The following text is from an 1840 book, entitled “Skeletons of a Course of Theological Lectures,” Pages 196-197, and follows my own personal commentary.
In the two pages which I have copied below, the topic of the Eighth commandment is discussed in a manner which most churches don’t discuss in modern times. (This article explains why certain concepts–such as the Biblical teachings of liberty–are not taught in churches today.)
Our founding fathers firmly believed in the concept of self-ownership. This also translates to the concept that an individual is a sovereign unto himself. One’s own body is one’s own personal property–in fact, it is the first property, and the most precious property, which one will ever own.
When one fully owns property–even his/her own body–the exclusive rights to his property are his own, and nobody else’s. Although not all actions one takes may be moral before God, the fact is, as long as one does not violate the rights of another human being, one has the right to make all decisions regarding his/her own body. This is simply the freedom to choose, and the government should not be in the business of legislating personal morality.
Full ownership of one’s self means that one also owns all which the body produces. Nobody has the right or lawful power, if a man owns his very self, to demand a percentage of the fruits of his labor. Not his neighbor–not the mafia–and not even the govenment. The founding fathers never intended for a man’s labor to be taxed. Although Congress has been given the power to lay and collect taxes, there are many other way to do so, without demanding a portion of a man’s labor.
Likewise, regardless of how you feel about the issue, an adult individual who owns his/her own body, has the right to consume or use all types of food or drugs as he sees fits. Although recreational drug use may not be pleasing to God, the fact is that God has given us the freedom to decide for ourselves by placing us on the same planet where natural drugs are present. Those who believe that God doesn’t make mistakes, must realize that natural drugs were put on this planet for a reason–whether for the use of mankind or animal-kind–whether to be used as medicine, or for some other use.
As is explained below, a government which legislates how one governs one’s own person–and most certainly, demands a “cut” of a man’s labor–is a government of theives. This also applies to individuals who interfere with how one governs one’s own person, but this is a concept which we don’t seem to have a problem understanding. It is only when government is the culprit, that we turn a blind eye and permit the crime to continue.
“Skeletons of a Course of Theological Lectures”
MORAL GOVERNMENT – Eighth Commandment – Ex. 20:15 – “Thou shalt not steal.”
I. What is implied in this command?
1. That the persons of human beings are their own, or that every human being has a property in himself, and that he is, so far as his fellow-men are concerned, his own proprietor. This law plainly implies this; for if men do not own themselves, they certainly own nothing else, and of course nothing could be stolen from them.
2. It implies the right of property–that human beings can, with respect to their fellow-men, have a lawful right to their possessions.
3. It implies that self-ownership, and the right of property, are agreeable to the law of nature and of God.
4. It implies that these rights are based in the very nature and relations of human beings, and that while this nature and these relations exist, these rights can never be cancelled, or set aside, except by such infamous crimes as forfeit life and liberty.
II. What the true spirit of this command prohibits.
1. All appropriations of the property of another to ourselves, without his knowledge or consent.
2. It prohibits every kind and degree of fraud.
3. It prohibits taking any advantage in business, that is inconsistent with the rule, “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.”
4. It prohibits the infliction of any injury upon the person, morals, education, reputation, family, or property of a human being, whereby he has less of good than he would have possessed but for your interference.
5. It prohibits every sinful omission, that naturally tends to the same result.
6. It prohibits every disposition to defraud, overreach, circumvent, or in any way inflict an injury on a human being.
III. Reasons for this commandment.
1. Self-ownership is implied in moral agency.
2. It is indispensable to accountability.
3. Hence self-ownership is indispensable to virtue.
4. It is also indispensable to that happiness which is the result of virtue.
5. The right of property is founded upon, and is necessarily connected with self-ownership.
6. Both these are indispensable to the highest well-being of individuals, and of the race.
7. Hence, the command “Thou shalt not steal,” is only declaratory of the one great, universal law of benevolence.
IV. When the spirit of this law is violated.
1. Slavery is a flagrant and infamous violation of it.
2. Taking whatever belongs to another, for temorary use only, but without leave. Many think that nothing is stealing but the taking of property without leave, without any design of returning it; but taking the temporary use of a thing, without leave, is as absolute stealing, as to take the thing without the design of returning it. In the one case the thing itself is stolen, and in the other the use of it is stolen.
3. Every selfish use of your neighbor’s property, although with his permission, such as living by borrowing and using your neighbor’s things, when you are as able to provide them for yourself as he is to provide them for himself and for you too.
4. Using a borrowed article for a different purpose than that for which the consent was given.
5. Lending that which is not your own, and which you have no right to lend, is also a violation of the spirit of this commandment.
6. All careless, injurious, or improper use of a borrowed article.
7. All neglect to return a borrowed article in due time, whereby the owner’s interest is made to suffer.
8. All keeping back the wages due to laborers.
9. All refusal or neglect to pay honest debts.
10. All refusal to bear your full proportion in building churches, supporting ministers, and sustaining all the institutions of religion. To receive these things gratuitously, is to make slaves of your neighbors, to receive their services for nought, and involves every principle of theft.
11. Every wrong done or intended to a neighbor, is a violation of his rights, and a violation of the spirit of this commandment.
12. Every thing that is properly a speculation in business transactions; that is–where full equivalents are not given and received.