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[A Treatise on Those Special Laws Which Are Contained Under and Have Reference to the Eighth and Ninth, and Tenth Commandments.]

I. (1) I have in my previous treatises spoken of the laws relating to adultery and murder, and to all the subordinate offences which come under those head, with, as I persuade myself, all the accuracy which the case admits of, and now, proceeding in the regular order, I must consider what is the third commandment in the second table, but the eighth in all, if the two tables are taken together, namely, the commandment, “Thou shalt not Steal.”{1}{#ex 20:13.} (2) Whoever carries off or leads away the property of another when he has no right to do so, if he does it openly and by main force, shall be set down as a common enemy, and shall be prosecuted as having with lawless wickedness contrived a shameless act of audacity. But if he has done it secretly, endeavouring to escape notice like a thief, exhibiting some modesty, and making the darkness the veil of his iniquity, let him then be punished privately as only liable to condemnation in respect of the one individual whom he endeavoured to injure; and let him restore double the value of the thing stolen, making amends by his own most righteous suffering for the unrighteous advantage he has endeavoured to gain. (3) But if he is a poor man, and consequently unable to pay the penalty, let him be sold (for it is fitting that that man should be deprived of his freedom who for the sake of his most iniquitous gain has endured to become a slave to guilt), that he who has been ill-treated may not be allowed to depart without consolation, as if he appeared to have his claims disregarded by reason of the poverty of the man who has robbed him. (4) And let no one accuse this ordinance of inhumanity; for the man who is sold is not left as a slave for ever and ever, but within the space of seven years he is released by a common proclamation as I have shown in my treatise on the number seven. (5) And let him be content to pay the double penalty, or even to be sold, since he has committed no slight offence; sinning in the first place in that, not being content with what he had, he has desired more, encouraging a feeling of covetousness, a treacherous and incurable wickedness. Secondly, because he has cast his eyes on the property of others and longed for it, and has laid plots to deprive his neighbour of his own, depriving the owner of what belongs to him. Thirdly, because through his desire to escape detection, he very often keeps to himself all the advantage that can be derived from the thing he appropriates, and diverts the accusation so as to cause it to fall upon the innocent, thus making the investigation of the truth blind. (6) And such a man appears in some degree to be himself his own accuser, being convicted by his own conscience of the theft of those things which he has secretly stolen, being filled either with shame or fear, one of which feelings is a proof of his considering his action a disgraceful one, for it is only disgraceful actions which cause shame, and the other is a sign of his thinking it deserving of punishment, for punishment causes fear.