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I. Of deceit in trust. II. Of fraud in trade, and of the rules
in traffic and bargaining ; to use plainness, no extortion nor oppression, no unjust weights and measures, nor bad money; and of the advantage of fair dealing. III. Of evilgotten goods, disquiet of conscience, and the necessity of restitution. IV. Of our neighbour's credit or good name; including false reports, speaking evil of the dead censoriousness, false witness, public slander, whispering, despising and scoffing at infirmities, calamities, and sins : of talebearing ; and reasons against these vices. V. Of positive justice; which requires truth, and condemns flattery, lying, equivocation, envy, and detraction. Vi. Of respect due to men of extraordinary gifts, rank, quality, wealth, and to the poor.
VII. Of gratitude to benefactors. I. NEXT to stealing, follows the sin and injustice of DECEIT; which I shall describe under the heads of trust and traffic.
Breach of trust includes defrauding and promise-breaking, and is a great sin; for he, who trusts another, doth thereby unite him with a particular bond of society to himself, upon a promise to be served so far as he trusts him. So, if I accept the trust to be an arbitrator in a cause, or an executor of a will, or a guardian to children, a factor or assignee, or a keeper of any pledge, I am admitted as a partner and a representative in such matters, and my fidelity stands engaged for my bebaviour in those several trusts. Wherefore, if by my neglect I suffer any of his trusts to miscarry, I am dishonest and injurious to him; because I undertook to do for him all that I can suppose he would have done for himself, had he been master of my
skill and capacity. So that, if for a bribe I betray the trust he committed to me, or convert it to my own advantage, I rob him more infamously, than if I demanded his purse by open violence; because I then make use of that trust to betray his interest, by which I was as much obliged to secure and
defend it, as if I had exchanged persons, and his interest were my own: therefore, to betray his interest for
my own advantage, when he had made me next his own person in power, is perfidiousness and injustice. This should be a caution to all those who have the king's commission, all public and parish officers as well as to stewards and servants, that they faithfully discharge their respective trusts. But in every of these frauds, where God or the poor are immediately concerned, as in all estates for, and legacies left in trust to, pious and charitable uses, the theft or breach of trust becomes sacrilege; the malignity of which crime is particularly condemned by the sentence of the Wise-man, who says, It is a sin to devour that which is holy.
II. The second sort of fraud is in matters of traffic and bargaining, when either the buyer or seller receives any
damage or loss; for, bargains in buying and selling being a voluntary exchange of interests, we owe this duty one to another, to deal honestly in making and faithfully discharging our engagements. “Deliberate or contrived fraud is in itself
, a crime of the deepest malignity, and of the most pernicious consequence: a sin which tends to destroy all human society, all trust and confidence among men, all justice and equity which is the support of the world, and without which no society of men can subsist. And the breaking through this obligation by deliberate fraud is, of all other sins, one of the most open defiances of conscience, and the most wilful opposition to right reason that can be imagined. Then for a christian, a man that professes a pure and more holy religion, a religion that commands not only common justice and equity, but singular love and goodwill toward our neighbour, to be guilty of a contrived and deliberate fraud, which the conscience even of a good heathen would abhor; this is a greater aggravation of the crime: because as the end of buying and selling is to furnish one another with the necessaries and conveniencies of life; both buyer and seller have a right proper to them, so to buy and sell, as that the buyer may have the worth of his money, and the seller the worth of his commodity; for otherwise,
instead of mutually assisting, we must necessarily oppress each other. Therefore, Notwithstanding it may
be a difficult matter to determine nicely what the exact measure is, which in buying and selling ought to be observed between man and man; yet in all cases, when any opportunity of dealing presents itself, it is but asking ourselves, How we would be dealt by in the same circumstances? And our answer to that is our duty to those we deal with. I know how I should expeet to be used, if my neighbour and I had changed persons and circumstances: my heart tells me, that I should think it reasonable to expect such measures from him, and therefore he hath reason to expect the same from me: when I consult myself, how I would be dealt by, those very passions, which incline me to wrong others, will instruct me to do them justice. Consequently, there is no rule in the world can be pressed with fewer incumbrances, or darkened with less intricacy; none that can lie open to larger usc, or be readier at present application, or more obvious to all capacities. How then can men pretend to excuse themselves when their duty lies so plainly before them; or would not do their duty, when they do understand it? Therefore,
Use plainness and simplicity in all your dealings: do not, by disparaging another man's commodity, or overvaluing your own, endeavour to draw on an advantageous bargain; neither ask far beyond, nor bid much below, what reason must inform you to be the real worth. Do not say you cannot take less, or give more, when you know you may with sufficient profit to yourself. Make no false pretences, nor cover what is true; but, so far
true; but, so far as in you lies, fit your affirmations and denials to the understanding of the person you
deal with, and do not lie in ambush behind your words, to trap and ensnare the person with whom you transact; for not only that which is false, but that which deceives, is unjust in bargains. Do not impose upon any man's unskilfulness or igno
So long as you keep within the latitude of lawful gain, you may use your skill against another man in driving a bargain: for in an ordinary plenty of commodities there
is an ordinary price, which those that deal in them know and understand; and when the contractors equally understand the price, there can be no deception or injustice in the contract, be it made ever so hard. On the contrary, if he whom I contract with be ignorant or unskilful, I must not rate his want of understanding, or set a tax upon his ignorance; but use him justly, as one that reposes a trust in me, and casts himself upon my equity; for, if I do not this, I am guilty of injustice.
