FAIR DEALING between Debtor and Creditor. A very brief ESSAY UPON The CAUTION to be used, about coming in to DEBT, And getting out of it. Offered at BOSTON-Lecture; 5. d. XI. m. 1715/16.

By Cotton Mather, D.D. & F.R.S.

Stultus est Debitor, qui gaudens Pecunias acci­pit, et Tempus quo reddere debeat, non attendit.

Gregor. in Moral.

BOSTON: Printed by B. Green, for Samuel Gerrish, at his Shop over against the North side of the Town-House. 1716.

[Page 1]

The Honest Debtor.
BOSTON-Lecture 5. d. XI. m. 1715, 16.

Rom. XIII. 8.

Owe no Man any thing, but to Love one another.

IT was a sad Complaint of Old, up­braiding a People, who had made an high Profession of the true Religion; Ezek. V. 7. You have not done according to the Judgments of the Nations which be round about you. It seems, other Nations, who had not been so well-instructed as this People, yet had more Equity in their Dealings, and were People of Better Morals, than these who had been under the Covenant of God.

It has been complained, That tho' the Re­ligion of God, be Professed with an uncom­mon Show among our selves, yet among us, [Page 2]there are too often found such Iniquities in the Dealings of Men, as are condemned even in the Judgments of the Nations; and there are Better Morals to be found in Places, which yet may have the Censure of the Patriarch upon Gerar too much belonging to them, than some­times occur in what makes the most flourish­ing Pretences to be a Land of Rectitude.

But, I hope, it will never be complained, That the Ministers of the Gospel, are by any Sinful Silence accessary to the Transgressions, which Deny the Doctrine of God our Saviour, a­mong a People, that are under peculiar Ob­ligations to Adorn it. It shall not be com­plained, That the Ministers do so confine themselves to Preach Faith and Repentance, that the People forget Moral Honesty, thro' any Default of ours. It shall be asserted, That with a due Frequency, as well as Fervency, we inculcate upon our Neighbours, the Duties of Moral Honesty, and remonstrate unto them, that without This, all their Faith and Repentance is but a Counterfeit; God will reject it, and they shall not prosper in it!

One Point of Morality, wherein we are told, that many People are defective, is, The Cau­tion with which Peoples Running into Debt, and Lying in it when they have run into it, ought for ever to be regulated. People there [Page 3]are, too many, who do bring Debts upon themselves, in such a manner, and in such a measure, that a Folly nothing short of Criminal, is to be charged upon them. And when they have brought such Debts upon themselves, their Delay to get from under them, is what also amounts unto a Crime, for which they are to be Indicted, as not having the Fear of God before their Eyes. There are some Circum­stances of the Day, which may render a Dis­course on this Point of Morality, singularly Sea­sonable. But indeed it were never out of Sea­son. And, I would humbly hope, that not only the Creditors, but even the Debtors too, will anon be Thankful, for the Advice which is now Faithfully to be dispensed unto them.

To check the Errors too often committed by Contracting of Debts, and by Continuing in them, I now read unto you a Sentence of the Sacred Oracles, before which we ought all to tremble as before the Vibrations of a Thunder­bolt. It is the Voice of the ETERNAL, that is now convey'd unto us, by the Pen of an Inspired Apostle. The God of Glory Thunders in it; May His Voice be so Powerful, as to pro­duce an universal Compliance among us, an universal Obedience unto it.

The Spirit of God, who is a Righteous Lord, and Loves Righteousness, does first of all direct [Page 4]us, to pay a Debt which People owe unto their Superiours; That they who serve the Publick, and have their Thought and their Time taken up, in watching for the Safety of the People, may be handsomely Subsisted in their Station. A Debt this is, which is not always duely con­sidered, nor so honestly paid as it ought to be! But then, the Direction goes on; That what­ever Debt People may owe to one another, in the way of their Dealing with one another, be al­so duely answered. People must not be in Debt unto one another, any further than what is anovoidable. 'Tis true, there is One Debt, which tho' it should be ever Paying, yet it will be ever Owing. A Debt of Love to one ano­ther. Of this, as much as you please! But for any other Debt, even for that which is a proper Debt, Here you cannot be too Cautious. Let Christians come Slowly into it; and let them get Quickly out of it. Let Christians Exercise their Wisdom in coming in, and their Justice in getting out. Come into it, with the Pace of a Tortoise, and get out of it, with the Flight of an Eagle.

The DOCTRINE, which I have a suffici­ent Commission to insist upon, is this.

There is a proper Caution, about coming into DEBT, and getting out of DERT, which is a considerable Point of Christianity.

