Deuteronomy 5:19

We prefer the arrangement which regards the fifth commandment as the last of the first table - honor to parents being viewed as honor to God in his human representatives.

I. PARENTS STAND TO THEIR CHILDREN IN THE RELATION OF REPRESENTATIVES OF THE DIVINE. They represent God as the source of their offspring's life; they have a share of God's authority, and ought to exercise it; but much more ought they to represent God to their children in his unwearied beneficence, his tender care, his exalted rectitude, his forgiving love. With what intelligence or comfort can a child be taught to think of a Father in heaven, if its earthly parent is wanting in dignity, kindness, truthfulness, or integrity? How many fathers are thus spoiling for their children their whole conceptions of God! And with what anxiety and care should earthly parents study to leave such an impression on their children's minds as will make the idea of God delightful and consolatory to them, while inspiring them towards him with proper feelings of reverence!

II. PARENTS ON THIS ACCOUNT ARE TO BE HONORED BY THEIR CHILDREN. They are to be regarded with affection, treated with respect and deference, promptly and cheerfully obeyed, and, where needful, liberally supported (Matthew 15:4-7; 1 Timothy 5:8). Even the failure of parents to do all their duty to their children does not exonerate the children from the obligation of treating them with respect. Young people need to be reminded that failure in this duty is peculiarly offensive to God. We are told that when Tiyo Soga visited this country, a particular thing which astonished him was the deficiency in respect for parents compared with the obedience which prevailed in the wilds of Kaffraria.

III. THE HONORING OF PARENTS HAS ATTACHED TO IT A PECULIAR PROMISE. Length of days and prosperity. The promise is primarily national, but it has fulfillments in individuals.

1. A special blessing rests on the man who shows his parents due respect. That has often been remarked.

2. There is also a natural connection between the virtue and the promise. Respect for parents is the root at once of reverence for God and of respect for the rights of others. Hence the place of the commandment in the Decalogue. It engenders self-respect, and forms the will to habits of obedience. It is favorable to the stability, good order, and general morals of society. It therefore conduces to health, longevity, and a diffusion of the comforts of life, furnishing alike the outward and the inward conditions necessary for success. - J.O.

Neither shalt thou steal.
I will consider the negative and, secondly, the positive part of the commandment. For the first, the negative part, to wit, what is forbidden here, we are to know that it extends to ourselves as well as to our neighbours. I begin with the former. We are forbid to wrong ourselves as to our goods and possessions. We are to do nothing that will impair our own estates and livelihood. Wherefore one main thing disallowed of in this commandment, as it respects ourselves, is living without a calling, or wholly neglecting our calling, and living in idleness (Proverbs 19:15). Idleness is the way to beggary; and this is the way to that theft which injures others. Whence the Hebrew ministers say, "He that brings not up his son to some lawful calling and employment teaches him to steal." Idleness naturally disposes men to robbery. Those that work not steal from others. Drones filch honey from the bees who take pains for it. Again, a man is a thief to himself by stinginess and denying himself those things which are fitting for his maintenance, though God has given him great abundance. But by being penurious he deprives himself of the comfort which he might take in the enjoyment of them. This is self-felony. Others are guilty of this by a contrary extreme, that is, wastefulness and prodigality. They steal from themselves by being lavish above their income. But this commandment doth more signally respect our dealings with our neighbours, and therefore I will chiefly insist on it under that consideration, and show what sins are forbidden by it. To begin with the lowest instance of stealing, here is forbid covetousness, that is, an unlawful desiring of other men's goods and possessions. This is a degree of theft, or an immediate tendency to it. But actual stealing is that which this commandment chiefly strikes at, and of that I shall speak next. It is a taking away that which is none of ours. Or more fully thus, it is an unjust taking away or detaining from any man what is his proper goods, either without his consent or without the warrant of some superior authority. This is the true notion of theft, and it is the sin here condemned. This is either open or secret; the former is called robbery, which is an open and violent taking away of another's goods, as when one on the highway with force of weapons doth this. The other sort of theft, called by us larceny, is taking away privily from another that which is his without his knowledge or in his absence. These are downright thieves; but there are several other ways of defrauding our neighbours, as encroaching on our neighbours' lands, called, in the Mosaic law, removing the landmarks, which were ever esteemed inviolable, even among the Gentiles. Likewise all oppression and extortion and screwing of our neighbours in any kind whatsoever is here forbid. Yea, denying of alms to those that are really in want is a sort of thievery, for we are not absolute proprietors of what we have, but are stewards, and therefore we are obliged to dispense some part of that we have to our brethren that are in want. If we do otherwise, and show ourselves hardhearted to our distressed neighbours, we rob them of their right, we detain from them what is their due. I might reckon ingratitude also among the other instances of defrauding others, for we are bound to show ourselves thankful to those who have done us kindnesses. And as there is injustice done to single persons, so likewise to the public, for there is a public right in which the whole community is concerned. And in the imperial law, and so, indeed, in the law of nature, it is commended to the care of all that the commonwealth suffer no detriment. And the good of the community is to be preferred to our own private profit. Yea, indeed, these two may be said to be joined in one, for our own interest is involved in that of the public. When the community is wronged, every individual person feels the effects of it, more or less. Unto the things forbidden by this commandment are to be reduced all cheats and circumventions, all articles of tricking and imposing upon others. There are three particulars more behind, namely —

