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   Chapter 8 [BADMAN IS A BANKRUPT, AND GETS BY IT 'HATFULS OF MONEY.']

The Works of John Bunyan Volume 3 By John Bunyan Characters: 28020

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:03


WISE. I will tell you; it was this, he had an art to break, and get hatfuls of money by breaking.

ATTEN. But what do you mean by Mr. Badman's breaking? You speak mystically, do you not?

WISE. No, no, I speak plainly. Or, if you will have it in plainer language, it is this;-when Mr. Badman had swaggered and whored away most of his wife's portion, he began to feel that he could not much longer stand upon his legs in this course of life and keep up his trade and repute-such as he had-in the world, but by the new engine of breaking. Wherefore upon a time he gives a great and sudden rush into several men's debts, to the value of about four or five thousand pounds, driving at the same time a very great trade, by selling many things for less than they cost him, to get him custom, therewith to blind his creditors' eyes. His creditors therefore seeing that he had a great employ, and dreaming that it must needs at length turn to a very good account to them, trusted him freely without mistrust, and so did others too, to the value of what was mentioned before. Well, when Mr. Badman had well feathered his nest with other men's goods and money, after a little time he breaks. And by and by it was noised abroad that Mr. Badman had shut up shop, was gone, and could trade no longer. Now by that time his breaking was come to his creditors' ears, he had by craft and knavery made so sure of what he had, that his creditors could not touch a penny. Well, when he had done, he sends his mournful sugared letters to his creditors, to let them understand what had happened unto him, and desired them not to be severe with him, for he bore towards all men an honest mind, and would pay so far as he was able. Now he sends his letters by a man confederate with him, who could make both the worst and best of Mr. Badman's case; the best for Mr. Badman and the worst for his creditors. So when he comes to them he both bemoans them and condoles Mr. Badman's condition, telling of them that, without a speedy bringing of things to a conclusion, Mr. Badman would be able to make them no satisfaction, but at present he both could and would, and that to the utmost of his power, and to that end he desired that they would come over to him. Well, his creditors appoint him a time and come over, and he, meanwhile, authorizes another to treat with them, but will not be seen himself, unless it was on a Sunday, lest they should snap him with a writ. So his deputed friend treats with them about their concern with Mr. Badman, first telling them of the great care that Mr. Badman took to satisfy them and all men for whatsoever he owed, as far as in him lay, and how little he thought a while since to be in this low condition. He pleaded also the greatness of his charge, the greatness of taxes, the badness of the times, and the great losses that he had by many of his customers; some of which died in his debt, others were run away, and for many that were alive he never expected a farthing from them. Yet nevertheless he would show himself an honest man, and would pay as far as he was able; and if they were willing to come to terms, he would make a composition with them, for he was not able to pay them all. The creditors asked what he would give? It was replied, Half-a-crown in the pound. At this they began to huff, and he to renew his complaint and entreaty, but the creditors would not hear, and so for that time their meeting without success broke up. But after his creditors were in cool blood, and admitting of second thoughts, and fearing lest delays should make them lose all, they admit of a second debate, come together again, and, by many worlds and great ado, they obtained five shillings in the pound. So the money was produced, releases and discharges drawn, signed, and sealed, books crossed, and all things confirmed; and then Mr. Badman can put his head out a doors again, and be a better man than when he shut up shop, by several thousands of pounds.[43]

ATTEN. And did he do thus indeed?

WISE. Yes, once and again. I think he brake twice or thrice.

ATTEN. And did he do it before he had need to do it?

WISE. Need! What do you mean by need? There is no need at any time for a man to play the knave. He did it of a wicked mind, to defraud and beguile his creditors. He had wherewithal of his father, and also by his wife, to have lived upon, with lawful labour, like an honest man. He had also, when he made this wicked break, though he had been a profuse and prodigal spender, to have paid his creditors their own to a farthing. But had he done so, he had not done like himself, like Mr. Badman; had he, I say, dealt like an honest man, he had then gone out of Mr. Badman's road. He did it therefore of a dishonest mind, and to a wicked end; to wit, that he might have wherewithal, howsoever unlawfully gotten, to follow his cups and queans,[44] and to live in the full swing of his lusts, even as he did before.

ATTEN. Why this was a mere cheat.

WISE. It was a cheat indeed. This way of breaking, it is nothing else but a more neat way of thieving, of picking of pockets, of breaking open of shops, and of taking from men what one has nothing to do with. But though it seem easy, it is hard to learn; no man that has conscience to God or man, can ever be his crafts-master in this hellish art.

