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doth not consist in the doing of one, or one thousand acts, never so well; but in spinning on the delicate threads of life, though not exceeding fine, yet free from breaks and strains. We do not call him an honest man, but a worthy man, that doth brave eminent acts: but we give him the title of an honest man, of whom no man can truly report any ill.
The most eminent part of honesty is truth, not in words (though that be necessarily required) but in the course of his life: in his profession of friendship; in his promise of rewards and benefits to those, that depend upon him; and gratefully acknowledging those good turns, that he receives from any man. The greatest opposite to honesty is falsehood; and, as that is commonly waited upon with cunning and dissimulation, so is honesty with discretion and assurance.
It is true, that custom makes some apparently false: some through impudence, and too much use; and other some for want of discretion, which if they had had, should have been employed in covering it. And there be some, in whom (though it be impossible, honesty should be a fault in society) their indiscreet managing of it makes it holden for a thing that's merely a vice, a wonderful troublesome companion. An honest man is as near an aptitude to become a friend, as gold is to become coin: he will melt with good offices well done, and will easily take the stamp of friendship; and having once taken it, though it may be bended and bruised, yet still will keep his stamp clean without rust or canker, and is not ashamed to be enclosed in it, but is contented to have all his glory seen through it only.
'It is of itself a competent estate of virtue, able to supply all necessary parts of it to a man's own par
ticular; and a man that is born to it, may raise himself to an eminency in all virtues, though of itself it will not furnish a man with the abilities of doing a glorious thing. It is a pity, that honesty should be abstracted from the lustre of all other virtues. But if there be such an honesty, the fittest seat for it is the country, where there will be little need of any greater ability, and it will be least subject to corruption. And therefore, since it is the foundation upon which a man may build that part of his life which respects conversation, he that builds upon it (let his actions be never so mean) shall be sure of a good, though not of a great, reputation: whereas letting it perish, let the rest of the building of his life be never so eminent, it will serve but to make the ruin of his good name more notorious.
'Love, honour, and praise are the greatest blessings of this world: all other contents reflect, primarily, upon the body; and please the soul, only because they please some one or more senses. But those therefore only delight the senses, because the soul by discourse was first pleased with them. For, in itself, there is more music in a railing song thrust upon a good air, than in the confused applause of the multitude. But because the soul, by discourse, finds this clamor to be an argument of the estimation, which those that so commend it have of it, it likes itself better, and rejoiceth the more in itself, because it sees other men value it. For there are two ways of proving: the one by reason, and the other by witness; but the more excellent proof is that of reason.
For he that can by reason prove any thing to me makes his knowledge mine, because by the same reason I am able to prove it to another: but if twenty men should swear to me they saw such a thing, which before I did not believe, it is true I should alter my opinion, not because there appeared any greater likelihood of the thing, but because it was unlikely that so many men should lie; and if I should go about to make others of the same opinion, I could not do it by telling them I knew it, or I saw it; but all I could say were, I did believe, because such and such men told me they saw it. So in the comfort a man takes of himself (which grows out of the consideration of how much itself deserves to be beloved) a virtuous wise fellow will take enough comfort and joy in himself, though by misfortune he is troubled to carry about with him the world's ill opinion, by discoursing that he is free from those slanders that are laid upon him, and that he hath those sufficiencies and virtues which others deny. And on the contrary side, he without deserving it (having the good fortune to be esteemed and honoured) will easily be drawn to have a good opinion of himself; as, out of modesty, submitting his own reason to the testimony of many witnesses.
Ambition in itself is no fault, but the most natural commendation of the soul, as beauty is of the body. It is in men, as beauty is in women. to be naturally exceedingly handsome is the greatest commendation of the sex, and that for which they most desire to be commended; so that ambition, by which men desire honour the natural way (which consists in doing honourable and good acts) is the root of the most perfect commendation, that a moral.
man is capable of. Those only offend in their ambition, who out of the earthliness of their minds dare not aspire to that true honour, which is the estimation of a man, being as it were the temple wherein virtue is enshrined; and therefore settle their minds only upon attaining titles and power, which at the first were, or at least should be, the mark whereby to distinguish men according to the rate of their virtues and sufficiencies. It is true, that power is a brave addition to a worthy man: but a fool or a knave, that is powerful, hath (according to the degree of his power) just that advantage of a virtuous prudent man, that Adam before he fell had of the angels, an ability to do more ill.
As for titles (which at first were the marks of power, and the rewards of virtue) they are now, according to their name, but like titles of books, which for the most part the more glorious things they promise, let a man narrowly peruse them over, the less substance he shall find in them; and the wooden lord is like the log, that Jupiter gave the frogs to be their king: it makes a great noise, it prepares an expectation of great matters, but when they once perceived it unactive, and senselessly lying still, the wiser sort of frogs began to despise it, and (in fine) every young frogling presumed to leap up and down upon it.
'Some few there are, who (lest the species of our ancient worthy lords should be lost) do preserve in themselves the will and desire, since they want the means, to do brave and worthy acts. And therefore I say, let a man by doing worthy acts deserve honour; and though he do not attain it, yet he is much a happier man than he that gets it without desert.
For such a man is before hand with reputation; and the world still owes him that honour, which his deserts cry for, and it hath not paid. Whereas that man, that hath a great reputation without deserving it, is behind hand with the world; and his honour is but lent, not paid: and when the world comes to take account of it's applause, and finds his title of merit (by which he pretends to it) weak and broken, it will recall it's approbation, and leave him by so much the more a notorious bankrupt in his good name, by how much the estimation of his wealth that way was the greater.
For a man to be completely happy, there is required the perfection of all moral virtues, and yet this is not enough. For virtues do rather banish misfortune, and but show us joy, than establish felicity which is not only an utter alienation from all affliction, but an absolute fulness of joy. And since the soul of man is infinitely more excellent than every thing else it can meet withal in this world, nothing upon earth can satisfy it, but in the enjoying of the greatest abundance of all the delights, that the most nimble-witted man can frame to himself; for that his soul will still have a farther desire, as unsatisfied with that it enjoys. Therefore, the perfection of happiness consists in the love of God, which is only able to fill up all the corners of the soul with the most perfect joy; and consequently to fix all it's desires upon those celestial joys that shall never be taken from it. But this, as it cannot be obtained by discourse, but by unfeigned prayer and