« PreviousContinue »
by! Insomuch that a man can hardly mention in any company another man's excellencies, but presently some little viper or other will be perking up to sting and spit poison at him; and if he can say nothing against him, yet something he will seem to know; and with a crafty nod and shrug, a malicious smile or sneer, suppress and conceal it; and if he chance to speak of another, what care doth he take to stifle what may commend, and blazon what may shame and disgrace him! Like the envious panther, that shadows in dusky colours all the graceful parts and features, but carefully exposes the spots and blemishes to open view. These and a thousand other tricks of detraction are frequently practised in all conversations; but certainly did men but consider what a villainous injustice this is, and how much it provokes God, who will one day make a strict inquisition for men's good names, as well as for their blood, they would never dare to allow themselves in such a crying injustice towards one another.
IV. There are other rights acquired by outward rank and quality, whether it be in respect of titular dignity, or of wealth and large possessions; by both which men do acquire a right to civil respect and outward obeisance. For as for the several degrees of nobility, titles, and places of dignity, by which men are advanced above the vulgar class into the upper form of mankind, they are so many marks and badges of honour, by which the king, who is the fountain of honour, and who, by smiling on a clod of earth, can, with the April sun, prefer it into a gay flower, doth raise and ennoble men, advance them into a higher orb, a more illustrious rank and
station in the world. Now, though by virtue of this titular dignity we are no farther obliged to reverence or esteem men than their wisdom or virtue deserves, yet are we bound to give them their due titles, and demean ourselves towards them with that outward preference, observance, and ceremony, which their degree and quality requires; otherwise we rob them of those rights which the king, who is master of outward respects and precedencies, hath bestowed upon them. For the royal stamp upon any kind of metal gives it an extrinsic value, and determines the rate at which it is to pass among coins; though it cannot raise its intrinsic worth, nor make that which is but brass to be gold. And as titular dignities entitle men to an outward respect and observance, so also doth wealth and large possessions : for these are badges of honour as well as the other, only the other we receive from the king, but these from the King of kings. For when God bestows upon one man a larger fortune and possessions than on another, he doth thereby prefer and advance him into a higher sphere and condition ; and when God hath set him above us, it is just and fit that we should rise and give place to him. And though a wise or virtuous poor man hath more right to our esteem than a fortunate knave or fool, who in all his glory is but a beast of burden in rich trapping and caparisons; yet, forasmuch as in outward rank and condition God hath preferred the latter, he hath the right of precedency and of outward respect and observances, and ought to be treated with greater obeisance and regard.
Of justice, in reference to the rights acquired by compact. v. FIFTHLY and lastly, There are other rights acquired by bargaining and compact: for compacts being a mutual transferring of rights, wherein the person with whom I bargain makes over such a commodity to me for so much money or other valuable thing, the right whereof I make over to him, we mutually owe this right to one another, to deal truly and honestly in making, and sincerely and faithfully in discharging our compacts and mutual engagements with each other. For since the end of commerce, and buying and selling, is mutually to assist and furnish one another with the necessaries and conveniencies of life, both buyer and seller must thence have a right accruing to them so to buy and sell, as that they may be mutually assisted by one another; as that the buyer may have the worth of his price, and the seller the worth of his commodity: for otherwise, instead of mutually assisting, the one must necessarily depress and damnify the other. What the exact measure is, which in matter of buying and selling ought to be observed between man and man, is, I confess, a difficult question, and hardly capable of being nicely determined, especially by us who are so little acquainted with the affairs of the world, the necessities of things, and the particular and hidden reasons of some sorts of traffick and dealing: and therefore, that I may not venture beyond my depth in the determination of this matter, I shall only prescribe such general rales of righteousness to conduct our bargains and contracts, as being impartially applied to particular cases, may secure men from dealing wrongfully and injuriously with one another. And they are these : First, Use plainness and simplicity in all your dealings. Secondly, Impose upon no man's ignorance or unskilfulness. Thirdly, Take no advantage of another's necessities. Fourthly, Substract not from the commodity or price for which you have contracted. Fifthly, Go not to the utmost verge of what thou conceivest to be lawful. Sixthly, In doubtful cases choose the safest part.
1. Use plainness and simplicity in all your dealings. Do not, by disparaging another man's commodity, or over-valuing your own, endeavour to draw on an advantageous bargain; neither ask far beyond, nor bid much below the worth of commodities. Say not, you cannot take less or give more, when you know you may with fair advantage and profit. Pretend not what is false, cover not what is 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, him. For in bargains not only that which is false is unjust, but also that which deceives.
2. Impose upon no man's ignorance or unskil. fulness. Whilst 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 on either side. But 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 not only justly but ingenuously, as one that reposes a trust in me, and casts himself upon my equity; considering that to take advantage from his simplicity to abuse and defraud him, would be not only injustice, but inhumanity.
3. Take no advantage of another's necessities. Do not wring and squeeze a poor man when he is driven to your doors by his wants, and forced to sell his wares to supply his necessities; but give him the same price you would have done, supposing he wanted your money no more than you need his commodity. And if the poor man be forced to buy of you upon trust, increase your price no higher than what is necessary to make you recompence for the loss, which according to the rules of trade you must sustain by your forbearance; reckoning in also the hazards you run, which ought to be charitably and prudently estimated. For he who makes advantage of another's necessities, robs the spital, and adds oppression to misery; which is not only injustice, but barbarity.
4. Substract not from the commodity or price for which you have contracted. For he who buys a commodity by weight or measure hath a right to as much of it as the common standard allows him; to have a full standard pound, or pint, or bushel, according as he bargains or contracts, and to substract any thing from what he hath bargained for, whether it be by false weights or measures, or by falsely weighing or measuring, is no better than theft and robbery. And so on the other hand, he who sells a commodity hath a right to the money for which he