[Page 5] A Due Caution, to Owe no Man any thing, is what every Man should Labour in. 'Tis the Duty of Christians, to have as few Creditors as ever they can, and owe as little to their Cre­ditors as ever they can, and give none of their Creditors any cause to complain, That they are not fairly dealt withal.

I suppose, There is no need of any Accu­rate Essay, to give a Definition of the DEBT, against which we are now to be caution'd. The Lexicons of the Lawyers are needless to be consulted on this Occasion, which will tell us, Debitor tuus est, qui tibi non reddit quod tuum est. A Debtor is One, who does not let another Man have his own; One who does not ren­der to a Neighbour, what he has a claim un­to. They will tell us, A Debt, is what a Man is under Obligation to accommodate another Man withal. Or, Quod ab Invito Exigi potest; What a Man may by Law and Right, be forced whether he will or no, to part withal. The meaning of a DEBT, is too well known, yea, on both sides too feelingly understood, for us to want any Explication of it. Every body knows, That a Man is in Debt, when he is under Obligation to deliver up any Possessions unto another Man, upon the Demand thereof. There are many Ways, in which a Man may come under such an Obligation; and particularly [Page 6]such Ways as those wherein Onesimus came in Debt unto his Master. But the most usual Way, and that which I have now my Eye most upon, is, that of Agreement with the Cre­ditor. The Debt is indeed, but as an Embryo, in its Formation, while the Time is not yet come for the Creditor to make his Demand. But it is more fully formed, and makes a ve­ry audible Cry, when a Man witholds from another Man, the Possessions, which ought Now to be delivered. This is not only Being in Debt, but also Lying in Debt: And it is to be a­voided with all the Caution imaginable. Christi­ans, You do not answer your Worthy Name; nor come up to that Necessary Character of True and Good and Genuine Christians, Heb XIII. 18. Having a Good Conscience, in all things willing to Live Honestly;—If this Caution be a Stran­ger with you.

I hope, no Man will Excuse any Mans not Paying what he Owes, by the Example of the Israelites, who Borrowed of the Egyptians, with­out making any Restitution. If the Great GOD, who was now become the King of the Israelites, gave His injur'd People a sort of Letters of Mart, for them to make Reprisals on the Egyptians, it was but according to the Law of Nations. But some will maintain, in reali­ty, the Israelites did not Borrow any thing of [Page 7]the Egyptians. Our Translation may be mend­ed. They did not Borrow, but Beg of them. The same Word is Translated elsewhere, To Request. The Things which the Israelites had of the Egyptians, were not Lent, but Given to them. When its said, They Lent unto them, it should be only taken so, They Accommodated them.

I am aware, That for People to bring them­selves into Debt, is not a Thing always For­bidden of God Our Apostle himself, who writes to the Romans, Owe no Man any thing, yet was willing to bring himself into Debt, upon a Good Occasion Yea, and into a Debt of Suretiship too, which is a Sort of Debt, that calls for more Caution than any in the World. On the behalf of his Convert, he writes unto Philemon; (Ver. 8.) If he owes thee any thing, put that on mine Account. It was of Old required by God; Deut. XV. 8 If there be a poor Man, thou shalt surely lend him sufficient for his Need. Our Saviour has Commanded us. To Lend one unto another; Saying, From him that would Borrow of thee, turn thou not away. And in His Word, He has Commended, the Good Man, that Shows Favour and Lendeth; with an Hint indeed at the same time, That we should guide our Affairs with Discretion. But we can't [...] without our Neighbour coming into Debt unto us: Which renders it plain. That [Page 8]some Debt is to be allowed of. Yea, without some Debt, there could no Trade be carried on. It would strangely Cramp the Trade of a Peo­ple, if it might be no more than the Cash that is running among them. There may be much Conveniency in Buying, and sometimes there may be a Necessity for Buying, when People cannot immediately Pay for what they Buy. Yea, since the World so much resolves to Trade upon Credit, I will Grant, That a Man of Capacity and Integrity, that has nothing else, may some­times have his Capacity and Integrity a Sufficient Fund, for him to take up thereupon, if his Cre­ditors will please to have it so. Our Books of Accounts, are a very Material part of our Libra­ries; and an Excellent Provision they are, to carry on a Lucriferous Business, when 'tis impossi­ble to have Cash at hand, in Proportion to the Trade that mult be prosecuted. And there, if Discount pass for Good Pay, I pray, what Hurt is done to any Body? No Body is hurt, if the Debt wherewith Trade is carryed on, be kept under a Suitable Regulation.

But, that Suitable Regulation! This is what I am now to treat upon.

