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But we, who can better agree with Plato in this point, finding by observation that in all kinds of evils, especially [p. 449] that of a weak and unmanaged disposition of mind, there are several degrees of more and less (for herein one advance differs from another, that the miserable darkness which the soul lies under begins more sensibly to abate, when reason by little and little illuminates and purges the soul), may be bold to affirm that the change from bad to good is very easily and manifestly discernible; not as if one were drawn out of a pit on a sudden, and could give no account of the degrees of the ascent, but so plain that the several steps and advances may be computed.

The first argument that comes in my mind is this, by way of simile; pray examine it. You know the art of navigation; when the seamen hoist sail for the main ocean, they give judgment of their voyage by observing together the space of time and the force of the wind that driveth them, and compute that, in all probability, in so many months, with such a gale, they have gone forward to such or such a place. Just so it is in the study of philosophy; one may, if he mind it, give a probable conjecture of a scholar's proceedings. He that is always at his business, constantly upon the road, never makes any steps or halts, nor meets with obstacles and lets in the way, but under the conduct of right reason travels smoothly, securely, and quietly along, may be assured that he has one true sign of a proficient. This of the poet,

Add many lesser numbers in account,
Your total will to a vast sum amount,

not only holds true as to the increase of money, but also may serve as a rule to the knowledge of the advance of every thing else, especially of proficiency in virtue. Reason, besides its ordinary influence, requires the constancy of application and address which is necessary and usual in all other affairs. Whereas, on the contrary, the irregular proceedings and inconsistent silly assertions of some [p. 450] philosophers do not only lay rubs in the way, and break the measures of a virtuous improvement, but seem to give great advantage to vice, during their lingering and idling upon their journey, to tempt them into by-paths, or over-persuade them to return whence they set out.

Astronomers tell us that planets, after they have finished their progressive motion, for some small time acquiesce and become stationary, as they term it. Now in the study of philosophy it is not so; there is no point of rest or acquiescence during the whole procedure, for the nature of progress is to be always advancing, more or less. The scales in which our actions are, as it were, weighed cannot at all stand in equilibrio, but our soul is continually either raised by the addition of good, or cast with the counterpoise of evil.

Therefore, as the oracle told the Cirrhaeans that they ought to fight continually, day and night; so you and every wise man ought to be perpetually upon your guard, and if you can be assured that you maintain a constant combat with vice, that you are always at enmity with it and never so much as come to terms, or receive any diversions, applications, or avocations, as so many heralds from the enemies' camp, in order to a treaty with it; then you may, with a great deal of confidence and alacrity, go on with the management of your warlike expedition, and very reasonably at last expect a conquest, and enjoy a crown of righteousness for your reward.

1 Hesiod, Works and Days, 361.

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