GRATITUDE

He that preaches gratitude, pleads the cause both of God and man; for
without it we can neither be sociable nor religious. There is a strange
delight in the very purpose and contemplation of it, as well as in the
action; when I can say to myself, “I love my benefactor; what is there
in this world that I would not do to oblige and serve him?” Where I
have not the _means_ of a requital, the very _meditation_ of it is
sufficient. A man is nevertheless an artist for not having his tools
about him; or a musician, because he wants his fiddle: nor is he the
less brave because his hands are bound; or the worse pilot for being
upon dry ground. If I have only _will_ to be grateful, I _am_ so. Let
me be upon the wheel, or under the hand of the executioner; let me be
burnt limb by limb, and my whole body dropping in the flames, a good
conscience supports me in all extremes; nay, it is comfortable even
in death itself; for when we come to approach that point, what care
do we take to summon and call to mind all our benefactors, and the
good offices they have done us, that we leave the world fair, and set
our minds in order? Without gratitude, we can neither have security,
peace, nor reputation: and it is not therefore the less desirable,
because it draws many adventitious benefits along with it. Suppose the
sun, the moon, and the stars, had no other business than only to pass
over our heads, without any effect upon our minds or bodies; without
any regard to our health, fruits, or seasons; a man could hardly lift
up his eyes towards the heavens without wonder and veneration, to
see so many millions of radiant lights, and to observe their courses
and revolutions, even without any respect to the common good of the
universe. But when we come to consider that Providence and Nature are
still at work when we sleep, with the admirable force and operation
of their influences and motions, we cannot then but acknowledge their
ornament to be the least part of their value; and that they are more
to be esteemed for their virtues than for their splendor. Their main
end and use is matter of life and necessity, though they may seem to
us more considerable for their majesty and beauty. And so it is with
gratitude; we love it rather for secondary ends, than for itself.

No man can be grateful without contemning those things that put the
common people out of their wits. We must go into banishment; lay
down our lives; beggar and expose ourselves to reproaches; nay, it
is often seen, that loyalty suffers the punishment due to rebellion,
and that treason receives the rewards of fidelity. As the benefits
of it are many and great, so are the hazards; which is the case more
or less of all other virtues: and it were hard, if this, above the
rest, should be both painful and fruitless: so that though we may go
currently on with it in a smooth way, we must yet prepare and resolve
(if need be) to force our passage to it, even if the way were covered
with thorns and serpents; and _fall back_, _fall edge_, we must be
grateful still: grateful for the virtue’s sake, and grateful over and
above upon the point of interest; for it preserves old friends, and
gains new ones. It is not our business to fish for one benefit with
another; and by bestowing a little to get more; or to oblige for any
sort of expedience, but because I ought to do it, and because I love
it, and that to such a degree, that if I could not be grateful without
appearing the contrary, if I could not return a benefit without being
suspected of doing an injury; in despite of infamy itself, I would
yet be grateful. No man is greater in my esteem than he that ventures
the fame to preserve the conscience of an honest man; the one is but
imaginary, the other solid and inestimable. I cannot call him grateful,
who in the instant of returning one benefit has his eye upon another.
He that is grateful for profit or fear, is like a woman that is honest
only upon the score of reputation.

As gratitude is a necessary and a glorious, so it is also an obvious, a
cheap, and an easy virtue; so obvious, that wheresoever there is a life
there is a place for it—so cheap that the covetous man may be grateful
without expense—and so easy that the sluggard may be so, likewise,
without labor. And yet it is not without its niceties too; for there
may be a time, a place or occasion wherein I ought not to return a
benefit; nay, wherein I may better disown it than deliver it.

