall short, is, to evade it, not to pay it at all, or not to pay so much as we ought to do: if one has a right to do this, another has ; suppose, therefore, all to do it, another tax must in consequence be imposed, of equal burden, and we are none of us gainers. But suppose again (what is really the case) that some do pay what they ought, and some do not, still there will be a deficiency, and something else must be found out to make up the sum of what it falls short, and to this, observemhe, who paid to the full what he ought to do to the former, must
likewise contribute his share. Now. they SERM. who do not pay fairly are the cause of this additional burden to him, and whether they rob their neighbour with their own hands, or do it through the medium of government, makes little difference; his loss is the same, and, when the matter is properly. considered, their guilt scarcely less. It is no excuse for a man to say—What sig( nifies what little I diminish the revenue !! because, if one man has a right to do this, another has, and if all were to do it, the consequence is sufficiently evident. . Nor, again, is it any excuse to say. The ge
'nerality of my neighbours are as bad as .' myself;' for reformation must begin
somewhere, and it behoves every one, without attending to his neighbour, to take care of his own conduct.
Next to frauds on government, I believe, frauds on the church are looked on as of the smallest consequence.
This is a
SERM. subject which will not appear to advantages
in the hands of the clergy; I shall therefore merely observe, that the owner in pura? chasing, and the occupier in hiring an estate, pay proportionably less for it in consideration of the tithes which are to come out of it; that the clergyman has the same title to the latter, as they have to the possession and profits of the former,--that which all derive from the law of the land, and therefore the eighth commandment is violated, whenever his dues are- unjustly withheld from him.
The next breach of this precept, of which I shall take notice, is that which the rich man is guilty of, when he refuses to do his poor brethren justice, and sets them at der fiance, because they have not the means of applying to the law for protection: in this country, thank God! the law is impartially administered, but it requires in many cases' much expence to come at it. Now, where
great-man- unjustly deprives a little one SERM. of his rights, merely on this idea, I declare XII. to you I think a housebreaker is an honest character in comparison with him. But this crime is of so fagrant a nature, that I hope it is not very common; we will pass to one which I fear is : there are many who would be greatly hurt at the idea of finally refusing their right to those with whom they are concerned, who yet make no scruple of vexatiously delaying it, who are in the habits of withholding from their tradesmen and dependants beyond the time which has been stipulated by agreement, or which custom has established, the wages of their honest industry. This offence is frequently forbidden and menaced in the scriptures: in the twenty-fourth chapter of Deuteronomy we read :-- Thou shalt not
oppress an hired servant, that is poor “ and needy; at his day thou shalt give « him his bire, neither shall the sun go