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SERMON CLXX.

THE NATURE AND NECESSITY OF RESTITUTION.

And if I have taken any tiling from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold. And Jesus said unto him, This day is salvation come to this house.—Luke xix. 8, 9.

IN speaking to these words, I proposed to consider,

First, The nature of this duty of restitution.

Secondly, To shew the necessity of it.

Thirdly, To persuade men to the discharge of it.

In treating of the nature of restitution, I have considered,

I. The act.

II. The extent of it.

III. The manner how it is to be performed.

IV. The measure of it.

V. The persons who are to make restitution; and the persons to whom restitution is to be made. I now proceed to consider,

VI. The time when restitution is to be made. In these cases a man is not tied up to an instant, not just to the present time, unless the case be such that he can never do it, if he do not do it then. As, if a man lie upon his death-bed; that is a case that admits of no delay, a man should hasten restitution, as he would do the making of his will, and the disposal of his estate; lest, if he do not do it presently, he lose his opportunity of doing it for ever; but ordinarily, a man is not so strictly tied up to moments, and to the present time. It is sufficient that a man be for the present resolved to do it so soon 466as morally he can, so soon as he would do other actions of great moment and concernment. And to this purpose the text gives us an excellent pattern; Zaccheus the same day he repented took up this resolution, and to oblige himself effectually to put it in execution he publicly declares it, and before all the people offers to make restitution to all whom he had injured.

Therefore take heed of all unnecessary delays in these matters: for though God would accept of a firm and sincere resolution in this case, if a person thus resolved should, before he could bring his resolution to effect, happen to be cut off by death, or be otherwise rendered incapable of doing it; I say, though God would accept such a resolution as this, yet he will not interpret that to be a sincere resolution which a man is negligent to put in practice; for every neglect of putting our resolution in practice, is a degree of quitting and altering it; and he who did not do what he was resolved to do, when he had an opportunity and ability of doing it, is justly presumed to have let fall his resolution.

Therefore, let no man presume upon his good intention and resolution in this kind; for they are only acceptable to God so far as they are sincere and real; and they are only so far sincere and real, as the man that makes them is ready to put them in execution so soon as morally he can. And if thou carelessly and supinely trifle away thy opportunities in this kind, God may likewise deprive thee of an opportunity forever. For all the while thou wilfully neglectest to make restitution, thou art guilty of the injury; and there are hardly two sins that cry louder to God for a quick and speedy revenge, than injustice and oppression, deceit and fraud. God 467many times takes such causes into his more immediate cognizance: (1 Thess. iv. 6.) “Let no man deceive or go beyond his brother in any thing: for God is the avenger of such.” And David tells us, that God, in a peculiar manner, “abhors the blood thirsty and deceitful man;” and threatens that “he shall not live out half his days.” And God, by the prophet, (Mal. iii. 5.) tells us, that “he will be a swift witness against the oppressors.” And if God be so swift to take vengeance upon such persons, surely then they are concerned to be very quick and speedy in making satisfaction for their injuries and oppressions, lest Divine vengeance prevent them, and instead of making reparation to men, they be called upon to make satisfaction to the justice of God; and you know who hath said it, that “it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”

You, therefore, that have hitherto neglected this duty, delay it no longer; by all means discharge your consciences of this burden, before you come to lie upon a death-bed. Then the consciences of the worst of men begin to work, like a stomach oppressed and surcharged with meat; and then they are willing for their ease to vomit up those estates which they have devoured by fraud and injustice; then they begin to consider the difficulty of being saved, and to fear that it will be impossible for them ever “to enter in at the strait gate,” thus laden with the spoils of violence and deceit; even those that have the hardest and most seared consciences, will be touched with the sense of such great sins at such a time; but do not thou defer this work to that time, for these two reasons:

1. Because it cannot be so acceptable to God, to make restitution at such a time, as when thou art in 468health, and in hopes of longer life. To give a man his own, when thou canst enjoy it and use it no longer, this is next to detaining of it.