1. First, theft or deceit in buying and selling, in trading and merchandising, is here forbid. The buyer is guilty of deceit when he knows the condition, use, and advantage of what he buys better than he that sells it, and yet cunningly dissembles it, and thereby purchases it at a cheaper rate than it is worth. The seller also is guilty of theft when(1) he obtrudes upon the buyer bad wares instead of good, or(2) he takes an unreasonable price for them that are good. I might add, and that most truly, that as there is a deceitfulness and theft in overrating what is exposed to sale, so there is in selling of commodities at too low a rate. He that doth this not only defrauds himself by undervaluing his goods, but he defrauds others of the same calling by getting away their custom.

2. Next I am to speak of sacrilege, which is a theft of another and a higher kind, for it is robbing of God, and impairing or alienating of what is sacred and separated to holy uses. The offence of sacrilege reaches to places, times, persons, and things.I proceed now to the affirmative part of the commandment, namely, what is required of us. This part, as well as the other, hath respect both to ourselves and to others.

1. First, it concerns ourselves. We are obliged by virtue of this commandment to do ourselves right, to get and preserve such worldly goods as are for our convenience and welfare. We are to be content with our own, and not to covet other men's estates. We are to be moderate and prudent in our expenses. On the other hand, we are to take care that we be employed in some lawful business and honest calling.

2. But, secondly, our duty enjoined in this commandment hath respect to our neighbours, and that I am next to consider. We must suffer them to enjoy their wealth and estate, and we must help them in it. This is a general description of that justice and righteousness towards men which this commandment requires. Before I proceed to particulars, I will show what is the spring and root of this righteousness, what is the great rule and standard of it, and I will endeavour to illustrate it by propounding some instances. Without doubt the great and standing rule, as well as spring, of justice towards men is that command of our Saviour, "All things whatsoever ye would that men should do unto you, do ye even so to them" (Matthew 12.), which is thus expressed in Luke 6:31, "As ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise." I come now to the particular acts of justice and righteousness which are required in this part of the Decalogue. We are enjoined here to be true, just, and exact in our traffic and commerce. There ought to be great integrity in making of contracts, and as great in keeping them. Particularly in buying and selling there ought to be great faithfulness and sincerity. There must always be a just proportion between the price and the thing sold. This is justice, and this is religion, and they both go together. To which purpose it is observable that, according to Moses' law, the standards of all weights and measures were kept in the sanctuary, and it was part of the priest's work to oversee these (1 Chronicles 23:29), which shows that we ought to use great fidelity in our dealings and bargains, and to transact them out of conscience and a sense of our religion which obliges us to it. Again, this commandment requires that we show ourselves just and upright in paying our debts. Further, this requires of us to make satisfaction for injuries, to repair all hurts and wrongs, to restore what was unjustly taken from others. Examples of this are Jacob and his sons (Genesis 43:12, 21), Samuel (1 Samuel 12:3), Zaccheus (Luke 19:8). Restitution is an inseparable ingredient of justice, for this bids us give to everyone his own. We are obliged by the laws of justice and righteousness to be grateful to our benefactors, to acknowledge their courtesies, to pray for them, and to make returns as our condition will permit. By the same law of justice we ought to relieve the poor, to supply the wants and necessities of those that are in distress. The same commandment that forbids theft enjoins charity and beneficence. I may add that justice extends even to the dead. To do the dead right, as well as the living, is an act of religion; and accordingly executors and those that are left to see the will of the deceased performed ought to act in this affair with a good conscience and to do what is just. Besides justice to single persons, there is also the same due to the community, for man is made for society, and calculated for converse and friendship. To this affirmative part belongs also equity, which mitigates the rigour of severe justice and tempers it with benignity. The office of this virtue is to exact of others less than we might, for the sake of peace, and to yield to them more than they could look for, and that for the same reason, namely, to prevent long disputes and to maintain peace. To what hath been said this must be added, that some people are more particularly concerned in this commandment, for though all are to observe the rules of justice, yet this is more especially incumbent on those who are in places of magistracy.

