14. It is naught, it is naught, saith the buyer: but when he is gone his way, then he boasteth.
The Bible gives abundant proof that man has always been the same in every generation since the fall. Where is the market in which the counterpart to this disclosure of fraud and selfishness centuries ago is not found? Commerce, the LORD’s providential dispensation to bind man to man, is marred by his depravity. The wise man had before detected the iniquity of the seller. (Verse 10. Compare Ecclesiasticus 27:2.) Here he lays bare the buyer, and, to bring it home more closely, he gives even the market-language — It is naught — it is naught — ‘The article is of an inferior quality. I can get it cheaper elsewhere. If it is worth so much, yet not to me; I have no present want of it, no particular care about it.’ And when by these convenient falsehoods he has struck a shrewd bargain, he is gone his way; he boasteth, laughing at the simplicity of the seller, and is probably highly commended for his cleverness. (James 4:16.)
The same principle of fraud applies to the seller. If the one says — It is naught — it is naught — the other no less eagerly cries — ‘It is good — it is good’ — ‘when neither of both speaketh, either as he thinketh, or as the truth of the thing is.’† The one is bent on buying cheap; the other on selling dear. The one decries unjustly; the other praises untruly. He asks one price, when he means to take another, and takes advantage of the confidence of his customer to impose on him a worthless article.† In fact, ‘no man’s experience would serve him to comprehend, no man’s breath to declare, the infinite variety of those more secret and subtle falsehoods that are daily invented and exercised everywhere under the sun.’†
All of us are engaged in pecuniary transactions. With many it is the main business of life. Yet such are the temptations from our own interest or self-defense, the selfishness of others, and the general example of the world, to deviate from the straight line; that we should be most thankful for this probing analysis of deceit. The man of God stands on the frontier of the line of demarcation, and warns against a single step of encroachment. Passing over the line is bidding defiance to the Great King. The gain may be trifling, but the sin is vast. Enough of guilt was included within the dimensions of a single apple, to ‘bring death into the world and all its woe’ to successive generations. And here the law of God is deliberately broken;† conscience is violated; deceit is practiced; “evil is called good, and good evil” (Isaiah 5:20); our duty to our neighbor transgressed; and all this — perhaps without a moment of remorse — only to feed man’s covetousness.
But do Christian professors always prove themselves clear in this matter? Yet how can we be Christians really, if not relatively and universally; if not in the week, as well as on the Sabbath; if not in our dealings with men, as well as our communion with God? What is our title to the name of disciples of Christ, unless we yield to his authority, and in heart, hand, and tongue, are governed by his laws? Let us each ask — Have we trembled before the solemn warnings of the great Lawgiver?† Are we ready to be tried by his rules of guileless simplicity (Matthew 5:37), and reciprocal justice? (Matthew 7:12.) Have we always acted as under the eye of God? Are there no money transactions that we should be ashamed to have “proclaimed upon the house-tops”? Are we prepared to go to the bar of a heart-searching God, with “a conscience void of offense both towards God and towards man”? (Acts 24:16) — Let us never forget the gospel, as the only principle expulsive of selfishness, in its active exercise of grateful devoted love, and in its indefatigable spirit of “doing all to the glory of God.”