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Concerning those who plead illness.

"I am ill here," said one of the scholars. " I will return home."

Were you never ill at home, then? Consider whether you are doing anything here conducive to the regulation of your Will; for if you make no improvement, it was to no purpose that you came. Go home, then, and take care of your domestic affairs. For if your Reason cannot be brought into conformity to nature, your land may. You may increase you: money, support the old age of your father, mix in the public assemblies, and rule as badly as you have lived, and do other such things. But if you are conscious to yourself that you are casting off some of your wrong principles, and taking up different ones in their room; and that you have transferred your scheme of life from things not controllable by will to [p. 2020] those controllable; and that if you do sometimes cry alas, it is not for what concerns your father or your brother, but yourself, - why do you any longer plead illness? Do not you know that both illness and death must overtake us? At what employment? The husbandman at his plough, the sailor on his voyage. At what employment would you be taken? For, indeed, at what employment ought you to be taken? If there is any better employment at which you can be taken, follow that. For my own part, I would be found engaged in nothing but in the regulation of my own Will; how to render it undisturbed, unrestrained, uncompelled, free. I would be found studying this, that I may be able to say to God, " Have I transgressed thy commands? Have I perverted the powers, the senses, the instincts which thou hast given me? Have I ever accused thee, or censured thy dispensations? I have been ill, because it was thy pleasure, like others; but I willingly. I have been poor, it being thy will; but with joy. I have not been in power, because it was not thy will; and power I have never desired. Hast thou ever seen me saddened because of this? Have I not always approached thee with a cheerful countenance, prepared to execute thy commands and the indications of thy will? Is it thy pleasure that I should depart from this assembly? I depart. I give thee all thanks that thou hast thought me worthy to have a snare in it with thee; to behold thy works, and to [p. 2021] join with thee in comprehending thy administration." Let death overtake me while I am thinking, while I am writing, while I am reading such things as these.

"But I shall not have my mother to hold my head when I am ill."

Get home then to your mother; for you are most fit to have your head held when you are ill.

"But I used at home to lie on a fine couch."

Get to this couch of yours; for you are fit to lie upon such a one, even in health; so do not miss doing that for which you are qualified. But what says Socrates? “As one man rejoices in the improvement of his estate, another of his horse, so do I daily rejoice in perceiving myself to grow better.” Xenophon, Mem. 1.6. - H.

" In what, - in pretty speeches? " Use courteous words, man.

"In trifling theorems? What do they signify? Yet, indeed, I do not see that the philosophers are employed in anything else."

Do you think it nothing, to accuse and censure no one, God nor man; always to carry abroad and bring home the same countenance? These were the things which Socrates knew; and yet he never professed to know, or to teach anything; but if any one wanted pretty speeches, or little theorems, he brought him to Protagoras, to Hippias; just as, if any one had come for potherbs, he would have taken [p. 2022] him to a gardener. Which of you, then, earnestly sets his heart on this? If you had, you would bear illness and hunger and death with cheerfulness. If any one of you has truly loved, he knows that I speak truth.


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