Let it be understood, by the way, that it is one thing to be grateful
for a good office, and another thing to return it—the good will is
enough in one case, being as much as the one side demands and the other
promises; but the effect is requisite in the other. The physician that
has done his best is acquitted though the patient dies, and so is the
advocate, though the client may lose his cause. The general of an
army, though the battle be lost, is yet worthy of commendation, if he
has discharged all the parts of a prudent commander; in this case, the
one acquits himself, though the other be never the better for it. He
is a grateful man that is always willing and ready: and he that seeks
for all means and occasions of requiting a benefit, though without
attaining his end, does a great deal more than the man that, without
any trouble, makes an immediate return. Suppose my friend a prisoner,
and that I have sold my estate for his ransom; I put to sea in foul
weather, and upon a coast that is pestered with pirates; my friend
happens to be redeemed before I come to the place; my gratitude is as
much to be esteemed as if he had been a prisoner; and if I had been
taken and robbed myself, it would still have been the same case. Nay,
there is a gratitude in the very countenance; for an honest man bears
his conscience in his face, and propounds the requital of a good turn
in the very moment of receiving it; he is cheerful and confident; and,
in the possession of a true friendship, delivered from all anxiety.
There is this difference betwixt a thankful man and an unthankful, the
one is _always_ pleased in the good he has _done_, and the other only
_once_ in what he has _received_. There must be a benignity in the
estimation even of the smallest offices; and such a modesty as appears
to be obliged in whatsoever it gives. As it is indeed a very great
benefit, the opportunity of doing a good office to a worthy man. He
that attends to the present, and remembers what is past, shall never be
ungrateful. But who shall judge in the case? for a man may be grateful
without making a return, and ungrateful with it. Our best way is to
help every thing by a fair interpretation; and wheresoever there is
a doubt, to allow it the most favorable construction; for he that is
exceptious at words, or looks, has a mind to pick a quarrel. For my
own part, when I come to cast up my account, and know what I owe, and
to whom, though I make my return sooner to some, and later to others,
as occasion or fortune will give me leave, yet I will be just to all:
I will be grateful to God, to man, to those that have obliged me: nay,
even to those that have obliged my friends. I am bound in honor and in
conscience to be thankful for what I have received; and if it be not
yet full, it is some pleasure still that I may hope for more. For the
requital of a favor there must be virtue, occasion, means, and fortune.

It is a common thing to screw up justice to the pitch of an injury. A
man may be _over-righteous_; and why not _over-grateful_ too? There is
a mischievous excess, that borders so close upon ingratitude, that it
is no easy matter to distinguish the one from the other: but, in regard
that there is good-will in the bottom of it, (however distempered, for
it is effectually but kindness out of the wits,) we shall discourse it
under the title of _Gratitude mistaken_.

To refuse a good office, not so much because we do not need it, as
because we would not be indebted for it, is a kind of fantastical
ingratitude, and somewhat akin to that nicety of humor, on the other
side, of being over-grateful; only it lies another way, and seems to be
the more pardonable ingratitude of the two. Some people take it for a
great instance of their good-will to be wishing their benefactors such
or such a mischief; only, forsooth, that they themselves may be the
happy instruments of their release.

These men do like extravagant lovers, that take it for a great proof of
their affection to wish one another banished, beggared, or diseased,
that they might have the opportunity of interposing to their relief.
What difference is there betwixt such wishing and cursing? such an
affection and a mortal hatred? The intent is good, you will say, but
this is a misapplication of it. Let such a one fall into my power, or
into the hands of his enemies, his creditors, or the common people, and
no mortal be able to rescue him but myself: let his life, his liberty,
and his reputation, lie all at stake, and no creature but myself in
condition to succor him; and why all this, but because he has obliged
me, and I would requite him? If this be gratitude to propound jails,
shackles, slavery, war, beggary, to the man that you would requite,
what would you do where you are ungrateful? This way of proceeding,
over and above that it is impious in itself, is likewise over-hasty and
unseasonable: for he that goes too fast is as much to blame as he that
does not move at all, (to say nothing of the injustice,) for if I had
never been obliged, I should never have wished it.

There are seasons wherein a benefit is neither to be received nor
requited. To press a return upon me when I do not desire it, is
unmannerly; but it is worse to force me to desire it. How rigorous
would he be to exact a requital; who is thus eager to return it! To
wish a man in distress that I may relieve him, is first to wish him
miserable: to wish that he may stand in need of anybody, is _against
him_; and to wish that he may stand in need of me, is _for myself_:
so that my business is not so much a charity to my friend as the
cancelling of a bond; nay, it is half-way the wish of an enemy. It is
barbarous to wish a man in chains, slavery, or want, only to bring
him out again: let me rather wish him powerful and happy, and myself
indebted to him! By nature we are prone to mercy, humanity compassion;
may we be excited to be more so by the number of the grateful! may
their number increase, and may we have no need of trying them!