ATTEN. O! Sir! What a wicked man was this!

WISE. A wicked man indeed. By this art he could tell how to make men send their goods to his shop, and then be glad to take a penny for that which he had promised, before it came thither, to give them a groat: I say, he could make them glad to take a crown for a pound's worth, and a thousand for that for which he had promised before to give them four thousand pounds.

ATTEN. This argueth that Mr. Badman had but little conscience.

WISE. This argued that Mr. Badman had no conscience at all; for conscience, the least spark of a good conscience, cannot endure this.

ATTEN. Before we go any further in Mr. Badman's matters, let me desire you, if you please, to give me an answer to these two questions. 1. What do you find in the Word of God against such a practice as this of Mr. Badman's is? 2. What would you have a man do that is in his creditor's debt, and can neither pay him what he owes him, nor go on in a trade any longer?

WISE. I will answer you as well as I can. And first, to the first of your questions; to wit, What I find in the Word of God against such a practice as this of Mr. Badman's is.

The Word of God doth forbid this wickedness; and to make it the more odious in our eyes, it joins it with theft and robbery. 'Thou shalt not,' says God, 'defraud thy neighbour, neither rob him' (Lev 19:13). Thou shalt not defraud, that is, deceive or beguile. Now thus to break, is to defraud, deceive and beguile; which is, as you see, forbidden by the God of heaven: 'Thou shalt not defraud thy neighbour, neither rob him.' It is a kind of theft and robbery, thus to defraud, and beguile. It is a vilely robbing of his shop, and picking of his pocket; a thing odious to reason and conscience, and contrary to the law of nature. It is a designed piece of wickedness, and therefore a double sin. A man cannot do this great wickedness on a sudden, and through a violent assault of Satan. He that will commit this sin, must have time to deliberate, that by invention he may make it formidable, and that with lies and high dissimulations. He that commits this wickedness, must first hatch it upon his bed, beat his head about it, and lay his plot strong. So that to the completing of such a wickedness, there must be adjoined many sins, and they too must go hand in hand until it be completed. But what saith the scripture? 'Let no man go beyond and defraud his brother in any matter: because that the Lord is the avenger of all such' (1 Thess 4:6). But this kind of breaking is a going beyond my brother; this is a compassing of him about, that I may catch him in my net; and as I said, an art to rob my brother, and to pick his pocket, and that with his consent. Which doth not therefore mitigate, but so much the more greaten, and make odious the offence. For men that are thus wilily abused, cannot help themselves; they are taken in a deceitful net. But God will here concern himself, he will be the avenger, he will be the avenger of all such either here, or in another world.

And this, the apostle testifies again, where he saith, 'But he that doeth wrong, shall receive for the wrong which he hath done; and there is no respect of persons' (Col 3:25). That is, there is no man, be he what he will, if he will be guilty of this sin, of going beyond, of beguiling of, and doing wrong to his brother, but God will call him to an account for it, and will pay him with vengeance for it too; for 'there is no respect of persons.'

I might add, that this sin of wronging, of going beyond, and defrauding of my neighbour, it is like that first prank that the devil played with our first parents, as the altar that Uriah built of Ahaz, was taken from the fashion of that that stood at Damascus, to be the very pattern of it. The serpent beguiled me, says Eve; Mr. Badman beguiles his creditors. The serpent beguiled Eve with lying promises of gain; and so did Mr. Badman beguile his creditors. The serpent said one thing and meant another, when he beguiled Eve; and so did Mr. Badman when he beguiled his creditors.

That man therefore that doth thus deceive and beguile his neighbour, imitateth the devil; he taketh his examples from him, and not from God, the Word, or good men; and this did Mr. Badman.

And now to your second question; to wit, what I would have a man do that is in his creditor's debt, and that can neither pay him, nor go on in a trade any longer?

Answ. First of all. If this be his case, and he knows it, let him not run one penny further in his creditors' debt, for that cannot be done with good conscience. He that knows he cannot pay, and yet will run into debt; does knowingly wrong and defraud his neighbour, and falls under that sentence of the Word of God, 'The wicked borroweth, and payeth not again' (Psa 37:21). Yea, worse, he borrows, though at the very same time he knows that he cannot pay again. He doth also craftily take away what is his neighbour's. That is therefore the first thing that I would propound to such; let him not run any farther into his creditors' debt.

Secondly, After this, let him consider, how, and by what means he was brought into such a condition that he could not pay his just debts. To wit, whether it was by his own remissness in his calling, by living too high in diet or apparel, by lending too lavishingly that which was none of his own, to his loss; or whether by the immediate hand and judgment of God.

