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To reprehend well is the most necessary and the hardest part of friendship. Who is it that does not sometimes merit a check, and yet how few will endure one? Yet wherein can a friend more unfold his love than in preventing dangers before their birth, or in bringing a man to safety who is travelling on the road to ruin? I grant there is a manner of reprehending which turns a benefit into an injury, and then it both strengthens error and wounds the giver. When thou chidest thy wandering friend do it secretly, in season, in love, not in the ear of a popular convention, for oftentimes the presence of a multitude makes a man take up an unjust defence, rather than fall into a just shame.
He that would build lastingly must lay his foundation low. The proud man, like the early shoots of a new-felled coppice, thrusts out full of sap, green in leaves, and fresh in colour, but bruises and breaks with every wind, is nipped with every little cold, and, being top-heavy, is wholly unfit for use. Whereas the humble man retains it in the root, can abide the winter?s killing blast, the ruffling concussions of the wind, and can endure far more than that which appears so flourishing.
Discontent is like ink poured into water, which fills the whole fountain full of blackness. It casts a cloud over the mind, and renders it more occupied about the evil which disquiets it than about the means of removing it.
Envy is a vice that would pose a man to tell what it should be liked for. Other vices we assume for that we falsely suppose they bring us either pleasure, profit, or honour. But in envy who is it can find any of these? Instead of pleasure, we vex and gall ourselves. Like cankered brass, it only eats itself, nay, discolours and renders it noisome. When some one told Agis that those of his neighbour?s family did envy him, ?Why, then,? says he, ?they have a double vexation?one, with their own evil, the other, at my prosperity.?
In all that belongs to man you cannot find a greater wonder than memory. What a treasury of all things! What a record! What a journal of all! As if provident Nature, because she would have man circumspect, had furnished him with an account-book, to carry always with him. Yet it neither burthens nor takes up room.
In some dispositions there is such an envious kind of pride that they cannot endure that any but themselves should be set forth as excellent; so that when they hear one justly praised they will either openly detract from his virtues; or, if those virtues be, like a clear and shining light, eminent and distinguished, so that he cannot be safely traduced by the tongue, they will then raise a suspicion against him by a mysterious silence, as if there were something remaining to be told which overclouded even his brightest glory.
It is our follies that make our lives uncomfortable. Our errors of opinion, our cowardly fear of the world?s worthless censure, and our eagerness after unnecessary gold have hampered the way of virtue, and made it far more difficult than, in itself, it is.
It was a false maxim of Domitian that he who would gain the people of Rome must promise all things and perform nothing. For when a man is known to be false in his word, instead of a column, which he might be by keeping it, for others to rest upon, he becomes a reed, which no man will vouchsafe to lean upon. Like a floating island, when we come next day to seek it, it is carried from the place we left it in, and, instead of earth to build upon, we find nothing but inconstant and deceiving waves.
The hooting fowler seldom takes much game. When a man has a project in his mind, digested and fixed by consideration, it is wise to keep it secret till the time that his designs arrive at their despatch and perfection. He is unwise who brags much either of what he will do or what he shall have, for if what he speaks of fall not out accordingly, instead of applause, a mock and scorn will follow him.
The life of man is the incessant walk of nature, wherein every moment is a step towards death. Even our growing to perfection is a progress to decay. Every thought we have is a sand running out of the glass of life.
There is nothing more operative than sedulity and diligence. A man would wonder at the mighty things which have been done by degrees and gentle augmentations. Diligence and moderation are the best steps whereby to climb to any excellence, nay, it is rare that there is any other other way.
There is such a grateful tickling in the mind of man in being commended that even when we know the praises which are bestowed on us are not our due, we are not angry with the author?s insincerity.