I Confess my self less competent for a Trea­tise on such a Subject, than perhaps many o­thers in the Auditory, For, I am neither a Tra­der, nor the Son of a Trader. And yet I am a [Page 9]Master of certain MAXIMS, which will En­able me & Embolden me, to attempt now a very brief Treatise upon it. MAXIMS which I can maintain with Victorious Demonstrations, and have more than a Thousand Preachers in the Au­ditory, to stand by me; I mean, The CON­SCIENCE of every Man that I Speak unto; MAXIMS, which if well hearken'd to, ther would be fewer of those Debts, which multiply among us Uneasy Circumstances; and this Place would be much more, A Mountain of Holiness, and a Dwelling of Righteousness, and so the Blessed of the Lord.

The first MAXIM.

A Man that is going into Debt, should keep the Eye of Prudence Open, upon every Step that is before him. To run in the Dark, when One is going into Debt; This is Folly in the Exaltation of it: One going into Debt, should with a Rational Prospect, be able to see his whole way Plain be­fore him. People without Foresight should ne­ver go into Debt; without Foresight, of what in the Progress of their way they may meet withal. It was an ancient Prayer; Psal. V. 8. Because of my Observers, make thy way strait be­fore my Face. My Friend, Because of thy Cre­ditors, Be sure of a Strait way, and go not into Debt, without a Way lying Plain before thy Face, for every step of thy Motions. The Jews have [Page 10]a Tradition, that our Father Adam was the Author of that Saying, No Man would Sin if he saw from the Beginning to the End. Most cer­tainly very many among the Children of Adam, would not run into Debt, as they do, if they did but see from the Beginning to the End. Going into Debt, make a Pause, and think, Will it not be Bitterness in the Latter End? The conduct of Prudence, is that; Prov. XX [...], A Prudent Man foresees the Evil and hides himself. Sirs, When you are going into Debt, thoroughly weigh the Matter. If you can foresee any remarkable Evil, in which you are like to be Entangled by what you do; Then Stop; then stay; then look about you. If you are So Simple, as to pass on, you deserve to be Punished for what you do. The Thing I press for is, That before you go into Debt, you advise with an Ingenious Man that once prevented a deal of Mischief at Ephesus; I mean him, who did a World of Good by that Memorable Saying, Ye ought to do nothing Rashly. When the Temptation of going into Debt comes upon you, [And, there often appears too much cause to Justify my Term, when I call it, of Temptation!] it will be but Prudently done of you, to think; What will be the Consequence of what I am now a doing? Shall not I run my self into inextricable Snares? Am not I pulling on my self insupportable Miseries? Cares [Page 11]that will be too heavy for me? Cheats upon those have trusted me? The wrath of disappoinied Cre­ditors? Disgrace & Contempt among all my Neigh­bours? If upon Mature Deliberation, you have a Clear View of Escaping all this Evil; Then 'tis Well!

Prudence is the Thing that is urged upon you. Now, that you may keep within the Limits of Prudence, Methinks, it were no im­proper Proposal; Consult with a Prudent Friend, about what you do, before you do it. A Friend whose Prudence you may rely much upon; Such a Friend is a Treasure. And on this Oc­casion, he may be very Literally so, Emphati­cally so! If you have any Doubt, about going into any Debt; Ask the Counsil of such a Friend, Whether it be well for you to do it, or no? You know who said; Prov. XIII. 10. With the Well-advised is Wisdom.

I am sure, if you Consult with one Friend, whom I shall Name unto you he will give you a Dictate of Prudence, about one Sort of Debt, where with many Thousands do most Unadvi­sedly ruine themselves, and their Families. A Solomon is the Friend, I intend; and the Debt is that of an Inconsiderate Suretiship, an Un­reasonable Suretiship. He tells us; Prov. XVII. 18. A Man void of Understanding striketh hands, and becomes a Surety in the presence of his [Page 12]Friend. He tells us; Prov. XI. 15. He that is Surety for a Stranger shall be sore Broken for it; and he that hateth Suretiship is sure. For a Man to Vow, That he will never be Surety for another, 'tis to make a Rash Vow. A Man may thus Ensnare himself in Engagements to decline a Duty which God may call him to. There is a Violation of the Third Commandment, as well as Breach upon Charity, in such Engagements. But then, If you will be well-advisea, forget not that Caveat; Prov. XXII. 26. Be not One of them that are Sureties for Debts. Use abundance of Deliberation, when a Suretiship shall be pro­pounded unto you; Think over & over again; Am I Safe? Does God call me into any Sponsorial Hazards? Do not the Circumstancies of my Family forbid my coming into them? Shall not I by'nd by Repent most bitterly, and even tear my Hair for the Vexation of my coming under these Encumbrances? These are Thoughts, which I suppose, do not come into the Minds of them, who are most easily drawn into Ruining Suretiships. The Cups that sometimes Mellow Men into this Folly, don't afford Room for such Thoughts as these.

