•  5 min. read  •  grade level: 6
1. "W. Β." A man who puts pasteboard into shoes and sells them for leather is unworthy of the name of Christian; indeed he is not even an honest man. We may be told, "It is the custom of the trade." Well, how does this alter the matter for one who desires to walk in the fear of God, and to keep a good conscience? It may be the custom of the trade to put shoddy into cloth, to put sand into sugar, to put water in the milk. But can a Christian, or even an honest man do such things? Most assuredly not. The conscience of a Christian must be regulated, not by the custom of the trade, but by the word of God. If this be lost sight of, there is an end to all practical Christianity in commercial life. A christian manufacturer could no more think of putting pasteboard into shoes and selling them as all leather, than he could think of picking a man's pocket. If indeed it be the custom to put pasteboard into shoes—if everybody does it, and everybody knows it, then, of course, there is no deception in the matter. But if I sell a pair of shoes as all leather, when I know they are made of leather and pasteboard, then am I a liar and a thief. I am morally worse than a highway robber, inasmuch as he openly avows what he is, what he does, and what he wants. A man who adulterates his goods is guilty of the very meanest dishonesty.
But then, supposing a person is not a manufacturer, but a salesman in a warehouse or shop—what is he to do? He does not adulterate, he merely sells. Is he dishonest, is he untrue in selling adulterated goods? Unquestionably, if he sells them for genuine. How could a true Christian—how could a really honest man declare an article to be genuine, when he knows it is not? We shall perhaps be told that this is mere scrupulosity. Be it so; we heartily wish there were more of it in commercial life. To us it seems to be only common honesty.
But it will not do in the world. Doubtless; but what does this prove? Simply that the world is untrue and dishonest. If truth and uprightness cannot get on in the world, then what must the world be?
Still, the Christian must be honest. His object is not to get on in the world or to make money, but to glorify God in his daily life. Can he glorify God by adulterating goods, and telling lies?
We feel the immense importance, dear friend, of the subject which you have brought before us. We believe it demands the serious attention of all Christians engaged in manufacture and commerce. There is immense danger of being drawn away from the path of christian integrity, and falling into the wretched spirit of covetousness and competition so rife on all hands. We have to bear in mind that Christianity is a living reality; it is divine life coming out in all the practical details of our daily history; it is not confined to the benches of a meeting room; it has more ways of showing and expressing itself than by preaching, praying, and singing—precious, most precious as all these are in their place. It must come out in the manufactory, in the warehouse, in the shop, in the counting-house, in the daily occupation, whatever that may be. How terrible to think of a man singing and praying on the Lord's day, and, on Monday morning adulterating his bread and selling it as genuine! Oh! let us be honest, come what may. Let us walk in the fear of God. Let us, like the blessed apostle, "exercise ourselves to have always a conscience void of offense, toward God and man."
True, it may cost us something. We may have to suffer for righteousness' sake. But what is all this when compared with the deep joy of walking with God in that narrow path on which the blessed beams of His approving countenance ever shine? Is not a good conscience better far than thousands of gold and silver? Our God will take care of us. He will meet all our real need, according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus. Why should we ever betake ourselves to the contemptible " tricks of trade" in order to make money or make a living, when our Father has pledged Himself to care for us all the journey through?
2. "Mary," Middlesex. We render hearty thanks to God for His exceeding goodness in enabling you to enter on the path of simple obedience to His holy word. May He graciously strengthen and sustain you! May He fill you with the joy of His own blessed presence! You may find the path rough and lonely; but oh! the light of His countenance will more than make up for all that. Go on, dear friend, steadily on. Cleave to the Lord with purpose of heart. It is but a little while of toil, trial, and suffering here, and then the eternal rest of our Father's home above, in unbroken fellowship with the One who loveth us and hath washed us from our sins in His own blood. To Him we do most earnestly commend you, dear friend, in spirit, soul and body. May He deliver you from every evil work, and preserve you unto His heavenly kingdom!
8. " C. A. C," Valparaiso. We are deeply interested in your letter. May you all be greatly helped and strengthened in the way of truth! We trust the Lord may soon open the way for you to have His table spread in your midst, so that you may taste the sweet privilege of remembering Him in His death—the sweetest privilege of the church of God on earth. Wait on Him about it—wait together—wait patiently. Do not run before Him. See His hand opening the way ere you move one step. Be much in prayer, and in the study of His word. Read Psalm 133 and Philippians 2. May you realize and illustrate those precious scriptures!