Page images
PDF
EPUB

laid Hands on his Fellow Servant, and took bim by the Throat, saying, Pay me that thou owest. And when the poor Man befought him to have Patience, he regarded him not, but hurried him away to Prison ; and for this Behaviour he is called, ver. 32. Thou wicked Servant.

Some of these Circumstances seem to be added, to aggravate the Cruelty of this wicked Servant; such are they which describe the Violence used on one side, and the Submission and Intreaty offered on the other. And the Case commonly falls out to be so. Men are apt to demand their Debts, especially from their Equals or Inferiors, with a Haughtiness and Roughness hard to be borne ; and yet the poor Debtor is forced by Necessity to take it patiently, and to be all Submission.

But the Circumstances upon which the Reason of the Case depends, are principally these two: First, That the Debtor was not able to discharge the Debt at the Time of the Demand. Secondly, That he was wil. ling to do Justice to his Creditor, and to endeavour, by the best Means he could use, to raise a Sum sufficient to answer the Demand. Therefore where either of these Circum

P 2

Itances

ftances are wanting, the Reason of the Case ceases, and together with it all Pleas for Forbearance and Compassion. Consequently every Man is at Liberty, in Point of Conscience, to use the Method which the Law of his Country directs; to compel those to pay their Debts, who are able, but not willing to pay them. And in Truth, where this is the Case, the Creditor is so far from being justly chargeable with Cruelty or Oppression in making Use of any legal Method to recover his own, that the Charge lies strongly against the other Side. To delay poor Traders, or others, in the Payment of what is due to them, is always Injustice, and sometimes very barbarous Injustice. A poor Man may perhaps lose his Credit, which is the Life of his Business, or perhaps his Liberty, which is the Life and Maintenance of himself and Family, for Want of that very Money which you detain from him: and when this happens, is it any Compensation to pay the Man at last what is owing to him? So far from it, that such a Debtor, even when his Debt is paid, may stand charged in Conscience with the Ruin of a poor Family Another Circumstance, upon which the

Judgment Judgment of our Saviour in this Case de. pends, is, that there be a Readiness and Willingness in the Debtor, to do Justice, whenever he is able, and to use his best Endeavours to enable himself to do it. Consequently all such Debtors are out of this Case, who deny their juft Debts, or any Part of them; and all such as may be justly suspected to conceal their Effects, in order to defraud their Creditors: and such also, as live idly and profusely, squandering the Estate which ought to be applied to do Justice to those to whom it is due. The Reason of these Exceptions may be made plain in few Words. The present Inability of a Debtor is the Argument for the Delay and the Forbearance; but this Inability comes not into Question where the Debt itself is denied. And since the circumstances of Men change so fast as they do, the Man who wants Forbearance this Year, may in a few more be better able to pay the Debt, than the other is to forgive it: and what Reason can be given why he should not? Now he who denies the Debt, declares an Intention never to pay it; which certainly will justify the other, in endeavouring by a legal Method to maintain and ascertain his

P 3

Right;

Right; and till the Right is cleared, there is no Room for one Side to plead, or the other Side to consider the Arguments for Pity and Compassion.

The second Exception relates to a Case which is so manifestly fraudulent, that nothing can be said in its Excuse. They who conceal their Effects, and plead Poverty deceitfully, are mere Cheats, and deserve no Compassion, To prevent such Frauds, and to arm the Creditor with Power to compel a Discovery, seems to me to be the chief View and Design of the Law, which puts the Body of the Debtor into the Creditor's Power : and fo odious is this Deceit, that the Law, in fome Cafes and Circumstances, has annexed to it a far greater Pe. nalty.

The third Exception relates to those, who oftentimes are free enough of their Promises to do Justice, and yet by their ACtions declare daily, that they have nothing less at Heart than to do justly by their Creditors. Such are they who live idly and profusely, and are constantly diminishing what they have, and by so doing are rendering themselves less able every Day to pay their just Debts. Now, what Reason can

you

you imagine, that is proper to be laid before an honest industrious Man, to persuade him to be content that his own Family should suffer, and his Substance be wasted by the Folly and Extravagance of a Stranger ? Such a Man would certainly punish and restrain a Son of his own, were he idle and extravagant; and what kind of Goodness or Charity is it, to maintain and support the like Extravagance in another ? Some wise Commonwealths have debarred such Persons from the Management of their own Estates : I am sure there is more Reason to debar them from spending the Estates of other Men; and this is what every extravagant Man does, whilst he consumes his Substance, and leaves his Debts unpaid.

In these Cases, therefore, and in others of the like Nature, every good Man may, and every wise Man will, make use (in a reasonable Manner) of the Power which the Law gives him for the Security of his Property; and in so doing he stands clear of all Offence against Charity and good Conscience.

But when the Circumstances mentioned in the Text meet together ; when the Debtor is chargeable with no Fault, or Fraud, but is disabled by mere Poverty to satisfy

« PreviousContinue »