Page:Plutarch - Moralia, translator Holland, 1911.djvu/368

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346
Plutarch's Morals


these points aforesaid, he proposeth and setteth down again divers rules which may resolve us in this advancement and proceeding forward of ours in goodness, namely, That we ought to love reprehensions; to take heed even unto our dreams; to examine our passions, and so to hope well if we perceive that they wax mild and gentle to imitate good things; in no wise to hear any speech of evil; to take example by the best persons, to rejoice and be glad, to have witnesses and beholders of our goodwill and intention; and not to esteem any sins or trespasses small, but to avoid and shun them all: last of all, he closeth up his treatise with an elegant similitude, wherein he discovereth and layeth open the nature as well of the vicious as the virtuous, thereby to make the means of aspiring and attaining unto virtue so much the more amiable to each person.]

It is not possible (my good friend Sossius Senecio) that a man by any means should have a feeling in himself, and a conscience of his own amendment and progress in virtue, if those good proceedings do not daily make some diminution of his folly, but that the vice in him weighing in equal balance against them all, do hold him down

Like as the lead plucks down the net,
Which for to catch the fish was set.

For so verily in the art of music or grammar a man shall never know how far he is proceeded, so long as in the studying and learning thereof he diminish no part of his ignorance in those arts, but still findeth himself as unmusical and unlettered as he was before; neither the cure which the physician employeth about his patient, if it work no amendment at all, nor alleviation of the disease seeming in some sort to yield unto medicines and to slake, can procure any sensible difference and change unto a better state, before that the contrary disposition and habit be restored perfectly to the former health, and the body made sound and strong again. But certainly, as in these cases there is no amendment to be accounted of, if those that seem to amend do not perceive the change by the diminution and remission of that which weighed them down, and find themselves to incline and bend (as it were) in a balance to the contrary; even so it fareth with those that make profession of philosophy; it cannot be granted that there is any progress or sense at all of profiting, so long as the soul cast not off by little and little and purge away her folly, but until such time as she can attain (forsooth) unto the sovereign and perfect good, continueth in the meanwhile fully possessed of vice and sin in the highest degree; for by this means it would follow, if at one instant and moment