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own heart is as arch a traitor as any he can meet with: we trust it too much, and know it too little; and while we think it sure. footed, it slides, and does deceive us. The wise man should ever therefore maintain a double watch: one, to keep his heart from extravagancies; the other, to keep the enemy from approaching it. If they keep asunder, the harm is prevented; or if they do meet, and the heart consent not, I am in some doubt whether the offense be punishable, though the act be committed. It is no fault to let the thief have our purse, when we cannot help it. In the old law the ravished woman was to be freed; for, says the text, There is in her no cause of death. Qui volens injuste agit, malus est : qui vero ex necessitate, non dico prorsus malum. It is not the necessitated, but the willing ill that stains. Even actual sins have so far a dependency on the heart's approbation, as that alone can vitiate or excuse the act. While we keep the heart steady, our enemies can much less hurt us. The reason of which is, that it is not in man to compel it. The mind of man, from man, is not capable of a violation. Whom then can I tax for my own yielding, but myself? No man has power over my mind, unless I myself give it him. So that this I think certain, that no man falls by free action, but is faulty in something; at least in some circumstance, though excusable in the most important. I know calumny and conjecture may injure innocence itself. In matters of censure, nothing but a certain knowledge should make us give a certain judgment; for fame and air are both too weak foundations for truth to build upon. All the precepts of wisdom we meet with are given us to guard against ourselves; and, undoubtedly, he who can do it is rising towards Deity. Listen to the harp of Horace:
One eye I will sure have for without; the other I will cast within me; and lest I see not enough with that, it shall ever be my prayer that I may ever be delivered from myself. A me, me salva, Domine! shall be one petition I will add to the litany of my beseechings.
Complete. From «Resolves, Divine,
Moral, and Political.”
It is not safe to insult over any one: for as there is no creature I so little but may do us a mischief, so there is no man so
low but he may occasion our smart. The spider can poison, the ant can sting; even the fly can trouble our patience. Nature has put a kind of a vindictive justice into all sensitive creatures by which in some measure they can return an injury. If they do not always, it is only because they are not able. Man has both a more able and more impatient soul; and though reason teaches him not to be furious, yet it nevertheless teaches him not to be dull. Extremities of injury often awake extremities of revenge,- especially if we meet with contempt from others, or find despair in ourselves; for despair will make a coward bold and daring. Nor is it inconsistent with reason that great patience urged beyond itself should turn into fiercest rage. The bow which is hardest to bend sends out an arrow with most force. Neglect an enemy, but condemn him not. Contempt unbridles fear, and makes us both to will, to dare, and to execute. So Lipsius has it: Contemptus excutit timoris frænum, et efficit, ut non velis solum, sed audeas, et tentes. It is not good too far to pursue a victory. Sigismund says truly, He hath conquered well who hath made his enemies fly: we may beat them to a desperate resistance which may ruin us. He is, the wrong way, high, who scorns a man below him for his lowness. Man cannot be so much above man as that his superiority should legitimate his scorn. Thou knowest not what may show itself when thy contempt. awakens the lion of a sleeping mind. Greatness in any man makes not his injury more lawful, but the greater. Man is, animal generosissimum : and though he be content to subject himself to another's commands, yet he will not endure his braves. A lash given to the soul will provoke more than the body's cruel torture. Derision makes the peasant brave the prince. When Augustus saw one like himself, and asked him in a scoff if his mother was never at Rome? the boy answered, No; but my father was. When Julian mockingly asked the reverend and aged blind Ignatius why he went not into Galilee to recover his sight, his reply was, I am contented to be blind, that I may not see such a tyrant as thou art. We are all here fellow-servants; and we know not how our grand master will brook insolencies in his family. How darest thou that art but a piece of earth which heaven has blown into arrogate to thyself the impudent usurpation of a Majesty unshaken ? Thou canst not sit upon so high a cog but it may, in turning, prove the lowest in the wheel; and therefore thou wouldst do well to think of the measure that thou wouldst then have given thee. If we have enemies, it is better we deserve to have their friendship than to despise or irritate them. No man's weakness shall occasion a greater weakness in me; that of proudly condemning him. The bodies and souls of both of us have the same original nature: If I have anything beyond another, it is not my merit, but God's goodness to me; and he, by time and means, may have as much or more than I. Why should one man despise another man because he is better furnished with that which is none of his own?