2. Because in all probability the restitution which is then made will not prove so effectual. What thou dost thyself, that thou art sure is done: but what thou leavest to be done by thy executors, and chargest upon them, thou art not sure will be done; ten to one but if they can find out any trick and evasion in law, either to delay or avoid the doing of it, it shall either never be done, or very slowly. This is the sixth thing, the time when restitution is to be made.

But before I leave this head, there is one case very proper to be considered, which relates to this circumstance of time, and that is concerning injuries of a very ancient date; that is, how far this duty of restitution is to look backward, and whether it doth not expire by tract of time? For answer to this, I shall lay down these propositions:

1. At what distance of time soever the law would in the case make reparation and give satisfaction, we are undoubtedly bound in conscience voluntarily to give it. I deliver this generally, because, though it be possible some civil laws may be in some cases unreasonable in this matter, yet they are our best rule and guide; and, speaking generally, and for the most part, they are as equitable as the reason of man could devise. Not that we are to tie ourselves strictly to the law, so as not to go farther, if reason and equity require; for, as Seneca says, Parum est ad legem bonum esse, “It is no great argument of goodness, to be just as good as the law requires.” Therefore I think it will very well become a good man, in many cases, rather to be better than the law, than to keep strictly to it.

469

2. In cases where the law hath not determined the time, we may do well to observe a proportion to what the law hath determined in other cases, which come nearest our own case.

3. When the injury is so old, that the right which the injured person had to reparation is reasonably presumed to be quitted and forsaken, then the obligation to satisfaction ceaseth and expires. The reason is plain, because every man may recede from his own right, and give it up to another: and where a man may reasonably be presumed to have parted with his right to another, the obligation to restitution ceaseth, and the right of claiming it. Now when a thing begins haberi pro derelicto, that is, when a right may reasonably be presumed to be quitted and forsaken, cannot in general be deter mined: but this must be estimated according to the importance of the right and thing in controversy, as whether it be more or less considerable; and according to the reason and determination of laws about things of this nature. To illustrate this rule by instances:—the Saxons, Danes, and Normans, did at several times invade and conquer this nation, and conquered it, we will suppose, unjustly, and consequently did hold and possess that which truly belonged to others, contrary to right; and several of the posterity of each of these do probably to this day hold what was then injuriously gotten; I say, in this case, the obligation to satisfaction and restitution is long since expired, and the original title which those who were dispossessed had, is reasonably presumed to be long since quitted and forsaken: and that for very wise reasons in law and government; because it would confound and unsettle all estates, if every thing, the original title whereof is 470nought, were to be restored; and it is but equal to presume, that all mankind are so reasonable as to quit their right in such cases, rather than to cause endless disturbances, and to have the guilt of in justice everlastingly perpetuated. And though it be a rule in civil law, that Vitiosum initio, tractu temporis non convalescit, “A title originally bad, can never by time be made just;” it is only true thus far, that time in itself doth not alter the nature of things; but, considering the necessities of the world, and the infinite difficulties of retrieving an ancient right, and the inconveniences and disturbances that would thereby redound to human society, it is better that an injury should be perpetuated, than that a great inconveniency should come by endeavouring to redress it; so that, although, considering a thing simply in itself, an injury is so far from being lessened or nulled by tract of time, that it is increased, and the longer it continues, the greater it is; yet, by accident, and in compliance with the necessity of things, length of time may give a right to that which was at first injuriously possessed. (Judg. xi. 26.) Thus Jephthah reasons with the king of Ammon, who had made war for recovery of an ancient right, as he supposed. And though the instances I have given of the unjust conquest of a nation be great and public; yet the same is to be determined proportionably in less and particular cases. And thus I have done with the sixth thing.