The Second MAXIM.

A Man that would not be Sinfully in Debt ought to have a Spirit reconciled unto a Low and Mean Condition in the World, if this be what the Glorious GOD shall call him to.

[Page 13] A grand Cause of Peoples running into Debt, is this; They cannot bear the Humilia­tions of a Low and a Mean Condition in the World. Especially, They that have sometimes Lived in more of Splendor; these oftentimes find themselves very unable to bear a Reduced Condition. This 'tis, that causes them to run into Debt. for the Supply of their Carnal Appe­tites. Hence 'tis, that Some who Live upon other Mens Estates, go so far in their Extrava­gancy, as to Live Higher than their Creditors themselves can do. Those Flags of Pride, if I may be so bold, Are they Paid for? With what Face can you pretend unto them, while they are not so?

But, first, it is a Position, which I hope, no Good Man will question; If a Man cannot keep out of a Low and Mean Condition, without a plain wrong to the Estates of other Men, he is then most Evidently called of GOD into a Low and Mean Condition. Man, The Glorious GOD, whose thou art, and whose are all thy wayes, now Stakes thee down to a Low and Mean Con­dition. Thy Straits are what the Glorious GOD has ordered for thee. It should be a Principle with a Good Man, I may not have, what I cannot have. And in Pursuance of this Principle he should go on; I cannot have what it will be a wrong unto other People for me to have. [Page 14]The short of it is; If there be any thing that I cannot have without forcing and keeping my Neigh­bour out of his Right for it, the Great GOD Or­ders me to go without it.

Well; but what shall we then do, if a Con­dition of such Creepling Circumstances be ordered for us?

The Answer is, Lower your Sails. For there is another Position, of which I am sure no Good Man will make any Question. If GOD consine a Man unto a Low and Mean Condition, the Man should Labour for a sweet Contentment with his Low and Mean Condition. Confinement and Contentment must go together. You have not forgotten the Exhortation that speaketh unto you, Be Content with such Things as you have. Let a Man get a Spirit suited unto his Condition. It is the First mark of Blessedness; Mat. V. 3. Blessed are the Poor in Spirit. Who are the Poor in Spirit? They that have a Spirit willing to be Peor if God call them to it. It is injoined upon you; Jam. I. 10. Let the rich rejoyce in that he is made low. How shall he Rejoyce in being made Low? Let him cheerfully entertain the Opportunities which his being made Low, and falling into Decay, gives him to express his Patience, his Humility, his Resignation, and Glorify God. A Low and a Mean Condition is perhaps, the Cross which our Saviour has [Page 15]assigned unto us; The Thing appointed for us. It becomes us now to be Crucify'd unto the Would: A Man upon a Cross troubles not himself a­bout the Wealth of this World. Remember, Sirs, It won't be long that you are to languish in this Low and Mean Condition. The Prophet said, Ezek. VII. 12. The Day draweth near, let not the seller mourn. Since the Day draweth near, that you are to be Stript of all, don't lay it much to Heart, tho' you must Sell all you have, and Strip your selves of every thing, rather than ly in Debt for what you have.

The Third MAXIM.

For a Man to run into Debt, when he has no Prospect, and perhaps no Purpose of ever getting out; This is a Dishonesty by no means to be Countenanced.

There are those who push themselves into Debt, when they know, 'tis utterly Improbable, they shall ever Pay what they Owe. Yea, with a Probability, there is also an Intention in them, never to Pay. In the mean time, how are the Creditors impos'd upon! O Dishonest People, 'Tis one sort of Stealing, and a very gross one too, which is to be charged upon you. 'Tis as bad at Picking the Pockets of your Creditors! In this Tribe are to be ranked the Shameless Bor­rowers; I say, Shameless Borrowers; The Bor­rowers whom the Thirty Seventh Psalm and the Twenty first Verse, hath Stigmatized. A Sort [Page 16]of Bold People, who carry on a down-right Beggary under the more Specious Form of Bor­rowing; —People, from whom you Save no less than Four Pounds in Five, by not Lending but Giving of One unto them, when they would have borrowed Five. What sayes the Word of God? Prov. XIX. 22. A Poor man is better than a Lyar. It were better to be Poor, and Conflict with a very Straitning Poverty, than to run in­to Debt, with such Lies, as they who Promise to Pay at such a Time, and Pay at such a Time, and have no Faith in all their Promises; There is no Believing a Word they say!

The Fourth MAXIM.

