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inheritance, perhaps, the name of a family that had weight over the land, and the possession of which placed him on vantage ground far above his fellows,—with a fortune adequate to sustain it in stimulating industry, in relieving distress, in patronising merit, and in diffusing blessings,-he has criminally thrown away his superior advantages, has destroyed the respectability with which the honours of many generations had surrounded him, and has subjected himself, in the state into which he has fallen, to many mortifications. In the ordinary ranks of life, the evils occasioned by continued prodigality are far greater than, without a minute examination, we are apt to be aware of. Besides those which terminate in the
prodigal himself, he becomes the source of misery and disgrace to all who are connected with him. As the head of a family, he has brought want and wretchedness on his wife and children. After having long neglected their moral and religious interests, and lived before them without prayer and without God; after having allowed his offspring (if he has not directly encouraged them) to form notions and habits, from their observing his profuse expenditure, which are quite unsuited to their real circumstances;—they are awakened to the sad survey of calamities for which their previous training had but ill prepared them, and which the vices of a parent have heaped upon them. We could not fail of forming the most vivid impression of the odiousness of these vices, did we personally witness the poverty and distress which follow,a mother whose heart has been already broken, sighing over miseries which she had partly foreseen, but
which she could not prevent,-children about to sepa. rate under circumstances far different from those which they had anticipated; and who, if they meet not with relief in the compassion of friends, are sent very helplessly to encounter the snares and temptations of the world.
DIRECT METHODS OF INJURING THE PROPERTY OF OTHERS.
HAVING said so much on the indirect means by which property is injured, and the obligations of justice in this respect violated, I shall now proceed to the consideration of the direct methods by which, in this way, we transgress the law of God. These, though numerous, are reducible to two heads-Fraud and Gambling.
It is difficult to notice, in a short compass, the various ways in which, by fraudulent practices, we may injure the property of others. The chief of them may be included under the following particulars trespass,-taking the property of others by deceit and misrepresentation-receiving payment for services which have not been rendered-contracting debts without perceiving any means of paying them.
I. To trespass on the property of others is obviously a violation of the obligations of justice. We are chargeable with this offence when we walk through the enclosures, deface the buildings, abstract from
the property, of others. Delinquencies of this nature are often committed among the crowded population of a large city, sometimes thoughtlessly, but always blameably.
II. The taking the property of others by deceit and misrepresentation is better entitled to the denomination of fraud, and is a much more extensive system of robbery. It is to be regretted that in the transactions of commerce any thing like this should ever be found, and that one of the most effectual means for advancing the civilization and happiness of man should be so often accompanied with the exercise of the basest passions of human nature.
The price of any thing, whether it be labour or the product of labour, is its marketable value ; and in selling it we are entitled to ask an equivalent for it to the amount of this value, whatever it may be. But we cannot without injustice attempt to get more by misrepresentation and concealment. Should we impose, merely because the person we deal with is incapable of detecting and exposing the cheat that is practised on him, we so far forfeit the character of honesty by violating its fundamental principle. · We add falsehood to fraud when we attempt to pass for sound what is deteriorated. This is a crime of a nature resembling that of which they are guilty who traffic in base coin. It is aiming by deceit to take property from others for which we give no fair and adequate equivalent. Nor is there a more aggravated species of this crime than that of knowingly using false weights and measures. I
say knowingly, for it is possible that in some few cases this injustice
may be committed from inattention ; but in the great majority of cases it is done from design. Than this there is no sin more characteristic of a heart utterly hardened, as it so materially affects the comforts of those who have little more than the necessaries of life, and from whose little pittance it is the extreme of cruelty and inhumanity to abstract.
There is a fraud often practised in this country, immoral in its nature, tendency, and consequences, which many do not reprobate with the severity which it merits: I allude to smuggling. The delusion which lulls asleep the moral feelings of multitudes in regard to this evil is, that they consider it, in the particular instances which fall under their observation, a deduction from the national revenue too minute to claim attention; not recollecting, that were the practice to become general, it would prove the destruction of one entire branch of public revenue ; a proportionable increase of the burden upon other branches; and the ruin of all fair and open trade in the article smuggled. But this reasoning, conclusive as it is, and shewing it to be the imperious duty and interest of every honest man and good subject to suppress every species of illicit traffic, is not necessary to those who obey the authority of revelation. “ For this cause pay ye tribute also ; for they are God's ministers, attending continually upon this very thing. - Render, therefore, to all their dues : tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom ; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour*.” III. The receiving payment for services contracted
* Rom. ch. xiii. 7-9.
for, but which in reality are not rendered, is another species of fraud. The cases which come under this head are numerous,-extending to every breach of contract, whether implied or expressly made When a person receives a commission from another, he in fact engages to bestow the same care, attention, and diligence on it, as if it were his own ;-aware that it was on this condition he was intrusted with it. This holds true of the domestic servant who is made acquainted with the nature of the service expected from him, and which he, by undertaking it, promises to render. Should he intentionally fail, he receives wages which he has not earned, and is guilty of deliberate fraud.
The same remark is applicable to agents of every description,—to all who are in situations of trust,—to the advocate who engages to plead the cause of his client,—to the medical man who promises to give the full advantage of his skill to his patient,--to the teacher who undertakes to make his pupils acquainted with certain branches of knowledge,-and above all to the christian preacher and pastor, who is expected to be under the influence of the most elevated motives, and who binds himself by ties the most sacred to discharge faithfully the duties of his high vocation. These, and several other offices, cannot, from their very nature, and from the confidence which is reposed in the character and conduct of individual persons, be performed, in ordinary circumstances, by deputy. Who would intrust his business to an agent or an advocate, or his health to a physician, or his children to a teacher, or his property or reputation to the