T H E
By J O H N.B U N Y A N.
Published two years after Pilgrim's Progress.
[INSTRUCTIONS FOR RIGHTEOUS TRADING.]
ISE. This question is thought to be frivolous by all that are of Mr. Badman's way, it is also difficult in itself, yet I will endeavour to shape you an answer, and that first to the matter of the question, to wit, how a tradesman should, in trading, keep a good conscience; a buyer or seller either. Secondly, how he should prepare himself to this work and live in the practice of it. For the first, he must observe what hath been said before, to wit, he must have conscience to God, charity to his neighbour, and, I will add, much moderation in dealing. Let him therefore keep within the bounds of the affirmative of those eight reasons that before were urged to prove that men ought not, in their dealing, but to do justly and mercifully betwixt man and man, and then there will be no great fear of wronging the seller, buyer, or himself. But particularly to prepare or instruct a man to this work:—
1. Let the tradesman or others consider that there is not that in great gettings and in abundance which the most of men do suppose; for all that a man has over and above what serves for his present necessity and supply, serves only to feed the lusts of the eye. For 'what good is there to the owners thereof, saving the beholding of them with their eyes?' (Eccl 5:11). Men also, many times, in getting of riches, get therewith a snare to their soul (1 Tim 6:7-9). But few get good by getting of them. But his consideration Mr. Badman could not abide.
2. Consider that the getting of wealth dishonestly—as he does that getteth it without good conscience and charity to his neighbour—is a great offender against God. Hence he says, 'I have smitten mine hand at thy dishonest gain which thou hast made' (Eze 22:13). It is a manner of speech that shows anger in the very making of mention of the crime. Therefore,
3. Consider that a little, honestly gotten, though it may yield thee but a dinner of herbs at a time, will yield more peace therewith than will a stalled ox ill gotten (Prov 15:17). 'Better is a little with righteousness, than great revenues without right' (Prov 16:8; 1 Sam 2:5).
4. Be thou confident that God's eyes are upon all thy ways, and 'that he pondereth all thy goings,' and also that he marks, them, writes them down, and seals them p in a bag against the time to come (Prov 5:21; Job 14:17).
5. Be thou sure that thou rememberest that thou knowest not the day of thy death. Remember also that when death comes God will give thy substance, for the which thou hast laboured, and for the which perhaps thou hast hazarded thy soul, to one thou knowest not who, nor whether he shall be a wise man or a fool. And then, 'what profit hath he that hath laboured for the wind?' (Eccl 5:16).
Besides, thou shalt have nothing that thou mayest so much as carry away in thine hand. Guilt shall go with thee if thou hast got it [thy substance] dishonestly, and they also to whom thou shalt leave it shall receive it to their hurt. These things duly considered and made use of by thee to the preparing of thy heart to thy calling of buying and selling, I come, in the next place, to show thee how thou shouldst live in the practick part of this art. Art thou to buy or sell?
1. If thou sellest, do not commend; if thou buyest, do not dispraise; any otherwise but to give the thing that thou hast to do with its just value and worth; for thou canst not do otherwise, knowingly, but of a covetous and wicked mind. Wherefore else are commodities overvalued by the seller, and also undervalued by the buyer. 'It is naught, it is naught, saith the buyer,' but when he hath got his bargain he boasteth thereof (Prov 20:14). What hath this man done now, but lied in the dispraising of his bargain? and why did he dispraise it, but of a covetous mind to wrong and beguile the seller?
2. Art thou a seller, and do things grow dear? Set not thy hand to help or hold them up higher; this cannot be done without wickedness neither, for this is a making of the shekel great (Amos 8:5). Art thou a buyer, and do things grow dear? use no cunning or deceitful language to pull them down, for that cannot be done but wickedly too. What then shall we do, will you say? Why I answer, leave things to the providence of God, and do thou with moderation submit to his hand. But since, when they are growing dear, the hand that upholds the price is, for the time, more strong than that which would pull it down; that being the hand of the seller, who loveth to have it dear, especially if it shall rise in his hand. Therefore I say, do thou take heed and have not a hand in it, the which thou mayest have to thine own and thy neighbour's hurt, these three ways:—
1. By crying out scarcity, scarcity, beyond the truth and state of things; especially take heed of doing of this by way of a prognostic for time to come. It was for this for which he was trodden to death in the gate of Samaria, that you read of in the second book of Kings (2 Kings 7:17). This sin hath a double evil in it. (1.) It belieth the present blessing of God among us; and (2.) It undervalueth the riches of his goodness, which can make all good things to abound towards us.
2. This wicked thing may be done by hoarding up when the hunger and necessity of the poor calls for it. Now, that God may show his dislike against this, he doth, as it were, license the people to curse such a hoarder up—'He that withholdeth corn, the people shall curse him, but blessing shall be upon the head of him that selleth it' (Prov 11:26).
3. But if things will rise, do thou be grieved, be also moderate in all thy sellings, and be sure let the poor have a pennyworth, and sell thy corn to those in necessity. Which then thou wilt do when thou showest mercy to the poor in thy selling to him, and when thou, for his sake because he is poor, undersellest the market. This is to buy and sell with good conscience; thy buyer thou wrongest not, thy conscience thou wrongest not, thyself thou wrongest not, for God will surely recompense thee (Isa 57:6-8). I have spoken concerning corn, but thy duty is to 'let your moderation' in all things 'be known unto all men, the Lord is at hand' (Phil 4:5).