( J. Edwards, D. D..)

This word implies that it is right to own property; that it is perfectly just and legitimate for one to possess goods to which no one else can lay, claim. It is natural to desire to possess property, to have Some portion of goods you can call your own. I almost think that the gratification and pleasure with which a little child finds a pocket in his new dress are rooted in this instinctive desire of possession. We may speak of man's labour and ingenuity, the will of God, and the law of the land, as the grounds of right to property. That such a right exists few will deny, and there are many advantages resulting from it. As Paley says, "It increases the produce of the earth. The earth, in climates like ours, produces little without cultivation, and none would be found willing to cultivate the ground if others were to be admitted to an equal share of the produce. It prevents contests. War and waste, tumult and confusion, must be unavoidable and eternal where there is not enough for all, and where there are no rules to adjust the division. It improves the conveniency of living. This it does in two ways. It enables mankind to divide themselves into distinct professions, which is impossible unless a man can exchange the productions of his own art for what he wants from others, and exchange implies property. Much of the advantage of civilised over savage life depends upon this. When a man is from necessity his own tailor, tent maker, carpenter, cook, huntsman, and fisherman, it is not probable that he will be expert at any of his callings. Hence the rude habitations, furniture, clothing, and implements of savages, and the tedious length of time which all their operations require. It likewise encourages those arts by which the accommodations of human life are supplied, by appropriating to the artist the benefit of his discoveries and improvements, without which appropriation ingenuity will never be exerted with effect. But while the institution of property has its advantages, the vast inequality in the social conditions of men carries with it many disadvantages, and is the source of much evil and misery. Hence the cry for communism, the social theories that have been propounded, the destructive forces that are secretly and ceaselessly working in Russia, and Germany, and France. And many who have not fallen into open crime are ready to declare war against society. They ask, Why are we compelled to toil like slaves, while others are rolling in wealth, and spending it on their amusements and lusts? Why does Lazarus beg at the gate and Dives feast in the palace? Is it the ordination of God? Then God is unjust, partial, tyrannical. Is it the arrangement of society? What society? The arrangement is a cruel one; it is a conspiracy of the rich against the poor; of capital against industry: "let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us." These words appear in a book in Russia — "And when we," the socialists, "get the upper hand, then will we rid mother Russia of all her oppressors. Then shall we be at liberty to set up our peasant brotherhood, in which there shall be neither 'mine' nor 'thine,' neither gains nor oppressions, but there will be labour for the common weal, and among all men brotherly aid. Wrong must be utterly rooted out, and Right must be set on foundations that will last forever." We do not hear much of this doctrine in our own country. A writer in the Contemporary Review says: "Multitudes cherish a faith in the omnipotence for good of a well-intentioned government; and in those lands where socialism is most potent there have been facts to foster this belief. The Russian has seen the effect of the fiat of the emperor in reconstituting the rural life of his subjects; why should not the same power be exercised on behalf of the artisan as well? The German feels the potent grip of militarism at every turn; why should this force not be used for social rather than dynastic gain? No nation possesses such a heritage of political experience as ours, and none has yet attained to so much political wisdom; it is this that has prevented our impoverished masses from joining in the widespread cry for a total reorganisation of our social system." Socialism would be no remedy; it would be a disease far more terrible than the one it was intended to heal. This word of the law, then, implies the sacredness of property, "Thou shalt not steal." Not only the burglar, and the pickpocket, and the swindler are the transgressors of this law, but all who by misrepresentation enrich themselves at the expense of their neighbours. There are many other applications of this law which I might dwell upon. "Thou shalt not steal." A man steals from his family when by his indolence or his intemperance he neglects its interests, and provides not for those of his own household. A man may steal from himself by frittering away opportunities, squandering money, wasting time, and abusing the energy that might be employed for some high and useful ends. A man may steal from God. "Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed Me." To withhold from Him that which belongs to Him, the attention of the intellect, the love of the heart, the service of the life, is to rob Him, to waste our Lord's money, to embezzle our Master's property. Be just, then, in all your relations; be true, be honest.