Men ought often and nicely to Examine the State of their Business, if they would not find themselves irrecoverably Plunged into Debt, before they are aware, but it comes in unexpectedly like a Traveller upon them; and then holds him like an Armed Man.

It is a very Dangerous, and therefore a very Culpable Thing, for People to let their Business go on from Year to Year, in Muddy Uncertain­ties. There are no wise People, but what will be fond of often seeing Where-abouts they are in their Business. It was directed; Prov. XXVII. 23. Be thou diligent to know the state of thy Flocks, and look well to thy Herds; For Riches are not for ever. People should use much Diligence, frequent En­quiry, exact Inspection, into the State of their [Page 17]Affairs. For some Rich Men, have soon come to nothing by their Inadvertency. Dealers of the Best Fashion among us, have used constant­ly Once a Year, to Settle their Books of Accompts, and find their Account in doing so. And for want of it, there may be some of whom we may shortly say, as Paul to the Shipwreck'd Mariners; Ye should have hearkened unto me, and not have gain'd the Harm & Loss, which you are like to suffer by your Negligence.

But, if upon the Scrutiny, Men find, That they Over-trade their Stock; and if they find, That they run behind hand; Or, in a word, if they find, that their Expences do exceed their Revenues; They ought Seasonably, I say, Seaso­nably, to take all due Measures, and Early E­nough, put a Stop to the Torrent of Debt, which else like Waters at a Breach, is breaking in upon them.

Upon this Head, I have One Thing more to say; which I suppose all that would lead Lives in all Godliness & Honesty, will Justify. I will not now discuss the Question, How far, or how soon a Debtor is bound in Conscience to discover his Difficulties unto his Creditors? Yet it may be truly affirmed; That sometimes People fail and break, who are guilty of Great Iniquity, in that they did it not some Years before. They ought some Years before to have seen, how Mat­ters [Page 18]were going with them, and been much more Early in doing what should have been done, that their Creditors might not have been such heavy Sufferers. They have brought them­selves into ill Terms with Heaven, by such a Mismanagement as is to be charged upon them.

The Fifth MAXIM.

The Man that is got into Debt, ought to get out of it, as fast as be can, and as if it were for his Life.

Unto a Man that is fallen into the Toils of Debt, there is this Advice given; Prov. VI. 5. Deliver thy self as a Roe from the hand of the Hun­ter, and as a Bird from the hand of the Fowler. What is a Debt, but a Load: An honest Man should feel it as a Load, and groan under the Load; But not cry for, more Weight!—as the Miserables that are Pressing to Death use to do. He that is in Debt, should be in Pain, to get out of it. Especially, if the Time when the Payment becomes due, be arrived, it should be like the Pain of a Broken Bone unto him. For indeed, it is a very true Assertion; Minus Sol­vit qui minus tempore Solvit; A Man does not Pay the Sum, if he don't pay it in the Time that is agreed for. Debtor, Be thou so Solicitous in Complying with Time for every Payment; and be so Indefatigable in turning every Stone for the Satisfaction of thy Creditor, that he may have no manner of reason to Reproach thee, for [Page 19]any Carelessness, and Slothfulness, any Tendency to the least Appearance of Evil in thee. And here occurs one thing to be more particular­ly animadverted on. When a Poor Man has done any Work for a Rich Man, whom he has much dependance on, and he comes for his Dues; the Rich ought not now to answer him roughly, and put him off time after time, and make him Lose, I know not how much Time, in giving Attendance on him. Detained Wages will anon make a Cry that will reach the Hea­vens. 'Tis Enjoined, Prov. III. 28. Say not unto thy Neighbour, go and come again, and to mor­row I will give, when thou hast it by thee.

The Sixth MAXIM.

If a Man be so far brought into Debt, as to be­come Insolvent, there is a Behaviour agreable to [...] Holy Religion, both by God and Men to be expected from him.

Let our Debtors pay some Regard unto the Admonition of God our Saviour.

If it be thro' any Real Default of yours, that such a Debt be come upon you. 'tis most cer­tain, you ought with a deep Repentance, to a­base your selves before God, and the World. Your Acknowledgments unto your Creditors particularly, ought to have such a sensible, and Ingenuous, and self abusing Repentance in them, that their Hearts towards you may be [Page 20] mollified, by their seeing the Brokenness of yours. It is prescribed unto one in Debt; Prov. VI. 3. Do tois now, my son: when thou art come into the hand of thy Friend, Go humble thy self.