VII. And lastly, As to the order of restitution. When we have injured a great many, and are not able to make restitution to all at once, our best prudence and discretion must govern us herein. Be cause no certain rule can be given, which will reach all cases, I will only say this in general, that it is 471reasonable first to make reparation for the oldest and greatest injuries; and, cæteris paribus, if all other considerations be equal, to consider those first who are most necessitous, and if there be any other special reason and obligation arising from the nature of the injury, or the circumstances of the person injured, to have regard to them. I come now, in the

Second place, To confirm the truth of the proposition, that to make restitution and satisfaction to those whom we have injured, is a proper and necessary fruit of a true repentance. And this will appear if we consider these two things:

I. Our obligation to this duty.

II. The nature of repentance.

I. Our obligation to this duty. Upon the same account that we are obliged to repentance, we are obliged to restitution; and both these obligations arise from natural equity and justice. All sin is an injury done; and though repentance be not strictly satisfaction, yet it is the best we can make; and he is unjust, who, having done an injury, does not make the best reparation he can. But now there are some sins, in which, besides the injury that is done to God by them, upon the general account, as they are sins and violations of his laws, there is likewise a particular injury done to men; and such are all those, the effect whereof redounds to the prejudice of other men: such are fraud and oppression, and all other sins whereby others are injured. So that in these kind of sins, there are two things considerable, the irregularity and viciousness of the act, and the evil effects of it upon other men; the former respects the law, and calls for sorrow and repentance for our violation of it; the latter respects the person that is injured, and calls for satisfaction 472and restitution. So that our obligation to restitution is founded in the immutable and indispensable law of nature, which is—to do that to another which we would have another do to us. We would have no man be injurious to us, or if he hath been so, we would have him make satisfaction and reparation to us of the injury he hath done; and we take it grievously from him if he do not. Now nothing is more just and equitable, than that we should do that to others which we, in like case, would expect from them: for the very same obligation that lies upon others towards us, does lie upon us in regard to others.

II. This will yet further appear, if we consider the nature of repentance, which is to be sorry for what we have done, and not to do the like for the future. Now if thou be sorry for what thou hast done, thou wishest with all thy heart thou hadst not done it; and if thou dost so, thou wilt undo, as much as in thee lieth, what thou hast done. Now the best way to undo an injury, is to make reparation for it; and till we do this, we continue in the sin. For if it was a sin to do the injury at first, it is the same continued, not to make satisfaction; and we do not cease to commit the sin, so long as we detain that which is another’s right. Nothing but restitution can stop the progress of sin; for if it be a sin to take that which is another man’s from him by fraud and violence, it is the same continued and virtually repeated, to detain and keep it from him; and nothing more contrary to repentance, than to continue in the sin thou pretendest to repent of. For how art thou sorry for doing of it, if thou continuest to do it, if thou wilt go on to do it, and do, it again? How dost thou hate thy sin, if thou enjoy 473the benefit and reap the advantage of it? If thou dost this, it is an argument thou lovest thy sin still: for thou didst never love it for itself, but for the profit of it; and so long as thou retainest that, thou canst not be quit of the sin. Thou boldest fast thy sin so long as thou refusest to make satisfaction for it; and repentance without restitution differs as much from true repentance, as continuance in sin does from the forsaking of it. Si res aliena non redditur, non agitur pœnitentia, sed fingitur; so St. Augustine; “If we do not restore that which we have injuriously detained from another, our repentance is not real, but feigned and hypocritical,” and will not be effectual to the obtaining of our pardon. It is a very common, but a true and terrible saying, Non demittitur peccatum, nisi restituatur ablatum: “No remission without restitution.” If we will inherit the profit and advantage of sin, we cannot think it unreasonable or unjust that we should inherit the punishment of it.

