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Chapter XII.

No one asks counsel from a man tainted with vice, or from one who is morose or impracticable, but rather from one of whom we have a pattern in the Scriptures.

60. We note therefore that in seeking for counsel, uprightness of life, excellence in virtues, habits of benevolence, and the charm of good-nature have very great weight. Who seeks for a spring in the mud? Who wants to drink from muddy water? So 53where there is luxurious living, excess, and a union of vices, who will think that he ought to draw from that source? Who does not despise a foul life? Who will think a man to be useful to another’s cause whom he sees to be useless in his own life? Who, again, does not avoid a wicked, ill-disposed, abusive person, who is always ready to do harm? Who would not be only too eager to avoid him?472472    Cic. de Off. II. 10, § 36.

61. And who will come to a man however well fitted to give the best of advice who is nevertheless hard to approach? It goes with him as with a fountain whose waters are shut off. What is the advantage of having wisdom, if one refuses to give advice? If one cuts off the opportunities of giving advice, the source is closed, so as no longer to flow for others or to be of any good to oneself.

62. Well can we refer this to him who, possessing prudence, has defiled it with the foulness of a vicious life and so pollutes the water at the source. His life is a proof of a degenerate spirit.473473    Vide Virg. Æn.IV. 13: “degeneres animos timor arguit. How can one judge him to be good in counsel whom one sees to be evil in character? He ought to be superior to me, if I am ready to trust myself to him. Am I to suppose that he is fit to give me advice who never takes it for himself, or am I to believe that he has time to give to me when he has none for himself, when his mind is filled with pleasures, and he is overcome by lust, is the slave of avarice, is excited by greed, and is terrified with fright? How is there room for counsel here where there is none for quiet?

63. That man of counsel whom I must admire and look up to, whom the gracious Lord gave to our fathers, put aside all that was offensive. His follower he ought to be, who can give counsel and protect another’s prudence from vice; for nothing foul can mingle with that.


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