(James Owen.)

I. THE NATURE of the vice of theft.

1. The meanness of this vice. Every decent man, if he has pride in anything, has a pride in appearing upon an equal footing at least with the members of his own society. He will not choose to be indebted for the mere means of living to any man, but to depend upon himself, and be obliged, as much as possible, to himself. While his health and hands are left him he will account it the most reproachful objection which can be made to him that he is a burden to the society or to any individual of it. The thief is the character which is in every respect the reverse of this. He neither possesses respect, nor seems to wish for it. He has an evil and a base mind, which has no sense of honour nor of credit. Instead of aspiring to his own place in society, he aspires to no place; instead of making it his pride to depend upon himself, he thinks of nothing but how he may subsist himself upon others.

2. The vice of theft is not only mean itself, but inconsistent with the very existence and great end of society. In vain has nature directed and Scripture taught us to make provision for our necessities, if the thief or robber is allowed to intercept it. In vain will we select our superfluities, and reserve them for our future occasions, if the base part of our species are allowed to pick our stores and possess themselves of the fruits of our labours.

II. THE CAUSES from which this vice commonly proceeds.

1. There is often an original difference among minds themselves. Some minds seem to be naturally base and ill-disposed. They possess a natural turn for shuffling and a dexterity in deceit. They will prefer at any time a gain which they can obtain by trick to the same gain which they might obtain by fair dealing.

2. As there are some who are naturally base-minded, and seem originally to have been made of bad materials, there are many more who were once virtuous, but are degenerated.(1) Some are led to dishonesty from the obscurity and false shame of poverty.(a) They consider themselves as removed from notice, and become careless of their own conduct.(b) They are ashamed to discover their situation and to ask assistance and relief. The shame lies not in asking assistance, but in deserving to be reduced to that necessity. At any rate, we must not add one meanness to another, and, after contriving to be burdensome to our neighbours, contrive next to rob and plunder them.(2) Another cause which leads men to commit theft is covetousness. The love of gain, when it takes full possession, can bear no rival in the heart. It puts every other principle, good and bad, to flight. The covetous man, from the moment he bows before it, acknowledgeth no superior power. It is the religion in which he is sincere, and the one only god whom he worships without hypocrisy. There is no vice which approaches so nearly to theft as covetousness. The distinction is very slight between the man who strongly desires what is mine and the man who takes it.(3) As some are led to commit theft from covetousness, others are led to commit the same vice from prodigality. It is remarkable that in the natural world extremes meet, and that even in morals they produce often the same effect. Nature directs us simply to store up our superfluities and reserve them for our future wants. The covetous man stores up more than he ought; the prodigal stores up much less. The covetous man amasses everything; the prodigal throws everything away. The one goes beyond the intentions of nature; the other by no means fulfils them. The prodigal is under the dominion of vile habits and gross passions. He gorges the present without reflecting on the future. He seems born to waste and to consume. He never thinks on want or suspects that matters are to be any otherwise than as they are. It is easy to predict the effects of this character. If a man waste his substance he must come to poverty. If he acquire habits he must indulge them. If he consume in one day the provision of seven he must think of some way to supply the expenses of the other six. Sensual habits besides debase the mind and render it mean and worthless. In this situation what is he to do? He must borrow or he must steal.(4) The last cause of theft which I shall mention here is idleness. There is not a more ample source than this of vice and of disgrace. Idleness, with respect to the bulk of' mankind, produces want, and want must be supplied. But from whence is the supply to come An indolent, idle man cannot exert himself, or, if he can, he will not. His good qualities are destroyed and bad ones implanted in their room. He has acquired habits of expense from which he cannot disengage himself, and of vice which he cannot conquer. He is entangled in bad company, and soon finds himself engaged in bad practices. He has neither resolution to relinquish the one, nor virtue to surmount the other. His decline is therefore rapid, and his destruction sudden and inevitable. Lessons:

1. The first conclusion which presents itself is the necessity of employing the active and able part of our existence in acquiring that provision which is necessary to support the infirm and disabled parts of it. This goes to the source of the disorder. Every man, when he sets out in life, ought to ask himself this plain question, Whether he chooses to depend upon himself or to come upon the public? He has but this alternative, and must at last do one of these two things. If he choose the first, there is no covetousness, nor even any uncommon solicitude, necessary. He has only to exert himself and be careful. But then he must do it while he can, and not think that his youth is to last forever. If you would not know the fond pang of a parent's heart brooding over the wants of his children; if you would not invite temptation; if you would not embrace vice and disgrace, work diligently, work while it is today.

2. Avoid with the utmost circumspection the causes which lead to this vice upon their own account. Covetousness, prodigality, idleness, and theft belong all to the same family. They are all a monstrous perversion of nature, and the certain marks of a vitiated mind.

(John Mackenzie, D. D.)

Is it a crime to be rich? Against whom is the offence committed? Against God? Against man? Against society? Underlying the amplest fortunes are inflexible truth, incorruptible honesty, incomparable honour. Poverty, competence, and affluence are the three financial conditions of man, in each of which there may be sainthood. Poverty may be as vicious upon the morals of character and life as wealth. Is it misanthropic to be rich? Do large possessions in land and money sour the milk of human kindness that flows through the veins of humanity? To whom are we indebted for those houses of charity whose gates of mercy stand open night and day? Who are the founders of those libraries which spread their ample feast before mankind? The universities and colleges of our country are the monuments of the rich. Is it unpatriotic to be rich? In the three great wars for the Union the rich poured forth their wealth as the rain descends upon the just and upon the unjust. Love of country rose supreme above the love of money. Wealth is not disloyalty. The capitalists of this country supported the Government in the darkest hour of the rebellion, when the national treasury was in sore distress. Is it tyranny to be rich? Do wealth and oppression go hand in hand? Are slavery and opulence born of the same parentage? Wilberforce was rich, yet foremost in the abolition of slavery in the British colonies. Gerrit Smith died worth his millions; yet he was the most eloquent, most ardent, most benevolent of abolitionists. Is it impiety to be rich? Is poverty essential to godliness? Are beggars the only saints? What, then, shall we do with Abraham, who was very rich in cattle, in silver, and in gold? Christ would not have had a decent tomb had it not been for the rich Joseph of Arimathea. The acquisition of wealth is a Divine gift. Industry and frugality are the laws of thrift. To amass great fortunes is a special endowment. As poets, philosophers, and orators are born such, so the financier has a genius for wealth. By intuition he is familiar with the laws of supply and demand. He seems gifted with the vision of a seer of the coming changes in the market; he knows when to buy and when to sell and when to hold fast. He anticipates the flow of population and its effect upon real estate. "The Lord thy God giveth thee the power to get wealth" (Deuteronomy 8:18). Against these natural and lawful rights to the possession of property is the clamour for the distribution of property among those who have not acquired it, either by inheritance or skill or industry. It is a communism that has no foundation either in the constitution of nature or in the social order of mankind. It is the wild, irrational cry of labour against capital, between which, in the economy of nature and in political economy, there should be no common antagonism. There is a wealth of muscle and a wealth of brain and a wealth of character. He is a labourer who does productive work; he is a capitalist who has five dollars or five hundred thousand dollars. Capital may be a tyrant, and labour may become a despot. Wealth has the noblest of missions. It is not given to hoard, nor to gratify, nor for the show of pomp and power. The rich are the almoners of the Almighty. They are His disbursing agents. When the wealth of capital joins hands with the wealth of intellect, the wealth of muscle, and the wealth of goodness for the common good, then labour and capital will be esteemed the equal factors in giving every man life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The right to property is founded in nature, sustained by organised society, and protected by the sanctions of the Divine law. The right has its origin in a prior fact, that each human being is a distinct individuality, adapted to all the purposes of self-government and responsible