If by searching he finds that this is come upon him through remissness in his calling, extravagancies in his family, or the like; let him labour for a sense of his sin and wickedness, for he has sinned against the Lord. First, in his being slothful in business, and in not providing, to wit, of his own, by the sweat of his brow, or other honest ways, for those of his own house (Rom 12:11; 1 Tim 5:8). And, secondly, in being lavishing in diet and apparel in the family, or in lending to others that which was none of his own. This cannot be done with good conscience. It is both against reason and nature, and therefore must be a sin against God. I say therefore, if thus this debtor hath done, if ever he would live quietly in conscience, and comfortably in his condition for the future, let him humble himself before God, and repent of this his wickedness. For 'he that is slothful in his work, is brother to him that is a great waster' (Prov 18:9). To be slothful and a waster too, is to be as it were a double sinner.

But again, as this man should inquire into these things, so he should also into this, How came I into this way of dealing in which I have now miscarried? Is it a way that my parents brought me up in, put me apprentice to, or that by providence I was first thrust into? Or is it a way into which I have twisted myself, as not being contented with my first lot, that by God and my parents I was cast into? This ought duly to be considered, and if upon search a man shall find that he is out of the place and calling into which he was put by his parents, or the providence of God, and has miscarried in a new way, that through pride and dislike of his first state he has chose rather to embrace; his miscarriage is his sin, the fruit of his pride, and a token of the judgment of God upon him for his leaving of his first state. And for this he ought, as for the former, to be humble and penitent before the Lord,

But if by search, he finds that his poverty came by none of these; if by honest search, he finds it so, and can say with good conscience, I went not out of my place and state in which God by his providence had put me; but have abode with God in the calling wherein I was called, and have wrought hard, and fared meanly, been civilly apparelled, and have not directly nor indirectly made away with my creditors' goods; then has his fall come upon him by the immediate hand of God, whether by visible or invisible ways. For sometimes it comes by visible ways, to wit, by fire, by thieves, by loss of cattle, or the wickedness of sinful dealers, &c. And sometimes by means invisible, and then no man knows how; we only see things are going, but cannot see by what way they go. Well, now suppose that a man, by an immediate hand of God, is brought to a morsel of bread, what must he do now?

I answer: His surest way is still to think, that this is the fruit of some sin, though possibly not sin in the management of his calling, yet of some other sin. 'God casteth away the substance of the wicked' (Prov 10:3). Therefore let him still humble himself before his God, because his hand is upon him, and say, What sin is this, for which this hand of God is upon me? (1 Peter 5:6).

And let him be diligent to find it out, for some sin is the cause of this judgment; for God 'doth not afflict willingly nor grieve the children of men' (Lam 3:33). Either the heart is too much set upon the world, or religion is too much neglected in thy family, or something. There is a snake in the grass, a worm in the gourd; some sin in thy bosom, for the sake of which God doth thus deal with thee.

Thirdly, This thus done, let that man again consider thus with himself: perhaps God is now changing of my condition and state in the world; he has let me live in fashion, in fulness, and abundance of worldly glory; and I did not to his glory improve, as I should, that his good dispensation to me. But when I lived in full and fat pasture, I did there lift up the heel (Deut 32:15). Therefore he will now turn me into hard commons, that with leanness, and hunger, and meanness, and want, I may spend the rest of my days. But let him do this without murmuring and repining; let him do it in a godly manner, submitting himself to the judgment of God. 'Let the rich rejoice in that he is made low' (James 1:9,10).

This is duty, and it may be privilege to those that are under this hand of God. And for thy encouragement to this hard work, for this is a hard work, consider of these four things. 1. This is right lying down under God's hand, and the way to be exalted in God's time. When God would have Job embrace the dunghill, he embraces it, and says, 'The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away, blessed be the name of the Lord' (Job 1:21). 2. Consider, that there are blessings also that attend a low condition, more than all the world are aware of.[45] A poor condition has preventing mercy attending of it. The poor, because they are poor, are not capable of sinning against God as the rich man does (Psa 49:6). 3. The poor can more clearly see himself preserved by the providence of God than the rich, for he trusteth in the abundance of his riches. 4. It may be God has made thee poor, because he would make thee rich. 'Hearken, my beloved brethren, hath not God chosen the poor of this world, rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which God hath promised to them that love him?' (James 2:5).

I am persuaded if men upon whom this hand of God is, would thus quietly lie down and humble themselves under it, they would find more peace, yea more blessing of God attending them in it, than the most of men are aware of. But this is a hard chapter, and therefore I do not expect that many should either read it with pleasure, or desire to take my counsel.