But if it be the meer Hand of God that has by Impoverishing Losses brought this Debt upon you, still there is very much Self-Abasement cal­led for. 'Tis a Rebuke of God upon you, that has thus Emptied you, and Enfeebled you; And a very Humbling Rebuke it is. Under it, you ought to be so Humble, so Modest, so Pensive, and so Submissive, that your Creditors as well as other Spectators, instead of Upbraiding you and Insulting you, shall but Sympathize with you in the Disasters that have befallen you. The Exhortation to such as are thrown into Debt, is that; 1 Pet. V. 6. Humble your selves under the mighty Hand of God, that he may Exalt you in due time.

In Fine, Let the Debt come which way it will, your Creditors must be fairly dealt withal. An Insolvency must not be complicated with any Under-hand Practices, any Fraudulent Practices, a­ny Unjust Concealments, that shall withold more than is meet, from the Injured Creditors. There was a Poor Widow, very much in Debt; But she was one who discovered a very Honest Mind that the Creditors might be satisfy'd. God strangely enabled her to satisfy them; Yea, [Page 21]but see how the Direction ran, 2 King. IV. 7. Go, and pay thy Debt, and live thou and thy Chil­dren of the rest. The First Thing to be look'd after was, Go and pay thy Debt; And, Rely up­on the Providence of God for the reft. There have been some Debtors, who have taken such Indirect Methods upon an Insolvency, that a per­petual Series of Disappointments has after­wards been Entail'd upon them; Nothing would ever after stick upon their Bread; The Doom from the Throne of God upon them, has been that; Jer. XXII. 30. Write you this Man, A Man that shall not prosper in his Days.

The Seventh MAXIM.

A Wholesome Antidote against the Mischiefs of Debt, it would be for a Man to Consider Seriously what he does, when he wrongs other Men by lying in Debt unto them.

CONSIDERATION: O thou Preservative of Mankind. A wake thou, Arise, Affect, and mightily go to Work, on the Occasion that is now before us.

First, A Debtor, (one that is, or would be so) will do well to Consider, how much he may be Condemned by that Royal Law; Let a Man do as be would be done unto. The Law that shines as a Star of the First Magnitude, in the Scrip­tures of our Saviour; Mat. VII. 12. All things whatsoever ye would, that men should do to you, do [Page 22]ye even so to them. A Law, which God has En­graven as with a Pen of Iron, and the Point of a Diamond, on the Hearts of the Children of Men. A Law, than which none more Confessed, and yet none more Transgressed among the Chil­dren of Men. Debtor, Think with thy self, Were I the Creditor, should I like to be dealt withal as I now deal with my Creditor?

I now make a Motion that is full of Equity; And if this Our Motion may more generally take, my Sermon will have a very Desirable & Comfortable Harvest, tho' all the rest of it should be but as the Rain falling upon a Rock. 'Tis this; When the Debtor puts off his Creditor from time to time, Let him think with him­self; Were I the Creditor, could I care or bear to be so deals withal? How many Shufflings, would such a Thought as this in the Power of it, put an end unto?

Again, A Debtor will do well to Consider, what is the Eighth Commandment; What is implied in it; What is Required in it; And how far the Eighth Commandment will bear him out. Cer­tainly, To keep a Man out of his Right, when 'tis possible to help him to it; I may use those Words upon it, Job XXXV. 2. Thinkest then this to be Right? The Eighth Commandment will never consent unto it.

This is the rather to be spoken, because [Page 23]very many of the Debts in the World, are per­fect Thefts, cursed Thefts. And the Flying Roll that is to Enter into the House of the Thief, will find the way to those that make nothing of them.

Once more; The Miscries which Debt is ac­companied withal; ought not these also to be Considered? Oh! Cotisider of it. Is it nothing, to be in such continual Perplexities, that One must conclude a Pillow to have Some uncom­mon Stuffing in it, that so Perplexed a Man should be able to Sleep upon it? Is it nothing, to be Despised of ones Neighbour, and be annihila­ted with a blasted Reputation? Is it nothing, to be exposed unto the Rage, of Provoked Cre­ditors, & feel many Effects of their Indignation? To be Dun'd with repeated Indignities; To be Vex'd with legal Prosecutions; At length to have that Story come in for the iffue of all; Marth. XVIII 28 The Creditor laid hands on him; & tool him by the Throat, saying, Pay me what thou owest. And he cast him into Prison, till he should pay the Debt. Oh! Miserable Case! It is mention'd as the Lamentable case of Davids Followers; 1 Sam. XXII. 2. Every one that was in Distress, and every one that was in Debt. Verily, Tis Distress enough to be in Debt; Enough to Pall & Spoil all the Delights of a Man that has any Ingennicy What? For him on every Turn to think, There we such and such Good Neighbours. that Suffer no [Page 24]little Damage from me! How much Regret in a Reflection on it!