The same may be said where a man takes advantage of another's necessities. When a poor man is driyen by hiş wants, and forced to sell his wares to supply his necessities; give him the price you would have done if he wanted your money no more than you need his goods. On the other side, if the poor mau be forced to buy upon trust, increase your price no higher than what makes you recompense for the loss, which by the rules of trade you sustain by the credit you give him; because he who makes advantage of another's necessities, adds oppression to misery; which is not only injustice, but cruelty. Neither must you take any , thing from the commodity or price, for which you have bargained. He who buys a commodity by weight and measure, hath a right to as much as the common standard allows him; and to take any thing from the bargain by false weights or measures, or adulteration, or by falsly weighing or measuring, is no less than theft. And he who sells a commodity hath a right to the money for which he sold it: and if the buyer knowingly pay him uncurrent coin, or forcibly detain him from any part of the price, he also manifestly violates the indispensable rules of justice. Moreover, be not guilty of engrossing, or buying all of a commodity into your own hands, with the sole view of selling it the dearer, and thereby to oppress or distress the public. Neither let the people curse you for being the first that hath raised the price of goods. Deal not in stolen goods, knowing or suspecting them to be such; for thereby you become as bad as the thief. Neither let it be laid to your charge that you have taken any advantage of the mistake or oversight of the seller; for whoever takes more than he
any one would
bought, or gives any thing less than he bargained for, is guilty of theft. And, finally, never justify your deceit, when you are detected of a fraud, by adding lies to your unfair dealing: for a good and quiet conscience is to be valued above the greatest gain; and that man hath but little regard of his conscience, who, to get a shilling more in a bargain, will venture to expose it. For
The usual bait of injustice is gain and profit: this is the common mark that fraud and oppression aim at, though usually they fly short or beyond it, and, instead of enriching, do finally damage and impoverish men. It is indeed known, that unjust dealing may sometimes raise a man's fortune; but it is as well known, that in its natural tendency it impairs and ruins it; because, hy dealing unjustly, he makes it every man's interest to forsake him, and sets a cross upon his own door to warn all customers from entering therein. Is it reasonable to suppose
that knowingly have to do with a knave, that always lies
upon the catch to cozen him; with whom he can neither speak nor act securely, but must be forced to stand
upon continually? Ör, how can a man thrive, when nobody cares to deal with him; when his house is haunted, and his frauds and cozenages appear like sprites at his door, to frighten all men from his shop? So you see that justice in dealing is so necessary to men's thriving in the world, that even they who are not honest are fain to seem so: but for a man to seem to be honest is nowise so secure as to be really so; for, if he be not, the event of things will unmask and set him out. For no man can be secure of privacy in an unjust action; let him
action; let him carry it ever so demurely, one accident or other will draw the curtain and bring to light the fraud and villainy behind it: so that, how much soever a man may gain by a present cheat, he is sure, if he be discovered, to be a loser at the last. Injustice is as great an error in politics as in morals, and doth bespeak a man to have as little wit as honesty. The sum therefore is briefly this: he that in the whole course of his life acts sincerely and justly, with a continual respect to the reason of things, and to the law of God; that carries on all his