« AnteriorContinuar »
a waggishness, a long-billed Fowl. Errors, indeed, in this virtue of Goodness or Charity, may be committed. The Italians have an ungracious Proverb; Tanto buon che val niente: So good, that he is good for nothing. And one of the Doctors of Italy, Nicholas Machiavel, had the confidence to put in writing almost in plain terms: That the Christian Faith had given up Good Men in prey to those, that are Tyrannical and Unjuft.? Which he spake, because, indeed, there was never Law, or Sect, or Opinion did so much magnify Goodness as the Christian Religion doth. Therefore, to avoid the Scandal and the Danger both, it is good to take knowledge of the Errors of a Habit fo excellent. Seek the Good of other Men ; but be not in bondage to their Faces or Fancies : for that is but Facility or Softness, which taketh an honest Mind Prisoner. Neither give thou Æsop's Cock a Gem, who would be better pleased, and happier, if he had had a Barley-corn. The Example of God teacheth the Lesson truly: He sendeth his Rain, and maketh his Sun to shine, upon the Juft, and Unjuft; but he doth not rain Wealth, nor shine Honour and Virtues upon Men equally. Common Benefits are to be communicate with all ; but peculiar Benefits with choice. And beware how in making the Portraiture thou breakest the Pattern: for Divinity maketh the Love of our because he suspended in sport a Caprimulgas or Goatsucker over his door with its wide mouth extended by a stick.
2 Cf. Shakesp. K. Hen. VIII, iii, 2; and Pope's Essay on Man Ep. 1, 125-8. Discorsi sopra Livio, 1. ii, 2. 3 See the Apophthegms, No. 203, p. 222, edit. 1625.
Selves the Pattern, the Love of our Neighbours but the Portraiture. Sell all thou hast, and give it to the poor, and follow me :4 but sell not all thou hast, except thou come and follow me; that is, except thou have a Vocation wherein thou mayest do as much good with little means as with great : for otherwise, in feeding the Streams, thou driest the Fountain. Neither is there only a Habit of Goodness directed by right Reason; but there is in some Men, even in Nature, a Disposition towards it : as on the other side, there is a Natural Malignity. For there be that in their Nature do not affect the Good of Others. The lighter fort of Malignity turneth but to a Crofsness or Frowardness, or Aptness to oppose, or Difficilness, or the like; but the deeper sort to Envy, and mere Mischief. Such Men, in other men's Calamities, are, as it were in season, and are ever on the loading Part ;5 not so good as the Dogs that licked Lazarus' Sores, but like Flies, that are still buzzing upon any Thing that is raw : Misanthropi, that make it their Practice to bring Men to the Bough, and yet have never a Tree for the purpose in their Gardens, as Timon had. Such Difpositions are the very Errors of Human Nature : and yet they are the fittest Timber to make great Politiques? of: like to knee Timber, that is good for Ships that are ordained to be tossed, but not for building Houses that shall stand firm. The Parts and Signs of Goodness are many : If a Man be gracious and courteous to Strangers, it fhews he is a Citizen of the World, and that his Heart is no Island cut off from other Lands, but a Continent that joins to them. If he be compassionate towards the Afflictions of others, it shews that his Heart is like the noble Tree that is wounded itself when it gives the Balm. If he easily pardons and remits Offences, it shews that his Mind is planted above Injuries ; so that he cannot be shot. If he be thankful for small Benefits, it shews that he weighs Men's Minds, and not their Trash. But above all, if he have St. Pauls Perfection, that he would wish to be an Anathema from Chrift, for the Salvation of his Brethren,8 it shews much of a Divine Nature, and a kind of Conformity with Christ himself.
4 Mark x. 21. 5 i. e, the part which is most heavily laden. • See Shakespeare's Timon of Athens, act v. sc. 2. 7 i. e. politic persons.
xiv. Of Nobility."
E will speak of Nobility first as a Por
tion of an Estate ; then as a Condition of Particular Persons. A Monarchy,
where there is no Nobility at all, is ever a pure and absolute Tyranny, as that of the Turks : for Nobility attempers Sovereignty, and draws the Eyes of the People somewhat aside from the Line Royal. But for Democracies they need
& Romans ix. 3. | This Essay has been entirely rewritten. See Antitheta, No. 1.
it not; and they are commonly more quiet, and less subject to Sedition, than where there are Stirps 2 of Nobles; for Men's Eyes are upon the Business, and not upon the Persons; or if upon the Perfons, it is for the Business' fake, as fittest, and not for Flags and Pedigree. We see the Switzers last well, notwithstanding their Diversity of Religion and of Cantons ; for Utility is their Bond, and not Respects. The United Provinces of the Low Countries in their Government excel : for where there is an Equality the Consultations are more indifferent, and the Payments and Tributes more cheerful. A great and Potent Nobility addeth Majesty to a Monarch, but diminisheth Power; and putteth Life and Spirit into the People, but presseth their Fortune. It is well, when Nobles are not too great för Sovereignty nor for Justice; and yet maintained in that height, as the Insolency of Inferiors may be broken upon them before it come on too fast upon the Majesty of Kings. A Numerous Nobility causeth Poverty and Inconvenience in a State ; for it is a Surcharge of Expense; and besides, it being of Neceflity that many of the Nobility fall in time to be weak in Fortune, it maketh a kind of Disproportion between Honour and Means.
As for Nobility in particular Persons; it is a Reverend Thing, to see an Ancient Castle or Building not in decay; or to see a fair Timber Tree sound and perfect ; how much more to behold an Ancient Noble Family, which hath stood against the Waves and Weathers of Time? For new Nobility is but the Act of Power ; but Ancient Nobility is the Act of Time. Those that are first raised to Nobility are commonly more Virtuous, but less Innocent, than their Descendants ; for there is rarely any Rising but by a Commixture of good and evil Arts. But it is Reason the Memory of their virtues remain to their Posterity, and their Faults die with themselves. Nobility of Birth commonly abateth Industry ; and he that is not industrious envieth him that is. Besides, Noble persons cannot go much higher ; and he that standeth at a stay when others rise, can hardly avoid Motions of Envy. On the other side, Nobility extinguisheth the passive Envy from others towards them, because they are in Possession of Honour. Certainly, Kings that have Able Men of their Nobility shall find ease in employing them, and a better Slide into their Business : for People naturally bend to them as born in some sort to Command.
2 This Latinism fignifies a stock, trunk, or race.