For indeed, There is this in it, worse than all the rest. Oftentimes a Man in Debt, must have the Guilt of much Wrong lying upon him. This Guilt will bring a Cloud upon the Soul, be Chains of Darkness upon it, and much interrupt Communion with God. Yea, the Guilt will arm the Conscience with Scourges grievously to lash the Soul that shall be under it. In Anti­quity we find many Customes, of Severe Punish­ments inflicted by Creditors on their Debtors when in a course of Law, they had them delivered up unto them. A. Gellius among others makes a mention of them. What the Roman Laws of the XII Tables allow'd, for the Creditors to tear the Debtors Limb from Limb without a Metaphor, was hard enough. But for the Con­science of a Debtor to take him in hand, and with angry Strokes to tell him, You have wronged such & such Neighbours; they feel themselves the worse for you every day that comes over their heads; and what Restitution can you make unto them! Verily, This will be worse than any of the ancient Punishments, that Bankrupts had assigned for them. I say, Again & again, Consider of it!

And now, having built a Watch-Tower upon Seven MAXIMS, as upon so many Unshaken Pillars, from whence you have dispensed unto [Page 25]you those Warnings, which may prevent the Debts, wherein too many detain the Possessions of their Neighbours, without the Consent, & unto the Damage, of the Rightful Owners; I think, I have Purchased the Liberty to address the Cre­ditors a little in Favour of their Debtors, and En­treat that as much Favour as can be, may be shown unto them. Sir, It may be your Poor Debtors, come to you after that manner; Matth. XVIII 29 He fell down at his Feet, & besought him, saying, Have Patience with me, & I will pay thee all. Now, if these Debtors give you any Indications of an Honest Mind, I also Pray you, to have as much Patience with them as you can. I have not a word to say, against Compelling of People to be Honest. But if you see, they would fain be Honest, & Struggle & Wrestle for it, and have any Merit in them, then, I say, use them with all the Goodness & Mercy of a Brother; Let them find all Brotherly Kindness from you. You have them in Debt unto you, for so much Money; Bring them into a further Debt, for so much Kind Usage of them; Tho' on this head, Let them stand charged for nothing, but, Love to a Benefactor.

It pleases me very much to find this prescri­bed in a famous Lexicon Juridicum; ‘That before a Debtor be Sued, Adeundus est, et civiliter inter­pessandus, semel at (que) iterum, He should be civilly Addiessed once again, by the Creditor, & then [Page 26]by some of his Friends, and be Admonish'd of the Damage that he will bring upon himself, and especially the Wounds upon his Conscience, if he don't fairly pay what he owes. [Ac­cording to, Matth. XVIII. 15, 16.]’ Calvin the Lawyer, observes, That this way of Admo­nishing a Debtor, before the Arresting of him, Certum crit, quod ex jure Divino et Humano omnibus modis sit Observanda. And that there are Places, in which a Plantiff cannot have his Cause heard, if he can't prove that he has used the Urbanity, of these Preliminary Admonitions.

Doubtless you Observe, That the Precept, Owe no Man any thing, has a Twin-Brother born with it; But to Love one another. Of this Debt, the Debt of Love, which we must always Pay, and yet alwayes Owe, to one another, I cannot but make this Observation. This Debt well follow'd, would regulate the other wonderfully! If this MAXIM, To Love our Neighbours as our selves, were closely kept to, Things would be carried on between Creditors and their Debtors, with a most wondrous easiness.

Did Men Love one another, they would be loth to be Debtors, be slow to Owe, and swift to Pay; They would have a mighty Horror of Owing more than they can make Payment of; They would resolve, I will undergo any thing, rather than damnify my Neighbour, that lives peaceably & securely by me, & is ready to let me have, what I ask him for,

[Page 27] Did Men Love one anotber, they would not seck to make others become their Servants, which you know, Debtors are. And where they are so, they would not be Cruel in Exactions and Extor­tions upon them. No; They would sometimes Remit unto the extremely Necessitous, what they might have Exacted & Extorted from them.

I will particularly say, Tho' Usury be Lawful in a Country where Lands may be Mortgaged and forever Alienated; as they might not in the Land of Israel; yet there are some Hard Usa­ges in the Usury, between the Creditor and the Debtor among our selves, which the Law of Love will never justify.

