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Consequence of the Command, Thou shalt not steal. For fince all Men are equal Sharers in the Wants and Neceflities of Life, and the Things which should supply these Wants are unequally divided, so that some have more than enough, and some much less ; it follows, that the Necessities of the one must be supplied from the Abundance of the other. Steal
must not, and give perhaps he will not. The only Way then by which you can come at the Things you want, is by Purchase or Exchange; and the only Thing a poor Man has to exchange, is the Work and Labour of his Hands : And therefore it follows as a Consequence of the Law, that since
you must not steal, you must work, and purchase by your Labour and Industry the Things which are necessary for your Support and Subsistence. In all that rich Men do, they want the Help and Assistance of the Poor ; they cannot minister to themselves either in the Wants, or Conveniencies, or Pleasures of Life: So that the poor Man has as many Ways to maintain himself, as the rich Man has Wants or Deiires; for the Wants and Desires of the Rich must be served by the Labour of the Poor. But then the rich Man has often very wicked Defires, and often delights in sinful Pleasures; and though to serve the Rich be the
poor Man's Maintenance, yet in these Cases the poor
Man must not serve him; and therefore the Apostle adds, that he must labour, working with his Hands the Thing which is good. His Poverty obliges him to serve Man, and therefore he must work with his Hands; and his Reason and Religion oblige him to serve God, and therefore he must work only the Thing which is good.
Labour is the Business and Employment of the Poor, it is the Work which God has given him to do; and therefore a Man cannot be satisfied in working merely as far as the Wants of Nature oblige him, and spending the rest of his Time idly or wantonly: For if God has enabled him to gain more by his Labour, than his own Wanţs, and the Conveniencies necessary to his Station, require, he then becomes a Debtor to such Duties, as are incumbent on all to whoin God hath dispensed his Gifts liberally. He must consider that he owes a Tribute to his Maker for the Health and Strength he enjoys; that there are others who want Limbs to labour, or Sense and Understanding
to arrive at the Knowledge of any Att or Mystery, whereby to maintain themselves; and to these he is a Debtor out of the Abundance of his Strength, and Health, and Knowledge, with which God has bleffed him : And therefore he is obliged to labour, working with his Hands the Thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth.
To the great Men God hath given Riches, to the Mean Strength and Understanding; both are equally indebted for what they have received, and equally obliged to make Returns suitable to their Abilities : And therefore, as the rich Man must honour God out of his Substance, so must the Man of low Degree make his Acknowledgment out of the Product of his Labour and Understanding : And therefore Men are obliged to use Labour and Industry in their honest Callings and Employments, first to provide for themselves, and all who depend upon them for Maintenance; and, in the next place, to provide a Stock to discharge the Debt they owe to their Maker, by administering, in proportion to their Ability, to the Wants and Necessities of their
And this may serve to give us a general View of the Sense and Reasoning of the Text; which I shall now more particularly consider, according to the distinct Parts of which it confifts. And those I think are four : First, A Prohibition, Let him that Role, steal no more. Secondly, In Consequence of that, an Injunction, But rather let him labour. Thirdly, A Limitation of this Duty of labouring to Things honest and lawful, expressed in these Words, Working with his Hands the Thing which is good. Fourthly, The Rule and Measure of this Duty, That be may have to give to him that needeth.
First, As to the Prohibition, Let him that stole, steal no more. By this we are forbidden the Ufe of all such Means, for our own Maintenance and Support, as áre injurious to our Neighbour. The Command, Thou shalt not steal, was given to secure every Man in the Property and Poffeffion of his Goods ; and therefore the Reason of the Law reaches to all kinds of Fraud and Deceit by which Men are injured in their Goods and Estate : And there are many Things which, in Propriety of Speech, we do not call Stealing, which nevertheless must be understood to be comprehended in this Law, in virtue of the
Reason upon which it is founded. The unjust Acquisition of any thing is Theft; for what
you unjustly acquire, another loses, and suffers in his Property, for the Security of which the Law against Theft was enacted: And therefore, in the way even of Trade, if
sell a Commodity to an unskilful Buyer for a Shilling, which, according to the Market Price, is worth but fix Pence, you are a Thief to the Value of fix Pence; for of so much you unjustly defraud the Man. He that is stronger than another may rob him by Violence, he that is more subtle may do it by Cunning; but if the Injury in both Cases be the same, must not the Guilt be so too ?
Some are apt to repine at the unequal Division of the Goods of Fortune, and think that they have as good a natural Right to a Share of the World, as those who at present possess it ; and consequently that they may assert their Right, whenever it is in their Power so to do.
From these Principles sprang the Sect known by the Name of Levellers, who were for having the World equally divided
among the Inhabitants of it; and thought it very unnatural that one should be a Lord, and another a Beggar. This