QUESTION 75. What is forbidden in the Eighth Commandment?
ANSWER: The Eighth Commandment forbiddeth whatsoever doth or may unjustly hinder our own or our neighbour's wealth or outward estate.
Q. 1. What does the forbidding of THEFT necessarily suppose?
A. That there are distinct rights and properties among men, which cannot be justly invaded or encroached upon, Lev. 6:4.
Q. 2. What would be the necessary consequences of a community of goods among men?
A. It would destroy traffic and commerce; abolish all acts of charity; encourage sloth and idleness; and if there were no right and property there could be no encroachment upon it by theft or stealing.
Q. 3. From whom are we forbidden to steal?
A. Both from ourselves and others.
Q. 4. How may we be said to steal from OURSELVES?
A. By idleness, niggardliness, and prodigality.
Q. 5. How do we steal from ourselves, or impair our own estates, by idleness?
A. When we either live without a lawful calling, Prov. 19:15; or neglect it, if we have any, chap. 18:9.
Q. 6. How may a person be said to steal from himself by niggardliness?
A. When he defrauds himself of the due use and comfort of that estate which God has given him, Eccl. 6:2.
Q. 7. How do persons on the other hand, steal from themselves, by prodigality?
A. By being lavish and profuse in spending above their income, Prov. 23:20, 21.
Q. 8. What is the sin which is more directly pointed at in this commandment?
A. It is stealing from OTHERS; or laying hands upon, and taking away unjustly, that which is the right and property of another.
Q. 9. How many ways may persons be said to steal from others, or unjustly hinder their neighbour's wealth or outward estate?
A. Several ways; particularly, by theft, robbery, resetting, defrauding, monopolising, and taking unlawful usury.
Q. 10. What is theft?
A. It is the taking away clandestinely, or privily from another, that which is his, Lev. 19:11.
Q. 11. How is theft commonly distinguished?
A. Into private and public.
Q. 12. What is private theft?
A. It is the taking away less or more of any private person's property, without their knowledge or consent, Obadiah ver. 5.
Q. 13. Against whom is public theft committed?
A. Both against the church and commonwealth.
Q. 14. How is public theft called, as committed against the church?
A. Either Simony or sacrilege.
Q. 15. What is Simony?
A. It is the buying and selling of ecclesiastical places and offices for money, or other good deeds; so called, from the wicked practice of Simon Magus, who offered the apostles "money, saying, Give me also this power, that on whomsoever I lay hands, he may receive the Holy Ghost," Acts 8:18, 19.
Q. 16. What is sacrilege?
A. It is the taking away or alienating of any thing which has been dedicated to a sacred use, Prov. 20:25; Mal. 3:8.
Q. 17. Why are these called public theft, when, for the most part, they are privately committed?
A. Because they very much affect the public interest and welfare of the church; nothing having a greater tendency to her ruin, than Simoniacal compacts and sacrilegious usurpations.
Q. 18. In what consists public theft, as committed against the commonwealth?
A. In embezzling the current coin, or doing detriment to the public for private advantage, Rom. 13:7; Phil. 2:4.
Q. 19. What is robbery or rapine?
A. It is the taking away the goods of another by violence and open force, Job 20:19.
Q. 20. In what lies the aggravation of this crime?
A. In its being an avowed pillaging or plundering of our neighbour; and in being ordinarily accompanied with a threatening to take away his life, if he ventures to make the least resistance, Judges 9:25.
Q. 21. What is the evil of resetting, or receiving of what is taken away, whether by stealth or violence?
A. It is a manifest encouragement of, and participation with thieves and robbers in their sins, Psalm 50:18; and consequently, a coming under the same guilt and condemnation with them, Prov. 29:24.