It is not for an honest man to make way to a good office by a crime: as
if a pilot should pray for a tempest, that he might prove his skill:
or a general wish his army routed, that he may show himself a great
commander in recovering the day. It is throwing a man into a river to
take him out again. It is an obligation, I confess, to cure a wound or
a disease; but to _make_ that wound or disease on purpose to _cure_ it,
is a most perverse ingratitude. It is barbarous even to an enemy, much
more to a friend; for it is not so much to do him a kindness, as to put
him in need of it. Of the two, let me rather be a scar than a wound;
and yet it would be better to have it neither. Rome had been little
beholden to Scipio if he had prolonged the Punic war that he might
have the finishing of it at last, or to the Decii for dying for their
country, if they had first brought it to the last extremity of needing
their devotion. It may be a good contemplation, but it is a lewd wish.
Æneas had never been surnamed _the Pious_, if he had wished the ruin
of his country, only that he might have the honor of taking his father
out of the fire. It is the scandal of a physician to make work, and
irritate a disease, and to torment his patient, for the reputation of
his cure. If a man should openly imprecate poverty, captivity, fear,
or danger, upon a person that he has been obliged to, would not the
whole world condemn him for it? And what is the difference, but the one
is only a private wish, and the other a public declaration? Rutilius
was told in his exile, that, for his comfort, there would be ere-long
a civil war, that would bring all the banished men home again. “God
forbid,” says he, “for I had rather my country should blush for my
banishment than mourn for my return.” How much more honorable it is to
owe cheerfully, than to pay dishonestly? It is the wish of an enemy
to take a town that he may preserve it, and to be victorious that he
may forgive; but the mercy comes after the cruelty; beside that it is
an injury both to God and man; for the man must be first afflicted by
_Heaven_ to be relieved by _me_. So that we impose the cruelty upon
God, and take the compassion to ourselves; and at the best, it is but
a curse that makes way for a blessing; the bare wish is an injury; and
if it does not take effect, it is because Heaven has not heard our
prayers; or if they should succeed, the fear itself is a torment; and
it is much more desirable to have a firm and unshaken security. It is
friendly to wish it in your power to oblige me, if ever I chance to
need it; but it is unkind to wish me miserable that I may need it. How
much more pious is it, and humane, to wish that I may never want the
occasion of obliging, nor the means of doing it; nor ever have reason
to repent of what I have done?

Ingratitude is of all the crimes, that which we are to account the
most venial in others, and the most unpardonable in ourselves. It
is impious to the highest degree; for it makes us fight against our
children and our altars. There are, there ever were, and there ever
will be criminals of all sorts, as murderers, tyrants, thieves,
adulterers, traitors, robbers and sacrilegious persons; but there
is hardly any notorious crime without a mixture of ingratitude. It
disunites mankind, and breaks the very pillars of society; and yet so
far is this prodigious wickedness from being any wonder to us, that
even thankfulness itself were much the greater of the two; for men
are deterred from it by labor, expense, laziness, business; or else
diverted from it by lust, envy, ambition, pride, levity, rashness,
fear; nay, by the very shame of confessing what they have received. And
the unthankful man has nothing to say for himself all this while, for
there needs neither pains or fortune for the discharge of his duty,
beside the inward anxiety and torment when a man’s conscience makes him
afraid of his own thoughts.

To speak against the ungrateful is to rail against mankind, for even
those that complain are guilty: nor do I speak only of those that
do not live up to the strict rule of virtue; but mankind itself is
degenerated and lost. We live unthankfully in this world, and we go
struggling and murmuring out of it, dissatisfied with our lot, whereas
we should be grateful for the blessings we have enjoyed, and account
that sufficient which Providence has provided for us; a little more
time may make our lives longer but not happier, and whensoever it is
the pleasure of God to call us, we must obey; and yet all this while
we go on quarreling at the world for what we find in ourselves, and
we are yet more unthankful to Heaven than we are to one another. What
benefit can be great now to that man that despises the bounties of his
Maker? We would be as strong as elephants, as swift as bucks, as light
as birds—and we complain that we have not the sagacity of dogs, the
sight of eagles, the long life of ravens—nay, that we are not immortal,
and endued with the knowledge of things to come: nay, we take it ill
that we are not gods upon earth, never considering the advantages
of our condition, or the benignity of Providence in the comforts
that we enjoy. We subdue the strongest of creatures and overtake the
fleetest—we reclaim the fiercest and outwit the craftiest. We are
within one degree of heaven itself, and yet we are not satisfied.

Since there is not any one creature which we had rather be, we take it
ill that we cannot draw the united excellencies of all other creatures
into ourselves. Why are we not rather thankful to that goodness which
has subjected the whole creation to our use and service?

The principal causes of ingratitude are pride and self-conceit,
avarice, envy, etc. It is a familiar exclamation, “It is true he did
this or that for me, but it came so late, and it was so little, I had
even as good have been without it—if he had not given it to me, he must
have given it to somebody else—it was nothing out of his pocket.” Nay,
we are so ungrateful, that he that gives us all we have, if he leaves
any thing to himself, we reckon that he does us an injury.

