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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 unjust ; ” 2 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 so 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
protected, by municipal law, in Holland, and roam unmolested about the market-places.
Nicolo Machiavelli, a Florentine statesman. He wrote “Dis. courses on the first Decade of Livy," which were conspicuous for their liberality of sentiment, and just and profound reflections. This work was succeeded by his famous treatise, “Il Principe." “ The Prince;" his patron, Cæsar Borgia, being the model of the perfect prince there described by him. The whole scope of this work is directed to one object — the maintenance of power, however acquired. Though its precepts are no doubt based upon the actual practice of the Italian politicians of that day, it has been suggested by some writers that the work was a covert exposure of the deformity of the shocking maxims that it professes to inculcate. The question of his motives has been much discussed, and is still considered o The word “Machiavellism” has, however, been adopted to denote all that is deformed, insincere, and perfidious in politics. He died in great poverty, in the year 1527.
2 Vide Disc. Sop. Liv. ii. 2.
the just and the unjust ; "but he doth not rain wealth, nor shine honor 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 ourselves the pattern, the love of our neighbors but the portraiture: “ Sell all thou hast, and give it to the poor, and follow me; ” 2 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 sort of malignity turneth but to a crossness, or frowardness, or aptness to oppose, or difficileness, 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; not so good as the dogs that licked Lazarus's 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
1 St. Matthew v. 5: “For he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust."
2 This is a portion of our Saviour's reply to the rich man who asked him what he should do to inherit eternal life: “ Then Jesus beholding him, loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven; and come, take up the cross, and follow me. — St. Mark x. 21.
8 See St. Luke xvi. 21.
in their gardens, as Timon 1 had. Such dispositions are the very errors of human nature, and yet they are the fittest timber to make great politics 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 shows 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 shows that his heart is like the noble tree that is wounded itself when it gives the balm ;8 if he easily pardons and remits offences, it shows that his mind is planted above injuries, so that he cannot be shot ; if he be thankful for small benefits, it shows that he weighs men's minds, and not their trash ; but, above all, if he have St. Paul's perfection, that he would wish to be an anathema 4 from Christ for the
1 Timon of Athens, as he is generally called, (being so styled by Shakspeare in the play which he has founded on his story,) was surnamed the “ Misanthrope," from the hatred which he bore to his fellow-men. He was attached to Apemantus, another Athenian of similar character to himself, and he professed to esteem Alcibiades, because he foresaw that he would one day bring ruin on his country. Going to the public assembly on one occasion, he mounted the rostrum, and stated that he had a figtree, on which many worthy citizens had ended their days by the halter; that he was going to cut it down for the purpose of building on the spot, and therefore recommended all such as were inclined, to avail themselves of it before it was too late.
2 A piece of timber that has grown crooked, and has been so cut that the trunk and branch form an angle.
3 He probably here refers to the myrrh-tree. Incision is the method usually adopted for extracting the resinous juices of trees; as in the India rubber and gutta-percha trees.
4“A votive," and, in the present instance, a “vicarious offering.” He alludes to the words of St. Paul in his Second Epistle to Timothy ii. 10: “ Therefore I endure all things for the elect's sake, that they may also obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.”
salvation of his brethren, it shows much of a divine nature, and a kind of conformity with Christ himself.
XIV.—OF NOBILITY. We will speak of nobility, first, as a portion 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 it not; and they are commonly more quiet and less subject to sedition than where there are stirps of nobles; for men's eyes are upon the business, and not upon the persons; or if upon the persons, it is for the business sake, 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 for 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 necessity that many of the nobility fall in time to be weak in fortune, it maketh a kind of disproportion between honor and means.
1 Consideration of, or predilection for, particular persons.
2 The Low Countries had then recently emancipated themselves from the galling yoke of Spain. They were called the Seven United Provinces of the Netherlands.
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 2 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 honor. 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.
1 This passage may at first sight appear somewhat contradic tory; but he means to say, that those who are first ennobled will commonly be found more conspicuous for the prominence of their qualities, both good and bad.
% Consistent with reason and justice.