Q. 22. How do men commonly defraud one another?
A. In buying, selling and borrowing.
Q. 23. How do they defraud in buying?
A. By depreciating and vilifying what they intend to buy, that they may have it cheaper than the value, Prov. 20:14.
Q. 24. How do they defraud one another in selling?
A. By taking an unreasonable price, 1 Thess. 4:6; or, cheating by false weights and measures, Deut. 25:13-15.
Q. 25. How do they defraud in borrowing?
A. When they borrow what they know they can never be able, in the ordinary course of providence, to pay, Psalm 37:21.
Q. 26. If a man's creditors compound with him for less than he owes, is he therefore discharged of the whole debt?
A. Though his creditors, for fear of losing all, may compound and discharge for a part, so that there can be no action in law for the remainder; yet, in the court of conscience, and before God, he is bound, if ever he is able, to pay every farthing: and, if he is an honest man, he will never reckon his substance his own, till he do it, Rom. 13:8.
Q. 27. How may servants defraud their masters?
A. By wasting their masters' goods, which they may have in their hands; and not working faithfully for their wages, Tit. 2:9, 10.
Q. 28. How may masters defraud their servants?
A. By detaining from, or tricking them out of their wages, Lev. 19:13; or by exacting of them too rigorous labour, Ex. 5:9.
Q. 29. What is it to monopolise?
A. It is to engross commodities, in order to enhance the price of them.
Q. 30. What is the worst kind of monopolising or forestalling?
A. It is the buying up grain, or other provisions, in large quantities, in order to exact a higher price for them afterwards.
Q. 31. In what consists the evil of this sin?
A. They who are guilty of it enrich themselves upon the spoils of others, Ezek. 22:29; they "grind the faces of the poor," Isa. 3:15; and bring upon themselves the curse of the people, Prov. 11:26 -- "He that withholdeth corn, the people shall CURSE him; but blessings shall be upon the head of him that selleth it."
Q. 32. What is it to take USURY, according to the proper signification of the word?
A. It is to take gain, profit, or interest, for the loan of money.
Q. 33. What kind of usury or interest is lawful?
A. That which is moderate, easy, and no way oppressive, Deut. 23:20, compared with Ex. 22:21.
Q. 34. How do you prove that moderate usury is lawful?
A. From the very light of nature, which teaches, that since the borrower proposes to gain by the loan, the lender should have a reasonable share of his profit, as a recompense for the use of his money, which he might otherwise have disposed of to his own advantage, 2 Cor. 8:13.
Q. 35. What is the usury condemned in scripture, and by right reason?
A. It is the exacting of more interest or gain for the loan of money, than is settled by universal consent, and the laws of the land, Prov. 28:8 -- "He that by usury, and unjust gain, increaseth his substance, shall gather it for him that will pity the poor."
Q. 36. How do you prove from scripture, that moderate usury, or common interest, is not oppression in itself?
A. From the express command laid upon the Israelites not to "oppress a stranger," Ex. 23:9; and yet their being allowed to take usury from him, Deut. 23:20; which they would not have been permitted to do, if there had been an intrinsic evil in the thing itself.
Q. 37. Is it warrantable to take interest from the poor?
A. By no means; for, if such as are honest, and in needy circumstances, borrow a small sum towards a livelihood, and repay it in due time, it is all that can be expected of them; and therefore the demanding of any profit or interest, or even taking any of their necessaries of life in pledge, for the sum, seems to be plainly contrary to the law of charity, Ex. 22:25-28; Psalm 15:5.
Q. 38. Were not the Israelites forbidden to take usury from their brethren, whether poor or rich? Deut. 23:19 -- "Thou shalt not lend upon usury to thy brother."
A. This text is to be restricted to their poor brethren, as it is explained, Ex. 22:25, and Lev. 25:25, 35; or, if it respects the Israelites indifferently, then it is one of the judicial laws peculiar to that people, and of no binding force now.
Q. 39. What is the spring of all these different ways by which men defraud and injure one another in their outward estate?
A. Covetousness, Luke 12:15, or an inordinate prizing and loving of worldly goods, Psalm 62:10.
Q. 40. What should affright and deter every one from such wicked practices?
A. The consideration of the curse that shall enter into the house of the thief, Zech. 5:3, 4; and of the vengeance that shall light upon such as go beyond and defraud their neighbour: for, "the Lord is the avenger of all such," 1 Thess. 4:6.