When the Scripture speaks of repentance, it frequently mentions restitution as a proper fruit and effect of it, and as a necessary and indispensable condition of pardon and life. (Ezek. xxxiii. 14-16.) “Again, when I say unto the wicked, Thou shalt surely die: if he turn from his sin, and do that which is lawful and right; if the wicked restore the pledge, give again that he hath robbed,” &c. As if he had said, when I denounce death and destruction to the wicked, there is but this one way to escape it, and that is, by repentance; but then take notice what a repentance it is that will avail to this end; it is not a bewailing ourselves, and lamenting over our sins, but a forsaking of them, and returning to our duty; “If we turn from our sin, and do that which is lawful 474and right.” For instance, if he hath been guilty of injustice and oppression; if he leave his course, and deal justly and righteously with his neighbour, and not only so, but he also make restitution for the injury he hath done, and restore what he hath unjustly detained and taken away; “If he restore the pledge, and give again that he hath robbed,” and do no injustice for the future, but “walk in the statutes of life without committing iniquity;” upon these terms, and no other, “he shall live; he shall not die.” Yea, the very light of nature could suggest thus much to the people of Nineveh, that there was no hope, without this fruit of repentance, of appeasing God’s wrath. Therefore the king and the princes, after all the external solemnity of fasting and sackcloth, and crying mightily, they decree that “Every one should return from the evil of his ways, and from the violence that was in their hands;” ut rapina manus vacuefactat, et rapta restituat, sine quo non est vera pœnitentia; so Grotius upon the place, “That he empty his hands of the spoils of rapine and oppression;” that is, “that he make restitution, without which there can be no repentance:” and upon their doing this, it is said that God spared them, (Jonah iii. 10.) “And God saw their works, that they turned from their evil ways.” It is not said, that he saw their fasting and sackcloth, but he saw their works, thereat fruits and effects of their repentance; and upon this it was that “God repented of the evil he said he would do to them, and he did it not.” And elsewhere we find, that God speaks with great indignation of the most solemn repentance which is not accompanied with this fruit: (Isa. lviii. 3-6.) the people tell God how they had fasted and afflicted their soul, and made their voice to be 475heard on high: but God despiseth all this, because it was not accompanied with this fruit of repentance: “Is it such a fast as I have chosen?” &c. There is so much of natural justice and equity in restitution, and it is so proper a fruit of repentance, that, as Grotius observes, it is not only the doctrine of the Jews and Christians, but of heathens and Mahometans, that the repentance which does not produce this fruit, is feigned, and will never avail with God for pardon and mercy. Thus much for confirmation of this doctrine.

The third and last thing I proposed was, to persuade to the practice of this duty; and this may serve by way of application of the doctrine of restitution. The use we make of it is,

First, To persuade men to the practice of this difficult duty. I doubt not but the arguments I have used are sufficient to convince us of the equity and necessity of restitution; but what arguments shall I use to persuade to the practice and exercise of it? When we press men to their duty, though we have some advantages on our side, yet we have also great disadvantages. We have this advantage, that we have the reason and consciences of men on our side; but then we have this disadvantage, that we have to contend either with the lusts or interests of men, or both: now that these are usually more powerful, is evident in that the lusts and interests of men do so frequently bias and draw them to do things contrary to reason and conscience. When we persuade men to be just, and to make restitution to those whom they have injured, it is true we have not to contend with the lusts of men, with any corrupt and vicious inclination of nature. There are some sins that have their rise from men’s natural 476tempers, as passion and lust, and those sensual vices that abound in the world: but there is nothing in any man’s natural temper and disposition that inclines him to be unjust, no man’s complexion doth particularly dispose him to lie or steal, to defraud his neighbour, or detain his right from him; it is only the interests of men that prompt them to these things; and they are upon this account the more inexcusable, because no man is inclined to these sins from particular temper and constitution: so that an unjust man is in ordinary cases and circum stances a greater sinner, than a drunkard or a lustful man, because no man can pretend to be hurried away by the strong propension and inclination of his nature to cheat his brother; but al though, when we persuade men to be just, we have not the lusts of men to contend withal, yet we have another powerful adversary, and that is the interests of men, which is one of the chief “rulers and governors of this world;” so that when we press men to restitution, we touch them in their interest, which is a very touchy and tender thing; when we tell them that without restitution no man can repent and be saved, they think this to be a very hard saying, and they know not how to bear it.

But certainly it hath all the reason and equity in the world on its side. If it be so hard for them to restore that which is another man’s, is it not much harder for him whom thou hast injured, to lose that which is his own? make it thine own case; wouldest thou not think it much harder to have thy right detained from thee by another, than for another to part with that which is not his own?

