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other will draw the curtain, and bring to light the fraud and villainy behind it: and when it doth, what will men say ? “He has cheated me once, and “ that was his fault; but if he cheat me again, it will “ be mine as well as his: and I shall richly deserve “ the second wrong, if I will take no warning by 66 the first.” So that how much soever a man may gain by a present cheat, he is sure, if he be discovered, to lose his correspondent, by whom in a few years he might have honestly gotten ten times more: besides that, either his resentment of the injury he hath received, or else his charity to others, will oblige him to divulge the knavery, and to warn others by it not to have any thing to do with the detected knave that wronged and abused him. And when once a man's credit is blasted by the report of a foul and dishonest action, it is a thousand to one but he will lose back in his trade all that he gained by his cheat, and twenty times more; and then, if once he begin to sink, there is no recovering of him : for estate and credit are the two wings that bear men up in the world; and therefore if, when he hath clipped the wings of his credit, his estate should fail him too, he must decline and sink without remedy. For credit is like a looking-glass, which, when only sullied by an unwholesome breath, may be wiped clean again; but if once it is cracked, it is never to be repaired. So that considering all, fraud and injustice is as great an error in politics as in morals, and doth bespeak a man to have as little wit as honesty, and, in plain English, to be as much a fool as a knave. But suppose the best, and that which sometimes happens, that a man should thrive by his fraud and injustice, and grow great and prosperous in the world; alas! what comfort can be take in his ill-gotten wealth, when every part of it throws guilt in his face, and awakens some dire reflection in his conscience? For, as I shewed you before, of all sins, that of injustice admits the least excuse and mitigation; the sense of it clings so close to a man's conscience, that he can never pluck it off, without pulling away his conscience, with it, and rooting out of his mind all the sense of religion, and of good and evil. So that unless the man turn an assured atheist, or a stupid sot, it will be impossible for him to enjoy his unjust possessions, without great recoilings and convulsions of conscience, because his unjust possessions will, like the adulterer's bastard, be a standing reproach to him, and a perpetual remembrancer of his guilt and shame. And when that which a man enjoys and lives upon, when the meat which he gluts, and the drink which he guzzles, the clothes which he rustles and flaunts in, shall thus reproach and upbraid him, O wretched man! we are the price of thy innocence, thy soul, and thy eternal happiness; for us thou hast damned thyself, and freely consigned thy immortal spirit to everlasting horror and confusion; when his bags and coffers cry Guilty, Guilty, and he sees a Mene tekel on the walls of every room in his house, and every thing he enjoys whispers some accusation against him, what comfort can he take in the purchase of his frauds and oppressions ? Were it not a thousand times better for him to have lived contentedly on a brown morsel, than thus to fare deliciously every day with a vexed and a tormented mind? And yet this is commonly the fate of unjust possessors, who, under the disguise of a cheerful countenance, too commonly wear woful hearts, and, like tragedies bound in gilded covers, are only gay and splendid without, but full of stabs and wounds within. But suppose that in a continued tumult of excesses and riots they should make a shift, whilst they live, to drown the cries of their guilty consciences, yet in all probability, whenever death threatens or approaches them in a disease, and sets them within ken of eternity, their conscience, in despite of them, will rouse and awake, and raise a hideous outcry against them: for now their last will and testament will set before them a woful catalogue of uncancelled guilts, and every ill-gotten penny they have there bequeathed will put them in mind of their approaching damnation, and dictate dread and horror to their consciences, which in a desperate rage will fly in their faces, and tell them to their teeth that they are cheats and knaves and reprobates; that their legacies are the fruits of their sins, the purchase of their frauds and oppressions; and that for that which they are now bequeathing to others, they have long ago bequeathed their soul to the Devil, who now stands ready to seize on it, and carry it away to those dark prisons of horror, where he keeps his miserable slaves under a dreadful expectation of their eternal judgment. So that should any man chance to thrive and grow rich by injustice, yet it is a thousand to one but either living or dying, or both, his riches will prove a far worse plague to him than poverty itself: and if so, who but a madman would ever abandon himself to a folly so fruitless and mischievous ?

Fifthly and lastly, consider the high provocation that injustice gives to God. For God, as I have


shewed you before, is the author of all those rights which men are invested with, whether they be natural or acquired : and being the author of them, he is more especially obliged to assert and vindicate them, to maintain his own bequests and donations, and not suffer those to go unpunished who presume to purloin or alienate them from their rightful

For he who wrongfully deprives a man of any right, deprives him of what God hath given him, snatches God's goods out of those hands in which he hath trusted and deposited them; and in so doing robs God himself, and seizes his goods without his leave. So that every unjust invasion of another's rights is an injury to God, who is the supreme proprietor, from whom all right and property descends. For since every man's right is derived from and founded on the right of God, whosoever trespasses on the one must necessarily invade the other. All that is ours we hold by tenantright from the great Landlord of the world, whose supreme and independent propriety is the ground and foundation on which all our just claims and properties depend. He, therefore who by fraud or violence dispossesses any tenant of God, or seizes any part of the property which he hath farmed out to him, doth in so doing eject the Landlord as well as the tenant, and, so far as in him lies, turn God out of his own world, and usurp his eternal right and dominion. And so long as he holds what God hath set to another, he holds not as a tenant of God, but as a robber and an invader of him. When he seized his unjust possession, he snatched God's goods out of his hands; and while he detains them, he doth in effect declare that he will keep God's goods in despite of him; that as he hath already thrust him out of this part of his creation, so he is resolved to keep him out as long as he is able, and never to permit him to reenter upon it, so long as he can maintain and defend it against him. Since therefore we claim by God's own tenure, and all our rights do finally issue and resolve into his, he is peculiarly concerned to assert and vindicate them, because they are all his own.

Hence is that passage quoted by St. Paul from God's own mouth, Vengeance is mine, and I will repay it, Rom. xii.19. For what is vengeance, but only a retribution of punishments for wrongs and injuries received? And therefore since all rights are God's, and consequently all wrongs do redound upon him, vengeance, or retribution of wrongs, must necessarily be his right and prerogative; and it being his, he will be sure to repay it one time or other : and though he may defer it a while out of wise and gracious ends, yet in the long run it will appear that his forbearance is no payment, and the longer he is repaying the principal, the greater sum the interest of his vengeance will at last amount to. For what higher outrage can you do to God, who is an immortal Being, infinitely removed from all passion and suffering, than to break in upon him, as you do by every act of injustice, and despoil him of his goods, and rifle his house before his face; to turn him out of doors, as it were, and shut up his own creation against him; and in effect to tell him, that from henceforth you are resolved to be your own God, to live at his allowance no longer, but to carve and divide for yourselves; and that so far as you are concerned, he shall have no more to do in his own world, but that

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