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HONESTY IN BUSINESS.
A FALSE balance is abomina- | the Lord's: all the weights of tion to the Lord: but a just the bag are his work. weight is his delight.
Divers weights are an abomination unto the Lord; and a false balance is not good.
It is naught, it is naught, saith the buyer but when he is gone his way, then he boasteth.
Withhold not good from them to whom it is due, when it is in the power of thine hand to do it.
A just weight and balance are
FROM the very constitution of human society there must be producers and consumers, sellers and buyers; and it is in this way that the various grades of the community are interlinked and become mutually dependent on each other. The intercourse thus established must be based on fixed laws, the infringement of which will necessarily endanger its continuance. All business transactions should be conducted on the principles of truth and honesty. It is alike the law of the land and the law of God. The desire of gain often interferes to violate this law, bringing in its train innumerable evils. When strict principle is laid aside, ingenuity devises innumerable schemes of fraud; and fair and honest dealing is interrupted by overreaching on the one hand, and distrust on the other.
Even setting aside those who, regardless of character, will defraud on every favourable occasion; there is a large class of the business community who act more cautiously, although not less dishonestly. Besides the false weights and measures, to which only the more unprincipled resort, there are tricks in trade, which although sanctioned by custom, are equally crimi
nal, because leading to the same results. He is a dishonest man, who, in driving a bargain, will impose on the ignorance, simplicity, and credulity of a customer, in palming on him worthless commodities, in exacting from him exorbitant profits, in making him a sufferer, by first making him a dupe. He is dishonest who praises his goods beyond their well known value, and who secures their sale by affecting that he is selling at an actual loss. He is equally dishonest who, in purchasing, will depreciate the commodity he wants, the true value of which he knows. Every artifice in trade which, by innuendo or positive assertion, sacrifices the truth, is dishonest. Yet these expedients are so common as to create general distrust where there should be mutual confidence; and it is only by superior dexterity, that they are made to answer their purpose. It is a sad state of things when the confiding are laughed at for their simplicity, and overreached because they are not adepts in the tricks of trade. To say that these arts have become necessary is to justify an evil on the ground of its prevalence. For all the purposes of general trade, they are useless; for while they may impose on some, their very existence puts most men on their guard, and thus they defeat themselves.
Not to dwell on the enormity of the sin of dishonesty, how much better, in all points of view, would it be, if men of business would speak truly, and act fairly! In the long run, honesty is the best policy; and many a bitter self-accusation, and many a pang of remorse would be saved, if its dictates were strictly obeyed. Let all remember that the curse of God rests on dishonest gains; they are often blasted in this world, and bring an everlasting blight on the
soul. How can a man be profited in gaining the world at such an expense!
In all my transactions with men, may I do to others as I would wish others to do to me; and may it be my determination to possess little, with a pure conscience, rather than much by fraudulent arts. If tempted to dishonesty, may I remember the great day of account, when every minute concern of life will pass in review before the Judge of the world; and may I spurn the action, which however it might enrich, would degrade and demoralize.
HE that is surety for a stranger shall smart for it: and he that hateth suretyship is sure.
A man void of understanding striketh hands, and becometh
surety in the presence of his friend.
Be not thou one of them that strike hands, or of them that are sureties for debts.
A SURETY is one who becomes responsible, by bond or promise, for the debts of another, putting himself, in the eye of the law, in the place of the principal, in case of his failure to meet his obligations. We are not to suppose that Solomon meant utterly to condemn the principle of suretyship, because in some cases, it may be entered into with entire safety to ourselves and with great advantage to our neighbour; but his maxims are directed against rash and inconsiderate engagements of this nature. Before an individual becomes surety for another, he should reflect that he thus becomes responsible for the consequences, not only of the misfortune, but the neglect, extravagance and dishonesty of his principal; for in either of these cases the principal may fail and the bondsman become liable. Prudence dictates, that before such an engagement is made, the ability and general good character of the individual to be served should be well considered. From want of this forecast many have not only exposed themselves to bankruptcy, but inflicted serious injuries on their families, by exposing them to the privations of poverty.
It is a good rule seldom to ask such favours of others, and to reciprocate them in like proportion; and
it is a rule which justice and honesty demand, that suretyship should never cover a larger amount than can be jeoparded without injury to our families and creditors. If we go beyond this we act rashly and unwisely, and consequent suffering is the result of our folly. Trade can be more safely conducted on the basis of real than supposititious capital, and if our gains be less, they are at least more sure. It is the desire for rapid acquisitions that has rendered suretyship so common, in which the ruin of one involves the interests of many. In the case of a poor neighbour, a gift or loan, according to our ability, is better than a bond.
While I am reminded that I may not rashly endanger the property, which the providence of God has bestowed on me for the support of those dependent on me, I should not suffer a too rigid prudence to steel my heart against the misfortunes of others. There is a use as well as an abuse of the principle. Paul's suretyship for Onesimus may be to me an example of the use, and the too common practice of the world affords examples of the abuse.
I would desire to be reminded too by this subject, of Him who became my great surety in a much higher sense. As a spiritual bankrupt, I was exposed to eternal imprisonment, from which there was no release, until I had paid the uttermost farthing; but Christ took my place, assumed my obligations, paid my debt, and thus delivered me from the disastrous consequences of my failure to meet my engagements. Blessed be his name for this act of disinterested favour, by which the claims of God's righteous law were fully satisfied, while I was restored to my forfeited honours and possessions.