Having thus spoken to the broken man, with reference to his own self, I will now speak to him as he stands related to his creditors. In the next place therefore, let him fall upon the most honest way of dealing with his creditors, and that I think must be this:

First, Let him timely make them acquainted with his condition, and also do to them these three things. 1. Let him heartily and unfeignedly ask them forgiveness for the wrong that he has done them. 2. Let him proffer them ALL, and the whole ALL that ever he has in the world; let him hide nothing, let him strip himself to his raiment for them; let him not keep a ring, a spoon, or anything from them. 3. If none of these two will satisfy them, let him proffer them his body, to be at their dispose, to wit, either to abide imprisonment at their pleasure, or to be at their service, till by labour and travel he hath made them such amends as they in reason think fit, only reserving something for the succour of his poor and distressed family out of his labour, which in reason, and conscience, and nature, he is bound also to take care of. Thus shall he make them what amends he is able, for the wrong that he hath done them in wasting and spending of their estates.

By thus doing, he submits himself to God's rod, commits himself to the dispose of his providence; yea, by thus doing, he casteth the lot of his present and future condition into the lap[46] of his creditors, and leaves the whole dispose thereof to the Lord, even as he shall order and incline their hearts to do with him (Prov 16:33). And let that be either to forgive him, or to take that which he hath for satisfaction, or to lay his body under affliction, this way or that, according to law; can he, I say, thus leave the whole dispose to God, let the issue be what it will, that man shall have peace in his mind afterward. And the comforts of that state, which will be comforts that attend equity, justice, and duty, will be more unto him, because more according to godliness, than can be the comforts that are the fruits of injustice, fraudulency, and deceit. Besides, this is the way to engage God to favour him by the sentence of his creditors; for HE can entreat them to use him kindly, and he will do it when his ways are pleasing in his sight (Jer 15:10,11). When a man's ways please the Lord, he maketh even his enemies to be at peace with him (Prov 16:7). And surely, for a man to seek to make restitution for wrongs done to the utmost of his power, by what he is, has, and enjoys in this world, is the best way, in that capacity, and with reference to that thing, that a man can at this time be found active in.

But he that doth otherwise, abides in his sin, refuses to be disposed of by the providence of God, chooseth an high estate, though not attained in God's way; when God's will is that he should descend into a low one. Yea, he desperately saith in his heart and actions, I will be mine own chooser, and that in mine own way, whatever happens or follows thereupon.

ATTEN. You have said well, in my mind. But suppose now that Mr. Badman was here, could he not object as to what you have said, saying, Go and teach your brethren, that are professors, this lesson, for they as I am are guilty of breaking; yea, I am apt to think, of that which you call my knavish way of breaking, to wit, of breaking before they have need to break. But if not so, yet they are guilty of neglect in their calling, of living higher, both in fare and apparel, than their trade or income will maintain. Besides that they do break all the world very well knows, and that they have the art to plead for a composition, is very well known to men; and that is usual with them to hide their linen, their plate, their jewels, and it is to be thought, sometimes money and goods besides, is as common as four eggs a penny.[47] and thus they beguile men, debauch their consciences, sin against their profession, and make, it is to be feared, their lusts in all this, and the fulfilling of them their end. I say, if Mr. Badman was here to object thus unto you, what would be your reply?

WISE. What? Why I would say, I hope no good man, no man of good conscience, no man that either feareth God, regardeth the credit of religion, the peace of God's people, or the salvation of his own soul, will do thus. Professors such, perhaps, there may be, and who upon earth can help it? Jades there be of all colours. If men will profess, and make their profession a stalking-horse to beguile their neighbours of their estates, as Mr. Badman himself did, when he beguiled her that now is with sorrow his wife, who can help it? The churches of old were pestered with such, and therefore no marvel if these perilous difficult times be so. But mark how the apostle words it: 'Nay, ye do wrong, and defraud, and that your brethren. Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived, neither fornicators, nor idolators, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God' (1 Cor 6:8-10; 2 Tim 3:1-5).