to God and to society for the manner in which his powers are employed. By his physical nature he is connected with the universe which is modified to supply his wants. He has a right to use his body as he will, provided such use is not an interference with the equal rights of his fellow men. Possessing an intellect, he has a right to the products thereof. Endowed with a soul of sensibilities, passions, and aspirations, he has the inherent right to seek happiness, always recognising a common right in each of his fellow creatures. By this physical, intellectual, and spiritual endowment man is made for society, and each individual in his social capacity is bound to every other individual by the law of reciprocity. If, by the constitution of nature, a man has a right to himself, he has also an equal right to that which may result from the innocent use of his bodily and mental powers. The result is what men call property. In all well-regulated society every man is accorded the right to possess that which he has made and the power of control over the same. The Creator treats this right as a self-evident fact, directs His mandates against every act violative of the same and against the temper of mind from which such violations may proceed. In harmony therewith human governments among their first acts protect this individual right, and treat the offender thereof as guilty of a wrong, and punish him accordingly. Upon the recognition of this right depend the existence and progress of society. Ignore this right, and no one would labour more than is sufficient for his individual subsistence. A nation of thieves would be a nation of barbarians. If such are the principles and consequences involved in this right of property, what are the violations of this right? the burglar takes the property of another without the knowledge and consent of the owner — this is theft; the highwayman takes the property of another with his knowledge, but without his consent. Not less guilty is he who presents wrong motives for the purposes of gain, who excites groundless fears, circulates false reports, inflames personal vanity, and awakens avarice for the purposes of illegal gain. A broker on 'Change who causes false information to be circulated for the purpose of raising or depressing the market seeks profit by deep rascality. God says to such a man, "Thou shalt not steal." Among the prevalent causes of the violation of man's right of property are a corrupt public sentiment, an inordinate love of wealth, an extravagance which amounts to prodigality. Society scourges the thief of necessity, but pities the thief of fashion. He who steals a loaf of bread to feed his starving family is sent to jail, but he who is successful in bold, dishonourable speculation, by which others are ruined, is caressed by society. Why is it that official dishonesty is considered less disreputable than dishonesty in a private citizen? A public man guilty of many flagrant sins is treated with consideration, while the private individual, less guilty, is shunned as a pestilential criminal. Does the dignity of his office cover him like a cloak? Does his position of trust and power commend him to our respect? If from the official who reflects public sentiment we turn to the private life of a nation, we shall not be surprised to discover the inordinate love of riches a prevalent and fruitful cause of the violation of the ancient law of property. Such is the greed for gain that justice, truth, honesty, are set at defiance. Men combine in vast monopolies to control vast wealth. All must bow to this shrine of Mammon. What is the dominant thought in the life of the world today? Is it the value of education? the purity of marriage? the elevation of the labouring classes? Is it not revenue, private and public? Out of this condition of things come financial panics with the regularity of clock work. The bold attempt is made to force prosperity — to get rich in a day. As well might a man attempt to force the harvest, The most conspicuous representative of the inordinate love of wealth is the financial prodigy who attracts, lures, ruins. Wise, careful, honourable financiers rarely fail, and rarely, if ever, are they the cause of financial panics; but rather the financial prodigy, whose brilliancy dazzles, whose success captivates, whose unscrupulousness is hidden by the splendour of his operations. Closely allied with this invasion of the rights of property is the prevalent vice of gambling, the abuse of an innocent pastime. It ignores the law of equivalent. It is something for nothing. The highest motives impel to keep the law of property. Nature insists upon the recognition of her rights. Providence is upon the side of the honest. Law throws its muniments of protection around the honourable possessions of man. Honesty leads in the path of personal safety. Peace of mind is the certain reward. The happiness of others is the benediction attained. The future opens its golden gates to those who have obeyed the inspired behest of Heaven.

