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So Daniel was taken up out of the den, and no manner of hurt was found upon him, because he believed in his God. Whose faith follow; in honesty, in devotion, in courage; not slothful in business, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord. So, among the sundry and manifold changes of the world, your hearts may surely there be fixed where true joys are to be found; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Cheating Man and God.
PREACHED AT THE END OF THE CHRISTIAN YEAR.
PROVERBS XI. I.
“A FALSE BALANCE IS ABOMINATION TO THE LORD:
A JUST WEIGHT IS HIS DELIGHT.”
E hear so much of commercial morality, and, now.
a-days, of so many commercial frauds—some so
exceptional in the ruin they work among the widow and orphan and people of slender means, as to make the world cry shame and talk of raising a subsciption for what a short time ago were ranked with the moneyed classes,* that surely this is not a bad text to choose for the closing Sunday of the Christian year—"A false balance is abomination to the Lord; but a just weight is His delight.”
He is not speaking about breaking into houses and stealing, or about robbing you on the highway; but about all those means of getting gain by slippery ways of which the law of the land can barely take cognizance, but which are known to God : he is speaking about all those acts of bright honour and self-denial which the world does not see, and, if it did, would, perchance, pronounce Quixotic, but which your Father, who seeth in secret, will one day reward openly.
* Preached in the Autumn of 1878.
The actual letter of the law in our text I suppose few men would violate ; the Inspector of Weights and Measures would more or less take care of that. But our righteousness is to exceed that of the Scribes and Pharisees; and to touch and again to spring from principles that move the heart. The text is written up, I believe, in the market at Hastings, and I daresay elsewhere; it does not supersede the inspectors' or the adulteration analysts' work; but it seems to say to the seller, “ Do not prey upon the simple and those unskilled ; do not pass off bad for good, spurious for genuine, seconds for best, or pretend to the unwary that the market price is higher than it is." It seems to say to the buyer, “Do not run down an article, or cheapen it unfairly ; do not say, 'It is naught, it is naught,' till you have bought it, and then go away and boast that you have beaten the salesman down famously, and got a ludicrously cheap bargain.” So much for the honesty of simple marketing
II. But we live in a complicated state of society, and matters cannot be settled quite so simply in all cases. I once said to a business man, “Do you think it easy to be honest ?" He answered, somewhat curtly, “ Yes;" and
“ left the subject. I don't think it is quite so easy.
A popular preacher the other day was inveighing from the pulpit about the dishonesty of tradesmen making mistakes lying it.
in their own favour in the bills they sent in to their customers. Shortly afterwards the same preacher sent a book packet by post to a friend of mine, stamped according to the book rate of postage ; but inside was a short letter. I don't mean to tax the popular preacher with intentional fraud upon the Post Office--that is, upon the nation-all I say is that it is not easy to be honest; certainly not so when you get beyond the rule of thumb honesty to which your craft is accustomed in its ordinary transaction of business. You must first of all think not only of the act you do, but of the general principles under
Thought and pains are required, and it is not everybody who will give thought and pains, so as to see an act in all its bearings.
Look at the question of monopolies. I dare say some of you may think it will serve the Gas Companies right if the electric light should drive them out of the field, because, while having complete command over the supply of light in particular localities, and charging a good price for it, they have not always striven every nerve to make that supply of the very best quality. Perhaps. But, my friend, are you free from a like reproach ? Possibly you have a monopoly of your own-something, that is, that your neighbour cannot do without, and which you alone can supply him with-and you charge an unreasonable price for the accommodation. Perhaps it is the corner of a field, and the railway must go through it ; perhaps it is a house in the “ condemned area” of one of our large towns, and the Corporation must buy it; or if you are a railway director, perhaps it is a train between one village and another, and you put the price of the ticket exorbitantly
high. It behoves a Christian man to remember in such cases that “a false balance is abomination to the Lord ; but a just weight is His delight.”
The exact line of demarcation between the honest venture of the old-fashioned merchant who sends his ship across the stormy sea to bring back gain, and the blameworthy speculation of the too sanguine trader that, perhaps, through its rashness brings to the ground many an honest family, is not easy to draw. But the principles on which the difference between them in God's sight is founded may be partly discerned by a sincere conscience. hasting to be rich ? Discontented with moderate profits, grumbling at low interest? Then remember that “the root of all evil is the love of money ;” that “ covetousness is idolatry ;” and look very closely to see if there be not that root of bitterness springing up within you. Again, in any bargain you may be making, do you always think only how to do the best for yourself and your belongings, or do you try and look at the transaction from the opposite party's point of view, and then seek to do to others as you would they should do unto you? A business man who is on his guard against covetousness, against hasting to be rich, against want of thought for the interest of those opposed to him, will not, I think, greatly fall.
III. But the text reaches farther than this. Mene, Tekel, Upharsin," wrote the hand upon the wall of Belshazzar's feasting room: “Weighed, weighed, wanting, divided : Thou art weighed in the balance and found wanting; thy kingdom is parted from thee.” Would God that nations would cease to use false balances and take to