It cost Julius Cæsar his life by the disappointment of his insatiable
companions; and yet he reserved nothing of all that he got to himself
but the liberty of disposing of it. There is no benefit so large
but malignity will still lessen it; none so narrow, which a good
interpretation will not enlarge. No man shall ever be grateful that
views a benefit on the wrong side, or takes a good office by the wrong
handle. The avaricious man is naturally ungrateful, for he never thinks
he has enough, but, without considering what he has, only minds what
he covets. Some pretend want of power to make a competent return, and
you shall find in others a kind of graceless modesty, that makes a man
ashamed of requiting an obligation, because it is a confession that he
has received one.

Not to return one good office for another is inhuman; but to return
evil for good is diabolical. There are too many even of this sort, who,
the more they owe, the more they hate. There is nothing more dangerous
than to oblige those people; for when they are conscious of not paying
the debt, they wish the creditor out of the way. It is a mortal hatred,
that which arises from the shame of an abused benefit. When we are on
the asking side, what a deal of cringing there is, and profession!
“Well, I shall never forget this favor, it will be an eternal
obligation to me.” But within a while the note is changed, and we
hear no more words of it, until, by little and little, it is all quite
forgotten. So long as we stand in need of a benefit, there is nothing
dearer to us; nor anything cheaper, when we have received it. And yet
a man may as well refuse to deliver up a sum of money that is left him
in trust without a suit, as not to return a good office without asking;
and when we have no value any farther for the benefit, we do commonly
care as little for the author. People follow their interest: one man
is grateful for his convenience, and another man is ungrateful for the
same reason.

Some are ungrateful to their own country, and their country no less
ungrateful to others; so that the complaint of ingratitude reaches
all men. Doth not the son wish for the death of his father, the
husband for that of his wife, etc. But who can look for gratitude
in an age of so many gaping and craving appetites, where all people
take, and none give? In an age of license to all sorts of vanity
and wickedness, as lust, gluttony, avarice, envy, ambition, sloth,
insolence, levity, contumacy, fear, rashness, private discords and
public evils, extravagant and groundless wishes, vain confidences,
sickly affections, shameless impieties, rapine authorized, and the
violation of all things, sacred and profane: obligations are pursued
with sword and poison; benefits are turned into crimes, and that blood
most seditiously spilt for which every honest man should expose his
own. Those that should be the preservers of their country are the
destroyers of it; and it is a matter of dignity to trample upon the
government: the sword gives the law, and mercenaries take up arms
against their masters. Among these turbulent and unruly motions, what
hope is there of finding honesty or good faith, which is the quietest
of all virtues? There is no more lively image of human life than that
of a conquered city; there is neither mercy, modesty, nor religion;
and if we forget our lives, we may well forget our benefits. The
world abounds with examples of ungrateful persons, and no less with
those of ungrateful governments. Was not Catiline ungrateful? whose
malice aimed, not only at the mastering of his country, but at the
total destruction of it, by calling in an inveterate and vindictive
enemy from beyond the Alps, to wreak their long-thirsted-for revenge,
and to sacrifice the lives of as many noble Romans as might serve
to answer and appease the ghosts of the slaughtered Gauls? Was not
Marius ungrateful, that, from a common soldier, being raised up to a
consul, not only gave the world for civil bloodshed and massacres, but
was himself the sign of the execution; and every man he met in the
streets, to whom he did not stretch out his right hand, was murdered?
And was not Sylla ungrateful too? that when he had waded up to the
gates in human blood, carried the outrage into the city, and there most
barbarously cut two entire legions to pieces in a corner, not only
after the victory, but most perfidiously after quarter given them?
Good God! that ever any man should not only escape with impunity, but
receive a reward for so horrid a villainy! Was not Pompey ungrateful
too? who, after three consulships, three triumphs, and so many honors,
usurped before his time, split the commonwealth into three parts,
and brought it to such a pass, that there was no hope of safety but
by slavery only; forsooth, to abate the envy of his power, he took
other partners with him into the government, as if that which was not
lawful for any one might have been allowable for more; dividing and
distributing the provinces, and breaking all into a _triumvirate_,
reserving still two parts of the three in his own family. And was not
Cæsar ungrateful also, though to give him his due, he was a man of his
word; merciful in his victories, and never killed any man but with his
sword in his hand? Let us therefore forgive one another. Only one word
more now for the shame of ungrateful Governments. Was not Camillus
banished? Scipio dismissed? and Cicero exiled and plundered? But, what
is all this to those who are so mad, and to dispute even the goodness
of Heaven, which gives us all, and expects nothing again, but continues
giving to the most unthankful and complaining?

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