(J. P. Newman.)

God has divided the world's goods diversely. To one He has given much, to another little. This has been since the beginning. No attempt to alter this order of things has succeeded. That which God has given to the individual is called his property or possession; and in this commandment God throws a shield over men's possessions, be they great or small, and says to each, "Thou shalt not steal." When do we keep this commandment?


1. Of thieving. Luther says: "It is the meanest occupation, yet the most widely practised profession on earth; and if one considers the world in its various conditions it will be found to be a den of thieves."

2. If a man waylays another and takes his gold, we call him a robber. If another breaks into a ]louse and carries off money or clothing, etc., we call him a thief; and of him who receives the stolen property we say, "The receiver is as bad as the thief."

3. But he who invades his neighbour's acres, who removes his neighbour's landmark, or takes produce from his neighbour's field, even though he plead necessity, is still a thief.

4. So, too, is the man who gets gain by adulterated goods or false dealing, the merchant who uses false weights or measures, who passes off spoiled or inferior wares as fresh and good, the artisan who gives "scamped" work for good pay, the purchaser who passes false coin, the extortioner, the servant or official who neglects duty, the beggar who by labour might earn a day's wage, the man who finds what has been lost and makes no effort to trace the owner.

5. And it matters not whose possession is thus wrongly appropriated. The Government steals when it receives the taxes of the people and does not apply them for the good of the people, but for its own fads and designs; but the subject also steals when he seeks to avoid the legal taxation. The child steals when it takes or sells what belongs to the parent; but the parent steals when he squanders in play or debauchery the wife's or children's portion or what should be given them for dally bread. It would be impossible to enumerate, briefly or at all, all methods of theft and robbery; and the victims — "God is the avenger of all such."


1. Many who lose their property have not to lament theft or deceit, but the carelessness of those who should have warned and helped them, e.g., the guardian who permits his ward to squander his property or is careless as to the investment and safety of that property; the neighbour who sees what damage his neighbour's servants or children are doing and does not warn him such deal unjustly.

2. So, too, do those who damage their neighbour's trade or credit. Rather we are to aid our neighbour to increase and protect his possessions, as the apostle has said (1 Peter 4:10).

3. In the sight of men what you possess is your own; in the sight of God it is simply lent. It is His, and should be used according to His will. If God, therefore, requires that we should give or lend in order to increase or protect our neighbour's possessions, we should do so. "Give to him that asketh," etc. (Matthew 5:42).

4. Further, Scripture says, "Give thy bread unto the hungry," etc. (Isaiah 58:7). Not that the lazy, work-shirking beggar or the child who is being trained in beggary are to be directly relieved, for this would be to have part in sin; but whenever we are convinced that the truly poor and needy are before us we are to consider them as sent of God for our help. "He that giveth to the poor lendeth to the Lord," etc.


1. We must be careful that we have not to blush at the question as to how we obtained our possessions. Gold on account of which tears are shed — tears of poverty, of the deceived — will burn in the heart. Better to be Bartimaeus the beggar than Ahab and Achan the thieves, or as the miser who on his death bed lamented that the gold which had once been to him like rose leaves on which he could sleep peacefully now appeared to be like thorns and thistles and red-hot needles.

2. We must guard against idleness. He who is idle may soon come to poverty; and if he cannot dig and is ashamed to beg, he may take to thieving. This applies as well to those who have no need to labour for daily bread. To every man some work is given, and "labour has a golden foundation."

3. Beware of extravagance. He who squanders his possessions in play or drunkenness, etc., has no right to say, "I spend what is my own." No, it is God's possession — the possession of his children and, if they have enough, of God's poor. The prodigal's fate is mostly an evil one. "The young free-liver becomes the old beggar."

4. Beware of avarice. "Many treasures, many snares." To him whom Mammon never satisfies sufficiently, who will sooner forego love and mercifulness than goods and gold, his possessions are occasions of sin. Avarice increases with gain during the years — binds its cords on rich and poor alike, makes the heart stony, and is indeed a "root of all evil." Many a one would not go about with disturbed mind and troubled heart, a broken promise, and the curse of the betrayer on the conscience, had such an one remembered that Mammon is a merciless lord and gives evil rewards to his servants. "What shall it profit a man?" etc.