But I am sensible how little it is that reason will sway with men against their interest; therefore the 477best argument that I can use, will be to satisfy men that, upon a true and just account, it is not so much their interest to retain what they have unjustly got, as to make restitution. And this I shall do, by shewing men that to make restitution is their true interest, both in respect of themselves and of their posterity.

I. In respect to themselves. It is better both in respect of our present condition in this world, and of our future state,

1. In respect of our present condition in this world, and that both in respect of our outward estate, and our inward peace and tranquillity.

(1.) In respect of our outward estate. If we have any belief of the providence of God, that his blessing can prosper an estate, and his curse consume it and make it moulder away, we cannot but judge it highly our interest to clear our estates of injustice by restitution; and by this means to free them from God’s curse. For if any of our estate be unjustly gotten, it is enough to draw down God’s curse upon all that we have; it is like a moth in our estate, which will insensibly consume it; it is like a secret poison, which will diffuse itself through the whole; like a little land in capite, which brings the whole estate into wardship.

Hear how God threatens to blast estates unjustly gotten, (Job xx. 12, &c.) concluding with these words, “This is the portion of a wicked man;” that is, of an unjust man. (Jer. xvii. 11.) “As a partridge sitteth on eggs, and hatcheth them not, so he that getteth riches and not by right, shall leave them in the midst of his days, and at his end shall be a fool.” Men many times live to see the folly of their injustice and oppression, and their estates wither away before 478their eyes: and by the just revenge of God, they are deprived of them in the midst of their days. So that the best way to fix an estate, and to secure it to ourselves, is by restitution to free it from God’s curse; and when we have done that, how much soever we may diminish our estate by it, we may look upon ourselves as having a better estate than we had; better, because we have God’s blessing with that which remains. If we believe the Bible, we cannot doubt of this. The Spirit of God tells us this from the observation of the wisest men. (Psal. xxxvii. 16.) “A little that a righteous man hath, is better than the riches of many wicked.” (Prov. xvi. 8.) “Better is a little with righteousness, than great revenues without right.”

(2.) In respect of inward peace and tranquillity, it is highly our interest to make restitution. No man can enjoy an estate, that does not enjoy himself; and nothing puts a man more out of the possession of himself, than an unquiet conscience; and there are no kind of sins lie heavier upon a man’s conscience, than those of injustice; because they are committed against the clearest natural light, and there is the least natural temptation to them. They have these two great aggravations, that they are sins most against knowledge, and have most of will in them. There needs no revelation to convince men of sins of injustice and oppression; every man hath those principles born with him, which will sufficiently acquaint him that he ought not to be injurious to another. There is nothing that relates to our duty, that a man can know with greater certainty than this, that injustice is a sin. And as it is a sin most against knowledge, so it hath most of will in it. are hurried away to other sins by the strong 479and violent propensions of their nature: but no man is inclined, by his temper and constitution, to fraud and oppression: and the less there is of nature in any sin, there is the less of necessity, and consequently it is the more voluntary. Now the greater the aggravations of any sin are, the greater is the guilt; and the greater the guilt is, the more unquiet our consciences will be: so that, if thou have any regard to the interest of thine own peace, if that be considerable to thee, which to wise men is the most valuable thing in the world, do not for a little wealth continue in those sins, which will create perpetual disturbance to thee, and embitter all the pleasures of thy life. Hear how Job describes the condition of the wicked oppressors in the place before cited: (Job xx. 12, &c.) “He shall not rejoice in them, because he hath oppressed; because he hath violently taken away a house which he builded not, surely he shall not feel quietness in his belly:” that is, he shall have no inward peace and contentment in the midst of all his outward enjoyments: but his ill-gotten estate will work in his conscience, and gripe him, as if a man had taken down poison into his belly.