None of these shall be saved in this state, nor shall profession deliver them from the censure of the godly, when they shall be manifest such to be. But their profession we cannot help. How can we help it, if men should ascribe to themselves the title of holy ones, godly ones, zealous ones, self-denying ones, or any other such glorious title? and while they thus call themselves, they should be the veriest rogues for all evil, sin, and villainy imaginable, who could help it? True, they are a scandal to religion, a grief to the honest-hearted, an offence to the world, and a stumbling-stone to the weak, and these offences have come, do come, and will come, do what all the world can; but woe be to them through whom they come (Matt 18:6-8). Let such professors therefore be disowned by all true Christians, and let them be reckoned among those base men of the world, which, by such actions, they most resemble. They are Mr. Badman's kindred. For they are a shame to religion, I say, these slithy,[48] rob-shop, pick-pocket men, they are a shame to religion, and religious men should be ashamed of them. God puts such an one among the fools of the world, therefore let not Christians put them among those that are wise for heaven. 'As the partridge sitteth on eggs, and hatcheth them not, so he that getteth riches, and not by right, shall leave them in the midst of his days, and at his end shall be a fool' (Jer 17:11). And the man under consideration is one of these, and therefore must look to fall by this judgment.

A professor! and practice such villainies as these! such a one is not worthy to bear that name any longer. We may say to such as the prophet spake to their like, to wit, to the rebellious that were in the house of Israel: 'Go ye, serve ye every one his idols' (Eze 20:39). If ye will not hearken to the law and testament of God, to lead your lives hereafter: 'but pollute God's holy name no more with your gifts, and with your idols.'

Go, professors, go; leave off profession, unless you will lead your lives according to your profession. Better never profess, than to make profession a stalking-horse to sin, deceit, to the devil, and hell. The ground and rules of religion allow not any such thing: 'receive us,' says the apostle, 'we have wronged no man, we have corrupted no man, we have defrauded no man' (2 Cor 7:2). Intimating that those that are guilty of wronging, corrupting, or defrauding of any, should not be admitted to the fellowship of saints, no, nor into the common catalogue of brethren with them. Nor can men with all their rhetoric, and eloquent speaking, prove themselves fit for the kingdom of heaven, or men of good conscience on earth. O that godly plea of Samuel: 'Behold here I am,' says he, 'witness against me, before the Lord, and before his anointed, whose ox have I taken? or whose ass have I taken? or whom have I defrauded? whom have I oppressed?' &c. (1 Sam 12:3). This was to do like a man of good conscience indeed (Matt 10:19). And in this his appeal, he was so justified in the consciences of the whole congregation, that they could not but with one voice, as with one mouth, break out jointly, and say, 'Thou hast not defrauded us, nor oppressed us' (Matt 10:4).

A professor, and defraud, away with him! A professor should not owe any man anything but love. A professor should provide things, not of other men's but of his own, of his own honest getting, and that not only in the sight of God, but of all men; that he may adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things.

ATTEN. But suppose God should blow upon a professor in his estate and calling, and he should be run out before he is aware, must he be accounted to be like Mr. Badman, and lie under the same reproach as he?

WISE. No: if he hath dutifully done what he could to avoid it. It is possible for a ship to sink at sea, notwithstanding the most faithful endeavour of the most skilful pilot under heaven. And thus, as I suppose, it was with the prophet, that left his wife in debt, to the hazarding the slavery of her children by the creditors (2 Kings 4:1,2). He was no profuse man, nor one that was given to defraud, for the text says he feared God; yet, as I said, he was run out more than she could pay.

If God would blow upon a man, who can help it? (Hagg 1:9). And he will do so sometimes, because he will change dispensations with me, and because he will try their graces. Yea, also, because he will overthrow the wicked with his judgments; and all these things are seen in Job. But then the consideration of this should bid men have a care that they be honest, lest this comes upon them for their sin. It should also bid them beware of launching further into the world, than in an honest way, by ordinary means, they can godlily make their retreat; for the further in the greater fall. It should also teach them to beg of God his blessing upon their endeavours, their honest and lawful endeavours. And it should put them upon a diligent looking to their steps, that if in their going they should hear the ice crack, they may timely go back again. These things considered, and duly put in practice, if God will blow upon a man, then let him be content, and with Job embrace the dunghill. Let him give unto all their dues, and not fight against the providence of God, but humble himself rather under his mighty hand, which comes to strip him naked and bare: for he that doth otherwise fights against God; and declares that he is a stranger to that of Paul; 'I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound; everywhere and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need' (Phil 4:12).

ATTEN. But Mr. Badman would not, I believe, have put this difference betwixt things feigned and those that fall of necessity.

WISE. If he will not, God will, conscience will: and that not thine own only, but the consciences of all those that have seen the way, and that have known the truth of the condition of such a one.

ATTEN. Well: let us at this time leave this matter, and return again to Mr. Badman.

WISE. With all my heart will I proceed to give you a relation of what is yet behind of his life, in order to our discourse of his death.

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