5. Beware of envy. "A man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth." Men may have wealth and yet sorrow and misery enough. "Poverty and riches lie not in chests, but in the soul." He is rich who combines godliness with contentment. Modest and honourably acquired possessions are like a graceful fountain, full of water (like the widow's cruse), which fills many pitchers and yet is not exhausted. "From a small fountain we may satisfy our thirst as well as from a great one."

6. Set not your hope on riches. The riches which water engulfs, fire destroys, rust eats, worms gnaw, and thieves steal are truly uncertain riches.

7. Let both rich and poor put their hope in God. With Him men can be poor or rich without sin; and He has given the promise, "I will never leave thee," etc. And where poor and rich can grasp this promise, then what Solomon says takes place.

(K. H. Caspari.)

This commandment strikes at many different forms of stealing, which are being practised today.

1. Perhaps it is hardly necessary to say anything concerning the simple act of purloining articles belonging to other persons. People seem to forget, e.g., that to borrow a book and not to return it is a theft.

2. The sin of stealing is terribly prevalent in the matter of fraudulent getting. Unjust weights, false measures, lying advertisements, etc.

3. The whole habit of gambling is of the essence of theft, and this for the reason that it is a means by which men come into possession of property which is a violation of both the laws upon which property may alone be held. A man who gambles, whether by play or betting, puts into his pocket money for which he gives to the person from whom he takes it no adequate return, money for which he has done no honest work; and by the very act he robs the man from whom he receives, and violates the law of love.

4. The commandment is, moreover, violated by all such as enrich themselves by means that rob their fellow men of the inalienable rights of human beings. The wealth that is tarnished by a death rate higher than is necessary is ill-gotten gains, and they who spend their days in the enjoyment of such wealth are branded in the light of the perfect law of God as thieves — thieves, indeed, by the side of whom Bill Sykes, the burglar, is a hero, for in the prosecution of his unlawful practices he risks his life; but these men risk nothing but the lives of their fellow creatures.

5. The commandment is broken again and again every day within the great realm of capital and labour. How often today might the words of James (James 5:4) be quoted with advantage. It is lamentable, but equally true, that many a working man robs his master in that he withholds his fair share of honest labour while he takes his wage.

6. Principles apply to individuals and to nations with equal force. This being so, this eighth word of the Decalogue is a severe denunciation of the false imperialism which is growingly manifest through all the nations of the world. Strong peoples have, without cause, stolen the land of the weaker. Weak nations have been handed over to the control of new Powers without reference to their own rights, and to the wrong of those so dealt with.

(G. Campbell Morgan.)

1. One of the common transgressions of this law is entirely a modern sin. I refer to those dishonest Limited Liability Companies which are so frequently floated. False prospectuses are issued, hopes of gain which is never made are held out to investors. The men who wilfully promote a dishonest company are as really thieves as the burglar who breaks into the house and forcibly appropriates its plate.

2. A closely connected form of stealing is found in the over-capitalisation of some companies which are formed to take over and to work a prosperous private concern.

3. The same principle applies to the lesser businesses of the world. A tradesman, for instance, who sells his customer goods of inferior quality to that of the sample that leads the customer to purchase, or who adulterates more expensive goods with a cheaper product, and then sells them as genuine or pure, may or may not be punishable by the law, but he is a thief in the sight of God, he is robbing the purchaser as truly as if he put his hand into his pocket and stole his purse. A short time ago I was talking to a commercial traveller of a certain person whom we both knew, and whose name had an unsavoury reputation in the town in which he lived. I said, "He is a very sharp man of business, is he not?" and the reply was, "Yes, he is too sharp to be honest." In other words, he was a thief, living by deceiving seller and buyer alike.

4. Let us not, however, forget that there may be dishonest buyers quite as truly as dishonest sellers of goods. A man who purchases goods without the means of paying for them, and who does it deliberately, is as really a thief as the man who purloins them.

(G. S. Barrett, D. D.)

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