And now, the Minds of People throughout the Country, are greatly engaged in Projections, how we shall become furnished with such a Me­dium of Trade, as may prevent an undue Growth of Debt among us, I will take the Opportunity to say; My Brethren, I be seech you, Let not this Debt be forgotten, To Love one another. There is a Variety of Apprehensions upon the matter. This Variety, begins to grow into too much A­crimony. But, My Brethren These Things ought not so to be. Your Ministers are too Wife, I hope, to offer you any of their Sentiments upon your Various Projections. And they do not count themselves Wise enough, to pronounce any Judgment upon that Spirit of Over-trading and Over-doing that some suppose very much to [Page 28]threaten us. Or Wise enough to propose what Retrenchments may be most Expedient for us. But we will all make you an ofter, of what our Bible has in it, relating to your Conduct. There we find it said; Jam. IV. 11 Speak not Evil One of another, Brethren. There we find it said; Eph. IV. 31. Let all Bitterness, & Wrath, & Anger, and Clamour, & Evil-speaking be put away from among you. Sirs, you have a Great Esteem for One another; and they are very worthy Men, who now thwart One another in their Apprehensions. But, Oh! Don't grow Strange to One another. If once your Spirits be at all Exasperated, the Malady against which we would all provide, will but come under an Exasperation. Animosities will make all good Projections Impracticable; our Case Deplorable & Incurable. Consider what I say, & the Lord give you understanding in all things.

But I shall go off in Debt, if I leave another Thing Unmentioned. I may not leave off, un­til I have done my Best, that every Soul in the Assembly may have a Portion to carry home. It may be some of the Hearers will count them­selves Unconcerned, [tho', I know not why they should] in what has been hitherto insisted on. But I am sure, I have now something to say, that every Soul in the Assembly has Infinite Cause to give Attention to. The Distinction of a, Debitor ex contractu; & a, Debitor ex delicto, is to be thought upon; A Debt of Contract, & a Debt of Trespass.

[Page 29] 'Tis a Thing that calls for the most awful, Consideration of Every Soul among us; That our Sins have brought us into Debt unto the Justice of the Infinte GOD. There is a Debt of Sufferings, which we owe to the Justice of the In­finite GOD. The Fenalty of the Divine Law, to which our Sins have made us obnoxious, must be Executed. The Honour of the Holy One, whom we have Denied & Blasphemed by our Sins, must be Vindicated. For the Pay­ment of this Debt, there are Sufferings to be en­dured, which are, Oh! how Exceedingly to be trembled at! Our Sins are called, our Debts, because they render us fearfully Indebted unto the Justice of God. Sinner, Thou hast a Debt lying upon thee, which were ponderous enough to break the Backs of all the Angels in Heaven. Ten Thousand Talents are but a small Denomina­tion, for the Debt which is oppressing of thee; the Debt, which may make thee cry out, Lord, I am oppressed, undertake for me! Ten Thousand Mountains were less than the light Dust of the Balance, compared unto it. Thousands of Rams, Ten Thousands of Rivers of Oyl; a Sacrificed Off-spring; a Sacrifice of Myriads of Angels; the whole World made a Sacrisice; all Creatures turn'd into a Burnt-Offering, would not make a full Payment of the Debt.

But, Oh! What an astonishing thing has been done for us on this tremendous Occasion! The Eternal [Page 30]Son of God has assumed our Nature; and therein He has become our Surety. On a Compact with His Glo­rious Father agreeing unto it, He has taken our Debt upon Him. He said, Lo, I come to answer the Debt. He has done so, in the Expiatory Sufferings, wherein He became Obedient unto Death, even unto the Death of the Cross: And He received an Acquittance, as having done it, at His Rosurrection from the Dead. Oh! wonderful! Oh! wonderful! Our Saviour now invites us, to come, & plead the Payment which He has made, that we may be Released from our Debt, and lay hold on Enternal Life. Oh! Let us now with a lively Faith, make that Prayer to our Saviour, Psal CXIX. 122. Be Surety for thy Servant for Good. Plead it with the Glo­rious GOD, Lord, my Saviour has answered the Demands of thy Law in my Room. Oh! Bring my Soul out of Prison, that I may praise thy Name, & Oh! deal bountifully with me.

But then, what a Debt of Love to Him, who has thus paid our Debt, shall we have lying for ever upon us! We must own that Debt for ever, and the Love of our Saviour, in thus Ransoming our Souls, it must Constrain us to love Him, & prize Him, & seek Him, & serve Him, and be swallowed up in all possible Endeavours to Glorify Him. O ye Ransomed of the Lord; what will you do now for Him, who has discharged a Debt for you; wherein if He had not appeared for you, you must have been cast into an horrible, and an infernal Prison, from whence you could not have come out un­til you had Paid the uttermost Farthing: — But that,— What Ages must it have called for? — What will you do, but most heartily declare unto him; Truly, O Lord, I am thy Servant, I am thy Servant, since thou hast loosed my Ponds; Oh! may I be entirely Thine forever more!

Let this be the Conclusion of the Matter.


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