2. But chiefly, in respect of our future estate in another world, it is every man’s interest to make restitution. Without repentance we are ruined for ever, and without restitution no repentance. “No unrighteous man hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ.” If thou continue in thy fraud and oppression, and carry these sins with thee into another world, they will hang as a millstone about thy neck, and sink thee into eternal ruin. He that wrongeth his brother hateth him, and “he that hateth his brother is a murderer, and ye know that 480no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him.” (1 John in. 15; Rom. i. 18.) “The wrath of God is revealed from heaven, against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men.” So that if it be men’s interest to escape the wrath of God, it concerns us to make reparation for those injuries which will expose us to it. That is a dreadful text, (James v. 1-4.) “Go to now ye rich men, weep and howl for your miseries that shall come upon you. Your riches are corrupted, and your garments moth-eaten: your gold and silver is cankered, and the rust of them shall be a witness against you, and shall eat your flesh as it were fire: ye have heaped treasure together for the last days. Behold! the hire of the labourers which have reaped down your fields, which is of you kept back by fraud, crieth; and the cries of them which have reaped are entered into the ears of the Lord of sabaoth.” Do not by “detaining the treasures of wickedness, treasure up to yourselves wrath against the day of wrath:” do not make yourselves miserable for ever, that you may be rich for a little while: do not for a little silver and gold forfeit the eternal inheritance, which was “not purchased with corruptible things, but with the precious blood of the Son of God:” and if this consideration, which is the weightiest in the world, will not prevail with men, I can only say with the angel, (Rev. xxii. 11.) “He that is unjust, let him be unjust still;” let him continue in his injustice at his peril, and remember what is added at the 12th verse, “Behold! I come quickly, and my reward is with me, to give to every man according as his work shall be.”

II. In respect of our children and posterity, it is greatly our interest to make restitution. God many 481times suffers an estate got by oppression to prosper for a little while: but there is a curse attends it, which descends upon the estate like an incumbrance; and parents many times, when they think they entail an estate, entail poverty upon their children. Job (xx. 10.) speaking of the children of the oppressor, he saith, “His children shall seek to please the poor, and his hands shall restore their goods.” And, (Job xxi. 19.) “God layeth up his iniquity for his children.” Thou layest up riches for thy children; and God lays up thine iniquity and injustice for them, the curse that belongs to them. (Hab. ii. 9-11.) “Woe to him that covereth an evil covetousness, or gaineth an evil gain to his house,” &c. Thou thoughtest to raise thy family by those ways, but “thou hast consulted shame to thy house.” No such effectual way to ruin thy family, as injustice and oppression. As then you would not transmit a curse to your children, and devolve misery upon your family, free your estates from the burden and weight of what is other men’s, lest, by God’s just judgment and secret providence, that little which you injuriously detain from others, carry away your whole estate to them and their family. God’s providence many times makes abundant restitution, when we will not.

Having now endeavoured to satisfy men, that it is their truest interest to make restitution for the injuries they have done to others, it remains only that I should answer an objection or two, which men are apt to make against this duty.

First, Men say they are ashamed to do it. Answer It is not matter of shame, but of praise and commendation. But it may be thou wilt say, It is matter of shame to have injured another; and this 482is the way to lay open thy shame. Indeed, if the injury were public, the restitution ought to be so too, as the only way to take off the shame of the injury. For thy restitution doth not in this case publish thy shame, but thy honesty: but if the injury was private, thou mayest preserve thy own credit, by concealing thyself; and provided thou do the thing effectually, thou mayest be as prudent, as to the manner of doing it, as thou pleasest.

Secondly, Another objection is, the prejudice it will be to men’s estates. But this I have answered already, by shewing that it is more their interest to make restitution, than to continue in the sin. I shall only add, that, as our Saviour reasons in another case, “It is profitable for thee, that one of thy members should perish, rather than that thy whole body should be cast into hell.” It is true likewise here, it is profitable for thee, that thou shouldest go a beggar to heaven, rather than that thou shouldest go to hell, laden with the spoils and guilt of rapine and injustice.

