This part of justice is such as depends upon
the laws of man directly, and upon the laws of God only by consequence and
indirect reason; and from civil laws or private agreements it is to take its
estimate and measures: and although our duty is plain and easy, requiring of us
honesty in contracts sincerity in affirming, simplicity in bargaining, and
faithfulness in performing, yet it may be helped by the addition of these
following rules and considerations.
1. In making contracts, use not many words;
for all the business of a bargain is summed up in few sentences: and he that
speaks least means fairest as having fewer opportunities or deceive.
2. Lie not at all, neither in a little thing nor
in a great, neither in the substance nor in the circumstance, neither in word
nor deed: that is, pretend not what is false, cover not what is true: and let
the measure of your affirmation or denial be the understanding of your
contractor; for he that deceives the buyer or the seller by speaking what is
true in a sense not intended or understood by the other, is a liar and a thief.
For in bargains you are to avoid not only what is false, but that also which
3. In prices of bargaining concerning uncertain
merchandises, you may buy as cheap ordinarily, as you can; and sell as dear as
you can, so it be, 1. without violence; and, 2. when you contract on equal
terms with persons in all senses (as to the matter and skill of bargaining)
equal to yourself, that is, merchants with merchants, wise men with wise men,
rich with rich; and, 3. when there is no deceit, and no necessity and no
monopoly: for in these cases, viz. when the contractors are equal, and no
advantage on either side, both parties are voluntary, and therefore there can
be no injustive or wrong to either. But then add also this consideration, that
the public be not oppressed by unreasonable and unjust rates: for which the
following rules are the best measure.
4. Let your prices be according to that measure
of good and evil which is established in the fame and common accounts of the
wisest and most merciful men, skilled in that manufacture or commodity; and be
gain such which, without scandal, is allowed to persons in all the same
5. Let no prices be heightened by the necessity
or unskilfulness of the contractor: for the first is direct uncharitableness to
the person, and injustice in the thing; because the man's necessity could not
naturally enter into the consideration of the value of the commodity; and the
other is deceit and oppression: much less must any man make necessities; as by
engrossing a commodity, by monopoly, by detaining corn, or the like indirect
arts; for such persons are unjust to all single persons, with whom, in such
cases, they contract, and oppressors of the public.
6. In intercourse with others, do not do all
which you may lawfully do: but keep something within thy power: and, because
there is a latitude of gain in buying and selling, take not thou the utmost
penny that is lawful, or which thou thinkest so; for although it be lawful, yet
it is not safe; and he that gains all that he can gain lawfully this year,
possibly next year will be tempted to gain something unlawfully.
7. He that sells dearer, by reason he sells not
for ready money, must increase his price no higher than to make himself
recompense for the loss which, according to the rules of trade, he sustained by
his forbearance, according to common computation, reckoning in also the hazard,
which he is prudently, warily, and charitably to estimate. But although this be
the measure of his justice, yet because it happens either to their friends, or
to necessitous and poor persons, they are, in these cases to consider the rules
of friendship and neighbourhood, and the obligations of charity, lest justice
turn into unmercifulness.
8. No man is to be raised in his price or rents
in regard of any accident, advantage, or disadvantage of his person. A prince must be used conscionably as
well as a common person, and a beggar be treated justly as well as a prince:
with this only difference, that, to poor persons, the utmost measure and extent
of justice is unmerciful, which, to a rich person, is innocent, because it is
just; and he needs not thy mercy and remission.
9. Let no man, for his own poverty, become more
oppressing and cruel in his bargain, but quietly, modestly, diligently, and
patiently, recommend his estate to God, and follow its interest and leave the
success to him: for such courses will more probably advance his trade; they
will certainly procure him a blessing and a recompense; and, if they cure not
his poverty, they will take away the evil of it: and there is nothing else in
it that can trouble him.
10. Detain not the wages of the hireling, for
every degree of detention of it beyond the time is injustice and
uncharitableness, and grinds his face, till tears and blood come out, but pay
him exactly according to covenant, or according to his needs.
11. Religiously keep all promises and covenants,
though made to your disadvantage, though afterwards you perceive you might have
done better; and let not any precedent act of yours be altered by any
after-accident. Let nothing make you break your promise, unless it be unlawful,
or impossible: that is, either out of your natural, or out of your civil power,
yourself being under the power of another; or that it be intolerably
inconvenient to yourself, and of no advantage to another; or that you have
leave expressed, or reasonably presumed.
12. Let no man take wages or fees for a work that
he cannot do, or cannot with probability undertake, or in some sense
profitably, and with ease, or with advantage manage. Physicians must not meddle
with desperate diseases, and known to be incurable, without declaring their
sense before hand; that if the patient please, he may entertain him at
adventure, or to do him some little ease. Advocates must deal plainly with
their clients, and tell them the true state and danger of their case; and must
not pretend confidence in an evil cause: but when he hath so cleared his own
innocence, if the client will have collateral and legal advantages obtained by
his industry, he may engage his endeavour, provided he do no injury to the
right cause, or any man's person.
13. Let no man appropriate to his own use what
God, by a special mercy, or the republic, hath made common; for that is both against justice and charity too; and
by miraculous accidents, God hath declared his displeasure against such
enclosure. When the kings of Naples enclosed the gardens of Cenotria, where the
best manna of Calabria descends, that no man might gather it without paying
tribute, the manna ceased till the tribute was taken off, and then it came
again; and so, when after the third trial, the princes found they could not
have that in proper which God made to be common, they left it as free as God
gave it. The like happened in Epire; when Lysimachus laid an impost upon the
Tragasaean salt, it vanished, till Lysimachus left it public. And when the procurators of king Antigonus imposed a
rate upon the sick people that came to Edepsum to drink the waters which were
lately sprung, and were very healthful, instantly the waters dried up, and the
hope of gain perished.
The sum of all is in these words of St. Paul,
"let no man go beyond and defraud his brother, in any matter; because the Lord
is the avenger of all sueth. And our
blessed Saviour, in enumerating the duties of justice, besides the commandment
of `Do not steal,' adds,  Defraud not,,
forbidding (as a distinct explication of the old law) the tacit and secret
theft of abusing our brother in civil contracts. And it needs no other
arguments to enforce this caution, but only that the Lord hath undertaken to
avenge all such persons. And as he always does it in the great day of
recompenses, so very often he does it here, by making the unclean portion of
injustice to be as a canker-worm eating up all the other increase: it procures
beggary, and a declining estate, or a caitiff cursed spirit, an ill name, the
curse of the injured and oppressed person, and a fool or a prodigal to be his
 Mercantia non vuol ne amici ne
 Surgam ad sponsalia, quia promisi,
quamvis non concoxerim: sed non, si febricitavero: subest enim tacita exceptio,
sipotero, si debebo. Effice ut idem status sit, cum exigitur, qui futi, cum
promitterem. Desitiuere levitas non erit, si aliquid intervenit novi. Eadem
mihi omnia praesta: et idem sum-Seneca. De Benefie. lib. iv. cap.39 Ruhk. voll
iv. p. 197
 Brassavol. in exam. simpl.
 Caelius Rhod. 1. ix. c. 12. Athenae.
Deipnos. 1. iii.
 1 Thess. iv.6.
 Lev. xix. 13; 1 Cor. vi.8; Matt. x.19.