Join this, if you please, to what we said before; for it is no small sign, if the proficient thus esteem every little fault a great one, and studiously observe and avoid all. For, as those persons who despair of ever being rich make little account of small expenses, thinking that little [p. 474] added to a little will never make any great sum, but when they come once to have got a competency, and hope to be at last very rich, it advances their desires, so it happens in the affairs of virtue;—he that does not quiet his mind by saying with himself, ‘What matters it what comes after? if for the present it be so and so, yet better days will come,’ but who attends every thing, and is not careless if the least vice pass uncondemned, but is troubled and concerned at it, such a one makes it appear that he has attained something that is pure, which he brightens by use and will not suffer to corrupt. For a preconceived opinion that nothing we have is valuable (according to Aeschylus) makes us careless and indifferent about every thing.

If any one be to make a dry wall or an ordinary hedge, it matters not much if he makes use of ordinary wood or common stone, any old gravestones, or the like; so wicked persons, who confusedly mix and blend all their designs and actions in one heap, care not what materials they put together. But the proficients in virtue, who have already laid the golden solid foundation of a virtuous life, as of a sacred and royal building, take special care of the whole work, examine and model every part of it according to the rule of reason, believing that it was well said by Polycletus, that the hardest work remained for them to do whose nails must touch the clay;—that is, to lay the top stone is the great business and masterpiece of the work. The last stroke gives beauty and perfection to the whole piece.

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