Thirdly, The last objection that I shall mention is, disability to make restitution. This, indeed, is something; where nothing is to be had, every man must lose his right: but then remember, that there must be a hearty repentance for the sin; and thy sorrow must be so much greater, by how much thy ability to make restitution is less; and there must be a willing mind, a firm purpose and resolution of doing it, when God shall enable thee, and diligent endeavours to that purpose. Under the law those who were not able to make restitution, were sold for six years, if their service did not make reparation in less time. It is true, indeed, the moderation of the gospel doth not suffer Christians to deal so hardly 483with one another: but if the gospel remit of this rigour, and do not allow Christians to challenge it, we should voluntarily do in effect that which they were forced to; that is, we should use our best endeavours and diligence to put ourselves into a condition of making satisfaction; and we should not look upon any thing beyond the necessary conveniences of life as our own, till we have done it; unless the party injured will recede from his right, in whole or in part. For though the impossibility of the thing do discharge us for the present, yet the obligation still lies upon us to do it, so soon as we are able.

And here it will be proper to consider the case of those who have compounded with their creditors for a small part, whether they be in conscience and equity released from the whole debt. I am loath to lay unnecessary burdens upon men’s consciences, therefore I am very tender in resolving such cases: but I ought to have a more tender care of the souls of men, than of their estates: therefore to deal plainly, and to discharge my conscience in this mat ter, I think such persons do, notwithstanding the composition, stand obliged in equity and conscience for the whole debt, and are bound to discharge it so soon as they can with tolerable convenience. My reason is, because, though they be discharged in law, yet the law does not intend to take off the obligation of conscience or equity, which they are under, but leaves that as it found it. Thus the case stands; men who are in a way of trade, are engaged, by the necessities of their calling, to venture a great part of their estate in other men’s hands, and by this means become liable many times to be undone with out their own fault; therefore it is usual, when any 484man in a way of trade becomes disabled, for the creditors to make such a composition with him as his estate will bear; and upon this composition to give him a full discharge, so as that they cannot afterwards, by law, require of him the remainder of their debt. Now, though this be a favour to the debtor, yet it is principally intended for the benefit of the creditor; because it being his act, it is to be presumed, that he intended it, as much as may be, for his own advantage; and so it is, for the creditor has as much satisfaction at present as can be had, and the debtor is hereby left in a capacity of recovering himself again by his industry and diligence, which could not be, if he were not fully discharged; for if he were still liable for the rest he would continually be obnoxious to imprisonment, which would render him incapable of following his calling; or if he were at liberty, he could have no credit to enable him to do any thing in his calling; for who would trust a man with any thing, who is liable every moment to have it taken from him? so that the reason of this plenary discharge is this, that men, who are otherwise hopeful, and in a fair probability of recovering themselves, may not be rendered incapable of getting an estate after wards, whereby they may support themselves, and discharge their debts. Now this discharge being given in order to these ends, it cannot be imagined that it should be intended to defeat them; but it is in all reason to be supposed, that the creditors did not intend to take off the obligation of equity and conscience, only to put the man into a condition of doing something towards the enabling him to discharge his debt. So that unless it were expressed at the composition, that the creditor would never 485expect more from him, upon account of equity and conscience, but did freely forgive him the rest, the contrary whereof is usually done; I say, unless it were thus expressed, there is no reason why the creditor’s favour in making a composition should be abused to his prejudice; and why a legal discharge given him on purpose for this reason among others, to put him into a capacity of recovering himself, and giving full satisfaction, should be so interpreted, as to extinguish the equitable right of the creditor to the remainder of his debt.

The second use of this doctrine of restitution should be by way of prevention, that men would take heed of being injurious, and so take away the occasion of restitution, and free themselves from the temptation of not performing so difficult and so unwelcome a duty. It is much easier of the two, not to cozen or oppress thy neighbour, than, after thou hast done it, it will be to bring thyself to make restitution; therefore we should be very careful not to be injurious to any one in any kind; neither immediately by ourselves, nor by aiding and assisting others, by our power and interest, or skill in the law, or by any other way, to do injustice.

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